The 391 pages of “Shine Like Stars,” the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial coffee table book, have been in the making for 200 years. It goes back even longer if one begins with the arrival of the Jesuit martyrs in 1570, according to Father Anthony Marques, chair of the Bicentennial Task Force. 

A plan for the book began to take shape in 2017 when the late Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was preparing to retire.

A group met with the publisher, Dr. Claude-Bernard Costecalde, to discuss implementing a plan, and parishes and schools were asked to provide a summary of their respective histories.

Diocesan archivist Edie Jeter and her staff person, Katie Lemza, began organizing the histories and photographs.

According to Anne Edwards, special assistant and advisor to the bishop, much of the material came from Jesuit Father Gerald Fogarty, who wrote “Commonwealth Catholicism: A History of the Catholic Church in Virginia,” published in 2001.

“I couldn’t possibly not give him some credit for this dream that he planted in my soul many years ago to have a museum and an archival repository, and eventually this book was born out of that,” Edwards said.

For the next few years, a team consisting of Edwards, Father Marques, Jeter, Ann Niermeyer and Michael School steered the direction of “Shine Like Stars.”

While helping to compile the book, Edwards said she was fascinated by “all these men and women who made the Catholic experience in Virginia what it is.”

Father Marques noted he felt he had gotten to know the people about whom he read. 

“I just found that I had a sense of their character, their personality even. So, for me, the takeaway was I feel that I am truly part of this family that has many, many generations going back, and it’s hard to describe what that is, but it’s a privilege,” he said.

During his ad limina visit to Rome in December 2019, Bishop Barry C. Knestout gave the first copy of “Shine Like Stars” to Pope Francis. 

“I don’t know if he’ll read it, but that doesn’t matter. I know that book will find its way into the archives, and somebody will,” said Edwards. “And now, as they say, it’s in the book for the ages.”

Father Marques hopes that those who peruse “Shine Like Stars” will develop an appreciation for the “perseverance of the Church” and “all of the contributions that made that possible.” 

“The diocese is the institution, but it’s there because there are people who live in a certain place and have certain needs and are trying to live out their faith,” said Father Marques. “We’re here because other men and women sacrificed for their faith.”

Edwards said she has a “natural passion and love” for the history of the Church. 

“Whenever we can do something that imparts that knowledge to the world, it just is another step on our journey. I feel personally responsible to uphold the memory of the people who have gone before us. So, to me, it was such a great privilege to be able to do that,” she said.

While COVID-19 caused some of the diocese’s bicentennial plans to be modified, “Shine Like Stars” was published and distributed before the pandemic.

“This is another way for people to be a part of the celebration, even with COVID,” said Father Marques.

Editor’s note: To purchase a copy of “Shine Like Stars,” please contact your parish.