By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz has appointed Father Ricardo Phipps director of Catholic Charities Jackson. Father Phipps, a Mississippi native, has a doctorate from the University of Mississippi in counselor education as well as a masters in counseling, a masters in divinity and undergraduate degrees in math and history. He has taught graduate level courses at Ole Miss and the University of Texas in Tyler and has served in a number of parishes in the state.
“I am extremely humbled to be appointed to serve at Catholic Charities and also very excited about the appointment. I appreciate the confidence of the bishop in giving me this opportunity,” said Father Phipps. “My training is mental health related, counseling specifically, so I feel like my experience is in line with much of what Catholic Charities is already doing. I want to be a part of assuring that these services will be offered and expanded for a long time,” he added.
“Father Phipps has been a priest of the Diocese of Jackson for the past ten years, and I am confident he will apply his leadership skills to strengthen and develop the array of services that bring support and hope to many in need,” said Bishop Kopacz in a statement.
Linda Raff has been leading the agency temporarily while a search committee looked for a permanent director. The bishop thanked her for coming out of retirement to be the interim director. “I thank Linda Raff for her invaluable leadership during this time of transition. May the Lord continue to bless her and her family,” said the bishop.
Catholic Charities is undergoing re-certification with the national Council on Accreditation (COA) right now. Raff will remain at the agency part-time until the end of September to help smooth the transition and assist with the review. COA accredits child welfare, behavioral health and community-based social service providers. The certification process is very rigorous.
“Father Ric’s background and experience in ministry, education and clinical work in addition to his care and concern for all of God’s children makes him especially suited for the work and mission of Catholic Charities,” said Raff. “I know the agency will thrive under his leadership and I know it will continue to be a beacon of help and hope for all Mississippians especially the poor and vulnerable,” she added.
Catholic Charities is the social service arm of the church in Mississippi, providing direct service to those in need. The agency offers counseling, adoption services, a rape crisis center, a domestic violence shelter, immigration and resettlement services, a health ministry, social justice advocacy, addiction services, disaster response and housing and job training for veterans. Clients do not need to be Catholic, in fact, a majority of those served are not Catholic.
“I feel like Catholic Charities is our greatest evangelization arm in an area where not many people are Catholic, and I am excited to be a part of that,” said Father Phipps. He will remain pastor of Jackson Christ the King, but will no longer be pastor of Jackson St. Therese. Msgr. Elvin Sunds will serve as canonical pastor of St. Therese. See page 11 for these and other pastoral assignments.
By Maureen Smith