Jubilee Celebrations

Father Gerry Hurley: Mass at Flowood St. Paul, Friday, June 10, 7 p.m. Reception following.
Father Tom Lalor: Mass at Vicksburg St. Paul, 6 p.m., Thursday, June 9. Reception following.
Father Tom Mulally: Mass at Greenville Sacred Heart, Saturday, Sept. 10, 10:30 a.m. Reception following.
Father Richard Somers: Mass at Jackson St. Richard Parish, Saturday, June 25, 11 a.m. Reception following.

Ordinations, an invitation to celebrate with church

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson celebrates eight ordinations this year, giving the faithful several opportunities to join in a special chapter in the life of the church.
Deacons Jason Johnston and Joseph Le will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. The ordination is open to all, but seating is limited so plan to arrive early. There will be reserved seating for family members. A reception will follow in the parish center.
Deacon Johnston, a Vicksburg native, will celebrate his first Mass in his home parish of St. Paul on Sunday, May 15, at 10:30 a.m.
Deacon Le will celebrate his first Mass in his adopted home parish of Greenville St. Joseph on Sunday, May 15, at 10:30 a.m. Both of the first Masses are also open to the public.
On Saturday, June 4, at 10 a.m. in the cathedral six men will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. All are welcome to the celebration.
Those in training are: Jeff Artigues from Starkville St. Joseph, Rick Caldwell from Vicksburg St. Mary, Denzil Lobo from Madison St. Francis of Assisi, John McGregor, from Pearl St. Jude, John McGinley from Starkville St. Joseph and Ted Schreck from Southaven Sacred Heart.
The men have spent five years preparing for their ordination, taking classes, making retreats and developing as a community. Their wives have joined them on this journey since they will play an important role in this ministry.
The Jackson diocese was one of the first in the nation to ordain permanent deacons after a Vatican II call for a revival of the ministry, but this is the first class of deacons to complete the training in many years.
Please keep all the candidates in your prayers as they prepare for their special day.

Legislative look-back: busy year for advocates

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – This Mississippi Legislature wrapped up the 2016 session Thursday, April 21. Bishop Joseph Kopacz and the Catholic Charities Poverty Task Force were very active on a number of issues this year including immigration, budget cuts and abortion. Here is a look at some of the key issues that came out of the session:
A new law to prohibit dismemberment abortions in the state becomes effective July 1. On April 15, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, passed by the state Senate in a 40-6 vote in March and by the state House 83-33 in February.
“We applaud any effort to end abortion in our communities and will continue to support women in crisis through our efforts with Catholic Charities, adoption services, parish-based ministries and supporting organizations such as Birthright,” said Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general of the Diocese of Jackson. “There are many faithful people out there working to give women the choice of life,” he said in a statement. “We hope we can continue to build and strengthen those ministries for people in need.”
Mississippi is the fourth state to enact the measure, after West Virginia, Kansas and Oklahoma. According to National Right to Life, the legislation – based on the pro-life organization’s model bill – also has been introduced in Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska and may be taken up in several other states.
The procedure is a form of second-trimester abortion that “dismembers a living unborn child and extracts him or her one piece at a time from the uterus.” It is called a D&E for “dilation and evacuation.” It is different from the partial-birth abortion method used in late-term abortions, which is now illegal in the United States.
During Catholic Day at the Capitol earlier this year, advocates spoke about the need to support mental health programs, education and foster care. The state’s foster care agency was being threatened with federal takeover due to a lack of qualified workers, seemingly insurmountable backlogs and several deaths which might be attributed to child abuse.
The budget passed by the Legislature cut seven million dollars from the budget to cover mental health, about three percent, but there was some good news.
The bright spot, according to Jeannie Donovan of Jesuit Social Research institute, is that the foster care system did get spun off into it’s own department with its own budget. “Foster care funding did get increased by $34 million to avoid a federal take over. Unfortunately, funding for Medicaid was decreased slightly despite a projected increase in costs,” said Donovan.
Another presentation at Catholic Day explained how regressive taxation disproportionately impacts the poor. This year, the Legislature approved cuts to almost every department while cutting taxes and, at the same time, borrowing money. The Clarion-Ledger newspaper printed a front-page editorial calling the proposed budget ‘madness.’ Other advocates expressed similar dismay about the way the combination of cuts and borrowing would impact the state in the years to come.
The Legislature passed several tax cuts to benefit large corporations, but did not pursue any tax reform that would lift the burden on lower-income families in Mississippi. Two-thirds of the tax cut passed will go to corporations.
According to the Hope Policy Institute, a non-profit advocacy group working to alleviate the causes of poverty in the region, “most corporations in Mississippi already pay very little in corporate taxes. The franchise tax, which is eliminated in this tax cut, currently makes up 44 percent of corporate taxes collected. Three out of four corporations currently pay less than $150 in corporate income taxes, and will thus pay zero when the three percent bracket is eliminated.
“The other one-third of the cut will go to Mississippians who owe personal income taxes. The maximum tax cut per individual is $150 from the cut.  However, many of the working families who need relief the most, will not benefit from the plan at all,” according to a Hope analyst.
Revenue for fiscal year 2016 fell short of projections, causing the Governor’s office to make cuts to the existing budget. The Mississippi Adequate Education Fund got level funding, but the amount is still an estimated $170 million below “full-funding” of the formula.
“The combination of the new tax cuts and existing lack of adequate funding for public services, it seems that this Mississippi Legislature put the state on a path a fiscal crisis similar to what we’re now dealing with in Louisiana,” said Donovan
Guns in Church
Despite a new law that would allow people to carry their firearms into church, the Diocese of Jackson will maintain its current policy banning firearms and other weapons inside places of worship, schools, offices and service centers.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz does not feel there is any need to have firearms, whether they are concealed or publicly displayed, inside church-owned property.
“We are here to worship and to serve,” said Bishop Kopacz. “I understand that some parishes have private security officers and off-duty law enforcement officers patrolling their property, and that’s fine, if those people are from licensed security agencies with proper training, background checks and gun permits, but I see no reason for a gun to be inside a sanctuary or school, especially an unpermitted one,” he added.
Governor Bryant signed a law that would allow churches and other religious institutions to allow select certain members to undergo training and carry firearms inside their buildings, even without concealed weapon permits, however it remains diocesan policy not to have any firearms in diocesan and parish buildings except in those cases where the parish or institution has hired a licensed security company. There are to be no parishioners or parents patrolling their facilities with guns.
Senate Bill 2306, which Bishop Kopacz opposed, died Tuesday, April 19. The bill called for local law enforcement officers to detain anyone who is in the country illegally or who might be, regardless of why they were stopped by police. The local officers would have to notify federal authorities to come pick up the suspect.
“Our impetus in opposing the bill was to support our clients. Under this bill, if someone was stopped without their drivers’ license they could be detained and transferred to ICE (Immigration and customs enforcement) custody,” explained Amelia McGowan, program director and immigration attorney for the Migrant Support Center for Catholic Charities in Jackson. It also called for a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” which are places where local law enforcement are not allowed to ask any suspect about his or her immigration status. There are currently no sanctuary cities in Mississippi, but bill author Sean Tindal (R-Gulfport) felt the state should be doing more to enforce immigration laws.
McGowan joined an effort spear-headed by Church World Service to speak out against the bill. Noel Anderson, the national grassroots coordinator for the organization, contacted faith leaders from across the state, asking them to sign a letter to be hand-delivered to lawmakers. Bishop Kopacz joined the more than 40 pastors, community and religious leaders who signed the letter and McGowan hand-delivered it to Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves’ office. Other advocates delivered copies to Senate Judicial Chair Tindal and House Chair Mark Baker.
The letter criticizes the bill, saying it “would force state and local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers and comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers to hold immigrants in custody. SB 2306 strips local law enforcement agencies of critical discretion, in effect conscripting them to prioritize immigration enforcement over local public safety needs, and they will be forced to pick up the bill for it too.”
The letter goes on to caution that this bill puts immigrants at higher risk of being victims of crime repeatedly since many victims would be afraid to report crimes for fear the police would turn them over to ICE as well. “These provisions would not make communities or cities in Mississippi any safer. Rather, they would reverse community-based policing efforts that are vital to public safety in our neighborhoods. Safety increases for everyone when all individuals can report dangerous situations and seek protection from violence without the fear of being deported and separated from their families,” it reads. (EDitor’s note: coverage of other legislative issues, such as HB1523, the religious liberty bill, is available on www.mississippicatholic.com.)

Five priests celebrate jubilee years

By Mary Margaret Halford
Three diocesan priests are marking significant ordination anniversaries this year while two order priests mark significant dates in their vocational journeys. A full listing of the public celebrations is on page 8. All of the priests are from out-of-state, most from out of the country, in fact, but all are beloved in their newly-adopted home-state of Mississippi.

Father John Gouger, CssR,
Redepmtorist Community, Greenwood
In his past 51 years as an ordained priest, Father John Gouger, CSsR, has made his way from the Midwest of the United States to Cajun Country in south Louisiana and lived along both the Amazon and the Mississippi rivers.
“If we go way back to when I was a child — I really enjoyed being in this little church with my parents, and I wondered ‘how can I always be here?’ I decided I could always be there by becoming a priest and religious,” the Iowa native said of his call to vocations.
After his first appointment in Houma, La., Father Gouger did missionary work for 30 years in Brazil, a place that holds some of the fondest memories of his priesthood.
“What I really enjoyed was river trips by houseboat, visiting communities along the Amazon River and in the rainforest and jungle area.”
Father Gouger, who is now part of the Redemptionist Hispanic Leadership Team in Greenwood, celebrated his jubilee last year, and recently took a trip back to Brazil to celebrate his 50 years in the priesthood.

Father Gerry Hurley,
pastor, Flowood St. Paul Parish
When Father Gerry Hurley was growing up on the outskirts of Cork City, Ireland, he was greatly influenced by the priests around him. And after making the decision that the priesthood was for him, he was ordained 40 years ago.
“I thought what a nice way to spend your life,” Father Hurley said of the religious he grew up around. “They all seemed like they were having fun.”
But while studying at the seminary, he decided his home diocese was a bit rigid for his taste, and he wanted to come to a place where he could live his priesthood “in a broader way.” At the urging of fellow priest and friend, Father Michael O’Brien, Hurley was looking at dioceses in the United States and visiting Virginia when he met the late Bishop Joseph Brunini, who suggested a trip to Mississippi.
“I came for two weeks and knew that’s where I wanted to be,” Father Hurley said. “I haven’t regretted it for a moment.”
“What stands out in my mind is that I’ve enjoyed every assignment I’ve had,” he said. “Every time I’ve moved, I’ve found a new invitation to learn and grow.”
Father Hurley will celebrate his jubilee with a public Mass at Flowood St. Paul Parish on June 10 at 7 p.m. A reception will follow.

Father Tom Lalor, pastor
Vicksburg, St. Paul Parish
Growing up in a family where choosing the path of religious life was common, Father Tom Lalor knew his vocation from an early age — and 50 years later he hasn’t looked back.
“If I had the ability to be anything else — an extraordinary academic or something — I would still choose to be a priest. That was all I ever really wanted to be,” Father Lalor said, adding that his brother, sister, and two uncles all chose a life of religious ministry.
When he first came to Mississippi from County Westmeath, Ireland, he began his ministry in Biloxi, where part of his assignment was teaching two classes daily at Sacred Heart Girls High School.
“I had no idea how to run a class, I didn’t know a thing about teaching. Sister Paulinus Oaks, RSM, inspired me and told me that I could teach,” Father Lalor said. “I have the greatest memories you could possibly imagine. I have a great respect for teachers because I found that teaching is very labor intensive.”
Since Biloxi, he has pastored in Jackson, Magee, Raleigh, Greenville, Natchez, Cleveland, Tupelo and Vicksburg. Father Lalor will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass at Vicksburg St. Paul at 6 p.m. on June 9. A reception will follow.

Father Tom Mulally, SVD, pastor,
Greenville Sacred Heart Parish
A native of Emmett, Michigan, Father Tom Mulally , SVD, knew that he wanted a future that involved traveling and religious ministry, so his priest encouraged him to think about religious vocations. At the age of 18, he made up his mind, and 50 years ago, he took his first vows.
“I always wanted to work overseas as a missionary, my pastor knew about the SVDs and here I am,” Father Mulally said. “I went to work overseas long before the Peace Corps was even founded in 1960.”
Since becoming a priest, Father Mulally has spent 46 years in the south, in parishes across Louisiana, Arkansas and now at Sacred Heart of Greenville, as well as Shaw St. Francis of Assisi. He also celebrates Mass monthly at Rosedale Sacred Heart Parish and visits the state penitentiary.
“I would say working with the lay people has brought me great strength and great joy,” he said, adding that implementing Vatican II was one of the most memorable times of his priesthood. “We had to start from scratch, I went to a lot of seminars to learn new rituals for marriage, reconciliation, and RCIA. Vatican II was a very exciting time for me.”
Father Mulally will celebrate the anniversary of his vows Sept. 10 at 10:30 a.m. with a Mass at Sacred Heart followed by a reception that will be open to the public.

Father Richard Somers, retired
Father Somers, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, celebrates 50 years of ordination June 12. Father Somers, who suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease, lives at St. Catherine’s Village where he is cared for by a veritable army of regular visitors. He has a hard time communicating these days, but his memory is still sharp and visitors who can listen closely can still get a taste of his sense of humor.
In 1994, Father Somers offered a talk on his vocation which was recorded for the diocese. In the recording he explained the great lesson he learned when God “chased me to Mississippi.”
He was one of six children and joked that he remembers his parents praying for his two brothers to become priests, “but somehow I always got skipped in that.”
During his time in Hattiesburg he began to minister to a group of college students. They offered every week to pray for him. This seemingly small gesture had a profound impact on his life. He said it was the first time he truly felt the deeply personal love God had for him.
“I went to Mississippi to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I had to go to Mississippi to find out how much God loves me and I had to be convinced of it and convicted of it in my own heart. God really does.”
St. Richard will host a Mass of Thanksgiving and a reception in his honor on Saturday, June 25, at 11 a.m.


BATESVILLE St. Mary Parish, Springfest on the Square, Friday and Saturday, May 13-14. Help will be needed for shifts at the parish’s annual funnel cake booth and for clean-up duty on Sunday.
BROOKHAVEN St. Francis Parish, the health walk and breakfast on Fridays following the 7:15 a.m. Mass in the parish center has resumed.
BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, drawdown, Friday, May 13, from 7 – 10 p.m. at Lee Home in Columbus.  Entertainment by The Shane Tubb Band. Tickets are $100 and admit two for the grand prize of $2,500. Details: 662-738-5348, www.dwellingplace.com.
CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth Parish, rogation days this year are May 1-4. If you would like your vegetable garden or farmland blessed, contact Father Scott Thomas, pastor, to set up an appointment.
– Immaculate Conception Parish, after school spiritual and educational enrichment camp, May 3-5 and May 9-12, from 4 – 6 p.m. for youth ages five-14 years old. Instructors will be Dr. Jyothi Gupta and Dave Chapman along with graduate students from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
GREENVILLE Sacred Heart Parish, Mission Mississippi breakfast and prayer service, Tuesday, May 3, at 7 a.m.
– Parish picnic, Sunday, June 5, at 1 p.m. to welcome the sisters from Techny, Ill., who will run the vacation Bible school June 6-10.
GREENWOOD – St. Francis Parish, combined Mass, followed by a town hall meeting and picnic, Sunday, May 22. And update on the Family Life Center will be given at that time.
– Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, there will be no 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 15. There will be Mass and a parish picnic at Pop’s Place, on the outskirts of Greenwood.
GRENADA St. Peter Parish, reception for graduates, First Communicants and mothers, Sunday, May 8, after the 9 a.m. Mass.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit Parish, dinner theater, “Murder can be habit forming,” Saturday, May 7, at 7 p.m. in the Family Life Center. Tickets are $10 per person, childcare, $5, includes pizza and movie.
– Deadline to sign up for the annual men and women’s retreat (open to all high school students) is Sunday, May 15. Meeting with participants and their parents, Wednesday, May 25, at 6:30 p.m.
JACKSON Carmelite art show and sale, Tuesday,   May 10, beginning at 6 p.m. at Interiors Market on Duling Street in Fondren area. It will feature selected art from the archives of the late Sister Muriel Ludden and the sisters of the monastery. The booth display will be up for a month. Proceeds benefit the preservation and restoration of the monastery.
JACKSON Holy Family Parish, Vacation Bible School June 14-16.
JACKSON St. Peter Cathedral, Mother’s Day breakfast, Sunday, May 8, from 9 – 10:30 a.m.
– Special 10:30 a.m. Mass and burning of the note for the renovation of the cathedral, Sunday, May 15. A reception will follow.
JACKSON St. Therese Parish, Pentecost Sunday celebration, Sunday, May 15, one bilingual Mass at 11 a.m. followed by a potluck dinner.
JACKSON St. Richard Parish, May crowning and first Friday rosary, Friday, May 6, at 9 a.m.
– Flight to the Finish, 5-K or one mile fun run, Saturday, May 7, hosted by the Cardinal Men’s Club.
– St. Richard Night at Trustmark Park with the Mississippi Braves, Friday, May 13. Tickets are $9 and can be purchased through St. Richard School. The first 500 children younger than 14 receive a free backpack. The night will end with fireworks.
MADISON St. Joseph School, Bruin Classic Golf Tournament, Friday, June 3, at the Canton Country Club, beginning with lunch at 11:30 a.m. and ending with the presentation of prizes at 6 p.m.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Cajun Fest, Sunday, May 15, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Donations for the General Store are needed. Items can be dropped off Monday-Friday at the Social Concerns Office.

Pentecost Sunday in Natchez
During the tri-centennial celebration in Natchez this year which represents the history of Catholicism in Natchez over the years, St. Mary Basilica will host a series of Catholic heritage tours of Catholic sites in Natchez, a liturgical celebration of Pentecost on May 15 and Lessons & Carols in December.
The principal celebrant for the Pentecost celebration will be Bishop Joseph Kopacz. The St. Mary choir under the direction of Dr. Doherty will provide the music. Before the entrance procession there will be a proclamation of the Pentecost event from the Acts of the Apostles. The entrance procession will include, in addition to the normal liturgical roles, a series of banners symbolizing the coming of the Holy Spirit. Children and youth groups will also have a part in the celebration.
A light reception will follow in the Family Life Center. In mid-afternoon the parish will host an open house to showcase some aspects of the history of Catholicism in Southwest Mississippi.

Photos needed for special edition
Mississippi Catholic is again planning to produce a “Spring Sacraments” issue featuring First Communion and Confirmation photos from across the diocese. Our hope is to get as many parishes as possible to participate. Please email your photos and captions to editor@mississippicatholic.com, by the end of May.
We need high-resolution photos (this usually means from a camera as opposed to a phone or tablet), the parish name, date and time of the sacrament and the names of your Communicants and Confirmandi. If you have a huge group, we may not be able to list all the names, but we will try. We only allow posed photos in this and the graduation issue. Details: Maureen Smith, 601-969-3581.

Pastoral ministries workshop
Pastoral Ministries Workshop, June 5-9 at Lake Tiak O’Khata for all  lay ministers of the church: DREs/CREs, catechists, LEMs, youth ministers and pastoral ministers.
(See related story on page 7)

Steve Azar Delta Soul
GREENVILLE 2016 Delta Soul Celebrity Golf and Charity event, June 9-11.

Catholic Radio Station
Jackson has a new Catholic radio station, 107.9 FM, WJXC. Details: P. O. Box 43, Terry, MS 39170, rvenable@venableglass.com.

Relato de un peregrino en Italia

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
Mi reciente peregrinación a Italia, que incluyó a Asís, Florencia, Venecia y Roma, tuvo todas las marcas distintivas de la tradición de ser como peregrinos en un viaje espiritual. El Jubileo Extraordinario de la Misericordia fue la inspiración para nosotros, 27 peregrinos, la mayoría de los Diócesis de Jackson, quienes emprendieron esta aventura a los Santuarios de toda Italia.
Las amadas iglesias y capillas en el camino fueron siempre el enfoque de cada día de destino en el cual la celebración de la Eucaristía estableció nuestra identidad como algo más que turistas, realmente peregrinos. La misa fue una experiencia de comunión con muchos de los fieles que han viajado antes de nosotros durante casi dos mil años en algunos casos. En cada lugar nuestras familias y nuestras familias espirituales estuvieron siempre en nuestros corazones y mentes en torno al altar del Señor.
Al aterrizar en Roma viajamos en autobús a Asís donde caminamos despaciosamente por la ladera de ese hermoso pueblo donde San Francisco reconstruyó la Iglesia de Dios. Celebramos la Misa en una pequeña capilla en el Monasterio Franciscano, un íntimo espacio sagrado que nos encaminó al camino de peregrinación. Aunque nunca hay suficiente tiempo para disfrutar esa inspiradora ciudad y campo, fuimos espiritualmente marcados para continuar hacia Florencia.
En el camino empezamos otro gran ejemplo, el sentarnos juntos a la mesa y saborear nuestra primera comida italiana en la región toscana. Muchas deliciosas comidas continuaron durante todo el viaje. Al día siguiente despertamos en Florencia, el epicentro de la cultura del Renacimiento, un mercado de arquitectura, esculturas de mármol y suelos, frescos, pinturas y un maravilloso laberinto de calles y callejones.
El espíritu de renovación, sagrado y secular, que abrazó al mundo mediterráneo en la Edad Media y el renacimiento, nos envolvió en nuestro día de visita. Celebramos la Eucaristía en una capilla lateral de la Catedral (Duomo) de Santa María de la flor, una de las muchas iglesias construidas en su honor en toda Italia.
Continuando hacia el norte viajamos a Venecia, donde pasamos un día entero en esta ciudad única. Aunque no celebramos misa en la Catedral de San Marcos, tuvimos la oportunidad de apreciar su majestuosidad de dentro y de fuera, así como la tradición que se mantiene de que los restos de San Marcos fueron secuestrados fuera de Egipto y correctamente alojados en su legítimo lugar sacro. Por la tarde celebramos la misa en la Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, cerca de la plaza, porque había una celebración de confirmación en la Catedral de San Marcos.
Habíamos llegado al límite geográfico y el domingo a mediodía llegamos a la ciudad eterna para entrar en el corazón del Jubileo extraordinario de la misericordia. La Basílica de San Pablo Extramuros, Santa María Mayor, la Catedral de San Juan de Letrán y la Basílica de San Pedro están designadas como las cuatro iglesias en el cual uno entra a través de la Puerta Santa de la misericordia. Complementado con una visita a las Catecumbas  pasamos a través de la primera puerta santa en San Paublo, donde también celebramos la Eucaristía dominical, tan conscientes de que lo que San Pablo “recibió  del Señor” se lo entregó a la iglesia.
En total pasamos cuatro días en Roma, desde el domingo hasta el miércoles, antes de regresar a casa el jueves. Si tuviera que escribir todo lo que hemos vivido y visto, se tomaría diez columnas.
Cada sitio religioso y monumento histórico construido sobre el anterior como una impresionante obra de arte que puede verse desde muchas perspectivas.
Continuando entramos por la Puerta santa de la Basílica de Santa María la Mayor y celebramos misa en una de sus resplandecientes capillas laterales. Aquí nos tomamos nuestra foto de grupo que será un recuerdo especial para cada uno de los peregrinos.
La Catedral de San Juan de Letrán, la Iglesia madre de toda la cristiandad, ciertamente del mundo católico, fue la tercera Puerta santa de la misericordia en la peregrinación. Posee una gloriosa historia que se remonta al emperador Constantino, y ahora majestuosamente tiene  sus puertas abiertas a todos los peregrinos y turistas de todo el mundo, la catedral del Santo Padre en Roma.
Nuestra última Puerta santa de la misericordia  fue la Basílica de San Pedro. No celebramos misa en la iglesia más grande del mundo cristiano, pero pacientemente caminamos por los pasillos que conducen a la Capilla Sixtina y finalmente en el interior de esta basílica que podría albergar cualquiera de las otras tres iglesias dentro de su cavernoso espacio. Es el hogar de los restos de San Pedro, cuya tumba se encuentra debajo del centro de la cúpula de Miguel Ángel en el altar principal.
El momento culminante de nuestra peregrinación fue la audiencia del miércoles con el Papa Francisco en la Plaza San Pedro con más de 50 mil peregrinos que fueron a celebrar nuestra fe en Jesucristo con el Sucesor de San Pedro. Una vez más, el día estuvo agradable, con una temperatura de 70 grados y luz del sol brillante de la mañana.
Yo estaba revestido de sotana y, por consiguiente fui llevado a los asientos destinados para los obispos que están justo al lado de la plataforma desde donde el Papa presenta su mensaje. Me sentía un poco culpable de que mis compañeros peregrinos no podían acompañarme, pero ellos tenían buenos asientos que les permitía tomar fotos de cerca del Papa Francisco cuando pasara en su carro papal.
Naturalmente, el mensaje del papa fue una inspiradora reflexión sobre el pasaje del evangelio de san Lucas que relata la historia de la mujer que le lavó los pies de Jesús con sus lágrimas y se los secó con sus cabellos. El mensaje fue resumido y traducido resumen en seis idiomas para el beneficio de todos los peregrinos. La audiencia concluyó con el canto del Padrenuestro en latín, y la bendición papal.
La audiencia duró aproximadamente una hora y después los obispos tuvieron la oportunidad de acercarse al papa, estrechar su mano y darle la bienvenida. Obviamente, este fue un bendito encuentro nuevamente, pero igual de virtuosa fue la experiencia de caminar por la plaza después buscando mi grupo, (que nunca encontré) y encontrar a peregrinos provenientes de todos los países de Europa. Bendiciones, oraciones, fotos y selfies, y 45 minutos más tarde llegué a la acera de la plaza para encontrar un taxi. Fue una culminación digna a la semana de peregrinación.
Sé que hablo en nombre de todos los otros 26 peregrinos que emprendieron esta aventura espiritual cuando digo que fuimos bendecidos de muchas maneras, desde lo más profundo a lo práctico. Todos los modos de transporte ocurrieron sin problemas.
Los autobuses estaban limpios y eran cómodos; los vuelos fueron suaves y lo suficientemente acogedores como para sardinas, el clima estuvo perfecto, nuestro guía fue amable, educado y paciente, y el chofer del bus era un experto en navegar el tráfico en toda Italia y especialmente en Roma.
La niebla de viajar por siete zonas de tiempo está comenzando a levantarse mientras escribo esto columna y todos oramos para que la alegría de la misericordia de Dios no se levante pronto.

A pilgrim’s tale of Italy

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Pilgrimage to Italy, which included Assisi, Florence, Venice and Rome, had all of the earmarks of the esteemed tradition of setting out as pilgrims on a spiritual journey. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was the inspiration for us, the 27 pilgrims, most from the Diocese of Jackson, who undertook this adventure to the Holy Shrines across Italy.
The beloved churches and chapels along the way were always the focus of each day’s destination where the celebration of the Eucharist established our identities as more than tourists, but truly pilgrims. The Mass was an experience of communion with many of the faithful who have journeyed before us for nearly two thousand years in some cases.  At each site our families and spiritual families were always in our hearts and minds around the altar of the Lord.
Upon landing in Rome we traveled by bus to Assisi where we ambled through that beautiful hillside town whence Saint Francis burst forth to rebuild God’s Church.  We celebrated Mass in a small chapel in the Franciscan Monastery, an intimate sacred space that set us on the path of pilgrimage. Although there is never enough time to savor such an awe inspiring town and countryside, we were spiritually marked and set out for Florence.
En route, we began another great pattern, that is to sit at table with one another and savor our first Italian feast in the Tuscan countryside. Many delicious meals followed throughout the journey. The next day we awoke in Florence, the cultural epicenter of the Renaissance, a marketplace of architecture, marble sculptures and floors, frescoes, paintings and a wonderful maze of winding streets and alleys. The spirit of renewal, sacred and secular, that embraced the Mediterranean world in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, enveloped us in our day-long visit. We celebrated the Eucharist in a side chapel in the Cathedral (Duomo) of Saint Mary of the Flower, one of many churches built in her honor throughout Italy.
Continuing north we journeyed to Venice where we spent a full day in this most unique city.  Although we did not celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mark we had the opportunity to appreciate it’s majesty from within and without, as well as the tradition that holds that the remains of Saint Mark were sequestered out of Egypt and properly housed in their rightful sacred location. Later in the day we celebrated Mass in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, just off the piazza, because there was a celebration of Confirmation in Saint Mark’s Cathedral.
We had reached our outer limits geographically and by Sunday noon we were in the eternal city to enter into the heart of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major, the Cathedral of St. John Lateran, and St. Peter’s Basilica are designated as the four churches at which one enters through the Holy Door of Mercy.
Complimented by a visit to the Catacombs, we passed through the first Holy Door at St. Paul’s where we also celebrated the Sunday Eucharist, so mindful that which St. Paul “received from the Lord” he handed on to the church. In total we spend four days in Rome, from Sunday through Wednesday, before returning home on Thursday. If I were to write down everything we experienced and viewed, it would take ten columns. Each religious site and historical landmark built upon the previous like a dazzling work of art that can be viewed from many perspectives.
From Saint Paul’s we next entered the Holy Door of Saint Mary Major and celebrated Mass in one of her resplendent side chapels. Here we took our group photo which will be a special keepsake for each of the pilgrims. The Cathedral of St. John Lateran, the mother church of all Christendom, certainly the Catholic world, was the the third Holy Door of Mercy on the pilgrimage.
It has a glorious history that goes back to the Emperor Constantine, and now sits majestically with doors open to all pilgrims and tourists from around the world, the Cathedral of the Holy Father in Rome. Our final Holy Door of Mercy for our pilgrimage was Saint Peter’s Basilica.
We did not celebrate Mass in the largest church in the Christian world, but we patiently wound our way through the corridors leading into the Sistine Chapel and finally into the interior of this basilica which could house any of the other three churches within its cavernous space. It  is home to the remains of St. Peter whose tomb sits below the center of Michaelangelo’s Dome under the Main Altar.
The crowning moment of our pilgrimage was the Wednesday audience with Pope Frances in St. Peter’s Square with more than 50,000 pilgrims who came to celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ with the Successor of St. Peter. Once again the day was balmy with a temp of 70 degrees and bright morning sunshine.
I was robed in cassock and therefore whisked to the seats for bishops that are just off the platform from where the pope delivers his message. I was feeling a bit guilty that my fellow pilgrims could not accompany me, but they had great seats which allowed them to take close up and personal photos of Pope Francis as he passed by in the pope mobile.
Naturally, the pope’s message was an inspiring reflection on the passage from Luke’s Gospel on the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair.
This was translated in summary into six languages for the benefit of all of the pilgrims. The audience then concluded with the singing of the Lord’s prayer in Latin and the papal blessing. The audience lasted about one hour and afterwards, the bishops had the opportunity to approach the Pope in single file and shake his hand and greet him.
Obviously, this was a blessed encounter once again, but just as edifying was the experience of walking through the square afterwards looking for my group, (which I never found) and encountering pilgrims from just about every country in Europe. Blessings, prayers, photos – including selfies – and 45 minutes later I landed on the sidewalk outside the square to find a taxi. It was a fitting culmination to the week long pilgrimage.
I know that I speak for all of the other 26 pilgrims who undertook this spiritual adventure when I say that we were blessed in many ways, from the profound to the practical. All modes of transportation happened without a hitch.
The motor coaches were clean and comfortable; the flights were smooth and cozy enough for sardines, the weather was perfect, our guide was gracious, knowledgeable and patient, and the bus diver was skilled in navigating traffic throughout Italy and especially in Rome.
The fog of traveling over seven time zones is beginning to lift as I write this column, and we all pray that the joy of God’s Mercy will not lift anytime soon.

Magazine details Sisters’ Mississippi mission

Although the Sisters of St. Joseph of the third order of St. Francis no longer serve in Mississippi, their legacy remains, especially in Meridian and Greenwood, where they were integral in starting a hospital and school. The school, St. Francis of Assisi, is still operating in Greenwood, although it is now served by a different Franciscan community.
This spring the school’s founders dedicated an issue of their magazine, Peace and All Good, to their time in Mississippi to commemorate the 70th anniversary of coming to the state. “Mississippi Ministry, 1945-1996,” is packed full of stories and photos from both communities. A digital issue will be available on the order’s website, www.ssj-tosf.org. Those who would like to order a hard copy should send $10 to Sister Angelora Grossman, SSJ-TOSF, P.O. Box 305, Stevens Point, WI 54481-0305. To speak with Sister Angelora, call 715-341-8457.

St. Dominic Hospital marks anniversary

JACKSON –  St. Dominic Hospital celebrated its 70th anniversary on Friday, April 15. This marks the day when a group of Dominican Sisters from Springfield, Ill., came to Jackson  to assume responsibility for what was then known as the Jackson Infirmary. This original hospital was located on Amite Street in downtown Jackson.
Although St. Dominic’s, and the healthcare industry as a whole, has endured growth and change over the years, St. Dominic’s has remained true to the pioneer sisters’ vision of providing a Christian healing ministry to the people of Mississippi. Currently, seven Dominican Sisters serve locally in the St. Dominic’s ministry.
St. Dominic Hospital is a 535-bed tertiary care hospital located in Jackson,  serving all of central Mississippi and employs approximately 3,000 people, inclusive of nurses, physicians, and skilled caregivers. The medical staff, of nearly 500 leading physicians and specialists, makes St. Dominic’s one of the most comprehensive hospitals in Mississippi.
To commemorate the occasion, sculptor Tracy Sugg created a life-size bronze statue of a pioneer Dominican Sister titled, ‘Dominican Sister, A Life Given in Service,’ to honor the many donors who have supported the St. Dominic’s ministry over the years. In the past, grateful patients, families and friends helped to support St. Dominic’s by purchasing commemorative plaques placed on doors throughout the hospital. As the hospital changed to meet patient needs, many plaques were left with no place to be displayed. Sculptor Tracy Sugg used the bronze from these plaques to create the statue.
The sister in the sculpture is actually stepping off the plinth with one hand outstretched. This was done to help convey the essence of the Sisters’ desire to not be on a pedestal, but rather to serve in Christ’s love.
“This sculpture honors our many friends and represents the donor recognition plaques placed throughout the hospital in prior years,” said Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic Hospital. “I cannot think of a better way to commemorate St. Dominic’s 70th anniversary than this distinctive representation of what we hope to embody as an organization.”
(Story and photo courtesy of St. Dominic)

Teen jubilee: ‘go back to church, not your phone’

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Sharing and celebrating the joy of faith with thousands of Catholic teenagers from around the globe was a rare moment that not many people are able to experience, a U.S. teen said.
“It was a different atmosphere than what I’m used to, but it’s good because it shows that the beauty of the Catholic Church is there,” Emily Sullivan told Catholic News Service April 25.
Emily, her brother Ryan and parents Matt and Susan, came from North Carolina to participate in the Year of Mercy celebration for young teens April 23-24 in Rome.
Both siblings, who are preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation, said that despite the language barrier, they were able to join in singing and praying during the April 23 youth rally at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
“It was awesome; the energy was insane,” Emily said. “The people knew all the lyrics and they were jamming out. So we came up with a couple of words that we could sing along. It was really cool to be in that atmosphere.”
To see so many Catholic teens in one place was “definitely encouraging,” she added.
For Ryan, attending the April 24 Mass in St. Peter’s Square was the highlight of his pilgrimage. “It was great seeing the pope,” and “meeting other people and seeing the city” was “all good,” he told CNS.
“We will make our confirmation in two weeks so it was definitely great to see the history of the church and (meet) other people who are Catholic because where we live, there’s not as big of a following,” Emily said.
In his homily, Pope Francis told the more than 100,000 teens present that happiness “is not an ‘app’ that you can download on your phones” and that love leads to true freedom, which is a gift that comes from “being able to choose good.”
The pope’s message, Emily said, encouraged people “to go back to the church at the end of the day, not your phone.”
Their mother Susan told CNS she hopes that attending the jubilee event will give her children a “fuller and richer experience” as they prepare to receive confirmation in two weeks.
“It was really important for me and for them to have this experience,” she said. “To be that close (to Pope Francis) as he was celebrating Mass was truly, I hope, a life-changing experience for them that reaffirms their faith.”