Family ties bind Bruin baseball family at St. Joe

By Lauri Collins
MADISON – The St. Joseph High School webpage for the baseball team reads, “Family.”  Twenty guys and their families who are at the ballpark together for four months, day-in and day-out, weekends included. Parents run the concession stands, plan team snacks; the boys practice, play, practice, then play again. Everyone cheers.

Russell Paterson, who just graduated, transferred in as a junior from Texas. He played second base.

Russell Paterson, who just graduated, transferred in as a junior from Texas. He played second base.

The family atmosphere at DM Howie Field was stronger than ever this spring because of a parliament of Rooks who practically lived at the field. Not blackbirds, but the descendants of Jack and Bettie Rooks, whose children attended St. Joe in the 1980s. St. Joe Senior Will Butts, son of Helen Rooks Butts (1983); Russell Patterson, son of Frances Rooks Patterson (1985); and Charlie Rooks, son of Joe Rooks (1980), all played together on the baseball team. The chemistry among the three was as fun to watch as the adult family members in the stands.
Russell, who just graduated, transferred in as a junior from Texas, and played second base. He was quick and agile, tall and lean. His cousin Charlie who will be a senior this fall, pitches and plays shortstop and is new to St. Joe this year.  He reads the ball well and knows Russell’s style. You can watch the mutual respect between them.
Will Butts, who almost passed on playing his senior year, stuck with it because of his cousins. “I didn’t want to miss out being on the team with both of them. We all get along really well off the field, so I knew it would be special on the team with them,” he said. Will has pitched, played in the outfield, and done some pinch running.  “Will has more heart than most athletes. He is happy to be on the team and participate in whatever way he can help,” Coach Gerrard McCall said.

Charlie Rooks, who was new to St. Joe this year and will be a senior this fall, pitches and plays shortstop.

Charlie Rooks, who was new to St. Joe this year and will be a senior this fall, pitches and plays shortstop.

McCall noticed the family ties among the boys. “Their small family of three on the team helped our baseball team as a whole to understand what family should look like.  They were united, strong and there for each other all the time,” he explained.
The family force is not just on the field and in the dugout. Will’s dad, Larry, is the voice of the Bruins at home games. He has been in the press box calling games since 2009 when their older son Jack played. Their mom Helen was the team mom, doing the work of three volunteers. Helen stocked the concession stand, scheduled the workers, organized meals, cleaned the bathrooms; and, much like her son Will, did anything the team needs her to do.
Helen was quick to recruit sister Frances and her husband Greg when they moved back to Mississippi two years ago. Frances helped with concessions, and the former Bruin cheerleader could be heard cheering for the entire team. Greg and Joe joined the cooking squad and help flip burgers and fry fish before home games.

Will Butts said he didn’t want to miss out being on the team with his cousins.

Will Butts said he didn’t want to miss out being on the team with his cousins.

Joe and his wife Lisa say the atmosphere at St. Joe is just what Charlie needed, and having so much family around is even better. Joe played football and baseball during his time at St. Joe.
And there are more Rooks family members to cheer for the three on the baseball team. Tim Rooks, the youngest of the family, and his wife Kim have three boys at St. Joe. Though not on the field for the Bruins this year, Sam, Max and Luke are there to cheer on the cousins.
Since Russell and Will both graduated last month, this year was the only one that the three had together. Special to them, their families and to the team. The Bruin team had a stellar year, finishing 27-7 for the season, leaving a feeling of family for those left to carry on the Bruin tradition.
(Lauri Collins is director of advancement at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison.)

Retreat opportunities good soil for the soul

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
The first week of June many lay people from across the diocese participated in the Pastoral Ministries Workshop at Lake Tiak O’Khata in Louisville. A feature of the workshop is an optional retreat. One morning I was sitting on a porch with a few of the retreatants.
During our reflection and conversation a dove gracefully flew into a nearby tree and remained there until a few minutes before we closed our session with prayer. Thankfully all three of us saw this most welcome visitor. I have been told that I am not the greatest birder in the family and may have mistaken the dove for an egret. I assure you, it was a dove, and its presence was powerful.
The presence of the dove reminded me of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, but it also reminded me that it was in our slowing down that we were able to see the gift that God had blessed us with that morning. Retreats are to the soul what good nutrition is to the body. Without feeding ourselves good food our bodies suffer. The same can be said for our spiritual life. Left unattended they no longer produce good fruit.
One of the things we reflected on during our time together was the need to create touch tones in our lives, regardless of our state of life or vocation, to heighten our awareness of God’s directing presence in our daily living. By touch tones I mean a physical reminder of a spiritual awareness that we have experienced.
I shared with the group what had happened to me about a month ago. I was on my way to Jackson and had a long list of things on my “to do” list. Maintaining a life in Starkville, working out of an office in Jackson and serving the people in a diocese the geographic size of ours had left me feeling like I was not serving God well.
Exasperated, I asked God, “Where are you in all of this?” A few miles pass. The thought came to me, if I were on the receiving end of defibrillators what would be going through my mind? I thought for a minute and was filled with gratitude for my family, the beautiful farm of my youth in Ohio, the amazing people I have met along the journey, the blessings of ministry, the love shared and the beautiful family that has been knit together from all these experiences.
These are the things that matter. The touch tone has become a physical touch on my heart during the times when I feel overwhelmed by life’s demands. That physical touch reminds me of the things that matter. It is a simple gesture but it moves me from anxiety to peace.
What are some of the ways you remind yourself to remain focused on the important stuff? I have a friend who uses music to keep her centered on God. Whenever she begins to feel stressed she listens to her favorite gospel radio station. Quotes from our spiritual heroes can also be used as a touch tone. A well placed quote on the bathroom mirror or a prayer card in our bible can serve as a reminder to keep our eyes fixed on the Beloved.
My favorite St. John of the Cross quote comes to mind, “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” When I find myself short on patience or quick to judge this quote reminds me that love is my only option.
The folks who joined me on retreat all work for the church in a leadership role. But the conversations we shared each morning would be applicable to anyone who is serious about developing a more intimate relationship with God.
All our meaningful relationships depend on our ability to be present, listen, act with sincerity and appreciate the other. Just as our human relationships need this kind of care so too does our relationship with God. Personal retreats give us the opportunity to reconnect with God. To sit quietly and ask for nothing but the time to be present, fully present.
When was the last time you went on a retreat? For some the answer may take us back to confirmation several decades ago or perhaps to a college retreat. For some the answer may be never. Having recently returned from directing this retreat I was left with the profound awareness that retreats are not only helpful in our faith journey but necessary if we are to fully embrace a loving relationship with God.
If you have never taken a retreat or if it has been years since you did, I am not admonishing you in any way. Rather, I hope to encourage you to take the time away and nurture your relationship with God. If you work in ministry, paid or volunteer, participating in a retreat for yourself is the best gift you can give the people you serve. If you are interested in learning more about retreats, feel free to contact me at
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Hispanic ministry seeks local participation in national Encuentro

By Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSPS
The Office of Hispanic Ministry is inviting everyone to participate in the Fifth National Hispanic Encuentro, set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, at the Gaylord Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.
Work toward this national Encuentro is already underway. Much of it was started at the recent diocesan Encuentro in Greenwood. A team of pastoral leaders also met in early June at Winona Sacred Heart to begin training.062416encuentro02
The “V Encuentro,” as it is called, is a process rather than an event; it is more than a meeting of pastoral leadership and more than a series of documents on how to minister to the Hispanic community. Its main objective is to discern the pastoral response of the church toward the Hispanic/Latino presence in the U.S. and enhance the response of the Hispanics/Latinos as a church.
We need this Encuentro because we are growing in the country and there is a need for thousands of new leaders; because there is not capacity to meet this growth in leadership and ministerial response in parishes, dioceses, schools and Catholic institutions.
The V Encuentro will have an enormous impact among Hispanics in the United States, in our dioceses and in our parishes since in it will be involved more than 5,000 parishes, 175 dioceses, more than a million people in the suburbs, millions of committed leaders and more than 100 Catholic organizations.
It is imperative to engage the largest group of the Hispanic/Latino presence – youth of second and third generation in this process. New immigrants and their families offer missionary potential and the church needs to keep new Catholic immigrants and help them progress in all dimensions of their  lives.
The Encuentro process is motivated by the reading of the signs of the times and convened by the bishops, who are calling on the Hispanic/Latino people to raise their prophetic voice.

WINONA – Maribel and Juan Melo, members of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, are part of the diocesan organizing team of the V Encuentro, representing the Christian Family Movement. The first meeting for this process was held at Sacred Heart Mission on Saturday, June 4. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

WINONA – Maribel and Juan Melo, members of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, are part of the diocesan organizing team of the V Encuentro, representing the Christian Family Movement. The first meeting for this process was held at Sacred Heart Mission on Saturday, June 4. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

This encounter will take place within a process at various levels: parish, diocesan, regional and national. With the support of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, I am creating a diocesan team to facilitate this encounter. The team will be trained by the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) in the coming months. Members will be responsible for raising awareness about the process in local communities, as well as implementing the plan that will come out of the process.
They will also be responsible for providing training to parish teams in the implementation of the resulting plans. This process of evangelization and consultation has its foundation in five sessions inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.”
The guide for the parishes, lay movements and Catholic organizations who will participate in this transformative missionary process will be available in the fall.
All of us will be working under the direction of ENAVE, (a representative group of National Catholic Organizations) and with the support and direction of SEPI.
This encounter will work from the base, this means that everyone in the diocese is important. This process will begin at the parish level, then at the diocesan level, at the regional level and finally to the national level. We are making efforts to involve ecclesial movements and organizations. The greater the contribution of Hispanics and other nationalities, the richer the process will be.
According to the national team, the V Encuentro hopes to reach millions of people who will become missionary disciples – witnesses of the love of God, especially to the young people and families who are living in the margins of society.
We can only accomplish this mission through the participation of a great number of people. Look for announcements about activities in your parish, volunteer through the Office of Hispanic Ministry and pray for those involved in this process. This missionary action is part of our baptismal call to mission and holiness, because we are called to build community and to be responsible for the gifts that God has given us.
With the support of our Bishop, Joseph Kopacz, the Office of Hispanic Ministry, the parish leaders – priests, ministers and ecclesial leaders – lets undertake together and with enthusiasm this path and let ourselves be transformed as the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, saying that our hearts are burning with joy “by what happened on the way.”
(Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSPS is a pastoral associate in the Office of Hispanic Ministries. She can be reached at


CHATAWA St. Mary of the Pines, ninth annual “Speak Lord I’m Listening” retreat for men and women using the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Friday-Sunday, July 29-31. Led by Father Bill Henry.
GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph Parish, “Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues,” class following Father Robert Barron’s exploration of these seven sins, Sundays at 9:30 a.m., Room 106 in the church. Cost is $15.
GREENWOOD – Life in the Spirit Seminar, “Take the grace of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit into the heart of the church,” Saturday, Aug. 20, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center, 1407 Levee Road,  Speakers are: Father Bill Henry, Camille Leatherman, Ann Leatherman, Mark Davis, Mike and Charlene Brown. Details: Magdalene Abraham, 662- 299-1232.
JACKSON St. Richard Parish, “Putting it all together,” a DVD series titled “Divine Mercy” featuring Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Foley Hall. Details: Suzan Cox, 601-366-2335.
– Old Testament class, Sept. 6-Oct. 11.
YAZOO CITY St. Mary Parish, eight-week Level II Catechist Certification course on “Catholic Morality,” Sundays from 8:15 – 10:15 a.m. in the parish hall. Sister Michele Doyle is teaching the course. Cost is $20 plus a book fee. Details: Diane Melton, 662-746-1680.

BOONEVILLE St. Francis of Assisi Parish Knights of Columbus’s Ladies Auxiliary is collecting items for personal care bags for ministries in Booneville and Corinth, through December 2016. Place your donations in the baskets on the table in the narthex.
COLUMBUS Annunciation School, Fine Arts Camp, July 18-22 from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. for students entering kindergarten – sixth grade. Hands-on camp focused on visual and physical arts, music, and theatre. Cost is $100 for first child, $90 for each additional child. Details: Jenni Browning,
– Workday to get the campus prepared for the first day of school, Saturday, July 16, beginning at 8 a.m. Bring work gloves. Lunch will be provided.
GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph Parish,  family picnic and movie night Friday, July 8, beginning at 6 p.m. Bring your lawn chairs.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit Parish, annual bazaar is being planned for Saturday, Sept. 10. Volunteers are needed. Details: Barbara Smith, 662-233-4833, and 901-413-8102 (cell).
– Young adults of Northern Mississippi are invited  to a night hangout on Friday, July 15, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Family Life Center. Bring a snack and a drink to share. Invite your friends, college age and up. Recent high school grads are welcome. Sign up in the gathering space as soon as possible.
– Five volunteers are needed to help at the Garden Cafe in Holly Springs on Thursday, June 30, departure  at 3:45 p.m. from the parish grounds. Details: parish office, 662-429-7851.
JACKSON St. Richard Parish, meet-n-greet for Biking for Babies teams, Thursday, July 14, at 6 p.m. A spaghetti dinner prepared by the Knights of Columbus will be serve. RSVP to 601-956-8636.
– “Catholics Come Home,” a four-week program to explore returning to the church, beginning Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m. in Foley Hall, 1242 Lynnwood Drive. A nursery will be provided upon request. Details: 601-366-2335 ext. 107
JACKSON St. Peter Parish, baptismal preparation class, Tuesday, July 12, at 6 p.m. in the Cathedral Center. Call the parish office to register, 601-969-3125.
– Lector training, Saturday, Aug. 6, at 10 a.m.
MADISON St. Joseph School, first annual summer evening prayer and potluck dinner, Monday, June 27, at 6 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium.
– Bruin Burn 5K Run/Walk and 1 Mile Fun Run, Saturday, July 16, beginning at 7 a.m. at St. Anthony School, 1585 Old Mannsdale Road, Madison. To register visit,
SHAW St. Francis of Assisi Parish, summer socials, cookouts on Sundays, June 26 and July 31, at 6 p.m. and a potluck on Sunday, Aug. 28, at noon.
TUPELO St. James Parish, annual pilgrimage walk and celebration of the parish’s patron, Saturday, July 23.

CHATAWA A Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Audrey Mae Kihnemann, SSND, was celebrated Friday, June 10, at St. Teresa Church. Sister Kihnemann died Tuesday, June 7, at St. Mary of the Pines. Her ministry was teaching primary grade children in Arkansas, Alabama, and as a teacher of English as a second language to primary children at Notre Dame School in Japan. She returned to the States in 1971 and continued her educational ministry as teacher and counselor in secondary schools in Lousiana.
Since 2005, Sister Kihnemann was a member of the St. Mary of the Pines Community. Burial took place in the Chatawa Cemetery.

PUEBLO, Colo. – A Mass of Christian Burial for Father Walter J. Smigiel, 93, was to be celebrated June 22 at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Pueblo.
He joined the Franciscan Order of the Assumption of BVM Province and was ordained on June 3, 1950. He volunteered to work among the African-Americans in Greenwood, Miss. In 1953, he founded St. Benedict the Moor Information Center in Indianola, Miss., which subsequently became a parish.
After 17 years of mission work among African-Americans and being involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Father Smigiel expressed a desire to work among Native Americans and Latinos. Permission was granted by the Provincial Superior. He was accepted by Bishop Charles Buswell, bishop of Pueblo, Colo., in January of 1971. His first assignment in the Pueblo diocese was at St. Mary Parish in Montrose, Colo., where he helped found the Mexican-American Development Association, a civil rights organization. He served in Colorado until he retired from the active ministry of priesthood.

Vacation Bible schools
– Booneville St. Francis of Assisi Parish, July 18-22. Details: Ken Floyd, 662-728-2131.
– Corinth St. James Parish, there will be two different sessions. Tuesday and Wednesday, July 12-13, and  Thursday and Friday, July 14-15, from 9 a.m. – noon. Register for one session only.
Greenwood St. Francis, “Discovery Zone 2016,” June 27-30.
Meridian St. Patrick, July 11-14 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. for children who have completed K4 through fourth grade. Details: Sister Marilyn Winkle,, 601-484-8955.

Bishop Cheri resting after heart bypass surgery

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS – After suffering a mild heart attack, Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans underwent double bypass surgery June 1 at Touro Infirmary and is now recuperating at his residence.
“I’d like to ask everyone to keep me in prayer and try not to contact me because it’s better that I can rest and recuperate and get back to ministry,” Bishop Cheri said.
Bishop Cheri conferred confirmation at St. Joachim Church in Marrero on May 27, and he woke up early the next morning having difficulty taking deep breaths.
He was taken by ambulance to Touro, where tests revealed he had “a slight heart attack” and also had two blocked arteries.
“They said one was blocked over 90 percent, and that’s the one they call the widow-maker,” Bishop Cheri said. “It’s one of those silent killers.”
Doctors first tried to resolve the blockages through less invasive angioplasty but stopped the procedure when they determined the blockages were too great.
Bishop Cheri had to wait until June 1 for the bypass surgery in order to give his heart time to recover from the angioplasty procedure.
The bypass surgery went fine, Bishop Cheri said, but he had to spend a few extra days in the hospital because he got lightheaded after taking a particular medicine.
“I was born with one kidney, which complicates a lot of stuff,” Bishop Cheri said. “They’re trying to balance out what’s going on. It’s going to take time. I’ve just got to give myself time.”
Bishop Cheri said his recuperation of several months would be a challenge because he considers himself a “horrible” patient.
“Patience is not my middle name,” he said. “God is testing me. I’m grateful for all the prayers.”
Bishop Cheri spoke in Jackson earlier this year at the diocesan celebration in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month.
(Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

Catholic press faces ‘double mandate’

By Julie Asher
ST. LOUIS (CNS) – Catholic communicators “have a double mandate: the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Gospel,” Greg Erlandson told the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis.
Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, (OSV) received the Bishop John England Award June 2 from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
“These are perilous times,” he said in his acceptance remarks. “We are looking at competing ideological agendas that too often are incompatible with the Gospel and that too often threaten the weakest among us – both born and unborn – the undocumented, the terminally ill, the poor and neglected.”
Catholic communicators’ vocation “is to be their voice,” said Erlandson. “Our vocation is to be the voice of the church. That is our responsibility and our privilege.”
Our Sunday Visitor, based in Huntington, Indiana, was founded 104 years ago “to be a voice for the church and the rights of Catholics.” he said.
He said that in that role, he “sought to defend the church’s right to speak out on all the issues of the day, to defend the church’s right to participate in the debates that animate the public square, but to do so without rancor or histrionics, to do so without blinders or defensiveness, but in the spirit of loyalty, honesty and intelligence that I hope has defined all that we published.”
In editorials and articles, OSV Newsweekly “has spoken out in defense of religious liberty and supported – both in court and in our pages – the opposition to the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate regarding contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. We have addressed religious freedom issues worldwide, and defended the rights of migrants and refugees.”
The publication also has addressed the sex abuse crisis, he said, “both saluting the church for the policies it has instituted in the wake of the crisis, but also addressing the failures of leadership that occurred and that so wounded our church.”
He noted the publication’s defense of Catholic organizations “that have endured unjust attack,” he said, pointing in particular to Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. CRS “has been the target of malicious and shameful witch hunts,” Erlandson said.
The England award is named for the Irish-born bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, who founded The Catholic Miscellany in 1822. As publisher of the newspaper, Bishop England defended separation of church and state, saying it was good for both entities. He also espoused freedom of religion. Presented annually, the award recognizes publishers in the Catholic press for the defense of First Amendment rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It is the CPA’s highest award for publishers.
In 2015, Erlandson received the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award.
Mississippi Catholic production manager and creative services coordinator Contyna McNealy was recognized at this year’s Catholic Media Conference with a second place award for the design of the diocesan Saltillio Mission collection ad. Editor Maureen Smith attended the conference on behalf of the department of communications.

Bishop: pray for Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) – Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan urged people of faith “to turn their hearts and souls” to God and pray for the victims, the families and first responders following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history June 12.
“A sword has pierced the heart of our city,” he said in a statement.
“The healing power of Jesus goes beyond our physical wounds but touches every level of our humanity: physical, emotional, social, spiritual,” he said. “Jesus calls us to remain fervent in our protection of life and human dignity and to pray unceasingly for peace in our world.”
The shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and 53 wounded.
Police said a lone gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen – opened fire inside the Pulse club in Orlando in the early morning hours. News reports said that Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, died in a gun battle with SWAT team members.
Across the nation, reaction from church and community leaders was swift, and in cities large and small, people organized candlelit vigils for the victims and their families the night of the shooting.
“Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act,” he said in a statement June 12. “The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”
“Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” said Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich.
In Orlando, priests, deacons and counselors from the Diocese of Orlando and Catholic Charities of Central Florida were serving at an aid center established by city officials.
Throughout the day June 12, church personnel were helping victims and families “on the front lines of this tragedy,” Bishop Noonan said. “They are offering God’s love and mercy to those who are facing unimaginable sorrow. They will remain vigilant and responsive to the needs of our hurting brothers and sisters.”
In his statement, Archbishop Cupich expressed gratitude to the first responders and civilians at the scene of the shooting.
“In response to hatred, we are called to sow love,” he added. “In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.”
In a letter to the Chicago archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, Archbishop Cupich said: “For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.”
He also urged Americans to “find the courage to face forthrightly the falsehood that weapons of combat belong anywhere in the civilian population.”
In Washington, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in a post on his blog said that “the love of Jesus Christ will prevail,” and while all too often “it appears it that our civilization is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.”
He said all people of goodwill must stand together “in making another impassioned appeal for peace and security in our communities and throughout the world.”
Another Florida prelate, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, expressed his sorrow over the tragedy and also addressed the gun rights issue.
“Our founding parents had no knowledge of assault rifles which are intended to be weapons of mass destruction. … It is long past time to ban the sale of all assault weapons. … If one is truly pro-life, then embrace this issue also and work for the elimination of sales to those who would turn them on innocents.”
Bishop Lynch also said that “sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
Courage International, a Catholic organization that provides support for people who experience same-sex attraction, condemned “the atrocious violence” at the gay night club, adding that “in the face of such outrageous violence and loss of life, human words and explanations fall short.”
“So people of faith look to the everlasting mercy and compassion of almighty God, who ‘is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit,’” the group said, quoting Psalm 34.
The Courage statement also reminded people of what the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said 30 years ago about violence toward gay people: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

Friars on Foot making their way across diocese

By Andrew Morgan
MADISON – Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Schaefgen, O.P., also known as the Friars on Foot, celebrated Mass at Madison St. Francis Wednesday, June 15, at 7 a.m., about halfway through their three-state pilgrimage from one end of their territory in New Orleans to the other in Memphis. Their route began in New Orleans on May 29, taking them around Lake Pontchartrain, and then north through Mississippi. They hope to reach Memphis by June 29.

JACKSON – Sister Susan Karina Dickey, OP, (right) talks with the friars while they eat a light lunch before departing to Madison accompanied by four parishioners from Flowood St. Paul.

JACKSON – Sister Susan Karina Dickey, OP, (right) talks with the friars while they eat a light lunch before departing to Madison accompanied by four parishioners from Flowood St. Paul.

Priests, lay ministers and parishioners have welcomed them at every stop so far, often walking part of their journey with them. Anyone is welcome to walk and pray with them. They also welcome donations of food, water, bandages and especially sunscreen.
Earlier in the week, they spent the night at Jackson St. Therese Parish and celebrated Mass Monday at 8 a.m., followed by a light breakfast. From there they walked to St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson, visiting with the only other Dominicans in the diocese. They enjoyed lunch with the sisters and employees before they continued on their way to Madison, accompanied by four women from Flowood St. Paul Parish.
Their mission statement, as found on their website, reads: “We will encounter people of goodwill from many denominations and faith traditions, some who will be glad to see us, most will be curious, some will want to join us, and many will have questions. Direct and personal encounters with the people we meet on the way show an Order and Church that is not afraid to go outside of its doors. Our mission is simple yet far reaching.”
Father Schaefgen echoed this in his homily at Saint Francis, describing their desire to walk in the footsteps of the masters. “That is our desire, to walk in the footsteps of St. Dominic, who walked in the footsteps of the Apostles, who walked in the footsteps of Jesus.” Jesus never walked through Jackson, but he does now, through all of us in his Holy Church.

MADISON – Father Richard Goodin, OFM, records fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Schaefgan alongside fellow Franciscans Eric, Richard, and Michael. (Photo by Paula Morgan)

MADISON – Father Richard Goodin, OFM, records fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Schaefgan alongside fellow Franciscans Eric, Richard, and Michael. (Photo by Paula Morgan)

He described how the prophet Elijah was followed so closely by his student that Elisha was covered in the dust which fell from his master’s feet. In many ways, Father Schaefgen remarked, he and his fellow friar hope to walk in the dust of the master. “Our goal is much more to build an awareness of the Order, of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. It’s a different kind of mission, at least in appearances, to Dominic’s.”
Father Orozco explained that such a contemplative experience, albeit a suffering one, could appeal to someone who seeks more than simply going to church every Sunday. “Something else, too, is that this is a very traditional thing. Jesus made pilgrimages and so do many Jewish people,” he noted. “That’s one reason why we’re doing it, going back to our roots as Dominicans. We are here to spread the message of Christ, on foot, on the move and in person.”
The friars enjoyed breakfast provided by Saint Francis parishioners, after which six young men from Jackson St. Richard’s ALIVE youth group arrived with youth minister Amelia Rizor and volunteer Paula Morgan. They joined the friars for their two-hour walk along Old Canton Road to Hoy Road until they reached Highway 59 towards Canton.
Upon reaching a store in Madison, the group was stopped by a passing vehicle on the road. Inside were four Franciscan friars of St. John the Baptist Province who were making their way back to Galveston, Texas. The Franciscans had been following the friars on social media and were delighted their paths crossed. The group parked at a nearby gas station and spent some time chatting. Among them, Father Richard Goodin, OFM, recorded a video for his own YouTube channel. The group said their goodbyes, promising to keep Fathers Orozco and Schaefgen in prayer and went on their way.
“We’re doing something challenging,” Father Schaefgen said. “And I think that is what the youth need to see. See that the faith is something radical and active, and that even just by walking you are following Christ.” Father Orozco added that he thinks it is a challenge that the youth are more than willing and able to embrace.
Keep up with the friars at: or on social media by searching #friarsonfoot.
(Andrew Morgan is a rising sophomore at The Catholic University of America and a graduate of Madison St. Joseph School.)

Florida bishop’s words guide response to Orlando

Millennial reflections
By Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem.
Before last week, when you said “Orlando” people usually thought about Disney or one of the other theme parks in the Florida town. Now the name recalls the largest mass shooting in the nation’s history: 103 shot, 49 dead, several still in the hospital in various stages of recovery.
The response was huge. Displays appeared that proclaim only love can heal. Forty-nine crosses made by a volunteer with names of the deceased are on display.
Some responses brought people together. Gay sons and daughters, straight parents and siblings, people came together with love and compassion. Labels temporarily disappeared. It was ‘our family’ that got shot up by someone consumed with hate and false religion. Other responses were predictable: ban Muslims, attack and distort their religion.
All this in the midst of a toxic presidential election that will only get worse until it is over added fuel to the fire. I was on vacation when the shooting happened. Details came out in bits and pieces in initial reports on television: a terrorist shot up a night club, 22 dead, possible hostages. The fact that Pulse was a gay club only came out much later. These were young people having a good time falling victim to a hate consumed terrorist. As reporting developed, a picture emerged. This terrorist specifically targeted and vented hate in one place the gay community felt safe.
Among notable responses to this, I want to applaud Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg Florida, who made three points. First, he said, that “Our founding parents (note the inclusive language) had no knowledge of assault rifles which are intended to be weapons of mass destruction. In crafting the second amendment to the Constitution, which I affirm, they thought only of the most awkward of pistols and heavy shotguns. I suspect they are turning in their graves if the can only but glimpse at what their words now protect. It is long past time to ban the sale of all assault weapons whose use should be available to the armed forces.”
His second point is also worth reflecting. “Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breed contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people… Those men and women who were mowed down early yesterday morning were made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that.”
His third point is also very important. “Responding by barring people of Muslim only faith from entering the country, solely because of their stated faith until they can be checked out, is un-American, even in these most challenging times… There are as many good, peace loving and God-fearing Muslims to be found as Catholics or Methodists or Mormons or Seventh Day Adventists. The devil and devilish intent escape no religious iteration.”
He concludes by saying that his three points must be taken seriously by society or we can expect more  attacks such as this one in Orlando.
What is courageous in his statement is his condemnation of this horrendous act as a hate crime or act of terror aimed specifically at the gay community. We are called to love and support one another on this journey. This love and support cannot come with judgment. It cannot come with demands. We must offer it freely and abundantly. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in good times and in times of tragedy.
Bishop Lynch also points out that many prejudices and hatreds find material in religion to justify their views. He mentions that when the imam spoke to repudiate this atrocity, there would be attempts to find religious roots in this. Bad people often use religion to justify their wickedness, but singling people out for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality – this has to stop also.
While we live in very polarizing and violent times, we also live in a time of opportunity. The Orlando atrocity, on top of everything else, should wake people up that it is time to stop all this. Our love could be just the thing that turns someone else away from his or her prejudice. Our compassion could be the key to opening someone’s heart.
Our country is at another crossroads. Many of us thought that these old hatreds and prejudices were things of the past. They are coming back when we need leadership that can bring all of us together, not insulated by labels, but united by common humanity and love of peace. When America responds like that it can be a light to the nations.
(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches art of public debate

By Bishop Robert Baron
Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz is traveling. His regular column, Let there be Light, will return later this summer.
There is, in many quarters, increasing concern about the hyper-charged political correctness that has gripped our campuses and other forums of public conversation. Even great works of literature and philosophy — from “Huckleberry Finn” and “Heart of Darkness” to, believe it or not, Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”  — are now regularly accompanied by “trigger warnings” that alert prospective readers to the racism, sexism, homophobia or classism contained therein.
And popping up more and more at our colleges and universities are “safe spaces” where exquisitely sensitive students can retreat in the wake of jarring confrontations with points of view with which they don’t sympathize. My favorite example of this was at Brown University where school administrators provided retreat centers with play-doh, crayons, and videos of frolicking puppies to calm the nerves of their students even before a controversial debate commenced!
Apparently even the prospect of public argument sent these students to an updated version of daycare. Of course a paradoxical concomitant of this exaggerated sensitivity to giving offense is a proclivity to aggressiveness and verbal violence; for once authentic debate has been ruled out of court, the only recourse contesting parties have is to some form of censorship or bullying.
There is obviously much that can and should be mocked in all of this, but I won’t go down that road. Instead, I would like to revisit a time when people knew how to have a public argument about the most hotly-contested matters. Though it might come as a surprise to many, I’m talking about the High Middle Ages, when the university system was born. And to illustrate the medieval method of disciplined conversation there is no better candidate than St. Thomas Aquinas.
The principal means of teaching in the medieval university was not the classroom lecture, which became prominent only in the 19th century German system of education; rather, it was the quaestio disputata (disputed question), which was a lively, sometimes raucous, and very public intellectual exchange. Though the written texts of Aquinas can strike us today as a tad turgid, we have to recall that they are grounded in these disciplined but decidedly energetic conversations.
If we consult Aquinas’s masterpiece, the Summa theologiae, we find that he poses literally thousands of questions and that not even the most sacred issues are off the table, the best evidence of which is article three of question two of the first part of the Summa: “utrum Deus sit?” (whether there is a God). If a Dominican priest is permitted to ask even that question, everything is fair game; nothing is too dangerous to talk about. After stating the issue, Thomas then entertains a series of objections to the position that he will eventually take.
In many cases, these represent a distillation of real counter-claims and queries that Aquinas would have heard during quaestiones disputatae. But for our purposes, the point to emphasize is that Thomas presents these objections in their most convincing form, often stating them better and more pithily than their advocates could.
In proof of this, we note that during the Enlightenment, rationalist philosophes would sometimes take Thomistic objections and use them to bolster their own anti-religious positions.
To give just one example, consider Aquinas’s devastatingly convincing formulation of the argument from evil against the existence of God: “if one of two contraries were infinite, the other would be destroyed…but God is called the infinite good.
Therefore, if God exists, there would be no evil.” Thomas indeed provides a telling response, but, as stated, that is a darn good argument. Might I suggest that it would help our public discourse immensely if all parties would be willing to formulate their opponents positions as respectfully and convincingly as possible.
Having articulated the objections, Thomas then offers his own magisterial resolution of the matter: “Respondeo dicendum quod… (I respond that it must be said…).  One of the more regrettable marks of the postmodern mind is a tendency endlessly to postpone the answer to a question. Take a look at Jacques Derrida’s work for a master class in this technique. And sadly, many today, who want so desperately to avoid offending anyone, find refuge in just this sort of permanent irresolution.
But Thomas knew what Chesterton knew, namely that an open mind is like an open mouth, that is, designed to close finally on something solid and nourishing.  Finally, having offered his Respondeo, Aquinas returns to the objections and, in light of his resolution, answers them.  It is notable that a typical Thomas technique is to find something right in the objector’s position and to use that to correct what he deems to be errant in it.
Throughout this process, in the objections, Respondeos, and answers to objections, Thomas draws on a wide range of sources: the Bible and the Church Fathers of course, but also the classical philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Cicero, the Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, and the Islamic masters Averroes, Avicenna, and Aviceberon.
And he consistently invokes these figures with supreme respect, characterizing Aristotle, for example, as simply “the Philosopher” and referring to Maimonides as “Rabbi Moyses.” It is fair to say that, in substantial ways, Thomas Aquinas disagrees with all of these figures, and yet he is more than willing to listen to them, to engage them, to take their arguments seriously.
What this Thomistic method produces is, in its own way, a “safe space” for conversation, but it is a safe space for adults and not timorous children. Might I modestly suggest that it wouldn’t be a bad model for our present discussion of serious things.
(Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith. He was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on September 8, 2015.)