Kelly brings Passion & Purpose tour to Jackson

MADISON – the Madison High School auditorium was packed for evangelist Matthew Kelly's "passion and purpose" event Saturday, March 11. (Photo by Monica Walton)

MADISON – the Madison High School auditorium was packed for evangelist Matthew Kelly’s “passion and purpose” event Saturday, March 11. (Photo by Monica Walton)

By Monica Walton
MADISON – Matthew Kelly definitely has passion, and his purpose is clear: to inspire and motivate Catholics to breathe new life into the Church and re-energize the Catholic community. He brought that passion to the Diocese of Jackson on Saturday, March 11, for a half-day workshop.
“Matthew’s message here today fits beautifully with the key element of our new vision for our diocese to inspire disciples,” said Bishop Kopacz, who kept a front-row seat for the full four-plus hours. “It’s like Matthew said, we want to develop life-long best practices of the faith. We want to keep that hunger and thirst for what God wants for us.”
With his distinct Australian accent, Kelly captivated the more than 800 people who traveled from across the state — Southaven to Brookhaven, the Gulf Coast, and a few from out-of-state — to spend their Saturday afternoon at Madison-Central High School. Though Kelly travels monthly to deliver his message of “living every day with passion and purpose,” nothing about the event felt rehearsed and stale. The program was split up with breaks to process the message and music by inspirational singer Eliot Morris.
Kelly skillfully held the attention of the audience with no written notes or props. While his message had very serious undertones, it was also sprinkled his light-hearted Catholic humor that resonated well with the people. He even inspired the few young people attending such as 12-year-old Maria Verucchi of St. Mary Basilica in Natchez who was there with her parents. Maria admitted, “It wasn’t boring like I thought it would be. I like that he told jokes, and they were funny!” She appreciated what Kelly said about “making a space in your daily life for silence.”
“He’s right,” Maria said. “It’s easier to think when there’s silence. But, I live in a house of five kids, so that will be a challenge!”
Maria’s mom, Karen Verucchi, said Maria didn’t know anything about Matthew Kelly prior to this, and she wasn’t real happy to give up her Saturday afternoon. “I didn’t expect her to take notes, but she wrote down many of his ideas!” Karen said. She, herself, has been inspired by Kelly’s books and videos to pray more and do more. She hoped her oldest daughter would feel inspired as well.
Owen Bertelsen, 9, also traveled from Natchez with his father. Owen was excited to see Matthew Kelly, as his class has been watching the Dynamic Catholic Lenten videos at school. He proudly showed off the full page of notes he had taken, complete with bullet points. “I plan to go to confession every month this year!” he exclaimed, referring to Kelly’s Game Changer Challenge.
“We need game changers to change our lives and allow God to change us,” said Kelly. Referring to dwindling Church attendance he posed the question, “If this continues, what will the Catholic Church in America be like?” Kelly pointed to the audience and said, “We answer that. It’s up to you and me. What are you willing to do?”
He challenged everyone present to commit to do one of the following three game changers for one full year: read the Gospels for 15 minutes a day; go to confession once a month; or write down one thing God is saying to you at every Mass. “This will change your life,” he proclaimed.
Debby and Grant Myers both have made a commitment to implement one of the game changers. The couple made a day-trip with a dozen people from Greemwood Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, and secured front row seats. “I was worried it would be one of those ‘touchy-feely’ kind of things,” said Grant.
His wife had reassured him saying, “I think you’ll be delighted.” And, they were both delighted! A non-Catholic friend had seen Kelly in New York and encouraged Debby to go to one of the events. “I had been watching his schedule to see when he might be close enough,” said Debby. “As soon as I saw he would be in Madison I ordered tickets online.”
Three close friends and members of the Young Adults Group at Flowood St. Paul Parish, Kim Walker, Lexie Gosselin and Mary Henry, were very excited to see Kelly live. They arrived an hour early to secure seats up close. “We have done two of his book studies and we watch his videos,” said Gosselin. “He is so down-to-earth and relatable.”
This event was four years in the making. Members of the Dynamic Catholic team have been communicating with people in the Jackson diocese to book a Passion and Purpose event since 2013. Samantha Milroy has worked with Dynamic Catholic for more than two years on pilgrimages and as an event team leader. She said Kelly came to Mississippi to get people excited about their Catholic faith. “Matthew’s mission is to re-energize the Church,” said Milroy. “He is about unifying people and taking our faith to the next level.”
Before the final segment, Morris led the audience in a sing-along encouraging the room of Catholic disciples to act. The crowd joined in the refrain, “Right here, nowhere else. Right now, never again.” Kelly closed with a powerful message. “There’s nothing more attractive and powerful than holiness,” he said. “Collaborate with God. Find that deep place in you. Make decisions and live in that deep place.” Kelly left the stage to a standing ovation.
(Monica Walton works at Flowood St. Paul Parish.)

Fostering the call: Extension offers boost for Seminarian Endowment

By Maureen Smith
Catholic Extension Service has honored the Diocese of Jackson with the opportunity to partake in its Seminarian Endowment Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to help the diocese cultivate its long-term financial ability to fund the increasing cost of seminarian education by offering matching funds for new or increased dollars raised toward seminarian education.
Ten seminarians are currently in priestly formation for the Jackson diocese, attending St. Joseph and Notre Dame Seminaries, both in Louisiana. The cost for educating each seminarian is between $34,000 and $50,000 each year, depending on which school they attend.
Within the upcoming months, the diocese will begin asking the faithful to relieve some of this burden by donating to the Seminarian Education Endowment. Thanks to this challenge from Catholic Extension, each gift can go even farther. Catholic Extension has agreed to award this diocese $25,000 if donors raise $100,000 in new or increased donations by December 31. Groups of people can donate, but the donation must be a new one, not a renewal from last year, and it cannot come from an organization such as the Knights of Columbus.
The diocese is obligated to pay the schooling for seminarians, as they in turn give their lives to us as priests. Fostering this endowment is critical to help these men complete their discernment and formation as well as being a catalyst for local vocations.
The Office of Stewardship of Development will be hosting several brunches in honor of the seminarians throughout the spring, but anyone can donate at any time. To learn more about how the challenge contact Rebecca Harris, Director of Stewardship and Development at 601-960-8477 or by email

From anchor desk to altar: Deacon Adam discerned call in Mississippi

By Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Nick Adam moved to Meridian to be a sports anchor. By his own admission, he practiced his faith, but never considered a deeper commitment before he landed in Mississippi. His time at St. Patrick Parish, under the direction of Father Frank Cosgrove, changed all that. He started to hear a deeper call.
Friday, March 17, on the feast of St. Patrick, he was ordained into the transitional diaconate in St. Patrick Church. He will be ordained into the priesthood next summer.
During the homily, Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke of the parish patron as one of the greatest of all evangelizers. He also spoke about this history of the diaconate and how these men of service are so important to the work of the church. At the end of the homily, Bishop Kopacz invoked the prayer known as the breastplate of St. Patrick, a call to bring Christ into the center of all we IMG_2136_cdo.
Deacon Adam’s sister, Julie Bordes said Adam, the youngest of eight siblings, was always the peacemaker of the family. “With so many siblings there was always something. He kind of had to keep us together and he was the youngest. If he said ‘oh…’ or if he started crying about something we would all turn, look, feel guilty and act right,” she said. “I think it’s special in so many ways that as a youngest child he is going to now take that leadership role and be over a parish,” she added.
Bordes said the family did not suspect that he had a call, but in a way the siblings were not surprised when he announced his plan to enter seminary. “We were just so proud of him when he went into communications and was a sports anchor and a news anchor and he gave us each a call and said ‘you know, I think I might go into the priesthood’ and we just really couldn’t be prouder.”
Deacon Adam had to go back to school to earn a theology degree and learn about parish and church administration. Bordes said she knows he has the right personality for the job. “Ever since he was a little child he was so kind and nurturing. He always used his voice to help others and I just feel like he has found his place. He seems completely at peace,” she said.
Bordes said Deacon Adam’s vocation has been a blessing to the whole family that now the whole diocese gets to share. “He comes off as not very shy, but I think in his heart he is and that is sort of unique because it shows his true passion that he continues to talk and mentor and preach I would urge everyone to get to know him. He is such a fun guy. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and they have truly learned that priests are not just someone that stand up at Mass every Sunday, they like to watch football games, they like to run they are silly, they will tackle and play, so that has been special for our family as well with so many nieces and nephews,” said Bordes.
While ordinations into the priesthood still take place in the cathedral, Bishop Joseph Kopacz has started ordaining men into the transitional diaconate in their home parishes. Nick considers St. Patrick as his Mississippi home parish since he discerned hiIMG_2420_cs call here.
Denise Huntley is a parishioner at St. Patrick. She said she is thankful Bishop Kopacz was willing to ordain Deacon Adam in Meridian. “This has just been wonderful because we knew Nick before he even thought about becoming a priest and to watch him discern and grow in his faith and make the decision to become a priest – it’s just awesome to be here to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Huntley.
“We look forward to the final ordination next year. There are not enough people going into the priesthood so to personally know someone like Nick – he’s an amazing young man and he’s going to make a wonderful priest,” said Huntley.
Deacon Adam will spend his transitional year at Jackson St. Richard Parish.

Deacon Williams’ love for liturgy bloomed early

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Julia and Mike Williams joined the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle when Julia was pregnant with her son, Aaron. He started serving as an altar server at age five and has loved liturgy ever since. On Saturday, March 18, Aaron was ordained into the transitional diaconate on his way to the priesthood.
“I was thinking about that today – he’s 25-years-old and we have been going to that church for 26 years. I am sure it means a lot to him, and it means a lot to me,” said his father of the ordination in his home parish.

IMG_2901Julia Williams said she encouraged her son to explore his vocation early, but both parents said they would have supported any decision he made. “I always felt like he had it (a vocation) and I was never going to discourage him. A lot of people kept saying ‘he’s young and he’ll change his mind,’ but I said I am not going to discourage him. If that’s what he wants, I am here to support him, especially when he got into junior high and people were like ‘is he going to grow out of it now?’ I said, if he’s wants it – then I am with him,” said Julia.
Williams said some parents worry about missing out on something if their son decides to become a priest, but she sees it differently. “I think it’s a real honor and a blessing to have a son who’s a priest. I’m overjoyed.” she said.
Mike Williams, Aaron’s father, felt the same way. He said he is proud of both of his sons and he just wanted them to find the vocation right for their lives. “I’ve never had a concern about it. You know, he’s going to be taken care of. And he’s going to take care of people. We have two sons and both of them – whatever they wanted to do we just got behind them,” he said.
Deacon Williams entered the seminary right out of high school. In addition to his regular studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, he is earning a masters of liturgy from St. Murdelin Seminary in Chicago. Deacon Williams’ love for liturgy and liturgical music runs deep. He plays the organ and arranges hymns for the seminary schola, or choir.


Bishop Joseph Kopacz recalled one of history’s great deacons and musicians, St. Ephrem, in his homily. Ephrem was a father of the eastern church who used songs to combat the many heresies of his time. The bishop pointed to the importance of music and liturgy in the life of the church.
Barbara and Donnie Tynes watched Deacon Williams grow up in the cathedral. They said they could see his devotion to liturgy early. “Aaron has always stood out, even when he was in high school. He was always so reverent. Everything he did, all the Holy Week services,” said Barbara.
“He was so prepared, so involved,” added Donnie.
The couple said they hoped Aaron’s vocation would carry him into the priesthood and are glad to see him take this next step.
“It’s kind of like your own children graduating or moving on to something else and you’re just so proud of them that they can overcome these hurdles to make it to where they did,” said Donnie.
Deacon Williams will serve in Meridian at St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes before he is ordained into the priesthood next summer.

Trump vows to keep fighting for travel ban blocked again by courts

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Department of Justice issued a brief notice March 17 that it will appeal a Maryland federal judge’s ruling that blocked President Donald Trump’s new executive order on a temporary travel ban.
An appeal of the March 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland sends the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.
A day before Chuang ruled, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu blocked the revised order, which called for stopping refugee resettlement programs for 120 days and banning citizens of six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The new order leaves out Iraq, which was in his first order.
Both judges said the temporary ban, which was to have taken effect at midnight March 16, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which says the government can pass no law that establishes religion or prohibits the free exercise of religion.
If the Department of Justice had decided to appeal Watson’s order, the case would have gone to the 9th Circuit, the court that upheld several lower court rulings that blocked Trump’s first executive order.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, applauded both judges for blocking implementation of the latest Trump administration travel and refugee policies.
“As both judges said, the March 6 executive order is clearly a religion-based test and it should be stopped,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, which is based in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland. “The language of this order may differ somewhat from the earlier version – which was also blocked by several federal courts – but it is no improvement on the core problem with the ban.”
“In the United States, we do not base our laws about who may come here to visit, work or study, let alone who may immigrate, on religious beliefs,” she said in a March 16 statement. “There is too much evidence that animus toward Muslims is at the heart of both versions of these travel bans.”
In their decisions, Watson and Chuang both pointed to anti-Muslim comments made by Trump during his presidential campaign and such comments made by others associated with Trump as evidence that the ban discriminated against a certain religion.
In her statement, Atkinson said: “We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, who would be affected disproportionately by the ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.”
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the organization looked forward “to defending this careful and well-reasoned decision in the appeals court.” The ACLU was one of the groups that filed suit against the executive order.
Trump’s temporary travel ban “has fared miserably in the courts, and for good reason – it violates fundamental provisions of our Constitution,” Jadwat added in a statement.
In her statement, Atkinson said Chuang and Watson were “correct to stop such misguided policies.”
“The United States is better than this,” she added.
President Donald Trump, during a campaign rally in Nashville, vowed to fight the latest court ruling blocking his executive order temporarily suspending immigration from six Muslim-majority countries and refugee resettlement all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling,” the president told a crowd of cheering supporters in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium March 15. “The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.”
Before the rally, the president visited the Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson, and laid a wreath at his grave in honor of the 250th anniversary of the seventh president’s birthday.
During the Nashville rally, the president said his administration is “working night and day to keep our nation safe from terrorism. … For this reason, I issued an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration from places it cannot safely occur.”
“They best way to keep … radical Islamic terrorists from attacking our country is to keep them from coming to our country in the first place,” Trump said. “This ruling makes us look weak, which we no longer are.”

Giving up by ‘going out’

Forming our future
By Karla Luke
Lent has always been my favorite time of year. So many things happen during those forty days! Time change, spring break, seafood, seasons change, oh did I happen to mention spring break! Spiritually, I have always looked forward to this time of renewal – the time that the Church teaches us to focus our actions on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in an effort to deepen our relationship with Christ.
As children, some years ago, we were encouraged to “give up” something for Lent to show that we suffer with Christ. Through the years, I have “given up” everything from chocolate, sodas, and favorite TV shows to impatience, judgment, and unforgiveness. But if we want to truly deepen our relationship with Christ, we must move beyond the stage of merely sharing in His suffering and realize the purpose of His suffering: to hear the call to action. We as Catholic Christians are called to do more!
Consider this part of the Gospel proclaimed on Monday, the first week of Lent, Matthew 25:37-38, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?’” Those very words remind me of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium in which he urges us to “go out” and meet Christ by having a personal encounter with others. We, as a church have many opportunities to fulfill our Lenten obligation to pray, fast and give alms simply by encountering the people around us.
On the road to Calvary, Jesus encountered many who shared in His suffering, but only a few moved beyond that sharing and took action. In the fourth station, Jesus met His mother who, unafraid of what others might think, offered Him gentleness and comfort to soothe Him on this difficult journey. In the fifth station, Simon of Cyrene, an unwilling participant along the way, helped Christ carry His cross.
Though scripture does not tell us directly, I choose to believe that Simon must have been transformed by this experience with Jesus. In the sixth station, Veronica in an act of love wiped the face of the suffering Messiah. In that moment, Jesus showed us once again that if we come to Him in faith, He will bless us in return. He left Veronica with an imprint of his countenance upon her cloth.
While many see these times as challenging; financially, politically and socially, I see an area of great opportunity for us to prove that we are indeed able to carry out the kingdom of God on earth. The opportunity to meet Christ in the homeless, immigrants and the working poor is also present in meeting the fallen away, the uncaring, the angry and those whose hearts are wounded. These, our brothers and sisters in Christ, are all worthy of our continuous prayers. We help our universal family, not so much by changing their condition; but, by changing ourselves! We embrace the spirit of “going out” from within ourselves, without fear like Mary, sometimes unwilling like Simon, to share the gift of ourselves with others only to see the imprint of Christ upon our hearts.
So, as we approach this halfway mark during this holy season of Lent, my favorite time of year, let’s use the remaining twenty-one days, to listen to the call of Pope Francis and “go out” – out from within yourselves, to share empathetically in the plight of others by praying for all people.
Let’s fast from selfishness, anger, hatred, indifference, judging others and lack of forgiveness; all of which keep us from being a loving community. Give your alms by sharing material goods but also by sharing yourself, a true gift of God, with others. Blessings on a Holy Lenten season!
(Karla Luke is the Coordinator of operational and support service for Catholic Schools in the diocese. She can be contact at

Bringing new vision to fruition takes effort

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
I was scrolling through my social media the other day when I saw an interesting meme. It said, “We are responsible for the effort, not the outcome.” I didn’t give it too much thought as I breezed by, continuing to scroll. Suddenly, something stopped me and I went back and re-read the meme. What at first glance seemed like an innocent remark; on further inspection gave me cause to reflect. Intentional or not statements like this legitimize our aversion as Christians to take responsibility for our faith.
I thought about the implications of this statement. It sounded a wee bit like a like a cop-out, as in “oh well, I made the effort!” Yes, effort is important. And, yes, there are situations where no matter how intense one’s effort may be the outcome does not depend on us. But, in most cases, the outcome can be measured by the level of commitment to the effort.
We are in the process of rolling out the bishop’s pastoral plan. It articulates three priorities that have been identified over the past year. The process began with listening sessions and included an Envisioning Team that took the comments from the listening sessions and framed a mission and priorities for the diocese. One of the priorities is facilitating life-long formation of intentional disciples. While that sounds like a lovely sentiment, what exactly does it mean? I see intentional discipleship as a concerted effort to engage individuals, families and communities in our Catholic faith.
For me this kind of catechesis must connect both the head (our intellect) with the heart. We must literally fall in love with the person of Christ in order to maintain a lifetime commitment to our faith. But, love of God must be accompanied with an intellectual understanding of what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it. Bringing this vision to fruition depends on all of us making an effort. It also depends on all of us working to ensure our efforts produce a positive outcome. Intentional discipleship is like a slow burning fire. Once a spark catches fire, properly tended it continues to burn if we feed the fire. As Catholics, the spark that becomes fire at Baptism must be attended to until the day we die. I was at a conference where I heard a speaker remark that we take infants, baptize them and then tell the families to come back for religious education once the child reaches kindergarten age. He implored us to think about providing a catechetical opportunity for that young family when, “the cement is still wet.”
If we are tired of folks showing up just for the sacraments in our religious education programs we have to ask ourselves why they are not coming the other years. We must be brave enough to ask the tough questions and be prepared to shift our thinking to achieve our goals.
I have said in the past that one of the greatest gifts I bring to my current position from my days in campus ministry are the memories of young people who showed up and sought to deepen their relationship with God as young adults. I must admit, some young people gravitate to campus ministry in college because they are socially awkward and the Church is a comfortable place to be. But, by far, most young people show up at campus ministry because they had one or more of the following: a great religious education program in their home parish, a great Catholic school, a great family and home environment or a great group of friends that encouraged them to get involved. The natural question is how do we emulate those environments to produce young adults who seek an adult relationship with God and the Catholic faith? Understanding the “how” for subsequent generations is an example of what intentional discipleship is all about.
I encourage all of you who are part of your parish’s faith formation team to take an active role in the promotion of the pastoral priorities, most specifically lifelong faith formation. Get involved! Most of all do not be afraid to shake things up a little bit. Lifelong faith formation includes religious education of our children, youth ministry, campus ministry, adult faith formation, family ministry, evangelization and RCIA.
Make sure leaders of your faith formation teams have input. Intentional disciples are nurtured. Intentional discipleship requires a continuity of care from the womb to the tomb. Most of all it requires a concerted and consistent effort. All of us, working together toward this priority, can transform and energize our formation programs. Remember, the outcome is a byproduct of the input. Good input; good outcome. Be assured of my commitment to help you in any way I can to ensure the successful implementation of the pastoral priorities in your parish.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the diocese. She can be contact at

Historical drama shines light on prejudice

By Kurt Jensen
NEW YORK (CNS) – The historical drama “A United Kingdom” (Fox Searchlight) tells the story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), an African royal who faced down mid-20th-century racial prejudice to marry Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white office worker he met in post-World War II London.
Seretse and Ruth cross paths at a dance where they discover a mutual love of jazz. She subsequently learns that he’s a prince of what was then called Bechuanaland, a British protectorate (the future Botswana). Their romance proceeds at a rapid clip despite occasional encounters with racist street punks.
Political considerations pose a much larger obstacle, however. The British government has to deal with Bechuanaland’s neighbor, South Africa, which is on the verge of installing apartheid as official – and violently enforced – government policy and is outraged by the high-profile marriage.
The match also runs into considerable resistance from Seretse’s uncle, Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene), who has long been the protectorate’s acting regent. It draws the scorn of many native women as well.
The generic portrayal of this last group reveals the basic flaw hobbling director Amma Asante and screenwriter Guy Hibbert’s film: Virtually everyone on screen is an archetype.
Although dealing in generalities can be an efficient way to boil down episodes of the past that are likely unfamiliar to modern audiences, it also hinders the storytelling.
Sometimes, an epic, in-your-face treatment, such as that seen in 1982’s “Gandhi” or 2014’s “Selma” is the best way to go with stories of bigotry, since such an approach gets facts across in an easily comprehensible way. Without it, they can become difficult to follow, as in last year’s “Loving.”
But there are obvious budgetary constraints at work here. As a result, members of Seretse’s tribe have little to do except chant and sing in crowd sequences.
Similarly, the perfidy of British politicians, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee (Anton Lesser), is mostly kept off-screen, except for sneering appearances by diplomat Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport). Canning opposes Seretse’s union to such an extent, he forces the prince into exile.
Despite its narrative shortcomings, “A United Kingdom” does boast a strong moral component.
Ultimately, for example, official acceptance of a marriage that threatened to undermine Britain’s fragile postwar remnants of empire depended not on a court ruling, but on the conscience of the British people. It was they who finally persuaded their political representatives that this couple was no menace to international relations.
Yet, except for the core romance and Ruth’s struggles for acceptance, little of this complicated saga – in addition to everything else, the machinations of an American diamond-mining company get thrown into the mix – comes across clearly. There is inspiration to be found here. But it requires quite a bit of patience on the viewer’s part to locate it.
The film contains brief sensuality and some racial slurs. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

SEARCHers reflect on retreat

The Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson offers the SEARCH retreat two times a year usually once in the fall and spring. High-school students gather for a weekend of faith and fun. Those who attend often return as retreat leaders. Several of this year’s attendees from
the March 3-5 retreat offered some reflections on their experience:

Emma Dieckman
Junior at Madison St. Joseph
Emma planned to attend with friends, but when they could not make it, she was not so sure about the weekend.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
As the weekend went on I just felt God with me the whole time. I’m not Catholic but I do go to a Catholic school so I was used to Catholic things. When people would share their stories about their life and spiritual journey they would just touch me so much. When we listened and sang songs it was like the first time I had ever listened to the words and the first time I realized how powerful the words of songs are.
The whole weekend my relationship with God strengthened and I really grew closer to him. I loved seeing young people and people I go to school with be vulnerable to God. This isn’t even the beginning of how much Search impacted my life, it is very hard to put that into words; you should just go and see it for yourself. I am forever thankful for the friend I made and old friends I rekindled my relationship with, the friends I grew closer to and how much closer I grew to God. Search is 10/10 and I highly recommend.

Olivia Patterson
Junior, Madison St. Francis of Assisi SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESParish
I searched in November of 2016 and I could honestly say that it was the best weekend of my life. Throughout the entire weekend, I met so many amazing new people, learned how Christ has worked through others, and finally realized how he is working through me. I felt an overwhelming amount of love from absolute strangers but most importantly I felt love from God himself. I found myself becoming stronger in my faith everyday after that weekend. My main goal was to come back and staff the retreat, and on March 3rd, 2017, that dream became a reality.

Meredith McLaurin
College Freshman, Tupelo St. James Parish
This is McLaurin’s second time as a retreat leader.
March 2017, will forever be my favorite SEARCH though, we got the chance to dedicate the SEARCH to one of the girls who gave me the retreat. She passed away a month and a half before the retreat, it felt like the best way to honor her. This SEARCH was the most life-changing (event) for me, letting me feel more full of love and faith than before. I got the chance to give a talk again and lead a small group that made a profound impact on me.
My small group bonded together the first night in a way I had never seen before. It was our job as the leaders to help them with their SEARCH journey, but I believe that they helped us as much as we helped them. This small group opened my eyes to new things and how faith can get you through anything. This SEARCH gave me the strength to realize who I am and help me begin to start to figure out what I want to do after I graduate college.
It’s because of SEARCH that I hope to do something that impacts youth every single day, though I may not know now what I am going to do, I do know that I will forever be changed by the weekends I spend at SEARCH. I can’t wait to keep coming back and giving to the one thing that has helped guide me to God every time I wake up.
The next SEARCH retreat will be in the Fall 2017. For more information contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry –, 601-949-6934 or visit

College students, Choctaw share cultural adventure

By Maureen Smith
PHILADELPHIA — When members of the Catholic Student Association at the University of Southern Mississippi decided to spend spring break doing service in Philadelphia, Miss., they my have imagined delivering food, rebuilding houses or doing repairs. After all, last year, they repaired a house used by Holy Rosary Indian Mission for rummage sale items. But this year, their service was different. They learned about the ministries of presence and witness.

PHILADELPHIA – Dancers demonstrate a social dance and their native dress. The ribbons,ruffles and medallions all have meanings.

PHILADELPHIA – Dancers demonstrate a social dance and their native dress. The ribbons,ruffles and medallions all have meanings.

“We felt like we did good work, but we didn’t get to experience the community,” said Jamason Wallace, one of the student leaders. This year, instead of manual labor, the students got to work on projects that allowed them to meet the people in the community and learn about Choctaw culture. The group also doubled in size from this year to last. Eleven students made the trip this year. They stayed in the former convent on the grounds of Holy Rosary.

The college students spent two nights leading reflections for youth at two parishes, Holy Rosary and Kosciusko St. Therese. “We basically had a theme of ‘to know, to love and to serve,’ which is the first thing in the Catholic Catechism,” explained Jeremy Tripp, one of the student leaders. “Three people prepared talks on each of those themes.”

The large drum allows several musicians and singers to join in the performance. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

The large drum allows several musicians and singers to join in the performance. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Jennifer Aronault said she did an equal amount of teaching and learning. “I talked about different ways we can love God, but I also got feedback from the kids,” she said. “We talked about some ways to love God that were not the usual answers,” she added.
The group also helped out at a local Boys and Girls Club where, again, they found themselves learning as they served. “The kids taught us about (Choctaw) dancing,” said Wallace.
The following day, Tuesday, March 14, they gathered at the Choctaw Elder Activities Center in Philadelphia to see Choctaw social dancing in action. A group of dancers from around the area presented several dances – pulling the students out of their seats to join in the fun. When the dancing ended, the dancers introduced themselves and talked about what they do. Some work with the tribe to teach the Choctaw language in local schools, keeping the culture alive for another generation. Others are retired so they dance at events across the region.
A local group of pow-wow drummers followed the dancers. Five men, from teenagers to retirees, share one large drum and sing songs together in deep, powerful voices. As one of them explained, God, whom they call the Creator, gave people joy in the form of song and dance so they feel called to share this tradition. This group also travels to perform for dances, weddings and other community events.
Father Bob Goodyear, ST, hosted the students last year and again this year. He was thrilled to share his love for Choctaw culture with them. “They are learning about the ministry of presence,” he said of this year’s activities. “When they talk to the kids, they are a powerful witness to faith,” he added. Father Goodyear has spent decades ministering to Mississippi’s Choctaw tribe, even writing a Mass in the Choctaw language and advocating to have Choctaw recognized by colleges and universities as a primary language for incoming students.
Kathryn Sckiets, senior and Jackson native, said she wanted to do something adventurous this spring break. “And I wanted to learn something about the cultures in my own back yard while growing in faith with some great people,” she added.