Greenville school rallies around student in need

Aries Cotton

By Missi Blackstock
GREENVILLE – The St. Joseph School community is rallying around one of their own this year, rolling up their sleeves and pulling up to the table. Aries Cotton is a 12-year-old eighth grader at St. Joseph School. At the beginning of the school year, Cotton began having night sweats and loss of appetite. He later passed out during football practice. The doctor did blood work and discovered that he had an abnormal blood count, very low immune system, and a swollen spleen. The doctor referred him to the children’s entomologist/hematologist at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.
On Friday, October 6, 2017, Cotton was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The following Monday, he underwent surgery to place a chemo-portal in his chest. A biopsy was done on his bone marrow to determine how many cancer cells were present. The results showed 85 percent cancer cells in his bone marrow, but no cancer cells in his brain. Cotton has been cancer-cell-free since December but must continue maintenance chemo for the remainder of the year.
Because Cotton’s cancer includes the Philadelphia Chromosome, the teen must take a costly chemotherapy pill. The Philadelphia chromosome has been known to destroy a patient’s bone marrow, but this damage may be prevented by taking this medication. Funds are being raised to help cover travel and medical expenses during his treatments and recovery. Cotton must travel from one to four days each week to Batson Children’s Hospital for Induction A, sometimes becoming in-patient for days on end. His mother had to give up her job to care for him, finances have been a great strain on the family.
Cotton’s eighth-grade class has held three fund-raisers. They have sold bracelets (which are still for sale for $5 in the front office), #AriesStrong T-shirts as well as hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 3. The senior class, of which Aries’ brother Reggie is a member, has also held two bake sales. Because of generous donors, 100 percent of all proceeds have been given to the Cotton family.
More than 65 pints of blood have already been donated by St Joseph students, parents and the local community. Anyone wishing to help, may donate at their local Mississippi Blood Services drawing station or any mobile drive by using the code: DQ49 or call the school at 662-378-9711.


College students serve homeless in Jackson

By Dawn McGinley
JACKSON – Volunteers from Mississippi State University’s Catholic Campus Ministry have started traveling to Mississippi’s capital city once a month to meet with and visit the homeless. “The project was inspired by our trip to the SEEK Conference in San Antonio, Tx in January 2017. There was a group at the conference named Christ in the City from Denver, Colorado,” explained Dawn McGinley, campus minister at Starkville St. Joseph Parish. “Their goal is to talk to the homeless – to connect with them and help them to see they have dignity. This inspired our group, so that is our goal. We bring relief bags which include basic necessities such as socks, lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, underwear, tissues, etc.,” she added.
The college students and St. Joseph parishioners have also formed a group that gets together every Monday night to recycle plastic grocery sacks into sleeping mats. The bags are flattened and cut and then crocheted or knitted together to form a mat a homeless person can use.
“We normally meet people at Smith Park but it has been closed for a few months,” said McGinley. “We are in the process of reorganizing our approach,” she said.

Schools celebrate Dr. Seuss by Reading Across America

GREENVILLE – Our Lady of Lourdes sixth grader Elese Serio reads to Charles Beckham. The pair are dressed as characters from the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat” to honor the author’s birthday. Schools across the nation marked the day with Read Across America activities. At Lourdes, students brought in gently used books in the weeks before Friday, March 2. On that day, students could ‘shop’ the used books to find one new to them. (Photo by Kathy Gower)



JACKSON – Sister Thea Bowman School student Caleb Johnson reads to classmates on Read Across America Day, Friday, March 2. The students are wearing Cat in the Hat costumes they made themselves. (Photo by Shae Robinson)

Saint Padre Pio relic tour kicks off in Jackson

JACKSON – Thursday, March 1, the relics of St. Padre Pio were on display in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Bishop Joseph Kopacz wrote about him in this week’s column on page 3. People from across the area came to venerate the relics and participate in a special Mass in his honor that evening. They shared with Mississippi Catholic production manager Tereza Ma what the relics meant to them.
“Being in the presence of St. Padre Pio’s relics was so breathtaking. He has always meant a lot to me ever since I read about him in my religion class and learned about his stigmata. Later, my love for St. Padre Pio grew even more as I learned about his healing ministry, miracles and powers in the confessional. All which proved his great love of God,” said 13-year-old Leah Munoz, a member of Pearl St. Jude Parish. “One of my most prized possessions is a small statue of St. Padre Pio that I keep by my bed, which my grandmother bought me eight years ago. Today, I was able to take it and touch it to Padre Pio’s glove. Now my statue is a genuine third-class relic,” she added.
“I have been following him for quite some time. He is such a great saint. He did so many things. I wish I was able to go to him for confession because to be able to read souls and for him to be able to help people in that way – it would have been wonderful,” said Maureen Murphy.
Luciano Lamonarca is the founder of the St. Padre Pio Foundation. He is leading the tour across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Lamonarca is from the “heel” of Italy’s boot, where St. Pio ministered. Devotion to the saint is pervasive there.
Lamonarca himself called upon the saint for intersession after his wife suffered a series of miscarriages. They are now proud parents to a son.
“Traveling with the relics, you feel a blessing, when there are people who come from around the state or come from other states just to touch the relics for a few days while I have access to them all the time, so how blessed am I? When I travel with the relics I am not afraid. This sense of calm and protection always follows me,” he said.

Christian leaders reopen Church of the Holy Sepulcher after ’emergency’

By Judith Sudilovsky
JERUSALEM (CNS) – Christian leaders in the Holy Land reopened the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Feb. 28 after the Israeli government set up a negotiating team to resolve a municipal dispute over property taxes.
The heads of Christian churches expressed “our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the Status Quo,” the 19th-century agreement that governs Jerusalem’s holy places.
They said they looked forward to bargaining with the government committee “to ensure that our holy city, where our Christian presence continues to face challenges, remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together.”
Franciscan Father David Grenier, general secretary of the Custody of the Holy Land, said church leaders felt bad for the pilgrims who tried to visit the church in the three days it was closed, “but we were in a state of emergency.”
He told Catholic News Service that the church’s 10 Franciscan friars continued celebrated Masses for the intensions of the pilgrims who were unable to pray in the church, where tradition holds that Jesus was buried.
“We are really happy to have opened the doors; we had hoped from the beginning to close the doors for the shortest time possible,” he said Feb. 28. “This strong step has been taken … as a way to show if we let things continue, it would be possible that in 10, 50 or 100 years it wouldn’t be closed only for two or three days, we wouldn’t be able to maintain it.”
Although the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was not being taxed, in early February the Jerusalem Municipality announced it would begin collecting $186.4 million in property taxes from some 887 church-owned properties that were not houses of prayer.
He said that while the bank accounts of the Franciscans had not been affected, some of the accounts of other churches, such as the Anglicans and the Assyrians, were frozen in mid-February. The Franciscans did receive a bill for a property they owned, he said, but he declined to disclose which property and the amount. He said some churches has been threatened with confiscation of property if the bills went unpaid, and churches were being charged retroactively for seven years.
Father Grenier noted that the actions had also affected U.N. property in the city.
The Israeli government said the team negotiating the current tax crisis would consist of representatives of the finance, foreign affairs and interior ministries as well as from the Jerusalem Municipality. According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, the Jerusalem Municipality will suspend the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks.

Tourists pray outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Feb. 26 in Jerusalem’s Old City. Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced Feb. 25 they were closing of the doors of the church. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill) See CHURCH-HOLY-SEPULCHER-SHUT Feb. 25, 2018.

The committee is also slated to look at the issue of Jerusalem land sales by the Greek Orthodox Church. Church leaders feared a bill in the Israeli parliament would allow for state expropriation of church land. Media reported that work on the bill was suspended until the committee could present its findings.
Father Grenier told CNS: “We expect to have a dialogue. Now we are happy. The first thing to do is listen to what they have to propose.”
He added that the churches “will speak with one voice and speak together.”
“For us, the important thing is that the measures taken against the churches have been suspended,” Father Grenier said.
He said the measures could have been potentially more damaging for the smaller churches, such as the Ethiopian and Syriac churches, and some Catholic religious congregations would have had to close some of their institutions if the measures had been carried out.
“We are not a business. If we had to pay the bills, of course, we could not keep all our activities. Our schools don’t make a profit, and if you add having to pay the taxes, we would not be able to maintain them,” he said.
Earlier in February, some political commentators suggested that the threat to impose taxes on church property was a ploy by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to try to get more funding for his city from the Ministry of Finance. Prior to this crisis, he had urged municipal workers to go on strike, leaving the city buried in garbage in an attempt to get more funds.
The church leaders’ closing of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Lent, close to Easter, the busiest time for pilgrims, drew international attention and condemnation.
However, in a Feb. 28 statement, David Nekrutman, executive director of The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, chastised the church leaders for having likened the recent legislative bill to those enacted by Nazi Germany against the Jews.

A woman kisses the Stone of Unction, or Stone of Anointing, representing where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial after the crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City Feb. 28. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters) See JERUSALEM-CHURCHES-TAXES-BARGAIN Feb. 28, 2018.

“These remarks are extremely offensive and an apology from them is warranted,” he said. He also condemned what he said were the false accusations of a systematic campaign of abuse against churches and Christians.
“Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship,” he said.

(Contributing to this story was Dale Gavlak in Amman. Follow Sudilovsky on Twitter: @jsudireports.)

Turning frustration into positive action

George Evans

By George Evans
I finally acknowledged to myself that I am a news junkie and that it fills time with unhappiness. The more I watch and read the more concerned I get. I am afraid our country is in a rudderless free fall. Republicans are awash with Trump and don’t seem to know what to do with him. Democrats are just lost going around in circles hoping the merry-go-round stops somewhere so they can get their act together before the mid term elections in order to take back some power in Congress. It seems to me God is testing us as individuals and as a country to try to do the right thing.
What is he calling us to do? My thoughts for whatever they are worth follow. My prayer and meditation in the morning is more and more involved with begging direction for our elected leaders both in the White House and Congress. I still believe that America offers the best chance possible to make present the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaims in the gospel that the kingdom is at hand and calls us to follow him in bringing it to fruition. He gives us a blue print in the New Testament by completing and fulfilling the Old Testament. He spent three years giving us directions in the gospels. Some of those directions are very hard to follow, like turning the other cheek and giving away all we have in order to follow him more completely.
We parse a lot of what he says to justify how we try to follow him. Politically we do a lot of that to try to make things work and to get “our people” elected or reelected as the case may be. We debate taxes and economics, immigration and national loyalty, education and jobs, health and welfare, infrastructure needs and many other things. We don’t spend as much time discussing what is best for the common good or how to practically close the ever increasing gap between rich and poor. We tend to leave these latter matters to think tanks, nonprofits or religious endeavors so that answers are slow, if ever, to appear.
I like the fact my retirement account has recently done well. But I grieve over all the people I visit on St. Vincent de Paul home visits who have no IRA and are trying to live on a less than $1,000 a month disability check, a minimal social security check, or two minimum wage jobs.
There seems to be little hope that government will take any meaningful steps to help in these or similar cases. Do we then just despair and give up? No, we can’t do that. I think we have to recommit to do all we can to make a difference. We are needed to bring the best we can to politics by bringing to bear our values, gospel values and Church values to the present morass. As Pope Francis tells us we are needed in the public square regardless of how unpleasant it may be.
The deeper I search myself, I realize that I can do more through the Church or other organizations to make some difference in the gap between rich and poor, unvulnerable and vulnerable, active and homebound, established and migrant. Its not fair to just blame politicians if we are not improving on our own selfishness in not reaching out and serving those in need.
Only we can do the proper self exam in this regard. The Old Testament prophets call for this repeatedly. Jesus mandates this repeatedly and in Matthew 25 makes it a condition for salvation in the dramatic depiction of the last judgment.
Writing this column has convinced me to be less frustrated with our times and more dedicated to making a difference myself in service and compassion and I invite anyone who has been struggling with some of the same things to join me in the effort. Wouldn’t it be fun to make a contribution by what we do?

(George Evans is a retired pastoral minister from Jackson St. Richard Parish.)

Patience keeps us connected to God

Father Ed Dougherty

Light one Candle
By Father Ed Dougherty, MM
Helen Keller once said, “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” After contracting an illness in childhood, Keller was left deaf and blind for the rest of her life. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she broke through the isolation that her condition imposed upon her and went on to become a writer and lecturer. Her amazing resilience is a testament to the power of the human spirit to remain patient throughout a lifetime of struggle.
Patience is one of those intangible virtues that we can only gain through perseverance in the face of trials. Keller’s line about suffering providing opportunity to build character traits such as bravery and patience demonstrates how much she came to value the strength of spirit she cultivated in taking on personal challenges. Patience provides endurance amidst suffering and the wisdom to know how and when to take action.
The early Christian theologian Tertullian once said, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” What beautiful insight into the path that patience can lead us along when we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to kindle within our hearts. That fire can direct our thoughts towards God in spite of the hardships of life, resulting in a heart filled with the hope of Christ.
Life often does not go the way we want it to, and we all face moments of profound frustration and disappointment. It takes patience to remain connected to God throughout the trials we face in order to be guided along the path we are intended to follow. The Christophers have a beautiful meditation on patience that highlights the importance of this virtue. It reads:
“Patience is a stillness that reaches deep within the human soul. It connects us with God by allowing us to pause and reflect on our actions. A patient heart waits for the resurrections that Christ effects in our lives, reviving us to a life of joy. Patience is the tender reaction of one heart to another. It is the essence of love.”
The patience we cultivate in waiting on God to guide us through difficult times prepares us to reach out to others in a loving manner. This mercy that we extend to the world is one of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit. God wants to work through us to bring good into the world, and it is only through patience that we are able to recognize the needs of others and realize the call to serve.
Patience enables us to deepen the bonds of friendship, family, and community life. These are the treasures that await all who have a clean heart in their interactions with others. Christ said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We store up treasures in heaven when we put the good above all else, and it takes patience to do that in this world where temptation and adversity await us at every turn. So remember to be patient amid the struggles of life so that we can recognize the treasures of heaven and allow God to guide us along the path of true and lasting joy.

(Father Ed Dougherty is on the board of Directors for the Christophers. For free copies of the Christopher News Note LIVING JOYFULLY IN A STRESSED-OUT WORLD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

Hispanic youth celebrate book release

By Melisa Preuss-Muñoz
TUPELO – On the weekend of February 17 and 18, a group of Hispanic young adults from the Diocese of Jackson met for a workshop focusing on the 2018 resource book for Hispanic youth and young adults titled, Discern your vocation following Mary’s example, a bilingual book of pastoral resources for the Young Hispanic Ministry. The book was prepared by young adults under the guidance of staff from the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI). The purpose of this workshop was to share the final printed edition of the book, which includes a chapter called “different vocations,” written by the Jackson diocese’s own young adult ministry. The authors were also trained on using and promoting the book in their own parishes during the Easter season, with the goal of helping them transform from being passive parishioners to contributors and eventually, community leaders.
Each year since 1980, SEPI has coordinated the preparation and publication of a book in which the young adults apply the paschal mystery to a topic they choose and believe to be important and relevant in their own lives. To initiate the process of writing, adult advisers and youth representatives meet in the spring to select a topic. Then participants from various dioceses worked on the text of their specific chapter, guided by adult advisers. In previous years the writers have dealt with diverse subjects such as freedom, love, community, identity and evangelization.
Dioceses across the Southeast will use the 2018 resource book throughout the season. The authors of Discern your vocation following Mary’s example used church

documents, testimonies, and opinions of the Church as they delved into the issues. The book also includes prayers, songs, activities and projects.
Those interested in receiving a copy of the book and training on implementing the activities can contact Veronica Lopez, coordina

tor of Hispanic Young Adult Ministry at 769-447-4005 or


JACKSON – Cynthia Vieyra and Gustavo Garcia skim through the new 2018 bilingual resource book for Hispanic youth and young adults. (Photo by Veronica Lopez)

Immigrants, advocates navigating post-DACA-deadline landscape

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The last government shutdown – well, threatened shutdown, anyway – seems so long ago.
The nine-hour “funding lapse” of Feb. 9, like the three-day shutdown that began Jan. 20, hinged on how Congress was going to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump said he would end March 5. He also called on Congress to pass a measure to save the program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama via executive order.
In the January shutdown, Democratic lawmakers backed down on their threat to keep the government closed until a DACA deal was reached. In the February funding lapse, Democrats and Republicans agreed to conduct a debate and vote on DACA in the weeks to come, as a six-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March 23 was overshadowed by the $1 trillion spending package of which it was a part.
The congressional sidestepping of DACA prompted the U.S. bishops to declare a “National Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers” for Feb. 26, one week before the program’s expiration date. The day resulted in thousands of phone calls to lawmakers.
That, in turn, was overshadowed by the Supreme Court declining that same day a request by the administration to bypass federal appellate courts and rule on whether the administration has the right to shut down DACA.
The justices’ action wiped out the March 5 deadline date, leaving DACA up and running at least until the high court accepts the case for the appeals court – and possibly renders a decision – or until Congress finally deals with it. The high court’s action only keeps DACA intact for those currently with DACA status; two federal judges have blocked Trump, saying the administration must continue to accept renewal applications for the program. The rulings do not make DACA available to those who had not already applied for it.
While the exact path ahead is unclear, at least there is a path.
“I think a lot of people feel a little insecure, they don’t feel safe and they’re unsure what’s going to happen because things are up in the air,” said Michelle Sardone, director of strategic initiatives for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
“They’re feeling fear about whether or not to apply: ‘Will the government use information they have on me to use against me?’ If you submit your application with the application fee, will it be adjudicated or … will it be a waste of your money?” Sardone said. “Each person has a particular case. They should go to an accredited legal services provider to find out the best situation for them and for their family.”
“We just buried a man in his 60s who came from Ireland in a house with no electricity, no plumbing. He came over to the U.S. without a trade, became a pipe fitter and a coach,” said Mary Harkenrider, a member of the Southside Catholic Peace and Justice Committee in Chicago, which sponsored a forum March 1 to show support for the city’s DACA holders.
In talking to Catholic News Service, she used the example of this Irishman to illustrate what immigrants bring to this country.
“As a coach and a family man, he affected people throughout the city and across the country and at his funeral there were thousands of people who pay respect to this immigrant, who came to this country without a STEM education or highly advanced skills,” Harkenrider added. 
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some arguing for the reform of U.S. immigration laws say preference should be given to the highly educated immigrants.
She added: “We would be amiss without the talents of the immigrants in our communities. … whether it’s the Irish or the Polish or the Hispanic. I think we have to continue to recognize our history and build on it.”
Chicago, Harkenrider said, is “a city of immigrants.”
Nor is Chicago the only town that can claim that mantle. Camden, New Jersey, is such a town. Mexican-born Monica Perez Reyes, 20, has lived there since her parents brought her to the United States at age two. They entered the country without legal documents. She has kid sisters born in the United States who are U.S. citizens. As for Perez, “I’m good for two years” with DACA.
She admits to frustration with Congress, though. “I’m kind of offended. They’re sort of playing around with my future,” she said. “And the manner they’re handling it, one day they may say they’ll do something to make it better like have a path to citizens, ship, but the next day they say they’re going to terminate it altogether.”
Perez added, “I know some people are scared, but I’m not necessarily scared unless something is set in stone. I have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C. If worse comes to worst, I have a plan; I’ll have to go to Mexico and make my new life there.”
She was accepted to study art at a California college, but her status as an immigrant without documents left her ineligible to receive scholarship money. So Perez is attending community college in Camden while planning to major in art therapy, working to make money to pay her tuition.

Activists and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, march up Broadway in New York City Feb. 15 during the start of their “Walk to Stay Home,” a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington to demand that Congress pass a clean DREAM Act to save the program. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters) See SCOTUS-DACA and DACA-CALL-IN-ADVOCATES Feb. 26, 2018.

Another such town of immigrants is Pasadena, Maryland. Hector Guzman, 19, also born in Mexico, was brought here by his parents, he said, when he was a year old. A soccer goalie and midfielder, a German scout recommended he go to England to try out for professional soccer there. He had to decline. “I could get there on my Mexican passport, but I couldn’t come back,” he said.
Guzman has his own plan B. Like Perez’s, it involves going to a community college and working as a butcher and chef to pay tuition. He’ll add landscaping work as the weather warms. He’s starting up a small business already. At some point, he said, he’d like to open a restaurant, maybe several of them, “and maybe have a ranch or a farm.” He said the DACA process was easy.
Patricia Zapor, a CLINIC spokeswoman, said a January check of DACA applications showed the government was still processing applications from 2016. Renewals ordinarily took two to three months; Zapor said without DACA, immigrants in the country without legal permission cannot legally work in the United States.
Guzman said he’s not worried. “My parents are a little worried,” he said. An older sister, who like him has DACA status, “doesn’t act like she’s worried,” he added.
With the days winding down until Trump’s original March 5 deadline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the upper chamber would debate a banking bill in early March, making no mention of DACA – deferred action, indeed.
How to deal with this interim period is “tricky, right?” said Ian Pajer-Rogers, communications and political director for Interfaith Worker Justice, which has more than 30 affiliated worker centers around the country.
“We have taken the position that only a clean DREAM Act will do with no riders or add-ons from the right – no wall, no border security measures. We’ll continue that. Where that leaves us with the party in power and the party that is trying to negotiate for our people, the Democrats, is less clear.” 
The DREAM Act he referred to stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the “Dreamer” name.
Anxiety among DACA families cuts both ways, he said. “What I’ve seen among the undocumented folks is a very willingness to self-sacrifice. Among the DACA recipients I’ve worked with they don’t want to trade their parents’ safety and security for their own. … I think you find the parents who are willing to say the opposite, almost. They’re willing to see more enforcement and risk detention if their kids are safe. We’re really going for the starting point that all are protected.”
“The more pressing thing might be the (Feb. 26) Supreme Court ruling,” Pajer-Rogers said, “that folks who are in detention can be detained indefinitely without bond. So if there’s something on the mind of workers today, it’s probably that.”