Historia, academia, servicio hacen grandes escuelas

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
La celebración de la Semana Anual Nacional de las Escuelas Católicas comienza este fin de semana y continuará de lunes a viernes con una variedad de actividades creativas, significativas y vivaces en cada una de nuestras escuelas. La educación escolar católica en la Diócesis de Jackson (la Diócesis de Natchez en aquel momento) comenzó en la parroquia de la Catedral de Natchez en 1847 y ha continuado ininterrumpidamente hasta el presente.
La población católica ha sido siempre un pequeño porcentaje de la población del estado de Mississippi, pero nuestro compromiso con la educación ha sido una luz que brilla en la oscuridad para muchos en cada generación, desde mediados del siglo 19, un gran porcentaje de ellos que no profesan la fe católica.
Nuestras escuelas católicas están en el corazón de nuestra misión diocesana, originado con el mandato del Señor Jesús de hacer discípulos de todas las naciones, enseñándoles todo lo que yo les he mandado. Aprovecho esta oportunidad para agradecerle a todos los que colaboran juntos para promover la misión de la educación católica en nuestra diócesis hasta este día: familias, profesores, administradores y personal de apoyo escolar, la oficina diocesana, párrocos y líderes parroquiales, alumnos, benefactores y feligreses en las bancas, y aquellos que ya no viven en nuestra diócesis pero continúan apoyándonos con su oración y generosidad.
Es un continuo trabajo de amor el mantener y desarrollar nuestras escuelas en cada generación al esforzarnos por la excelencia. Para mí es una alegría visitar nuestras escuelas, y la oportunidad de hacerlo abundarán durante la semana próxima. Tengo una larga relación con la educación católica. Durante muchos años enseñé en las escuelas en la Diócesis de Scranton, y muchos años antes del sacerdocio, desde kindergarten (no pre-k en ese momento) hasta mis estudios de doctorado, yo fui beneficiario de la educación escolar católica.
Cada una de nuestras escuelas tiene una identidad propia, y sin embargo todas abrazan la misión perfecta que es la razón de su existencia. En la página de internet de cada escuela hay, de una u otra forma, un propósito, una misión o declaración de visión que expresa su identidad y objetivos. Para mi beneficio y el de ustedes he seleccionado al azar ocho de estas declaraciones que hablan de manera elocuente de esta orgullosa tradición en nuestra diócesis.
• Para apoyar el desarrollo espiritual, intelectual, estético, emocional, social y el crecimiento físico de cada miembro de la comunidad.
• Dedicados a preparar a los estudiantes para ser líderes servidores a través de la excelencia académica, de la formación de la auténtica fe y de las oportunidades de la vida estudiantil dentro de un ambiente de aprendizaje seguro y de atención centrado en Cristo.
• Comprometidos con la excelencia académica y los valores enseñados por Jesucristo, procurando preparar a los jóvenes de todo el mundo mientras se preparan para el cielo.

• Busca la excelencia académica y se esfuerza por formar las mentes, los corazones y las almas de sus alumnos a semejanza de Cristo.

• Ofrece una educación basada en la fe católica que equilibra lo académico con la formación de carácter, enriqueciendo sus vidas y su relación personal con Jesucristo.

• Enseñar al niño en un ambiente centrado en Cristo, formando su carácter, fomentando comunidad, y creando estudiantes interesados en aprender.

• Existe para el doble propósito de formación de la fe y buena educación para todos los niños, con los ideales del Corazón de Cristo.

• Para proporcionar un medio ambiente amoroso, centrado en Cristo con una educación académica de calidad arraigada en el desarrollo del carácter, la compasión y los valores del Evangelio.
Los invito a que la próxima vez que disfrute de un día de nieve, cuando todas las responsabilidades al aire libre y los compromisos se retrasen o cancelen, para que busquen en el internet estas declaraciones y las hagan coincidir con sus respectivas escuelas. Las ocho representan menos de la mitad de nuestros colegios católicos de secundaria, de escuelas primarias y centros de aprendizaje de niños pequeños. Usted puede ver claramente que se esfuerzan por abrazar el Evangelio como camino de vida y por una excelente formación académica en el momento actual, con el fin de preparar a los estudiantes para su futuro y, finalmente su ciudadanía en el cielo. Y sí, cada escuela ofrece un rango de oportunidades de deportes, de servicio y actividades culturales adecuadas para cada edad que son esenciales para el desarrollo de la mente, el cuerpo y el espíritu.
El tema de la celebración para el 2016-2017 es (FAMILY) FAMILIA, una sigla que significa: fe, académico, misericordia, integridad, amor y tú. Hay mucho que reflexionar y celebrar con FAMILIA y es especialmente notable a la luz del Jubileo extraordinario de la misericordia, y de la Exhortación Apostólica del Papa Francisco Amoris Latitiae o, la Alegría del Amor (en la familia).
Este año, al comienzo de la Semana de las Escuelas Católicas me reuniré con sacerdotes, diáconos, ministros eclesiales laicos y varios de nuestro equipo de liderazgo diocesano para comenzar la aplicación del plan pastoral diocesano. Estamos orgullosos de afirmar que la declaración de nuestra renovada Visión es vivida a diario en nuestras escuelas: servir a los demás, abrazar la diversidad, inspirar a los discípulos. Como jóvenes y adultos hijos de Dios, que todos podamos seguir creciendo como discípulos intencionales a lo largo de toda la vida, deseoso de crecer en sabiduría, conocimiento y gracia.

History, academics, service make great schools

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Annual national celebration of Catholic School Week begins this weekend, and will continue Monday through Friday with a variety of creative, meaningful and spirited activities in each of our schools. Catholic School education in the Diocese of Jackson (The Diocese of Natchez at the time) began in the Cathedral parish in Natchez in 1847, and has continued uninterruptedly to the present. The Catholic population has always been a small proportion of the State of Mississippi’s population but our commitment to education has been a light shining in the darkness for many in every generation since the mid-19th century, a large percentage not of the Catholic faith. Our Catholic schools are at the heart of our diocesan mission, originating with the mandate of the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all nations, teaching them everything I have commanded you. I take this opportunity to thank all who collaborate together to promote the mission of Catholic education in our diocese to this very day: families, teachers, administrators, and school support staff, the diocesan office, pastors and parish leadership, alumni, benefactors, and parishioners in the pew, and those who no longer live in our diocese who continue to support us with prayer and generosity. It is a continual labor of love to sustain and develop our schools in each generation as we strive for excellence. It is a joy for me to visit our schools, and the opportunity to do so will abound during the week ahead. I have a life long relationship with Catholic education. For many years I taught in our schools in the Diocese of Scranton, and for many more years before priesthood, from Kindergarten (no pre-k at the that time) through doctoral studies, I was a beneficiary of Catholic School education.
Each of our schools has a distinctive identity, and yet all embrace the seamless mission that is the reason for their existence. On each school’s website there is, in one form or another, a purpose, mission, or vision statement which expresses its identity and goals. For my edification and yours, I have randomly selected eight of these statements that speak eloquently to this proud tradition in our diocese.

• To support the spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional, social, and physical growth of each member of the community.

• Dedicated to preparing students to be servant leaders through academic excellence, authentic faith formation, and student life opportunities within a Christ-centered, caring and safe learning environment.

• Committed to academic excellence and the vaues taught by Jesus Christ, striving to equip young people for the world while preparing them for Heaven.

• Seeks academic excellence and strives to form the minds, hearts, and souls of its students in the likeness of Christ.

• Provides a faith based Catholic education that balances academics with character building, enriching lives and personal relationships with Jesus Christ.

• To teach the whole child in a Christ-centered environment, by building character, fostering community, and creating life-long learners.

• Exists for the dual purpose of faith formation, and quality education for all children, with the ideals of the Heart of Christ.
• To provide a loving, Christ-centered environment with a quality academic education rooted in the development of character, compassion and Gospel values.
I invite you the next time you enjoy a snow day when all outdoor responsibilities and appointments are delayed or canceled to go online and match up the above statements with their respective schools. The eight represent less than half of our Catholic high schools, elementary Schools, and early childhood learning centers. You can clearly see that they strive to embrace the Gospel way of life and excellent academic formation in the present moment, in order to prepare students for their future, and ultimately for their citizenship in heaven. And yes, each school offers a range of age appropriate athletic, service, and cultural opportunities that are essential in the development of mind, body and spirit.
The Catholic School theme for 2016-2017 is FAMILY, an acronym that signifies: faith, academics, mercy, integrity, love,and you. There is much to ponder and celebrate with FAMILY and it is especially noteworthy in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Latitiae, or in English, the Joy of Love (in the family).
This year at the outset of Catholic School’s Week I will be gathering with priests and deacons, Lay Ecclesial Ministers and several of our diocesan leadership team to begin the implementation of the diocesan pastoral plan. We are proud to affirm that our renewed Vision statement is daily lived out in our schools: to serve others, to embrace diversity, to inspire disciples. As younger and older children of God, may we all continue to grow as life long intentional disciples, eager to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and grace.

La Sagrada Familia nos recuerda la difícil situación de los migrantes

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
Con la fiesta de la Epifanía celebramos la culminación de la temporada navideña, finalizando oficialmente con el bautismo del Señor el lunes pasado. Estamos bien entrado en el nuevo año, pero esta semana pasada fue notable como la Semana Nacional de Migración designada por los Obispos Católicos Estadounidenses durante más de 25 años. ¿Por qué existe esa conmemoración única en esta época del año? Sigue leyendo por favor.
A lo largo de la temporada de Navidad celebramos, y ojalá hayan experimentado, la gloria de Dios que resplandece en el rostro de Jesucristo. Si es así, hemos seguido una larga línea de casi dos mil años, a la luz de la Encarnación. Comenzando con el anuncio de los ángeles, abrazado con entusiasmo y alegría por los pastores, y resueltamente, buscado por los Magos, los relatos de la Infancia sentaron las bases para todos los discípulos en beneficio de las generaciones venideras hasta el momento presente. San Pablo en la segunda carta a los Corintios, describió esta experiencia para todos los creyentes en la Palabra hecha carne. “Dios ha diseñado de tal manera que su luz brilla en nuestros corazones para darnos la luz de conocer su gloria revelada en la faz de Jesucristo” (2Cor 4,6)
En la historia de la salvación, que se celebra en los relatos de la infancia, la alegría que irrumpe del encuentro con Jesucristo es palpable e irresistible. Cuando alguien encuentra la misericordia de Dios, nosotros, como mujeres y hombres, descubrimos o redescubrimos la esperanza para nuestra vida, alimento para nuestros corazones, mentes y almas. A su vez, esta nueva vida de la salvación está destinada a ser difundida a lo largo y a lo ancho en crecientes círculos por todos los tiempos en comunidades de fe, de esperanza y de amor, de justicia, de paz y de servicio en nuestros hogares y en nuestro mundo.
Pero la historia de la Natividad en la vida de María y de José, también revela la valentía necesaria para permanecer en el sendero de la vida que nos dirige a Dios en este mundo en el rostro de circunstancias difíciles. Más allá de sentimentalismo y observanciones piadosas, tenemos una historia paradigma para todas las familias y personas que se han visto obligadas a abandonar sus casas y hogares. La Virgen María y San José tuvieron que viajar durante los días finales de su embarazo. Cuando llegaron a Belén recibieron un poco de ayuda, y aunque no fue mucha, fue importante. Como extranjeros, no tenian un lugar para quedarse, y el tiempo para el nacimiento del Señor estaba cercano. No fue la intención de San Lucas y Mateo extenderse en las preocupaciones humanas de la Sagrada Familia, pero podemos imaginarnos que las parteras, que todavía están en servicio en nuestro tiempo para la mayoría de los nacimientos en el mundo, ciertamente una estuvo presente para ayudar a María en el parto y recoger a Jose cuando se desplomó sobre la paja. Después de un arduo viaje, el hambre y la sed tenían que pesar sobre estos extranjeros procedentes del resto del mundo, y estamos agradecidos por las personas anónimas que les proporcionaron alimento para el espíritu, mente y cuerpo. Y en esta fiesta de la Epifanía, nos enteramos de que la estrella condujo a los Magos hacia la casa donde María y el niño estaban hospedados. Gracias a la hospitalidad y generosidad de las personas de esa localidad, la Sagrada Familia tuvo un lugar donde estar.
De extranjeros a refugiados, la historia continúa. Tan pronto como los tres Reyes Magos partieron por otro camino, un cambió para siempre, María, José y el niño Jesús tuvieron que huir para salvar sus vidas. Sabemos de la crueldad de Herodes y la matanza de los inocentes, incluyendo a su propio hijo, en su codicia por conservar su poder. Esta históricamente documentado que cuando César Augusto, el emperador que había comenzado todo en movimiento con su mandato del censo, recibió la noticia de la matanza ordenada por Herodes dijo con asombro a tal brutalidad que era mejor ser uno de los cerdos de Herodes (porque los judíos no comen cerdo) a uno de sus hijos.
En ese momento, Jesús, María y José eran refugiados que huyeron a Egipto, donde permanecieron durante dos o tres años. Allí recibieron la hospitalidad de un círculo de personas desconocidas que les permitio vivir, trabajar y crecer en familia. Por último, regresaron a Nazaret, en el norte de Israel, porque el hijo de Herodes era el rey, y la amenaza de muerte era real.
Es evidente que a principios de enero es un momento ideal para estar conscientes de la situación de casi 65 millones de personas en nuestro mundo de hoy, que como la Sagrada Familia se han visto obligados a migrar y/o huir de su tierra y su hogar por una variedad de razones.
El tema para este año de la Semana Nacional de Migración está tomado de una de las expresiones del Papa Francisco, “Crear una cultura de encuentro”. Como los pastores y los Magos, una vez que hemos encontrado a Jesucristo nuestra vida nunca es la misma. Los objetivos de esta semana han permanecido inalterados durante más de 25 dijo con asombro a tal brutalidad, que lo mejor era ser uno de los cerdos de Herodes (porque los judíos no comen cerdo) a uno de sus hijos. En ese momento, Jesús, María y José eran refugiados que huyeron a Egipto, donde permanecieron durante dos o tres años. Aquí reciben la hospitalidad de un círculo de personas desconocidas que les permita vivir, trabajar y madurar como familia. Por último, regresan a Nazaret, en el norte de Israel, porque el hijo de Herodes era el rey, y la amenaza de la muerte era real.
Es evidente que a principios de enero es un momento ideal para crecer en la conciencia de la situación de casi 65 millones en nuestro mundo de hoy, que como la Sagrada Familia se han visto obligados a migrar y/o huir de la tierra y el hogar para una variedad de razones. El tema para este año de la Semana Nacional de Migración está tomado de uno de Papa Francisco’ expresiones de referencia, para crear una cultura de encuentro. Como los pastores y los Magos, una vez que nos hemos encontrado a Jesucristo nuestras vidas nunca son los mismos. Los objetivos de esta semana han permanecido inalterados durante más de 25 años: educar sobre la compleja realidad de la migración, que incluye a los migrantes, los inmigrantes, los refugiados y las víctimas del tráfico de seres humanos, para fomentar una cultura de encuentro en la que las comunidades católicas abren sus corazones y sus manos para darle la bienvenida a los recién llegados, no como extranjeros, sino como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo, para dar gracias por los muchos en nuestra sociedad que son como aquellos que ayudaron a la Sagrada Familia.
En mis viajes alrededor de la diócesis, y en mi trabajo en Caridades Catolicas, me siento inspirado al ver el desarrollo de los objetivos de la Semana Nacional de Migración. Personas en la iglesia y en todo el estado están sirviendo a las comunidades de migrantes que están aquí legalmente para recoger y procesar los cultivos de los que estamos acostumbrados a disfrutar. Muchos están trabajando para apoyar a quienes han sido víctimas de la trata de personas cuyas historias claman al cielo por justicia y compasión. Los inmigrantes, documentados e indocumentados, están contribuyendo significativamente al bienestar económico y social de nuestro estado y de las comunidades locales, incluyendo a nuestras parroquias en toda la diócesis.
Desde las secuelas de la guerra de Vietnam en los años 70’s, Caridades Católicas, en colaboración con una red de profesionales y personas compasivas en nuestro estado, ha estado acogiendo y sirviendo a menores refugiados no acompañados provenientes de todo el mundo. Estos jóvenes han prosperado, y ahora son ciudadanos productivos de nuestro país.
Dejando de lado la retórica de la reciente campaña presidencial y elección, y la inacción y la insensibilidad de todos los Congresos y presidentes durante décadas, hay muchos en nuestro estado y en nuestro país que están encontrando, acompañando, y se hacen amigos de aquellos que han llegado a nuestras puertas. La Semana Nacional de la Migración es una semana de 52 pero viene a principios del Nuevo año y oramos para que sus nobles objetivos siembren semillas y den frutos a lo largo del año.
A medida que progresa el nuevo año estaremos implementando la renovada Misión, Visión y las prioridades pastorales de la diócesis. En armonía con los objetivos de la Semana Nacional de Migración, os dejo con nuestra visión diocesanas. Para servir a otros _- para abrazar la diversidad – para inspirar el discipulado. Que Dios, que ha comenzado en nosotros la buena obra, la lleve a plenitud en el día de Cristo Jesús.

Holy family reminds us of migrants’ plight

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
With the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrated the culmination of the Christmas season, ending officially with the Baptism of the Lord this past Monday. We are well into the new year, but this past week has been noteworthy as the National Migration Week – designated such by the American Catholic Bishops for more than 25 years. Why is there such a unique commemoration at this time of year? Read on, please.
Throughout the Christmas season we celebrated, and hopefully experienced, the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ. If so, we have followed in a long line for nearly two thousand years in the light of the Incarnation. Beginning with the announcement of the angels, embraced eagerly and joyfully by the shepherds, and resolutely sought by the Magi, the Infancy Narratives laid the foundation for all disciples in succeeding generations right up to the present moment. Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians described this experience for all believers in the Word made flesh. “God designed it so that his light shines in our hearts in order to give us the light of knowing his glory revealed on the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4,6)
In the history of salvation that is celebrated in the Infancy Narratives the joy that breaks forth from an encounter with Jesus Christ is palpable and irresistible. When anyone encounters the mercy of God we, as women and men, discover or rediscover hope for our lives, nourishment for our hearts, minds, and souls. In turn this new life of salvation is intended to be diffused far and wide in ever increasing circles for all time in communities of faith, hope and love, of justice, peace and service in our homes and in our world.
But the story of the Nativity in the lives of Mary and Joseph also reveals the courage that is required to stay on the path of life that directs us to God in this world in the face of daunting circumstances. Beyond sentimentality and pious observances, we have a paradigm story for all families and individuals who are forced to abandon hearth and home. The Virgin Mother and Saint Joseph had to travel during the final days of her pregnancy. When they arrived in Bethlehem they received a little bit of help, and although not much, it was important. As strangers, they did not have a place to stay, and the time for the Lord’s birth was at hand. It was not the intention of Saint Luke and Matthew to dwell on the specific human concerns of the holy family, but we can imagine that midwives, who are still on hand in our time for the majority of births in our world, were certainly present to help Mary deliver, and to pick up Joseph when he collapsed on the straw.
After an arduous journey, hunger and thirst had to weigh heavily upon these strangers from elsewhere, and we are grateful for those nameless folks who provided nourishment for spirit, mind, and body. And on this feast of the Epiphany, we hear that the star led the Magi to the house were Mary and the child were lodging. Thanks to the hospitality and generosity of the locals, the holy family had a roof over their heads.
From strangers to refugees, the story continues. As soon as the three Kings departed by another route, forever changed, Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus had to flee for their lives. We know of the brutality of Herod and the slaughter of the innocents, including his own son in his lust to preserve his power. It is historically documented that when Cesar Augustus, the Emperor who had started it all in motion with his mandated census, received the news of this massacre ordered by Herod he said in amazement at such brutality, that it was better to be one of Herod’s pigs (because Jews did not eat pork) than one of his children. In that moment Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees who fled to Egypt where they remained for two or three years. There they received the hospitality of an unknown circle of people allowing them to live, work and mature as a family. Finally, they returned to Nazareth in northern Israel because Herod’s son was the king, and the threat of death was real.
It becomes clear that early January is an ideal time to grow in awareness at the plight of nearly 65 million in our world today who like the holy family have been forced to migrate and/or flee from hearth and home for a host of reasons. The theme for this year’s National Migration Week is taken from one of Pope Francis’ benchmark expressions, “To Create a Culture of Encounter.” Like the shepherds and the Magi, once we have encountered Jesus Christ our lives are never the same.
The goals for this week have remained the same for more than 25 years: to educate on the complex reality of migration which includes migrants, immigrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking, to encourage a culture of encounter in which Catholic communities open their hearts and hands to welcome the newcomers, not as strangers, but as members of the Body of Christ, to give thanks for the many in our society who are like those who helped the holy family.
In my travels around the diocese, and in my work at Catholic Charities, I am inspired to see the development of the sought after goals of the National Migration Week. People in the Church and throughout the state are serving the migrant communities who are here legally to pick and process the crops that we are accustomed to enjoy. Many are working to support those who have been victims of human trafficking whose stories cry out to heaven for justice and compassion.
Immigrants, documented and undocumented, are contributing significantly to the economic and social wellbeing of our State and local communities, including our parishes throughout the diocese. Catholic Charities since the aftermath of the Vietnam war in the late 70’s, in collaboration with a network of professional and compassionate people in our state, has been welcoming and serving unaccompanied refugee minors from around the world. These young people have thrived, and are now productive citizens of our country.
Putting aside the rhetoric of the recent presidential campaign and election, and the inaction and callousness of all Congresses and presidents for decades, there are many in our state and in our country who are encountering, accompanying, and befriending those who have arrived at our doorsteps. The National Migration Week is one week of 52 but it comes as the New Year dawns, and we pray that its noble goals will plant seeds and bear fruit throughout the year.
As the new year progresses we will be implementing the refreshed Mission, Vision, and Pastoral Priorities for the diocese. In harmony with the goals of the National Migration Week, I leave you with our diocesan Vision. To serve others — to embrace diversity — to inspire discipleship. May God who has begun the good work in us bring it to fulfillment on the day of Christ Jesus.

Christmas invitation: open celebration to all

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In the fullness of time the Word became flesh, full of grace and truth, and the darkness then, now and for nearly two millennia could not overcome Him. On this Christmas night and day and throughout this Christmas season two weeks in duration, may we, like Mary, deepen our ‘yes’ to God and, like Joseph, awake to God’s faithful presence and action in our lives.
Mary and Joseph expended considerable labor to give birth to the Christ child, the light of the world, at peace in their sojourn to Bethlehem but anxious on the road, trusting in their God through the assurance of the angel, but fearful for the wellbeing of their unborn child. We can only imagine that this exceptional refugee family, after the birth of their first-born son, the child of the promise, collapsed from exhaustion in their earthy home away from home, that stable out back maintained warm and temporarily safe by the attending animals. “All you beasts wild and tame, bless the Lord. Praise and exult him forever!” (Daniel 3,81)
The prophecy fulfilled pierced the clouds and returned to earth so that those dwelling in the heavens and on the earth, could be the heralds of the Good News. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9,6). “From heaven, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2,14)
And who hears the message, but of course those who are compelled to work the night shift, the shepherds keeping watch over their vulnerable charges. Pope Francis cites them as the first cluster of those living on the margins of society, the dregs who smell like the animals they safeguard. Like King David who slew Goliath with an accurately slung stone, these hill people could take down a mountain lion, or wolf, or two-legged night crawler in the same manner if need be. These are not the typical folks that any one of us is likely to invite to visit a new born family member. With no disrespect intended, they might be likened to the fringe bikers of Hell’s Angels in our modern society. Yet, they represent the sinners, prostitutes, lepers, outcasts and tax collectors that received so much attention from Jesus in his public ministry. They were evangelized by the angels on that first Christmas night and after their encounter with Jesus Christ in his mother Mary’s arms with Joseph nearby, they became the first evangelizers. “The shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2,16-20)
In all our Christmas celebrations, we with the Church throughout the world, also give glory to God through inspiring liturgies with hearts and minds open to God’s loving and saving mercy for our families, parishes, communities, nation and world. And with the angels and shepherds may no physical structures contain our joy and zeal to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our world, often shaped by darkness and the shadow of death. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, recently concluded, but ever ancient and ever new, is a constant reminder that after receiving God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ, we are empowered and sent into our world, as living signs of hope, justice and peace. We recall that King Herod, whom the Magi recognized for what he was, has many faces in our world and the lust for power, wealth and domination still corrupts God’s creation and the Lord’s dreams for human life. The world needs the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ. (2Cor 4,6)
How do we labor to make our God’s dreams for our world a living reality? There is much to be done beyond our shores and in our country. The world needs to experience our faith in the Lord through our merciful, just and loving service to the most vulnerable. “He has told you, O people, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6,8) Charity does begin at home, but the destitute, the oppressed, the victims of abortion, human trafficking, war and terrorism, refugees, the unjustly incarcerated, the abandoned and neglected, immigrants, the unemployed, underinsured, mentally ill and our fragile planet all cry out for justice and mercy. Christmas reminds us that spiritually as the Lord’s disciples, we will never be unemployed or underemployed. Once the gift of the Christ child has been received we do not live by fear and hopelessness, but rather by faith in the Son of God.
May our God of encouragement and endurance (Romans 15,5) strengthen our faith, hope and love to know that fear is useless. (Mark 5,38) What is needed is trust and prayer and the conviction that God has given us his Spirit of power, love and self-control. (2Timothy 1,7) Merry Christmas to all and to all a good life in service to the Light who shines in the darkness.

Bishop, envisioning team request prayers in advance of presenting pastoral plan

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and his Envisioning Team will roll out the Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Jackson in February 2017, a year after the bishop and members of his staff traveled the diocese to gather the information needed to write the plan.
“We have asked everyone to pray for the team as they worked on the plan, now we ask for prayers as we begin the process of education and implementation,” said Bishop Kopacz.
“I think the plan is a good one. It offers each parish, each community a chance to embrace the work of the church, but in their own cultural and unique ways. Advent is the perfect time for us to be planning this rollout. As we wait and hope for the Lord, we also pray for new life in the diocese.” he added.
In February of 2016 the bishop invited people from across the diocese to attend a series of listening sessions. Attendees spoke about what the diocese is doing well, what challenges the church faces and what dreams they have. Scribes recorded what people shared while written responses were collected and typed. A team of more than a dozen representatives from across the diocese began meeting to go through all the data collected and discern priorities and goals for the diocese.
A consultant from Catholic Leadership Institute led the team through the process of strategic planning, helping them focus on outcomes and results so the plan could strike a balance between being realistic and optimistic.
The resulting plan consists of a new mission statement, a vision and three priorities. The next step is to assign “smart” goals to each priority. “Smart” is an acronym used in corporate settings and means the goals are strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound or timely. Each goal has to contain a way to measure rates of success and a timeline for when it should be reached. The plan leaves room for creativity as well as each parish, school and service center will approach the goals in their own way. Representatives from the diocese will report back on what the parishes are doing and Mississippi Catholic will share some of the success stories.
“We hope the parishes – and even individual people – will think about how they can work on each priority in their own lives and churches,” said Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general for the diocese.
The rollout will start with priests and lay eccelesial ministers. The bishop and his team will host a convocation during the first week of February to go through the plan with them and talk about ways to implement it.
Later in the month the bishop will go back out, hosting another set of public gatherings to provide a forum to present the plan to parish leadership and parishioners. The schedule will be similar, but not identical to the one used last year. Look for it in upcoming editions of Mississippi Catholic.
In addition to a printed version of the plan, the Department of Communications will build an online version with resources connected to each goal and priority. For example, the team is selecting a scripture verse for each goal. Reflections on these scriptures may help a small faith group or pastoral council explore how it fits in their parish community. The web version will also include a way to ask questions or share ways the plan is implemented in a particular community.
The plan looks ahead 3-5 years. Before the end of that time, a team will revisit the goals and priorities to set new ones or decide to maintain the ones in place.

Ancient songs bring new meaning to season

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Roman Catholic Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are also incorporated at the opening Antiphons for the daily Mass from December 17 through December 23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah. With joyful hope in the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they take us to the pinnacle of the Advent season in anticipation of Christmas Eve and the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophesy and promise in the Incarnation.
December 17
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
December 18
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
December 19
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
December 20
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
December 21
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save mankind, whom you formed from the dust!
December 23
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

We are most aware of their inspiration in the beloved Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Often the hymns we sing instruct us in the faith with exactly this level of magnificent theology and biblical imagery.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Verse 1
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Verse 2
O Come O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily.
To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
Verse 3
O Come, O Come Great Lord of might, who to your tribes on Sinai’s height.
In ancient times once gave the Law in cloud and majesty and awe.
Verse 4
O Come O Rod of Jesse’s stem, from every foe deliver them.
That trust your mighty power to save and give them victory over the grave.
Verse 5
O Come, O Key of David, Come, and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery.
Verse 6
O Come, O Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by your drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Verse 7
O Come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of humankind.
O bid our sad divisions cease, and be for us our King of Peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel.
Through the prayerful proclamation of the “O” Antiphons at Mass, or their recitation during the Evening Prayer of the Church, or their use as a personal prayer, or through the singing of O Come O Come Emmanuel in Church, or at home, or through the quiet humming as we go about our Christmas preparations, know that we are praying with the Church throughout the world.
We are the faithful ones who hold are torches aloft, the wise who still seek him, and the angels who proclaim his birth. Indeed, the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There is much in our contemporary world that obscures the light of faith, or strains mightily to extinguish it, but Emmanuel, God with us, until the end of time is the Lord’s personal promise that prevails. May our spiritual journey and preparation not fade or grow dim as we prepare in the knowledge of faith and hope in the coming Messiah.

Canciones viejas pueden traer nuevo significado a la temporada

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
La Iglesia Católica Romana ha estado cantando las antífonas “O” por lo menos desde el octavo siglo. Son las antífonas que acompañan al canto Magníficat de la oración de la tarde del 17 al 23 de diciembre. También son incorporadas en la antífonas de apertura de la misa diaria del 17 al 23 de diciembre.
Son una magnífica teología bíblica extraída de las esperanzas mesiánicas del Antiguo Testamento para anunciar la venida de Cristo no sólo como el cumplimiento de las esperanzas del Antiguo Testamento sino las actuales. Su uso repetido del imperativo “¡Ven!” encarna el anhelo de todos por el Divino Mesías.
Con gozosa esperanza en la venida de nuestro Señor y Salvador, Jesucristo, nos llevan a la cima del tiempo de Adviento en anticipación a la víspera de Navidad y el cumplimiento de todas las profecías del Antiguo Testamento y la promesa de la encarnación.
17 de diciembre
O sabiduría de nuestro Dios Altísimo, guiando la creación con poder y amor: ¡ven a enseñarnos el camino del conocimiento!
18 de diciembre
O líder de la Casa de Israel, dador de la Ley a Moisés en el Sinaí: ¡ven a rescatarnos con tu gran poder!
19 de diciembre
O raíz del tallo de Jesse, signo del amor de Dios por todo su pueblo, ¡ven a salvarnos sin demora!
20 de diciembre
Oh Llave de David, que abres las puertas del Reino eterno de Dios: ¡ven a liberar a los presos de la oscuridad!
21 de diciembre
O Radiante mañana, esplendor de la luz eterna, sol de justicia: ¡ven a iluminar a los que viven en tinieblas y en la sombra de la muerte!
22 de diciembre
O Rey de todas las naciones y piedra angular de la Iglesia: ¡

ven y salva al hombre, a quien formaste del polvo!
23 de diciembre
O Emmanuel, nuestro Rey y dador de la ley: ven a salvarnos, Señor Dios nuestro!
Estamos más conscientes de su inspiración en el amado himno de Adviento, “O Ven, O Ven, Emmanuel”. A menudo los himnos que cantamos nos instruye en la fe exactamente con este nivel de magníficas imágenes teológicas y bíblicas.
Oh ven!, ¡Oh ven, Emanuel!
Versículo 1
O ven, O ven, Emmanuel, y rescata a Israel cautivo. Que llora aquí en el exilio solitario hasta que el Hijo de Dios aparezca.
Versículo 2
Oh Sabiduría que viene de lo alto, que ordena todas las cosas poderosamente. Nos muestra el camino del conocimiento y nos enseña en sus maneras de ir.
Versículo 3
O ven, O ven gran Señor de la fuerza, quien a tus tribus en la altura del Sinaí. En tiempos antiguos una vez dio la ley en nubes, en majestad y reverencia.
Versículo 4
O Come o vara del tallo de Jesse, de cada enemigo líbralos. Que confíen en tu poder para salvarlos y darles la victoria sobre la tumba.
Versículo 5
Oh Venid, oh Llave de David: Ven y abre nuestro hogar celestial. Haz seguro el camino que conduce a lo alto y cierra el camino a la miseria.
Versículo 6
Oh Venid, Oh Aurora celestial y ánímanos con tu noche. Dispersa las oscuras nubes de la noche y a la oscura sombra de la muerte ponla al vuelo.
Versículo 7
O ven, deseo de las naciones, junta en uno los corazones de la humanidad. O invita a nuestras tristes divisiones a cesar, y se para nosotros nuestro Rey de la paz.
¡Regocijaos! ¡Regocijaos! Emmanuel vendrá a ti, oh Israel.
¡Regocijaos! ¡Regocijaos! Emmanuel vendrá a ti, oh Israel.
A través de la proclamación de las antífonas “O” en la misa, o su rezo durante la oración de la tarde, o como una oración personal, o a través del canto de O Ven O Ven Emmanuel en la iglesia o en casa, o a través del susurro tranquilo mientras hacemos nuestros preparativos para Navidad, sabemos que estamos orando con la Iglesia en todo el mundo.
Somos los fieles que mantienen las antorchas en alto, el sabio que todavía lo busca, y los ángeles que anuncian su nacimiento. En efecto, la luz brilla en la oscuridad, y la oscuridad no la ha vencido.
Hay mucho en nuestro mundo contemporáneo que oscurece la luz de la fe, o se esfuerza poderosamente para extinguirla, pero Emmanuel, Dios con nosotros, hasta el fin del tiempo es la promesa personal del Señor que prevalece. Que nuestro camino espiritual y preparación no se desvanezca o se debilite a medida que nos preparamos para el conocimiento de la fe y la esperanza en la venida del Mesías.

Consensus shows us way forward on immigration

By Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Catholic News Service
The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a national day of prayer for migrants and refugees.
This day of prayer comes at a time of fear, unrest and uncertainty in our country – especially for our immigrant brothers and sisters who are undocumented and their children and loved ones.
Everyone agrees that our immigration system is broken – and it has been for more than a decade. The blame cuts across party lines and we cannot find many examples of moral leadership or political courage to point to.
We are deeply concerned about the president-elect because of his drastic campaign promises regarding deportations.
But we also know that the outgoing administration has deported more than 2.5 million people in the past eight years – more than any other administration in history. And the vast majority of those deported are not violent criminals. In fact, up to one-quarter are mothers and fathers that our government is seizing from ordinary households.
That is the sad truth about immigration policy in America today. Our system has been broken for so long, our politicians have failed to act for so long that the people we are now punishing have become our neighbors.
Most of the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. have been living here for five years or more. Two-thirds have been here for at least a decade. Almost half are living in homes with a spouse and children.
In addition, there are an estimated 1.8 million young people who were brought here as children by their undocumented parents. They are living in a kind of limbo – in many states they cannot enroll in college or get jobs.
This is the human reality of being undocumented in America. We have millions of people living on the edge of our economy and society, living in constant fear that one day without warning they will be deported and never see their families again.
And when you look into the eyes of a child whose father has been deported – and I have done that – we realize how inadequate our politics is.
Undocumented immigrants have become a kind of “scapegoat,” an easy target to blame for broader problems in our economy and society.
Many of our neighbors today rightly feel vulnerable and unprotected – they are worried about jobs, wages, the decline of their communities, the threat of terrorism, the security of our borders. We cannot simply dismiss their concerns or label them as nativists or racists, as some have. What our neighbors are worried about is real and we need to take their concerns seriously.
But undocumented workers are not the problem. The real problem is globalization and deindustrialization and what that is doing to our economy, to our family structures and neighborhoods. This is not a “white working class” issue only, as the media reports it. Whites, Latinos, Asians, blacks and others are all suffering from the breakdown of the family and the vanishing of good-paying jobs that make it possible to support a family.
Right now, we need to stop allowing politicians and media figures to make immigration a “wedge issue” that divides us. We need to come together to study these issues and find solutions.
The truth is there actually is broad public consensus on a way forward.
There is broad agreement that our nation has the obligation to secure its borders and determine who enters the country and how long they stay. There is also broad agreement that we need to update our immigration system to enable us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow.
There is even broad consensus on how to deal with the undocumented persons living among us.
Virtually every poll has found overwhelming support for granting them a generous path to citizenship, provided they meet certain requirements, such as learning English, paying some fines and holding a job that pays taxes.
These basic points should form the basis for immigration reform that is just and merciful.
We have a consensus in public opinion. What we are waiting for is politicians and media figures who have the will and the courage to tell the truth and to lead.
(Editors note: In the wake of the national elections, Catholic News Service is offering a series of columns from leading archbishops on key issues facing the church and the new Trump administration. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles.)

Diversity theme for USCCB meeting with encuentro news, VP choice

(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) fall assembly. He was not able to write a column this week because of travel so news from the assembly takes the place of his column this week.)
BALTIMORE (CNS) – A groundbreaking new study commissioned by the bishops that finds diversity abounds in the U.S. Catholic Church is a clarion call to Catholic institutions and ministries to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.
On Nov. 15, the second day of the bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore, the archbishop shared results of a report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University showing the church is one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the United States.

Bishops and alter servers process out after Mass at St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS-PETER-CLAVER-MASS Nov. 15, 2016.

Bishops and alter servers process out after Mass at St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS-PETER-CLAVER-MASS Nov. 15, 2016.

It was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, chaired by Archbishop Garcia-Siller, to help identify the size and distribution of ethnic communities in the country — Hispanic and Latino, African-American, Asian-American and Native American.
He asked his brother bishops to look at the data and see how it speaks to their regions to help dioceses plan, set priorities and allocate resources.
The study’s finding that there are close to 30 million Hispanics in the U.S. church resonated in the election earlier that day of Archbishop Jose Gómez of Los Angeles to a three-year term as USCCB vice president, bringing a Latino voice to the leadership role for the first time.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected to a three-year term as USCCB president, succeeding Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, whose term ended with the close of the meeting.
The bishops also heard about the church’s preparations for the fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, from Auxiliary Bishop Nelson Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs.
The V Encuentro, as it is being called, is to be held in September 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. It will be the culmination of parish, diocesan and regional encuentros, in which the bishops anticipate more than one million Catholics participating over the next two years.
“It is a great opportunity for the church to reach out to our Hispanic brothers and sisters with Christ’s message of hope and love,” Bishop Perez said. “It is a time to listen, a time to develop meaningful relationships, a time to learn and bear abundant fruits, and a time to rejoice in God’s love.”
The effort got a personal endorsement from Pope Francis during a Nov. 15 video message to the U.S. bishops at their fall general assembly in Baltimore.
In other action Nov. 15, the bishops approved making permanent their Subcommittee on the Church in Africa and the hiring of two people to assist the subcommittee in carrying out its work. They also approved another 10-year extension for the Retirement Fund for Religious national collection; before the vote, the collection had been authorized through 2017.
They approved a strategic plan that will govern the work of the conference and its committees from 2017 through 2020, incorporating the theme “Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People With Joy.” It sets five priorities: evangelization, marriage and family life, human life and dignity, vocations, and religious freedom.
Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour gave a presentation on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, urging the U.S. bishops to bring wider attention to the situation to their parishes and political leaders.
A theme of outreach and inclusion ran through many sessions of the two days of public sessions of the bishops’ meeting. Sessions on the last day of the assembly, Nov. 16, were held in executive session, except for a brief address by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, that was live-streamed. Echoing Pope Francis, he told the U.S. bishops that their ministry is to be “witnesses to the Risen One.”
As the meeting opened Nov. 14, the bishops affirmed as a body a Nov. 11 letter from Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, as outgoing chairman of the Committee on Migration, calling on President-elect Donald Trump “to continue to protect the inherent dignity of refugees and migrants.”
The bishops’ group action followed by a day a TV interview in which Trump said one of his first actions would be to deport two million to three million people he described as “criminal and have criminal records” and entered the country without government permission.
In the letter, Bishop Elizondo offered “a special word to migrant and refugee families living in the United States: Be assured of our solidarity and continued accompaniment as you work for a better life.”
That first day the bishops heard a plea from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new nuncio to the United States, that the U.S. bishops and the U.S. church as a whole reach out to young Catholics, meeting them where they are and engaging them in their faith.
In his last presidential address, Archbishop Kurtz discussed the need to move beyond the acrimony of the now-completed presidential elections, but the main focus of his speech were the encounters he had in his three-year term in which he found that small and often intimate gestures provide big lessons for bishops to learn as they exercise their ministry.
The people he encountered in all his travels were concerned about something beyond themselves — the common good, he said Nov. 14. Seeking the common good would serve the nation well as it moves forward from the “unprecedented lack of civility and even rancor” of the national elections, Archbishop Kurtz said.
In other business the first day, the bishops heard a report on the 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders to be held in Orlando, Florida, next July to exploring the Gospel in American life. More than 3,000 people reflecting the diversity of the church are expected to participate. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who gave an update on the planning, urged bishops in each diocese to send a delegation to the event.
Cardinal Dolan also shared details of a simple celebration next year to mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, founded originally as the National Catholic War Council.
Events will take place Nov. 12 as the bishops convene for their 2017 fall assembly. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, will be principal celebrant of an anniversary Mass at Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Cardinal Ouellet will deliver the homily.
In his report as chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said all U.S. bishops are required to speak out for religious freedom for all people of faith whose beliefs are compromised.
Bishops must equip laypeople to speak in the public arena about the necessity to protect religious liberty when interventions by government officials at any level infringe on the free practice of religion, he stressed.
In a final afternoon session and later at a news conference that concluded the first meeting day, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta returned to the tensions of the election year.
He is chairman of the new Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, created in July by Archbishop Kurtz in response to the wave of violence in a number of communities following shootings by and of police. Archbishop Gregory urged the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism, given “postelection uncertainty” and that some of the tensions have only gotten worse following the presidential election.
Most questions during news conference that followed focused on the postelection climate. Archbishop Gregory stressed that the church should play a role in helping restore peace in the current climate that is so inflamed.
He also pointed out that no political parties fully embrace all life issues, something that had been stressed by Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who died 20 years to the day of Archbishop Gregory’s remarks.
On the issue of healing racial divides, he said the Catholic response should start at the parish level. “Words are cheap, actions stronger,” he added.
Archbishop Gomez spoke of the fear many immigrants have of possible deportation since Trump’s election as president. When asked if churches could possibly provide sanctuaries for this group, he said that was impossible to answer at this point.
The day ended with the bishops celebrating their annual fall assembly Mass at a West Baltimore church known as the “mother church” of black Catholics, rather than in their traditional venue of Baltimore’s historic basilica.
In his homily, Archbishop Kurtz said the bishops came to the church “to be present, to see with our own eyes, so that we might humbly take a step and lead others to do so.”
(Contributing to this story were Mark Pattison, Rhina Guidos, Carol Zimmermann and Dennis Sadowski).