Creating culture of compliance, transparency, trust

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In this week’s column I am highlighting our diocesan office for the Protection of Children to mark the 15th anniversary of the Catholic bishops’ Dallas Charter, also known as the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal, promulgated in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002. This is in sync with the report to the Catholic bishops by the head of the National Review Board at our just finished conference in Indianapolis.
A summary of this report is included in this publication (see page 1) as well as the homily of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta during the bishop’s Mass of Prayer and Penance at the Conference (see page 16). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote and promulgated the Charter in 2002 in order to hold accountable all Catholic dioceses, eparchies and religious orders serving in the United States with respect to their commitment to protect children and young people. Most recently, I was appointed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing committee for the protection of children and young people and it is a privilege to serve this cause. During the last 15 years, the Diocese of Jackson has worked earnestly to create a culture of compliance and transparency to protect our children and young people as well as to provide the opportunity to heal for those who suffer from sexual abuse. Furthermore, all credible allegations are reported to law enforcement, whether or not the statutes of limitation have run.
What are we up against? By its very nature the demon of child sexual abuse feeds on secrecy, manipulation and lies and its deeds must be brought out of darkness into the light of truth, healing and hope. Wherever and whenever it occurs the abuse of minors is a crime and maintaining a steady state of vigilance on behalf of our children and young people is our diocesan standard. Those who have the urge to abuse minors are driven by their baser instincts and safe environments undoubtedly keep the wolf at bay. We can never become complacent. You might ask, what precisely is the Diocese of Jackson doing on a regular basis to cultivate a culture for safe environments?
The diocesan office for the protection of children, directed by Vicki Carollo, and under the auspice of our vicar general, Father Kevin Slattery, is accountable for achieving the goals of the Charter by participating in an annual audit performed by Stonebridge Business Partners. Stonebridge is contracted through the USCCB. The Diocese of Jackson has been found compliant with all articles of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People each year since 2003.
Each employee and volunteer working with children and young people receives a booklet containing the policy of the diocese with various components on the prevention of child abuse and procedures to be followed when reports of child abuse or sexual misconduct by church personnel are received.
Since October, 2002, the Diocese of Jackson has initiated criminal background screenings and safe environment training sessions for 14,647 adults. There are currently 4,934 active employees and volunteers working with children and young people in the diocese.
A criminal background screening is conducted prior to and during an applicant’s service. A criminal background rescreening is initiated every three years. All clergy, religious, employees and volunteers working with children and young people must complete the screening process and the Diocese of Jackson application. Applicants sign a form acknowledging they have read and understand the policy prior to beginning a ministry.
The Diocese of Jackson has designated that all new employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in an initial safe environment training session facilitated by a diocesan trainer. Each new applicant is required to sign an attendance record of the training attended.
Beginning in September, the Diocese will implement VIRTUS’ Protecting God’s Children Awareness Program for new employees and volunteers. The program educates adults on how to better protect children from abuse. There are three training-the-trainer sessions scheduled in September.
All active employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in VIRTUS’ web-based program. This online program consists of a monthly safe environment bulletin. The adult reads the bulletin, answers a multiple-choice question and submits the answer to VIRTUS. The bulletins provide invaluable knowledge and ongoing formation for the prevention of child abuse.
Children and young people in the parishes and schools are required to receive an annual age-appropriate safe environment lesson. The lesson is designed to help children keep themselves safe by providing the important skills they need to protect themselves from abuse. The lesson additionally provides dialogue between children and adults about keeping safe.
Each parish and school presents a parent information meeting annually. Parents have an opportunity to opt their children out from the safe environment lesson. Of course, we hope parents who decide to opt out will review the lesson material with their children on their own.
The Diocese of Jackson is committed to ensuring that no one being served by the church be at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel. The parishes and schools work very hard to stay in compliance with the Protection of Children program.
Recently, the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection included our Protection of Children Electronic Communications Policy in the new “resource toolbox.” This is certainly an accolade for our program. The resources are shared with all Catholic dioceses in the United States.
Like a finely-tuned engine the above course of action has many moving parts and is only as strong as its weakest link or non-implemented step. Complacency and/or shortcuts can put a child or young person in harm’s way and this is a violation of trust. Striving for excellence with safe environments in all church related gatherings is our goal in the Diocese of Jackson.
To achieve this high standard, it takes the full and active participation of many throughout the diocese. Thank you to all who serve on behalf of our children and young people. These are God’s children, members of the Body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit. May they thrive as members of our church.

U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

By Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their ministry.
He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is “not a thing of past” and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not “let complacency set in” in their efforts to stop it.
The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.
Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised the bishops for what they’ve accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world.
In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The report – based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016 – shows that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318 clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the present.
The review board chair said he was pleased with the high number of dioceses participating in the audit, noting that only two did not participate, down from six the previous year. He said all dioceses have indicated that they will participate in the next audit.
The value of participating in the audit “can’t be overemphasized,” he said.
One weak spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.
Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, stressed that the review board wants to help the Catholic Church by providing tools to implement the charter and even to work on improving the charter by making it more specific.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appointed four new members to serve on the review board. The new members, announced June 14, are: Amanda Callanan, director of communications for the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank; Suzanne Healy, victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007-2016; Dr. Christopher McManus, who practices internal medicine and is an active member of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; and Eileen Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.
Cesareo will continue to chair the review board until his term expires in 2020.
Prior to his presentation to the bishops, Margaret Simonson, chair of the U.S. bishops’ National Advisory Council, a group of laypeople who advise the bishops, gave her report.
She said the council supported several items on the bishops’ agenda for their June 14-15 meeting, particularly discussion about religious liberty, which she said was so important in “this particular time in history.”
She also said the council supported the “Mass of Prayer and Penance” being celebrated in the early evening June 14 for survivors of sexual abuse within the church, the discussion of revised guidelines for people with disabilities and an update on the upcoming convocation for Catholic leaders taking place in Orlando, Florida, July1-4.
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz has joined the committee for the protection of children. Read more about his appointment and child protection efforts in this diocese on page 3 and 16.)

BISHOP KOPACZ SCHEDULE

Monday, June 12 – 17 – USCCB Spring Assembly Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana
Sunday. June 18, 8:30 a.m. – Sister Anne Brooks of Tutwiler 60th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving and reception, Clarksdale Immaculate Conception Parish
Friday, June 23, 5 p.m. – Mass to celebrate Feast of the Sacred Heart – Sacred Heart Southern Missions 75th Anniversary, Southaven, Christ the King
Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m. – Mass orf Thanksgiving – 60th Anniversary Father Tom Delaney, Crystal Springs, St. John
Sunday, June 25, 8 a.m. – Mass, Natchez, Holy Family
Sunday, June 25, 11 a.m. – Mass and Parish Picnic, Fayette, St. Anne
Only public events are listed on this schedule and all events are subject to change.
Please check with the local parish for further details

Words for our Confirmandi

By Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron

One of the greatest privileges I have as a bishop is the opportunity to preside at the sacrament of Confirmation. A drawback, however, is that I am obligated to conduct more than 40 Confirmations in roughly a two month period — which means that I become tired, rather quickly, of my own homily! As a result, I’m frequently shifting gears, trying out new ideas, looking at the complex phenomenon of Confirmation from a variety of angles. I want to share with you in this article some of the key ideas in the latest iteration of my Confirmation sermon.
Immediately prior to the prayer, which calls down the Spirit on the candidates, the bishop leads them in a re-affirmation of their baptismal promises. I tell the young people that parents and godparents made these promises for them when they were babies, but that now they will have the responsibility of making them in their own name and while they stand on their own two feet.
The first promise is negative in form, which is only natural, for to set one’s face is necessarily to set one’s back. And so the confirmandi declare that they renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises. These empty promises, I tell them, can be heard everywhere in the popular culture. They are in practically every movie they watch, every song they listen to, every casual conversation in which they engage: “you will be happy if you just get enough wealth, enough pleasure, enough power, and enough honor; if you fill up the empty heart with a sufficient amount of these worldly goods, you will find satisfaction.” At this point, I usually ask them to consider the image of the crucified Jesus, prominently displayed in the church. Notice, I say, that we don’t have an image of Bill Gates or Donald Trump or Beyonce on the central axis of the room, but rather that of a man being tortured to death, someone devoid of all wealth, pleasure, power or honor.
The remaining promises assert what the confirmandi are for. The first of these positive formulations is the simple assertion of belief in God. This is much more than a statement of intellectual conviction; it is, instead, an affirmation of the meaning and direction of one’s life. To believe in God, is to know, I tell the young people, that your life is not about you. A baby’s life is all about himself, the meeting of his immediate needs. But as the child matures, he realizes, increasingly, that he has obligations and connections beyond himself — to his family, his community, his culture, his country, and finally to God. The central narrative of the Bible — repeated again and again — is that people find who they are precisely in the measure that they hear and follow the voice of God inviting them on mission. To say, therefore, that you believe in God is to break out of the shell of a self-regarding egotism and to launch out into the deep, to go on a spiritual adventure.
Next, the confirmandi are invited to announce their belief in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” I ask them to concentrate on the word “Lord.” The Lord is the one who has mastery, who controls, who literally dominates, (from the Latin word Dominus). Everyone in the world has a Lord. It might be a person, a country, an ideology, a political party or an institution, but everyone is beholden to something or someone.
As Nobel laureate Bob Dylan memorably put it: “You gotta serve somebody/ It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/ But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” To claim the Lordship of Jesus is to acknowledge that every aspect of one’s life belongs to him and comes under his sway. It is to be branded as Jesus’ own. I remind the confirmandi that Confirmation, along with Baptism and Holy Orders, is a “character” sacrament, meaning that it permanently marks the one who receives it, and that, appropriately enough, the word “character” is derived from a Greek term meaning “brand.”
After declaring their belief in the Son, the confirmandi are invited to affirm their belief in the “Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” The Holy Spirit, I explain, is the love that obtains from all eternity between the Father and the Son. Gazing at one another, the first two divine persons breathe forth their mutual love, and this holy breath is the Spiritus Sanctus. Therefore, the Spirit is the love that God is. Now in the first promise, the confirmandi announce what they are against, namely, the claim that wealth, power, pleasure or honor will make them happy; in this promise, they unambiguously declare what alone is sufficient to satisfy the infinite longing of their heart: the infinite love that God is. Don’t worry, I tell them, about whether you are rich or poor, famous or forgotten, powerful or powerless; worry, instead, about whether you are growing in your capacity to love. For love is what your heart finally cares about, and love is what you will carry with you into heaven, when you leave all the rest behind.
Finally, the young people are invited to affirm their belief in “the holy catholic Church.” In an anti-institutional, anti-authority time such as ours, this is a hard promise to make, but they have to remember, I tell them, what the Church is. The Church of Jesus Christ is not an organization or a club. From such a voluntary society, one can legitimately withdraw. But as Paul told us long ago, the Church is not an organization, but an organism, a living body, of which Christ is the head and all of the baptized are cells, molecules and organs. The Church is the mystical body that the Logos has taken to himself, just as surely as he took to himself a physical body in Palestine two thousand years ago; accordingly, it is the vehicle by which he continues to do his work in the world.
To withdraw from it, therefore, is to block the flow of grace. Many of the confirmandi, at least here in Los Angeles, wear red gowns that look very much like graduation robes. I emphatically tell them that these are not graduation gowns, but gowns of initiation, for Confirmation is not an end but a beginning. Renouncing Satan, believing in God, the Lordship of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit, fully initiated in the Church, they are now ready to start.  Just a few months ago, Pope Francis made the same point when speaking to a group of Italian students approaching Confirmation. Remember, he said, Confirmation is not the sacramento di arrivaderci! (the sacrament of “see ya later”).
I always assure those I confirm that I will remember them in prayer. Could I invite anyone who reads these words to pray for the army of fully-initiated members of Christ’s mystical body who have been confirmed this year?
(Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.)

Ven Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz
El poder del Espíritu Santo de Dios que resucitó a Jesús de entre los muertos se encuentra nuevamente en el centro de la oración pública de la iglesia mientras celebramos la Ascensión en este fin de semana, con la exaltada fiesta de Pentecostés a seguir. “Ven Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles y enciende en ellos el fuego de tu amor… y renovaremos la faz de la tierra”. Durante el pasado mes el Espíritu Santo me ha mantenido activo con la celebración de 16 confirmaciones hasta la fecha alrededor de la diócesis, confirmando la presencia de Dios en la vida de nuestros jóvenes discípulos.
De una manera notable nuestra sagrada misión y visión se reviven a través de la confirmación al abrazar la diversidad de dones, los ministerios y obras del Espíritu Santo, al servir a otros de muchas maneras creativas y, por supuesto, al inspirar a los discípulos en el conocimiento y la comprensión de que Jesús es el Señor y Dios es nuestro Padre. La plenitud de la iniciación cristiana se realiza con la marca del santo crisma y cuando las promesas hechas en el bautismo por los padres, padrinos y madrinas han sido realizados.
La efusión de las bendiciones del Espíritu Santo es evidente en el amor a la familia, a los padrinos, amigos y a la comunidad parroquial. No hay lenguas de fuego visibles sobre las cabezas de los recién confirmados, pero el lento y regular fuego de la fe ha estado quemando y el amor del Señor resucitado es evidente.
En medio de la temporada de confirmaciones marcamos el primer aniversario del brutal asesinato de nuestras queridas religiosas, las Hermanas Paula Merrill, SCN, y Margaret Held (SSSF), con oraciones y la bendición e inauguración de su monumento en Liberty Park en el centro de Durant. Fue un encuentro vibrante compuesto por personas de la comunidad local, de la Parroquia Santo Tomás en Lexington, de sus comunidades religiosas en Kentucky y Wisconsin, y por los fieles de toda la Diócesis de Jackson.
El Espíritu Santo, la prenda de vida eterna, fue nuestra consolación, esperanza y paz. Cuando   comenzamos el servicio de oración se abrió el cielo, y acompañando la presencia del Espíritu Santo, hubo también un derrame, o mejor dicho, una lluvia torrencial, abundante en Mississippi. Este remojón vino completo con imágenes y sonidos, relámpagos y truenos. Esta muestra de la creación de Dios a menudo abruma las palabras de la oración, pero no desanimó nuestros espíritus y propósitos de dar tributo a la vida y la muerte de las hermanas en el servicio al Señor y a los pobres. De cierta manera profunda, fue como un diálogo entre el cielo y la tierra. La naturaleza habló y nosotros sólo pudimos hacer una pausa y esperar y, a continuación respondimos con oraciones que atravesaron las nubes. Al final bendecimos el monumento, y sus vidas y muertes permanecerán como un testimonio de servicio amoroso a lo largo de la vida en esta estresada área de nuestro estado.
Recordamos que la presencia del Espíritu Santo en nuestros corazones, mentes y almas es un anticipo a la promesa de la vida eterna y la fiesta del cielo. Esto es cierto para todos los creyentes que son bautizados en el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo, y es fortalecido en el sacramento de la confirmación. Como un signo visible de esta realidad interior la vida religiosa y ordenada entre nosotros señala nuestro objetivo de estar siempre con el Señor. Nos recuerdan que nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos y que no tenemos aquí ciudad permanente. Las muertes violentas de las Hermanas Paula y Margaret sólo sirven para profundizar la convicción de la sabiduría de las sagradas escrituras que, bienaventurados los que mueren en el Señor, déjenlas descansar de sus labores porque sus buenas obras van con ellas.” Ellas permanecen con nosotros como testigos de la verdad, que sea que vivamos o que muramos, del Señor somos.
Las bendiciones del Espíritu Santo moran dentro de nosotros y nos rodean de innumerables maneras. Durante la próxima semana todos podemos enriquecer nuestro viaje a Pentecostés rezando la novena al Espíritu Santo. La mayoría de las veces oramos en el poder del Espíritu a través del nombre de Jesucristo para gloria de Dios Padre. Durante estos días podemos orar intencionalmente al Espíritu Santo para que nos inspire, para liberarnos del pecado, para que nos permita vivir el Evangelio y para servir con amor como discípulos del Señor. Ven, Espíritu Santo, renueva la faz de la tierra.”

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The power of God’s Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is once again at the center of the Church’s public prayer as we celebrate the Ascension on this weekend, with the exalted feast of Pentecost to follow.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love… and we shall renew the face of the earth.” During the past month the Holy Spirit has kept me active with the celebration of 16 Confirmations to date around the diocese, confirming God’s presence in the lives of our young disciples. In a noteworthy manner our Sacred Mission and Vision come alive through Confirmation as we embrace the diversity of gifts, ministries and works of the Holy Spirit, serve others in many creative ways, and, of course, inspire disciples in the knowledge and understanding that Jesus is Lord, and God is our Father. The fullness of Christian Initiation is accomplished with the mark of holy Chrism, and the promises made at Baptism by parents and godparents have been realized. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s blessings is evident in the love of family, godparents, friends and the parish community. There are no visible tongues of fire upon the heads of the newly confirmed, but the slow and steady fire of faith has been burning and the love of the risen Lord is evident.
In the midst of the Confirmation campaign we honored our beloved religious, Sister Paula Merrill, SCN and Sister Margaret Held, SSSF, who were murdered last fall. Faithful friends and family gathered with prayer and the blessing and unveiling of their monument in Liberty Park in downtown Durant. It was a spirited gathering, comprised of people from the local community, from St. Thomas parish in Lexington, from their religious communities based in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and from the faithful from around the diocese of Jackson.
The Holy Spirit, the pledge of eternal life, was our consolation, hope and peace. As we began the the prayer service the heavens opened, and accompanying the presence of the Holy Spirit, was also an outpouring, or better said, down pouring of torrential rains, Mississippi’s abundance. This drenching had the whole package with sights and sounds, lightening and thunder. This display of God’s creations often overwhelmed the words of prayer, but it did not dampen our spirits and resolve to give fitting tribute to the sisters’ lives and deaths in service to the Lord and to the poor. In some profound way, it was like a dialogue between heaven and earth.
Nature spoke and we could only pause and wait, and then we responded with prayer that pierced the clouds. In the end we blessed the monument, and their lives and deaths will stand as a testimony to loving service over the course of a lifetime in this stressed area of our state.
We recall that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds, and souls is a foretaste of the promise of eternal life, and the feast of heaven. This is true for all believers who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and further strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a visible sign of this interior reality the vowed lives of the religious and ordained among us point to our goal to be with the Lord forever. They remind us that our citizenship is in heaven, and that we have no lasting city here. The violent deaths of Sisters Paula and Margaret only serve to deepen the conviction in the wisdom of the sacred scriptures that “blessed are they who die in the Lord, let them rest from their labors for their good deeds go with them.” They remain with us as witnesses to the truth, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
The blessings of the Holy Spirit dwell within us and surround us in countless ways. Over the next week we can all enrich our journey to Pentecost by praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit. Most often we pray in the power of the Spirit through the name of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. During these days we can pray more intentionally to the Holy Spirit to inspire us, to free us from sin, to empower us to live the gospel, and to lovingly serve as disciples of the Lord.  
Come, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth.

Obispo reflexiona sobre su aniversario

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

Escribo la columna de esta semana en el fin de semana del 40 aniversario de mi ordenación sacerdotal, el 7 de mayo de 1977. Durante momentos más tranquilos y mientras estoy en el altar durante las celebraciones litúrgicas, me impresiono por la gracia y la maravilla de que han pasado 40 años y el buen pastor me ha guiado a través de las interminables montañas del noreste de Pennsylvania en la Diócesis de Scranton hacia el sur profundo en la Diócesis de Jackson, Mississippi. Después de casi treinta y seis años y medio allá y cerca de tres y medio aquí, estoy feliz de estar vivo y bien, con buena memoria y gratitud, y capaz de servir con motivación y propósito.
El año 40 y los 40 días de tiempo en la Biblia representan tiempo sagrado, kairos, cuando Dios y su gente caminaron juntos (o flotaron en el tiempo de Noé) en el desenvolvimiento de la historia de la salvación. Es un tiempo de purificación, regeneración y la gozosa esperanza de algo nuevo en el horizonte. Para el cristiano, las aguas del diluvio prefiguran las aguas purificadoras del Bautismo y un período de 40 días que está estrechamente asociado con la temporada de cuaresma. Una vez en tierra el arco iris a través de las nubes era el signo del pacto entre Dios y la humanidad, y la promesa de una nueva vida. En mi breve tiempo aquí, un nuevo día ha amanecido y he conocido la vida abundante que el Buen Pastor prometió en la lectura del evangelio de este fin de semana. Además, con las ruidosas tormentas que he experimentado desde que me mudé al sur, multiplicado por 40 días y noches, podría imaginar la construcción de un arca en cada esquina.
En la experiencia del Éxodo tenemos dobles períodos de tiempo de 40 años y 40 días. Los israelitas vagaron durante 40 años en el desierto y Moisés pasó 40 días y 40 noches en el Monte Sinaí que trajeron consigo el don de los Diez Mandamientos, el corazón del Tora, y el signo y la sustancia de la evolución de la alianza entre Dios y los israelitas. \Estas tablas de piedra fueron hechas y adoptadas en los comienzos de la permanencia en el desierto y fijó el estándar para la creación de relaciones que Dios exigía de los israelitas antes de abrir la puerta a la tierra prometida a Abraham y a Sarah y a sus descendientes. Y así he reflexionado sobre los 40 años de preparación que los israelitas sufrieron, y de una manera muy real puedo saborear todas las experiencias de mi sacerdocio como pábulo para el molino que el Señor ha utilizado para fortalecer mi relación con él, y para servir ahora como el 11º obispo de Jackson. Una lección aprendida es que Dios puede redimir y transformar todas nuestras labores fieles y esfuerzos vanos para cumplir su voluntad.
Asimismo, me siento confiado trazando un paralelo entre los 40 días que Moisés pasó en el monte Sinaí y los cuarenta días que Jesús soportó en el desierto en previsión de su ministerio público con mi ministerio en la Diócesis de Jackson. Cuando Moisés bajó de la montaña él sabía que Dios, quien es misericordioso hasta la milésima generación, era un Dios fiel, y siempre estaría con ellos. El becerro de oro fue un gran bache en el camino, pero fue atravesado exitosamente. Los israelitas tenían ahora una misión y visión sagrada con prioridades pastorales claras. (Ustedes saben a dónde voy con esto.)
 Del mismo modo, cuando el Espíritu Santo sacó a Jesús del desierto puso en marcha la misión sagrada de la Nueva Alianza a establecerse en su sangre, arraigada en la profecía de Isaías. “El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque él me ha ungido para predicar el evangelio a los pobres… y anunciar el año de gracia del Señor (Lucas 4:18ff). En el mismo sentido, el Espíritu Santo ha ungido y facultó al Cuerpo de Cristo en nuestra diócesis, con una renovada misión sagrada y visión de futuro que está encarnado en nuestras prioridades pastorales.
Esta es la vida de la nueva alianza en la sangre del Señor para mí mientras viajo y sirvo a través de la diócesis. Dios está renovando mi fervor cuando veo la sabiduría de nuestra visión: servir a los demás, inspirar discípulos, abrazar la diversidad en cada curva en la carretera.
Esta noche será mi 12ª de 23 celebraciones del sacramento de la confirmación y la diversidad de los dones y ministerios en la iglesia, la llamada al discipulado y el mandato de servir están vivos y bien en nuestros discípulos jóvenes. Los recién confirmados son las piedras vivas que representan la mano de obra de la fe, la esperanza y el amor, que sucede a diario en sus familias y parroquias a través de la extensión de nuestros 65 condados en el estado de Mississippi.
La visión también se realiza en nuestras escuelas y programas de formación en la fe, a través de Caridades Católicas y del Hospital St. Dominic, a través de innumerables servicios sociales y la promoción de un orden social más justo. Para mí el trabajo de planificación pastoral en el último año y medio ha permitido al Espíritu Santo llevarnos suavemente hacia adelante con mayor determinación y pasión por la obra del Evangelio en la Iglesia Católica para la salvación de todos. Nos arraiga profundamente en la Biblia y las palabras del profeta Miqueas nos vienen a la mente como una lámpara para nuestros pies. “Dios le ha mostrado, oh mortales, lo que es bueno. Y lo que el Señor exige de vosotros? Actuar con justicia, amar la misericordia y caminar humildemente con tu Dios.” (6:8).
A los 40 estoy agradecido a todos los que rezan por mí fielmente a diario en la plegaria eucarística en la Misa, a través del rosario, y en una multitud de otras maneras, porque mi celo y deseo de servir permanecen fuertes. Este es un don del Señor, el Buen Pastor, el fruto de la oración. Como nos gusta decir en estas partes, Soy bendecido. “Estoy seguro de esto, que él que comenzó en usted (nosotros) su obra buena la irá llevando a buen fin hasta el día en que Jesucristo regrese” (Fil. 1:6).

Obispo reflexiona sobre aniversario

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz
Escribo la columna de esta semana en el fin de semana del 40 aniversario de mi ordenación sacerdotal, el 7 de mayo de 1977. Durante momentos más tranquilos y mientras estoy en el altar durante las celebraciones litúrgicas, me impresiono por la gracia y la maravilla de que han pasado 40 años y el buen pastor me ha guiado a través de las interminables montañas del noreste de Pennsylvania en la Diócesis de Scranton hacia el sur profundo en la Diócesis de Jackson, Mississippi. Después de casi treinta y seis años y medio allá y cerca de tres y medio aquí, estoy feliz de estar vivo y bien, con buena memoria y gratitud, y capaz de servir con motivación y propósito.
El año 40 y los 40 días de tiempo en la Biblia representan tiempo sagrado, kairos, cuando Dios y su gente caminaron juntos (o flotaron en el tiempo de Noé) en el desenvolvimiento de la historia de la salvación. Es un tiempo de purificación, regeneración y la gozosa esperanza de algo nuevo en el horizonte. Para el cristiano, las aguas del diluvio prefiguran las aguas purificadoras del Bautismo y un período de 40 días que está estrechamente asociado con la temporada de cuaresma. Una vez en tierra el arco iris a través de las nubes era el signo del pacto entre Dios y la humanidad, y la promesa de una nueva vida. En mi breve tiempo aquí, un nuevo día ha amanecido y he conocido la vida abundante que el Buen Pastor prometió en la lectura del evangelio de este fin de semana. Además, con las ruidosas tormentas que he experimentado desde que me mudé al sur, multiplicado por 40 días y noches, podría imaginar la construcción de un arca en cada esquina.
En la experiencia del Éxodo tenemos dobles períodos de tiempo de 40 años y 40 días. Los israelitas vagaron durante 40 años en el desierto y Moisés pasó 40 días y 40 noches en el Monte Sinaí que trajeron consigo el don de los Diez Mandamientos, el corazón del Tora, y el signo y la sustancia de la evolución de la alianza entre Dios y los israelitas. \Estas tablas de piedra fueron hechas y adoptadas en los comienzos de la permanencia en el desierto y fijó el estándar para la creación de relaciones que Dios exigía de los israelitas antes de abrir la puerta a la tierra prometida a Abraham y a Sarah y a sus descendientes. Y así he reflexionado sobre los 40 años de preparación que los israelitas sufrieron, y de una manera muy real puedo saborear todas las experiencias de mi sacerdocio como pábulo para el molino que el Señor ha utilizado para fortalecer mi relación con él, y para servir ahora como el 11º obispo de Jackson. Una lección aprendida es que Dios puede redimir y transformar todas nuestras labores fieles y esfuerzos vanos para cumplir su voluntad.
Asimismo, me siento confiado trazando un paralelo entre los 40 días que Moisés pasó en el monte Sinaí y los cuarenta días que Jesús soportó en el desierto en previsión de su ministerio público con mi ministerio en la Diócesis de Jackson. Cuando Moisés bajó de la montaña él sabía que Dios, quien es misericordioso hasta la milésima generación, era un Dios fiel, y siempre estaría con ellos. El becerro de oro fue un gran bache en el camino, pero fue atravesado exitosamente. Los israelitas tenían ahora una misión y visión sagrada con prioridades pastorales claras. (Ustedes saben a dónde voy con esto.)
Del mismo modo, cuando el Espíritu Santo sacó a Jesús del desierto puso en marcha la misión sagrada de la Nueva Alianza a establecerse en su sangre, arraigada en la profecía de Isaías. “El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque él me ha ungido para predicar el evangelio a los pobres… y anunciar el año de gracia del Señor (Lucas 4:18ff). En el mismo sentido, el Espíritu Santo ha ungido y facultó al Cuerpo de Cristo en nuestra diócesis, con una renovada misión sagrada y visión de futuro que está encarnado en nuestras prioridades pastorales.
Esta es la vida de la nueva alianza en la sangre del Señor para mí mientras viajo y sirvo a través de la diócesis. Dios está renovando mi fervor cuando veo la sabiduría de nuestra visión: servir a los demás, inspirar discípulos, abrazar la diversidad en cada curva en la carretera.
Esta noche será mi 12ª de 23 celebraciones del sacramento de la confirmación y la diversidad de los dones y ministerios en la iglesia, la llamada al discipulado y el mandato de servir están vivos y bien en nuestros discípulos jóvenes. Los recién confirmados son las piedras vivas que representan la mano de obra de la fe, la esperanza y el amor, que sucede a diario en sus familias y parroquias a través de la extensión de nuestros 65 condados en el estado de Mississippi.
La visión también se realiza en nuestras escuelas y programas de formación en la fe, a través de Caridades Católicas y del Hospital St. Dominic, a través de innumerables servicios sociales y la promoción de un orden social más justo. Para mí el trabajo de planificación pastoral en el último año y medio ha permitido al Espíritu Santo llevarnos suavemente hacia adelante con mayor determinación y pasión por la obra del Evangelio en la Iglesia Católica para la salvación de todos. Nos arraiga profundamente en la Biblia y las palabras del profeta Miqueas nos vienen a la mente como una lámpara para nuestros pies. “Dios le ha mostrado, oh mortales, lo que es bueno. Y lo que el Señor exige de vosotros? Actuar con justicia, amar la misericordia y caminar humildemente con tu Dios.” (6:8).
A los 40 estoy agradecido a todos los que rezan por mí fielmente a diario en la plegaria eucarística en la Misa, a través del rosario, y en una multitud de otras maneras, porque mi celo y deseo de servir permanecen fuertes. Este es un don del Señor, el Buen Pastor, el fruto de la oración. Como nos gusta decir en estas partes, Soy bendecido. “Estoy seguro de esto, que él que comenzó en usted (nosotros) su obra buena la irá llevando a buen fin hasta el día en que Jesucristo regrese” (Fil. 1:6).

Bishop reflects on symbolic anniversary

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
I write this week’s column on the weekend of my 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on May 7th 1977. During quieter moments, and while at the altar during liturgical celebrations, I am stirred by the grace of wonder and awe that 40 years have passed, and the Good Shepherd has led me through the endless mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Scranton into the Deep South in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. After nearly thirty-six and a half years there, and nearly three and a half here, I am happy to be alive and well, capable of memory and gratitude, and able to serve with motivation and purpose.
The 40-year and 40-day time frames in the Bible represent sacred time, kairos, when God and his people walk together (or float in Noah’s time) in the unfolding mystery of salvation. It’s a time of purification, regeneration, and the joyful hope of something new on the horizon. For the Christian, the waters of the flood prefigure the cleansing waters of Baptism and a 40-day period that is closely associated with the season of Lent. Once on dry land, the rainbow arching through the clouds was the sign of the Covenant between God and humankind, and the promise of new life. In my brief time here, a new day has dawned and I have known the abundant life that the Good Shepherd promised in the gospel reading this weekend. Moreover, with the pounding rainstorms that I have experienced since moving to the South, multiplied by 40 days and nights, I could envision the construction of an ark on every corner.
In the Exodus experience, we have the dual time periods of 40 years and 40 days. The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert, and Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai that brought about the gift of the Ten Commandments, the heart of the Torah, and the sign and substance of the evolving Covenant between God and the Israelites. These tablets of stone were made and adopted early on in the desert sojourn and set the standard for relationship building that God required of the Israelites before opening the door to the land promised to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. And so, I reflect on the 40 years of preparation that the Israelites underwent, and in a very real way I savor all of the experiences of my priesthood as grist for the mill that the Lord has used to strengthen my relationship with him, and to serve now as the 11th bishop of Jackson. A lesson learned is that God can redeem and transform all of our faithful labors and vain endeavors in order to accomplish his will.
Likewise, I feel confident in drawing a parallel between the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai, and the 40 days that Jesus endured in the desert in anticipation of his public ministry with my ministry in the Diocese of Jackson. When Moses came down from the mountain he knew that God, who is merciful to the 1,000th generation, was a faithful God, and would be with them always. The golden calf was a substantial pothole along the way, but it was successfully traversed. The Israelites now had a sacred mission and vision with clear pastoral priorities. (You know where I am going with this.) Likewise, when the Holy Spirit led Jesus out of the desert he launched the sacred mission of the New Covenant to be established in his blood, rooted in the prophecy of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor… and announce a year of favor from the Lord (Luke 4,18ff). In the same vein, the Holy Spirit has anointed and empowered the Body of Christ in our diocese with a renewed sacred mission and vision that is embodied in our pastoral priorities.
This is the life of the New Covenant in the Lord’s blood for me as I travel and serve throughout the diocese. God is renewing my zeal as I see the wisdom of our Vision: to serve others, to inspire disciples, to embrace diversity at every turn in the road. This evening will be my 12th of 23 celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the diversity of the gifts and ministries in the church, the call to discipleship, and the mandate to serve are alive and well in our young disciples.
The newly confirmed are the living stones who represent the labor of faith, hope and love that happens daily in their families and parishes across the expanse of our 65 counties in Mississippi.
The Vision also is realized in our schools and faith formation programs, through Catholic Charities and Saint Dominic’s, through a myriad of social services and advocacy for a more just social order. For me, the work of pastoral planning over the past year-and-a-half has allowed the Holy Spirit to nudge us forward with greater purpose and passion for the work of the Gospel in the Catholic Church for the salvation of all. It roots us deeply in the Bible and the words of the prophet Micah come to mind as a lamp for our feet. “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what the Lord requires of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
At 40, I am grateful to all who faithfully pray for me daily in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, via the rosary, and in a host of other ways because my zeal and desire to serve remain strong. This is a gift from the Lord, the Good Shepherd, the fruit of prayer. As we are fond of saying in these parts, I am blessed. “Being confident of this, that he who began the good work in you (us) will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6).

Bishop grateful for support from faithful

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

(Editor’s note: Bishop Kopacz and the priests of the diocese are on retreat. In lieu of a column, he offers his homily from the Chrism Mass.)

The traditional Gospel on Monday of Holy Week recalls the story of Mary’s anointing of the feet of Jesus at their home with Martha and Lazarus present, along with many of Bethany’s Jews. Mary, once again at the feet of Jesus, this time lavishly anoints her Lord and dear friend and dries his feet with her hair. This anointing, as Jesus foretold in anticipation of his death, would be remembered forever. It is a fitting prelude to today’s Chrism Mass.

Today this Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing because the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed, and the Oil of Chrism is consecrated in order to flow from our cathedral, to all parts of the diocese, to be lavishly applied to the Body of Christ, the Church, during Baptism and Confirmation, to begin in several days at the Easter Vigil, for the anointing of the sick, for Holy Orders, and the consecration of altars and churches.

Mary’s astonishing gift of anointing for the Lord is also a sign of the great love that the people of God, the faithful, have for priests, who have been set apart in Holy Orders in order to serve in the church for the salvation of all. This service is accomplished in myriad ways in the course of a day, in the course of this past year, in the course of a lifetime, and people are grateful. Whether in the power of the Sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, and the Anointing of the Sick, or in loving service and leadership, the people of God are grateful. Just recently, someone asked me, “what more can we do for our priests who sacrifice for us?” One answer was to pray for them, another said: ‘tell them of your gratitude’, another response was ‘write them a check’, but post date it until after Christ comes again so that their reward will be great in heaven.

In nearly 40 years as a priest and, including a little more than three years as a bishop, I have known the generosity of the faithful that continues to amaze and inspire me. One extraordinary example. Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to Saltillo, Mexico, accompanied by Padre one, Msgr. Flannery, to further the relationship of nearly 50 years between Jackson and Saltillo that took root with Father Paddy Quinn. We were out in the rancho of Tapon, as remote a place as you can imagine, and the people asked me to bless their newborn goats. That was a delight and they were so grateful that one woman wanted me to take one of the goats as a special gift. The restrictions of customs, airport security, international flights, were not remotely on her radar. It was simply a sign of her gratitude and it radiated in her eyes. Could you see me telling the Customs agent that it may look like a live baby goat, it may sound like one, it may even smell like one, but it really is a battery powered stuffed animal baby goat. Sadly, I could not take the goat.

Whether it’s Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus 2,000 years ago, in Bethany, or Maria two weeks ago, on the remote rancho, they represent the loving gratitude that you have for the priesthood and for your priests. We want and need your faith and prayers, and even more, a very special gift, is to experience your growth in holiness, in faith, hope and love as disciples, due in part because of our vocation as priests.

This is the unity we all know through faith and baptism, to be renewed at Easter, the common priesthood of Jesus Christ that all the baptized experience flowing from his side on the Cross, a Kingdom of priests as the reading from the Book of Revelation proclaimed today. All of us are anointed to further the Lord’s mission that we proclaimed in the Word of God today. We bring the Good News to the poor in ever ancient and in ever new ways, and with Pope Francis we challenge the social order wherever it oppresses the vulnerable and powerless.

Inspiring images in my mind these days have been the gatherings for the enactment of our Pastoral Vision and Priorities, beginning at the Duncan Grey Center with priests, and deacons, Lay Ecclesial Ministers and Chancery officials, and continuing at the recent sessions around the diocese.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, anointing us, and sending us to be living witnesses of our salvation and mission in Jesus Christ. This Chrism Mass assembly embodies our unity, our mission, our vision and our dreams for our diocese, 180 years young this year.

In preparation for the renewal of our priestly promises I want to call upon the wisdom of our most recent Holy Fathers.

In his final Chrism Mass Homily in 2004, Saint John Paul II offered these words.”The today of the Gospel’s fulfillment is renewed in a very special way during the Chrism Mass which is a true prelude to the Easter Triduum. If the Mass of the Lord’s Supper accentuates the mystery of the Eucharist and the presentation of the new commandment of love, the Chrism Mass gives prominence to the gift of the ministerial priesthood. The Eucharist and the priesthood are two sacraments born together, and their destiny is indissolubly linked until the end of the world.”

The faithful of the Diocese of Jackson echoed these words throughout the past year during the process of pastoral planning when they expressed their love for the Eucharist and the priesthood, and how important it is to create a culture of vocations that will inspire a generosity to hear the call of the Lord in the priesthood.

Pope Benedict, in his final Chrism Mass homily in 2012 recalled Jesus’ great priestly prayer of departure from this world in Saint John’s Gospel to further reflect upon the gift of priesthood that the Chrism Mass presents. The power of truth, mission, and unity is evident in Jesus’ words. “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world. Consecrate them in the truth. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one. Father, they are your gift to me.”

Pope Benedict asks: But what does it mean to be consecrated in truth? He says:

“We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another, of Christ. I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs only to himself. People must sense our zeal through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis, during his homily to priests and religious during World Youth Day in Poland last year spoke in the same vein, recalling the words of Saint John Paul.

“Open wide the doors to Christ and the hurdles associated with it. We can often be tempted to remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience. But Jesus directs us to a one-way street, that of going forth from ourselves, a one-way trip with no return ticket, setting out on the path of self gift. Nor does Jesus like journeys made halfway, doors half closed. He asks us to pack lightly for the journey, to set out renouncing our own security, with him alone as our strength, not limited to trails already blazed, but open and faithful to the paths pointed out by the Spirit in whom we have been anointed.”

The Church now asks you to pray for me and my brother priests as we renew our commitment begun on our ordination day. Pray that the Holy Spirit may stir into flame the gift of God that all of us received in the Sacrament of Holy Orders that we may continue to respond as self-gift in the footsteps of our Lord, for God’s glory and the salvation of all.