Carmelites Celebrate Feast Day with Jackson area parishes

The small chapel in the Carmelite Monastery on Terry Road was overflowing with friends and supporters of the Carmelite nuns and Carmelite Seculars during Mass at 6:30p.m. on Sunday evening, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This, too, was the final day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel which began on Sat., July 8, and continued with daily Masses and Novena Prayers to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Celebrants and choirs were from different parishes in the Jackson area each day of the Novena. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Richard Choir graced the chapel with beautiful harmony. Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, and Father Kevin Slattery concelebrated the Mass. The homilist was Deacon Denzil Lobo.

Deacon Lobo reminded the congregation that when Mary stood under the cross with John, the beloved disciple, she then understood Simeon’s prophecy, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword.”  Looking down and seeing his mother with his beloved disciple, Jesus passed the responsibility of taking care of his mother to him.  John then took her into his heart and his home.  Just like John accepted Mary into His home, Jesus invites us to accept Mary into our hearts and homes. Mary is now our mother and prays for us, her children, and we, in turn invoke her protection and intercession. After the Mass, all were invited to a reception on the lawn of the Monastery catered by the Catholic Filipino Community and Carmelite Seculars. (Those who may be interested in learning more about the Carmelite Secular lay vocation may contact Dorothy Ashley, 601-259-0885 or

Diocese announces return of #iGiveCatholic giving blitz

By Christopher Luke
JACKSON – Most parishes have a ‘honey-do’ list. Maybe there is a need for more ministry space, perhaps the parking lot could be repaved or a school could use new lab equipment. The diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development is offering a chance for parishes to tackle the fund-raising for those needs through #iGiveCatholic.
#iGiveCatholic is a 24-hour online crowdfunding effort held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This day is known as Giving Tuesday around the nation. On November 28th, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson will be participating in its second year with #iGiveCatholic. The national version of this campaign involves 16 total arch/dioceses and has a goal to raise $3.5 million.
#iGiveCatholic isn’t just a fund-raiser. It is an opportunity for the Catholic community to affirm its faith, share the gifts they have been given and inspire Catholics to come together as faithful stewards. It offers a chance to proclaim faith through financial and social media support.
In 2016, the campaign included the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the Dioceses of Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Biloxi and Austin.
This year it has extended to the Archdioceses of Atlanta, Kansas City and Mobile, as well as the Dioceses of Helena, Mont.; Knoxville/Memphis, Lexington/Owensboro, Ken.; Lubbock, Tex.; and Paterson, NJ.
The goal for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson is $150,000.00. Last year, the national goal was to raise $1.5 million from the participating dioceses, but by the end of giving day 2016, donors had exceeded that by $307,311 with a total of 6,826 gifts. Participants from the Catholic Diocese of Jackson raised $96,460 online and $36,276 offline, with a total of $132,736 given by 1,019 donors.
Many of the 47 participating parishes, organizations and schools around the diocese had great results last year Twenty-two churches, 11 non profit organizations, and 14 schools were a part of #iGiveCatholic in 2016.
They found many ways to advertise their needs. The sisters at Carmelite Monastery, who created an online video to gain support, used their donations to pay for building upgrades and renovations.
Clarksdale Saint Elizabeth Parish needed a parking lot and used photos with captions, called memes, to explain their need. Father Scott Thomas even staged a fake bicycle crash in a pothole to add some humor to the effort.
Jackson Sister Thea Bowman School raised money for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) lab equipment and an interactive smart board. Their cheerleaders posted a video on social media to gain support from current parents and alumni.
Clarksdale Saint Elizabeth School’s students shared all the reasons they give Catholic in their promotion. Columbus Annunciation Catholic School and Greenville Saint Joseph School both promoted giving Catholic by making videos of students frozen in place to play off of a national trend called the mannequin challenge.
Here is how #iGive Catholic works: donors visit, and search for their parishes, schools, ministries and nonprofit organizations. From November 10-26, donors can schedule gifts to their favorite ministry via an advanced giving option.
Donors may also donate on the actual giving day, Tuesday November 28. The website administrators will update leaderboards all day so people can see how close each organization is to its goal. The minimum donation is $25. There is no maximum donation. The site offers users a chance to post messages on social media inviting others to give as well.
Chris Luke can answer any questions by phone at 601-960-8481 or email at
(Christopher Luke is the coordinator for the Office of Stewardship.)

Seven schools welcome new leaders

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Seven Catholic schools in the Diocese of Jackson will start the year with new principals. Some are familiar faces, others are new to their communities. At Madison St. Joseph, Dena Kinsey moves into the role of principal after serving in the administration there for several years.
Prior to that, Kinsey taught at both St. Richard and St. Joseph. “Teaching chose me. It’s a calling that I’ve always had. I tried to ignore it, but I kept being called back. I’ve had brief stents in the public schools, but Catholic schools are where I find my family, my center,” she said.
Part of her plan for the school is to get the word out about the quality of education available through Catholic schools in Jackson. “I’m definitely a believer in servant leadership. I’m a worker, so I hope to be in the midst of everyone going about the business of helping young people grow to be better than they were. Mother McCauley (of the Sisters of Mercy) said, ‘fitting them for the world without unfitting them for heaven.’ I love that. I have full faith in the teachers at St. Joe,” Kinsey added.
Jackson St. Richard welcomed Jennifer David as principal on July 1. David was previously the principal at Meridian St. Patrick School. She also worked at Columbus Annunciation for several years. She said she is excited to work in a community where she has access to so many other Catholic schools and is looking forward to collaborating with all the other communities in the Jackson area. Her daughter will attend Madison St. Joseph High School.
Meridian St. Patrick’s new principal, Montse Kaun Frias, a native of Spain, comes to Mississippi from Mexico, where she was the principal of a school run by the Legionaries of Christ. She has also been a teacher and school counselor. “I’m glad to be in a Catholic environment because from my educational experience, teaching and promoting virtues and values is what makes a real impact in a student’s life and is what makes a teacher or school unforgettable,” Frias said. Her previous position in Mississippi was with Lamar County schools.
“I have always considered working in a school as an opportunity to contribute to making a better world. A good education provides society with constructive leaders who will live justice and love,” said Frias.
Sally Olivi has lived in Clarksdale her whole life, is an active member of St. Elizabeth parish and has been in education for decades, so when the principal at St. Elizabeth School retired she saw a great opportunity to step into the spot. “I am honored and lucky to be here,” said Olivi.
Olivi worked at a local public vocational school where she taught and then served as director for six years. She also taught at Lee Academy until it closed its elementary school at a time that coincided with the retirement of St. Elizabeth’s previous principal, Jeannie Roberts.
“Things are already set up in a good, organized way,” Olivi said of the school. “I like to have good communication and keep the children first in what we do,” she added. She is grateful to be able to now take her faith into the classrooms. “The great thing about Catholic school is that it is Christ-centered and that’s one thing I love about this school.”
When she worked at public and private schools she noted “students who graduated from St. Elizabeth were better prepared, better behaved and had better morals. That stood out to me,” said Olivi. She said the Catholic school graduates tended to get honors in their high schools. She intends to continue the strong tradition of excellence St. Elizabeth holds in the community.
“I’m really excited about this new chapter at St Elizabeth School, building off the success of recent years,” said Father Scott Thomas, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish and canonical administrator for the school. “Mrs. Olivi brings a great love for education as well as the Catholic Church. I’m thankful to God for sending us yet another faith-filled educator for the future of Clarksdale,” he added.
Greenville St. Joseph Catholic Unit School has new leadership for both Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary and St. Joseph High schools. St. Joseph unified onto one campus last year and the new leadership hopes to continue to emphasize the theme of ‘one school.’
Steve Weis is the overall administrator and high school principal. A product of Catholic schools in Missouri, Wies comes to St. Joseph from Cleveland High School. Since 2010, Wies served as Cleveland’s athletic director and math teacher, as well as baseball and soccer coach.
Dr. Jo Anne Heisterkamp will serve as principal of Our Lady of Lourdes. Although new to the role, she has a history with the school. “Both of my children graduated from here and I was a special education teacher and academic director in the high school,” said Heisterkamp. She left to teach at Mississippi Valley State University where she was tapped to be director of student teaching.
Heisterkamp retired from that position to care for her husband, who died last year. He was an engineer who helped build the Uncle Ben’s plant in town.
“This was not on my radar. This was a call from God,” she said of the job. After Paul Artman and Michelle Gardiner announced their plans to retire from St. Joseph, a couple of friends asked Heiserkamp if she planned to apply, so she got an application and started thinking about it. “Three times God just came to me and said, ‘apply.’”
Heisterkamp said she and Weis make a great team. “We are working through it together. We truly do have the same vision. This is just awesome,” she said. She already had a good impression of the faculty at St. Joseph. “These teachers are so great here. When I had a student teacher here, her mentor teacher was just so good.”
Teamwork is already part of the culture in Greenville. “They (teachers) work together – it’s just phenomenal, the mindset of this school,” said Heisterkamp. She and Weis hope to provide a place for students to thrive. “We like a lot of structure. They (the students) need structure, even in high school,” she explained.
Norm Yvon is already putting his personal touch on his administration as principal at Cathedral High School and chief administrator of the unit school. “He wrote individual notes to each senior and left them in their lockers,” said Cara Serio, development director at Cathedral. Yvon also wrote a prayer for the school community, which he hand-delivered to teachers in their classrooms earlier this summer.
Yvon came up with the theme for the year – Positively Catholic – during the Pacific Institute’s seminar for principals in July. The workshop was offered by the Office of Catholic Education to help unify administrators from across the diocese. (See page 1 for related story.)
“We held a prayer service to kick off the year – it was absolutely beautiful,” said Serio. The staff also attended a retreat led by Joanne Waycaster with the theme “Feeding the lambs: care and tending of future shepherds.”
Serio added that Yvon is serious about his responsibilities. She said he is detail oriented and is taking time to learn the ins and outs of school operations.

Elementary schools

Annunciation – Columbus (PreK-8)
Mrs. Joni House, Principal
223 North Browder St. 39702-5236
Tel: 662-328-4479

Holy Family – Holly Springs (PreK-8)
Ms. Clara Isom , Principal
395 N. West St. 38635-1922
Tel: 662-252-1612

Sacred Heart – Southaven (PreK-8)
Mrs. Bridget Martin, Principal
5150 Tchulahoma Rd. 38671
Tel: 662-349-0900

St. Francis – Greenwood (PreK-6)
Mrs. Jackie Lewis, Principal
2607 Highway 82 E 38930-5966
Tel: 662-453-9511

St. Elizabeth – Clarksdale (PreK-6)
Mrs. Sally Olivi, Principal
150 Florence Ave. 38614-2720
Tel: 662-624-4239

St. Patrick – Meridian (PreK-8)
Montse Kaun Frias, Principal
2700 Davis St. 39301
Tel: 601-482-6044

Unit schools

Cathedral – Natchez (PreK-12)
Mr. Norm Yvon, Chief Administrator;
High School Principal
701 Martin Luther King Jr. St. 39120-2962
Tel.: 601-442-1988Mrs. Shannon Bland, Assist Admin;
Elem. Principal
701 Martin Luther King Jr. St. 39120-2962
Tel.: 601-442-1988

St. Joseph Catholic Unit School (PreK-12)
St. Joseph High School (7-12)
Mr. Steven Wies, Chief Admin;
High School Principal
1501 VFW Rd. 38701-5841
Tel.: 662-378-9711
High School Website

Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary (PreK-6)
Dr. Jo Anne Heisterkamp, Assist. Admin;
Elementary School Principal
1501 VFW Rd. 38701-5841
Elem. School Website
Elementary School Secretary: Keri Moss
Tel: 662-334-3287

Vicksburg Catholic Unit School (PreK-12)
St. Aloysius High School (7-12)
Dr. Buddy Strickland, Chief Admin;
High School Principal
1900 Grove St. 39183
Tel.: 601-636-2256 / Fax: 601-631-0430

St. Francis Xavier Elementary (PreK-6)
Mrs. Mary Arledge, Asst. Admin;
Elementary Principal
1200 Hayes St. 39183
Tel.: 601-636-4824
Elementary School Secretary: Linda McMinn

St. Joseph – Madison (7-12)
Mrs. Dena Kinsey, Principal
308 New Mannsdale Rd. 39110
Tel.: 601-898-4800
Web Page
Secretary: Melinda Weisenberger

St. Anthony – Madison (PreK-6)
Mr. Jim Bell, Principal
1585 Old Mannsdale Rd. 39110
Tel: 601-607-7054 / Fax: 601- 853-9687

St. Richard – Jackson (PreK-6)
Mrs. Jennifer David, Principal
100 Holly Dr. 39206
Tel: 601-366-1157 / Fax: 601-366-4344
Secretary: Tammy Conrad

Sister Thea Bowman – Jackson (PreK-6)
Mrs. Shae Robinson, Principal
1217 Hattiesburg St. 39209-7411
Tel: 601-352-5441

School theme: Living as Missionary Disciples: embrace, serve, inspire

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Hundreds of Catholic School students returned to their classrooms the first and second weeks of August, but the work for administrators, faculty and staff started weeks prior to that. This year the Diocese of Jackson welcomes five new principals while another two administrators move into new leadership positions. The Office of Education is also working on unifying the Jackson area schools as one system and bringing all Catholic schools together with a shared vision and mission.
Natchez Cathedral and Greenville St. Joseph Unit schools as well as Clarksdale St. Elizabeth and Meridian St. Patrick hired new principals. Within the system, Dena Kinsey moved into the role of principal at Madison St. Joseph School while Jennifer David moved to Jackson St. Richard School as principal. Meet the new principals on page 9.
Earlier this year, a representative from the Pacific Institute Education Initiative came to offer a workshop called “Thought Patterns for Higher Performance.” Principals and a school representative from each school across the diocese attended a two-day session in July. The workshop focused on recognizing and changing thought patterns that hold people back from doing new things that might improve their lives.
Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Education said offering the workshop was a starting point in her plan of uniting all the schools with one vision moving forward. “This was about inspiring leadership, getting everyone on the same page with a clear vision,” said Cook. “We wanted to provide them with the tools to take that vision and move forward with it,” she added. A coach from the institute will come back in September. The institute interviewed principals before the process started and will follow up with them during the year.
Cook explained that her office is leading an effort this year to help all the schools in the diocese become a more unified system. One means is through system-wide accreditation through AdvancEd, an agency formed from a merger of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) with North Central Association and the later addition of Northwest Accreditation Commission. Initially, only the high schools were accredited by SACS, and later individual elementary schools applied for accreditation.
“This system (diocesan) accreditation will bring all of our schools into the one accrediting agency. AdvancEd recognizes the National Catholic School Standards that were developed by a task force of Catholic school educators and supporters in communication with the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and promulgated in March 2012,” explained Cook. “Whereas, previously our schools met the general school standards of accreditation with the freedom to have Catholic identity as an ‘add on’ component, this system-wide accreditation using the NCSS will integrate Catholic identity into our standards of operation,” she added.
Cook has asked each school to revisit its mission statement with an eye to making sure it is still appropriate and fits with the diocesan vision and Pastoral Priorities as well as the mission statement for the Office of Education. That work will be ongoing throughout the school year.
In addition to working with administrators, The Office of Education and the Department of Faith Formation offered retreats to faculty and staff at schools in Columbus, Jackson, Greenville, Meridian and Vicksburg. The schools in Holly Springs, Greenwood, Natchez and Southaven hosted their own spiritual kick-offs to the year.
The diocesan theme for the year is Living as Missionary Disciples: embrace, serve and inspire. Living as missionary disciples is what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected as the catechetical theme for this year. The embrace, serve and inspire statement comes from the new vision statement for the Diocese of Jackson: embrace diversity, serve others, inspire disciples.
“When we select a theme, we always look around at what is going on in the life of the Church as a whole,” explained Cook. “We looked at the USCCB theme and it fit perfectly with the new Pastoral Priorities and the vision statement, so we saw an opportunity to tie it all together.”
Karla Luke, assistant superintendent for Catholic Schools, attended the retreat in Jackson, held at the Mississippi Ag Museum. “We learned how our different roles connect to our theme — what does it mean to live as a missionary disciple as a cafeteria worker or teacher or office staff,” said Luke. Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson and Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for youth ministry for the diocese, planned the retreats. In Jackson, they offered activities to help the staff and faculty from Jackson Sister Thea Bowman and St. Richard as well as Madison St. Anthony and St. Joseph Schools get to know one another better, including a pocket and purse scavenger hunt.
The spiritual component of the day centered on the missionary disciple theme for the year. Kim Brown, counselor at Jackson St. Richard said she enjoyed the day. “I felt like I am part of a bigger mission. It’s not just us at St. Richard – it’s the diocese and Catholic education overall. I am part of that bigger mission so I have a responsibility to do my very best.” She is also looking forward to working with other area schools. “You know, we work in our own little silos, so it’s nice to know there are others out there doing what we do. It was great to put faces to names,” said Brown.

Honoring Bishop Houck

JACKSON – Mark Terry places a stencil on the marker for Bishop William Houck’s grave under the watchful eye of his father Jim in the bishops’ cemetery next to the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. The marker was then sandblasted and painted. Onsite engraving is something of a lost art, which is why it took so long to get the work done on the grave. Bishop Houck died in 2016. He was bishop from 1984-2003. (Photo by Mary Woodward)

Calendar of events

BROOKSVILLE Dwelling Place Retreat Center, Thomas Merton: Spiritual Writer and Contemplative Retreat, September 8-9, begins with dinner at 6:30 p.m. Donation: $100. Presenter: Ed Thebaud is a passionate admirer and scholar of Merton. He is a member of the International Thomas Merton Society. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email
CULLMAN, Ala. Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, Celebrating Women, September 29 – October 1, a gathering of women of many cultures from across the South. You will have the opportunity to design your own place setting at the table using image and art to express who you are. Presenter: Sister Mary McGehee, O.S.B. and team. Details: (256) 734-8302, or

AMORY St. Helen, Sister Lael will be offering English as a Second Language classes to interested parishioners. Details: contact Sister Lael (662) 256-8392 to register.
GRENADA St. Peter, Blood Drive Sunday, August 20 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Details: church office (662) 226-2490.
JACKSON Christ the King, Health Fair, Saturday September 23 from 9 a.m. – 12 noon in the multipurpose building. Details: church office (601) 948-8867 or
JACKSON Holy Family, fall series, the History and Implementation of the RCIA, beginning Wednesday, August 16. Did you miss getting confirmed, but would like to complete the Sacraments of Initiation? Been Catholic all your life but still wonder why we do what we do? Or do you know someone who is interested in becoming Catholic? Refreshments at 5:30 p.m. and class from 6:00 -7:15 p.m. Details: church office (601) 362-1888.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Discovering Christ 2017, begins Thursday, September 7, and lasts for seven weeks. An opportunity to deepen your faith and grow closer to your fellow parishioners. Free and includes a meal and live music. Complimentary child care is provided. Space is limited so register early. Details: (601) 856-5556, or
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Knights of Columbus Spaghetti Dinner Benefit, Family Life Center, Sunday August 20, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. eat in or take out. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
TUPELO St. James, Catholic Book Club meets at noon in the library the second Wednesday of each month. Next meeting is September 13. The selection for September will be “The Complete Father Brown Mysteries” by G.K. Chesterton. Come and bring a friend even if you haven’t read the book. Details: church office (662) 842-4481 or
JACKSON The Volunteers of Gleaners, Open House 237 Briarwood Drive, Sunday, August 20, 2-4 p.m., celebrating 30 years of service in the Jackson Metro area. They are a public charity that salvages food and distributes to shelters and safe lodges. Enjoy refreshments, meet the board members and discover many volunteer opportunities. Details: Nancy Willis (601) 956-4740 or Gloria Martinson (601) 856-0673.

JACKSON Bishop Joseph Kopacz and the Office of Youth Ministry are encouraging everyone aged 18-39 to participate in a pre-synod survey sponsored by Pope Francis to prepare for World Youth Day 2018. A link to the survey is available on the diocesan website: or
NATCHEZ Multi-parish youth celebration, Sunday, Sept. 17, 10 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. at St. Mary Basilica. Presenters from Dumb Ox Ministries as well as musical duo Greg & Lizzie will lead a day of fun, food and worship with the theme #PrayProclaim. Youth from all parishes are welcome. Registration is $10. Details: Carrie Lambert, 601-455-5616 or

MIAMI, Fla 14th National Black Catholic Men’s Conference, Oct. 5-8, Miami, Fla. The theme this year is “The Challenge is to Silence the Mind.” Adult registration is $150, High school and college registration is $75 and youth aged 8-13 is $50 not including hotel rooms. The Office of Black Catholic Ministries has registration scholarships available on a first-come basis. Details: 601-949-6935

In Memoriam

Father Charles Yost

Father Charles Yost, SCJ, died July 8 at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake in Franklin, WI. He had gone into home hospice care just days earlier. He was 85. Father Yost professed his first vows in 1951 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. From 1962-63 he was able to fulfill his dream of being a missionary, serving in Indonesia. Father Yost moved to Mississippi in 1993, working in parish minstry at Hernando Holy Spirit. He also served as spiritual director of the Sacred Heart League (now Sacred Heart Southern Missions) from 1998-2004.
Retired, Father Yost was a member of the Sacred Heart Community at SHML. In retirement, he continued to be active, overseeing the production of the American Ordo for many years, in collaboration with the Province Development Office. He was buried in Wisconsin.

Birthright adds confidential text service

By Monica Walton
FLOWOOD – Birthright of Jackson has added a new option to connect young men and women to free, non-judgemental and confidential help with an unplanned pregnancy – texting. Birthright offers guidance toward lifegiving options, so the expectant mother can make the best decision for herself and her unborn child.
Anyone can text BRJXN to 41411 and get an immediate response from a Birthright of Jackson volunteer. Birthright has been helping girls and women across the state of Mississippi since 1983, before personal mobile phones were even a thing. “We felt we needed to update the way we make ourselves available to potential clients,” said Dennis Riecke, Birthright of Jackson board president. “One of our board members suggested a texting program since that is an easy and discreet way for a young woman to reach out for help. We all agreed,” he added.
“Texting is something common to most girls in their teens and twenties which is the typical age of our Birthright clients.” Most Birthright clients have a cell phone, even those without a car or a place to live. There are more cell phones than people in the U.S. People stay connected. For a good percentage of the population, a cell phone is the only phone they own.
There is much research supporting this. According to Pew Research Center, texting is the number one way all teens get in touch with their closest friends, and 80% of people older than 65 own a cell phone and send an average of ten texts a day. (Aug 2015) In May, 2017, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported in their National Health Information Survey NHIS, “Adults living in poverty (66.3%) and near poverty (59.0%) were more likely than higher income adults (48.5%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones [cell phones].”
Birthright volunteers noticed that people text so much, it’s no big deal when the person sitting next to you pulls out their phone to send or read a text. Others scarcely notice, and discretion is vital to the work of Birthright.
Imagine this…17-year-old Gabrielle missed her period and she is worried that she might be pregnant. She’s thinking to herself: “How can this be? It was just one night. We went a little too far. Who hasn’t done that once or twice? Surely I’m not…
What can I do? I can’t be seen buying a pregnancy test. I can’t risk taking the test at home.” Gabrielle certainly does not want to make an actual phone call asking for help. Someone might hear her say she needs a pregnancy test. She can’t even bring herself to think the word “pregnant,” much let say it out loud.
So, rather than having to speak the words, “I think I might be pregnant,” a simple text – BRJXN – to this number – 41411 – will get Gabrielle help, answers and guidance to navigate this time of uncertainty. It is available to anyone, any time.
Gabrielle texts BRJXN to 41411. A reply comes immediately, “Hey there! Text or call me at 601- 421-1818 so we can set up a time to chat and get the info you need! — BRJXN” She breathes a sigh of relief. Help is a quick text away. When she is ready, Birthright is ready. She knows someone cares and Birthright is waiting and willing to help. Simple. Discreet.
Gabrielle, and anyone else who is struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, has a direct line to get the help she needs.
No counseling is done by text, but a local Birthright volunteer will be happy to chat on the phone or set up a time to meet at the Birthright Center. Birthright offers free pregnancy testing, emotional support, and all the resources a woman needs to follow through with her pregnancy.
(Monica Walton is the executive director of Birthright of Jackson.)

Catholic Charities’ renewed adoption program seeks visibility

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Charities’ Adoption program is going through a little rebirth of its own these days. A new director and a new case manager are taking the legacy of love and work from their predecessors and building on it. One of their first tasks is to spread the word that, “We are open and we are here for you,” said Stacy Pajak, who became program director a year ago. She works with Monica Mounger, who came to the office from Hope Haven, a crisis home for teens.
In addition to working with pregnant women who wish to give their babies up for adoption, the office can provide case management services for a private adoption, locate an available baby for parents seeking to adopt, perform home studies for adoptions and attempt to find birth parents for adopted children. Pajack said she and her partner are going back to state agencies and working with pregnancy crisis centers to renew and strengthen their relationships. Not only do they provide adoption, but they connect birth mothers and families to other needed services.

Birth mothers and adoptive families get counseling in addition to getting help navigating the system. “It’s hard on that birth-mama. I don’t ever want her to feel any shame that is associated with her choice because she gave that baby life and nurtured him or them and carried them. I have great admiration for birth moms,” said Pajak. Birth mothers are guaranteed services for life through Catholic Charities. Pajak added that many families seeking to adopt are grieving because of years of infertility so Catholic Charities works with them in that process as they start to consider foster care or adoption. The program has even added a text line for birth mothers who want to request help, 601-941-2814.
Pajak said she is working with the criminal justice system to offer counseling to pregnant women in jail. “We are trying to get in with social workers and case managers. We want to offer counseling to pregnant women. The law says that she can give a baby to a relative, sign it over to CPS (child protective services) or she can put it up for adoption, so we should be in there as an option,” she said.
When an adoptee wants to find his or her birth parents, Catholic Charities can try to help. The process is confidential, includes counseling and not too expensive. Mounger said she has conducted almost a dozen searches since she started a few short months ago. Sometimes an adoptee can only get a medical record. Other times, he or she will be reunited.
One way others can help is by wearing the message of adoption on their sleeves, or on their backs to be accurate. The adoption program is offering t-shirts and journals for sale. The shirts are purple with the Catholic Charities logo on the front. The back reads “Adoption isn’t about giving a child up. It is about giving a child more. More love, more family, more opportunities, just more.” The quote comes from Terra Coooper, a photographer who became an adoption advocate after becoming an adoptive mom.
“We started making a bulletin board and put a lot of adoption quotes on it so the families would see that when they come in and we just love that one,” explained Mounger. “We wanted to have a positive adoption wall so parents could see it – not only adoptive parents, but birth parents and we just took to that one so we put it on the shirt,” she added.
The shirts and journals are for the families who go through adoption, but Pajak said the staff decided the message should go farther than just those families. “We wanted to do the t-shirts for gifts but also proudly market what we do here at Catholic Charities. Our mission is to be a visible sign of Christ and adoption is a visible sign of Christ,” said Pajak. The journals are also purple and have the logo pressed into the front. Each shirt costs $15 and each journal costs $10. Those interested in purchasing should contact the office at 601-960-8649 or email Stacy at

Catholic Heart Work Camp makes lasting impression on Natchez teens

Catholic Youth by the thousands attend Cathloic Heart Work camps across the nation every summer. This year, students from many parishes in the Diocese of Jackson went to camps from Florida and Tennessee all the way to Illinois. This year, a group from Natchez wrote reflections on their experiences at a Catholic Heart Work camp in Champaign Ill., June 18-24. Three of those teenagers wrote reflections on their experience. Here are excerpts from each of their reflections.

Gracie Bertelsen

I got encouraged by older members of my youth group to go to Catholic Heart Workcamp (CHWC) five years ago, and I have made it a priority to go every summer since. Although I have been assigned a different work project and a different work group every year, I can always count on three things when I go to CHWC: having fun, growing closer in the relationships I have not only in my youth group but also with new friends, and most importantly, growing in my relationship with God.

            This year, our youth group chose to travel north to Champaign, Illinois where we stayed at St. Thomas Moore High School. I was assigned to a group that was working alongside two other groups. We helped a non-profit youth club called Mahomet Area Youth Club (MAYC) move locations. This youth club gave troubled kids, ranging from ages six to fifteen, a place to spend time during the summer. They provided free activities, field trips, educational programs, etc. to the children who attended the club. Among the three groups who were assigned to help MAYC, we packed their things from the old facility and moved it to their new facility, cleaned and organized the new facility, improved the landscaping around the new facility, built a privacy fence around the new backyard, and played with the kids while the moving was taking place.

            I was part of the group in charge of packing, unpacking, and organizing their things. After spending the whole week helping their employees with that task, we met the kids. They were brought over by one of the other work groups and we got to experience their reaction to seeing their new location for the first time. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of the people who you’ve spent all week helping when they see the final project completed. The adults as well as the kids were so excited and grateful for what we had done to help them. In my opinion, that is the most satisfying part of CHWC. In those moments, all I can do is smile! Being able to spread the word of God and showing his love to others is the mission of Catholic Heart.

            Apart from going to the work sites, every day we got to go to mass, pray, spend time with friends, and sing praise and worship songs. The Catholic Heart staff that was with us in Champaign shared their testimonies with us a few nights out of the week. Throughout the week, we were given many opportunities to open ourselves up to the grace and love of God through prayer and worship during the evening programs. There were also many moments of laughter and times to just have fun.

            I have always left Catholic Heart Workcamp feeling happy and satisfied. It is an experience that every person should try to be a part of!


Nic Waycaster:

This summer, my St. Mary Basilica youth group traveled to Champaign, Illinois for Catholic Heart Workcamp.  Having been twice before–to Roanoke, Virginia and Pensacola, Florida–I thought I knew what to expect:  prayer, singing, painting houses.  My expectations this year were met with unexpected growth in faith, community, charity and as a disciple of Christ.

When we arrived we met some of the other youth groups. Groups hailing from Oklahoma, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania warmly greeted us.  At our first meeting, we were divided into forty-six different groups of four to six people, all with different charitable tasks to fulfill throughout the community during the week.  Some groups were painting houses for the less fortunate, some were building fences, and some were doing yard work. My group of five was given the unique task of running a daycare in an apartment complex for underprivileged children.  We had no idea what to expect.

When we arrived at the daycare, we were in a small room with a refrigerator, an outdated microwave, and a small tile play area with toys strewn across the room.  There was a large concrete slab between apartments and an old playground.  When the children arrived at the daycare they could not have been happier.  Seeing new people in their favorite place to play was extraordinary in their eyes.  The kids never tired and played with a smile on their faces from the time they arrived at 9:00 a.m. until the time we left at 3:00 p.m.  

Although these children did not have many toys or nice tablets like so many other children, they were grateful for what they had.  They were truly filled with the joy of Christ.  While we ministered to these kids, they unknowingly ministered to us.   

During the week, I also grew closer with my group members, especially new friends from Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  The way Christ worked through their positive attitudes and tireless charity encouraged the rest of the group, leading the way for a great week for the the children as well as for each of us.  

Back at the high school where all of the youth groups were being housed for the week, we celebrated Mass daily and had a few hours of prayer and song each evening.  Our celebrant for the week was a priest from Pennsylvania.  He gave the best homilies!  Every every morning I left Mass with something to think about throughout the day.  

The motto for Catholic Heart Workcamp this year was “Rooted.”  This theme figured significantly during the week and continues to be important in my life today.  We are all rooted in Christ.  We have life because of His sacrifice. We are called to glorify him in all that we do.  My faith was definitively and permanently strengthened by the people that I met, the experiences that I had, and the message I received at Catholic Heart Workcamp.

While we all acted or spoke differently because of our regional backgrounds, our love for Christ and the strength of our faith was universal.  The community aspect of the camp made everyone’s faith stronger and rooted everyone in a deeper relationship with Christ and one another as his disciples.


Michael J. Roboski

From 2007-2009, I accompanied my youth group to Catholic Heart Workcamp for a week over the summer. During this time, I bonded with friends, and also deepened my faith through service. The experience was unlike anything I had before as a Catholic in the Protestant Bible Belt. Don’t get my wrong, my home church is beautiful with it’s 174 year old history, Gothic-Revival Architecture, and breathtaking stained-glass windows. However, not much had changed in our parish since the church was built. We still kept the communion rail up, even though Vatican II disbanded them in in 1959, and our pipe organ is so old that even “Ode to Joy” sounds like a funeral dirge when played through it. Catholic Heart showed me that the Catholic Church is alive and well today.

Flash forward ten years from my first experience and I now had the opportunity to chaperone a group of students to their first CHWC. Well, they initially asked my Dad to do it, but he only agreed to go if I went, and I was thrilled to return. Dad and I left ahead of the charter bus to meet them in St. Louis, Missouri where we explored Six Flags, Anheuser-Busch (on our own time), and enjoyed a few too many slices of Imo’s pizza.

The next day, we arrived at camp in Champaign, Illinois. Now, if you’ve never been to Champaign, Illinois, just close your eyes and imagine a school, a gas station, and corn as far as the eye can see. That’s about it. The CHWC staff greeted us with smiles, offered to help unpack, and took a group picture of us and then the camp officially started. As it turns out, we had been booked into a “Next Level” camp. I kept hearing the term tossed around, but thought they were just referring to it that way because it was a spiritual/service camp, and not a purely fun one like space camp. Nope. Next-Level referred to the seriousness of the camp in that Mass was held every morning, the attendees were a bit more founded in their faith, and the staff was all very experienced, and as a result, a little distant.

Overall, the benefits of attending this next-level CHWC greatly outweighed the disappointment of taking off the nostalgia glasses. The daily masses really helped to set the mood and remind us why we are truly there, and I left the week with a sense of completeness and warmth that I had not felt in a long time. During Adoration, I truly felt the Presence for the first time ever. For those non-Catholics reading this, Adoration is a quiet prayer time spend in front of a Monstrance, which is a golden spiked holder for a blessed Eucharist (which Catholics believe to be the true body of Christ). It was an experience that I was able to have alone in the crowded gym where we gathered and felt sorrow, repentance, joy, and hope all within the 30 minutes of quiet reflection time.

The best part of Catholic Heart Workcamp is called Four Corners. This is an event that even the basic camps host, and the next-level one made it all the better. The idea of Four Corners is that the room is split up into 5 areas. Just kidding, it’s four. One is a space where you offer up prayers and intentions through physically writing them down on paper, a rock, or something else. Two of the corners have the adults sitting down around the space with a candle in front of them signifying that you can approach them to talk or pray. I had two young people come up to me and my candle at one point and was able to talk them through some stuff they were worried about and offered prayers for clairvoyance and peace of mind. It was really a wonderful experience. The final corner though, is Reconciliation. One of the seven sacraments is offered as a private area is roped off and 18 priests were there to hear confessions and offer forgiveness. I was the first in line for this as it had been a while since I last went. I suffer from anxiety and mild-depression and the sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the few times that I can go to someone, unload all the guilt and worry from life, and leave truly happy with a burden lifted. The best part about CHWC’s Reconciliation though is that the priest and I did not know each other and are likely never to see each other again, so there are no holds barred and the sacrament can be completed in it’s purest form.

I left Catholic Heart Workcamp this year with a sense of worth. Not a selfish, or entitled sense of worth, but one that whispered at my heart and told me that I mattered, and that I was able to make a difference in someone’s life. That alone was worth the week of sleeping on a classroom floor, eating the scraps off the Sysco truck, and sitting on a bus full of teenagers for 13 hours. That, and the quality time I got to spend with my Dad was nice too. He and I have been adventure buddies for a long time, but that will be a post for another day. I hope that this post inspires you to seek something that will give you the same level of happiness and contentment that this experience provided me. God Bless.


Knights of Columbus planning to replace traditional uniform

By Tony Gutierez
PHOENIX, Ariz. (CNS) – The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.
The traditional regalia worn by fourth-degree Knights will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Aug. 1, during the international fraternal organization’s 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis, which was livestreamed on EWTN.
Throughout the years, the regalia of the Knights’ fourth degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said, noting that when this degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.
In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the fourth-degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. After the convention, Anderson said swords could still me used. Mississippi’s Supreme Knight, Philip Jabour, told Mississippi Catholic that in this state, knights always defer to the preference of their parish priest when it comes to using swords during events.
“The board of directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the fourth-degree uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and honor guards in liturgical processions. However, the preferred dress for the fourth degree, including color corps and honor guards, is the new uniform of jacket and beret.”
Robert Earl, a member of the Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.
“I feel it is significant that the order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.
“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”
Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes, which generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Knights’ fourth-degree level.
“I have been a fourth-degree Knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio. for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the fourth-degree outfits. These (new) outfits look bad.”
Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.
“If we get a new uniform like this, you will see a lot of Knights leave the degree. A lot of your Knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.
Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”
“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.
Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There also are members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms,” he added.
“Then you have the sect of folks that feel that their voice was not consulted, (that) this sort of change should have taken place as discussion at the state council level and then brought concerns to the Supreme level,” said Lee, who countered that notion by saying conversations have been happening at all levels of the order about the need for change.
Representatives of the Arizona State Council said it was too early to comment as program details and guidelines for implementing the new uniforms were still unavailable.
(Gutierrez is editor of The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.)