Vacation Bible school wraps up in Vicksburg

St. Richard Vacation Bible school: mighty fortress

Madison Youth group gets drenched in summer fun

Eagle Scout completes garden

FLOWOOD – St. Joseph Catholic High School graduate and Eagle Scout, Will Foggo, helps children at the St. Paul Early Learning Center place and fill a bird bath in the garden on school grounds. Foggo designed and built the garden for his Eagle Scout Project. (Photos by Jennifer Henry)

Vatican releases survey prior to synod

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To involve young people in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018, the Vatican has released an online questionnaire to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of 16- to 29-year-olds around the world.
The questionnaire – available in English, Spanish, French and Italian – can be found on the synod’s official site: and is open to any young person, regardless of faith or religious belief.
The general secretariat of the synod launched the website June 14 to share information about the October 2018 synod on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” and to link to an online, anonymous survey asking young people about their lives and expectations.
The answers to the questionnaire, along with contributions from bishops, bishops’ conferences and other church bodies, “will provide the basis for the drafting of the ‘instrumentum laboris,'” or working document for the assembly, synod officials said in January.
Young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to take part in the questionnaire because every young person has “the right to be accompanied without exclusion,” synod officials had said.
The list of 53 mostly multiple-choice questions is divided into seven sections: general personal information; attitudes and opinions about oneself and the world; influences and relationships; life choices; religion, faith and the church; internet use; and two final, open-ended questions. The write-in questions are an invitation to describe a positive example of how the Catholic Church can “accompany young people in their choices, which give value and fulfillment in life” and to say something about oneself that hasn’t been asked in the questionnaire.
Other questions ask about living arrangements; self-image; best age to leave home and have a family; opinions about education and work; measures of success; sources of positive influence; level of confidence in public and private institutions; and political or social activism.
The section on faith looks at the importance of religion in one’s life and asks, “Who Jesus is for you?” That question provides 16 choices to choose from, including “the savior,” “an adversary to be fought,” “an invention” and “someone who loves me.” It also asks which topics – promoting peace, defending human life, evangelization, defending truth, the environment – are the most urgent for the church to address.
The Vatican’s preparation for a synod generally includes developing a questionnaire and soliciting input from bishops’ conferences, dioceses and religious orders. This is the first time the Vatican’s synod organizing body put a questionnaire online and sought direct input from the public.

Pastoral Ministries workshop welcomes new class, graduates four

By Fran Lavelle
LOUISVILLE – Another great week was had Lake Tiak O’Khata for the Pastoral Ministries Workshop. The workshop sessions, Mass, retreat opportunities and social time all provided a relaxed learning environment for catechists, parish leaders and those seeking to deepen their faith. This annual offering is part of the certification program for catechists offered by the Office of Faith Formation. Participants take classes together in a certain sequence in order to learn and form relationships and to support one another in their ministries.
A huge thanks to Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Father Kevin Slattery and Father John Bohn for celebrating Mass for us during the week. Many participants stated that being able to have Mass every day really added to the overall effectiveness of the week. This year included fifteen Year I participants, a big jump from years past. Their cohort certainly started strong and no doubt will finish strong.
We congratulate Rhonda Bowden of Pearl St. Jude Parish. Amy Brooks of Jackson St. Peter Parish, Dave Monts of Starkville St. Joseph Parish and Patti Greene of Canton Sacred Heart and Gluckstadt Parishes for completing the Pastoral Ministries program. Next year’s workshop is set for June 3-7, 2018. (Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

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.


Annunciation students end year with song


Mother/daughter tea

By Carolyn Howard
GLUCKSTADT – The Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus at  St. Joseph Parish hosted their first Afternoon Tea on Saturday, May 6, in the church hall.
Ladies of the parish, and many others, purchased tickets in advance and attended the formal tea party wearing pearls and fancy hats. The “little” ladies in attendance were particularly excited to be included in such a grand affair.
The ladies were treated to a menu offering savory tea sandwiches, a fresh array of baked items (including warm-from-the-oven buttermilk scones), and delectable sweet delights from the dessert course.
Proceeds from ticket sales, as well as donations made during the event, helped to raise more than $1,200 for Catholic Charities Adoptive Services including Therapeutic Foster Care and Brian’s Fund.
With the success of this day, the Ladies Auxiliary is already planning next year’s tea. 

Crown for Mary

GREENVILLE – Susannah Swindle crowns Mary at St. Joseph Parish on Sunday, May 7, during Mass. (Photo by Rayetta Serio)











MERIDIAN – on May 7th, the Catholic Community of Meridian honored graduating high school seniors at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church. The graduates were each given a gift and then introduced themselves to the congregation Pictured (left-to-right) are Kelly Bator (Meridian High), Virginia Pressly (MS School of Math/Science, Columbus), Madeleine Hodge (Lamar), Clancy Duggan (Lamar), Manny Routt (Meridian Home School), James Snowden (Lamar), Branson Acton (Lamar).
(Photo by John Harwell)

OXFORD – St. John the Evangelist Parish hosted a Baccalaureate Mass for high school graduates on Wednesday, May 24. Pictured left to right: Kolbe Leary; Carson Stinnet ; Ben Bianco; Zack Smith; Suzanna Cassisa. (Photo by Gene Buglewicz)






PEARL –St. Jude Parish high school graduates Baylee Walter, Austin Murillo and Shelby Chapman make 2017 with pastor Father Jeffrey Waldrep after the Mass honoring them. Honored, but not pictured are Timothy Tran, and Alek Demarest (Photo by Rhonda Bowden)

Young Catholic picnic

OXFORD – Father Joe Tonos, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, and Campbell Helveston, a member of the Young Catholics, chat at the Young Catholics annual picnic held on the church grounds Sunday, May. The gathering is the culmination of the Young Catholic’s program for the 2016/2017 school year. Young Catholics, with approximately 40 members, meet throughout the school year to study various aspects of the teachings of the Catholic Church, including discussions of current events, morality, faith formation and Bible study. (Photo, Jimmy Carr)

Restorers unveil frescoed chambers in the Catacombs of St. Domitilla

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – Under a mown hayfield, whose dried-out stalks crunch underfoot, lies the four-level labyrinth of the early Christian Catacombs of St. Domitilla.
Ten miles of tunnels, carved out of soft volcanic tuff rock, snake and fork out in a dizzying number of different directions. Luckily, capsule bulbs of lights strung sparsely overhead work like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs leading to the sought-after destination: two newly restored burial chambers not yet open to the public.
The sprawling catacomb complex has about 70 burial chambers, or cubicula, but only 10 have been restored, said Barbara Mazzei, who oversaw the restoration of the chambers’ frescoes.
She led a group of reporters to see the finished results May 30. They were unveiled by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, which oversees the upkeep and preservation of more than 100 early Christian catacombs scattered all over Italy.
The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are believed to be the world’s oldest existing Christian cemetery and are among the largest in Italy with a total of some 150,000 burial spots.
The majority are small niches carved into the tunnel walls for poorer Christians; the niches were sealed with a slab of marble or walled up with brick. The round and sumptuously decorated cubicula rooms were built by wealthier families and trade cooperatives, whose members pooled their money for a more dignified resting place.
The newest restoration work was done on the chambers for the city’s bakers, who ran a lucrative state-supported industry of ferrying grain into Rome and making and distributing bread, which was considered something every Roman had a right to with a daily ration.
Bernardino Bartocci, president of the modern city’s association of bread makers, told Catholic News Service he attended the unveiling as a sign of how bakers continue to be and “have always been united as a group, like a big family.”
The importance and spiritual significance of bread is evident throughout Christian beliefs, he said, and the early Christian bakers proudly displayed the glories of their craft on the ceiling’s frescoes.
Pagan symbolism, such as depictions of the four seasons or a peacock representing the afterlife, together with biblical scenes are integrated without contradiction, Mazzei said.
The unifying motif is salvation and the deliverance from death as is underlined by the varied depictions of Noah in his ark welcoming back the dove, Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of Isaac, Jonah and the whale, and the multiplication of the fishes and loaves, she said.
Restorers used lasers to send pulses of precise frequencies to selectively remove specific substances –soot, algae and calcium carbonate – without damaging the color pigments and underlying surfaces, she said.
Despite the seven years of meticulous work to reveal the frescoes’ original splendor, restorers intentionally left the graffiti and autographs penned by visitors from the 1600s and 1700s.
The most prolific selfie-signature seen throughout the complex was “Bosio,” left by Antonio Bosio, a Maltese-born lawyer and scholar who discovered this and many more abandoned catacombs in Rome.
His intense exploratory spirit and stunning discoveries earned him the name, “the Christopher Columbus of the catacombs,” Mazzei said.
He also struck a new path for modern archaeology in which the focus switched from discovering pieces for collectors to understanding what those objects could have meant and disclosed about the past.
He also inadvertently revealed an abundant source of bones to feed the “martyr-mania” raging at the time, she said. He mistakenly believed the dead were all early Christian martyrs, when instead, they were simply devoted faithful who sought to be buried close to the site’s original two martyrs: Sts. Nereus and Achilleus.
While the bakers’ cubicula were to remain closed to the public, a small museum by the catacombs’ main entrance was to open in June to showcase marble busts, ornately sculpted sarcophagi and simple slabs marking the daily lives and legacies of some of the church’s early Christians.

Youth News

Easter Egg Toss

WINONA – Sacred Heart parish youth hosted their first Easter Eggstravaganza including a raw egg toss, pictured. The students also enjoyed dying eggs, face/arm painting, crafts, relay races, egg toss and a “pock the egg” tourney. The event ended with a picnic lunch. (Photo by Tara Trost)












Crowning Mary

Flight to the finish

JACKSON – The Cardinal Men’s Club hosted the Flight to the Finish 5-K race Saturday, May 6 at St. Richard Parish. Above, Andrew Doherty takes off at the start of the fun run. (Photo by Chris Lombard)












Service project prepares youth for confirmation

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman


Durant Sisters remembered, honored in town where they served

By Ruthie Robison
DURANT — A downpour of rain didn’t dampen a dedication and blessing ceremony of a monument to honor the lives of Sisters Margaret Held, SCN, and Paula Merrill, SSSF.
A crowd of about 100 gathered Saturday, May 20, in Durant’s Liberty Park and weathered the Saturday afternoon storm to pay tribute to the two Sisters, who both made a lasting impact on the community in which they resided for the last 15 years of their lives.
Merrill, who was with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth based in Nazareth, Kentucky, and Held, who was with the School Sisters of St. Francis based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were slain in their Durant home on Aug. 25, 2016. They were both 68.
The two nurse practitioners worked at Lexington Medical Clinic and attended St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, located about 10 miles west from their home.
“It was wonderful to see so many people come here from around the country,” said the Rev. Greg Plata, OFM, pastor of St. Thomas, who led the service. “Even though it was a horrible day weather-wise, that did not deter from the joy of the day that we come together. I think that every time I go that way, (the monument) will be a place for me to stop and say a prayer and be thankful to God for these two amazing women. It’s just a great way to remember our sisters.”
Some of those attending the event included Durant city leaders, family members and longtime friends of Held and Merrill, staff members and patients of Lexington Medical Clinic and parishioners of St. Thomas.
The dedication service featured speakers Durant Mayor Tasha Davis and Bishop Joseph Kopacz, songs, prayer, Scripture readings and the unveiling of the monument.
To start the event, Davis welcomed those attending.
“I know it is a sad event that we’re here, but they were such wonderful people,” she said. “The Bible teaches us to give honor where honor is due, and we can all agree that it is befitting to honor these two ladies who left an everlasting mark on the city of Durant and Holmes County as a whole.”
Before blessing the monument, Kopacz spoke of the sisters’ service to their communities.
“Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and accomplish what they’re sent to do, so Sister Paula and Sister Margaret came to these communities, accomplished God’s mission and returned to life fulfilled in heaven,” he said.
 After the unveiling, several people in attendance shared sentiments about Held and Merrill.
Mary James, who worked with the Sisters at Lexington Medical Clinic, said that she and the other staff members at the clinic were truly blessed to have known both Held and Merrill.
“They took me under their wings, and we became family,” she said. “The sisters’ angelic presence was so great. We miss them daily. … Whenever we get a little down or teary-eyed, we remember these words, ‘Let love win.’ If the sisters were here today, they would probably say something like this: ‘There’s no love like forgiveness, and there’s no forgiveness without love.'”
Held’s brother, James Held, spoke of his sister’s love for the people of Durant and Holmes County.
“We always tried to convince her to come back to the Midwest,” he said. “We never could convince her to come back, and we missed her. She loved you so much, and she stayed and she gave her life for all of you.”
James said that the Held family has felt terrible pain since his sister’s tragic death, but he also knows that the pain felt by the members of the Mississippi community where she touched so many lives must be equally as bad.
“Now that she has passed we have our sorrow, but we think of your sorrow,” he said. “You saw her every day. She touched your lives on a daily basis, and now you have that gap that Margaret’s gone, and you’re reminded of that all the time.”
Merrill’s family was unable to attend the ceremony. Connie Blake, a longtime friend of Merrill’s and an associate with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, spoke on behalf of the family.
“Sister Paula was my friend for over 49 years,” she said. “One thing she said she always wanted to do was to follow what we’ve all been asked to do, and that’s to love one another and to care for one another, and indeed that was her life’s work.”
Blake said she and Merrill’s family are humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support they continue to receive.
Held and Merrill “would be astonished and somewhat embarrassed by all of this attention,” she said. “Paula and Margaret were quiet, humble and simple women, who lived out their passion to serve the undeserved in Mississippi.”
Durant Alderwoman Carolyn Riley led a grassroots effort to memorialize Held and Merrill with the monument at Liberty Park. Riley, who did not know the sisters personally, said she was touched in the wake of the tragedy when she heard the many stories about what all the women did for the community — taking care of the sick and uninsured, providing medicine for those who could not afford it and even helping someone sign up for disability.
“I feel like their love was heartfelt to the community. The service they gave to the community, because it came from the heart, it touches the heart,” she said. “When I saw (the people of Durant) so hurt and so distraught, it touched my heart, and I said, ‘We cannot forget them,’ because they did so much for us, not only in Durant but Holmes County. They shouldn’t be forgotten. I want my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren to always remember them.”
After a closing prayer and blessing by Father Plata, a memorial Mass was held at St. Thomas, followed by a fish fry.
With the storms passed and the sun out and shining, parishioners and guests gathered outside St. Thomas to dry off and share memories of the sisters before the church service.
Sister Michele Doyle, SSSF, of Ridgeland, who also teaches a weekly Bible study at the church, remembered Held and Merrill as women who did “all the right things.”
“They recycled. They had their own garden. They lived a very simple life. They were helping the poor,” she said. “They were my very good friends, and I miss them a lot.”
A couple of nurses who are both members of the church talked about how Held and Merrill were respected in the local medical community and would go out of their way to help any of their patients.
“They were just so generous with their time and their money, and they treated everybody so personably,” said Barbara Bogy, a registered nurse at University Hospital-Lexington.
“They were just goodness walking,” added Beverly Brown, now retired from the Health Department in Lexington. “You couldn’t find a patient who didn’t love them to pieces, because they helped everybody.”
The group reminisced about Merrill’s delicious oatmeal cookies that she would bring to church potlucks and Held’s salads, featuring veggies from her garden and a homemade dressing, which she brought to the weekly Bible study class.
“They were excellent cooks,” said Sister Doyle.
Jamie Sample, the music leader at St. Thomas, said that the past several months have been hard for the 35-member parish.
“They were like our family, and they were my choir. Every time I pick the music out, I cry,” she said. “We just miss them so much. It’s just left such a void. They did so much that we didn’t even know that they did.”
Sister Tonya Severin, vice provincial for the Western Province of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who knew Merrill for the past 14 years, said she thought the monument would be a way for the people of Durant and Holmes County to keep a connection to Held and Merrill.
“They were such a presence to the people of this area that I think if they just go to that memorial and just sit there and talk or touch it, somehow that touching can bring back some of that connection again and can be a way to find strength to go on, because that’s what they brought to us,” she said. “I think it isn’t just their deaths that are important, it’s their lives. They lived with the message of Jesus, that we are to give of ourselves in loving service to others, and that’s what they did so unobtrusively.”
As the rain began to fall during the dedication ceremony, Sister Ramona Schmidtknecht, SSSF, of Holly Springs, said she immediately thought about telephone conversations she had with her friend, Held.
“She would call us from Durant and ask if we got rain, and she’d say, ‘Oh, it missed us again,’ and she said, ‘It goes everywhere around us but in Durant,’” said Schmidtknecht. “She would want rain for her flowers, and she said, ‘We just don’t get it.’ She brought the rain today, but I thought, ‘OK, but not so much.’”
(Ruthie Robison is the lifestyles editor for the Greenwood Commonwealth and a member of Greenwood Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.)

God dreams big, wants to transform world, defeat evil, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual’s pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said.
“He calls us by name and tells us, ‘Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,’” the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John’s account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb.
She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love.
In Mary Magdalene’s case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ’s death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.
Just as she is weeping near the tomb, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the pope said, even though she is stubbornly “blind” to recognizing the two angels and the Risen Christ.
Eventually, he said, “she discovers the most earth-shattering event in human history when she is finally called by name.”
“How beautiful it is to think that the first appearance of the Risen One, according to the Gospels, happened in such a personal way. That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and disappointment,” whose heart breaks “for us and who calls us by name,” he said.
Reading the Gospels, one can see how many people seek God, he said, “but the most extraordinary fact is that God was there in the first place,” long before, watching, worrying and wanting to bring relief.
Each and every person “is a story of love that God has written on this earth,” the pope said. “Each one of us is a story of God’s love” and he patiently waits and forgives each person.
Hearing God call her name revolutionized Mary Magdalene’s life just as it will revolutionize and transform the life of every man and woman, he said.
Christ’s resurrection brings a joy that does not come in dribs and drabs “with an eyedropper,” he said, but as “a waterfall” that will envelop one’s whole life.
The life of a Christian isn’t pervaded by “soft bliss, but by waves that knock everything over,” Pope Francis said. Think about it right now, he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “With the baggage of disappointments and defeat that each one of us carries in our heart, there is a God near us, calling us by name,” he                      said.
This God is not “inert,” he doesn’t bend to the whims of the world, and he will not let death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people have the last word.
“Our God,” the pope said, “is a dreamer, who dreams of the transformation of the world and achieved it with the mystery of the resurrection.”
The pope prayed that St. Mary Magdalene would help people listen to Jesus calling their name as they weep and mourn, and that they then venture forth with hearts filled with joy, proclaiming his living presence to others.
Having witnessed the Lord, “is our strength and our hope,” he said.

Pastoral ministries workshop, retreats mesh with new priorities

By Maureen Smith
The Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson continues to respond to the diocesan priority of intentional formation of life-long disciples with new offerings at its annual Pastoral Ministries Retreats and Workshops in the first week of June at Lake Tia O’Kahata.
“One recurring theme that was brought up at all of the listening sessions with Bishop Joseph Kopacz was intentional faith formation for catechists and other lay persons in pastoral ministries including adult faith formation, youth ministry, RCIA and pastoral care,” wrote Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the diocese in an email. “As we move forward, we are evaluating the programs, workshops and retreats provided by the diocese for professional development and catechetical training. The Pastoral Ministries Workshop is a useful tool to help form and inform Catholic lay leadership for your parish,” she added.
The retreat and workshop is really three events rolled into one week: a retreat for those in ministry, an opportunity for an extended retreat, and a four-day workshop including classes needed to be certified as a lay minister for the diocese. The certification process is five years long and starts at the Pastoral Ministries workshop.

The retreats are guided. The shorter one starts Sunday, June 4, and ends at lunch on Monday, June 5. The cost is $120. The extended retreat starts Monday and runs through Thursday, June 8, and can be combined with the workshop. The extended retreat alone costs $400. The theme this year follows the 2017-2018 catechetical theme announced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ‘Living as Missionary Disciples.’
The workshop is part of the five-year certification process and each year builds on the previous one, so people taking it tend to form a community with others going through the program. It runs from Monday, June 5, through Thursday, June 8. Classes progress from introductory level theology through prayer, canon law and administration in a parish. The workshop is $500. Those taking a combination of the workshop and the retreat will pay reduced rates and scholarship money is available. The deadline to register is May 15.
The classes are taught by a team of excellent presenters, the atmosphere is relaxing, the daily liturgies are inspiring and for those attending the retreat there is ample opportunity for personal quiet time and reflection. Lavelle said a concerted effort is made to create a welcoming and inviting environment. “A lot of our attendees work for the Church in full time capacities, but some work full time in a job outside the church.” Lavelle hopes to provide a solid formation experience, mixed with great liturgies, and time to make connections that are helpful the other 51 weeks of the year. “We try to maximize the benefits of the limited time we have together,” Lavelle added.
Patti Greene, youth minister at Gluckstadt St. Joseph, and Canton Sacred Heart Parishes, is completing her last year in the program. “For me, the Pastoral Ministries Workshop has made all the difference in how I conduct my ministry. My first year, I had no idea what to expect, and was not looking forward to ‘another workshop.’ But this is not just a workshop. The Pastoral Ministries Workshop is where I finally surrendered my reservations and preconceptions about my ministry and opened myself to the guidance of the Spirit to truly lead my ministry. It was there that I found value in becoming a lifelong disciple and servant, so I could become a better teacher and leader” she said. “Each year that I attend, I discover multitude of resources in materials shared as well as in a network of common experiences and bonds with my brothers and sisters in Christ and in ministry. During this time of spiritual and professional renewal, I began once again my creative process of shaping the next year of our youth ministry. This year, my fifth year, as June approaches, I grow increasingly impatient to begin my next, but hopefully not last, journey to Lake Tiak O’Khata,” Greene added.
To enroll in the certification process or inquire about the retreats, contact Fran Lavelle at (601) 960-8473 or by email at