Saint Padre Pio relic tour kicks off in Jackson

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

Regional Encuentro advances process of identifying ministry priorities

By Tom Tracy
MIAMI (CNS) – The head of Catholic Relief Services told several hundred Hispanic leaders from the U.S. Southeast recently that they are a vital part of the church’s future “global voice” and missionary discipleship.
“The statement you see on signs all the time now is ‘when you see something, say something,’ and to be a missionary disciple it is ‘when you see something, do something,'” said Sean Callahan, president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. Catholic Church’s overseas relief and development agency.
“We need to be seen as the doers, and there is a great opportunity right now for the Catholic Church to come together and be more of a force for right and for justice in a country of people who want justice,” he said.
Callahan, a 28-year veteran of CRS in his second year of leadership at the Baltimore-based agency, spoke Feb. 23 to more than 340 mostly Hispanic leaders gathered from among some 30 dioceses that are part of the Southeastern Regional Encuentro comprising church’s episcopal regions V and XIV.
A delegation from the Diocese of Jackson attended, taking with them the results of parish-level and diocesan gatherings identifying the priorities of the Diocese of Jackson. One of the delegates, Danna Johnson from Pontotoc St. Christopher Parish, said faith formation remains critical.
“In the area of ‘leadership development and pastoral training,’ the strategy that was identified as a region is to increase programs of pastoral formation for Latinos in both languages (English and Spanish) or more, depending on the needs of each parish,” said Johnson. “The online theological education program in Spanish CAMINO and in English STEP from the University of Notre Dame is one of the most successful pastoral programs in the region. Dioceses from South Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, have implemented these programs and are getting great results. I am excited that this regional strategy is connected with one of the priorities of Pastoral Plan of our Diocese of Jackson, which is ‘the life-long formation of intentional disciples,'” Johnson added.
Groups from all across region five met in Miami February 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish’s sprawling complex just west of Miami International Airport.
Since 2015, CRS has been one of four major sponsors of the encuentro, which is described as the most important and comprehensive initiative in Hispanic ministry ever undertaken by the Catholic Church in the United States. The initiative involves an estimated 1 million pastoral leaders, 175 dioceses and numerous church organizations, parishes and lay ecclesial movements.
Now that parish- and diocesan-level encuentros have taken place, regional encuentros will be going on around the country through June. What has been an overall four-year process of reflection and action will culminate with the U.S. Catholic Church’s Fifth National Encuentro, or “V Encuentro,” to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.
The U.S. church’s First National Encuentro was in 1972. For the upcoming V Encuentro, 163 dioceses and archdioceses and more than 2,500 parishes across the country are involved.
Callahan told the Florida Catholic, Miami’s archdiocesan newspaper, that the gathering in South Florida represented a significant moment of encounter for CRS and U.S. Hispanic Catholic leadership, and that CRS is interested in listening as the encuentro participants discuss and define their future role as Hispanic Catholics in America.
“This is the first encuentro we have been so involved with this intimately,” he said. “As we have seen the U.S. becoming more and more Hispanic, we thought it would be important for us to understand what people feel the direction of the church should be, and then how can we be a part of it,” he said.
“And one of the strengths (of this partnership) is bringing the voice of the American people overseas to people in difficult situations and letting people know that they are not alone and that people here care about them and share that solidity,” he said of the work of CRS. “We want to see where that part of the church comes out in this encuentro process.”
“In many cases, people are being forced out from where they are, and our job is to allow people to stay where they want to stay with safety and security for their family with the right to employment,” he said. “The Northern Triangle is one area that we really want to intervene and reduce violence and give people other opportunities,” Callahan said of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Venezuela, he added, is a key country where there is a lot of turmoil, the inflation has gone up, the people are in a dire situation, “and so we work with Caritas International and Caritas Venezuela as a lead organization so we can provide greater assistance to the people of Venezuela,” he said.
CRS now works in some 110 countries and assists 137 million people annually, he noted, adding that large scale migration trends from Africa into Europe will continue to be a source of humanitarian challenges in the coming decades.

(Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.)

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, speaks Feb. 23 during the Southeast Regional Encuentro for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV. Held in Miami Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish complex, it drew 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

Eva Gonzalez, Hispanic ministry director from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., speaks Feb. 23 with Susana Becerrie of Jackson, Miss., at the Southeast Regional Encuentro. Held for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV, the gathering took place Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church's parish complex. On hand were 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

Piarist Father Rafael Capo, director of the Miami-based Southeastern Pastoral Institute, talks with Eva Gonzalez, Hispanic ministry director from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., Feb. 23 during the Southeast Regional Encuentro for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV. Held in Miami Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish complex, it drew 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

MIAMI – Participants in the regional Encuentro pray the Way of the Cross for Life during the Feb. 22-23 gathering. (Photo courtesy SEPI)

Chanche medals, awards recall founding bishop

Youth and adults recipients

JACKSON – Nineteen adults and nine young people received the Bishop John Joseph Chanche Award for service on Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Bishop Joseph Kopacz distributed the awards during a special Mass. The Chanche medals, named for the first bishop of the diocese, honor those who give of themselves to their parish or faith community. The awards are presented on the weekend closest to the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the patronal feast for the Diocese of Jackson.

Chanche Medal honorees: serve, embrace, inspire

Adult honorees

Eddie Adkins – Gluckstadt St. Joseph
Finance Council President, RCIA team member, Knights of Columbus, member of envisioning team for Pastoral Priorities.
“Eddie is a talented businessman, but unlike most he looks at business through the eyes of service. In our council deliberations, he speaks of justice and mercy and ‘right’ before even looking at the practical business side of things.” Pam Minninger, Lay Ecclesial Minister

Joyce Brasfield Adams – Jackson Holy Family
Director of faith formation, member of Liturgy committee, liturgical minister, Ladies’ Guild member, member of strategic planning team.
“Mrs. Adams has been influential in reforming and structuring all aspects of faith formation in the parish since 1989. She is as much a leader as she is a follower. She has participated in parish, diocesan and statewide committees and is sought-after to do so.” Father Xavier Amirtham, pastor

Virginia Brown – Pearl St. Jude
Director of Religious Education, retired; founder of Why Catholic small faith group, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd advocate, coordinator of ministry to sick and shut-ins, Cursillista.
“Ginger is very joyful about living her faith. She is definitely seen as a leader in our community, who by word and action gives testimony to our faith. She has touched many lives, especially the adults, youth and children who have known her through the faith formation programs here at the parish, as well as the many families she has touched through her visits to the sick and shut-ins.” Father Lincoln Dall, pastor

Earl Joseph Gooden – Clarksdale Immaculate Conception
Finance Council, former Catholic School teacher and member of Education Board for Catholic Schools, collection counter.
“His service has continually helped to keep Immaculate Conception alive in the community. Whether it was his time as a teacher or now contributing to the life of the parish, Earl is a key reason why African Americans have had access to adequate schooling in Clarksdale, as well as access to Jesus in the Eucharist. … He is a spiritual role model who has dedicated his life to the teachings of the church, the Blessed Mother Mary and praying the Rosary.” Father Scott Thomas, pastor

Mariland and Brian Hendley – Madison St. Francis of Assisi
Catechists, RCIA team members, ChristLife team leaders, parish religious education committee, liturgical ministers, parish sports volunteers.
“Brian and Mariland love their faith, they love their family and they love their parish. They strive to live out the church’s call to a holiness of life and though they do not brag about it, nor do they seek accolades, others can certainly see their willingness to help and their love for their family and their faith.” Father Abbeenreddy Vatti, pastor

Nancy Hoang – Amory St. Helen
Religious education coordinator, ecumenical Vacation Bible school coordinator, CYO volunteer, food pantry volunteer.
“She is deeply committed to her faith and family. She works with all ages, races and religions. I see her as a true example of a Catholic woman in the Church today. Without her giving, our Church and young people would not be the same. She is creative, loving and yet knows how to handle children and youth with a mother’s strength and love.” Sister Lael Niblick, CSA, Lay Ecclesial Minister

Maureen Irby– Natchez Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Administrative assistant at both Assumption and Woodville St. Joseph Parishes, coordinator for parish Stewpot volunteers, coordinator for direct assistance, liturgical minister.
“Approximately four years ago, Maureen Irby agreed to serve in a secretarial role for St. Joseph Parish in Woodville when no suitable person could be found. She is a self-starter and carries out her work without requiring a large amount of my time. The work at St. Joseph in Woodville would not be done without her. She has been most valuable to the pastor there. She has enabled both parishes to function and have meaningful liturgies and weekly bulletins.” Father David O’Connor, pastor

Hilton Kalusche – Vicksburg St. Michael
Parish manager, former RCIA team member, liturgical minister, pastoral council member.
“It is hard to imagine where St. Michael Parish would be without Hilton Kalusche. He could easily be called the backbone of our parish. There is rarely a day that he is not involved in some activity that will benefit our parish community. Not being one to call attention to himself, Hilton works and leads by quiet example.” Helene Benson, director of religious education

Phil Lieb – Jackson St. Richard
Finance council member, parish grounds and maintenance supervisor, parish project manager.
“On a daily basis, Mr. Lieb is a constant presence here at the parish, carefully inspecting our property, documenting issues and arranging to have those issues resolved in a timely and cost-effective manner. There is no telling how much money Mr. Lieb has saved the parish and how many conflicts he has helped us avoid with his careful oversight.” Father John Bohn, pastor

Wesley Lindsay – Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle
Liturgical minister, altar server trainer, volunteers for maintenance work, oversees logistics for events.
“Wesley is a living example of a Christian. He never meets a stranger, he always has a kind greeting for everyone. He is always willing to help on any committee, event or ministry. His life is truly a “standard” for our young adult servers, they learn respect and reverence for the Eucharistic Celebration.” Father Anthony Quyet, pastor

Geraldine Matthews – Greenwood
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Parish council member, RCIA team member, liturgical minister, sacristan, prayer leader.
“Geraldine (Gerry) Matthews is and has been a faithful Catholic laywoman all of her 92 years and a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish for over eighty years. She has been devoted to the practice of her Catholic faith, demonstrating effective leadership and motivating her fellow parishioners in the practice of their faith through prayer, her own good example of service and through catechesis. She is an excellent role model for women of faith and continues, as an elder of the parish community, to find ways of service by her presence and her good works.” Father Joachim Studwell, OFM, pastor

Mary Jean Pendleton – Shelby St. Mary
Pastoral council member, chair of liturgy committee, hospitality committee member, communication committee member, fundraising chairperson, bereavement committee chairperson.
“Mary Pendleton is the linchpin of St. Mary, Shelby pastoral team. She is the most able, unselfish, joyful, energetic, caring, faith-filled, kind, humble person I have ever met. She is willing to tackle any job, volunteering her time and resources with a smile. With a heart of gold, she cares for family, friends and others with a great sense of generosity, asking nothing in return.” Jane Letchworth, parish volunteer

Wilson Patrick Roy – Batesville St. Mary
Sacristan, liturgical minister, prayer leader, Knights of Columbus member.
“Pat Roy is one of the liturgical backbones of our parish. He is a dedicated and devoted daily Mass attendee – both at St. Mary in Batesville and the mission church St. John in Sardis. His faith runs very deep. His wealth of knowledge of the Catholic Church is immense. He is the true definition of a person who knows and lives the fact that Jesus is the best and most valuable friend a person can visit with. Pat makes daily visits with our Lord in the church outside of Mass time.” Father Pradeep Thirumalareddy, pastor

Allen and Maureen Scott – Clinton Holy Savior
Parish and finance council leadership, liturgical ministers, Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
“Allen has chaired the international Pentecost gathering recognizing the ‘many nations and peoples’ in our parish and Maureen has shared her abilities as a CPA to develop and monitor the parish budget as well as participating in programs for the diocese to plan for a new payroll system.” Father Tom McGing, pastor.

Stephen and Edine Seal – Woodville St. Joseph
Liturgical ministers, ecumenical bereavement support team members, social event coordinators.
“Both Stephen and Edine have inspired fellow parishioners with their personal faith and active presence in parish activities. These have included their sacrificial presence at bereavement ministerial outreaches to the families of deceased families of the Woodville community, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Also, they have been most faithful, despite numerous health appointments, in coordinating parish social functions such as the annual St. Joseph Spiritual Homecoming, both in fellowship and worship, the past ten years.” Father Scott Dugas, pastor
(Editor’s note: Stephen Seal died the weekend prior to the awards ceremony, but was granted the medal posthumously.)

Richard Warren – Natchez St. Mary Basilica
Liturgical minister, Boy Scouts of America scout master, pastoral council member, Knights of Columbus member.
“Ricky Warren is a man of vision and action. He energizes and inspires others to serve as the need arises. He is currently bringing our Family Life Commission back to life. He is pleasant to all, making many feel welcome to become a part of the parish or the organization on which he serves. His gentle, kind manner exemplify what our church is.” Father David O’Connor, pastor

Youth honorees

Dayane Arvizu, senior – Kosciusko St. Therese
Bilingual interpreter, liturgical minister, regular volunteer.
“Dayane serves as a role model for the younger children. She lectors at both Spanish and English Masses whenever needed.. She encourages her peers to participate at Mass. Dayane brings a positive attitude to our newly formed youth group.” Father Odel Medina, ST, pastor

Madelyn Olivia Bennett, senior – Gluckstadt St. Joseph
Tutor, retreat leader, confirmation sponsor, service work volunteer, youth group leader.
“In our community, Maddie has worked to keep the excitement in our Youth Ministry program alive. She encourages others who may not yet “feel it” to find joy and fun in being a Catholic teen, as well as inspires them to learn more and dig deeper in their own faith lives.” Patti Greene, youth minister

Connor Clark, senior – Vicksburg St. Michael
Altar server, CYO member, service work volunteer, counselor at special-needs camp, retreat leader.
“Connor truly takes the gospel message to heart and strives to make the world a better place by his actions and his words. We have seen Connor put others before himself many times. In today’s self-centered, me-first world, this is a very special quality for a young man.” Helene Benson, director of religious education

Cristina Marie Craig, freshman – Brookhaven St. Francis of Assisi
Religious education volunteer teacher, service work volunteer, rosary leader, liturgical minister.
“Cristina is a loving, concerned, faithful young lady. She shows concern for her friends, enemies, and strangers alike. She cares about their well-being physically as well as spiritually. She is faithful to her church and its missions and services to others … Without Cristina many of our other youth would have drifted away. She is a rock and Christ-like example to all in our parish and community.” Ange’le Bartholomew, youth minister

Haley Fisackerly, senior – Columbus Annunciation
CYO volunteer, prayer leader, parish volunteer.
“Haley lives a very Catholic life, full of prayer, service, kindness, and humility. Her involvement in the parish has always extended beyond CYO. She leads the other teens by example, I suspect sometimes without realizing she’s leading by example. She encourages her peers, is always positive, and is always outgoing and warm. She’s faithful to Sunday Mass. She’s not shy about saying she’s Catholic at a school that is not friendly to Catholics. Lastly, she is knowledgeable about her faith, and clearly has it in her heart to have a strong relationship with her Creator.” Leslie Jones, youth minister

Trey McMullan, senior – Jackson St. Richard
Tutor, youth group leader, volunteer for religious education, service work volunteer, liturgical minister, usher, retreat leader.
“Trey’s impact on our youth group does not go unnoticed. The younger teens look to him as a role model, someone they aspire to be like. Trey’s willingness to lead small group discussions, crowd breakers, games and to jump in and play with the youth when needed is an invaluable help. Trey senses where he is needed most then quietly goes and leads by example.” Amelia Rizor, youth minister

Matthew Prater, senior – Madison St. Francis of Assisi
Youth group leader, leadership council member, retreat leader, service work volunteer, liturgical minister, Eagle Scout.
“Matt has served in so many ways over the past years, it would be almost impossible to list them all. He has assisted with children’s activities such as VBS and the Advent Fair, service projects such as the adopted family project and nursing home visits. Most importantly, Matt is always aware of those who need assistance and offers to help in many small ways, such as setting up, cleaning up, opening doors, and carrying things for others, and is not afraid of hard work or physical labor. Matt seeks out ways to serve but does not seek attention. He never expects any acknowledgement or reward for his service; and it is very clear he does so because of his love for God, for others, and for the Church.” Father Jason Johnston, associate pastor

Brooke Lee Thompson, sophomore – Jackson Christ the King
Altar server trainer, leader and volunteer, active in youth ministry and religious education.
“Brooke is a person who is strong in her faith. Even though her classmates are not Catholic she is able to be a good witness of her Catholic faith. When faced with questions about her faith, rather than give a false answer, she will take the trouble to go find the correct answer. She does not miss coming to Mass and is an active participant during the Liturgy.” Deacon Denzil Lobo, ecclesial minister

Mary Rose Wolf, junior – Pearl St. Jude
Choir member, parish leadership team member, religious education volunteer, service work volunteer
“Mary Rose serves on our parish leadership team representing the youth (this takes the place of the parish council at St. Jude). She also serves in the choir and is a very loyal member. Mary Rose is in attendance at every youth event and volunteers for all of the service activities … I would say that she stands out because she so willingly serves in a variety of activities here in our parish and does so very joyfully and willingly, drawing others into those activities.” Father Lincoln Dall, pastor

Adie Adkins

Joyce Brasfield Adams

Virginia Brown

Earl Joseph Gooden

Mariland and Brian Hendley

Nancy Hoang

Maureen Irby

Hilton Kalusche

Philip Enochs Lieb

Wesley Lindsay

Gelardine Matthews

Mary Jean Pendleton

Wilson Patrick Roy

Allen and Maureen Scott

Richard Warrern

Dayane Arvizu

Madelyn Olivia Bennett

Connor Clark

Trey Thompson McMullan

Matthew Prater

Mary Rose Wolf

Brooke Lee Thompson

Cristina Marie Craig

Haley Fisackerly

(Photos by Maureen Smith and Tereza Ma)


Five years a pope: Francis’ focus has been on outreach

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope just a few days after telling the College of Cardinals that the Catholic Church faced a clear choice between being a church that “goes out” or a church focused on its internal affairs.
After the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected March 13, 2013, and chose the name Francis, he made “go out,” “periphery” and “throwaway culture” standard phrases in the papal vocabulary.
Catholics have a wide variety of opinions about how Pope Francis is exercising the papal ministry, and many of his comments – both in informal news conferences and in formal documents – have stirred controversy. But, as he wrote in “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation laying out the vision for his pontificate: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
But there are two areas of internal church affairs that he recognized needed immediate attention: the reform of the Roman Curia and the full protection of children and vulnerable adults from clerical sexual abuse.
The organizational reform of the Curia has been taking place in stages, but Pope Francis has insisted that the real reform is a matter of changing hearts and embracing service.
On the issue of abuse, nine months into his pontificate, Pope Francis established the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection to advise him on better ways to prevent clerical sexual abuse and to ensure pastoral care for the survivors.
While Pope Francis has emphatically proclaimed “zero tolerance” for abusers and recently said covering up abuse “is itself an abuse,” as his fifth anniversary approached serious questions arose about how he handled accusations that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who was a priest at the time, covered up allegations of abuse against his mentor.
The new scandal threatened to undermine the widespread popularity of Pope Francis and his efforts to set the Catholic Church on a new course.
For Pope Francis, that new course involves evangelization first of all.
“Evangelizing presupposes a desire in the church to come out of herself,” he had told the cardinals just days before the conclave that elected him. “The church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents and of all misery.”

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman as he meets with people of the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, in this July 12, 2015, file photo. The pope has shown special concern for the aged, the sick and those with disabilities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FIFTH-ANNIVERSARY Feb. 13, 2018.

Mercy is the first thing the Catholic Church is called to bring to those peripheries, he says.
Although in 2013 he told reporters he would not be traveling as much as his predecessors, Pope Francis has continued their practice of literally “going out,” making 22 trips outside of Italy and visiting 32 nations.
But he also regularly visits the peripheries of Rome, both its poor suburbs and its hospitals, rehabilitation centers, prisons and facilities for migrants and refugees.
His desire to reach out has inspired innovations that were noteworthy at the beginning of the papacy, but now seem to be a natural part of a pope’s day. For example, after beginning with Vatican gardeners and garbage collectors, the pope continues to invite a small group of Catholics to join him most weekday mornings for Mass in the chapel of his residence.
The residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, is a guesthouse built by St. John Paul II with the intention of providing decent housing for cardinals when they would enter a conclave to elect a new pope. Pope Francis decided after the 2013 conclave to stay there and not move into the more isolated papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.
On Holy Thursday each year, he has celebrated Mass at a prison, care facility or refugee center and washed the feet of patients, inmates or immigrants, both men and women, Catholics and members of other faiths. He also ordered the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to clarify that the feet of both women and men can be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
During the 2015-16 Year of Mercy, he made a visit one Friday a month to people in particular need, including those at a school for the blind, a neonatal intensive care unit, a community of recovering alcoholics, a children’s group home and a community for women rescued from traffickers who forced them into prostitution. Once the Year of Mercy ended, the pope continued the visits, although not always every month.
In September 2015 as waves of migrants and refugees were struggling and dying to reach Europe, Pope Francis asked every parish and religious community in Europe to consider offering hospitality to one family. The Vatican offered apartments and support to a family from Syria and a family from Eritrea. Then, seven months later, Pope Francis visited a refugee center on the island of Lesbos, Greece, and brought 12 refugees back to Rome on the plane with him.
In the first three years of his papacy, he published three major documents: “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel); “Laudato Si, on Care for Our Common Home,” on the environment; and “‘Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family,” his reflections on the discussions of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and 2015.
People skeptical about the scientific proof that human activity is contributing to climate change objected to parts of “Laudato Si’,” but the criticism was muted compared to reactions to Pope Francis’ document on the family, especially regarding ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and the possibility that, under some conditions, some of those Catholics could return to the sacraments.
The strongest criticism came from U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three other cardinals, who sent to the pope and then publicly released in November 2016 a formal, critical set of questions, known as “dubia,” insisting that allowing those Catholics to receive the sacraments amounted to changing fundamental church teaching about marriage, sexuality and the nature of the sacraments.
Pope Francis has not responded to the cardinals, two of whom have since died. But in December, the Vatican posted on its website the guidelines for interpreting “Amoris Laetitia” developed by a group of Argentine bishops, as well as Pope Francis’ letter to them describing the guidelines as “authentic magisterium.”
The guidelines by bishops in the Buenos Aires region said the path of discernment proposed by Pope Francis for divorced and civilly remarried couples “does not necessarily end in the sacraments” but, in some situations, after a thorough process of discernment, the pope’s exhortation “opens the possibility” to reception of the sacraments.
In the document and throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has emphasized God’s mercy and the power of the sacraments to spur conversion and nourish Christians as they try to progress in holiness.
Like all popes, Pope Francis frequently urges Catholics to go to confession, telling them it is not a “torture chamber.” And he repeatedly gives priests blunt advice about being welcoming and merciful to those who approach the confessional.
Like St. John Paul did each Lent, Pope Francis hears confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica. But, he surprised even his closest aides beginning in 2014 when, instead of going to the confessional to welcome the first penitent, he turned and went to confession himself.
He also has surprised people by being completely honest about his age. In April 2017, when he was still 80 years old, he told Italian young people that while they are preparing for the future, “at my age we are preparing to go.” The young people present objected loudly. “No?” the pope responded, “Who can guarantee life? No one.” From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has expressed love and admiration for retired Pope Benedict XVI. Returning from South Korea in 2014, he said Pope Benedict’s honest, “yet also humble and courageous” gesture of resigning cleared a path for later popes to do the same.
“You can ask me: ‘What if one day you don’t feel prepared to go on?'” he told the reporters traveling with him. “I would do the same, I would do the same! I will pray hard over it, but I would do the same thing. He (Pope Benedict) opened a door which is institutional, not exceptional.”
Follow Cindy Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

Couples honored for dedication to marriage, family

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – More than 40 couples from across the Diocese of Jackson came to he Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on Saturday, Feb. 4, to celebrate significant wedding anniversaries and honor World Marriage Day. Bishop Joseph Kopacz presented each couple with a certificate and congratulated them on their commitment to family life. The Office of Family Ministry organizes the annual celebration.
Barbara and Charles LeBlanc of Clinton Holy Savior Parish represented the most years at 65, followed closely by Margaret and John McAleese of Flowood St. Paul, who celebrate their 64th anniversary this year.
Eight couples were marking 60-year anniversaries while 19 claimed golden 50 jubilees. An additional 9 couples came to celebrate their 25th anniversaries. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calls World Marriage day “an opportunity to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family.”
After the Mass, the couples and their families were treated to a reception at the cathedral center. See more photos at

Barbara and Charles LeBlanc_65 years

Margaret and John McAleese_64 years

Maria and Hollis Felts_61 years

Virgie and Joe Azar_60 years

Rita and Billy Martinson _60 years

Pat and Edgar E. Nalker_60 years

Margaret and Roland Farmer_60 years

Mamie and Robert C. O. Chinn_60 years

Geraldine and Richard Anderson_60 years

Geraldine and Abbie Dupont_60 years

Darlene and William G. Smith_60 years

Vicki and Wayne Pittman_50 years

Teresa and Maurice Preuss_50 years

Sandra and Richard T. Clark

Patty and John Watts_50 years

Patsy and Johnny Prewitt_50 years

Marilyn and Robert Croft_50 years

Marge and James Kovach_50 years

Jo Beth and James McGilbra_50 years

Jane and Rodney Hipp_50 years

Helen and Amnuey Chiemprabha_50 years

Eileen and John Lawson_50 years

Diane and Edward Cwiklik_50 years

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Beth and Charles R. Herron_25 years

Research begins on Sister Thea Bowman

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz has appointed Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt to begin researching the life, writings and works of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, in what may well be her first step on the road to sainthood. Father Nutt will travel to and from his home in New Orleans to the Diocese of Jackson for the time being.
This does not officially open a cause for canonization, but is a preliminary step prior to opening a cause. Since February is Black History Month, the appointment seems all that much more timely.
Sister Thea, the granddaughter of a slave, was born Bertha Bowman in 1937 in Yazoo City. Her family moved to Canton where she enrolled in Holy Child Jesus school. She decided to become Catholic at the age of nine. A few years later she asked to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and became the first African-American member of the order.
Sister Thea was a gifted teacher and vocalist. She earned a doctorate in literature and traveled the world – taking students to England and visiting Africa to connect with her own heritage. As she taught, sang and experienced life, she began to form a theology of diversity and inclusion that would become the hallmark of her public life. The late Bishop William Houck invited her to be a consultant for intercultural awareness in the Diocese of Jackson. Even while working in Mississippi, Sister Thea traveled the country teaching workshops on music and speaking about the importance of diversity in the church. Her influence both in and outside of the church was tremendous. She appeared on the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Harry Belefonte met with her in hopes of producing a movie about her life. She was one of the most sought-after speakers in the country.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984. As the cancer worked its way into her bones, she continued to maintain a grueling travel schedule, praying to ‘live until I die.’ One of her last public appearances, delivered from a wheelchair, was speaking to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She told them she was ‘fully black and fully Catholic,’ and urged them to embrace their African-American, Vietnamese, Native American and other cultural flocks and their customs and music. Sister Thea believed the church could welcome diversity and uphold tradition. She closed her speech by getting the men to stand, link arms and sing the Spiritual ‘We Shall Overcome.’
Sister Thea died in 1990. She is buried in Memphis. Not long after her death, many of her friends wondered if they had known a saint. In the past year or so, rumors spread that Sister had been declared a servant of God. She had not, but it was one more sign that this case might merit a closer look.
Father Nutt met Sister Thea as his teacher, but he now calls her his spiritual mother. He has written two books about her – one will be published this summer – and he often includes reflections on her life in his missions and workshops. His job right now is to research and document her life. Much of this work is already done since he has written about her, but this is an opportunity to gather her writings and records and organize it all in one place.
The first step on the path to sainthood is to determine if a person has ‘heroic virtues.’ Father Nutt will begin to assemble a file – something a little more in-depth than the usual biography – for Bishop Kopacz to review. “I’d love to find every place named for her,” said Father Nutt. The diocese has a school named for Sister Thea, one of half a dozen nation-wide. He has come across shrines dedicated to Sister Thea as close as New Orleans and as far away as Oakland, Calif. The Franciscan Sisters have a foundation in her honor as well as an extensive archive of material.
Father Nutt will review their holdings as well as what is housed in the archives in Jackson as part of his work. The next step, probably months down the road, will be for the bishop to ask the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for input on opening a formal cause for sainthood. If the bishops agree, the case can go to Rome to be opened and the diocese will have to raise money to support it. The cost of canonization can run into the million dollar range.
That’s when work begins in earnest. Once the cause is opened, the promoter will begin telling Sister Thea’s story and encouraging people to pray for her intersession in hopes of producing a miracle. A second miracle is required before the church will canonize a saint.
The whole process of canonization can take decades to complete. Father Nutt is confident he can start by finding Sister Thea’s heroic virtues and see where the Holy Spirit leads after that.

National Migration Week tells story of many journeys, one family

By Maureen Smith
How can the church minister to and be strengthened by a new wave of immigrants from South and Central America? According to Dr. Hossfman Ospino, an associate professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at Boston College, both the nation and the church have done it before and will be able to do it again. Ospino came to the Diocese of Jackson to lead and participate in a series of workshops and encounters in deanery five as part of National Migration Week, Jan. 7-13.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been organizing a theme and providing educational materials for National Migration Week for almost 50 years as an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.
“The theme of National Migration Week 2018 was ‘Many Journeys, One Family.’ In this context, Dr. Ospino gave a conference to pastors, Lay Ecclesial Ministers, leaders from different parishes and diocesan offices about the history of migration and how this phenomenon is re-defining the Catholicism in the 21st century,” explained Danna Johnson, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for Pontotoc St. Christopher and head of the Catholic Charities office in Vardaman. “This was a learning experience and an opportunity to re-affirm our missionary spirit as one church here in this diocese,” she added.
In a recent article in America Magazine, Ospino compared the current influx of immigrants to when European Catholics poured into the States. Father Tim Murphy, pastor of Tupelo St. James Parish said he was encouraged by what he heard. “It’s challenging, but it’s possible. We have done this before, we have met the needs of other immigrant groups and we can do it again now,” he said. For both the European immigrants and the Hispanic immigrants, the church is at the center of their cultural experience so their presence is an opportunity to strengthen the church overall.
Father Murphy said Ospino’s statistics and suggestions “really affirm a lot of what we have been doing in this mission diocese.”
Father Murphy said beyond just research, Ospino brings a practical eye to his presentations. “He comes from a hands-on background. He did mission work and pastoral work and retreat work from the time he was 16-years old.”
Amelia McGowan, who heads the Catholic Charities Migrant Support Services, presented a video called “The Cost of Deportation.” The video is meant to raise awareness about what is happening in communities right here and help people comprehend the importance of knowing their rights. She also offered a free legal clinic to families who might have questions about their particular immigration status.
“Many Hispanic families from deanery five attended a unique presentation by Father Octavio Escobar and Ospino. Both presenters were able to challenge our roles as baptized, as Christians, and as immigrant Catholics in our communities,” Johnson said. “Father Octavio based his presentation on the article Dr. Ospino wrote in America Magazine,” she added.
On Friday, despite plummeting temperatures and ice and sleet pressing into the area, Ospino visited Vardaman. While there, he toured a sweet potato packing plant and took advantage of an opportunity to listen to a diverse group of local citizens and the advisory board of Northeast office of Catholic Charities, Inc. The group was able to share the challenges and opportunities all face in attending the different needs in this rural area of Mississippi. “He told me later this rural experience was new to him so the visit to Vardaman was mutually beneficial,” said Father Murphy.
“The outcome of this week was to have an opportunity to come together, as one family, to share, learn, and celebrate the Culture of Encounter,” said Johnson. “We believe that Amelia, Father Octavio, and Ospino made that possible. We all are blessed beyond measure with their presence among us,” she added.
“What we heard really ties in with the (Diocesan) Pastoral Plan to embrace diversity and inspire disciples,” said Father Murphy. He said he hopes he can host Ospino in Mississippi again at a later date.
To learn more about National Migration Week, go to

The group eats lunch.

Don’t confess other’s faults, own up to sins, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Fear and the shame of admitting one’s own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one’s own faults, Pope Francis said.
“It’s difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins,” the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year.
“I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband’s faults, then went on to her mother-in-law’s faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, ‘But ma’am, tell me, are you done?’ ‘No… Yes.’ ‘Great, you have finished with other people’s sins, now start to tell me yours,’” he said.
The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite.

Pope Francis hears a confession in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, Aug. 4. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Recognizing one’s own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the pope said. But a person who has a heart “full of himself, of his own success” receives nothing because he is already satiated by his “presumed justice.”
“Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel,” the pope said.
Confessing one’s sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only “separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters,” he added.
“Sin cuts. It cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community,” the pope said. “Sin always cuts, separates, divides.”
The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from “friends and models of life” who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God.
Christians also can find the courage to “take off their masks” and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St. Peter.
“To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us,” Pope Francis said. “While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Catholic Day at the Capitol theme: reforms needed in mental health

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson’s Faith in Action Team (FIAT) hopes to spur legislators to enact meaningful reform in the realm of mental health care for the state, using as a catalyst the Catholic Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 17.
Advocates who attend the day will hear about the problems currently crippling the system and get some ideas for how to advocate for reform. Mississippi is currently facing a lawsuit for its lack of compliance with the 2009 Olmstead Supreme Court ruling which required states “to provide community-based treatment for persons with mental disabilities when… such placement is appropriate.”
“Mental illness affects everybody,” said Sue Allen, Catholic Charities’ coordinator of social justice ministry and the planner for Catholic Day at the Capitol. “The speakers we have coming are two of the most articulate and knowledgeable people about health care and the state of mental health care in Mississippi you could find. To be able to listen to them and ask questions of the panel we have put together is a unique opportunity,” she added.
To offer perspective on day-to-day issues involving mental health, FIAT has invited Angela Ladner, executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association and Joy Hogge, executive director of Families as Allies, as the keynote speakers for the day. The agenda also includes a panel discussion which will include people who work in fields impacted by the lack of mental health care, the chaplain of Parchman State Penitentiary and a victims’ rights advocate.
Hogge said her organization is made up of families whose children face mental health challenges. It offers parent-to-parent support, insight for policy-makers and advocacy for children. “We want to help on a system-wide level so organizations can be more responsive.”
“Our main goal is that families are partners in their children’s care. It is essential that they can be partners,” explained Hogge. She said there is a movement within the mental health community to provide care in the community for those facing mental health challenges. “We want to start with family-driven care using the idea of starting with what they really want to achieve and to support the families in reaching those goals.” Hogge said that means making services flexible so, for example, someone can stay in school or remain employed while they are getting treatment. “That might mean supporting the employer,” she said. She will be speaking about some practical ways people can advocate for change.
Angela Ladner is the executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, a statewide medical specialty organization whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Angela has persistently lobbied Mississippi lawmakers to make the necessary changes that will allow for more community-based treatment options.
The day starts at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle’s parish center. This year, participants can ask questions and interact with the panelists during the discussions. In addition to the keynote and panel discussions, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in Mass, eat lunch together and attend a news conference on the capitol steps about the need for reform.
Those who wish can tour the capitol and speak with lawmakers.
The day will conclude with coffee at the cathedral center at 3 p.m. The day is free, but it is essential that people register so organizers will have enough lunches on hand.
Register online at or contact Sue Allen directly at (601) 355-8634 or Large groups are welcome.