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

Catholic Charities celebrates new office opening with blessing, ribbon cutting

JACKSON – On Friday, May 5, Bishop Joseph Kopacz cut a Ribbon for and blessed the new Catholic Charities offices on East River Place in Jackson. The staff has been in the facility since January, getting settled and getting programs up and running. The new space is larger and has much better parking than the old headquarters downtown. 

Program seeks to connect students, campus ministry

By Abbey Schuhmann
For the past several years the Diocese of Jackson has partnered with the Newman Connection in an effort to help connect our high school seniors with a Catholic campus ministry program at their chosen college, university, or community college. The Newman Connection is a non-profit organization that provides structure and support to dioceses, parishes, Catholic high schools and Catholic campus ministry programs across the nation free of charge.
Newman Connection is focused on strengthening today’s Catholic young adults in the faith during their college years; they work with nearly 50 dioceses to help connect as many young people as possible. This program fits in very well with our renewed diocesan mission and vision and supports the priority to facilitate life-long formation of intentional disciples.
How to get connected? High school seniors at our parishes and Catholic high schools will be asked to fill out a brief information card from Newman Connection that includes their name and school they plan to attend in the fall; that card is then collected by the parish or high school and mailed back to Newman Connection. This program is completely free for participating parishes and schools and what a great way to help keep our young people engaged with their Catholic faith as they begin this new adventure into college life.
A senior Mass, banquet, or Baccalaureate are great opportunities to have your students fill out the information cards. The Newman Connection enters the information into their database that will then reach Catholic campus ministers at more than 400 campuses around the United States. Catholic campus ministers will then know who the incoming freshman are, what diocese they are from and can reach out to them and encourage them to get involved in the Catholic campus ministry program.
The staggering fact is that “80 percent of students stop practicing their faith at some point during college, while only 15 percent look for a campus ministry on their own.”
But together, we can change this. Let us get connected and stay connected. Newman Connection packets have been sent to all parishes and Catholic high schools in our diocese and information cards should be available. You may also go on the Newman Connection website, and “connect” individually or to find out more about the Newman Connection program and other resources available.
Please contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry if you have any questions about the implementation of the enrollment process with Newman Connection. or 601-949-6934
(Abbey Schuhmann is the coordinator for youth ministry for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Bishop Kopacz makes pilgrimage to Saltillo

By Monsignor Michael Flannery

MADISON – There is a Spanish phrase “que pasa?” (what’s happening?). In a way, it sums up the pastoral visit Bishop Joseph Kopacz and I made to the Saltillo Mission March 30 -April 3.

We can report that the good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn in 1969 is flourishing south of the border. There are two Mexican priests serving at the mission, Fathers David and Elevio. Both have a profound missionary spirit and they follow in the footsteps of Father Quinn.

We flew into Monterrey, Mexico, on Thursday, March 30. Father David was there to greet us and bring us to the mission about two hours away. He had a full schedule prepared for us. Our first visit was to the church of Cristo Rey (in the city of Saltillo) at 6:00 p.m. It is one of four churches in town served by San Miguel. The other three are; the Holy Martyrs, St. William and Christ the King. We visited other churches in the city the next day.

Saturday we set out for the village Jalapa where the villagers gathered to greet the Bishop from Mississippi. After a prayer service with the rancheros and the distribution of bags of cornmeal we set out for the village of Animas where we shared another meal with the villagers. At 2:00 p.m. we were on the road again to our most distant village of El Tapon, five hours away. There we greeted the people and Bishop Kopacz was asked to bless the seeds of corn and pinto beans to be used for sowing. Also, he was asked to bless the two goat herds. Many coyotes attack and kill the young kid goats and the blessing of the bishop was to provide protection.

After the blessing, Bishop Kopacz was offered a kid goat as a gift. I explained to the kind lady making the offer we would only be in the country five days and were forbidden to bring a goat back with us to the U.S. Instead she offered Bishop Kopacz a package of tortillas which he graciously accepted.

The next morning we went to the village of Garambullo, where we were greeted by a presentation of Aztec dancing before Mass. Father David showed us the new tin roof he had put on the church. Many of the churches in the mountain villages are in bad need of repair. An average roof on a mountain village church costs about $3,000. I had brought a suitcase full of T-shirts, a gift from Madison St. Anthony School. It was amazing to see the joy in these childrens faces as they received them. I also had brought with me 500 ball-point pens which I selectively distributed to other children telling them the pen was a gift of Bishop Kopacz.

When we arrived at La Ventura about 500 villagers were completing a live way of the cross. It was a very moving site. Because of their Mexican heritage and culture, the people relate very well to the suffering Christ. Bishop Kopacz was again front and center celebrating Mass and administering the sacrament of Confirmation.

After Mass, we had a delicious lunch with the villagers. Father David showed Bishop Kopacz a building attached to the church, consisting of two rooms, where it would be possible to house catechists who spend weekends training village catechists and performing missions throughout the year. He had plans to add another floor to the existing two rooms as La Ventura was a central village from where 6 other villages could be served.

It was now time to head back to Saltillo for dinner with the Bishop of Saltillo Don Raul Vera. Bishop Vera was very gracious and Bishop Kopacz shared with him his Pastoral Priorities and Vision for the Diocese of Jackson. The following morning, we shared a light breakfast with Father David and Father Evelio. Both priests are great visionaries and are addressing the needs of the people. Another example of their thinking outside the box, is a project now in its infancy.

San Miguel has become home to four students coming from mountain villages who cannot afford room and board while studying at the university. In exchange for room and board they accompany the priests during the weekend in their ministry in the ranchos. This project costs approximately $2,500 per student, however, that is where the church needs to be offering its services to those in need and changing the lives of people for the better.

Another worthy program at San Miguel is the catechetical program. Young catechists are brought in from remote villages to stay at San Miguel for a week or two during the summer. The rancheros are very moved by this experience. For the first time in their lives they have meals served to them by someone else. Also, they have the experience of taking a shower. That is not an option in the ranchos. It is a different world there at San Miguel.

I would like to end with one quick story. There was one four-year-old girl in Saltillo who got my last St. Anthony T-shirt. She was so excited with her new found treasure she would not take it off. The T-shirt would have fit a child of 12. It was so long it came down to her ankles. Her mother told me later that she would not take it off even to go to bed and she used it as her night gown. I also gave her the St. Anthony golf cap I was wearing. She even wore it to bed she was so overcome with joy with her gift. I can assure you that the people of Saltillo are most appreciative of all that Mississippians do for them and they wanted us to express their gratitude to you.

(Editor’s note: Msgr. Flannery is working on a book detailing the history of the Saltillo mission. a longer version of this story with details of all the rancho visits is available online at

Risen Christ calls all to follow him on path to life, pope says

By Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus is the risen shepherd who takes upon his shoulders “our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” Pope Francis said before giving his solemn Easter blessing.

With tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square April 16, the pope called on Christians to be instruments of Christ’s outreach to refugees and migrants, victims of war and exploitation, famine and loneliness.

For the 30th year in a row, Dutch farmers and florists blanketed the area around the altar with grass and 35,000 flowers and plants: lilies, roses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, birch and linden.

Preaching without a prepared text, Pope Francis began — as he did the night before at the Easter Vigil — imagining the disciples desolate because “the one they loved so much was executed. He died.”

While they are huddling in fear, the angel tells them, “He is risen.” And, the pope said, the church continues to proclaim that message always and everywhere, including to those whose lives are truly, unfairly difficult.

“It is the mystery of the cornerstone that was discarded, but has become the foundation of our existence,” he said. And those who follow Jesus, “we pebbles,” find meaning even in the midst of suffering because of sure hope in the resurrection.

Pope Francis suggested everyone find a quiet place on Easter to reflect on their problems and the problems of the world and then tell God, “I don’t know how this will end, but I know Christ has risen.”

Almost immediately after the homily, a brief but intense rain began to fall on the crowd, leading people to scramble to find umbrellas, jackets or plastic bags to keep themselves dry.

After celebrating the morning Easter Mass, Pope Francis gave his blessing “urbi et orbi,” to the city of Rome and the world.

Before reciting the blessing, he told the crowd that “in every age the risen shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion — the wounds of his merciful love — he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life.”

Christ seeks out all those in need, he said. “He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.”

Pope Francis mentioned a long list of those for whom the Lord gives special attention, including victims of human trafficking, abused children, victims of terrorism and people forced to flee their homes because of war, famine and poverty.

“In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace,” Pope Francis said. “May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”

The pope also offered special prayers for peace in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Ukraine, and for a peaceful resolution of political tensions in Latin America.

The pope’s celebration of Easter got underway the night before in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil began with the lighting of the fire and Easter candle in the atrium of the basilica. Walking behind the Easter candle and carrying a candle of his own, Pope Francis entered the basilica in darkness.

The basilica was gently illuminated only by candlelight and the low light emanating from cellphones capturing the solemn procession.

The bells of St. Peter’s pealed in the night, the sound echoing through nearby Roman streets, announcing the joy of the Resurrection.

During the vigil, Pope Francis baptized 11 people: five women and six men from Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, the United States, Albania, Malta, Malaysia and China.

One by one, the catechumens approached the pope who asked them if they wished to receive baptism. After responding, “Yes, I do,” they lowered their heads as the pope poured water over their foreheads.

Among them was Ali Acacius Damavandy from the United States who smiled brightly as the baptismal waters streamed down his head.

In his homily, reflecting on the Easter account from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the pope recalled the women who went “with uncertain and weary steps” to Christ’s tomb.

The pope said the faces of those women, full of sorrow and despair, reflect the faces of mothers, grandmothers, children and young people who carry the “burden of injustice and brutality.”

The poor and the exploited, the lonely and the abandoned, and “immigrants deprived of country, house and family” suffer the heartbreak reflected on the faces of the women at the tomb who have seen “human dignity crucified,” he said.

However, the pope added, in the silence of death, Jesus’ heartbeat resounds and his resurrection comes as a gift and as “a transforming force” to a humanity broken by greed and war.

“In the Resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to follow the example of the woman who, upon learning of Christ’s victory over death, ran to the city and proclaimed the good news in those places “where death seems the only way out.”

Presiding over the Stations of the Cross Good Friday, April 14, at Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis offered a prayer expressing both shame for the sins of humanity and hope in God’s mercy.

A crowd of about 20,000 people joined the pope at the Rome landmark. They had passed through two security checks and were watched over by a heavy police presence given recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

At the end of the service, Pope Francis recited a prayer to Jesus that he had composed. “Oh Christ, our only savior, we turn to you again this year with eyes lowered in shame and with hearts full of hope.”

The shame comes from all the “devastation, destruction and shipwrecks that have become normal in our lives,” he said, hours after some 2,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. The shame comes from wars, discrimination and the failure to denounce injustice.

Turning to the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis expressed “shame for all the times we bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have scandalized and injured your body, the church.”

But the pope also prayed that Christians would be filled with the hope that comes from knowing that “you do not treat us according to our merits, but only according to the abundance of your mercy.”

Christian hope, he said, means trusting that Jesus’ cross can “transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh capable of dreaming, forgiving and loving.”

Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-EASTER-ROUNDUP April 16, 2017.

Easter Vigil, Cathedral of St. Peter 2017

Chrism Mass St. Peter Cathedral April 11, 2017

Greenville welcomes Wies as new principal

Mr. WiesGREENVILLE – St. Joseph Catholic School is pleased to announce the appointment of Stephen Wies of Cleveland, Miss., as principal of the K3-12 school, effective July 1.

“Steve Wies is a great family man and a good Catholic, faithful to both his family and his church community,” said Father Bill Henry, pastor of St. Joseph Parish. “I am impressed with his love for education and his leadership abilities. He will be a principal that will lead by example, and will be someone our students can emulate in faith and in their academic pursuits.”

This decision caps a months-long search process that began when Paul Artman announced his intention to retire after 12 years as both teacher and principal of St. Joseph School, and Michelle Gardiner announced her retirement as Our Lady of Lourdes (OLOL) principal after nine years at the helm and 12 years at OLOL.

The St. Joseph School advisory council thanked Principals Artman and Gardiner for their many years of Service to St. Joseph Catholic Schools. Members remain most grateful for their leadership and contributions.

“Both Paul and Michelle have been a blessing and an asset to Catholic education for many years,” said Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Jackson. “I am grateful for their willingness to share their gifts with us and I am thrilled to welcome Steve Wies to the Catholic school family in the diocese,” added Cook.

A product of Catholic schools in Missouri, Wies comes to St. Joseph from Cleveland High School. Since 2010, Wies has served as Cleveland’s athletic director and math teacher, as well as baseball and soccer coach.

He has an exemplary track record at Cleveland High School, managing the day-to-day operations of 21 high school and eight junior high programs, handling the budgeting, scheduling, maintenance, inventory, security and overall needs of the school’s athletic programs.

Wies says his philosophy of education includes five pillars. “Set high expectations for all involved in the educational process. Establish clear policies and procedures with rewards and consequences. Be transparent. Be fair and consistent. Seek out the good in people, show appreciation and acknowledge their achievements.”

“I know youngsters are very impressionable, so I intend to impress upon them a Catholic foundation that will carry them into a productive adulthood life,” he says.

Wies earned his associate’s degree at St. Louis Community College, his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Delta State University, and his master’s degree in educational administration from Delta State University. He earned his Mississippi Class AA Administrator’s License in 2005. He is an active member of Cleveland Our Lady of Victories Parish.

Wies and his wife, Selena, have been married for 27 years and are the parents of two daughters, Anna (23) and Emily (20).


Camden marks 10th anniversary with music, liturgy

CAMDEN – On Sunday, March 26, members of Sacred Heart Parish gathered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the parish. Former pastor Father Mike Barth, ST, now the director of the Shrine of St. Joseph in Stirling, New Jersey, returned for the occasion. Here is an excerpt from his homily on that joyful day.

Bishop Kopacz – thank you for your presence … To Father Raul, Pastor, Mayor Bolden, Judges Chinn and Griffin, Supervisor Griffin, Sister Mary Ann, Sister. Donna, Sister Joyce, Father Antone, Brother Senan and other clergy and religious women and men; Sacred Heart Parish Council members and good people of Sacred Heart, Holy Child Jesus and the Camden community, I am most honored and happy to be here with you as we celebrate together the 10th anniversary of this church and parish structure! God is indeed good! Amen? It’s been a minute, as they say, since I have stood here before you! The Lord has had me on a journey over the last few years and I’ve had to pack my suitcase more than once but it’s all good and it’s all in His hands – I’m just glad to be here with you today.

I think it helpful to put this 10th anniversary, that we celebrate this morning, into a larger context. This year, 2017, is the 74th anniversary of the Missionary Servant’s ministry among you at Sacred Heart and the 155th year, give or take a few, that the Catholic Church has been present in this area of Camden and Sulphur Springs, Mississippi. All we do here this morning and all we celebrate is in God’s good plan – a plan that covers a whole lot of years, not just 10, a plan that shows us that we serve a mighty good God, a God who is always looking out for us and who is ever present to us – even when we don’t realize it! Let’s give God some praise this morning!

This building, by itself, made of brick, steel, glass, sheetrock and concrete, is not all that significant. What makes it special however, and the reason we celebrate today, is what it signifies or what it stands for – what it points to. First and foremost, it points to God and is meant to help us recognize each time we enter and gather to worship the grandeur, beauty and awesomeness of God. It signifies our desire to give our best to God – to move us through wood, glass and art to see the beauty of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It signifies or points to commitment – the commitment of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity to this community and your commitment to your parish, your faith community. It signifies a long- awaited dream to have a parish, a predominately African American Catholic Parish, built on these sacred grounds. It signifies the faith of a people – a people whose history has too often been marked by struggle, misunderstanding and racial discrimination – yet a people with a faith so strong, a faith that was always not a “hope so faith but a know so faith”, that even in the midst of all that struggle could stand and praise God day after day, lift up voices in praise, clap hands in glory and know that soon and very soon God would set things right, that the rain of justice would come down and that an awesome God would deliver them. Yes, my brothers and sisters, this building, this sanctuary is special because when we gather here, when we call on the name of Jesus, when we break the Eucharistic bread and share the cup, when we proclaim the Word of God, when we pour out hearts filled with joy and sorrow, with doubt and confusion – Jesus is present – not in brick and glass but in the living stones of each and every person gathered. Are you with me?

A church is not a church without people, a church is not a church without the faith of a people, a church is just an empty shell without the living stones of the faithful. Never forget that you are the church, you are the sanctuary of God precious Spirit, wherever you are God is present. God is surely present here, especially in the Eucharist, but God is here so that we may be fed and strengthened, so that we may then go out and be the missionary disciples God calls us to be! So, we gather and celebrate, we give thanks, we ask God to remain with us, we summon the Sweet Holy Spirit to remain here with us and with this community for generations to come. May this building, this sanctuary, built of living stones, always be a place of celebration and nourishment now and forever. Amen.

Abbey Youth Fest returns

By Abbey Schuhmann

COVINGTON, La., – On Saturday, March 25, more than 300 teens and adult leaders from around the Diocese of Jackson traveled to St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in Covington, La., for the 2017 Abbey Youth Festival (AYF). The 16th annual festival fell on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and this year’s theme was “Be It Done Unto Me.”

The seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary College play a vital role in the production of AYF including our own, Andrew Bowden, Hayden Schmitt, and Tristan Stovall. The festival has grown over the years and now hosts around 250 groups from all across the south with more than 4,500 participants coming together each year for a day-long event to experience music, prayer, catechesis, fellowship and fun.

With the torrential rain and devastating floods that affected the Covington-area last spring, the 2016 festival was cancelled for the first time in its history. While this year’s forecast was not ideal for an outdoor event, accommodations were made and the program continued.

The teens and adults from our diocese remained optimistic and weathered the storm throughout the day determined to experience all the festival has to offer. The program featured keynote presentations from Katie Prejean McGrady, Stephanie Grey and David Calavitta. Dave Moore and The Josh Blakesley Band entertained the crowd with awesome music. Each speaker shared thoughts regarding the theme, “Be It Done Unto Me,” on how we all have a call to serve the Lord, how do we discern that call in our daily lives and how can we live as faithful sons and daughters of our Lord.

Participants have the opportunity throughout the day to visit different vendor booths including religious orders and communities from all around the country. Groups also have the opportunity to tour the beautiful Abbey church on campus. The event focuses on evangelization and faith formation through vocational discernment, prayer, and catechesis.

The entire event ends with Mass and candlelight adoration; often times the highlight of the event for most participants. This year the Mass was celebrated by Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and the homilist was Father Joshua Johnson of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Father Johnson challenged the teens to become fully alive in Jesus Christ. He gave witness to this through his own, personal vocation story as well as stories that he shared that have impacted him throughout the years.

He suggested the teens follow “The 5 W’s” in order to help them enter into a deeper relationship with Christ.1. When will you pray and spend time with the Lord? 2. Where will you pray? 3. What will you do? Read scripture, attend adoration, spend time with the Blessed Sacrament after mass – were just a few of his suggestions. 4. Who will be your accountability partner? 5. Why are you going to do this? To become fully alive in Christ.

It was no doubt a wet and soggy day for our group, however; the weather did not dampen our experience with Abbey Youth Festival 2017. This event is an excellent opportunity for our teens to see the bigger church and fellowship with other young Catholics. This was the 7th year for our diocese to sponsor a trip to the Abbey Youth Festival. Make plans to participate in the 2018 event scheduled for Saturday, March 17th!

(For more information visit or contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry – 601-949-6934 or