Knights donate high-tech ultrasound to crisis pregnancy center

By Gene Buglewicz
OXFORD – New life will be in clear focus in Oxford, thanks to a Knights of Columbus project. Andy Reynolds, Grand Knight, Knights of Columbus Council 10901, delivered the final check to pay for a new ultrasound machine to Rebecca Bishop, Executive Director of the Pregnancy Center, Oxford on Tuesday, November 28.
To celebrate the purchase, the Pregnancy Center located at 295 County Road 101, Oxford, will host a reception and open house December 14th at 1:00 p.m. The Baby Boutique and Clothes Closet will be available for inspection as well as the ultrasound laboratory and the new ultrasound machine.
Donated funds provided through the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative enabled the Pregnancy Center to purchase a new, high-tech $40,000 ultrasound machine. Knights from the local Council 10901, the State of Mississippi and the national office enabled the purchase.

A manufacturer’s image of the new ultrasound machine the Knights of Columbus purchased for the Pregnancy Center in Oxford.

The Pregnancy Center provides a multitude of services to clients free of charge without state or federal funds. The Center is solely supported by local churches, organizations and private citizens who believe in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
Earlier this year, Bishop Joseph Kopacz toured the center and got an update on the fund-raising projects underway to purchase the new equipment.
Once a client receives a positive pregnancy test at the center, and is believed to be less than 14 weeks along, the non-diagnostic ultrasound determines if the pregnancy is viable and in the uterus where it should be. A client may be able to hear her child’s heartbeat. While the older ultrasound could determine viability around five weeks, it is hoped the new technology will establish viability even earlier.
The new ultrasound is a Toshiba Xario 100/PS Platinum Ultrasound Imaging System sold by Toshiba America Medical Systems in Nashville, Tennessee. This machine replaces a 10 year-old model used by the Pregnancy Center and provides a significant advance in determining pregnancy using a ultrasound probes with a wider selection of frequencies.
The project’s benefits will spread way beyond just the Oxford area. The older ultrasound from the Pregnancy Center is being given to the Women’s Resource Pregnancy Center in Cleveland to replace their 20 year-old model.

(Gene Buglewiczi is a member of Oxford St. John Parish and the Knights of Columbus.)

Natchez pastor hopes to welcome community with Christmas outreach

NATCHEZ – Father David O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary Basilica, has announced a program called ‘Walk with us in the Christmas spirit’ for the weeks before and after Christmas. He hopes to encourage parish members, Cathedral school population and community-wide people to consciously seek the Christmas spirit.
“We assume that most people want to experience the spirit of Christmas but we also realize that life for most people gets very busy during the Christmas season,” said Father O’Connor. “By Christmas spirit we mean sharing kindness, peace, joy, encouragement, acceptance and hospitality. In addition, to a wide range of programs in our congregation that proclaim the Christmas spirit, we also ask church members to select personal ways of sharing the Christmas spirit within the congregation and with everyone they meet,” he added.

NATCHEZ – A nativity scene from the Basilica of St. Mary from 2016. The parish is launching an effort to promote Christmas spirit. (Photos by Vickie Stirek)

The December calendar at St. Mary includes a wide variety of programs: the weekly Wednesday dinners at the Family Life Center, the Alcorn choir performance on December 3, Lessons and Carols on December 10, the celebrations of feasts of St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Lucy (December 7), the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12), and the Virgin Mary (December 8). Additional social events include Breakfast with Santa (December 2) and an open house at the Family Life Center on December 23.
“Most church programs are directed by a parish commission or the pastoral council, but this program is different. Its effectiveness will depend on every child, youth, adult and family,” said Donna Martello, program coordinator at St. Mary. “We are asking that each of these select personal ways of extending kindness, love and joy to one another and to everyone they meet. This can take many forms such as sending personal greeting and prayer cards to a number of people, giving home baked cookies, a home visit to people in the neighborhood, phone calls to individuals, or an email greeting,” she explained.
Pat Tumminello, chair of the Liturgy Commission, said they want to counter the commercialism of the season. “We are encouraging a focus on spiritual activities such as praying for/with individuals, prayer visits to St. Mary, praying the traditional noon-time prayer of the church called the Angelus, using the ‘Blue Book’ thought-for-the-day guide, use of the Advent wreath at home, a brief prayer every time a person drives by St. Mary, seeking forgiveness and forgiving others, including the church and its clergy,” Tumminello said.
“This program is designed to encourage the efforts of all Christian people to keep Christ in Christmas. We as Catholics do not want to give the impression that we have a monopoly on this. We are inviting our friends and neighbors join with us to share the spirit of Christmas,” explained Father O’Connor. “We are using name tags, yard signs, posters, banners and social media to highlight the call to walk with us in the Christmas spirit.”
For a full listing of activities and suggestions, contact St. Mary parish office at (601) 445-5616.

(Submitted by Regina Mardis on behalf of Father David O’Connor.)

St. Richard artists recognized

A pair of St. Richard School students were honored in a statewide art competition the second week of November. The Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM) partnered with the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), Governor Phil Bryant’s office and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to sponsor the competition marking the 200th birthday of the state. K-12 students submitted entries in the areas of visual arts, music and poetry.
The St. Richard students were honored at the Bicentennial Celebration: Peggy Steckler, fifth grader, won first place in the K-6 poetry category, and Steele Davis, fourth grader, won first place in the K-5 Visual Arts category. “I am so proud of all of our winners”, said Jana Perry, Director of Education and Programs. “St. Richard Catholic School does a wonderful job with their students.” Jennifer David, St. Richard’s Principal, was pleased when she received the news: “We are always so proud of our students, and this is no exception. These awards are a reflection of the skills our children learn when working with the incredible staff on the St. Richard family.”

St. Anthony Students take shots at science, art

MADISON – At left, students demonstrate their paint-flinging contraptions for a pair of engineers from Entergy. The engineers made suggestions to help improve the designs. At right, students took their devices outside to ‘paint’ canvases and record data. (Photos by Vicki Moorehead)

Veterans honored at Mass at Sacred Heart

SOUTHAVEN – Students and teachers hold their hands up in blessing over veterans during the school’s Veteran’s Day Mass. Father Greg Schill, SCJ, a veteran himself, celebrated the Mass. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Brooker)

Annunciation School readers top state again

COLUMBUS –Annunciation School students are the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge champs for the fifth consecutive year. Overall, the school logged 672,794 reading minutes and finished in the top 40 worldwide. Representatives from Scholastic visited the campus on Wednesday, November 8, to present the official award plaque and banner. The school community offered a huge thank you to the librarian, Terri Doumit, seen accepting the award from Scholastic Representative, Les Kevehazi. She coordinates this program every year. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)


Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us: study says devotion may impact immigrants’ health

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A good talk with your mother every day could improve your health. At least, that’s what happened for immigrants in one Mississippi community. A study out of the University of Alabama exploring the link between faith and health demonstrated that those with a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had fewer negative health issues related to stress.

JACKSON– The Hispanic community at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle hosts a procession downtown, like this one from 2016, for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

“This drives home how important faith is. In the study results I found that people who are exposed to stress – their wellbeing goes down over time. Those who were Guadalupan devotees broke that pattern,” explained Rebecca Read-Wahidi, the study’s author.
She grew up in Forest where the state’s largest concentration of Latinos work in poultry plants. They worship at St. Michael or at its mission San Martín. A community of Sisters, Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, ministers to the mix of Mexican, Guatamaulan and other Latin American people. The sisters teach English, host consulates and even offer workshops in what to do if people are stopped by police or immigration agents.
Constant worry about immigration raids can wear down an already poor population. Read-Wahidi was told stories of a 2012 road-block that led to the deportation of 40 people, sending a wave of fear through the rest of the community. Having a patroness, a protector and a surrogate mother helps ease that physical and mental stress.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 to Juan Diego, a poor Indian and recent Christian convert. She told him she wanted him to go to the bishop and have a church built on Tepeyac Hill. The lowly Juan Diego was turned away. He told the Virgin to send someone else. When his uncle become deathly ill, Juan Diego went in search of a priest instead of returning to the bishop, trying to avoid the Virgin by walking another way around the hill. She appeared anyway, declared that Juan Diego’s uncle was already cured and sent him, again, to the bishop, telling him to take flowers as a sign. She herself tied the flowers into his cloak, or tilma. When Juan Diego unwrapped the cloak, he and the bishop were shocked to find a perfect image of the Virgin on the cloak under the flowers.
In the image, she is dark skinned, pregnant, and surrounded by stars. She stands in front of the sun’s rays, a commonly known symbol of an Aztec god, symbolically eclipsing his power as she looks lovingly down on her people. Millions of pilgrims still flock to Tepeyac to see the tilma.

FOREST – This 2012 photo shows a procession honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Scott County Courthouse to St. Michael Parish. Rebecca Read-Wahidi conducted her doctoral research on the link between devotion and health in this community.(Mississippi Catholic file photo)

Read-Wahidi studied at Mississippi State University. Her Spanish studies took her to Mexico where she was exposed to the pervasive devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “While I was there, I became interested in Mexican Catholicism because it was different than what I was familiar with,” she said. When she returned home, she began to see the Virgin in her own hometown.
“It is really fascinating to me because it really is a contrast in Mississippi – which is very Protestant. Here is this Mexican feast being carried out in the streets of a Mississippi town,” she said. Read-Wahidi wrote her master’s thesis about Our Lady of Guadalupe and migrant communities in Mississippi. She expanded upon her earlier thesis while studying for a doctorate in biocultural medical anthropology at the University of Alabama. “I liked going there because I could continue working with the same community,” Read-Wahidi said. “I went from (looking at) the celebration itself into how they use it to deal with stress, specifically immigration stress,” she added.
The sisters in Morton welcomed her, introducing her to the community and facilitating meetings. Read-Wahidi developed a survey to gauge the impact of their faith on their health.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just a mother figure to her people, she is their mother. Read-Wahidi said most of the devotees she interviewed have conversations with her throughout the day. Sister Lourdes Gonzalez, MGSpS, who helped with the study, said Mary “listens to their worries. It’s a way to pray. People talk to her as if she is alive and in the room. She has a special place in the family.”
Father Tim Murphy, pastor at Tupelo St. James Parish calls the relationship profound and inspiring. “She is their mother in faith, in heaven and is present to them,” he said.
This connection to the poor may be why people see Mary as the perfect intersessor. “They may not feel comfortable talking to God – but they can speak to the Virgin. She is the mother figure. When they are so far from home, they need a mother figure,” Read-Wahidi said.
Father Michael McAndrew, CsSR, has been working in Hispanic ministry for many years and gives presentations on Juan Diego’s experience. “When Juan Diego does not want to go to the bishop, Mary tells him ‘am I not here? Am I not your mother? Would your mother not protect you on your journey? I am with you.’”
Read-Wahidi wrote in a journal article that immigrants place their stress in Mary’s hands. “When I asked what people petition the Virgin to help them with, they mentioned: finding work and keeping their jobs, not getting deported or arrested, the health of their family back in Mexico and here in the United States, the safety of family members who were making the journey across the border, and their own safe return back home.”
These prayers offer relief from the stress of their everyday lives. “They are seen as outsiders. They are not equal (here). They have the experience of racism, It is a way to remind themselves that in the eyes of the Virgin, all people are equal,” said Read-Wahidi. This idea has spread to other immigrants through public celebrations surrounding the feast.
Every year on or around the Dec. 12 feast day, immigrants across Mississippi leave the safety of their homes and churches to take their mother to the streets and celebrate her love and protection. Celebrations include processions, hours-long traditional Aztec dances, meals and liturgy. Everyone, especially other immigrants are welcome. In this way, the celebration in America is unique. Instead of being only a Mexican feast, it is a feast for all. “They make the celebration public – it is taken out into the streets. It gives the Mexican community a chance to share her (the Virgin). They enjoy seeing other people embrace her,” explained Read-Wahidi.
“We make processions because we know as a people we are walking in life, we are on a journey – we are walking to heaven, to God,” said Sister Gonzalez.
The celebrations are a sharp contrast to daily life for immigrants. They spend most of their lives trying to avoid attention. But for the feast, they come out in droves. Father Murphy said 300 people attended one procession in northeast Mississippi. “They will come straight from the fields. This will be the end of the sweet potato harvest so they will come with the dust still on them, but they will come and celebrate,” said Father Murphy.
“The best of liturgy does not represent, it re-presents the truth,” said Father Murphy. “This celebration is good liturgy. Who does (Our Lady of) Guadalupe appear to? The lowest of the low,” he said. Asking Mary to intercede offers a powerful conduit to Jesus since, in Our Lady of Guadalupe, “the mother of our savior is the mother of the poor.”
(See page 13 for a schedule of celebrations for this year.)

Gluckstadt Ladies’ guild hosts Carmelite clean-up day

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Ladies Auxiliary for the Knights of Columbus for Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish paid a visit to the Carmelite Monastery in South Jackson at the end of October to get the place ready for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The Knights and Ladies brought pressure washers, garden tools and cleaning equipment to clean the statues, walkways and courtyards.

Inside, they cleaned and changed lightbulbs to make sure the shop and convent were well-lit and ready for shoppers. Patty Darbonne headed up the effort with help from Father Kevin Slattery, the sacramental minister for the parish.
The Sisters have been busy putting out the Christmas merchandise and baking brown bread and rum cakes for their traditional open house shopping days. The gift shop is now open every day and will be until Christmas. The holiday hours are Monday to Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
There are several new Fontanini figurines available this year as well as Advent wreaths and candles to get you ready for the season. Don’t miss the brand new sale room featuring last year’s merchandise marked to sell and to make room for new items. As always, the Sisters carry a collection of crosses, crucifixes, jewelry, religious medals, Bibles and more.
The Sisters have started to become more active on social media so look for specials and coupons on their facebook page, Friends of the Jackson Carmel.