Josephites elect new leader

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Father Michael L. Thompson has been elected to a four-year term as superior general of the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, better known as the Josephites.
A native of Port Arthur, Texas, the 57-year-old priest had been serving as vicar general since 2011. He is the 14th superior general of the religious community, founded 144 years ago to minister to African-Americans.
Josephite priests and brothers elected Father Thompson during their general conference in mid-June at St. Joseph Seminary in Washington. “It’s a great honor to have your brothers choose you to be their leader. I now have a deeper responsibility to care for the men and to guide them in their ministry,” Father Thompson said in a statement.
“We Josephites are still here fighting for justice, peace and dignity in our black Catholic communities,” he said, noting that he would be establishing a justice and peace committee in the near future.
Ordained in 2004, Father Thompson was parochial vicar at Corpus Christi/Epiphany Church in New Orleans. Following Hurricane Katrina, Father Thompson assisted at the post-Katrina recovery office, which the Josephites had set up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
“I am really excited about the dedication of the Josephites who serve in ministry now and the men who are coming to join us,” Father Thompson said. “The excitement they have about continuing the mission of the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart gets me rejuvenated.”
The Josephite religious community, founded after the Civil War to minister to newly freed slaves, serves in parishes and special ministries, spanning seven states, including Mississippi, and the District of Columbia.

Catholic conference, inspires, informs, acknowledges special supplement

By Contyna McNealy
BUFFALO — Great people. Great fellowship. Great renewal. This year’s Catholic media conference provided close to 300 media professionals with wonderful opportunities to learn from and collaborate with colleagues from across the U.S. and Canada. For three days, June 24 – 26, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center bustled with participants eager to attend the many workshops and master camps offered. As a first time attendee, it was inspiring to meet and break bread with so many gracious, passionate people in the Catholic media industry.
The conference kicked off with a welcoming reception and dinner which featured a tribute to Buffalo’s very own, Tim Russert. Before his death in 2008, Russert was a tenacious journalist, bestselling author, commentator and renowned host of “Meet the Press.” The Diocese of Buffalo along with the Buffalo Historical Museum showcased a video to honor Russert for his standard of excellence in journalism and his unwavering commitment to family and faith. His tribute deepened my appreciation for the work of good editors and journalists. They have such an important job in that they are not just in the business of reporting news and evangelizing; they are responsible for accurately recording the history of the church.
The following night, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe echoed the conference’s theme “Power of the Word.” She urged Catholic communicators to use their voices to “speak for the voiceless.” A Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister Rosemary devotes her life to empowering women held captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Her work as director of St. Monica’s Vocational School in Gulu, Uganda, provides these young women and mothers with hope, education and training. She called upon the Catholic media to not “sugarcoat evil” and to continue to cover the atrocities inflicted upon the Ugandan women. Telling the story “keeps it from happening again.”
Shortly after her keynote address, Sewing Hope — a documentary profiling Sister Rosemary and the young women she nurtures — aired at the conference. It was with this small group of attendees that Sister Rosemary viewed the film in its entirety for the first time. Despite the film’s account of immeasurable tragedy, it was all overwhelmingly eclipsed by its revelation of amazing love. Sewing Hope is available for viewing on Netflix streaming.
Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media in Canada, also addressed the Catholic media. Noticing a trend in certain media coverage of Pope Francis as being only surface news, he appealed for media representatives to “go beyond the surface and discover the story within the story.” Father Rosica challenged journalists to fully read the Pope’s closing 2014 address to the Synod of Bishops on the Family and his more recent environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” (Praise be to you). These works “tell the deeper story” of the Pope’s “message of mercy” and his overall “revolution of normalcy.” Journalists were encouraged to communicate the full depth of the Pope’s message to a world truly in need of mercy and normalcy. Salt and Light’s  2013 documentary, The Francis Effect, was also shown as part of the conference schedule. It can be purchased or rented on demand online at
In addition to two powerful keynote speakers, the presentations of awards and recognitions for excellence in Catholic media were equally inspiring. The Catholic Press Association (CPA) presented the Bishop John England Award to the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Cardinal George was recognized for diligently advocating for the First Amendment rights of Catholic newspapers. His featured columns in the Catholic New World tackled the seriousness of religious freedom and were often reprinted in diocesan publications across the country. Joyce Duriga, editor of the Catholic New World in Chicago, received the award on his behalf.
Former president of the CPA, Greg Erlandson was awarded The St. Francis de Sales Award for his prestigious career in Catholic media. In 2014 he served as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Erlandson is currently president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division in Huntington, Ind.
The CPA’s awards banquet and presentation was held in the evening on the last night of the conference. This special ceremony recognizes excellence throughout the Catholic press industry. Mississippi Catholic was among this year’s winners. With the entry of the 2014 special supplement, Follow Me: A Journey to Priesthood, the staff of Mississippi Catholic placed second in the category of “best coverage of a routine sacramental event.” The 20-page supplement featured in-depth articles on the history of priesthood in Mississippi and profiles of Fathers Binh Nguyen, José de Jesús Sánchez and Rusty Vincent, who were ordained last May at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.
The theme of the conference took on a deeper meaning for me. I appreciated how “Power of the Word” speaks to the important role of Catholic communicators. The experience of learning from and listening to individuals with such high standards in communication moved me from the status of simple appreciation to absolute admiration.
It was such an honor to represent Mississippi Catholic and the Diocese of Jackson at this year’s conference. I look forward to having many more priceless opportunities to laugh, share stories and troubleshoot problems with people who can truly relate to the unique and rewarding experience of working for the church.
(Contyna McNealy is the creative services coordinator for the Diocese of Jackson and the production manager for Mississippi Catholic.)

Charleston casts us into boat with Jesus

By Mary Woodward
On June 21, the Sunday after the terrible tragedy of Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church, I sat in church trying to make sense of a world gone insane with violence, turbulent politics and this most horrific crime of murdering nine innocent people who had gathered to study God’s Word by an assailant who was welcomed in by those he slaughtered.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston S.C., offers a prayer while paying his respects to the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a pastor and state senator, inside the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., June 24. Rev. Pinckney, who was pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, was one of nine people shot and killed at the church June 17. (CNS photo/Mic Smith, The Catholic Miscellany)

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston S.C., offers a prayer while paying his respects to the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a pastor and state senator, inside the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., June 24. Rev. Pinckney, who was pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, was one of nine people shot and killed at the church June 17. (CNS photo/Mic Smith, The Catholic Miscellany)

And then the Liturgy of the Word began and the first reading was from Job. Poor Job – faithful to God even when God took everything away from him and cast him to the dump.
The letter from Paul that the love of Christ impels us transitioned us to the crowning jewel of the Gospel from Mark in which Jesus said to the wind and the sea, “quiet, be still.”
Reflecting on these readings, I began to wonder if God is speaking to us out of the storm again. Soon the homilist commenced to deliver the very homily I needed to hear in my troubled and fearful heart. He pointed to Charleston and the response to this vicious and unimaginable act by the family members of the murdered innocents. He described the deep witness of faith given by them as the best homily that could be given on this Sunday anywhere in our country.
Each family had the opportunity to address the young man whom their deceased loved one had embraced with the love and light of Christ that fateful night in the church and how that light was extinguished through this young man’s act of darkness, hate and evil.
One by one each family member through voices of anguish and incredible loss reached deep down into faith and offered forgiveness. Many even asked God to have mercy on his soul.
In the face of the violent storm of evil, fear, loss, peril, panic and violence, these Christians lived their faith and became still. With a calmness that only can come from that faith, each one looked evil in the face and said ‘be still my soul.’ Each one knew with a knowledge that only comes from faith that the Lord is right there with them, carrying them on and that the Lord was with their lost loved one in that moment when evil took them from this world.
That unshakeable faith was what Jesus was teaching when he slept in the boat during the storm. And when the disciples turned to him in fear saying: “Wake up, Jesus, we are perishing!” He awakened and calmed the storm on the sea and in their beings.
In that Gospel, Jesus then asks the disciples: “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?” The passage then says: “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” The family members of those lost in Charleston answered the disciples’ question with their deeply profound faith.


Mourners cast shadows on the wall of a makeshift memorial at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., June 18. Nine people were murdered the day before during a Bible study session at the church. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

Where we go from here is the next step in healing our troubled and violent world? Our state and our country are at a moment in time when we have to look within ourselves and our collective psyche and come to an honest realization that the evil of racism still exists in our communities though it may be hidden just below the surface. Our Christian faith impels us to look to Christ and follow his way. In Him we find the truth. It may not fit with what the crashing sea of our world is trying to convey, but it is what we must, with calm resolve and in faith, seek.
As the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis approaches, will we walk forward as a people of faith who look into the storm of this evil and are able to “be still” in the knowledge that Jesus is in the boat with us? Will we be able to have honest and respectful dialogue about racism and bigotry still prevalent in our society though we may wish to believe these are in the past?
Or will we continue to be tossed about on the turbulent sea that is our world today and forget that the love of Christ impels us to act with mercy and to reach out in compassion and love?
It is easy to shout: “Wake up, Jesus, we are perishing!” It is not so easy to “Be still.” And yet we have our witnesses in Charleston who in wanting to cry out “wake up, Jesus” in the face of violence and evil were able to “be still.” Though their hearts were filled with unending grief and pain, they took solace in the truth and found strength in a faith “tried in the fire” and ready. In their actions, they are the awakened Christ saying to evil and to our violent world: “quiet.”
(Mary Woodward is the chancellor for the Diocese of Jackson.)

High court takes on HHS, death penalty, but holds off on abortion cases

The Supreme Court ruled on a handful of other cases involving issues of life and social justice before it ended its summer session. In a June 29 order, the High Court continued to shield several Pennsylvania religious institutions from having to provide employees with health care coverage that includes contraceptives.
The order in a case filed by the bishops and the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania, their charitable institutions and a school said the government may not enforce the challenged provisions of the Affordable Care Act, pending final resolution of legal challenges on the merits of the institutions’ objections to what is known as the contraceptive mandate.
Justice Samuel Alito in April had granted an interim injunction to the Pennsylvania ministries.
No case challenging the mandate or the accommodation as applied to faith-based nonprofit institutions has yet reached the Supreme Court. Several federal circuit courts of appeal have ruled that religious rights are not substantially burdened by the process required for the accommodation. Only one circuit court, the 11th, granted an injunction – to EWTN, a Catholic media conglomerate. That court heard oral arguments in February over whether the company has a valid claim that spares it from following the procedures.
The Supreme Court has, however, acted in favor of faith-based institutions that are suing over the contraceptive mandate each time it has come to the high court. Five of those actions, including twice in the Pennsylvania cases, were about an injunction pending further litigation.
In another in a series of bitterly divided end-of-term cases, the Supreme Court June 29 upheld the execution protocol used by Oklahoma and several other states. The 5-4 ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito upheld lower courts that said the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injection does not violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling was among the last three opinions released, closing out the court’s 2014 term.
The majority opinion in Glossip v. Gross noted that it has been previously established multiple times that capital punishment is constitutional and only delved into whether the claims by Oklahoma death-row inmates that the effects of the drugs used in lethal injection are unnecessarily painful. Among the reasons Alito cited in upholding lower courts were that “the prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain.” Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each filed concurring opinions. Alito’s majority ruling also was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The Texas Catholic Conference expressed disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision June 29 which temporarily blocks Texas from enforcing new requirements on abortion clinics that would force many of them to close. The Texas law requires the clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers when performing abortions. Other provisions of the law, such as requiring abortion doctors to have hospital privileges and prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks gestation, were not affected.
In a June 9 ruling, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the law, and rejected pleas by abortion clinics to suspend its implementation while it is appealed. The Supreme Court ruling prevents enforcement of the law until the fall when the high court will decide if the justices should hear an appeal from a lower court. A June 30 statement from the Catholic conference, the public policy arm of the Texas Catholic bishops, said the bishops “grieve for the unborn children who will continue to die, and are concerned for the mothers who will subjected to substandard care, while the court delays until the fall to resolve this issue.”
The Supreme Court took no action in a challenge of a Mississippi law passed last year requiring doctors at the state’s only remaining abortion clinic to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. This means the law will remain on hold until the appeals process is complete.
Aside from announcing the disposition of other cases it has been asked to review, the court is not scheduled to conduct any further business in the public eye until the 2015 term opens Oct. 5.

Sisters celebrate 60th, 70th jubilees

INDIANA – Twenty-nine Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are celebrating jubilees this year. Of the 29 sisters, one has served in the Diocese of Jackson.
Sister Mary Jo Stewart, a native of Terre Haute, Ind., is celebrating her 70th jubilee. Sister Stewart, formerly Sister Joseph Maureen, entered the congregation on Jan. 8, 1945, from St. Ann, Terre Haute. She professed perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1952.
She graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a bachelor’s degree in education. She earned her LPN degree from Indiana Vocational Tech, now Ivy Tech Community College.

Sister Mary Jo Stewart

Sister Mary Jo Stewart

In the Jackson diocese she served as a registered nurse at Holly Springs, Cadet Health and Social Services, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) (1986-95), as Catholic community outreach, (1995-96), and as a licensed practical nurse, Catholic community outreach (1996-98). In Jackson she volunteered to the home bound (2002-2004). Sister Stewart has also ministered in Indiana, Illinois and California.
She currently ministers in health care at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of nearly 320 women religious, with more than 200 providence associates, exist to further God’s loving plans by devoting themselves to serving others through works of love, mercy and justice.
St. Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840.
Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 17 states, the District of Columbia and Asia. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries may be found at

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis held the first of three annual jubilee celebrations on Saturday, April 11, at Marymount Congregational Home in Garfield Heights.
Sister Dolores Sever, who taught in the public and Catholic schools in the Diocese of Jackson for 37 years, celebrated her 60th jubilee with the Sisters at Marymount Congregational Home on April 11.

Sister Dolores Sever

Sister Dolores Sever

Sister Sever entered the congregation in Aug. 1954 from St. Therese in Garfield Heights. After completing her novitiate, she began her teaching ministry in Detroit, Michigan. In 1963, Sister Sever began teaching at St. Francis Mission in Greenwood.
With her many talents and desire to serve others, Sister Sever was often called upon from various schools to substitute for teachers and sometimes even as a principal. She also became an instructional supervisor under Title I to help the poor.
“My greatest enjoyment was the years I spent working with teachers and helping them in the classroom. I will always treasure the close friends I made, both in the school and at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Greenwood. The years in Greenwood were truly rewarding,” states Sister Sever.
She retired in 2011 and currently resides at Villa St. Joseph on the Marymount Congregational Home campus.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis (SSJ-TOSF), founded in 1901 in Stevens Point, WI, is a Franciscan Community of over 330 members and associates. The SSJ-TOSF has Congregational homes in Stevens Point, WI, Bartlett, IL, and Garfield Heights, OH. The SSJ-TOSF serve in diverse ministries across the United States, Brazil, and Peru.

Church leaders react to marriage ruling

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Analyzing the ramifications of the June 26 same-sex marriage ruling for the Catholic Church at the national, state and local levels will take time, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
It has implications for “hundreds, if not thousands” of laws at all levels, and there is “a difficult road ahead for people of faith,” he said.
Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, made the comments in a teleconference for news media held about three hours after the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision that states must license same-sex marriage.
Joining him in the media briefing were two members of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; and Anthony Picarello, associate general secretary and general counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Tragically, the court was wrong,” said Archbishop Broglio, adding that this is “not the first time” a “false understanding of marriage” has been forced on the country, as by lower court rulings.
“Clearly the decision was not required by the Constitution (and) the narrowness of the decision reveals it is not settled,” he continued. “Marriage is unchangeable.”
Echoing an earlier statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, Archbishop Broglio said the church will continue to follow Christ, “in solidarity with pope,” in adhering to the church’s teaching on marriage being between one man and one woman.
Archbishop Lori acknowledged that the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “makes a nod in the direction of religious liberty.” But that, he said, is too narrow.
The ruling “recognizes free speech, the right of religion to teach or advocate with regard to the true definition of marriage, but it does not acknowledge (that) the First Amendment also protects freedom of religion and the right to follow our teaching,” he said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, recognized in several places the role of religious beliefs in the questions surrounding same-sex marriage, saying that “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
Kennedy also said in part that “those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.”
But Archbishop Lori said free speech is not at issue. Under the ruling, “we retain the right to think what we want at home and within the confines of the church” but it does not address the First Amendment’s guarantee to free exercise of religion. The church should be able to operate “our ministries … without fear of being silenced, penalized,” he said. Through social services, “we serve millions of people every day. We do it well and we do it lovingly,” he added.
He foresees many legal challenges and controversies as the church seeks to protect itself from the fallout of the marriage ruling by advocating at the federal, state and local levels for protections for its faith-based practices.
Some areas where there will be legal disputes, Picarello said, were outlined by Chief Justice John Roberts, including tax exemptions, campus housing, academic accreditation, employment and employee benefits.
The U.S. Catholic Church will have to look at internal ways to protect itself against legal challenges, Picarello said, and “advocate externally for legislation, regulation and, if necessary, litigation.” Picarello said free speech protections for opponents of same-sex marriage were already under attack. Within a couple of hours of the decision being issued, he said, a newspaper in Pennsylvania announced it will no longer accept op-eds criticizing same-sex marriage.
“Some things will happen immediately,” as seen by that newspaper’s announcement, he said, and some will take time to unfold,” like challenges to churches receiving tax exemptions. Another area that will require study, Archbishop Broglio said, is the military chaplaincy, because the Catholic priest-chaplains whom his archdiocese oversees also come under civil authorities.
While polls show a majority of Catholics say they approve of same-sex marriage, Catholic teaching is “never determined by numbers but by the truth,” Archbishop Broglio said. “We have to be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel.”
“In a pastoral context we respond to the individual in his or her need and that’s quite different than what we teach concretely,” he added. The church must make its “teaching on marriage very, very clear,” while at the time be pastoral to individuals.
The church teaches marriage is between a man and a woman and that sex outside marriage is a sin. At the same time the church upholds the human dignity of all people, Archbishop Lori said, adding, “We preach the truth with love in season and out of season.”
”It is evident we are living in an age of dramatic cultural shift,” said Bishop Flores, and the church has to think about how to share its teaching and ”announce the good news … as creatively as possible in current cultural context.”
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz’s response to this ruling appears on page 3)
(Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

Ideas for Fortnight for Freedom

The Bishops of the United States have called all the faithful to celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness from June 21 to July 4, 2015. The theme of this year’s Fortnight will focus on the freedom to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.
1. Celebrate a memorial Mass for SS. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22 (their feast day) to recognize how they bore witness to the truth (and paid for it with their lives).
2. Present a Catholic movie night for members of your parish, by getting copyright permission to show:
a. A Man for All Seasons, about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More;
b. For Greater Glory, about the struggle for religious freedom in Mexico;
c. First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, a PBS video about religious freedom;
d. Becket, about 12th century English martyr St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
3. Invite a local or national figure to speak to your parish about religious liberty. Also, encourage parishioners to read Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, a document of the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
4. Sponsor a day of faith-based service within the community, perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping to paint, garden, clean, or organize donations at a local charity. Highlight existing Catholic service activities and institutions and how they bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.
5. Host an indoor or outdoor concert with religious music.
6. Plan a parish outreach event including a meal—a fish fry, picnic, pancake breakfast, or spaghetti supper—to raise awareness about the Fortnight and advertise local Fortnight events.
7. Organize day-long (or multi-day) Eucharistic Adoration.
8. Sponsor a presentation on the history of Catholicism in the United States.
9. Host a study group on Dignitatis Humanae, the groundbreaking document from the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty, using the 14-day reflection piece at This year marks the 50th anniversary of this important document.
10. Lead a Eucharistic Procession through your community on a path that passes important government or civic buildings.
11. Host a panel discussion on the wide range of current religious freedom issues; on a single religious freedom issue in depth; or on how religion can and should influence policy issues generally.
12. Remind parishioners that the Supreme Court decision on marriage—which may have serious effects on religious freedom in our country—is expected to occur during the Fortnight (likely on the last day of the Court’s term, June 29). Consider events surrounding the announcement of the decision.
13. As a parish at the end of daily Mass, pray the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty.
14. Organize an Independence Day family picnic with a special Mass to close the Fortnight for Freedom.

Parishes invited to plan Fortnight for Freedom services

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Threats to religious freedom continue to emerge, making it more urgent for people of faith to take action to defend the full realm of religious practice, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
Speaking during a May 28 webinar announcing the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop Lori called on Catholics to learn about the importance of religious liberty throughout the history of the United States and to actively promote free religious practice during the two-week period beginning June 21.
This year’s fortnight observance will open with Mass at 9:45 a.m. June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. It closes with Mass at 11a.m. July 4 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
The Diocese of Jackson invites parish leaders to plan their own services for Fortnight for Freedom, sharing resources and ideas from USCCB with pastors, lay ecclesial ministers and community leaders.
“Religious freedom is not something that stands alone. It’s not simply a legal question for the church. It pertains very much to the new evangelization,” Archbishop Lori explained.
This year’s fortnight observance theme is the “Freedom to Bear Witness,” stemming from the Gospel message that Jesus came to the world to bear witness to the truth, explained Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel for the USCCB, who joined the archbishop during the webinar.
She said dozens of local events in dioceses across the country are planned, including prayer services, discussions and charitable works.
“We’re looking this year to raise awareness of religious freedom so people don’t take it for granted,” she added.
Archbishop Lori said government policies, such as the federal mandate to include a full range of contraceptives in employee health insurance and the redefinition of marriage throughout the country, pose growing threats to religious freedom.
The fortnight, he said, also is meant to draw attention to the dangers to religious liberty around the world as Christians and people of other faith traditions face persecution, limits on their freedom and death.
“Pope Francis pointed out that we are truly living in an age of martyrs,” the archbishop said. “I think we have to pay a lot of attention to the sacrifices which people are making for their faith around the world. Many Christians are being persecuted, beheaded. And Muslims are being persecuted for not being Muslim enough.
“These are men and women of deep faith and deep courage, and as we witness their sacrifice, first of all I think we have to hold up and to highlight what’s happening to them. I’m not sure our leadership is paying enough attention to their sacrifice.”
Information about the fortnight and various resources to help plan local observances are available online at and on page 13 of this issue. Share celebrations with Mississippi Catholic by emailing photos and information to

Parishes utilize apps to update faithful, evangelize

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In an increasingly mobile and digital world, Catholic parishes and other institutions are finding that the ubiquitous mobile app can work for them. In Mississippi, parishes in Tupelo and Greenwood have launched personalized apps to help keep their communities connected.

The home screen of the Greenwood community app showing the three parishes and school. (Courtesy of Catholic Parish Apps)

The home screen of the Greenwood community app showing the three parishes and school. (Courtesy of Catholic Parish Apps)

More parishes are going the app route, and more companies are tailoring their business for the church trade. Among the app developers are, and Catholic Parish Apps.
Edmundo Reyes, founder and CEO of Catholic Parish Apps, the company that developed the Greenwood parishes’ app, told Catholic News Service that since his venture opened for business less than a year ago, he has gotten 65 parish apps off the ground, has another 75 or so in the works, and has secured contracts for the 70-parish Diocese of Orange, Calif., and the 213-parish Archdiocese of Detroit, where he doubles as director of institutional development for the archdiocese and its seminary.
“Not all of them are going to get the app, but a number of them will,” said Reyes, whose company’s site is
“We wanted to found a company that would really be at the intersection of technology and ministry,” he added. “We want things for the parish to be easy to use. We want our app to be flexible. Each parish is different, each ministry is different.” According to Reyes, parishes are interested in at least one of three things, based on how the pastor perceives his ministry: communication, collaboration and evangelization.
He referred to a 2013 survey conducted by the Detroit Archdiocese that garnered 44,000 responses. When asked how they got connected to their parish or the diocese, “95 percent of the people said the bulletin. Below them was the vicariate newsletter, and the thing about it is that the newsletter is included in the parish bulletin,” Reyes said. “The parish website and parish email efforts were only 45 percent. Now that’s a big gap between 95 and 45 percent.”
“People aren’t using computers or even laptops anymore, they really are using their smartphones to communicate,” said Father Lincoln Dall, pastor at Tupelo St. James, who used the company myParish app for his parish. He said he has already used the app to notify parishioners about prayer requests, funerals and changes in liturgy schedules. Some parishioners even said they attended one fund-raiser because of a reminder sent through the app.
Father Gregory Plata said Catholic Parish Apps was able to work with him to include all four of his faith communities, three parishes, a mission and a school, in one app. This helped keep the cost reasonable and allows him to communicate with all four at one time. While all four parishes are on one app, each offers different options depending on the needs of that faith community.
One early adapter was Nativity Parish in Timonium, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb. “The app allows people to check out basic information about Nativity such as service times and where we are. It has a map so people can come and check us out that way,” Hamilton said. “There’s some more in-depth information about some programs like our kids and teen programs.”
Weekend Mass announcements are posted. “We also put our pastor’s messages on the app as well. We break down our messages in series so over the course of four or six weeks we can have a series of messages,” Hamilton said. Nativity has since taken to broadcasting its Masses for viewing via the app, which also links to the pastor’s blog.
Holy Spirit Parish in Dubuque, Iowa, after nearly eight months of development, unveiled its app on Easter, and got 119 people to download it right away.
“It’s a tool for collaboration in the parish and it’s a tool for the new evangelization,” said Brandon Kuboushek, a member of the parish evangelization committee. “We want people to use it to get more information, get questions answered about the parish. We also hope people walking down the street will download it and it’s a way to evangelize. People are being bombarded with media all the time. This is a way to use that new technology.”
Kuboushek spent more than 40 hours volunteering, working with members of the committee and parish officials to get the app off the ground.
“We did this based on how can we get the attention of younger people or anyone who has gone away from the church; (we thought) ‘what are some ways we can appeal to them?’” Leslie Foley, another member of the evangelization committee, told The Witness, Dubuque’s archdiocesan newspaper.
Then there’s iBreviary, replacing the hefty leather-bound volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a must-have, Father Clements told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix. A handful of priests from the Diocese of Jackson downloaded iBreviary when they attended a training session earlier this year. The app has settings to alert the user to prayer times and offers music and other prayer options.
(Contributing to this story were Dan Russo in Dubuque, Zita Taitano in Jonesboro, Dwain Hebda in Little Rock, Ambria Hammel in Phoenix and Maureen Smith in Jackson.)

Noted black Catholic historian, writer, dies in Indiana

Father Cyprian Davis

Father Cyprian Davis

By Catholic News Service
ST. MEINRAD, Ind. (CNS) — A funeral Mass was celebrated May 21 at St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad for Benedictine Father Cyprian Davis, who died May 18 at Memorial Hospital in Jasper. He was 84.
Father Davis wrote six books, including “The History of Black Catholics in the United States,” published in 1990. He was working on a revised edition of the book at the time of his death.
He also had also written what is considered the definitive biography of Mother Henriette Delille, the black foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family in antebellum New Orleans. Her sainthood cause was opened in 1988 and she was declared venerable in 2010.
Born Clarence John Davis Sept. 9, 1930, in Washington, he joined the Catholic Church as a teenager. He studied at St. Meinrad Seminary from 1949 to 1956, was invested as a novice monk in 1950, professed simple vows in 1951, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1956.
Father Davis received a licentiate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, in 1957, and a licentiate and doctorate in historical sciences from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in 1963 and 1977, respectively.
He began teaching church history at St. Meinrad in 1963, and in 2012 became the school’s first professor emeritus. Father Davis was an archivist of the archabbey. He also belonged to the American Catholic Historical Association and the Society of American Archivists.
He also served as archivist for the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, of which in 1968 he was a founding member. Father Davis contributed to the second draft of “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” the U.S. bishops’ 1979 pastoral letter on racism, and helped write the initial draft of “What We Have Seen and Heard,” the 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization from the nation’s black Catholic bishops.
His other books include “Christ’s Image in Black: The Black Catholic Community Before the Civil War,” “To Prefer Nothing to Christ,” and “The Church: A Living Heritage,” He was co-author of “Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States,” with Georgetown University theology professor Diana Hayes, and “Stamped With the Image of God: African Americans as God’s Image in Black,” with Dominican Sister Jamie T. Phelps.
“Father Cyprian Davis was a significant leader as a Benedictine monk and priest of St. Meinrad Archabbey and as a spiritual writer, historian, and advocate for the vibrant presence of African-American Catholic leaders,” said a May 18 statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“Most of all, Father Cyprian was a humble child of God who sought in an unassuming way to live a life of holiness and to place his considerable talents at the service of Christ and his church,” Archbishop Kurtz added.
Father Davis was honored numerous times. In 2007, he received the Marianist Award from the University of Dayton in Ohio. In 2003, he was awarded the Johannes Quasten Medal for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership in Religious Studies by Catholic University. In 1992, Father Davis won the American Catholic Historical Association’s John Gilmary Shea Prize for “The History of Black Catholics in the United States,” for making the most original and significant contribution to the historiography of the Catholic Church. He also won the Brother Joseph Davis Award in 1991, and was given an honorary degree in 2001 by the University of Notre Dame.
In a 2007 interview with Catholic News Service, Father Davis said his love of history is what helped motivate him to join the church. “I would never describe my odyssey as being an intellectual journey. It was more or less a falling in love with history. It made me fall in love with one of the things history talks about, and that would be the Catholic Church,” he said.
He added his interest in U.S. black Catholic history started upon his return from his studies in Belgium in 1963. “All those times were in ferment, especially in regard to civil rights, and that’s when I began to realize its importance. People began to come and ask me about being black and Catholic: ‘What is my place in the church?'” he recalled. “That’s when I began to realize that this is important. … That’s when I began to do my own research.”
Interviewed at length by CNS in 1999, Father Davis said, “I think to a large extent the mentality of many black Catholics has been that we are a people who are almost like still on mission.” However, he added, “we also should have an understanding of contributions that have been made and are being made. And that there is more to being black and Catholic than the fact that we’ve got nice music,” he noted, laughing, “and that we probably do very, very wonderful liturgies. … There is more.
“There are more things that are out there. And we should be aware. And that we are a part — we are an integral part of the church. That is very important part. We’re an integral part of the church, and we’re not negligible.”
In a 1992 critique of the U.S. bishops’ 1990 pastoral letter “Heritage and Hope: Evangelization in the United States,” written, in preparation for the fifth centenary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas, Father Davis said: “What the pastoral fails to say is that both in North America as well as in South America, the Hispanic culture bore the marks of a Catholicism that was African as well as Native American, was black as well as brown.”
Also missing, he added, was acknowledgement that “bishops, priests, religious men and women, and institutions such as convents, monasteries and seminaries in the United States had their slaves.”
In a 2004 column for CNS, Father Davis said, “In another decade or so U.S. Catholics will learn that our church is more black, brown and in-between than Caucasian and more catholic than they dreamed. Will we be prepared for what that will mean?”
He is survived by a cousin and a niece.