Greenville school rallies around student in need

Aries Cotton

By Missi Blackstock
GREENVILLE – The St. Joseph School community is rallying around one of their own this year, rolling up their sleeves and pulling up to the table. Aries Cotton is a 12-year-old eighth grader at St. Joseph School. At the beginning of the school year, Cotton began having night sweats and loss of appetite. He later passed out during football practice. The doctor did blood work and discovered that he had an abnormal blood count, very low immune system, and a swollen spleen. The doctor referred him to the children’s entomologist/hematologist at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.
On Friday, October 6, 2017, Cotton was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The following Monday, he underwent surgery to place a chemo-portal in his chest. A biopsy was done on his bone marrow to determine how many cancer cells were present. The results showed 85 percent cancer cells in his bone marrow, but no cancer cells in his brain. Cotton has been cancer-cell-free since December but must continue maintenance chemo for the remainder of the year.
Because Cotton’s cancer includes the Philadelphia Chromosome, the teen must take a costly chemotherapy pill. The Philadelphia chromosome has been known to destroy a patient’s bone marrow, but this damage may be prevented by taking this medication. Funds are being raised to help cover travel and medical expenses during his treatments and recovery. Cotton must travel from one to four days each week to Batson Children’s Hospital for Induction A, sometimes becoming in-patient for days on end. His mother had to give up her job to care for him, finances have been a great strain on the family.
Cotton’s eighth-grade class has held three fund-raisers. They have sold bracelets (which are still for sale for $5 in the front office), #AriesStrong T-shirts as well as hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 3. The senior class, of which Aries’ brother Reggie is a member, has also held two bake sales. Because of generous donors, 100 percent of all proceeds have been given to the Cotton family.
More than 65 pints of blood have already been donated by St Joseph students, parents and the local community. Anyone wishing to help, may donate at their local Mississippi Blood Services drawing station or any mobile drive by using the code: DQ49 or call the school at 662-378-9711.


College students serve homeless in Jackson

By Dawn McGinley
JACKSON – Volunteers from Mississippi State University’s Catholic Campus Ministry have started traveling to Mississippi’s capital city once a month to meet with and visit the homeless. “The project was inspired by our trip to the SEEK Conference in San Antonio, Tx in January 2017. There was a group at the conference named Christ in the City from Denver, Colorado,” explained Dawn McGinley, campus minister at Starkville St. Joseph Parish. “Their goal is to talk to the homeless – to connect with them and help them to see they have dignity. This inspired our group, so that is our goal. We bring relief bags which include basic necessities such as socks, lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, underwear, tissues, etc.,” she added.
The college students and St. Joseph parishioners have also formed a group that gets together every Monday night to recycle plastic grocery sacks into sleeping mats. The bags are flattened and cut and then crocheted or knitted together to form a mat a homeless person can use.
“We normally meet people at Smith Park but it has been closed for a few months,” said McGinley. “We are in the process of reorganizing our approach,” she said.

Schools celebrate Dr. Seuss by Reading Across America

GREENVILLE – Our Lady of Lourdes sixth grader Elese Serio reads to Charles Beckham. The pair are dressed as characters from the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat” to honor the author’s birthday. Schools across the nation marked the day with Read Across America activities. At Lourdes, students brought in gently used books in the weeks before Friday, March 2. On that day, students could ‘shop’ the used books to find one new to them. (Photo by Kathy Gower)



JACKSON – Sister Thea Bowman School student Caleb Johnson reads to classmates on Read Across America Day, Friday, March 2. The students are wearing Cat in the Hat costumes they made themselves. (Photo by Shae Robinson)

Mardi Gras in Natchez

NATCHEZ – Friday, February 9, Cathedral Elementary School celebrated Mardi Gras with a fifth grade royalty parade, complete with floats, throws and costumes. At right, King Aiden Huff and Queen Lacy Welch throw necklaces to the crowd.

Below: Lily Crum looking into the crowd after tossing a handful of Mardi Gras beads as the “Dukes” float makes its rounds. (Photos by Cara Serio)

Southaven students get library upgrade

By Laura Grisham
SOUTHAVEN – When students at Sacred Heart School returned from the Christmas holidays, they were delighted to see their library had received a grand facelift. The tired carpet and bland colors were replaced with new flooring, vibrant hues, as well as new bookshelves, tables and seating.
The inspiration for the improvements came from the evolution of how people today consume information. The role of libraries and librarians has changed. Today’s libraries are not intended only for silent reading and studying. Students need a space to collaborate and problem solve together.
“Since I became the librarian at Sacred Heart, I noticed areas of the library that needed upgrades and improvements. I started with small, inexpensive projects, such as changing the way the books were displayed on the shelves and weeding our collection of materials. Sister Margaret Sue (Booker) gave me some ideas based on how she displayed books in her classroom,” said librarian Rae Davis.
The furniture that was purchased is more mobile. Now tables and chairs can be rearranged based on class activities. The space is now more accommodating for both younger and older students. Books and resources are much easier for students to locate — arranged by grade level and interests.
Davis said that she and school principal Bridget Martin had many conversations about how the space could be improved, but funding had always been a stumbling block. “Furniture and flooring are very expensive,” said Rae.
That all changed when the school hosted it’s first annual Race For Education Day last spring. Students raised money by finding individuals and businesses to sponsor them to jog or walk in a race that took place during the school day. Students participated by grade level and raced for about an hour. Volunteers helped students keep track of their laps. A local DJ played music and held games for the students; and parents grilled hamburgers for lunch. The wildly successful event raised more than $30,000 for the school.
Although much of the renovation has been completed, there are a few minor details left to tackle. Davis says that she plans to purchase some new shelving units and add some color to the old shelves.
“I am so appreciative of the support I’ve received from our PTO and from Mrs. Martin. The library should be the heart of the school, and these improvements not only will help me serve our students better, but they will help students better utilize the library as well,” Davis beamed.
(Laura Grisham is the Public Relations director for Sacred Heart Southern Missions)

SOUTHAVEN – Librarian Rae Davis teaches middle school students in the newly refurbished Sacred Heart School Library. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

Abbey Youth Fest invitation

Excitement is growing for Abbey Youth Fest 2018 which will be held Saturday, March 17, at St. Joseph Abbey, Covington, La. Youth in grades eight-12 can attend. There is a $40 registration fee plus the cost of meals. Abbey Youth Fest was established in 2001 as an apostolic outreach of the Saint Joseph Abbey and Seminary College.
It is designed to provide young people with an opportunity to experience a day of prayer and faith formation with an exposure to the Benedictine tradition. Are your youth registered?
Contact Abbey Schuhmann at for more information. The Diocese of Jackson will sponsor bus transportation.