SEARCHers reflect on retreat

The Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson offers the SEARCH retreat two times a year usually once in the fall and spring. High-school students gather for a weekend of faith and fun. Those who attend often return as retreat leaders. Several of this year’s attendees from
the March 3-5 retreat offered some reflections on their experience:

Emma Dieckman
Junior at Madison St. Joseph
Emma planned to attend with friends, but when they could not make it, she was not so sure about the weekend.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
As the weekend went on I just felt God with me the whole time. I’m not Catholic but I do go to a Catholic school so I was used to Catholic things. When people would share their stories about their life and spiritual journey they would just touch me so much. When we listened and sang songs it was like the first time I had ever listened to the words and the first time I realized how powerful the words of songs are.
The whole weekend my relationship with God strengthened and I really grew closer to him. I loved seeing young people and people I go to school with be vulnerable to God. This isn’t even the beginning of how much Search impacted my life, it is very hard to put that into words; you should just go and see it for yourself. I am forever thankful for the friend I made and old friends I rekindled my relationship with, the friends I grew closer to and how much closer I grew to God. Search is 10/10 and I highly recommend.

Olivia Patterson
Junior, Madison St. Francis of Assisi SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESParish
I searched in November of 2016 and I could honestly say that it was the best weekend of my life. Throughout the entire weekend, I met so many amazing new people, learned how Christ has worked through others, and finally realized how he is working through me. I felt an overwhelming amount of love from absolute strangers but most importantly I felt love from God himself. I found myself becoming stronger in my faith everyday after that weekend. My main goal was to come back and staff the retreat, and on March 3rd, 2017, that dream became a reality.

Meredith McLaurin
College Freshman, Tupelo St. James Parish
This is McLaurin’s second time as a retreat leader.
March 2017, will forever be my favorite SEARCH though, we got the chance to dedicate the SEARCH to one of the girls who gave me the retreat. She passed away a month and a half before the retreat, it felt like the best way to honor her. This SEARCH was the most life-changing (event) for me, letting me feel more full of love and faith than before. I got the chance to give a talk again and lead a small group that made a profound impact on me.
My small group bonded together the first night in a way I had never seen before. It was our job as the leaders to help them with their SEARCH journey, but I believe that they helped us as much as we helped them. This small group opened my eyes to new things and how faith can get you through anything. This SEARCH gave me the strength to realize who I am and help me begin to start to figure out what I want to do after I graduate college.
It’s because of SEARCH that I hope to do something that impacts youth every single day, though I may not know now what I am going to do, I do know that I will forever be changed by the weekends I spend at SEARCH. I can’t wait to keep coming back and giving to the one thing that has helped guide me to God every time I wake up.
The next SEARCH retreat will be in the Fall 2017. For more information contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry – Abbey.Schuhmann@jacksondiocese.org, 601-949-6934 or visit http://jacksondiocese.org/about/offices/youth-ministry.

Youth News

SOUTHAVEN – Each year Sacred Heart School students buy paper links for a nickel each and donate the money to a different charity. The children raised a little more than $2,000. This year the money will help the United Way volunteer program. A group of United Way volunteers plans to install running water and electricity in the home of a client of Sacred Heart Southern Missions Social Services.  (Photos by Sr. Margaret Sue Broker)

JACKSON – St. Richard Pre-K students threw beads and candy to the crowd of spectators that lined up for their annual Mardi Gras parade.

VICKSBURG – “King” Sam Armstrong and “Queen” Luella Lambiotte lead the preschool, Montessori and kindergarten classes in the annual Mardi Gras parade outside of Vicksburg Catholic School. Mardi Gras, celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, was traditionally a day to celebrate and eat sweets and meats before the fasting of Lent began. (photo by Ann Robertson)

MCCOMB– At left, preschool students use art to learn about the Bible in St. Alphonsus’ Parish School of Religion. In right photo, Jessica McMillan, at far right, St. Alphonsus Youth Minister begins Parish School of Religion with a song and dance. (Photos by Connie Harrington)

Youth Briefs

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Labor of Love, Saturday, March 11. All 7-12 graders are invited to join us as we help a SHSM client who needs assistance with home repair. Adult helpers are needed as well. Deadline for registering is Sunday, March 5. Details: contact Amanda at (662) 429-3467or holyspiritchurch@shsm.org.

MEMPHIS, Tenn., St. Francis Hospital, mother/daughter program to learn about God’s plan for growing up, becoming a woman and His gifts of sexuality, fertility and chastity, Sunday, March 19, for 10 – 12-year-old girls and Sunday, March 26 for 13 – 16-year-old girls and their mothers. All programs begin at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Francis Hospital, 5959 Park Avenue in Memphis. $25.00 per family. Pre-registration is required. Register online at www.cdom.org. Go to bottom of page and click “2017 Mother/Daughter Programs”. Details: Mary Pat Van Epps at Diocese of Memphis NFP Center (901) 373-1285.

Diocesan Confirmation retreat builds community

Teens play an icebreaker called ‘people bingo.’

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CLINTON — More than 160 young people from across the diocese gathered at Camp Garaway for the diocesan Confirmation Retreat Feb 6-7. In small inset, a poster identifies the ‘pink doves’ group. The small groups gave themselves names based on a color assigned to (Photos by Melissa Smalley)

By Fran Lavelle
CLINTON – What do you get when you mix the Holy Spirit, enthusiastic high school students, dedicated catechists, faith filled college students, an engaging speaker and a beautiful weekend at Camp Garaywa in Clinton? An awesome diocesan high school Confirmation Retreat! The retreat focused on how we are called to service in our families, our community and the world. The Confirmation students were challenged to look for opportunities for service from the smallest acts of kindness.
The retreatants came from parishes of all sizes and demographics from around the diocese Feb. 6-7. Gathered tog

ether, the youth beautifully represented the reality of our Catholic faith in the Diocese of Jackson. All together more than 160 youth and adults came together in to pray, reflect, listen and prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Our speaker was Cari Williams, a youth minister and retreat leader from the Diocese of Alexandria, La. Father Rusty Vincent served as the spiritual director for the weekend. We were blessed to have Catholic students from Mississippi State serve as small group leaders.

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Father Rusty Vincent, spiritual director for the retreat, in the LSU hat, helps with an activity.

On Saturday evening, retreatants had an opportunity to go to Reconciliation and Sunday morning Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated Mass. Recognizing the importance of the sacramental life of the Church helped them better understand the value of completing the sacraments of Initiation through Confirmation. The youth appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Kopacz. The six priests who came out to hear confessions include Msgr. Elvin Sunds, Fathers Jeffrey Waldrep, Jose Sanchez, Joseph Le, Jason Johnston and Vincent. It was an awesome sight to see nearly every student and adult present to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Asked what they would take away from the retreat many of the young people commented that they recognized a need to spend more time with God. They also saw what the

larger Catholic Church in our diocese looks like, especially for smaller parishes with 2-3 students in the Confirmation program.
Making new friends was a natural by-product of the weekend. I hope they continue to pray for one another and reflect on the message of service. I invite you to pray for all the young people in our diocese who are being prepared for the Sacrament of Confirmation. They need our prayers as much as we need their full and active participation in the Church. Confirmation is not Catholic graduation. It is only the beginning of a wonderful life of faith, service and friendship.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Youth News

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Labor of Love, Saturday, March 11. All 7-12 graders are invited to join us as we help a SHSM client who needs assistance with home repair. Adult helpers are needed as well. Deadline for registering is Sunday, March 5. Details: contact Amanda at (662) 429-3467or holyspiritchurch@shsm.org.

MEMPHIS, Tenn., St. Francis Hospital, mother/daughter program to learn about God’s plan for growing up, becoming a woman and His gifts of sexuality, fertility and chastity, Sunday, March 19, for 10 – 12-year-old girls and Sunday, March 26 for 13 – 16-year-old girls and their mothers. All programs begin at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Francis Hospital, 5959 Park Avenue in Memphis. $25.00 per family. Pre-registration is required. Register online at www.cdom.org. Go to bottom of page and click “2017 Mother/Daughter Programs”. Details: Mary Pat Van Epps at Diocese of Memphis NFP Center (901) 373-1285.

 

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MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School students Elizabeth Rush and Amelia Jones carry the first grade banner during the March to City Hall on the Monday of Catholic Schools week.

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JACKSON – Knights of Columbus Council 15131 hosted its annual Free Throw Competition Saturday, January 28, in the St. Richard Gym. Eleven of the 32 contestants qualified for the regional/state competition set for February 18. The winners included overall winner Alan Garrison. Lilly Luckett and Cy Stephens, both age 10, Sabine Cook and Charlie Zhang, both 11, Cooper Chaplain, age 12, Robert Archer, age 13, Farrell Moorehead and Nicholas Brilley, both 14), Michael Doherty, 15, and Cullen Moorehead, 16. (Photo courtesy of Rusty Haydel)

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NATCHEZ – Stephanie Daly, Science Lab Facilitator, assists fourth grade students Autumn Ferguson, Landon French, Troy Dillon and Kolemyn Fisher in an experiment to see which type of citrus fruit produces the biggest reaction with baking soda. They were testing oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. (Photo courtesy of Cara Serio)

 

 

Culumbus - Eighth-grade student, Matthew Swiderski gets dusted at the CSW color run. (PHoto by Katie Fenstermacher)

Culumbus – Eighth-grade student, Matthew Swiderski gets dusted at the CSW color run. (PHoto by Katie Fenstermacher)

 

 

Youth News

JACKSON -- Father John Bohn, pastor, speaks to the St. Richard School  sixth-grade Newcomb team before the teachers (and pastor) versus students game on the Friday of Catholic Schools Week.

JACKSON — Father John Bohn, pastor, speaks to the St. Richard School sixth-grade Newcomb team before the teachers (and pastor) versus students game on the Friday of Catholic Schools Week.

JACKSON -- Father John Bohn, pastor, spikes a ball during the students versus teachers Newcomb game at St. Richard School.

JACKSON — Father John Bohn, pastor, spikes a ball during the students versus teachers Newcomb game at St. Richard School.

JACKSON – Students soundly defeated their teachers and pastor Father John Bohn in a game of Newcomb, a game much like volleyball, against to cap off their Catholic Schools Week celebration. (Photos by Chris Lombard.)

JACKSON – Students soundly defeated their teachers and pastor Father John Bohn in a game of Newcomb, a game much like volleyball, against to cap off their Catholic Schools Week celebration. (Photos by Chris Lombard.)

MADISON – Students at Madison St. Anthony School got to show their parents all around their school, including demonstrating the work they do in the computer lab during STREAM night as part of Catholic Schools Week. In the art studio, students demonstrated a motion and balance with a kinetic sculpture, they downloaded and showed off their apps in the computer lab, showed how “Math is everywhere in the math lab and took on an engineering challenge in the media center. STREAM stands for the integration of science, technology, religion engineering, art and math. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Beatty)

MADISON – Students at Madison St. Anthony School got to show their parents all around their school, including demonstrating the work they do in the computer lab during STREAM night as part of Catholic Schools Week. In the art studio, students demonstrated a motion and balance with a kinetic sculpture, they downloaded and showed off their apps in the computer lab, showed how “Math is everywhere in the math lab and took on an engineering challenge in the media center. STREAM stands for the integration of science, technology, religion engineering, art and math. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Beatty)

MADISON – Students at Madison St. Anthony School got to show their parents all around their school, including demonstrating the work they do in the computer lab during STREAM night as part of Catholic Schools Week. In the art studio, students demonstrated a motion and balance with a kinetic sculpture, they downloaded and showed off their apps in the computer lab, showed how “Math is everywhere in the math lab and took on an engineering challenge in the media center. STREAM stands for the integration of science, technology, religion engineering, art and math. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Beatty)

MADISON – Students at Madison St. Anthony School got to show their parents all around their school, including demonstrating the work they do in the computer lab during STREAM night as part of Catholic Schools Week. In the art studio, students demonstrated a motion and balance with a kinetic sculpture, they downloaded and showed off their apps in the computer lab, showed how “Math is everywhere in the math lab and took on an engineering challenge in the media center. STREAM stands for the integration of science, technology, religion engineering, art and math. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Beatty)

MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School hosted their first ever Reading Fair on Thursday, Jan. 19. Above, Audrey Lee explains her project to the judge, Ann Blackledge. The fair was coordinated by Jodi Lovette, teacher at St. Patrick School. First place winners move on the regional fair on February 24th. (Photo by Jennifer David)

MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School hosted their first ever Reading Fair on Thursday, Jan. 19. Above, Audrey Lee explains her project to the judge, Ann Blackledge. The fair was coordinated by Jodi Lovette, teacher at St. Patrick School. First place winners move on the regional fair on February 24th. (Photo by Jennifer David)

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth, Grace (Gifted) Students are learning about Hover Crafts propelled by air moving from the balloons through the air holes that have been punched in bottle caps glued to CDs.  The Hover Craft rides on the cushion of air between the CD and the floor.

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth, Grace (Gifted) Students are learning about Hover Crafts propelled by air moving from the balloons through the air holes that have been punched in bottle caps glued to CDs. The Hover Craft rides on the cushion of air between the CD and the floor.

VICKSBURG –Bishop Kopacz celebrated Mass with Father P.J. Curley at Vicksburg Catholic Schools on Thursday, Feb. 2. Even the Montessori Students got to be a part of the celebration. (Photo courtesy of Ann Roberson)

VICKSBURG –Bishop Kopacz celebrated Mass with Father P.J. Curley at Vicksburg Catholic Schools on Thursday, Feb. 2. Even the Montessori Students got to be a part of the celebration. (Photo courtesy of Ann Roberson)

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke with students at St. Thea Bowman school before a prayer service to celebrate Catholic Schools Week. (Photo by Karla Luke)

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke with students at St. Thea Bowman school before a prayer service to celebrate Catholic Schools Week. (Photo by Karla Luke)

SOUTHAVEN –Students from Sacred Heart School collected a million alumninum can tabs to the Ronald McDonald House as one of their service projects on Thursday, Feb. 2. The can tops will bring in extra money for the house. (Photo by Sr. Margaret Sue  Broker)

SOUTHAVEN –Students from Sacred Heart School collected a million alumninum can tabs to the Ronald McDonald House as one of their service projects on Thursday, Feb. 2. The can tops will bring in extra money for the house. (Photo by Sr. Margaret Sue Broker)

MADISON --Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited Madison St. Joseph school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town.  (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

MADISON –Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited Madison St. Joseph school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town. (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

MADISON –  Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses a new telescope at the Hulett observatory at St. Joseph High School on Friday, Jan. 27. As part of the dedication, Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited the school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town. In right photo, Phillip Smith listens to Filippenko speak at one of the public events. The scientist spoke about his love for science and encouraged students to explore and make new discoveries. He joked with the bishop that he had never been to a telescope blessing before.  (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

MADISON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses a new telescope at the Hulett observatory at St. Joseph High School on Friday, Jan. 27. As part of the dedication, Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited the school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town. In right photo, Phillip Smith listens to Filippenko speak at one of the public events. The scientist spoke about his love for science and encouraged students to explore and make new discoveries. He joked with the bishop that he had never been to a telescope blessing before. (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

MADISON –  Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses a new telescope at the Hulett observatory at St. Joseph High School on Friday, Jan. 27. As part of the dedication, Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited the school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town. In right photo, Phillip Smith listens to Filippenko speak at one of the public events. The scientist spoke about his love for science and encouraged students to explore and make new discoveries. He joked with the bishop that he had never been to a telescope blessing before.  (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

MADISON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses a new telescope at the Hulett observatory at St. Joseph High School on Friday, Jan. 27. As part of the dedication, Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Alex Filippenko visited the school, speaking to students, parents and even visiting Millsaps College while he was in town. In right photo, Phillip Smith listens to Filippenko speak at one of the public events. The scientist spoke about his love for science and encouraged students to explore and make new discoveries. He joked with the bishop that he had never been to a telescope blessing before. (Photos by Dave Vowell of Vowell photography)

Jeans, Jazz and Bruin Blues set for Feb. 18

MADISON – Tickets are still available – but are selling fast – for a chance at $10,000 during a night of fun, gourmet food and live entertainment. Saint Joseph School’s 24th annual Jeans, Jazz and Bruin Blues Draw Down is set for Saturday, February 18, from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. on the campus.
The school’s gymnasium and cafeteria will be transformed into lively venues for great food and good times. An open bar, live auction, silent auctions, raffles for themed-baskets and specialty beers, a wall of wine and door prizes round out the activities and add to the excitement of the draw down.
A draw down is a “reverse raffle” with tickets drawn throughout the evening. The owner of the last ticket remaining wins the $10,000 grand prize.
Back by popular demand is the “first choice raffle.” Only 100 first choice tickets, at $100 each, will be sold. Prior to the start of the live auction, one of these tickets will be selected, giving the winner his/her choice of one of the items up for auction. A beer raffle and the wine wall allow people to take a chance on their favorite beverages.
A ticket admitting two adults is $130, with optional insurance available for $20. The “insurance” places a ticket back in the drawing if it’s one of the first 100 pulled.
Sponsorships are still available. There are several levels of sponsorship, which start at $300. Sponsors get event tickets and different levels of recognition.
Organizers limit ticket sales and this event consistently sells out. Purchase tickets online at www.stjoebruins.com, from the school office during regular school hours or by calling 601-898-4803.

Youth News

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20. At far right, pre-kindergarten students become the barnyard animals for the show.  (Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20. At far right, pre-kindergarten students become the barnyard animals for the show.
(Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

MADISON – To celebrate the Advent Season, St. Anthony students performed their Christmas program for parents, staff, and friends on Monday, Dec. 19. Above, John Charles Camarato, Benedict Jones, and Mamie Heitzmann gaze over baby Jesus. (Photo courtesy of Teresa McMullin.)

MADISON – To celebrate the Advent Season, St. Anthony students performed their Christmas program for parents, staff, and friends on Monday, Dec. 19. Above, John Charles Camarato, Benedict Jones, and Mamie Heitzmann gaze over baby Jesus. (Photo courtesy of Teresa McMullin.)

SOUTHAVEN – Norah Johnson, seventh grade student, waits for her winning word – phrenologists – in the Sacred Heart School Spelling Bee. She will represent our school in the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis. (Photo by Sr. Margaret Sue Broker)

SOUTHAVEN – Norah Johnson, seventh grade student, waits for her winning word – phrenologists – in the Sacred Heart School Spelling Bee. She will represent our school in the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis. (Photo by Sr. Margaret Sue Broker)

NATCHEZ – Cathedral School elementary students had a visit from St. Nicholas on his feast day of Dec. 6. Above, surprised first grader Aven Adcock collects treats from her shoe in the hallway. (Photo courtesy of Cara Serio)

NATCHEZ – Cathedral School elementary students had a visit from St. Nicholas on his feast day of Dec. 6. Above, surprised first grader Aven Adcock collects treats from her shoe in the hallway. (Photo courtesy of Cara Serio)

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20.  Fifth-grader Elijah Clarke helps act out the Nativity story.  (Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Fifth-grader Elijah Clarke helps act out the Nativity story.
(Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20.   (Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

COLUMBUS – Students at Annuncation School presented a Christmas Extravaganza on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
(Photos courtesy of Katie Fenstermacher)

Students moved by Spirit at Seek 2017

DENVER, Colo., — Nearly 13,000 attendees, most of them college students, charged up their faith at SEEK2017, January 3 – 7, in San Antonio, Texas. Representatives from the Diocese of Jackson included students from the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State as well as other campus ministry leaders. The biennial event, hosted by the Fellowship of Cath

Students who attended the SEEK conference attended adoration as well as other liturgies. (Photo courtesy of SEEK)

Students who attended the SEEK conference attended adoration as well as other liturgies. (Photo courtesy of SEEK)

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SAN ANTIONIO, Tex. – More than 6,000 young adults took advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation during the SEEK2017 conference. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Prevish, SEEK)

olic University Students (FOCUS), featured the theme “What Moves You.” Throughout the conference, attendees learned to see the truth of how God seeks them with sacrificial love and invites them to encounter Him with their whole hearts.
Chicago natives Kelley, Lauren and Maggie Hartman experienced SEEK2017 in different ways. It was the first national FOCUS conference for each of these three sisters. Maggie, a senior at Harvard University studying pre-med and religion who will be a FOCUS missionary after graduation, said, “You can see Christ reflected in each person and how He desires to meet each of us individually.”
Her twin sisters Kelley and Lauren are freshman at University of South Alabama. Kelley added, “this has shown me there are 13,000 people with me with the same beliefs and goals as I have.” Lauren reflected, “It’s been life-changing to be a part of something larger and more powerful than I ever thought. I’m excited to go back to college to share my faith with others.”
Nearly 53,000 people have attended FOCUS events since the inaugural National Conference held in 1999, where 25 students came together to pray, deepen their Catholic faith and learn how to share Christ with others. SEEK2017 attendees came from more than 500 college campuses, and a few dozen international attendees hailed from several other countries. The largest campus contingent was from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with nearly 400 registrants.

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SAN ANTIONIO, Tex. – Nearly 13,000 young adults attended SEEK2017, including several groups from the Diocese of Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Prevish, SEEK)

“Our hope for SEEK2017 is that God will light a fire in the hearts of young leaders,” said Curtis Martin, CEO and founder of FOCUS. “Then as we return to our campuses all over the country, we can encourage one another to live as world-changers.”
More than 300 priests concelebrated daily Mass. Adoration and confession throughout the event provided many opportunities for reflection and prayer. The Holy Spirit opened many hearts on Thursday night, with adoration in the main hall. That evening alone, more than 4,000 people went to confession. Over the course of the event, more than 6,000 confessed their sins to priests during the sacrament of reconciliation.
“I hope this week at SEEK2017 young adults experienced the Lord seeking each of them in a unique way,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. “When people experience that God is seeking them, they’ll be more likely to seek Him as well.”
Many of the talks will be available in a few weeks for digital download at www.shopfocus.org.
(Story and photos provided by Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS))

St. Aloysius building named for Father Al Camp

The exterior of the newly re-named Father Al Camp building at Vicksburg Catholic School.

The exterior of the newly re-named Father Al Camp building at Vicksburg Catholic School.

By Mary Margaret Halford
VICKSBURG – It was nearly 4 a.m. on a frosty February morning in 1977 when Father Alfred Camp got the call that St. Aloysius High School was burning.
The then-principal immediately got up, dressed, and headed straight for the school. “I was driving down Clay Street, and I saw all those fire trucks and police cars, and thought to myself, ‘well, I guess we’ve got a fire,’” Camp said.
“It was heartbreaking, the smoke and the flames bellowing from the rooftop,” said Jimmy Salmon, who was teaching at the time of the fire. “We weren’t just primarily concerned with finishing that school year, but about the future of St. Aloysius High School.”
As firefighters worked to contain the blaze on the other end of the building, Father Camp approached Salmon and said they needed to get Sister Matthew’s typewriters out,  they’d be needing them for school that week.
“I looked at him and said ‘Father, the school is still burning,’ and he got that little smirk he gets when you try to tell him something,” Salmon said. “I wasn’t going to tell him no, so I turned and followed him into the school.”
After the fire was finally extinguished, Father Camp organized groups of people – teachers, parents, and students alike – to rummage through the debris and salvage desks, books, or anything they could and move it to the gym.
“In all that confusion, Father Camp had the presence of mind to turn this gym into a school,” Salmon said. “He said it was important to get the message to the community that a little fire would not shut the doors of St. Aloysius. And more importantly, to let parents and students know they wouldn’t have to search for a new school, we weren’t going anywhere.”

VICKSBURG – Father Al Camp, left, receives congratulations from Father PJ Curley, pastor of St. Michael Parish, after the Mass. (Photos by Holly Chewning.)

VICKSBURG – Father Al Camp, left, receives congratulations from Father PJ Curley, pastor of St. Michael Parish, after the Mass. (Photos by Holly Chewning.)

On Thursday, he returned to that very same gym, this time filled with hundreds of current and former students and teachers who were there to celebrate the naming of the St. Al school building after Father Camp.
“This is a great day, that we’re finally recognizing the individual that I believe saved St. Aloysius,” Salmon told the crowd after a Mass in the gym.
In the days and weeks following the fire, Father Camp was told raising money for a new school wasn’t feasible, that the elementary school could still operate but the high school should not.
“I can remember Father Camp laughing, saying St. Aloysius would not close its doors on his watch,” Salmon said. “I truly believe that if it were not for Father Camp, we would not be sitting here today, we would not have a school.”
Though the fire was a defining moment in his tenure at St. Al, other former teachers and students spoke of Camp’s inspiration as an educator.
Father Camp was a disciplinarian, especially for those students wandering the halls during class time, according to Lisa Reid.
Camp always had a specific question for those nomad students, “Where’s your box?” Where were they supposed to be?
When Reid met with Camp to choose classes for her senior year, her heart was set on study hall, a break from an otherwise tough schedule.
“But Father Camp said ‘that’s not available to you.’ I was crushed,” she said.
He then laid out two options – physics or journalism. Reid chose journalism, the field she wound up getting a degree in before working for years in newspapers and as an English and journalism teacher at St. Al.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz preaches at the Mass to honor Father Al Camp by naming a building in his honor at Vicksburg Catholic School.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz preaches at the Mass to honor Father Al Camp by naming a building in his honor at Vicksburg Catholic School.

“Even though I thought study hall was my box, you knew it was not,” Reid said to Father Camp at the dedication. “Through the years, though you kept asking where our boxes were, I think you had a pretty good idea of the answer. I’m sure I speak for thousands of students whose lives you touched when I say we’re deeply grateful for your wisdom and guidance in helping us find our way.”
During morning prayer the day of the dedication, current principal, Buddy Strickland, told the students to look in front, behind, to the left and to the right of each other.
“What you’re seeing is Father Camp’s legacy,” Strickland told them.
“I didn’t expect all this, I appreciate it so much,” Camp told the crowd gathered to honor him for his years in Vicksburg. “My dad’s name was Aloysius Joseph Camp…I guess that meant I was destined to be at St. Aloysius a long time. I think my dad would say ‘good job’.”
(Mary Margaret Halford is a member of Vicksburg St. Paul Parish.)