Youth News

Silly science wows Sacres Heart

SOUTHAVEN – University of Mississippi science professor Dr. Breese Quinn  and some of his students wowed Sacred Heart school with demonstrations of physics and science. The students used air to levitate and direct ping-pong balls; distributed force to lay on a bed of nails and watched liquid nitrogen transform marshmallows transform into brittle frozen treats. Alex Pham, above, left, reacts to the cold. (Photos by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

Project to grow on

CLARKSDALE – Students at St. Elizabeth School made terrariums in the 4H Cloverbuds Program after school.

Under the Sea on the stage

COLUMBUS – On April 6-7, Annunciation School middle school students performed The Little Mermaid for sold out crowds! The entire cast takes a bow at the grand finale. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)


Crowning Mary

GREENVILLE – Students at St. Joseph School gathered in the outdoor prayer garden for the May Crowining. Senior Class President Allison Wise crowned Mary. (Photo by Missi Blackstock)

MERIDIAN – Matthew Wilson holds a banner while Ellie Rush places a crown of flowers on a statue of Mary during St. Patrick School’s May Crowning Mass on May 4. Ms. Pressly’s first-grade students participated in the Mass and placed flowers at Mary’s feet.(Photo by Helen Reynolds)

Matthew Wilson and Ellie Rush











GRENADA – Above, Father Aroika Savio, pastor, places rosary beads in Mary’s hands while, at right, Blaire Johnson places flowers during a Mass at St. Peter on Sunday, May 7. (Photo by Michael Liberto )


Leading the way on Holy Week

RIPLEY – The youth from St. Matthew Parish led stations of the cross outside during Holy week. Fourteen students participated in the hour-long devotion on the parish grounds. (Photo by Madeleine C. Hale)

Easter Egg tradtion

JACKSON – Children from pre-k through sixth grade claim prizes at the St. Richard Egg Hunt on the First Sunday of Easter. The parish’s youth groups organize the activity. (Photos by Maureen Smith)


Trevor Muzzi

GREENVILLE – St. Joseph Catholic School Junior Trevor Muzzi has been selected to play in Omaha, Nebraska from June 17 to June 22 with the 18u UnderArmour National Baseball Team.  “At these select nationwide events, top high school talent is showcased for over 100 college coaches and professional scouts. Through this joint association, Baseball Factory’s players not only receive quality training and guidance, but also the kind of exposure essential for success at the next level (Photo courtesy of Missi Blackstock)

Program seeks to connect students, campus ministry

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

Southaven Sacred Heart School recognized for service learning program

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Southaven Sacred Heart School brought some national recognition home from this year’s National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) convention held in St. Louis April 18-20. Sacred Heart School was one of three finalists in Innovations in Catholic Education (ICE) award presented by the magazine Today’s Catholic Teacher.
The school was nominated for its Catholic identity program. It’s a two-pronged program. “Our theme for this year was ‘mercy knows no bounds,’” explained Bridget Martin, principal. Each month, the school highlighted two things, the diversity within its own community and contributions the students can make on their own.

WALLS – Elian Munoz from Sacred Heart School works at the Sacred Heart Southern Missions food Pantry in November as part of service learning. The school was one of three recognized nationally for innovative Catholic identity programs. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

“Our 325 students represent 17 nationalities,” said Martin. Each month families from these nations get space in the school lobby to put up a display about their culture and students learn more about their neighbors. This month, Guatemala takes center stage. The second part of the identity program highlights community involvement.
The priests of Sacred Heart sponsor 13 different social service ministries in northeast Mississippi. Students learn about each one in a way appropriate to their age group. “Each month a representative from a different ministry comes to speak to them. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders will even go to the ministries to do service projects,” said Martin. At the end of the month the students have ‘denim days’ on which they can pay to wear denim and the money goes to the ministry of the month. “So we have been learning about and praying for and supporting the ministry all month,” said Martin.
“We hope that when they grow up, if they find they are in need, they will know where to go for help. We also hope that when they grow up, if they have a gift or a talent they will volunteer or donate to help their communities,” said Martin. She added that many students who go on to Catholic high schools in Memphis return to fulfill their service hours at Sacred Heart or one of the social service organizations.
This is not the only innovative program the school has offered. This year, Sacred Heart switched its fund-raiser from golf to running, but with a twist. The school offered a fun run during the school day. Different classes ran during different times of the day and were joined by parents and other community members. “The police came out at one point and ran with the kids and they loved that,” said Martin. The activities included inflatable bounce houses.
Martin promised if they topped $20,000 she would sleep on the school roof. On Tuesday, May 2, the effort had gathered $31,000 and Martin was headed up with a member of her maintenance staff to find a safe spot to ‘camp.’ “The last time I promised to do this my school had a flat roof,” she joked. The money will go toward new library furniture.

Spring Hill College to offer

Spring Hill College’s Summer Institute of Christian Spirituality will offer a course on Walker Percy’s “Tarnished Woman of Grace” during our first session (June 5-9) on the campus in Mobile. The course will focus on Percy’s later book, “The Second Coming,” a book about suicide, testing God, faith and redemption (through the grace of a woman escaped from an insane asylum). The course will be 5 days, each morning from 9-11 a.m.

Walker Percy, born in Alabama, growing up in Mississippi, and living and writing in Louisiana, is one of the great Southern Catholic writers (He was an adult convert to Catholicism). He became known as a “Southern Catholic writer” when he wrote the essay “Stoicism in the South” in 1956 for Commonweal, condemning southern segregation and advocating a new kind of Christian philosophy in Southern life.

His most famous book, “The Moviegoer,” published in 1960 won the National Book Award. In 1989, the University of Notre Dame awarded Percy its Laetare Medal, which is bestowed annually to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church, and enriched the heritage of humanity.” Walker Percy was buried on the grounds of St. Joseph Benedictine Abbey in St. Benedict, LA.

About the course, Dr. Katherine Abernathy says, “I would say that Christians in the South should read Percy because they will find a fresh look at their faith. He is irreverent and hilarious, yet his response to spiritual despair is Catholic at its depth.”

Dr. Katherine Abernathy is an associate professor of English at the University of Mobile where she has taught since 1997. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Dallas in 2000. Her research interests have focused on Southern literature, especially Walker Percy and Caroline Gordon, and she is currently working on a study of the works of the modern Norwegian novelist Sigrid Undset.

For more information on the Summer Institute of Christian Spirituality at Spring Hill College go to or call (877) 857-6742.


Charities tournament benefits

JACKSON – Catholic Charities hosted its annual Charity Tennis Tournament March 30-April 7 at River Hills Club. One unique feature of this event is Kid’s Day, held this year on Wednesday, April 5.

The day began early when 55 students from Rowan Middle School arrived at River Hills. They were all wearing matching Kids Day t-shirts made for the event. USTA officials gave the students an overview of the game of tennis. They were then joined by students from the Brinkley Junior High tennis team.

The interesting thing about the Brinkley group is that they are part of a newly formed team made up of members who were introduced to tennis for the first time at this very kids day event during the past two years.

Soon after instuction, all the students watched as the ladies on the pro-circuit competed. They then moved to an hour of on-court instruction provided by both pro circuit players and local tennis pros. From there the enjoyed lunch at the club while hearing from a local speaker.

The tournament consists of pro-am play as well as Catholic Charities events, dinners and luncheons every day. Money from this tournaments goes to children’s programs at Charities. This year’s winner was Barbara Haas from Austria.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz congratulates the singles winner, Barbara Haas from Austria. (Photos submitted by Julie O’Brien)

Abbey Youth Fest returns

By Abbey Schuhmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 –, 601-949-6934 or visit

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

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 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.’


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.


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.)