November saints offer light in dark days

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

The month of November is upon us with the deepening of darkness at day’s end and, spiritually, with the feasts of All Saints and all Souls that remind us that the Light of the World always shines in the darkness. Much more ardently in November and early December, the Catholic Church looks beyond what is seen to what is unseen when eternal life unfolds in its fullness. Ultimately, our citizenship is in heaven and eternal life envelops us.
Yet, in every season, the Church never is given a pass on living the Gospel with the mind and heart of the One who will come to judge the living and the dead. In fact, in November and December with the onset of the holidays, the Church along with many other organizations and people of good will, ramps up its efforts to serve the vulnerable poor and marginalized and to be in solidarity with all. We have some wonderful saints in November who are a lamp for our feet to walk with the Lord more faithfully in our generation.
Saint Martin de Porres, whose feast day is November 3 each year, is one such disciple of the Lordwho can inspire many in our world to raise up those ensnared by darkness. Martin was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579. He was the illegitimate son to a Spanish gentlemen and a freed slave from Panama, of African or possibly Native American descent. At a young age, Martin’s father abandoned him, his mother and his younger sister, leaving Martin to grow up in profound poverty. After spending just two years in primary school, Martin was placed with a barber/surgeon where he would learn to cut hair and to apply the medical arts.
As Martin grew older he experienced a great deal of ridicule for being of mixed-race. In Peru, by law, all descendants of African or Indians were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. However, not even unrelenting hardship and abandonment could separate Martin from the love of Jesus Christ. Gradually his resolute commitment to pour out his life in the footsteps of the Master overcame the prejudices and racism of his culture and the Church. Until the time of his death at 60 years old in 1639 he was praised for his unconditional care of all people, regardless of race or wealth. He took care of everyone from the Spanish nobles to the African slaves. Martin didn’t care if the person was diseased or dirty, he would welcome them into his own home. Martin’s life reflected his great love for God and all of God’s gifts. This is the Church at work.
Mother Teresa-like, in every corner of the world, the incarnate Lord washing the feet of his apostles and pouring out his life on the Cross. In yesterday’s scripture readings at Mass, Saint Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians, in the earliest recorded written word in the New Testament, about 50 A.D., reveals the Gospel charism which has transformed lives and cultures for nearly 2000 years.
“Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1Thes 2, 7b-9)
The witness of Saint Paul and Saint Martin, of Mother Teresa and of all the saints, Catholic and non-Catholic, canonized or not, is the leaven of loving service in our Church and in our world that will overcome the hatred and violence, the greed and the lust that continue to poison the life-blood of our nation and world. With a greater sense of urgency in the face of encroaching darkness, in nature and at the hands of those driven by evil and along with the countless opportunities for generosity and solidarity that beckon us in the time ahead, may we heed the call of the Lord to live the Gospel and value the things that really matter.

The shepherd who didn’t run: Father Stanley Rother priest and martyr

BY BISHOP JOSEPH KOPACZ In 2003 I was privileged to travel to El Salvador and Guatemala to the shrines of the martyrs with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers who had served in Central America in the preceding decades. The home base for our two-week pilgrimage was the Maryknoll Retreat Center in Guatemala City from where we traveled to the mountainous regions of that nation, as well as across the border to El Salvador. This weekend I am attending the beatification of Father Stanley Rother, one of those martyrs, a priest from Oklahoma City who laid down his life for his friends, the Tz’utujil, the indigenous people of the Lake Atitlan region in the mountains of Guatemala. Following the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI called for greater solidarity in the Catholic Church of the Western Hemisphere, and encouraged the Church in North America to journey in faith with their brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in Central and South America. Soon after, as we know so well, the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson began its mission in Saltillo, Mexico, while
the Diocese of Oklahoma City was adopting the region of Lake Atitlan in the Diocese of Solola, Guatemala. Father Stanley Rother became part of the mission of his diocese in 1968, and immersed himself in the lives of the Tz’utujil people until his martyrdom in 1981. Like the Curé of Ars, Father Rother had struggled mightily with his academic studies in seminary formation, and was dismissed after First Theology. But he did not waver in his desire to the serve the Lord as a priest, and with the support of his bishop, he was given a second chance at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmetsburg, Md. With the successful completion of his studies he was ordained a priest in 1963. While serving in rural Oklahoma in his fifth year of priesthood, he accepted the invitation to go to the margins as a missionary disciple to the diocesan mission in Guatemala. It was not an easy transition because he did not speak Spanish, let alone the dialect of the indigenous Tz’utujil. However, one dimension of life that he did know intimately was hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity. Grinding away, one day to the next, in a few years he learned Spanish, and even more incredibly, mastered the Tz’utujil dialect, proceeding to translate the liturgical texts for the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage, along with the New Testament into the language of his beloved
people. The love of Jesus Christ burning in his heart moved mountains. But even before learning how to communicate with words, Father Rother’s actions spoke volumes. He worked the land with his people as only an experienced farmer from Oklahoma could, teaching them, when appropriate, more effective farming techniques that yielded a richer harvest. Father Rother’s people loved him. Their language had no equivalent for the name Stanley, so they called him by his middle name of Francis, which in Tz’utujil became Padre A’Plas. They certainly did not think of God as a mystery that they themselves could master on their own terms. They looked at this man and others like him as visible channels of God’s presence, God’s compassion, God’s mercy. The indigenous people of that region had not known a priest for over a century, but with this good shepherd and others, they found a home in the Catholic Church.

The shepherd who didn’t run: Father Stanley Rother priest and martyr

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In 2003 I was privileged to travel to El Salvador and Guatemala to the shrines of the martyrs with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers who had served in Central America in the preceding decades. The home base for our two-week pilgrimage was the Maryknoll Retreat Center in Guatemala City from where we traveled to the mountainous regions of that nation, as well as across the border to El Salvador.
This weekend I am attending the beatification of Father Stanley Rother, one of those martyrs, a priest from Oklahoma City who laid down his life for his friends, the Tz’utujil, the indigenous people of the Lake Atitlan region in the mountains of Guatemala. Following the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI called for greater solidarity in the Catholic Church of the Western Hemisphere, and encouraged the Church in North America to journey in faith with their brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in Central and South America. Soon after, as we know so well, the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson began its mission in Saltillo, Mexico, while the Diocese of Oklahoma City was adopting the region of Lake Atitlan in the Diocese of Solola, Guatemala.
Father Stanley Rother became part of the mission of his diocese in 1968, and immersed himself in the lives of the Tz’utujil people until his martyrdom in 1981. Like the Curé of Ars, Father Rother had struggled mightily with his academic studies in seminary formation, and was dismissed after First Theology. But he did not waver in his desire to the serve the Lord as a priest, and with the support of his bishop, he was given a second chance at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmetsburg, Md. With the successful completion of his studies he was ordained a priest in 1963. While serving in rural Oklahoma in his fifth year of priesthood, he accepted the invitation to go to the margins as a missionary disciple to the diocesan mission in Guatemala. It was not an easy transition because he did not speak Spanish, let alone the dialect of the indigenous Tz’utujil. However, one dimension of life that he did know intimately was hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Grinding away, one day to the next, in a few years he learned Spanish, and even more incredibly, mastered the Tz’utujil dialect, proceeding to translate the liturgical texts for the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage, along with the New Testament into the language of his beloved people. The love of Jesus Christ burning in his heart moved mountains. But even before learning how to communicate with words, Father Rother’s actions spoke volumes. He worked the land with his people as only an experienced farmer from Oklahoma could, teaching them, when appropriate, more effective farming techniques that yielded a richer harvest.
Father Rother’s people loved him. Their language had no equivalent for the name Stanley, so they called him by his middle name of Francis, which in Tz’utujil became Padre A’Plas. They certainly did not think of God as a mystery that they themselves could master on their own terms. They looked at this man and others like him as visible channels of God’s presence, God’s compassion, God’s mercy. The indigenous people of that region had not known a priest for over a century, but with this good shepherd and others, they found a home in the Catholic Church.
The mission team of 12 who was serving when Father Rother arrived in 1968 gradually departed, not to be replaced. And in the years leading up to his martyrdom, he was one among his people, the last man standing, so to speak. Paralleling the mission in Saltillo, many people from Oklahoma went to Santiago Atitlan over the years. But unlike our mission which remained active until nearly a decade ago before being shut down by drug cartel brutality, the violence in Guatemala and El Salvador began decades earlier.
Civil wars erupted across Central America in the 1970s and raged throughout most of the 1980s. It was a bloody struggle between government forces and rebel groups with the former perpetrating more than 90 percent of the atrocities against their own people. Tragically, countless indigenous poor were murdered in Guatemala, along with an estimated 70,000 victims in El Salvador. Indigenous Church workers as well as missionaries from North America were caught up in the crossfire. Among the well known martyrs, whose shrines I had visited while on pilgrimage, was Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador who was gunned down at the altar by an assassin during the consecration of the Mass.
In 1980 three Religious Sisters, Ita Ford, M.M., Maura Clarke, M.M., Dorothy Kozel, O.S.U. and a Lay Missioner, Jean Donovan were raped and murdered by members of the Salvadoran National Guard. In 1989 El Salvadoran soldiers broke into the living quarters of the Jesuit priests at Central American University in San Salvador and executed six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her daughter. They were Fathers Ignacio Martin-Baro, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, S.J., Amando Lopez, S.J., Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., Elba Ramos, their housekeeper, and her 16-year-old daughter, Celina Ramos.
The dark clouds of reckless hate had reached the mountainous region of Lake Atitlan in the mid to late 1970s and the steady stream of abductions, murders and tortured remains went unabated in the ensuing years. In 1980 Father Rother was warned that his name was at the top of the death squads’ list and for a time he returned to the safety of his native Oklahoma. But he was tormented by the number of his beloved Tz’utujil people who were being mowed down by ruthless forces while he was far from harm’s way. With his bishop’s permission and the pained blessing of his family and friends, Father Rother returned for Holy Week, 1981.
His people rejoiced to embrace their shepherd once again. He gave them heart and hope. But the threats against his life only intensified. At night on July 28, 1981, three armed assassins broke into his rectory intending to abduct and torture him, before killing him and disposing of his body. Dying for his people was a sacrifice he was willing to make, but he had promised that he would not allow them to take him alive to torture and to throw away. For 15 minutes he fought them off with his bare fists, and realizing that they were not going to take this farm boy by force, they shot him in the head at point blank range. He was one of ten priests who was murdered in Guatemala in 1981.
There was an outpouring of grief in the immediate aftermath, but there was not an eruption of violence. During the funeral preparations Father Rother’s parents and family stated their intentions to bury his remains in the family plot in Oklahoma. His Tz’utujil family respectfully asked if they might keep his heart in Santiago Atitlan in their parish Church. They interceded that he had given them his heart in life; and with his heart they would cherish him in death. To this day it is encased at the back of Santiago Atitlan, the Church where his people faithfully ask his intercession when entering and leaving the house of the Lord that he had restored lovingly and ably during his years of service.
The following is a refection by Henri Nouwan who visited Atitlan two years after his martyrdom. “Stan was killed because he was faithful to his people in their long and painful struggle for human dignity, dying for them in whom he recognized the face of the suffering Lord. Stan stood with them as they learned how to read and write, sought proper nutrition and health care for their children, struggled to acquire small pieces of land to cultivate, and gradually free themselves from the chains of poverty and oppression. Martyrs are blood witnesses of God’s inexhaustible love for his people. We honor martyrs because they are the signs of hope for the living Church, they are reminders of God’s loving presence.”
Let us not forget the victims of such unspeakable violence, and grinding poverty, many who are forced to flee their homeland, then and now.

(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz is scheduled to attend Father Stanley Rother’s beatification ceremony in Oklahoma City Saturday, Sept. 23. Those who wish to know more about Father Rother can check out his biography, “The shepherd who didn’t run, Stanley Rother, martyr from Oklahoma,” by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda.)

Bishop pens letter to support Migrant Support Center

(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz used the recent developments surrounding DACA to call attention to the Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center. The following is an excerpt of a letter sent along with some case studies to supporters describing the work of the center.)
The Migrant Support Center is providing critical services to the immigrant and migrant populations who have pressing needs as recent arrivals, or as long standing residents. Now more than ever in an openly hostile and suspicious climate throughout our nation, this population requires the social services and legal expertise of our staff. The documented and undocumented immigrants often do not know their rights, and our team of two lawyers and interns work tirelessly to defend their causes in court, while at the same time providing education and information programs throughout our diocese. This is a formidable task, because the Catholic Diocese of Jackson is the largest east of the Mississippi River, a territory of 38,000 square miles. In addition, often they receive calls for other social services and the staff directs these clients to the appropriate programs.
I thank you for considering the request from our Migrant Support Center Staff to assist them in the work they do with vulnerable immigrant and migrant populations. May the living God continue to prosper the work you do on behalf of those in need.
When large numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, sought refuge in the United States beginning in 2013, His Holiness, Pope Francis, said, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.” At the Catholic Charities, Inc., Migrant Support Center, we take up the Holy Father’s call to arms.
It is our agency’s mission “to be a visible sign of Christ’s love by helping the vulnerable and those in need, especially children, women, and families.” At the Migrant Support Center, we defend migrants of all backgrounds, focusing on those central to our mission. These clients range from survivors of domestic violence working to build new lives for themselves and their families, to Venezuelan families fleeing persecution based on their political opinions, and to unaccompanied minors from Central America seeking safety in the United States from societal and family violence.
These unaccompanied children are our most vulnerable clients, as many have already suffered extensive harm in their home countries despite their tender age, and undertook the perilous journey from their home countries to the United States all alone. U.S. immigration law provides certain legal remedies to children who are fleeing persecution, or have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents; however, applying for these remedies involves several complicated steps, often while facing an Immigration Judge in adversarial court proceedings. Children who are unable to afford counsel or find free legal assistance must face these proceedings alone, meaning an almost certain return to the dangers from which they fled.
For such children in Mississippi, few legal resources exist, especially for children who are unable to pay the hefty legal fees for private attorneys, which can easily exceed $5,000. Therefore, the Migrant Support Center is working diligently to ensure that all unaccompanied Mississippi children in need have quality pro bono immigration representation, protecting their rights to due process and helping them create new lives of healing and freedom in the United States.
Such is the case of Julio, an indigenous Guatemalan teenager who fled his native country as an unaccompanied minor after his town’s mayor forcibly recruited him to take up arms against a foreign mining company that was excavating in his area. Of great importance was the fact that the Guatemalan government recruited foreign mining companies to excavate traditionally indigenous lands (such as Julio’s town), preventing indigenous communities from enjoying and cultivating the land and its resources, and deepening the historic rift between indigenous Guatemalans and the federal government.
During one skirmish, a miner slashed Julio’s arm with a machete, leaving him physically and emotionally scarred. Neither Julio nor his friends could seek help from the Guatemalan government, as federal troops provided support to the mining companies. With the assistance of Catholic Charities and our partners at the Immigration Clinic of Mississippi College School of Law, Julio now has asylum and is enjoying his new-found freedom in the United States.
The Migrant Support Center also represented four young Honduran siblings, the Garcias, who fled Honduras after being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused and later abandoned by their father. Migrant Support Center attorneys represented the children in state court proceedings to ensure they had appropriate protection in their new home, and secured Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Lawful Permanent Residence (green cards) for the children on the basis of the trauma they suffered in Honduras. The children are now attending school, making friends, learning English, and receiving counseling services in their new home.
Through your generous support, the Migrant Support Center can ensure that all immigrant children in Mississippi receive the warm welcome and protection that Pope Francis requires. Your donation will not only ensure that Catholic Charities can continue representing unaccompanied children such as Julio and the Garcia children on a pro bono basis, but it will also assist Migrant Support Center attorneys in recruiting, training, and mentoring a strong network private practitioners to defend immigrant children as well.

Reconstrucción: una obra de fe, esperanza

Construir y reconstruir son tareas tan esenciales para nosotros en nuestra vida diaria y especialmente para nosotros, como cristianos, que trabajamos para promover el reino de Dios en nuestro mundo, un reino de verdad y de amor, un reino de santidad y de gracia, un reino de justicia, amor y paz. Para muchas personas al terminarse el don del tiempo extendido el fin de semana del Día del Trabajo nos encontramos de nuevo en el ritmo de nuestra vida diaria, y listos o no, ansiosos o resistentes, la vida tiene una manera de tirarnos y de empujarnos. Qué creativo es el concepto de que un fin de semana largo a finales del verano, abierto al ocio y a la necesidad de equilibrio en nuestras vidas, nos da una pausa para reflexionar sobre la dignidad del trabajo en todas sus manifestaciones, la obra de nuestras manos, mente, corazón y espíritu. La fundación de la Palabra de Dios es la obra de la creación, (seis días) equilibrado por descanso del sábado (un día).
La interacción entre el trabajo y el descanso en Dios produce mucho fruto al cumplir nuestra dignidad y destino como imago Dei. El salmo 90, v. 17 pide a Dios que bendiga la obra de nuestras manos para que podamos efectivamente preservar el orden correcto de las cosas y, además, la obra de la creación.
El trabajo es bueno, y extractos del siguiente poema “Ser de uso” por Marge Piercy capta la sabiduría de las edades iniciado en Dios.
“La gente que más amo salta al trabajo de cabeza primero sin perder tiempo en la superficialidad….Me encanta la gente que utilizan, un buey a un pesado carro, que tira como el búfalo de agua con enorme paciencia, que se esfuerza en el barro y la porquería para hacer avanzar las cosas, quién hace lo que tiene que hacerse, una y otra vez…quiero estar con la gente que se sumerge en la tarea, que van a los campos para la recolección de la cosecha y trabajan en una fila y pasan las bolsas…El trabajo del mundo es común como el barro, chapuza, mancha las manos, se desmorona en polvo. Pero la cosa que vale la pena hacer bien hecha tiene una forma que satisface, limpia y evidente… El cántaro clama por agua para llevar, y una persona por trabajo que es real.”
Uno puede sentir la energía en este notable poema, y visualizar la decidida actividad de la que habla. Podemos ampliar estas imágenes en cada rincón de nuestras vidas, y fácilmente en la reconstrucción que se está llevando a cabo en Houston y Beaumont y en muchas comunidades en el sureste de Texas después del huracán Harvey. Este trabajo de recuperación continuará durante años y muchos trabajarán, de cerca y de lejos, vecinos y amigos, extranjeros e inmigrantes. Lo que lleva años para construirse puede ser derribado en momentos por el poder destructivo de la naturaleza, o las malas intenciones de la gente.
La noche llegó y la mañana continuó y así reconstruimos porque hay un poder superior, y la fe, la esperanza y el amor prevalecerán. Para comprender esto mientras avanzamos en las interminables tareas que tenemos ante nosotros en nuestros hogares, escuelas y lugares de trabajo, es un regalo que nos motiva, especialmente en esos días que preferiríamos quedarnos en la cama.
Este día, el 20º aniversario de la muerte de la Madre Teresa, nos recuerda la bondad, la belleza y la verdad de su vida, y la perspectiva fundamental de su fiel espíritu, es decir, “hacer de nuestra vida algo hermoso por Dios”. Su perdurable legado encarna la sabiduría que encontramos en el evangelio de Juan “el primer trabajo es tener fe en el que Dios envió, recordándonos como discípulos que el trabajo de la creación encuentra su realización en el plan de salvación de Dios en Jesucristo.
El don de la fe, del tamaño de una semilla de mostaza, puede mover montañas. (Lucas 17,6) Consideren el amanecer de la Madre Teresa, alterado a mediados de su vida de fe dedicada a los indigentes y abandonados. Ella pasó la antorcha al educar a los jóvenes y privilegiado de clase media y alta de la India y caminó hacia el infierno de Calcuta donde muchas personas habían perdido la esperanza y movido montañas.
¡Qué semilla de mostaza! Esta ruta increíble de fe, esperanza y amor no es el derecho de nacimiento de unos pocos elegidos, sino la llamada del Señor en cada una de nuestras vidas. “Porque somos su obra, creados en Cristo Jesús para las buenas obras que Dios ha preparado de antemano, que deberíamos vivir en ellas.” (Efesios 2:10) Qué el Señor suscite en cada uno de nosotros una maravillosa armonía de fe y trabajo, de modo que podamos hacer de nuestras vidas algo hermoso desarrollando nuestros talentos, sirviendo a otros y dando a Dios la gloria.

Rebuilding: a work of faith, hope

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Joseph Kopacz

To build and rebuild are so essential for us as we go about our daily lives, and especially for us as Christians working to further the Kingdom of God in our world, a Kingdom of truth and love, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. For many people as the extended gift of time of the Labor Day Weekend passed we found ourselves back into the rhythms of our daily lives, and ready or not, eager or resistant, life has a way of pulling and pushing us along. How creative is the concept that a long weekend at summer’s end, open to leisure and needed balance for our lives, gives us pause to reflect upon the dignity of work in all of its manifestations, the work of our hands, minds, hearts and spirit? The foundation of God’s Word is the work of creation, (six days) balanced by Sabbath rest (one day). The interplay of labor and rest in God produces much fruit as we fulfill our dignity and destiny as Imago Dei. Psalm 90, v. 17 asks God to bless the work of our hands so that we might indeed preserve the right order of things and further the work of creation. Work is good, and excerpts from the following poem “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy captures the wisdom of the ages begun in God.
“The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows….I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again…I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along…The work of the world is common as mud, botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident…The pitcher cries for water to carry, and a person for work that is real.”
One can feel the energy in this remarkable poem, and visualize the purposeful activity of which she speaks. We can extend these images to every corner of our lives, and easily to the rebuilding that is underway in Houston and Beaumont and in many communities in southeastern Texas after hurricane Harvey and in Florida and the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma. This work of recovery will continue for years and many will labor, from near and far, neighbors and friends, strangers and immigrants. What takes years to build can be torn down in moments by the destructive power of nature, or the evil intent of people. Night came and morning followed and thus we rebuild, because there is a higher power, and faith, hope and love will prevail. To sense this as we go about the endless tasks before us in our homes, schools and work places is a gift that motivates us, especially on those days when we would rather stay in bed.
On the day I write this, the 20th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa, we are reminded of the goodness, beauty and truth of her life, and the fundamental outlook of her faithful spirit i.e., “to make of one’s life something beautiful for God.”
Her enduring legacy embodies the wisdom found in the Gospel of John “the first work is to have faith in the one God sent, reminding us as disciples that the work of creation finds its fulfillment in God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The gift of faith, the size of a mustard seed, can indeed move mountains. (Luke 17,6) Consider the dawn of Mother Teresa’s altered mid-life journey of faith dedicated to the destitute and abandoned. She passed on the torch of educating the young and privileged of India’s middle and upper class and walked into Calcutta’s hell where many had lost hope and moved mountains. What a mustard seed!
This path of incredible faith, hope and love is not the birthright of a chosen few, but the Lord’s call in each of our lives. “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians 2,10) May the Lord the Lord bring about in each of us a wonderful harmony of faith and work so that we can make our lives something beautiful by developing our talents, serving others and giving God the glory.

Creando cultura de cumplimiento, transparencia, confianza

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz
En la columna de esta semana voy a resaltar nuestra Oficina Diocesana para la Protección de Niños, para conmemorar el 15º aniversario de la carta de los obispos de la conferencia episcopal en Dallas, la Promesa de Proteger y la Promesa de Sanar, promulgada en medio de la crisis de abuso sexual en el 2002. Esto está en sincronía con el informe presentado a los obispos católicos de la Junta de Examen Nacional en nuestra reciente conferencia en Indianápolis para conmemorar el 15º aniversario. Un resumen de este reporte está incluido en esta publicación (página 1), así como la homilía del Arzobispo Wilton Gregory de Atlanta durante la misa de oración y penitencia de los obispos en la  conferencia (página 16).
La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos escribió y promulgó la carta en el 2002, a fin de responsabilizar a todas las diócesis católicas, eparquías y a las órdenes religiosas que prestan servicios en los Estados Unidos con respecto a su compromiso de proteger a los niños y los jóvenes. Recientemente fuí nombrado parte del Comité Permanente para la Protección de los Niños y Jóvenes de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos’ y es un privilegio servir en esta causa.
   Durante los últimos 15 años, la Diócesis de Jackson ha trabajado con seriedad para crear una cultura de cumplimiento y transparencia para proteger a nuestros niños y jóvenes, así como para proporcionar la oportunidad de sanar a aquellos que sufren de abuso sexual. Además, todas las alegaciones creíbles son reportadas a la policía, aún cuando los estatutos de limitación hayan expirado.
¿Contra qué estamos luchando? Por su propia naturaleza, el demonio del abuso sexual infantil se alimenta en secreto, en manipulaciones y mentiras, y sus actos deben ser sacados de las tinieblas a la luz de la verdad, la sanación y la esperanza.
Dondequiera y cuando quiera que se produzca, el abuso de menores es un crimen y mantener un estado constante de vigilancia en nombre de nuestros niños y jóvenes es nuestra norma diocesana. Aquellos que tienen el deseo de abusar de menores son conducidos por sus instintos más básicos y manteniendo nuestros ambientes seguros sin duda mantiene al lobo acorralado. Nunca podemos ser complacientes. Usted podría preguntarse, ¿Qué es, precisamente, lo que la Diócesis de Jackson está haciendo regularmente para cultivar una cultura de medios ambientes seguros?
La Oficina Diocesana de Protección de los Niños dirigida por Vicki Carollo y bajo el auspicio de nuestro Vicario General, el Padre Kevin Slattery, es responsable de obtener los objetivos de la carta, participando en una auditoría anual realizada por Stonebridge Business Partners. Stonebridge es contratada a través de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos. La diócesis de Jackson ha cumplido con todos los artículos de la Carta  para la Protección de los Niños y Jóvenes todos los años desde el 2003.
Cada uno de los empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes reciben el documento Protección de Niños – Diócesis de Jackson. Este documento es la política de la diócesis con varios componentes en la prevención del abuso de menores y los procedimientos a seguir cuando se reciben informes de abusos de niños o mala conducta sexual cometidos por personal de la Iglesia.
Desde octubre de 2002, la diócesis de Jackson ha iniciado investigaciones de antecedentes criminales y ha realizado sesiones de capacitación sobre ambiente seguro a 14,647 adultos. Actualmente en la diócesis hay 4,934 empleados activos y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes.
Una investigación de antecedentes criminales se realiza antes y durante el servicio del solicitante. Una nueva investigación de antecedentes penales se inicia cada tres años. Todos los clérigos, religiosos, empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes deben completar el proceso de investigación y completar la aplicación de la Diócesis de Jackson. Un formulario de acuse de recibo deberá estar firmado por el solicitante, indicando que el documento ha sido leído y entienden el plan antes de comenzar un ministerio.
La diócesis de Jackson ha designado que todos los nuevos empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes participen en una sesión de capacitación inicial sobre medio ambiente seguro. Se requiere que un entrenador facilite la capacitación. Cada nuevo solicitante está obligado a firmar un acta de asistencia a la sesión de capacitación.
A partir de septiembre, la diócesis implementará el programa de conocimiento VIRTUS, Protegiendo a los Hijos de Dios para todos los nuevos empleados y voluntarios. Este programa de formación educa a los adultos sobre cómo convertirse en mejores protectores de los niños contra los abusos. Se requiere que un entrenador facilite la capacitación. En septiembre se ofrecerán tres sesiones para entrenar a los entrenadores.
Todos los empleados activos y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes participan en el programa Virtus en el internet. Este programa  es un boletín mensual sobre medio ambiente seguro. La persona lee el boletín, responde a una pregunta de opción múltiple al final del boletín y envía la respuesta a VIRTUS. El boletín mensual proporciona valiosos conocimientos y formación permanente para la prevención del abuso infantil.
Anualmente cada parroquia y colegio presenta una reunión de información para los padres. Los padres tienen la oportunidad de que sus hijos no participen en  la sesión sobre entorno seguro. Si se diera el caso, es nuestra esperanza que los padres revisen el material de la lección con sus hijos.
La lección  está diseñada para ayudarlos a mantenerse seguro ofreciéndoles las habilidades importantes que necesitan para protegerse del abuso. La lección proporciona además el diálogo entre niños y adultos acerca de cómo mantenerse seguro.
La diócesis de Jackson está comprometida a asegurarse que nadie que está siendo servido por la iglesia corre el riesgo de abuso o explotación sexual por parte del clero, religiosos, religiosas o laicos eclesiásticos. Las parroquias y escuelas trabajan muy duro para dar cumplimiento al Programa de Protección de los Niños. Recientemente, la Secretaría de protección de la infancia y la juventud incluyó nuestra comunicación electrónica de política de protección de niños en el nuevo recurso “Toolbox”. Este es sin duda un espaldarazo para nuestro programa de protección de los niños. Los recursos son compartidos con todas las diócesis católicas en los Estados Unidos.
Como un motor afinado, el mencionado curso de acción tiene muchas piezas móviles y es sólo tan fuerte como su eslabón más débil o no implementado paso. La complacencia y/o atajos pueden poner a un niño o a un joven en peligro, y esto es una violación de la confianza.
Esforzarse por la excelencia en los ambientes seguros en todas las reuniones relacionadas con la iglesia es nuestra meta en la Diócesis de Jackson. Para lograr este alto estándar, conlleva la plena y activa participación de muchos en toda la diócesis. Gracias a todos los que sirven en nombre de nuestros niños y jóvenes. Estos son los hijos de Dios, miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo y templo del Espíritu Santo. Que ellos pueden prosperar como miembros de nuestra iglesia.

Creating culture of compliance, transparency, trust

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In this week’s column I am highlighting our diocesan office for the Protection of Children to mark the 15th anniversary of the Catholic bishops’ Dallas Charter, also known as the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal, promulgated in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002. This is in sync with the report to the Catholic bishops by the head of the National Review Board at our just finished conference in Indianapolis.
A summary of this report is included in this publication (see page 1) as well as the homily of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta during the bishop’s Mass of Prayer and Penance at the Conference (see page 16). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote and promulgated the Charter in 2002 in order to hold accountable all Catholic dioceses, eparchies and religious orders serving in the United States with respect to their commitment to protect children and young people. Most recently, I was appointed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing committee for the protection of children and young people and it is a privilege to serve this cause. During the last 15 years, the Diocese of Jackson has worked earnestly to create a culture of compliance and transparency to protect our children and young people as well as to provide the opportunity to heal for those who suffer from sexual abuse. Furthermore, all credible allegations are reported to law enforcement, whether or not the statutes of limitation have run.
What are we up against? By its very nature the demon of child sexual abuse feeds on secrecy, manipulation and lies and its deeds must be brought out of darkness into the light of truth, healing and hope. Wherever and whenever it occurs the abuse of minors is a crime and maintaining a steady state of vigilance on behalf of our children and young people is our diocesan standard. Those who have the urge to abuse minors are driven by their baser instincts and safe environments undoubtedly keep the wolf at bay. We can never become complacent. You might ask, what precisely is the Diocese of Jackson doing on a regular basis to cultivate a culture for safe environments?
The diocesan office for the protection of children, directed by Vicki Carollo, and under the auspice of our vicar general, Father Kevin Slattery, is accountable for achieving the goals of the Charter by participating in an annual audit performed by Stonebridge Business Partners. Stonebridge is contracted through the USCCB. The Diocese of Jackson has been found compliant with all articles of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People each year since 2003.
Each employee and volunteer working with children and young people receives a booklet containing the policy of the diocese with various components on the prevention of child abuse and procedures to be followed when reports of child abuse or sexual misconduct by church personnel are received.
Since October, 2002, the Diocese of Jackson has initiated criminal background screenings and safe environment training sessions for 14,647 adults. There are currently 4,934 active employees and volunteers working with children and young people in the diocese.
A criminal background screening is conducted prior to and during an applicant’s service. A criminal background rescreening is initiated every three years. All clergy, religious, employees and volunteers working with children and young people must complete the screening process and the Diocese of Jackson application. Applicants sign a form acknowledging they have read and understand the policy prior to beginning a ministry.
The Diocese of Jackson has designated that all new employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in an initial safe environment training session facilitated by a diocesan trainer. Each new applicant is required to sign an attendance record of the training attended.
Beginning in September, the Diocese will implement VIRTUS’ Protecting God’s Children Awareness Program for new employees and volunteers. The program educates adults on how to better protect children from abuse. There are three training-the-trainer sessions scheduled in September.
All active employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in VIRTUS’ web-based program. This online program consists of a monthly safe environment bulletin. The adult reads the bulletin, answers a multiple-choice question and submits the answer to VIRTUS. The bulletins provide invaluable knowledge and ongoing formation for the prevention of child abuse.
Children and young people in the parishes and schools are required to receive an annual age-appropriate safe environment lesson. The lesson is designed to help children keep themselves safe by providing the important skills they need to protect themselves from abuse. The lesson additionally provides dialogue between children and adults about keeping safe.
Each parish and school presents a parent information meeting annually. Parents have an opportunity to opt their children out from the safe environment lesson. Of course, we hope parents who decide to opt out will review the lesson material with their children on their own.
The Diocese of Jackson is committed to ensuring that no one being served by the church be at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel. The parishes and schools work very hard to stay in compliance with the Protection of Children program.
Recently, the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection included our Protection of Children Electronic Communications Policy in the new “resource toolbox.” This is certainly an accolade for our program. The resources are shared with all Catholic dioceses in the United States.
Like a finely-tuned engine the above course of action has many moving parts and is only as strong as its weakest link or non-implemented step. Complacency and/or shortcuts can put a child or young person in harm’s way and this is a violation of trust. Striving for excellence with safe environments in all church related gatherings is our goal in the Diocese of Jackson.
To achieve this high standard, it takes the full and active participation of many throughout the diocese. Thank you to all who serve on behalf of our children and young people. These are God’s children, members of the Body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit. May they thrive as members of our church.

Ven Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz
El poder del Espíritu Santo de Dios que resucitó a Jesús de entre los muertos se encuentra nuevamente en el centro de la oración pública de la iglesia mientras celebramos la Ascensión en este fin de semana, con la exaltada fiesta de Pentecostés a seguir. “Ven Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles y enciende en ellos el fuego de tu amor… y renovaremos la faz de la tierra”. Durante el pasado mes el Espíritu Santo me ha mantenido activo con la celebración de 16 confirmaciones hasta la fecha alrededor de la diócesis, confirmando la presencia de Dios en la vida de nuestros jóvenes discípulos.
De una manera notable nuestra sagrada misión y visión se reviven a través de la confirmación al abrazar la diversidad de dones, los ministerios y obras del Espíritu Santo, al servir a otros de muchas maneras creativas y, por supuesto, al inspirar a los discípulos en el conocimiento y la comprensión de que Jesús es el Señor y Dios es nuestro Padre. La plenitud de la iniciación cristiana se realiza con la marca del santo crisma y cuando las promesas hechas en el bautismo por los padres, padrinos y madrinas han sido realizados.
La efusión de las bendiciones del Espíritu Santo es evidente en el amor a la familia, a los padrinos, amigos y a la comunidad parroquial. No hay lenguas de fuego visibles sobre las cabezas de los recién confirmados, pero el lento y regular fuego de la fe ha estado quemando y el amor del Señor resucitado es evidente.
En medio de la temporada de confirmaciones marcamos el primer aniversario del brutal asesinato de nuestras queridas religiosas, las Hermanas Paula Merrill, SCN, y Margaret Held (SSSF), con oraciones y la bendición e inauguración de su monumento en Liberty Park en el centro de Durant. Fue un encuentro vibrante compuesto por personas de la comunidad local, de la Parroquia Santo Tomás en Lexington, de sus comunidades religiosas en Kentucky y Wisconsin, y por los fieles de toda la Diócesis de Jackson.
El Espíritu Santo, la prenda de vida eterna, fue nuestra consolación, esperanza y paz. Cuando   comenzamos el servicio de oración se abrió el cielo, y acompañando la presencia del Espíritu Santo, hubo también un derrame, o mejor dicho, una lluvia torrencial, abundante en Mississippi. Este remojón vino completo con imágenes y sonidos, relámpagos y truenos. Esta muestra de la creación de Dios a menudo abruma las palabras de la oración, pero no desanimó nuestros espíritus y propósitos de dar tributo a la vida y la muerte de las hermanas en el servicio al Señor y a los pobres. De cierta manera profunda, fue como un diálogo entre el cielo y la tierra. La naturaleza habló y nosotros sólo pudimos hacer una pausa y esperar y, a continuación respondimos con oraciones que atravesaron las nubes. Al final bendecimos el monumento, y sus vidas y muertes permanecerán como un testimonio de servicio amoroso a lo largo de la vida en esta estresada área de nuestro estado.
Recordamos que la presencia del Espíritu Santo en nuestros corazones, mentes y almas es un anticipo a la promesa de la vida eterna y la fiesta del cielo. Esto es cierto para todos los creyentes que son bautizados en el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo, y es fortalecido en el sacramento de la confirmación. Como un signo visible de esta realidad interior la vida religiosa y ordenada entre nosotros señala nuestro objetivo de estar siempre con el Señor. Nos recuerdan que nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos y que no tenemos aquí ciudad permanente. Las muertes violentas de las Hermanas Paula y Margaret sólo sirven para profundizar la convicción de la sabiduría de las sagradas escrituras que, bienaventurados los que mueren en el Señor, déjenlas descansar de sus labores porque sus buenas obras van con ellas.” Ellas permanecen con nosotros como testigos de la verdad, que sea que vivamos o que muramos, del Señor somos.
Las bendiciones del Espíritu Santo moran dentro de nosotros y nos rodean de innumerables maneras. Durante la próxima semana todos podemos enriquecer nuestro viaje a Pentecostés rezando la novena al Espíritu Santo. La mayoría de las veces oramos en el poder del Espíritu a través del nombre de Jesucristo para gloria de Dios Padre. Durante estos días podemos orar intencionalmente al Espíritu Santo para que nos inspire, para liberarnos del pecado, para que nos permita vivir el Evangelio y para servir con amor como discípulos del Señor. Ven, Espíritu Santo, renueva la faz de la tierra.”

Chancery staff celebrate anniversary

JACKSON – To mark Bishop Kopacz’ 40th anniversary of priestly ordination, chancery and Catholic Charities staff gathered for Mass and a luncheon in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on Friday, May 5. At right, Karen Brown, the bishop’s secretary and Cindy Wood, Father Kevin Slattery’s secretary, congratulate Bishop Kopaz. Below, the staff enjoys lunch in the cathedral center. He was ordained on May 7,1977 in Scranton, Pa. (Photos by Tereza Ma)