Bishop Kopacz makes pilgrimage to Saltillo

By Monsignor Michael Flannery

MADISON – There is a Spanish phrase “que pasa?” (what’s happening?). In a way, it sums up the pastoral visit Bishop Joseph Kopacz and I made to the Saltillo Mission March 30 -April 3.

We can report that the good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn in 1969 is flourishing south of the border. There are two Mexican priests serving at the mission, Fathers David and Elevio. Both have a profound missionary spirit and they follow in the footsteps of Father Quinn.

We flew into Monterrey, Mexico, on Thursday, March 30. Father David was there to greet us and bring us to the mission about two hours away. He had a full schedule prepared for us. Our first visit was to the church of Cristo Rey (in the city of Saltillo) at 6:00 p.m. It is one of four churches in town served by San Miguel. The other three are; the Holy Martyrs, St. William and Christ the King. We visited other churches in the city the next day.

Saturday we set out for the village Jalapa where the villagers gathered to greet the Bishop from Mississippi. After a prayer service with the rancheros and the distribution of bags of cornmeal we set out for the village of Animas where we shared another meal with the villagers. At 2:00 p.m. we were on the road again to our most distant village of El Tapon, five hours away. There we greeted the people and Bishop Kopacz was asked to bless the seeds of corn and pinto beans to be used for sowing. Also, he was asked to bless the two goat herds. Many coyotes attack and kill the young kid goats and the blessing of the bishop was to provide protection.

After the blessing, Bishop Kopacz was offered a kid goat as a gift. I explained to the kind lady making the offer we would only be in the country five days and were forbidden to bring a goat back with us to the U.S. Instead she offered Bishop Kopacz a package of tortillas which he graciously accepted.

The next morning we went to the village of Garambullo, where we were greeted by a presentation of Aztec dancing before Mass. Father David showed us the new tin roof he had put on the church. Many of the churches in the mountain villages are in bad need of repair. An average roof on a mountain village church costs about $3,000. I had brought a suitcase full of T-shirts, a gift from Madison St. Anthony School. It was amazing to see the joy in these childrens faces as they received them. I also had brought with me 500 ball-point pens which I selectively distributed to other children telling them the pen was a gift of Bishop Kopacz.

When we arrived at La Ventura about 500 villagers were completing a live way of the cross. It was a very moving site. Because of their Mexican heritage and culture, the people relate very well to the suffering Christ. Bishop Kopacz was again front and center celebrating Mass and administering the sacrament of Confirmation.

After Mass, we had a delicious lunch with the villagers. Father David showed Bishop Kopacz a building attached to the church, consisting of two rooms, where it would be possible to house catechists who spend weekends training village catechists and performing missions throughout the year. He had plans to add another floor to the existing two rooms as La Ventura was a central village from where 6 other villages could be served.

It was now time to head back to Saltillo for dinner with the Bishop of Saltillo Don Raul Vera. Bishop Vera was very gracious and Bishop Kopacz shared with him his Pastoral Priorities and Vision for the Diocese of Jackson. The following morning, we shared a light breakfast with Father David and Father Evelio. Both priests are great visionaries and are addressing the needs of the people. Another example of their thinking outside the box, is a project now in its infancy.

San Miguel has become home to four students coming from mountain villages who cannot afford room and board while studying at the university. In exchange for room and board they accompany the priests during the weekend in their ministry in the ranchos. This project costs approximately $2,500 per student, however, that is where the church needs to be offering its services to those in need and changing the lives of people for the better.

Another worthy program at San Miguel is the catechetical program. Young catechists are brought in from remote villages to stay at San Miguel for a week or two during the summer. The rancheros are very moved by this experience. For the first time in their lives they have meals served to them by someone else. Also, they have the experience of taking a shower. That is not an option in the ranchos. It is a different world there at San Miguel.

I would like to end with one quick story. There was one four-year-old girl in Saltillo who got my last St. Anthony T-shirt. She was so excited with her new found treasure she would not take it off. The T-shirt would have fit a child of 12. It was so long it came down to her ankles. Her mother told me later that she would not take it off even to go to bed and she used it as her night gown. I also gave her the St. Anthony golf cap I was wearing. She even wore it to bed she was so overcome with joy with her gift. I can assure you that the people of Saltillo are most appreciative of all that Mississippians do for them and they wanted us to express their gratitude to you.

(Editor’s note: Msgr. Flannery is working on a book detailing the history of the Saltillo mission. a longer version of this story with details of all the rancho visits is available online at

Bishop tours ecumenical pregnancy test center

By Gene Buglewicz

 Bishop Joseph Kopacz, inspects hand-made infant blankets and caps in the Baby Boutique while visiting. Infant supplies are earned by clients who attend prenatal and parenting classes. Mothers can exchange points they earn for needed supplies in the Baby Boutique.  Classes are given by volunteer staff at the Center.  (Photo by Gene Buglewicz)

Bishop Joseph Kopacz, inspects hand-made infant blankets and caps in the Baby Boutique while visiting. Infant supplies are earned by clients who attend prenatal and parenting classes. Mothers can exchange points they earn for needed supplies in the Baby Boutique. Classes are given by volunteer staff at the Center. (Photo by Gene Buglewicz)


OXFORD – It isn’t often a Pregnancy Test Center hosts the bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, but Bishop Joseph Kopacz spent 90 minutes visiting with Rebecca Bishop, executive director of the Pregnancy Test Center of Oxford, two volunteer members of the center’s board of directors, Rosann Hudson and Louisa Arico, and volunteer consultant Marge Hinton. All three volunteers are members of St. John the Evangelist Parish.

Bishop Kopacz, invited by Knights of Columbus Council 10901, was able to schedule a visit to the Pregnancy Test Center before a scheduled meeting at St. John to outline the planning and implementation of the new mission, vision and diocesan priorities.

After listening to the mission of the Center and the emotional, physical and operational aspects of working with women who seek help there, Bishop Kopacz toured the facility, including the ultrasound clinic. Here the ultrasound technician can project a view of the unborn baby on a large screen for the mother and father and see the baby’s beating heart, face, fingers and toes to prove the tissue is truly a person. According to Ms. Bishop, this is the most crucial part of the counseling process. Overall, 70 percent of young parents will choose life for their baby, whether it be through adoption or as parents, after viewing the new life inside.

The center provides the couple support on their journey. One critical portion of the physical support given to client families is clothing and supplies found in the Pregnancy Test Center’s Baby Boutique. Bishop Kopacz learned that clients can attend prenatal and parenting classes and earn points which can be cashed in for newborn supplies such as diapers, clothing, blankets, even bibs.

According to Ms. Bishop, the most gratifying part of their ministry is welcoming the return of young children to the Pregnancy Test Center with their former client mothers.

The Pregnancy Test Center is supported by approximately 30 churches in the Oxford and Lafayette County area, including St. John the Evangelist and Knights of Columbus Council 10901. The Pregnancy Test Center employs three salaried staff members, with nine volunteer consultants who work directly with the clients. Many individuals and community organizations including the Rebels for Life student organization from the University of Mississippi provide on-call logistical support. The Center depends on donations and gifts from churches and organizations, and receives no state or federal funds.

Bishop makes visit to Saltillo mission

Bishop Joseph Kopacz made his annual journey to Saltillo, Mexico Thursday, March 30- Monday, April 2. Msgr. Michael Flannery accompanied him on his visit. He traveled around to the ranchos and villages, celebrating Masses, Confirmations and helping with the distribution of food to the people. Read more about their trip in the April 21 edition of Mississippi Catholic.

Bishop encourages pastoral planning

Editor’s Note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz was in Saltillo Mexico March 30-April 3 and was unable to complete a column for this edition. Instead, he offers this letter which is included in the Pastoral Priority workbook. His regular column will return in the next edition.)

Dear friends in Christ,

The new mission, vision and priorities are the fruit of the Holy Spirit through the work of people of God of the Diocese of Jackson. I want to thank the members of the Envisioning Team and all those who attended the 2016 Listening Sessions for giving their input.

Going forward, I hope these priorities will take root and bear fruit for each of our communities and for our diocese as a whole.

I would also like to take a moment to wish you all a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Easter Season.

Yours in Christ,

(Nota del editor: El obispo Joseph Kopacz estuvo en Saltillo, México desde el 30 de marzo hasta el 3 de abril y no pudo completar la columna para esta edición. En lugar de su columna ofrece esta carta que está incluida en el libro de Prioridades Pastorales. Su columna regular volverá en la edición próxima.)

Queridos amigos en Cristo,

La misión, visión y prioridades nuevas son el fruto del Espíritu Santo a través del trabajo del pueblo de Dios de la diócesis de Jackson. Quiero agradecer a los miembros del equipo de visualización y a todos los que asistieron a las sesiones de escucha de 2016 por sus contribuciones.

Hacia adelante, espero que estas prioridades tomaran raíz y serán fructíferos para cada una de nuestras comunidades y para nuestra diócesis en su totalidad.

También me gustaría tomar un momento para desearles a todos una semana santa bendita y una temporada de Pascua llena de alegría.

Suyo en Cristo,

Bishop, team roll out new plan, detail implementation structure

By Maureen Smith

JACKSON – All of the rollout sessions for the new mission, vision and pastoral priorities are scheduled to be finished by Thursday, April 6. In all, Bishop Joseph Kopacz’ team led implementation sessions in nine parishes selected in hopes of making it possible for people from all parishes to attend if they would like. During the first seven sessions, more than 500 people representing more than half of the parishes came.

The point of the rollout sessions was two-fold. Bishop Kopacz wanted people who attended last year’s listening sessions to hear the data gathered and learn how it was turned into the new mission, vision and priorities. The other goal of the sessions was to work with the parish representatives who will be integrating the new material into their parish community life. The teams got a training session in how to write SMART goals and got time to practice how that is done.

In addition to parish presentations, Bishop Kopcaz and Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general for the diocese, presented the priorities to school administrators during their retreat. Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said each school community will use the mission, vision and priorities as they plan their next couple of academic years.

From here, pastors will form teams and begin the process of writing and working on goals specific to their communities. Bishop Kopacz has appointed a resource person to each parish. This person has already undergone training in how to charter a team and what SMART goals should look like.

Members of the resource team are available to present workshops to the parish teams, but are not meant to direct the plans in any way. They will offer regular reports to Bishop Kopacz on how each parish is doing on writing and executing their goals.

Pam Minninger is one of the resource people. She said she is already seeing the fruits of this work. “Of course, it takes a bit of time to digest the idea of SMART goals and how to formulate them, but once the work begins the parish teams seem to be really energized and ready to set some good goals for their parishes,” she said. “In today’s world, we seem to move through our days, weeks, months, just ‘getting things done’ and forget to set goals and live our lives deliberately and with thought. I think teams are seeing the need, the wisdom, and the potential in taking the time to set goals and deliberately address the way the vision statements can be lived,” added Minninger.

This priority plan is meant to be a three to five year project. Parishes may decide to concentrate their efforts on one or maybe two priorities. Some larger parishes may be able to tackle all three at once. Each parish team learned that they should dream big, but concentrate their efforts on two or three SMART goals at a time. Once they meet those, the pastor can convene a new team, or keep the existing one to write new goals for another priority.

As the resource people report to the bishop, a new Envisioning team will consider how to adjust the priorities for the future.

Members of the parish teams each received booklets with the vision, mission and priorities outlined. The books include desired outcomes for the diocese as a whole and pages where team members can write their own thoughts or goals. Additional books are available to any parish who may need them.

The diocesan department of communications has developed an entire section of the website where anyone can read the new vision, mission and priorities and find resources for using them in groups or if an individual would like to take on a personal reflection of the plan. The new website is available from the homepage for the diocese, Look for Pastoral Priorities in the upper right corner.

Turn to pages 8-9 of this edition to see each priority and the detailed outcomes. In coming months, look in Mississippi Catholic for updates on the rollout and success stories.



This is the new Vision Statement and logo. The Vision: Embrace Diversity, Serve Others, Inspire Disciples, is wrapped around the logo in a circular way to symbolize that they are all of equal importance. One part of the vision feeds into the others. The Envisioning Team wanted the vision to be broad so it captures what it means to be Catholic in Mississippi, but also wanted it to have some room so each community could embrace what each vision statement means in that specific parish, school or center. This will serve as the new logo for the Diocese of Jackson.






In a similar way, the Mission Statement will remain even if priorities change. It is meant to direct, guide and inspire the faithful as they live their lives and be a foundation for all the work of the individual parishes, missions, schools and service centers. The mission and each priority statement have Scripture versus associated with them. The Scripture for the Mission Statement comes from Matthew’s Gospel. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me (Matt 25:35-36).

Eng & Spa on paper



The priorities are not numbered. All are of equal importance. Parishes may decide to focus on only one or two or may wish to tackle all three. What is important is that they find a shared vision to unify them. Bishop Kopacz and his Envisioning Team came up with outcomes to focus the work and assigned a scripture to each to help with discernment.




Bishop Kopacz learns about `office’

ROME –  Bishop Joseph Kopacz is spending 10 days in Rome, Italy, learning about the role and responsibilities of a bishop and the Office of Bishop in the Catholic Church.
Newly ordained bishops are invited by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to attend the seminar held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum on the outskirts of Rome. Located along the Via Aurelia, a few miles to the southwest of Vatican City, the Athenaeum is directed by the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.
The school for bishops has been conducted for more than 30 years. It is an effort to allow new bishops to be immersed in their new ministry in the episcopacy.
After Morning Prayer and Mass, these bishops from around the world spend several hours in lectures and discussions on the various aspects of the office of bishop. The lectures are given in Italian and bishops not fluent in Italian listen to interpreters through headphones. Time is given for questions and discussion after each presentation.
In a recent email from Rome, Bishop Kopacz remarked, “We have four sessions of nearly two hours each per day. They have been substantial and the most recent one was on the Sacred Liturgy, the Bishop as Sanctifier.”
Other topics include episcopal spirituality, episcopal governance, fraternity with and care for priests, use of the media for evangelization, and relations with eastern churches .
During down time, Bishop Kopacz planned to visit sites in Rome and take in the culture and history of the Eternal City. When he returns to the diocese he hopes to share his experiences in his column for Mississippi Catholic. This week we are featuring Father Robert Barron, of WordonFire, a global media ministry, in Bishop Kopacz’ place.
At press time, the new bishops were scheduled to have an audience with Pope Francis on Sept. 18, the last day of the seminar. Bishop Kopacz will return on Friday, Sept. 19, and spend the weekend installing Father Xavier Amirtham, OPraem, as new pastor at Holy Family Parish in Jackson and conferring the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for seminarian Jason Johnston at St. Paul Parish in Vicksburg.