Pilgrimage ‘across the pond’ provides fellowship, food, thanksgiving for Irish priests

Bishop Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
After three and one half years as the 11th bishop of the Jackson Diocese it was time to follow in the footsteps of our diocesan bishops in the modern era who traveled to Ireland. Many may not know that for the greater part of a century half of the priests in Mississippi were from Ireland, the seedbed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Countless thousands of Irish missionaries were sent as heralds of the Gospel throughout the English speaking world. Of course, I like to say that the best came to Mississippi to serve in the Diocese of Natchez, Natchez-Jackson, and since 1977, the dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi, to the American Missions, as is commonly understood in Ireland.
Bishop Joseph Brunini had the joy of going to Ireland to ordain clergy for the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. In the latter part of his episcopacy the ordinations ceased, and the purpose of his visits was directed toward the celebration of Masses of Thanksgiving with the families of priests who had served, or were still serving in Mississippi.
Bishop Joseph Howze during the time of Bishop Brunini did the same in his ministry as the Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. Bishop William Houck and Bishop Joseph Latino continued the pastoral visits to the locales and counties in Ireland where family members and priests could gather with the bishop to offer the Eucharist, the Church’s great prayer of Thanksgiving.
Although my pilgrimage of a week’s duration is not a large period of time, it still required a generous measure of organization and coordination. In this regard I thank Father Mike O’Brien, and his family and the family of Father Patrick Noonan back home in Ireland.
Originally, Father Mike and I had planned to celebrate two Masses of Thanksgiving, one in Roscommon and the other in Limerick with Father Noonan as the local guide. His unexpected death on July 4 added a third Mass, his Month’s Mind, or the Mass offered a month after someone has died, on the Vigil of the Assumption in his home parish church of Saint Ita’s at Church Raheenagh.
Our first Mass of Thanksgiving took place at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Roscommon and nearly 60 family members of the priests, living and deceased, who have served in Mississippi were in attendance: Father Brian Carroll, Father Gerry Hurley, Father Dan Gallagher, Father Frank Cosgrove, Father Tom McGing, Father P.J. Curley, Msgr. Patrick Farrell, Father Bernie Farrell, Father Tom Delaney, Father Mike O’Brien, Father Mattie Ruane, Father Sean Atkinson, Father Jim O’Riordan and Monsignor Noel Foley.
After the Mass we gathered at the Abbey Hotel to continue the reunion with the original Dominican Abbey, constructed in the early 1200s, providing the background setting, reminding me of how ancient the Catholic faith is in Ireland. Our second Mass of Thanksgiving occurred in the Library Room of the Strand Hotel in Limerick overlooking the River Shannon and the city center.
Although a much smaller gathering, the ambience was well suited for a comfortable and more intimate Mass and luncheon.
The families of Father David O’Connor, Father Mike O’Brien, Father Patrick Noonan, Father P.J. Curley, Father Jim O’Riordan, and Father Frank Corcoran were represented on this occasion.
With this second Mass of Thanksgiving, the pilgrimage shifted its locus from Roscommon in the center of Ireland to the southwest of the country to Father Noonan’s beloved County Limerick. In classic Irish banter, Father Noonan had pointed out to me, knowing that Father O’Brien would be my chauffer and guide for the first leg of the journey, that there is a lot more to Ireland than County Roscommon, the home turf of Father Mike.
As we had enjoyed the hospitality and home of Tom O’Brien, Father Mike’s brother in Roscommon, we were warmly welcomed into the home of Michael Noonan where we were lodged for the remainder of our time in Ireland.
On three consecutive mornings we had the pleasure of enjoying and the challenge of consuming the “Full Irish,” the smorgasbord breakfast for which Ireland is well known. These meals were provided graciously by five of Father Noonan’s nieces.
On Monday evening the family of Father Noonan and many of the parishioners of his home parish devoutly participated in the cherished Month’s Mind Mass on the Vigil of the Assumption. How fitting it was to celebrate the Blessed Mother’s entrance into eternal life through the merits of her Son’s death and resurrection while commending Father Noonan to God at the Eucharist that he celebrated for 54 years as a priest.
Afterwards, we gathered at the family farm where Father Noonan spent his formative years prior to his seminary formation and ordination. His younger brother, now in his 70s, and his sons continue the family’s tradition of dairy farming.
In conclusion, I recall the words at the end of the Gospel of Saint John when the Evangelist asserts that if he wrote down everything that Jesus said or did, there wouldn’t be enough books in the whole world to contain it all. Likewise, there was so much to see as we drove through the Irish countryside.
There were so many engaging conversations that rolled on into late night gatherings. Always, there was plenty to eat and plenty to drink. There were bog lands and stone, a pint of Guinness, and a drop of Jameson. There was men’s hurling, and women’s rugby, goats and cows, and, of course, an opportunity to golf. It was the “full Irish” of hospitality and graciousness at every turn along the country roads. Until we meet again, may God hold us in the palm of his hands.

Convocatoria de líderes católicos: La alegría del Evangelio en América

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

La Conferencia Católica de los Estados Unidos fue establecida en 1917 como una respuesta a las demandas de la Primera Guerra Mundial, a fin de tener una organización nacional con una voz nacional. En anticipación al aniversario de su centenario, la planificación comenzó hace casi 10 años. Providencialmente, la Conferencia de Obispos realmente encontró su ritmo en las etapas de planificación, con la publicación en el 2013 de la Exhortación Apostólica del Papa Francisco, La Alegría del Evangelio. La convocatoria descubrió su nombre y su propósito. Convocatoria de líderes católicos: la Alegría del Evangelio en América. A lo largo de los cuatro días de la convocatoria, julio 1-4, hubo cerca de 3.500 participantes, representando el rostro de la Iglesia en América. Hubo aproximadamente 3000 líderes religiosos y laicos de todo el espectro de organizaciones y ministerios de la iglesia.
Había 155 obispos, principalmente de rito latino, pero también de rito oriental, en representación de sus diócesis de todo el país y cerca de 500 sacerdotes y diáconos permanentes. En total, estuvieron presente 185 organizaciones católicas nacionales. Algunos lo describieron como una Jornada Mundial de la Juventud para adultos, algo parecido a un retiro y una reunión de celebración. Fue un evento muy bien equilibrado.
Los discursos de apertura fueron inspiradores y entretenidos y los paneles que siguieron inmediatamente aumentaron la profundidad y amplitud de la visión de los presentadores. Quizás, incluso más valiosas fueron las sesiones, que no fueron conferencias, sino conversaciones sobre una variedad de temas en los que se trató la realidad de la sociedad moderna y cómo responder a ellas como discípulos del Señor en el espíritu y convicción de la alegría del Evangelio. De hecho, las conversaciones fueron el sello distintivo de esta convocatoria, y en cualquier dirección a la que uno volteó los obispos estaban hablando con sus delegaciones diocesanas, y en cada esquina y en cada mesa, los participantes estaban en animado diálogo.
El ritmo en todo fue el llamado al discipulado misionero para todos aquellos que se autodefinen como católicos en el siglo XXI. Estamos llamados a ir a las periferias para encontrar y acompañar a los pobres y a los marginados. Estos podrían ser un miembro de la familia, los jóvenes, los ancianos, los pobres, las personas cercanas, aquellos que están fuera de vista y mente. Este es el liderazgo apostólico del Papa Francisco, la mente y el corazón de Jesucristo. El Arzobispo Gómez de Los Angeles poderosamente presentó esta realidad en su discurso.
“Las periferias son partes de nuestras ciudades y áreas rurales que nunca visitamos, que están al otro lado de nuestras rutas. Son las áreas donde viven los pobres. Son las cárceles y las ciudades de carpas en nuestros lugares públicos. Estos son los lugares de los que nuestra sociedad está avergonzada y prefiere olvidar, donde las personas están heridas y sienten que sus vidas no tienen sentido y no hacen ninguna diferencia, envolviéndose a sí mismos en el pecado, la adicción, la esclavitud y el auto-engaño.
El papa está diciendo que estas periferias están creciendo en el mundo moderno y son nuevos territorios de misión. La Iglesia siempre ha estado presente en las periferias, pero podemos hacerlo mejor; estamos llamados a hacer más”. En general, la convocatoria fue un gran signo de unidad en la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos y las personas estaban allí por las razones correctas.
En este encuentro los obispos experimentaron su conferencia nacional no sólo como una burocracia, sino también como una herramienta fenomenal para involucrar a toda nuestra iglesia en su misión del siglo 21. Los líderes de la iglesia parece que están intentando algo nuevo, otra forma que no ha sido probada. Todas las personas estuvieron dispuestas a sacrificar su descanso de vacaciones del 4 de julio para aprender y ser desafiados. No fueron para que les dieran unas palmaditas en la espalda sino para aprender. ¿Cómo podemos compartir a Cristo mejor?
Una fertilización cruzada de ministerios, un gran signo de unidad para algunos y todos fueron desafiados a escuchar las voces de los pobres y marginados. La convocatoria encendió los medios sociales durante cuatro días, lo que significó que la alegría del Evangelio pulsaba a través del ciberespacio, plantando semillas de fe, esperanza y amor. En la Diócesis de Jackson está en marcha la implementación de nuestra visión y prioridades pastorales.
El camino adelante es inspirar a los discípulos, servir a los demás y a abrazar la diversidad invitando y reconciliando a las comunidades, al ser intencionales sobre la formación en la fe a largo plazo y proclamando a Jesucristo y nuestra fe católica.
La convocatoria de los líderes católicos, la Alegría del Evangelio en América amplía nuestra visión con la exhortación a ser discípulos misioneros que salen de sus zonas de comodidad y van a los pobres y marginados con el siempre renovado vigor en la obra de proclamar al Señor crucificado y resucitado viviendo el evangelio en toda su verdad, bondad y belleza.

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: Joy of the Gospel in America

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

The United States Catholic Conference was born in 1917 as a response to the demands of WW1 in order to have a national organization with a national voice. In anticipation of the anniversary of the centenary, nearly 10 years ago the planning began. Providentially, the Conference of Bishops really found their stride in the planning stages with the publication in 2013 of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel. The convocation discovered its name and its purpose. Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.
Over the four-day convocation, July 1-4, there were nearly 3,500 participants, representing the face of the Church in America. There were approximately 3,000 religious and lay leaders across the spectrum of church ministries and organizations. There were 155 bishops, mostly Latin Rite, but also Eastern Rite, representing their dioceses from around the nation, and nearly 500 priests and permanent deacons. In total, there were 185 national Catholic organizations on hand. Some described it as a World Youth Day for adults, something resembling a retreat and a pep rally. It was a well-balanced event. The keynote addresses were inspiring and engaging, and the panels that immediately followed them enlarged the depth and breath of vision of the speakers. Perhaps, even more valuable were the break-out sessions that were not lectures but conversations on an array of topics addressing the reality of modern society and how to respond as the Lord’s disciples in the spirit and conviction of the Joy of the Gospel.
In fact, conversations were the hallmark of this Convocation, and in whatever direction one turned bishops were speaking with their diocesan delegations, and in every corner and at every table, participants were in animated dialogue. The drumbeat throughout was the call to missionary discipleship for all who define themselves as Catholic in the 21st century. We are to go to the margins, to the peripheries to encounter and accompany the poor and marginalized. This could well be a family member, the young, the old, the poor, those close at hand, those out of sight and mind. This is the apostolic leadership of Pope Francis, the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles powerfully unpacked this reality in his Keynote Address. “The peripheries are parts of our cities and rural areas we never visit, the other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are prisons and the tent cities in our public places. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about, where people are wounded and feel their lives have no meaning and make no difference, trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception. The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world, and these peripheries are new mission territories. The Church has always been present in the peripheries, but we can do better; we are called to do more.”
Overall, the Convocation was a great sign of unity in the Church in the United States and people were there for the right reasons. In this gathering the Bishops experienced their national conference not only as a bureaucracy, but also as a phenomenal tool for engaging our entire Church in its 21c mission. Church leaders seemed to be trying something new, another way that hasn’t been tried. All of the people were willing to sacrifice their leisurely 4th of July holiday and go to learn and be challenged. They didn’t go to be patted on the back but to learn. How can we share Christ better?
A cross fertilization of ministries, a great sign of unity for certain, and all were challenged to hear the voices of the poor and marginalized. The Convocation lit up social media for four days, which meant that the Joy of the Gospel was pulsating through cyberspace, plantings seeds of faith, hope and love. In the Diocese of Jackson the implementation of our vision and Pastoral Priorities is well underway. The path ahead is to inspire disciples, to serve others and to embrace diversity by being inviting and reconciling communities, by being intentional about life long faith formation, and by proclaiming Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith.
The Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the Joy of the Gospel in America enlarges our vision with the exhortation to be missionary disciples who break out of our comfort zones and go the poor and marginalized with ever renewed vigor in the work of proclaiming the crucified and risen Lord by living the Gospel in all of its truth, goodness and beauty.

 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The power of God’s Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is once again at the center of the Church’s public prayer as we celebrate the Ascension on this weekend, with the exalted feast of Pentecost to follow.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love… and we shall renew the face of the earth.” During the past month the Holy Spirit has kept me active with the celebration of 16 Confirmations to date around the diocese, confirming God’s presence in the lives of our young disciples. In a noteworthy manner our Sacred Mission and Vision come alive through Confirmation as we embrace the diversity of gifts, ministries and works of the Holy Spirit, serve others in many creative ways, and, of course, inspire disciples in the knowledge and understanding that Jesus is Lord, and God is our Father. The fullness of Christian Initiation is accomplished with the mark of holy Chrism, and the promises made at Baptism by parents and godparents have been realized. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s blessings is evident in the love of family, godparents, friends and the parish community. There are no visible tongues of fire upon the heads of the newly confirmed, but the slow and steady fire of faith has been burning and the love of the risen Lord is evident.
In the midst of the Confirmation campaign we honored our beloved religious, Sister Paula Merrill, SCN and Sister Margaret Held, SSSF, who were murdered last fall. Faithful friends and family gathered with prayer and the blessing and unveiling of their monument in Liberty Park in downtown Durant. It was a spirited gathering, comprised of people from the local community, from St. Thomas parish in Lexington, from their religious communities based in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and from the faithful from around the diocese of Jackson.
The Holy Spirit, the pledge of eternal life, was our consolation, hope and peace. As we began the the prayer service the heavens opened, and accompanying the presence of the Holy Spirit, was also an outpouring, or better said, down pouring of torrential rains, Mississippi’s abundance. This drenching had the whole package with sights and sounds, lightening and thunder. This display of God’s creations often overwhelmed the words of prayer, but it did not dampen our spirits and resolve to give fitting tribute to the sisters’ lives and deaths in service to the Lord and to the poor. In some profound way, it was like a dialogue between heaven and earth.
Nature spoke and we could only pause and wait, and then we responded with prayer that pierced the clouds. In the end we blessed the monument, and their lives and deaths will stand as a testimony to loving service over the course of a lifetime in this stressed area of our state.
We recall that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds, and souls is a foretaste of the promise of eternal life, and the feast of heaven. This is true for all believers who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and further strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a visible sign of this interior reality the vowed lives of the religious and ordained among us point to our goal to be with the Lord forever. They remind us that our citizenship is in heaven, and that we have no lasting city here. The violent deaths of Sisters Paula and Margaret only serve to deepen the conviction in the wisdom of the sacred scriptures that “blessed are they who die in the Lord, let them rest from their labors for their good deeds go with them.” They remain with us as witnesses to the truth, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
The blessings of the Holy Spirit dwell within us and surround us in countless ways. Over the next week we can all enrich our journey to Pentecost by praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit. Most often we pray in the power of the Spirit through the name of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. During these days we can pray more intentionally to the Holy Spirit to inspire us, to free us from sin, to empower us to live the gospel, and to lovingly serve as disciples of the Lord.  
Come, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth.

Obispo reflexiona sobre su aniversario

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

Escribo la columna de esta semana en el fin de semana del 40 aniversario de mi ordenación sacerdotal, el 7 de mayo de 1977. Durante momentos más tranquilos y mientras estoy en el altar durante las celebraciones litúrgicas, me impresiono por la gracia y la maravilla de que han pasado 40 años y el buen pastor me ha guiado a través de las interminables montañas del noreste de Pennsylvania en la Diócesis de Scranton hacia el sur profundo en la Diócesis de Jackson, Mississippi. Después de casi treinta y seis años y medio allá y cerca de tres y medio aquí, estoy feliz de estar vivo y bien, con buena memoria y gratitud, y capaz de servir con motivación y propósito.
El año 40 y los 40 días de tiempo en la Biblia representan tiempo sagrado, kairos, cuando Dios y su gente caminaron juntos (o flotaron en el tiempo de Noé) en el desenvolvimiento de la historia de la salvación. Es un tiempo de purificación, regeneración y la gozosa esperanza de algo nuevo en el horizonte. Para el cristiano, las aguas del diluvio prefiguran las aguas purificadoras del Bautismo y un período de 40 días que está estrechamente asociado con la temporada de cuaresma. Una vez en tierra el arco iris a través de las nubes era el signo del pacto entre Dios y la humanidad, y la promesa de una nueva vida. En mi breve tiempo aquí, un nuevo día ha amanecido y he conocido la vida abundante que el Buen Pastor prometió en la lectura del evangelio de este fin de semana. Además, con las ruidosas tormentas que he experimentado desde que me mudé al sur, multiplicado por 40 días y noches, podría imaginar la construcción de un arca en cada esquina.
En la experiencia del Éxodo tenemos dobles períodos de tiempo de 40 años y 40 días. Los israelitas vagaron durante 40 años en el desierto y Moisés pasó 40 días y 40 noches en el Monte Sinaí que trajeron consigo el don de los Diez Mandamientos, el corazón del Tora, y el signo y la sustancia de la evolución de la alianza entre Dios y los israelitas. \Estas tablas de piedra fueron hechas y adoptadas en los comienzos de la permanencia en el desierto y fijó el estándar para la creación de relaciones que Dios exigía de los israelitas antes de abrir la puerta a la tierra prometida a Abraham y a Sarah y a sus descendientes. Y así he reflexionado sobre los 40 años de preparación que los israelitas sufrieron, y de una manera muy real puedo saborear todas las experiencias de mi sacerdocio como pábulo para el molino que el Señor ha utilizado para fortalecer mi relación con él, y para servir ahora como el 11º obispo de Jackson. Una lección aprendida es que Dios puede redimir y transformar todas nuestras labores fieles y esfuerzos vanos para cumplir su voluntad.
Asimismo, me siento confiado trazando un paralelo entre los 40 días que Moisés pasó en el monte Sinaí y los cuarenta días que Jesús soportó en el desierto en previsión de su ministerio público con mi ministerio en la Diócesis de Jackson. Cuando Moisés bajó de la montaña él sabía que Dios, quien es misericordioso hasta la milésima generación, era un Dios fiel, y siempre estaría con ellos. El becerro de oro fue un gran bache en el camino, pero fue atravesado exitosamente. Los israelitas tenían ahora una misión y visión sagrada con prioridades pastorales claras. (Ustedes saben a dónde voy con esto.)
 Del mismo modo, cuando el Espíritu Santo sacó a Jesús del desierto puso en marcha la misión sagrada de la Nueva Alianza a establecerse en su sangre, arraigada en la profecía de Isaías. “El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque él me ha ungido para predicar el evangelio a los pobres… y anunciar el año de gracia del Señor (Lucas 4:18ff). En el mismo sentido, el Espíritu Santo ha ungido y facultó al Cuerpo de Cristo en nuestra diócesis, con una renovada misión sagrada y visión de futuro que está encarnado en nuestras prioridades pastorales.
Esta es la vida de la nueva alianza en la sangre del Señor para mí mientras viajo y sirvo a través de la diócesis. Dios está renovando mi fervor cuando veo la sabiduría de nuestra visión: servir a los demás, inspirar discípulos, abrazar la diversidad en cada curva en la carretera.
Esta noche será mi 12ª de 23 celebraciones del sacramento de la confirmación y la diversidad de los dones y ministerios en la iglesia, la llamada al discipulado y el mandato de servir están vivos y bien en nuestros discípulos jóvenes. Los recién confirmados son las piedras vivas que representan la mano de obra de la fe, la esperanza y el amor, que sucede a diario en sus familias y parroquias a través de la extensión de nuestros 65 condados en el estado de Mississippi.
La visión también se realiza en nuestras escuelas y programas de formación en la fe, a través de Caridades Católicas y del Hospital St. Dominic, a través de innumerables servicios sociales y la promoción de un orden social más justo. Para mí el trabajo de planificación pastoral en el último año y medio ha permitido al Espíritu Santo llevarnos suavemente hacia adelante con mayor determinación y pasión por la obra del Evangelio en la Iglesia Católica para la salvación de todos. Nos arraiga profundamente en la Biblia y las palabras del profeta Miqueas nos vienen a la mente como una lámpara para nuestros pies. “Dios le ha mostrado, oh mortales, lo que es bueno. Y lo que el Señor exige de vosotros? Actuar con justicia, amar la misericordia y caminar humildemente con tu Dios.” (6:8).
A los 40 estoy agradecido a todos los que rezan por mí fielmente a diario en la plegaria eucarística en la Misa, a través del rosario, y en una multitud de otras maneras, porque mi celo y deseo de servir permanecen fuertes. Este es un don del Señor, el Buen Pastor, el fruto de la oración. Como nos gusta decir en estas partes, Soy bendecido. “Estoy seguro de esto, que él que comenzó en usted (nosotros) su obra buena la irá llevando a buen fin hasta el día en que Jesucristo regrese” (Fil. 1:6).

Bishop reflects on symbolic anniversary

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
I write this week’s column on the weekend of my 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on May 7th 1977. During quieter moments, and while at the altar during liturgical celebrations, I am stirred by the grace of wonder and awe that 40 years have passed, and the Good Shepherd has led me through the endless mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Scranton into the Deep South in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. After nearly thirty-six and a half years there, and nearly three and a half here, I am happy to be alive and well, capable of memory and gratitude, and able to serve with motivation and purpose.
The 40-year and 40-day time frames in the Bible represent sacred time, kairos, when God and his people walk together (or float in Noah’s time) in the unfolding mystery of salvation. It’s a time of purification, regeneration, and the joyful hope of something new on the horizon. For the Christian, the waters of the flood prefigure the cleansing waters of Baptism and a 40-day period that is closely associated with the season of Lent. Once on dry land, the rainbow arching through the clouds was the sign of the Covenant between God and humankind, and the promise of new life. In my brief time here, a new day has dawned and I have known the abundant life that the Good Shepherd promised in the gospel reading this weekend. Moreover, with the pounding rainstorms that I have experienced since moving to the South, multiplied by 40 days and nights, I could envision the construction of an ark on every corner.
In the Exodus experience, we have the dual time periods of 40 years and 40 days. The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert, and Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai that brought about the gift of the Ten Commandments, the heart of the Torah, and the sign and substance of the evolving Covenant between God and the Israelites. These tablets of stone were made and adopted early on in the desert sojourn and set the standard for relationship building that God required of the Israelites before opening the door to the land promised to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. And so, I reflect on the 40 years of preparation that the Israelites underwent, and in a very real way I savor all of the experiences of my priesthood as grist for the mill that the Lord has used to strengthen my relationship with him, and to serve now as the 11th bishop of Jackson. A lesson learned is that God can redeem and transform all of our faithful labors and vain endeavors in order to accomplish his will.
Likewise, I feel confident in drawing a parallel between the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai, and the 40 days that Jesus endured in the desert in anticipation of his public ministry with my ministry in the Diocese of Jackson. When Moses came down from the mountain he knew that God, who is merciful to the 1,000th generation, was a faithful God, and would be with them always. The golden calf was a substantial pothole along the way, but it was successfully traversed. The Israelites now had a sacred mission and vision with clear pastoral priorities. (You know where I am going with this.) Likewise, when the Holy Spirit led Jesus out of the desert he launched the sacred mission of the New Covenant to be established in his blood, rooted in the prophecy of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor… and announce a year of favor from the Lord (Luke 4,18ff). In the same vein, the Holy Spirit has anointed and empowered the Body of Christ in our diocese with a renewed sacred mission and vision that is embodied in our pastoral priorities.
This is the life of the New Covenant in the Lord’s blood for me as I travel and serve throughout the diocese. God is renewing my zeal as I see the wisdom of our Vision: to serve others, to inspire disciples, to embrace diversity at every turn in the road. This evening will be my 12th of 23 celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the diversity of the gifts and ministries in the church, the call to discipleship, and the mandate to serve are alive and well in our young disciples.
The newly confirmed are the living stones who represent the labor of faith, hope and love that happens daily in their families and parishes across the expanse of our 65 counties in Mississippi.
The Vision also is realized in our schools and faith formation programs, through Catholic Charities and Saint Dominic’s, through a myriad of social services and advocacy for a more just social order. For me, the work of pastoral planning over the past year-and-a-half has allowed the Holy Spirit to nudge us forward with greater purpose and passion for the work of the Gospel in the Catholic Church for the salvation of all. It roots us deeply in the Bible and the words of the prophet Micah come to mind as a lamp for our feet. “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what the Lord requires of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
At 40, I am grateful to all who faithfully pray for me daily in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, via the rosary, and in a host of other ways because my zeal and desire to serve remain strong. This is a gift from the Lord, the Good Shepherd, the fruit of prayer. As we are fond of saying in these parts, I am blessed. “Being confident of this, that he who began the good work in you (us) will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6).

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 www.mississippicatholic.com)

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,