Bishop to consecrate diocese to Immaculate Heart of Mary

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – In honor of the centennial of the appearance of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal, and as a way to strengthen the Pastoral Priorities implementation, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will consecrate the Diocese of Jackson to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday, Oct. 8.
All are invited to the Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle at 2:30 p.m. After the Mass, the bishop will lead a procession around downtown and present representatives from each parish with prayer cards to take back to their home communities. Bishop Kopacz is asking every parish to offer the prayer as the Pastoral Priority teams start their work. On Saturday, Oct. 7, all are welcome to the cathedral for a  a rosary starting at 10:30 a.m. 
Outlying parishes can participate by offering a rosary at that hour so the diocese is all praying together. The bishop will also ask parish priests to consecrate individual parishes to the Immaculate Heart the weekend following the diocesan consecration.
When Mary appeared to a trio of poor shepherd children in Fatima 100 years ago, she asked them to spread a message of prayer and repentance. She appeared to the three for six months and asked that people pray the rosary and make sacrifices for sinners. Two of the visionaries, 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, became the church’s youngest non-martyred saints earlier this year. Both died young of illnesses. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, went on to become a nun. Her cause for sainthood is underway. The three shared Mary’s messages, which included predictions of war, a vision of hell and encouragement to pray and repent.
“This is one way we can ask Mary to guide us and watch over us during implementation (of the Priorities),” said Mary Woodward, chancellor for the diocese.

An image of Mary, taken from a window at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, is seen on the Pastoral Priority Booklet cover.

Bishop Kopacz pointed out that Mary is already prominent in the Pastoral Priority plan as her image, taken from the rose window at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, is on the cover of the booklet outlining the Priorities. “The Blessed Mother is almost a subtle presence on our Pastoral Priorities booklet, yet clearly present,” said the bishop. “I think we can safely say she is our model for life-long intentional discipleship – right to the foot of the cross and into the resurrection and Pentecost event,” he continued. ” She gave birth to the incarnate Son and was central to the birth of the Church. As the Mother of the Church I think it is fitting to consecrate the diocese to her intercession and maternal care on the 100th anniversary of Fatima,” concluded Bishop Kopacz.
The Congregation for Divine Worship lists the consecration as one of the devotions approved by the church, but only with a proper understanding of what it is. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy describes it this way: “The history of Marian devotion contains many examples of personal or collective acts of ‘consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary’ … Seen in the light of Christ’s words (cf. John 19, 25-27), the act of consecration is a conscious recognition of the singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage, of the many maternal functions she has, since she is a true mother in the order of grace to each and every one of her children (253).”
“There is a rich tradition of Marian consecrations in the Church. Many people immediately think of Louis de Montfort’s 33-day consecration – or the spinoff, ’33 Days to Morning Glory,'” explained Deacon Aaron Williams, who composed the prayer to be used in the Diocese of Jackson. Deacon Williams researched different forms of consecration during the process. He also took language from the Pastoral Priorities and the new mission and vision statements.
“Pope Pius XII wrote his own consecration prayer, in response to the request of Our Lady of Fatima, which he urged all priests to make use of in parishes during his reign. We could have naturally looked to any of these prayers, but in the end, I felt it was more fitting for our situation to have a prayer which expressed the goals we had in mind for the consecration of our diocese,” said Deacon Williams.
“I decided to look at a number of consecration prayers and see what elements should be included, and used some elements of the Pius XII prayer as a model. I also wanted to include references which were particular to our own diocese. For example, the Diocese of Natchez was established under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows (the titular title of the Basilica in Natchez). So, there was already some form of consecration to Mary in our diocese. The prayer I composed makes the consecration itself to ‘the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.’ A later line speaks of Mary as ‘constantly showing [Jesus] the sorrows of [her] heart,'” explained Deacon Williams.
When an individual consecrates themselves to the Virgin, they commit to receive reconciliation, pray a rosary, receive Eucharist and offer certain prayers and meditations on the first Saturday of each month. They put themselves entirely in Mary’s care in their prayers.

Pope Francis uses incense as he venerates a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the canonization Mass of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima seers, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, May 13. The Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917. The Diocese of Jackson will honor the centennial in October when Bishop Kopacz will consecrate the diocese to Mary. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Since this consecration is being done to highlight the envisioning plan, I also wanted the prayer to reference that in some way. One of the intercessions of the prayer quotes the diocesean Mission statement. ‘Help us, Joyful Mother, through your example of living the Gospel, to faithfully proclaim Jesus Christ to be Savior of our hearts,'” said Deacon Williams.
“Finally, as a sort of homage to the Pius XII prayer, I wanted something in this prayer to hint at the ministry of the Holy Father. Pope Francis is often talking about the need to ‘accompany’ people in their journey towards holiness. The prayer I composed speaks of Mary saying, ‘you do not abandon any person who loves your Son, Jesus, but instead accompany the Christian people in true discipleship.'”
Jackson joins a number of dioceses across the nation who have consecrated themselves to Mary this year, including the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Diocese of Victoria in Canada and the Diocese of Winona, Minn.
Diocesan Chancellor Mary Woodward is working on a brochure to distribute at the consecration with information on the devotion and prayers people can use in their homes with their families.
(Editor’s note: to see the Pastoral Priorites or find the prayer, go to http://jacksondiocese.org/vision/. Download the Prayer of Consecration for the diocese, parishes and families here.)

Bishop’s team roll out pastoral priorities

JACKSON – Father Kevin Slattery, far right, introduces resource team members (l-r) Joyce Hart, Pam Minninger, Patty Greene, Maureen Smith and Tom Walsh. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

JACKSON – Father Kevin Slattery, far right, introduces resource team members (l-r) Joyce Hart, Pam Minninger, Patty Greene, Maureen Smith and Tom Walsh. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A hundred people gathered at St. Dominic Centre in Jackson on Sunday, March 19, to begin the process of implementing the new diocesan vision, mission and pastoral priorities. The participants came from parishes across the Deanery one area with some visitors from Deanery two. Bishop Joseph Kopacz had hoped to lead all of the implementation sessions, but the death of his brother meant that he had to miss the first two.

JACKSON – Members of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle discuss the new mission, vision and priorities with their pastor, Father Anthony Quyet, center. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

JACKSON – Members of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle discuss the new mission, vision and priorities with their pastor, Father Anthony Quyet, center. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general, led off the session by going over the data gathered during last year’s listening sessions. He then introduced the new vision, mission and priorities.
Maureen Smith, director of communications, presented how the process will move forward. Each parish will convene a team to prayerfully consider the priorities. They will be expected to write a new set of goals for their parish community based on the new priorities. Each parish will be provided with a diocesan resource person who can guide them through the process of writing and executing SMART goals to help them support the new mission, vision and priorities.
SMART is an acronym which stands for goals which are specific and measurable, motivating, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The groups got instruction in how to narrow down big concepts into goals, tasks and time-lines. They also met the resource people who will be working with them.
Then, the crowd broke into parish groups who tried their hands at a sample SMART goal. The parish groups will meet during the next three to five years to continue to work on the priorities. During the next two weeks, a team from the chancery will travel to each deanery to host the same workshop. While these meetings are open to the public, they are especially designed for the people who will be working on the parish teams to write and execute SMART goals. The meetings are not specific to the area so anyone can attend any meeting. The schedule is below.

Diocesan Priority rollout begins with Convocation

By Maureen Smith
CANTON – Priests, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers and lay leaders from parishes across the diocese gathered at the Duncan Gray Center for a convocation to introduce the new diocesan pastoral priorities.
The gathering was the first of many meant to implement the new priorities throughout the church in the Diocese of Jackson The convocation gave the bishop and his team a chance to share the priorities and spend some time talking about how to integrate them into parish life.

CANTON – Lucille Smith, center, top photo, from Catholic Leadership Institute, speaks to the convocation.

CANTON – Lucille Smith, center, top photo, from Catholic Leadership Institute, speaks to the convocation.

Trainers from Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) presented some workshops on goal setting and then the attendees divided into groups to work on sample goals and plans they can take back to their parishes.
The next step will be meetings similar to the listening sessions hosted last year. At the new meetings, the bishop and his team will introduce a new vision, mission and set of three priorities for the diocese. The meeting schedule is on page 11 of this edition.
After those meetings, parishes will begin their work to align their work with the new priorities. The bishop has recruited a team of resource people for this part of the process. These people will be assigned to specific parishes. They will collaborate with the pastors to offer help when needed and keep track of progress on the goals each community sets for itself.
“What we like about this approach is that each community can look at it’s challenges and it’s members and see how they can support the overall mission. The mission remains the same for the whole diocese, but each community can adapt as it needs to help bring the vision to reality,” said Bishop Kopacz.

CANTON –  In bottom photo, Pam Menninger, LEM of Gluckstadt St. Joseph, gestures as she discusses goals with Father Alfred Ayem, SVD, pastor of Jackson Holy Ghost, Msgr. Elvin Sunds, pastor of Jackson St. Therese, Father Mike O'Brien, pastor of Canton Sacred Heart, Father Raul Ventura, ST, pastor of Canton Holy Child Jesus and Camden Sacred Heart and Rebecca Harris, director of Stewardship and development. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

CANTON – In bottom photo, Pam Menninger, LEM of Gluckstadt St. Joseph, gestures as she discusses goals with Father Alfred Ayem, SVD, pastor of Jackson Holy Ghost, Msgr. Elvin Sunds, pastor of Jackson St. Therese, Father Mike O’Brien, pastor of Canton Sacred Heart, Father Raul Ventura, ST, pastor of Canton Holy Child Jesus and Camden Sacred Heart and Rebecca Harris, director of Stewardship and development. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

The priorities are the work of Bishop Joseph Kopacz and an Envisioning Team made up of people from every deanery of the diocese. This group took the input from last year’s listening sessions, data about the state, diocese and church in America and received training from Catholic Leadership Institute on strategic planning to craft the new statement.
“Writing the new priorities was just the start of this process,” said Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general for the Diocese of Jackson. “We did not want to write a document that would get put on a shelf. We wanted to create a living plan that the parishes, schools and communities could keep using to move us forward and give us a sense of unity. We hope that using the resource people to support implementation will do just that –keep us headed in the right direction,” Father Slattery added.
Dennis van Auken, one of the trainers from CLI, said he has never seen a diocese plan out implementation in this way.
In addition to the meetings and resource team, the diocese will launch a whole new section of the website dedicated to the new priorities. These pages will have downloadable reflections and graphics parishes and individuals can use as they look at how to align their work with the work of the diocese.
The department of communications has prepared workbooks with the plan and prayer cards to encourage support. Mississippi Catholic will feature the new priorities in March along with coverage of success stories from different communities and continued support for implementation.

Father Xavier Jeseraj, center, works with Raquel Thompson and Sister Maria Elena Mendez.

Father Xavier Jeseraj, center, works with Raquel Thompson and Sister Maria Elena Mendez.

Bishop, envisioning team request prayers in advance of presenting pastoral plan

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and his Envisioning Team will roll out the Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Jackson in February 2017, a year after the bishop and members of his staff traveled the diocese to gather the information needed to write the plan.
“We have asked everyone to pray for the team as they worked on the plan, now we ask for prayers as we begin the process of education and implementation,” said Bishop Kopacz.
“I think the plan is a good one. It offers each parish, each community a chance to embrace the work of the church, but in their own cultural and unique ways. Advent is the perfect time for us to be planning this rollout. As we wait and hope for the Lord, we also pray for new life in the diocese.” he added.
In February of 2016 the bishop invited people from across the diocese to attend a series of listening sessions. Attendees spoke about what the diocese is doing well, what challenges the church faces and what dreams they have. Scribes recorded what people shared while written responses were collected and typed. A team of more than a dozen representatives from across the diocese began meeting to go through all the data collected and discern priorities and goals for the diocese.
A consultant from Catholic Leadership Institute led the team through the process of strategic planning, helping them focus on outcomes and results so the plan could strike a balance between being realistic and optimistic.
The resulting plan consists of a new mission statement, a vision and three priorities. The next step is to assign “smart” goals to each priority. “Smart” is an acronym used in corporate settings and means the goals are strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound or timely. Each goal has to contain a way to measure rates of success and a timeline for when it should be reached. The plan leaves room for creativity as well as each parish, school and service center will approach the goals in their own way. Representatives from the diocese will report back on what the parishes are doing and Mississippi Catholic will share some of the success stories.
“We hope the parishes – and even individual people – will think about how they can work on each priority in their own lives and churches,” said Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general for the diocese.
The rollout will start with priests and lay eccelesial ministers. The bishop and his team will host a convocation during the first week of February to go through the plan with them and talk about ways to implement it.
Later in the month the bishop will go back out, hosting another set of public gatherings to provide a forum to present the plan to parish leadership and parishioners. The schedule will be similar, but not identical to the one used last year. Look for it in upcoming editions of Mississippi Catholic.
In addition to a printed version of the plan, the Department of Communications will build an online version with resources connected to each goal and priority. For example, the team is selecting a scripture verse for each goal. Reflections on these scriptures may help a small faith group or pastoral council explore how it fits in their parish community. The web version will also include a way to ask questions or share ways the plan is implemented in a particular community.
The plan looks ahead 3-5 years. Before the end of that time, a team will revisit the goals and priorities to set new ones or decide to maintain the ones in place.