Carmelites Celebrate Feast Day with Jackson area parishes

The small chapel in the Carmelite Monastery on Terry Road was overflowing with friends and supporters of the Carmelite nuns and Carmelite Seculars during Mass at 6:30p.m. on Sunday evening, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This, too, was the final day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel which began on Sat., July 8, and continued with daily Masses and Novena Prayers to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Celebrants and choirs were from different parishes in the Jackson area each day of the Novena. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Richard Choir graced the chapel with beautiful harmony. Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, and Father Kevin Slattery concelebrated the Mass. The homilist was Deacon Denzil Lobo.

Deacon Lobo reminded the congregation that when Mary stood under the cross with John, the beloved disciple, she then understood Simeon’s prophecy, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword.”  Looking down and seeing his mother with his beloved disciple, Jesus passed the responsibility of taking care of his mother to him.  John then took her into his heart and his home.  Just like John accepted Mary into His home, Jesus invites us to accept Mary into our hearts and homes. Mary is now our mother and prays for us, her children, and we, in turn invoke her protection and intercession. After the Mass, all were invited to a reception on the lawn of the Monastery catered by the Catholic Filipino Community and Carmelite Seculars. (Those who may be interested in learning more about the Carmelite Secular lay vocation may contact Dorothy Ashley, 601-259-0885 or carmelite57@yahoo.com.)

Sick, suffering, our everyday heroes

Guest Column
By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
sr_constance_veit-head-shotOver Christmas, two of my family members were talking about a mutual friend who, though chronically ill, routinely does heroic acts of kindness for others. Though they get exasperated with her when she overextends herself, they realize that caring for others is what makes life meaningful. I thanked God that these women are kind enough to support their friend through both good times and bad, helping her to live a full life.
This incident came to mind as I read Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, in which he reflects on St. Bernadette’s relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady spoke to Bernadette “as one person to another,” he says, treating her with great respect, even though she was poor and sickly.
“This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life.”
In light of the expanding legalization of assisted suicide, Pope Francis’ insights are invaluable. Studies have shown that the majority of people who support assisted suicide do so because they fear the loss of personal autonomy and dignity in their final days. Suffering, they say, is meaningless and should have no place in the human experience. It seems that the thought of having to go on living when faced with serious disability or illness is becoming unacceptable in our post-Christian society.
What I find most tragic in this exaltation of independence and personal choice is that this attitude denies the beautiful reality that we are made for community. Created in the image and likeness of God, who is a Trinity of Persons, we are inherently relational, not autonomous.
Mutual dependence, rather than independence, is the true Gospel value, and so we should not be ashamed when we need the assistance of others. Our weakness or infirmity can be a graced opportunity for those who help us, as well as for ourselves, for as Saint John Paul II so often repeated, we can only find fulfillment through the sincere gift of self to others.
This is why Pope Francis is asking us to honor the sick by helping them to share their gifts and abilities. “Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance,” he writes, “but who have a gift of their own to share with others.”
St. Bernadette turned her frailty into strength by serving the sick and offering her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that Mary asked her to pray for sinners, the pope writes, “reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life.”
Social media has allowed me to become acquainted with numerous heroes who go on giving in the midst of tremendous suffering. If you are looking for inspiration just google Zach Sobiech or Lauren Hill, young adults who made a difference in the world while dying of cancer; J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Action League, who triumphed over a brain tumor; or O.J. Brigance, a former professional football player who inspires thousands though he is completely paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I am sure that you have unsung heroes in your midst in the person of sick, disabled or elderly persons who enrich your life despite their own trials. This year as we celebrate the World Day of the Sick, let’s honor these everyday heroes by letting them know that we admire them and are there for them in their moments of need, and by asking them to pray for us!
(Sister Constance Veit, lsp, is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

90-year old sister not slowing down, teaching the faith

By Joe Lee
At the time Sister Michele Doyle grew up in metropolitan Chicago, it was possible for young Catholic ladies to join a sisterhood after eighth grade and begin a lifelong commitment to faith and religious life.
Now 90 years young, and having spent more than five decades in Mississippi as a Catholic schoolteacher, college professor and parish religious education leader, she’s grateful to her parents for holding firm when they thought she was a bit young to begin chasing her dreams.

Sister Michelle Doyle talks about dealing with loss during a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

Sister Michelle Doyle talks about dealing with loss during a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

“From the time I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be a (religious) sister,” Doyle said. “All during elementary school and high school, I continued with that desire. My parents were wise, because at that time religious communities were taking people out of eighth grade. I would do a little tantrum because I wanted to go, and they would say, ‘No, not until you finish high school.’”
After graduating in LaGrange, Illinois, Doyle entered School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That year she and her fellow sisters took the first in a series of vows which, over a period of several years, led to a lifetime vow the women were asked to make.
“We call ourselves sisters,” Doyle said. “Nuns are formally cloistered. Sisters are active (in the local community). For a long time we were trying to live both lives: the active life and the prayer life. And we still pray, of course. But today we understand that you can’t be a fully contemplative community and at the same time be an active community.”
Doyle asked to be sent to China once she was ready for active life, but when the assignment from the mother house came in 1949, she was told she was being sent to Mississippi.

Sister Michelle Doyle leads a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

Sister Michelle Doyle leads a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

“I was in Yazoo City for 20 years at St. Francis, an all-black mission school. I taught and was principal part of the time,” Doyle said. “The purpose in sending sisters down was in response to a request from Bishop (Oliver) Gerow, because this was a period of strong segregation — we were asked to go and not so much convert people, but the ultimate goal was to educate the African American students to help them move forward in the world.”
Doyle joined the faculty of St. Joseph Catholic School in 1969, the year St. Francis of Yazoo City closed its doors. St. Joe, now on Mississippi 463 in Madison, was located on Boling Street in West Jackson then.
“It was the year the schools were integrating, and I thought I still had something to give to the African American community,” Doyle said. “So I taught at St. Joe part time and taught history at Jackson State University part time.
“I did that seven years — I’d gotten a master’s in history from the University of Loyola in Chicago and a master’s in religious education from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, so by then I was free to move into the Jackson diocesan office in the areas of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and Adult Formation.”
Those areas of study — which involve, respectively, bringing new Catholics into the church and getting parish catechists (teaching candidates) certified — are crucial in rural parishes that may not have anyone on staff who is trained in religious education.
Although Doyle retired from full-time work in 2005, she remains very active in Adult Formation today. She continues to work closely with Holy Family of Jackson, St. Mary of Yazoo City, St. Thomas of Lexington and St. Francis of Assisi in Madison, and she’s teaching small groups of catechists right now at St. Mary and Holy Family.
Joyce Adams coordinates Adult Faith Formation at Holy Family and is also working toward certification while enjoying the series Doyle is currently teaching, “Mary and the Saints: Companions On the Journey.” It’s one of eight different classes Doyle has taught at the parish.
“Sister Michele is very meticulous,” Adams said. “She ensures that we get a minimum of 16 hours of instruction with each class. Discussions often include ways that the content has impacted one’s personal spiritual journey. Seeing the sunrise, visiting the zoo and hearing the sounds of children playing took on new meaning for me after taking the ‘Christian Prayer and Spirituality’ class.”
“Sister Michele taught me religion in 1976 (at St. Joe),” said Mary McDonald, part of the Adult Formation class at St. Francis of Assisi. “I always thought she was a wonderful teacher, and she was always very dedicated to her profession. It was so clear even to a high school student that she not only talked about service to others, but she lived it.”
“I think there is something extraordinary about a person who does not see age as a limitation to maintain a sense of purpose,” said Fran Lavelle, director of the department of faith formation with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. “She is a great inspiration to me as I think about all of the years she has served God’s people. She could sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labor. But, for Sister Michele, the fruits are her labor.”
Diane Melton, religious education coordinator and a St. Mary’s parishioner in Yazoo City, took catechist Level II classes from Doyle in 2009 and became certified to teach adults at her parish. Doyle is currently teaching “Christology: Jesus of the Gospels and History” at St. Mary’s through the end of February.
“She has a way of making things relevant to our day and time as well,” Melton said. “Several of us have taken some of her classes the second time because she is so easy to listen to, and just to gain more information regarding our Catholic faith.”
It has been a full 75 years since the eighth grade sister-to-be was itching to leave home and serve. And as her students see each day, Doyle shows no signs of slowing down.
“I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s an opportunity to be with people and be creative,” Doyle said. “And to share the gifts I have — everyone has gifts. I don’t garden and I don’t cook and I don’t sew, so I do what I can do. People keep coming back.”
(Reprinted with permission from the Clarion Ledger.)

Documentary depicts work of Jonestown Family Center’s founder

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Mississippi Public Broadcasting is set to air a documentary about the work of Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, and the Jonestown Family Center for Education and Wellness on Monday, Dec. 12, at 10 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at noon and 4:30 p.m. The film will then be posted to the MPB website.
“Enriching Destiny” is the third documentary to come out of the True Delta Project, a collaboration between Erickson Blakney, philanthropist and film producer, Lee Quimby, professor and documentary filmmaker and Daniel Scarpati, cinematographer.
The documentary showcases the almost 30 years of service Sister Teresa offered in the Delta. She founded the Jonestown Family Center, which includes a Montessori School, a pre-school, parenting programs, a fitness center and summer programs. She moved back to her home in Seattle in January.
Blakney said he met Sister Teresa while he was working in Clarksdale and figured out pretty quickly he had the makings of a good story. “Sister Teresa herself is a wonderful storyteller, smart, aggressive and fiercely protective of those kids and the Family Center,” he said. When he found out she was leaving, he knew he had to act quickly to capture the story.

JONESTOWN – Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, speaks with some of the students at the Jonestown Center in this still from a documentary about her life. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

JONESTOWN – Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, speaks with some of the students at the Jonestown Center in this still from a documentary about her life. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

Sister Teresa admits she is careful about letting journalists, writers or filmmakers have access to the Family Center. Many of them, she feels, are looking to show the worst parts of Delta life, highlighting only the challenges and not the success stories. “We have had some bad experiences,” she said. The crew from True Delta was different.
“They came in May for the Montessori graduation. They interviewed me and members of the staff. They were so respectful,” she said. The crew returned in June to see the summer education program at work. She felt comfortable with their approach and with the end product.
“We don’t have narrators. We let the subjects tell their story. We just wanted to give them a platform,” said Blakney of how they put the story together.
Sister Teresa even decided to talk about a chapter in her life she does not often reveal. In 2012 she was stabbed and beaten during a robbery in her home. She does not like to talk about it and declined to speak about it in May when the crew started their work. By June, they had earned her trust. “By then, I had prayed and discerned and changed my mind. The attack is part of my whole story,” she said.
“It was a special joy to work with Sister Teresa and see how much the Jonestown Family Center benefits the families of Jonestown,” wrote Quinby in an email to Mississippi Catholic. “Erickson and I hope that our documentary will inspire support for the Center and show that the vision that Sister Teresa brought to Jonestown can be achieved in other communities as well,” she added.
Quinby and her partners have used their other documentaries to tell the stories of blues musicians and children in the Delta who are maintaining the legacy of blues music. When they work in Mississippi, they see opportunity and hope.
“In the center of Jonestown is the Family Center, which is this beacon of light and hope and it’s safe and nurturing,” explained Blakney. He and his crew rode the bus to go pick up the children participating in the summer program.
“As the kids are boarding the bus the women picking them up are singing and the kids start singing. When you are on that bus you really feel like you are involved in something special,” he added.
Blakney points out that Sister Teresa and Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, who is still in Jonestown running a number of projects to improve the community, did not come to the Delta with their own agenda. “She and the other Sisters did not come to impose what they thought people should be doing. They worked with the town to create something special,” he said. “It’s unique in that the town owns the Family Center. They understand the value of it,” he added.

A sign welcomes visitors to Jonestown in the Mississippi Delta. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

A sign welcomes visitors to Jonestown in the Mississippi Delta. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

When Sister Teresa retired from her position as director of the Family Center, Stanley Lang, a native of the Delta, was hired as a replacement. Sister Teresa said she is thrilled to know she left the center in good hands. She still visits, but said she always wanted to see the programs become self-sufficient and run by members of the community.
Sister Teresa is enjoying being on sabbatical while she contemplates her next ministry, spending time with her family, traveling and enjoying herself.
“Enriching Destiny” will be available on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting website, www.mpbonline.org, for about a year. True Delta also hopes to make DVD copies available for purchase.

Called to Serve: Pray for seminarians, priests, religious

During National Vocations Awareness Week, we ask you to keep the seminarians, priests and religious for the Diocese of Jackson in your prayers. Here is a look at orders serving in the Diocese of Jackson.

Brothers:
Congregation of Christian Brothers, C.F.C
Franciscans, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.

Priests:
Priests of the Sacred Heart, S.C.J.
Diocesan Priests
Franciscan Friars, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.
Norbertine Fathers, O.Praem.
Redemptorist Fathers, C.Ss.R.
Society of the Divine Word, S.V.D.
St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart, S.S.J.

Sisters:
Adrian Dominican Sisters, OP
Congregation of Humility of Mary, CHM
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, CSA
Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL, OP
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, FSPA
Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, MGSpS
Order of the Discalced Carmelites, OCD
Sisters for Christian Community, SFCC
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Atlantic Midwest Province, SSND
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central
Pacific Province, SSND
School Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, SCN
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, US/Ontario Province, SNJM
Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, S.H.Sp.
Sisters of the Living Word, SLW
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, South Central Community, RSM
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, PBVM
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, CSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, SSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA, CSJ
Solitary, Diocese of East Anglia, UK
Union of Presentation Sisters, PBVM

Guest Column: At life’s end, your best gift

By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
As a resident of Washington, D.C., I have been closely following the campaign to legalize assisted suicide in our nation’s capital.
At the same time, my siblings and I have spent the last two weeks at my mother’s bedside in a hospital intensive care unit in my hometown. For days, I’ve been watching the physicians and nurses tending, with incredible focus and professionalism, to my mother, who is unconscious. No clinical sign has been left unexamined; no potential treatment option left undiscussed. Witnessing all of this has given me a lot to think about.
Such attention to detail; so many resources spent on a single life – and the lives of each of the other critically ill patients in this and so many other hospitals – how can we explain such an intense level of financial and human investment in the sick and elderly?
For me the answer to this question is obvious: Each human life is worth our care and attention because every person has been created in God’s image and likeness and is thus endowed with inviolable dignity and worth. As Pope Benedict XVI often said, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” in God’s plan.
Every human life is sacred, even when the individual is unaware or no longer values life.

Sr. Viet

Sr. Viet

To those who are advocating for the ability to cut short the lives of the sick and elderly, and to those who express the desire to end life on their own terms, we must offer a heartfelt response: Even if you no longer value your own life, we do. We value your life because you are inherently worthy of love and reverence. There is no need to prove your usefulness or your personal worth; you are valuable simply because you are, and because you are a fellow child of God.
The sick, disabled and elderly play an essential role in our human community, in part, because they draw us together and teach us, through their state of dependence, how to be more loving. This was highlighted by Tracy Grant of The Washington Post, whose reflection about caring for her terminally ill husband went viral several weeks ago.
Grant referred to the time she spent caring for her husband as the best months of her life. Prior to her husband’s illness, she wrote, “I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end.”
“Some days were more difficult than others,” Grant recalled, “but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day – if I was willing to look hard enough. I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous. But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life.”
Grant believes that she “will never again be as good a person” as she was when she cared for her husband. “I am a better person for having been [his] caregiver,” she concluded. “It was his last, best gift to me.”
My siblings and I returned home to share a home-cooked meal dropped off by an old friend. We watched the World Series and talked about all we’ve been through with my mother so far, as well as our own wishes and intentions in such a situation. If my mother had chosen to check out early, we, her children, would not have these weeks together to shower her with our love and grow up a little more, together. This may be her last, best gift to us.
As you consider your end of life wishes think twice before you deprive your family members and friends of your last, best gift.
(Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p., is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

‘God charmed me’ into life of simplicity, joy

JACKSON – Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit Sisters Lourdes Gonzalez (right) and Obdulia Olivar share a happy smile during the recent meeting of Hispanic ministers in Jackson.

JACKSON – Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit Sisters Lourdes Gonzalez (right) and Obdulia Olivar share a happy smile during the recent meeting of Hispanic ministers in Jackson.

By Sister Lourdes Gonzalez, MGSpS
“Vocational experience! Are you crazy? What is happening to you? I don’t understand anything” These are some of the comments I heard from several people when I shared with them my desire to respond to God’s call, when He was calling me to be part of his life, to dedicate my life to him, in service to my brothers and sisters.
With simplicity, I share with you the way in which God charmed me and I let myself be seduced by him.
I was 20-years-old when suddenly, without knowing why, I began to feel a sense of emptiness, of dissatisfaction. Nothing of what I did or saw around me made sense. By then I had finished my interior decoration studies at the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and I was working. With my savings I had bought a new car which made me feel like I was living in a dream. I was very pleased to have achieved one of my dreams in such a short time.
And I had a boyfriend. He was a nice young man, a professional, responsible and respectful. It was a good match, as it is commonly said. I also had good friends with whom I traveled frequently to the beach and other places we enjoyed and I had a good relationship with my extended family. I could not understand why I was feeling this inner emptiness.
Although my parents were active Catholics, I only attended Mass on Sundays and Holy Days but tried to live my life in a very healthy and responsible way. I say this to mention that God’s call came without me asking.
I put in my lips the words of the Prophet Amos, “I was not a prophet nor the son of prophet, I was a pastor and seller of figs.” The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, go prophesy to my people Israel.”(Amos 7:14-16)
I went through a period of uncertainty, searching in my inner self, trying to figure out, to discover what was going on. I wanted to get to the root of this feeling so strange that I was experiencing in my heart.
By chance, one day I met Mother Mary of Jesus Ramos, MGSpS, who worked in my parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. She had been working there for two years but I didn’t know her. I remember very well, it was a Tuesday. Luckily, I was at home that day and at 5 in the afternoon as she knocked on the door to lead a Bible study, something she did weekly at different homes as part of her apostolate.
As soon as I saw her my heart began to beat at a rapid pace, as if the presence of a religious was a novelty to me, as if I had never seen a Sister in my life. That was not the case because I had studied at a Catholic school with the Servants of Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament.
Since the first moment I was very impressed by Mother Mary – her joy, her joviality, when my gaze crossed with hers, and I liked the way she conducted the meeting, so cordial, direct when she spoke to all the people gathered there.
From then on I asked her to talk with me so she could help me discover what was going on in my life. Kindly she accepted, I don’t remember how often we gathered and for how long we talked.
Finally I asked her to let me live an experience with the community to learn more, to see how they lived and what they were doing. A short time later she told me I could go to Morelia to have an experience with the postulants (girls who are starting their process in religious life).
I remember that when I arrived at the community’s house, and from the moment they opened the door I said ‘here it is! This is what I am looking for!’
The ministry I have undertaken as a Missionary Guadalupana of the Holy Spirit has been in this beloved country, United States, specifically in California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and now here in Mississippi for almost six years. Currently I am serving the Hispanic community of Jackson St. Therese Parish.
“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong form me, and you triumphed. (Jr. 20:7)

Sr. Bernadette felt call to religious life early

By Sister Bernadette McNamara, S.H.Sp.
I’m a Sister of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate. Our Motherhouse is located in San Antonio, Texas, the cradle of our foundation.
I grew up in a loving and faith filled family on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland. I was the third oldest of 12 children. I had a wonderful childhood though because of health issues, aggravated by the dampness on the island, my father had to work in England and we only got to see him, for a week, every few months.
As a young girl, Missionary Sisters often visited our elementary school, many of whom worked in Africa – they told us stories and showed us pictures of their missionary work among African children who were very poor. They asked us to sell tickets and fill “mite boxes” with our pennies to support their work. I began to dream of one day working with those children – my vocation was born.

Sister Bernadette McNamara narrates the annual Holy Family Early Learning Center Passion Play in this 2014 file photo.

Sister Bernadette McNamara narrates the annual Holy Family Early Learning Center Passion Play in this 2014 file photo.

I didn’t know how my dream would become a reality, but the Holy Spirit has a way of guiding each one of us exactly where God wants us to be. I went to live with my aunt, in County Galway; she lived close to the convent and high school where the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate lived and taught. I was 12 years old at that time.
When I was 15, I told my parents that I had decided to join the sisters. On January 6, 1950, I bid farewell to my beloved family and with two others, I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate. A few months later, on July 4, we left on the Mauretania – a passenger ship bound for New York. We made the trip to San Antonio by train. There I received my formation as a Sister of the Holy Spirit, and continued my education, first at St. Mary’s University and later at the University of Incarnate Word.
I pronounced my first vows as a religious sister in 1952. During the next 64 years I lived a full and rich life, which had its challenges but also an abundance of joys and blessings. In the earlier years I taught in schools in Texas, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I taught for a year and then became the school principal.
I had the privilege of ministering with and for the people of Mississippi for 21 great years – 12 as principal of St. Peter the Apostle Elementary School in Pascagoula and nine at Holy Family in Natchez. St. Peter the Apostle School in Pascagoula was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the pastor decided it was not feasible to rebuild. And so ended my ministry there.
I volunteered to go to Natchez to teach. Two years after I arrived, the elementary school closed because of financial challenges. In the fall of 2007 an Early Childhood Learning Center opened at Holy Family and I was asked to serve as the Catholic identity and financial director of the Program. Talk about life after death. The following eight years were a mixture of so many joys and blessings, but also some serious challenges.
In March 2015 I had a serious fall. I broke my second cervical vertebra. After time in the hospital and physical therapy I was able to travel. I moved to our Motherhouse in San Antonio where I now reside. Although I had to leave Natchez, I left my heart there with the beautiful people who were such a blessing in my life. I continue to support the program from a distance, through my daily prayers and in any other way I can offer my support.
(Sister McNamara lives in retirement in San Antonio. See the ad on this page for an address.)

New Carmelite leader gives parents credit for deep faith

In this file photo from 2015, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection (right) shares a laugh with Sister Cor Christi Abenio and Lloyd Chatham during the art show of Sister Mary Muriel Ludden, a Discalced Carmelite nun who died in 2013.(Photo by Elsa Baughman)

In this file photo from 2015, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection (right) shares a laugh with Sister Cor Christi Abenio and Lloyd Chatham during the art show of Sister Mary Muriel Ludden, a Discalced Carmelite nun who died in 2013.(Photo by Elsa Baughman)

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Before she came to the United States from the Philippines to serve at the Carmelite Monastery, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection had been a Carmelite nun for 35 years. She says her calling began to develop at a very young age when her neighbor would come to her house to read her and her siblings children’s books about the life of the saints. “I was about seven years old, and these stories, which were very easy to follow, taught us about how to practice virtues such as acts of love, kindness,” she remembers. “These hidden messages stuck with me.”
One of the books she loved the best was the life of St. Therese of Avila. Later in life, Sister Mary Jane was attracted to silence and solitude, something she thinks is a gift from God because while she was surrounded by all the noise she was able to feel the presence of God. “I think I got this feeling from St. Therese.”
She learned a lot from reading the life of St. Therese but she attributes her faith to her parents who were devoted Catholics.
She had a normal life growing up in the Philippines. She had friends, went to parties, joined clubs, was a ballet dancer. But her calling was haunting her. “I wanted to put this feeling aside because I wanted to enjoy the life I was having but the calling kept haunting me,” she noted. “I even considered marriage life in the future but then I thought if I married there was not coming back.
“With time I began to feel the need to address God’s will for me and when I made my decision to answer His call there was this feeling of liberation, of peace, it was a confirmation that God was going to protect me.”
She grew up with the Columban Sisters from Ireland who ran the school she attended. Remembering her childhood, when she started to hear the Lord’s calling, Sister Mary Jane said she was attracted to their mission but at the time she was looking for something that she didn’t find in that congregation.
At the age of 15, she thought about applying at the Carmelite congregation and without telling anyone she went to their monastery to speak to the prioress, a French nun who could barely speak English. When she told her about her intentions to enter the monastery the nun told her, “Oh my child, there is only one St. Therese.” Sister Mary Jane had a good laugh reminiscing this scene.
The prioress encouraged her to go back home, to continue her high school studies and to return after she was sure about her vocation. “And I just did that. I really wanted to ‘taste’ how their life was.”
At 18 she returned to the monastery to begin her religious life. She said she thought that if she didn’t like it she would go back home to start college.
“Here I am, 45 years later and enjoying my life as a Carmelite nun. She says she could have gone the other way but this was a special call. “I have always felt I am one of the few chosen. Everything comes from him and I did his will. I am happy where I am. My life as a Carmelite nun is a life of prayer. We spend much of our life praying not only for the church but for all people of the world, for peace, for refugees, for the unborn. We do it for our love for him, to save souls, to save sinners. This is my great joy, praying.”
In fact, the sisters gather seven times a day to pray as a community and they are required to have individual prayers in the morning and in the evening as well as spend time in silence.
Sister Mary Jane, who has been living in the Carmelite Monastery for 10 years, was elected as prioress of her community on May 24 of this year and installed by Bishop Joseph Kopacz during a special Mass at the monastery.
About her new role in the community she says that it’s a big responsibility. “I do my part to serve the community and I feel myself as a servant of the servants.”
There are five sisters living in the monastery at his moment.

Dominicans offer invitation to adventure

Dear Catholic Women of Mississippi,
National Vocation Awareness Week is wrapping up. Will you join me and all of our Springfield Dominican Sisters in Jackson and around the world in praying for young people who are discerning religious life?
Do you know someone you feel has the gifts to be a sister?
Be in touch. I’m happy to share with you some tips for how to water the seed of God’s call in someone you know and love. Check out springfieldop.org/a-gift-for-you/.
Interested in Dominican life for yourself? Keep reading!
Do you have a heart made for God?

Sr. Marron

Sr. Marron

Here’s the secret: everyone does! It’s just a matter of being quiet long enough to hear where your heart, already connected to God, is calling you. Do you think religious life takes courage? It does, some. Having courage is the same thing as having “heart.” The ‘cour’ in courage means heart. St. Paul’s talk about being members of the body of Christ is another way of saying that we are deeply connected to one another and to all of God’s creation in the heart of Jesus, God’s love-made-human for us all.
Do you have a sense of adventure?
Do you like the idea of learning a second language? Traveling overseas? Giving a year of service in an unfamiliar city? Then you already have that sense of adventure that might make you an excellent sister-candidate! There is no shortage of adventure when you belong to the Dominican family: sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, laity and associates who circle the globe and are deeply committed to one another and the preaching mission that St. Dominic imagined when he founded the Order of Preachers 800 years ago.
Do you want to be happy?
Who doesn’t! There’s all kinds of evidence that the one thing that makes us happiest — no matter who we are — is a deep sense of gratitude for the gift of our life, the little and big pleasures, wonders, and surprises that keep us aware of the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world. Being a Catholic sister comes with a HUGE happiness quotient when it’s the right fit for you.
Are you looking for a place to belong?
Sooner or later every person develops her own sense of identity and the awareness that her gifts are meant, not just for herself, but for the well-being of the world. When you come to that realization, life in religious community can be a fantastic place to land!
More about us
People who know us well say that we Springfield Dominican Sisters are effective ministers, powerful pray-ers and hospitable, down-to-earth folks. They see us as leaders in places where God’s people are alive and thriving. We’ve served in the Diocese of Jackson for 70 years at St. Dominic’s Health Services. We also have a broad reach across Illinois, where we are based, in several other states, and in the peaks and valleys of Peru. With us, you and other like-minded women have the opportunity to live out your dreams in ways that can change the world.
It is never too early — or too late — to consider joining St. Dominic’s family, the Order or Preachers. We’d be honored to accompany you on your journey of discernment no matter what time in life you are ready to respond to God’s call.
The easiest way to learn more about being a Dominican Sister is to talk with a Dominican Sister. You can reach out in all the traditional and electronic ways, but the best way is to get to know one of us. You are most welcome to call Sister Susan Karina Dickey at St. Dominic’s in Jackson at 601-200-6829, or to touch base with me in Springfield at srteresa@spdom.org or 217-787-0481.
We are known most prominently for our education and healthcare ministries, but we also minister to people in need of spiritual guidance, pastoral care and counseling. We are caretakers of 150 acres of land in central Illinois where our mission is to care for Earth, our common home. Our sisters have traveled the world to witness to the urgent needs of God’s people in areas of conflict and poverty around the globe.
At our three Illinois high schools — Rosary High School, Aurora; Sacred Heart-Griffin, Springfield; and Marian Catholic, Chicago Heights — we teach and preach the Gospel, passing along to young women and men excellent intellectual training, a love for Jesus, a commitment to truth, and the skills needed for productive and faithful adulthood.
This year we celebrate 70 years of compassionate, healing service to the people of central Mississippi at St. Dominic Health Services, Jackson, where the opportunities to fulfill Jesus’ healing mission are countless.
We also minister in places like Our Lady of the Sioux, at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oglala, South Dakota, and are deeply engaged in accompanying women and men who want to learn English and become U.S. citizens at our two literacy centers in the Chicago area.
Unsure of Where to Use Your Gifts?
That’s okay! You can make your path by walking it. Our Springfield Dominican family includes both North and South Americans. Our Peruvian sisters minister high in the rural Andes and in Lima’s urban center in parishes and in a shelter for homeless elderly women.
We are passionate in our commitment to dismantle systemic racism in the United States and Peru. Our modest efforts have begun to ripple throughout our spheres of influence in exciting, and we believe Spirit-led ways to root out systemic racism.
Let God Prove You Wrong
If you love God and God’s people, and are attracted — even a little bit — to finding yourself by losing yourself in service to the Gospel, then be in touch with us!
Why not give God the opportunity to prove you wrong? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! There is a place for you as a Springfield Dominican Sister.
I’d love to hear from you. Please be in touch.
In Jesus and St. Dominic,
Sister Teresa Marron, OP