School theme: Living as Missionary Disciples: embrace, serve, inspire

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Hundreds of Catholic School students returned to their classrooms the first and second weeks of August, but the work for administrators, faculty and staff started weeks prior to that. This year the Diocese of Jackson welcomes five new principals while another two administrators move into new leadership positions. The Office of Education is also working on unifying the Jackson area schools as one system and bringing all Catholic schools together with a shared vision and mission.
Natchez Cathedral and Greenville St. Joseph Unit schools as well as Clarksdale St. Elizabeth and Meridian St. Patrick hired new principals. Within the system, Dena Kinsey moved into the role of principal at Madison St. Joseph School while Jennifer David moved to Jackson St. Richard School as principal. Meet the new principals on page 9.
Earlier this year, a representative from the Pacific Institute Education Initiative came to offer a workshop called “Thought Patterns for Higher Performance.” Principals and a school representative from each school across the diocese attended a two-day session in July. The workshop focused on recognizing and changing thought patterns that hold people back from doing new things that might improve their lives.
Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Education said offering the workshop was a starting point in her plan of uniting all the schools with one vision moving forward. “This was about inspiring leadership, getting everyone on the same page with a clear vision,” said Cook. “We wanted to provide them with the tools to take that vision and move forward with it,” she added. A coach from the institute will come back in September. The institute interviewed principals before the process started and will follow up with them during the year.
Cook explained that her office is leading an effort this year to help all the schools in the diocese become a more unified system. One means is through system-wide accreditation through AdvancEd, an agency formed from a merger of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) with North Central Association and the later addition of Northwest Accreditation Commission. Initially, only the high schools were accredited by SACS, and later individual elementary schools applied for accreditation.
“This system (diocesan) accreditation will bring all of our schools into the one accrediting agency. AdvancEd recognizes the National Catholic School Standards that were developed by a task force of Catholic school educators and supporters in communication with the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and promulgated in March 2012,” explained Cook. “Whereas, previously our schools met the general school standards of accreditation with the freedom to have Catholic identity as an ‘add on’ component, this system-wide accreditation using the NCSS will integrate Catholic identity into our standards of operation,” she added.
Cook has asked each school to revisit its mission statement with an eye to making sure it is still appropriate and fits with the diocesan vision and Pastoral Priorities as well as the mission statement for the Office of Education. That work will be ongoing throughout the school year.
In addition to working with administrators, The Office of Education and the Department of Faith Formation offered retreats to faculty and staff at schools in Columbus, Jackson, Greenville, Meridian and Vicksburg. The schools in Holly Springs, Greenwood, Natchez and Southaven hosted their own spiritual kick-offs to the year.
The diocesan theme for the year is Living as Missionary Disciples: embrace, serve and inspire. Living as missionary disciples is what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected as the catechetical theme for this year. The embrace, serve and inspire statement comes from the new vision statement for the Diocese of Jackson: embrace diversity, serve others, inspire disciples.
“When we select a theme, we always look around at what is going on in the life of the Church as a whole,” explained Cook. “We looked at the USCCB theme and it fit perfectly with the new Pastoral Priorities and the vision statement, so we saw an opportunity to tie it all together.”
Karla Luke, assistant superintendent for Catholic Schools, attended the retreat in Jackson, held at the Mississippi Ag Museum. “We learned how our different roles connect to our theme — what does it mean to live as a missionary disciple as a cafeteria worker or teacher or office staff,” said Luke. Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson and Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for youth ministry for the diocese, planned the retreats. In Jackson, they offered activities to help the staff and faculty from Jackson Sister Thea Bowman and St. Richard as well as Madison St. Anthony and St. Joseph Schools get to know one another better, including a pocket and purse scavenger hunt.
The spiritual component of the day centered on the missionary disciple theme for the year. Kim Brown, counselor at Jackson St. Richard said she enjoyed the day. “I felt like I am part of a bigger mission. It’s not just us at St. Richard – it’s the diocese and Catholic education overall. I am part of that bigger mission so I have a responsibility to do my very best.” She is also looking forward to working with other area schools. “You know, we work in our own little silos, so it’s nice to know there are others out there doing what we do. It was great to put faces to names,” said Brown.

Diocesan Confirmation retreat builds community

By Fran Lavelle
CLINTON – What do you get when you mix the Holy Spirit, enthusiastic high school students, dedicated catechists, faith filled college students, an engaging speaker and a beautiful weekend at Camp Garaywa in Clinton? An awesome diocesan high school Confirmation Retreat! The retreat focused on how we are called to service in our families, our community and the world. The Confirmation students were challenged to look for opportunities for service from the smallest acts of kindness.
The retreatants came from parishes of all sizes and demographics from around the diocese Feb. 6-7. Gathered together, the youth beautifully represented the reality of our Catholic faith in the Diocese of Jackson. All together more than 160 youth and adults came together in to pray, reflect, listen and prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Our speaker was Cari Williams, a youth minister and retreat leader from the Diocese of Alexandria, La. Father Rusty Vincent served as the spiritual director for the weekend. We were blessed to have Catholic students from Mississippi State serve as small group leaders.
On Saturday evening retreatants had an opportunity to go to Reconciliation and Sunday morning Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated Mass. Recognizing the importance of the sacramental life of the Church helped them better understand the value of completing the sacraments of Initiation through Confirmation. The youth appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Kopacz. The six priests who came out to hear confessions include Msgr. Elvin Sunds, Fathers Jeffrey Waldrep, Jose de Jesus Sanchez, Joseph Le, Jason Johnston and Rusty Vincent. It was an awesome sight to see nearly every student and adult present to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Asked what they would take away from the retreat many of the young people commented that they recognized a need to spend more time with God. They also saw what the larger Catholic Church in our diocese looks like, especially for smaller parishes with 2-3 students in the Confirmation program.
Making new friends was a natural by-product of the weekend. I hope they continue to pray for one another and reflect on the message of service. I invite you to pray for all the young people in our diocese who are being prepared for the Sacrament of Confirmation. They need our prayers as much as we need their full and active participation in the Church. Confirmation is not Catholic graduation. It is only the beginning of a wonderful life of faith, service and friendship.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Youth Briefs

CLARKSDALE – Students at St. Elizabeth School celebrated thier patron saint’s feast day by donating bread to local food banks. St. Elizabeth of Hungary was known for her generosity to the poor.

CLARKSDALE – Students at St. Elizabeth School celebrated thier patron saint’s feast day by donating bread to local food banks. St. Elizabeth of Hungary was known for her generosity to the poor.

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth Parish children share Christmas joy during the Christmas program. Angels from P-3 and classes from grades fourth and fifth grades participated. (Photo by Dawn Spinks)

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth Parish children share Christmas joy during the Christmas program. Angels from P-3 and classes from grades fourth and fifth grades participated. (Photo by Dawn Spinks)

CORINTH – St. James Parish children work in art projects during an Advent retreat on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Photo by Luis Rosales)

CORINTH – St. James Parish children work in art projects during an Advent retreat on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Photo by Luis Rosales)

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth School students raise their hands to ask a question to Betty Jo Abraham, a storyteller from Atlanta who recently visited St. Elizabeth School to tell stories to the children from kindergarten through third grade.

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth School students raise their hands to ask a question to Betty Jo Abraham, a storyteller from Atlanta who recently visited St. Elizabeth School to tell stories to the children from kindergarten through third grade.

GREENVILLE – Our Lady of Lourdes School sixth-grade students went shopping to buy clothes for seven children that they adopted for Christmas from Washington County through the Department of Child Services. (Photo by Missi Blackstock)

GREENVILLE – Our Lady of Lourdes School sixth-grade students went shopping to buy clothes for seven children that they adopted for Christmas from Washington County through the Department of Child Services. (Photo by Missi Blackstock)

AMORY – St. Helen Parish children prepare at the altar to present the play “The Christmas Window” after Mass Sunday, Dec.11, to celebrate Grandparents’ Day at Christmastime. (Photo by Jean Pinkley)

AMORY – St. Helen Parish children prepare at the altar to present the play “The Christmas Window” after Mass Sunday, Dec.11, to celebrate Grandparents’ Day at Christmastime. (Photo by Jean Pinkley)

PONTOTOC – Father Tim Murphy, pastor of St. Christopher Parish, talks with the confirmation group during an Advent retreat, “My Church, my Faith.” Saturday, Dec. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

PONTOTOC – Father Tim Murphy, pastor of St. Christopher Parish, talks with the confirmation group during an Advent retreat, “My Church, my Faith.” Saturday, Dec. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Diocesan Youth gather for retreat

By Abbey Schuhmann
Teens from all across the diocese gathered at Lake Forest Ranch in Macon, Miss., on October 15-16 for the 2016 diocesan high school fall retreat. The retreat was led by a team from National Evangelization Ministries (NET), a Catholic ministry program out of St. Paul, Minnesota. NET Ministries was established 35 years ago and has grown over the years. NET was very popular in our diocese in the 1980s and we are excited to have them serving here once again.
The mission of NET is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through prayer, sacraments, fellowship and service. NET Team #2 led the retreat along with a middle school retreat at Southaven Sacred Heart School. Each NET Team is made of eight-12 young adults usually ages 18-24 years old. The leaders commit to a year of missionary retreat ministry by traveling around the country hosting retreats for parishes and schools.
The theme of our retreat was “Fully Alive” and teens had the chance to reflect on what really brings about true happiness. Ultimately, only Christ will fill our deepest desires of happiness. Our happiness motivates every decision that we make and our youth had the chance to discuss this important concept.
The overnight retreat provided the youth with a high-energy, faith-filled program throughout the weekend. The youth were able to hear powerful witness talks from members of the NET Team, engaged in several small group discussions, experienced a powerful prayer ministry Saturday evening that included the opportunity to go to Reconciliation and participate in praise and worship.
The NET Team also performed funny skits throughout the weekend that the teens and adult leaders alike enjoyed; along with two very touching dramas as well. Our teens also had the chance for some fun and fellowship on Saturday afternoon by participating in some friendly competition including games of ping-pong, dodgeball, sand volleyball and basketball.
On Sunday we celebrated Mass outdoors at the amphitheater with the beautiful lake as our backdrop, Father Jose de’ Jesus Sanchez, director recruitment for the Office of Vocations, served as our principal celebrant. Three seminarians from our diocese were also present throughout the weekend; Aaron Williams, Hayden Schmitt, and Cesar Sanchez participated in the small group sessions and shared their own personal vocation stories with our youth and assisted with the liturgy.
The adult youth leaders had the opportunity to meet one another and discuss the youth ministry programs at their respective parishes.
The Office of Youth Ministry looks forward to offering valued, faith-filled, meaningful experiences for the youth of our diocese moving forward through retreats, rallies, and other related activities.
If you’d like more information regarding diocesan youth events, contact Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for the office of youth ministry for the Diocese of Jackson at abbey.schuhmann@jacksondiocese.org or 601-949-6934.

Seminarian Aaron Williams, center, shared some of his vocation story in small group settings.

Seminarian Aaron Williams, center, shared some of his vocation story in small group settings.

Young people broke into small groups for reflection activities. At left, a group of boys has a discussion about faith. The team also led an icebreaker with (l-r) Austin Cabral, NET member from Hilmar, Calif.; Cori Matsumiya, NET member from Orange, Calif.; Aaron Williams, seminarian from Jackson and John Baladi, from Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish. (Photos courtesy of Abbey Schuhmann)

Young people broke into small groups for reflection activities. At left, a group of boys has a discussion about faith. The team also led an icebreaker with (l-r) Austin Cabral, NET member from Hilmar, Calif.; Cori Matsumiya, NET member from Orange, Calif.; Aaron Williams, seminarian from Jackson and John Baladi, from Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish. (Photos courtesy of Abbey Schuhmann)

Lake Forest Ranch in Macon provided a beautiful backdrop for presentations and reflections.

Lake Forest Ranch in Macon provided a beautiful backdrop for presentations and reflections.

Members of NET's team organized sporting activities such as basketball.

Members of NET’s team organized sporting activities such as basketball.

The young people divided into small groups for discussions and sharing.

The young people divided into small groups for discussions and sharing.

Holy Ghost offers Women’s retreat

JACKSON — Holy Ghost Ladies Auxiliary is hosting a Women’s Retreat Saturday, October 15th from 8:30 to 3:00 in the Family Life Center at 1151 Cloister Street, Jackson The theme is God’s Love…Empowering the MIND/BODY/SPIRIT.

  • Keynote Address by Mary Louise Jones of St. Richard’s Church- “Martha and Mary” Luke 10:38-42.
  • Team Building Icebreaker- “Let’s Make a Deal” Ephesians 4:16.
  • Kimberly M. Taylor, Educator and Motivational Trainer from Atlanta will present “In the Meantime” Romans 8:28.
  • Sharon Nettles, Early Learning Specialist will lead activity with demonstration “A Recipe for Disaster” Exodus 23:19.
  • Regina Lacking, LMSW will answer the question -Compassion Fatigue: “What does that have to do with me? Psalms 55:6.
  • Sandra Cole-Rice will guide physical activity- “Stress Management” Matthew 6:34.
  • Short Sessions on Trauma and Medicaid will be made by guests. Continental Breakfast and Lunch is included. The cost to attend is $30.00.  Door Prizes, Vendor displays by Deluxe Jewelry, Avon, and Mary Kay will be available.  Each HGLA is encouraged to invite at least one friend to come to our Retreat!!! For planning purposes, RSVP by October 10th. Call Chunda Longino at 601-209-2253 or Nancy Johnson at 601-605-4184.

Delta teens enjoy retreat

By Tara Trost
GREENWOOD – Recently, a group of 55 youth from Greenwood, Greenville, Indianola, Leland, Winona and Grenada gathered at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center for a day of reflection led by eight facilitators from South Louisiana.
“We’re young adults with a passion for retreats and serving the youth,” said one of the facilitators. “We discovered this passion by serving on various retreat teams such as DYRT, a retreat team for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, and NET Ministries.
The Saturday retreat, organized by Father Greg Plata, OFM, pastor of Greenwood St. Francis and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes, delved on the themes of self worth, God’s grace and love, and their Catholic community. In one of the talks, through the activity “Nail struggles to cross,” participants wrote their struggles on notes and hammered them to a wooden cross with nails.
Sophia Moreno told her youth minister that she truly noticed that God was with her during the day. “We had to write a message about something we were struggling with,” she said. “I was calling out his name and I felt his presence. I cried and told him that I wanted to fully accept him into my life.” She noted that she felt so much joy in her heart that she began to laugh. “It was awesome and it changed me forever.”
For CisLee Trost, her favorite part of the retreat was the small groups because “it made me realize that other people struggle with the same thing I do.”
The day also included skits based on a story in the Bible, adoration and confessions by six priests from the youth’s parishes along with several Redemptorists. Mass of Good Shepherd Sunday was celebrated by Father Plata followed by dinner.
Several times in the last year youth from a 60-mile radius have met at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center which is nestled on 67 acres of serene countryside.  “The youth love it out here.  It is so peaceful, quiet and very welcoming,” mentioned Christy Strong from Grenada St. Peter Parish.
Father Plata told participants there will be plans for everyone to meet again for a fun day.  Since the retreat, plans have begun for Kampfire and Karaoke on Friday, June 17, at Locus Benedictus for all youth to join in a fun faith-filled summer night.
Father Plata said this was a wonderful gathering of our young Catholics in this part of the Delta. “Often they feel they are a minority, since Catholics make up less than three percent of the population. This event showed they are not alone. It also showed the wonderful diversity among the Catholic family. What a wonderful sight to see black, white and Hispanic kids have a great time together.”
For further details and/or information visit www.locusbenedictus.org to RSVP for the event.
(Tara Trost is the director of outreach for Locus Benedictus ministries and youth minister for Grenada St. Peter Parish.)

College retreat inspires director

By Fran Lavelle
My last official act as the campus minister for the college students at Mississippi State was a peer-led retreat at Lake Forest Ranch the weekend of October 17-19. This year’s theme was “The One and Only” and the talks revolved around on the things that keep us from staying focused on God. The weekend was glorious. The weather was beautiful, the camp was enshrined with early signs of fall, and the students who took this spiritual

LAKE FOREST RANCH – John Suedel and Anna Jackson give a talk about time at the college retreat sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry (Photo courtesy of Fran Lavelle)

LAKE FOREST RANCH – John Suedel and Anna Jackson give a talk about time at the college retreat sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry (Photo courtesy of Fran Lavelle)

journey to the woods were exceptional. It was in a word: perfect. I was reminded of how precious and essential these opportunities away with God really are.
Once back in Jackson I wondered why more people don’t take advantage of opportunities to take retreats. One of the talks, given by college sophomores Anna Jackson from Starkville and John Suedel from Clinton, was on time. They correctly pointed out that we have a misguided concept of “making time” for God. God, they asserted, made time. We do not need to make more of it. What we do need, however, is recognize that God should not be appropriated to a few fleeting minutes in the “busyness” of our days.
Rather, they contended, God should be in all that we are and all that we do. In essence, all our words, actions and thoughts should be focused on bringing greater glory to God. If we “take” time to center ourselves on Christ and we take time to deepen our intimacy with Him we will as a result be more intentional and focused on God. I marveled at their awareness and insight.
It occurred to me that we “make” time for the things that matter most to us. We travel weekend after weekend to tournaments, juggle kids between activities, travel to major cities to hear our favorite artist in concert or spend an entire day taking in a college football game. Now, before you criticize me let me say I love the garden and enjoy entertaining dinner guests. I love watching the sunset. I love spending time with family and friends. I get it.
These are the activities that make life special. It is not in the “doing” of these things that trips us up. It is when we adopt “activity” over presence. It’s when we jump from activity to activity rendering ourselves completely exhausted at the day’s end. It’s when we are so busy taking pictures to post on social media that we failed to “see” what is actually happening. Perhaps we fail to recognize that how present we are to others impacts how present we are to God.
I was walking into the office this morning with the usual background sounds of city traffic, sirens and car radios. The juxtaposition of waking up Sunday morning to the calls of nature versus the daily noise of life called me to recognize why retreats really matter. We were not hard-wired for the fast-paced, instantaneous world we live in. However, we have become conditioned to accept the insidious pace of modern life.
I remember in the 80s my dad used to give me a hard time about yuppies being “stressed out” all of the time. Our world then was a cacophony of bleeping fax machines, conference calls and hauling around cell phones that were the size of a shoe box. We thought we were busy.
The speed of life has exponentially increased since then. We multitask, we devour media nearly 24/7, we are literally lost without our smart phones and Facebook reminds us daily of how we’re doing in “keeping up with the Joneses.” Psalm 46:10 reminds us, “Be still and know that I am God.” What better way than a retreat to help us find the space and the freedom to put on pause the duties that press us into frenzied activity?
Advent will soon be here. Perhaps a retreat would help integrate a prayerful experience in the midst of Christmas parties, shopping and decorating. You don’t have to make a special trip to a retreat center. If you love the beach, make a trip to your favorite coastal town. If you enjoy hiking a trip to the mountains may be just what you need to reconnect with God.
A favorite retreat for me has always been a weekend alone at a state park. I fast from noise – no radio, television or cds. I take a journal, my Bible and spiritual reading. In the beginning the silence is too much to bear. I think I’ll go crazy before the weekend ends. Many years later, the silence for me has become a welcomed opportunity. My visits with God rarely involve audible words.
My college students reminded me quite profoundly the misguided notion of making time for God. If we take two weekends a year for retreat, that leaves us with 50 more to do the other things we enjoy. If weekends away are not for whatever reason do-able let’s be aware of those pockets of time and space which allow our hearts and minds to be present to God, our One and Only.
(Fran Lavelle is the director of the Office of Faith Formation)

Little Sisters invite young women to discernment retreat

Little Sisters of the Poor spend time together on the lawn of the Sacred Heart Residence

Little Sisters of the Poor spend time together on the lawn of the Sacred Heart Residence


MOBILE – “Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!” Thus exclaims Pope Francis, who is himself a consecrated religious. As the church prepares to open the Year of Consecrated Life on Nov. 29, which our Holy Father has proclaimed, the Little
Sisters of the Poor are inviting single women 17 to 34 to discover this joy through a vocation discernment retreat where they may explore the consecrated religious life, the specific vocation of a Little Sister of the Poor, and the awesome future to which Our Lord is calling each one as she journeys with him.
The retreat will be held from Friday, Nov.  14, at 5 p.m. to Sunday Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. at the Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Residence, 1655 McGill Avenue in Mobile. It will include Mass, talks, service opportunities, Eucharistic adoration, reconciliation, time with the Little Sisters, vocation stories, a question and answer session  and opportunities for one-to-one vocation accompaniment with a Little Sister for those who desire it.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international congregation of Roman Catholic women religious founded in 1839 by Saint Jeanne Jugan. Together with a diverse network of collaborators, they serve the elderly poor in more than 30 countries around the world.
Sister Ellen Anne visits with a resident at the facility. The Little Sisters are hosting a discernment retreat Nov. 14-16 in Mobile. (Photos and story courtesy of Sister Carolyn Martin, LSP)

Sister Ellen Anne visits with a resident at the facility. The Little Sisters are hosting a discernment retreat Nov. 14-16 in Mobile. (Photos and story courtesy of Sister Carolyn Martin, LSP)


Continuing the work of Saint Jeanne Jugan, the Little Sister’s mission is to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.
The Little Sister’s vision is to contribute to the culture of life by nurturing communities where each person is valued, the solidarity of the human family and the wisdom of age are celebrated, and the compassionate love of Christ is shared with all.
There is no cost for the retreat, but early registration is appreciated. For more information or to register, contact Sister Carolyn, LSP, by Nov. 11 at vocmobile@littlesistersofthepoor.org or 251-591-3700.