By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Neil Rhodes is looking for a few willing volunteers to help with a once-a-month ministry to low-income elderly residents in Jackson.
During the first week of each month, Rhodes spends a couple hours each day delivering boxes of food to residents in senior living facilities. He’s been doing it for 10 years and delivers as many as 500 boxes each month, according to Deliver Me, the non-profit, nondenominational agency that coordinates the packaging and client list.
In the beginning, Rhodes was a member of a team of four men, including the late Ken Artigues and Pete Foret, both Catholic. Now it’s just Rhodes and C.T. Dexter.
“It started with Kenny Artigues. We went to high school together at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis. He called and talked to me about working for Gleaners, picking extra crops. When I retired in 2007 I started delivering the boxes through Deliver Me,” he said.
He says he still loves the work, but he is slowing down and could use extra hands.
“Deliver Me has been around for quite some time,” said Joyce Ainsworth, one of the service coordinators. “The mission is focused offering supportive services to low-income people older than 65 who live alone at home or in a senior living facility,” she added. The agency offers groceries, help with applying for benefits and utility assistance, eye glasses, hearing tests and hearing aids. They also run a clothing closet and provide blankets, heaters and linens to people who need them.
JACKSON – Neil Rhodes chats with Betty Carlyn as he drops off supplemental food boxes at a senior living community in Jackson. He hopes to recruit more drivers for the monthly ministry. (Photo by Tereza Ma.)
In addition to the grocery deliveries, Deliver Me works with Mississippi Food Network (MFN) to provide Commodity Supplement Food Program boxes. These are what Rhodes delivers. They include nonperishable items as well as a block of cheese every month.
Rhodes sets a delivery schedule, MFN and Deliver Me pack the boxes and he drives all over town dropping them off. “It’s something I truly enjoy doing, I truly do, and I think other people would like it too,” he said.
On a recent Tuesday morning, Rhodes and Dexter loaded dozens of boxes headed for an apartment complex near St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson. The boxes are large moving boxes full of canned items so the men use a dolly to cart them through the halls. They spend a few minutes visiting with each resident and try to make sure everyone is doing well.
“Neil has been a true blessing to us. A real, true blessing,” said Ainsworth. “He serves on the board and continues to work. “We see real need out there,” said Ainsworth. “Many people just can’t get out to even pick up food or come to our office,” she added.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the effort can call Rhodes at (601) 906-3516 or contact the office at Deliver Me at (601) 354-4646.
The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is seeking Media Missionaries to help promote the network’s mission of sharing the Gospel through media. Media Missionaries are parish volunteers who promote EWTN programming through placing fliers in parishes, using social media, visiting college campus ministry events and in other arenas of daily life. EWTN lists 12 ways to be a media missionary on its web site – ewtnmissionaries.com.
“Mississippi currently has only nine active Media Missionaries, leaving EWTN fliers in about 12 churches,” says Betsy Carraway, Mississippi Area Coordinator and Jackson St. Therese parishioner. “There is a great need for more.”
EWTN offers a wide variety of programs for Catholics from Father Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” series to daily Mass to sacred music concerts. “We recently brought Communion to a parishioner who, when we arrived, had a beautiful sacred music concert playing on the television; it was on EWTN. The music provided a very spiritual setting for the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament to this parishioner,” Carraway added.
Another service EWTN offers to keep Catholics in tune with programming is its e-newsletter “Wings.” To receive “Wings” go to EWTN.com and find the sign up box on the lower right side of the home page.
If you would like more information or to serve as an EWTN Media Missionary, visit ewtnmissionaries.com or contact Carraway at 601-857-2252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maureen Smith
There are 16 correctional facilities in the Diocese of Jackson and precious few people working to minister to the Catholic inmates. Those who do visit the imprisoned are inviting anyone willing to step forward and undergo training for this ministry.
“I don’t call it a ministry, I call it doing what the Lord tells you,” said Lee Grillo, who visits women at the state facility in Rankin County. She started out 30 years ago teaching a quilting class to women in the prison in Parchman, but now lives in Jackson. She says her years of visiting have been good for her spiritual development, saying the women in prison have taught her how to be a better Christian.
“It is not scary. I’m not going to tell you some of the women don’t deserve to be there, but they are some of the most prayerful women you will ever come across,” said Grillo. She said many of those incarcerated are just regular people who have made a mistake and need to stay connected to their faith while they face the consequences of their actions.
Raymond Barry, who coordinates visits for a group at Jackson St. Richard Parish agreed. “It’s just that these are people who have done something that has caused them to be separated from their families and friends. They are still the same people you might see in a restaurant or around town,” he said.
Both Barry and Grillo bring Communion to the prisons and lead other devotions such as Bible studies, watching DVDs or praying together. The inmates run their own Communion services, the visitors just provide the Eucharist and stay for fellowship and study.
Marvin Edwards works full time in his unpaid position as the Catholic services coordinator at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. He even has an office in the facility, which he visits six times a month. He goes into the different units to offer services and different ministries. In addition to offering Communion and religious reading materials, Edwards said he tries to give the inmates writing paper and envelopes so they can keep in touch with family or even just to write him letters. Sometimes, he said, he brings simple toiletries as well.
He said most of the prisons in the state are privately run and that’s where Catholics get few visitors. When inmates are transferred from Parchman to a private prison they often contact Edwards to say they have no access to Catholic ministry at all. No reconciliation, no Eucharist, no rosary, no fellowship or conversation.
Edwards said just a few hours a month can make a huge difference to an inmate. “Compassion, that’s what they want. They want someone they can trust to talk to and to be open with,” he said. “They have so much time to read and study, but they are isolated in their study,” he explained. “When you are in the system you are always vulnerable to being taken advantage of so they are always on guard. They have questions so they need someone they can ask,” he added.
Edwards hopes to expand his ministry to those who have just been released from prison. He hopes to gather people and resources to start some sort of program or half-way house to help people re-integrate into society once they are released from prison. “When they get out, for many of them their families are gone or far away, their friends are gone, they are basically just dropped off,” he said. This effort is just in the organizing stage, so look for updates as plans become more concrete.
Those who want to visit prisoners must undergo a background check and take a short orientation course, usually a three to four hour process. There is a June 18 deadline for the August training in Rankin county. Edwards said there is a class in Parchman sometime in July. Both Barry and Edwards would be happy to help anyone get the process started for any prison in the diocese.