Prison ministry seeks volunteers

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.

Helping vets out of the woods

By Maureen Smith
Soldiers are trained to live in often brutal conditions, camping or making-do in terrible situations during deployments for their country. What many people don’t know is that some veterans are forced to use those survival skills when they come home. Catholic Charities is using a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help those low-income vets who are homeless or have unstable housing situations in the Diocese of Jackson. The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program started in February in four offices throughout the state.

“This has been an eye-opening experience,” said Chamon Williams, the program coordinator. “We love the people we encounter and some of these stories are heart-wrenching. These are people who have served our country and now they are living below the poverty level,” she added.

The SSVF seeks out vets and their families who are either homeless or who are “couch surfing,” meaning they are staying with friends and family for short periods of time. The main goal of the program is to get them in a stable housing situation through case management, but Williams said the case workers are doing much more than that.

“We provide utility assistance, help with job location, sometimes we can help with transportation and clothing vouchers,” she explained. Many times, she said, the veterans are not aware of the many programs and resources available to them so SSVF case workers act as connectors to other partners and agencies.

Budgeting is sometimes an issue. One client in Natchez was living in a wooded area near a retail center. He was getting a pension every month but could not seem to make the money stretch. “He was unable to budget his money and save so he could move into permanent housing,” said his case manager, Cynthia Jackson. She was able to help with the deposits for an apartment and utilities and help him learn how to manage his budget. “At the present time, he is in a stable housing situation and is paying his own rent and utilities,” she said. When she went to visit him recently, he offered her a cup of milk as he unloaded groceries. He was all settled in and had clean clothes drying on a clothesline. Jackson said she was touched by the normal domestic scene since he had been homeless just a few short weeks before. “He is very happy and thankful for the assistance he received through the Catholic Charities SSVF program,” Jackson added.

Williams said she has spoken with some clients who have fallen victim to predatory lenders. One man had taken out four different loans from high-interest so-called payday lenders in an attempt to pay off one debt. Case managers worked with him to break the cycle and pay off all the debts to get a clean start.

Another family in the Delta heard about the program on the radio. The veteran, his pregnant wife and their son were living with family, but needed to get a home of their own before their baby was born. “On May 9, two wonderful things happened for this couple. The first being the couple was able to secure housing,” wrote their case worker Melissa Ivory. The second bit of good news is that the husband has secured job training to become an IT specialist. Their baby is due in June.

Kimberle Neal, who works in the Vardaman office, said one of her greatest joys is seeing how her clients thrive when they are empowered to make a positive change. “There’s always a helping hand, but it’s nothing like trying to help yourself first. I must say that it has been a pleasant experience to meet and collaborate with new clients that are seeking help in order to have a better way of life,” she said.

“We wanted to reach an under and unserved population,” Williams explained about why Catholic Charities pursued this grant. “When we started there was one organization working with veterans only in the Jackson area, and it was located in Hattiesburg. There are now five partner organizations throughout the state,” she added. Catholic Charities already had staff in the Delta and the northern part of the state so they knew about the need and knew they could bring the right services to those areas.

Catholic Charities takes advantage of the synergy of its network of services. Recently Williams delivered a load of new clothing donated by Catholic Charities’ thrift store All Things New to clients in the SSVF program. Ivory, who works in Greenwood, was able to use those clothes for some of her clients. “One of my clients was able to find items to wear to church and future interviews. Others took the basics for everyday wear and were extremely happy to have clothing that fit,” said Ivory.

Other case managers can refer their clients to other programs and services to help with other needs they may have. Catholic Charities in Jackson was one of 15 Catholic Charities entities across the nation to get this grant.
SSVF case managers have offices in Jackson, Greenwood, Vardaman and Natchez. Case managers hope to impact 100 families by late fall of this year. To participate in this program or assist call Chamon Williams at Catholic Charities at 601-355-8634 .



  • CAMDEN Sacred Heart, Pentecost revival, Monday and Tuesday June 9-10, at 7 p.m. Guest preachers: Minister Stephanie Monroe from Tabernacle of God, Leakeville, Miss. and Father Darrell Kelly, pastor of Jackson Holy Ghost Parish.
  • CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth Parish, pray before picture of Mary in the sanctuary which has a special blessing from Pope Francis. Will be on display until June 7.
  • JACKSON – St. Richard Parish Bereavement Support Group, Thursday, June 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the Mercy Room. Sister Paulinus Oakes will talk on “When Grief Won’t Go Away.” Details: Cathy Reynolds, 601-750-8224; Nancy McGhee, 601-942-2078.
    – Five-week book study on Pope Francis’s encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel,” beginning Wednesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. Details: George Evans, facilitator, 601-366-2335.
  • SOUTHAVEN Christ the King Parish, retreat day in Spanish “Answering the Spirit: in the Soul, in Church and in the World,” Sunday-Tuesday, June 8-10, from  7 – 9 p.m. Father Bruce Nieli, Paulist evangelist, presenter.



  • CAMDEN Sacred Heart, pre-Pentecost celebration, Sunday, June 1, at 2:30 p.m.
  • – Summer program begins June 2, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for children and youth ages six-14. First session is designed to prepare students for the next school year and session II will focus on human development.
  • CLARKSDALE Immaculate Conception Ladies Auxiliary rummage sale, Saturday, June 7. Details: Lydia Williams, 662-313-4801.
  • CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories Parish, fellowship luncheon, Tuesday, June 10, at 11:30 a.m. at Crave.
  • COLUMBUS Annunciation School, Pentecost Food Fest, Sunday, June 8, beginning at 5 p.m. in the church parking lot.
  • GREENVILLE Sacred Heart, parish picnic, Sunday, June 8, feast of Pentecost, at 1 p.m. Bring your own dinner. A health fair will begin after the 9 a.m. Mass.
    – Father’s Day dinner and reception for the sisters, Sunday, June 15, after the 9 a.m. Mass.
    – Steve Azar Delta Soul Celebrity Golf and Charity Event, Friday and Saturday, June 6-7, at the Greenville Golf and Country Club. The beneficiaries include St. Joseph Catholic Schools, the Greenville Arts Council, Delta State University and the Delta Music Institute, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington County.
  • HERNANDO Holy Spirit, parish picnic with games, Sunday, June 8, after the 10:30 a.m. Mass. Each family asked to bring a large picnic dish.
  • JACKSON St. Peter, Pentecost celebration, Sunday, June 8, bilingual Mass at 10:30 a.m., followed by a ministry fair and festival until 2 p.m. Music, dancing, games, food and prizes.
  • JACKSON St. Richard Parish, Pentecost celebration, Saturday, June 7, at 6 p.m. in Foley Hall. Bring a traditional dish.
    – Mother’s Morning Out summer program, two days a week, begins Tuesday, June 3, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. Details: Rebekah Johnson, 601-506-0862,
  • NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, annual picnic, Saturday, June 7, at 6 p.m. in the Family Life Center and Memorial Park. Bring blankets and/or chairs. There will be a Space Slide for the kids.
    – Assumption Parish, reception for the jubilee celebration of Father David O’Connor, Sunday, June 15, after the 8:30 a.m. Mass, during Father’s Day brunch.
    – Mass of Thanksgiving, celebration of the 50th anniversary of ordination of Father David O’Connor, Wednesday, June 18, at 6 p.m. followed by a reception in the Family Life Center.
  • PEARL St. Jude, Pentecost International food festival, Saturday, June 7. Potluck dinner served on the church grounds following the 5:30 p.m. Mass. Bring a dish to share that represents your ethnic heritage.



  • COLUMBUS Annunciation Parish, Mass of Thanksgiving, celebration of the 25th anniversary of ordination of Father Robert Dore, pastor, Tuesday, June 10, at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reception at Lion Hills, 2331 Military Road. If planning to attend, email to, or call 662-328-2927 ext 11.
  • GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph Parish, Spring Fling Dance and Social, Saturday, June 7, 8 p.m. – midnight. Tickets are $15. Proceeds will benefit local charities.
    Child care provided for infant through nine-years-old by parish youth. Cost is $10 per hour per child, $15 per hour for two children per family, $20 per hour for three children per family.
  • GREENVILLE St. Joseph, Mass of Thanksgiving, celebration of the 60th anniversary of ordination of Father Frank Corcoran, Monday, June 9, at 5:30 p.m. followed by a reception in the parish center.  Details: St. Joseph Church at 662-335-5251.
  • MADISON St. Francis, Mass of Thanksgiving, celebration of the 50th anniversary of ordination of Father Michael Flannery, Tuesday, June 3, at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reception in the Family Life Center.


Seminarians earn degrees

COVINGTON, La., – Two of the Diocese of Jackson’s seminarians received degrees and a third received a certificate from St. Joseph’s Seminary Friday, May 9. Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma was the speaker at commencement.
Nick Adam got a certificate of completion in the pre-theology program since he already has an undergraduate degree. Mark Shoffner received a BA in Philosophy and Theological Studies and Aaron Williams earned a BA in Philosophy. Williams also got the Esse Quam Videri Award for “quiet service to the seminary community.” The men will continue their studies in the fall at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Most of the seminarians will spend the summer either doing extra study or doing work in various parishes.
The seminary, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary year, reported record enrollment this year and opened a new dorm to accommodate all the students.

Nursing workshop registration open

By Maureen Smith
BROOKHAVEN – A training for those interested in faith community nursing is set to start in late June in Brookhaven. The training is Monday June 30, Tuesday July 1, Monday July 14, and Tuesday, July 15. Each day starts at 7 a.m. and is packed with coursework, prayer and fellowship.
“The days are long, but we will try to make it as much of a spiritual retreat as possible,” said Ann Elizabeth Kaiser, coordinator for faith community nursing for the diocese.
Catholic Charities’ Faith Community Nursing program is partnering with King’s Daughters Medical Center for the workshops. The King’s Daughters Medical Foundation has donated a $1,000 to educational materials for the training. Active licensed registered nurses will receive 34 continuing education credits. This course is designed to prepare registered nurses, allied health care professionals, faith community leaders and lay volunteers of all faith denominations to develop health ministry programs within their own faith communities. The course follows the standardized curriculum developed through the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC).
“St. Francis of Assisi Health Ministry is a host as well. Cheri Walker, the Director of Nurses, has been instrumental in the planning stages. A local FCN, Evelyn Stiner, has been a tremendous help in organization of the required documents needed for Catholic Charities, Inc. to apply as a Continuing Education Provider through the Mississippi Nurses Foundation,” said Kaiser
The facilitators for the modules are Faith Community Nurses and other volunteers who are experts in their field. The training is open to all denominations. The program will close with an Affirmation Service and pinning ceremony the last day.
Total cost of the four day program is $200. Lunch and refreshments are provided daily.     Registrations, including a personal letter stating each nurse’s purpose and goals for taking this course and a letter of support from each nurse’s pastor, institution or congregational sponsor, are due June Tuesday, June 24.
Those interested can register online at

Diocese graduates 190

By Maureen Smith
Almost 200 young men and women graduated from the four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Jackson the week of May 18-24. The schools logged graduation rates of 95-100 percent, well above the state’s public school average and at least three of the schools report that all graduates are going on to college.

The theme for Catholic schools this year was communities of faith, knowledge and service and this year’s graduating class reflected that in their achievements.


Seniors took on a variety of service projects in 2013/2014, from Madison St. Joseph School’s dance marathon, which raised more than $11,000, to a Filipino-themed dinner to benefit Typhoon victims held in Vicksburg. In Natchez, students boxed more than 80,000 packages of food together. One senior at Cathedral took on the challenge of collecting a toy for every single child at Baton Children’s Hospital. These are just a few of the many tasks, large and small, that graduates completed to make their communities better places to live.
This year’s class was not lacking in academic honors either. They are going on to the Massechusettes Institute of Technology, Washington Lee University, Rhodes College, Spring Hill College and, of course, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss. At least two schools reported $3.9 in scholarships, an impressive number given the size of the classes.
In the following pages, Mississippi Catholic features some statistics from each class as well as highlighting the top students of each school. The staff of Mississippi Catholic offers congratulations and a wish for many blessings upon the class of 2014.

Program empowers shoppers to save, eat healthier

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – While everyone wants to get the best value per dollar for food, for many in Mississippi stretching those dollars can make the difference between having to go to bed hungry and having enough food for a family. Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Jackson is taking advantage of a program put together by Share our Strength to teach families not only how to get more food for every dollar, but how to eat healthier on a budget.
      Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters No Kid Hungry program has developed an educational store tour to help families. The program hopes to tackle the dual challenge of rising obesity and cuts in food assistance such as SNAP benefits. In the store tours, trained instructors show shoppers how to write a meal plan, budget for food and get better, healthier deals on groceries.
“The tour teaches four skills, unit pricing, how to add more whole grain to your diet, how to read nutrition labels and how to add more produce,” said Monique Davis, program director for Catholic Charities. At the end of the tour each participant gets a $10 gift card and a challenge to use it to purchase supplies for one healthy meal, which they get to keep.
Catholic Charities has gotten a grant to start training tour guides and recruiting families for tours.  Walmart on Highway 18, Greenway Road in Jackson, has agreed to host a tour in early June and three members of the Catholic Charities staff are trained. Davis said this is just the start. She is offering training to all her program directors throughout the state and to anyone who wants to become a tour guide. Her staff hopes to impact 100 families in the diocese by September.
“I want people to be able to make better decisions when they are in the grocery store. I want them to know this is psychological warfare!” Davis joked. She said learning to look past bright signs and name brand displays set up at eye-level can have a huge impact on a grocery bill. Learning how to use generic products and look on lower and higher shelves can result in more quality food for a family.
Share our Strength research shows that families who plan their meals in advance make healthy meals more often than those who don’t – up to five times per week. Many times families using supplemental assistance turn to cheap processed foods high in fat and calories in an attempt to stretch their money. They may not have learned how to prepare a balanced meal and may think they can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Education is the key to helping them make better decisions for their families and their communities.
“This program is attractive for two reasons. First, it teaches people how to do something, it empowers them and secondly because it uses volunteers,” said Davis. She said the trainers can continue offering tours after the grant runs out.
Anyone who wants to be a guide, host an information session about how to become a tour guide or anyone who wants to take part in a tour can contact Davis at Catholic Charities, 601-355-8634,

Right to Life monument added to Natchez prayer garden

NATCHEZ – Workers place a prayer bench dedicated to ‘right to life’ in the Bishop’s Prayer Garden at St. Mary Basilica, on Thursday, May 22.  The project is the result of two years of discussions and planning. Brookhaven Monument Staff, owned by David Pace, created the bench, using grey granite to match the stone covering Bishop John Joseph Chanche’s grave. Bishop Chanche is the first bishop in the diocese. Amber Case designed the monument. (Photo by Mike Murphy)

Scout refurbishes grotto

By LaJuan Tallo
Senatobia – The grotto at St. Gregory Parish recently got a facelift thanks to the efforts of one of the church’s young members. L. Meng, a student at Senatobia High School, chose to refurbish the church’s grotto as his Eagle Scout project.
Meng got in touch with Meri Smith of Senatobia, who helped him design the new layout. In order to raise money for the project, he held a garage sale in the church’s fellowship hall and also presented his project to the local council of the Knights of Columbus, who donated money.
With the help of fellow scouts, his family and members of St. Gregory’s, the project was completed on May 3.  Father Gregory Schill, SCJ, who serves as one of the priests for St. Gregory’s, held a rededication and blessing of the Grotto on May 20.
Meng began his scouting career at age 11. He is a member of Troop 478 in Batesville and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, which is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. He is a Life Scout and a patrol leader in the scouts.
He is the son of Greg and Leanne Meng of Senatobia. “Lyndon is more than proud of his project, not only because of the accomplishment, but also because of the beauty it brings to his church,” his mother said.
For photos of the grotto and rededication, visit St. Gregory’s Facebook page at

Catching Pentecost’s fire

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 “And when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of the disciples.”
The desire of Jesus to set the world on fire was unleashed. We recall his passionate words in the gospel of Luke, 12:49. “I’ve come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze!” These words of the Lord should not threaten us as some form or divine punishment similar to the sulfurous fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in the biblical account in the book of Genesis.  It is more akin to the Mount Sinai experience, the solidifying moment in the relationship between God and the Israelites where Moses received the Ten Commandments. “Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord came down upon it in fire.”
The revelation of God on Mount Sinai made known the passionate love that God had for the Israelites, the chosen people of the covenant. God assures Moses that his mercy will flow down to the 1000th thousand generation, or as we can rightly understand, forever. God’s mercy was to become Israel’s lifeline through the mouth of the prophets. Recall the consoling message of Isaiah during the time of the exile. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me. ”Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
The fire of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the fulfillment of the fire that forged the covenant of love with the Israelites. The people of the New Covenant born on the bloody cross and reconciled in the resurrection from the dead, poured out of the Upper Room to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s mercy. The fire that Jesus so ardently desired was now ablaze. The revolution had begun, and continues in our day.
The second installment of the movie version of the trilogy, “The Hunger Games,” was released this past December. It is entitled, Catching Fire, and it clearly has a Pentecost feel to it.  This engaging novel tells the story of a people barely surviving under the yoke of a totalitarian system.
Each year two tributes are chosen from the twelve districts of the society and they must go to the capitol where they fight each other to the death, with a sole survivor. It is a postmodern version of the Roman Coliseum with the dual purpose of controlling the masses and entertaining the frivolous people of the capitol. But the unquenchable hunger for freedom broke through in the first segment of the Trilogy when the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, offered a spark of humanity through tears and a gesture of respect that became the symbol of the revolution.  The fire began, and it could not be quenched. A ruthless regime could no longer sustain itself. A Pentecost moment, we might ask?
The revolution begun on that first Pentecost was the Good News of Jesus Christ who came to overcome the tyranny and oppression of sin that is a heartless taskmaster.  It is the mercy and grace of God that can bring us to our knees, but in an instant raise us up and restore us to the dignity of the sons and daughters of God. Without a doubt turning away from sin, and embarking on the path of life, is no easy task.
On the first Pentecost the people asked, what are we to do brothers? Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In moments of grace the strong driving wind and purifying fire of the Spirit seek to sweep away the idols of our lives. This is not a once and be done encounter with God. It is a life-long task of house cleaning because those idols love to take up residence.

The golden calf, built by the Israelites in their impatience and hardness of heart lives on, and we can only destroy them in the fire of God’s passionate love.
The strong driving wind and eternal fire of Pentecost, paired with the blood of the martyrs, eventually did sweep the tyrannical Roman Empire off the stage of history. The power of Pentecost cannot be contained. Or as Saint Paul wrote, “there is no imprisoning the Word of God.”
We have all received the gift of the Holy Spirit through faith and Baptism marking us forever as God’s children, brothers and sisters of the Lord, and temples of the Holy Spirit. The enduring call in our lives is not only to sweep away the idols that separate us from God and one another, but also to stir into flame the gift we received when we were baptized.
We can’t cook over a pilot light, and nor can we live the Gospel without a burning desire to do so, a gift of God. May our daily encounter with the Lord inspire in us the joy of the Gospel, and a manner of living that carries the Good News to the ends of the earth, beginning with the space that we occupy in God’s world.