By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Carrying two statues and a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Hispanic community of St. Mary Parish processed to St. Therese Sunday, Aug. 31. After the 12:30 p.m. liturgy, they all got in their vehicles and followed Father Ricardo Phipps’ car for the 3.6 mile caravan to the church where they marked the beginning of a new community of faith with a prayer service.
St. Therese parishioners were waiting to welcome them.
Singing “We are the body of Christ,” both communities, led by two guitarists and singers, entered the church and placed the statues and the painting on the altar.
Father Phipps, pastor of both St. Mary and St. Therese, told the congregation it was a day of great joy. “Every church is God’s house and today is a day when we form a new community,” he said. “We want to welcome our new parishioners from St. Mary. Now we are all parishioners of St. Therese.”
Father Phipps noted that all come with their own traditions and history but “most importantly we all come as children of God.”
After the brief prayer service the St. Therese community hosted a reception for its new parishioners.
Joel Montoya, catechist and Eucharistic minister, believes any change for the good of the people is welcomed. “We are only changing the building where we worship,” he said. Montoya noted all the programs and classes offered at St. Mary will continue with several added benefits and space.
According to Karina Solano, catechist, there are about 100 children registered for religious education classes.
“The space at St. Therese is great for all the classes we are offering so we can accommodate between 20 and 30 children in each classroom,” she said.
Solano is very excited about all the new classrooms, the gymnasium, and the football field at her new parish. “This change comes to us as the ring to the finger,” she said, using a Spanish phrase meaning ‘a perfect fit.’ “We will be able to grow and offer more activities to our families and their children.”
St. Therese parishioners, Phyllis and Ben Mokry, attended the Mass and procession. “When the Hispanic parishioners brought in their statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was humbled by their devotion to both her and St. Mary Church,” said Phyllis. “It must be very difficult for St. Mary parishioners to be faced with such a challenge as leaving their spiritual home. I’ve felt challenged as well with all the changes happening so quickly.
“But the changes have made a connection with St. Mary, St. Therese and Christ the King parishes that would not have happened normally. I remember reading that St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a missionary, but couldn’t. I see this as her opportunity to make her dream come true in our parish.”