By Elsa Baughman
GREENWOOD – “Here we are, called by the grace of God,” announced Father Harry Grile, CSsR, provincial superior for the Redemptorists of the Denver Province, during a special commissioning Mass for the four Redemptorist priests who are serving in the Mississippi Delta.
Several priests, religious and lay ministers joined Father Grile and Bishop Joseph Kopacz in the new, tiny, Chapel of Mercy, Wednesday, Oct. 15, at noon.
Fathers Patrick Keyes, Ted Dorsey, Scott Kastenberger and Thanh Dinh Nguyen, have committed to working in Hispanic ministry in the Delta for five years.
During the homily, Father Grile said he was very happy to be in Mississippi. He told the story of his congregation and their journey to minister in the United States in 1832. “There is something in our blood, the Redemptorists, that where there is a need, where there are people that God calls us to, sometimes those living in the margins of society, that is where our heart goes out,” he said.
The strategy of the church, Father Grile said, is “you gather the people (Hispanics, in this case), you tell the story (the love and mercy of God) and you break the bread (Jesus, whose life was broken for us).”
At the end of Mass, with the four priests gathered around the altar Bishop Kopacz said, “. . . In the name of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, I, Bishop Joseph Kopacz commission you to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, in the manner of the great apostle St. Paul, to the communities of the Mississippi Delta. May God bless your labors and open the hearts of our people to hear the word of God.” Then he handed each one a cross which they placed inside their belts.
Bishop Kopacz thanked Father Grile for his glimpse into the length, breath, height and depth of the Redemptorist spirit and heroism in their mission and ministry in their serving of the Lord and their presence in the diocese.
“A lot of heart and mind has come together as we celebrate today. It’s very clear what the Lord is doing.”
Before the recessional hymn, Father Dorsey said it is a Redemptorist tradition in a gathering like this to end with a prayer for perseverance to Our Mother of Perpetual Help with the singing of the Salve Regina.
The Redemptorists’ motto is “with Him there is plentiful redemption.” Like St. Alphonsus Liguori, their founder, they follow Jesus the Redeemer in preaching this Good News to the poor.
A dinner, hosted by Lee and Magdalene Abraham, followed in the hall of the Tallahatchie Crest, a new building which houses the Locus Benedictus Retreat Center. The Abrahams are members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and owners of the land where the Chapel of Mercy was built.
In the Sept./Oct. 2014 newsletter the Redemptorists of the Denver Province, Father Keyes wrote, “The people of the Delta are people of great faith: churches are full on Sunday mornings. People generally don’t ask strangers where they work, they ask where they attend church.
This ministry is a daunting task, but St. Alphonsus, St. Clement and St. John Neumann are surely applauding the new initiative. In the people we minister to, we see the shepherds of Scala, the children of Warsaw and the immigrants of Philadelphia. No one needs to ask where the poor and abandoned are in the Delta. We are grateful to the Denver Province and to our benefactors who support this ministry.”