JACKSON – Members of St. Richard Parish Alive youth group (eighth-10th graders) are invited to “The Breakfast Club” on Fridays, June 19, July 3, 17, 24 and 31. Participants will attend the 8 a.m. Mass and then head to a local restaurant for breakfast. Bring money for food.
MADISON – Micah Pellerin of the Cleveland Browns will host a summer football camp at St. Joseph School. Dates are: June 22-24 for students on second through eight grades and June 25-26 for ninth through 12th graders. Details: Joe Marquez, 601-383-2545.
Summer camps:
– Volleyball camp, June 29-July 1, from 9 a.m.- noon for students entering third-fifth grades. Cost is $80.
– Cheer camp, July 20-24 from 9 a.m. – noon for students entering first-sixth grades. Cost is $100.
– Basketball camp, July 27-29 form 8 a.m. – noon for students entering fourth – ninth grades. Cost is $125.

McCOMB – St. Alphonsus Parish will continue offering “Teen Prayer” during the summer on Wednesday nights for incoming ninth graders through graduated seniors. Participants will learn about teenage saints from around the world and will also enjoy foods common to the areas that the saints are from. Anyone that would like to assist in food prep should be at the Youth House at 5 pm.
– Monday morning Mass at 7:30 a.m. followed by breakfast at the Youth House for Edge and Lifeteen. Details: Cathy McMillan, 601-431-1061.

Diocesan Catholic Schools Class of 2015 by the numbers

Graduates: 28
Graduation rate: 100 percent
Percentage of college bound: 96 percent
Percentage of scholarship recipients: 75 percent
Largest scholarship awarded: $262,072
Total scholarship money earned: $1,761,311 earned
Notable colleges: Washginton University in St. Louis; Washington & Lee; Trinity University (San Antonio).
Senior class service hours: more than 2,800

Graduates: 67
Graduation rate: 100 percent
Percentage of college bound: 99 percent
Percentage of scholarship recipients: 75 percent
Largest scholarship awarded: $640,000
Total scholarship money earned: $3.600,000
Senior class service hours: 12,730
Notable colleges: University of San Diego, Catholic University of America, University of Notre Dame, Fordham, U.S. Army

Graduates: 38
Graduation rate: 100 percent
Percentage of college bound: 97 percent
Percentage of scholarship recipients: 100 percent
Largest scholarship awarded: $125,000
Total scholarship money earned: $3.5 million +
Senior class service hours: 10,000+
Notable colleges: University of Virginia, University of Kentucky, Spring Hill College, TCU, SMU, Seattle Pacific University, Reed College, Baylor University, United States Marine Corps, Aveda Institute

Graduates: 43
Graduation rate: 97.7 percent
Percentage of college bound: 98 percent
Percentage of scholarship recipients: 88 percent
Largest scholarship awarded: $450,000
Total scholarship money earned: $6,769,445
Senior class service hours:  3,947
Notable colleges: West Point (2) Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Cornell.

Carmelite community kicks off centenary celebration with Mass

JACKSON – The Discalced Carmelite nuns, Carmelite Seculars of the Diocese of Jackson and Father Bonaventure Sauer, OCD, provincial delegate, attended a Mass in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz Saturday, June 6, in honor of the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila. Retired Bishops Joseph Latino and William Houck concelebrated.
Father Sauer was the homilist and centered his message on the theme the sisters chose for this special anniversary, “keeping Christ present is what we of ourselves can do.” “We are called to a life of ‘keeping Christ present’ to ourselves in our families, our friendships, our work, our play, in the movements of our hearts, in the working and rumination, the prejudices and presumptions of our minds,” he said.
Father Sauer noted when it comes to prayer, we can learn to quiet ourselves, to gather up our scattered minds and still our busy hearts, setting aside all the internal clutter we are collecting each day, every day, all the stuff that is piling up like so many scraps of paper. “We can, very simply, strive to be still and, in that inner stillness, right here, right now, enter into the presence of Christ, our crucified and risen Lord.”
Members of the Carmelite order will continue celebrating this milestone for an entire year. All are invited to the monastery on Terry Road in Jackson for the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel on Sunday, July 19, at 7 p.m.

Catholic young adults share ideas, discuss challenges at listening session

By Maureen Smith
Christopher Luke, coordinator for the office of Stewardship represented the Diocese of Jackson at a listening session for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church – African American Affairs.
Twenty-five black Catholic young adults from across the nation gathered in Marriottsville Md., the last weekend in May. In the invitation, the USCCB stated that the intent of the meeting was “to help us begin to develop viable approaches and resources to effectively evangelize and cultivate leadership from this group (black young adults) within the Catholic Church.”
The selection process was competitive. USCCB asked dioceses and institutions to nominate participants who are active in their faith and have the potential to be leaders in the Catholic community. The group ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-30s. Will Jemison, Coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry for the diocese, nominated Luke. “The session allows those of us at the diocesan and parish level to learn more of what our young adults and youth experience in their faith journey; what they wish to see done to improve their Catholic experience; and ability to understand, translate, and share their faith with others,” he said.
Participants met at Bon Secours Retreat Center, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, for a full weekend of presentations, discussion, fellowship, liturgy and personal prayer. Luke said he enjoyed the meeting and came back energized by what he learned. There were five sessions during the weekend, each with its own theme including ‘what is your experience of church,’ ‘what do Catholics believe,’ ‘finding our story in the Christian story,’ ‘our role in the Catholic Church’ and ‘cultivating an evangelizing spirit.’
One of the speakers presented the six models of the church community from Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ. The cardinal wrote a book explaining that the six, church as institution, community, sacrament, herald, servant and school of discipleship must work in balance for a parish community to work as it should.
“When those six models come together we come closer to living as the body of Christ,” said Luke. He said other speakers challenged the participants asking if their beliefs are reflected in how they live and urging them to take an active role in their parishes and communities. “In the last session we talked about what our role is and what we want to be, so that in the next step, to move toward what we want to be.”
Luke said the conference speakers encouraged those present to examine and strengthen their personal prayer and spiritual lives. He said the group was very dynamic. “It (the meeting) provided good insights. Everybody had good ideas and they weren’t too shy to let you know what’s going on and what needs to happen,” he said.  He also noted that it was interesting to hear people from vastly different communities are facing similar challenges. “As you told your story, everybody else had the same story,” Luke added.

Pope offers ‘Stone Age’ tips for living in digital world well

By Carol Glatz
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNS) – Whether you still stick to books or magazines or get everything online, Pope Francis said all media should encourage and edify – not enslave.
“Back in my day – the Stone Age – when a book was good, you read it; when the book was bad for you, you chucked it,” he told hundreds of youth in Sarajevo June 6.
The pope ended his one-day visit to the capital of this Balkan nation meeting with young people of different religions and ethnicities who volunteer together with the archdiocesan St. John Paul II Center. He set aside his prepared text and told the young people he would rather take some questions.
One young man said he read that the pope had stopped watching TV a long time ago, and wanted to know what led him to making that choice.
The pope said he decided back in the middle of 1990 to stop because “one night I felt that this was not doing me good, it was alienating me” and he decided to give it up.
He did not give up on movies, however.
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would go the archdiocesan television station to watch a recorded film he had picked out, which didn’t have the same isolating effect on him, he said.
“Obviously, I am from the Stone Age, I’m ancient!”
Times have changed, he said, and “image” has become all important. But even in this “age of the image,” people should follow the same standards that ruled back “in the age of books: choose the things that are good for me,” he said.
Those who produce or distribute content, like television stations, have the responsibility of choosing programs that strengthen values, that help people grow and prepare for life, “that build up society, that move us forward, not drag us down.”
Viewers have the responsibility of choosing what’s good, and changing the channel where there is “filth” and things that “make me become vulgar.”
While the quality of content is a concern, it is also critical to limit the amount of time one is tied to the screen, he said.
If “you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene programs on the computer, you lose your dignity,” he said.
Later, in response to a journalist’s question on the papal plane from Sarajevo back to Rome, the pope said the online or virtual world is a reality “that we cannot ignore; we have to lead it along a good path” and help humanity progress.
“But when this leads you away from everyday life, family life, social life, and also sports, the arts and we stay glued to the computer, this is a psychological illness,” he said.
Negative content, he said, includes pornography and content that is “empty” or devoid of values, like programs that encourage relativism, hedonism and consumerism.
The pope said some parents do not allow their children to have a computer in their own room, but keep it in a common living space. “These are some little tips that parents find” to deal with the problem of unsuitable content, he said.
(Editor’s Note: A related video can be viewed at

Line thin between attachment, obsession

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
The renowned spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, made no secret about the fact that he was emotionally over-sensitive and that he suffered, sometimes to the point of clinical depression, from emotional obsessions. At times, he, a vowed celibate, was simply overpowered by the feeling of being in love with someone who was hopelessly unavailable that he became psychologically paralyzed and needed professional help.
Yet, given Nouwen’s moral honesty and the transparency of his life, one would hardly ascribe this to him as a moral flaw, however emotionally-crippling it was at times. He simply could not help himself sometimes, such was his emotional sensitivity.
Almost all sensitive people suffer something similar, though perhaps not as acute as what afflicted Nouwen. Moreover these kinds of emotional obsessions affect our whole lives, including our moral and religious lives.
What we do in the pain and paralysis of obsession rarely does us proud and is often far from a free act. In the grip of an emotional obsession we cannot think freely, pray freely, decide things freely and we are prone to act out compulsively in ways that are not moral. What is the morality of our actions then?
Classical spiritual writers speak of something they term “inordinate attachments,” and, for them, these “inordinate attachments” are a moral fault, something we need to control by willpower. However what they mean by “inordinate attachments” covers a wide range of things. In their view, we can be inordinately attached to our pride, our appearance, money, power, pleasure, comfort, possessions, sex and an endless list of other things.
They saw this as the opposite of the virtue of detachment.  And, since its opposite is a virtue, “inordinate attachment” is, for classical spirituality, a vice, a moral and spiritual flaw.
There is a lot to be said positively for this view. Normally, lack of detachment is a moral flaw. But, perhaps there is an exception. An inordinate attachment can also be an emotional obsession with another person and this muddies the moral issue. Obsessions, generally, are not freely-chosen, nor are they often within the power of the will to control, at least inside the emotions.
As our old catechisms and moral theology books used to correctly teach: We are responsible for our actions but we are not responsible for how we feel. Our emotions are like wild horses; they roam where they will and are not easily domesticated and harnessed.
Hence, I believe, the notion of “inordinate attachments,” as expressed in classical spirituality, needs to be nuanced by series of other concepts which, while still carrying the same warning labels, carry something more. For example, today we speak of “obsessions,” and we all know how powerful and crippling these can be. You cannot simply wish or will your way free of an obsession. But is that a moral flaw?
Sometimes too we speak of “being possessed by demons” and that also has a variety of meanings. We can be possessed by a power beyond us that overpowers our will, be that the devil himself or some overpowering addiction such as alcohol or drugs. Most of us are not overpowered, but each of us battles with his or her own demons and the line between obsession and possession is sometimes thin.
Moreover, today archetypal psychologists speak of something they call “daimons,” that is, they believe that what explains our actions are not just nature and nurture, but also powerful “angels” and “demons” inside us, that relentlessly haunt our bodies and minds and leave us chronically obsessed and driven.
But these “daimons”  are also very often at the root of our creativity and that is why we often see (in the phraseology of Michael Higgins) “tortured genius” in many high-achievers, romantics, people with artistic temperaments and people like Van Gogh and Nouwen, who, under the pressure of an obsession, cut off an ear or check themselves into a clinic.
What is the point of highlighting this?  A deeper understanding of ourselves and others, is the point. We should not be so mystified by what happens sometimes in our world and inside us. We are wild, obsessed, complex creatures, and that complexity does not take its root, first of all, in what is evil inside us. Rather it is rooted in what is deepest inside us, namely, the image and likeness of God.
We are infinite spirits journeying in a finite world. Obsessions come with the territory. In ancient myths, gods and goddesses often fell helplessly in love with human beings, but the ancients believed that this was a place where the divine and human met. And that still happens: The divine in us sometimes too falls hopelessly in love with another human being.
This, of course, does not give us an excuse to act out as we would like on those feelings, but it does tell us that this is more an encounter between the divine and the human than it is a moral flaw.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Donor challenges diocese, Habitat to build Pope Francis House

JACKSON – For more than 30 years, Catholics across the Diocese of Jackson have supported Habitat for Humanity through Catholic Build projects. This year, an extra house honoring Pope Francis, is being added to the project list. An anonymous donor has offered half of the funds needed for a Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capitol Area house for a low-income family needing a safe, decent place to live if the community can raise $40,000 in matching funds.
The donor has provided grants to build several other Pope Francis houses, including ones in St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Huntersville, North Carolina. The anonymous donor said the purpose is to honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church; to provide a unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work towards a common goal; and to further Habitat’s mission of building and preserving homes.
“The challenge from an anonymous donor is a special opportunity for both the Catholic and non-Catholic communities to build a home for a local family in need, while honoring Pope Francis’ teachings that, ‘The love of the poor is at the heart of the Gospel,’” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz. Bishop Kopacz spoke with several media outlets in support of the project and all the work Habitat does to help rebuild communities. “He is encouraging us to improve people’s lives by breaking the cycle of poverty and building our community, which is certainly the focus of Habitat for Humanity.”
“When they told me, I was just speechless,” said Shavers Houston, who will receive the Pope Francis House. “It is an exciting time for me, because it’s going to be the first time I’m going out on my own to buy a house,” he said. Houston has four children ranging in age from 13 to six. Teams of volunteers will build the family a five bedroom, two bath home on Greenview Drive, next to Jackson St. Therese Church. This is not the first time the Catholic community has been a part of a Greenview project. Last year, volunteers from a number of churches in the area including St. Therese, participated in a Habitat sponsored cleanup day on the block. Habitat hopes to revitalize the whole block in time.
“When I told them they didn’t believe me!” He said of his children. “I had to tell them, ‘I’m telling the truth.’ They are very excited,” said Houston. The kids will have to change schools and make some other adjustments, but Houston, who grew up in the neighborhood where the house is being built, said they love school and learning so he is not concerned. Houston works as a maintenance man at a Jackson apartment complex, a job he loves.
Getting to this point was a long road for the family. Houston heard a radio advertisement about Habitat 10 years ago. “All I did was give it a shot and call.” Before he could qualify he had to take classes on home ownership, perform community service at Stewpot and contribute ‘sweat equity’ by working on other Habitat homes. “I’m just so honored to know this home is going to be historic. People are going to know I live in a house dedicated to Pope Francis – that’s amazing,” said Houston, who is not Catholic, but is grateful for the support from the Catholic community.
“Anytime a donor is able to give a sponsorship of a Habitat house in honor of someone, that makes the build all the more special,” said Cindy Griffin, executive director of HFHMCA. “Giving our community the opportunity to work together ecumenically to honor Pope Francis is a very special build,” Griffin said. “We encourage the community to be a part of this exciting partnership by donating today so we can meet the match and not lose this opportunity to honor the Pope and help a family in need,” added Griffin.
“I just want to thank all the people who are donating toward the build. I want to than the anonymous donor. It is a blessing to know that people are giving their hard-earned money to help others,” said Houston. The Pope Francis House is being built in addition to the regular Catholic Build house this year, so organizers must raise the $40,000 matching grant in addition to $80,000 for the Catholic Build.
To donate or learn more about the Pope Francis Build, visit the HFHMCA website at or call 601-353-6060.

Celebrando década de ministros eclesiales laicos

POR OBISPO Joseph Kopacz
Este año se cumple el décimo aniversario del documento “Colaboradores en la viña del Señor”, un libro publicado por la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos para guiar el desarrollo del ministerio eclesial laico en los Estados Unidos. Este documento resaltó también la evolución constante de los laicos en la misión de la iglesia en el mundo que el Señor Jesús nos ha confiado. El Obispo William Houck nombró el primer ministro eclesial laico de la Diócesis de Jackson en 1987, y en la actualidad hay 14 ministros eclesials laicos en nuestra diócesis. Su ministerio es parroquial en colaboración con el clero, con las personas de vida consagrada, con el personal remunerado y los voluntarios.
En la era moderna el desarrollo del ministerio laico ha aparecido en los documentos del Concilio Vaticano Segundo (1961-1965). En realidad, mucho de lo que fue promulgado en los 16 documentos del concilio podían rastrear sus raíces hasta un mínimo de medio siglo antes. Lumen Gentium, la Constitución Dogmática sobre la iglesia, fijó el rumbo para el crecimiento del ministerio laico en los últimos 50 años.
“Todos los cristianos, en cualquier estado o condición, están llamados a la plenitud de la vida cristiana y a la perfección de la caridad, y esta santidad es favorable a una forma más humana de vivir…
“Todos los bautizados están llamados a trabajar por la transformación del mundo. La mayoría lo hacen  trabajando en el ámbito secular; algunos lo hacen trabajando en la iglesia y se centran en la construcción de la comunión eclesial”.
El Código de Derecho Canónico de 1983 que transportó el código de 1917 a la era moderna solidificó el desarrollo de ministerios laicos en el derecho universal de la iglesia. (Cánones 23-24) El término “ministerio eclesial laico” no implica que los ministerios en cuestión son distintivos a los laicos. Lo que es característico de los laicos es la participación en el mundo con la intención de llevar el orden secular en conformidad con el plan de Dios. Sin embargo, por su incorporación bautismal en el Cuerpo de Cristo, los laicos también están equipados con los dones y las gracias para construir la iglesia desde dentro, en cooperación con la jerarquía y bajo su dirección.
En el informe de la Conferencia Católica de los Estados Unidos de 1995, “Llamados y dotados para el nuevo milenio”, se lee que “la nueva evangelización se convertirá en una realidad sólo si los ordenados y los laicos fieles de Cristo comprenden sus roles y ministerios como de cortesía, y sus propósitos se unen a la misión y el ministerio de Jesús Cristo.”
En un momento importante en este camino de fe, San Juan Pablo II en su encíclica “En la clausura del Gran Jubileo (2000)”, le proporcionó a la Iglesia con una visión para el nuevo milenio. “La unidad de la iglesia no es uniformidad, sino una mezcla orgánica de la legítima diversidad. Es la realidad de muchos de los miembros unidos en un solo cuerpo, el único Cuerpo de Cristo. (1Cor 12:12 ) Por lo tanto, la iglesia del nuevo milenio  necesitará alentar a todos los bautizados y confirmados a tomar conciencia de su propia responsabilidad activa en la vida de la iglesia. Juntos con el ministro ordenado, con otros ministerios, instituidos o simplemente reconocidos, pueden prosperar para el bien de toda la comunidad, atendiéndola en sus múltiples necesidades”.
Muchas diócesis de los Estados Unidos han establecido formalmente ministerios eclesiales laicos y la Diócesis de Jackson podría muy bien haber sido la primera. Este ministerio encuentra su inspiración y realidad en la llamada de Dios y en la generosa respuesta de aquellos que han recibido los sacramentos de iniciación cristiana: el bautismo, la confirmación y la Eucaristía. Como señalé, hay actualmente 14 ministros eclesiales laicos  sirviendo en la diócesis  y su número está compuesto por siete mujeres y cuatro hombres, dos mujeres religiosas,   y un diácono. El ministerio eclesial de estos hombres y mujeres se caracteriza por:
s Autorización de la jerarquía para servir públicamente en la iglesia local.
s Liderazgo en un área particular del ministerio.
s Estrecha y mutua colaboración con el ministerio pastoral de los obispos, los sacerdotes y los diáconos.
s Preparación y formación adecuada al nivel de las responsabilidades que les son asignadas.
A lo largo de mi 36 años y medio como sacerdote en la Diócesis de Scranton, Pensilvania, la asignación formal de ministros eclesiales laicos no existía. Durante mis viajes alrededor de la Diócesis de Jackson ha sido esclarecedor y estimulante para mí conocer nuestros ministros eclesiales laicos, visitar las parroquias en las que prestan servicio en el fin de semana, y aprender acerca de la fuerza y las limitaciones de cada comunidad. Tenemos la suerte de tener una relación de cooperación y colaboración entre nuestros ministros eclesiales laicos, los ministros sacramentales y los párrocos de las diócesis.
Al esperar mi asistencia a la conferencia semestral de obispos en San Luis la semana entrante, participaré en un encuentro previo a la conferencia con ocasión del décimo aniversario del documento “Colaboradores en la viña del Señor” y mi próxima columna será sobre la base de la actual realidad de los ministros eclesiales laicos en los Estados Unidos y la dirección futura de su ministerio, aquí y en otras partes de la nación.
En promedio cada año en los Estados Unidos, 1,500 sacerdotes se apartan de su ministerio activo, atribuible a la jubilación, la muerte, o de salida, y 500 son ordenados.
Este no es un panorama desolador, pero de seguro crea un ambiente pobre en lo que respecta al clero activo.
En este indicador del futuro previsible, los ministros eclesiales laicos seguirán siendo una parte fundamental del paisaje de ministerio activo en la Iglesia Católica en colaboración con los ordenado, religiosas y las legiones de voluntarios activos que generosamente donan su tiempo y talento para servir al Señor en su Cuerpo, la iglesia, para la salvación de todos. Después de todo, la iglesia existe para dar gloria a Dios y para continuar la obra de salvación de Cristo, un trabajo que continuará hasta que Cristo venga de nuevo.

Celebrating decade of lay ecclesial ministers

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” a resource book published by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) for guiding the development of lay ecclesial ministry in the United States. Moreover, this document highlighted the ongoing evolution of the laity in the Church’s mission in the world that the Lord Jesus entrusted to us.
Bishop William Houck appointed the first Lay Ecclesial Minister in the Diocese of Jackson in 1987, and currently there are 15 LEMs serving in our midst.  Their ministry is parish-based in collaboration with the ordained clergy, with those in consecrated life, and with many other paid staff and volunteers.
In the modern era the development of lay ministry surfaced in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. (1961-1965) In reality, much that was promulgated in the 16 documents of the Council could track its roots to at least a half century earlier in “Lumen Gentium.”
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church set the course for the growth of lay ministry during the past 50 years. “All Christians in whatever state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity, and this holiness is conducive to a more human way of living… “All of the baptized are called to work toward the transformation of the world.  Most do so by working in the secular realm; some do so by working in the Church and focusing on the building of ecclesial communion.”
The 1983 Code of Canon Law that transported the 1917 Code into the modern era solidified the development of lay ministry into the universal law of the Church. (Canons 23-24) The term “lay ecclesial ministry” does not imply that the ministries in question are distinctive to lay persons alone.
What is distinctive to the laity is engagement in the world with the intent of bringing the secular order into conformity with God’s plan. However, by their baptismal incorporation into the Body of Christ, lay persons are also equipped with gifts and graces to build up the Church from within, in cooperation with the hierarchy and under its direction.
In the United States Catholic Conference’s 1995 statement, “Called and Gifted for the New Millennium,” we read that “the new evangelization will become a reality only if ordained and lay members of Christ’s faithful understand their roles and ministries as complimentary and their purposes joined to the one mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”
At a significant point on this journey of faith, Saint John Paul II in his encyclical “At the Close of the Great Jubilee (2000),” provided the Church with a vision for the new millennium. “The unity of the Church is not uniformity, but an organic blending of legitimate diversities. It is the reality of many members joined in a single body, the one Body of Christ. (1Cor, 12,12) Therefore the Church of the new millennium will need to encourage all the baptized and confirmed to be aware of their active responsibility in the Church’s life. Together with the ordained ministry, other ministries, whether formally instituted or simply recognized, can flourish for the good of the whole community, sustaining it in all its many needs.”
Many dioceses across the United States have formally instituted lay ecclesial ministry, and the Diocese of Jackson may well have been the first. This ministry finds its inspiration and reality in God’s call, and the generous response of those who have received the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. As noted there are 14 LEMs currently serving and their number is comprised of seven lay women, four laymen, two women religious, and one religious deacon.  The ecclesial ministry of these men and women is characterized by:
s Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publically in the local church;
s Leadership in a particular area of ministry;
s Close and mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons;
sPreparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them.
Throughout my 36 and a half years as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., the formal assigning of lay ecclesial ministers did not exist. As I have travelled around the Diocese of Jackson it has been enlightening and inspiring for me to encounter our LEMs, to experience the parishes where they serve at the weekend Mass or liturgy, and to learn about the strength and limitations of each community. We are blessed to have a collaborative and cooperative relationship among our LEMs, Sacramental Ministers, and Canonical Pastors around the diocese.
As I look ahead to the semi-annual conference of bishops in Saint Louis next week, I will participate in a pre-Conference gathering of bishops to mark the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the co-workers document, and my next column will be based on the current reality of LEMs in the United States, and the future direction for their ministry, here and in other parts of the nation.
On average in the United States each year, 1500 priests depart from active ministry, attributable to retirement, death, or departure, and 500 are ordained.  This is not a bleak picture, but it sure creates a lean environment with respect to active clergy.
In this light for the foreseeable future, LEMs will continue to be a vital part of the landscape of active ministry in the Catholic Church in collaboration with the ordained, religious, and the legions of active volunteers who generously give of their time and talent to serve the Lord in his Body, the Church for the salvation of all.  After all, the Church exists to give glory to God and to continue Christ’s work of salvation a labor that will continue until Jesus Christ comes again.

Ideas for Fortnight for Freedom

The Bishops of the United States have called all the faithful to celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness from June 21 to July 4, 2015. The theme of this year’s Fortnight will focus on the freedom to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.
1. Celebrate a memorial Mass for SS. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22 (their feast day) to recognize how they bore witness to the truth (and paid for it with their lives).
2. Present a Catholic movie night for members of your parish, by getting copyright permission to show:
a. A Man for All Seasons, about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More;
b. For Greater Glory, about the struggle for religious freedom in Mexico;
c. First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, a PBS video about religious freedom;
d. Becket, about 12th century English martyr St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
3. Invite a local or national figure to speak to your parish about religious liberty. Also, encourage parishioners to read Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, a document of the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
4. Sponsor a day of faith-based service within the community, perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping to paint, garden, clean, or organize donations at a local charity. Highlight existing Catholic service activities and institutions and how they bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.
5. Host an indoor or outdoor concert with religious music.
6. Plan a parish outreach event including a meal—a fish fry, picnic, pancake breakfast, or spaghetti supper—to raise awareness about the Fortnight and advertise local Fortnight events.
7. Organize day-long (or multi-day) Eucharistic Adoration.
8. Sponsor a presentation on the history of Catholicism in the United States.
9. Host a study group on Dignitatis Humanae, the groundbreaking document from the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty, using the 14-day reflection piece at This year marks the 50th anniversary of this important document.
10. Lead a Eucharistic Procession through your community on a path that passes important government or civic buildings.
11. Host a panel discussion on the wide range of current religious freedom issues; on a single religious freedom issue in depth; or on how religion can and should influence policy issues generally.
12. Remind parishioners that the Supreme Court decision on marriage—which may have serious effects on religious freedom in our country—is expected to occur during the Fortnight (likely on the last day of the Court’s term, June 29). Consider events surrounding the announcement of the decision.
13. As a parish at the end of daily Mass, pray the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty.
14. Organize an Independence Day family picnic with a special Mass to close the Fortnight for Freedom.