By Berta Mexidor, Elsa Baughman and Linda Reeves
JACKSON – Parishioners of St. Therese in Jackson celebrated their patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux, Oct. 6 during a special bilingual Mass away from parish grounds at Camp Garaywa in Clinton.
This year marks the four-year anniversary of the celebration at the camp facilities to accommodate the large number of faithful wanting to participate in the parish celebration and to honor the saint. Padre Juan Chavajay, pastor of St. Therese, was main celebrant for the Mass held in the auditorium.
Padre Juan’s homily was mainly focused on the short life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus also known as the Little Flower, who continues to make a big impact on people from around the world. Therese, a role model of faith and love for Jesus, heard the call of God at age 15. It was only with the approval of her father and after special permission by Pope Leo XIII that the teen was allowed to enter the Carmelite congregation leaving her family, friends and possessions behind.
As a cloistered nun, she lived a simple life of prayer hidden inside the convent never going out on mission or ministry. After a short time, Therese became sick and tests revealed that she had tuberculosis. After a 10-year battle with the illness, Therese died at the young age of 24, but her life has lived on after the world came to know and love her through her autobiography.
At the center of padre Juan’s message was St. Therese’s great love for and faith in God. The young girl gave up everything to live a life of religious vocations and also turned to God during her most difficult times trusting in him as she suffered from her illness.
“Today we ask for her intercession so we can have the faith she had,” said padre Juan. “It’s easy to trust in God when things are going well but when problems arrive, we question our faith,” he said encouraging parishioners to continue to have faith in the Lord even during hard times.
At one point during the Mass, the children of St. Therese Parish processed to the altar with red roses in hand. They placed roses near the parish’s St. Therese image showcased at the front of the church. Padre Juan explained that the flowers were in memory of the great saint, who loved flowers and saw herself as a little flower of Jesus.
After the Mass, parishioners gathered for a pot-luck lunch in the dining hall made possible through the generous donors, who contributed dishes. Parishioners Eva Sanchez and Veronica Womack headed up the food committee and took care of all the details.
There were indoor and outdoor activities for the children arranged by Joel Montoya heading up the activity committee. At one point, the children hit piñatas with a large number four printed on them representing the fourth anniversary of the St. Therese celebration at Camp Garaywa.
Parishes everywhere celebrate St. Therese around Oct. 1 each year, the official feast day marked on the Church calendar. Bishop Joseph Kopacz recognized and paid tribute to the Little Flower during Mass celebration at St. Therese in Kosciusko on Sept. 29. Bishop Kopacz concelebrated Mass with Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity Father Odel Medina, pastor.
As part of celebrations, yellow and white roses adorned the Kosciusko parish’s St. Therese image, altar and church. Parishioners celebrated their patroness praying especially for the youth and family of the parish.
Bishop Kopacz explained that St. Therese was a model of faith and love in Christ and known for her spirituality of doing the ordinary with extraordinary love. Today, she is venerated around the world and takes on the title of co-patroness of missions, “because of her prayers and her way to reach others,” Bishop Kopacz said.