Northwest parishes thirst for ‘Cocktails and Catholicism’

By Laura Grisham
SOUTHAVEN – Leadership at the Catholic parishes of Northwest Mississippi were in for a surprise when they held their first evening of “Cocktails and Catholicism” at Sacred Heart School in Southaven in January. What was thought that would be a group of maybe 20 to 30 people intimately gathered in the school library, exploded into nearly 250 in attendance gathered in the school gym.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, staff, alumni, as well as parishioners from each of the six Northwest parishes that include Christ the King, Southaven; Good Shepherd, Robinsonville; Holy Spirit, Hernando; Queen of Peace, Olive Branch; St. Gregory, Senatobia; and St. Joseph, Holly Springs, were there.

“We have been blown away by the number of people who have been interested and participated,” said David Delgado, parishioner and Sacred Heart School parent and alumnus.

Delgado and Father David Szatkowski, SCJ, moderator of the six Northwest parishes, were the brains behind the event. Others joined them in helping to make it a success, including fellow parishioner and Sacred Heart School parent, Brad Palmertree and Deacon Ted Schreck.

SOUTHAVEN – Parish members from the Catholic parishes of Northwest Mississippi came out to socialize and listen to a presentation by Father David Szatkowski, SCJ on “The Real Story of Angels and Demons” at Sacred Heart School. The new initiative is called “Cocktails and Catholicism.” The first event brought out almost 250 individuals to participate. The events will take place the second Friday every month. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

The idea for the sessions began in the summer of 2021. The vision was for a small group of adult Catholics to come together and be drawn back into church life through a series of topics. But the pandemic still had tight reigns on large gatherings, so the idea was tabled for a bit. It was reintroduced as school began in fall of 2022.

Taking cues from input gathered in the synod process, adding more adult faith formation opportunities was a key component. “But we also heard a large number of people talk about their desire to know others better,” said Father David.

From there, the plan came together, creating a casual, fun environment for people to gather in fellowship, in conjunction with a 30-minute-long presentation on a theological topic. The hospitality aspect was added to make people feel at home once they arrived at the sessions. Snacks and faith-related discussion would be provided; the cocktails (and colas) would be BYOB.

So far, nearly 200 have already signed up for the next session, with more and more responding every day. In order to handle the volume of attendees without the event conflicting with school activities or creating parking issues, it was decided to move gatherings to the family life center at Holy Spirit Church in Hernando.

SOUTHAVEN – Father David Szatkowski, SCJ is part of the brains behind the “Cocktails and Catholicism” event in the northwest region of the state. He is pictured at the first event on Friday, Jan. 13 at Sacred Heart School giving a talk entitled “The Real Story of Angels and Demons.” A copy of the presentation can be found on YouTube at @NWMSCatholic. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

“We hope to establish a stronger Catholic community in our area,” says Delgado. “And provide a spiritual ‘ramp’ for those who might need it. Sharing topics of faith in a unique, less intimidating setting seems to attract a really good crowd.”

The topic for the first gathering was “The Real Story of Angels and Demons” presented by Father David on – most appropriately – Friday the 13th. (One can find Father David’s full presentation on the Catholic Parishes of Northwest Mississippi’s YouTube channel @NWMSCatholic.)

“Cocktails and Catholicism” sessions will be held monthly on the second Friday of each month, with doors opening at 6 p.m. for socializing and presentations beginning at 7:15 p.m., followed by a short question and answer session.

Organizers have scheduled speakers from across northwest Mississippi and greater Mid-South through mid-year. Future topics include the following:

• “Can We Eat Alligator on Friday and Other Important Things to Know as You Prepare for Lent” on Feb. 10 with Father Ben Bradshaw of St. Michael’s parish in Memphis and creator of “Soul Food Priest.”
• March 10: “What gives you Hope? Jean Valjean’s Life Changed in a Moment” with Deacon Ted Schreck.
• April 14: “The Resurrection: Fulfillment of God’s Promises – If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” with Sister Mary Lawrence, OP.
• May 12:“Sister Says…” with Sister Margaret Sue Broker, OSF.
• June 9: “Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk: Evangelizing as a Catholic” with Father Dennis Schenkel.
• July 14: “Confession” with Father Gabe Bouck.

(All events are adults only and arecurrently held at Holy Spirit parish in Hernando at 545 East Commerce Street. More information contact Deacon Ted Schreck at Christ the King parish at (662) 342-1073.)