Development day gathering highlights virtues in education and school safety

By Joanna Puddister King
MADISON – Diocesan schools will continue to focus on strengthening Catholic culture and school safety during the new academic year that has begun for all students.
The Office of Catholic Education hosted a development day for diocesan teachers and staff on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison with featured presenters Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, OP and Jim Brown, a school resource analyst with the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security.
“This day is filled with blessings, inspiration and joy for all who make our schools successful,” said executive director of Catholic Schools, Karla Luke. “This tradition is a fantastic opportunity for teachers and staff from around the diocese to share ideas that benefit our students and families and showcase the richness of our Catholic education.”

MADISON – Educators around the diocese gathered and heard from speakers Jim Brown (left), a school resource analyst with the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security and Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, OP (right), an over 30-year veteran of Catholic education.

The day began with a Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz in the performing arts building for the over 400 in attendance.
“Education is that gift of coming out of the darkness and ignorance into the light of faith, hope and love,” said Bishop Kopacz. “And, into the light of knowledge, wisdom and grace, like the Lord himself.”
Keynote speaker, Sister John Dominic highlighted the importance of grace as a part of the role of teachers and staff in the mission of Catholic education. She said that teachers can bring grace to their classrooms and to families, in order to help develop relationships and a Catholic culture that can aid in leading students and their families to God’s amazing grace through virtues in education.
“Grace is our participation in God’s light,” Sister John Dominic said to the crowd. “It is truly amazing!”
Sister John Dominic’s talk was especially fitting with this year’s theme “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” for Catholic schools from the Office of Education.
Educators also had the opportunity to hear from Jim Brown, who shared essential information on school safety. He has trained teaching staff around the state in best practices of responding to targeted violence and dangerous perpetrators through the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, or CRASE training.
“You are the last line of defense for those babies,” Brown told teachers and staff.
Teachers and staff also had the opportunity to come together and network with each other, plan collaboratively and share best practices.
“I enjoyed meeting with teachers from other schools in the diocese and hearing about how they were implementing the ‘Amazing Grace’ theme into their schools this year. I heard some great ideas that I am eager to bring back to our school,” said Jordan Amborn, director of student affairs at Vicksburg Catholic School.
Of the event, Bishop Kopacz said, “Today and every day, we pray for encouragement and building one another up in the Lord.”

MADISON – Educators gathered in prayer during Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz for their annual development day at St. Joseph School on Tuesday, Sept. 5. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Liturgical Norms for the Diocese of Jackson regarding the distribution and reception of Holy Communion

The following norms are in place for the Diocese of Jackson. More norms and directives may be found on the diocesan web site at

The Holy See establishes universal norms for the reverent celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. As part of this process the Holy See asks each bishops’ conference to establish norms and directives for its country or region. Furthermore, a local bishop may establish directives for his own diocese in line with the national and universal directives and norms.

Therefore, the following norms for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion in the Diocese of Jackson have been established by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz in line with Holy Mother Church’s process for establishing liturgical norms and directives.

  • All COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for almost a year now.
  • Communicants may receive the consecrated host in the hand or on the tongue. It is the communicant’s choice in how to receive not the minister of Communion’s. Do not refuse people who would like to receive on the tongue or in the hand.
  • In the Dioceses of the United States, which includes the Diocese of Jackson, the posture for receiving Holy Communion is standing. This applies to all Masses no matter the language or community. A minister of Communion should not refuse someone who kneels to receive Holy Communion, but kneelers and/or the implementation of a communion rail are not allowed.
  • Distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice is approved again. Keeping in mind that the ideal is for both species to be available, a pastor currently has the option to dispense distribution from the cup in times of flu or Covid outbreaks that present a danger to the community.
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may be used to assist in the distribution of the Precious Blood and Consecrated Hosts.
  • Purification of the sacred vessels must be done by the priest, deacon or instituted acolyte.
  • Under no circumstances is a communicant allowed to self-communicate by taking a consecrated host from the ciborium or paten. The minister of Communion must place the host on the communicant’s hand or tongue.
  • A communicant is never allowed to intinct (dip) the consecrated host into the chalice of Precious Blood.
  • Currently, intinction by the minister of Communion is not an option in the Diocese of Jackson.

Other resources on the Eucharist may be found on our diocesan Eucharistic Revival web site at:

10 things to know about October’s Synod on Synodality in Rome

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – The eyes of the Catholic world turn to Rome Oct. 4, as the worldwide Synod of Bishops convenes on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi to focus on “synodality” and understanding what it means in terms of “communion, participation and mission” in the church. Here’s what it is, how we got here and what to expect.

– 1. The Synod on Synodality is three years in the making.
Pope Francis announced in March 2020 (at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Italy) that the next Synod of Bishops would be held in October 2022 on the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission,” which quickly became known as the “Synod on Synodality.” In May 2021, he postponed the two-part meeting to 2023 (with a second gathering in 2024), due in part to the pandemic, and announced that it would be preceded by a two-year process.

That decision reflected Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod of Bishops outlined in the 2018 apostolic constitution “Episcopalis Communio,” including what Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, described at the time as “transforming the Synod from an event into a process.” Pope Francis officially opened the “synodal path” with a Mass Oct. 10, 2021, with dioceses around the world following suit.

– 2. Synodality is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”
Despite the long history of synods in the church, the term “synodality” is relatively recent, emerging in church documents about two decades ago. In 2018, the topic was addressed by the International Theological Commission, which defined it as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

Synodality was also a topic of conversation at the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” that took place in 2018.

In the Synod on Synodality’s “vademecum,” an official handbook issued in September 2021, “synodality” is described as “the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the hurch, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel,” adding, “Synodality ought to be expressed in the church’s ordinary way of living and working.”

In his homily for the Mass opening the synod process, Pope Francis said, “Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, walking together.” He said that when meeting others, Jesus would “encounter, listen and discern,” and those verbs “characterize the synod.”

“The Gospels frequently show us Jesus ‘on a journey’; he walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky roads of life.”

He continued: “Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves – all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

– 3. A synod is a meeting of bishops. It has ancient roots in the Catholic Church’s history and continuity in the Eastern Churches, but declined in the Latin Church. The modern Synod of Bishops was instituted near the end of Vatican II.
“Synod” has been historically interchangeable with “council,” such as the churchwide Council of Nicea or the Council of Trent, or more localized meetings, such as the Plenary Councils of Baltimore, which brought the U.S. bishops together in 1852, 1866 and 1884. The late Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley, a theologian at Georgetown University, noted in a February 2022 essay for America magazine that local councils declined in use following the First Vatican Council, which defined papal primacy, but they didn’t die out: “One of the first things that the future Pope John XXIII did when he became patriarch of Venice was to call a diocesan synod,” he wrote.

The idea for a permanent bishops’ council surfaced during the Second Vatican Council, and in 1965 St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops with “the function of providing information and offering advice.” “It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod,” St. Paul VI wrote.

– 4. The Synod on Synodality is the 16th Ordinary Synod since the global Synod of Bishops’ institution.
Three extraordinary general assemblies have also been held, including in 2014 to complete the work of the 2015 ordinary general assembly on the family. An additional 11 special Synods of Bishops have been held to address issues facing a particular region. Among them was a special synod on America in 1997 and one on the Amazon region in 2019. Synods have regularly resulted in the pope, who serves as the synod president, writing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

– 5. Preparations for the Synod on Synodality sought to be the most extensive ever, with an invitation to every Catholic to provide input.
An unprecedented worldwide consultation occurred at the diocesan/national and continental levels. The synod’s two-year preparation process invited all Catholics worldwide to identify areas where the church needed to give greater attention and discernment. That feedback was gathered and synthesized by dioceses and then episcopal conferences, before being brought to the continental level. The syntheses from episcopal conferences and continental-level meetings were shared with the Holy See, and they informed a working document known as an “Instrumentum Laboris” for the general assembly’s first session. The document’s authors describe it as “not a document of the Holy See, but of the whole church.” However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report indicates that only about 700,000 Catholics in the U.S. participated, representing just over 1% of the U.S. Catholic population of 66.8 million.

– 6. The Synod on Synodality’s objective boils down to answering a two-part question.
According to the vademecum, “The current Synodal Process we are undertaking is guided by a fundamental question: How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the church to proclaim the Gospel? and what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?”

The working document released in June to guide general assembly participants includes many other reflection questions; but it particularly asks participants to reflect on these priorities, guided by its focus on communion, participation and mission: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”; “How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”; and “What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

– 7. For the first time ever, non-bishops – including lay men and women – have a vote in the synod.
The synod’s general assembly includes more than 450 participants – 363 of whom are voting members – with leaders from the Vatican curia and episcopal conferences. More than a quarter of synod members are non-bishops, including laypeople, who for the first time will have a vote during synod deliberations. A deliberate effort was made to include women and young adults. As of July 7, when the Vatican released the initial list, the number of voting women was the same as participating cardinals: 54. The list was subject to change ahead of the synod, organizers said.

In previous synods, some non-bishop participants held the non-voting role of “auditor,” which has been eliminated at this assembly, although some attendees will be non-voting observers, called “special envoys,” or non-voting facilitators or advisers.

The presence of “non-bishops,” according to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s general relator, in a letter published at the time the change was announced, “ensures the dialogue between the prophecy of the people of God and the discernment of the pastors.”

– 8. More than 20 Catholics from the United States have been invited to participate.
Participating American bishops chosen by Pope Francis are Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, California.

Additional bishop-delegates selected by the USCCB and confirmed by Pope Francis are Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, and serves as USCCB president.

American prelates Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, formerly the bishop of Dallas, are also delegates by nature of prior papal appointments. Cardinal Tobin is an ordinary member of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Farrell is prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Pope Francis also nominated synod member Jesuit Father James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine and founder of Outreach, a ministry for Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+.

Other U.S. delegates were nominated by the USCCB and confirmed by the pope. They include: Richard Coll, the executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Integral Human Development; Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult faith formation at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis; Father Iván Montelongo of El Paso, Texas; Wyatt Olivas, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; Julia Oseka, a Polish student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; and Sister Leticia Salazar, a member of the Company of Mary, Our Lady and chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.

USCCB-nominated delegates participated in the continental synod, and Coll, Bishop Flores and Sister Salazar were members of the 18-person North American Synod Team that prepared the North American continental synod report for the U.S. and Canada. Bishop Flores has been named one of nine delegate presidents of the assembly.

Sister Maria Cimperman, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and theologian at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and American Jesuit Father David McCallum, executive director of the Discerning Leadership Program in Rome, are among the 57 non-voting experts.

– 9. In the U.S., the meeting has been a source of great expectation and great apprehension.
The synod has inspired both great praise and deep criticism for its approach, including allowing laypeople to vote; its subject matter, which includes controversial topics such as leadership roles for women, ministry to Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+, and the relationship between laypeople and clergy. At least one cardinal expressed concern that the meeting could lead to confusion and error in church teaching.
However, Bishop Flores, speaking recently with OSV News, said the meeting aims to better understand people’s reality so it can better minister to them. “We can’t respond with the Gospel if we don’t know what the reality they’re facing is,” he said of people, especially those on margins and in difficult situations.

– 10. October’s meeting is just the beginning.
In an unusual move, the synod general assembly has been divided into two sessions, with the first Oct. 4-29, and the second planned for October 2024. The decision, announced in October 2022, has parallels to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which met in 2014 for an extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and then continued its work the following year as an ordinary assembly. The work of both meetings culminated in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), released in 2016.

Prior to the synod, Pope Francis presides over an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 30. Synod participants attend a retreat Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Sacrofano, about 16 miles north of Rome. The retreat includes morning meditations – offered by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe of the United Kingdom and the Benedictine Rev. Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini of Italy – afternoon small-groups and Mass.

Meanwhile, the Taizé community and other organizations have organized a meeting in Rome that weekend called “Together – Gathering of the People of God” for young people to pray for the synod.
The synod’s general assembly opens Oct. 4 with a papal Mass that includes the new cardinals created at a Sept. 30 consistory. Among them is expected to be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)

Praying for vocations means understanding church’s needs, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life are declining in developed countries around the world, prayers for vocations should not try to “convince” God to send more workers for the church but seek to better understand the needs of its people, Pope Francis said.
Meeting with a group of Rogationists and Daughters of Divine Zeal at the Vatican Sept. 18, the pope praised the example of their founder, St. Hannibal di Francia, who made praying for vocations central to the charisms of the congregations he began.

St. Hannibal, he said, “understood that the first thing to do was pray, certainly not to convince God to send shepherds, as if he did not care for his people, but to let himself be overwhelmed by the deep passion of his paternal and maternal love, to learn – by praying – to be sensitive to the needs of his children.”

Pope Francis speaks to members of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus and the Daughters of Divine Zeal during a meeting at the Vatican Sept. 18, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The 19th-century Sicilian saint founded the congregations after drawing inspiration from a passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” St. John Paul II called St. Hannibal’s desire to dedicate “unceasing and universal” prayer for vocations a “providential intuition” when he declared him a saint in 2004.

Pope Francis said this type of prayer is particularly practiced in eucharistic adoration, where “docile and humble before God, one receives a specific understanding about the sense of his or her own life.”

The pope urged those walking in the path of St. Hannibal to be “specialists” in God, not through abstract theory, but in prayer and charity to communicate God to the world through their example.

“This is your mission,” he told them, “for even today the Lord is calling, and so many young people need credible witnesses and guides who, by showing them the beauty of a life spent in love, will help them to say ‘yes.’”


By Sister alies therese

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (NAB, John 1:1) That God spoke one word is a clue for us because folks who babble and gossip are insecure, undermining and silly. I have to put it that way because it describes most of us!

In Proverbs and other places in Scripture we can learn. Consider in Proverbs 13:2 “the good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.” (Peterson) I can only hope to discover how to learn to speak the simplest and most direct and loving words as I mature. How shall my words not bully anyone, how can I speak with the ‘tongue of angels’? How can I learn to speak the truth? Can I speak in love?

Sister alies therese

Gossip is something that gets under my skin. Yours? Rumors and tales that particularly feature my neighbors or friends really get my goat. Proverbs again reminds us of this: “troublemakers start fights, gossip breaks up friendships.” (16:28, Peterson) “Don’t talk about your neighbors behind their backs – no slander or gossip please.” (24:28, Peterson).

Not gossiping is not just ‘good behavior’; it is also quite practical. “The person who lies gets caught; the person who spreads rumors is ruined.” (NAB, Proverbs 19:9) Rumors that are spread on internet, for example, about teens being fat, or ugly, or indeed promiscuous, have ended in suicide and at least eating disorders.

“The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.” (12:8, Peterson) Political discourse is damaged by the passing of lies and rumor; the public square is littered with persons executed behind lies and false witnesses. Gossip indeed is a killer.

Did you hear the one about? And then off it goes. Some bits of truth are usually embedded within, but the rest implies a certain knowledge, certain power, certain insight into something that is just not true. One day it will be about you.

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert points this out “Talk badly about people too often and your reputation of being a rumormonger will make others stop trusting you.” You might answer, however, what I found in an old Reader’s Digest: “I’m not a gossip. I’m a verbal documenter of other people’s dramas!” Or as to say…I have a right to pass on what I see and hear. Think so?

Another old Reader’s Digest mentioned “You can’t believe everything you hear but you can repeat it.” Perhaps you don’t know the difference between truth and lies? Zip yer lip, especially in this case! “Watch the way you talk…say only what helps. Each word is a gift.” (Peterson, Eph 4:29).

I was impressed with psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, who defined gossip as a “sharing information-real or imagined-without permission.” He also indicated how gossip is emotional sadism because “people tend to take pleasure in someone else’s misery and delight that it’s not happening to them!” Gossip and rumors steal a person’s dignity, they put another person at their lowest where they often have no way of restoration. If you want to be part of another’s destruction, try gossip. “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.” (Peterson, Proverbs 17:4)

Rather become what Proverbs also suggests “Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things; but reliable reporter is a healing presence.” (Peterson, Proverbs 13:17) Let’s go for that because “gossip is like a black hole – once we get sucked in it’s hard to escape.” (

Children often have the right question, if not the right answer. When asked, a dad defined a gossiper for his son as a “a person with a profound sense of rumor.” A little girl, when asked how she knew she was loved said “when people say your name, you know it’s safe in their mouth.” Are words and tales safe in your mouth?

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better use of language than that … thanksgiving is our dialect.” (Peterson, Ephesians 5:4)


PS: My newest collection of short stories 27 Tall Tales will be out soon!

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Observing Hispanic Heritage Month as Catholics

Journeying Together
By Hosffman Ospino

Every year, between September 15 and October 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month. The observance began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and, in 1988, was extended by law into a full-month celebration.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we all are invited to honor and highlight the many stories, experiences and contributions of Hispanics living in the United States, which are integral to who we are as a nation.

For U.S. Catholics, Hispanic Heritage Month should be a major occasion to affirm and celebrate who we are and who we are becoming. Of the approximately 63.7 million Hispanic people living in this country, about 31 million self-identify as Catholic. What’s more, about 43% of all Catholics in the United States of America are Hispanic.

Educational institutions at all levels in our nation engage in different activities to highlight Hispanic cultural elements and learn more about the Hispanic population. Teachers do a superb job creating moments where this happens, in the classroom and through school wide activities. Many other organizations do likewise.

Dr. Hoffsman Ospino

I must say, however, that I do not see the same level of enthusiasm observing Hispanic Heritage Month in our Catholic parishes. It is rather strange since nearly half of all U.S. Catholics are Hispanic and fully 25% of parishes have developed some form of Hispanic ministry.

We don’t seem to have developed a strong culture of parochial observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. But that can change. A communal culture is built through small practices and the commitment to perform these regularly. Here are five practical ideas.
–Start with the parish bulletin and social media. Write a weekly article about Hispanic Catholics; highlight the Hispanic community of your parish or your town; explain a Hispanic popular Catholicism practice (e.g., posadas, altarcitos, quinceañeras); share the story of a U.S. Hispanic; Latin American or Caribbean saint; invite young Hispanics to write something about growing up in a Hispanic Catholic household.

–Set up a book display in the back of your church, or at the parish hall or perhaps in the parish office (think of an often-frequented space in your community) with works that describe Hispanic Catholicism and books written by Hispanic Catholics: poetry, novels, theological works, spirituality guides. The literature on Hispanic Catholicism is abundant!

–Organize at least one evening parish lecture or presentation during this special month with a speaker who shares something interesting about Hispanic Catholics. Promote the event among all parishioners of your community. If your community is multilingual, host events in different languages. Ah, make sure you offer some Hispanic food!

–Those who preach can take advantage of this time of the year to intentionally say something about the Hispanic Catholic experience from the pulpit as they break open the Word. Catechists and teachers in the parish should be encouraged to share about Hispanic Catholicism in their lessons. Give them some resources.

–This is the perfect time of the year to invite your parish community into fiesta! It does not take much to bring the community together to enjoy each other’s presence. It could be a picnic, a large meal or maybe a bazaar. Share Hispanic food and music. Start with a bilingual or multilingual Eucharistic celebration. Pray in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Latin American indigenous languages.

These practices don’t take much effort and cost rather little. The effects upon the parish community can be invaluable as they help us to appreciate our Hispanic Catholic roots more. Such practices are instrumental in reminding us who we are and who we are becoming as U.S. Catholics. Happy Catholic celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month!

(Hosffman Ospino is a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.)

Parish forgives vandal behind beheaded Jesus statue at Louisiana Catholic school

By Gina Christian
A Louisiana Catholic parish and its school are mourning the destruction of a beloved, life-sized statue of Jesus – and extending forgiveness and prayers to the perpetrator – after its decapitation during the overnight hours of Sept. 12-13.

Father James Rome, parochial administrator of Holy Savior Parish in Lockport, Louisiana, told OSV News the statue, located outside Holy Savior School, had been struck sometime after 10:30 p.m. Sept. 12.
“We have not been able to locate the head of the statue,” he said. “It’s missing.”

Father Rome said the statue had possibly been “hit from the back of the head,” since “there were cement marks on the front side” of the figure.

Following vandalism to a beloved life-sized statue of Jesus during the overnight hours of Sept. 12-13, parishioners at Holy Savior Parish in Lockport, La., left a message of forgiveness for the unknown perpetrator, invoking Jesus’ words from Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (OSV News/Father James Rome, Holy Savior Parish)

The statue, which was some 50 years old, had “no rebar (reinforcing bar) in the head” and was “fully attached to the ground,” he said, making it difficult for an attacker to topple the entire figure.

Security cameras have so far not turned up any images of a suspect, he said.

Father Rome said such an incident has “never happened before” at his parish or school.
“We’ve had some cemetery damage, but nothing like this,” he said. “There are no leads.”

Lockport Chief of Police David Harrelson, Jr. has asked for the public’s help in solving the case.
Anyone with knowledge of this incident is asked to contact the department through the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 985-532-2808, or through Facebook Messenger.
In the meantime, Father Rome said the parish and school community will need to replace the statue altogether, since “it will not be able to be fixed.”

He admitted that finding a “comparable” replica will be difficult.
“We’re not even sure where we got it,” said Father Rome.

He and his parishioners intend to pray for the attacker, focusing on the upcoming Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in which Christ tells the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” to highlight the need for forgiveness (Mt 18:21-35).

“We’re just going to use this weekend’s Gospel as an opportunity to reach out with forgiveness, and realize who the real enemy might be working behind this,” said Father Rome. “We hope that person can come to some metanoia, some change.”

Father Rome’s parishioners have already taken that message to heart: the beheaded statue of Christ, with a fresh vase of red and white roses at his feet, now bears a printed sign beneath the etching of the Sacred Heart with Jesus’ words from Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

(Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReinaer)

Our diocese vandalism story: Bishop reconsecrates church, parish community stronger after desecration

God and country: St. Alphonsus pastor becomes an American citizen

By Mack Spencer, Enterprise-Journal

MCCOMB – St. Alphonsus Catholic Church is having a celebration as American as apple pie on Sunday.
There are no guarantees that dessert will be available in Liguori Hall, but those summer staples of hamburgers and hot dogs will be plentiful.

As American as the food fare will be, so, too, is the honoree. St. Al’s pastor, Father Suresh Thirumalareddy, is the star of that show, and a naturalized citizen of the United States after a ceremony in New Orleans in June.

MCCOMB – Father Suresh Thirumalareddy sits in the sanctuary of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. He became an American citizen in June 2023. Fathers Augustine Palimattam Poulose and Anthonyclaret Onyeocha became American citizens earlier this year as well. (Photo courtesy of Enterprise-Journal)

Growing up in India, Father Suresh didn’t think much about visiting the United States, and had never harbored a desire to seek American citizenship, though many Indians view this country positively and want to visit, if not immigrate.
“In India, people look at the United States as being a powerful nation – the greatest, most powerful nation on earth,” Father Suresh said. “That’s what we are taught. When people think about leaving, the first option is always to go to America.”

Eventually, he felt a call to take the opportunity afforded through a loan program between his home Guntur Diocese in southern India and the Jackson Diocese to become what could be called an exchange priest here, where there is a shortage of priests to fill the pulpits – but just for a while.

“My dad’s intention was that I would come here and serve as long as I wanted, and then I would come back to my home church,” he said. “I abided by that when he was alive.”

His father died at home after the start of the second wave of COVID-19 in India, following a 15-day stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit with the virus and complications, including two heart attacks.

Father Suresh became close to his predecessor, Father Brian Kaskie, in 2014, when he moved to Pike County after a year in Meridian with an appointment at St. Teresa Catholic Church in Chatawa, which served the nuns of St. Mary of the Pines.

The death of Kaskie, a friend and mentor, as well as his father, coupled with the ongoing priest shortage, led Father Suresh to seriously consider seeking American citizenship.

“I wanted to settle here and join the community,” he said. “My family said, ‘you have given your life to the Lord, you decide what you want.’

“So I started a new life. I said yes to America, and that I would follow the rules of America and be part of the culture and support America where I can.”

Father Suresh applied for and received both his voter identification and an American passport after his naturalization, and he voted in an American election for the first time in this year’s primary. India does not allow dual citizenship, so he sent his original passport to the Indian consulate in Atlanta for cancelation.
India will send him a renunciation certificate, after which he will be able to travel back home on his American passport, but unable to work or buy land in the country.

He has settled into American society despite difficulties when he first came to this country.

“The first year here, I struggled,” he said. “I missed the food, my family and my culture. I lost 28 pounds. I craved Indian food. Now, when I get the chance, I cook Indian food.

“I came to Chatawa in 2014, and I started eating American food with Father Brian. I like American food now. Popeye’s spicy chicken is good, and I like burgers, lobster and crab claws we used to get at the Caboose.”

While quite familiar with English – some authorities consider India to be the largest English-speaking country in the world, due to its colonial history in the British Raj – Father Suresh was sent to two months of classes in Meridian to lessen his accent.

While food and Southern drawls took some getting used to, other aspects of Mississippi were more familiar.

Father Suresh Thirumalareddy signs his American citizenship paperwork during a special ceremony in June 2023. He says that his has found his American family at his parish of St. Alphonsus in McComb. (Photo courtesy of Father Suresh Thirumalareddy)

Mississippi’s summer heat, especially with this year’s string of days in the triple digits, reminded Father Suresh of home, though even the temperatures of 102 and 103 paled somewhat beside the 115 to 120 often experienced in India.

He tries to use the four weeks of vacation afforded him each year to visit friends and family in India during the cooler months, as he has acclimated to Mississippi’s temperature range.

He’s also used to a mix of religions, as southern India has large Catholic and Protestant populations as well as Hindu and Muslim, and they live fairly congenially and harmoniously; whereas northern India is largely Hindu, and the border regions with Pakistan are prone to clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

“It’s peaceful in the south” of India, he said. “There is no threat to Christians, especially in the south. There are friendly relations with Hindus and Muslims. When we had church events, many Hindus would come to celebrate with us. (Hindu) nationalists are not prevalent.”

Despite the difficulties and the differences, Father Suresh is glad to have taken the opportunity to come to Mississippi.

“God blessed me to come here,” he said. “I am happy to work here and serve this church. My life is meant to serve people, and in doing that, I have found another family.”

(Reprinted with permission of the Enterprise-Journal, Emmerich Newspapers, Inc.)

Faith and friendship: Catholic Moms group offers fellowship, spiritual growth

By John Surratt, The Vicksburg Post

VICKSBURG – Kathleen Harris and Brittany McFall are seeking ladies interested in fellowship, growing spiritually and sharing their experiences of motherhood.

Members of St. Paul Catholic Church, the women are looking to expand the Vicksburg Catholic Moms Group they began in February 2022 to share their experiences in faith and family life.

“Our local Catholic Moms group is partnered with; it’s a ministry run by the Dynamic Women Association of Ontario (Canada),” Harris said. “It’s based in Canada and it’s through the Archdiocese of Toronto. We are just one of 55 groups worldwide within the ministry. The goal is to revive the vocation of motherhood and encourage Catholic moms.”

The goal of the ministry, Harris said, is to revive the vocation to motherhood and encourage Catholic moms to belong to a parish-based community.

“All of our materials are from the larger ministry and are in compliance with Catholic Church’s teaching, and so it includes things like bible studies, a DVD series, speakers, books and information about liturgical living and then they’ve got some webinars,” she said, adding the materials are used during the meetings.

“We gather to pray together and share parenting joys and woes and tips and just to support one another as Catholic moms and to learn about our Catholic faith together and grow spiritually,” Harris said. “I think something very important to note is that we hold our Blessed Mother Mary as our model and for motherhood and a patroness for our ministry.

“The why (for forming the club) for us is just simply because we need each other; our kind of village of moms. We need Jesus and we need Mary as our model. That’s kind of the why, why we do it, why Brittany and I felt we needed a Catholic moms group in town.”

Each meeting consists of four parts – prayer, catechesis, fellowship and then a call to action of what members bring from the meetings.

“We have a wonderful group of multi-generational mothers, so a range of moms at different phases of motherhood, so that we can kind of share our unique experiences and support from wherever we’re at,” Harris said.

“Our group is Catholic moms looking for fellowship with other moms and an opportunity for faith formation so our meeting materials are typically geared toward the moms, but kids are welcome at meetings,” she added. “Whatever works better for the mom that day if they want to bring a kid along and we do have some dedicated moms and tots and we have activities to get some of the young, younger kids involved.”

The group meets monthly in Glynn Hall at St. Paul Catholic Church.

“We have been meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month, but right now we’re transitioning to the second Monday unless there’s a major conflict,” Harris said. “If there is a change to that, we post it in the church bulletins around town. We have a group message system that we’ll post it in and we send emails to our email list.”

“Even though we meet at St. Paul’s and St. Paul’s is our home base, it’s open to all Catholic moms so it’s not just St. Paul Catholic moms,” McFall said.

She said the group recently attended the first Saturday Mass at St. Edwards in Tallulah and the pastor, the Rev. Ryan Humphreys gave a talk about the Blessed Mother.

“When we did that, it wasn’t just the moms; it was the whole families were invited,” McFall said.

“It’s two hours Sunday afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m.,” Harris said. “It’s an opportunity for moms to learn about our ministry and discuss future meetings and it would be a great opportunity for a mom to get involved. There are no commitments or anything, but just getting together. We’re going to watch some of the videos about like the meetings and planning and let the Holy Spirit guide us from there.”

The Catholic Moms website is Mothers wishing to contact Harris or McFall can email them at

Reprinted with permission of The Vicksburg Post.

(John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.)

‘Jesus and the Eucharist’ series launches nationwide to foster love for holy Eucharist

By SueAnn Howell
(OSV News) – The National Eucharistic Congress, in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Augustine Institute, has released a seven-part video series to help parishes nationwide launch small group communities to grow in faith and love for the holy Eucharist.

The guided series is hosted by Montse Alvarado, president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, and Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. The initial small group series released Sept. 14 titled, “Jesus and the Eucharist,” is the first of seven weekly sessions available on the revival’s online “LEARN” platform.

Each session opens with an exhortation from a different bishop; includes teaching from prominent theologians and influential figures in the church today; and highlights personal testimonies from everyday Catholics who have experienced the transformative power of Eucharistic love in their own lives.

The four pillars that uphold the movement of the National Eucharistic Revival are reinvigorating worship, personal encounter, robust faith formation and missionary sending. The “Jesus and the Eucharist” series was created as a tangible underpinning to the third pillar of formation.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis carries the Eucharist in a monstrance during a procession June 19, 2021. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

“Our hope is that the fire which burned in the hearts of the first Christians begins to burn in our hearts in a new and powerful way, so that we can’t help but share with others what is burning within us,” Bishop Cozzens said in introducing the series. “When that happens, when we become missionaries to the whole of the Good News of our salvation in Christ, then we fulfill in our time the Great Commission which Jesus has given to us: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.’”

Each of the lessons lasts about two hours, and the format consists of both a video and table discussion component with shared testimonials along the way and designated times for prayer.

“This study is a great ‘out-of-the-box’ solution for parishes,” explained Joel Stepanek, chief operating officer for the National Eucharistic Congress. “Parishes simply need to train table facilitators and a core team to implement the study, set up a hall with tables that can seat roughly eight people, and press play.”

Session 1, called “Our Story,” offers initial background with the story of God, creation and our place in it. Sessions 2, 3, and 4 key in on the themes of Jesus, salvation and the church, and explore why God chose to establish the Christian Church. Sessions 5 to 7 focus on the sacraments of the church, specifically the transformative power of the Eucharist and its biblical roots.

“Jesus and the Eucharist” was developed specifically for the revival’s parish year by a team of Catholic experts working closely with the National Eucharistic Revival, and every parish in the country is encouraged to begin using the study. New lessons are now available for download every Thursday through Oct. 26 on the Eucharistic Revival website,

Individuals also may access the free online series if unable to participate in a parish program.
Kris Frank, chief mission officer for the National Eucharistic Congress, said, “The hope is that the series will provide a renewed sense of formation around the Eucharist and also assist parishes in launching ongoing small group communities and initiatives. We want this to be more than just a series; but, as Bishop Cozzens says, this revival is all about a fire and not so much about a program.”

The National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the USCCB kicked off June 19, 2022, the feast of Corpus Christi. It is a movement in the United States to restore understanding and devotion to the holy Eucharist. The revival includes a cross-country pilgrimage starting in May 2024 and culminates with the first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years, to be held July 17-21, 2024, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

(SueAnn Howell writes for OSV News from North Carolina.)

NOTES: The National Eucharistic Congress website is The LEARN platform, with access to the “Jesus and the Eucharist” video series, is listed under the REVIVAL section.