Around the diocese during holy week/Easter

MERIDIAN – First graders at St Patrick School performed live stations. (Photo by Kasey Owen)
MAGEE – Children at St. Stephen parish receive instructions
before their Easter egg hunt. (Photo by Kirby J. Rivere)
YAZOO CITY – Children at St. Mary parish participated in an Easter egg hunt after Mass on Easter Sunday with Father Panneer Selvam. (Photo by Babs McMaster)
MADISON – St. Joe senior, Adriana Terrazas, a reporter for Bruin News Now, sets up to interview seminarian Joe Pearson, along with four seminarians Will Foggo, EJ Martin and Grayson Foley on Tuesday, March 26. All four seminarians were former St. Joe students. The Bruin News Now story was included in the Thursday, March 28, edition of the award-winning, student-produced weekly newscast. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
St. Joe seniors, Andrew Doherty and Adam Williams set up the camera for a special interview with Bishop Joseph Kopacz by Bruin News Now anchors, Emerson Erwin and Maddie-Claire Spence, on Tuesday, March 26 before the annual diocese Chrism Mass during Holy Week. The journalism students interviewed Bishop Kopacz and seminarians for an edition of their award-winning weekly newscast – Bruin News Now.

Around our schools

JACKSON – The Cardinal Men’s Club of St. Richard School is hosting their annual Flight to the Finish 5k and fun run on Saturday, April 20. Pictured (l-r) celebrating the upcoming event are Thea Saucier, Charliegh Luzardo, Townes Crews, Thomas Eastus, Elizabeth Elmore, Patrick Crews (Past President), Andrew Ueltschey (President), Thiel Crews, Elsie Ueltschey, Sam Williams, Max Jones and Thomas Ueltschey. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)
COLUMBUS – Annunciation fourth grader, Joel Heard prays during adoration. (Photo by Jacque Hince)
VICKSBURG – On Feb. 28, 2024, Fathers Nick Adam and Rusty Vincent offered a Spanish Mass at the St. Francis Xavier Chapel for the Spanish II class at St. Aloysius. The students read, responded and participated in Spanish. (Photo by Vivian L. Velazquez)
VICKSBURG – Davis Jarabica from the one-year-olds class, explores rosary beads and baby’s Bible from the Lobby Altar at Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center. (Photo by Shannon Bell)
SOUTHAVEN – Students Nico and Aniyah enjoy the Holy Thursday Craft Retreat at Sacred Heart School. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

Building a lasting legacy: My Catholic Will

By Rebecca Harris
For many Catholics, our faith is not just a belief system; it is a way of life. It permeates every aspect of our being, guiding our actions, decisions, and relationships. Central to our faith is the concept of stewardship – the understanding that all that we have and all that we are is entrusted to us by God to further His Kingdom on Earth. Stewardship encompasses giving our time, talent, and treasure to support our parishes and communities in our mission of spreading God’s love and teachings.

In our diocese, where Catholics make up only 3% of the population, the commitment to building God’s Kingdom is particularly pronounced. Despite being a minority, Catholics in our communities are deeply invested in making a positive impact. Our parish is not just a place of worship; it is a second home filled with people dedicated to doing God’s work. Together, we strive to live out our faith by serving others, fostering community, and supporting the church’s ministries.

While we readily give of our time, talent, and treasure through regular contributions and volunteer efforts, there is one aspect of giving that often goes overlooked: planned giving. Planned giving, simply put, is a way to make a larger contribution to our parish on a long-term basis. Unlike annual gifts, which are given in the present moment, planned gifts are scheduled for the future, typically as part of estate plans.

Planned gifts can take various forms, including bequests in wills, trusts, life insurance policies and other estate planning instruments. These gifts not only provide much-needed financial support to our parishes but also allow donors to establish a lasting legacy that will continue to impact future generations of Catholics. By including your parish in your estate plans, you ensure that the commitment to God’s work extends far beyond your lifetime.

The importance of planned giving cannot be overstated. These gifts not only provide vital financial resources for a parish’s ongoing operations and ministries but also offer a way for donors to leave a lasting impact on the community they cherish. Through planned giving, donors have the opportunity to support initiatives that are close to their hearts, whether it is funding youth programs, supporting outreach efforts, or contributing to the maintenance and upkeep of parish facilities.

Moreover, planned giving allows donors to fulfill their charitable and philanthropic wishes in a meaningful way. By designating a portion of your estate to your parish, donors ensure that our Catholic values and priorities are upheld even after we are no longer present. This sense of continuity and legacy is incredibly powerful, as it allows individuals to shape the future of their parish in accordance with their beliefs and principles.

A will is often the simplest and most straightforward way to establish a planned gift and leave a legacy to your parish. Through the Stewardship and Development Office, the diocese is offering a free will service to parishioners, making it easier than ever to take this important step. The Diocese of Jackson has partnered with My Catholic Will so that individuals can complete their wills in less than 20 minutes, ensuring that their wishes are clearly documented, and their legacy is preserved. This service is completely free to you.

Your legacy matters. By considering a planned gift, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on your parish and the wider Catholic community. Whether you are supporting initiatives that are dear to your heart or simply ensuring the continued growth and vitality of your parish, planned giving offers a meaningful way to leave a lasting legacy of faith, generosity and service.

Let us heed the call to action and embark on this journey of building a lasting legacy in Catholic parishes across the diocese. By incorporating your parish into your estate plans, you ensure that your commitment to God’s work extends far beyond your lifetime. Together, let us embrace the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy of faith, generosity, and service for generations to come.

To create your free legal Catholic will in three easy steps please go to or scan the QR code. Rebecca Harris is available to address any questions or concerns you may have regarding planned giving.

“Blessed is the person who plants a tree so others may sit in its shade.”

Happy Ordination Anniversary

April 10
Father Pradeep Kumar Thirumalareddy
St. Mary Batesville

April 12
Father Raju Macherla
St. Elizabeth Clarksdale

Father Sleeva Reddy Mekala
St. James Leland & Immaculate Conception Indianola

April 14
Father Suresh Reddy Thirumalareddy
St. Alphonsus McComb

April 18
Father Vijaya Manohar Reddy Thanugundla
St. Francis Brookhaven

April 19
Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD
Sacred Heart Greenville

April 24
Father Arokia Stanislaus Savio
St. Peter Grenada

April 26
Father Jesuraj Xavier
St. Francis New Albany

Thank you for answering the call!

‘Caitlin Clark has the world by her fingertips’: Iowa Hawkeyes basketball superstar supported by Catholic faith, family

By John Knebels

(OSV News) – Wearing scrubs en route to the hospital to begin her day, a health care specialist was asked how much she knew about Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball superstar who has led her Hawkeye teammates — and by extension, all of “Hawkeye Nation” — to almost unprecedented acclaim in women’s basketball.

Not akin to assessing athletes and their acumen, she quickly and succinctly summarized Clark’s entrenchment in women’s basketball.

“That basketball that she dribbles and shoots and passes serves as a great metaphor for Caitlin Clark,” said the nurse. “The basketball is round, just like the world. And right now, Caitlin Clark has the world by her fingertips.”

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) controls the ball against Connecticut Huskies guard Nika Muhl (10) in the Final Four of the women’s 2024 NCAA Tournament at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland April 5, 2024. The Hawkeyes beat the Huskies to advance to the women’s NCAA tournament national championship game April 6 against undefeated South Carolina. Clark graduated in 2020 from Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. (OSV News photo/Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

That Clark has managed to permeate both the zealous and casual sports fan provides a testament to the level of her national impact at the young age of 22.

At this point, it’s an arduous task to cover new ground when it comes to Clark, a lifelong and reportedly devoted Catholic who attended St. Francis of Assisi parochial school in West Des Moines, Iowa, from kindergarten through eighth grade, and then spent four years at nearby Dowling Catholic High School.

Local reporters from Clark’s hometown have been sharing her exploits since the end of grade school. Clark wasn’t even a high school junior before national publications began pegging her as a can’t-miss collegiate standout. By the time she was a senior, the words “Caitlin Clark” had soared through the internet like an out-of-control locomotive with no definitive destination.

Those who have known Clark, however, said they never noticed any apparent change in her affable, comfortable, confident personality when early daily publicity — and subsequent almost-ridiculous national coverage last year and, in particular, the past few months — threatened to scrutinize every move Clark made both on and off the basketball court.

“She’s handled it as well as any 21- or 22-year-old could,” said Kristin Meyer, her high school basketball coach at Dowling, who somehow manages to cheerfully return countless phone calls from those researching Clark’s star-studded scholastic career.

“Her support system starts with her family. She doesn’t get caught up in fame or the business aspect,” Meyer said. “She was like that in high school. She didn’t look to seek attention. She didn’t spend much time on social media. She’s grounded. Humble.”

When Clark played in grade school, Meyer immediately noticed a “different type” of player. Clark’s improvement quickly skyrocketed, rising to uncommon heights.

To communally celebrate their 2020 alumna, the Dowling Catholic student council rented out a local theater April 1 to watch Clark in the Elite Eight that night. They weren’t disappointed after she scored 41 points and threaded 12 assists in a 94-87 win over Louisiana State University that earned a trip to the Final Four.

“It’s incredible,” said Meyer. “It’s still surreal … the level of notoriety to women’s basketball. It’s not all about Caitlin Clark, of course, but she is a part of it. As terrific a player as she was in high school, I can’t say I expected this level of success.

“Her court vision. Her understanding. I haven’t seen a higher IQ,” Meyer continued. “She’s fun to watch. She’s so consistent. Scores 30 or 40 against great teams. It’s an art. She can make it look effortless.”

Like Meyer, one of Clark’s grade-school mentors at St. Francis — sixth-grade math and science teacher Jill Westholm — recalls Clark’s kind, easygoing disposition as a youngster and has witnessed her former pupil’s ability to remain stable despite unlimited attention from fans, media and even curious bystanders who can’t quite make sense of Caitlin-mania.

“It’s so crazy to me to see her in this superstar world,” Westholm told OSV News. “The same Caitlin you see today is the same Caitlin who walked the halls as a 10-, 12- and 14-year-old. She’s the Caitlin Clark who is very smart. Intelligent. Very driven. The Caitlin Clark who never gave less than her best. The Caitlin Clark who was and is very loyal to her friends. The Caitlin Clark who, even in middle school, had their backs.”

A few months ago, Westholm and a few friends decided to purchase tickets to the NCAA women’s Final Four April 5-6 in Cleveland.

Figuring — correctly, as it turned out — that ticket prices could become unreasonable as the event approached, Westholm and her buds figured they were in win-win mode. The “worst” possibility would be sitting back and watching four great programs vie for the right to compete in the NCAA final.

The best scenario, however, was obvious.

“We gambled on Caitlin being there,” said Westholm. “We crossed our fingers and said some prayers.”

The prayers were answered. On April 5, Iowa met the University of Connecticut on the court in the Final Four, and Clark led the Hawkeyes’ rally for a 71-69 win over the Huskies. Iowa headed to the NCAA championship April 7 against undefeated South Carolina. The Gamecocks beat Iowa 87-75 for the national championship and completed a perfect season.

In an interview days before the final, Westholm predicted that regardless of Iowa’s fate, Clark would either either emerge eternally grateful for becoming a national champion, or quickly bounce back from any disappointment and recognize that she had been blessed to even be on the precipice of something so unique.

“She will rely on her faith,” said Westholm. “Her faith has always been important to her, and that’s real. Her whole family lives out their faith. Caitlin doesn’t reach her stardom without her family background.”

Westholm was referring to Clark’s parents, Anne and Brent, and her two brothers, Blake and Colin. Along with her siblings, Anne graduated from Dowling Catholic and her father, Bob Nizzi, coached football there.

Before graduating from Dowling in 2019, Blake became and remains involved with a club called Ut Fidem, Latin for “keep the faith.” Having experienced a Kairos retreat as a junior, Caitlin joined Ut Fidem as a senior.

The group’s focus, according to Dowling’s website, “strives to develop high school students into intentional disciples who will keep the faith for the rest of their lives, and especially through college” and supports students via weekly small groups of five or six led by adult faith mentors.

Students learn how to “defend their Catholic faith, and develop deep, personal relationships with Jesus Christ . . . grow their devotion to personal prayer, the sacramental life, understanding of church teachings, and enter into the lifestyle of an on-fire Catholic” and better understand how to discern the question, “Why am I Catholic?”

Using some of the tools she learned in grade school and high school and benefiting from a close, faith-sharing family, Clark recently started the nonprofit Caitlin Clark Foundation — described as a mission to “uplift and improve the lives of youth and their communities through education, nutrition and sport.”

Last November, Caitlin partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa and, with help from Nike, personally donated close to 100 hoodies, winter gloves and hats to help keep youngsters warm this past winter. Along with a sizable personal monetary donation, she also donated 57 basketballs, 15 footballs, 12 soccer balls and 15 jump ropes to the Boys & Girls Club.

“She uses her gifts to give back,” said Meyer. “She’s not bigger than the game of basketball, but she knows she has the capacity to help other people and is enthusiastic about doing as much as she can.”

Although it’s been argued that it’s actually her eye-popping passing ability that has separated her from former and current greats, Clark’s ascent from a consistently great scorer to tallying the most points in the history of college basketball didn’t happen out of nowhere.

From the time Clark decided to attend Iowa, the nation’s top coaches held their breath and readied themselves for a steady dose of nightly wonderment and more-than-occasional ESPN highlights.

No coach watched Clark more intently than Muffet McGraw.

The legendary Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer at the University of Notre Dame who retired in 2020 after an incredible career that included 936 total victories, a .762 winning percentage, nine trips to the Final Four, seven finals and two NCAA championships came within a whisker of coaching Clark.

After a painstaking decision process, however, Clark changed her mind at the last minute and chose Iowa black and gold over Irish blue and gold. Clark has gone on record as describing the phone call to McGraw as excruciating and lauds the coach for how she handled the disappointment with gentleness, compassion and understanding.

Not a person who dishes out unwarranted praise, McGraw, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball coach for 33 years, effusively commended Clark for helping elevate women’s basketball to its highest popularity ever among both the young and old, as indicated by the more than 12 million viewers who tuned in to watch the Iowa-LSU classic.

“I’ve never seen anyone like her,” McGraw told OSV News. “She is a phenomenal offensive player. She has confidence that never wavers. She’s fearless, relentless, competitive, driven … all the things that you want in a basketball player.

“And she’s also unselfish. Yes, she takes a lot of shots, but she also led the nation in assists last year, and I’m sure she’s in the top five this year. So she’s somebody that really knows how to get her team involved. She gets them to play at a higher level. She just has that charisma and that leadership that allows the people around her to thrive.”

Superstars sometimes can’t help but alienate teammates when all of the attention surrounds one person. But that hasn’t happened at Iowa.

“There could be jealousy and there could be problems in a situation like that when you have a player like that on your team,” said McGraw. “She makes them rise above everything and focus on just wanting to win. That’s, I think, the thing that sets her apart. It’s not all about her.”

McGraw particularly appreciates Clark’s vision that surpasses well beyond points, assists, rebounds, and championships.

“She wants to do something for the women’s game,” said McGraw. “She is certainly the center of attention, yet she always takes time for others. You see her signing autographs for lines and lines of people. She just does a great job in the community and continues to do whatever she can for the fans. She says the right things in public.

“I think she is definitely somebody that is a role model in our sport, and she’s changed the game,” McGraw continued. “I mean, nobody has done what she’s done in terms of the sellouts. The Big Ten sold out every single place. It’s unbelievable … unbelievable.

“The Big Ten tournament sold out for the first time,” she said. “Tickets for the last game were going for, I don’t know, $500 or something. It’s been amazing. I mean, 12 million people watched the Iowa-LSU game. That’s even more than a lot of NBA Finals. So it’s just phenomenal what she’s done for the game.”

Wherever Clark plays as a professional, McGraw will be watching.

“She’s one in a million,” said McGraw. “I think she’s going to do great things for the WNBA next year.”

(John Knebels writes for OSV News from suburban Philadelphia.)

On Easter, pope asks Christ to ‘roll away’ the stones of war worldwide

By Justin McLellan

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Just as Jesus removed the stone that sealed his tomb on the morning of the Resurrection, on Easter Christ alone “has the power to roll away the stones that block the path to life” and which trap humanity in war and injustice, Pope Francis said.

Through his resurrection, Jesus opens “those doors that continually we shut with the wars spreading throughout the world,” he said after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square March 31. “Only the risen Christ, by granting us the forgiveness of our sins, opens the way for a renewed world.”

Seated on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope asked the risen Christ to bring peace in Israel, Palestine and Ukraine and a host of other conflict-ridden regions in the world.

“In calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” he said. “All for the sake of all!”

Pope Francis observes the crowd in St. Peter’s Square before he imparts his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica March 31, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis then appealed to the international community to ensure access of humanitarian aid to Gaza and called for the “prompt release” of hostages taken during Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7 as well as “an immediate cease-fire in the strip.”

“War is always an absurdity, war is always a defeat,” he said, asking that the “strengthening winds of war” do not reach Europe and the Mediterranean. “Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Easter Mass in the flower-laden square began with the singing of the “alleluia,” traditionally absent from liturgical celebrations during Lent, as part of the rite of “Resurrexit” in which an icon of Jesus is presented to the pope to recall St. Peter’s witness to Christ’s resurrection.

More than 21,000 flower bulbs donated by Dutch flower growers decorated the square and popped with color against the overcast sky.

As is traditional, the pope did not give a homily during the morning Mass but bowed his head and observed several minutes of silent reflection after the chanting of the Gospel in both Latin and Greek.

Although the Vatican said Pope Francis stayed home from a Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum March 29 “to conserve his health” for the Easter vigil and Mass, the pope appeared in high spirits while greeting cardinals and bishops after the Mass. He spent considerable time riding the popemobile among the faithful, smiling and waving to the throngs of visitors in St. Peter’s Square and lining the long avenue approaching the Vatican.

The Vatican said some 30,000 people attended the pope’s morning Mass and, by noon, there were approximately 60,000 people inside and around St. Peter’s Square for his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, stood alongside Pope Francis for the blessing and announced a plenary indulgence available to those present and to everyone following through radio, television and other channels of communication.

Stopping only occasionally to clear his throat, Pope Francis read the entirety of his Easter message and prayed for peace in several conflict hotspots around the world, including Syria, Lebanon, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He also prayed for the Rohingya — a persecuted, predominantly Muslim, ethnic group residing largely in Myanmar — who he said are “beset by a grave humanitarian crisis.”

The pope praised the Western Balkan region’s steps toward European integration, urging the region to embrace its ethnic, cultural and confessional differences, as well as the peace negotiations taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“May the risen Christ open a path of hope to all those who in other parts of the world are suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity and the effects of climate change. May he grant consolation to the victims of terrorism in all its forms,” he prayed, asking visitors to “pray for all those who have lost their lives and implore the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of those crimes.”

On Easter, which Pope Francis said celebrates the life given to humanity through the resurrection of God’s son, he lamented “how much the precious gift of life is despised” today.

“How many children cannot even be born?” he asked. “How many die of hunger and are deprived of essential care or are victims of abuse and violence? How many lives are made objects of trafficking for the increasing commerce in human beings?”

“On the day when Christ has set us free from the slavery of death, I appeal to all who have political responsibilities to spare no efforts in combatting the scourge of human trafficking, by working tirelessly to dismantle the networks of exploitation and to bring freedom to those who are their victims,” he said.

Pope Francis also asked that the light of the risen Christ “shine upon migrants and on all those who are passing through a period of economic difficulty” as a source of consolation and hope.

“May Christ guide all persons of goodwill to unite themselves in solidarity, in order to address together the many challenges which loom over the poorest families in their search for a better life and happiness,” he said, praying that the light of the Resurrection “illumine our minds and convert our hearts, and make us aware of the value of every human life, which must be welcomed, protected and loved.”

War is ‘folly,’ pope says as he leads prayers for Ukraine, Gaza

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis held up a well-thumbed, camouflage-covered pocket edition of the New Testament and Psalms and a small fabric pouch containing a rosary.

He told people at his general audience April 3 that the Bible and rosary had belonged to 23-year-old Oleksandr, a Ukrainian soldier killed at Avdiivka. “He had his life ahead of him.”

“Oleksandr read the New Testament and the Psalms and had underlined this from Psalm 129 (130): ‘Out of the depths I call to you, Lord; Lord, hear my cry,’” the pope said.

Pope Francis asked the thousands of visitors and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to observe a moment of silent prayer for “this young man and many others like him killed in this folly that is war. War always destroys. Let’s think about them and pray.”

The pope also spoke of his “profound sorrow” at the news that seven members of the humanitarian group World Central Kitchen were killed by Israeli strikes on their vehicles in Gaza April 1 “while they were working to distribute food aid.”

Pope Francis shows people at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 3, 2024, a camouflage-covered pocket edition of the New Testament and Psalms that he said had belonged to 23-year-old Oleksandr, a Ukrainian soldier killed at Avdiivka. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

World Central Kitchen said the seven killed included an Australian, a Pole, three British men working security, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada and a Palestinian.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” the organization said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an investigation, describing the killings as a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people.”

Pope Francis, speaking at the end of his general audience, said, “Once again I renew my firm call for an immediate cease-fire” in Gaza.

“I renew my appeal that access to humanitarian aid be allowed to reach the exhausted and suffering civil population,” he said, “and that the hostages immediately be released” by Hamas, which kidnapped them from Israel in October.

“Any irresponsible attempts to widen the conflict in the region must be avoided,” the pope said, and efforts must be made to end the fighting as soon as possible.

“Let us pray and work without tiring so that the weapons may be silenced, and peace may reign again,” he said.

Tears flow as pope washes feet of women inmates at Rome prison

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – As Pope Francis poured water over their feet, dried them with a towel and kissed their feet, 12 women inmates at Rome’s Rebibbia prison wept.

The pope celebrated the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 28 at the women’s prison under a tent set up outside.

The 12 women whose feet were washed by Pope Francis during the liturgy sat on stools on a raised platform so the pope, who has difficulty walking, could wash their feet while seated in his wheelchair.
Many of the women were wearing warmup suits and were fidgeting as they awaited the pope. They included women from Italy, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Ukraine, Peru, Venezuela and Bosnia-Herzegovina. All are housed in the medium-security section, Vatican News reported.

Since it was Pope Francis’ first Holy Thursday visit to a prison with only women present, it was the first time as pope that he washed the feet only of women.

Pope Francis washes the feet of an inmate at the Rebibbia women’s prison on the outskirts of Rome as he celebrates the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 28, 2024. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the prison. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

After Mass, he gave a large chocolate Easter egg to a little boy, the only toddler currently living with his mother in the prison, according to the prison director. Italian prisons have special units for mothers with children and the law allows women who are detained to keep their children with them until they are 3 years old.

Pope Francis has made a tradition of celebrating the Holy Thursday Mass at a prison or juvenile detention facility, often washing the feet of both men and women, whether Catholic or not.

And, keeping with his practice at the facilities, he gave only a brief homily, speaking without notes.
By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus humbles himself, the pope said. “With this gesture, he makes us understand what he had said, ‘I came not to be served but to serve.’ He teaches us the path of service.”

The evening Gospel reading also included the line, “The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.”

Pope Francis told the women that Judas was incapable of love, and so “money, selfishness lead him to this horrible thing” of betraying Jesus.

But, the pope said, “Jesus forgives everything. Jesus always forgives. He only asks that we ask pardon.”
Quoting a “wise, old woman,” Pope Francis said, “Jesus never tires of forgiving, but we tire of asking forgiveness.”

“Today, let’s ask the Lord for the grace not to tire,” he said. “All of us have small failures, big failures – everyone has their own story – but the Lord awaits us always with open arms and never tires of forgiving.”
Before he washed the women’s feet, he encouraged the women to pray that “the Lord will make all of us grow in the vocation of service.”

The Vatican press office said about 200 people were present, including many seated outside the tent on the lawn. The prison director said 360 women are currently housed at the facility.

Archbishop Diego Giovanni Ravelli, the papal master of liturgical ceremonies, was the main celebrant at the altar.

Father Andrea Carosella, the main chaplain at the Rebibbia prison complex, told Vatican News that the women themselves invited the pope. “For them, the pope’s visit is a sign of his great attention to the prison reality and is a great encouragement.”

Pope Francis washing the women’s feet, he said, “is a sign of the mercy and love of God who goes out to meet the suffering and pain of humanity.”

Sister Maria Pia Iammarino, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, told Vatican News that Pope Francis’ ministry to the women is a model.

In her ministry at the prison, she said, “I do not need to tell them that God loves them, but to be a witness of God’s love for them, to look at them with benevolence and acceptance without judgment. Then, when you have gained the trust of the inmates, you can add words.”

Easter gives us reason to hope

By Jaymie Stuart Wolfe

“We are an Easter people and ‘alleluia’ is our song.” We love to quote St. Augustine when we talk about what the church of Jesus Christ is. And honestly, there may be no better description. But I think a lot of us, somewhere along the line, have lost hope that we will experience the fullness of salvation that Christ’s resurrection signifies on this side of eternity. Instead, we settle for something far less than God intends for us.

What do I mean? Basically, that a lot of Catholics have simply given up.

It often goes something like this. We get a bit older, weighed down with adult responsibility, and the glow of our faith – our childlike trust in God – can begin to wear off. We pray, but the answer we want doesn’t occur. We undergo times of suffering and loss, but there is little relief or consolation to be found. We grow frustrated banging our heads against the same walls, and falling to the same temptations and sins again and again.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe

So we throw up our hands and decide to accept the way things are, and even more to the point, the way we are. We convince ourselves that nothing will ever really change, that all we’ve been taught to believe just isn’t going to work for us. God may be very busy blessing other people, but we can’t expect to be holy, healed or forgiven anytime soon. Life, we tell ourselves, just doesn’t work that way. The Gospel stories may well be true, but it is unlikely that Jesus will ever speak to us or transform us – let alone raise us from the dead.

Amid that kind of hopelessness, we may well be tempted to throw in the towel. Many have done just that. It’s understandable, of course. There are only so many times we can ask ourselves, “Why am I here?” before we decide not to be. Or before we allow the lies of the enemy to distract, discourage and distance us from what God wants to give us. The problem is that once we expect nothing, we become incapable of receiving much of anything.

Easter sets us straight.

The evil one wants us to believe that the character defects we’ve always had – the ones that are responsible for the bulk of the sins we confess – aren’t going anywhere. That is not the case. While we may not reach perfection in this life, we can make genuine and significant progress. Old habits are tough to beat. But God’s grace makes up for where our efforts fail. The Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts is the gift of sanctifying grace. What doesn’t happen here on earth will be completed in purgatory. The good news is that everyone who wants to be a saint will, in fact, become one.

We may be tempted to give up on healing past hurts. Dogged by brokenness and struggling to find peace, we can lose sight of God’s healing presence. But the glorified wounds of Jesus show us not only what God can do. All we have suffered is given a part in our redemption and in the redemption of others. Easter means that what is ugliest in our lives is made not only beautiful, but glorious.

Our sins, no matter how great, can be forgiven. There is nothing that puts us beyond God’s reach, other than our own choice to reject his mercy. The enemy of our souls would be happy to see us wallowing in our own sinfulness, uncertain of God’s willingness to forgive us. Easter shows us that is precisely what the Savior does for anyone – anyone – who asks.

Salvation is not just a happy ending in another life. The stone has been rolled away. The reign of the Victor King begins here and now. We don’t become who we were created to be only by leaving this world behind. Death in all its forms has been conquered by the Risen Christ. We don’t have to die with a full complement of all our sins and failures. Jesus breaks the bond of sin. We might be tempted to doubt the truth or power of the Resurrection as some of Jesus’ disciples did. But Easter really does change everything, and it can change us. Even more, Easter can raise us from the dead.

(Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a sinner, Catholic convert, freelance writer and editor, musician, speaker, pet-aholic, wife and mom of eight grown children, loving life in New Orleans.)

Sister Joan Duerst, OP celebrates jubilee

By Eileen Dushek-Manthe
SINSINAWA, Wis. – Sister Joan Duerst, OP, will celebrate her 60th jubilee in 2024. A Mass will be held in October for her and 10 other Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters celebrating 60 years. Her religious name was Sister Marie Herve’.

Sister Joan’s home parish is St. Patrick, Madison, in the Diocese of Madison. She is the daughter of the late Hervey and Catherine “Kay” (Skibba) Duerst. Sister Joan’s ministry has been dedicated to social justice, especially criminal justice reform.

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Sister Joan taught at Dominican High School, Whitefish Bay, 1968-1972.

In the Archdiocese of Omaha, Sister Joan taught at Dominican High School, Omaha, 1972-1979.

In the Diocese of Tulsa, Sister Joan served as neighborhood organizer at Immaculate Conception Parish, Tulsa, 1979-1982; founder and director of Osage Hills Apartment ministry, Tulsa, 1982-1987; coordinator for peace and justice at Christ the King Parish, Tulsa, 1993-1998; and founder and community organizer for North Tulsa Neighborhood Alliance, Tulsa, 1993-1998, facilitating 12 neighborhood associations to build strong organizations in a neglected area of the city. She taught at Bishop Kelley, Tulsa, 1987-1993, and served the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation as provincial councilor for the Southern Province while living in Tulsa, 1998-2003.

In the Diocese of Jackson, Sister Joan ministered as director of high school religious education and social concerns coordinator at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Madison, 2004-2008.

In the Diocese of Madison, Sister Joan ministered as volunteer coordinator at South Madison Coalition of the Elderly (now New Bridge), Madison, 2008-2014, and served with the multigenerational faith formation team and directed the first reconciliation and First Communion program at St. Albert the Great Parish, Sun Prairie, 2009-2011. She is a member of MOSES (Madison Organizing in Strength, Equity, and Solidarity), where she is a religious leader, and has served on the antiracism transformation team of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa since 1999.

She has also ministered in Illinois and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sister Joan is living in community with her Dominican Sisters.

If you would like to honor Sister Joan on her jubilee, go to the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ website at