Sister Thea Bowman documentary on her journey to sainthood, set to release Oct. 2

A new documentary from NewGroup Media and the Diocese of Jackson, MS, Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the riveting life of Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Catholic Franciscan Sister who used her powerful gifts to educate and challenge the church and society to grow in racial inclusivity. Her skills of preaching, music, and teaching moved many Catholics to begin to confront their own racism while she urged her African American brothers and sisters to claim their gifts and share their “fully functioning” personhood.  Thea worked tirelessly to proclaim this message until her untimely death from breast cancer in 1990.

The film features interviews and commentary from her family, Sisters in community, colleagues, friends, and former students. Input from African-American scholars, clerics and bishops will speak to the ongoing issue of systemic racism in the church and country.  Extensive use is made of archival media that portrays Thea in action–photographs, film, video and audio recordings recorded in locations of significance to her life.

The program title is drawn from a quotation attributed to Sojourner Truth. When Thea was asked what she wanted said at her funeral, she answered, “Just say what Sojourner Truth said: ‘I’m not going to die. I’m going home like a shooting star.’”

The film, part of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission’s fall documentary season, will begin airing on ABC stations nationwide on October 2, 2022. As of Sept. 30, the following stations have scheduled showings of the film:

WTVA Tupelo- Oct. 2 at 10 a.m.
WTOK Meridian – Oct. 2 at 11:30 p.m.
WLOX Biloxi – Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.
WAPT Jackson – Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.

The film can be streamed on the Diocese of Jackson’s YouTube channel beginning October 2. The film is free to view, with donations requested to the Cause for Sister Thea Bowman.

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF researched, wrote and produced the film, from early COVID-quarantined research in spring, 2020 through fund-raising, location production, scriptwriting, and delivery to ABC in fall, 2022.  She coordinated dramatic re-enactments from Thea’s childhood and early convent life and conducted all of the program’s interviews—with Thea’s childhood friends, former students, teaching colleagues, two bishops, several priests and Franciscan Sisters, weaving together their personal memories and testimonies as a basis for the script.

Christopher Salvador, NGM Partner, directed the dramatic re-enactments within the film, coordinated budget, contractual and network relations, and oversaw post- production.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, Ordinary of Jackson, MS, initiated Sister Thea’s Cause for Sainthood in 2018 with an appeal to the full body of US Bishops which won unanimous approval. As Executive Producer, he supported the production of the film, actively collaborated with the production team, and continues to oversee the advancement of Sister Thea’s Cause.

Other interviewees include:

Rev. Maurice J. Nutt, CSsR, Preacher and pastoral theologian; Thea’s doctoral student; her biographer; associate producer instrumental in gathering pivotal colleagues and friends of Thea to participate in the project;

Rev. Bryan Massingale, Theology Professor, Fordham University, Authority/ speaker on systemic racism in the US and church;

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Ordinary, Archdiocese of Washington, DC, senior African-American Bishop who was present at Sister Thea’s famous Seton Hall address to the US Bishops in 1989;

Sr Eileen McKenzie, FSPA, President, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Thea’s religious community, La Crosse WI;

Sr Dorothy Ann Kundinger, FSPA, Thea’s friend, companion and caretaker during Thea’s struggle with cancer and present at her death

Going Home Like a Shooting Star includes extensive use of Bowman family photos, archival material, and footage of Thea from varied public appearances, including her famous interview with Mike Wallace on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Going Home Like a Shooting Star was filmed on location in:

  • Jackson and Canton, MS
  • New Orleans, LA
  • La Crosse, WI
  • Washington, DC
  • San Antonio, TX
  • New York City
  • South Bend, IN

The film makes a strong connection between Thea’s Gospel call for justice, love and unity and the current effort of Black Lives Matter activists and efforts to combat systemic racism. Many in the film cite Thea’s voice as an influence on their ongoing efforts to achieve social and racial justice.

Production of Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood was made possible with funding from the Catholic Communications Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as support from various foundations and congregations of U.S. men and women religious.

Sacred Heart celebrates 75 years of commitment
to Catholic education

By Laura Grisham

SOUTHAVEN – The story of Sacred Heart School dates back 75 years. In the beginning, Father John Flanagan, SCJ, wrote to Bishop R.O. Gerow in 1944 requesting a church for the 34 Catholics in the village of Walls in northwest DeSoto County. That was the year that the Harris family opened their home to the group to celebrate the first Mass. Many Sacred Heart School alumni fondly refer to this building as “The Little White House.”

By the end of 1944, construction of Sacred Heart Catholic Church was complete. During the dedication of the church, parishioners requested a school be built. World War II delayed construction of the school due to lack of building materials. Finally, in the fall of 1947, the work was completed. The School Sisters of St. Francis agreed to send three sisters to staff the school. On Sept. 17, 1947, Sacred Heart School opened with 17 students.

SOUTHAVEN – Sacred Heart School celebrated 75 years of Catholic education on Sept. 17. The school opened in 1947 with 17 students. (Photo courtesy of Laura Grisham)

From that tiny three-room building in Walls, Mississippi, Sacred Heart School has seen many changes over the years. The growth of the student body necessitated the construction of a new building in 1999. A larger, more centrally located site in Southaven was chosen. Situated on 16 acres in central DeSoto County, Sacred Heart School serves students from across northern Mississippi and the Memphis-Metropolitan area. The school offers classes for hundred of students from early childhood development beginning at age three and continuing through middle school through eighth grade.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, exactly 75 years to the day after first opening its doors, Sacred Heart School celebrated its legacy of a quality catholic education with a full day of activities for students, staff, alumni and friends of the school.

The day started with a family picnic and games on campus. Inside, every corner of the school was filled with pictures, yearbooks and memorabilia from past years. Dozens of the school’s former educators were on hand to greet alumni and reminisce about days gone by.

Mass was celebrated in the school gymnasium with Bishop Joseph Kopacz, as the main celebrant. Alongside him were Father Vien Nguyen, provincial superior of the U.S. Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs), Father Jack Kurps, executive director of Sacred Heart Southern Missions (and vice provincial superior) and Father David Szatkowski, local superior of the SCJ community. More than 400 people attended the liturgy.

Accolades were in no short supply for the school or its educators. Father Kurps thanked the many dedicated teachers and staff, who through the years, were committed to making sure that the children received a good education and made sure that they could succeed.

He also recognized the dedication of the School Sisters of St. Francis, who have provided many teachers throughout the schools’ seven-and-a-half decades of operation. “In the early years, most of the students of Sacred Heart School came from poor backgrounds. The Sisters opened the back door of their convent and gave families food, clothing and an encouraging word. They were able to help families know that God loved them and that the Sacred Heart of Jesus would always be with them and protect them.”

Father Kurps also shared a letter from the Superior General of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Father Carolos Luis Suárez Codorniú, who had visited the school in late spring. Father Carlos said in part that he was impressed with the great spirit and care those at the school share with one another; it is a school where people are ready to do things with love and generosity in the service of all.

Father Vien shared that when the Priests and Brothers of the Sacred Heart founded the school so many years ago, they strived to carry out the vision and passion of their founder, Father Leo John Dehon, who believed in the formation in young people in making a difference in society and in the church through education.

In a nod to Sacred Heart Southern Missions’ 80 years of service to the area, Bishop Kopacz said that the work of educating children and raising them out of poverty was a blessing, adding, “We have been blessed to collaborate with so many dedicated disciples of the Lord here in their schools and parishes.”

Leaders from area municipalities were also a part of the celebration and recognized the contributions of the school and its people in a special way. The mayor of Southaven, Darren Musselwhite, declared Sept. 17 as ‘Sacred Heart School Day’ and honored the school with a special proclamation. In addition, Sister Virginia Reinl and Sister Margaret Sue Broker, OSFs, were recognized with proclamations from Keidron Henderson, mayor of Walls, Mississippi (the original location of Sacred Heart) for their contributions to the school and the people of the community.

The newly completed Sister Margaret Sue Broker Walking Trail was dedicated by Bishop Kopacz following Mass, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebratory lap by many in attendance. Named for the sixty-two year veteran of the school and a champion for its creation and construction, the walking trail is a fitting tribute for a woman who has taught and inspired generations of students.

A delicious barbeque dinner followed the dedication, carefully crafted by another Sacred Heart alumnus and restaurant owner, John David Wheeler. After sunset, everyone was treated to a spectacular fireworks show, a DJ, and live music performed by the Christian Brothers High School Jazz Band and several Sacred Heart School alumni bands.

“Without a doubt, Sacred Heart School began the education of my mind, my heart and my soul. I am forever grateful for this threefold foundation that was provided to me, and I am thankful that I see this foundation still being provided to my children,” said David Delgado, municipal court judge, local attorney and Sacred Heart Alumnus.

Ed Savage, an alumni and former employee of Sacred Heart Southern Missions, shared his thoughts on the celebration and the school. “As a former student I have long understood and appreciated the tremendous blessing Sacred Heart School was for me personally… In four short years the arch of my life was transformed by Sacred Heart School,” Savage said.

“The 75th celebration of the school brought into even clearer focus the tremendous impact Sacred Heart School has had on generations upon generations of people from all walks of life here in North Mississippi,” he continued. “Catholic and non-Catholic, rich and poor, Black and White, Hispanic and Asian have all been blessed. The celebration reminded me to thank God for all those past and present whose work and generosity has made this marvelous school possible, and for the long line of teachers who have shared a dedication to bring out the very best in every child that comes through the doors of Sacred Heart School.”

116 Years of devotion: St. Mary Catholic Church to be honored with historic markers

By John Surratt (The Vicksburg Post)

VICKSBURG – For 116 years, St. Mary Catholic Church has been a source of spiritual guidance and education for African American Catholics in Vicksburg and Warren County.

Its importance to the community will be remembered on Oct. 16 with a ceremony dedicating two historic markers – one for the church and another for the elementary and high school.

The markers, said Benny Terrell, a member of the marker committee, were the idea of the church’s pastor, Father Joseph Nguyen.

“He decided that he wanted to do something to recognize St. Mary’s; to highlight the significant contributions of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Mary’s School to the spiritual and educational needs of the Vicksburg community,” he said. “We wanted to cover those things that we have done that have impacted this community and a lot of the minority people in this community.”

The original plan, Terrell said, was to unveil the markers in 2021 to celebrate the church’s 115th anniversary, but the impact of COVID-19 delayed the plans.

VICKSBURG –St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Main and Second North streets was built in 1923. The parish was established in 1906. (Photo by John Surratt)

“We couldn’t get the markers done until 2022 but we decided to go on and do the dedication anyway.”
St. Mary’s parish was founded in 1906 by Father Aloysius Heick. The first church was on Holly Street “right behind where United Cleaners is located on Cherry Street, down the hill,” Terrell said.

The Sisters of Mercy provided the altar for the first church, the candlesticks and the priest’s vestments, and the priests at St. Paul Catholic Church provided a place for Heick to stay until St. Mary’s moved to its present location at Main and Second North streets later in 1906 and also started an elementary and high school. The present church was built in 1923.

The congregation at St. Paul’s collected $279.80 that they donated to Heick to buy the land and philanthropist Katherine Drexel, who was later canonized a saint, provided half of the money necessary to get the property.

“When they moved from Holly Street, there were three houses on the lot,” committee member Josephine Williams Calloway said. “They utilized one for the priest, one for the school and one for the nuns when they came.”

School attendance at the time was so low, she said, the grade school and high school were housed in the same building.

“They (parish officials) had to contact most of the parishioners to see how many would come to the school,” she said.

A two-story Greek revival building was built in 1908 and was later used for the high school. Drexel, Calloway said, contributed money for the building.

“She came here to inspect it and according to accounts, she was very impressed with what they were doing,” she said.

“She was very dedicated to supporting Black Catholics in this country,” Terrell said. Not only did she provide funding to help secure our property, but when Father Heick went to Jackson, she helped secure the property over there by donating funds. “She also paid for Xavier University in New Orleans. She was very generous and very supportive of Black Catholics and Native Americans.”

The nuns who taught the children at St. Mary’s were members of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, “Which were all German,” committee member Cherrie Boykin McClelland said.

“And in order to teach in Mississippi, the teachers, if they had not completed their teacher training in Germany or Holland, they had to go to DePaul University in Chicago and get an additional degree before they were allowed to teach here,” Calloway said. “So, most of our teachers had two degrees and one of our teachers was a professor at Peking University (before Catholics were expelled from China).”

“They spoke limited English and they practiced English on the way from Europe to the United States,” Terrell said.

Because they were teaching African American children in the then-segregated Jim Crow South, “The nuns were not that welcome in Vicksburg and the congregation was the one that really supported them,” Terrell said.

“The nuns would not go anywhere by themselves; they would always go in pairs. People still did not cater to the idea of white nuns teaching Black kids,” he said.

“Sometimes they were referred to as the ‘N Nuns,’” McClelland said.

But the members of St. Paul took a different attitude.

“The contribution of the white community should be noted because the congregation consisted of Italian, Irish, German and Lebanese and they supported the nuns,” Calloway said. “Mother Hildegard, a Sister of Mercy nun, and her family supported the missionary sisters when they needed food and help.

“A number of prominent whites attended St. Mary’s on a regular basis and still do,” she said. “Although this is an African American parish, it has truly served the community of Vicksburg and welcomed everyone who came. Although we may be assigned to the back pews of St. Paul, they were integrated into the total Catholic community at St. Mary’s. They helped us and we helped them.”

The elementary school closed in 1970 and the high school closed in 1964. When the schools closed, Terrell said, the children who wanted to continue attending Catholic school had to go to Yazoo City. Calloway’s father, a prominent businessman in Vicksburg, took the children to Yazoo City and waited there to take them home.

When a new high school building was built in 1948, McClelland’s father, a contractor, contributed most of the money and materials.

“I think he actually built the high school, along with other adults,” Terrell said.

“Our parents worked hard to support St. Mary’s,” Calloway said. “We are continuing their effort. What we have done here has influenced the whole community.”

(Reprinted with permission of The Vicksburg Post.)

Parishioner pens novel featuring St. Mary Basilica

NATCHEZ – St. Mary Basilica in Natchez comes alive in a new novel by parishioner G. Mark LaFrancis of Natchez.

A Song of Hope: A Spiritual Suspense Novel places the church in the center of a fast-paced, uplifting tale set in Natchez. “It is a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy who discovers himself, Christianity and redemption,” said LaFrancis, author of ten books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. “Although a mid-teen is the chief character, this novel isn’t solely a young person’s book. Adults have come to embrace it as well.”

LaFrancis and his family have strong bonds with St. Mary Basilica. He and his wife Eileen Maher are lectors and have volunteered in various ways with the church and the Knights of Columbus. Both of their now-adult children received their First Communions and Confirmations at St. Mary, as well as graduating from Cathedral School. Their son Mark was an altar server, and their daughter Mary sang in the youth choir.
“St. Mary Basilica parishioners welcomed us with open arms when we first arrived in Natchez in 1994. This book is a tribute to them while introducing the basilica to a group of readers who might not have experienced the church’s magnificence,” LaFrancis said.

Cover of A Song of Hope: A Spiritual Suspense Novel by G. Mark LaFrancis. The book includes many references to St. Mary Basilica in Natchez.

The book includes many references to the incredible statuary, stained glass and art work for which St. Mary is known.

Here is one passage: “Jesse rubbed his eyes. Before him was a most magnificent sight: an expanse some sixty feet wide and one-hundred-fifty feet long. The ceiling, some two hundred feet from the floor, was like the sky, a canopy of blue with gold trim, and painted stars. But this was no flat ceiling; it was a series of wide arches supported by eight great cream-colored columns. Intricately carved designs decorated the arches.”

Woven throughout the story are songs – “Amazing Grace” and “Here I Am, Lord” – that are important to Jesse because their lyrics inspire and intrigue him even though he has no religious training. Both hymns become like musical glue binding the tale.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will benefit the Catholic Youth Organization in Natchez. The hard-cover book is available for $12.95 each, plus shipping, on LaFrancis’ web: or for $14.95 on

Jesus, present in the Eucharist, inspires compassion, sharing, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – One cannot love and worship the Eucharist without compassion for the poor and marginalized, Pope Francis said at a Mass concluding Italy’s eucharistic congress.

“Let us recognize that the Eucharist is the prophecy of a new world, it is the presence of Jesus who asks us to dedicate ourselves to an effective conversion,” which includes the conversion from indifference to compassion, from waste to sharing, from selfishness to love and from individualism to fraternity, he said in his homily Sept. 25.

The pope concelebrated the Mass at an outdoor stadium in the southern Italian city of Matera, which was host to Italy’s 27th National Eucharistic Congress Sept. 22-25.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Lk 16:19-31), in which Jesus tells the parable about the nameless rich man who “dined sumptuously each day” and ignored the poor man, Lazarus, “who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps.”

Pope Francis holds his crosier as he celebrates the closing Mass of Italy’s National Eucharistic Congress at the municipal stadium in Matera, Italy, Sept. 25, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis said, “It is painful to see that this parable” is still alive today with so many “injustices, inequalities, the unequal distribution of the earth’s resources, the abuse of the powerful against the weak, the indifference to the cry of the poor, the abyss we dig every day creating marginalization.”

All of this, he said, “cannot leave us indifferent.”
The parable talks about the abyss or great chasm that the rich man dug between him and Lazarus when they were alive, so now, “in eternal life, that gulf remains,” the pope said.

One’s eternal destination is determined by one’s earthly life, he said. “If we dig a chasm now,” separating oneself from others, then “we dig our own grave for later; if we raise walls against our brothers and sisters now, we remain imprisoned in loneliness and death later.”

The Eucharist offers a “permanent challenge” to adore and worship God, not oneself, the pope said, and “to put him at the heart” of everything.
“Only the Lord is God, and everything else is a gift of his love,” he said.

“If we worship ourselves, we die, asphyxiated inside our tiny ego; if we worship the riches of this world, they take possession of us and enslave us; if we worship the god of appearance and are inebriated in wastefulness, sooner or later life is going to ask us (to pay) the bill,” Pope Francis said.

“Instead,” he said, “when we adore the Lord Jesus present in the Eucharist, we receive a new way of looking at our lives as well: I am not the things I possess and the successes I am able to achieve; the value of my life does not depend on how much I can show off nor does it diminish when I go through failures and setbacks.”

“Every one of us is a child who is loved” and blessed by God, “who wanted to clothe me with beauty and wants me free from all enslavement,” he said. Those who worship God are free and are slaves to no one, he added.

The pope asked people to rediscover the prayer of adoration and to pray for a church that is “eucharistic, made up of women and men who break themselves like bread for all those who gnaw on loneliness and poverty, for those who are hungry for tenderness and compassion, for those whose lives are crumbling because the good leaven of hope has been lacking.”

The ideal, he said, is “a church that kneels before the Eucharist and worships with awe the Lord present in the bread, but which also knows how to bend down with compassion and tenderness before the wounds of those who suffer” and to become the “bread of hope and joy for all.”


WASHINGTON (CNS) – House sponsors of a new bill to protect pregnancy centers said the measure would require the Biden administration to publicly disclose how it is handling the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of violent attacks on pregnancy resource centers around the country. “My goal is to foster an environment where no woman feels like their only option is abortion, and I am committed to supporting women and children at every stage of life,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. “The violent attacks on pregnancy centers in Washington state and across the country are reprehensible and only endanger and intimidate the women who depend on them for critical medical care, education and other resources,” Rodgers said in a statement Sept. 20, the day she and Smith introduced the bill. The Protect Pregnancy Care Centers Act of 2022 quickly garnered 28 co-sponsors. “I believe all extreme and hateful acts of violence should be condemned, which is why I’m helping lead this legislation to hold President (Joe) Biden accountable for his failure to respond to this threat with the urgency it deserves,” Rodgers said. Nearly 70 acts of violence against such centers have been recorded since May, when a draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case was leaked.

NEW YORK (CNS) – “Little Amal,” a giant puppet that is on a worldwide pilgrimage to raise awareness about the plight of unaccompanied refugee minors, made a stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sept. 18. The 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl met migrant families who recently arrived in New York City from Ecuador, Afghanistan and Myanmar; Father Enrique Salvo, the cathedral’s rector; and representatives from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “For immigrants and refugees around the world, New York is seen as a place of opportunity and promise – but there’s a tension running through U.S. history that suggests not everyone is welcome here,” said playwright/director Amir Nizar Zuabi, the artistic director of this “public art project” called “The Walk” and starring Amal, whose name means “hope.” “Amal will experience the wonder of New York and also the apprehension of arriving in a strange new place,” Zuabi said in a statement issued in advance of several New York events featuring the puppet. “This is a crucial moment to explore these themes. How will she be welcomed here? Who will do the welcoming?” The cathedral stop was one of 55 New York events welcoming the puppet over a three-week period that began Sept. 14 and ends Oct. 2 and is titled “Little Amal Walks NYC.”

“Little Amal,” a 12-foot-tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl, greets migrant families who have recently arrived in New York City from Ecuador, Afghanistan and Burma at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York Sept. 18, 2022. “Little Amal” has become a globally recognized symbol of human rights, especially for immigrants, refugees and other marginalized people. (CNS photo/courtesy DKC)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the October deadline approaches for the extension of the Vatican’s agreement with the Chinese government, the newly appointed editor of the news agency of the Dicastery for Evangelization said the deal has been instrumental in allowing Catholics to practice their faith openly and in communion with the church. In an editorial published Sept. 22, Gianni Valente, who was appointed earlier in the month as editor of Fides news agency, also said recent statements by Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, “hinted at a positive intention on the part of the Holy See to continue the process of negotiation.” The agreement, he wrote, has allowed for Chinese Catholics to “experience the adventure of confession of faith in Christ in today’s China as it is, without privileges, without being pointed at and perceived as a foreign body, as exotic guests or representatives of distant cultures.” First signed in Beijing Sept. 22, 2018, the Vatican and the Chinese government agreed in 2020 “to extend the experimental implementation phase of the provisional agreement for another two years.” The provisional agreement, the text of which has never been made public, outlines procedures for ensuring Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China and approved by the pope before their ordinations and installations, according to news reports at the time.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Marking World Alzheimer’s Day Sept. 21, Pope Francis asked people to pray for all those affected by the illness, including families and caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease “affects so many people, who are often pushed to the margins of society because of this condition,” the pope said at the end of his general audience talk in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 21. “Let us pray for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, for their families, and for those who lovingly care for them, that they may be increasingly supported and helped,” he said. He also asked that people pray for men and women facing hemodialysis, dialysis or an organ transplant. September is also World Alzheimer’s Month, which is an initiative by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to raise awareness, challenge the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and garner more support for those affected. Dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory, and Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that is the most common cause of dementia.

DUBLIN (CNS) – More people in Northern Ireland now identify as Catholic than Protestant for the first time in the history of the jurisdiction, new census figures reveal. The data has led to calls for a referendum for voters to decide whether to remain part of Britain or join with the rest of Ireland and form a new country. It comes 101 years after Northern Ireland was established in the six northeastern counties on the island of Ireland, remaining part of Britain when the 26 southern counties won independence from British rule. The founders of Northern Ireland drew the boundaries of the state along lines that they hoped would guarantee a permanent Protestant majority. Traditionally, Protestants have supported being part of Britain, whereas the Catholic community has traditionally supported unity with the rest of the island to form a single independent Ireland. The first prime minister of Northern Ireland, Sir James Craig, famously addressed the legislature describing it as a “Protestant parliament for a Protestant people,” and the Catholic minority complained of discrimination in terms of jobs, housing and voting rights. The proportion of the resident population that is either Catholic or brought up Catholic is 45.7%, compared to 43.5% Protestant.

MOSCOW (CNS) – A senior Russian priest dismissed President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear war as “just words,” but said many young Catholics now fear being forcibly conscripted with their priests to join the war against Ukraine. “Although I’m not a military person, I don’t think the Russian army could even use nuclear weapons – and if it did, this would be much more dangerous for Russia itself than anyone else,” said the priest, who asked not to be named. “People are certainly frightened here, particularly since Catholic parishioners and clergy could now be called up, beginning with those who’ve done military service. But I don’t think there’s much to fear from Putin, who’s just coming out with words.” Street protests erupted in Russia after Putin’s Sept. 21 order for a nationwide call-up of 300,000 reservists after setbacks in the Ukraine war. The priest told Catholic News Service Sept. 21 students and young people had “reacted very emotionally” to the mobilization order, with many debating its practical consequences. He added that there had been “no consultation” with Russia’s minority churches and said he had consulted lawyers about the order’s implications for church personnel. “Some young Catholics have already left the country, and more are doing so now,” the priest told CNS.

The Rosary: Our Lady’s lasso
Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – October 7

Stewardship paths
By Julia Williams

Artwork: Our Lady of the Rosary with Child, Simone Cantarini, c. 1612-1648. The Memorare: The Virgin and Child, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1480. Both artwork public domain.

JACKSON – An old priest once said, “It is no coincidence that rosaries look like lassos, as Our Lady wraps them around lost souls and pulls them out of the depths of hell.”
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is a commemorative feast established by St. Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto. The victory was attributed to the help of the Mother of God, whose aid was invoked by praying the Rosary.

This victory revealed the power of the Holy Rosary more than ever. Catholics who were open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit took, with deep resolve, the Rosary as their link to God.

It is no surprise that the magisterium and countless saints have encouraged devotion to the Rosary. Pope St. John Paul II said of the prayer, “The Rosary is my favorite prayer, marvelous in its simplicity and its depth.” The late pontiff also added five more “luminous” mysteries to the Rosary to help the faithful meditate upon significant moments in Christ’s earthly ministry.

The old priest was correct in asserting that the Blessed Virgin uses the Rosary to convert lost souls. However, the words of the Memorare must be remembered:

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided.”

U.S. synod report finds participants share common hopes, lingering pain

By Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholics across the country continue to feel wounded by the clergy abuse crisis, seek a more welcoming church in which their “lived reality” is prioritized over rules and regulations, and desire lifelong spiritual, pastoral and catechetical formation as disciples, according to a report synthesizing the 10-month synodal process in dioceses.

Participants in the process also expressed concern that the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply divided and that a lack of unity exists among the bishops, spoke of a desire to “accompany with authenticity” LGBTQ+ individuals and their families, and voiced hope that laypeople’s gifts would be more widely utilized in a spirit of collaboration throughout the church, the report said.

Released Sept. 19 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the report summarizes the concerns, hopes, pains and desires voiced by an estimated 700,000 participants who joined thousands of listening sessions and other events during the diocesan phase in the lead-up to the Synod of Bishops on synodality in October 2023.

There are roughly 66.8 million Catholics in the U.S., according to the report, meaning more than 1% of Catholics participated in the listening sessions.
“The listening is an opening movement toward a wise discernment locally, regionally and nationally about what our deepest concerns, our deepest hopes are right now at this moment in time,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is overseeing the U.S. involvement in the synodal process, told Catholic News Service.

Bishop Flores, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, said the process that has unfolded since October – and led to the 16-page synthesis report sent to the Vatican – enabled people to respectfully listen to each other and develop a new understanding of what life in the church can be.

Titled “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod,” the report was prepared in advance of the Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis.

The synod’s theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” The report is the synthesis of 290 documents received by the USCCB from various contributors. The report said the documents “represent over 22,000 reports from individual parishes and other groups” that emerged from more than 30,000 opportunities to join the synodal process.

The national synthesis report draws from the 14 intermediate syntheses submitted by teams from each of the geographic regions of the U.S. church. All 178 Latin dioceses and archdioceses submitted syntheses that were incorporated into the regional reports.
For the process, the USCCB created a 16th “region” for the numerous Catholic national ministries, universities, associations and organizations working throughout the country. Those organizations submitted 112 summary reports.

In a letter introducing the report, Bishop Flores described the document as “an attempt to synthesize and contextualize the common joys, hopes and wounds called forth with the help of the Holy Spirit in the unfolding of the synod.”

“While not a complete articulation of the many topics and perspectives shared in the listening process, this synthesis is an attempt to express the broader themes that seemed most prevalent in the dioceses and regions of our country,” he wrote.

The report is divided into four themes: “Enduring Wounds,” “Enhancing Communion and Participation,” “Ongoing Formation for Mission” and “Engaging Discernment.” Each section summarizes common observations raised in the listening sessions.

It includes directly quoted descriptions of common concerns, hopes and desires from individual regional reports raised in the local listening sessions.

The report cites several “enduring wounds” expressed during the sessions. In addition to the still unfolding effects of the sexual abuse crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a toll on the sense of community people felt before the virus swept around the world in 2020.

“The pandemic itself ‘has led to the fraying of our communities in some ways, accelerating a trend toward disengagement and intensifying the isolation and loneliness of many, youth and elderly in particular. A large number of faithful have not yet returned to worship,’” the report said, quoting the Region 12 submission from Northwestern states.

Divisiveness and polarization in the church was a concern expressed in multiple regional reports. The Region 9 report covering four Midwestern states said division over the celebration of the Eucharist is disconcerting, particularly when it comes to the pre-Vatican II Mass.

“The limited access to the 1962 missal was lamented; many felt that the difference over how to celebrate the liturgy ‘sometimes reach the level of animosity. People on each side of the issue reported feeling judged by those who differ from them,’” the national synthesis report said quoting the Region 9 submission.

Other concerns were expressed by people who feel marginalized. The report said marginalized people fall into two broad groups.

One made up of those who are vulnerable by their lack of social or economic power, including those with disabilities, the mentally ill, immigrants, ethnic minorities, people in the U.S. without documents, the unborn and their mothers, and those living in poverty, who are homeless, are incarcerated or living with an addiction.

The second group includes women, “whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the church,” the report said. Others in the group include those who are marginalized “because circumstances in their own lives are experienced as impediments to full participation in the life of the church” including members of the LGBTQ+ community and people who are divorced and may have remarried, and those civilly married.

“The synodal consultations around the enduring wounds caused by the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the pandemic, polarization and marginalization have exposed a deep hunger for healing and the strong desire for communion, community, and a sense of belonging and being united,” the national synthesis report said.

Under the theme of “Enhancing Communion and Participation,” the sacramental life of the church and the spirit of welcome within the church were addressed. The report found that the wounds expressed among participants in listening sessions could be addressed by the church being more welcoming to those not in the mainstream.

Quoting the Region 13 report from Southwestern states, the synthesis report said participants were concerned with “obstacles to community within their parishes, partly due to the divisive political climate and resulting polarization within the country.”

People in the region also identified the centrality of the Eucharist as a “source of hope for greater unity.” They said in addition that “receiving Eucharist does bring them more closely in solidarity with the poor,” according to the synthesis report.

Concerns about racism within the church and the lack of welcome to diverse cultural and ethnic communities emerged in listening sessions. The elderly, the report said, were particularly hurt by the departure of young people from church life.

“Young people themselves voiced a feeling of exclusion and desired to participate more fully as members of the parish community,” the synthesis report said.

The synthesis report also included the observation that “nearly all synodal consultations shared a deep appreciation for the powerful impact of women religious who have consistently led the way in carrying out the mission of the church.”

Participants in listening sessions expressed a “desire for stronger leadership, discernment and decision-making roles for women – both lay and religious – in their parishes and communities.”

The synthesis report said a common hope that emerged nationwide was the “desire for lifelong spiritual, pastoral and catechetical formation as disciples.” Discussions in the sessions “made clear the importance of evangelization as we continue to live out the church’s mission, which requires stronger formation.”
Steps would include accompaniment with families in their formation as people long for a closer encounter with Jesus.

Suggestions also emerged on the need to “journey together” in the formation of clergy. The Region 5 intermediate report from Southern states suggested such formation was needed to better understand human and pastoral needs, cultural sensitivity, stronger emphasis on social justice, how to include laypeople in decision-making and “learning to speak with empathy, creativity and compassion.”

Laypeople, the synthesis report said, also expressed hope that a genuine appreciation for their gifts and talents would grow into a “relationship of collaboration” with pastors.

The final theme, “Engaging Discernment,” concluded that the diocesan phase of the synodal process was the first step in a church rooted in synodality, or walking together.

The synthesis report said the process enabled thousands of people to reengage “in the simple practice of gathering, praying together and listening to one another.”

It invited people to commit to “ongoing attentive listening, respectful encounter and prayerful discernment.”

Going forward, the report called for continued engagement with communities that did not participate broadly in the listening sessions particularly Indigenous people, ethnic communities and immigrants.
“Engaging and discerning with our sisters and brothers who experience the woundedness of marginalization, as well as those whose voice were underrepresented within the synodal process, will be essential for the unfolding of the synodal journey in our dioceses and in our country,” the report said.

The next phase in preparation for the Synod of Bishops is being called the continental phase. It will find teams gathering by continent to synthesize the reports submitted to the Vatican thus far. Synod officials will prepare the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, to guide continental or regional ecclesial assemblies that will take place by March.

The North American report will be submitted by the U.S. and Canada. Bishop Flores said some preliminary outreach has already occurred among the teams from the two nations. Other continental reports will involve significantly larger gatherings of teams from individual ecclesial assemblies.

Those assemblies will produce another set of documents that will help in the drafting of a second working document for the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.

The synod is expected to produce a final document on how synodality can be practiced throughout the church.

Catholic leaders weigh in on upcoming, busy Supreme Court term

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Supreme Court begins its new term Oct. 3, jumping right back into the fray with cases that take on affirmative action, voting, immigration, the environment and freedom of speech.
This term will include a new member, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, who retired at the end of last session. It also will be the first time the public will be allowed back inside the court since the start of the pandemic.

In late September, the court had not announced if it will continue to provide live audio of oral arguments.
Another change is outside. Barriers around the court since May – after protests erupted following a leak of the court’s draft opinion on its Dobbs decision – have now been removed. The investigation into that leak, ordered by Chief Justice John Roberts, is still continuing.

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington June 7, 2022. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

For now, the court has agreed to hear 27 cases and has scheduled 18 of them.

In the weeks leading up to the court’s new session, law schools and think tanks have presented previews of big cases coming up and speculation on how the justices might respond.

Adam Liptak, a Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, who moderated a few of these panels, pointed out in a Sept. 15 preview by the American Constitutional Society, that the court was not taking a breather after just finishing “a tumultuous term.”

And this term, as in many previous sessions, Catholic leaders have something to say about major cases coming up.

One case getting a lot of attention is 303 Creative v. Elenis about a Colorado graphic designer who does not want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples based on her Christian beliefs about marriage. The case, which does not have a date yet for oral arguments, is similar to the 2017 case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined by the Colorado Catholic Conference and other religious groups, are siding with the designer as they did with the baker five years ago.

In an amicus brief they said this case gives the court the chance to clarify free speech issues it said the court fell short of doing in the previous case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
In a Sept. 21 court preview by the Federalist Society, one panelist described the website case as a sequel to the court’s bakery decision and noted that the initial case “didn’t actually address the big speech issues at play” and instead took an “off ramp narrowly in favor of the baker on very established religious liberty grounds.”

“Here we have a new court,” Amanda Shanor, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, continued.

One difference is that in the current case, the artist, Lorie Smith, is not fighting a specific incident, as was the baker who denied baking a custom cake for a same-sex couple. Smith wants the court to weigh in before she is even asked to design a website for a same-sex couple.

Even though she does not wish to provide a service based on her Christian beliefs about marriage, the case hinges on her freedom of speech claim.

Shanor said Supreme Court preview panels in 2017 likely didn’t predict the baker winning, but now she already is pretty sure the court will likely rule in the artist’s favor and said the case could have broad implications about who can be viewed as an artist.

The USCCB’s brief said there is a “pressing need for the court to clarify how the compelled speech doctrine applies to wedding-vendor cases and other disputes.” It urged the justices to do what they have done in the past: “Apply the Free Speech Clause to protect religious speech, thereby strengthening liberty not just for the religious but for all society.”

It also said the current case “provides an appropriate and especially important opportunity to invoke free speech protections again to address the ongoing tensions in wedding-vendor cases and in the current cultural context more broadly” and implored the court to “protect individuals from compelled speech and to provide space in the public square for minority voices.”

Other groups that filed briefs on behalf of the wedding vendor included, the Thomas More Society, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Becket Fund.

DignityUSA, an unofficial Catholic support group for gay Catholics and their families, and New Ways Ministry, a Catholic pastoral outreach to LGBTQ people and their families, joined a brief filed by 30 religious and civil rights groups opposing the graphic artist’s case.

“Carving out this broad exemption would allow public businesses to legally exclude customers based on their identities,” it said, adding that “instead of safeguarding every citizen’s right to buy goods and services from businesses open to the public,” the proposed exemption “would further hurt the very people these civil rights laws were designed to protect.”

Another hot-button topic before the court this year involves affirmative action with two separate cases – from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina – challenging the way higher education institutions use race as a factor in their admission process.

The court chose to hear the two challenges Oct. 31 separately since Justice Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case because she just recently finished serving a six-year-term on the university’s board of trustees.

Georgetown University filed an amicus brief with 56 Catholic colleges and universities urging the court to uphold affirmative action in admissions in these cases that challenge a 40-year legal precedent.

The brief, joined by the University of Notre Dame, the College of the Holy Cross, DePaul University and Villanova University, among others, said the right to consider racial diversity in admissions is essential to their academic and religious missions and is “inextricably intertwined” with their religious foundations.
The brief also argued that this right is rooted in the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and free exercise of religion, particularly for Catholic higher education institutions, whose ability to have discretion in how they choose students is critical to their religious missions.

The challengers in both cases are urging the justices to overrule their 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, a ruling that said the University of Michigan could consider race in its undergraduate admissions process as part of its efforts to obtain a diverse student body.

Catholic leaders and immigration groups also will be paying attention to United States v. Texas, which does not have an argument date yet.

The case will once again examine the executive branch’s authority to set immigration policy, criticized by Texas and Louisiana leaders as too lenient. It specifically challenges federal policy that prioritizes certain groups of unauthorized immigrants for arrest and deportation.

In the last term, the court ruled 5-4 in Biden v. Texas that the administration could end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, or the Migrant Protection Protocols, that required people seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border to stay in Mexico until their asylum case could be heard.

Another Texas case, on the death penalty, has long had the attention of Texas Catholic bishops, Catholic opponents of capital punishment, as well as celebrities. The case, Reed v. Goertz, argued Oct. 11, will examine when prisoners can pursue post-conviction claims for DNA testing of crime scene evidence.

Rodney Reed, sentenced to death more than 23 years ago for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, has maintained his innocence and his attorneys from the Innocence Project have brought forward crime scene evidence, not tested for DNA, that they say implicates someone else.

In 2019, five days before he was scheduled to be executed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted an indefinite stay of Reed’s execution and said it was sending his case back to trial court for further review.

Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of the death penalty, has been drawing attention to Reed’s case for several years, citing lack of evidence of his guilt.

Similarly, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a 2019 statement that if Reed’s execution proceeds, “there is great risk the state of Texas will execute a man who is innocent of this crime while allowing the guilty party to go free.”

Other big cases before the court this term involve voting rights, the Clean Water Act and a challenge to a California animal welfare law.

The court starts its new session amid low public support. A Gallup poll in June found just 25% of the public have confidence in the court.

A poll by Marquette University Law School this September found 40% of adults approve the job the court is doing, while 60% disapprove. A similar poll conducted by the Milwaukee Jesuit-run university in July showed 38% of adults favored the court’s work and 61% disapproved. Both results were down from court approval the poll found in 2020 and early 2021.

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

After Roe, Catholics must help ‘build a world’ that welcomes all

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade “is, without question, an answer to prayer,” but in a post-Roe world, “Catholics must now work together for another, even deeper paradigm shift,” said the U.S. bishops’ pro-life chairman.

“We must move beyond a paradigm shift in the law in order to help the people of our nation better see who we can be as a nation by truly understanding what we owe to one another as members of the same human family,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities.

“To build a world in which all are welcome,” he said, Catholics “must heed” the words of St. Teresa of Kolkata “and remember ‘that we belong to one another.'”

“We must shift the paradigm to what St. John Paul II described as ‘radical solidarity,’ making the good of others our own good, including especially mothers, babies – born and preborn – and families throughout the entire human lifespan,” Archbishop Lori said.

This is the poster for Respect Life Month 2022, which has as its theme: “Called to Serve Moms in Need.” The U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Respect Life Month every October. The first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday, which is Oct. 2 this year. (CNS photo/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)This is the poster for Respect Life Month 2022, which has as its theme: “Called to Serve Moms in Need.” The U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Respect Life Month every October. The first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday, which is Oct. 2 this year. (CNS photo/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

He made the remarks in a Sept. 21 statement for the U.S. Catholic Church’s observance of Respect Life Month, which is October. The theme of the observance is “Called to Serve Moms in Need.”

The first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday, which is Oct. 2 this year.
In their June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a majority of the justices ended the court’s nearly 50-year nationwide “regime of abortion on demand,” the archbishop said.

This “regime” was “based on the indefensible view that the U.S. Constitution implicitly forbids government from protecting the preborn child in the womb from the violence of abortion,” he said.

The court “concluded that there is nothing in the Constitution’s text, history, American legal tradition or the court’s precedents that justified the extreme holding of Roe,” he said.
Dobbs was a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. The court affirmed the law 6-3 and also voted 5-4 to overturn the 1973 Roe ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, and 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood ruling, which affirmed Roe.

The ruling returned the issue of abortion to the states.

With Dobbs, the high court “cleared the way for a paradigm shift in American law, allowing it to enlarge its boundaries to again welcome a segment of the human family that had been outside of its protections for close to half a century,” he added.

He called Dobbs “a victory for justice, the rule of law and self-governance.”

“But for those of us who have prayed for this moment to arrive, it is the time for a renewal and rededication of our efforts to build a culture of life and civilization of love,” he said. “Justice is, of course, essential to this end. But it is not sufficient.

“To build a world in which all are welcome requires not only justice, but compassion, healing, and above all, unconditional love.”

“Abortion is a gruesome sign of how we have forgotten our mutual belonging,” Archbishop Lori continued. “The logic of Roe v. Wade has framed our national discourse on the issue of abortion as a zero-sum conflict among individual strangers.”

But “mother and child are not strangers; they are already bound together by flesh and kinship,” he said. “The new life that is developing under the heart of the mother is already situated in a network of relations, including family, neighbors and fellow citizens.”

Roe‘s logic “offers the woman only the right to see lethal force used against her child, but it otherwise abandons her,” he explained.

But “the logic of the culture of life recognizes that the pregnant woman and her child are not alone – they are fellow members of our larger human family whose interwoven vulnerability is a summons to all of us, but especially Catholics because of the teaching of Jesus and his proclamation of the Gospel of life,” the archbishop said.

To practice “radical solidarity and unconditional love in a post-Roe world,” he said, means speaking and living the truth” with compassion – the truth that abortion not only “unjustly kills a preborn child, but also gravely wounds women, men, families and the nation as a whole.”

Through law, policy, politics and culture, society must do whatever it can to provide mothers, children and families in need “with the care and support necessary for their flourishing throughout the entire arc of life’s journey,” he said.

“Building a world in which women are esteemed, children are loved and protected, and men are called to their responsibilities as fathers, requires us to understand and address the complex and tragic tangle of affliction and strife that culminates in the violence of abortion,” Archbishop Lori said. “This is a massive and daunting undertaking.”

“Catholics already have a strong foundation in the church’s centuries-long encouragement of parental and societal duties,” he said. “Millions of individual Catholics from all walks of life are already personally endeavoring to build the bonds of solidarity and compassion throughout our society.”

Many also are engaged in parish and community initiatives such as pregnancy resource centers, post-abortion counseling, he said, as well as Walking with Moms in Need, an initiative of the U.S. bishops to connect pregnant women and their families with parishes and to a growing network of resources.

(Editor’s Note: The full text of Archbishop Lori’s statement and Respect Life Month materials from the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities can be found online at