Walton’s “Advent Reflections for this Day” offers unique path to deeper Advent experience

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – Parishioner of St. Paul Flowood, Monica Walton, didn’t envision her 2022 Advent Reflection booklet she made and shared with friends and family would lead to the publishing of her first book, but it did.

Earlier this year, Sunrise Press rose out of Dogwood Press, a small but traditional publishing house headed by Joe Lee, parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Madison. Walton said even though Lee’s publishing house was focused on mystery and suspense fiction, he was Catholic and thought she would get his perspective even though she was hesitant to do so. As chance would have it, Lee was “sufficiently intrigued” with Walton’s pitch and he ended up creating Sunrise Press, a subsidiary of Dogwood Press that considers faith-based works of fiction and nonfiction for publication.

The 2023 edition of “Advent Reflections for this Day” – the very first book published by Sunrise Press – is a unique and thoughtfully crafted resource for individuals seeking a more profound connection to the Sacred Word during the busy Christmas season. Walton’s book offers a weekly focus on the Sunday Gospels, allowing readers to dive deeper into the spiritual meaning of Advent without the pressure of daily readings. One of the standout features of this book is the inclusion of “Modern-Day Parables,” original stories created by Walton that draw parallels between the Gospel passages and contemporary situations. Walton says that the parables provide fresh perspectives on the Scripture, making it even more relevant to our daily lives.

The decision to create a weekly Advent reflection, as opposed to a daily one, lies in Walton’s experience with the face-paced nature of the Advent season, often causing people to lose sight of its true significance. She explained, “Sometimes it feels like you can’t catch up if you get behind a few days. I wrote the book with myself and other busy people in mind.”

“Advent Reflections for this Day” contains four Sunday Gospels, followed by Walton’s unique contemporary parables, three thought-provoking questions to consider how the reader might respond in similar situations, and three suggestions on how to live out the Gospel’s message during that particular week. The emphasis is on personal reflection, with no right or wrong answers. As Walton puts it, “It’s about thinking, ‘how can I be the best I want to be.’”

Bishop Joseph Kopacz enjoyed Walton’s Advent reflections, sharing news of the book’s release with pastors across the diocese, saying that the book is “strongly recommended for parishes as well as individuals who look to further their walk with God, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord.”

While the book is suitable for people of any Christian denomination, it is predominantly Catholic, specifically focusing on Year B of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. Walton plans for editions covering Year A and B if her publisher agrees. She has a wealth of her “Modern-Day Parables” to draw from for future offerings, having written over 100 of them with no shortage of inspiration.

Walton encourages readers to start the book the week of Nov. 27, as the first Sunday of Advent falls on Dec. 3. This year, the Advent season is a bit shorter, with the fourth week ending on Christmas Eve, explained Walton.

“Advent Reflections for this Day” is available for purchase at various local bookstores, including Lemuria (Jackson), Lorelei Books (Vicksburg), Book Mart and Café (Starkville), Impression Books (Flowood) and Pass Christian Books (Pass Christian and Gulfport). For those who prefer online shopping, the book can also be ordered at dogwoodpress.com at a cost of $8.95.

Unlocking philanthropy: Catholic Foundation offers Charitable Gift Annuities to support your faith and financial future

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – So many of us have large philanthropic hearts, but our wallets and budgets don’t allow us to make that large gift that is in our heart. The Catholic Foundation offers donors an opportunity to give a gift and receive income back called a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA).

Charitable Gift Annuities (CGA) are gaining popularity due to the rising payout rates. “Now is a great time to consider establishing a CGA,” said Rebecca Harris, executive director of the Catholic Foundation. “A CGA is a simple arrangement where assets are given and in return the donor will receive fixed lifetime payments.”

Harris can help walk anyone interested in CGAs through the process. This is a way for a donor to give a gift now, receive income, and help their parish, school, or favorite Catholic ministry. The Catholic Foundation and the Diocese of Jackson are partnering with Catholic Extension to work with donors on establishing a CGA.

“Many donors shy away from these types of donations because they feel they are too complicated for them. Our goal is to walk you through the process to determine if this is the right type of gift for you,” says Harris.

A CGA is a simple contract guaranteeing it will pay the donor a fixed lifetime income based on a donor’s age and gift size that can be for one or two annuitants, and the payouts can be deferred. This is often a preferred strategy for retirees who want to put their charitable dollars to work and not have to worry about giving away a large sum of your retirement at once. “Simply, it is a way to support your Catholic faith and retain your cash flow,” says Harris.

The primary benefit of a CGA is that the donor receives a fixed payment for life, no matter how long he or she may live. A portion of the payments are tax-free for a specified time. Further, because the donor is making a gift, a portion of the amount paid for the annuity is an immediate deductible charitable gift for income tax purposes, as allowable by IRS rules.

Harris says, funding a CGA can be done with cash, IRA required minimum distribution, and stocks and securities.

“If you are looking for a way to decrease your income tax obligation after retirement and support your Catholic faith, a CGA may be what you are looking for,” says Harris.

To receive a free illustration of your gift contact Rebecca Harris at (601) 960-8477. With a few details her office can provide you with a gift illustration. Included in the illustration is your potential charitable income tax deduction and your yearly payments for life as well as an estimated amount that will go to your beneficiary.

Catholic Charities aims to combat drug addiction in Leflore County

By Joanna Puddister King
GREENWOOD – On Friday, Sept. 22, a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked a significant milestone for Healing Hearts Family Counseling, a drug prevention program aimed at adolescents in Leflore County. The event was celebrated with enthusiasm as the program opened its doors in the former St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School.

When Wanda Thomas arrived as executive director of Catholic Charities of Jackson in 2019, she recalled receiving numerous calls from communities across the state, seeking assistance in filing gaps in services. To address those short-falls, Catholic Charities conducted a comprehensive assessment, looking at areas that needed support, while considering available resources, said Thomas.

The Delta region emerged as an area in critical need of assistance, backed by years of data and statistics. In 2022, an opportunity presented itself to Catholic Charities in the form of a grant designed to prevent substance abuse within the adolescent population. Recognizing the connection between substance abuse drug addiction, mental illness and an elevated risk of suicide, Catholic Charities seized the opportunity to provide these essential services.

GREENWOOD – Participants get ready for the official ribbon-cutting for Catholic Charities of Jackson’s Healing Hearts Family Counseling on Friday, Sept. 22. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of Jackson)

The establishment of Healing Hearts Family Counseling and the unwavering support for Catholic Charities of Jackson highlight the community’s collective efforts to combat substance abuse and make a lasting, positive impact on the lives of adolescents and their families in Leflore County.

Jackie Lewis, program director of Healing Hearts shared a unique feature of the program with The Greenwood Commonwealth, stating that interactions through the program can occur at the program’s office, the family’s home, or in any other suitable location.

The program is also actively reaching out to adolescents and their families to provide crucial support and education on the dangers of drug abuse through engagement with local schools. The Greenwood Commonwealth reported that Healing Hearts completed a 12-week program at Delta Streets Academy and has plans to initiate similar programs at other schools within the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District.

Expressing gratitude for the support they receive, Thomas praised Catholic Charities supporters and volunteers. She remarked, “We are thankful for our supporters and volunteers who do not hesitate to reach out and roll up their sleeves to walk this journey alongside us and serve God’s people.”
Lewis says of the program, “at the end of the day, it’s not about what you have accomplished personally.”
“It’s about whose life you have made better.”

For those interested in reaching out to Healing Hearts Family Counseling, the program is located at 2615 US 82 East in Greenwood and can be reached at (601) 355-8634 for more information. With its commitment to the well-being of adolescents and families in Leflore County, Healing Hearts represents a vital addition to the region’s efforts to combat drug abuse and promote healthier communities.

New diocesan office aims to build relationships and invite young adults to be a part of the Body of Christ

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – In a proactive response to the growing demand for more opportunities for young adults, the Diocese of Jackson inaugurated its Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the fall of 2022. With this new office, the diocese is on a mission to build a vibrant and inclusive ministry that not only brings young adults and college students together but also strengthens their relationship with Christ.

In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation released in April 2019, Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive!), Pope Francis emphasized the need to make all institutions more welcoming to young people, and his words resonated deeply with the mission of the Diocese of Jackson. “We need to make all our institutions better equipped to be more welcoming to young people,” said Pope Francis from Christus Vivit. (216)

Amelia Rizor, coordinator for the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, echoed the sentiment expressed by Pope Francis, stating, “The community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people; it should feel collectively responsible for accepting, motivating, encouraging and challenging them. All should regard young people with understanding, appreciation and affections; and avoid constantly judging them.”

GREENWOOD – On Saturday, Oct. 14 college students from across the diocese gathered at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center in Greenwood for a day of fun, fellowship, speakers, prayer and Mass. The theme for the day was “Living Joyfully.” The event was led by the Diocesan Campus Ministry Retreat Team which is made up of students from campuses across the Diocese. (Photos by Amelia Rizor)

The office’s efforts in the Jackson area have already shown promise. Rizor has organized activities such as basketball, co-ed softball, and co-ed kickball, which have provided opportunities for young adults to come together for fellowship and build relationships. Additionally, the office also reintroduced “Theology on Tap,” a popular event that engages young adults in discussions of faith in a relaxed setting, with a beverage of choice.

However, the office’s focus isn’t just limited to social events, said Rizor. She highlights the importance of growing young people’s spiritual lives, mentioning an upcoming “Young Adult Advent Day of Reflection” on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Camp Bratton Green in Canton, with diocese director of Faith Formation, Fran Lavelle.

Rizor also expressed her desire to create more service opportunities that can be conducted diocesan-wide, allowing young adults to put their faith into action.

Future plans for service include a spring break service trip to Southern Kentucky, with the aim of assisting those affected by the devastating tornadoes in December 2021.

The Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry also recently hosted its first campus ministry retreat on Oct. 14 at Locus Benedictus in Greenwood. The event brought together students from various colleges and universities across the diocese for fellowship, participation in small groups, and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass.

Excitingly, the office is offering a 10-day trip on the Camino de Santiago – an opportunity to travel in the footsteps of St. James, led by Father Lincoln Dall. The St. James Way is one of the most ancient and popular pilgrimage routes in the world. The trip can accommodate only 13 pilgrims total and spots are filling up quickly. Rizor says the trip is open to all young adults who will be sophomores in college in fall 2024 through age 35.

Rizor emphasized the importance of actively engaging young adults in these initiatives, saying “Everyone likes to be invited! If you are waiting around for them to just come back, you’re going to be waiting a long time.” She urged the necessity of going out and building relationships with young adults, inviting them to be a part of the Body of Christ, much like the approach taken by Jesus himself.

In the Diocese of Jackson, the launch of this young adult ministry is not only about building a community but also about revitalizing the faith and involvement of the younger generation in the church’s mission, ensuring that they are an integral part of the church’s body. Pope Francis’ vision, as articulated in Christus Vivit, is a guiding light for this important mission.

JACKSON – On Wednesday, Oct. 18, young adults from around the Jackson area gathered at Martin’s restaurant in downtown Jackson for Theology on Tap. The guest speaker was Father Nick Adam who shared with them ideas on how they could make time for prayer and faith in their busy lives. The next Theology on Tap will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 8th at 7 p.m. at Martin’s.

“We are incredibly blessed to have someone with Amelia’s ministry experience and her love for the young church,” said Fran Lavelle, director of the Department of Faith Formation for the diocese.

“Her strength is in building relationships that lead people to a deeper understanding of their faith. She demonstrates what accompaniment looks like in practice.”

For more information on upcoming young adult ministry events, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/young-adult-campus-ministry or contact Amelia at amelia.rizor@jacksondiocese.org.

Diócesis entra en segunda fase del proceso de “Reimaginación Pastoral”

Por Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – La Diócesis de Jackson comenzó un proceso de renovación pastoral de un año de duración en Pentecostés de 2023 que concluirá en Pentecostés de 2024. Este proceso se inició como resultado del Sínodo diocesano sobre Sinodalidad en 2021.

Durante el proceso del Sínodo se articularon tres prioridades en toda la diócesis que incluyeron todos los datos demográficos (edad, género, raza, etc.). Eran un llamado a la sanación y la unidad; mayor catequesis en todos los niveles; y una comprensión más profunda de las Escrituras.

“Al evaluar cómo desarrollamos estos tres temas en toda la diócesis, discernimos que era necesario un plan pastoral para las parroquias y las misiones”, dice Fran Lavelle, directora de formación en la fe de la diócesis y miembro del equipo central que está trabajando en la reinvención pastoral. proceso.
“La realidad actual en nuestro mundo post-Covid brindó una motivación adicional para mirar dónde estamos como iglesia y cómo estamos llamados a servir a nuestras comunidades”.

El proceso se divide en cinco grandes fases. La primera fase se desarrolló desde Pentecostés este año hasta principios de septiembre, en la que cada pastor o ministro eclesial laico (LEM) estableció un comité de reinvención pastoral y hizo que el comité viera cuatro sesiones de videos de eclesiología y respondiera una serie de preguntas diseñadas para guiar la conversación sobre quiénes somos. como iglesia, dijo Lavelle.

JACKSON – Los participantes del proceso de reinvención pastoral se reunieron en la rectoría de la Catedral de San Pedro Apóstol para ver el último video “Apostólica” de la primera fase. La diócesis está actualmente entrando en la fase dos del proceso de reinvención pastoral que se espera concluya a finales de año. (Foto del padre Nick Adam)

Las cuatro sesiones de video, dirigidas por el obispo Joseph Kopacz, se centran en las cuatro marcas de la iglesia: Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica; y están disponibles para que cualquiera pueda verlos en el sitio web de la diócesis. (https://jacksondiocese.org/pastoral-reimagining)
El padre Nick Adam, rector de la Catedral de San Pedro Apóstol en Jackson, se sintió muy bien con las reuniones parroquiales para el proceso de reimaginación pastoral con la guía de la serie de videos.
“De las reuniones surgieron un par de temas de alta prioridad”, dijo el padre Nick.

“Necesitamos una presencia mucho mayor en las redes sociales; somos muy buenos acogiendo, pero nuestra evangelización puede ser aún más fuerte; y necesitamos desarrollar un grupo de jóvenes”.
El obispo Kopacz dijo que la primera fase “prepara la mesa para recordarnos lo que significa ser una iglesia y lo que nuestra identidad como católicos requiere de nosotros en el mundo. Nuestro deseo era crear un entendimiento común a partir del cual desarrollar una visión para la Diócesis de Jackson”.

“En otras palabras, fomentar un sentido de unidad subrayado por las cuatro marcas de la iglesia”.
Durante la fase dos, que se extenderá hasta el 31 de diciembre de 2023, cada parroquia llevará a cabo una evaluación parroquial que incluirá la situación actual en la parroquia local, los límites en crecimiento, las áreas que están disminuyendo, las oportunidades de colaboración con otras parroquias en el zona y otras realidades locales.

“En la segunda fase, reimaginaremos las responsabilidades de cada parroquia y misión para fomentar un sentido de unidad, subrayado por las cuatro marcas de la iglesia y basado en datos”, dijo el obispo Kopacz.Esta fase también incluye un informe detallado sobre la demografía diocesana elaborado por el Centro de Investigación Aplicada en el Apostolado (CARA) de la Universidad de Georgetown.

El informe resume la demografía general de la diócesis, así como un perfil de la población católica que vive en los límites de la diócesis. Las fuentes de datos incluyen el Censo Decenal, la Encuesta de Comunidades Estadounidenses (ACS) y otras fuentes de datos de la Oficina del Censo. También se basa en la Encuesta del panorama religioso del Pew Research Center y en el Censo decenal de religión de la Asociación de Estadísticos de Organismos Religiosos Estadounidenses (ASARB).

PEARL – Una iglesia llena de feligreses y banderas de paises Hispanos es una muestra de la demografía de la diócesis. El Padre César Sánchez celebró Misa el primero de octubre a cientos de feligreses antes de comenzar la celebración parrroquial de la Herencia Hispana. (Foto de Carolina Motato Ramirez)

“Después de analizar los datos demográficos, las parroquias buscarán oportunidades de crecimiento; evaluar los ministerios y evaluar los desafíos que se pueden abordar”, dijo Lavelle.

A partir de 2024, la tercera fase del proceso de reinvención consistirá en sesiones guiadas y facilitadas para que los decanatos resuelvan los desafíos, tanto en las áreas crecientes como en las áreas decrecientes del ministerio a nivel local y dentro del decanato.

“El objetivo de la fase tres es obtener una perspectiva realista de la salud y el bienestar del decanato dentro del entorno de cada parroquia individual; y analizar áreas de redundancia y áreas potenciales para compartir recursos”, compartió Lavelle.
La cuarta fase incluirá un período de discernimiento sobre los informes de los seis decanatos de la diócesis y una carta pastoral del obispo Kopacz, que describirá los hallazgos en cada decanato y establecerá parámetros para la implementación de una visión diocesana general.

“Para poder desarrollar una visión integral, cada parroquia y misión tiene la responsabilidad de involucrar a los feligreses para comprender mejor las necesidades y oportunidades en cada lugar”, dice Lavelle.
La fase final concluye el proceso de reimaginación pastoral con una celebración diocesana en Pentecostés de 2024, cuyos detalles aún se están trabajando, dijo Lavelle.

Diocesan elementary schools move to MAIS

By Joanna King and Staff Reports

JACKSON – The seven remaining Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Jackson have collectively decided to join diocesan Catholic high schools in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS). This summer, St. Anthony, Madison; St. Elizabeth, Clarksdale; St. Patrick, Meridian; St. Richard, Jackson; Sr. Thea Bowman, Jackson; Sacred Heart, Southaven; and Holy Family, Holly Springs became the newest members of MAIS.

“We are very excited about this move as it broadens our opportunities for student activities and educator professional development and widens the professional network among our nonpublic and independent school counterparts,” said Karla Luke, executive director of Catholic education for the diocese.

With this decision, all diocesan schools and early learning centers in the Diocese of Jackson will remain internationally accredited by Cognia, Inc. Additionally, the Office of Education will withdraw membership from state accreditation obtained through the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE).

“We are proud of our Cognia accreditation as it is based on a strict set of school improvement principles and is aligned with the National Catholic Education Association’s adopted National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (NSBECS),” said Luke.

PEARL – Newly hired diocesan coordinator of curriculum, professional development and standards review, Virginia Hollingsworth evaluates Terra Nova testing data with Caitlin Walker, an educator at St. Elizabeth Clarksdale and Anne Cowger, principal of St. Anthony Madison, at a principal and educator’s meeting on Thursday, July 13 at St. Jude parish. (Photo by Rachel Patterson)

The state accreditation obtained through MDE is a regional performance-based accreditation centered on adherence to and compliance with a set of requirements established by the Mississippi State Board of Education. Cognia, through its partnership with MAIS, operates on the principle of continuous school improvement. This difference allows school administrators and their organizational leadership to render important education-related decisions based on the needs of their community. The NSBECS standards, incorporated in the Cognia accreditation process, advocate that a concentrated focus on continuous improvement will increase a school’s effectiveness and viability.

This recent decision results from months of research, consultation with Bishop Joseph Kopacz, pastors, advisory council members, teachers and administrators. “The decision is borne out of a desire to exercise more flexibility in intentionally aligning our Catholic identity and mission with instructional and managerial practices that set our schools apart,” said Luke.

The move to MAIS will increase offerings in professional development for teachers, educational leadership training for administrators, academic competitions for elementary students, and exciting extracurricular activities for both athletic and non-athletic students. Students can participate in activities like art, chess, creative writing, choir, quiz bowl, spelling bees, drone competitions, robotics and eighteen competitive sports programs offered through MAIS.

“I am very excited about the level of support our staff will receive in professional development and the increased opportunities for our students throughout the year. Activities like the Reading Fair and Science Olympiad will allow our students to participate in academic competitions with their peers. MAIS works with its member schools to create educational communities that share ideals, values and priorities with children, teachers, and families,” said Sarah Cauthen, principal of St. Elizabeth School in Clarksdale.

School administrators have attended several district meetings and have been warmly welcomed by the members of MAIS.

“We are excited to welcome the Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Jackson as part of this great organization. We look forward to the collaboration with Catholic school leaders and current members of MAIS as we share resources and ideas to build a stronger Mississippi through education,” said executive director, Dr. Shane Blanton at a diocesan principal’s meeting last week.

Chris Payne, principal of Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School, says, he’s excited about joining MAIS because of its dedication to supporting their schools.

“You feel a presence of community and fellowship which has made this transition worthwhile. The teacher and administrative development available to us as members is not only beneficial but cost effective. I’m excited for the collaboration of ideas and resources that we will take full advantage of,” said Payne.

This move is among the many exciting plans diocesan office, administrators, and advisory councils have developed for the 2023-2024 school year. “We look forward to continuing our high expectations for our students in spiritual and intellectual formation through their education in Catholic Schools,” said Luke.

“Please keep our school communities in your prayers for a successful transition and a happy and productive school year.”

Sacred calling answered, Beggerly ordained as new priest for diocese

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Homegrown seminarian, Carlisle Beggerly was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Jackson on May 27 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, where family, friends, priests, deacons, fellow seminarian and supporters from around the diocese were present for the joyous occasion.

Growing up in Florence, Beggerly had a profound spiritual awakening during his college years. Influenced by St. Augustine’s Confessions, Beggerly embarked on a quest to find the church to which Augustine belonged, ultimately leading him to the Catholic faith. Under the guidance of Father Bill Voller in Hattiesburg, Beggerly received instruction and embraced Catholicism, sensing a calling to the priesthood from the very beginning of his conversion.

After spending time with a religious order, Beggerly realized it was not the perfect fit and decided to pursue a different path. Even upon completing law school at Mississippi College, the call to priestly life continued to resonate within his heart.

After moving to West Point and joining Immaculate Conception parish, Beggerly made the decision to enter seminary for the Diocese of Jackson, drawn by a deep desire to minister to the people who influenced and shaped his life.

After the Liturgy of the Word during the Mass of ordination for Beggerly, Bishop Joseph Kopacz called upon his worthiness and testimony was given by Father Nick Adam, director of vocations for the diocese.
“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose this man, our brother, for the order of the priesthood,” said Bishop Kopacz to applause from those gathered for the occasion.

During the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Kopacz anointed Beggerly’s palms with holy chrism. Afterward, his hands were wrapped in a binding cloth. At his first Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of Immaculate Conception West Point, Beggerly explained a tradition that sometimes accompanies the ritual.

“The cloth symbolically represents the ropes that were tied around our Lord,” explained Beggerly. “And it also serves a practical reason in that it cleans the oils off your hands,” he said to laughs from the pews.
Beggerly went on to explain a custom that some priests continue today, in presenting their mothers with the cloth.

“It is custom to give this piece of cloth or maniturgium to the mother of a priest as a gift, so that she is buried with it and presents it to our Lord and says, ‘I have given You my son as a priest,’” Father Beggerly told those gathered at his home parish.

Welcoming his mother forward to receive the gift, those gathered smiled and applauded the special tradition they witnessed.

As a self-described “son of Mississippi,” Father Beggerly looks forward to ministering to the people who have helped form him through the years. His first assignment will be with the Catholic community in Meridian at St. Patrick and St. Joseph beginning July 1.


(Photos by Michael Barrett and Joanna Puddister King)

First Mass

(Photos Joanna Puddister King)

Seminarian takes next step towards priesthood,Stovall ordained to transitional diaconate

By Joanna Puddister King and Tereza Ma
JACKSON – In a momentous ceremony held at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on May 20, Tristan Stovall was ordained to the transitional diaconate for the Diocese of Jackson, marking a significant milestone in his journey towards the priesthood. Surrounded by family, friends and members of the diocese, the ordination of Stovall was a joyous occasion filled with faith, hope and celebration of vocations.

Deacon Stovall’s path to the diaconate began in the red clay hills of Neshoba County, where he first encountered Catholicism, being fascinated with the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II as a young boy. At the age of 15, his interest and thirst for knowledge of the Catholic faith grew when he attended Mass for the very first time at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. After that experience the young Baptist knew then that he “had to become Catholic.” This journey ultimately led him to convert to Catholicism in 2014, where he was received into full communion with the church.

Throughout his faith journey, Stovall’s desire to dedicate his life entirely to God grew stronger, and the example of the saints, particularly St. Catherine of Siena, played a significant role in his discernment. Drawn to the care of souls, he felt a calling to the diocesan priesthood, which he believed was his specific ministry within the church.

The ordination ceremony itself, was presided over by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who bestowed the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Stovall. As the faithful witnessed the laying on of hands and the prayers of consecration, the solemnity of the moment resonated with all present, feeling the commitment that Stovall felt within his heart.

The next day, Deacon Stovall was able to take part in his first Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Cross Philadelphia with Father Augustine Palimattam Poulose on the Feast of the Ascension, filled with family, friends and parishioners.

“It was a beautiful experience preparing for ordination after seven years of seminary and then preparing for [my] first preaching on Ascension,” said Deacon Stovall. “It’s like a culmination of so many years of preparation.”

With his ordination to the transitional diaconate, Deacon Stovall now stands on the threshold of priesthood, embracing his role as a servant-leader within the church. As a deacon, Stovall will be an ordinary minister of Baptism, and will be able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach, as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.

Of those responsibilities, preaching is the thing that Deacon Stovall says he is most looking forward to this coming year. “The ministry of the Word is [one of] the primary things I’m going to focus on … and also the ministry of charity … becoming more attuned to people’s needs in the parish and talking with them and spending time with them.”

Currently, Deacon Stovall is in Cuernavaca, Mexico – outside of Mexico City – with Father Nick Adam and several other seminarians, taking part in a language immersion program to better serve the Hispanic community in the diocese. After returning from the program, Deacon Stovall is assigned to the Basilica of St. Mary in Natchez with Father Aaron Williams this fall before returning to seminary, and ultimately continuing his journey to the priesthood.


First Mass

Diocese announces “Pastoral Reimagining” process

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson has a new initiative that will focus on renewing and reimagining parishes across the diocese. The one-year “Pastoral Reimagining” process, that will begin on Pentecost Sunday, will focus on parishes and missions across the diocese taking a more direct and intentional look at the reality of their communities in the spirit of the Synod of Synodality in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“We are allowing the Holy Spirit to bless and guide us in our willingness to cooperate with God’s grace in a spirit of renewal,” writes Bishop Joseph Kopacz in his column for Mississippi Catholic on the reimagining process.

The theme from the process is from Ephesians, “There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism and one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6)

Thinking about the Synod process undertaken in the diocese and throughout the world, Bishop Kopacz noted that the church is at a crossroads locally and globally. With that, an extensive demographic review of the diocese will be a part of the “Pastoral Reimagining” process.

“Without a doubt [it] will enrich the local conversations,” said Bishop Kopacz.

There will be four stages of the pastoral reimagining process over the course of the year, running from Pentecost this year to Pentecost 2024.

The first stage will run from Pentecost through August 2023, with each pastor or LEM establishing a pastoral reimagining committee and having the committee view four ecclesiology video sessions and answer a series of questions designed to guide conversation on who we are as a church, says Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the diocese and member of the core team who will be working on the pastoral reimagining process.

The four video sessions, led by Bishop Kopacz will focus on the four marks of the church: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic; and will be available for anyone to view on the diocese website after Pentecost.
Stage two, will include each parish undertaking a parish assessment that includes the current situation at the local parish, the growing edges, the areas that are diminishing, the opportunities for collaboration with other parishes in the area, and other local realities.

With this stage, demographic information will be prepared for each parish, including sacramental data, local economic data and more, says Lavelle.

The third stage will focus on each deanery working though challenges and reviewing the growing edges and diminishing areas of ministry within the deanery.

“The goal is to gain a realistic perspective of the health and well-being of the deanery within the setting of the individual parishes,” Lavelle says.

The final two stages will include a period of discernment on reports from the six deaneries in the diocese and a pastoral letter from Bishop Kopacz, concluding with a diocesan celebration at Pentecost 2024.

“Calling upon the Holy Spirit, we pray that each parish will be encouraged, as well as challenged to be whom God calls us to be,” says Bishop Kopacz.

Holy Child Jesus parish celebrates Sister Thea Bowman

By Joanna Puddister King
CANTON – Faithful from around the diocese gathered to celebrate Sister Thea Bowman at her home parish of Holy Child Jesus in Canton on Sunday, March 26. Sister Thea died on March 30, 1990 in her family home in Canton from breast cancer. Parishes throughout the country celebrated Sister Thea leading up to the 33rd anniversary of her death.

“We made sure to perform some of Sister Thea’s favorites,” said Myrtle Otto of the musical selections for the event.

Myrtle Otto performs “Oh, It’s Jesus” at the Sister Thea Bowman celebration at Holy Child Jesus on Sunday, March 26. (Photos by Joanna King)

Otto, a student of Sister Thea’s who performed on the Holy Child Singers album “The Voice of Negro America” in 1967, said that some of the songs included in the celebration were “It’s Me, It’s Me, O Lord” and “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.” Otto was featured during the celebration singing “Oh, it is Jesus,” backed up by the combined choirs of Holy Child Jesus and Sacred Heart Camden.

During Mass, Bishop Kopacz often closed his eyes to fully experience the unity of the body of Christ through song. “It was obvious that even without the music, the choir was singing fully and unsparingly, in perfect harmony. The music gave the celebration even more life,” said Bishop Kopacz, referencing the piano player being tied up at another celebration early in the Mass.

Instead of wearing his traditional vestments, Bishop Kopacz opted for a piece of history in the diocesan archives to honor Sister Thea – a vestment from Mound Bayou, one of the first African-American incorporated towns in the United States.

A lifelong friend of Sister Thea, Mamie Chinn present for the event summed up the day perfectly.
“It’s always a good day to celebrate Thea.”