Youth news

CORINTH – On July 19 and 20 St. James Parish children and teachers hopped on the Jesus train. Children (not in order pictured) – Aaron, Yuri, Briana, Emmanuel, Kimberly, Karely, Yoselin, Dilan, Cristian, Marlene, Carlos, Maylin, Mia, Evolet, Kelly, Maiying, Ashley, Jeshua and Ailyn. Teachers (not in order pictured) – Tania, Maria, Edith, Roberto, and Luisa. (Photo by Luis Rosales)

MERIDIAN – Recently the Catholic Youth of Meridian participated in Love out Loud, a week long mission event where local churches come together to serve the people of Meridian. Youth and adults volunteered their time in various ways, such as completing random acts of kindness, visiting nursing homes, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Care Lodge, Hope Village and various schools. Catholic student representatives included Jekalah Keyes, J’Nae Keyes, Carter Eakes, Edwar Hernandez, Macarena Frias, Elena Stroot, Aaliyahmarie Nance, Zemaree Hampton, Wes Pritchard, Zane Pritchard, Reed Gorgas, Ryann Gorgas, Star Cayer, Alana Frias, Miller Hodge, Tom Tom Nguyen, Cassandra Klutz, Hannah Kidd and Sha Hare.Adults who helped included Marvin Nance, Edna Blanks, Ginny Parsons, Liz Bartlett, Janet Reece and Catrina Kidd.
The highlight of the service week was on Wednesday, July 17 when 15 youth and four adults worked at St. Patrick School painting in the main hallway, the cafeteria and in the Pre-K4 classroom.
All together more than 25 churches and over 600 volunteers brought the love of Jesus around the community of Meridian.

CORINTH – St. James Parish, July 19-20. Teachers and kids playing on church grounds during the “Summer School Vacation with Jesus” program. (Photos by Luis Rosales)

CORINTH – St. James Parish, Aug. 4, children getting ready for a back to school blessing from Father Mario Solórzano. (Photo by Luis Rosales)
Pope Francis arrives for an audience with thousands of Scouts in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 3, 2019. Young men and women from 16 to 21 years of age who belong to the International Union of Guides and Scouts in Europe attended the event with the pontiff. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

What to do in face of reckless hate

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Catholic world view of faith and morals, of anthropology and human nature, without wavering, has taught that original sin has pierced the heart, mind and will of men and women. Combined with sin and temptation lurking at the door, our good intentions and behavior are often overwhelmed and swept along currents of madness and ruin. To better understand the forces that work against us from within and without, the Church has reflected upon and brought to the light the seven deadly sins. They are like the furies from hell who arise from our corrupted human nature to reveal the potential depth of our depravity. Pause and close your eyes at this point and see how many of them you can recall before continuing. Anger, avarice or greed, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth and envy. To one degree or another they afflict us all, and unbridled, one or any combination of them can ensnare us in the swamp of violence and destruction, even to the point of unleashing the power of the enemy, the evil one.
On Sunday morning, August 4 the following memorandum came via email blast from the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in response to the massacre in El Paso, Texas the day before.
“This Saturday, less than one week after the horrific instances of gun violence in California, yet another terrible, senseless and inhumane shooting took place, this time at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. Something remains fundamentally evil in our society when locations where people congregate to engage in the everyday activities of life can, without warning, become scenes of violence and contempt for human life. The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country.
Things must change.
Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities. As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts.”
The Bishops’ Conference obviously had prepared this heartfelt response the night before to be released at the beginning of the Lord’s Day. As most people were preparing for bed or already sound asleep late Saturday evening, the bullets flew again in downtown Dayton, Ohio and in the time it takes to prepare a cup of coffee the body count of the dead and wounded mounted. Phew! Now it is true that each year far more lives are lost on our nation’s road ways, or through the destructive power of opioids and far more through the destruction of life in the womb than by gun violence, but I believe it is true to say that most of these actions are not the end result of unbridled anger or rage. More often, it’s force or fear, carelessness or addiction, arrogance or selfishness, albeit in the end lives are lost and it is tragic. The litany of the destruction of life is endless and no one escapes the shroud of its darkness. But what do we do as a society in the face of reckless hate? It is true that mental illness correlates significantly with gun violence, but when does destructive rage hit critical mass and pass over into the realm of evil? In either case, as the poet, John Dunne, astutely penned, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee,” because who among us has not gathered with others in churches or in schools, at festivals or in shopping malls or at Saturday evening restaurants or night clubs or simply strolling while window shopping or people watching in the cooler evening breeze? As we consider the current state of affairs, let us not forget the victims, their families and friends, and the first responders who are amazing in their commitment to the common good. Do I believe that there are far more people in our nation, even today, who are inherently good and upstanding citizens and neighbors because of their faith in the God of love, or by God’s grace, whether or not they are aware, of God’s divine action? I do; but are we seeing an erosion of the solid mass of people a nation needs to prosper, one family and one community at a time? I hope that this is not the reality.
As a balance to where this column began, our Catholic faith and tradition also inspire us to know that we are God’s children now because we have faith in God’s beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit works overtime to guide our thoughts, words and actions. Thanks be to God who has given us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are indeed saved. In Baptism we have died with him and in our rising to new life we can crucify the passions that can easily derail our good intentions, hopes and dreams. At times, it is spiritual warfare but let us not grow faint in fighting the good fight of faith and running the race in our daily lives. We don’t have easy answers to the complex problems and challenges of our time, but we can choose to be intentional disciples of the Lord in countless ways each day and that makes all the difference.
I return to the simple, yet profound wisdom of Saint Mother Teresa in her beloved poem, Do It Anyway. “What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.” How and why could she insist on this amid intractable poverty and misery on the streets of Calcutta? She concludes her poem with eternal wisdom: “in the final analysis, it is between you and God.” Go and do the same. (Luke 10:37)

Qué hacer frente al odio imprudente

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
La visión católica mundial de la fe, la moral, la antropología y la naturaleza humana ha enseñado, sin vacilar, que el pecado original ha traspasado el corazón, la mente y la voluntad de hombres y mujeres. Combinados, el pecado y la tentación acechan a la puerta; a menudo, nuestro comportamiento y buenas intenciones se ven agobiados y arrastrados por las corrientes de locura y ruina.
Para mejor entender las fuerzas que trabajan contra nosotros, desde dentro y desde afuera, la Iglesia ha reflexionado y sacado a la luz los siete pecados capitales, los cuales son como furias del infierno que surgen de nuestra corrupta naturaleza humana para revelar la profundidad potencial de nuestra depravación.
Haga una pausa y cierre los ojos en este punto y vea cuántos pecados puede recordar antes de continuar. Ira, avaricia, lujuria, orgullo, glotonería, pereza y envidia. En un grado u otro estos nos afligen a todos, y desenfrenados, uno o cualquier combinación de ellos puede atraparnos en el pantano de la violencia y la destrucción, llegando al punto de desatar el poder del enemigo, el maligno.
El domingo 4 de agosto, por la mañana, llegó por correo electrónico el siguiente memorando, enviado por el cardenal Daniel DiNardo de Galveston-Houston, presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos y el obispo Frank Dewane de Venice, Florida, presidente del subcomité de Justicia Doméstica y Desarrollo Humano, en respuesta a la masacre del día anterior en El Paso, Texas.
“Este sábado, menos de una semana después del horrible caso de violencia armada en California, se produjo otro tiroteo terrible, sin sentido e inhumano, esta vez en un centro comercial del El Paso, Texas. Algo continúa siendo fundamentalmente malvado en nuestra sociedad cuando los lugares donde las personas se congregan, para participar en las actividades cotidianas de la vida, pueden convertirse sin previo aviso en escenas de violencia y desprecio por la vida humana. La plaga, en la que se ha convertido la violencia armada, continúa sin control y se extiende por todo nuestro país.
Las cosas deben cambiar.
Una vez más, pedimos una legislación efectiva que trate el porqué continúan teniendo lugar en nuestras comunidades estos sucesos repetidos e inimaginables de violencia armada y asesina. Como personas de fe, seguimos orando por todas las víctimas y por la sanación en todas las comunidades afectadas. Pero también se necesita acción para terminar con estos actos detestables.”
La Conferencia Episcopal obviamente había preparado esta sincera respuesta la noche anterior para ser publicada al comienzo del Día del Señor.
Mientras la mayoría de las personas se preparaban para ir a la cama o ya dormían a altas horas de la noche del sábado, las balas volvieron; esta vez, en el centro de Dayton, Ohio, y en el tiempo que lleva preparar una taza de café, el recuento de muertos y heridos aumentó. ¡Uf! Si bien es cierto que cada año se pierden muchas más vidas en los caminos de nuestra nación, o por el poder destructivo de los opioides y mucho más por la destrucción de la vida en el útero que por la violencia armada, creo que es cierto decir que la mayoría de estas acciones no son el resultado final de una ira o furia desenfrenada.
Más a menudo, es fuerza o miedo, descuido o adicción, arrogancia o egoísmo, por los que, al final, se pierden vidas y esto es trágico.
La letanía de la destrucción de la vida es interminable y nadie escapa del sudario de su oscuridad. Pero ¿qué hacemos como sociedad frente al odio imprudente? Es cierto que la enfermedad mental es correlativa significativamente con la violencia armada, pero ¿cuándo la ira destructiva llega a la masa crítica y pasa al reino del mal?; En cualquier caso, y como escribió con astucia el poeta John Dunne, “nunca envíe a saber por quién doblan las campanas; doblan por ti,” porque ¿quién de nosotros no se ha reunido con otros en las iglesias o en las escuelas, en festivales o en centros comerciales o en restaurantes o clubes nocturnos los sábados por la noche o simplemente paseando mientras miras las vidrieras o junto a la gente que disfruta la brisa fresca de la noche? Al considerar el estado actual de las cosas, no olvidemos a las víctimas, sus familiares y amigos, y a los primeros en responder, quienes son asombrosos por su compromiso con el bien común.
¿Si creo que hay muchas más personas en nuestra nación, incluso hoy, que son ciudadanos y vecinos inherentemente buenos y justos debido a su fe en el Dios del amor, o por la gracia de Dios ya sean estos conscientes o no de lo divino de la acción de Dios? ¡Claro que creo!; pero ¿estamos viendo una erosión de la masa sólida de personas que una nación, familia y comunidad necesitan para prosperar? Espero que esta no sea la realidad.
Como un balance de donde comenzó esta columna, nuestra fe y tradición católicas también nos inspiran a saber que somos hijos de Dios porque tenemos fe en el Hijo amado de Dios, nuestro Señor Jesucristo, y el Espíritu Santo que trabaja horas extras para guiar nuestros pensamientos, palabras y acciones.
Gracias a Dios que nos ha dado la victoria en nuestro Señor Jesucristo. De hecho, estamos salvados. En el bautismo hemos muerto con él y en nuestro ascenso a una nueva vida podemos crucificar las pasiones que fácilmente pueden descarrilar nuestras buenas intenciones, esperanzas y sueños.
A veces, es una guerra espiritual, pero no desmayemos ni en la lucha de la buena fe ni en la carrera diaria de nuestras vidas. No tenemos respuestas fáciles a los complejos problemas y desafíos de nuestro tiempo, pero podemos elegir ser discípulos intencionales del Señor de innumerables maneras cada día y eso hace toda la diferencia.
Regreso a la simple pero profunda sabiduría de Santa Madre Teresa en su querido poema, De Todos Modos, “Lo que has tardado años en construir puede ser destruido en una noche, construye de todos modos,” ¿Cómo y por qué podría ella insistir en esto en medio de la pobreza y la miseria intratables en las calles de Calcuta? Ella concluye su poema con sabiduría eterna, “…porque al final, te darás cuenta que el asunto es solo entre tú y Dios.” Pues ve y haz tú lo mismo. (Lucas 10:37)

“Let my prayer arise like incense”

IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH

Father Aaron Williams

By Father Aaron Williams
Since being ordained last year, one thing I have noticed is the consistent negative reaction people will give to the use of incense at Mass. I think it is safe to say most people have no opinion, but those that do make sure you know it! This past month I have been living north of Chicago at the Liturgical Institute in order to spend time totally devoted to research and writing my master’s thesis. During this time away from the parish, I decided on Sundays to go and concelebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at a local Byzantine Catholic Church.
Most people in Mississippi have never experienced a non-Roman Catholic liturgical rite, but one feature of the Eastern rites is their consistent use of incense. It is used in every liturgy — and in large amounts. I’d leave the church every Sunday and my vestments would smell of incense well into the rest of the week.
Incense has been part of the worship of God from the earliest time there was a prescribed and formal way to worship God. In the book of Exodus, God not only commands Moses to use incense in worship, but He even goes on at length as how this incense is to be made (Exodus 30:34-38). Incense is one of the only elements from Old Testament worship which remained entirely unchanged in Catholic worship all through the centuries. It is spoken of in the psalms, “Let my prayer arise like incense, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2).
Traditionally, incense has been understood in two ways. Firstly, it is a literal sacrifice. Incense is precious and usually a bit expensive. And, once you burn it the incense is gone. We totally give it over to God as a complete offering to Him. It may seem small, but we can think about all the small things we do for loved ones that may to others seem useless: buying fresh flowers or sending greeting cards. We do this in the liturgy through incense, real wax candles and freshly cut flowers. These are small offerings of our heart.
But, incense is also such an effective sign. It fills the space — evoking the image of the dark cloud which filled the Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem at its dedication. “When the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11). And, as mentioned in the psalm above, it gives a visualization to us of our prayers rising up to heaven — which is moving to consider especially in high points like the Offertory of the Mass when we should already be pouring forth all the prayers we want to bring to the Mass or at the commendation of a funeral Mass when the community pours out prayers for the deceased.
Incense is always part of the solemn liturgy. Before the reform of the liturgy in 1969 it was required in all high Masses — which was any Mass in which texts of the Mass were sung. The rubrics of the current Missal are very clear that incense is still a part of the solemn liturgy, though it expounds upon that by saying that it can be used gradually and need not be used in a sort of all-or-nothing manner from Mass to Mass. So, how should it be used today?
For most parishes in our area, incense comes out one day a year: Easter and only at the Easter vigil. Some parishes might use it for the really big feast days. But, thinking about all that incense means and how many centuries it has been used in the worship of God, surely we can find a way to use it on more than one occasion a year?
In other places, including many of the parishes I visited in New Orleans while in seminary, incense is used at one Mass every Sunday—the main Mass with the choir. I find this a good practice since, on one hand it ensures that this sacred sign is richly used in a parish, while also giving people an idea of what to expect from week to week.
You start to get used to the idea of the 10:30 a.m. Mass, for example, being the Mass with all the singing and incense. For the people that doesn’t work for, they always know the other Masses are ‘safe’.
One great benefit to regularly using incense is the interest this attracts among the altar servers. A lot of parishes find it difficult to get a large number of regular altar servers. I am of the mind that one reason this is an issue is because we don’t give servers much to do over than carrying things around. We all know kids—especially young boys—love the opportunity for a fire. Training kids how to use and prepare the incense (and maybe how to use a fire extinguisher as well) gives them a sense of responsibility and importance, while also adding a beautiful element from our Catholic tradition to your parish’s worship.

(Father Aaron Williams is the parochial vicar at Greenville St. Joseph Parish and serves as the liaison to seminarians for the Office of Vocations.)

Challenging change

Kneading faith
By Fran Lavelle
I have never been drawn into a papal document to the degree Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people, Christus Vivit, has captured my attention and my heart. As we prepare to return to our classrooms, religious education programs, RCIA meetings, adult faith formation opportunities, campus ministries and youth programs it is important that we ask some serious questions about how we are being challenged in our call. The Church does not do succession planning very well and, therefore, we have folks putting time in in ministry roles well beyond their vigor. Before you accuse me of being indifferent and an ageist, hear me out.
I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she remarked that we can serve many, many years in ministry or we can serve one year in ministry several times over. Ministry is organic and as we grow and change so too our ministry must be able to grow and change. Bishop Kopacz often reminds us that we never step into the same river twice. We can step in at the exact same spot, but the water is always new, the sediment and rocks have shifted, even the temperature of the water is different. I like that image, especially for formational ministry. The room may be the same as last year, the textbook, schedule and lesson plans too, but you are different, your students are different.
When we become complacent, we tend to pull the template out from “last year” and proceed like nothing has changed. When we allow this to happen, our eyes are closed to the present reality. Our ears cannot hear the voices of those we are called to serve. We lose our mojo. Because really, deep down inside, we all know that we never step into the same river twice. A glance back, especially for those of us who have been at it for a while, can reveal how very much things have changed. I’m not suggesting that Church elders give up their call to ministry; rather, we need to check to see if our energy, passion and openness to change is still there in our current role. Pope Francis would argue that young people need mentors of all ages who are capable of accompaniment, intentional listening and are relational. If that time has passed for us, there are still many ways we can serve in ministry. It is about our time aligning with God’s time.When we are open to knowing when that dynamic of time is off kilter doors will open to new opportunities.
In paragraph 191 of Christus Vivit, Pope Francis states, “The world has never benefitted, nor will it ever benefit, from a rupture between generations. That is the siren song of a future without roots and origins. It is the lie that would have you believe that only what is new is good and beautiful. When intergenerational relationships exist, a collective memory is present in communities, as each generation takes up the teachings of its predecessors and in turn bequeaths a legacy to its successors. In this way, they provide frames of reference for firmly establishing a new society. As the old saying goes: ‘If the young had knowledge and the old strength, there would be nothing they could not accomplish.’”
We need the wisdom of our elders as much as we need energy of young people. We need to be able to hear new ideas as much as we need the solid foundation of the kerygma.
A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 20 year anniversary with the Diocese of Jackson. It gave me the opportunity to look back as I look forward to year twenty-one. Twenty years of ministry. No two years have been the same. No two days have been alike. I recognize that even in walking with the same student for four or five years, each year was different. Hopefully, we both grew in wisdom, understanding and love. It’s been five years since I left campus ministry to take on my current role in formational ministries for the diocese. I had to let go of one thing I knew I loved to be able to embrace something new. Following God’s call to ministry for the diocese has had many challenges; but it is also filled with much joy. The day will come that I need to turn this ministry over to someone else. We talk about intentional disciples. What we need to talk about is authentic disciples who exercise intentional ministry. This includes succession planning. The torch gets passed. Someone else picks up where we left off. Another generation of leadership takes the helm. All of it done intentionally.
As we begin another academic year, I pray for great success in your ministry. Please know I am an email or phone call away if you ever need anything.

(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

What does it mean “to be born again”?

IN EXILE

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
What does it mean to “be born again, to “be born from above?” If you’re an Evangelical or Baptist, you’ve probably already answered that for yourself. However, if you’re a Roman Catholic or a mainline Protestant then the phrase probably isn’t a normal part of your spiritual vocabulary and, indeed, might connote for you a biblical fundamentalism which confuses you.
What does it mean to “be born again?” The expression appears in John’s Gospel in a conversation Jesus has with a man named, Nicodemus. Jesus tells him that he “must be born again from above.” Nicodemus takes this literally and protests that it’s impossible for a grown man to re-enter his mother’s womb to be born a second time. So, Jesus recasts the phrase metaphorically, telling Nicodemus that one’s second birth, unlike the first, is not from the flesh, but “from water and the Spirit.” Well … that doesn’t clarify things much for Nicodemus, or for us. What does it mean to be born again from above?
Perhaps there are as many answers to that as there are people in the world. Spiritual birth, unlike physical birth, doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. I have Evangelical friends who share that for them this refers to a particularly powerful affective moment within their lives when, like Mary Magdala in the Garden with Jesus on Easter Sunday, they had a deep personal encounter with Jesus that indelibly affirmed his intimate love for them. In that moment, in their words, “they met Jesus Christ” and “were born again,” even though from their very childhood they had always known about Jesus Christ and been Christians.
Most Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants do not identify “knowing Jesus Christ” with one such personal affective experience. But then they’re left wondering what Jesus meant exactly when he challenges us “to be born again, from above.”
A priest that I know shares this story regarding his understanding of this. His mother, widowed sometime before his ordination, lived in the same parish where he had been assigned to minister. It was a mixed blessing, nice to see her every day in church but she, widowed and alone, began to lean pretty heavily upon him in terms of wanting his time and he, the dutiful son, now had to spend all his free time with his mother, taking her out for meals, taking her for drives and being her one vital contact with the world outside the narrow confines of the seniors’ home within which she lived. During their time together she reminisced a lot and not infrequently complained about being alone and lonely. But one day, on a drive with her, after a period of silence, she said something that surprised him and caught his deeper attention: “I’ve given up on fear!” she said. “I’m no longer afraid of anything. I’ve spent my whole life living in fear. But now, I’ve given up on it because I’ve nothing to lose! I’ve already lost everything, my husband, my youthful body, my health, my place in the world and much of my pride and dignity. Now I’m free! I’m no longer afraid!”
Her son, who had only been half-listening to her for a long time, now began to listen. He began to spend longer hours with her, recognizing that she had something important to teach him. After a couple of more years, she died. But, by then, she had been able to impart to her son some things that helped him understand his life more deeply. “My mother gave me birth twice; once from below, and once from above,” he says. He now understands something that Nicodemus couldn’t quite grasp.
We all, no doubt, have our own stories.
And what do the biblical scholars teach about this? The Synoptic Gospels, scholars say, tell us that we can only enter the kingdom of God if we become like little children, meaning that we must, in our very way of living, acknowledge our dependence upon God and others. We are not self-sufficient and that means truly recognizing and living out our human dependence upon the gratuitous providence of God. To do that, is to be born from above.
John’s Gospel adds something to this. Raymond E. Brown, commenting on John’s Gospel, puts it this way: To be born again from above means we must, at some point in our lives, come to understand that our life comes from beyond this world, from a place and source beyond out mother’s womb and that deeper life and deeper meaning lie there. And so, we must have two births, one that gives us biological life (births us into this world) and another that gives us eschatological life (births us into the world of faith, soul, love and spirit). And sometimes, as was the case with my friend, it can be your own birthmother who does the major midwifing in that second birth.
Nicodemus couldn’t quite get past his instinctual empiricism. In the end, he didn’t get it. Do we?

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Pope Francis joins prayers for victims of bloody weekend in U.S.

By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the United States left at least 29 dead and dozens injured in Texas and Ohio Aug. 3 and 4.
After the prayer called the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on Aug. 4, the pope said he wanted to convey his spiritual closeness to the victims, the wounded and the families affected by the attacks. He also included those who died a weekend earlier during a shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California.
“I am spiritually close to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” he said.
He joined bishops in Texas as well as national Catholic organizations and leaders reacting to a bloody first weekend of August, which produced the eighth deadliest gun violence attack in the country after a gunman opened fire in the morning of Aug. 3 at a mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 and injuring more than a dozen people.

Shoppers exit with their hands up after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3, 2019. In Aug 3 tweets, the Catholic dioceses of El Paso, Texas and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico asked for prayers for everyone involved at this difficult time. (CNS photo/Jorge Salgado, Reuters)

Less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, authorities in Dayton, Ohio, reported at least nine dead and more than a dozen injured after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at or near a bar in the early hours of Aug. 4. The suspected gunman was fatally wounded and police later identified him as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio.
On Aug. 4, after the second shooting become public, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee offered prayers, condolences and urged action.
“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth. We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings. We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the statement continued.
In the shooting in El Paso, police arrested 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, of Allen, Texas. Several news organizations said local and federal authorities are investigating whether the shooting was a possible hate crime since the suspected gunman may be linked to a manifesto that speaks of the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
On its website, the Diocese of El Paso announced Aug. 4 that Masses would take place as scheduled on Sunday but canceled “out of an abundance of caution” a festival-like celebration called a “kermess,” which is popular among Catholic Latino populations, that was scheduled to take place at Our Lady of the Light Church.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas posted a prayer on their website called “Let the shooting end.” They called on lawmakers to enact guns laws “to protect all in our society.”
Immediately after the news of the El Paso shooting, they tweeted: “Our hearts break for the families of those killed and wounded in today’s mass shooting in El Paso. A school, a movie theater, a church, a shopping mall: All places where we should feel safe, all places that have experienced senseless tragedy because of guns.”
Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in their Aug. 4 statement that the bishops’ conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence and called upon the president and congress to set aside political interests “and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

Carthage parish celebrates special grandparents

By Berta Mexidor
CARTHAGE – The feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim, grandparents of Jesus, takes on a different grandeur in Carthage, where Catholics there lovingly refer to their patroness, St. Anne, as abuela or grandmother, looking up to her as their own grandma.
The Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim is officially July 26 on the Church calendar, but many parishes select a day close to the actual feast day to bring families together in celebration. St. Anne Parish began their weekend celebration July 28 with a bilingual Mass and procession to honor the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Anne Church was beautifully decorated with dozens of roses and the parish’s Sacred Heart of Jesus group under the direction of Marco Antonio Vázquez provided the music and the songs adding to the joyful celebration.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz was main celebrant for the Mass. Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity Father Odel Medina, St. Anne pastor, was on hand and concelebrated the Mass.
Filling the church were the diverse families of the parish many from the local African American, Hispanic and Vietnamese communities. Among the families were many grandmothers and grandfathers and their grandchildren.
In his homily, Bishop Kopacz continued to reflect on a solid theme: Grandparents and their important role as the backbone of family and the hope of the Church. He explained that many times it is the grandparents who witness faith and pass on religious traditions and good morals and values to their children and grandchildren.
Bishop Kopacz also talked about the vocation of parenting emphasizing the important job of parents and how they can play a significant role in the spiritual lives of their children today. He shared stories of his own role model parents and talked about his father’s great faith. He fondly recalled his father kneeling near the bed at night in prayer. His mother sat in an armchair in the living room praying the rosary.
“We learn to pray in the house. Children listen to elders and adults. (They) see them make the sign of the cross or pray the rosary,” he said. “I urge everyone to be like children in their relationship with the heavenly Father. Ask, strive and seek always for your relationship with God.”
Mass was a great parish celebration bringing members of the diverse parish family together to reflect on the grandest of all grandparents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, recognized as the patrons of grandparents.
Lynett, a young lady was the bilingual community leader and Sonia Cardona and Richard Polk Gospel assisted with the Mass by reading the Gospel and presenting the gifts. At the end of Mass, Emy Lee, Theresa Wen and Sam Lee of the Vietnamese community and active parishioners at both St. Anne and St. Michael in Forest, presented Bishop Kopacz with a small gift of appreciation, a nice ending to the celebration of praise and thanksgiving.

Journey of Hope for football star Rocky Bleier

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – From winning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, to playing football with the Pittsburg Steelers and winning four Super Bowl rings, Rocky Bleier is the true definition of success.
He played college football at the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 1968 with a degree in business management. While there he led the Fighting Irish to a National Championship in 1966 and served as team captain in 1967.
After college, Bleier experienced two drafts. The first was by the NFL to the Pittsburg Steelers. He saw little action in his first year but did not know a second draft awaited him in December of 1968 into the U.S. Army, as his rookie year ended.

At a time when President Nixon was coming into office, Bleier found himself serving on the battle fields of Vietnam. After his platoon was ambushed, he was seriously injured, losing part of his foot in a grenade blast and was told by doctors he would never play professional football again.
After such harrowing, heart-wrenching news, where did Bleier find the strength and courage to go on to win four Super Bowl rings?
Bleier will tell his story on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the Jackson Convention Complex for Catholic Charities Journey of Hope fundraiser luncheon at 12 p.m. A sponsorship meet and greet event will be held Monday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., where guest will have the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Bleier.
Julie O’Brien, development associate at Catholic Charities, feels that Bleier is the perfect fit for their Journey of Hope event. “[He] has a tremendous message of encouragement, hope and helping those who have been less fortunate in life. His support of veterans and their families coincides with our Supportive Services for Veteran families program and the other programs at Catholic Charities,” said O’Brien.
For over 50 years, Catholic Charities has strived to provide help and create hope for residents of the 65 counties of the Diocese of Jackson. With a breadth of services that include adoption, mental health counseling, refugee and immigrant services, domestic violence shelters and counseling, housing for low-income families and elderly, emergency assistance and veteran support, among many others, Catholic Charities is here to serve all of God’s children.
Being a veteran himself, Bleier appreciates how Catholic Charities works to provide housing stability among low-income veteran families and the outreach and case management services the organization provides to them.
“I have seen the difficulty that some of our veterans have in making the transition from military to civilian life. I believe that home ownership is one of the foundations for that transition and veterans are a proud group of people who at times find it difficult to ask for help,” says Bleier.
For the Journey of Hope event, Catholic Charities needs table leader volunteers. Information on the event and volunteering can be found at www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org or by contacting Julie O’Brien at 601-326-3758, email Julie.obrien@ccjackson.org.

School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province plan changes at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – The School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province (SSND) are involved in a multi-year Integrated Implementation Process to evaluate province needs to fulfill the SSND mission, including a process of identifying options for the ongoing residential and health care needs of sisters and possible divesture of large properties.
“Through a process of communal discernment, consultation and study, it has become clear that we are now called to move forward in a concrete way with the relocation of our sisters at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, Mississippi, who are in need of independent, skilled, assisted and memory care services,” said Sister Debra Sciano, provincial leader.

St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center in Chatawa, Mississippi. (Photo from diocese archives)

“To that end, we have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with St. Anthony’s Gardens in Covington, Louisiana, a senior living ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” said Sister Debra. “Moving sisters to St. Anthony’s Gardens will be a significant change, but it meets important criteria for us, including that it is a Catholic facility with a neighboring parish, Most Holy Trinity. We believe this option will be supportive of religious life and community. All of our sisters requiring assisted living and memory care will be in the same facility along with our sisters who are independent with services. The sisters requiring skilled care will move to the Trinity Trace Skilled Care, currently under construction next to St. Anthony’s Garden, when it is completed. Our sisters will be able to visit and be present with sisters in skilled care.” The first School Sisters of Notre Dame will move to St. Anthony’s Gardens in mid-August; it is projected sisters needing skilled care will move to Trinity Trace Skilled Care in February 2020.
The provincial council has also been in discussions about St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center. No final decisions have been made at this time. Finally, the Saint Mary of the Pines property, other than the cemetery, will be placed for sale.
“Mission is at the heart of all we are and do, and it is central to the Integrated Implementation Process.” said Sister Debra. “Change has always been embraced as a part of the SSND mission to meet the ever-changing needs of the times. Change is always constant, even when difficult. These changes will ensure continued good stewardship of resources so the SSND charism, mission and ministries are sustainable into the future.”