Mississippi Catholic will publish Sacrament pages in upcoming editions.
This means we need First Communion and Confirmation photos.
Due to COVID-19, we understand there may not be group shots,
so individual pictures are accepted.
email to:
Please include, full names, parish, date and name of sacrament celebration and name of photographer, if possible.

CLINTON – Holy Savior, First Communion, Wednesday, June 17. Front row, (l-r): Paige Galloway, Daniel Kieffer and Hunter Verret. Middle row, (l-r): Addie Threadgill and Piper Behan. Back row, (l-r): Nora Melancon, Father Thomas McGing and Dakota Bennett. (Photo by Charlie O’Clair)
MADISON – Chance Pittman celebrated his First Communion at St. Francis of Assisi on Saturday, July 25. (Photo by Steve Pittman)
NATCHEZ – (Above) St. Mary Basilica, Confirmation, Tuesday, July 14. Front row (l-r): Chase Kaiser, Ayden Rojo, Clayton Devening, Liam Blackburn, Mia Romero, Rose Schwager, Ryan Skates, Nathan Gaude and Lesley Martinez.
Back row (l-r): Parochial Vicar Father Mark Shoffner and Pastor Father Scott Thomas. (Photo courtesy of St. Mary Basilica)

Youth news

Youth work camp at Cathedral school

NATCHEZ – On Monday and Tuesday, July 20 and 21, a group of CYO members and adult sponsors worked to beautify the Cathedral School flower beds and playground sites for the approaching opening of school.
Thirty-five youth along with nine adults did a fantastic job sprucing up the property. The youth engaged in multiple jobs throughout the week.

NATCHEZ – Jag Gilfoil and Ryan Carney work on the rose bushes in front of Seton Hall at Cathedral school.
Meredith Lessley trims the bushes near the Cathedral school gym.
CYO students pull weeds on the Cathedral elementary school playground.(Photos by Carrie Golden Lambert)

VBS is a treasure in Madison

On July 13, the first day of home Vacation Bible School, Emerson and Harper Schuhmann dig in to their treasure chests of materials for the week. (Photo by Abbey Schuhmann)
Presleigh and Harlee Kate Nassar are showing their Welcome Holy Spirit door hangers and treasure chest snack crafts on the last day of VBS. (Photo courtesy Nassar family)

Office of Education moves forward with back-to-school plans

By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – In recent weeks, many public-school districts have released their plans for returning to school in August. Some districts have even made the difficult decision to delay the start of school or provide only distance learning for the beginning of the year. After careful thought and consultation with healthcare officials and school administrators, schools in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson plan to move forward with the option of an in-person return for families. In making this decision, the Office of Education evaluated the feasibility of social distancing and other mitigation strategies in our schools. They also worked closely with local administrators to assess the individual circumstances of each community.
In addition to thorough research and planning for returning to school, administrators are also working with families who are not yet ready to return in-person. The Office of Education has taken many of the lessons learned from the term of virtual learning in the spring and believe they have made significant improvements in what the schools can offer in a virtual environment. These measures include fully licensed Zoom accounts for all of our classroom teachers as well as multiple training opportunities for all teachers on the Learning Management System offered through FACTS.
Even if a family is not prepared for a physical return to campus, they will still be included in the school community through virtual learning. Each of our Catholic school families provide unique gifts, talents and perspectives that help strengthen our school communities, and the diocese values the opportunity to serve all of them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges for educational leaders in all schools, both public and private. All leaders must make the decisions that they believe are in the best interest of their school communities, and we must recognize that what is best for one community may not be best for others. With this in mind, the Office of Education has been working side-by-side with school administrators to determine the best course of action for each community. While the office has provided guidelines, school administrators know their communities best. All decisions regarding school re-opening plans have been made collaboratively with representatives from the Office of Education, the Diocesan Task Force, and local administrators.
At this point, the Office of Education believes offering an on-campus experience with the proper mitigation strategies in place is the best course of action for school communities. While there is no way to guarantee 100% protection, the diocese believes that their schools are well-prepared to welcome students in a safe, healthy, and caring environment. As with any decision or situation during our current reality, the diocese recognizes the need to revisit and reevaluate our decisions regularly. If the determine is made that alternative plans are needed for any of the diocese schools, the school administrator will share those plans with as quickly as possible.
“We cannot thank our families enough for their continued support and confidence in our schools’ ability to provide a high-quality educational experience. This responsibility is not one that we take lightly, and families can rest assured that our commitment to the well-being of community members is ongoing,” said Catherine Cook, superintendent of education.
If anyone has questions about a school’s plan for re-opening, please contact the school’s office. Additionally, COVID-19 Response page on the school section of the diocese website contains multiple resources for a safe and healthy return to school at

U.S. Attorney announces indictment of Catholic priest and deferred prosecution agreement with Diocese of Jackson

OXFORD – U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi announced that a Mississippi Catholic priest has been indicted on multiple counts of wire fraud and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, a Mississippi non-profit corporation.
The case stems from an investigation initiated by Homeland Security Investigations into the activities of Father Lenin Vargas, the prior pastor of St. Joseph Catholic parish, Starkville, Mississippi and Corpus Christi Catholic Mission, Macon, Mississippi. The investigation led to the indictment of Vargas on ten counts of wire fraud based on alleged fraudulent fundraising activities, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 1343. During the ongoing investigation but prior to the grand jury’s return of an indictment, Vargas fled to his home country of Mexico.
In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office and the Catholic Diocese of Jackson have entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. The deferred prosecution agreement is based on the alleged inaction of the Diocese, which allegedly contributed to parishioners continuing to donate money to Vargas, as more fully set forth the criminal complaint and affidavit. The deferred prosecution agreement, which is to be in effect for twelve months, includes a number of remedial measures designed to help ensure that there are no future violations such as those alleged in the affidavit. Upon successful completion of the deferred prosecution agreement, all charges against the Catholic Diocese of Jackson will be dismissed. The Diocese has reimbursed identified victims of the alleged fraudulent scheme.
The public is reminded that a deferred prosecution agreement and the indictment are not evidence of guilt and that all individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Click here for more info

Pearl of wisdom

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
JACKSON – The Scripture readings for last Sunday featured the prayer of the young Solomon taking over the reins from his father David as Israel’s king. The task ahead of him was daunting and in his encounter with God in a dream he was inspired to pray humbly and honestly. “I pray that you grant me wisdom of heart so that I may know how to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong. Without wisdom who would be able to govern rightly?“

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

In the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament, there is a corpus of literature that is categorized as Wisdom Literature. These fascinating books of the bible were written over hundreds of years in the post exilic era. The Book of Wisdom features a prayer attributed to Solomon that reveals his heart and mind and his dependency upon God, at least in the earlier years of his reign. “God of our fathers, wisdom resides with you and knows all your works, from creation to this moment. She knows what is pleasing to you and in accord with your commandments. Send forth this wisdom from on high where all is holy that she may be at my side in my labors so that I may know what is pleasing to you. May she guide me with prudence in all that I do that I may guide your people justly. For who knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and uncertain our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthly vessel weighs down the mind with its many concerns. Who can know your counsel unless you give wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high?” (Chapter 9)
The wisdom of Solomon, anchored in prayer, is a path for all who are making decisions that affect the lives of others during these agonizing pandemic days. This includes just about everybody, our elected officials, all who are serving in health care, business owners on every front, educators and students, church leaders, and parents and caregivers who decide on behalf of their children. In the gospel passage last weekend we heard the words of the Lord at the conclusion of the section on the parables in Matthew’s Gospel. “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of the household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (13:52-53)
We must go deeply into the storehouse of our faith and experience to call upon time tested wisdom to negotiate all that is new, spiritually, mentally and materially. The world has not seen such a pandemic in over 100 years, and these are unchartered waters where the next bend in the rapids might present unexpected risks. We walk by faith, indeed.
Wisdom, the cornerstone of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is not just about choosing wisely. The wisdom literature is vast, as is evident in the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom, the Psalms and the Song of Songs. The themes from these inspired works have their origin in life’s joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, and in the reality of death. The book of Job wrestles with the agonizing question of suffering, especially when it afflicts an innocent person. Always a part of life, today we are witnessing widespread suffering and anxiety. For all disciples, the wisdom in the Book of Job finds its fulfillment in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and his resurrection from the dead. May all who are suffering exceedingly find renewed strength and hope in the God of our Lord Jesus Christ for this life and the next.
In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in a field. As St. Matthew constructed his Gospel he knew that he had found this pearl and treasure when the Lord looked at him with loving mercy and called him to abandon his way of life in order to proclaim a treasure hidden to him up until that moment. He who previously had oppressed his people with the ledger, now was providing light and hope with the living Word of God. In the midst of this world-wide crisis may the loving gaze of the Lord Jesus empower us to respond with wisdom and conviction to what life is serving us.
St. Paul gifted us with a pearl of great value and wisdom in the second reading from last Sunday. “All things work for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) By God’s grace may we deepen our faith, hope and love during this time of crisis, an opportunity to value the things that truly matter.

Bishop calendar

Thursday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m. – Pro-Life Mississippi Banquet, Jackson
Saturday, Aug. 29-30 – Mission Appeal, Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Only public events are listed on this schedule and all events are subject to change. Please check with the local parish for further details.

Perla de sabiduría

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Las lecturas de las Escrituras para el domingo pasado mostraban la oración del joven Salomón tomando las riendas de su padre David como el rey de Israel. La tarea que tenía por delante era desalentadora y, en su encuentro con Dios en un sueño, se inspiró para rezar con humildad y honestidad. “Dame, pues, un corazón atento para gobernar a tu pueblo, y para distinguir entre lo bueno y lo malo; porque ¿quién hay capaz de gobernar a este pueblo tuyo tan numeroso?”

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

En las escrituras hebreas, el Antiguo Testamento, hay un grupo de literatura que se clasifica como Literatura de la Sabiduría. Estos fascinantes libros de la Biblia fueron escritos durante cientos de años en la era posterior al exilio. El Libro de la Sabiduría presenta una oración atribuida a Salomón que revela su corazón y mente y su dependencia de Dios, al menos en los primeros años de su reinado. “Dios de mis antepasados, Señor misericordioso, que por tu palabra has hecho todas las cosas, que con tu sabiduría has formado al hombre para que domine sobre toda tu creación, para que gobierne el mundo con santidad y rectitud y administre justicia con recto corazón … Contigo está la sabiduría, que conoce tus obras y que estaba presente cuando hiciste el mundo; ella sabe lo que te agraday lo que está de acuerdo con tus mandamientos … Ella, que todo lo conoce y lo comprende, me guiará con prudencia en todas mis acciones y me protegerá con su gloria … porque, ¿qué hombre conoce los planes de Dios? ¿Quién puede imaginar lo que el Señor quiere?” (Sabiduría 9)
La sabiduría de Salomón, anclada en la oración, es un camino para todos los que toman decisiones que afectan la vida de los demás durante estos días agonizantes de pandemia. Esto incluye a casi todos, nuestros funcionarios electos, todos los que prestan servicios de atención médica, propietarios de negocios en todos los frentes, educadores y estudiantes, líderes de la iglesia y padres y cuidadores que deciden en nombre de sus hijos.
En el pasaje del evangelio el fin de semana pasado escuchamos las palabras del Señor al final de la sección sobre las parábolas del Evangelio de Mateo.” Cuando un maestro de la ley se instruye acerca del reino de los cielos, se parece al dueño de una casa, que de lo que tiene guardado sabe sacar cosas nuevas y cosas viejas.” (Mateo 13:52)
Debemos profundizar en el depósito de nuestra fe y experiencia para recurrir a la sabiduría probada por el tiempo para negociar todo lo que es nuevo, espiritual, mental y materialmente. El mundo no ha visto una pandemia de este tipo en más de 100 años, y estas son aguas desconocidas donde la próxima curva en los rápidos podría presentar riesgos inesperados. Caminamos, de hecho, por fe.
El uso de la sabiduría, la piedra angular de los dones del Espíritu Santo, no se trata solo de elegir sabiamente. La literatura de sabiduría es vasta, como es evidente en los libros de Job, Proverbios, Eclesiastés, Eclesiástico, Sabiduría, los Salmos y el Cantar de los Cantares. Los temas de estas obras inspiradas tienen su origen en las alegrías y tristezas de la vida, los triunfos y las tragedias, y en la realidad de la muerte.
El libro de Job lucha con la agonizante cuestión del sufrimiento, especialmente cuando aflige a una persona inocente. Siempre y como parte de la vida, hoy somos testigos de un sufrimiento y ansiedad generalizados. Para todos los discípulos, la sabiduría en el Libro de Job se cumple en el sufrimiento y la muerte de Jesucristo en la Cruz, y en su resurrección de entre los muertos. Que todos los que sufren sufran una fuerza y esperanza renovadas en el Dios de nuestro Señor Jesucristo para esta vida y la próxima.
En el Evangelio del domingo pasado, Jesús habla de la perla de gran precio y del tesoro enterrado en un campo. Cuando San Mateo construyó su Evangelio, supo que había encontrado esta perla y este tesoro cuando el Señor lo miró con amorosa misericordia y lo llamó a abandonar su estilo de vida para proclamar un tesoro escondido hasta ese momento. El que anteriormente había oprimido a su pueblo con el libro mayor ahora estaba proporcionando luz y esperanza con la Palabra viva de Dios. En medio de esta crisis mundial, que la mirada amorosa del Señor Jesús nos capacite para responder con sabiduría y convicción a lo que la vida nos está sirviendo.
San Pablo nos regaló una perla de gran valor y sabiduría en la segunda lectura del domingo pasado. “Sabemos que Dios dispone todas las cosas para el bien de quienes lo aman”. (Romanos 8:28) Por la gracia de Dios, podemos profundizar nuestra fe, esperanza y amor durante este tiempo de crisis, una oportunidad para valorar las cosas que realmente importan.

Migrants seeking new life end up instead in ‘hell’ of detention

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Decrying the unimaginable “hell” migrants experience in detention centers, Pope Francis urged all Christians to examine how they do or don’t help – as Jesus commanded – the people God has placed in their path.
Christians must always seek the face of the Lord, who can be found in the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned and foreigners, the pope said on the anniversary of his first pastoral visit as pope to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Jesus warned everyone, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” and Christians today must look at their actions every day and see if they have even tried to see Christ in others, the pope said in his homily during Mass July 8.
“Such a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is possible also for us, disciples of the third millennium,” he said.
The Mass, held in the chapel of the pope’s residence, marked the seventh anniversary of his first apostolic journey to an island that has been a major destination point for migrants seeking a new life in Europe.
However, since 2014, at least 19,000 people have died, drowning in the Mediterranean Sea during those boat crossings. Pope Francis mourned their deaths during his 2013 visit with prayers and tossing a floral wreath into the rippling water.
In his homily at the Vatican chapel July 8, he remembered those who are trapped in Libya, subjected to terrible abuse and violence and held in detention centers that are more like a “lager,” the German word for a concentration camp. He said his thoughts were with all migrants, those embarking on a “voyage of hope,” those who are rescued and those who are pushed back.
“Whatever you did, you did for me,” he said, repeating Jesus’ warning.
The pope then took a moment to tell the small congregation – all wearing masks and sitting at a distance from one another – what had struck him about listening to the migrants that day in Lampedusa and their harrowing journeys.
He said he thought it strange how one man spoke at great length in his native language, but the interpreter translated it to the pope in just a few words.
An Ethiopian woman, who had witnessed the encounter, later told the pope that the interpreter hadn’t even translated “a quarter” of what was said about the torture and suffering they had experienced.
“They gave me the ‘distilled’ version,” the pope said.
“This happens today with Libya, they give us a ‘distilled’ version. War. Yes, it is terrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that they live there,” in those detention camps, he said.
And all these people did was try to cross the sea with nothing but hope, he said.
“Whatever you did … for better or for worse! This is a burning issue today,” the pope said.
The ultimate goal for a Christian is an encounter with God, he said, and always seeking the face of God is how Christians make sure they are on the right path toward the Lord.
The day’s first reading from the Book of Hosea described how the people of Israel had lost their way, wandering instead in a “desert of inequity,” seeking abundance and prosperity with hearts filled with “falsehood and injustice,” he said.
“It is a sin, from which even we, modern Christians, are not immune,” he added.
The prophet Hosea’s words call everyone to conversion, “to turn our eyes to the Lord and see his face,” Pope Francis said.
“As we undertake to seek the face of the Lord, we may recognize him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. And this encounter becomes for us a time of grace and salvation, as it bestows on us the same mission entrusted to the apostles,” he said.
Christ himself said “it is he who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, seeking an encounter with us and requesting our assistance,” the pope said.
The pope ended his homily by asking Our Lady, the solace of migrants, “help us discover the face of her son in all our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee from their homeland because of the many injustices that still afflict our world today.”

Call by Name

The theological virtue of hope played a big part in my Tour de Priest excursion this past month. At our baptism we are infused with faith, hope and love through the sacramental grace gifted to us by the Lord, and hope is the recognition that this world is not the end, that even through the sufferings and challenges of earthly life we can live with joy and confidence that God accompanies us through suffering and will bring us to everlasting life. I must say, I thought about this often during my 270 miles or so biking down the Natchez Trace. After my first day of riding (a 60-mile jaunt between Tupelo and Starkville), I sat in pain in an easy chair at the rectory in Starkville, wondering how I would feel in the morning, and wondering honestly whether I had bitten off more than I could chew. But that was the whole point of the Tour de Priest, to be a joyful witness to the hope we have in the Lord and to radically trust that he is with us in our need.

I did complete the journey. I rode into Natchez tired but invigorated because during my bike ride I met with so many supporters of vocations, either virtually or at Mass or prayer, and it gave me great hope as vocation director. I want to thank the clergy and parish leadership in Tupelo, Starkville, Kosciusko, Jackson and Natchez for their collaboration. The Lord’s work continues in our diocese, and he is calling laborers to his harvest. Our job is to pray for them and encourage them, and I thank the many parishioners and priests who supported this bike tour. The event rose about $8,000 for seminarian education, and it helped to publicize our website, and our Facebook and Instagram feeds @jacksonpriests. It also served as a great precursor to our first annual Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser. This event, scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m., will be live-streamed this year and will connect parishioners to our seminarians and those who form them to be the best priests they can be. This year’s keynote speaker is Father Jim Wehner, the Rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Father Jim is a dynamic speaker and a great ally for all those who desire to bring forth more vocations in their diocese.

JACKSON – Father Nick Adam went on his Tour de Priest from July 11-17 on the Natchez Trace. He started his tour in Tupelo and made stops in Starkville, Kosciusko, Jackson and Natchez. (Photo above by Rick Berryhill and top photo is by Jeff Cook)

The department of vocations has partnered with “One Cause,” an online platform that makes virtual gatherings easy to participate in, and so we are developing our giving center as we speak and will have much more information on sponsoring the event and buying tickets very soon. Thank you for your support of the Tour de Priest, there is so much hope to be found in our diocese, and I was filled with it during my ride, thanks to your prayers.

Vocations Events

Vocations Events

Friday, October 9, 2020 – First annual Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser (virtual)

Email if interested in attending this event.

Some secrets worth knowing

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Monks have secrets worth knowing, and these can be invaluable when a coronavirus pandemic is forcing millions of us to live like monks.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of us have been forced to stay at home, work from home, practice social distancing from everyone except those in our own houses and have minimal social contact with the outside. In a manner of speaking, this has turned many of us into monks, like it or not. What’s the secret to thrive there?
Well, I’m not a monk, nor a mental health expert, so what I share here isn’t exactly the rule of St. Benedict or a series of professional mental health tips. It’s the fruit of what I’ve learned from monks and from living in the give-and-take of a religious community for fifty years.
Here are ten counsels for living when we are in effect housebound, that is, living in a situation wherein we don’t have a lot of privacy, have to do a lot of living within a very small circle, face long hours wherein we have to struggle to find things that energize us, and wherein we find ourselves for good stretches of time frustrated, bored, impatient and lethargic. How does one survive and thrive in that situation?

  1. Create a routine – That’s the key. It’s what monks do. Create a detailed routine for the hours of your day as you would a financial budget. Make this very practical: list the things you need to do each day and slot them into a concrete timetable and then stick to that as a discipline, even when it seems rigid and oppressive. Resist the temptation to simply go with the flow of your energy and mood or to lean on entertainment and whatever distractions can be found to get you through your days and nights.
  2. Wash and dress your body each day, as if you were going out into the world and meeting people. Resist the temptation to cheat on hygiene, dress and make-up. Don’t spend the morning in your pajamas: wash and dress-up. When you don’t do this, what are you saying to your family? They aren’t worth the effort? And what are you saying to yourself? I’m not worth the effort? Slovenliness invariably becomes lethargy and acedia.
  3. Look beyond yourself and your needs each day to see others and their hurts and frustrations. You’re not in this alone; the others are enduring exactly what you are. Nothing will make your day harder to endure than excessive self-focus and self-pity.
  4. Find a place to be alone for some time every day – and offer others that same courtesy. Don’t apologize that you need time away, to be by yourself. That’s an imperative for mental health, not a selfish claim. Give others that space. Sometimes you need to be apart, not just for your own sake but for the sake of the others. Monks live an intense community life, but each also has a private cell within which to retreat.
  5. Have a contemplative practice each day that includes prayer. On the schedule you create for yourself, mark in at least a half hour or an hour each day for some contemplative practice: pray, read scripture, read from a serious book, journal, paint a picture, paint a fence, create an artifact, fix something, garden, write poetry, write a song, begin a memoir, write a long letter to someone you haven’t seen for years, whatever; but do some something that’s freeing for your soul and have it include some prayer.
  6. Practice “Sabbath” daily. Sabbath need not be a day; it can be an hour. Give yourself something very particular to look forward to each day, something enjoyable and sensual: a hot bath, a glass of wine, a cigar on the patio, a rerun of a favorite old sitcom, a nap in the shade in a lawn chair, anything – as long as it’s done purely for enjoyment. Make this a discipline.
  7. Practice “Sabbath” weekly. Make sure that only six days of the week are locked into your set routine. Break the routine once a week. Set one day apart for enjoyment, one day when you may eat pancakes for breakfast in your pajamas.
  8. Challenge yourself with something new. Stretch yourself by trying something new. Learn a new language, take up a new hobby, learn to play an instrument. This is an opportunity you’ve never had.
  9. Talk through the tensions that arise within your house – though carefully. Tensions will arise when living in a fishbowl. Monks have community meetings to sort out those tensions. Talk tensions through honestly with each other, but carefully; hurtful remarks sometimes never quite heal.
  10. Take care of your body. We aren’t disembodied spirits. Be attentive to your body. Get enough exercise each day to keep your body energized. Be careful not to use food as a compensation for your enforced monasticism. Monks are careful about their diet – except on feast days.
    Monks do have secrets worth knowing!

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted through his website