Church celebrates holiest week

Palm Sunday

Pearl, St. Jude Parish photos by Rhonda Bowden

Carthage, St. Anne Parish photos by Sister Maria Elena, MGSpS

Chrism Mass

Jackson, St. Peter photos by Tereza Ma ans Maureen Smith


Holy Thursday

Pearl, St. Jude Parish photos by Tereza Ma

Good Friday

Jackson, St. Therese Parish photos by Elsa Baughman

No Catholic Church offers Mass on Good Friday. Instead, they may have stations or veneration of the cross.

Easter Vigil

Jackson, St. Peter photos by Maureen Smith


Holy Week across the Diocese

GREENWOOD – Sixth-grader Daniel Varges (right), shares unleavened bread with Father Joachim “Kim” Studwell, OFM, during a Seder meal at St. Francis of Assisi School on Wednesday, March 28. (Photo by Cherrie Criss)

The Way of the Cross, also known as Stations of the Cross, is a powerful reflection on the passion of Christ. This year, Mississippi Catholic received photos from youth groups and schools all across the diocese who offered their communities a live reenactment of the stations. Not all the photos would fit in the printed version, so more are posted to galleries on the website:
As the Easter season progresses, please remember to send your First Communion and Confirmation photos to for inclusion in the Spring Sacraments issue.

COLUMBUS – Annunciation School eighth-grader Ren Kitko, carries the cross as Jesus during live stations of the cross for the school community. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

NEW ALBANY – Cody Carson depicts Christ as the youth of St. Francis of Assisi Parish lead an outdoor live stations of the cross. They started the tradition in 2012, inviting anyone of any faith to join in this memorial of Christ’s passion.
This year, two-dozen parishioners participated in the event. (Photo by Claudia Murguia)


MERIDIAN – Pilate questions Jesus as St. Patrick School first graders, performed a live Stations of the Cross Wednesday, March 28, for the school. (Photo by Mary Yarger)

  GREENVILLE – Live stations of the Cross are a tradition for middle-schoolers at St. Joseph School. In left photo, Jesus falls the second time. (Photo by Missi Blackstock)

PEARL – St. Jude Parish youth participated in Stations of Cross led by Father Lincoln Dall, the front row is Molly, Katie, Jack, and Charlotte Riordan. The next row back is Craig Millette and John and Mary Beth VanLandingham. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Full STEM ahead, Catholic schools rack up science, engineering awards

By Kristian Beatty
Full STEM ahead!  March and April have been exciting for several students across the Diocese of Jackson!  Students from Greenville St. Joe, Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School, St. Richard Catholic School, and St. Anthony Catholic school attended and won awards at science fairs held in Jackson and Pearl, MS. Many students started working on their science fair projects in the Fall of 2017 and had to win at their school science fair to move on the next level. Congratulations to all the students who participated at the MAIS Overall Science Fair and the MSEF Region II Science Fair. 

JACKSON – A student from Madison St. Anthony school answers questions for a judge at the MSEF Region II Science Fair on Thursday, March 22, at Jackson State University. Schools from across the diocese brought home honors from similar events around the state in March and April.

Wednesday, April 4: St. Joseph Catholic High School (Greenville) students attended the MAIS Overall Science Fair at the Muse Center in Pearl, MS.

3rd place: Mary Patton Meyer, Dorian Rice, Avery Cole, Kamiya Clark, Carsen Mansour, McKenzie Sandifer

1st place: Eli Williamson, Sarah Tonos, Mikayla Dotson

Best of Fair ($200 prize): Eli Williamson

Thursday, March 22nd: Sr.Thea Bowman Catholic School (Jackson), St. Richard Catholic School (Jackson) and St. Anthony Catholic School (Madison) students attended the MSEF Region II held at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. The following students placed in their categories out of 482 students according to Kristy Love-Kendrick- JSU Region II Science Fair Director:

Sister Thea Bowmen Catholic School had 14 students participate and 8 of those students won awards.

Organic Chemistry

Malick Yedjou – 1st place


Synia Means – 1st place

Medicine and Health

Alexander Mason – 1st place

Inorganic Chemistry

Charis Ngong – 2nd place

Ashleigh Mason – 3rd place

Physics and Astronomy 

Cobe Williams – 4th place

Computer Science and Math

Jon Burse – 5th place

Special Energy Smart Award sponsored by the MS Development Authority:

Malick Yedjou

St. Richard Catholic School had 17 students participate and 3 of those students won awards.

Behavioral science

Mary Margaret Martin-4th

Carrington Fowler-5th


Turner Brown-2nd

St. Anthony Catholic School had 47 students participate and 27 of those students won awards.

Class 1 Awards

Ella Eatherly- Class 1 Overall Individual Best of Fair

Animal Sciences  

John Harris – 2nd Place

Susannah Harmon- 4th Place

Behavioral & Social Science    

Abby Stringer-1st Place

Madelyn Rodrigue-2nd Place     


Josie Ricotta-5th Place


Samantha Naegele-3rd Place

Earth & Environmental  

Katie Ann Venable-1st Place

Inorganic Chemistry      

Ella Eatherly-1st Place


Miller Franklin-1st Place

Jack Kosek-2nd Place

Organic Chemistry

Emily Loyacono-3rd Place

Ellie Latour-4th Place

Class 2 Awards-

Class 2 School Award: St. Anthony Catholic School

 Animal Sciences  

Stella Williams-1st Place

Carolina deLange-2nd Place


Maria deLange-3rd Place


Isabelle Zevallos-5th Place

Computer Science & Math      

JJ Tice-2nd Place

Earth & Environmental  

Jennings Kimbrell-2nd Place

Inorganic Chemistry      

Iliana Blount-2nd Place

Tyler Stovall-4th Place

Medicine & Health         

1st- Eliza Rowlett-2nd Place



Stella McCarty-1st Place

Annsley Maynor-4th Place

Kate Kosek-5th Place

Organic Chemistry

Emerson Erwin-3rd Place

Sophie Sosa-5th Place

Physics & Astronomy    

Cameron Moody-1st Place

(Kristian Beatty is development director for Madison St. Anthony School.)


Lucky day for young people

By Abbey Schuhmann
COVINGTON, La. – On Saturday, March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick, teens and adult leaders from 22 parishes from around the Diocese of Jackson traveled to St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College for the 2018 Abbey Youth Festival (AYF). The theme for the day was “Arise” coming from the gospel for that weekend.
The 2018 AYF logo was designed by seminarian, Luke Mayeux of the Diocese of Beaumont. The image is an imitation of the Dom Gregory de Wit painting in the apse of the St. Joseph Abbey Church which hosted AYF. Inspired by St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, the logo exemplifies the Christo-centric aspect of the prayer, while the 12 stars symbolize discipleship as well as the Blessed Mother inviting us to her son. The image of the Risen Lord invokes the message found in the Gospel from the day: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12: 20-33.
The seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary College play a vital role in the production of AYF including Andrew Bowden and Tristan Stovall from the Diocese of Jackson. This year’s festival brought in more than 3,000 young people from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The festival always boasts a packed schedule that includes faith-filled music, prayer, catechesis, fellowship and fun. Showers on Friday did not make for ideal conditions, but organizers made accomodations and the day went forward as scheduled. For the first time, much of the festival was hosted on the main campus. Another new addition to the program schedule was the opportunity to attend breakout sessions throughout the day. Father Brad Doyle and Father Bryce Sibley offered the keynote presentation. Emily Wilson presented the breakout session for teen girls while Austin Ashcraft, Joe Bass, Father Doyle and John Finch led the session for teen guys.
Adult leaders had the opportunity to attend a session discussing “Ministry in the Modern Age.” The Vigil Project and Ike Ndolo, Catholic song-writers and recording artists, entertained the crowd with two different concerts. The Vigil Project also provided music for Mass and Eucharistic adoration. All participants had the opportunity throughout the day to visit different vendor booths including religious orders and communities from all around the country. Because of the venue change, groups could tour the beautiful Abbey church on campus. Many teens and adults took advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
This year’s prayer chapel area featured an exhibit of Eucharistic miracles from around the world. The day wrapped up with Mass and candlelight adoration – the highlight of the event for most participants. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans celebrated the Mass; the homilist was Father Colm Cahill of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The common theme throughout the day was for teens to “take action” in their faith. Each person is called to something great and now is the time to “Arise” and heed the call.
The Luck of the Irish kept the rain away for the majority of the day, while the ground was still very muddy from the previous day’s showers; most teens embraced the day and the circumstances.
Abbey Youth Fest is an excellent opportunity for teens to see the bigger church and enjoy fellowship with other young Catholics. This was the eighth year for thisdiocese to sponsor a trip and it won’t be the last. Make plans to participate in the 2019 event scheduled for Saturday, March 23rd. For more information visit or contact the Office of Youth Ministry at 601-949-6934 or

(Abbey Schuhmann is the coordinator of youth ministry for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Bishop Kopacz with kids from Holy Cross, Philadelphia

Group from St. Stephen's, Magee

Seminarians Ryan Stoer and Tristan Stoval visit with parishioners from St. Francis, Madison

Seminarian Andrew Bowden assists at the first aid tent

Seminarian Mark Shoffner visits parishioners from Greenwood

Flowood St. Paul

Flowood St. Paul

Life-changing opportunity: families needed for foster care program

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Hundreds of children in Mississippi need foster homes so Catholic Charities is putting out a call for willing families right now. Charities can train, certify and support families who take on this very special challenge.
Kelly and Kendall Spell wanted to adopt and started their process by becoming foster parents while Aiysha Johnson-Burks and her husband Justin Burks are supporting a nine-year-old foster child as she works toward family reunification. Both families foster through Catholic Charities.
The Spells talked about adoption back when they were high school sweethearts. They were working on a private adoption when they lost touch with the mother. When the baby was born, they got a call, but not from whom they expected.
“The mother tested positive for drugs and so did the baby when she was born, so of course CPS (Child Protective Services) was called. In order to bring the baby home we had to become licensed foster parents,” explained Kelly. Amy Turner, director of children’s services for Catholic Charities, took on their case, working to get their home certified and complete their training quickly.

JACKSON – The Spell family, (l-r) Kelly, Brooks, Kendall and Paxton. The family fostered their daughter before they adopted. (Photo courtesy of Spell family)

When Johnson-Burks married she and her husband knew they wanted to be foster parents, but she already worked for the Department of Human Services and could not take in a child from the county where she worked. Additionally, Justin’s late-night shifts at a local television station prevented them from going to the classes they needed to be certified. As a family protection worker, Johnson-Burks often had to take kids into custody from situations of abuse or neglect. She learned first-hand how overwhelming the need for foster families is in the state.

Aiysha Johnson-Burks, her husband Justin Burks became foster parents after their son, Roman, was born.

“I knew we had more than 500 kids in custody in Hinds County. In my very first case, I took two kids into custody, but did not get home until 3 a.m. because we had no home to place them in. That same week, I took two more kids into custody and had to drive them to Hattiesburg (to a group home) because we had no foster homes,” she said. She learned about Catholic Charities as she referred clients to programs such as the Solomon Counseling Center and Born Free/New Beginnings that helps mothers with addiction stay off drugs during and after pregnancy. A few years later, Johnson-Burks changed jobs and her husband changed shifts. They had a son of their own, but still wanted to foster so they started training.
“The whole process took about two-and-a-half months. We got licensed one day and got her (their foster child) the next,” she said. The family consciously chose to go through Catholic Charities. “For the support. We could have gone through DHS, I knew everyone there, but I wanted the support, especially for the child. Most of the children in custody in Hinds county are on psychotropic medicines. With Catholic Charities, she has a therapist, so we have a therapist. The foster team is awesome. They are so present and so patient. We have had to call the hotline,” she said.
Kelly Spell said the family had some rough days and nights when the baby first came home so they, too, relied on the extra support Charities offers. “We had been praying for her for so long because we knew about her so I guess its just what we felt like we needed to do,” she said. All foster families attend a monthly support and education group.
She tells families considering foster care or adoption they might be surprised. “We can do a lot more than we think. If anybody had asked us prior to this, I would have said no, I would have said there is no way that he and I could do it.” They are glad they worked with Catholic Charities. “This is more like a family. I can call them when I have something I want to talk about without having to make an appointment,” said Kendall Spell.
His wife said faith and support have been key throughout this process. “It’s God. God puts the child in your home and he helps you get through all the hurdles and crazy times.”
The Spells have a son, Paxton, who loves to play with his sister and he knows she’s special “because she got adopted.”
Johnson-Burks said she tries to make sure her foster child gets lots of opportunities to play and interact with extended family. “She was in an adult role in her home and doing adult things, so we want to let her know that she is a kid and she can be a kid.” She also wants to support her child’s desire to reunite with her biological family.
“She has an aunt who wants to go through the foster training process so she plans to reunite with her family,” said Johnson-Burks. “We explain to her that her mom has a problem she needs help with. One thing my husband and I understand is that we are fostering. We are keeping and caring for someone else’s child,” she said.
She and her husband see foster care as a way to be present not just to a child in need, but to a whole family. “Becoming a foster parent, I didn’t think about the what-ifs, I know what God’s gifts to me are and I run with that. I tell people to always have an open mind, you never know how you will be blessed. You will come to a crossroads in your life when you need help – financially, spiritually, physically. This is a family that needs help, so I can provide that,” she said.
“I think just knowing that you can provide what a child needs for a week or a month, that may be more than they may have had their whole life, so (do) anything you can do to show them that they are loved. Tell them that God loves them – even if it’s just for a week, we have no way of knowing what impact that will have on that child,” said Kelly Spell.
Turner said her office is ready to start training any family who has the calling and meets the standards. Therapeutic foster parents complete extra training and have extra supervision, all coordinated by Catholic Charities. To inquire, call Shamir Lee at 601-624-5288.
Those who wish to support the program overall can run or donate to Run, Foster Run. See page 6 for details.

U.S. delegates say young people want mentors, a voice, unity

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Young people want trusted guides as they explore their faith and their vocation, said five young adults from the United States attending the Vatican’s pre-synod meeting.
The U.S. delegates to the Vatican meeting March 19-25 also said the 305 young adults from around the world want to see young people consulted more often in their parishes and dioceses. And, one said, in conversations with other delegates, he discovered that Catholics in other countries are not experiencing the sharp divisions that U.S. Catholics are.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent three delegates to the meeting: De La Salle Christian Brother Javier Hansen, who teaches at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas; Nick Lopez, director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas; and Katie Prejean-McGrady, a wife, new mother, youth minister and a popular speaker from the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Chris Russo, a 23-year-old working in Boston, represented the Ruthenian Catholic Church. And Nicole Perone, director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, represented Voices of Faith, an international group that highlights the contributions of women in the church.
A topic that came up consistently at the meeting, Prejean-McGrady said, was young people’s desire “to find companions on the journey, to look for people to walk with them.”
“When you have personal relationships with people who are vibrantly living their faith, then you yourself are inspired to live your faith,” she said. And the relationship also provides a trusted source for dealing with concerns about topics such as sexuality or church teachings that may be difficult to understand, she said.
“‘Here’s a book; believe it’ – that doesn’t work with young people anymore, and we know that because they are consuming far too much media to where they are not going to read that book,” Prejean-McGrady said. “You have to talk with them, you have to walk with them, you have to love them and really spend time with them.”
Lopez noted that Pope Francis opened the meeting March 19 by telling the delegates that the church wanted to hear their opinions and their questions, even those they thought might make church leaders uncomfortable.
In ministry to young people, they need to know they can ask those questions and that “we are going to discuss them. Nothing is too radical. Nothing is out of left field,” he said. If a young person is struggling with something, that is all the reason needed to discuss it.
“Young people seem to live in this age of anxiety, meaning that in a world of seemingly endless possibilities, they are almost paralyzed because they have all of these different options and they want to go forth, but they want to make the right decision, and they want to do so without the fear of failure,” Russo said.
The accompaniment discussion was key for Perone, who counts herself blessed to have had the guidance and friendship of “a number of people, but especially women, really bright, faithful women who love the church and have dedicated their lives in service to the church.”
The preparatory document for the synod, which will be held in October, talks about “role models, guides and mentors,” she said, but a lot of young people do not know how to ask for such accompaniment, and many people do not realize they can offer that to young people.
In formulating suggestions for the bishops, Lopez said, “one of the main ones was having things like this pre-synod gathering more common in the parishes,” for example, by including young adults on the parish or diocesan council or creating parish or diocesan advisory committees of youth and young adults “and having those councils meet often.”

Fifty years after release, ‘Humanae Vitae’ praised as prophetic encyclical

By Kelly Sankowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Surrounding the 1968 release of “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”) was the cultural context of the sexual revolution and a widespread fear about overpopulation following World War II, said Donald Critchlow, a professor of history at Arizona State University.
At the time, there were movements in support of eugenics, abortion rights and sterilizations in an attempt to curb population growth, Critchlow told an audience at The Catholic University of America April 5.

Father Mark Morozowich, dean of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, delivers the homily April 6 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. It was the closing Mass of a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” (CNS photo/courtesy The Catholic University of America)

Those who thought voluntary family planning was not enough proposed other, more coercive ideas, such as requiring couples to get a license to have a child or requiring sterilization for couples with more than five children, he added.
Critchlow was one of several speakers at a 50th anniversary symposium on Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” April 4-6 hosted by Catholic University. Keynotes and a number of workshop sessions examined the teaching and legacy of the document on the regulation of birth issued July 25, 1968.
In a session exploring the historical context of the times when the encyclical was released, Critchlow noted that prior to the drafting of “Humanae Vitae,” a commission was appointed to give suggestions for the Catholic Church’s response to new forms of contraception.
The majority of the people on the commission recommended that the use of the birth control pill should be accepted and church teaching on the subject should be changed.
Blessed Paul rejected the commission’s report and in “Humanae Vitae” affirmed the church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life and its opposition to artificial contraception. In the document, the pope warned of the harm that widespread use of contraception would cause in society, such as lowering of moral standards, marital infidelity, less respect for women, and the government’s ability to use different methods to regulate life and death.
Critchlow said many priests and laypeople, particularly in the United States, dissented from this teaching. Students and faculty went on strike at The Catholic University of America after the board of trustees denied the tenure of a professor, Father Charles E. Curran, who publicly disagreed with the encyclical’s teaching. Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle disciplined 39 priests in the Archdiocese of Washington for their dissent from the document. Thousands of scientists wrote a petition published in The New York Times that criticized the encyclical.
Throughout the anniversary symposium, people continually praised the prophetic message of the document, which still “stands as a profound and affirmative” defense of traditional values and family life, said Critchlow.
“In the end, what ‘Humanae Vitae’ proved was to be prophetic in its warnings of the breakdown of family and the depersonalization of sexual acts we see today in America,” Critchlow added.
Noting Pope Francis’s call to be in touch with realities people are facing in their daily lives, Mary Eberstadt, an author and speaker on issues of American culture, spoke about how the sexual revolution and the teachings of “Humanae Vitae” fit into that reality.
“The promise for sex on demand without restraint may be the biggest temptation humanity has been faced with,” she said.
In the face of that temptation, the teachings of “Humanae Vitae” are difficult, “but to confuse hard (teachings) with wrong is an elementary error,” said Eberstadt.
“If we are truly to lean into reality as Pope Francis has asked us to do … there is only one conclusion … the most globally reviled and widely misunderstood document … is also the most explanatory and prophetic of our era,” she added.
While many proponents of contraception support it as a way to reduce the number of abortions, Eberstadt said it is now “clear beyond a reasonable doubt that contraception also led to an increase in abortion,” as rates of out-of-wedlock births exploded at the same time that people were increasingly using modern contraceptive methods.
When the availability of abortion made the birth of a child “a physical choice of the mother,” it also made fatherhood a social choice for the father, who no longer felt equally responsible for the out-of-wedlock birth, said Eberstadt.
As an example of how the sexual revolution and widespread use of contraception benefited men more than women, Eberstadt pointed to the recent “Me Too” movement where women have been sharing stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. These stories show how “widespread contraception licensed predation,” she said.

Further up … further in … all shall be well

Sister alies therese

From the hermitage
By Sister alies therese
‘The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get here you will know what I mean…it was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof and neighed, and then cried: I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it until now…come further up, come further in!’ (The Last Battle, Chapter 15).
C. S. Lewis invites his readers to reflect ever more deeply upon heaven and the Easter story when in the very last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, he challenges the false and the phony in us and in our world to strip away the masks and costumes that we might live a fuller and more glorious life.
You might remember when Aslan the great lion is executed, taking upon himself the sins of a traitor, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is his first written book but second in the series, a powerful analogy of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The witch and her “Deep Magic” reminded him that the traitor belonged to her and he stepped up and said, ‘Fall back, all of you and I will talk to the witch alone…you can all come back I have settled the matter. She has renounced her claim on your brother’s blood…’ Later that night the girls came to him and saw him, thinking him ill. ‘What is wrong, dear Aslan? Can’t you tell us? Are you ill?…No I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.’ They walked for quite a spell and then he said: ‘O children, children. Here you must stop. And whatever happens, do not let yourself be seen. Farewell.’” And he walked out to the crowd of haters gathered around the Stone Table and let himself be bound and shaved and muzzled. Then he was tied. She came to him, whet her knife, and delivered the blow after saying: “And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out of my hands then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life, and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
She knew nothing of resurrection.
“There, in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had grown again) stood Aslan himself… ‘aren’t you dead?…Not now!…Oh, you’re real, you’re real!’ And both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses!” And then he explained: ‘though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, in the stillness and the darkness before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards…’
Shall we never forget that ‘magic’ that truth fundamental to all Christian belief: Jesus was raised from the dead. Death met its match. We, the traitors, are set free. It has only been two weeks since Easter Sunday…have we already forgotten, or have we been moving further up and further in?
Julian of Norwich, whose feast day is May 8, reminds us in her Revelations of Divine Love, that sin results in an abyss of nothingness and endless disorder. She emphasizes the immanence of God.
‘See, I am God. See, I am in all things. See, I do all things. See, I never remove my hands from My works, nor ever shall without end. See, I guide all things to the end that I ordain them for, before time began, with the same power and wisdom and love with which I made them. (3:11.199).’
Julian sees creation as gift and promise, according to Kerrie Hide, and God is the source and ground of all things, creation’s hope and destiny. ‘All shall be well, and All shall be well, and All shall be well. ‘What is impossible to you is not impossible to Me. I shall preserve My word in everything and I shall make everything well.’ (13:32.233).’
Perhaps she knew Aslan, the great lion? What they both tell us is to go further up and further in where we will discover where our real country is, where we really belong!

(Sister Alies Therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)

Mass sometimes misunderstood

Deacon Aaron Williams

Spirit and Truth
By Deacon Aaron M. Williams
During this past Holy Week, I read a homily a friend of mine delivered on Holy Thursday. He raised an important point about the identity of the Mass which I had not given much consideration until now. He said that in the Mass, “We are in no way re-enacting the Last Supper…the Mass is not the Last Supper.” The reason I find this statement so striking isn’t because I disagree with him — I couldn’t agree more that he is right! But, far more important than that is that most Catholics, and indeed some people who teach others about the Mass, get this point wrong or falsely assume that simply because our Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper that the Mass itself is a reenactment of that same supper.
The fact of the matter is that when Christ gave us this Sacrament, he gave it as a sign of his own passion, death and resurrection — what the Second Vatican Council termed the “Paschal mystery.” The Passover meal of the Jews recalled the meal that the enslaved Hebrews ate before they were led in Exodus out of Egypt. To eat the Passover (Seder) meal, was to recall the moment before God rescued them. But, not the Eucharist. Christ the Lord took this Passover meal and made it not a sign of another meal before a saving act, but a sign of the act itself — “This is my Body, which will be given for you.” Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church very rightly proclaims, “In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present” (1085).
This is one area where Catholic theology strongly diverges from our Protestant brothers and sisters. For the Protestant, to eat the “Lord’s Supper” is like a Seder meal — a symbolic meal that we use to remember Jesus’s ‘last meal’ on Earth. But, when the Catholic gazes upon the sacred host held aloft by the priest, we look not upon a simple meal, but upon Christ crucified and sacrificed for us all. The Cathechism says, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross…the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (1366-7).
The celebration of the liturgies of the Triduum each year gives us time to reflect particularly on the individual aspects of the Paschal mystery, but in each Mass we experience these events in a single expression. In every Mass, we receive the benefits of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection.
This revelation should enable us to undergo a different sort of preparation for the Mass. We are not coming together each week for a simple family meal — although this idea has been promoted in recent times. The concept of the Mass as a sit-down meal between God the Father and the human family, while quaint and charming, hardly does justice to the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. Is the Eucharist a meal? Yes, of course. But, it is a meal that comes as the fruit of sacrifice — just as in the old covenant, the Hebrew people would eat the flesh of sacrificed animals in order to reap the effects of the sacrifice. In the Mass, the Lord himself feeds us his own sacrificed flesh so that we can benefit from the effects of that same sacrifice.
The altar in every church is therefore both the altar of sacrifice and the table of the Lord — the two aspects go hand-in-hand. This is the reason that the architectural legislation of the Church requires the altar to be made from a solid material and to be dignified. It is not meant to be a mere family dinner table, but a true altar. In fact, it is strongly recommended that the altar of each church be completely immovable as the focus and center of that church. Likewise, we do not adorn our altars in the same way we would prepare a thanksgiving meal at home — with tablecloths and cornucopias of produce. The Catholic altar is wrapped in white linen (signifying the burial shroud of Christ), and the only objects which are set upon it are those things needed for the sacrifice, namely the elements of bread and wine along with other things such as the missal and candles.
Finally, because the Mass is a true sacrifice, it is demanded of us that we bring something to it to be offered to God. I am not speaking of a physical object or a monetary donation, but of the spiritual sacrifice of our own good works, sufferings and sins. All of those things, we can place in the hands of the priest who, obedient to God’s command to “do this in memory of me,” offers it all with and for us to the Father.

(Deacon Aaron Williams and his classmate, Deacon Nicholas Adam, will be ordained to the priesthood May 31 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.)

At annual convention, Catholic educators reminded of missionary roles

CINCINNATI, – (CNS) Nearly 5,000 Catholic school educators and administrators attended the National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati April 3-5. Among them were about two dozen educators and administrators from the Diocese of Jackson.
The three-day convention was filled with workshops dealing with how to help students write more creatively or tackle math concepts, use modern technology safely and live their faith in the modern world, but it also examined constant challenges and a way forward for educators and Catholic education at large.In the opening session, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, encouraged educators from around the country to continue in their role as missionaries and evangelists.
He urged the convention delegates to take to heart what the pope has said about education, primarily to always place the heart of the Gospel in their ministry and to see the importance of their work as evangelization, not just with students but parents and in dialogue with the larger world.
“You are forming young people for service to the church and society,” he told them.
In a keynote address, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, similarly echoed the pope’s call for missionary disciples and how it applies to teachers at Catholic schools and religious education programs.
A highlight of the event was the exhibition hall that featured more than 260 educational products and services, including cutting-edge technology.
Meridian St. Patrick School principal Montse Frias said the vendors were one of many highlights from the trip. “At every one of the sessions I attended, I learned something,” said Frias. She said she paid special attention to the sessions on improving recruitment and creating an effective work environment. “I loved the session on tools to help a principal work more efficiently. The leader had been a principal who became a director of communications. I learned a lot of strategies from him,” she said.
Karla Luke, assistant superintendent for Catholic Schools in the diocese, said she came home invigorated and ready to integrate what she learned into her work.
During the convention, awards were presented to individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to Catholic education through innovation, advocacy, outreach and sheer dedication. Distinguished teachers, principals, pastors, presidents and superintendents were also honored.
Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of NCEA, described the annual convention as “three days packed with professional development for teachers, principals, pastors and superintendents who educate and form nearly 2 million Catholic school students in the United States.”

(Maureen Smith, editor of Mississippi Catholic, contributed to this story.)

CINCINNATI – Priests and bishops process in to Mass at the National Catholic Educational Association convention April 3. Almost two dozen educators from the Diocese of Jackson attended. (Photo by Jennifer David)

Educators from the Diocese of Jackson