What shall we do now? January offers opportunities for renewal

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
On this weekend the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the culmination of the Christmas season with the Baptism of the Lord Jesus, the manifestation of God’s beloved Son in the waters of the Jordan River to Israel initially, but in short order, to all the nations. Nearly one year ago I traveled with the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher to the Holy Lands, and the renewal of one’s Baptism vows at the Jordan is pivotal on pilgrimage to the holy places.
Christians from all corners of the earth, and from every branch of Christianity come to the bend in the Jordan River where tradition maintains that the Lord Jesus began his public ministry under the gaze of God the Father and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Recall that John the Baptist preached in the wilderness and people left their homes and comfort zones to flock to him for the Baptism of Repentance. This region of the Holy Land was barren terrain 2000 years ago and remains such today. After coming up out of the water, the Spirit of God led Jesus deeper into this wasteland for 40 days and nights to fast, pray and be tempted. When it was over, he embraced his mission of salvation culminating with his life-giving death and resurrection.
Borrowing the metaphor from last weekend’s feast of the Epiphany it is the same star of faith that guided the Magi that draws pilgrims to God’s beloved Son in order to lay down one’s life before him, at or in the Jordan River. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 628) offers this teaching on Baptism under the subtitle “Buried with Christ…” Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6,4)
What is this newness of life? When the people came to John the Baptist at the Jordan River, they understood that like the water that was certain to evaporate in the desert heat so too their sinful attitudes and behavior must also vanish. And so, they asked John “What must we do, then?” John gave them directives that were specific to their states in life. If you have surplus clothing or food be generous with those who are in need. Tax collectors, he shouted, do not cheat the people beyond what has been determined. He commanded soldiers not to bully or extort the locals who are in your military sphere (Luke 3, 10-14). Likewise, because of our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is unavoidable for us to ask the question regularly, what are we to do, and to walk in newness of life. But like Jesus, our identity precedes our deeds.
We are God’s beloved children, saved by the blood of the Lamb of God and anointed in the Holy Spirit. Flowing from this relationship we are tasked with building up the Kingdom of God. In the letter to the Ephesians we, as in many passages of the Scripture, are given our identity and marching orders. “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2, 8-10)
So, what are we to do? Relatively speaking, in the blah month of January there are compelling ways to serve in the Lord’s name. Pro-life activities abound on behalf of the unborn. Novenas, vigils, the annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. and countless prayer services throughout the nation in every diocese. Have these efforts and more made a difference in the past 46 years since Roe v. Wade? At the grassroots level where it matters most there are far fewer abortions each year than during the peak years decades ago. There are far more centers around the nations that recognize the inalienable dignity of life in the womb than there are that destroy God’s handiwork.
When the actor, Jim Caviezel, came to town back in September one stop along the way was the Neonatal-Intensive Care Unit at Saint Dominic’s Hospital where we stood at the life support units for two premature twins who were born at 23 weeks. Mr. Caviezel expressed the awe of all in attendance: “This is like looking at the face of God.” Although the Catholic Church is weighed down by scandal at this time, our prophetic voice on behalf of the unborn will not waiver.
What else is happening in January? We are now at the end of the annual observance of National Migration Week, and thanks be to God for the many people in our diocese who “welcome the stranger” in our midst. The feast of the Epiphany celebrates the Lord’s birth as a light to the nations, whether they remain at home or travel far and wide.
What are we to do? The annual commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a cherished national holiday, compels us to not waiver in our efforts to build a society of greater justice and peace for all races and ethnic groups in these United States. Sister Thea Bowman, Servant of God, pray for us.
What more are we to do? May we strengthen our commitment on behalf of all victims of sexual abuse in our Church and in our society, restoring their dignity as beloved children of God the Father. May our passion on behalf of life, justice and peace in all areas flow from our conviction that we are God’s beloved children, saved in the blood of the Lamb, and anointed by the Holy Spirit “for the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

Mary shows us the way

Melvin Arrington, Jr

By Melvin Arrington
We can learn much from what Mary says and does in the Gospels. Her act of faith and trust at the Annunciation, her beautiful Magnificat prayer, and her steadfast presence at the foot of the Cross are just some of the instances in which she demonstrates the meaning of holiness. Most importantly, in all things she points the way to her Son and compels us to turn our eyes toward Him, as when she instructs the servers at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
One of Mary’s traits that sometimes gets overlooked amidst her humility, charity, piety, devotion and other great virtues is her gentleness. I first discovered Mary’s gentle ways through the mild, non-abrasive manner of speech my wife would employ when telling me she needed help with household chores. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience when I finally became aware of the close parallels between her approach and Mary’s.
Many times in the past when my wife would say to me something like, “The dishwasher is full of clean dishes,” I would offer some inane response such as, “Oh, okay.” My interpretation was, “If you’re looking for your favorite iced tea glass and it’s not in the cabinet, it’s probably clean in the dishwasher.”
This pattern would show up in all kinds of situations. For example, she might say, “The grass is looking pretty tall in the front yard,” which meant: “Please mow the lawn before the grass gets any taller.” Or she might tell me, “The trash can is overflowing,” meaning that I should get up and take out the trash. Other times she would say, “I think the flag is down on the mailbox,” when she wanted me to go outside and bring in the mail. One final example is particularly embarrassing, now that I look back on it: “The basket in the laundry room is full of your clean clothes.” There’s really no excuse for not understanding that one.
Years went by before I learned how to translate what she was saying. I would hear her words without really listening for the subtext. What sounded like a mere statement of fact was actually a softened way of trying to get me to help out.
Somewhere deep inside it must have registered that she wanted me to empty the dishwasher, mow the lawn, takes out the trash, bring in the mail or put away my clean clothes because usually an hour or so later, I would get up and perform the task. For instance, I would go to the kitchen and, after searching in vain for a particular glass, remember to look in the dishwasher and, in the process, empty it, and put up all the clean dishes. Why couldn’t I have acted on this sooner?
One day, while reading the account of Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-12), the true meaning of my wife’s soft and tender method of pointing out chores that needed to be done was suddenly revealed to me with great clarity. I had read this passage many times before and thought I had a solid understanding of it but, as the saying goes, each time you read Scripture you find meanings you didn’t see there before. Well, that was truly the case with me.
Verse 3 says, “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’” Mary was aware of the wine shortage even before the headwaiter learned of it. When she told Jesus about it He immediately understood that she wanted Him to do something to save her friends and relatives from embarrassment. After informing her of the consequences of performing a miracle, He proceeded to do it. Needless to say, my response time to requests is somewhat slower.
Is taking an indirect approach and using non-confrontational language a form of “woman speak,” as opposed to more direct “man speak”? Most men probably respond best when given direct commands, albeit softened ones, such as “Please do this for me,” or “Could you do that for me?” Some of us are not very good at reading between the lines.
When she talked about dishes, laundry, and all those other chores, my wife was simply incorporating Mary’s indirect method and using “Mary speak.” In essence, she was acting like Mary, while I was just, well, being me. As a result, the real miracle occurred whenever I would actually get up and do something useful. A person listening with a servant’s heart would have understood instantly what she was asking.
Mary’s manner of speech in verse 3 is noteworthy because it tells us a lot about her gentleness. She can teach us a kinder, gentler lifestyle, and she can show us the way to happiness. Jesus is the Way, and Mary will point us to Him, if we only let her.

(Melvin Arrington is a Professor Emeritus of Modern Languages for the University of Mississippi and a member of Oxford St. John Parish.)

Research key in improving abuse response

Reba McMellon

Part of the Solution
By Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC

(Editor’s note: This is the first installment in an ongoing series to address the questions parishioners and clergy have regarding response to and healing from sexual abuse in the church. To submit a question, email editor@mississippicatholic.com. Names will be kept in confidence.)


Research key in improving abuse response
Addressing child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church raises many questions and concerns. Answering questions and concerns directly and clearly is the hallmark of preventing these crimes from happening again.
Some have asked why Catholic bishops should trust the advice of psychologists when psychologists have mislead them in the past. I think this concern dates back to a time when we, in the field of professional psychology, were going on the assumption that pedophilia was a mental illness, one that could be treated. Those guilty of child sexual abuse were sent to treatment programs and in some cases, put back into service.
While research began in the late 1970’s on pedophile subtypes and treatment outcomes, it wasn’t until the mid to late 1980’s that the widespread rule of thumb was to have the criminal justice system deal with those who commit crimes against children. The research consistently shows the rate of recidivism is very high and the risk is great.
One of the largest studies done on child sexual abuse was done by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in May of 2011. The 130-page comprehensive report includes populations such as youth service organizations, religious institutions, seminary formation teams and more. The study was requested and paid for by the Catholic Church. It is accessible here: https://bit.ly/1Tp2UdH and through the Diocese of Jackson’s website in the section on Child Protection. This study and many others show that mental health treatment alone is not effective and the offenders of sexual crimes against children should be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
Another issue that is important is the crime of aiding and abetting physical, sexual and emotional abuse of a child. In some states, it is referred to as contributing to the harm of a minor. This includes those who know of the offense and knowingly ignore it, choosing to protect the criminal rather than protect the child. It cannot be overstated that this too is a crime, punishable by law.
In summary, psychology is a relatively new science, and like all other sciences, improves with ongoing research. Rest assured, criminal justice professionals and psychologists have worked together resulting in sound knowledge on the subject of sexual abuse of children.
The effect of sexual abuse on the victim can be not knowing the difference between love and abuse. Sexual abuse halts the development of the victim. It interferes with trust, spiritual development and shatters the psyche. While it can be mended, the victim will forever be effected. Abuse causes the innocence of the childhood to falter and sometimes disappear altogether. It shatters the soul, mind and body. The effects can be healed but the scars remain throughput the survivor’s life.

(Reba McMellon, M.S. is a licensed professional counselor with 35 years of experience. She worked in the field of child sexual abuse and adult survivors of sexual abuse for more than 25 years. While living in the Atlanta area, Reba was a member of the first child sexual abuse treatment team in the state of Georgia. She later became director of the team which included mental health, social services, juvenile court, district attorneys and detectives in the sexual victims unit of Cobb County, Georgia. Reba went into private practice in 1987 and continued to serve as an expert witness in child sexual abuse cases. She moved back to Mississippi in 2001 and works part-time as a mental health consultant and freelance writer.)

My top ten books in spirituality for 2018

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
This year I will restrict myself to focusing only on books that deal explicitly with spirituality, notwithstanding some very fine novels and books on social commentary that I read this year.
But first, an apologia: Taste is idiosyncratic. Keep that in mind as you read these recommendations. These are books that I liked, that spoke to me, and that I believe can be helpful for someone seeking guidance and inspiration on the journey. They may not speak to you in the same way.
Which spiritual books did I find most helpful this year?
• Veronica Mary Rolf, Julian’s Gospel, Illuminating the Life and Revelations of Julian of Norwich. Julian of Norwich is one of the great Christian mystics, but her thought is not easily accessible to most readers. This book gives a good introduction to her life and her writings and highlights as well how much of a spiritual oasis she was in a time when most parts of Christianity conceived of God in very harsh terms.
• John Shea, To Dare The Our Father, A Transformative Spiritual Practice. Shea takes up each article within the Lord’s Prayer to challenge us regarding various aspects of our lives, not least vis-à-vis our struggle to come to reconciliation with others. The section on Jesus’ own struggle in Gethsemane is especially insightful.
• Gerhard Lohfink, Is This All There Is? A world-class scripture scholar takes up the question of the afterlife as spoken of in scripture. This is first-rate scholarship rendered accessible to everyone. Lohfink is a gifted scholar and gifted teacher. This is a graduate course on the afterlife made available to everyone regardless of academic background.
• Benoit Standaert, Spirituality An Art of Living. Standaert is a Dutch Benedictine monk and this book (easy to read because it is broken up into short meditations) is gem of wisdom and challenge. Those of you with Protestant and Evangelical backgrounds schooled on Oswald Chambers’ classic will know what I mean when I say this book is a “My Utmost” for all Christians.
• Thomas Moore, Ageless Soul, The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy. Moore is always brilliant and this book is no exception. He’s one of our generation’s best defenders of soul. But this book comes with a bit of a warning label: Some people may find it a bit too much of a stretch in terms of lacking religious boundaries. Be that as it may, it’s a brilliant book.
• Elizabeth Johnson, Creation and the Cross, The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril. One of the foremost Catholic theologians of our generation pushes her thought (and ours) a little further apposite the issue of how the incarnation of God, in Christ, is a “deep incarnation” that affects physical creation as well as humanity. Christ came not only to save the people on this earth, but also to save the earth itself. Christ also takes in nature. Johnson helps explain how that might be better understood. The book contains an expert theological synthesis on Christian views of why Christ came to earth.
• Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos. This is one of the most argued about books of this past year. It’s brilliant, a good read, even if you don’t agree with everything or even most of what Peterson says. Some conservatives have used the book very selectively to suit their own causes; just as some liberals have unfairly rejected the book because of some of its attacks on liberal excesses. Both these readings, to my mind, are unfair. Peterson’s overall depth and nuance doesn’t allow for the way it has been misused on the right and criticized on the left. In the end, Peterson lands where Jesus did, with the Sermon on the Mount. Its title is somewhat unfortunate in that it can give the impression that this is just another popular self-help book. It’s anything but that.
• Makoto Fujimura, Silence and Beauty. This is a beautiful book, written by an artist highly attuned to aesthetics. It’s a book about art, faith, and religion. Fujimura is a deeply committed Christian and an artist. For most people this would constitute a tension, but Fujimura not only shows how he holds faith and art together, he also makes a sophisticated apologia for religion.
• Pablo d’Ors, Biography of Silence. Ors is a Spanish author of both novels and spiritual essays. This book (small, short, and an easy read) can be a good shot in the arm for anyone who, however unconsciously, feels that prayer isn’t worth the time and the effort. Writing out of a long habit of silent meditation, Ors shows us what kind of gifts prayer can bring into our lives.
• Trevor Herriot, Towards a Prairie Atonement. Herriot is a Canadian writer and in this, his latest book, he submits that just as when we wound others reconciliation demands some kind of atonement, so too with our relationship with earth. We need to make some positive atonement to nature for our historical abuses.

Happy reading!

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

Prayer involves recognizing self as God’s beloved child

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN (CNS) – Christians are not better than other people, but they do know that God is their father and they are called “to reflect a ray of his goodness in this world thirsting for goodness, waiting for good news,” Pope Francis said.
Leading his first general audience of 2019, the pope continued a series of talks he has been giving about the Lord’s Prayer. But he also welcomed artists from CirCuba, the national circus of Cuba, who were performing in Rome over the holidays.
One of the performers even had a very willing pope help him with his act by balancing a spinning ball on his finger. At the end of the audience Jan. 2, the pope praised the performers for their hard work and for the way they lift people’s spirits with their shows.
In his main audience talk, Pope Francis explained how the Gospel of Matthew presents the Lord’s Prayer as part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which also includes the Eight Beatitudes.
Proclaiming the beatitudes, the pope said, Jesus affirms the blessedness and happiness of “a series of categories of people, who – in his time, but also in ours – are not particularly esteemed. Blessed are the poor, the meek, the merciful, the humble of heart. This is the revolution of the Gospel! Where the Gospel is, there is revolution because the Gospel does not leave things as they were.”
With the beatitudes, he said, Jesus is telling people that those “who carry in their hearts the mystery of a God who revealed his omnipotence in love and pardon” are those who come closest to understanding him.
The core of the Sermon on the Mount, he said, is: “You are sons and daughters of your Father who is in heaven,” which is why Jesus then teaches the crowd to pray the Our Father.
Summarizing his talk in Spanish, Pope Francis said, “God does not want to be appeased with long streams of adulation, as the pagans did to win the benevolence of the deity; it is enough to talk to him like a father who knows what we need before we even tell him.”
“The Christian is not someone who tries to be better than others, but one who knows he or she is a sinner,” the pope said. A Christian knows how to stand before God with awe, to call upon him as Father and try to reflect his goodness in the world.
Jesus urges his followers not to be like the hypocrites who pray just to be seen, the pope said. “How often have we seen the scandal of those people who go to church, spend the whole day there or go every day and then they live hating others or speaking badly of others – this is a scandal. It would be better not to go to church.”
“If you go to church, live like a child (of God) and like a brother or sister” to others, Pope Francis said.
In teaching the Our Father, Jesus was helping his followers learn the essence of prayer and the importance of not thinking that using more words makes for a better prayer, he said. “The pagans thought that by speaking, speaking, speaking, they were praying.”
Praying isn’t like being “a parrot,” who repeats an endless stream of words, the pope said. “No, praying comes from the heart, from inside.”
“It even could be a silent prayer,” he said. “Basically, it is enough to put yourself under God’s gaze, recognize his fatherly love – and that’s enough to be heard.”
“How beautiful it is to think that our God does not need sacrifices to win his favor. He needs nothing,” the pope said. “He asks only that we keep open a channel of communication with him to discover continually that we are his beloved children.”

Diocese of Jackson 2019 Special Collections

Throughout the year the faithful are asked to contribute to their parishes through a weekly collection to help cover the cost of operations and support ministries. Sometimes, the parish will take up a second collection with a specific purpose. Many of these are national collections coordinated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). These national collections offer an opportunity to help our neighbors in the light of the Gospel. The national collections are a powerful expression of this community. Our contributions help people across the street and around the world, people who struggle to practice the faith, people who live in great need.
Some of these collections are strictly local and will be distributed within the diocese. For additional resources and information about each collection, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/catholic-life/second-collections/.

*February 2 & 3 – Catholic Service Appeal
March 9 & 10 – Black & Indian Mission
March 30 & 31 – Catholic Relief Service
April 18 – Rice Bowl
April 19 – Good Friday Holy Land
*April 20 & 21 – Education of Future Priests
May 4 &5 – Catholic Home Mission
June 1 & 2 – Catholic Communication
June 29 & 30 – Peter’s Pence
September 7 & 8 – Extension Society
October 19 & 20 – World Mission Sunday
*November 2 & 3 – Diocesan Missions
December 7 & 8 – Support of Retired Religious

* local collection

Grief expert offers comfort, practical tips

By Charlene Bearden
JACKSON – Through a partnership between Catholic Charities’ Parish Health Ministry and the Catholic Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Family Ministry, Bob Willis, artist, author, sculptor and grief specialist from Oklahoma presented a series of half-day workshops and discussions on grief, and how to adapt to loss. The program was a Diocesan event that was also supported by St. Dominic Hospital.
The workshops were presented November 28 – 30, 2018 at Hernando Holy Spirit Parish, Indianola Immaculate Conception Parish, Starkville St. Joseph Parish Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish.

HERNANDO – Bob Willis, at right, scuplts a broken heart during a grief workshop at Holy Spirit Parish. (photo by Charlene Bearden)

Sister Pat Clemen, Coordinator of Parish Health Ministry at Catholic Charities, and Charlene Bearden, Coordinator of the Office of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson, planned and organized the workshops for anyone experiencing loss of any kind, including the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job, pet, security, trust, dreams, hopes loss of good health or any grief they were experiencing. Also, three Continuing Education (CE) contact hours were earned by nurses and social workers who attended. In addition, organizers hoped the opportunity would inspire people to receive proper training to help start a grief support group.
Sister Clemen and Bearden agreed, Bob Willis “provided information and tools to help individuals to mourn, or to express the pain of loss” in a healthy manner. Participants offered very positive comments. Their names are withheld out of respect for their privacy.
“As a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s support group and at Baptist DeSoto Hospital, I can use the information/tools presented. Also, in my own grief, said one attendee at Holy Spirit who didn’t want to leave her name.
“I felt that everything he said was spoken only to me and my feelings. Thank you so much for presenting such a heartwarming talk. May God bless you,” added an Immaculate Conception attendee.
Someone from Starkville offered this reflection: “Powerful and amazing presentation. I’m blessed to be here!”
“A really wonderful presentation—not only because of really helpful information and tools, but because of the love it was with,” stated one of the people who came to Gluckstadt.
As he sculpts a broken heart in clay, Bob shares information on grief, loss, and caregiving. He relates the grief process to faith and invites people to reconnect with the suffering Jesus.

(Charlene Bearden is the Coordinatorfor the Office of Family Ministry)

Scholarships benefit Catholic college students

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Every year the Diocese of Jackson awards a pair of scholarships to students studying at Catholic colleges and universities. This year Patti Greene, youth minister at Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish, will receive the Stella Schmidt Scholarship while Nicole Becker, member of Tupelo St. James Parish, will receive the Bishop Brunini Memorial Scholarship.
“What a blessing it is to be able to provide scholarship assistance to students studying at Catholic colleges and universities,” said Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Jackson. “The Bishop Brunini Memorial Scholarship goes to an undergraduate student at any Catholic college or university. Any undergraduate can apply as there are no restrictions to field of study,” Lavelle continued.
Becker is studying mathematics at St. Mary’s and engineering at Notre Dame. “It was so apparent from her essays that she is dedicated to her Catholic faith. The love she expressed for serving God and his holy people was palatable,” said Lavelle. While Becker is a sophomore at St. Mary, this is her first year at Notre Dame. She is hardly intimidated by going to two schools at once or by the rigor of her studies. The best part of school for her – the growth of her faith life.
“I went to a non-denominational Christian high school. I loved Bible study and being able to talk about faith, but I wanted to learn more about my Catholic faith,” said Becker. Each dorm at Notre Dame offers a different Mass for students. The Masses sometimes have themes or traditions such as waffles or milkshakes after Mass. “I love the milkshake Mass at 10 p.m. on Thursday nights. There are about 80 people in a chapel built for 50. People are sitting on the floor and the music is great and the priest is so welcoming and great,” she explained. The dorm offers milkshakes after the Mass, but the main attractions, according to Becker are the community atmosphere and the dynamic priest. Becker hopes to attend Mass in every dorm before she graduates.
“All my hard work is paying off for me both academically and in my faith. To be honored or recognized as a woman of faith (through the scholarship) means a lot to me,” said Becker. She does not yet know what she wants to do when she graduates, but knows she wants to serve others with her life.
The Stella Schmidt Memorial Scholarship is for graduate students enrolled at Spring Hill College studying to earn a masters degree in Theological or Pastoral Studies. “Patti Greene exemplifies the role of life-long learner. She has a thirst and drive to keep growing as a youth minister to better serve her students. She sets a high standard for the quality of ministry she provides,” said Lavelle.
Greene believes getting her certification as a catechist is important to her ministry so as she completed the diocesan courses and attended professional developments and retreats, she came to realize the value of continuing on to Spring Hill for the masters. “It was the obvious next step as far as my personal formation goes,” she said. The program has helped her grow both academically and in her faith life. “I am learning so many things I can pass along to the students in my parish,” said Greene. “I would not be able to do this without support from the diocese and the staff in the Office of Faith Formation,” she added.
Both scholarships come from trusts administered by the Catholic Foundation. Executive Director Rebecca Harris said this is a tangible way donors can see how their support builds up the church in Mississippi. “Each year the Catholic Foundation is pleased that a student in our diocese can receive a scholarship from the Brunini Catholic College Scholarship Trust to attend a Catholic college of their choice. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Schmidt Jr. also established the Stella Schmidt Memorial Trust for tuition assistance for advanced studies of religious education at Spring Hill. We are so pleased that the Foundation can be part of helping students with these scholarship programs,” said Harris.
The scholarships are available annually. Applications will be posted again next fall. For additional information about applying, contact Fran Lavelle at fran.lavelle@jacksondiocese.org. For information about starting or supporting a trust, contact Rebecca Harris at rebecca.harris@jacksondiocese.org.

Obituary for Sister Mary Ann Grausam, SLW

Sister Mary Ann Grausam

CHICAGO – Sister of the Living Word Mary Ann Grausam died December 5 in Chicago.
Born in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1940, Sister Mary Ann made her final vows in 1967. She joined the Sisters of the Living Word in 1975. She taught in schools in Iowa and Michigan, and served as a pastoral minister in Michigan, Mississippi, and Illinois. She was the Novice Director for the SLW for 14 years.
In the Diocese of Jackson, she was a pastoral associate at Carthage St. Anne from 1992–1994, at Canton Sacred Heart from 1992–2001, and at Holy Child Jesus from 1992–2001. She was a Social Service Minster at Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Holly Springs from 2002–2003 and Director of RCIA at St. Joseph in Holly Springs from 2012–2013. She also was a homeless shelter volunteer from 2012–2013, and in prayer ministry in Holly Springs from 2013–2015.
Her funeral Mass was December 8 at St Martha in Morton Grove, Illinois.
Sister Mary Ann is survived by her sisters Patricia (Steve) Burdick and Nanette (Robert) Helgeson; her brothers Robert (Nancy) Grausam, Michael (Kathleen) Grausam, Tom (late Theresa) Grausam, John (Evie) Grausam and James (Sandra) Grausam and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.

Obituary for Sister Mary Joan Mike

Sister Mary Joan

NEW ORLEANS – Sister Mary Joan (aka Sister Mary Jo) Mike, the long-time principal of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School, passed away on January 2, at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans after a second battle with cancer. Sister Mary Jo was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on November 30, 1951.
She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Agnes Mike.
Sister Mary Jo is survived by her sibling sister, Judi Berger; her nieces and nephews; and her dearest friends, Margy and Dale Van Lerberghe of Port Clinton, Ohio.
Sister Mary Jo came to the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, from her Presentation Parish in St. Paul in 1970. She made her First Profession of religious vows in 1972 and her Final Profession in 1975. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the former Mary Manse College in Toledo and her Master’s from the University of Detroit. She taught in schools in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Louisiana and served as principal in Ohio and Mississippi. She served on the Sylvanian Franciscan Health Board for several years. She also held leadership positions in the Diocese of Biloxi where she was the beloved Principal of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Elementary school for 27 years. Sister Mary Jo mentored several generations of children in Biloxi and beyond.
Attesting to her superior work in education, Sister Mary Jo received the highly acclaimed Principal of the Year Award given by the National Catholic Education Association in 2015 held at their annual convention in Orlando. That same year, Sister Mary Jo served as a liaison to the Holy See in a symposium held for Catholic Education throughout the world.
She was awarded for her 25 years of service at Nativity BVM Elementary School in 2017 with a plaque and a ticket to the Saints/Viking opening game (being an avid football fan). Not only did Sister Mary Jo excel in leadership in our Catholic Schools, she was a valuable community leader in Biloxi highly respected for her willing cooperation with the City. Sister Mary Jo came to the assistance of the City of Biloxi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when she opened her school to the City’s first responders, whose facilities were heavily damaged and turned it into a “M.A.S.H. unit.” By her cooperation, the City’s firemen and policemen operated out of the school in the immediate days following the catastrophe. Despite the chaos, and amidst damaged buildings, Sister Mary Jo managed the school’s reopening for regular classes within only a few weeks after the storm.
Sister Mary Jo was an outstanding school principal. She helped develop Nativity BVM Elementary school as a premier Catholic elementary school excelling in academics, child health, sports, robotics, and faith. She was instrumental in developing the only Special Education component within the Catholic School System in the Diocese of Biloxi. Over the years, she built up a highly qualified and stable staff of teachers which the school enjoys even to this day.
To know Sister Mary Jo was to know someone who loved her vocation as a religious Sister and educator. She loved her God, her religious community, her students, co-workers and the many families she served. Her sense of humor, her ready smile, her bravery under duress (cancer and hurricanes) are just some of the characteristics of Sister Mary Jo Mike that will be dearly missed by the Sisters in her community, her sister, her family as well as the beloved people of Nativity BVM Mary Parish in Biloxi.
A visitation for Sister Mary Jo was held at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday evening, January 3. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Friday, January 4. Sr. Mary Jo will be sent to Sylvania, Ohio for interment in Porta Coeli Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, Sister Mary Jo requested that donations be made to The Nativity School Foundation. The proceeds from this perpetual foundation go directly to tuition reduction of the parents of school children. Donations should be mailed to Nativity School Foundation, P.O. Box 453, Biloxi, MS 39533-0453.