Give up gossip for Lent

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – Lent is a good time to concentrate on fighting the urge to gossip about others and instead trying to correct one’s own faults and defects, Pope Francis said.
Reciting the Angelus prayer at noon March 3 with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square and visiting the parish of St. Crispin in Labaro, a suburb on the northern edge of Rome, later that afternoon, Pope Francis focused on the line from the day’s Gospel: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”
“We all know it usually is easier or more comfortable to notice and condemn the defects and sins of others rather than seeing our own with that kind of clarity,” the pope said at the Angelus. The pope returned to the passage during his parish visit, telling parishioners that Jesus “wants to teach us to not go around criticizing others, not go looking for others’ defects, but look first at your own.”
If someone were to say, “but, Father, I don’t have any,” the pope said he would explain that “I assure you if you don’t notice you have any here, you’ll find them in purgatory! It’s better to notice them here.”
Unfortunately, he said, people seldom stop at just noticing others’ defects, something “we are experts at.”
What almost always happens next, he said, is that “we talk about them,” not telling the person to his or her face in a way that could help the person improve but indulging freely and happily in gossip.
“It’s something that because of original sin we all have, and it leads us to condemn others,” the pope said. “We are experts in finding the bad things in others and not seeing our own.” Speaking the Sunday before Lent was to begin, Pope Francis said it would be great if everyone tried during Lent to reflect on Jesus’ words to see the faults only of others and on the temptation of gossip.
Catholics should ask themselves, “Am I a hypocrite who smiles and then turns around to criticize and destroy with my tongue?” He said. “If, by the end of Lent, we are able to correct this a bit and not go around always criticizing others behind their backs, I assure you (the celebration of) Jesus’ resurrection will be more beautiful.”
The pope began his parish visit by meeting children who had recently received their first Communion or were preparing for first Communion and those who recently received confirmation or were preparing to be confirmed.
The young people asked him questions, including about how to be good and resist temptation.
Beginning his response, Pope Francis asked the youngsters if they knew who the “boss of wickedness” is. “The devil,” they replied.
“But the devil’s a fantasy; he doesn’t exist, does he?” the pope asked.
“Yes, he exists. It’s true,” the pope told them. “And he is our worst enemy. He’s the one who tries to make us slide. He’s the one who puts evil desires and evil thoughts in our hearts and leads us to do so many bad things.”
The way to resist the devil, he said, is to pray to Jesus and to his mother and to talk to one’s parents, catechists or priests when temptation is lurking.
Prayer and talking to someone good and wise also is important when trying to make a decision, he told them in response to another question.
“We can all make mistakes,” Pope Francis said. “Even I can make a mistake?”
“Yes,” the children replied.
“The pope can make a mistake?” he asked just to make sure he understood them.
When they responded in the affirmative, he told them they were right, and that when someone has a decision to make, prayer and seeking advice can help.

Chanche Medal honorees: serve, embrace, inspire

JACKSON – When Bishop John Joseph Chanche arrived in the newly formed Diocese of Natchez in May of 1841, there were no Catholic Churches, only a couple of missionary priests, and his flock was far flung. He rose to the challenge and laid the foundation for the Diocese of Jackson. The diocese honors his legacy and thanks those who continue to build on his foundation with the Bishop Chanche medal for service.
This year, Bishop Joseph Kopacz gave 19 adults and nine young people their awards on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. During the Mass, he used Bishop Chanche’s crozier, at right, and spoke of the man who braved wilderness and scarcity to build up the kingdom of God. The brief descriptions on these pages come from the Bishop Chanche nomination forms and offer a glimpse into the men and women who serve the Church today.

Adult winners with their medals.

Ella Deffner – Clinton Holy Savior
Eucharistic minister to shut-ins, liturgical volunteer.
“Ella lives out her personal devotion to Eucharist in her own life as a faithful Eucharistic Minister visiting and bringing Eucharist to shut-ins weekly. She prepares our altar for Mass daily and Sunday and cares for altar linens, vestments and votive candle.” – Father Tom McGing

Kathleen Edwards – Pearl St. Jude
Certified Catechist, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, hospitality coordinator, liturgical volunteer, RCIA volunteer.
“Kathleen’s ministries have touched many lives. I have seen the impact she has on children, as they respond very enthusiastically to her presence. I have seen her give special attention to children with special needs and they respond very positively to her. She is the face of Christ to many in our parish. She is always serving and taking care of our parishioners, making sure they feel welcome.” – Father Lincoln Dall

Mavis and Lando Fratesi – Leland St. James
Liturgical volunteers, social volunteers, Knights of Columbus
“This couple has been committed to their Catholic faith for past 63 years and they participate in all the ministries of the parish. Lando volunteers for any work in the parish. Young people and children look up to them as role models of parents and grandparents.” – Father Alphonse Arulanandu

Roma Golden – Natchez Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Liturgical volunteer, visited sick and home-bound, inspiring caregiver to disabled son, member Secular Order of Disclaced Carmelites
“For many years, Roma dedicated one day each week to visiting and praying with the sick and home bound and being a Eucharistic Minister to Catholic members. This has been of great service since Assumption Parish did not have a full-time priest. She has been an outstanding witness by her caring for her disabled son.” – Father David O’Connor

Deborah Hopf – Gloster, Holy Family Parish
Volunteer organist
“Ms. Debbie Hopf is a devoted organist at Holy Family Church in Gloster, as well as for St. Joseph Church in Woodville, as a substitute whenever required. She recently retired from Amite County School System as a Board Supervisor and as an English teacher at Centreville Academy, and has been most faithful to her weekend music ministry at Holy Family Church.” – Father Scott Dugas

Carolyn Koenig – Amory St. Helen
Coordinates parish Christmas charity effort, visits elderly and alzheimers patients, participates in civic charity events.
“Each year more than 80 children and families have some sort of Christmas because of her hard work and dedication. She has a loving heart and her generosity is well known in the parish. There have been times when she was hospitalized but continued with doing what she could from her bed and home. Carolyn is a loving woman who has raised two Catholic daughters who continue to participate in the Church along with her two grandchildren. Her witness of Faith is quietly evident in all she does.” – Sister Lael Niblick

Mary and John Kraft – Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish
Office and liturgy volunteers
For Mary and John, their service to the Church is priority. They see the work that they do for the Church and for the Lord as their path of living out their holiness. So many sacrifices have been made to accomplish the good work the Lord has inspired them to carry out.” – nominating committee

Mike Logan – Woodville St. Joseph
Hospitality volunteer, usher, assists needs veterans.
“Mike Logan has continued a dedicated ministry of Minister of Hospitality and Usher at St. Joseph Church in Woodville for more than 10 years. This goes back to a family tradition started with St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Churches in Natchez.” – Father Scott Dugas

Vivian and Patrick McKinney – Chatawa St. Teresa of Avila
Parish council volunteers, donated construction time, talent and treasure, social gathering volunteers, associates of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
(In addition to preparing meals for parish events), “Pat constructed the concrete foundation for the bell tower at St. Teresa of Avila Church, as well as the concrete ramp to St. James Mission Church, Magnolia.” Vivian serves on several committees and arranges parish picnic annually. They are “a faithful family — totally dedicated to their church in various ways. They are always available to take up any responsibility.” – Father Suresh Reddy Thirumalareddy

Roxian and Daniel Miller – Natchez St. Mary Basilica
Liturgical volunteers, parish event volunteers, social service volunteers, member Knights of Columbus.
“Both of these nominees are outstanding witnesses and examples in St. Mary Basilica parish. They are leaders in the “Respect Life” activities of the parish and in the functions of the Knights of Columbus. Both can be found in the Family Life Center kitchen helping to prepare and serve the weekly parish dinners and do the clean up afterwards. Both are very dedicated to praying the rosary, often making rosaries to give to those who need one and leading many rosary services throughout the year, especially during the month of October.” – Father David O’Connor

Rosalinda and Joel Montoy – Jackson St. Therese
Hispanic ministry, catechesis, parish and finance council volunteers, donors of construction time, talent and treasure,
“Most recently Joel helped recruit and coordinated volunteers who are donating $115,000 worth of labor for construction of the new parish offices and religious education classrooms.” Rosalinda has also been an example of one who gives her time, talents and leadership to the parish. She serves on the pastoral council and on the liturgy committee. For three years Rosalinda has been the director of the Parish School of Religion for Hispanics. Like a good leader, she prepared someone to take her place this year, and Rosalinda has returned to teaching one of the classes.” – Msgr. Elvin Sunds

Evelyn Villanueva Riveros – Vicksburg St. Michael
Hispanic ministry coordinator, sacramental preparation volunteer, social service volunteer
“Evelyn is a native Puerto Rican and her home country was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. Being barely able to communicate with family and friends made this time very difficult for Evelyn but she threw her heart into doing whatever she could for her fellow Puerto Ricans. She took her love of Hispanic Ministry and her love of country to the global scale. Almost single handedly she arranged for the St. Michael Parish Hall to be used as the Warren County drop off location for relief items going to Puerto Rico.” – Father Robert Dore

Derek Singleton – Jackson Christ the King
Liturgical volunteer, parish council member, school supporter, physical plant volunteer, catechist Knights of Peter Claver.
“Derek is a true example of who a Catholic is. His deeds are not not done because he was asked to sign up for something. He does things because he feels as a Catholic it is something that he should do. It is in his persona to go out of his way to serve.” – Deacon Denzil Lobo

Barbara and Donnie Tynes – Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle
RCIA coordinators, liturgical volunteers, Habitat for Humanity volunteers, prison ministry, parish council
“Since their registration as parishioners 14 years ago, Barbara and Donnie are the smiling faces that inquirers and visitors see at the Cathedral They are always ready with a smile or hug or both to help those in need feel special.” – Father Anthony Quyet

Doug Prosen – Philadephia Holy Cross Parish
Food pantry ministry, Knights of Columbus
“He is a vibrant person who spends his time serving the poor and runs this ministry free of charge.” – Father Darnis Selvanayakam

Britt Virden – Greenville, St. Joseph Parish
School and parish volunteer and donor. “Britt exemplifies what it means to believe in a mission and put every ounce of talent and energy into mission. He believes in it and he lives it. He has also made financial sacrifices in order to support our school and parish. No matter what the need was, Britt would see to it that we got it.” – Father Bill Henry.

Gracie Wilson – Gluckstadt St. Joseph
Liturgical volunteer, hospitality volunteer for parish and diocesan events, Hispanic ministry, social service, Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxillary
“Gracie is invaluable to me, personally, and to our community. She leads when called to leadership, she is on the team when needed, and she serves in the background when that service is necessary. She is always there, helping, supporting, and praying for our parish family.” – Pam Minninger

Youth honorees

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz congratulates youth winners of the Bishop Chanche service award during the Mass on Saturday, Feb. 24. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Olivia Artigues – Starkville St. Joseph
Youth ministry and catechetical volunteer, liturgical volunteer, community service volunteer.
“When she speaks about or lives out her faith, it is a pure and well intended example for the others to follow. And it is done in such as way, as John the Baptist, pointing to someone much greater than herself.” – Deacon Jeff Artigues

Raphael Barner – Jackson Holy Ghost
Liturgical volunteer, musician (Sonic Boom of the South member), role model.
“At our church and at school, Raphael is known for his leadership and his willingness to assist and prayerfulness. The youth at our church look up to Raphael because is always available for the young males to talk to school and sometimes about music. Raphael has no problem praying with his friends and sharing his religious beliefs. For a young man who have so much going on in his life, he is a jewel.” – Father Alfred Ayem, pastor

Catherine Cook – Jackson St. Richard
Youth ministry leader, retreat leader, liturgical volunteer, community service volunteer
“Catherine has a deep faith in God and a strong personal relationship with Christ. Her relationship with Christ is evident in everything she does. Catherine truly loves the Lord and this becomes very apparent in the way she lives her life. You don’t have to spend much time with Catherine before her love of Christ becomes apparent. She just can’t help sharing his love with others. “ – Amelia Rizor, youth minister

Margaret Elizabeth Gordon – Gluckstadt St. Joseph
Liturgical volunteer, catechist volunteer, community service
“Meg has an enthusiasm for her participation and faith that inspires not only her leaders but our younger members as well. She is always willing to guide the younger teens when needed.” – Patti Greene, youth minister

Cassandra Klutz – Meridian St. Patrick
Liturgical ministry, particularly music ministry, Vacation Bible school and summer service camp volunteer.
“She is the most empathetic young person I have ever been around, she has a knack for sensing what someone may need, whether it be a kind word, a smile, or a helping hand and then providing it without fanfare. She is very creative in the arts with the ability to vision an idea and then follow through to its completion. Her kindness extends throughout our youth, she will take the time to teach younger kids arts, crafts, music and anything that she has had experience with previously. Finally, her integrity might be her strongest suit. She has been taught a strong moral foundation by her parents and she has built upon that herself.” – John Harwell, youth minister

Dominic Lopez – Pearl St. Jude
Youth ministry volunteer, liturgical volunteer, volunteer for Carmelite monastery, parish leadership council, hospital volunteer
“He is a strong leader in our community and in our youth program. He has a strong devotion to the Eucharist and the Mass and to many of the devotions of our Catholic faith. He tries to get other youth involved in our parish and is always encouraging to them. Many of the other youth look to him for leadership and as an example. He promotes the traditions and devotions of the Filipino community in our parish.” – Father Lincoln Dall

Ryne Hamilton McCallum – Vicksburg St. Michael
Peer catechist, youth leader
“It is really hard to narrow down to three words Ryne’s character. Loyal, hardworking and faith-filled easily come to mind. However, the one word that really stands out is inquisitive. Ryne has been attending our Parish School of Religion since second grade and in those eleven years there have only been a handful of times that he has missed. He is still attending this year as a Confirmed high school senior.” – Helene Bension, Director of religious education.

John Paul Moorman – Madison St. Francis of Assisi
Youth ministry volunteer, Vacation Bible School volunteer
“John Paul’s service has done a lot to help build a culture of outstanding young Christian men and women in our parish community. By working with young men and women almost every Sunday and serving as he is needed he is helping others see an example of a youth who takes his faith seriously and lives it out. We are very thankful for John Paul and everything about this outstanding young man. He consistently attends youth activities, participates in worship activities and extends himself beyond what is required by volunteering this year with the EDGE core team.” – nominating committee

Mary Swinney – Kosciusko St. Therese
Youth ministry leader, civic volunteer, community service volunteer
“Well organized and dependable with tasks large and small. This year she helped organize and worked at four fundraisers to pay for the nine youth and two chaperones to attend the Youth Conference in Vicksburg. Mary is very humble and is not one to call attention to herself and is willing to help where ever there is a need.” – nominating committee

Julianna Vaughn – Tupelo St. James
Youth leader, liturgical volunteer, Vacation Bible school volunteer, community service volunteer.
“She is a leader in every way. She is the captain of her cheer squad, captain of the soccer team, Vice President of her senior class, Vice President of high school student government, President of the BETA club, Contributing write to the Quill and Scroll high school paper, volunteers for the Nettleton peewee football league. She is also pursuing a career in service to her country. “ – Mary Frances Strange, youth minister

Christopher James Walton – Flowood St. Paul
Youth leader, liturgical volunteer, Eagle Scout
“In referring again to his genuine nature, he participates in our program because he knows it is the right thing to do and really enjoys it. He is the type of student that the adult volunteers have come to know they can count on to help inspire other students. All of his current and past youth volunteers have nothing but great things to say about him.” – Corey Head, youth minister

Parish builds New Life Building

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Sunday, Feb. 24, was a sunny and cool day, perfect for the dedication of St. Therese Parish New Life Building. After several days of rain, the weather cleared and Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Msgr. Elvin Sunds, pastor, Deacon Adolfo Suarez and parishioners stood outside the new building after the 12:30 bilingual Mass for the blessing and dedication.
The construction of this building, which will be used for parish offices and religious education classes, began in February 2018 and was finished on Saturday, Feb. 23. The cost of the construction was $1.5 million, Msgr. Sunds said, adding that most of money from the sale of St. Therese school, about $500,000, and a little from the sale of Jackson St. Mary Church’s building in 2015, were the seed money to start the project.
“We also had very generous donations from parishioners and friends in the community,” he said. Msgr. Sunds noted the parish had two large donations, one for $100,000 from a Catholic Mississippian and $70,000 from a non-Catholic.
“A big help also came from members of the Hispanic community of St. Therese Parish who provided labor for free in the amount of $115,000. Joel Montoya, a contractor who recently received the Bishop Chance Award, coordinated the Hispanic volunteers who donated their labor. “We also had some volunteers from Jackson St. Peter Parish and from other area Catholic parishes who came to the site and asked how they could help,” he said. “I didn’t know them but if they wanted to help I directed them to the areas where they could work.” Montoya said about 45 Hispanic volunteers and a few Americans did about 40 percent of the labor including sheet-rocking, framing, insulating, painting,, brick laying and other tasks.
He said that few who had committed to help but at the last minute couldn’t do it, paid others to do it for them. “That shows how serious they were about being part of this project,” he said. Msgr. Sunds and Montoya feel very blessed for all the help and donations the parish received for the construction of the New Life Building and the day of the blessing they wanted to have a photo with all the volunteers as a memory for the future.

A loan was taken for the rest of the money, about $600,000, which will be paid in 17 years. Msgr. Sunds said Bishop Kopacz is very committed to making sure that St. Therese Parish is an anchor for the South Jackson community and a large anchor for the Hispanic community. “That is why he extended the loan a little further than normal so we were able to go ahead with the project. It was a project that was really necessary for the parish but it is also a statement about St. Therese Parish saying ‘we are here to stay.’”
The parish is very multicultural, including Hispanics, non-Hispanics, African Americans, and others from Vietnam, Africa, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
Msgr. Sunds said they tried to utilize as many of the sacred objects as they could from St. Mary Parish. Some were old or in disrepair and had to either be buried or burned. “We felt it was appropriate to bury them under the foundation of the new building as saying that we are continuing the life of St. Mary here at St. Therese,” he added. The Stations of the Cross at St. Therese are part of St. Mary Parish too.
Volunteers also helped with moving furniture and items from storage and from the current offices to the new building. After the blessing and dedication of the building parishioners gathered to enjoy a reception and cook out.

Summer Institute classes announced

MOBILE, Alabama – Spring Hill College announces the lineup of classes for its Summer Institute of Christian Spirituality. The one or two-week sessions offer a chance to delve into a particular topic. They take place on campus in Mobile June 3-7 and 10-14 or in Atlanta June 14-16 and 21-23.
Established in 1993, the annual institute offers a unique blend of academic challenge and spiritual enrichment, specifically designed for adults seeking to deepen their faith, exploring the vast traditions of Christian spirituality and, if the student would like, for pursuing one of the school’s certificate or degree programs.
The curriculum is made up of a series of one-credit courses offered in one-week or intensive weekend sessions, studying a variety of spiritual masters and mystics, along with biblical, liturgical and social themes.
Taught in the Jesuit tradition of excellence, courses may be taken for graduate or undergraduate credit or on an easy listening basis (no required assignments, no grade, no transcript record kept). While rooted in Catholic theology, the program is fully ecumenical and welcomes persons of all faiths.
Course topics this year include: Unity and Jesus Forsaken: Theology of Chiara Lubich and the “Work of Mary” (Focolare Movement); Joseph and His Brothers: Resentment and Reconciliation; Spiritual Discernment in Time of Crisis: Thomas Merton in the 1960s; and Spirituality of Inter-Religious Dialogue.
Visit for course and registration information.

Justice tempered with mercy, practicality: advocating for criminal justice reform

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – For prison ministry coordinator Marvin Edwards, the criminal justice systen should be based on two verses of Scripture: Jeremiah 10:24-25 “Correct me, O Lord, but with justice. Not with your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.” He spoke about how these verses relate to restorative justice reforms needed in the criminal justice process in Mississippi at this year’s Catholic Day at the Capitol (CDC), Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. At the event advocates urged participants to support House Bill 1352.
The bill expands access to drug courts and mental health courts so addicts and the mentally ill can get treatment rather than just be incarcerated. It will also allow felons to get occupational licenses as long as their offenses are not related to the profession in which they would like to work. Currently, the state of Mississippi controls licensure for about 60 occupations such as cosmetology, barbering and landscape architecture. Felons can receive training in these, but are banned from getting a license when they get out, making it harder for them to get a job. The bill also eases restrictions on suspending driver’s licenses for parolees, another barrier to being able to work.
Edwards spoke as part of a panel discussing the many issues related to the need for reform. He was joined by Jim Robertson of Empower Mississippi, who spoke about the need to create and sustain reentry programs for people who have served their sentences and who want to become contributing members of society again.
Robertson and Edwards both work on reentry programs. They believe in starting the process as early as during sentencing, particularly in the cases of young offenders who have the potential to use their time in prison to learn from their mistakes and get training in life-skills.

Bishop Louis Kihneman, bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi

Monsignor Elvin Sunds

Panelists (l-r) James Robertson, Empower Mississippi; Marvin Edwards, coordinator for Catholic prison ministry; Christina Dent, End it for Good; and Amelia McGowan, immigration attorney, discuss how different aspects of the criminal justice system impact their work and ministries during Catholic Day at the Captiol, Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem

Bishop Louis Kihneman and Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Mrs. Sue Allen

The keynote speaker for the day was John Koufos, national director of reentry initiatives for Right on Crime, a national advocacy group. Koufos told his personal story of conversion. While driving drunk, he almost killed someone else and ended up going to prison. He was able to get sober and wanted to start a new life, but realized how many barriers he would have to overcome – starting with trying to get his driver’s license back. He used his skills as an attorney and his connections in the legal community and his efforts got noticed. He ended up being tapped by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead a state-wide reform effort. He went on to be the executive director of the Safe Streets and Second Chances Initiative and national director for Right on Crime.
Koufos praised the group gathered for CDC and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant for their work on reforms. “You have a formula here that’s something special,” said Koufos. “Very few states have a coalition like the one you have right here. You need to keep up this momentum,” he added.
Panelist Christina Dent spoke about how her attitude about addiction was transformed when she fostered an addict’s child. “What I found was a mother who deeply loves her son. Her addiction was not about a lack of love,” said Dent. The mother got treatment and was able to restore her family structure. In another case, Dent said the outcome was tragic. The second mother did not get treatment, she got a 15-year prison sentence for drugs. “Her children are growing up without their mother.” Dent said these cases sent her searching for a better answer for addicts. She advocates for a health-care approach to drug use rather than criminalization. She leads discussion groups around the book Chasing the Scream, a story about the history of the criminalization of drugs in America, and runs the advocacy group End it for Good.
Alicia Tarrant, who works with the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence came up from Biloxi for the day. “I am interested in restorative justice and want to learn more about it and criminal justice reform. Many victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault may have charges related either to their abuse or to drug use or that kind of stuff and I just want to know how they can better be helped,” she said.
Anna McNiel heard some of the CDC speakers at separate events, but wanted to know how their ideas meshed together. “I love hearing how believers can all come together and apply what we can learn from the Bible to all of these real situations and find justice for people. My Dad always said ‘all truth is God’s truth.,’” she said.
Sue Allen, who led the Faith in Action Team in organizing the day, closed the presentations with her own story of seeking restorative justice for her son, a convicted murderer who suffers from a mental illness.
Participants gathered at the Capitol for a news conference in the early afternoon. Bishop Louis Kihneman, Bishop of Biloxi, read a joint statement from himself and Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson. “For compelling reasons, there is a growing consensus throughout our state that punishment must be accompanied by rehabilitation and restoration to community and society,” read the bishop. “We are here today to add our voices, values and experience to the quest for a more just and peaceful society, the visible expression of the Kingdom of God in our midst.”
Governor Bryant has said he will sign the bill into law if it is passed as-is. Advocates still have time to contact their senators to support HB 1352.

Feature photo … Women’s’ retreat closing Mass

JACKSON – Almost four dozen women from St. Therese Parish gathered to reflect on the theme “Be who God meant you to be and you can set the world on fire” during a two-day bilingual retreat led by the Redemptorist Fathers from Greenwood. The gathering featured group and individual sessions as well as personal free time. One member, Rosa Saldana, crocheted flowers for each woman to wear. Each flower had a prayer on the back. (Photo by Cathy Eaves)

Parish calendar of events

COVINGTON Louisiana, Married Couples Retreat, March 16-17, at St. Joseph Abbey Christian Life Retreat Center. Come away for rest and spiritual strength and nourishment. Suggested donation: $275 per couple. Details: or call (504) 830-3716.
CULLMAN, Ala., Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, John Donne and George Herbert: Poets of the Paschal Mystery, March 22-23. They were 17th century metaphysical poets and how exploration of their poetry will enhance the Lenten journey. Retreat Director: Sister Marian Davis, O.S.B., Ph.D. Cost: Private room $145; shared room $110 per person. This is a one-night retreat. An additional night of retreat is available for those who wish. Details: (256) 734-8302, or
COLLIERVILLE Tenn, Men’s Morning of Spirituality, Saturday, March 23. Doors open at 7 a.m., program begins at 8 a.m. Catholic Church of the Incarnation, 360 Bray Station Road. There is no cost and is open to all men seeking a deeper relationship with Christ and a greater unity with other men seeking to grow their Catholic faith. Keynote speaker: Damon Owens, a gifted and sought-after speaker for national conferences, marriage seminars, seminaries, and youth groups on Theology of the Body, Theology of the Family and NFP. Details:

BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Lectio Divina, Fridays during Lent at 6:30 p.m. in the library. Presented by Shelley Harrigill. Details: church office (601) 833-1799.
CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk through Christ’s Passion, five-week study, Thursday, March 21 at 5:30 p.m. in McKenna Hall, then meets after 5:30 Mass on the following Tuesdays. Join scholar Edward Sri as he sheds light on the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death and how it can draw you closer to Jesus. Study books will be available for $15 each. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, Ladies Bible study resumes Wednesday, March 20, at 6 p.m. discussing Chapter 17 “Can God Really Change me or is that just wishful thinking?” Details: church office (662) 846-6273.
GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph, Knights of Columbus Lenten dinners, Fridays, March 22 (fish fry); March 29 (shrimp etouffee) and April 5 (shrimp po’boy). Details: church office (601) 856-2054.
JACKSON St. Richard, Lectio Divina during Lent meets Tuesdays, March 12, 19, 26, April 2 and 9 from 10 -11:30 a.m. in the Mercy Room. Come experience a way to pray the Lenten Sunday scriptures during this season. Facilitators: Mary Louise Jones and Claudia Addison. You can come to any or all sessions. All are welcome. Details: Claudia at or the church office (601) 366-2335.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Save the Date, Cajun Fest, Sunday, May 5, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sponsors still welcome. Details: church office (601) 856-5556 or visit Sponsors contact Mike and Mary Robinson, Cajun Fest Chairs at
Save the date, Miraculous Mission Vacation Bible School 2019: Blast off for Pre-K-4th graders is June 17-21. Details: Mary Catherine George at to volunteer or call the church office (601) 856-5556.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Ladies of the Natchez area retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks, Grand Coteau, Louisiana, December 5-8. A $25 deposit is needed for holding your room ASAP. Details: Kot Morris at (601) 334-8339.
Knights of Columbus fish fry, Fridays during Lent in the Family Life Center from 5-7 p.m. Catfish dinners $10; shrimp dinners $11 and combo dinners $12. For grilled catfish, please call 30 minutes ahead. A movie will be shown each Friday. Details: (601) 897-0295.
PEARL St. Jude, Life Walk on Saturday, April 13 at Flowood Nature Park. Registration is at 8 a.m. and walk begins at 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Proceeds from the walk will provide no cost pregnancy testing and ultrasounds. Details: Anja Baker at if you would like to join the St. Jude team.
Save the Date, Vacation Bible School, “Surf’s Up – Chill Out with the Beatitudes” on June 17-21, 9 a.m. – noon. Details: church office (601) 939-3181.
SHAW St. Francis of Assisi, Day of Reflection at Locus Benedictus, Greenwood, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The theme will be Stations of the Cross. Be sure to register before the workshop so they know how much food to prepare. Cost: $10. Details: church office (662) 754-5561.

JACKSON Sr. Thea Bowman School, Draw Down, Saturday, April 27, in the Multipurpose building. Grand prize: $5,000. Tickets are $100 and second chance insurance: $20. Details: school office (601) 352-5441.
MADISON St. Anthony School is now accepting applications for new students entering grades K4 – 6th. Details: visit or contact Michele Warnock at (601) 607-7054.

After the Vatican’s summit on abuse, the stakes are clear

By Greg Erlandson
VATICAN CITY – (CNS) The long-awaited “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church,” nicknamed the abuse summit, was an extraordinary and historic gathering that surpassed many expectations while perhaps disappointing others.
Historic in that it brought together the heads of 114 bishops’ conferences from the entire world, as well as the leaders of religious congregations, curial officials and even a few laypeople to discuss in a semi-public forum the sins of the church and to hear the powerful words of the victims themselves. Extraordinary in that it featured a drumbeat of eloquent and at times blunt criticisms by speakers regarding the way that the church has handled abuse crises to date.
It also may have become a prototype of sorts for what synodal gatherings may come to look like in the future in terms of both a diversity of voices and an honesty of opinion.
From the start, Pope Francis had four chief audiences to reach, each with its own suspicions and concerns.
The first was the broad leadership of the church, the bishops of the world represented by the heads of their episcopal conferences as well as the leadership of religious congregations.

Pope Francis reviews papers during the third-day of a meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The second consisted of the victims of clerical sexual abuse who so often had been ignored, excused or even attacked for having the courage to tell what was done to them. Numerous organizations of survivors came to Rome to be heard, and many made their dissatisfaction with the proceedings known, judging them too little and too unsubstantial. Within the hall, however, other victims were heard in person and by audio. Their statements were read as reflections for prayer, and every session was reminded of what they are suffering.
The third audience was both the larger Catholic community as well as the general public, both of whom increasingly look on the church as guilty until proven innocent and doubt that the church is able to police itself.
The fourth audience was those members of the Roman Curia who have been cautious about some proposals and changes, for example those proposed by the U.S. bishops last year.
It appears that the actual proceedings over the course of four days had a powerful impact on the vast majority of the attendees. From prayerful meditations on the words of victim survivors to presentations by victims themselves, the bishops came face to face with the impact of clergy sexual abuse. While some of the attendees had previous experience meeting with those who had been abused, for others coming from regions where the crisis has not been directly acknowledged, it was revelatory. The cry of the victims was made flesh before their eyes, the tears and the trauma unavoidable and undeniable.
The assembled leaders heard from their own. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, launched the summit with a spiritual reflection on the necessity of touching the wounds of their people as Thomas touched the side of Christ.
Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota dismissed those who say the problem is worse elsewhere. “The fact that abuses occur in other institutions and groups can never justify the occurrence of abuses in the church,” he said. He exhorted his fellow bishops, “We have to recognize that the enemy is within.”
Other bishops addressed the needs for practical changes in administration, in church law, and in how the bishops related to each other, both personally and in terms of their dioceses and conferences.
Two of the most powerful speeches of the four-day summit were delivered by women. Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, shattered the myth that abuse was only a Western problem, recounting her experiences as a leader and as a woman religious regarding abuses in her own country.
Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, speaking as a journalist and as a mother, gave a scorching challenge to the assembled leaders: “If you do not decide in a radical way to be on the side of the children, mothers, families, civil society, you are right to be afraid of us, because we journalists, who seek the common good, will be your worst enemies.”
Pope Francis, who sat through all the sessions and heard all the presentations, told the bishops at the start of the meeting that he wanted “concrete and effective measures.” In the final news conference of the meeting, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi identified three “concrete initiatives”:
Legislation from the pope that would “strengthen prevention and the fight against abuse on the part of the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State.”
A guide from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that would make clear the “duties and tasks” of all bishops when confronting allegations of abuse.
The creation of task forces of “competent persons” who could “help episcopal conferences and dioceses that find it difficult to confront the problems and produce initiatives for the protection of minors.”

Sex abuse survivors Denise Buchanan and Alessandro Battaglia are pictured in front of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 24, 2019, on the final day of the Vatican’s four-day meeting on the protection of minors in the church. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

While none of these are new proposals, the impact of the summit, the explicit commitment of the pope, and the clear expectations of the larger world for a change in the status quo will put enormous pressure on the Vatican to deliver on these commitments while they in turn press all dioceses to do the same.
There are those in the Vatican bureaucracy, the fourth audience, who seem not to understand how devastating the scandals have been to the Catholic communities in North America, Australia, Ireland and Chile. The truth is that the proposed “concrete initiatives” have long been in the works, and it can appear that all in the Curia do not fully appreciate the scale and the scope of the emergency.
As Cardinal Oswald Gracias told impatient journalists at the final news conference, “It is not like the Holy Father snaps his fingers and everything is done all over the world.” For this reason, the summit was an opportunity also to bring pressure to bear on those in the bureaucracy who may, for a variety of reasons, be dragging their heels.
The pope’s final speech at the summit’s end disappointed some. He emphasized that that the abuse of minors was a “universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone,” a rationale often heard from some churchmen angry or defensive about the criticism the church has endured.
But the pope made clear that the church is not just any institution: “The brutality of this worldwide phenomenon becomes all the more grave and scandalous in the church, for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility.”
With this summit, Pope Francis has tossed down the gauntlet. The stakes are clear. In the words of Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, “All of this will take time, but we do not have forever and we dare not fail.”

(Follow Erlandson on Twitter: @GregErlandsoni)

Bless me Father for I have sinned

By James Tomek
The following is a review of Stephen Rossetti’s The Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the Gift (Notre Dame U: Ave Maria P, 2018). Sacraments are signs or events that are imbued with the presence of God. Rossetti substitutes sanctifying grace for God — the grace that allows us to transform material earthly presences into a more divine presence. Whenever we use any material resource like water and food for the benefit of humankind, we transform these resources into the body of Christ. Sacramentals are sacred signs that resemble the sacraments like blessings, crucifixes, rosary beads, and holy water. They are instituted by the Church rather than directly by Christ. They do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit the way sacraments do. Stephen Rossetti’s book is a discussion of how blessings join into the nature of sacrament.
Father Rossetti’s elements of Blessings conform to Richard McBrien’s three essential elements of Catholicism: sacramentality, mediation and communion. Sacramentality sees all creation as sacred. Mediation adds that sacraments cause what they signify – like Mary, transforming worldly things into heavenly things. Communion sees us as Church being the sacrament of Jesus and, acting as a community, working together to achieve a heavenly communion of all saints, living, dead, and to come. (McBrien, Catholicism 9-13).
Father Rossetti defines priestly blessings as acts of singling out or consecrating persons, places, events, or things to a sacred or liturgical use. When we bless, we approve or God approves! Rossetti is talking mostly to priests, citing the greatest blessing when the priest imparts God’s consecration of the gifts of bread and wine at the Eucharist.
Stephen Rossetti begins with the use of blessings in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, blessing is a reciprocal action. We first bless or praise God. The berekah is the source of all blessings. Jesus continues this idea with the beatitudes, telling us what we should bless. Jesus lays hands on the food and on the apostles, giving them the power, in turn, to continue to set things aside for sacred use. Father Rossetti counsels us to be generous with blessings so we can evangelize or encourage others to pray.
A major theme of the former collection or book of blessings was exorcism, driving out evil (apotropaic) from things blessed. The newer book of blessings, revised at Vatican II, emphasizes that we bless the people using the objects blessed, de-emphasizing magical elements and encouraging more positive actions rather than just eliminating evil. Rossetti does not include the blessing of graves, but here is an important synthesis of where we not only bless the people, but also the ground where we all will be buried. The Church encourages us to be a community when receiving blessings stressing the liturgical prayer aspect.
Who can bless? Clergy vs Laity? As a lay ecclesial minister at Sacred Heart in Rosedale, how can I properly preside over the final blessing at our services in the absence of a priest? The priests “impart” blessings. The laity “invoke” them. While priests are more direct sacraments of Jesus in Holy Orders, imparting blessings directly, I feel no inferiority in that I have to ask God to bless us. Blessings are sacramentals. Are they “lower” than sacraments in imparting grace? Father Rossetti sees sacramentals as radiations of the sacraments with blessings standing in the fore front. I surely hope I can evolve to be a sacramental, clutching on to a grace from Jesus. Father Rossetti prays for “piety,” A BIG WORD. Joan of Arc says that we bless because Jesus did, and He commanded us to do his work. Piety’s root word goes back to compassion or sensitivity to those who are hurting (pity’s root meaning). When we feel piety for others we are close to blessing our neighbors. Saint Joan – Pray for us that we may feel this piety. Bless us Father for we have sinned.

Struggling inside our own skin

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
I’ve been both blessed and cursed by a congenital restlessness that hasn’t always made my life easy. I remember as a young boy restlessly wandering the house, the yard, and then the open pastures of my family’s farm on the prairies. Our family was close, my life was protected and secure, and I was raised in a solid religious faith. That should have made for a peaceful and stable childhood and, for the most part, it did. I count myself lucky.
But all of this stability, at least for me, didn’t preclude an unsettling restlessness. More superficially, I felt this in the isolation of growing up in a rural community that seemed far removed from life in the big cities. The lives I saw on television and read about in the newspapers and magazines appeared to me to be much bigger, more exciting, and more significant than my own. My life, by comparison, paled, seemed small, insignificant, and second-best. I longed to live in a big city, away from what I felt to be the deprivations of rural life. My life, it seemed, was always away from everything that was important.
Beyond that, I tormented myself by comparing my life, my body, and my anonymity to the grace, attractiveness, and fame of the professional athletes, movie stars, and other celebrities I admired and whose names were household words. For me, they had real lives, ones I could only envy. Moreover, I felt a deeper restlessness that had to do with my soul. Despite the genuine intimacy of a close family and a close-knit community within which I had dozens of friends and relatives, I ached for a singular, erotic intimacy with a soulmate. Finally, I lived with an inchoate anxiety that I didn’t understand and which mostly translated itself into fear, fear of not measuring up and fear of how I was living life in face of the eternal.
That was the cursed part, but all of this also brought a blessing. Inside the cauldron of that disquiet I discerned (heard) a call to religious life which I fought for a long time because it seemed the antithesis of everything I longed for. How can a burning restlessness, filled with eros, be a call to celibacy? How can an egotistical desire for fame, fortune, and recognition be an invitation to join a religious order whose charism is to live with the poor? It didn’t make sense, and, paradoxically, that’s why, finally, it was the only thing that did made sense. I gave in to its nudging and it was right for me.
It landed me inside religious life and what I’ve lived and learned there has helped me, slowly through the years, to process my own restlessness and begin to live inside my own skin. Beyond prayer and spiritual guidance, two intellectual giants in particular helped me. As a student, aged 19, I began to study Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. My mind was still young and unformed but I grasped enough of what I was reading to begin to befriend the restless complexities inside my own soul – and inside the human soul in general. Even at age 19 (maybe particularly at 19) one can existentially understand Augustine’s dictum: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
And then there was Thomas Aquinas who asked: What is the adequate object of the human intellect and will? In short, what would we have to know and be in love with in order to satisfy every flame of restlessness within us? His answer: Everything! The adequate object of the human intellect and will is Being as such – God, all people, all nature. Only that would satisfy us.
Except … that’s not what we mostly think. The particular restlessness that I experienced in my youth is today in fact a near-universal disease. Virtually all of us believe that the good life is had only by those who live elsewhere, away from our own limited, ordinary, insignificant, and small-town lives. Our culture has colonized us to believe that wealth, celebrity, and comfort are the adequate object of the human intellect and will. They are, for us, “Being as such.” In our culture’s current perception, we look at the beautiful bodies, celebrity status, and wealth of our athletes, movie stars, television hosts, and successful entrepreneurs and believe that they have the good life and we don’t. We’re on the outside, looking in. We’re now, in effect, all farm kids in the outback envying life in the big city, a life accessible only to a highly select few, while we’re crucified by the false belief that life is only exciting elsewhere, not where we live.
But our problem is, as Rainer Marie Rilke once pointed out to an aspiring young poet who believed that his own humble surroundings didn’t provide him with the inspiration he needed for poetry, that if we can’t see the richness in the life we’re actually living then we aren’t poets.

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