Prevent child abuse through mental health awareness

GUEST COLUMN
By Reba J. McMellon, M.S., LPC
People who abuse children are not aware or concerned with their own mental health or the mental health of others. That is why abuse of a child is considered a crime and not a mental health issue that can be treated with psychological services alone. Most people who abuse children grossly lack the insight it takes to gain anything from counseling.

Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC

Child abuse includes body, mind and spirit. Verbal, sexual, spiritual, mental and physical abuse are sometimes in combination and sometimes separate. All abuse is harmful but sometimes the most harmful are the ones that leave no external mark one can point to in order to “prove” to oneself and others that significant harm has been done.
This column will associate mental health awareness with the prevention of child abuse. What speaks to one person will not speak to another. Being willing to read this article is a sign of psychological healthiness on your part.
• If a child or adult brings up the subject of abuse, don’t interrupt or change the subject.
• Listening and believing goes a long way toward healing.
• Keep the dialogue regarding abuse open among family and friends.
• Teach your children strong boundaries and healthy self-confidence.
• Be a role model for strong boundaries and healthy self-confidence because you can’t teach what you don’t know.
• Provide an atmosphere in your home where an abusive experience can be reported without overreaction or no reaction. Both are harmful.
• Do not hesitate to report abuse to the right authorities.
• Be brave enough to ask for details.
• Use discernment regarding the adults your child or adolescent spends time with.
• Use discernment regarding who you, as an adult, spend time with.
• Watch out for blind trust-whether it’s the chief cook, bottle washer, preacher, teacher, coach, parent, priest, friend, male, female, etc. There is no one stereotype for abusers except they’re good at fooling people.
• When discussing child abuse and mental health issues, don’t let the subject take a political bend. Politics will cloud the issue in a harmful way.
• Abuse issues can and often do come up later in life. It is possible to suppress memories for years. Suppressed memories is a way the body and mind let you know when it’s safe enough to remember.
• False memory syndrome is a term that began with defense attorneys in the 1990’s. While it happens, it is rare.
• Be vigilant about how you talk about abuse issues casually and in public. There is more than likely a survivor in ear shot. Thoughtless comments could push them back into the shadows of shame.
• God is love. Abuse is not.
Don’t walk it alone. Everyone needs a 5 a.m. friend or even at 5 p.m. Someone who listens, believes, encourages, doesn’t change the subject and can help guide you to seek healthy mental health counseling where uncovering leads to recovery allowing you to walk in the wholeness of Christ.
We’re all in this together.
“Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

(Reba J. McMellon, M.S., LPC is a mental health professional and freelance writer with 35 years of experience. She is available for consultation and public speaking. Reba can be reached at rebej@bellsouth.net)

Gift of four friends wrapped in one

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
Several years ago, when I was still the campus minister at Mississippi State, I also had the privilege to serve as the diocesan director for the Office of Campus Ministry. In that role I was part of the Department of Formational Ministries. A change in leadership in the department came about when Sister Deborah Hughes retired, and Cathy Cook was named the Superintendent of Catholic Schools and the head of the department. When Jeanne Howard retired in 2014, I was approached by a few people and asked to consider the position. I remember meeting with Cathy at Lake Tiak O’Khata that July for an interview. It turned out to be more like a conversation between old friends although we had not known one another very long. It was then that I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me to work in the chancery. Her confidence in me was ultimately the reason I accepted the job. Her confidence in me is ultimately the reason I became the director of the Department of Faith Formation.

Cathy announced earlier this Spring that she would be retiring at the end of April. She has served the church for 30 years in many roles within education and youth ministry. It is always bittersweet when colleagues of Cathy’s caliber announce their retirement. On the one hand I am so pleased that she will be able to pursue interests other than work. On the other hand, I will miss the day-to-day interactions. We both place a high premium on serving the young church.
Sharing a background in youth ministry was the source of many robust conversations. I remember after I moved my personal effects into my office at the chancery, Cathy saw a candle that I had from a diocesan youth convention many years earlier when I served as youth minister for St. Joseph in Starkville. She asked me with some urgency to follow her to her office. There she showed me the candle she had from the same convention when she was the youth minister at St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez. It was as if our fate was sealed at that Youth Convention those many years earlier though we do not remember meeting one another there.
I was recently with one of Cathy’s former employees from the Office of Catholic Education. We talked about the many people that she empowered over the years in church lay leadership. There are no doubt countless former employees, students, educators, administrators, and other church leaders who have benefitted from her years of dedicated service. In her leadership role, she advocated for training and education for lay leaders.
Over the past six plus years Cathy has helped me keep focused on the mission of Christ and not get bogged down in the mess. She taught me the value of discerning what “hills to die on” and when it is prudent to stay the course. She knows the value of a good laugh, appreciates a good meal, and enjoys sports at all levels. Her love of sports knows no bounds as she recently cheered for my alma mater in the NCAA Basketball tournament. I am Cathy’s only connection to Ohio University, but she wouldn’t let that minor detail get in the way of watching them play and cheering when they knocked off Virginia, the defending tournament champions.
Thinking about Cathy’s retirement reminded me of something I heard in a webinar sponsored by Ave Maria Press that I watched last Summer titled, “Strengthening Your Inner Life in Challenging Times: The Simple Care of a Hopeful Heart” presented by Dr. Robert J. Wicks. Dr. Wicks is Catholic and works as a clinical psychologist. He writes and speaks about the intersection of spirituality and psychology. In his presentation he mentions the four kinds of friends everyone should have:
The Prophet … who helps name what voices are guiding you in your life;
the Cheerleader … who is sympathetic and encouraging;
the Harasser or Teaser … because on the way to taking compassion seriously sometimes we take a detour and take ourselves too seriously; and,
the Inspirational friend that calls us to be all that we can be without embarrassing us that we are where we are.
Little did I know when we first met the impact she would have on my life and the role she would play as a prophet, cheerleader, teaser, and inspirational friend. This is not good-bye. I fully expect to continue to share good laughs, tasty meals, and a sporting event or two. I also expect I’ll continue to seek her advice.
If you are lucky to have the four types of friendships Dr. Wicks identifies you are very fortunate. When they come wrapped up in one bundle of energy, joy, and laughter you are especially blessed. There’s an old Irish proverb that reminds me of Cathy: “A good friend is like a four-leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.”

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

Featured photo Parish ladies retreat …

JACKSON – On Saturday, March 6, the ladies of St. Therese Jackson’s Catholic Women’s Association held their 39th annual retreat in the parish hall. Instead of a weekend away, the retreat consisted of one day for a four-hour period. This year the retreat theme was “Born to Build Bridges,” led by Father Alexis Zuniga Velasquez, ST. (Photo by Phyllis Mokry)

Calendar of events

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT
GRAND COTEAU, La. Our Lady of the Oaks, Ladies Annual Retreat, Dec. 2-5 for ladies of the Natchez area. Would you like to grow closer to God? Do you need some time away to listen to Him, to grow, to rest? Experience the natural beauty of oak trees and the beautiful setting of nature. You are invited to join us to rest in the care of the Lord in silence, solitude, deep prayer and reflection. $50 deposit due as soon as possible to hold room as they fill up quickly. Details: Please contact Kot Morris at (601) 334-8339.
NEW ORLEANS Our Lady of the Cenacle Retreat Center, Women’s Retreat, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” April 30 – May 2. Preventing and Resolving Conflicts from our Christian Faith Perspective Jesus preached and lived love, forgiveness, peace and unity. In this retreat we will be offered a deeper understanding of and commitment to Christian peacemaking as well as practical and effective human relationship skills to prevent and resolve conflicts. Presenter: Father Doug Doussan, who is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is serving as Chaplain of the Archdiocesan Retreat Center. He has given countless training workshops locally and nationally in inclusive parish organization, lay leadership formation, and consensus decision making. The retreat center’s capacity is limited due to COVID-19 and they are currently accepting registration on a first come first serve basis. A non-refundable deposit is required. Details: to register, contact the retreat office at (504) 267-9604 or www.neworleansretreats.org/retreats.
MOBILE, Ala. Spring Hill College, Summer Institute of Christian Spiritualty is offering courses that are appropriate with our current world situation. Those interested do not have to be enrolled in their Theology programs to take courses either for credit, audit, or easy listening. They offer both in person and virtual courses, as well as on-campus housing. One of the courses is “Black and Catholic, Faithful and Free” on Sister Thea Bowman and M. Shawn Copeland, on June 14-17, 6:30-9:30 p.m. (also available online). Emily Reimer-Barry, Ph.D. is the guest lecturer. It will explore the Black Catholic experience in America, with the goal of recognizing the impact of bias, and fostering genuine-if-imperfect-solidarity in the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Details: Visit the online catalogue at: https://springhill.catalog.instructure.com/browse/sics.

PARISH, FAMILY AND SCHOOL EVENTS
CLARKSDALE Catholic Community of St. Elizabeth, Intercessory Prayer Group meets in the meeting room on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. All are invited to come and pray and praise God. You can write prayer requests and place in the prayer boxes at church. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.
NATCHEZ Cathedral School, Save the Date, 27th Annual Crawfish Countdown, Friday, May 7 from 6-10 p.m. Join them for crawfish, jambalaya, cold beverages, and a chance to win $5,000! Live music from the band Parish County Line. Details: school office (602) 442-1988.
JACKSON Catholic Charities Run Foster Run, 5K Run, Walk. Event kicks off with a children’s 1 mile fun run at 5:30 pm, followed by a 5K sunset run/walk at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 6. It will take place at the Township at Colony Park, Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland. All race participants receive a t-shirt, swag bag, and a free drink ticket (age 21 or over). There will be music, libations and fun. This is a dog-friendly race. All proceeds will benefit the foster care programs of Catholic Charities. Details: Michael Thomas at michael.thomas@ccjackson.org or (601) 331-1152.
St. Richard, Bereavement Support Group, Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Foley Hall. This group is for those who are hurting from the loss of a loved one or for those who are trying to comfort and understand the grief of a family member or friend, no matter how long ago the loss. All are invited. Details: Nancy McGhee at (601) 942-2078 or ncmcghee@bellsouth.net.

YOUTH BRIEFS
BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Faith Formation meets Wednesday, May 5 from 6-7 p.m. with a meal beforehand at 5:30 p.m. We will continue to follow diocese guidelines. Face masks must be worn. Details: church office (601) 833-1799
MADISON St. Anthony School is currently enrolling new students for the 2021-22 school year. St. Anthony serves children in Pre-K3 to 6th grade. Several classes are nearing capacity, so please make plans to visit us today. Details: For more information or to schedule a tour, please call (601) 607-7054 or go to www.stanthonyeagles.org.
St. Francis of Assisi, Senior Recognition Mass for all high school seniors on Sunday, May 16 at 5 p.m. Be sure to complete the senior profile sent through Flocknote. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
St. Joseph School, Now enrolling students for the 2021-22 school year, grades 7-12. Details: contact Tricia Harris, Advancement Director at (601) 898-4803, tharris@stjoebruins.com or www.stjoebruins.com.
SOUTHAVEN Sacred Heart School, recognized by Today’s Catholic Teacher as one of three most innovative Catholic Identity Schools in the U.S., provides a small, close knit family atmosphere with students representing 25 different countries. They are now accepting applications for the 2021-22 school year. Details: (662) 349-0900 or bmartin@shsm.org.

Slain Guatemalan migrant leaves behind legacy of faith in two countries

By Ann Rodgers Angelus News
CARTHAGE – For nearly a quarter century, Edgar Lopez was a pillar of St. Anne Church in Carthage, Mississippi. The devoted husband and father of three spent four years studying pastoral ministry to better lead prayer groups, youth ministry, and social outreach. He gave generously from his wages as a mechanic at a local poultry plant.
On Jan. 22, his charred remains were found with those of 18 others in and around a bullet-blasted truck in the Mexican-American border town of Camargo in Tamaulipas. Lopez, 49, an undocumented worker who had been deported to Guatemala after a notorious 2019 immigration raid on Mississippi poultry plants, had tried to return to his wife, children, and grandchildren in Carthage.

CARTHAGE – In this undated photo at St. Anne, parishioner Edgar Lopez is pictured with the Crucifix. Lopez was deported after the ICE raids in 2019 and was on his return trip to his family and home in Carthage in January 2021 when he and 18 others were killed in Mexico. (Photo from archives/courtesy of Sister María Elena Mendez, MGSpS)

“People are in shock. They can’t believe that something like this could have happened,” said Father Odel Medina, a priest of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, and pastor of St. Anne.
Most of the dead had relatives among Carthage’s burgeoning population of indigenous Mayan workers from Guatemala. Poultry jobs were arduous, dirty, and dangerous, but paid more for an hour of labor than the Guatemalans would make in two days in their villages.
Most of the massacred migrants were from the desperately poor town of Comitancillo, seeking jobs in Carthage that Americans had long refused, Father Medina said.
He called it a bitter irony that, seven months after the government deported hundreds of undocumented poultry plant employees, they were declared “essential workers” during COVID-19.
“If they didn’t work, you would not have food on anyone’s table,” Father Medina said.
Lopez grew up in the village of Chicajala, where death from malnutrition is common. He had no shoes for school and was bullied by other students and teachers alike.
His response, Father Medina said, was to say, “I’d like to be a teacher and change the way they teach children.”
He left for Guatemala City in his teens, entering the United States in his mid-20s. He was deported a year later, but soon returned to his wife and baby in Carthage. They bought a modest house in which they raised three children, now ages 11 to 21.
He organized the first Spanish Masses at St. Anne. In addition to being a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and youth minister, Lopez was the head of the St. Anne “directiva,” a pastoral advisory board that looked after the needs of the Latino community. He spent four years studying for certification in Hispanic ministry through the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami.
Whether he was in a leadership role or simply participating, “he was always at the service of others,” Father Medina wrote in the parish newsletter.
Juanatano Cano, who ministers among Guatemalans in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, never met Lopez, but had a parallel childhood. Their adulthoods diverge because Cano, a leadership development consultant who is finishing his doctorate, received asylum and working papers after entering the U.S. illegally in the late 1980s.
Cano pins their early hardships on prejudice against their indigenous heritage.
“Racism in Guatemala is worse than in the United States. To call someone ‘an Indian’ is the worst insult if they want to humiliate someone,” he said.
He described indigenous Guatemalans as descendants of those who survived the Spanish conquest 500 years ago by fleeing to the hinterlands. No government has ever tried to integrate them into the Guatemalan economy.
“There was no money for education or health care for us,” he said, “According to the government, we are an obstacle to the prosperity of the whole country.”
People in Cano’s village were stunted physically and intellectually from malnutrition. “They said that we are stupid, that we don’t want to learn, that we don’t want to succeed,” he said.
In 1981, Guatemala’s long-running civil war escalated. “I saw the military bombing little towns and little Indian villages. I told my mom, ‘Let’s get out of here. They are going to wipe us out,’ ” Cano said.
She would not leave. So in 1982, at age 13, he left alone for the city. There he did housework in exchange for room and board, while attending night school. When his high school diploma brought no opportunities for advancement, he traveled by bus and train through Mexico, walking across the border into California.
“At that time it was not as bad as it is now,” he said.
He graduated from college, taught math for 15 years, earned his principal’s certificate, then made a career shift to leadership formation. He is a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Native American Affairs and volunteers at Immaculate Conception Church, Holy Cross Church, and La Placita Church in LA.
Today’s Guatemalan migrants bring the same dreams and needs that he did, he said. He blames the government of Guatemala for their suffering.
Even by U.S. standards, health care costs are high in Guatemala, he said. At least two migrants killed with Lopez were seeking jobs to pay for relatives’ medical care: surgery for a baby with a cleft lip and medication for a mother with diabetes.
“These people died because they wanted to make a little money for surgery that was so basic. Why does the Guatemalan government ignore this? Why? Why? It makes me sick to think about it,” he said.
“That is why people leave their country. They are aware that it is dangerous, but they take the risk, even knowing it could be deadly.”
Smugglers, known as “coyotes,” are luring customers with claims that the Biden administration has opened the border, Cano said.
“They are telling them to come and the United States will accept you and give you legal status,” Cano said. “They are lying to people.”
Catholic social teaching calls nations to regulate their borders in a humane manner, recognizing both security and a human right to migrate in search of food, medical care, and safety, said Christopher Ljundquist, adviser for Latin America in the U.S. Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace. The church views immigration as a source of, not an obstacle to, economic development, he said.
Since about 2010, however, the journey through Mexico has become far more deadly as cartels became increasingly savage.
“Migrants en route to the United States are perfect prey to these cartel killers, who force them into smuggling, kidnap them, extort them and, as we have seen, murder them in cold blood without the least scruple,” he said.
Many cartels promote devotion to a “horrible female grim reaper” whose name, “Santisima Muerte,” means “Holy Death,” he said.
Anyone considering migration, he said, needs to understand that “the journey north is dangerous, that there are killers en route who often literally worship death, and that [migrants] are seen by the cartels as human merchandise.”
The August 2019 immigration raids that led to Lopez’s deportation were national news. Of nearly 700 workers detained, two-thirds remained in the U.S. Lopez was deported as a repeat criminal due to his earlier deportation in the 1990s.
He spent nearly a year in detention, surviving COVID-19 while ministering to inmates.
“He never lost his faith, even with those terrible experiences that he had passed through,” Father Medina said. “When he was in the detention center, he called me and asked for books and rosaries in order to make a prayer group. He said that, even in those circumstances, you always cry out to God.”
Many people in Carthage tried to help the detainees. St. Anne’s hosted a legal clinic. Father Medina accompanied Lopez to court.
“We tried to do our best for him, to fight for his freedom, to say that he was a person with character,” he said.
The federal judge called Lopez the kind of man he would like to have as a neighbor, but said that the law tied his hands. “It hurts my heart to see what this great nation is doing to you,” he told Lopez as he ordered the deportation.
In July 2020 Lopez was flown to Guatemala. While volunteering in the parish he had built through his donations, he longed for his family.
“I tried to give him support and prayer and spiritual guidance,” Father Medina said.
When the priest left for vacation in late December, however, Lopez had said nothing about returning. “I think he wanted it to be a surprise,” Father Medina said.
Lopez contracted with a local coyote who was trusted, Father Medina said. The group set out on Jan. 12. Their families last heard from them on Jan. 21.
The next day, “The coyote called his family in Guatemala and said that they had all been killed,” said Father Medina. “The coyote had a son who was with the group, and he was killed as well.”
Mexican investigators found bodies burned beyond recognition in a truck pierced by 113 bullets. Identification came through DNA. Twelve police officers were arrested for killing them, though authorities have identified no motive. Speculation ranges from mistaken identity to a cartel refusing to let others move human merchandise on its turf.
Guatemala declared three days of national mourning. The nation’s president met the flag-draped coffins at the airport, in a ceremony televised live nationwide.
Father Medina went to the funeral for the Comitancillo victims, held on a soccer field. A local priest denounced the injustice that forced villagers to seek work in another country and the deportation of a man who had been a beloved neighbor for two decades.
Migration will not stop, Father Medina said. While he was there, two families asked him to bless their sons for the journey north.
Men from the parish carried the heavy coffin on their shoulders to be buried at his village parish in Chicajalaj, an hour’s walk on a hard, hilly road. They told Father Medina that bearing the coffin on their shoulders was a tradition to honor those who had made great contributions to the community.
“I have witnessed the burial of an apostle, a man who recognized God’s call and who lived his baptismal life with great hope,” Father Medina wrote to his parishioners.
“Now Edgar goes to enjoy the presence of God. May the soul of Edgar and the soul of all his companions by the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

(Reprinted with permission of Angelus News, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.)

“I am the Good Shepherd”

By Father Clement “Clem” Olukunle Oyafemi
JACKSON – There was a man named “Kokumo,” who lived for 99 years and died. He was not able to receive the “Last Sacrament” because the only priest serving his 4,500 member parish was in the hospital for a surgery at the time of his death. “Kokumo” gets to heaven and complains to God saying, “God, there are so many problems in the world; sickness, conflicts, catastrophes, and even in the church, there are so many believers with no priest to serve them. What are you doing about that?” God smiles and says to him, “My son, I did something.” What did you do?” the man says. God responds to him, “I created you!”

Padre Clement Olukunle Oyafemi

April 25 was been designated as “World Day of Prayer for the priesthood and religious life.” In many parts of the world today is also called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Universal Church encourages us to “pray to the Lord of the “harvest” to send laborers into his harvest.” (cf Matthew 9:38) In today’s gospel passage Jesus presents to us a teaching about himself using the image of shepherd, “I am the good shepherd and I know mine, and mine know me” (John 10:14). The whole Gospel of St. John gives us a summary of the Paschal Mystery, which we celebrate at this holy season. It alludes to the suffering servant of God sacrificing his life for others (cf Isaiah 53:1-12). What is the significance of this message? What challenge does it give us today?
The image of the shepherd manifests the various aspects of the person of Jesus. The role of a shepherd is multiple; the shepherd seeks out the lost sheep, cares tenderly the wounded sheep, protects the sheep at the cost of his/her own life and feeds them. What does that mean for us as a church?
Jesus is the real, authentic, ideal, perfect, or Good Shepherd, and we are his flock, or sheep. He teaches, sanctifies, and governs us. He cares for us and guides us always. There is a hierarchy of “shepherds.” In the family, parents are the shepherds; in the Church, priests; and in the diocese, the bishop: in the Universal Church, the pope is the shepherd. Every family is a “domestic church” and the parents have the duty to teach, sanctify, and govern their children. If parents, who are shepherds in the family, fail in their Christian duties, it will have an adverse effect on the entire church and society.
Today’s gospel passage challenges us, especially parents, to see ourselves as shepherds for our families. We need to pay more attention, not only to the material, but more seriously to the spiritual and moral needs of our children. We as parents need to sacrifice whatever it takes to care for our children. In carrying out the task of shepherding/parenting, Jesus is the only ideal and model for us to follow. Shepherding is a calling (vocation) but not a job. It is a vocation, which demands nothing less than the sacrifice of one’s life for others. Today’s world however does not seem to celebrate a life of sacrifice. And that is why we have very few shepherds both in the domestic and the community churches.
Hence, today’s liturgy enjoins us to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Let us all also pray for those who have already been called as shepherds on domestic and community levels that they may serve faithfully, following the example of Jesus who is the perfect, ideal and Good Shepherd. Today’s church needs shepherds just like Jesus, who lay down his life for his flock. Preaching on the pulpit alone would not do it. We need to start talking about vocation to the priesthood and religious life at dinner tables. We need to pray that God may choose from our families to answer this special calling. I have been to some parishes where people complain so much about not having enough attention from the priest. But this priest is only one person and has 3,500 or 4,000 members to shepherd! At times, the question is about shortage of priests. We need three priests in this parish, but the bishop only gave us one. My question is “What are you doing about it?” complaining, criticizing, etc.? That would not help the church at all. We need to pray for vocations, and also encourage our kids to consider giving their lives to God to serve as priests.
There is no substitute for parents in the family. Similarly, there is no substitute for the priesthood in the church. Let us pray that parents may sacrifice whatever it takes to raise their children in a way that is pleasing to the living God. Let us also pray that the Lord may inspire young men and women of our time to answer the call to sacrifice their lives to serve the church as priests and religious.

(Excerpt from the book Theological Reflections for Sundays and Solemnities of Liturgical Year B, 2011 by Father Clem-alias Clemente de Dios, Coordinator of the Intercultural Ministry of the Diocese since 2020. Father Clem has two master’s degrees, one in theology and the other in religious education, and a BA in Philosophy. Sharing with Sister Thea a passion for the Lord and music, Father Clem founded the Rejoice Ministry of African Worship Songs -AFRAWOS- in 2002.)

Accountability, transparency, due process still needed, abuse experts say

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – To help foster a wider discussion on work that still must be done to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church, a canon law journal published a series of talks by experts regarding accountability, transparency and confidentiality in the handling of abuse allegations.
The talks were part of a seminar in December 2019 sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to address the topics as well as the seal of confession and the pontifical secret.
The “Periodica” journal of the faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University published the talks at the end of 2020.

Carmel Rafferty and Ian Liwther protest clergy sexual abuse outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in this July 18, 2008, file photo. Safeguarding experts have published proposals in the “Periodica” faculty canon law journal of the Pontifical Gregorian University to help foster more analysis and wider discussion on work still needed to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the suggestions for improvements, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said more could be done in supporting the rights of victims.
Pope Francis’ “Vos estis lux mundi” provides for the first time “a universal law that states that the victim has a right to be advised of the outcome of the investigation” concerning crimes allegedly committed by people in leadership, he wrote.
But “I would suggest that we also use this law by analogy for all other situations” by giving the same right to victims of people who are not just leaders but are members of the clergy or of religious orders, he wrote.
Another suggestion, he said, is to appoint “a safeguarding officer or other suitable person that keeps contact with the victim and informs the victim of the progress of the procedures,” including the outcomes of investigations, trials or extrajudicial processes, especially now that the “pontifical secret” has been removed.
Archbishop Scicluna said there should be a “procurator for the person aggrieved,” that is, a person designated to represent the victim in the church’s penal processes and share information with the victim.
Father John P. Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said in his talk that past abuse scandals in the U.S. showed “how lack of transparency in church governance allowed these lapses in accountability to go unrecognized and unaddressed for decades.”
Restoring a sense of legitimacy to ecclesial governance will be ineffective, he wrote, “as long as the church’s accountability structures are judged inadequate by the faithful, and they will continue to be judged inadequate as long as they remain almost totally lacking in transparency.”
The “almost total lack of transparency that enshrouds the canonical penal process” and the administrative penal process, he said, makes it difficult to know if the accused and victims have been dealt with fairly.
This absence of transparency “is often justified by concern for the reputations of the accused and the victim. While there may be good reason to withhold from the public record the names of accusers and victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are still minors,” the name of those found guilty of abuse should be made public, he wrote.
Clear and public procedures would also help restore the reputation of those who have been wrongly accused instead of letting rumors fill the vacuum when investigations are not transparent or conclusive, he added.
“We in the United States have learned with much pain that efforts to ‘hush up’ unpleasant ecclesiastical business will ultimately fail,” Father Beal wrote.
The pope’s removal of the “pontifical secret” in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics allows bishops and other church authorities to provide “timely information to victims and affected communities of the faithful about the status, progress and outcomes of cases, while maintaining due confidentiality about matters that might jeopardize reputations or the progress of process,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, he wrote, more robust accountability for how diocesan bishops and other church authorities handle abuse cases “is still almost exclusively vertical, toward higher authorities, and not downward to the faithful.”
Until accountability is complemented by “a serious commitment to transparency on the part of all involved, they will do little to dispel the pervasive anger and cynicism among the faithful about the bishops’ handling of complaints of misconduct.”
Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, professor of canon law at the Gregorian University, wrote that transparency does not mean universal or public access to sensitive or confidential information, but it is sharing information with those who have a right to see it.
Total and inappropriate public disclosure of certain information is often driven by a sense of guilt and a hope that “selling” a better image of the church will bring credibility, he said. The focus should be on justice for the entire community of faithful, fidelity to the Gospel value of truth and on professionalism rather than on what people think.
Authorities in charge of investigating and acting on accusations must seek the truth and follow the principles of real justice, which guarantees due process, the right of defense and presumption of innocence for the accused, he said.
Neville Owen, a retired supreme court judge from western Australia and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said equality before the law and the right to a fair trial would be better guaranteed by providing the reasons for how a case was decided.
Providing reasons for a decision is part of fairness, due process and justice, he said. It would let the parties know why they have won or lost; let them see whether their arguments were understood and accepted; facilitate accountability because decisions could be scrutinized; and help build a basis upon which similar cases will be decided in the future.

Migrante guatemalteco deja legado de fe en dos países

Por Ann Rodgers – Angelus News
Durante años la vida de lo inmigrantes ha estado cargada de dura realidad. La comunidad de Carthage, desde el 2019, ha sufrido una serie de eventos dramáticos, pero esta vez, nadie pudo imaginar que la tragedia llegara a ser tan cruel. “La gente está en estado de shock. No pueden creer que algo así haya sucedido,” dijo el padre Odel Medina, sacerdote de los Siervos Misioneros de la Santísima Trinidad y párroco de St. Anne.

CARTHAGE – Desde su llegada a la comunidad, Edgar (al centro con la cruz) estuvo involucrado en el crecimiento espiritual propio y de toda la comunidad. (Foto de archivo, 2016, cortesía de la hermana María Elena Mendez, MGSpS)

Mississippi: Edgar López
Durante casi un cuarto de siglo, Edgar López fue un pilar de la Iglesia de Santa Ana en Carthage, Mississippi. El devoto esposo y padre de tres hijos pasó cuatro años estudiando el ministerio pastoral para liderar mejor los grupos de oración, el ministerio juvenil y el alcance social. Dio generosamente de su salario como mecánico en una planta avícola local.
El 22 de enero, sus restos carbonizados fueron encontrados con los de otras 18 personas dentro y alrededor de un camión baleado en la ciudad fronteriza mexicano-estadounidense de Camargo en Tamaulipas. López, de 49 años, un trabajador indocumentado que había sido deportado a Guatemala después de una notoria redada de inmigración en 2019 en las plantas avícolas de Mississippi, había intentado regresar con su esposa, hijos y nietos en Carthage.
La mayoría de los muertos tenían parientes entre la creciente población de trabajadores indígenas mayas de Guatemala en Carthage. Los trabajos avícolas eran arduos, sucios y peligrosos, pero pagaban más por una hora de trabajo de lo que los guatemaltecos ganarían en dos días en sus aldeas.
La mayoría de los migrantes masacrados eran del pueblo desesperadamente pobre de Comitancillo, que en Cartago “buscaban trabajos que los estadounidenses habían rechazado durante mucho tiempo,” dijo el padre Medina. Calificó de amarga ironía que, siete meses después de que el gobierno deportara a cientos de empleados indocumentados de plantas avícolas, fueran declarados “trabajadores esenciales” durante el COVID-19. “Si no funcionaran, no tendrías comida en la mesa de nadie”, dijo el padre Medina.
López creció en el pueblo de Chicajala, donde la muerte por desnutrición es común. No tenía zapatos para ir a la escuela y otros estudiantes y maestros lo acosaban por igual. Su respuesta, dijo el padre Medina, fue decir: “Me gustaría ser maestro y cambiar la forma en que enseñan a los niños”. Se fue a la ciudad de Guatemala en su adolescencia, ingresando a los Estados Unidos a los 20 años. Fue deportado un año después, pero pronto regresó con su esposa y su bebé a Carthage. Compraron una casa modesta en la que criaron a tres hijos, que ahora tienen entre 11 y 21 años.
Organizó las primeras Misas en español en St. Anne. Además de ser lector, ministro extraordinario de la Sagrada Comunión y ministro de la juventud, López fue el director de la “directiva” de St. Anne, una junta asesora pastoral que se ocupaba de las necesidades de la comunidad latina.
Pasó cuatro años estudiando para obtener la certificación en el ministerio hispano a través del Southeast Pastoral Institute en Miami. Ya sea que estuviera en un papel de liderazgo o simplemente participando, “siempre estuvo al servicio de los demás”, escribió el padre Medina en el boletín de la parroquia.
California: Juanatano Cano
Juanatano Cano, quien ministra entre los guatemaltecos en la Arquidiócesis de Los Ángeles, nunca conoció a López, pero tuvo una infancia paralela. Sus edades adultas divergen porque Cano, un consultor de desarrollo de liderazgo que está terminando su doctorado, recibió asilo y papeles de trabajo después de ingresar ilegalmente a los Estados Unidos a fines de la década de 1980.
Cano atribuye sus primeras dificultades al prejuicio contra su herencia indígena. “El racismo en Guatemala es peor que en Estados Unidos. Llamar a alguien ‘indio’ es el peor insulto si quieren humillar a alguien ”, dijo.
Describió a los guatemaltecos indígenas como descendientes de aquellos que sobrevivieron a la conquista española hace 500 años huyendo al interior. Ningún gobierno ha intentado jamás integrarlos a la economía guatemalteca.
“No había dinero para la educación o la atención médica para nosotros”, dijo, “según el gobierno, somos un obstáculo para la prosperidad de todo el país”.
La gente de la aldea de Cano sufría un retraso en el crecimiento física e intelectual debido a la desnutrición. “Dijeron que somos estúpidos, que no queremos aprender, que no queremos tener éxito”, dijo.
En 1981, se intensificó la prolongada guerra civil de Guatemala. “Vi a los militares bombardear pequeños pueblos y pequeñas aldeas indias. Le dije a mi mamá: ‘Vámonos de aquí. Nos van a acabar ”, dijo Cano.
Ella no se iría. Así que en 1982, a los 13 años, se fue solo a la ciudad. Allí hacía las tareas del hogar a cambio de alojamiento y comida, mientras asistía a la escuela nocturna. Cuando su diploma de la escuela secundaria no le brindó oportunidades para avanzar, viajó en autobús y tren a través de México, cruzando la frontera hacia California.
“En ese momento no era tan malo como ahora”, dijo.
Se graduó de la universidad, enseñó matemáticas durante 15 años, obtuvo su certificado de director y luego hizo un cambio de carrera hacia la formación de liderazgo. Es consultor del Subcomité de Asuntos Indígenas Americanos de los Obispos Católicos de EE. UU. Y es voluntario en la Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, la Iglesia de la Santa Cruz y la Iglesia La Placita en Los Ángeles.
Los migrantes guatemaltecos de hoy traen los mismos sueños y necesidades que él, dijo. Culpa al gobierno de Guatemala por su sufrimiento.
Incluso para los estándares estadounidenses, los costos de la atención médica son altos en Guatemala, dijo. Al menos dos migrantes asesinados con López buscaban trabajo para pagar la atención médica de sus familiares: cirugía para un bebé con labio leporino y medicamentos para una madre con diabetes.
“Estas personas murieron porque querían ganar un poco de dinero para una cirugía que era tan básica. ¿Por qué el gobierno guatemalteco ignora esto? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? Me enferma pensar en eso ”, dijo.
“Por eso la gente abandona su país. Son conscientes de que es peligroso, pero asumen el riesgo, incluso sabiendo que podría ser mortal”.
Los contrabandistas, conocidos como “coyotes”, están atrayendo a los clientes con reclamos de que la administración Biden ha abierto la frontera, dijo Cano. “Les están diciendo que vengan y Estados Unidos los aceptará y les dará un estatus legal”, dijo Cano. “Le están mintiendo a la gente”.
Iglesia Católica: Christopher Ljundquist
La doctrina social católica llama a las naciones a regular sus fronteras de manera humana, reconociendo tanto la seguridad como el derecho humano a migrar en busca de alimentos, atención médica y seguridad, dijo Christopher Ljundquist, asesor para América Latina de la Oficina de Obispos Internacionales de EE. UU. Justicia y Paz. La Iglesia ve la inmigración como una fuente de desarrollo económico, no como un obstáculo, dijo.
Sin embargo, desde aproximadamente 2010, el viaje a través de México se ha vuelto mucho más mortífero a medida que los cárteles se volvieron cada vez más salvajes. “Los migrantes en ruta a Estados Unidos son presa perfecta de estos cárteles asesinos, que los obligan al contrabando, los secuestran, los extorsionan y, como hemos visto, los asesinan a sangre fría sin el menor escrúpulo”, dijo. Muchos cárteles promueven la devoción a una “horrible mujer parca” cuyo nombre significa “Santa Muerte”, dijo. Cualquiera que esté considerando la migración, dijo, debe entender que “el viaje hacia el norte es peligroso, que hay asesinos en el camino que a menudo adoran literalmente a la muerte, y que los cárteles ven a los migrantes como una mercancía humana”.
Inmigracion: Drama y Muerte
Las redadas de inmigración de agosto de 2019 que llevaron a la deportación de López fueron noticia nacional. De los casi 700 trabajadores detenidos, dos tercios permanecieron en los EE. UU. López fue deportado como un delincuente reincidente debido a su deportación anterior en la década de 1990. Pasó casi un año detenido, sobreviviendo al COVID-19 mientras atendía a los presos. “Nunca perdió la fe, incluso con esas terribles experiencias por las que había pasado”, dijo el padre Medina. “Cuando estaba en el centro de detención, me llamó y me pidió libros y rosarios para hacer un grupo de oración. Dijo que, incluso en esas circunstancias, siempre clamas a Dios “.
Mucha gente en Carthage intentó ayudar a los detenidos. St. Anne’s organizó una clínica legal. El padre Medina acompañó a López a la corte. “Intentamos hacer todo lo posible por él, luchar por su libertad, decir que era una persona con carácter”, dijo. El juez federal llamó a López el tipo de hombre que le gustaría tener como vecino, pero dijo que la ley le ataba las manos. “Me duele el corazón ver lo que esta gran nación te está haciendo”, le dijo a López mientras ordenaba la deportación.
En julio de 2020, López fue trasladado en avión a Guatemala. Mientras trabajaba como voluntario en la parroquia que había construido a través de sus donaciones, añoraba a su familia.
“Traté de brindarle apoyo, oración y guía espiritual”, dijo el padre Medina. Sin embargo, cuando el sacerdote se fue de vacaciones a fines de diciembre, López no dijo nada sobre su regreso. “Creo que quería que fuera una sorpresa”, dijo el padre Medina.
Guatemala. Mexico. Estados Unidos
López contrató a un coyote local en quien confiaba, dijo el padre Medina. El grupo partió el 12 de enero. Sus familias tuvieron noticias suyas por última vez el 21 de enero. Al día siguiente, “el coyote llamó a su familia en Guatemala y dijo que todos habían sido asesinados”, dijo el padre Medina. “El coyote tenía un hijo que estaba con el grupo y también lo mataron”.
Los investigadores mexicanos encontraron cuerpos quemados irreconocibles en un camión atravesado por 113 balas. La identificación vino a través del ADN. Doce policías fueron arrestados por matarlos, aunque las autoridades no han identificado el motivo. La especulación va desde una identidad errónea hasta un cartel que se niega a permitir que otros muevan mercancías humanas en su territorio.
Guatemala declaró tres días de duelo nacional. El presidente de la nación se reunió con los ataúdes cubiertos con banderas en el aeropuerto, en una ceremonia televisada en vivo en todo el país. El padre Medina asistió al funeral de las víctimas del Comitancillo, realizado en una cancha de fútbol. Un sacerdote local denunció la injusticia que obligó a los aldeanos a buscar trabajo en otro país y la deportación de un hombre que había sido un querido vecino durante dos décadas. La migración no se detendrá, dijo el padre Medina. Mientras estuvo allí, dos familias le pidieron que bendijera a sus hijos para el viaje al norte.
Eternas gracias por el servicio
Los hombres de la parroquia cargaron el pesado ataúd sobre sus hombros para ser enterrados en la parroquia de su pueblo en Chicajalaj, a una hora de caminata por un camino duro y montañoso. Le dijeron al padre Medina que llevar el ataúd sobre sus hombros era una tradición para honrar a quienes habían hecho grandes contribuciones a la comunidad.
“He sido testigo del entierro de un apóstol, un hombre que reconoció el llamado de Dios y que vivió su vida bautismal con gran esperanza”, escribió el padre Medina a sus feligreses. “Ahora Edgar va a disfrutar de la presencia de Dios. Que el alma de Edgar y el alma de todos sus compañeros reciban la misericordia de Dios, que descansen en paz”.

(Ann Rodgers es una periodista religiosa y escritora independiente desde hace mucho tiempo, cuyos premios incluyen el premio William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award de Religion News Association.)

Estaciones de la Cruz

Por Danny McArthur Daily Journal
TUPELO – La Iglesia St. James, en Viernes Santo, honró el viaje de Cristo hacia la muerte en un Vía Crucis. Decenas de espectadores asistieron al servicio donde los miembros de la iglesia actuaron los 14 momentos claves.
El padre César Sánchez presidió el servicio. Mary Frances Strange y Victor Vázquez alternaron la lectura de la reflexión en inglés y español respectivamente, lo que relacionó cómo la historia de Cristo refleja la vida actual de muchos migrantes. Rodrigo Domínguez tocaba la guitarra y cantaba entre cada estación.
El servicio animó a los asistentes a comprometerse a mostrar amor sin importar los antecedentes y diferencias raciales, culturales y nacionales.

(Reproducido con permiso del Daily Journal – djournal.com)

El Buen Pastor

Por Padre Clement Olukunle Oyafemi
JACKSON – Había un hombre llamado “Kokumo”, que vivió durante 99 años y murió. No pudo recibir el “Último Sacramento” porque el único sacerdote que trabajaba en su parroquia de 4500 miembros estaba en el hospital para una cirugía en el momento de su muerte. “Kokumo” llega al cielo y se queja a Dios diciendo: “Dios, hay tantos problemas en el mundo; enfermedades, conflictos, catástrofes, e incluso en la iglesia, hay tantos creyentes sin sacerdote que los sirva. ¿Qué estás haciendo al respecto? Dios sonríe y le dice: “Hijo mío, hice algo”. ¿Qué hiciste?” dice el hombre. Dios le responde: “¡Yo te creé!”

Padre Clement Olukunle Oyafemi

Este dia ha sido designado como “Día Mundial de Oración por el sacerdocio y la vida religiosa”. En muchas partes del mundo al día también se le llama “Domingo del Buen Pastor”. La Iglesia Universal nos anima a “rogar al Señor de la“ mies ”que envíe obreros a su mies” (cf. Mt 9, 38). En el pasaje del evangelio, Jesús nos presenta una enseñanza sobre sí mismo usando la imagen del pastor: “Yo soy el buen pastor y conozco al mío, y los míos me conocen a mí” (Jn 10:14). Todo el Evangelio de San Juan nos da un resumen del Misterio Pascual, que celebramos en este tiempo santo. Alude al siervo sufriente de Dios que sacrifica su vida por otros (cf. Isaías 53: 1-12). ¿Cuál es el significado de este mensaje? ¿Qué desafío nos presenta hoy?
La imagen del pastor manifiesta los diversos aspectos de la persona de Jesús. El papel de un pastor es múltiple; el pastor busca a la oveja descarriada, cuida tiernamente a la oveja herida, protege a la oveja a costa de su propia vida y la alimenta. ¿Qué significa eso para nosotros como Iglesia?
Jesús es el verdadero, auténtico, ideal, perfecto o Buen Pastor, y nosotros somos su rebaño u oveja. Él nos enseña, santifica y gobierna. Él se preocupa por nosotros y nos guía siempre. Hay una jerarquía de “pastores”: en la familia, los padres son los pastores; en la Iglesia, sacerdotes; y en la diócesis, el obispo: en la Iglesia universal, el Papa es el pastor. Cada familia es una “iglesia doméstica” y los padres tienen el deber de enseñar, santificar y gobernar a sus hijos. Si los padres, que son pastores en la familia, fallan en sus deberes cristianos, tendrá un efecto adverso en toda la Iglesia y la sociedad.
El pasaje del evangelio nos desafía, especialmente a los padres, a vernos a nosotros mismos como pastores de nuestras familias. Necesitamos prestar más atención, no solo a lo material, sino más seriamente a las necesidades espirituales y morales de nuestros hijos. Nosotros, como padres, debemos sacrificar lo que sea necesario para cuidar de nuestros hijos. Al llevar a cabo la tarea de pastorear / ser padres, Jesús es el único ideal y modelo a seguir. Pastorear es un llamado (vocación) pero no un trabajo. Es una vocación, que exige nada menos que el sacrificio de la vida por los demás. Sin embargo, el mundo de hoy no parece celebrar una vida de sacrificio. Y es por eso que tenemos muy pocos pastores tanto en la iglesia doméstica como en la comunitaria.
Por lo tanto, la liturgia nos manda a orar por las vocaciones al sacerdocio y la vida religiosa. Oremos también todos por los que ya han sido llamados pastores a nivel doméstico y comunitario para que sirvan fielmente, siguiendo el ejemplo de Jesús, perfecto, ideal y Buen Pastor. La Iglesia de hoy necesita pastores como Jesús, que da su vida por su rebaño. Predicar solo en el púlpito no lo haría. Tenemos que empezar a hablar sobre la vocación al sacerdocio y la vida religiosa en las cenas. Necesitamos orar para que Dios elija entre nuestras familias para responder a este llamado especial.
He estado en algunas parroquias donde la gente se queja mucho por no tener suficiente atención por parte del sacerdote. ¡Pero este sacerdote es solo una persona y tiene 3500 o 4000 miembros para pastorear! A veces, la pregunta es sobre la escasez de sacerdotes. Necesitamos tres sacerdotes en esta parroquia, pero el obispo solo nos dio uno. Mi pregunta es “¿Qué estás haciendo al respecto?” quejándose, criticando, etc.? Eso no ayudaría a la Iglesia en absoluto. Necesitamos orar por las vocaciones y también animar a nuestros niños a que consideren entregar sus vidas a Dios para servir como sacerdotes.
No hay sustituto para los padres en la familia. Del mismo modo, no hay sustituto para el sacerdocio en la Iglesia. Oremos para que los padres sacrifiquen lo que sea necesario para criar a sus hijos de una manera que agrade al Dios viviente. Oremos también para que el Señor inspire a los hombres y mujeres jóvenes de nuestro tiempo a responder al llamado de sacrificar sus vidas para servir a la Iglesia como sacerdotes y religiosos.

(Fragmento del libro Reflexiones Teológicas para Domingos y Solemnidades de Año Litúrgico B, 2011 del padre Clem-alias Clemente de Dios, Coordinador del Ministerio Intercultural de la Diócesis desde 2020. Estas reflexiones llevan el mensaje pastoral del Padre Clem y pueden ser leidas atemporalmente. Padre Clem tiene dos maestrías -Teología y Educación Religiosa y licenciatura en Filosofía. Comparte con la hermana Thea la pasión por el Señor y la música, el P. Clem fundó el Rejoice Ministry of African Worship Songs -AFRAWOS- en 2002.)