Archive researcher explores Bishop Elder

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – This past week our diocesan archives hosted Father David Endres, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Dean of the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary where he is professor of church history. Father Endres is also historical theology editor of U.S. Catholic Historian. Father Endres is working on completing an official biography of our third bishop, William Henry Elder.

Bishop Elder, a native of Baltimore, was our bishop from 1858 to 1880 when he was named Archbishop of Cincinnati.

On our diocesan website, we have this brief description of Bishop Elder’s tenure here in Mississippi.

One of his first actions was to appoint Father Mathurin Grignon vicar general of the diocese. He was a capable and energetic administrator who established a strong foundation on which the modern diocese was built.

Bishop Elder is pictured surrounded by his six brothers after he received his pallium as Archbisop of Cincinnati.

Father Grignon, who also served as pastor of the cathedral, had come to Natchez to teach in the school established by Bishop Chanche. It was he who administered the last sacraments to Bishop Van de Velde.
Wanting to make a good impression on Bishop Elder, Father Grignon, the Sisters of Charity and parishioners worked to improve the still unfinished interior of the cathedral, completing the woodwork and windows. By 1859, the task was completed.

Bishop Elder entrusted the running of the cathedral parish to Father Grignon while he traveled throughout the large Diocese to assist struggling parishes. At the same time, St. Mary Cathedral was also assisting missions attached to it in Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Cedar Creek, Rodney, Fayette, Meadville and Woodville.

D’Evereux Hall, an orphanage for boys, was opened in Natchez.

During Bishop Elder’s administration, the Civil War consumed the nation in violence and bloodshed for four years. Known as a saintly and scholarly man, Bishop Elder wrote to his father on the eve of the Civil War: “It is hard to tell what is to be the fate of the country. I have not enough of political sagacity to see what will be the course of events, nor what would be the fruit of the remedies proposed. … We can all unite in praying to God to guide and protect us.” Bishop Elder ministered to soldiers and celebrated Mass for the wounded throughout the war. He also ministered to a community of freedmen formed in Natchez by slaves who fled after the city was occupied in 1863 by federal troops.

Under Union occupation, the Bishop was expelled from Natchez and imprisoned in Vidalia, Louisiana for refusing to pray for the United States government. Although the war ended in 1865, Union troops remained in Natchez until 1876.

Bishop William Henry Elder and his chalice. (Photos from archives)

Expanding their educational ministry in the diocese, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened a school for boys in Natchez in 1865.

Bishop Elder was named coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1880 and would later become Archbishop there. When he arrived in Mississippi there were nine priests, 11 churches, three educational institutions, one orphanage and a Catholic population of 10,000.

When he left Mississippi, there were 19 priests, 42 churches, 12 schools for white children, three schools for black children and a Catholic population of 12,500. Among the parishes established during this time was St. Alphonsus in McComb.

For five days, Father Endres poured through original documents, letter books and correspondence from the 19th century carefully indexed by our master archivist, Bishop R. O. Gerow. Working in the diocesan archives vault among all the papers and files in boxes, cabinets stacked to the ceiling, there is a unique feeling of connection with those who have gone before us. We have a national treasure in our vault containing more than 200 years of American and church history.

JACKSON – Father David Endres of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently spent a week at the Diocese of Jackson’s chancery office researching Bishop William Henry Elder for a biography he is writing. He said that through his research he was “amazed by the fortitude that it took to be a missionary here in the 19th century.” (Photo by Tereza Ma)

The diocesan archive collection is only open to research by historians such as Father Endres. It is not like a library where one is able to walk in, browse and pull books off the shelf. Researchers must present credentials and an outline of the project they are researching before being approved for entry.

As archivist, I would then pull and group the information for the researcher to enable accomplishment of the project. For Father Endres’ research, there were 18 extremely fragile letter books, an 11-volume index, approximately 10 cubic feet of documents and several odds and ends in our vault.

By the end of the week, Father Endres had captured a wealth of information for the book. I very much look forward to reading Father Endres’ biography of Elder and placing a copy of it in our diocesan archive collection.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Called by Name

New posters are coming soon! Each year I’m excited to publish a new seminarian poster with the happy faces of our current seminarians. I love to see how guys ‘move up the ranks.’ For example, in 2020 and 2021, Grayson Foley was in the last spot on the poster and now he’s fourth in line (almost on the top row!) as he continues to progress through the program. Will Foggo is now second on the list, and it seemed like yesterday that he was second to last! It’s also fun to see when guys get their ‘collar.’ Deacon Tristan Stovall spent three years on the poster collar-less, but now he’s been wearing his roman collar for years as he makes the final approach to priestly ordination.

Father Nick Adam

  One of the biggest changes this year is the way that the ‘classes’ are listed on the poster. In years past, we designated the seminarians according to their academic standing. A seminarian listed as 2nd Philosophy meant that he was in his second year of philosophy studies. But the US Bishops recently approved a new Program for Priestly Formation, and instead of focusing on the academic standing of each seminarian, they are asking us to see their formation through the lens of ‘stages.’

The first stage that is required for seminarians now is the Propaedeutic Stage, or preparatory stage. During this time, the seminarian learns how to be a seminarian, and his class load is less than a typical undergraduate student. Once he clears this stage of formation, he moves onto the Discipleship Stage. During this time, the seminarian is expected to be growing in Christian virtue as a student of Jesus, the High Priest. He needs to show growth in charity, and of course continue to pass his classes as they start to ramp up to a normal undergraduate load. By the end of this stage, this man should be a public man of prayer and virtue, and someone who is showing real potential to be a pastor in the church.

The next step is the Configurative Stage, where the man receives Candidacy (he starts to wear the Roman collar), and he is now a public man of the church. He is being configured through continued study, prayer and practice into a man who is not only a disciple, but a shepherd. Once he has completed this stage, the seminarian is ready for diaconate ordination, or the Pastoral Synthesis Stage. During his time as a deacon, the seminarian uses all that he has learned in seminary formation and applies it to his life in the diocese and in a specific parish. Using the language of the new program Deacon Tristan, for example is in the Pastoral Synthesis Stage of his journey to priesthood, instead of his 4th Year of Theology.

It may seem tedious to change this language, but it is certainly helpful for me as I walk with our seminarians. I need to make sure I’m not just worried about whether they pass their classes, but I need to make sure I’m preparing them to go to the next stage of discernment. So far, I’ve heard good things from our men regarding these changes to their formation, and I believe the church is right to focus on formation, rather than simply completion of academic requirements.

Giving up on fear

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
A friend of mine shares this story. He was an only child. When he was in his late twenties, still single, building a successful career and living in the same city as his mother and father, his father died, leaving his mother widowed. His mother, who had centered her life on her family and on her son, was understandably devastated. Much of her world collapsed, she’d lost her husband, but she still had her son.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

The next years were not always easy for her son. His mother had lost much of her world, save him, and he felt a heavy responsibility toward her. She lived for his visits. His days off and his vacation times had to be spent with her. Much as he loved his mother, it was a burden that prevented him from having the social life and relational freedom he yearned for, and it prevented him from making some career decisions that he would otherwise have made. He had to take care of his mother, to be there for her. As one can guess, their times together were sometimes a test of loyalty and duty for the son. But he did it faithfully, year after year. There was no one else his mother could lean on.

When his mother’s health began to decline, she sold her house and moved into a Seniors’ complex. Most times on his day off he would pick up his mother, take her for a drive in the country, and then take her to dinner before dropping her back at her mini apartment. One day on such an outing, driving along a country road in silence, his mother broke the quiet with words that both surprised him and, for the first time in a long time, had his full attention.

She shared words to this effect: Something huge has happened in my life. I’ve given up on fear. All my life I have been afraid of everything – of not measuring up, of not being good enough, of being boring, of being excluded, of being alone, of ending up alone, of ending up without any money or a place to live, of people talking about me behind my back. I’ve been afraid of my own shadow. Well, I’ve given up on fear. And why not? I’ve lost everything – my husband, my place in society, my home, my physical looks, my health, my teeth and my dignity. I’ve nothing left to lose anymore, and do you know something? It’s good! I’m not afraid of anything anymore. I feel free in a way I have never felt before. I’ve given up on fear.

For the first time in a long time, he began to listen closely to what his mother was saying. He also sensed something new in her, a new strength and a deeper wisdom from which he wished to drink. The next time he took her for a drive, he said to her: Mom, teach me that. Teach me how not to be afraid.
She lived for two more years and during those years he took her for drives in the country and for lunches and dinners together, and he drew something from her, from that new strength in her, that he had not been able to draw from before. When she eventually died and he lost her earthly presence, he could only describe what she had given him in those final years by using biblical terms: “My mother gave me birth twice, once from below and once from above.”

It’s not easy to give up on fear, nor to teach others how to do so. Fear has such a grip on us because for most of our lives we in fact have much to lose. So, it’s hard, understandably so, not to live with a lot of fear for most of our lives. Moreover, this is not a question of being mature or immature, spiritual or earthy. Indeed, sometimes the more mature and spiritual we are, the more we appreciate the preciousness of life, of health, of family, of friendship, of community – all of which have their own fragility and all of which we can lose. There are good reasons to be afraid.

It is no accident that this man’s mother was able to move beyond fear only after she had lost most everything in life. God and nature recognize that and have written it into the aging process. The aging process is calibrated to take us to a place where we can give up on fear because as we age and lose more and more of our health, our importance in the world, our physical attractiveness, our loved ones to death and our dignity, we have less and less to lose – and less and less to be afraid of.

This is one of nature’s last gifts to us, and living in a way that others see this new freedom in us can also be one of the last great gifts we leave behind with those we love.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website


By Sister alies therese

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (NAB, John 1:1) That God spoke one word is a clue for us because folks who babble and gossip are insecure, undermining and silly. I have to put it that way because it describes most of us!

In Proverbs and other places in Scripture we can learn. Consider in Proverbs 13:2 “the good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.” (Peterson) I can only hope to discover how to learn to speak the simplest and most direct and loving words as I mature. How shall my words not bully anyone, how can I speak with the ‘tongue of angels’? How can I learn to speak the truth? Can I speak in love?

Sister alies therese

Gossip is something that gets under my skin. Yours? Rumors and tales that particularly feature my neighbors or friends really get my goat. Proverbs again reminds us of this: “troublemakers start fights, gossip breaks up friendships.” (16:28, Peterson) “Don’t talk about your neighbors behind their backs – no slander or gossip please.” (24:28, Peterson).

Not gossiping is not just ‘good behavior’; it is also quite practical. “The person who lies gets caught; the person who spreads rumors is ruined.” (NAB, Proverbs 19:9) Rumors that are spread on internet, for example, about teens being fat, or ugly, or indeed promiscuous, have ended in suicide and at least eating disorders.

“The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.” (12:8, Peterson) Political discourse is damaged by the passing of lies and rumor; the public square is littered with persons executed behind lies and false witnesses. Gossip indeed is a killer.

Did you hear the one about? And then off it goes. Some bits of truth are usually embedded within, but the rest implies a certain knowledge, certain power, certain insight into something that is just not true. One day it will be about you.

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert points this out “Talk badly about people too often and your reputation of being a rumormonger will make others stop trusting you.” You might answer, however, what I found in an old Reader’s Digest: “I’m not a gossip. I’m a verbal documenter of other people’s dramas!” Or as to say…I have a right to pass on what I see and hear. Think so?

Another old Reader’s Digest mentioned “You can’t believe everything you hear but you can repeat it.” Perhaps you don’t know the difference between truth and lies? Zip yer lip, especially in this case! “Watch the way you talk…say only what helps. Each word is a gift.” (Peterson, Eph 4:29).

I was impressed with psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, who defined gossip as a “sharing information-real or imagined-without permission.” He also indicated how gossip is emotional sadism because “people tend to take pleasure in someone else’s misery and delight that it’s not happening to them!” Gossip and rumors steal a person’s dignity, they put another person at their lowest where they often have no way of restoration. If you want to be part of another’s destruction, try gossip. “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.” (Peterson, Proverbs 17:4)

Rather become what Proverbs also suggests “Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things; but reliable reporter is a healing presence.” (Peterson, Proverbs 13:17) Let’s go for that because “gossip is like a black hole – once we get sucked in it’s hard to escape.” (

Children often have the right question, if not the right answer. When asked, a dad defined a gossiper for his son as a “a person with a profound sense of rumor.” A little girl, when asked how she knew she was loved said “when people say your name, you know it’s safe in their mouth.” Are words and tales safe in your mouth?

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better use of language than that … thanksgiving is our dialect.” (Peterson, Ephesians 5:4)


PS: My newest collection of short stories 27 Tall Tales will be out soon!

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Observing Hispanic Heritage Month as Catholics

Journeying Together
By Hosffman Ospino

Every year, between September 15 and October 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month. The observance began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and, in 1988, was extended by law into a full-month celebration.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we all are invited to honor and highlight the many stories, experiences and contributions of Hispanics living in the United States, which are integral to who we are as a nation.

For U.S. Catholics, Hispanic Heritage Month should be a major occasion to affirm and celebrate who we are and who we are becoming. Of the approximately 63.7 million Hispanic people living in this country, about 31 million self-identify as Catholic. What’s more, about 43% of all Catholics in the United States of America are Hispanic.

Educational institutions at all levels in our nation engage in different activities to highlight Hispanic cultural elements and learn more about the Hispanic population. Teachers do a superb job creating moments where this happens, in the classroom and through school wide activities. Many other organizations do likewise.

Dr. Hoffsman Ospino

I must say, however, that I do not see the same level of enthusiasm observing Hispanic Heritage Month in our Catholic parishes. It is rather strange since nearly half of all U.S. Catholics are Hispanic and fully 25% of parishes have developed some form of Hispanic ministry.

We don’t seem to have developed a strong culture of parochial observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. But that can change. A communal culture is built through small practices and the commitment to perform these regularly. Here are five practical ideas.
–Start with the parish bulletin and social media. Write a weekly article about Hispanic Catholics; highlight the Hispanic community of your parish or your town; explain a Hispanic popular Catholicism practice (e.g., posadas, altarcitos, quinceañeras); share the story of a U.S. Hispanic; Latin American or Caribbean saint; invite young Hispanics to write something about growing up in a Hispanic Catholic household.

–Set up a book display in the back of your church, or at the parish hall or perhaps in the parish office (think of an often-frequented space in your community) with works that describe Hispanic Catholicism and books written by Hispanic Catholics: poetry, novels, theological works, spirituality guides. The literature on Hispanic Catholicism is abundant!

–Organize at least one evening parish lecture or presentation during this special month with a speaker who shares something interesting about Hispanic Catholics. Promote the event among all parishioners of your community. If your community is multilingual, host events in different languages. Ah, make sure you offer some Hispanic food!

–Those who preach can take advantage of this time of the year to intentionally say something about the Hispanic Catholic experience from the pulpit as they break open the Word. Catechists and teachers in the parish should be encouraged to share about Hispanic Catholicism in their lessons. Give them some resources.

–This is the perfect time of the year to invite your parish community into fiesta! It does not take much to bring the community together to enjoy each other’s presence. It could be a picnic, a large meal or maybe a bazaar. Share Hispanic food and music. Start with a bilingual or multilingual Eucharistic celebration. Pray in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Latin American indigenous languages.

These practices don’t take much effort and cost rather little. The effects upon the parish community can be invaluable as they help us to appreciate our Hispanic Catholic roots more. Such practices are instrumental in reminding us who we are and who we are becoming as U.S. Catholics. Happy Catholic celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month!

(Hosffman Ospino is a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.)

Called By Name

God won’t move a ‘parked car.’ Father Brett Brannen of the Diocese of Savannah wrote a very popular book on priestly discernment called To Save a Thousand Souls. In the book, he encourages all young people to move toward their vocation in life. He writes that “God won’t move a parked car,” meaning that the Lord honors our freedom, and if we are not willing to start seriously discerning our vocation, then he won’t force us into a decision. The longer we wait, however, the more we deprive ourselves of the grace that God gives to those who have courageously chosen a vocation. It is important to remember that the church calls us to give ourselves fully to a vocation, a call to another, at some stage of our life. This call includes a lifelong commitment that we make solemnly before the Lord and His church. This call can be to marriage, or the priesthood/consecrated life.

Father Nick Adam

It has become popular to delay making a choice on a vocation until we are a little more ‘mature,’ but it is important to remember that maturity does not magically happen just because we get older. I know some folks who are in their early 20s who are way more mature than I was at that age, and while they don’t have ‘life experience,’ they do have a real direction in their life. Faith Formation is more important than life-experience, and when young people are formed in a strong life of faith in their families and parishes from a young age, they are able to move toward life-long vocational commitments faster, and this is a good thing!

On the other hand, some people who delay making vocational commitments in the name of getting more life experience risk stunting their formation even more because they don’t progress in maturity, but only in age, and the extra time they give themselves is spent de-forming their consciences rather than preparing them for the lifelong sacrificial love that our vocation demands.

God won’t move ‘a parked car.’ He won’t force us to grow in our life with him. If we don’t have a solid life of prayer and participate in the sacraments, then we risk missing out on the vocation that the Lord has called us to. Please encourage the young people in your life to grow in maturity. Challenge them to live virtuously and help them to understand that God will help them when they ask for it. All young people should be praying to know their vocation – praying to know who they are called to give their life for. When we move toward the Lord and we ask Him to help us, we will be challenged to do things we never would have chosen ourselves, and yet we become fully alive because God gives us the grace to do things we never would have been capable of otherwise.

Father Nick Adam

For more info on vocations email:

Save the date:
Homegrown Harvest – Saturday, Oct. 21

If you want to bring together good men and women from Mississippi and encourage them to seek the will of God in their life, consider being a sponsor or buying tickets for this event. You can register by visiting Remember Burse Club members receive a free ticket!

Divine permission for human fatigue

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Someone once asked Therese of Lisieux if it was wrong to fall asleep while in prayer. Her answer: Absolutely not. A little child is equally pleasing to her parents, awake or asleep – probably more when asleep!

That’s more than a warm, cute answer. There’s a wisdom in her reply that’s generally lost to us, namely, that God understands the human condition and gives us sacred permission to be human, even in the face of our most important human and spiritual commitments.

This struck me recently while listening to a homily. The preacher, a sincere and dedicated priest, challenged us with the idea that God must always be first in our lives. So far so good. But then he shared how upset he gets whenever he hears people say things like: “Let’s go to the Saturday evening mass, to get it over with.” Or, when a celebrant says: “We will keep things short today, because the game starts at noon.” Phrases like that, he suggested, betray a serious weakness in our prayer lives. Do they?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Comments like that can issue out of laziness, spiritual indifference, or misplaced priorities. They might also simply be an expression of normal, understandable human fatigue – a fatigue which God, the author of human nature, gives us permission to feel.

There can be, and often is, a naïveté about the place of high energy and enthusiasm in our lives. For example, imagine a family who, with the best of intentions, decides that to foster family togetherness they agree to make their evening meal, every evening, a full-blown banquet, demanding everyone’s participation and enthusiasm and lasting for ninety minutes. Wish them luck! Some days this would foster togetherness and there would be a certain enthusiasm at the table; but, soon enough, this would be unsustainable in terms of their energy, and more than one of the family members would be saying silently, let’s get this over with, or can we cut it a little short tonight because the game is on at 7 o’clock. Granted, that could betray an attitude of disinterest; but, more likely, it would simply be a valid expression of normal fatigue.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

None of us can sustain high energy and enthusiasm forever. Nor are we intended to. Our lives are a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why it is good sometimes to have lengthy banquets and sometimes to simply grab a hotdog and run. God and nature give us permission to sometimes say, let’s get it over with, and sometimes to rush things so as to not miss the beginning of the game.

Moreover, beyond taking seriously the normal ebb and flow of our energies, there is still another, even more important angle to this. Enthusiastic energy or lack of them don’t necessarily define meaning. We can do a thing because it means something affectively to us – or we can do something simply because it means something in itself, independent of how we feel about it on a given day. Too often, we don’t grasp this. For example, take the response people often give when explaining why they are no longer going to church services, “it doesn’t mean anything to me.” What they are blind to in saying this is the fact that being together in a church means something in itself, independent of how it feels affectively on any given day. A church service means something in itself, akin to visiting your aging mother. You do this, not because you are always enthusiastic about it or because it always feels good emotionally. No. You do it because this is your aging mother and that’s what God, nature and maturity call us to do.

The same holds true for a family meal together. You don’t necessarily go to dinner with your family each night with enthusiasm. You go because this is how families sustain their common life. There will be times when you do come with high energy and appreciate both the preciousness of the moment and the length of the dinner. But there will be other times when, despite a deeper awareness that being together in this way is important, you will be wanting to get this over with, or sneaking glances at your watch and calculating what time the game starts.

So, scripture advises, avoid Job’s friends. For spiritual advice in this area, avoid the spiritual novice, the over-pious, the anthropological naïve, the couple on their honeymoon, the recent convert and at least half of all liturgists and worship leaders. The true manual on marriage is never written by a couple on their honeymoon and the true manual on prayer is never written by someone who believes that we should be on a high all the time. Find a spiritual mentor who challenges you enough to keep you from selfishness and laziness, even as she or he gives you divine permission to be tired sometimes.

A woman or man at prayer is equally pleasing to God, enthusiastic or tired – perhaps even more when tired.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website

Nurture the seeds of vision

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
I have spent the past three years studying transformational leadership for a doctorate in ministry (D. Min.) Thanks be to God, I graduated on June 1st. One of my favorite courses was titled Transformational Servant Leadership. The course description states, “…the servant-leader is servant first. His or her desire to lead comes from a desire to serve and is manifested in the care s/he takes in ensuring that others grow into greater freedom, wisdom, health, and empowered leadership. Transformational leadership invites the leader to engage in a process of service that lifts the leader and those they serve to a higher level of being and acting that are the bases for personal conversion and social transformation. Both nurture the seeds of a vision that leaders and our society not only long for but can realize.”

When I first read the course description I was struck by the phrase, “nurture the seeds of vision.” Upon further reflection I came to recognize that hospitality is the cornerstone of any vision for ministry. Hospitality exists in places where authentic encounters lead to eternal love. The imperative to truly see, hear, and value one another is difficult. It is a challenge in our work as ministers but also it is a greater challenge in our daily living. In preparing our hearts to receive all others with attentiveness, active listening, empathy and love we rest in hospitality.

In John McKnight’s article, “Why Servant Leadership is Bad” he invites churches to be places of hospitality not social service agencies. Everything he advocates for begins with the ability to go beyond treating the symptoms of our social ills and work to see the other as equal not something to be pitied. Hospitality requires that we be focused on the other – their value, dignity and gifts. A space of radical hospitality is the fertile ground for dreaming, visioning and praxis.

We can dream and talk about vision but in order for visions to be animated, systems to support those visions must be in place. What are the seeds of your transformational leadership praxis? Are you building the structures to support the ministries in your parish or school that support your vision? Are you becoming united with other servant leaders through better communication, opportunities for education and training, regular meetings and celebrating milestones in both your professional and personal lives? Are you underscoring the importance of dreaming and envisioning, the importance of foresight and the value of authentic listening? Do you recognize team members who readily engage in dreaming big dreams, envisioning new ways of being and living a ministry of presence?

What are the desired outcomes of our vision? A question Robert Greenleaf asks in The Servant Leader, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

In returning to the connectedness of all life we are called to nurture the seeds of vision. A vision that includes the oneness of our humanity and indeed all of creation. The paradigm shifts a little every time someone on the periphery feels connected to God’s love. Our role as persons of faith and as formational leaders is to cultivate oneness by being present, vulnerable and loving. If we are caught in a “it’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality, we are limiting our ability to learn and grow. Holding on to old ways just because they are comfortable limits the work of the Holy Spirit.

My colleague and dear friend, Abbey Schuhmann and I often talk about the young church. Our youth and young adults are seeking an authentic encounter with Christ. They want leaders who can accompany them on their faith journey, truly listen and hear them, and live out the Gospel in their everyday lives. They are listening to our words but also watching the way we live. Many who have left the church cite an authenticity gap. That is to say we do not live up to our preaching or teaching.

Successful servant leaders articulate a vision or message that resonates with people long after they are gone. I watched Ted Koppel’s segment on leadership a few years ago on CBS Sunday Morning. He interviewed Stanley McChrystal, a retired four star general. McChrystal mentioned a bright woman who came to one of his classes that he was teaching at Yale. She said something that obviously resonated with him, “People will forgive you for not being the leader you should be, but they won’t forgive you for not being the leader you claim to be.”

I pray a litany for all the transformational servant leaders in my life. Chief among them is my father. Forever imprinted in my spirit, he demonstrated transformational servant leadership. Dad was a great practitioner of hospitality. He used his life to serve others and encouraged them to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous people. I am a beneficiary of his life of service. Nurturing the seeds of vision.

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

Being a patient is slowly teaching me about patience

By Lisa M. Hendey
”Patience is a virtue,” I try to remind myself as the oncology receptionist hands me the clipboard filled with five separate (and badly copied) forms I know I’ve already completed online.

“Don’t complain. Just smile and say thank you,” I whisper internally.

Truly, I am grateful these days. I’m grateful for access to excellent health care and the professionals who render compassionately. I’m grateful for family and friends who have prayed for me ceaselessly during my cancer treatment process. And I’m grateful beyond measure for my caregiving husband whose love has known no bounds during the last six months.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit to being wildly impatient. This is a new trait for me.

In the past, I’ve had bouts of impatience. As a young professional stymied by a lack of experience, I felt impatient for not having been recognized by my older peers. Raising toddlers and navigating my sons’ teenage years certainly brought occasional moments of parental frustration. And I have confessed to more than one priest my ongoing impatience with my husband’s driving.

But by and large, my impatience in those moments felt like a temporary state, not the preexisting condition I carry with me these days.

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of, a bestselling author, and an international speaker. Visit her at or on social media @lisahendey. (OSV News photo/courtesy Lisa Hendey)

My impatience with being a patient is something entirely new.
I am impatient with the endless hours of waiting that come with various forms of medical treatment. I’m impatient with the bureaucracy inherent in the process. Terribly, I feel impatient with the well-intentioned reminders of others that I should avoid “overdoing it.” Most of all, I’m impatient with myself and my inability to more quickly bounce back to my pre-diagnosis self.
In my better moments, it’s occurred to me since I turned 60 in June that this healing process, and aging itself, provide excellent opportunities to grow in the virtue of patience.

There is a saying attributed online to Mother Teresa and although I’ve never been able to find a source for it, it’s sound counsel: “Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.” Since my decision to intentionally work on growing in the virtue of patience, those words have reminded me to pause intentionally during my moments of impatience and to see them as opportunities to learn and grow.

My first step in this process has been to recognize my problem, admit it to myself, and take it to the sacrament of penance, spiritual direction, and counseling. It’s hard to avoid accepting the olive branch that’s typically offered when I’m reminded, “You have a good excuse for being impatient these days.”

The harm that comes to me spiritually (when I simply accept impatience as an ongoing state of mind) is one of my major motivations for wanting to grow in patience. St. Peter Damian, an eleventh-century reformer and Doctor of the Church, taught his followers about the power of patience. “The best penance is to have patience with the sorrows God permits,” he said. “A very good penance is to dedicate oneself to fulfill the duties of every day with exactitude and to study and work with all our strength.”

That helps. Slowing down helps, too – helps me to embrace the small moments each day when impatience can give way to virtue.

The proffered stack of medical forms reminds me to be intentionally grateful for our insurance coverage, and to pray for so many worldwide who go without even the most basic healthcare.

The extra hour spent in a waiting room is a chance to pray what I’ve come to refer to as a “waiting Rosary.” I count the heads of my fellow patients and use them as my “beads,” praying a Hail Mary for each of them and their needs in the silence of my heart.

My frustration with my own exhaustion and inability to focus reminds me to pray for the souls of my parents, to give thanks for the progress I have actually made, and to recognize that this new stage of my life offers many blessings I am only just beginning to realize.

(Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of, a bestselling author and an international speaker. “Senior Standing” appears monthly at OSV News.)

Teresa of Avila, Good Pope John and … Jimmy Buffett?

By Elizabeth Scalia
(OSV News) – Too often lately, it feels like the offices from which we’ve historically taken our cues – our political and community leadership, the punditry, local authorities and even some church groups – are populated with unserious people who can’t rise to a moment. Those who aren’t peddling pure boilerplate and calling it constructive thought are offering endless scolds about how we should live, think and speak, and how, if things aren’t getting better, it’s because we’re not doing enough of the right things. We should constantly be doing ever more of all these right things, it seems, until the world is saved and humanity perfected and then, finally, we may rest.

These exhausting harangues have become as penetrating (and authentic) as prop knives. They fall upon our ears like an approaching storm we’ve heard for too long – an over-familiar sound and fury, often signifying nothing.

A collage featuring images of St. Teresa of Avila (Public Domain), Pope John XXIII (CNS File photo) and singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett in New York City July 20, 2001 (Mike Segar, Reuters). Buffett died Sept. 1, 2023. (OSV News photo/CNS, Reuters)

Which is why the Jimmy Buffetts of the world are important to have around, and why it is worth a respectful pause and some consideration when they pass.

There was something poignant in Buffett’s passing at the start of Labor Day weekend, when the days are growing shorter and the flip flops and Hawaiian shirts must be put away along with our fantasies of living on a beach, responsible for nothing beyond bringing dessert to the next get-together. Sweaters come out in the evening and time seems suddenly too valuable to waste away searching for misplaced meaning, too fleeting to reclaim the misspent days which, valued too late, are forever lost.

Some dismiss the laid-back island-escapism of Jimmy Buffett as being something hedonistic or uncaring. The world is heavy with material and spiritual misery on every continent – we see it daily in the headlines – and from that perspective he might seem to have been just another fizzy artist, part beach bum, part vagabond, rolling easily between a beer keg and a few cocktails capped with frivolous little umbrellas while singing of hazy nights and strange tattoos (how it got there, he hadn’t a clue!).

Buffett’s biggest hit, “Margaritaville,” celebrates a life lived in meandering dissipation; its plaintive chorus sounds only mildly regretful as the narrator wonders who is to blame for his under-achieving days until, in the final refrain he comes clean:

“Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault.”

If you didn’t know that Buffett was raised Catholic, the last line is a dead giveaway.

That nearly everything in our lives will eventually reveal a component of self-accountability at its core is something every Catholic can identify with. Such recognition is a gift that comes to us not from so-called “Catholic guilt,” but from a formed Catholic conscience.

Buffett, like so many, journeyed away from his childhood Catholicism, although he still sang of belief and of prayer. But as any revert to the faith will tell you, the church “stays with you.” Even after walking away, the potency of its sacramental graces – starting with Baptism wherein we are claimed for Christ – means the conscience is always nudged to wakefulness, and then to action, even if we’d prefer the sleep of oblivion.

Buffett was stirred to action after Hurricane Katrina, according to one man. “I worked at the New Orleans Margaritaville (while) in college,” tweeted John Veron. “I ended up in Austin TX with the clothes on my back and little else. … Margaritaville cut us all $3,000 checks immediately after the storm, no questions asked. … They also let employees know that if any of us could get to ANY other Margaritaville, there was a job waiting for us.”

Employees who ended up in Orlando were “set up with clothes, jobs and housing,” Veron continued. “Jimmy Buffett showed up for us when we needed it. He took care of me and my friends. I’ll always be grateful.”

Anyone surprised by the story would do well to remember what St. Teresa of Avila said when a critic disapproved of her unedifying enjoyment of a roasted partridge at dinner. “There is a time for partridge and a time for penance,” the great reformer rightly replied.

Knowing how to strike a balance between rest and action is a very Catholic thing, for we are a both/and church, part Mary and part Martha. Jimmy Buffett knew how to recognize when to take action and when to relax and enjoy the life he’d been given. This speaks to the value of a conscience formed and sustained by sacramental graces, whose effects the Holy Spirit tends.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose unto heaven” (Eccl 3:1). There is a time to work hard for a weary world, but also a time to kick off the shoes, settle back and take our cues from Teresa, or from Jimmy Buffett. It is good, and perhaps the better part of wisdom, to riff off of the prayer St. John XXIII was said to have prayed each night: “It’s your (world), O Lord. I’m going to bed.”

(Elizabeth Scalia is culture editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter/X @theanchoress.)