Called by Name

It was very exciting to see Father Tristan Stovall ordained to the presbyterate on May 18 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Jackson. Tristan began his time in the seminary when I was still a seminarian, but we did not attend the same school. I knew Tristan because he was from my side of the state, up in Neshoba County, and Father Augustine was keeping us updated on this young convert who was thinking about joining our ranks. Shortly after I was ordained, Tristan decided to leave the diocesan seminary so he could discern whether he was called to join the Dominican Order. Thankfully for us, the call didn’t go through!

I was named the vocation director for the diocese in August 2019; and in October 2019, I got a call from Father Aaron Williams who had to tell me something. Tristan had discerned that he needed to re-enter the seminary for the Diocese of Jackson! It was great news, and I asked Tristan to take an assignment at St. Richard in Jackson, where I was the parochial vicar, until the new semester began at Notre Dame Seminary where he would be doing his Theology studies. I remember vividly those days and I remember thinking: ok, Tristan is one of my guys. He didn’t enter the seminary while I was vocation director, but he did re-enter the seminary under my watch.

Five years later, Father Tristan Stovall is about to begin his first priestly assignment. He will be the parochial vicar at St. Joseph in Starkville; as well as, the assistant vocation director. From that time together in Jackson to this day, I have seen the impact that Father Tristan has on young people. He has an easy-going attitude, but he has a depth about him that people really find engaging. I know that he will make an incredible impact at his parish, and I’m very grateful that he has been assigned to help me in the vocation office as well.

Please keep Father Tristan in your prayers. It is a joyful time for him and his family, but soon, the work will begin. I have great confidence and great joy at the thought of being a co-worker with him after so many years walking with him through his time as a discerner and a seminarian.

Father Nick Adam, vocation director

JACKSON – Father Tristan Stovall was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on Saturday, May 18. (Photos by Joanna King)

Finding gratitude in what is given

FOR THE JOURNEY
By Effie Caldarola

One morning, I was half-listening to National Public Radio as I quickly prepared for an appointment. Into the shower, grab the coffee, find the toothbrush and in the midst of this, bits and pieces of the day’s news.

Then, “StoryCorps” was playing. An independent nonprofit, StoryCorps exists to let people tell their stories. According to their website, since 2003, they’ve helped “nearly 700,000 people across the country have meaningful conversations about their lives.” These stories are housed in the U.S. Library of Congress.
The people who tell their stories are ordinary people, if any child of God on this earthly pilgrimage qualifies as “ordinary.”

Effie Caldarola

My ears perked up when I realized the family talking in the story was journeying through the terminal illness of the family’s husband and father, who we learned at the end had died shortly after the recording was made.

His wife remarked that people would tell her they were hoping for a miracle. She resisted this, because she said, “My whole life has been a miracle,” referencing her relationship with this man she loved.

That line captured my attention, and her comment infiltrated my whole day. I saw in her words the spirituality of gratitude.

Because true gratitude, a very deep well, is profoundly spiritual.

Sometimes in our contemporary culture, gratitude is portrayed as just another self-help scheme. You’ll be happier if you focus on thankfulness. At Thanksgiving, we enumerate our “thanks” at grace. We focus on family, success, “stuff.” Our consumer culture tempts us to glide over the richness and depth of real gratitude and to feel thankful for material things and the completion of our ambitions.

Years ago, I belonged to a Jesuit parish on a university campus. Our beloved young pastor, Jesuit Father Pat Malone, was quite ill. Because of treatments that had negatively affected his immune system, the day came when he could no longer celebrate Mass for us. I will never forget a Sunday morning, walking down the sidewalk to Mass, when we saw Father Malone, standing on the hill above us, alone outside the Jesuit residence, where he could wave good morning but keep a safe distance.

It wasn’t long before he died, but in my memory, he stands there still, a solitary figure wanting to be one with his flock. After his death, a compilation of his writings and homilies was published.

There was one line that I have carried with me ever since: “It is gratitude that ultimately asks one thing, but at a great price: fall extravagantly in love with what is given.”

Twenty-one words I’ve pondered. It is one thing to be thankful for a good test result, the pay raise, the healthy baby. It’s another to find gratitude in the hard things, the standing alone in illness and being able to appreciate the miracle therein.

What a great gift and challenge it is to fall extravagantly in love with that which is given.

Can I fall extravagantly in love with the absence of a loved one? Can I accept with gratitude the givenness of old age, of defeats, of loneliness, of the memory of sins for which I have expressed sorrow and contrition?

And what does it mean, “at a great price?” What is the coin of this realm of gratitude?

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, told us we can find God in all things. That means God is there in sorrow and joy, in loneliness and togetherness. To live into that is itself a miracle. If God is there, we are called to be thankful for God’s presence, no matter how high the price.

(Effie Caldarola is a wife, mom and grandmother who received her master’s degree in pastoral studies from Seattle University.)

Remembering in ordinary time

On Ordinary Times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

On Memorial Day last year, an acquaintance of mine visited a parish not my own and brought home a church bulletin. I glanced through it and saw, prominently displayed, a colorful graphic wishing everyone a “Happy Memorial Day.” I found myself surprisingly angry to see this festive greeting. I have come to accept the misunderstanding of Memorial Day by secular advertisers pushing Memorial Day sales and promoting the start of the summer vacation season. Yet, Memorial Day is not a “happy” day for those who see its real purpose: to remember with gratitude and to mourn with sorrow all those who gave their lives in defense of this nation we call home.

Lucia A. Silecchia

Memorial Day has its origins in the state and local “Decoration Days,” begun in the bloody aftermath of the Civil War. On those days, loved ones would follow ancient traditions and bring flowers to decorate the graves of those who died in battle. In doing so, robust spring blooms brought a hopeful sign of life and respect to the resting places of their beloved. In 1868, General John Logan’s General Order No. 11 proclaimed that such days were a time to visit soldiers’ burial sites and “garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

With the passage of decades that brought future wars and future sacrifices, Memorial Day was eventually fixed as a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May. While Veterans’ Day in November expresses gratitude to all who have ever served in the military, Memorial Day has a more solemn significance. It specifically honors those who served in the military and gave to our nation what President Abraham Lincoln eloquently called “the last full measure of devotion.”

I have never spent Memorial Day kneeling with teary eyes at a grave dug too soon – or burdened with the aching angst of having no grave to visit. Since the days of World War One when my grandfather became both an American citizen and a private first class in the United States Army, multiple generations of my family have served in uniform. They came home. So many families – including, perhaps, some who saw “Happy Memorial Day” in their church bulletin – have not been as fortunate.

The Catholic Church knows so well how to honor, remember and pray for those who have passed from this life. She also understands the depths of grief carried by those who mourn and offers the profound hope that death does not have the final word. I hope that as Memorial Day comes again, our Catholic churches, cemeteries, nursing homes, hospitals, schools and universities will all be places that are filled with many who comfort those who grieve and pray for so many souls lost in battle since the birth of our nation. I hope, too, that all people of faith will bring to the public square a sense of grateful reverence for those we honor on Memorial Day.

Family gatherings, beach trips and much-anticipated barbecues all have their places on this national holiday. They are the good and beautiful things that were no doubt held dear by so many who lived to see so few of these celebrations.

But I hope that in the midst of this, we take time to pray for those we memorialize – and honor them by remembering them every day of our ordinary time.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at silecchia@cua.edu.)

Eucharistic pilgrimage brings Christ to the world

By Sister Constance Veit, lsp

During Pentecost weekend I participated in an historic event in New Haven, Connecticut. I was not there to take part in another protest at Yale University, or even to attend any of the graduation ceremonies taking place there. Instead, I joined hundreds of other Catholics for the launch of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

This four-pronged pilgrimage, which began simultaneously in New Haven, San Francisco, Brownsville, Texas and the Mississippi Headwaters in northern Minnesota, will cover 6,500 miles over the next two months.

Sister Constance Veit, LSP

These four routes will converge in Indianapolis in time for the National Eucharistic Congress in mid-July. The eucharistic pilgrimage is the largest procession ever attempted in the Catholic Church – the most audacious event in Christianity’s 2,025-year history!

 Although we encountered no signs of protest, I was thinking about the recent unrest in our country as we processed with the Blessed Sacrament through the Yale campus Saturday evening in light rain. I could not help thinking how different our procession was from the recent university protests.

After all, we were following Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Good News incarnate, as he was carried in a monstrance by Father Roger Landry, the Catholic chaplain at Columbia University.

What a providential choice it was that Father Landry – so closely associated with “Ground Zero” of the protest movement – would be named as the only priest to walk an entire route of the pilgrimage!

Many other members of the clergy will participate in a portion of the trek, but Father Landry will himself carry the Blessed Sacrament along the entire eastern route of this historic journey.

In two talks over the weekend of May 18-19, Father Landry made several reflections that impacted my own eucharistic spirituality.

He spoke of Christian life itself as a eucharistic pilgrimage. We are pilgrims in a strange land he said, called to be always on the move.

This struck me in a particular way on Sunday morning as we processed through the streets of New Haven, a city just waking up to bistro brunches, dog walks and morning jogs. A few people seemed to pray with us as we passed them on the street, while others just stared with a look of curiosity.

We were walking in faith, bringing Christ out into the world, doing our part to reverse the indifference and contempt so rampant in our society.

We were trying to remind people that Jesus still lives among us and within us.

As we hastened along the streets of New Haven, I also recalled something Archbishop Christopher Coyne had said in his homily the evening before. A pilgrimage is “prayer embodied,” he suggested.

Each footstep lands both on an actual road and on the path of faith.

As Catholics I think our faith can be a bit “disembodied,” merely a private matter of the mind and heart. But this idea of prayer “embodied” became very real to me as my old legs began to tire during our fast-paced walk to the wharf in New Haven.

When we reached the dock, we saw two boats – a beautiful luxury yacht and a much smaller fishing trawler.

Jesus, who called his disciples to be fishers of men, could only have chosen the fishing boat, so we quickly boarded the humbler vessel, following Father Landry and the monstrance.

We Little Sisters felt privileged to be able to accompany the “Perpetual Pilgrims” and a few journalists on this leg of the pilgrimage.

During our two-hour boat ride on Long Island Sound, we fixed our gaze on the monstrance, prayed and sang with the Perpetual Pilgrims.

We were never in danger of sinking, nor did we try to walk on water, but we did try to imagine what it must have been like for Jesus and his disciples each time they set sail on the Sea of Galilee.

Father Roger Landry and pilgrims pray as a boat transporting the Eucharist from New Haven, Conn., arrives at the harbor in Bridgeport, Conn., May 19, 2024. The procession was a part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. (OSV News photo/Paul Haring)

When we arrived in Bridgeport, Father Landry and the small band of Perpetual Pilgrims continued on, but our participation in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage concluded.

We returned home, grateful for having been a part of history.

If you are going to be anywhere near one of the eucharistic pilgrimage routes this summer, don’t pass up the opportunity to participate in this historic experience.

May you come to know the joy of prayer embodied and may your faith in Jesus’ personal love for you be rekindled!

Sister Constance Veit is the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States and an occupational therapist.

Mystery of the Ascension

IN EXILE
By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

What is the Ascension? The Ascension is an event in of the life of Jesus and his original disciples, a feast day for Christians, a theology, and a spirituality, all woven together into one amorphous mystery that we too seldom try to unpackage and sort out. What does the Ascension mean?

Among other things, it is a mystery that is strangely paradoxical. Here’s the paradox: there is a wonderful life-giving gift in someone entering our lives, touching us, nurturing us, doing things that build us up, and giving life for us. But there’s also a gift in the other eventually having to say goodbye to the way he or she has been present to us. Passing strange, there’s also a gift in one’s going away. Presence also depends upon absence. There’s a blessing we can only give when we go away.

That’s why Jesus, when bidding farewell to his friends before his ascension, spoke these words: “It’s better for you that I go away. You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. Don’t cling to me, I must ascend.”

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

How might we understand these words? How can it be better that someone we love goes away? How can the sadness of a goodbye, of a painful leaving, turn to joy? How can a goodbye eventually bring us someone’s deeper presence?

This is hard to explain, though we have experiences of this in our lives. Here’s an example: When I was twenty-two years old, in the space of four months, my father and mother died, both still young. For myself and my siblings, the pain of their deaths was searing. Initially, as with every major loss, what we felt was pain, severance, coldness, helplessness, a new vulnerability, the loss of a vital life-connection, and the brute facticity of the definitiveness of death for which there is no adequate preparation. There’s nothing warm, initially, in any loss, death, or painful goodbye.

Time, of course, is a great healer, but there’s more to this than simply the fact that we become anaesthetized by the passage of time. After a while, and for me this took several years, I didn’t feel cold anymore. My parents’ deaths were no longer a painful thing. Instead their absence turned into a warm presence, the heaviness gave way to a certain lightness of soul, their seeming incapacity to speak to me now turned into a surprising new way of having their steady, constant presence in my life, and the blessing that they were never able to fully give me while they were alive began to seep ever more deeply and irrevocably into the very core of my person. The same was true for my siblings. Our sadness turned to joy and we began to find our parents again, in a deeper way, at a deeper place of soul, namely, in those places where their spirits had flourished while they were alive. They had ascended, and we were better for it.

We have this kind of experience frequently, just in less dramatic ways. Parents, for instance, experience this, often excruciatingly, when a child grows up and eventually goes away to start life on his or her own. A real death takes place and an ascension must happen. An old way of relating must die, painful as that death is. Yet, as we know, it’s better that our children go away.

The same is true everywhere in life. When we visit someone, it’s important that we come; it’s also important that we leave. Our leaving, painful though it is, is part of the gift of our visit. Our presence depends partly on our absence.

And this must be carefully distinguished from what we mean by the axiom: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. For the most part, that’s not true. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but only for a while and mostly for the wrong reasons. Physical absence, simple distance from each other, without a deeper dynamic of spirit entering beneath, ends more relationships than it deepens. In the end, most of the time, we simply grow apart. That’s not how the ascension deepens intimacy, presence and blessing.

The ascension deepens intimacy by giving us a new presence, a deeper, richer one, but one which can only come about if our former way of being present is taken away. Perhaps we understand this best in the experience we have when our children grow up and leave home. It’s painful to see them grow away from us. It’s painful to have to say goodbye. It’s painful to let someone ascend.

But, if their words could in fact say what their hearts intuit, they would say what Jesus said before his ascension: “It’s better for you that I go away. There will be sadness now, but that sadness will turn to joy when, one day soon, I will be standing before you as an adult son or daughter who is now able to give you the much deeper gift of my adulthood.”

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

Called by Name

As the rector of the Cathedral and the vocation director, I have gotten a lot of experience working with young people as they prepare to make a lifelong commitment to a vocation. Here at St. Peter’s we are in the middle of a run of weddings.

It turns out that most people want to get married when the weather is nice, and here in Mississippi, that means they’ve got about a five week stretch between the cold of winter and the heat of summer! Since April 13, I’ve presided at six weddings and I’ve provided marriage prep for a seventh couple who got married at a different parish. I also spent a weekend at the Engaged Encounter retreat which is part of the marriage preparation process at many parishes in the diocese.

Father Nick Adam

It is interesting that most couples spend 2-4 years dating before taking vows to be together for life – to have and to hold, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Most seminarians, on the other hand, spend 6-9 years in the seminary prior to making their priestly promises and being ordained a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.

No matter how long you date, you can’t be totally prepared for the lifelong sacrifices and challenges that marriage demands, and no matter how long you spend in seminary, or how good your grades are, or how well you understand the demands of priestly life, living this life is not something you can totally prepare for in the seminary.

What is basically necessary for successful marriages and faithfulness to priesthood, I believe, is that couples and seminarians understand that when they take their vows (or in the seminarian’s case, make their promises), their life is no longer about themselves. Our vocations are mysterious, and we don’t naturally possess all the attributes necessary to live them well. No one naturally wants to give their life up. We may give of ourselves when we are feeling particularly generous, but selflessness is really a supernatural activity. This is why we need the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony and the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders to live out our vocations well.

Many people have come up with, and will continue to come up with, good reasons why marriages fail, and priests leave. The truth is, there is never just one reason. Often, relationships fail because of a series of choices, not all of which were bad, but which eventually lead someone to stop giving themselves to the other. The spouse or the priest stopped being willing to give themselves and didn’t want to put themselves second anymore. I wish there was a magic bullet that could guarantee the success of marriages and the fruitfulness of priestly ministry, but there isn’t. Each of us who have made solemn promises to another, whether that is a spouse or the church, must hold ourselves accountable. Am I living for the other, or am I making small choices that lead me to think more about myself and my own comfort?

Our vocations should transform us. They should make us look and sound and act more like Jesus, who laid down his life for his friends.

Father Nick Adam, vocation director

Who are our real faith companions?

IN EXILE
By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

I work and move within church circles and find that most of the people there are honest, committed, and for the most part radiate their faith positively. Most churchgoers aren’t hypocrites. What I do find disturbing in church circles though is that many of us can be bitter, mean-spirited, and judgmental in terms of defending the very values that we hold most dear.

It was Henri Nouwen who first highlighted this, commenting with sadness that many of the bitter and ideologically driven people he knew, he had met inside of church circles and places of ministry. Within church circles, it sometimes seems, almost everyone is angry about something. Moreover, within church circles, it is all too easy to rationalize that in the name of prophecy, as a righteous passion for truth and morals.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

The algebra works this way: because I am sincerely concerned about an important moral, ecclesial, or justice issue, I can excuse a certain amount of anger, elitism, and negative judgment, because I can rationalize that my cause, dogmatic or moral, is so important that it justifies my mean spirit, that is, I have a right to be cold and harsh because this is such an important truth.

And so we justify a mean spirit by giving it a prophetic cloak, believing that we are warriors for God, truth, and morals when, in fact, we are struggling equally with our own wounds, insecurities and fears. Hence we often look at others, even whole churches made up of sincere persons trying to live the gospel, and instead of seeing brothers and sisters struggling, like us, to follow Jesus, we see “people in error,” “dangerous relativists,” “new age pagans,” “religious flakes,” and in our more generous moments, “poor misguided souls.” But seldom do we look at what this kind of judgment is saying about us, about our own health of soul and our own following of Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong: Truth is not relative, moral issues are important, and right truth and proper morals, like all kingdoms, are under perpetual siege and need to be defended. Not all moral judgments are created equal; and neither are all churches.

But the truth of that doesn’t override everything else and give us an excuse to rationalize a mean spirit. We must defend truth, defend those who cannot defend themselves, and be faithful in the traditions of our own churches. However, right truth and right morals don’t all alone make us disciples of Jesus. What does?

What makes us genuine disciples of Jesus is living inside his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and this is not something abstract and vague. If one were searching for a single formula to determine who is Christian and who isn’t, one might look at the Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 5. In it, St. Paul tells us that we can live according to either the spirit of the flesh or of the Holy Spirit.

We live according to the spirit of the flesh when we live in bitterness, judgment of our neighbor, factionalism and non-forgiveness. When these things characterize our lives, we shouldn’t delude ourselves and think that we are living inside of the Holy Spirit.

Conversely, we live inside of the Holy Spirit when our lives are characterized by charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, constancy, faith, gentleness and chastity. If these do not characterize our lives, we should not nurse the illusion that we are inside of God’s Spirit, irrespective of our passion for truth, dogma, or justice.

This may be a cruel thing to say, and perhaps more cruel not to say, but I sometimes see more charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness and gentleness among persons who are Unitarian or New Age (people who are often judged by other churches as being wishy-washy and as not standing for anything) than I see among those of us who do stand so strongly for certain ecclesial and moral issues that we become mean-spirited and non-charitable inside of those convictions. Given the choice of whom I’d like as a neighbor or, more deeply, the choice of whom I might want to spend eternity with, I am sometimes conflicted about the choice. Who is my real faith companion? The mean-spirited zealot at war for Jesus or cause, or the gentler soul who is branded wishy-washy or “new age?” At the end of the day, who is living more inside the Holy Spirit?

We need, I believe, to be more self-critical vis-a-vis our anger, harsh judgments, mean-spirit, exclusiveness and disdain for other ecclesial and moral paths. As T.S. Eliot once said: The last temptation that’s the greatest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason. We may have truth and right morals on our side, but our anger and harsh judgments towards those who don’t share our truth and morals may well have us standing outside the Father’s house, like the older brother of the prodigal son, bitter both at God’s mercy and at those who are, seemingly without merit, receiving it.

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

May is packed with joy, meaning and mystical wonder

Bishop Robert Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. His column, “More than Words,” appears monthly at OSV News. (OSV News photo/courtesy Catholic TV)

More Than Words
By Bishop Robert Reed

As a child, May was always an exciting month for me – partly because the school year was almost over, but also because of the special Marian devotions and activities that took place.

We students created May altars in our classrooms (and were encouraged to set them up in our homes, too), practices that warmed and nurtured our spirits with the added bonus of breaking up our studies.

But the May Crowning was Marian primetime for us – a once-a-year event of stand-alone specialness recalled with every whiff of a lilac in these lighter days of spring. When the big day arrived, we all wore our best clothes – the second-graders donning their First Communion outfits, once again – and processed down the main avenue and into the church, carrying floral and spiritual bouquets and singing, “T’is the Month of Our Mother,” and other odes to Mary. We presented our flowers and petitions before a beautiful statue of the Mother of God, and the air was permeated with the rich floral scents of the season.

The celebration reached its apex when a girl, chosen from the eighth grade, reached up and placed the crown of flowers on Mary’s head, as we sang out, “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today,” from “Bring Flowers of the Fairest.”

Whenever I hear of a parish planning a May Crowning, I recall those happy festivities and start humming the familiar Marian hymns of my childhood.

A lot has changed in our Catholic schools since the 1960s, but the basics remain the same: May is still Mary’s month, and in our schools and parishes, statues that represent the “holy queen enthroned above” are crowned with blossoms while the faithful, young and old, sing hymns and implore our Blessed Mother’s attention and intercession.

As a priest and particularly as a bishop, I am always pleased to see a parish creating opportunities to honor the Theotokos, the God-bearer. She is our strongest and most caring advocate in heaven, and we are right to honor her as the Mother of the King, particularly in May. After all, without “yes” to Gabriel – her fiat to God’s redeeming plan – where would we be?

At times our Protestant friends will challenge us on our devotion to Mary, suggesting that our affection for our mother tempts idolatry. In this, we should never feel anxious. Our reverence for Mary is akin to the sort of devotion we should have for our own mothers – who are also celebrated in May, and whom God instructs us to honor in the Ten Commandments.

Besides, Mary is always pointing us to Jesus: “Do whatever he tells you,” she instructs all of us through Scripture. (John 2:5) Worship is reserved for the Creator and for his Son, and for the Holy Spirit. But, like any child, Jesus is pleased to see his Mother given the honor and respect she is due – he relishes our acts of esteem for his Mother, whom he assumed into heaven, body and soul.

In Mary’s month we will also be coming to the conclusion of the Easter season, honoring the Ascension of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on May 19, with Pentecost Sunday (the coming of the Holy Spirit), the week after. And by month’s end, we are pondering the profound mystery of the Triune God, on May 26, Trinity Sunday. Time moves quickly. We will slip into June still full of joy as we celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi.

So, enjoy May! We have before us some glorious weeks of triumph, wonder and good cheer. Jesus lives and resplendently reigns, having taken our humanity beyond death and into glory. As the prophecy was made so long ago: “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” (Dan 7:14)

All praise and glory to our Risen King, Son of God and the Son of Mary; He is Lord, now and forever!

(Bishop Robert P. Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, pastor of St. Patrick and Sacred Heart parishes in Watertown, Massachusetts, and president of the CatholicTV Network. He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications.)

The Catholic who created food banks

LIGHT ONE CANDLE
By Tony Rossi
Food banks are a blessing to hungry people. But did you know they were started by a Catholic man, John van Hengel, inspired by his faith and the hardships he endured? The Christopher Award-winning children’s book “Food for Hope,” written by Jeff Gottesfeld, tells that story.

During van Hengel’s early life, there were no indications he would ever go hungry. He grew up in Wisconsin, attended college and grad school, moved to California, married a model, had two children, and thrived as a salesman for a sportswear company. Then, it all fell apart. Van Hengel lost his job and got divorced. He returned to Wisconsin and found work in a rock quarry. But while breaking up a fight, he endured a spinal injury, which required surgery. Still, he was in pain and needed rehabilitation, so on his doctor’s advice, he moved to Arizona, where the warmer weather might help his recovery.

That’s how van Hengel, now destitute, wound up in Phoenix in 1967 at a St. Vincent de Paul-run soup kitchen at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In “Food for Hope,” Gottesfeld writes, “John liked people. He talked with everyone in the dining room – disabled veterans, the homeless, and kids whose parents had to choose between rent and food. Their stories opened his heart. He found work at the kitchen, shelter in a cheap room above a garage, and faith in prayer with Father Ronald at St. Mary’s Church.”

The menu at the soup kitchen was minimal (soup, rice, beans, powdered milk), so van Hengel asked a local citrus orchard if he could collect the grapefruits that had fallen off their trees and would otherwise be thrown away. They agreed, and fresh fruit made its way onto the menu. Then came the incident that changed everything. A woman took van Hengel to a supermarket dumpster and showed him all the edible food that had been discarded. She said, “I just wish I could put this stuff in a bank.”

Van Hengel loved the idea, so he went back to St. Mary’s and told Father Ronald, a Franciscan priest, that they should start a bank to store food. Father Ronald agreed and told van Hengel, “Do it.” Van Hengel protested that he already worked at the soup kitchen and didn’t have time. Father Ronald responded, “You heard the call, John. Decide if you want to listen.” He listened. And above his desk, van Hengel wrote a Biblical quote, but gave it his own twist: “The poor we shall always have with us, but why the hungry?”

Gottesfeld said, “St. Mary’s Church gave him an abandoned bakery on Skid Row in Phoenix, and he started there …They did 125,000 pounds of food their first year…This past year, the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix did 125 million.” Motivated by his faith, van Hengel kept growing the food bank idea and eventually turned it into the nonprofit America’s Second Harvest, which helped create food banks around the country. He also chose to live in relative poverty because he looked back on his life and realized that money had not made him happy.

Gottesfeld hopes that children and families read “Food for Hope,” and find that it motivates them to make a difference. He concluded, “Don’t take food for granted. It is not automatic for big segments of our society … [Also], volunteer … What’s great about food, it’s completely nonpartisan … All it has to do is with feeding people … Know that you’re working alongside other Americans doing the same thing … What matters is your energy and your goodness.”

(Tony Rossi is the Communications Director for The Christophers, a Catholic media company. The mission of The Christophers is to encourage people of all ages, and from all walks of life, to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference in the world. Learn more at www.christophers.org.)

Historic stained glass awes Cathedral visitors

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – This past Sunday morning we celebrated the sacrament of Confirmation in St. Peter Cathedral. As is often the case, a candidate chooses a grandparent to be his or her sponsor. At this celebration, one of the candidate’s grandmothers came up from New Orleans on the train to be his sponsor.

While I was going through the rite with the candidates prior to Mass, she commented on the beauty of our stained-glass windows. So, I gave them a little history of the windows and the church.

JACKSON – In 2011, the new frame work for the Rose Window of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle traveled from Conrad Schmitt studios in Wisconsin to Jackson on the side of a large truck, as it was too large to fit in the interior. (Photos by Mary Woodward)

The current St. Peter church structure is the third St. Peter’s. The parish dates back to 1846 and is the fourth parish established in the diocese. Natchez, Paulding, and Biloxi predate Jackson’s parish. The first church burned during the Civil War. The second church was built in 1868 on the grounds where the current rectory and chancery sit now. Once the current church – begun in 1896 and completed in 1900 – was ready for worship. The second church was used for various things until it was moved eight blocks north in 1913 to Cloister Avenue to become the first Holy Ghost Church.

The windows were installed over a period of 30 years beginning with the Rose Window in 1903 and finishing with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Lourdes windows in the 1930s. All of these windows are in the Munich style and were fashioned by the Mayer – Zettler studios.

The initial ones – the Rose Window, the two transept windows and the first two on each side – were created in the Munich studios. The next three on each side were styled in the St. Louis studio.

The windows in the vestibule around the main doors and the windows above the side entrances were added a little later and do not have the artistic quality of the main windows but are still nice examples of teaching the Bible through visual aids.

What is unique about the windows in our Cathedral is except for the Rose Window they are at eye level. In most churches this size window would be higher up in the wall. Ours are down close to the floor so that one may walk right up to the window and see the detail and artistry.

The beauty of the Rose Window at the Cathedral of St. Peter of the Apostle in Jackson continues to delight many visitors to the church. It was originally installed in 1903 and restored in 2011.

The windows were restored in 2011 by Conrad Schmitt Studios in Wisconsin. Each one was mapped, removed, cleaned, re-leaded and returned to the frames which had been repaired and vented so that the summer heat would not take such a toll. Protective glass featuring the latest technology also was added to the outside of each window.

When the Conrad Schmitt crew removed the Rose Window, they found the frame to be completely rotten. A new frame was built at a mill connected to Conrad Schmitt studios in Wisconsin. It was too large to be placed inside a trailer truck, so it was attached to the side of the truck and made its way down the heartland of the country.

Working in archives, one gets to be a part of such diverse projects and it was quite interesting to watch this project unfold. In addition to chalices and altars, our art and glass in parishes around the diocese are considered a part of the patrimony of the diocesan church and hold a major place in the life and history of our church.
Our Cathedral houses such beautiful treasures given in faith and love by the faithful over the past century. We thank them for sharing their gifts to glorify our God through art.

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