Communication office adds staff member

Berta Mexidor

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Offices of Communications and Vocations welcomed Berta Mexidor to the staff on Monday, July 31. A native of Cuba, Mexidor has been in the U.S. for 13 years. She will be managing Spanish-language content for Mississippi Católico as well as doing administrative work for the Office of Vocations.
Mexidor has a variety of experience, including being a co-founder of the “Libertad” – Freedom Free Press Agency and the Independent Libraries movement in Cuba. She moved to Mississippi in 2005, one month before Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the state, to continue her work with libraries in her home country. She has also worked as a Spanish teacher, economics teacher and translator for several agencies in the state.
Her treasure is being mother of three and grandmother of two.
She is a member of Flowood St. Paul Parish, where she found a welcome even before she knew enough English to understand the whole Mass. Her experience growing up in Communist Cuba strengthened rather than weakened her faith.
“Jesus finds you even where you need to deny him, in a communist island, under an atheist regime” she said. She was baptized Catholic at birth, but as a child witnessed the image of Saint Francis intentionally drowned in the ocean of her small town as a demonstration of the community’s rejection of faith. Having children and encountering her own cross in life reconnected Berta with God and she found ways to quietly pursue her faith before she immigrated.
She has a special devotion to Our Lady of Charity also known as Our Lady of El Cobre or Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, she is grateful for all her experiences in Cuba and Mississippi. “Jesus found me a long time ago,” she said. She now recognizes that he was sustaining her during the storms.

Catholic School educators explore gifts to share this year

By Maureen Smith
Teachers, administrators and staff at all the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Jackson are ready to share their gifts with students again this year. Each year, the Office of Catholic Schools selects a theme to unify all the schools across the diocese. The 2018/2019 theme is GIFTS – Gratefully Inspiring Faith Teaching Service
Before school started each school hosted a Catholic identity session focusing on the Beatitudes.

Fran Lavelle, Director of Faith Formation; Stephanie Brown, coordinator of school improvement, and Karla Luke, assistant superintendent developed the sessions using Blessings for Leaders: Leadership Wisdom from the Beatitudes by Dan R. Ebener and the recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete Et Exsultate, as source documents.

COLUMBUS –photos by Katie Fenstermacher)

According to superintendent Catherine Cook, the sessions were designed to assist faculty and staff in their faith journey of moving from disciples to apostles. Ebner says, “Disciples follow, learn, and then become Apostles. Apostles lead, teach, and make disciples.”
Lavelle and Brown led a Day of Reflection for metro Jackson area schools and Vicksburg Catholic. Lavelle travelled to Greenville St. Joseph while Brown and Luke led the day at Meridian St. Patrick School. Clarksdale has scheduled a day later in the month.


MADISON – photos by Wendi Shearer

The remaining schools were provided the presentation materials to use on their own. In Columbus, pastor Father Jeffrey Waldrep headed up their day.
Each school agreed on five values they wanted to emphasize this year. Then, the staff divided into five teams to write a one-sentence prayer about their value. By the end of the day the sentences became a school prayer for the year.

Book reviews

By Mark Judge Catholic News Service
“Francis: The People’s Pope” (Seven Stories Press), a graphic biography by journalist and cartoonist Ted Rall, is, in its way, a celebration of the current successor of St. Peter.
Written from a far-left political perspective, the book calls Pope Francis a refreshing new leader but argues that he isn’t liberal enough.
While entertainingly drawn and sharply written, ultimately the book is too tendentious in its political bias.

This is an image from “Francis: The People’s Pope,” a graphic biography by journalist and cartoonist Ted Rall. Written from a far-left political perspective, the book calls Pope Francis a refreshing new leader, but argues he isn’t liberal enough. (CNS photo/Seven Stories Press)

Rall, an atheist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, advocates for same-sex marriage, contraception, married priests, female priests and abortion. Acknowledging the unlikelihood of the Catholic Church ever changing its stance on these core issues – the pontiff himself has no power to revise dogma, though the celibacy of the clergy is a matter of practice, not technically doctrine – Rall instead celebrates Francis as the harbinger of a “new tone” in the church.
Throughout “The People’s Pope,” Rall lays out some truths, but often in an incomplete or misleading manner. He zeros in, for instance, on Pope Francis’ famous 2013 comments about judgment and homosexuality. Speaking to reporters on the return flight from a trip to Brazil, the pope said, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
Rall omits the pope’s subsequent clarification: “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.
“I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: Let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.”
The pontiff added: “I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way and accompany them along it.”
A colorfully illustrated volume, “The People’s Pope” is separated into brief sections covering a wide variety of topics. In the passage on church history, Rall lashes the church for jailing Galileo and unfairly tars it with not doing enough to resist the Nazis.
Rall also deals with the Second Vatican Council, the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina before he became pope, the sexual abuse scandal that hit the church beginning in 2002, South American liberation theology, the Catholic response to the war on terror and the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
The frank treatment of war and sexuality, including pedophilia – as well as the off-kilter way in which the church is repeatedly portrayed – make this unsuitable for younger readers. Nor can it be endorsed for grownups lacking in knowledge of the faith.
Rall offers a straightforward account of Francis’ youthful life, then turns to the “dirty war” that tore Argentina apart in the 1970s and 1980s. A middle-age Jesuit at the time, then-Father Bergoglio has been accused of both aiding the right-wing “Iron Guard” in power and the leftist guerrillas in opposition. “His legacy is murky” here, concludes Rall.
In another section Rall criticizes St. John Paul as “the anti-Francis.” John Paul, he argues, was an “establishmentarian” standing in opposition to Francis, the champion of the poor.
Yet it’s difficult to argue that the Polish pope, who grew up in a war-torn country destroyed by both fascists and communists, didn’t have sympathy for – or contact with – the poor. Faced with this, even Rall admits that John Paul “was deeply concerned about the oppressed.”
Furthermore, while Rall touts Pope Francis’ “refreshingly modern views on sex,” he doesn’t note that, far from being ashamed of human sexuality, Karol Wojtyla initiated the theology of the body – and the dynamic of human love was central to his whole theological vision.
Like Rall, both Popes Francis and John Paul opposed the Iraq War.
Rall has a primitive drawing style, but he gives his characters personality and humor. He writes in a simple, declarative style that presents arguments with selective research but does avoid hectoring.
To marshal his case, Rall quotes church historians and theologians who agree with him. In the softball section on liberation theology, the Marxist-tinged strain of Catholicism that excited the Christian left in the 1970s and1980s, Rall quotes Fidel Castro to the effect that “he who betrays the poor betrays Christ.”
After more than 200 pages of graphics, cartoons and reproduced newspaper headlines, Rall comes to his conclusion: “No doubt about it: Francis is a breath of fresh air to an institution that badly needs it. But he isn’t a wild-eyed liberator.”
Of course, form the subjective view of a political activist, the same could be said about any number of church leaders from St. John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, to St. John Paul, who helped destroy the prison of European Communism.
The graphic biography contains a distorted view of Catholicism as well as mature themes and images. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not otherwise rated.

(Judge reviews video games and comic books for Catholic News Service.)

By Kathleen Finley Catholic News Service
“Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples” by John and Teri Bosio. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2017). 136 pp., $9.95.
“Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage” by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2017). 163 pp., $15.95.
“Prayers for Catholic Couples: With Reflections from Pope Francis’ ‘The Joy of Love,'” compiled and edited by Susan Heuver. Word Among Us Press (Frederick, Maryland, 2017). 167 pp., $11.95.
Whether they know it or not, married couples today need lots of prayer to live their vocation well. They always have, but perhaps today they may need it more than ever. Three recently published books approach this need in rather different ways.
Of the three, the most like a traditional Catholic prayer book is “Joined by Grace,” in which John and Teri Bosio have compiled a great many traditional Catholic prayers, from prayers from the Mass to litanies to praying with some of the saints to other devotions, such as the rosary and the stations of the cross, each with a brief explanation.

For couples already connected well to a parish and mainly comfortable with formal prayers, this may be quite helpful; however, it’s unfortunate that these prayers and devotions aren’t linked more specifically with the joys and challenges that marriage presents.
The second book, “Forever” by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel, is designed as a four-week exploration of the theology of the body from St. John Paul II, a theology that some couples have found more helpful than others. It tends to be rather didactic and not as devotional as a prayer book often would be, perhaps suitable for a couple to read aloud to one another daily, but what the Angels have done here requires a considerable time commitment on the part of a couple.
Last, but not least, is “Prayers for Catholic Couples,” which includes brief excerpts from Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love” (“Amoris Laetitia”). Susan Heuver has done a fine service for couples in making insights from this compassionate document easily available to couples for their reflection.
In his introduction to his pastoral letter, Pope Francis explained, “It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for ‘families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity.'” That tone indeed comes through in this little book.
Pope Francis talks about the lack of perfection in families: “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in their ability to love.”
He observes about marital fidelity that “just as a good wine begins to breathe with time, so too the daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and ‘body.’ Fidelity has to do with patience and expectation. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by and the couple rejoices to see their children’s children. The love present from the beginning becomes more conscious, settled and mature as the couple discovers each other anew day after day, year after year.”
He even discusses parenting: “It is also essential to help children and adolescents to realize that misbehavior has consequences. They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. … It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others.”
After each brief excerpt from “The Joy of Love” Heuver includes a reflection question or two and a short prayer for the couple to share. These offer an opportunity for a couple to reflect on their lives on the run, which is often the only opportunity they may have.
All three of these books of prayers could be helpful for couples trying to live a faith-filled, sacramental marriage in a world that seems to value change and superficiality instead.

(Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “Prayers for the Newly Married” and “The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace,” and previously taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University.)

Knights welcome new leaders

By Gene Buglewicz
OXFORD – New officers for Knights of Columbus Council 10901 based at St. John Parish were inducted Sunday, July 1, during the Knights Annual Summer Social held at Marge and Forrest Hinton’s home in Oxford. Approximately 90 Knights and their families attended the social which celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
In addition, the gathering of members gave the Knights an opportunity to introduce prospective new members to the Knights of Columbus and their families as well as honoring the induction of the new officers who will serve as the leaders in carrying out the charitable, outreach and service functions of the Knights of Columbus for the coming year. It also serves as a big “thank you” to the families of the Council who give up their father at night and on weekends to serve others.


Cathechist Certification

The Department of Faith Formation offers several options for catechist certification, including on-line courses, onsite classes and an annual retreat and workshop. Level 1 online classes can be accessed through the Faith Formation page of the website Scroll down to the section on catechist certification.
Onsite classes are offered in a traditional classroom format and are 16 hours in length. The classes are free and open to both persons seeking Level II catechist certification as well as easy listeners (or auditors). There are, however, required textbooks for all students taking the class for certification credit. Depending on the instructor and needs of the students, scheduling of onsite classes is specific to locations as listed below.

Location: Vicksburg St. Michael, Vicksburg
Start: Aug. 14, Tuesdays, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Instructor: Anita Hossley

NEW TESTAMENT: Revelation in Christ
Location: Jackson St. Richard
Start: Aug. 21, Tuesdays, 9:30a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
Instructor: Mary Louise Jones

CREED: Profession of a Living Faith
Location: Natchez Holy Family
Start: Oct. 1 Mondays, 10 a.m. – noon
Instructor: Valencia Hall

To register or ask questions about certification, contact the Faith Formation Office at (601) 960-8470 or email Fran Lavelle at

10 A.M. TO 3 P.M.

The theme of this year’s day is “One. Holy. Catholic. Apostolic!”
for a schedule of the day’s events and/or registration information, please contact Fran Lavelle.

Catholic author releases, donates novel

JACKSON – Jo Watson Hackl, author of the young-adult novel Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, signs copies of her book at Lemuria Bookstore on Thursday, July 12. Hackl is Catholic and has family in the Jackson area who are donating a copy of the book for each sixth-grader in the Catholic Schools of the diocese. The book follows the adventures of 12-year-old Cricket, who has run away to the woods to look for her mother. (Photo by Rusty Harris.)

DiNardo: Church must address leaders’ ‘moral failures …’

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick “will rightly face” a Vatican canonical process regarding sexual abuse allegations against him, but the U.S. Catholic Church must take steps to respond to church leaders’ “moral failures of judgment,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The accusations against Archbishop McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington, “reveal a grievous moral failure within the church,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
“They cause bishops anger, sadness, and shame; I know they do in me,” he said in an Aug. 1 statement. “They compel bishops to ask, as I do, what more could have been done to protect the people of God. Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people’s lives and represent grave moral failures of judgment on the part of church leaders.”
To determine a course of action for the USCCB to take, Cardinal DiNardo said he convened the bishops’ Executive Committee.
“This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our general assembly in November,” he explained. “All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB.”
Such work will “take some time,” but he laid out four points to be acted upon immediately:
– He encouraged each bishop in their diocese “to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the church. We should do whatever we can to accompany them.”
– He urged anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the church to come forward. “Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.”
– The USCCB “will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.”
– “Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.”
Cardinal DiNardo said the failures of judgment by church leaders in the case of Archbishop McCarrick “raise serious questions.”
“Why weren’t these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to church officials?” he asked. “Why wasn’t this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?”
In conclusion, he asked all to “pray for God’s wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul’s instruction: ‘Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.'”
On July 28, Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of then-Cardinal McCarrick and ordered him to maintain “a life of prayer and penance” until a canonical trial examines accusations that he sexually abused minors.
In late June, the 88-year-old prelate said he would no longer exercise any public ministry “in obedience” to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York was found credible. The cardinal has said he is innocent.
In the weeks that followed the announcement, another man came forward claiming he was abused as a child by Archbishop McCarrick, and several former seminarians have spoken out about being sexually harassed by the cardinal at a beach house he had. In other developments, two New Jersey dioceses where he served in the 1980s and 1990s said settlements had been reached some years before in a couple of cases of abuse claims made against him.
He was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, then headed the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, before being named to Washington in 2001.

Accused archbishop’s fellow prelates weigh in on abuse scandal’s impact

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – With retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick’s resignation July 28 from the College of Cardinals, more of his fellow bishops are commenting on the scandal that has enveloped the former archbishop of Washington and its impact on the larger church.
The allegations are “a further painful blow for all of God’s people,” said a July 30 letter by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City to Catholics in his archdiocese. “It is even more egregious when these crimes are perpetrated by members of the clergy and those in positions of trust. Those are among the most bitter fruits of sin.”
Archbishop Coakley asked, “How could these allegations have remained under the radar for so long? It seems that many heard rumors of his alleged criminal and sinful behavior.”
While the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” adopted by the bishops in 2002 when the clergy sex abuse crisis roared into public consciousness, is “a step in the right direction,” Archbishop Coakley said, “part of the problem is a gap in the charter itself.”
He added, “This gap has contributed to the erosion of trust and confidence in episcopal leadership among priests, deacons and the lay faithful. Repairing this gap by creating consistent standards and procedures for all, including bishops, will go a long way toward restoring that trust,” although he acknowledged “they will not be enough,” stressing “humble repentance and continuing conversation for all of us who are in positions of leadership in God’s church.”
The archbishop also said the “scourge” of sexual abuse is one of the “bitter fruits” of the sexual revolution that “continue to wreak havoc on human society, the family and the church.” Blessed Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae” 50 years ago, he noted, warned of a “general lowering of morality in society.”
In an Aug. 1 message on his blog, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, said: “Many people – priests, laity and hierarchy – are wondering how this or any bishop might rise to the rank of the episcopacy let alone to become a cardinal in the church.”
“Most regular, church-attending Catholics still trust their priests, who minister and serve the people of God faithfully,” he added. “The same can no longer be said of bishops. We have lost the trust of many of our priests and people.”
Archbishop Etienne offered a seven-point plan to restore trust, including having an ad hoc committee of the U.S. bishops to write a protocol to have the charter apply to bishops and appointing a separate review board to field abuse accusations against bishops and make recommendations to the Vatican – and with the authority to make its recommendations public if no action has been taken after 60 days
“At its core, we are facing a spiritual crisis, and these times call us to renew our life in and our witness to Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Etienne said.
“We must remember that when it seems like the church has failed us, it is the fallible human beings within the church, and even some leading the church, who have failed; not the church itself,” said an Aug. 1 statement by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, which adjoins the Archdiocese of Washington.
“It is the Lord who leads, guides and protects his people and church,” Bishop Burbidge added. “It is only when we lose sight of him that we stumble.”
Bishop Burbidge said, “For 16 years, dioceses around the country have implemented unprecedented protocols to encourage reporting of allegations and suspicions of sexual abuse by priests and deacons, as well as to investigate such accusations thoroughly, independently and transparently. Clearly, these procedures and policies need to be reflected in the conduct of bishops as well and how we relate to one another. We all must be held accountable for our actions – bishops are no exception.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, in an Aug. 1 posting on his Facebook page, noted how Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops, had issued a statement that day outlining the steps the bishops would take “in order to address the failures of the church in protecting God’s sons and daughters” from abuse.
“I join Cardinal DiNardo in expressing my deep regret and sorrow for the pain and harm caused by any failures to protect God’s children,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“In light of this national church news, I want to reassure you today, as forcefully as I can, that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a zero-tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees, and volunteers who engage in the abuse of children,” he said. “We take immediate action when an allegation is made and we cooperate promptly and fully with law enforcement. Research and experience have shown that sexual abuse plagues every corner of society from sports and public institutions, to the entertainment industry, and the political arena.
“Prevention of abuse comes from training and constant vigilance, and the prevention of abuse – along with support for survivors – is and will remain a constant priority for our church and archdiocese,” Archbishop Chaput said.
(Contributing to this story was Steve Larkin.)

Diocese of Jackson announces abuse investigations

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson announced three abuse investigations the weekend of July 28-29 with bulletin inserts and announcements at the parishes impacted and statements posted to the diocesan website.
On June 24, 2018, the Diocese of Jackson became aware of a report of inappropriate sexual contact by Deacon Rick Caldwell with a minor female occurring in the early 1980s. The alleged conduct occurred many years before Caldwell joined the Church and became a deacon. After an investigation into the allegations, the diocese has concluded that the claims are credible.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has a zero tolerance policy and requires the removal from ministry of any priest, deacon or other religious upon determination of a credible claim of sexual misconduct with a minor. Accordingly, Deacon Caldwell’s faculties have been suspended as of July 24, and he has been removed from ministry. He is no longer free to function as a deacon. The allegation of abuse has been reported to civil authorities by the diocese. He was assigned to Vicksburg St. Mary Parish.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by former Brother Paul West, OFM, while in ministry at Greenwood St. Francis of Assisi Parish has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board. The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.
Parish assignment included serving as a brother at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Greenwood from June 1993 – November 1998. The allegation has been reported to civil authorities by the diocese.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Father Timothy Crowley while in ministry at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Chatawa has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board. The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.
Parish assignment included serving as Pastor at Chatawa St. Teresa of Avila Parish from 1968-1970. He is deceased.
The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children. Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel. The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.
During the past 30 years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program. The diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people.
Beginning in 1986, the diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.
The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a diocesan fitness review board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.
Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so. The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.
The Victims’ Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan, and Vicar General, Father Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report. The contact number for the Victims’ Assistance Coordinator is (601) 326-3728. The contact number for the Vicar General is (601) 969-2290.
For more information about the diocesan policies and procedures, visit the diocesan website at

Los líderes hispanos siguen ‘el camino’ al enriquecimiento teológico

Por Galen Holley
Una luz de reconocimiento brilló en los ojos de Maribel Sánchez, y sonrió humildemente, con la mano en su corazón, mientras se ponía de pie para hablar en nombre de su grupo.
“Soy una pecadora, pero Dios me ama y me perdona y, debido a eso, tengo la confianza de ser misionera,” dijo Sánchez, una catequista, además de lectora y ministro de la Eucaristía en la Parroquia Católica de San Cristóbal en Pontotoc. “Dios me ha dado muchas cosas buenas, y todo lo que tengo, él quiere que lo comparta,” dijo Sánchez.


Sánchez se situó en medio de unos 50 de sus compañeros líderes en el ministerio hispano a lo largo de Deanery Five, en el noreste de Mississippi. Se reunieron en San Cristóbal para un día de estudio y reflexión, la culminación de un proceso de un año de profundización en la comprensión de la fé y una mejor preparación para transmitir ese conocimiento a los demás.
El curso que Sánchez y otros 10 líderes completaron oficialmente el 21 de julio se llama Camino, un programa en línea, en el cual los estudiantes se preparan leyendo materiales teológicos asignados, luego discutiendo lo que han aprendido en grupo, sesiones de charla y completando tareas escritas. Camino fue desarrollado a través de una asociación entre el Instituto Pastoral del Sureste y la Universidad de Notre Dame.
La directora de Camino, Esther Terry condujo hasta Pontotoc desde South Bend, Indiana, con su esposo y su hijo pequeño, y dirigió el retiro en español. Ella comenzó citando los relatos bíblicos del llamado de Jesús de Mateo, así como el llamado del Señor de sus primeros discípulos, en el primer capítulo de Juan, y la visita de Jesús a María y a su hermana, Marta, en Lucas 10.
“Los catequistas, los ministros laicos, todos los que sirven a Dios, comienzan con un encuentro con Cristo,” dijo Terry, refiriéndose durante todo el día a la exhortación apostólica del Papa Francisco “Evangelii Gaudium”. En el documento de 2013, el Santo Padre enfatizó que todos los bautizados, cualquiera sea su posición o nivel de instrucción, están llamados a proclamar y dar testimonio del Evangelio.
“El Papa Francisco dice que todos nosotros, informados por la Palabra de Dios y la enseñanza de la Iglesia, y reflexionando sobre nuestra experiencia personal de la fe, estamos llamados a vivir nuestro bautismo siendo discípulos misioneros,” dijo Terry.
Ese mensaje resonó con el catequista Luis Urzua, de la Parroquia de San Francisco de Asís en New Albany. “Cada uno de nosotros experimentamos nuestra relación con Cristo de forma única, por lo que los dones que ofrecemos, nuestros testimonio, y nuestros enfoques para la evangelización también serán únicos,” dijo Urzúa.
Según el director de formación de fe y educación religiosa, Fran Lavelle, el clero y los líderes laicos en Decanato Cinco se ofrecieron como voluntarios para servir como un programa piloto para Camino en la Diócesis de Jackson.
Elegir un programa que fuera efectivo y manejable era una prioridad, según Raquel Thompson, ministra hispana de la parroquia de St. James en Túpelo
“Se pensó mucho en la metodología,” dijo Thompson. “El estudio guiado, el contexto para que los estudiantes compartieran lo que aprendieron con otros en los foros en línea y en una forma práctica de los cursos era importante.”
En una reunión de orientación en junio de 2017, los participantes aprendieron que cubrirían cuatro áreas de estudio, que incluían la fe, el Credo, la liturgia y los sacramentos, la oración y la espiritualidad. Cada curso duró aproximadamente seis semanas. No se otorgaron calificaciones, pero los facilitadores en línea alentaron expectativas razonables de participación y consistencia. Se les pidió a los estudiantes pagar $50 por cada curso, y la diócesis ofreció becas.
La creciente necesidad de proporcionar una sólida formación teológica y ministerial en español fue una de las principales razones por las que el personal de decanatos le dio a Camino una prueba, dijo Thompson. El ímpetu más amplio para el programa, agregó, surgió de la nueva declaración de visión y las prioridades pastorales que estableció el Obispo Joseph Kopacz y su equipo visionario el año pasado.
“Entre las preocupaciones que a menudo escuchamos de los catequistas y otros líderes de la comunidad hispana es que no se sienten competentes, o suficientemente preparados, y en algunos casos, no tienen suficientemente confianza,” dijo Thompson.
La ministra hispana de St. Christopher, Dana Johnson, estuvo de acuerdo.
“Vemos un gran deseo en nuestras comunidades para aprender más sobre la fe. Este formato innovador, que utiliza tecnología, y que permite que muchas personas que trabajan, estudien en sus hogares, cuando sus horarios lo permiten. Esto es muy emocionante,” dijo Johnson.
Hacia el final del día, después de que los participantes oraron ante el Santísimo Sacramento, disfrutaron del almuerzo y compartieron lo que aprendieron de la experiencia del Camino, Lavelle otorgó certificados, y Terry concluyó el día con otra reflexión sobre la exhortación del Papa Francisco, con una advertencia de St. Pope Juan Pablo II.
“Juan Pablo II dijo que nunca dejamos de descubrir, nunca dejamos de profundizar nuestra comprensión de la fe,” dijo Terry. “Ser un discípulo misionero también es un proceso que dura toda la vida. Seguir a Cristo, imitando la vida de Cristo, participando en su misión; no son cosas fáciles. Jesús no nos prometió un tiempo fácil y tranquilo. Pero si estamos invitados a recibir el amor de Dios, y pasarlo a otros.”

(Galen Holley es miembro de la parroquia de New Albany St. Francis.