Leap of faith fuels diving adventure

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Former President George H. W. Bush might be the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of skydiving late in life.

Our country’s 41st president, Bush passed away in 2018 at the age of 94. A Navy pilot during World War II, he jumped from an airplane in 1999 to commemorate his 75th birthday. He enjoyed the experience so much he did so again on birthdays in 2004, 2009 and, remarkably, in 2014 – at the ripe old age of 90.

“It’s vintage George Bush,” said spokesman Jim McGrath to Fox News after Bush’s skydive in 2014. “It’s that passion for life. It’s wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I’m sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges.”

At age 83, Lois Booth of Sacred Heart Canton fulfilled her bucket-list item to skydive. She is pictured here with her grandchildren after her skydive over Thanksgiving in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Lois Booth)

Adventures in parasailing
Lois Booth didn’t make the national news after her skydive last Thanksgiving. Neither did Rita Martinson, her neighbor at St. Catherine’s Village in Madison. But the motivations for both – and their shared sense of accomplishment afterward – were comparable to those of our nation’s late Skydiver-in-Chief.

“My identical twin sister and I went to Orange Beach, Alabama, two years ago and parasailed. I loved it and she did, too,” said Booth, who grew up in Drew, Mississippi, became Catholic a year ago, and is a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Canton.

“The exhilaration I felt as we lifted off the back of that boat had me squealing like a teenager,” she continued. “I think we were 3,000-4,000 feet up. We were in the air about five minutes. There were six of us on the boat. You go off the back of the boat, and land on the back of the boat. I learned from parasailing how to land while skydiving.”
She also began thinking about skydiving for the first time that day.

Fascinated with flying
Rita Martinson, who served District 58 in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1992-2016, is a long-time parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. A native of Gloster, Mississippi, she thinks she has adventure in her blood.

“If you’d been raised in a little town like Gloster, you’d have it in yours, too,” she said of her formative years. “We lived in our imaginations.”

Always fascinated with flying, Martinson received her fixed-wing pilot license in 1965 and became certified to fly glider aircraft several years later. The move to parasailing probably wasn’t a surprise to anyone who knew Martinson and her late husband, Billy, who encouraged her and went along on her flights.

“Every chance I got, I flew,” Martinson said. “I was fascinated with hot-air balloon rides and rode in them. The next thing was to jump out of a plane. Billy and I joined several flying clubs. One was a Cessna club.”

In learning about flying a glider, Martinson became well-versed in thermals, or the combination of warmth provided by the sun and the ground that’s necessary to keep the lightweight craft aloft. As the sun warms the ground, the ground warms the air directly above it. This provides lift for the glider, which counters the natural sinking tendency of the plane.

“The higher you could get in one of those thermals, the longer you could stay up,” Martinson said. “The worst thing I ever experienced was actually a dream I had, where I pulled the rope too soon and couldn’t get the plane high enough to have altitude to land. That put the fear of the Lord in me for a while.”

Martinson and her husband went to Puerto Vallarto, Mexico, seven or eight times to parasail. In keeping with her lifelong sense of adventure, Martinson began to consider jumping out of a plane, thinking it would be fun.

“I’m in New Orleans often and found a skydiving club in St. Tammany Parish. I made sure they had precautions and safety measures,” she said. “Billy was still living when I made my first jump.”

Religious experience
Booth’s skydive took place last Thanksgiving in Raleigh, North Carolina. She relished the opportunity to go with her grandchild.

“I was tethered to an ex-Marine I met that morning,” she said. “He was delightful. I watched them pack the parachutes, and I had all the confidence in the world in him. There were 14-15 people on the plane, and when the green light by the door goes on, it’s done. There’s no turning back.”

“The most uncomfortable part is that once you jump, you freefall several thousand feet. It’s hard to breathe. Once (the ex-Marine) deployed the parachute, we sat upright, and it was absolutely beautiful. It was late afternoon, and the sun was getting ready to go down. It was a religious experience.”

“This was a drop of 13,000 feet,” Booth continued. “It was quiet and calm. You could not hear anything. It was about as serene as I have ever been. I told a friend that I soared like an eagle and landed like a feather. A lot of the people on the plane were true parachutists. One woman was making her fourteenth or fifteenth jump.”

Rita Martinson of St. Francis Madison, took her first skydive in November 2017 with grandson Eric McKie. She plans to ‘step out on faith’ in another dive on her 85th birthday on Sept. 11. (Photo courtesy of Rita Martinson)

Booth, who turns 84 in June, considered the skydive a bucket list item. Although she has no plans for another jump, the overwhelmingly positive first experience is something she’ll always carry with her.

“I think being able to step out of the box at this age is important, both to keep yourself up and running and interested – and interesting,” she said. “The pandemic took its toll on everybody, and I’m no exception. That was one more reason I needed to prove to myself that I could still do anything I wanted to do.”

“Sock it to me”
Martinson’s jump took place in November 2017. Like Booth, she went airborne with a grandchild.

“First, you don’t jump – you walk out of the plane,” she said. “Eric, who had jumped once before, was tethered to someone else. We were asked if we wanted to do any loops or twirls. I said, ‘Sock it to me.’ We were up at 11,000 feet when we jumped. It made me a little dizzy, but it’s fun to know what it’s like, and that you can do it.”

Martinson, who will celebrate her 85th birthday on September 11, will do what President Bush did on his 85th birthday – step out on faith and watch the world as she knows it come into focus while she floats back to earth.

“People who are afraid to take a chance never get to see what they can do,” Martinson said. “It helped me and our children that Billy always urged us to get out there and take risks. He did that, too.”

“I would like others to know that there are no firm boundaries keeping them from at least trying to do new things. There is so much to gain by at least giving it a whirl. I only wish there were more time to do more.”

(Joe Lee is the Editor-in-Chief of Dogwood Press, and member of St. Francis Madison.)

Crucifix finds home, Natchez archives attempt to solve mystery of blessed nail

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – In the last article we visited with some statues that had found new homes after being displaced. This week I would like to introduce you to a couple of crucifixes that are connected with two churches dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

First, we have the crucifix that adorned St. Mary Church in West Jackson. The parish was merged with St. Therese Parish in 2015. St. Mary Church was completed in the mid-1950s and stood regally on Claiborne Avenue for 60 years, but early on Yazoo Clay began to take a toll on the foundation of the structure. The rise of suburbia took a toll on the size of the congregation and ultimately the difficult decision was made to close St. Mary’s and merge it with St. Therese.

NATCHEZ – A crucifix was discovered by St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee in the original crypt area in the lower level of the church in early 2012. The committee attempted to locate a “blessed nail” thought to be “preserved in the Sacred Feet,” according to note from Bishop Elder dated May 3, 1869. (Photo by Mike Murphy)

We featured St. Mary’s statues previously as mentioned, but the actual dismantling of the high altar and finding a home for the crucifix that graced it was a daunting challenge. Eventually, we made contact with Father Tommy Conway of the Diocese of Biloxi, who was tasked with establishing a new parish ironically in a suburb outside of Hattiesburg.

The corpus was wooden with a long crack down the torso. It was attached to one-inch-thick green now very brittle marble. Therefore, the corpus was removed separately and mounted to a wooden frame for transport to the new parish which was dedicated to St. Fabian.

It was the last item loaded into the 18-wheeler full of crated marble, tabernacle, and candlesticks. As in Caravaggio’s Deposition, the salvage crew reverently carried the Crucified Christ to the bed of the trailer and gently laid him down on a padded cloth. The door slid down like the stone rolled before the tomb.
I have to say it was a very powerful moment for all of us working there that morning. Watching the truck pull away knowing the Lord was entombed in it brought a silence upon us and tears trickled out of the corner of eyes down cheeks.

Our second featured crucifix now hangs on the wall in the St. Mary Basilica family life center in Natchez. In early 2012, the crucifix was discovered by Basilica Archives Committee members in the original crypt area in the lower level of the church. It was mounted on a wall and showed the signs of its age and a few botched repair efforts.

One of the wonderful aspects of archives life is the people one encounters. St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee is a group of extremely dedicated individuals who have taken the reins of creating an amazing local archive, which is a shining example of love for our faith and our traditions.

Immediately the committee, led at that time by Chairman Jimmy Guercio, resolved to have the sacred object researched and restored. According to an article by Guercio on the Basilica Archives web page, there was no real documentation on the crucifix anywhere. The only mention of a large crucifix being in the church was from Bishop William Henry Elder’s note dated May 3, 1869, that a “blessed nail” was “preserved in the Sacred Feet of the large crucifix…in the Cathedral…”

Coincidentally, the Conrad Schmitt design and restoration company, which had restored the Basilica in 2001, was wrapping up its renovations of the Cathedral in Jackson. Wil Kolstad, the lead artisan for the Cathedral project, was sent to Natchez to restore the crucifix.

Prior to completing the process, the mystery of the blessed nail needed to be solved. Therefore, Guercio, Kolstad and other committee members accompanied the corpus across the river to a diagnostic imaging center in Vidalia. The whole process of the patient Jesus being scanned was documented by committee photographer Mike Murphy.

Unfortunately, the scan did not reveal a nail in the feet, but it does reflect the fine dedication of the Basilica Archives Committee and its commitment to document the faith and tradition of the church of Natchez and our diocese. I hope these accounts of our sacred objects will inspire in you, the reader, a sense of Catholicity and a love for the deep and sacred spiritual traditions of our church. There is nothing else like it on this earth; it can only be heaven sent.

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

Foundation Charitable Gift Annuity offers income and aids with philanthropic goals

By Rebecca Harris
JACKSON – The Catholic Foundation works to help with your philanthropic goals. Part of our mission is to foster stewardship here in our diocese the Catholic Foundation works with individuals who are interested in starting a charitable gift annuity. Many donors shy away from these types of donations because they feel they are too complicated for them. Our goal is to walk you through the process to determine if this is the right type of gift for you.

What is a Charitable Gift Annuity?
It is is an arrangement that permits a donor to make a gift to while retaining a stream of fixed income payments for the donor’s life. Any balance remaining in the annuity after the death of the donor then passes to the Foundation for the ministry, parish, or Catholic School chosen by the donor.

What are the Benefits?
The primary benefit of a Charitable Gift Annuity is that the donor receives a fixed payment for life, no matter how long he or she may live. A portion of the payments are tax-free for a specified time. Further, because the donor is making a gift to the Catholic Foundation, a portion of the amount paid for the annuity is an immediate deductible charitable gift for income tax purposes, as allowable by IRS rules.

The donor would also have the satisfaction of knowing that a gift today will be used to support future Catholics in our diocese.

What are the Features?
The donor receives secure convenient deposits of payments into your preferred bank account. There are three types of annuities to select from immediate one life, immediate two lives, or deferred payments to start later. The minimum amount to establish a charitable gift annuity is $5,000 and the minimum age to receive income is 55 years old.

Is a Charitable Gift Annuity right for you?
Our staff is ready to work with you. To get a free illustration of your gift please contact Rebecca Harris at (601) 960-8477. With a few details and we can provide you with a gift illustration. Included in the illustration is your potential charitable income tax deduction and your yearly payments for life as well as an estimated amount that will go to your beneficiary.

Motherhood, steward for life

Stewardship paths
By Julia Williams
JACKSON – The month of May is a special month because it is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year, we celebrate two important Marian feasts during this month: Our Lady of Fatima on May 13 and The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 31.

May is also dedicated to recognizing moms, grandmothers, stepmoms, mothers-to-be and all women who, in and through their lives, encompass the qualities of motherhood.

When we talk about Christian stewardship, we talk about sacrificially returning to God what we have been given. What can more clearly be a demonstration of complete sacrifice than the relationship between mother and child during the nine months of growth in the womb?

All mothers should look to Mary as their model for motherhood and ask her intercession as they strive to fulfill their God-given role in their children’s lives.

During the month of May, let us all take some time to express our appreciation to our mothers for allowing us to come into this world, for loving us, and for serving as an example of what it means to be a steward for life.

(To subscribe to the monthly Stewardship PATHS newsletter, scan the QR code or email julia.williams@jacksondiocese.org. Excerpts: bigcatholics.blogspot.com)

Virgin Mary, Jan van Eyck, 1426-1429 (Public Domain)

Panel brings Sister Thea Bowman’s life and legacy to Georgetown audience

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Sister Thea Bowman, one of six Black Catholics known as a “Servant of God” now that their sainthood causes are being advanced, has plenty of lessons to impart from her life to Catholics today, said panelists at a Georgetown University dialogue May 4 that featured not only personal perspectives but was also peppered with song.

Earlier in the day, Jesuit-run Georgetown had dedicated a chapel in a building on campus in the name of Sister Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and former executive director of Pax Christi U.S.A. and former president of the National Black Sisters Conference, recalled her first encounter with Sister Thea in 1980 at an NBSC meeting.

Sulpician Father Peter W. Gray of Reisterstown, Md., displays a portrait he did of Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, at his home office in Reisterstown, Md., March 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“She was all up in there throwing down with the rest of us,” Sister Chappell said, as she gave a demonstration of the signature part of the Aretha Franklin hit “Respect”: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me,” that the sisters were singing jointly.

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington was an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1984 when he first encountered Sister Thea at a Saturday afternoon parish program on liturgy, culture and music. “I was just mesmerized,” he recalled. “She was just full of life. And I said to myself, ‘You can learn a lot from this woman.’”

Shannen Dee Williams, an associate professor of history at the University of Dayton and the author of “Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle,” only found out about Sister Thea in graduate school at Rutgers going though microfilm newspapers from the Black press.

“Sister Thea would call us to tell ‘the true truth’ and realize the greatest weapons of white supremacy is the ability to erase the violence and victims, and therefore we have to tell the true truth,” Williams said.

Asked what Sister Thea might say or sing were she living today, Sister Chappell replied with another song, a favorite from the civil rights movement: “Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around, turn us around, turn us around; ain’t going to let nobody turn us around. We’re going to keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up to freedom land.”

“Certainly there have been so many occasions in our recent history where we might think he’s (God) gone – it’s all over, our nation has collapsed. Our dreams are smashed,” Cardinal Gregory said, although he did not break into song. “But that song. And that’s one of my favorite songs: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he’s watching over me.’”

“Sister Thea understood it mattered who told her story that Sister Thea was not just a champion of racial justice but she stood against sexism, she stood against all forms of discrimination and oppression and so often sometimes we focus on her championing of the great diversity of us which is beautiful and all of that and it’s authentically Catholic but we forget that she was struggling,” Williams said.

“For so many people, we don’t know the history of the anti-Black admissions policies of the sisterhoods we haven’t had that many sisters of color and African American descendant sisters not because they weren’t being called but because they weren’t able to enter communities so it’s a story of lost vocations and just a reminder that generation of African American women and girls who desegregated those communities are forgotten,” Williams said.

Sister Thea died in 1990 at age 52 from cancer.

In memoriam: Sister Mary Jane Herlik, OP

SINSINAWA, Wis. – Sister Mary Jane Herlik, OP, died April 4, 2022, at Bayfront Health, St. Petersburg, Florida. Her religious name was Sister Querin. The funeral Mass was held at the Dominican motherhouse, Sinsinawa, April 29, followed by burial in the Motherhouse Cemetery.

Sister Mary Jane made her first profession as a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa Aug. 5, 1950, and her perpetual profession Aug. 5, 1953. She taught for 30 years and was co-principal for two years. Sister Mary Jane served as pastoral minister for 10 years and in the HIV/AIDS ministry for 16 years. She noticed in the early 1980s that medical personnel and clergy were afraid to enter hospital rooms of those dying of AIDS, so she responded to their needs, saying, “I felt I was being called to minister to those dying with AIDS.” (Tampa Bay Times) Sister Mary Jane advised people to “squeeze some joy out of every day, live with a grateful heart, and always trust in a loving God.” (The Link) She served in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida.

In the Diocese of Jackson, Sister Mary Jane served as AIDS ministry coordinator at Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Walls from 1993-1996.

Sister Mary Jane was born Dec. 20, 1930, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the daughter of Querin and Jenni (Heimerl) Herlik. Her parents and a sister, Rose Ann Hunsader, preceded her in death. She is survived by a sister, Rosalyn Simonar; a brother, Querin ”Quin” Herlik; nieces; nephews; and her Dominican Sisters with whom she shared 71 years of religious life.
Memorials may be made to the Sinsinawa Dominicans, 585 County Road Z, Sinsinawa, WI, 53824-9701 or at www.sinsinawa.org/donate online.

Repeat broadcasts of the wake and funeral for Sister Mary Jane are available online at www.sinsinawa.org/live. Click on the “on demand” tab.

Mississippi Catholic

May 13, 2022

April 29

Abril 29

April 15

March 25

25 de marzo

March 11

February 25

25 de febrero

February 11

January 28

January 28 28 de enero

January 14, 2022

December 17

17 de diciembre

December 3

November 19

19 de noviembre

November 5

October 22

22 de octubre

October 8, 2021

September 24

24 de septembre

September 10

August 20

Back 2 school

20 de agosto

Bishop Joseph N. Latino in memoriam

July 16, 2021

16 de julio de 2021

June 18, 2021

18 de junio de 2021

May 28, 2021

28 de mayo de 2021

May 14, 2021

April 30, 2021

30 de abril de 2021

April 16, 2021

March 26, 2021

26 de marzo, 2021

March 12, 2021

February 26, 2021

26 de febrero de 2021

February 12, 2021

January 29, 2021

29 de enero de 2021

January 15, 2021

December 24, 2020

24 de diciembre de 2020

December 11, 2020

November 20, 2020

20 de noviembre de 2020

November 6, 2020

October 23, 2020

Espanol 23 de octubre de 2020

October 9, 2020

September 25, 2020

25 de septiembre de 2020

September 11, 2020

August 28, 2020

August 14, 2020

Regional synod sessions bring ideas for
unity, evangelization, education

By Joanna Puddister King and Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Catholics around the diocese shared their hopes for the church with Bishop Joseph Kopacz and members of the Synod Advisory Council at regional listening sessions held around the diocese over the past five weeks.

A total of ten sessions were held from March 21 through April 19, with two sessions delayed due to bouts of severe weather around the state. These regional sessions were the next step after parishes across the diocese conducted individual listening sessions to hear from people who fill the pews and those who no longer feel connected to the church. From the individual sessions the Synod Advisory Council reviewed every submission from each parish that participated and identified core issues on the minds of those across the diocese.

MADISON – Cecilia Carlton of St. Paul Flowood attended the first regional synod session held at St. Francis Madison on Monday, March 21. Carlton and others around the diocese shared ways that the diocese can address the focus areas of healing and unity; adult formation for evangelization, and education of youth. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

During the regional sessions, Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the diocese and chair of the Synod Advisory Council reviewed the things that were heard in the synod listening sessions. These included the need to create community outreach opportunities, both within the church and the larger community; a need for healing with regard to marriages, annulments, LGBTQ, Racial and ethnic divisions and the sexual abuse scandal; a need for unity; a way to be inclusive of all cultures and diverse communities; increased formation and education of lay leaders; increased faith formation opportunities for adults; the need for more evangelization efforts; ways to reach the young church; among others.
In each regional session, Lavelle went over the above results and said, “what we really want to do is focus on those areas that came up that we can address within the structure of the diocese.”

Those focus areas are healing and unity; adult formation for evangelization, and education of youth. Those who participated were asked to reflect on how the diocese and at a local church level could address the focus areas, giving concrete examples on how to address them.

Many comments around the diocese related to the faith formation of adults, with several pointing to the 2019 Pew Research student that approximately 70% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine used in Communion are only symbolic and not in the church’s teaching of transubstantiation, where the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Fran Patterson of St. Francis Madison said she felt a call and a need that the church “needs to explain to everyone why we do what we do – why we believe it,” referring to the study. She suggested engaging programs like Father Burke Masters, “Be Formed” program. Patterson said that she and others at St. Francis have completed two 90-day series and that the series is “profound.”

“Both some of us as converts, and others as cradle Catholics, we were blown away,” said Patterson. “The richness that is now coming from us actively participating in Mass is profound and we have a desire to do more.”

Along the lines of education, many at the regional sessions focused on youth and how to get them excited about their faith and how to encourage them to be comfortable sharing their faith.
Cecilia Carlton of St. Paul Flowood said that youth at her parish were asking for more instruction on the Bible.

“They are afraid to evangelize because they don’t think they know the Bible like they should.”
Carlton suggested developing another program more Scripture specific, like Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and how to evangelize with Scripture.

The Hispanic community at St. Michael Forest, also echoed Carlton’s suggestion, asking for more faith education and classes on the scripture.

At the regional session at Immaculate Heart of Mary Greenwood, Irene Stark of St. Peter Grenada had an idea to pair youth with senior citizens to learn from each other. “We need something joyful and happy. Something our youth can look forward to doing – like more events and retreats,” said Stark.

Another theme common between English and Spanish speaking communities was the focus of unity and healing. Some present suggested having a more concentrated effort of our parishes holding joint events or sharing events with each other, as “we are one Catholic family,” said one participant.

Glara Martin of St. Francis Greenwood agreed that uniting parishes is a “great way of healing.”

“We need to be willing to learn from each other. We need to feel empowered to reach out to those that have left the church,” said Martin.

“We can’t give up! Even getting one back is enough.”

With the Spanish speaking regional sessions, many of the same concerns with unity were brought up, with regard to the diversity of cultures that exist within the diocese.

At St. Michael Forest, several present spoke about wanting to share traditions and faith within their intercultural community of “Hispanics, Vietnamese, African-Americans and Anglos.”

Deacon Carlos Solá, serving at St. James Tupelo, facilitated the four Spanish regional sessions. He said that people are looking for an experience of faith that will help them in life. “If faith doesn’t help us to live,” said Sola, “what is it for?”

FOREST – Deacon Carlos Solá assisted in facilitating four regional synod sessions in Spanish. He is pictured at St. Michael in Forest on Thursday, March 24. Fran Lavelle is seated in the background. (Photo by Berta Mexidor)

“The church must be that space where brothers and sisters must find the way to live, with intensity and joy, in the style of Jesus: the Way, Truth and Life. In that direction is where our search must go.”

Now that regional synod sessions are complete, the Synod Advisory Council and Bishop Kopacz will compile a 10-page report on what was learned during the sessions. The deadline for filing the report is June 30.

Catholic News Service (CNS) reports that in turn, the reports from all dioceses across the U.S. will be sent to regional gatherings – 16 total. Then, regional representatives will work on drafting individual synthesis reports and submitting them to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The report then enters a “national synthesis phase” according to CNS, then being sent to the Vatican by the end of August for further refinement along with other synod reports from around the globe.

The beauty of the Diocese of Jackson’s process says Lavelle is that by coming together in these regional sessions, “we don’t have to wait for a document from Rome, we can begin to make a difference today.”

Rescued statues embody our Catholic faith

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Statues of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and other saints are a wonderful part of our church’s tradition. Unfortunately, we Catholics often are accused of worshipping statues.

The way I normally explain it to those making the accusation is having statues in churches and our homes is the same as having photos of our beloved family members adorning our wallets and walls. They are visual images of members of our family in faith.

Praying in front of a statue of St. Peter and lighting a candle sends our prayers heavenward carried through the intercession of that faith family member. Similarly, I have asked for the intercession of my deceased loved ones since they hopefully are closer to the Lord in the next life. Usually that explanation enlightens the person for the most part.

JACKSON – Jesus “consoles” St. Francis in the Bishop’s Cemetery on the grounds of Cathedral of St. Peter. The statues were moved while preparing for Bishop Joseph Latino’s funeral in 2021. (Photos courtesy of archives)

Sadly, there are times when churches close and the statues inside need to be rescued. I recently met a 100-year-old statue of the Blessed Mother rescued by a priest friend from a church that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina and ultimately had to be closed. The statue is now used for Marian celebrations in his diocese. What a lovely new life for that statue!

As chancellor, I have rescued several statues from several of our diocesan parishes. I wrote recently about the damaged statue from Greenwood Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. That statue currently is being painstakingly repaired, because rightly so, the parish would rather have that antique, beloved image back scarred, than replace it with a new one.

Three other rescued statues came from St. Francis Church in Yazoo City. One of those was Our Lady of Fatima, which now graces the columbarium at St. Richard Church in Jackson. I have to say it is one of the most beautiful statues I have encountered in my statue relief work. Although, she showed the signs of decades of outdoor Delta life, she had a serene presence that enveloped me in her strength and love.

The other two – Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi – reside in the Bishop’s Cemetery on the grounds of the Cathedral in Downtown Jackson. Last year during Bishop Joseph Latino’s funeral preparations, the Sacred Heart statue had to be moved to get the vault into the burial plot. The vault man moved it in such a way that the Sacred Heart seems to be consoling St. Francis. We have not moved it back yet because it is rather sweet and because it is rather heavy.

When St. Mary Church in Jackson closed, we found homes for all the statues in that beautiful space. The large Marian statue above the main entrance now stands at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center outside Greenwood as Our Lady, Mother of the Delta.

The Our Lady of Fatima Statue in front of the elementary school was dedicated to Father Peter Quinn, the founding pastor. It now stands in the priests’ section of the cemetery at St. Joseph Church in Gluckstadt where Father Quinn is buried.

St. Jude in Pearl now houses two of the interior wooden statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother. St. Anthony School in Madison received a statue of its patron from the church as well. St. Richard Church placed a Sacred Heart statue in one of its prayer gardens.

Finding homes for these faith family members is quite edifying. There is something about passing on our faith traditions in this unique way that gives joy to all involved. I liken it to providing hospitality for the saints as they continually transcend our lives.

So, the next time you light a candle in front of a statue or pass by that niche in your church, stop and say a prayer with your faith family. You no doubt will find some peace in that moment as you are enveloped in the strength and love of the communion of saints.

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

Our Lady of Fatima sat in the Bishop’s Cemetery before finding a permanent home at St. Richard parish in the columbarium.