The U.S. has no Black Catholic saints. Could a future one be buried in Memphis?

Sister Thea Bowman, was nationally known for her work to advance the life of her fellow black Catholics in the church. She was 52 when she died of cancer on March 30, 1990, but her legacy as an educator, evangelist and gospel singer lives on. She is pictured in an undated photo in her early years as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. (Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration,

MEMPHIS – Bishop Joseph Kopacz visited Sister Thea Bowman’s gravesite in October 2018, in preparation for taking her cause before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2018. (Photo by Deacon Ted Schreck)

Let us give thanks

By Tereza Ma
MERIDIAN – Sunday, Nov. 21 was a special day for the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Joseph in Meridian. After two years the parishes were able to celebrate with their annual Thanksgiving feast and were joined by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, also celebrating the feast of Christ the King at Mass with Father Augustine Palimattam.

Parishioners were thankful for many things. Here are a few of their responses:
– Valeria Rangel is thankful for the Spanish and English speaking parishioners to get together as community. “Even though we have different Mass times, speak in different languages and have different cultures, it is wonderful to come together.”

– For Ken Woodward the dinner was a renewal of the community. “It leads us to Christ because we are the body of Christ. On this day as we honor him as King of Kings, what better way to do it than enjoying community with our brothers and sisters and enjoy a meal together.”

– Lucila Vargas, originally from Columbia, has been a member of St. Patrick for 46 years. She has enjoyed the tradition of the parish gathering to give thanks and enjoy a meal, as in her home country “they normally just go to church and give thanks to the Lord.”

– Dorethea Cole of St. Joseph parish loves the way that both parishes “get together as one Catholic community.”

– Tina Nadeau traveled 1,450 miles from South Dakota by motorcycle for the event to spend her mom’s birthday with her and enjoy Thanksgiving together with her mother and stepdad, who cooked for the parish feast. “It is so special to be here and give thanks.”

MERIDIAN – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Father Augustine Palimattam celebrate Mass on Nov. 21 for Feast of Christ the King, prior to the huge Thanksgiving celebration for the St. Patrick and St. Joseph Catholic community. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
Father Augustine and Bishop Kopacz visit with parishioners before taking stroll to the parish center to enjoy the annual Thanksgiving meal.
Gerry Cober who prepared many delicious items on the menu, visits with parishioners to see how they are enjoying the meal. He had family come visit from South Dakota for the event and Thanksgiving.
Father Aaron Williams shared a laugh with parishioners during the feast.
Valeria Rantel with her mom and two siblings head into the community center to share thanks and a meal.

Bishop Gunn’s diary shares rich family history and experience being named bishop

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Since we focused on Bishop John Gunn’s surviving the arsenic attack in 1916, I thought I would share some more details about the bishop from the early pages of his diary.

Pictured is the Seventh Archbishop of New Orleans, James Herbert Blenk. Bishop Gunn wrote in his diary about his appointment as the Bishop of Natchez, detailing his interactions with Blenk, who was a great mentor to him. (Photo public domain)

Bishop Gunn was born on March 15, 1863, in County Tyrone, Ireland. He was the oldest of 11 children. His family originally came from Scotland to County Tyrone as descendants of Olaf the Black, a Viking ruler of the Isles off the coast of Scotland in the 13th century.

Hence, they called themselves the “Black Gunns of Caithness” and the family motto was aut pax aut bellum (either peace or war).

Bishop Gunn honors this heritage on his coat of arms with a Viking ship, but wisely chose not to use the family motto for his episcopal motto. He instead chose Monstra Te Esse Matrem (show thyself to be our mother) which comes from his formation as Marist priest.

He studied at the Gregorian University in Rome and was professed in 1884 and ordained a priest in 1890. He was ordained a bishop on August 29, 1911, at Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta where he had been serving for 13 years. Fellow Marist and Archbishop of New Orleans, James Hubert Herbert Blenk, was the principal consecrator.

In reading through the early entries of Bishop Gunn’s diary, it is evident that Archbishop Blenk was a great friend and mentor to him.

Bishop John Edward Gunn, SM was the sixth Bishop of Natchez, serving from 1911-1924. His coat of arms features his heritage with a Viking ship. His episcopal motto Monstra Te Esse Matrem translates to “show thyself to be our mother.” (Photo from archives)

From Sept. 11, 1911, we read: “I went to Archbishop Blenk where the only misunderstanding I ever had with him was explained. I knew that I had been proposed for San Antonio and I made Archbishop Blenk promise he would oppose any and every effort to have me appointed a Bishop anywhere. When my appointment came, I accused him a breaking his promise and he showed me letters from Cardinal Gibbons which explained my appointment to Natchez and cleared Blenk. The Archbishop brought me to his friends in New Orleans and tried to give me the necessary courage to face Mississippi.”

His next entry from Sept. 14, supports the previous: “Started for Natchez with Father Larkin and my brother, Father Ed. I wanted Blenk to come – he refused, telling me that I was old enough to face the music without a chaperone and that the Natchez spotlight was not brilliant enough for two. I think his advice was correct.”

A few months later on March 21, 1912, Bishop Gunn gives us an interesting insight into his ministry as Bishop in describing a meeting of the Bishops of the Province of New Orleans. In 1912, the then Diocese of Natchez was part of the Province of New Orleans. Dioceses are structurally arranged according to provinces and then regions. Provinces center around an archdiocese and archbishop, known as the metropolitan.

Currently the Diocese of Jackson is part of the Province of Mobile that was established in 1980 when Mobile was elevated to an archdiocese. The dioceses of Jackson, Biloxi and Birmingham are suffragan sees under the archdiocese of Mobile. Coincidentally, our own Bishop, Joseph Kopacz, is the senior suffragan of the province led by Archbishop Thomas Rodi.

Back to 1912 where we were a suffragan see of New Orleans. Bishop Gunn describes the March 21 meeting in this manner: “That was my first introduction to the Bishops of the Province of New Orleans and a more congenial lovable lot of men I never met.

“I was born afraid of Bishops. I ran and hid from them when I could, feared them, and never met any of them that I thought worth knowing until I met the Bishops of the New Orleans Province. Such men as Gallagher of Galveston, Meerschaert of Oklahoma, Morris of Little Rock, Allen of Mobile and the younger crowd – Shaw of San Antonio and Lynch of Dallas, and of course, the greatest Roman of them all – the Archbishop of New Orleans [Blenk].”

“The meeting was a serious one and a useful one, but it did not prevent Meerschaert and Van de Ven from initiating Lynch and myself with some third degree work, especially suited to the Mutt and Jeff of the Bishops of the Province. I met most of these Bishops at my consecration, but I got to know them on the 21st and if knowing is akin to loving, I see my finish.”

Having served in the diocesan structure for more than 30 years, and in a particularly close way having served the office of bishop, I have observed a lot about the office and the men in it. I think often we forget that these are men, not statues, and they have very real fears and trepidations in accepting the office. Heavy is the head that wears the miter.
During this Advent, I am aiming some extra prayers for the bishops with whom I serve and have served. I encourage you to do the same. They need it.

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

Bishops approve plans for three-year National Eucharistic Revival

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. bishops’ focus on the significance of the Eucharist in the life of the church isn’t just about on the statement they approved at their fall meeting.

It also is about something bigger: a three-year eucharistic revival that will culminate with the National Eucharistic Congress 2024 in Indianapolis.

The bishops approved a motion Nov. 17 during their general assembly in Baltimore to host this congress with 201 votes in favor, 17 against and five abstentions.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was recently named bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, gave the bishops details about this planned revival just before they voted on it.

The bishop, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said the revival could be a time of healing for the entire church as well as a movement of evangelization and a reawakening of understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist for Catholics across the country.

The revival will officially start on the feast of Corpus Christi June 16, 2022, with a diocesan focus that will include eucharistic processions and other events of adoration and prayer around the country.

In 2023, the emphasis will be on parishes and resources aimed at increasing Catholics’ understanding of what the Eucharist really means.

Part of the impetus prompting this effort was a Pew study in the fall of 2019 that showed just 30% of Catholics understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Bishop Cozzens noted the price tag for the National Eucharistic Congress – $28 million – is expensive, but said it is worth it and can be doable with fundraising.

He said many apostolates and ministries are donating time and resources to help make the eucharistic revival a reality.
Some bishops questioned the cost of the congress that wraps up this venture, but others spoke about the potential this will have to bring Catholics back to the church and bring those in the church to a deeper sense of devotion and a stronger faith.

Bishop Cozzens pointed out that such large-scale church events can be transformative and said the National Eucharistic Congress may end up being something the Catholic Church revisits 10 years from now.

Blessed Carlo Acutis will be the patron for the first year of the revival. The Italian teen, who was beatified in October 2020, died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15. He was a programmer who used social media to unite many people and spread Christian values.

In his apostolic letter proclaiming the youth “blessed,” Pope Francis said he “cultivated a friendship with our Lord Jesus, placing the Eucharist and the witness of charity at the center of his life.”

Papal nuncio urges U.S. bishops to closely listen to the church

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, spoke to the U.S. bishops Nov. 16 about the importance of listening to people in the church and being open to the work of the Holy Spirit.
He addressed the bishops on the first day of two days of public sessions at their fall general assembly Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore.

The archbishop noted that he has been in the role of apostolic nuncio for five years and has been on a journey with the U.S. bishops through challenges of religious disaffiliation, the sexual abuse crisis, increasing secularization, polarization within the nation and the church, and most recently the global pandemic.

He quickly jumped into discussing a topic fresh on the bishops’ minds from hearing about it the previous night at their opening Mass and one they will continue discussing in preparation for an upcoming world Synod of Bishops: synodality.

“I believe that synodality is an answer to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation, which is threatening to divide this country, and which also has its echoes in the church,” Archbishop Pierre said.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 16, 2021, during a session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the first in-person bishops’ meeting since 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“It seems that many are unaware they are engaged in this confrontation, staking out positions, rooted in certain truths but which are isolated in the world of ideas and not applied to the reality of the lived faith experience of the people of God in their concrete situations,” he said.

To define this often-repeated word in church circles today, the nuncio explained what it is not. He said synodality is not “a meeting about meetings” and went a step further to jokingly say: “If that were the case, we would certainly be in one of the lower rings of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’”

He stressed that the term – and what the church is engaged in right now in the listening phase in preparation for the 2023 synod – goes beyond the physical act of hearing people to actually being close to them.

For the bishops, he said, this process should start at home by listening to each other. “The church needs this attentive listening now more than ever if she is to overcome the polarization facing this country,” he said.

The bishops’ act of listening also is a means of leading by example to help U.S. Catholics be missionary disciples engaged in their own listening and discernment that he said should be a “way of life” in families, parishes, dioceses and on the periphery.

But for all this to happen, there also has to be overall unity because, he said, “a divided church will never lead people to where it should be.”

Throughout his half-hour address to the bishops, the nuncio continued to drive home the message that more needs to be done to bring the church to where it should be.

For example, when he mentioned that the church “should be unapologetically pro-life,” he stressed the need to look at causes and factors that lead women to seek abortions and then to reach out in practical ways to mothers in need.
Along that same line, he said the church needs to address racism and should go further with that by acknowledging “the lived reality” many in the church experience each day.

Also, regarding the Eucharist, he said people can have theological ideas about the Eucharist, which are important, but “none of these ideas compare with the reality of the eucharistic mystery, which needs to be discovered and rediscovered through the practical experience of the church, living in communion, particularly in this time of pandemic.”

The nuncio, hinting at a topic the bishops planned to address in their discussion of their proposed statement on the Eucharist, said many can “miss the true encounter” of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

He also noted that there is “the temptation to treat the Eucharist as something to be offered to the privileged few rather than to seek to walk with those whose theology or discipleship is falling short, assisting them to understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist, and helping them to overcome their difficulties.”

Looking back and ahead, the archbishop, who was appointed U.S. nuncio in April 2016, reiterated that he and the bishops had “been on the road together for more than five years” and that they would journey forward, in unity, by “listening to one another and to the Spirit and walking with our brothers and sisters.”

“We will emerge from the present crises together,” he said, “as the church Christ has called us to be.”

In memoriam: Paula Daly Fulton

LOUISVILLE – Louisville lost a beloved mother, sister and friend on Nov. 18, 2021. She loved being called GP (otherwise know as) Grandma Paula. She raised her children and grandchildren in love and devotion; always showing them how to be generous to others. Paula had a wonderful and kind soul with a great spirit.

She was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church where she played the piano starting at the age of 16 and played for many years afterwards. She was involved in the ministry of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a teacher for the Sacrament of Confirmation and eventually, a Lay Ecclesial Minister (LEM).

Paula Daly Fulton

Paula graduated from Louisville High School and continued a higher education at Mississippi University for Women and finished her specialist degree at Mississippi State University. She started her teaching career in special education then went on to be a 5th grade teacher and later special education director after retiring as principal of Fair Elementary. Her colleagues knew her as a fun and spunky soul, always willing to cheer up everybody.

To say Paula was a lady of service is an understatement. She was heavily involved in the local Prairie Girl Scout Council where she shaped many young girls’ lives and taught them to be leaders in the community. She enjoyed her time as the Louisville High Athletic Booster President and Miss. University for Women alumnae officer.
Paula was also involved in the Louisville Pilot Club and served as president. She was also a member of the local Retired Teachers’ Group. Another of Paula’s favorite places to spend time was the Cornerstone Clinic and she was on the board at the Louisville Housing Authority.

Paula loved her heritage of the Daly and Plummer family with fun reunions from Hammond, Louisiana to Philadelphia, Mississippi to Bennettsville, South Carolina. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) where she served as Regent for the Nanih Waiya Chapter. Paula enjoyed learning to play bridge; however, she preferred the comradery with friends most of all. She remained good friends with her childhood classmates and they later became known as the Sugar Bells.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Jimmie Plummer Daly and James Paul Daly. She is survived by her daughter, Stephanie Horan of Mooresville, NC; her son, Greg Fulton of Louisville; two sisters, Theresa (T.F.) Bridges of Louisville and Mary Elizabeth Haley of Grenada; two brothers, Mike (Dorothy) Daly of Brandon and Barney (Patti) Daly of Madison; five grandchildren, Brandon Fulton, Sarah Horan, Bryce Horan, Daly Horan, and Savannah Horan; and three great grandchildren, Aubree, Cooper and Bailee Ann Fulton.

Mississippi Catholic

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

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18 de junio de 2021

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28 de mayo de 2021

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26 de febrero de 2021

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24 de diciembre de 2020

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20 de noviembre de 2020

November 6, 2020

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Espanol 23 de octubre de 2020

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September 25, 2020

25 de septiembre de 2020

September 11, 2020

August 28, 2020

August 14, 2020

Bishop Gunn’s diary details 1916 poisoning attempt

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – After last week’s article on the death of our bishops, I received a few inquiries about the arsenic poisoning of Bishop John Edward Gunn, which actually occurred in February 1916 in Chicago instead of 1915 Detroit as previously reported.

The event honored Archbishop George Mundelein who was recently appointed as Chicago’s top prelate. Most of Chicago’s “who’s who’s” were there. Bishop Gunn’s description of the event is so vivid that I will let his words paint the scene.

“On February 10th there was a meeting of the Catholic Church Extension Society followed by a dinner at the Archbishop’s house. Everybody was invited to wait over in Chicago for the big blow-out that was to take place on the night of February 10th when the city of Chicago was to banquet the new Archbishop. This banquet was engineered by Msgr. [Francis] Kelley of Catholic Extension.

Bishop John Edward Gunn

“It took place in the banquet hall of the University Club and had among its guests forty Bishops, the head of the Army, the government officials, Governor of the State, Mayor of the City and everybody else worthwhile in Chicago.”

“It was at that banquet that the nearest approach to the wholesale poisoning of the hierarchy and the Chicago millionaires was attempted. After the oysters came the soup and while only a small cupful was served to each guest, before the last guest was served with soup, one hundred men were on the floor or were being carried out. There was a panic in the dining room and as no one knew its cause, everybody was frightened.”

“The University Club was turned into an emergency hospital and I was able to get to the elevator. I was brought down to one of the big reception rooms and gently deposited at full length on the floor. I was beside an Army Officer in full regimentals, a civic authority with a generous abundance of shirt waist, a Bishop from somewhere, and we were all in a very undignified scramble to reach the same spittoon.”

“The celebrated Doctor Murphy had charge of our room and while medical hygiene may be all right in the abstract there was very little time for the niceties or ethics of medicine on that occasion. A bell boy from the hotel went ‘round with a pitcher and a glass and insisted on giving everyone a dose of mustard and tepid water.”

“The man who did not take it was made to take it and the results were instantaneous, but the heavily cushioned upholstered University Club carried for a long time the marks of the banquet.”

“Of course, the thing broke up the banquet and about 100 hundred men just barely escaped death by poisoning. There were about 100 who did not take soup and they remained in the banquet hall to make and hear the speeches.”

“About one o’clock I managed to get to my hotel room more dead than alive and the feeling was the usual feeling after a bad attack of sea-sickness. I left as soon as possible for the Pass [Christian] but nothing could induce me to even look into the dining room on the way between Chicago and New Orleans.”

“The papers of the country and the detectives of every country got busy to find the poisoner. He was a socialist from Alsace-Lorraine, who was in charge of making the soup. It seems he studied poisoning as a sideline to Socialism and he knew with German accuracy the exact amount of soup to be served to each guest.”

“The soup was made a day or two in advance; the poison was added; and Jacques Crones took French leave. On the night of the banquet there were more guests than soup portions, with the result that the soup had to be watered and smaller portions served. It seems that this saved the entire banqueting party from having to attend their own funeral.”

“I was glad to get back to the Pass on Feb 12th where I stayed under a doctor’s orders close to a stomach pump until the end of the month.”

So that is the real story about the arsenic poisoning from the diary of Bishop Gunn. The diaries of bishops provide much history that never shows up in history books or news media. They are priceless treasures of diocesan life and the development of the church in our state, region and country.

We will share much more as time goes on from these unique perspectives of history from the very real men who held the office of bishop.

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

Synod opening Mass invokes guidance of Holy Spirit

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – Pope Francis launched preparations Oct. 9-10 at the Vatican for the World Synod of Bishops, which will take place in 2023. On the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” the church is seeking input from dioceses around the world, with most bishops kicking off the local listening process with opening Masses beginning Oct. 17.

In the Diocese of Jackson, Bishop Joseph Kopacz launched the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 24 with an opening Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the church has held Synods of Bishops, most recently focusing on topics such as the family and young people. This synod focuses on the topic of synodality itself.

“The undertaking is called Synod on Synodality, which can sound like ‘church speak’ when you first hear it,” said Bishop Kopacz at the opening Mass for the synod in the diocese.

“But it has deep roots in our church tradition as a people of faith, as baptized Catholics, as disciples of the Lord.”
In his homily, Bishop Kopacz challenged us to reimagine the birth of the church on the first Pentecost, nearly 2000 years ago. With disciples of the Lord Jesus, praying intensely for the faith-filled gift of the Holy Spirit.

“This is the image of synodality,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“Pope Francis wants the church to gather in prayer for a number of months leading into a year and then a second year, so there will be time to absorb all that the Spirit is speaking to the church.”

Bishop Kopacz says that during the next two months, the diocese will be laying the groundwork for the synod process in the diocese – preparing materials and training facilitators to conduct parish listening sessions. Then, to be followed by regional meetings to be held in the first few months of 2022.

“Beyond the mainstream of our parishes, schools and other ministries we will also invite many more to participate through social media platforms in order to reach out to the unchurched, the marginalized and the alienated,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“From across the diocese, we hope to receive a very good response – potentially thousands of responses,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“It will be work bringing this together into a 10-page synthesis. But what a story; that we can understand on a deeper level, who we are as a people of God in the Body of Christ, in the Diocese of Jackson.”

Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the diocese, was selected to lead the planning for the synod in the diocese, along with an advisory council. She says that the synod is “not a pastoral planning process, nor is it a free for all ‘gripe session.’”

“It is an opportunity for the people of God to pray together and ask of ourselves as individuals and within our church community where we are being called in our journey together. It provides a moment in time for the universal church to look at the greatest issues facing God’s holy people and asking how are we to respond as we embody the Gospel.”

In their planning document, the Vatican asks that each diocese contemplate two questions: How does this “journeying together” take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the church to proclaim the Gospel; and what steps is the Holy Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?

In April, all responses will be gathered and organized into a synthesis that will eventually go the Vatican. “The summary will be made available for the diocese as a very important body of material for our discernment in light of our mission and our ministries,” said Bishop Kopacz.

In 2023 after this worldwide process, Pope Francis will speak to the church and to the world the essence of what the Holy Spirit has spoken to the church.

Lavelle says to begin praying now for wisdom and understanding during the synod process.

“When your parish gathers to listen to one another, may you be fortified with the knowledge that your voice matters.”

Trinity Missions celebrate centennial in Camden

By Berta Mexidor

CAMDEN – “There is no truer proof of a great love of God than a great love of our neighbor.” Father Thomas Judge, Founder of Trinity Missions

Hundreds of parishioners from four parishes gathered at Sacred Heart Camden to celebrate 100 years of Trinitarian Missions with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz and concelebrated by the Trinitarian priests, Fathers Mike Barth, general custodian of Trinity Missions, Odel Medina, Guy Wilson, Gustavo Amell, Raul Ventura, Alexis Zuniga Velasquez, Robert “Bob” Goodyear; in addition to Father Mike O’Brien of Sacred Heart Canton.

Bishop Kopacz recognized the Trinitarian’s servants’ deeds serving four Bishops before him, Bishops Gerow, Brunini, Houck and Latino, and thousands of Catholic Mississippians for more than 77 years. “We have the spirit of awe, for all what God has done for us … The Holy Spirit is flying above this assembly … because we are children of God. We have a spirit of hope and gratitude,” Bishop Kopacz said in his homily.

CAMDEN – On Nov. 13, the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity celebrated 100 years of their founding. The Trinitarian Missions have been a part of Mississippi history for 77 years. Pictured left to right: Father Guy Wilson, Father Mike Barth, Father Bob Goodyear, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Father Odel Medina, Father Alexis Zuniga Velasques, Father Mike O’Brien and Father Gustavo Amell. (Photos by Berta Mexidor)

The apostolic Spirit, that Father Judge envisioned 100 years ago makes “missionary disciples offer the fire of God to all. This celebration is the first day of 100 more years,” Bishop Kopacz concluded.

At the end of the Mass, Father Mike Barth gave recognition plaques for their contribution to the Trinitarian Missions to representatives of Sacred Heart Camden, Holy Child Jesus Canton, St. Therese Kosciusko, St. Anne Carthage, Holy Rosary Indian Mission, Sister Mary Anne Poeschl, RSM and Bishop Kopacz. Father Barth also blessed the renovated cross in front of the Sacred Heart Camden Church; and Father Guy Wilson, ST created a ceramic necklace in memory of the centennial celebration for each attendee.

Foundation of the Trinitarians
It only takes a tiny spark from the Holy Spirit to ignite a fire that grows into something magnificent. And for the Trinitarians that spark grew into an institution that has helped millions of people over a 100-year period.

In this case, the Holy spark came in 1909 from six female volunteers in Brooklyn, who met with Father Thomas Judge to discuss their interest in assisting Catholic immigrants. They began an outreach program to visit homes and offer what help they could. This was the beginning of the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate (lay missionaries).

Father Judge, a son of Irish immigrants, arrived in Opelika, Alabama, an area with very few Catholics, in 1920. He then began forming lay groups or “cenacles.”

Due to their hard work and zeal for the salvation of souls, the Cenacle was then formally recognized by Bishop of Mobile, Edward Patrick Allen, in 1921.

Today, there are over 145 Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity in missions around the world, most within the United States.

Trinitarian history reaches back 77 years in Mississippi
History books recall that Trinitarians first came to Mississippi in 1944, represented by Father Andrew Lawrence, ST, taking responsibility of Immaculate Conception, and at that moment, its missions: Sacred Heart on Sulphur Springs Road near Camden and St. Anne in Carthage.

CAMDEN – Father Odel Medina stands among those gathering for Mass to celebrate the centennial of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. (Photo by Berta Mexidor)

With the direction of Bishop R. O. Gerow, Father Lawrence started looking for a place to first build a church, then schools to follow, to improve the lives of local African Americans – this led to a place named Sulpher Springs.

According to Cleta Ellington’s 1989 book, Christ: The Living Water, Sulphur Springs was an extension of land that no one knew where it started, nor where it ended. But there was a Catholic church there, its roof collapsing under snow in 1923, and then rebuilt in Camden with the name of Immaculate Conception of Sulphur Springs around 1927, which then became the first church where Father Lawrence and the Trinitarians began their missions in Mississippi in 1944.

After the church, Father Lawrence and the Trinitarians founded the Sacred Heart Agricultural School in Sulphur Springs for African American youths. The school enrolled over 140 students at one point and was highly praised by the Mississippi Department of Education. Then sadly, the school was destroyed by fire and burned down in 1954.

In her book, Ellington also highlighted the struggles of the Trinitarians creating the Holy Child Jesus’ school in Canton, and how a little, non-Catholic Black girl named Bertha Bowman came to enroll in this school. Of course, this little girl grew up and became the first black Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration – Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman.
In another amazing turn of the history of Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity in Mississippi, the small spark from the Holy Spirit back in 1909 ended up touching the Choctaw Reservation in Philadelphia beginning back in 1944.

From 1975 to 1990 and again from 2006 to the present, Father Robert “Bob” Goodyear, ST has served at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission in Philadelphia. Each Sunday he drives nearly 90 miles to three parishes to celebrate Mass for the Choctaw community. Recently, the work of Father Goodyear was highlighted nationwide when he was recognized as a finalist for the Catholic Extension Lumen Christi award.

In 2019, two Trinitarian priests were at the center of the aftermath of a massive raid against immigrants in Mississippi, Father Odel Medina, of St. Anne Carthage, was one of them. The support they received from volunteers and the whole community, along with their leadership hit the standards set by Fathers Judge and Lawrence years ago.

After almost 10 years in Mississippi, Father Odel has witnessed the growth of the Hispanic community in the state. He views the growth as fruits of the legacy of the Trinitarian founders, ”preserving the faith among immigrants.”

“Father Judge started with mainly the Italian immigrants, here in Mississippi. Hispanic immigrants [are] a new phenomenon and numbers are increasing … The future is going to a pluricultural church,” he said.

“This centenary is a jubilee,” said Father Odel. “I have been walking with all my parishioners, in good and bad times, but mainly with the most vulnerable, it has been a blessing for me.”

In one hundred years, the Trinitarians have accomplished more than just building schools and church buildings, they have touched millions of people from all different backgrounds, races and creeds.

(Joanna Puddister King contributed to this article.)