St. Joseph, protector of Holy Family, is model for 2021 Respect Life Month

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON – As part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, the U.S. Catholic Church’s annual Respect Life Month celebration in October “highlights the example of that great saint” as protector of life, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.

“As the faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary,” St. Joseph is “a profound reminder of our own call to welcome, safeguard and defend God’s precious gift of human life,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.
“Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph took her into his home at the word of the angel,” and like the saint, “we are also called to care for those God has entrusted to us – especially vulnerable mothers and children,” the archbishop said.

The prelate, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, made the comments in a Sept. 27 statement.

During October, Respect Life Sunday is observed on the first Sunday of the month, which this year is Oct. 3.
To join in prayer for the intercession of St. Joseph, defender of life, visit www.respectlife.org/prayer-to-st-joseph.
Various resources for celebrating Respect for Life Month – including dozens of articles, prayer cards, prayers for life, a toolkit for parish pro-life leaders, homily helps and other resources can be found online at https://www.respectlife.org/respect-life-month.

As the Holy Family’s protector, St. Joseph “guided their journey to Bethlehem, found shelter and welcomed the infant Jesus as his son,” Archbishop Naumann said. “When Herod threatened the life of the Christ Child, St. Joseph left his homeland behind and fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.”

This is the poster for Respect Life Month 2021 observed in October by the U.S. Catholic Church. As part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, this year’s celebration “highlights the example of that great saint,” said a Sept. 27 statement from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Oct. 3 is Respect Life Sunday. (CNS photo/courtesy RespectLife.org)

“We can follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph as protector by advocating against taxpayer-funded abortion, which targets the lives of millions of poor children and their mothers here in the United States,” he continued.
“We can imitate his care and provision by helping to start Walking with Moms in Need at our parishes, ‘walking in the shoes’ of mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy, especially low-income mothers in our communities,” he said.

In March 2020, the USCCB’s pro-life committee asked all U.S. Catholic bishops to invite the parishes in their dioceses to join a nationwide effort called “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” which began March 25 of that year.

But “like everything else, the roll out of Walking with Moms in Need was dramatically impacted by COVID-19,” Archbishop Naumann noted in a Sept. 21 address to a Nebraska pro-life conference.

He said the pro-life committee “is renewing our efforts to encourage every diocese and parish to implement the Walking with Moms in Need process.”

Walking with Moms in Need asks every diocese and parish to make an assessment of the resources available to assist mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy.

The program seeks to identify gaps in available services and then encourage dioceses and parishes to find ways to fill those gaps. Walking with Moms in Need also includes efforts to communicate better available resources and to encourage every Catholic to support Pregnancy Resource Centers.

The program has its own website, www.walkingwithmoms.com, with resources, outreach tools and models to assist parishes in this effort.

Also, Archbishop Naumann in his Sept. 27 statement urged Catholics to learn more about preventing taxpayer-funded abortion by visiting www.notaxpayerabortion.com.

“At times, we may feel uncertain of our ability to answer the Lord’s call. But he invites us to faithfully respond, despite our own fears or weaknesses: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9),” the archbishop said.

“May we imitate St. Joseph’s faithful trust and courage as we work to uphold the dignity of every human life,” he added. “St. Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!”

‘Citizens from Heaven’ at the center of the National Migration Week

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Two mothers’ experiences and teachings were at the center of the National Migration Week celebration at St. James Tupelo, on Thursday, Sept. 24. Mrs. Oyafemi taught her little child that when someone asks where you are from? you must answer: ”I am a citizen from heaven.” And 6,375 miles and 25 years away from Nigeria, a mother in Mexico, escaped to the United States from an abusive husband in Mexico with a little girl, hidden from her, for years, her true citizenship situation.

With the moderation of Fran Lavelle, diocesan director of Faith Formation, a panel of different speakers exposed their interactions and experiences as migrants and refugees that included Father Clem Oya, coordinator of Intercultural Ministry, child of the Nigerian mother who made him fall in love with the teachings of the Bible; and Guadalupe Meyer, the little girl who came to the US without a visa, standing today as a DACA recipient, only because her mother’s intuition, and in her desperation, told her “you are a citizen of heaven.”

For at least fifty years the Catholic Church in the United States has been celebrating and recognizing the increasing population of immigrants, victims and survivors of human trafficking and refugees, not only in the country but worldwide to educate Catholics about the reality of people forced by circumstances to abandon their natal countries to start a new life in a new land and culture.

TUPELO – DACA is a program that aids children and young adults to establish legal status in the only country they know – the US. (Left to right) Guadalupe Meyer, a Ph.D. candidate at Tulane University and DACA holder, answered questions about her family ordeal, as Fran Lavalle, director of Faith Formation Department for the diocese, moderated the questions from the audience at St. James parish on Sept. 24 for National Migration Week. (Photos by Berta Mexidor)

The celebration of National Migration Week (NMW) was the venue for community lectures, parish encounters and national speakers to highlight the struggles and accomplishments of migrants and refugees; as well as, the Catholic programs assisting them during their transition and establishment in the different communities receiving them.
This year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrated NMW from Sept. 20-26 to coincide with the Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, celebrated each year on the last Sunday of September. This year’s theme for NMW was “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We.’”

In his letter to announce this year’s theme, Pope Francis emphasizes that “this approach calls on us to ensure that “after all this, we no longer think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only of ‘us.’ (Fratelli Tutti, no. 35) And this universal ‘we’ must become a reality, first of all within the church that is called to cultivate communion in diversity.”

During NMW, every year, each diocese creates a different activity that includes prayers, education and actions of solidarity toward immigrants and refugees. The Diocese of Jackson is among them, celebrating the diversity that migrants bring to the Catholic Church in a state where Catholics are a minority religious group; and where Catholic Charities assists not only to Catholics but also, the state’s underserved population, including migrants and refugees, without looking to their religious affiliation.

TUPELO – A light of hope in the north
For the high percentage of Hispanics settled in deanery five, the passionate leadership of Father Tim Murphy at St. James and Danna Johnson, of Catholic Charities in the area, makes a huge difference. For a number of years, they have hosted national and local speakers, and exponents of the hard work of migrants, while promoting a welcoming culture to the foreigners.

This year at St. James, the audience of mainly English speakers had the opportunity to exchange conversation with Father Clem; Guadalupe Meyer, activist for migrants; Josh Blackmon, a young businessman; and attorney Brad Prewitt, vice president of Circadence, a cybersecurity company.

Before the session, Father Tim directed a reading of the prayer to Sister Thea Bowman, Servant of God, and promoter of intercultural understanding, who “in times of intolerance and ignorance, I bring wisdom, conscience, unity and charity.”

At the end of the meeting, two folk dances highlighted Hispanic heritage, which the parish celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 19.

VARDAMAN – (Above right) Rev. Nida Pittman prayed for a small but ecumenical audience, after a conversation with Father Clem Oya, diocesan director of Intercultural Ministry and Guadalupe Meyer, a DACA dreamer. (Above left to right) Peggy Skinner, Sheila Freely, Glenda Donogh, and Rev. Annie Douglas, along with Margaret Beckely (not pictured) welcomed the visitors into the Catholic Charities community center on Sept. 25 for National Migration Week.

VARDAMAN – Sweet potatoes, from their field to your heart
Proud of their land, traditions and hospitality, religious and community leaders gathered on the morning of Sept. 25 at the Vardaman Catholic Charities Center for NMW.

Father Clem spoke to the audience in Vardaman about the Pope’s ideas and declarations about migrants and refugees, and about the struggles of children brought to the country by their parents, without documents. The dreamers, represented by Guadalupe Meyer, explained the dilemma of young people like herself who feel that the US is their own country because they have never known another one, and how it feels like a national-foreigner contradiction.
The board of Catholic Charities Vardaman with the leadership of Danna Johnson has worked to highlight the silent and tenacious work of the migrants, who are responsible for putting sweet potatoes on the table of Mississippians and those nationwide.

Vardaman is attracting migrants in search of jobs and survival. The locals see migrants come and go and make an effort to understand the phenomenon and how some foreigners feel. They both share the same love for the fields and people in Vardaman.

Migration Week – Partnership and Education
The Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center in Mississippi has been the main coordinator each year during NMW, offering conferences, free legal clinics, and a space for prayer and understanding. The Support Center, as well as priests, sisters, brothers, parish staff, and community leaders in the diocese work with the mission to receive Jesus in the face of every foreigner they assist in the new land of hope and freedom.

For more information about the USCCB migrants’ programs, visit https://justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/national-migration-week/.

(Berta Mexidor, originally of Cuba, is a photo-reporter contributor of Mississippi Catholic, and editor of Mississippi Católico for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Synods date back to 1858 in diocese

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – On Sunday, Oct. 24, at the 10:30 Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will officially open the diocesan phase of the church’s preparation for a universal synod on the synodal process in 2023. In the Mass, Bishop Kopacz will offer prayers for the diocesan church as we undertake this important aspect of church life on the local level.

More information on the preparations for the synod is shared in this week’s paper and will be shared as the process moves forward. This is an exciting time for our church.

Bishop R.O. Gerow, seventh bishop of the diocese, sits surrounded by his clergy for a 1935 Synod held in Bay St. Louis at St. Augustine Seminary on July 9. (Photos from archives)

From an archive’s perspective, synods have been held in our diocese dating back to 1858. Bishop William Henry Elder called the First Synod of Natchez to gather his priests together to discuss diocesan life and business. In 1856 the Archdiocese of New Orleans had hosted a synod for the province, which included our diocese. Decrees, including the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, rules for the election of bishops, and several disciplinary items, were promulgated from that synod. Bishop Elder called the 1858 local synod in Natchez to discern those decrees and discuss in collegial fashion how to implement them in the diocese.

Nowadays we get information immediately; in the mid-19th century news travelled much more slowly. It is not unusual that it took two years to discuss these decrees and how they will affect the growing church in Mississippi.
The 10th and last official diocesan synod was held in 1957. This synod took up some very weighty topics such as the teaching authority of the church, the Sacraments, Christian education for children, and the administration of church property.

After each synod, a book was published of the decrees and decisions. In the 1957 book we find some great paragraphs on the sacraments and sacred things. These quotes will sound familiar to many of us.

Paragraph 96 states: “The Sacraments should be administered with dignity and decorum and in accordance with the regulations of the church. The rubrics shall be carefully studied and scrupulously observed.”

Paragraph 100 is most important to an archivist and chancellor: “Great care should be taken that records of Sacraments administered be plainly legible. All names of recipients should be written in BLOCK CAPITAL LETTERS. Ink to be used must be of a permanent type.”

Bishop William Henry Elder called the First Synod of Natchez to gather his priests together to discuss diocesan life and business.

Paragraph 211 is most informative: “The music for all church services shall be that found in approved liturgical books and only hymns which have been approved by recognized authorities in church music shall be used.”

Those are a few of the 261 statements coming forth from the 1957 synod. The 10 synods in our history were clergy attended. Diocesan convocations grew out of the synods. These convocations up until COVID met every two years and in recent years had included parish leadership other than just priests.

The themes for the 2023 worldwide synod are: Communion, Participation and Mission. It will involve listening sessions with local parishioners around the world on these powerful foundations of our faith. Our diocese will participate in this process as stated above.

Stayed tuned to how you can be a part of this historic and spiritual process in our church.

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

Featured photo…Our Homegrown Seminarians…

FLOWOOD – On Oct. 2, Father Nick Adam was pleased to present diocesan seminarians at the 2nd annual Homegrown Harvest Seminarian Fest at St. Paul parish. The event raised funds with sponsorships, dinner, a tailgate party and a silent auction for the seminarian program. Pictured left to right: Grayson Foley, Will Foggo, Ryan Stoer, Tristan Stovall, Carlisle Beggerly and Father Nick Adam. Not pictured was Deacon Andrew Bowden who was tied up serving wine at the event. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

Three groups hope to have a million people say rosary for life in October

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON – The leaders of three U.S. Catholic organizations hope to have a million people pray and promote the daily rosary during the month of October for “the end to legal abortion in America and an outpouring of support for expectant mothers,” according to their announcement on the joint effort.

The three leaders – Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN; Father Francis J. Hoffman, CEO of Relevant Radio; and Tim Busch, CEO of Napa Institute – launched the joint effort on their organization’s respective websites.

In the U.S. Catholic Church, October is observed as Respect Life Month and the first Sunday of the month is Respect Life Sunday, which this year was Oct. 3.

In addition, the month of October each year is dedicated to the rosary. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated Oct. 7.

JACKSON – The sisters at the Carmelite Monastery in South Jackson pray the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday, June 11, 2021 for the Worldpriest Annual Global Rosary Relay. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

“With the Supreme Court of the United States taking up the Dobbs case in December that could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade, the justices will need the grace of wisdom and courage to confront the issues honestly,” said the announcement from Warsaw, Father Hoffman and Busch.

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and supporters of the law are urging the court to reexamine its previous abortion rulings, including 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

The CEOs said they hope many other Catholic organizations “will join this effort by praying and promoting the daily rosary in October for this intention, and thus mobilize millions of Americans in prayer.”

This year’s Respect Life Month, promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlights the example of St. Joseph as part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis.

“As the faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary,” St. Joseph is “a profound reminder of our own call to welcome, safeguard and defend God’s precious gift of human life,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

(Editor’s Note: For more information on the effort to have a million people pray the rosary, go to EWTN.com, RelevantRadio.com, and Napa-Institute.org. Various resources for celebrating Respect for Life Month can be found online at https://www.respectlife.org/respect-life-month.)

Preguntas y Respuestas: Oración a San Miguel / Edad de la Confirmación

Por el padre Kenneth Doyle, Catholic News Service

P. He asistido a una iglesia católica cercana durante más de 20 años. Pero ahora he estado conduciendo 40 minutos a otra parroquia debido a cambios para restaurar “viejas tradiciones” en mi parroquia local.

Uno de ellos es la recitación común de la oración a San Miguel Arcángel inmediatamente después de la Misa. Me parece inapropiado hablar de San Miguel y Satanás justo después de que se nos haya encomendado “ir en paz para amar y servir al Señor”. En mi antigua parroquia, me sentí rehén de una pequeña minoría que trató de controlar mis pensamientos y sentimientos posteriores a la Misa en lugar de dejarme salir de la Misa con la alegría de la Eucaristía. (Iowa)

R. La oración a San Miguel fue parte de un grupo de oraciones llamadas oraciones leoninas que se decían en las iglesias católicas después de la misa desde 1884 hasta 1965. Fueron introducidas originalmente por el Papa León XIII y surgieron de una visión que supuestamente tuvo de Satanás. queriendo destruir la iglesia.

La intención por la que se dijeron las oraciones cambió con el tiempo. Originalmente se ofrecieron por la soberanía temporal de la Santa Sede, pero luego comenzaron a decirse por la conversión de Rusia.

Durante el Concilio Vaticano II, una instrucción del Vaticano que implementa la Constitución sobre la Sagrada Liturgia decretó que las oraciones leoninas se suprimieron y dejarían de usarse. Pero la recitación de la oración a San Miguel ha “vuelto”, y varias parroquias ahora están recitando esa oración después de la Misa.

No ha habido una declaración oficial de la iglesia de que esta oración deba resucitar; si su parroquia lo está usando, lo más probable es que sea una determinación del párroco local, aunque podría ser simplemente la elección de un grupo de feligreses que hayan decidido orar juntos después de la misa.

San Miguel Arcángel,

defiéndenos en la lucha.

 Sé nuestro amparo contra la perversidad y acechanzas del demonio.

 Que Dios manifieste sobre él su poder, es nuestra humilde súplica. Y tú, oh Príncipe de la Milicia Celestial,

 con el poder que Dios te ha conferido,

arroja al infierno a Satanás,

 y a los demás espíritus malignos que vagan por el mundo

para la perdición de las almas. Amén.

Oración a San Miguel Arcángel creada por el Papa León XIII)

En cualquier caso, es posible que desee hablar con el párroco de su antigua parroquia para hacerle saber su malestar con esta oración en particular y el hecho de que parece atenuar la alegría con la que debería estar al salir de la Misa.

P. A nuestra clase de religión de séptimo grado le gustaría saber por qué tenemos que esperar hasta la escuela secundaria para recibir el sacramento de la confirmación. Creemos que estamos listos para recibir el don del Espíritu Santo cuando estemos en octavo grado, lo que completaría el proceso de iniciación en nuestra comunidad católica. (Albany, Nueva York)

R. La edad a la que se administra la confirmación varía en los Estados Unidos y la elección la hace el obispo local. El Código de Derecho Canónico de la iglesia dice: “El sacramento de la confirmación debe conferirse a los fieles aproximadamente a la edad de discreción, a menos que la conferencia de obispos haya determinado otra edad” (núm. 891).

En 2000, la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos decretó que la confirmación debería administrarse “entre la edad de discreción y alrededor de los 16 años, dentro de los límites determinados por el obispo diocesano”.

En varias diócesis de Estados Unidos la confirmación ahora se confiere a los niños de 7 a 8 años de edad; sólo después de ser bautizados y confirmados, estos niños reciben la primera Comunión. Es evidente que su propio obispo siente que los estudiantes de la escuela secundaria son los más capaces de comprender lo que significa la Santa Cena y cómo debe guiar el futuro de una persona en la comunidad católica. Si siente, como algunos lo hacen, que el octavo grado es el momento más estratégico y menos confuso para que se lleve a cabo ese proceso de pensamiento, debe expresar sus sentimientos a su obispo.

Una mujer reza con un rosario en el santuario mariano en Knock, Irlanda, el 10 de octubre de 2021. (Foto del CNS / Cillian Kelly)

Tres grupos esperan tener en octubre un millón de personas rezando el Rosario por la Vida

Por Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – Los líderes de tres organizaciones católicas estadounidenses esperan que un millón de personas recen y promuevan el rosario diario durante el mes de octubre por “el fin del aborto legal en Estados Unidos y apoyo para las mujeres embarazadas”, según su anuncio en el esfuerzo conjunto.

Los tres líderes: Michael Warsaw, director ejecutivo de EWTN; El padre Francis J. Hoffman, director ejecutivo de Relevant Radio; y Tim Busch, director ejecutivo de Napa Institute, lanzaron el esfuerzo conjunto en los respectivos sitios web de sus organizaciónes.

En la Iglesia Católica de EE. UU., octubre se observa como el Mes del Respeto a la Vida y el primer domingo del mes es el Domingo del Respeto a la Vida, que este año es el 3 de octubre. Además, el mes de octubre de cada año está dedicado al rosario. La fiesta de Nuestra Señora del Rosario se celebra el 7 de octubre. “Con la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos asumiendo el caso Dobbs en diciembre que podría conducir a la revocación de Roe v. Wade, los jueces necesitarán la gracia de la sabiduría y el coraje para enfrentar los problemas con honestidad,” dijo el anuncio de Warsaw, Busch y el padre Hoffman.

JACKSON – Las hermanas del Monasterio de la Orden de las  Carmelitas, en South Jackson, rezan los Misterios Dolorosos para el Relevo Mundial Anual del Rosario del Sacerdote, en foto de archivo del viernes 11 de junio de 2021. (Foto de Tereza Ma)

El 1 de diciembre, la Corte Suprema escuchará los argumentos orales en una apelación de Mississippi para mantener la prohibición de los abortos después de las 15 semanas de embarazo, y los partidarios de la ley instan a la corte a que vuelva a examinar sus fallos anteriores sobre abortos, incluido Roe v. Sentencia de Wade que legaliza el aborto en todo el país. Los directores ejecutivos dijeron que esperan que muchas otras organizaciones católicas “se unan a este esfuerzo rezando y promoviendo el rosario diario en octubre por esta intención, y así movilizar a millones de estadounidenses en oración.”

El Mes del Respeto a la Vida de este año, promovido por la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos, destaca el ejemplo de San José como parte del Año de San José declarado por el Papa Francisco. “Como el fiel protector tanto de Jesús como de María”, San José es “un recordatorio profundo de nuestro propio llamado a dar la bienvenida, salvaguardar y defender el precioso regalo de Dios de la vida humana”, dijo el arzobispo Joseph F. Naumann de Kansas City, Kansas. quien es presidente del Comité de Actividades Pro-Vida de la USCCB.

(Nota del editor: para obtener más información sobre el esfuerzo para que un millón de personas recen el rosario, visite EWTN.com, RelevantRadio.com y Napa-Institute.org. Se pueden encontrar varios recursos para celebrar el Mes del Respeto por la Vida en línea en https : //www.respectlife.org/respect-life-month.)

Mississippi Catholic

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

Bishop Gunn’s photo scrapbook offers glimpse of history along Gulf Coast

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – The month of September in Mississippi normally brings to mind football and a little bit of a cooler breeze coming through. September also is an active part of the hurricane season. We have started this September off with Ida and Nicholas. So far, we have been more fortunate than our Louisiana neighbors.

Archives and hurricanes are not generally talked about in the same sentences unless you are involved in archival work and are located in hurricane prone areas. Archivists throughout the Gulf Coast region have disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plans in place to help alleviate the damage wind and water can cause to artifacts and manuscripts.

In our diocesan archives, we often get requests from parishes in the Biloxi diocese for photos of their original churches. Many of those churches built in the early 1900s did not survive the years. Some were lost to fire and age, others to population shifts and neglect, but many were lost to hurricanes. These storms bring with them swells of water, triple digit winds and torrential rains.

Hurricane Camille came barreling ashore in 1969 and left a path of destruction not seen in modern times. Camille became the benchmark for destruction along the Gulf Coast until 16 years ago when Katrina removed most everything south of I-10 in the Biloxi diocese.

While the world focused on the terrible flooding in New Orleans caused by the backside of Katrina, the people of the Gulf Coast were trying to dig themselves out from under miles of debris. For the Diocese of Biloxi, which encompasses the 17 counties closest to the Gulf, nearly every church property sustained severe damage. Some were completely destroyed.

Imagine St. Clare Church in Waveland. When Katrina came ashore with a 30-foot swell of water, St. Clare’s front door stood at normal sea level, 100 feet from the water. Needless to say, there was nothing left but the front steps of the church and the slab of the school. St. Michael’s seashell roof in Biloxi looked fine from the air, but the main altar which weighed several tons was tossed off to the side and the pews were sucked out to sea.

After concerns about the safety of people, a Catholic diocesan archivist starts to think about sacramental registers, photographs and sacred vessels. Many of these items were lost.

Just recently Sacred Heart in d’Iberville called because they will be celebrating their 100th anniversary next year and were hoping we had some photos of the original church. Fortunately, we were able to provide them with a couple of photos. They had never seen what the original church looked like.

This week in a tribute to our neighbors on the Gulf Coast, we are sharing some images from Bishop John Gunn’s photo scrapbook. The photos or postcards range from 1915-1923 and give us a glimpse of churches during that time. Sacred Heart in d’Iberville (then Seymour) is among them.

As you look at them, offer a prayer to St. Medardus, patron of weather, to protect us all from storms. Amen.

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

Motion submitted to dismiss deferred prosecution agreement

JACKSON – On or about July 16, 2021, Assistant United States Attorney Scott Leary presented to Judge Sharion Aycock a motion for dismissal with prejudice of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between the Diocese of Jackson and the United States Attorney General ‘s Office. The charges dismissed stemmed from the actions of a former priest of the diocese, Rev. Lenin Vargas. Judge Aycock signed the order granting the motion on Aug. 13, 2021, bringing to close almost three years of investigation and cooperation between the diocese and the government. As a result of the investigation, neither the diocese nor any diocesan chancery personnel were convicted or pleaded guilty to any charges of wrongdoing and no fines were levied against the diocese.

Over these past 30 months, the diocese has created a compliance program that reflects a commitment by the diocese to uphold the highest standards, best practices, and sound management techniques in the areas of diocesan and parish finances, ethical behavior of clergy and church personnel, and improved, transparent communications between the diocese, parish leadership and parishioners. A diocesan compliance committee was established and gave much insight and input into the development of the program.

The diocese regrets the following measures and programs were not in place three years ago. We are confident if they had been in place, we would have been more effective in dealing with the complaints made about Rev. Vargas.

This process of improving diocesan structures began in October 2018 with the appointment of Rev. Lincoln Dall as interim finance officer for the diocese by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz. Rev. Dall was tasked with working with Carolyn Callahan, diocesan controller, to bring diocesan financial policies, protocols, and practices more clearly in line with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the USCCB’s Diocesan Financial Management, Guide to Best Practices.

With the commencement of the Federal Investigation in November 2018, of Vargas, at that time pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Starkville, and reports of his misappropriation of parishioners’ donations, the diocesan finance office cooperated with the investigation in order to facilitate reconciliation of parishioners with their funds and restoration of trust between the diocese, the parish and parishioners.

Throughout the past three years, leadership at the diocese has stabilized with Dall being appointed Vicar General and Callahan being named director of temporal affairs. Working with the diocesan Chancellor, Mary Woodward and Bishop Kopacz, the team has strengthened previous procedures that left the diocese vulnerable to potential mismanagement. Sound accounting practices and procedures have been implemented and an official human resources office has been developed.

The Office of Temporal Affairs, along with full review and approval by the Bishop and Vicar General, has created a Parish Finance Best Practices Guide, a detailed internal control questionnaire required annually, and a routine internal audit program that involves pastors, parish councils, finance councils and bookkeepers to help maintain solid fiscal management. Regional training and information sessions on these tools will be provided at least annually by the temporal affairs office.

To facilitate reports of fraud or unethical behavior being handled independently and objectively, the diocese engaged Lighthouse, a third-party reporting service and database. The diocese welcomes all to report, either anonymously or named, this type of behavior by visiting www.lighthouse-services.com/jacksondiocese or by calling 888-830-004 (English) or 800-216-1288 (Spanish).

To further address possible exploitation of vulnerable adults by clergy and church personnel, Bishop Kopacz established an Ethical Conduct Board in August 2019, to review cases involving possible manipulation or abuse of adults. The board defined a vulnerable adult in this manner:
A vulnerable adult is any person 18 years of age or older who is unable to protect his or her own rights, interests, and/or vital concerns and who cannot seek help without assistance because of a physical, mental, or emotional impairment; and any person capable of being physically or emotionally damaged by another person in a position of power. Exploitation or abuse of any adult by clergy or church personnel by means of spiritual, emotional, sexual, mental, physical abuse or manipulation is extremely egregious.

One realization made as part of the transition and the federal investigation was communication between the chancery office and parishes could be improved significantly. To facilitate this, Bishop Kopacz mandated the use of Flocknote as a standard tool to be used for official communication between the diocesan offices and parishes and parishioners. Protocols for better monitoring of diocesan communications through the diocesan newspaper, social media and websites have been developed.

The diocese thanks members of the compliance committee for assisting in helping to strengthen diocesan structures and protocols. Also, the diocese appreciates the work of the U.S. Attorney, Scott Leary, and our diocesan counsel, Steve Carmody, in guiding it through the legal structures involved.

“The past few years have been a period of growth and enlightenment for the diocese,” said Bishop Kopacz. “Because of the hard work of all involved, we know we are in a better place than we were three years ago. We continue to keep in prayer those who were adversely affected by the actions of Rev. Vargas. We look forward to a time when forgiveness and reconciliation will be ardently achieved, though we know some wounds still run deep and need time to heal.”
Bishop Kopacz reiterated, “The Diocese of Jackson is committed to maintaining a culture of transparency, professionalism, and savviness that is inherently tempered with justice, mercy, and compassion that comes from the Father through his Son, Jesus.”