Cardinal visits diocese with message that ‘God never abandons you’

By Berta Mexidor and Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – “God does not abandon you” was the message of Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri during his visit to the Diocese of Jackson between Dec. 19-21, 2019. This message was received by hundreds, mostly immigrants, who attended his talks in the communities of Carthage, Canton and Forest that were affected following the immigration raids in August 2019 that resulted in more than 700 detentions, many of whom are of Guatemalan decent.
Raised to the rank of cardinal in October by Pope Francis, Cardinal Ramazzini is from Huehuetenango, Guatemala and is known for his aid and human rights advocacy for the poor of Central America. During his tour of love and hope, Cardinal Ramazzini talked to many about of the economic situation in Guatemala, which causes many to leave to seek a better life and encouraged those affected in faith, while many face the legal process of deportation from the United States.
“Being a Cardinal opens more windows of communication with more people … to serve better in the last stage of my life and especially the service to the most marginalized people in the world,” said Cardinal Ramazzini.
At a news conference at the Chancery office in Jackson with Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension and Father Roberto Mena, ST of St. Michael Forest on Dec. 20, Cardinal Ramazzini explained his position with regard to the U.S. government and thanked those around the country for their show of solidarity and all of the humanitarian assistance received from Catholics and non-Catholics alike to those affected by the raids.

At the conference, Cardinal Ramazzini said he advocates for a “migration policy with a human face,” to solve the economic conditions that force many to leave their home country and to stop the custom where immigrants are treated as criminals, without having a criminal record.
Cardinal Ramazzini stated that immigration laws in the U.S. are from many previous administrations and he evaluated with the same weight the governments of Barack Obama and Donald Trump when applying immigration laws with “legality and little justice.” Additionally, he denounced the inhumane treatment of immigrants when they have been handcuffed in their workplaces in front of colleagues and families.
At the same time, Cardinal Ramazzini strongly criticized the Guatemalan government for their poor economic model that leaves natives on the verge of despair. During his advocacy work over the years, he has expressed to Guatemalans the danger of putting themselves and their children in the hands of “polleros” or “coyotes,” otherwise known as smugglers.
Following the news conference, Cardinal Ramanizzi met with parishioners at St. Anne Carthage, Sacred Heart Canton and St. Michael Forest. At each of the gatherings he thanked the priests tending to their flocks – Father Odel Medina, ST, Father Michael O’Brien and Father Roberto Mena, ST. The priests also thanked him for his visit and explained their work ahead with parishioners and their families affected by the raids, which includes much financial support since many are unable to work, in addition to consoling parishioners through the trauma experienced due to the raids.
During his conversation with the communities, some affected families shared what they suffered in the moment of detention, the shame and uncertainty and the moment of facing federal court; yet also their hope for the future. Also many communicated to Cardinal Ramanizzi their gratitude for the work of the priests, religious, volunteers and Catholic Charities, who have made this time a little less difficult and, for which, they have not lacked food, aid and financial payments to keep a house and utility services on for their families.
Cardinal Ramazzini mentioned that the many people who have helped the affected families, is the proof that God does not leave people alone. “In the moments of trial, the solidarity and help of others, tested greater that God does not abandon us,” he said on his visit.
During his talks with each of the parishes as a whole, Cardinal Ramanizzi compared the situation of immigrants arrested in the raids with Job, who lost everything until he was left ill and alone.
“This book of Job, can help us all when we go through difficult times. And Job asks God why he is suffering. And the answer from God was and is ‘I have not abandoned you, I just wanted to see if you were faithful.’ … When everything is going well, we forget God. It shouldn’t be that way, but we are human beings.”
“We must be sure that God does not abandon us, but it is very easy to say that when everything is fine, but after being in jail, or seeing a family member being caught and passing difficult moments, people always ask themselves in a situation like that. ‘God, if you are love, why do you allow things like this to happen?’ The temptation of despair, of the lack of trust in God, is very great, … I ask the Lord to not let you fall into that temptation because, despite the difficult time, God does not abandon us,” Cardinal Ramazzini emphasized.
In addition to the talks, Cardinal Ramazzini took part with parishioners asking for Posada (Inn) at St. Anne Carthage and St. Michael Forest, a tradition before Christmas that represents the Holy Family in search of shelter, when they looked for an inn until they found a place in a stable. It was there that the son of God was born, “to teach us that surrender to others makes us happy,” said Cardinal Ramazzini.
He added that being Christian is being consistent with the faith and helping each other “… if [you] believe that God is love, there is the way forward.”
Continued support for impacted families
While on his visit to Mississippi, Cardinal Ramazzini received continued commitment of members of Catholic Charities Jackson, Mississippi Center for Justice, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) and other community groups, who have mobilized volunteers to distribute aid, assist families with transportation to visit their detained relatives and translation services for the courts.
Chicago-based non-profit Catholic Extension, which sponsored Cardinal Ramazzini’s pastoral visit, announced their new mental health initiative through Extension’s Holy Family Fund to provide counseling and other services for families affect by the raids at the press conference held at the Chancery office on Dec. 20.
The initiative is a partnership between Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) of Miami and Catholic Extension’s Holy Family Fund, a relief program that assists families in the United States who are financially dependent on a parent that has been detained or deported for immigration reasons. Through the fund, Catholic Extension has been instrumental in ensuring the flow of aid to support delivery of basic resources to the churches serving the humanitarian and spiritual needs of the families in Mississippi affected by the crisis caused by the ICE raids.
“Raids like the one we saw in Mississippi cause massive chaos for these families,” said Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension. “We need to continue to ensure that they are getting the resources and services they need to address the long-term suffering caused by a system where parents are forcibly removed from their children, and that is what we are aiming to do.”
The mental health initiative is set up to ease the lingering trauma and anxiety created for children separated from a parent due to detention or deportation. This endeavor will include counseling, pastoral care, mental health aid and other services to address the psychological consequences suffered by families who have been separated.
During the news conference, Boland described receiving a letter from an 8-year-old boy from Morton after the raids. The boy’s mother had been detained for two months before being released. The child wrote, “Thank you for remembering us, for not abandoning us. … Going forward don’t forget about us because it’s the children who suffer the most.”
Donations to the Holy Family Fund to help launch and sustain this new mental health program can be made at

MississippiCares: reform minded approach to Medicaid expansion

By Richard Roberson
JACKSON – When the Affordable Care Act was passed nearly a decade ago, one of the primary ways that Congress increased health care coverage for those without insurance was by creating a new category of Medicaid eligibility for low income non-disabled, non-elderly adults. Commonly referred to as “Medicaid Expansion,” this program is funded at no less than 90% by the federal government. Approximately 200,000 Mississippians without health care coverage are eligible for this program. Citing differences in political philosophy and concerns about how the state can fund its small share of the costs, Mississippi leadership has refused to allow hundreds of thousands of its citizens to receive health care coverage through Medicaid expansion.
The impact of this decision is manifested by Mississippi ranking among the worst states for health care conditions, for medical debt, for the percent of its population without health insurance, for unemployment rates and for poverty. In addition, six Mississippi hospitals have closed and four have filed bankruptcy over the last several years. According to a Navigant study released in February 2019, Mississippi has the highest percentage of its rural hospitals in financial risk than any other state. A significant reason for the peril that these and other Mississippi hospitals find themselves in is the $600 million in uncompensated care costs associated with treating patients who have no means to pay for the services they receive.
The Mississippi Hospital Association has proposed a simple plan for Mississippi to extend Medicaid eligibility to low income non-disabled non-elderly adults. This plan is called MississippiCares. Under MississippiCares, eligible low-income Mississippians would pay $20 per month with modest copayments for health care coverage administered by a health plan offered by Mississippi hospitals and authorized by the Mississippi Legislature in 2015. Far from a free ride, MississippiCares ensures that plan members have skin in the game to be prudent consumers of health care services and to avoid unnecessary emergency department visits. An additional tax paid by Mississippi hospitals and payments from the federal government would fund the remaining cost.

MississippiCares is a winning proposal across the board. Low-income working Mississippians would have affordable health coverage and access to preventive care including telemedicine services; hospitals would receive payment for their services, thereby reducing uncompensated care costs by hundreds of millions of dollars; and, the economic benefit of over 9,000 new jobs would produce over $100 million in much needed new revenue for the state’s coffers. MississippiCares would preserve access to care for rural areas by keeping the doors open at rural hospitals and provide those hospitals with sustainable funding to launch new transformative services and to recruit physicians. MississippiCares literally provides a lifeline to Mississippians and their communities and it allows hospitals to help themselves by putting up their own money in order for the state to receive full federal funding.
MississippiCares is the single biggest thing that Mississippi leadership could do for our state. Based on outcomes in other states, Mississippi’s health care will improve, new jobs will be created and access to health care in rural areas will be preserved. Unlike other states, MississippiCares offers a funding solution that doesn’t require the state to foot the bill. It offers working adults a hand up, not a handout. Rather than ignoring the health care crisis that exists in our state, Mississippi would do well to implement this reform minded approach to expanding Medicaid coverage. For more information, go to

(Editors note: Healthcare and prison reform are the two issues at the forefront of Catholic Day at the Capitol on March 4, 2020.)

Cardinal Ramazzini asks for an inn with pilgrims from Carthage and Forest

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – This year two parishes had a special inn or Posada, with the presence of Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of Guatemala, who became a pilgrim asking for an inn for the birth of the Savior. In the parishes of St. Anne Carthage and St. Michael Forest, cardinal Ramazzini was accompanied by the priests of the parishes, Odel Medina, ST and Roberto Mena, ST, respectively, and was followed by dozens of pilgrims, including numerous children dressed as Mary and Joseph.
As is tradition, during the walking tour, several songs were sung, the Holy Rosary was prayed and the pilgrims carried candles. At the end of the road, a few blocks walking, the pilgrims reach the house of one of the parishioners who open the door, after the well-known Christmas carol, where the pilgrims, headed by Joseph, explain to the owner of the house, that Mary being pregnant of the Word made flesh, Jesus, needs a place to rest.

In Carthage and Forest, the cardinal accompanied the pilgrims asking for Posada, a tradition before Christmas that represents the Holy Family in search of refuge. History tells that they looked for an inn until, at the end, they found a place in a stable.
In the parish of St. Anne Carthage, cardinal Ramazzini sang “Silent Night” with parishioners, a song that reminds that Christmas Eve is a night of peace and an announcement of the gift that Jesus gives – peace and love.
Cardinal Ramazzini blessed the house and everyone present. At the end of the Inn, as is common, there was music, prayers and Guatemalan food, accompanied by a hot punch to remedy the cold outside.
At St Michael Forest, after the Posada, a Mass was celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Cardinal Ramazzini was the homilist and Father Roberto Mena, St the concelebrant. In the end, the parishioners enjoyed traditional Guatemalan dances and food in the spirit of Christmas.
Cardinal Ramazzini arrived to Mississippi to give words of encouragement to families affected by immigration raids, coinciding with the time of Advent. The cardinal explained, in his visits in both parishes, that the tribulation of the Holy Family seeking refuge and the humility of the place of Jesus’ birth demonstrates Jesus gave himself to serve humanity. The Holy Family only found a place where shepherds kept animals and tools, in a very humble place “… and it was there that the son of God was born, the one who has power over humanity,” said Cardinal Ramazzini. He came “to teach us that giving ourselves to others makes us happy.”
He added that “to be Christian is to be consistent with your faith and help each other, … if [you] believe that God is love, that is the way forward.”

Fifty years and counting in Saltillo

Father Patrick Quinn

By Monsignor Michael Flannery
SALTILLO – The good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn continues south of the border in Mexico.
Bishop Joseph Brunini, adopted a mission in Saltillo, Mexico in response to an appeal from Pope Paul VI to all the bishops of the world to send priests to Latin America. The ratio of priests to congregants was one priest for every 10,000 people. The ideal is one priest per 1,000.
Father Patrick Quinn was chosen to be the first pastor and he was presented to Bishop Luis Guizar y Barragan for assignment and appointed as pastor of Perpetual Help Church, within the city of Saltillo July 1, 1969.
Prior to that date Father Quinn had resided at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Saltillo for six months while learning Spanish. At the time of his appointment, the population of Saltillo was 200,000. The city has quadrupled in size and is now over 800,000 population.
Initially, Perpetual Help parish had 33 mountain villages and three colonies within the city of Saltillo, giving a total population of 30,000. The people in the mountain villages had not had the services of a priest in over 10 years. Father Quinn was joined by Father Patrick Murray to serve the parish in July 1969.

A rectory was built adjacent to the church to accommodate the priests. Every village or rancho would now have the services of a priest at least once a month. Perpetual Help Church would have two daily Masses and the three colonies would have Mass every Sunday.
The main thrust of the ministry of the priests would be to the mountain villages. The city of Saltillo is 5,000 above sea level and the mountain villages range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
At first, Fathers Quinn and Murray celebrated Mass in the open air. Then an effort was made to build a place of worship in every rancho or village. A wooden altar was provided. Benches were used instead of pews. These chapels served as community centers, funeral parlors and places where a wedding could be celebrated and village meetings could be held.
Not with-standing the fact, that these people did not have the services of a priest, the faith was still very strong and mostly centered in the home. Every home had a sacred space where there was at least a picture of the Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Guadalupe. The people were elated with the services provided by the priests and responded graciously to them. The priests now had the trust of the people.

Within two years of establishing the mission, the Saltillo Summer program was born, where the youth of Mississippi were invited to come and spend a week at the mission. Over time more than 20,000 of the youth of Mississippi participated in the Saltillo Summer program.
Accommodations were added at Perpetual Help which could house 100 people. For the most part, these facilities were in a dormitory-style. For all the participants who joined the Saltillo Summer program, it was a game-changer in their young lives. For the first time in their lives, they came face to face with real poverty and met people who did not know where the next meal was coming from. When they came back to Mississippi, they appreciated the basic amenities of life, such as: when you turned a switch, a light came on, when you turned faucet water came out. On their return to Mississippi, some of the youth chose professions such as medicine, social ministry, all of which were ministries to other people.
A great program at the mission was called “Bean Monday.” On the first Monday of every month, two kilos of beans were distributed to every family that came to Perpetual Help for assistance.
Word spread throughout the whole of Saltillo. Two kilos of beans would feed a family of six for a week. On any given year 100 tons of beans would be distributed to the poor.
The villages ranged from a 45-minute drive from Saltillo to a six-hour drive to the most remote villages.
Over time, the number of the villages grew to 62 and the number of churches within the city of Saltillo being served grew to ten.
Another program at the mission was the building of cinder block homes for the poor. Again, Father Quinn built 2,340 homes for the poor. The building of these homes was a cooperative venture. The petitioner had to own the land on which the home would be constructed. Father Quinn provided the raw material such as cement and sand for the footings and the cinder blocks for the walls. The owner had to provide the labor to build. After the basic structure was near completion and after an inspection, a steel door and windows were provided as well as material for the roof. These homes certainly made a difference in the lives of the people and were greatly appreciated.

The mission was blessed from the beginning by the generosity of the good people of Mississippi who not only supported the mission financially but also with their time. When medical doctors, nurses and dentists came to visit the mission, they would also often serve the poor of the mountain villages.
Usually, the priest was the interpreter and translated the symptoms which the patient indicated to the doctor, nurse or dentist. Little or no medical help was provided to the rancheros except for the visits of the medical doctors, dentists and nurses from Mississippi.
For over 30 years, Dr. Kuluz, a pediatrician from Pascagoula, went to the mission and donated his services for at least a week every year. He convinced his colleagues to join him and not only to donate their time but also, their sample medicines to the mission. Many a life was saved through the medical services provided.
There is no question that Father Patrick Quinn was the inspiration behind the mission and its success. He gave his life to the mission and was called to the Lord on Jan. 9, 1997, after suffering a heart attack. He served the mission for 28 years and is buried in an alcove of Perpetual Help Church.
His death marked a time of transition and change at the mission. Bishop William Houck of Jackson, asked Bishop Francisco Villalobos (Bishop of Saltillo) for three months to find a priest who would be familiar with Mexican culture and speak Spanish to replace Father Quinn. Msgr. Michael Thornton from the Diocese of Biloxi was chosen for the task.
Msgr. Thornton was first assigned to Saltillo in Sept. 1973 and served the mission until Aug. 1977. He was familiar with the mission, spoke fluent Spanish and had acquired a knowledge of Mexican culture and customs.
In 1998, Bishop Villalobos created San Miguel as a parish and named Msgr. Thornton as pastor. This new location is still within the city of Saltillo and surrounded by a beautiful colony named Vista Hermosa (The Beautiful View).

Presently at San Miguel there are two priests: Father David Martínez Rubio, administrator, Father Evelio Casarubias Rodríguez, his assistant.
The present number of villages being served by San Miguel is 24. The number of churches within the city of Saltillo, served by the priests of San Miguel number eight. Every mountain village is served at least once a month and every church within the city at least weekly. In total, the priests are covering 32 different locations.

Catholic Service Appeal: Lifeblood of Christ’s work in the diocese

JACKSON – There are the hungry and homeless in Mississippi. There are the troubled families and marriages. Immigrants desperate for a kind gesture and vulnerable elderly alone and needing a little help.
These are just a few of the issues at the heart of the Diocese of Jackson’s many initiatives funded each year by the Catholic Service Appeal that Bishop Joseph Kopacz kicks off in January aimed at raising $1,203,235.
In a letter to faithful, Bishop Kopacz is asking for financial and prayerful support for a successful 2020 campaign, which in turn will safeguard God’s work in the Diocese of Jackson and help the local Church to continue to thrive and grow.
As part of the drive, a special collection will be taken at all parishes Feb. 8 and 9, and all gifts, no matter what size, are appreciated to help the many ministries, programs and services that reach out to the diocese’s diverse and widespread people.
Although called by many other names and bearing a variety of themes, the Church appeal is conducted in almost every diocese in the country to raise necessary funds so the different dioceses may continue to function and provide ministry and pastoral and administrative services needed for its parishes, agencies and people.
This year, the theme of the Diocese of Jackson’s campaign is taken from Luke 1:47 and is the opening stanza of Mary’s Magnificat, “My Spirit Rejoices.” The campaign logo specifically created for the appeal is an image of Mary by artist Jill Steadman Strickland, a parishioner of St. Richard in Jackson.
“Her beautiful artwork helped us capture the theme of the campaign,” said Rebecca Harris, diocesan director of stewardship and development, who also heads up The Catholic Foundation, about the appeal inspiration.
As the campaign begins, Harris encourages all to reflect on the beautiful image of Mother Mary, the first disciple of Jesus, and her spirit of commitment, giving and praise to God for blessings. “Her ‘yes’ to God is a perfect example for all throughout our diocese,” said Harris.

Why is the appeal so important?
The appeal is essential and without it, many impactful initiatives would not be possible. For example, funds are needed to promote vocations to the priesthood and to support the education of seminarians, tomorrow’s parish leaders. At the present time, Andrew Nguyen and Cesar Sánchez, are on their final steps of the priesthood path with the help of past campaign monies. Both men will be ordained May 16, 2020 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson and receive first assignments.
Funds help services and programs of Catholic Charities, the primary diocesan social service agency that reaches out to the vulnerable and very poor of the area’s communities, who otherwise may not receive assistance.
Appeal funds support retired priests, shepherds who have faithfully given their lives to serve in the diocese’s parishes taking care of sheep and sharing the good times and the bad moments going above and beyond. Many senior shepherds have no family members of their own, but continue to hold on to memories made during their ministry years with parish families once so much a part of their lives.
Campaign funds are needed to continue outreach to the diocese’s mission parishes, many with parishioners of low-income households. Many of the special communities thrive with support from appeal funds making mission ministry possible for the communities known for their hardworking people of great faith and love for God and his Church, which many call a second home.
Campaign funds help the diocese’s work to strengthen family life and enhance intercultural ministry. Monies make possible lay formational programs, counseling and spiritual guidance to the forgotten in prisons, religious education in parishes and outreach to young adult students on college campus, who are the church leaders of tomorrow.
Finally, contributions support evangelization and communication efforts through media, print and today’s internet touching millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is a vital ministry in the modern world of materialism and culture of death when so many are searching for something better. Promoting the gospel message and spreading the Good News through various platforms is a significant tool that helps reach faithful and people of little or no faith. Initiatives are changing hearts and reaching and saving souls.
All are asked to answer the call and say yes as Mary did and generously support the 2020 diocesan Catholic Service Appeal. Contributions, in turn, help the Church in its mission in Mississippi. “When we join together as one diocesan family to support all these ministries, we can all make a difference,” said Harris.

Parish celebrates 75 years and new renovations

By Laura Grisham
WALLS – In one of the northern-most towns of the Delta, a crowd of about thirty invited guests gathered recently for a Mass in honor the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Sacred Heart Church. Those assembled represented many of the founding families and familiar faces that have been a part of the congregation and the missions over the past seven-and-a-half decades.
Many of those present had not been inside the little church in a number of years. Prior to Mass, Father Jack Kurps, SCJ, took them on a tour of the renovations. Recalling the old sanctuary, he said, “I don’t know whether the statue of the Sacred Heart came first, or whether the plastic Jesus did,” noting the importance of Sacred Heart Auto League to the missions.
Gone are the old wooden pews and floors of the original church. With new seating and tile, better acoustics were accomplished. Vivid paint, richly colored marble and refurbished windows complete the new look. The new layout provides an open and inviting space for worship and prayer.
Father Kurps also provided some background on the custom altar, ambo and base upon which the statue of the Sacred Heart rests — all of which are new additions. A Pennsylvania artist carved the stunning wood pieces using the bases of trees to garner the unique look. The new crucifix is a mixed-media collaboration between the original artist and another Pennsylvania sculptor.

Other beautiful pieces also adorn the church. A dove, representing the Holy Spirit, hangs watchfully from the ceiling. Constructed from antique furniture pieces, one must carefully study it to discern its parts. Flanking the altar, one cannot escape the gaze of the Faithful Companions and Angels of the Heart. The two commissioned paintings honor the saints and angels, and our benefactors, who are devoted to the Sacred Heart.
During his homily, Father Kurps marveled at how a conversation in 1941 between an SCJ and a priest in Natchez, resulted in the formation of this church, and subsequently six parishes, Sacred Heart Southern Missions and two schools. Kurps shared highlights of the struggles and triumphs of those early years.
At that time, the Catholic population in this area was the smallest in the state. Headquartered in Water Valley in 1942, Father John Flanagan, SCJ, found himself serving a mere 29 Catholics scattered over the 2,000 or so square miles of Marshall, Benton and Tippah counties. The next year, Father Flanagan moved to Holly Springs and was given the charge for priestly work in DeSoto, Tate, Marshall, Benton and Tippah counties by Bishop Gerow of Natchez.
In January of 1944, Mass was celebrated for the first time in DeSoto County at the home of Mrs. L.A. Johnson. A week later, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Patterson (Patty) Harris family hosted the service, and in mid-February, the O’Donnell family had the privilege. By that time, there were 40 adults and children squeezed into living rooms and parlors. The tiny Catholic population in northwest Mississippi was growing.
On Feb. 21, 1944, Father William Noelken, SCJ, the U.S. Provincial for the Priests of the Sacred Heart, gave approval for a small church in DeSoto County. Plans were quickly drawn up but constructing a church during wartime was no easy feat. Money, supplies and workers were scarce. The War Production Department was another hurdle. Established to prevent unnecessary construction, the government agency halted many a project. After many applications, permission was finally granted on June 6, 1944. A month later, Patty Harris generously donated land for the church and ground was broken.
In August, Father Stephen Hoyga, SCJ, joined Father Flanagan as construction continued. Remarkably, just three months later, the date for dedication was set.
On Nov. 26, 1944, the church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Recognizing the parishes in Southaven, Olive Branch, Hernando, Senatobia and Tunica, Father Jack remarked, “From start of this small church at the northwest corner of Mississippi, a lot has happened.”
Noting the contributions of the School Sisters of St. Francis, Father Kurps talked about the positive impact of our schools through the years. He also commended the SHSM housing and social service ministries and all that has been done to lift up the poor in our area.
“Because of the faith of all of these men and women, the faith has taken hold in northwest Mississippi. … It will be interesting to know what this will all look like 75 years from now,” said Father Kurps. “I hope that the progress made in the last 75 years is nothing compared to what is accomplished in the next.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Millions of pilgrims gathered on the evening of Dec. 11 in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to greet the Patroness of the Americas, with an environment of love, faith and praise.
With the same spirit, millions more Mexicans and fervent Guadalupans around the world celebrated the mestizo queen. In the southern central United States, Mexicans have brought the following traditions, that have been embraced by the diversity of the Diocese of Jackson:
Mañanitas: Some parishes celebrate the tradition of singing Happy Birthday to the Virgin Mary.

Pilgrimage, Procession and Fiesta: Not only in the Mexican capital is the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrated exuberantly in San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico, with a twelve day of pilgrimage full of dance and thanksgiving. In the Diocese of Jackson, each parish adapts its fiesta, so that all parishioners can pay their respects.
Children: On this day parents often dress their childrenup like the Virgin Mary or Juan Diego; or wear the image of Guadalupe or as Aztec warriors.
Aztec, Concheros, Dance of the Conquest or Matachines Dance: These dances recall with music, drama and song the moment of the battles against the conquerors and the moment in which the conquest ends with the acceptance of Christianity and the recognition of Jesus as savior.
Representation of the Apparition: The story of Juan Diego, the appearance of the Virgin Mary and the miracle is represented. The new generations listen to it, participate and with the passing of the years continue the tradition. This is one of the most reproduced Catholic stories, told and known by millions of Catholics and non-believers.

Folk dances: Celebrations for the Virgin Mary always include traditions. Where there is no Aztec dance or Matachines, the Guadalupanos dance to Mexican folklore songs, wearing beautiful costumes typical of the country.
For 40 years, the same love for the Mother God is spread in Mississippi and shared by millions of Marians around the world.

MARC(ed) for reentry

By Sister Madeline Kavanagh, DC
JACKSON – It was an unusual beginning. Slow. Something like a seed finding its way to the right spot at the best time with just enough support. Unlikely, like matching summer with winter, but it happened.
Just two years ago a seasoned prison chaplain met up with an over seasoned “nun” and together they nurtured a dream into being. First there was the discovery of a common concern for prisoners and a mutually respected program called Getting Ahead While Getting Out. Then came the resources for a beginning and in the spring of 2018 the workshop that ignited the initial spark. The Mississippi Association for Returning Citizens came into being, happy to go by its acronym MARC.
Although it is founded on faith-based principles, MARC’s name is meant to attract and serve people of various faith traditions as well as those not practicing any particular faith.

Since that time, a core group of faithful members was formed and meets monthly at the very welcoming St. Paul Flowood.
Several facilitators were trained, and two prisons have opened their doors in Pearl and Parchman. Two groups of prisoners have graduated and are waiting for their release dates while two groups are in process. Meanwhile in January two more groups are expected to begin the program.
In November MARC sponsored two days of training, the first entitled Bridges Out of Poverty which address poverty at the individual, organizational and community levels whereby people in poverty become planners and decision makers. The second day dealt with the Getting Ahead While Getting Out program which is designed to reduce the current problem of released prisoners reoffending. Participants come to learn more about their personal and situational reality, begin building resources, accept responsibility and work together while preparing a reentry plan designed by the prisoner for his or her particular reality.
Philip DeVol, one of the authors of Bridges Out of Poverty, led the session saying that “people who are in poverty and people who are coming out of prison can do all they can possibly do and still run into barriers – and the barriers often come from our institutions. So, our institutions have to make changes too.”
The MARC is now a fully accredited 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accompanying prisoners in their pre-release preparations and supporting them as returning citizens by way of networking with service providers and volunteers who maintain support during those difficult initial months of reentry.

This writer happens to be that over seasoned “nun” who sees the present need for generous people, gifted with the recognition that we all are called by God who loves ALL of us to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure; and that some are called and welcomed to provide that support through MARC.
If you would like to learn more about MARC visit or call Chaplain Marvin Edwards at (601) 594-8254.

Annunciation school celebrates expansion

By Katie Fenstermacher
COLUMBUS – Supporters of Annunciation school celebrated the institutions expansion on Thursday, Nov. 21 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception. Talks of expanding the campus have been ongoing for several years due to increasing enrollment every year. Annunciation Columbus enrollment has almost doubled in the last seven years and the school has seen a 97% increase in that time. After much discussion and research, school administration decided the best plan of action financially would be to build on the current location.

Annunciation began a capital campaign last spring to raise the $3 million needed to move forward with an expansion. The new expansion includes six new classrooms, a computer/STREAM lab, science lab, library and administrative offices. The front of the school also received a revamp. During the ceremony, representatives from each committee that worked on the expansion were present, as well as Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Catherine Cook, Superintendent, to cut the ribbon on this exciting new venture.
Principal, Joni House stated, “The construction of this new building is more than just walls and ceilings, it is the opportunity to continue our mission of higher learning in a Christ-centered environment. It gives us the opportunity to accept additional students each year and offer a more STREAM focused curriculum.”
“What an honor it is to work along so many others who have sacrificed personally and financially to provide an ever-expanding learning environment for our Annunciation Catholic School students and faculty. As we continue our school’s mission of building character, fostering community and creating lifelong learners, we can’t help but remember those sacrifices of so many in our school’s history. They formed the foundation that we have the privilege to be building on. The new opportunities that will be afforded our students and faculty is absolutely amazing, What a challenge and opportunity,“ said Father Jeffrey Waldrep, pastor of Annunciation school and church.
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Catholic Build 2019

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – As Inora Glass looked up from the tree and limb removal all around her on a steamy Saturday morning in October, she was covered in dirt and leaves and felt hot, sticky and fatigued.
She also felt exceedingly grateful. The mother of a seven-year-old daughter, Glass was hard at work with a dozen Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area (HHMCA) volunteers, putting in the sweat equity required of any Habitat homeowner as the group worked to restore and rebuild the home at 534 Cedarhurst Drive of Jackson that she will take possession of in January.
“We were out there since October,” Glass said. “We tore down the front porch of the house and two sheds in the back. We pulled roots from the ground and took limbs from the trees in front and along the back fence. It looks so much better now.”

The Cedarhurst home was designated by HHMCA for the annual Catholic build. Many Jackson-area organizations and parishes joined in, including St. Richard Jackson, St. Paul Flowood and St. Dominic Hospital. All made funding donations and the parishes contributed bottled water, breakfast, and labor at various times toward the project.
“The Catholic Build is such an important build each year. We count on the continued support of the churches and the Diocese to make the build possible,” said Merrill McKewen, executive director of HHMCA. “This year the Catholic Build is rehabbing a home in the Broadmoor area which is very important to our promise of 100 houses in five years. We are so grateful for their hard work and generous funding.”
Glass worked side by side with volunteers on Saturdays for more than two months. She even joined them at the Habitat warehouse on Mitchell Avenue to paint when the weather turned inclement on a Saturday in November. She had a front-row seat for all aspects of the construction of the home, as well as the extensive training she received from the organization that will help her as a homeowner in the future.
“It feels great. The overall experience is wonderful,” Glass said of her interaction with Habitat and the friendships she has made. “We will close on the house in January and move in. The volunteers and everyone at Habitat have been so kind. I will always thank them for coming out and making my dream come true for me and my baby.”
“Inora Glass has an incredibly beautiful spirit and is truly grateful for Habitat,” said HHMCA volunteer coordinator Kimberly Crowder. “Her spirit also reminds me of why I love doing what I do.”
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