Next Encuentro phase: action by parishes, dioceses on ideas, priorities

By Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A Nearly 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders, like Dominican Sister Judith Maldonado, have gone back to their parishes and dioceses to share the ideas and fruits of the conversations that took place at the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas.
And as that phase of the multiyear process reached completion, the next phase is aimed at putting into practice the lessons learned and bear fruits.
“This has been like a retreat, the message that we were given at the end is like you have the Holy Spirit, you have to take it with you and you have to be saints, produce fruits of love,” said Sister Maldonado, a member of the Dominican Sisters of the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. Her order is involved with family ministry serving parishes in Maryland and Texas.
In the next few months, the leadership team of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, will distribute a concluding document listing the main priorities and problems identified across 28 ministry areas; the document will assist dioceses, parishes and national structures in drafting their own pastoral plans according to their own realities and priorities.
The Encuentro’s team of accompaniment, or ENAVE, plans to continue providing support and tracking progress.
“We have achieved things that in some ways we never would have imagined would be possible,” Ken Johnson-Mondragon, V Encuentro’s director of research, told Catholic News Service. “Walls have come down, people have experienced really the joy that Pope Francis talks about.”
The V Encuentro process that began about four years ago has helped thousands of Hispanic ministry leaders engage in faith-filled dialogues among themselves and reach out to those on peripheries. Encuentro has also promoted collaborations within and across dioceses, which is known as ‘pastoral en conjunto,’ and has helped remove the “fear to speak up,” bringing the participants closer to their pastors and bishops, added Johnson-Mondragon.
The V Encuentro also identified and prepared at least 25,000 new Hispanic ministry leaders across the country, and about a third of the leaders engaged were youth and young adults. An estimated 100,000 individuals participated in the process and about 150,000 others were reached on the peripheries.
Another important gain is that the V Encuentro has captured the attention and support of the bishops nationwide. At the gathering, about 125 bishops — Hispanic and non-Hispanic — walked side by side with their diocesan delegations, and about 160 out of 178 Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the country were represented.
“The Hispanic church is asking for formation, they’re asking for support, they’re asking for direction, so it will be on the part of the bishops and pastors to provide that,” Bishop Oscar Cantu told CNS. Formerly head of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, he is now coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California.

What mostly surprised and pleased Bishop Cantu was the size of the gathering — with over 3,000 participants — and like many others, he was energized by the optimism and drive of the attendees.
The top three recommendations that rose up in the Encuentro process are: the need to develop pastoral plans for Hispanic ministry tailored according to the needs of each parish and diocese; the need of the parish community to help strengthen families; and to hire more Hispanic young adults in paid positions of leadership.
The 28 ministry areas addressed by the V Encuentro include those that reach out to youth, young adult, college campuses, immigrants, families, people with disabilities, and the incarcerated, as well as ministries in vocations, pro-life, faith formation and catechesis, justice and peace, and even care for the environment among others.
As a word of advice from Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, who has witnessed all the Encuentros, it is important to connect the previous Encuentros to the current one, while staying focused on the work at hand amid the challenges it might present. “We’re being called to a very special moment in time and we need to step up to the plate to make sure that we are on the side of the poor, on the side of those who can’t protect themselves.” Sister Pineda said.

Colorful curriculum workshop advances improvements

By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – On September 26-27 educators from across the diocese gathered in Jackson to continue their work to revise and enhance the diocesan Catholic Schools curriculum Standards. This process, which started last spring, involves an in-depth study and comparison of the standards diocesan schools are currently using to a variety of other state and national standards. Teachers worked across subjects and grade-levels to ensure the expectations for every student are vertically aligned, meaning that they have the tools and skills they need as they move from one grade to the next.

Megan Leake of St, Anthony, Anne Lovelace, of Southaven Sacred Heart and Deb Proctor of Jackson St. Richard revise content standards for Language Arts and Reading in grades Pre-K through eighth.

In addition to finalizing a rigorous and vertically-aligned academic curriculum, teachers also spent time making connections between the academic content and the Catholic faith. This will not only provide the schools with a road map for academic excellence, but will also provide concrete opportunities to reinforce Church teachings, dive further into Scripture and expose students to several Catholic innovators and well-respected thinkers in various realms of academics.
The curriculum revision process is still ongoing with the intent to roll out a completed set of standards for each subject for the 2019-2020 academic year.

JACKSON – April Moore of Columbus Annunciation School and Vickie Moorehead of Madison St. Anthony School compare and rearrange content standards for Elementary Science in grades Pre-K through eighth. (Photos by Stephanie Brown)

(Stephanie Brown is the coordinator for school improvement for the Catholic schools.)

Hispanic ministry teams exchange pastoral visits

By Berta Mexidor
Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSpS, a coordinator for Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson visited her colleagues in the Diocese of Fresno, California’s, Migrant Ministry program on September 17-19.
This was the second half of an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) office of Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Members of the UCSSB committee make annual visits to dioceses who work with a large population of immigrant and temporary workers. In 2015 Bishop John Manz led a PCMRT visit to the Jackson Diocese. The local Hispanic ministry team took him on a tour of farms and work sites in the Delta so he could experience the reality of life in the rural South.
This year the committee invited Sister Mendez to accompany them to California. Bishop Armando Ochoa and Benito Medrano, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry of the Fresno diocese welcomed the visitors.

Representatives from the University of Detroit Mercy, the UDM Jesuit Community and the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network also attended.
The guests learned about the work of Fresno diocesan team; went to an Easton, California, vineyard and a dairy in Rosa to visit farmworkers and their families. They also witnessed the efforts of both the Immaculate Mary Eucharistic Missionary sisters (MEMI Sisters) and a community organization called Faith in the Valley. Sister Mendez said she was impressed by how well these organizations collaborated. “Each of the … communities represent a significant strength. Because they collaborate in the office as well as the field they have bonds of friendship and trust that becomes a house built on a foundation of rock.”
During the meetings they had time for a presentation about a basic formation methodology. Father Tom Florek, SJ., from University of Detroit Mercy was the presenter. During those days the visitors talked with adults cathechists and community leaders, joined Mass and enjoyed community gatherings. “We met Christ in the men, women and children we met in the grape fields. The good news was palpable in the hospitality, testimonies, prayers and blessings,” he wrote in a report he prepared about the visit.
Sister Mendez compared the migrant and farmworkers’ situation in Mississippi and California, concluding all of them have much in common “I thanked them for putting food on everyone’s table.” Getting to meet them, she said, affirms the work she does every day “…they called us as a church to encounter people on the periferies and to find ways to educate and evangelize.”
The farmworkers reminded her of these verses from Carlos Rosas’ song, “You are the peasant God who works from sunrise to sunset. I have seen you surrendered, and sweat runs on your face. You are the peasant God who works in the labor.”
“It is my hope that the various participating communities can benefit from what we have learned and further a dialogue that results in greater good for the lives of the farmworkers and their families,” said Sister.

Pastoral Assignments

Father Aaron Williams

Father Aaron Williams is appointed Liaison to Seminarians for the Diocese of Jackson. He will remain parochial vicar at Greenville St. Joseph Parish.






Father Lincoln Dall

Father Lincoln Dall is appointed interim Director of Temporal Affairs for the Diocese of Jackson. He will remain pastor of Pearl St. Jude Parish.

Parish calendar of events


BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, “Transitions and Transformation,” November 9-11. Some of the topics will be: realizing our gifts, overcoming fears, addressing regrets and exploring lost dreams. Facilitators: Dr. Francis Baird, LPC, who has a private counseling practice in Columbus and Starkville, and Clare Van Lent, MA CSp. Dwelling Place director. Donation: $180. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email
CULLMAN, Ala., Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, Weekend Intensive Centering Prayer, November 16-18. Develop further the discipline of Centering Prayer and deepen your relationship with God. Director: Diana Tschache. The weekend will be spent in silence. Prerequisite: Introduction to Centering Prayer. Cost: Private Room $245. Details: (256) 734-8302, or
GREENWOOD Locus Benedictus Retreat Center, Ephphatha “Inner Healing Through the Healing Miracle of Jesus,” Friday, November 2, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 8:30 a.m., ending with Mass at 4 p.m. Cost: $50. Financial assistance is available. Details: (662) 299-1232.


“A Guide for Grievers” Learn creative ways to express grief and loss, and how to support others through the grieving process. Through a partnership between Catholic Charities’ Parish Health Care Ministry and the Catholic Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Family Ministry, Bob Willis; artist, author, sculptor and grief specialist from Oklahoma City will present a half day workshop and a discussion on grief, and how to adapt to loss. Workshops will be offered at the following locations/times: Hernando Holy Spirit, Wednesday, November 28, 9:30-1:30 p.m.; Indianola Immaculate Conception, November 28, 5:30-9 p.m.; Starkville St. Joseph, Thursday, November 29, 12:30 – 5 p.m.; Gluckstadt St. Joseph, Friday, November 30, 12 – 4 p.m. Details: Sister Pat Clemen, Coordinator of Parish Health Ministry at (601) 213-6378, or via email: or Charlene Bearden, coordinator of Family Ministry at 601-960-8487, or via email:


ABERDEEN St. Francis of Assisi, Parish Picnic, Sunday, October 21, at the parish hall following Mass, which will be at 4 p.m. that day. The church will provide the meat and a signup sheet will be posted on the bulletin board in the parish hall. Details: (601) 813-2295.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, Ladies Bible Study meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Opening your Heart: The Starting Point. Come join in for fellowship and building a closer relationship with Jesus. Details: church office (662) 846-6273.
“Taste of Italy” Lasagna Dinner, Tuesday, November 13, changed from November 8. Details: Mary Helen Waller to volunteer at (662) 843-3152.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, AARP Driver Safety Class, Tuesday, October 16, from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Details: contact Nancy Marking at (901) 219-3662 or Bill Marking at (901) 210-0484.
JACKSON Catholic Charities Purple Dress 5K – help us “run” domestic violence out of town, Thursday, October 18, at 6:00 p.m. at The District at Eastover in Jackson. Details: Julie O’Brien at (601) 326-3758 or To register online, go to
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, beginning November 3, Saturday evening Mass will be 5 p.m. (from 5:30 p.m.). New Confession time will be at 4 p.m. (from 4:30 p.m.) and on request. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of Meridian, Musical and Variety Show, Fashion Show and Dinner, Saturday, November 3, at 6 p.m. in the Family Life Center. Tickets: Reserved $20, Adults $10, Children thru High School $5. Proceeds benefit St. Patrick School. Tickets are available in the parish office, school office or Dan Santiago (601) 917-7364. Reserved tickets available from Mary Yarger at (601) 482-6044.
PEARL St. Jude, Adult Faith Formation meets each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. with the Gus Lloyd audio series on Apologetics. He is the host of “Seize the Day” on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio. Topics will include: the Eucharist, the papacy and Peter, Confession and more. Details: church office (601) 939-3181.


JACKSON St. Richard School Open House, “Cookies with the Cardinals, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 9-11 a.m. Details: Wendi Shearer, 601-366-1157 or RSVP at
MADISON St. Anthony School, Open House, Sunday, October 21, 2- 4 p.m. Details: Michele Warnock at or (601) 607-7054.
St. Joseph School Open House, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m. Details: Tricia Harris, (601) 898-4800.

Bishop listens to his flock Listening sessions focus on abuse concerns

By Maureen Smith
MADISON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz hosted four sessions open to the public to hear concerns and responses to the sex abuse crisis in the church today. During the first, at Tupelo St. James Parish he assured people he didn’t have a prepared agenda. “I didn’t come here tonight to speak or even just to answer questions thoroughly, because that would prevent me from listening to your concerns. I am here to listen,” he said.
Sister Dorothy Heiderscheit, CEO of the Southdown Institute and former Catholic Charities counselor, talked about the dynamics of sex abuse including some myths and realities of pedophilia. “Sexual abuse isn’t about sex. It’s about power – destructive power,” she noted. She began each session this way, noting that there is no correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia or abuse.

MADISON – Sixty people listen to Dr. Dorothy Heiderscheit describe the format for the listening session at St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Saturday, Oct. 6. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

At each session, participants were asked to share at their tables how they were feeling, what they are doing to sustain their faith and what they think the church needs to move forward. Table representatives then shared with the room.
Many of the questions centered on concerns about the influence of homosexuality in modern culture. Others expressed concern about priestly formation and helping select and support the right seminarians for the priesthood.
St. James parishioner Nina Sevier asked if there might be a better way to screen seminarians. Bishop Kopacz responded by citing Pope Saint John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis, in which he described four pillars of priestly formation, including human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. The human dimension, as the bishop explained, is to help the seminarian become a man of integrity, while the spiritual dimension is intended to help him grow in relationship to Christ through prayer and contemplation. Seminarians deepen their faith through the study of theology and philosophy in the intellectual dimension of formation, and participate in supervised pastoral assignments to help them become good servants.

TUPELO – Roy Yeager of St. James Parish, asks a question at the Thursday, Oct. 4 session. (Photo by Galen Holley)

St. James parishioner Roy Jaeger suggested that this crisis might also present an opportunity for renewal in the Church.
In Cleveland on Friday night, 18 people shared their hurt, anger, disillusionment and disgust. One participant said people are reluctant to give money to the church for fear their money will be used in a settlement and cover-up of abuse.
Bishop Kopacz reassured the people that no large settlements are currently being paid, though support is being offered to victims through the offering of counseling services, at a cost to the diocese. The bishop’s hope is that as this wound is being healed in the Church, the Church will in turn be able to offer to all of society’s families and communities the ability to be more aware of the needs of and to be vigilant on behalf of our society’s vulnerable children, youth and adults.
Celeste Zepponi, of Clarksdale St. Elizabeth Parish, called the session “respectful, strong, frank and heartfelt.”

CLEVELAND – Rose Mell from Greenville Sacred Heart Parish speaks at the listening session at Our Lady of Victories Parish on Friday, Oct. 5. (Photo by Father Kent Bowlds)

Sixty people attended the Madison session. Several people expressed their support for priests currently in ministry, saying they felt bad that these priests are being associated with abusers in the public eye. One table asked about the role lay women play in diocesan leadership. Bishop pointed out that in the Diocese of Jackson, many leadership positions – including the chancellor, coordinator for the protection of children, director of faith formation, director of the Catholic Foundation and the director of communications among others – are held by lay women.
In Natchez on Sunday afternoon, 25 people came to share their concerns and raised similar questions.
Attendee of St. Richard Parish asked for a little more information about the diocesan review board tasked with examining claims of abuse brought forward many years later. Bishop called on Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general and Msgr. Elvin Sunds, the previous vicar general, who talked about the makeup of that board, which includes a psychologist, counselors, social workers and a pediatrician. Bishop said the board met without him when the most recent case of abuse was brought to light – showcasing that they truly operate independently.

NATCHEZ – Charles Garrity and Mary Jane Gaudet speek to their table in open discusion at the listening session at St. Mary Basilica Parish on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

In her opening remarks, Sister Heiderscheit referred to the example of St. Francis of Assisi, noting that he was a reformer and man of great prayer. Francis presented a model of holiness at a time when the church was in need of reform, she said. Perhaps the present moment is similar in some ways.
(Galen Holley of New Albany St. Francis, Fr. Kent Bowlds, pastor of Cleveland Our Lady of Victories and Tereza Ma contributed to this report.)

St. Dominic in discussions with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady

JACKSON – St. Dominic Health Services (St. Dominic’s) announced Friday, Sept. 28, that it has entered into exclusive discussions with the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters to assume sponsorship of St. Dominic’s.
The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters sponsor the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, a nonprofit, mission-focused Catholic healthcare ministry based in Louisiana. The System is comprised of a network of hospitals, clinics, physicians, elderly housing, integrated information systems, and an integrated clinical network.
For more than 70 years, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, have sponsored St. Dominic’s, helping guide the organization as it provides healthcare services that bless the lives of Mississippi residents both physically and spiritually.

JACKSON – St. Dominic Health Services has entered into exclusive sponsorship talks with the Fransiscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters. St. Dominic Health Services includes St. Dominic Hospital, above, as well as the Community Health Services Clinic, St. Dominic Medical Associates (physician network), New Directions for Over 55, MEA Clinics, The Club at St. Dominic’s, the School Nurse Program, St. Dominic’s Foundation, St. Catherine’s Village and Care-A-Van. (Photo courtesy of St. Dominic Health Services)

After deep discernment, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield decided that in order to secure the future of St. Dominic’s it was necessary to seek a transfer of sponsorship.
“We want St. Dominic’s to continue to serve Mississippi for generations yet to come, but our diminishing numbers cannot sustain our role as its sponsor,” said Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, O.P., associate executive director, St. Dominic Health Services Foundation. “It has been a difficult decision, yet it’s the right one for our organization and for our community because it will help St. Dominic’s secure its future.”
After thoughtful deliberation, St. Dominic’s entered into exclusive discussions with the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters to assume sponsorship of the organization.
“We are grateful to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield for their commitment to the health of our community and our state,” said Claude W. Harbarger, president, St. Dominic Health Services. “We are also grateful for their leadership in championing our next chapter, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our organization.”
“We look forward to St. Dominic’s joining our ministry under the sponsorship of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. We have known and respected St. Dominic’s for many years. They are well recognized for their emphasis on quality and community benefit,” said Mike McBride, chief executive officer of the Franciscan Missionaries of our Lady Health System. “As a Catholic healthcare ministry, this is an important way we can extend our healing mission. Through a change in sponsorship, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System will continue the legacy of the Dominican Sisters’ ministry and grow Catholic healthcare in Mississippi.”
Bishop Joseph Kopacz wrote an email to pastoral leaders througout the diocese to notify them of the change in which he noted that the two organizations are already familiar with one another. “Based on the due diligence completed to date, as well as St. Dominic’s long friendship with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, the Sisters and St. Dominic’s believe the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters share St. Dominic’s values. This change in sponsorship would offer the resources needed to ensure the Dominican Sisters’ legacy and the St. Dominic’s mission will continue for generations to come,” wrote the bishop.
Upon completion of an agreement, expected in early 2019, St. Dominic’s will become part of the Franciscan Missionaries or Our Lady Health System, which currently consists of five hospitals, 1,747 licensed beds, and nearly 2,000 medical staff across Louisiana.
The hospital developed a companion website,, to help answer questions about the talks and what may be next for the facility, employees and the community.
Joining a larger Catholic, not-for-profit health system will provide St. Dominic’s the added resources and backing necessary to continue strengthening the high-quality, personalized care that has made it one of the most trusted healthcare providers in the state of Mississippi.
St. Dominic’s is more than just a hospital. It is a family of services focused on fulfilling a mission of Christian healing to those in need. St. Dominic Health Services, Inc. is the parent company for a large group of subsidiary organizations and programs dedicated to the same mission. These include St. Dominic Hospital, the Community Health Services Clinic, St. Dominic Medical Associates (physician network), New Directions for Over 55, MEA Clinics, The Club at St. Dominic’s, the School Nurse Program, St. Dominic’s Foundation, St. Catherine’s Village and Care-A-Van.

Lumen Christi Award finalists examples of ‘how to change world’

CHICAGO (CNS) – Catholic Extension’s finalists for its Lumen Christi Award – including the nominees for the Diocese of Jackson – show “what can happen when we build up and strengthen Catholic faith communities in the poorest parts of the United States,'” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension.
“If we all follow their examples, we can change our world,” the priest said.
Lumen Christi is Latin for “Light of Christ.” The award honors an individual or group who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.
The finalists, announced Sept. 12, include three “Dreamers,” young people who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; two women religious and an order of religious sisters; the lay coordinator of an immigrant parish in Puerto Rico; the principal of the only Catholic school in the 25-county Diocese of Lubbock, Texas; and a priest who was orphaned when his police officer father was killed in the line of duty.
Another finalist is not an individual but a diocesan ministry – the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.
The Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based national organization, which raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. Among other things, funds help build churches and assist with seminarians’ education and training for other church workers.
The dioceses served by Catholic Extension nominate individuals and programs for the award.
The list of the finalists for the 2018-2019 Lumen Christi Award follows:
– Randy Tejada, Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico. At age 21, Tejada has already been serving as pastoral coordinator at his parish, an immigrant community facing many challenges, for five years. He has helped lead the chapel’s restoration with scarce resources, coordinates youth ministry for the diocese and, since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, he is helping in recovery efforts. Known as the “soul of the community,” he wants to engage laypeople to serve migrants, children and other marginalized sectors of society.
– “Dreamers” Efren, Mariana and Sebastian, Diocese of El Paso, Texas. Efren is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church, just yards from the border, where he coordinates religious education for youth. Mariana, 16, is a youth minister and catechist at a local parish. Sebastian works with Hope Border Institute’s Leadership Academy to inspire young immigrants through faith. “They represent a young, active and engaged church who are changing the face of faith communities, in El Paso and beyond.”

GREENWOOD – Members of the Hispanic Ministry team accompanied Catholic Extension visitors on a tour of worksites in the Delta this August, including this farm. The purpose of the visit was for priests from urban areas to experience Hispanic ministry in a rural setting. (Photo by Berta Mexidor)

– Hispanic ministry of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, which covers more than 37,000 square miles and is home to about 54,000 Hispanics. Currently, about 5,000 of them are connected to the Catholic faith and the diocesan ministry wants to reach more. Assisted by two Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit, Christian Brother Theodore Dausch has been involved with Hispanics for 20 years and coordinates the Office of Hispanic Ministry. Masses in Spanish have tripled in the past 25 years and are now being offered by 27 parishes.

Brother Ted Dausch, CFC, leads the team in the Diocese of Jackson. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

– Sister Marie-Paule Willem, Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Sister Willem has been a Franciscan Missionary of Mary for more than 60 years, serving in South America and in the Southwest region of the United States. Her focus is on social justice issues for the poor, particularly with immigrants, bringing them comfort, tutoring them and helping prepare them for citizenship in this country. The diocese, which shares a border with Mexico, is more than 65 percent Hispanic. As parish administrator at San Jose Mission Church on the Rio Grande, she serves 200 families and works with Hispanics at Holy Cross Parish in Las Cruces, whose Spanish Mass is standing-room only. She also launched a ministry for women incarcerated at a detention center that now serves 60 women weekly.
– Msgr. Jack Harris, Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas. Since his ordination in 1974, Father Harris has been a teacher, coach and pastor, but his biggest outreach is prison ministry. “This seed was planted early,” said Catholic Extension, when his father, a Little Rock police officer, was killed in the line of duty before he was born. His appreciation for the victim’s viewpoint has helped him to forge bridges between the incarcerated, their victims and their families. He has spent the last 14 years as chaplain to death-row inmates at a supermax prison. Twice a week, Father Harris drives 250 miles to visit nearly 500 men who are locked down for 23 hours a day in a one-man cell. He talks and prays with them and offers Mass and confession.
– Christine Wanjura, Diocese of Lubbock, Texas. A former teacher, Wanjura is the principal at the only Catholic school in the 25-county diocese. She never turns away a child who wants a Catholic education. She also wants the school to reflect the demographics of the primarily Hispanic diocese. Students come from as far as 70 miles away and even with a modest tuition, most receive financial aid. During her tenure, enrollment has grown by 20 percent. .
– Franciscan Sister Phyllis Wilhelm, Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin. For more than 40 years, Sister Wilhelm has served Ojibwe Native Americans in the farthest reaches of north Wisconsin. Since 2008 she has been pastoral associate of historic St. Mary Parish in Odanah, which is part of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe. Sister Wilhelm has worked to build community, incorporating Ojibwe traditions into the liturgy, fostering a group of Native women who are reclaiming the traditional beading craft, and increasing participation and lay involvement in all aspects of parish life.
– The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. For 32 years, the sisters have served the school and church of St. Catherine on Tulsa’s west side, which is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods and poor families, some of whom are refugees. They are elementary and middle school teachers at St. Catherine School, assist the parish and work in the community, run a Catholic girls club, serve meals to the residents and promote religious vocations throughout the diocese.

St. Peter’s first bilingual Mass

By Michael Liberto
GRENADA – St. Peter Parish in Grenada celebrated the first bilingual Mass Sunday, September 16. Redemptorist Father Scott Katzenberger came from his community residence in Greenwood to celebrate the Mass. A fiesta followed in the parish hall.
The celebration was a cooperative effort between the St Peter Parish Council, the Redemptorist priests from Greenwood, the outreach committee and the social committee.
Mass began at 6 p.m. followed by a festive meal celebration in the family life center. The diverse group was welcomed and enjoyed the delicious meal and fellowship together.
Special thanks to those who prepared the meal and the festive decorations.

Gathering for mission: dialogue as a way forward

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Finding true common ground takes work, a commitment to be open and a willingness to change. These were some of the messages 70 priests, deacons and lay ministers took away from a day-long workshop offered in Jackson by the Catholic Committee of the South’s “Gathering for Mission” program on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The Catholic Committee of the South is a network of bishops, other church leaders, field workers and organizations across the South who all work with people on the margins of society. The committee put together the Gathering for Mission project in response to Pope Francis’ call for more true dialogue in the church.
A team of facilitators is traveling from diocese to diocese to offer clergy and church leaders training in the difference between debate and dialogue, deep listening and the process of entering into true dialogue. Bishop Joseph Kopacz serves on the Catholic Committee of the South. The Diocese of Jackson is one of the first in the nation to host a Gathering for Mission workshop. Prior to the stop here, the team presented the exercise to more than 200 priests in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as well as offering it at Mundelein Seminary in Indiana.
Participants were on the move all day – changing tables between each lesson and discussion. Early in the day, Patrick O’Neill spoke about how getting to know someone prior to a dialogue can dramatically impact the outcome. “One of my favorite exercises was when those at the table shared what their own name means and their favorite place on Earth and why,” said Deacon Ted Schreck. “My heart traveled with the other table members from rural Missouri to India to Millsaps College to New Orleans to Canada and Michigan. All of these took us to an awareness and reminder to encounter our parishioners and everyone we meet. We are all very busy and sometimes the business side of the Church pulls us away from being with Jesus’ people,” he continued.

JACKSON – Father Raul Ventura, Father Tim Murphy, Lorenzo Aju Father Vijaya Manohar Reddy Thanugundla and Father Darnis Selvanayakam listen to a presentation on the process of dialogue at St. Dominic’s Tulouse Center on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Father Michael O’Brien shares a reflection at the workshop with the pastors at his table, Fathers Noel Prendergast, Joseph Dyer and Anthony Quyet.

Leslye Colvin, communications coordinator for Gathering for Mission, said that opening exercise can be powerful. “When you are in a room full of people there is an energy present. Early on, we ask a question, it’s a simple question, but it touches people in a profound way,” said Colvin. “You can feel the energy in the room change because people want to share – they are waiting their turn and want to hear others peoples’ stories. The room is on fire with that energy,” she added. Once people feel connected to the other participants, “from that safe place, the day unfolds,” Colvin explained.
The five-year project has the lofty goal of openng the possibility of transforming church leadership in the U.S. and Canada. The group believes true dialogue and open sharing are the keys for the church to move forward. True dialogue, according to the training, calls each person involved to re-evaluate their assumptions and actions and calls on both parties to be willing to change their attitudes or behaviors in search of common ground. “In some ways, it reminded me of the professional workshops that I have attended in the corporate world over the past 25 years but this one gave us the opportunity to explore issues specific to the Church in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson,” said Deacon Schreck, who traveled from Southaven for the day.
“We want to strengthen discipleship and also feed individual disciples on their own faith journey and I believe both these instances are a way to promote the gospel of Christ and reduce the number of barriers in society,” said Colvin.
Glenmary’s Commission on peace, justice and the care for creation partnered with the Catholic Committee of the South for this project. Organizers hope to bring the workshop to every diocese they can.