New Albany parishioners celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Galen Holley
NEW ALBANY – The soft, musical whispering of the rosary was interrupted only momentarily by the raucous, heartfelt shouting of “Vive!” as Hispanic parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in New Albany welcomed the approaching dawn.

NEW ALBANY – Alejandro Caballero and his friend, Maria, pose in front of the decorated statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in New Albany in the early morning hours of Dec. 12. (Photo by Galen Holley)

They prayed the Joyful Mysteries. The Holy Rosary is a blessing from the Virgin, and although all the mysteries depict episodes throughout the gospels, perhaps none more vibrantly unfold the feminine, motherly life of Mary as do the Joyful Mysteries.

The parishioners started at 4:30 a.m. Many had to be on factory furniture lines when the belt started rolling at 6 a.m. Still, they rose early, put on at least one special article of clothing, and found a spot in the crowded little church to kneel and pray.

Alejandro Caballero and his friend, Maria, donned matching shirts bearing the image of the Virgin. Their garments were bedecked with sequins and many handmade, special attentions.

Many of the faithful, like Bernie Garcia and family, whose patriarch, Pablo, is studying to be a deacon, brought in cooing babies in bassinets. Others walked arm-in-arm with aging abuelos, wrapped in shawls against the damp, morning air. “Ave, Maria,” they all whispered, crossing themselves with holy water and never turning their backs on the Blessed Sacrament.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been depicted in many ways, most often as a blushing, pale European. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an ethnic image of Mary, one with dark, distinctly indigenous features who exemplifies the universality of the Christian Gospel.

(l-r) Symbols in the processions: Ayoyotes – Seed bones are the “fire of personal tradition” of the warrior’s soul; Censer – Incense is the offering to the divinity. The drum or “huehuetl” is the sound of the warrior’s heart; Penacho – The “plume hat” is the devout surrender to the will of on high; The Conch Seashell or Atekokolzin – Its touch invokes love and faith; and the banner is the “tree of tradition” and the representation of the protector of the dance, in this case, The Virgin of Guadalupe. In past photos of processions, Angeles Torres, sounds the conch, in front of the Cathedral of San Pedro and carrying the banner, Juan Salazar, of Our Lady of Victories of Cleveland. (Pictures by Joanna King, Berta Mexidor and courtesy of Father Kent Bowlds )
A graphic shows some of the symbolism in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. To see a full description from Msgr. Michael Flannery

In the Guadalupe apparition, Mary had dark skin and spoke in Nahautl. Her turquoise cloak signaled royalty to the indigenous people; the black sash around her waist was their sign for pregnancy. She was clothed in stars and stood upon the moon – signs connecting her both to Indian concepts of deity and to Revelations 12:1.

Today, the image of “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” is perhaps the most pervasive religious image in Hispanic culture.

St. Francis of Assisi Parish demonstrates to the surrounding community how the Christian Gospel reaches across racial, ethnic and cultural divides. Father Jesu Raj Xavier, a native of India, speaks excellent English, and he’s quickly learning Spanish. Pablo Garcia has long been a leader in the Hispanic community, and now he’s making a focused effort to improve his English. Anglo and Hispanic parishioners feel equally at home at both Sunday morning masses.

Juan Diego, the native man to whom the Virgin appeared, was canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 2002. His cloak, bearing Mary’s image, hangs in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City on the site of the Tepeyac Hill. The basilica is one of the most visited sites in Christianity, second only to the Vatican in number of annual pilgrims.

Southern culture is one in which mothers’ welcome children and their friends to the table. The abundance of life and nourishment found in the Gospels is the bread that feeds us all. The motherly love of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which the parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi demonstrate so well, is a symbol of the life available to all of us through the sacraments and in loving union with one another.

(Galen Holley is a parishioner of St. Francis in New Albany.)

More picture around diocese:

Pearl, Jackson Cathedral, Jackson St. Therese, Madison and Tupelo

Symbols in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Msgr. Michael Flannery

            In the world of the Aztec Indian, they examined the signs and symbols and related these to each other, so that the hieroglyphics told the whole story when put together. Different explanations are found, but all of them are variations of the same theme.

  1. Mary is standing on the crescent moon.  In the Aztec world, Mexico was the land in the middle of the moon. Therefore, Mary was the queen of Mexico.
  2. The moon is black moon. This meant that Mary would overcome falsehood and lead to truth.
  3. Her right knee is bent. This meant that she is poised for a liturgical dance. She is not a goddess, but she gives honor and glory to God. 
  4. Time of the apparition. It was early in the morning. This would mean the first manifestation of God.
  5. There are clouds in the extremities of the picture. Clouds signified the presence of God.
  6. The rays: Their form is elliptic, small at the ends and bigger closer to the source. The straight ones indicate the light of the sun and the wavy ones indicate the light of Venus.
  7. Mary is standing in front of the sun and Venus. This indicated that she was greater than the sun and Venus. The sun and Venus were two of their important deities in the Aztec world. She was not going to take them away from the Aztecs.
  8. She wears a blue mantle. This is a royal color, but she is not a god. There are 46 stars on her mantle. A comet had predicted the end of their civilization. Now stars indicate a new beginning. In recent times astronomers have found that that was the exact location of the stars on December 12, 1531.
  9. She wears a black band on her waist. This means she is pregnant with child.
  10.  She has a broch with a cross. She is pregnant with child and the child is Jesus.
  11.  Her face and color. She is not a conquistador. She is Aztec. She has a faint inviting smile, encouraging people to approach her.
  12.  Her eyes are gentle and soft.
  13.  Her hair is combed in the style of the Aztec Indian. Another indication that she has not come with the conquistadores.
  14.  Her hands. A close look at her hands and one can see keys. She holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
  15.  The angel. She is supported by an angel. The angel has dark eyebrows. He is a mature angel and the message of the lady is believable.
  16.  The angel holds her tunic in one hand and her mantle in the other. For the Aztec this meant that she joins heaven and earth together.
  17.  She spoke Nahuatl to Juan Diego. This was the language of the Aztecs. It reverses the roles. It is the conquered now telling the conqueror what to do in building a temple for Our Lady.
  18.  Flowers and music were the best ways to communicate with the gods and both flowers and music are used as the drama unfolds.
  19.  Her dress. It is a pale red. The color of the rising sun. It indicated new life is coming.
  20.  The Indian flower: Right in the center of her dress is the Indian flower. This indicated the center of the cosmos. For the Aztec it meant that her child was the center of the universe. This was the new temple of the presence of God and it was in her womb.
  21. The inverted J. The inverted J on the right side of her dress signified the light of the world in the Aztec culture.

For the Aztec standing before the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it told the whole story. No further explanation was needed. They understood perfectly what Our Lady wanted to communicate to them. Ten years following the apparition, the number of converts to Christianity had grown from 10,000 to 10 million and all because of the picture. It happened mostly by word of mouth. The good news was spread by the Aztecs themselves.

            There has always been a tremendous devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is the patroness of the Americas. Ten million people visit her shine every year. Mexico had a number of persecutions against the Catholic church in its history. Nevertheless, they have never been successful in closing the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a persecution which took place in 1921, a bomb was placed beneath the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The bomb exploded. A bronze crucifix nearby was seriously damaged, but no damage was done to the image.

            Overtime, studies of the tilma (poncho) have been made. The conclusions were that it was made from the Maguey plant. It is a coarse fiber and does not take well to paint. In another study, done by Kodak, it was found that the image was imprinted on the tilma and not painted. The most noted study took place in 1951 when an ophthalmologist, Dr. Enrique Grave y Diaz Gonzalez sought and received from the archbishop of Mexico City, permission to do a detailed study of the eyes of Our Lady. There on the retinue of the eyes, in miniature, is the reflection of the Archbishop, his secretary, and an image of an Indian woman sitting in the background. An artist would not have been able to paint this in the detail that is there and in its miniature form.

            Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Mississippi bishops issue statement on latest execution

By Bishops Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D. and Louis F. Kihneman, III
Bishop of Biloxi

JACKSON (Dec. 13, 2022) – In anticipation of the execution of Thomas Loden tomorrow, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gray and Farris families as they continue to grieve and heal from his horrific act of violence. Their unspeakable suffering remains a heavy cross in their lives.

We share in their suffering. In 2016, two Catholic Nuns were murdered in Holmes County, Mississippi. Sister Paula Merrill, and Sister Margaret Held, served at a local medical clinic. Their brutal murders in the small community of Durant, Mississippi caused shock and sadness.

Even in the midst of such profound loss, the Sisters’ religious communities, their families, and the local church stated their opposition to the death penalty. This response is deeply rooted in our Christian faith and Catholic tradition.

The death penalty is not a deterrence to murder. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. Likewise, the antidote to violence is not more violence.

The execution of Thomas Loden is the second in just over a year in Mississippi. We respectfully submit the perspective and teachings from our Catholic faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that promote the abolition of the death penalty.

We encourage and pray for a more comprehensive debate that calls into question our assumptions used to morally legitimize the death penalty in Mississippi and in our nation.

We recognize that the State must protect innocent people from violent criminals. Our State and country have the ability to provide justice and protect the innocent without using the death penalty. At this time in our nation when violence afflicts the web of life, we do not need state sanctioned violence to add to this vicious cycle.

We implore our fellow citizens to ask our elected officials to end the violence of the death penalty and to replace it with non-lethal means of punishment. We are called to respect every human life because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27)

As Christian leaders we call for alternatives to capital punishment more in keeping with our Christian values, the common good, and the dignity of the human person.

In memoriam: Sister Olivia Maria Obregon, RSM

ST. LOUIS – Sister Olivia Maria Obregon, RSM, a native of Edinburgh, Texas, transitioned to eternal life on the evening of Dec. 1, 2022.

Sister was born July 10, 1937 to her beloved parents, Alfonso Obregon and Bernarda Cervantes. She is the sibling to Gilbert (Nancy) Obregon; Eligio (Irene) Obregon; Marta (Mickey) French; Robert (Ofelia) Obregon; Ana (Joe) Perez, Zita (Ron) Colvin; Francisca (Sylvestre) Garcia; Sister Bernard Mary Obregon, RSM; Mary (Gus) Sanchez; and Dominga Obregon. In addition, she is survived by a host of multi-generational nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents, several siblings and in-laws, and two nephews.

She entered the Sisters of Mercy Community in 1954 and has been a loving member for 68 faith-filled years. She studied nursing and served in various ministries throughout the former St. Louis Regional Community. Her service in healthcare was experienced predominantly in cities within the states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi. She was a true South Texan who embraced the Mexican American culture with joy, dance and a fullness for all that life offers. Her spirituality encompassed the multiple issues rooted in the critical concerns of her sacred community, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She shared the community’s deep desire to empower others as Mercy Associates and co-workers always in service to God’s people. She will be dearly missed by family, loved ones and many whose lives she touched.

A funeral Mass was held on Wednesday, Dec. 7 and she is interred at Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis.

Catholics give back for #iGiveCatholic on #GivingTuesday

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Eight years ago (2015), the #iGiveCatholic campaign for #GivingTuesday took off as an initiative of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, raising over a million dollars in a 24-hour period for Catholic parishes, schools and ministries. Subsequently, this campaign spread to other dioceses throughout the nation, with participating dioceses increasing with each year. The 2022 #iGiveCatholic campaign had a great impact, with partnerships including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Educational Association, raising over $18.5 million for Catholic entities this year.
The Diocese of Jackson joined the #iGiveCatholic campaign in 2016, making this year the seventh year of participation in the nationwide campaign, and generating a record $207,000 in gifts to a total of 43 parishes, schools and ministries within the diocese.

The success of each organization is based on the amount of effort put forth in publicizing their causes, or reason to raise funds, by reaching out to donors via social media (Facebook, Instagram, emails, websites, etc.) and print publications such as bulletins, posters and flyers.

The #iGiveCatholic campaign focuses on electronic giving and includes a specific website provided to the organizations at no cost, in hopes to encourage greater participation and help generate funds. Each year, the diocese receives a generous grant from Catholic Extension to cover half of the online giving platform fees.

Also included in the grant from Catholic Extension was additional money earmarked for training or prizes to aid in a successful campaign and help generate excitement. Five prizes were awarded in random drawings for entities who had online donors during specific time frames; and three prizes were awarded to the top three fundraisers. The grand prize winners this year were St. Richard Catholic School in Jackson; St. Jude Catholic Church in Pearl; and the Carmelite Monastery in Jackson.
The National Sponsor of #iGiveCatholic this year was Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publisher that serves millions of Catholics globally through its publishing and communication services. For the past few years, Our Sunday Visitor has donated offertory envelopes at no cost to participating organizations, to encourage donors, who otherwise would not want to give electronically, helping to increase participation and overall total giving.

“Throughout history, Catholics have always been generous people. Our world and our society need to see and experience increased generosity, but more importantly, they need to see the joy Catholics have as we ‘give back’ out of gratitude in return for how we have been blessed,” said Julia Williams, assistant development director for the Diocese of Jackson and diocesan support contact for the #iGiveCatholic program.

“Each year, we are so grateful to the Catholic Community as they support various ministries as they continue to ‘Give Thanks – Give Back and Give Catholic.’”

Obispo acusado de conspiración para socavar a Nicaragua, difundir noticias falsas

Por Catholic News Service

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CNS) – Un obispo nicaragüense detenido durante casi cuatro meses fue acusado formalmente durante una cita judicial no anunciada el 13 de diciembre, marcando su primera comparecencia desde que fue detenido.

El obispo Rolando Álvarez Lagos de Matagalpa fue acusado de conspiración para socavar el país y propagar noticias falsas, según un comunicado de los tribunales de la capital nacional, Managua.

Al obispo Álvarez se le asignó un defensor público y se le dijo que su juicio comenzaría el 10 de enero, según el comunicado, que incluía fotos del prelado luciendo demacrado y estoico y vistiendo una camisa azul mientras estaba sentado en la corte. Más de 40 presos políticos han sido condenados por los mismos cargos, según el diario Confidencial.

El obispo Rolando José Álvarez Lagos de Matagalpa, Nicaragua – un crítico frecuente del presidente nicaragüense Daniel Ortega – reza en una iglesia católica en Managua, Nicaragua, el 20 de mayo de 2022. El obispo Álvarez fue arrestado en agosto y fue acusado formalmente durante una cita en la corte el 13 de diciembre, marcando su primera aparición desde que fue detenido. (CNS photo/Maynor Valenzuela, Reuters)

El comunicado de la corte también expresó que había solicitado a Interpol que emitiera una alerta por el arresto de otro sacerdote, el padre Uriel Antonio Vallejos, quien está acusado de delitos similares.

La comparecencia ante el tribunal del obispo Álvarez se produjo después de meses de estar incomunicado sin que se diera a conocer información sobre su estado. La Conferencia Episcopal Nicaragüense también se abstuvo de pronunciarse sobre la condición de monseñor Álvarez, ya que el régimen del presidente Daniel Ortega y su esposa, la vicepresidenta Rosario Murillo, continuaba persiguiendo a la iglesia y otras voces críticas en el país centroamericano.

La persecución ha sido tan severa que más de una docena de sacerdotes han sido arrestados u obligados a huir del país. Otros prelados y grupos católicos han sido expulsados, incluyendo el nuncio apostólico, las Misioneras de la Caridad y Trócaire, el brazo caritativo de la Iglesia Católica irlandesa.

La represión contra los trabajadores de la iglesia y los católicos ha continuado en diciembre. Manuel Antonio Obando Cortedano, director de comunicaciones de la Diócesis de Matagalpa, fue secuestrado por la policía cuando salía de su casa el 11 de diciembre, según el sitio web de noticias Mosaico CSI. Wilberto Artola, periodista del medio católico TV Merced, también fue secuestrado esa noche.

El obispo Álvarez fue arrestado el 19 de agosto durante un allanamiento en la curia diocesana antes del amanecer, donde se escondió con otros 11 sacerdotes y colegas. Los otros arrestados con él permanecen encerrados en El Chipote, una prisión conocida por sus condiciones inhumanas.

El obispo había estado protestando por el cierre de los medios de comunicación católicos en la Diócesis de Matagalpa. El padre Vallejos, mientras tanto, resistió un intento de incautación de equipos de radio de su parroquia.

Murillo, quien también es la vocera del gobierno, no respondió a una solicitud de comentarios.


JACKSON – St. Richard Catholic School

JACKSON – St. Richard School’s community service project, Manhattan Mall, runs in November and December when sixth graders collect gift items and wrapping supplies to host a shopping event for the residents at Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. (Left photo by Tammy Conrad and right/bottom photos by Cathy Tebo)

SOUTHAVEN – Sacred Heart Catholic School

SOUTHAVEN – Sacred Heart School celebrated Thanksgiving blessings with a family dinner before Thanksgiving break. (Photos by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

GREENVILLE – St. Joseph Catholic School

GREENVILLE – Maleah Morris walks away after receiving a blessing. Father Sanchez and Bishop Joseph Kopacz gave blessings and distributed communion during a special Mass honoring Salvador Sarullo at St. Joseph School. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

COLUMBUS – Annunciation Catholic School

COLUMBUS – Families gathered for a Thanksgiving feast at Annunciation Catholic School. (Photo by Logan Waggoner)

MERIDIAN – Catholic Community

MERIDIAN – Father Augustine Palimattam Poulose and Father Justin Joseph try to warm up in between building beds for children in need on Nov. 12. A group of youth and parishioners worked to build 10 beds for an organization called Sleep In Heavely Peace. (Photos courtesy of Catholic Community of Meridian)

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth

CLARKSDALE – On Sunday, Nov. 20, St. Elizabeth parish held a triple celebration – the 110th aniversary of the church and the feasts of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Christ the King. On left, Elizabeth Blaine Cauthen, Brooks Cauthen and Father Raju Macherla read a beautiful prayer at the end of Mass.
(Below) Luke Agostnelli, Steele Britt, Father Raju, William Walker and Isabel Walker participate in Adoration before Mass. (Photos by Tereza Ma)

Statues assist in evangelization

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – Travelling statues is once again the topic of our archives journey.

This past weekend I was in Greenwood at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish for the celebration of Confirmation with Bishop Joseph Kopacz. As you may recall, IHM sadly was vandalized back in January and their beloved statue of the Blessed Mother was severely damaged.

We were able to restore the statue through the gifted hands of Eyd Kazery and return her to the parish in time for the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in June.

This past Sunday for the first time I was able to see her in person adorning her newly designed place of honor in the church. Joy welled up in my heart to see her standing there watching over the congregation.

For centuries statues have adorned churches and churchyards reflecting images of our Catholic faith family. When people ask me why Catholics pray to statues, I respond by asking them if they have photos of their parents and grandparents somewhere such as the staircase wall.

I go on to explain that our statues and images of saints are similar to their family photos. The images invoke reverence for people who have inspired us, and we believe in faith to be in heaven available to offer prayers on our behalf to God. That usually does the trick and in answering the question an act of evangelization has just occurred.

JACKSON – Diocesan seminarian and some strong Belhaven University students were able to move the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Francis statues in the Bishop’s Cemetery next to the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. (Photos courtesy of Mary Woodward)

Statues at the Cathedral took center stage as tools of evangelization the week of Thanksgiving.

Last year two statues in the Bishop’s Cemetery had to be moved to prepare the grave for Bishop Joseph N. Latino. Those two statues – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Francis – never got moved back. We had left them in place not only because the Sacred Heart looked as if it were consoling St. Francis and that is a very appropriate scene in a cemetery, but also because they weigh about 400 – 500 lbs. each.

Herein lies the evangelization moment. We have a Belhaven University baseball player named Luke from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who serves at the 10:30 Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral. He loves his Catholic faith and remarked to me one Sunday in the sacristy that there were several other Catholic players on the team who did not always make it to Mass.

Remembering the misplaced statues, I suggested perhaps we could get them interested in coming to Mass if we had some kind of service project such as moving the statues. Luke took this to heart and the Monday before Thanksgiving he showed up for the daily noon Mass at the Cathedral with several teammates.

It just so happened several of our diocesan seminarians were at Mass and just like that we had 10 strapping young men to move those two statues. Indeed, it was a Holy Spirit moment.

The bonus was we wanted the statues placed in different spots from their previous locales and the young men were so very amenable to wrangling them some 20-25 feet from where they were.

The Sacred Heart statue was first to move. He was the heavier of the two and he was too heavy for the dolly. So, they basically walked the statue into its place along the side wall of the Cathedral. At times it looked like a dance and at other times a wrestling match, but mission accomplished.

St. Francis was lighter and easily moved on the dolly to his spot overlooking the bishops’ burial plots with the Sacred Heart. Passersby may now see both statues more easily and hopefully be inspired to offer prayers for our deceased bishops.

After the project was complete, our seminarians invited the teammates into the Cathedral where I gave them an expedited tour of the stained-glass windows and sanctuary along with a little history of the diocese before they headed back to campus. A couple of the baseball players were so enthusiastic they volunteered to come back and move things whenever we needed help.

Mission accomplished. We had connected them to a parish, and they want to come back and be a part.

Evangelization 101 – invite people to church. We know the Lord uses us in creative ways to bring people closer to him. You never know who is seeking the Lord and may be inspired by your sincere invitation.

St. Elizabeth parish celebrates triple celebration

By Tereza Ma and Joanna Puddister King

CLARKSDALE – On Sunday, Nov. 20, St. Elizabeth parish in Clarksdale held a triple celebration celebrating the parish’s 110th anniversary and the Feasts of St. Elizabeth and Christ the King. Though the day was chilly, the warm welcome of the community drew all in attendance in for a day of worship and fun.

St. Elizabeth parish began in 1891 with the assignment of the first pastor, Father Louis Dutto, who remained with the parish for seven years. The first building was on Issaquena Avenue and was described as “little more than a shotgun house” that seated about 100 people at most by Cleta Ellington in “Christ the Living Water: The Catholic Church in Mississippi.”

By 1913, as the Catholic population grew, a larger brick church and rectory were built on Fairland Place by a young Irish pastor, Father Peter Keenan.

Writings of the day describe the Delta region as a diverse settlement with many northern Europeans, Italians, Lebanese, Chinese in the area. The same seemed to ring true to the diversity of the descendants who still attend the parish today.

CLARKSDALE – A parishioner unveils one of Father Raju Macherla’s paintings he donated for a parish raffle on Nov. 21. In his spare time, he loves to paint beautiful nature scenes. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

“Knowing our church history helps us understand how our ancestors lived their faith as we consider how we live ours today,” said Camille Walker, parishioner who delivered remarks for the parish’s anniversary. “The lives of our forefathers help us to grow in our faith and to continue their love and care for the church as God’s children.”

In 1969, St. Elizabeth parish moved to Florence Street where the church building is still located today.
As for celebrating the parish’s anniversary and two feasts, Father Raju Macherla said that he didn’t plan the coincidence, “but God helped us come together in this way on this special occasion.”

During his homily at the celebration, Father Raju reflected on the feasts and talked about his parish and parishioners that he loves so dearly.

“Repeat after me: “I love my church and today is my church feast,” Father Raju said to smiles across the pews.

“We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduations, so we should certainly celebrate the church feast.”

Father Raju weaved in stories of different parishioners and their history through his homily. From “family pews” that he said signified a meaningful, tangible attachment to the church, to profound memories from church visitors who still consider St. Elizabeth their home parish, since attending there as children.

“I have heard so many beautiful true stories from you,” said Father Raju. “I have shared all these stories to tell you that though we live elsewhere in the country or world, the church plays a vital role in our lives every day. It is from the altar that we receive the grace of God.”

After the celebration Mass, the parish had a classic Thanksgiving feast with ham, turkey and Delta-made delicacies. There were games for all ages – even adults engaged in the fun, making memories and celebrating a parish with warm traditions and love for their community.

Greenville parish and school give thanks for generosity of longtime parishioner, Salvado Sarullo

By Joanna Puddister King

GREENVILLE – The grey skies on Tuesday, Nov. 29 did not dampen spirits in celebrating the memorial to longtime St. Joseph parishioner, Salvador Sarullo. The dedication and Mass at St. Joseph School, planned for outdoors, was moved indoors due to the threat of severe thunderstorms in the region.
The ceremony following Mass marked the incredible generosity of Sarullo, who bequeathed a large portion of his estate to St. Joseph parish in Greenville.

GREENVILLE – On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses a statue dedicated to the memory of Salvador Sarullo, who bequeathed a large portion of his estate to St. Joseph parish. The statue is located on the St. Joe School football field. The festivities were held indoors due to inclement weather. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

Sarullo was born in 1931 in Greenville and graduated from St. Joseph High School (formerly St. Rose of Lima) and attended Springhill College in Mobile. He was a lifelong resident of Greenville, where he was a well-respected and successful businessman, who was known for his integrity, generosity and involvement in the community. Passing in December 2018, Sarullo helped many in need during his 87 years.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz prayed with Sarullo many times during the last year of his life, calling him a “great man of faith.” During the event he lauded Sarullo as a remarkable example of Catholic generosity and challenged everyone to live up to his example and great works of charity in the community.

Since his passing, St. Joseph parish has worked hard to preserve the legacy of Sarullo’s gift, while embarking on multiple projects to spread the Good News of the Gospel and support those in need in the Greenville community.

During the dedication ceremony, that included a blessing of a projected photo of the “Touchdown Jesus” statue and plaque commemorating Sarullo due to the inclement weather, several shared the impact he made with his gift, as well as future plans to impact the Greenville community.

President of the St. Joseph parish finance council, Ken Purvis shared renovations completed at the church and those to come thanks to the gift made by Sarullo. He said that the parish approved plans for an extensive remodel and improvements to the interior of the Victorian-Gothic style church including the complete re-plastering of interior walls, artwork and murals painted throughout the sanctuary, including the ceiling. Purvis shared that future plans include extending and enlarging the altar to better accommodate service. The historic restoration project is set to commence in 2023 right after Easter.

Purvis told those gathered that the church has already completed a re-design of its sound system and that part of the Sarullo bequest helped match funds donated by parishioners to replace the slate tile roof in 2020.

GREENVILLE – Volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul got right back to work sorting clothing for families in need, after Bishop Joseph Kopacz blessed their renovated building on Tuesday, Nov. 29. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

Speaking on improvements to the St. Joseph parish hall, Jim Lipscomb, president of the parish pastoral council, started by thanking the diocese for all of the support given to the parish, even in tough times. “They’ve stuck with St. Joe School and St. Joe parish for many years,” said Lipscomb.

For the parish hall, Lipscomb said the renovation will expand the size with improvements like new LED lighting, HVAC system, sound system, projectors for presentations, furniture and more. Renovations also include a new kitchen with a cafeteria style serving line and top-of-the-line appliances and work stations.

“This new space will be a show-place for church meetings, sacrament classes, youth retreats, parish assemblies, wedding receptions and luncheons,” said Lipscomb.

Construction on the parish hall project has already commenced and should be completed early in 2023.

“I want to thank Salvador Sarullo for your generosity that has allowed us to create all of these different projects,” said Lipscomb.

One of the most significant ministries of St. Joseph parish is St. Joseph Catholic School said Britt Virden, emceeing the event. The gift from Sarullo will also provide a major expansion to the existing facility.

Athletic director, John Butler introduced the expansion project that includes the gym and athletic facilities. “We’ve established a standard of excellence in education and athletics,” said Butler. “We have set the bar for athletics and we want to continue to grow and to get better.”

Plans include building onto the back of the gym with new expanded locker rooms for boys and girls basketball, soccer, baseball and softball teams. The addition will feature a separate training and recovery room for athletes and school trainers, new bathrooms and ticket counter.

The gym entrance will also showcase past and current championships with more trophy cases for the Fighting Irish championship teams, said Butler. The newest being the MAIS 4A State Football Championship trophy the team claimed in mid-November.

The new athletic facilities will allow the school to host tournaments and generate revenue, said Butler. “We want folks to come see our school and what we do here.”

Virden said with the gift from Sarullo, St. Joseph School is also looking to grow. He shared that the school is starting an initial committee looking at an Early Learning Center for the community. “We are always looking to grow and expand our offerings, not only because it is important for our community – it’s important to the church, important for our faith,” said Virden.

“It’s important to have a place for parents to have their children come and transfer over into our schools.”

Speaking more on the project was Bart Outzen, who said the goal was to have a program that would sustain the student population and “prepare an intellectual, academically and spiritually prepared student all the way through to St. Joseph.” The center would be located adjacent to the existing school, and it would have a curriculum based upon national standards for early learning centers across the U.S., said Outzen.

Virden said with the Sarullo gift, they want to be good stewards have the gift continue to provide for improvements for “the next 125 years of more” by setting up trusts for St. Joseph School and St. Joseph Church with the Catholic Foundation, headed by Rebecca Harris.

Over 49 years ago, leaders across the diocese decided to establish the Catholic Foundation with the goal to encourage legacy giving through endowed funds and major gifts.

“Salvador Sarullo loved his Catholic faith and it was very near and dear to him,” said Harris. “He was extremely generous with his time, his talent and his treasure through the years.”

For the Catholic Foundation, the St. Joseph Catholic Parish trust is the largest parish trust; and the St. Joseph Catholic School trust is the largest trust to date thanks to Sarullo’s gift, said Harris.

“Each year Salvador’s legacy will continue to live on through the annual distributions provided to the parish school. Future generations will be blessed by his generosity.”

Another ministry that benefited from Sarullo’s legacy is the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Greenville. Thanks to his gift, they were able to completely restore and remodel their buildings.

“Our clients don’t only come to St. Vincent to receive food and clothes they also get a hug, a smile and we pray with them,” said volunteer, Julice Curry. “Mr. Sarullo knew that the poor, the underprivileged in our community need a ministry like St. Vincent de Paul.”

Curry shared that in 2000, Sarullo bought the four buildings the organization is housed in now and with his most recent gift they restored them. St. Vincent was able to restore the roof, repair windows and walls and create a more convenient entrance for clients, among other vital projects. The kitchen also received an upgrade to accommodate more food items for the hundreds of low-income clients served each week.

After the dedication ceremony, Bishop Kopacz traveled over to St. Vincent de Paul to view the improvements and bless the building.

“Certainly, it is with great joy that as we hear the words at the culmination of St. Matthew’s Gospel at the final judgement, that the work he talks about, and certainly demands, is being done here at St. Vincent de Paul – welcoming the stranger as we heard. Praying with them, feeding, clothing, giving drink – that’s just something woven into this ministry that is such a blessing,” said Bishop Kopacz.

The repairs to the buildings at St. Vincent de Paul were completed in August 2022. The board is planning on an open house soon and invites everyone to attend to see the improvements made possible by Sarullo’s generous bequest.

“Mr. Sarullo was amazing,” said Curry. “He was a very simple man. If you ever had the pleasure of meeting him, you know that he lived a very simple life but he loved big. He loved his church, he loved this school and he loved, loved St. Vincent de Paul.”

Fourth and Glory! St. Joseph continues dynasty with victory over Tri-County in state title game

By David W. Healy/Delta Democrat-Times
JACKSON – It takes more than one player to make a dynasty.

These were the words from St. Joseph Catholic School coach John Baker just minutes after his Fighting Irish defeated Tri-County Academy 26-14 to win the MAIS Class 4A State Championship Thursday at Jackson Academy. It was the Irish’s fourth state championship in school history and fourth in six years.

As they have done in their previous three state championships, the biggest stars on this year’s St. Joseph (11-1) team shined the brightest. But it was not just one star. The night and the glory belonged to the entire St. Joseph team who avenged a loss last season to Tri-County in last year’s state semifinal game.

Senior running back Kye Nelson, who played as a 5-foot-9 wrecking ball the entire game, carried the ball for crucial yardage time after time again. In the second half, Nelson’s determination came to a crescendo when his 34-yard touchdown score put the Irish in the lead for good at 20-14 with 1:56 to play in the third quarter. Nelson finished the night with 144 yards rushing on 16 carries.

“I was just thinking after every carry to keep going and keep fighting,” Nelson said. “This game was revenge for us because Tri-County beat us in the semifinals last season.”

JACKSON – The Fighting Irish of St. Joe Greenville toppled Tri-County Academy for the MAIS Class 4A State Championship on Thursday, Nov. 17 at Jackson Academy. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Said Baker, “Kye and the offensive line, they put the whole team on their backs and they got us in the endzone. We made the decision to run the ball in the second half because we felt like we were more physical team and at halftime we thought if we ran the ball we could win.”

Nelson missed last year’s state semifinal with an injury.

Senior quarterback CJ Moore was another Irish player who helped cement the Irish dynasty Thursday night.

Moore is the brother of the first two Irish quarterbacks, Brice Johnson and Dillon Johnson, who helped lead the Irish to their first three state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. During Thursday’s contest, Moore looked much like his older two brothers when they were leading the Irish to state glory. As he had all season, Moore extended offensive plays with his speed and escapability.

After Tri-County opened the scoring when QB Bryce Warriner connected with Ty Milner on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:59 left in the first quarter, Moore found a wide-open Christian Foster in the back of the endzone for 24-yard touchdown reception to give St. Joseph a 7-6 lead.

Later in the second quarter, Moore made his biggest play of the game when he raced down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown run to put the Irish up 14-6 with 2:57 left in the second quarter. The Irish finished with 264 rushing yards.

“CJ pulls a rabbit out of his hat every time,” Coach Baker said. “He is the best athlete on our team. He doesn’t let things get to him. He threw an early pick, but he came back and reset and ran that long touchdown for us.”

Moore ended the game 14 of 29 with 163 yards passing. He had 114 yards rushing. St. Joseph’s Stank King led the Irish with 55 yards receiving on five catches. Chris Mayfield had 53 yards receiving for the Irish on three catches.

While the St. Joseph offensive players did their part for the victory, the Irish defense also stood tall when it mattered the most, holding the Rebels scoreless in the second half.

On Tri-County’s first offensive possession of the game, defensive end Donnie Smith recovered a Rebel fumble at the Tri-County 38-yard line. In the second quarter, defensive back Stank King made an interception and returned it 15 yards to the Irish 37-yard line.

In the third quarter, St. Joseph defensive lineman Alex Foster helped to end a Rebel drive with a 15-yard sack for a loss.

Later in the third, King deflected a Tri-County pass in the back of the endzone that looked at first like it was a sure touchdown.

The Rebels managed just 49 rushing yards in the game.

Tri-County head coach Phillip Wasson, a Greenville native who once coached at St. Joseph and Washington School, praised the Irish on their state championship.

“St. Joe is a really good team,” Coach Wasson said. “Most of their best players are all back from last year. Coach Baker has done a good job with them. They have only lost one game this year. I am proud of that group because I know a lot of those kids over there at St. Joe.”

(David Healy is sports editor for the Delta Democrat-Times. He can be reached at Re-printed with permission.)