Some parishes, schools still recovering from rare winter storm

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – As the week of Feb. 15 unfolded, students all over the Diocese of Jackson jumped for joy at the possibility of a snow day or two as well as having the Presidents’ Day holiday off. But in parish offices, priests and staff had to make urgent decisions as a once-in-a-generation winter storm turned the Deep South into a rare deep freeze and left a trail of damage in its wake.
In addition to a loss of power at St. Michael of Vicksburg and a solid sheet of ice in the parish parking lot, a window in the cry room was broken. St. Mary Basilica of Natchez was hit especially hard, creating the need for a noon Mass on Sunday, February 21, after harm to the sanctuary.

JACKSON – Leah Clark, a senior at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison, helps unload cases of bottled water on Thursday, March 4, for the Carmelite nuns in Jackson. The Carmelite Monastery in South Jackson has been without water since the ice storm that hit Mississippi last month. When St. Joe students learned Tuesday, March 2, about the need for water at the monastery, leaders of the St. Joe chapter of Quill & Scroll International Honor Society for High School Journalists sponsored a bottled water drive. In the span of one day, the drive collected and delivered to the monastery 26 gallon jugs of water and more than 40 cases of various sizes of bottled water. (Photo courtesy of Terry Cassreino)

“We have removed a lot of ceiling tiles in St. Therese Hall as well as sections of flooring on both levels,” said Father Scott Thomas on the St. Mary Facebook page late that week. “The extra Mass time is because an entire aisle will be blocked off, making every pew section on that aisle unavailable. Additionally, the elevator does not work due to water damage. It will be out of commission for a while as it is being repaired.”
Father Scott added in the social media post that nothing of historical value at St. Mary was lost, but water damage – or loss of water – swiftly became a serious problem in Jackson.
“We had no structural damage and no water pipes that burst, but we were out of school for four days,” said Jennifer David, principal of St. Richard Catholic School. “One positive from COVID is that we went right to our virtual plan and won’t have to make up any days.
“The water is less than ideal, but we are making it work. We have two amazing maintenance men who have kept our facilities running. We have sink water but don’t have good pressure in the toilets. Our first day back in classrooms for traditional learning was Feb. 26.”

In addition to parents donating bottled water and hand sanitizer, the school purchased sixty-five cases of bottled water. St. Richard was also helped immeasurably by Adcamp, Inc., a Flowood company that donated two 1,000-gallon water trucks.
“That’s been a lifesaver,” David said. “Without that, we couldn’t have kept the school running like we did.”
Another group hit especially hard in Jackson was Carmelite Monastery, where Carmelite nuns have lived for seven decades. Without water at their Terry Road location, the nuns resorted to boiling melted snow for water and – once the snow was gone – collecting rainwater. The journalism department at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison is one of many groups who have answered a call to help the sisters.
As arctic air plunged into the region and brought accompany bands of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, Msgr. Michael Flannery found himself celebrating Ash Wednesday Mass in front of exactly of one parishioner that morning – even the parishioner that livestreamed the service did so from home. And that was before the power went off in the neighborhood where St. Francis of Assisi is located.
“The neighborhood was without electricity for sixteen hours,” Msgr. Flannery said. “A utility pole split, and power wires were on the ground. Because of the driving conditions and weather, we cancelled the evening Ash Wednesday Mass and gave ashes to parishioners at that weekend’s Masses.”
Though there was extreme cold in the northernmost reaches of the Diocese – with record-breaking single-digit temperatures and below-zero wind chill readings – most of the precipitation came in the form of snow.
“Desoto County’s 911 system was down for a large part of a day due to a power outage,” said Laura Grisham, communications director for Sacred Heart Southern Missions, which serves six parishes and two schools in Desoto, Tate, Tunica, Marshall, and Benton counties. “Most areas in Desoto, including Walls, Horn Lake, Southaven, and Olive Branch, cumulatively had around ten inches of sleet and snow.”
Several Masses and all but one Ash Wednesday service, Grisham added, were cancelled during the week of Presidents’ Day. Both Sacred Heart and Holy Family Schools went immediately to virtual learning for the week. The monthly Mobile Food Pantry at Landers Center in Southaven was also cancelled.

Not surprisingly, temperatures around the Magnolia State (and all over the Southeast) roared back into the 60s and 70s, melting all traces of ice and snow and sending students back to their classrooms for the final weeks before spring break. Repair work is underway at parishes which sustained damages and, as usual, the people of Mississippi are displaying their inherent generosity toward those less fortunate.
“Our morning announcements serve as a reminder that we need to think about all the people in Jackson who don’t have water in their homes,” David said. “We’ve been praying for them and the people in Texas.”

(Editor’s note: As of press time on Tuesday, March 9, the Carmelite Sisters now have running water. The pressure is low but they can now at least flush toilets. Sister Jane Agonoy still welcomes donations of drinking water, since the city of Jackson is still under a boil water notice. She can be reached at (601) 373-1460.)

Poorer parishes, dioceses take a bigger hit from pandemic

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Just as it was in much of American society this past year, the financial toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic affected poor parishes and dioceses more starkly than it did larger and more well-to-do Catholic institutions.
While that’s not to say that bigger dioceses and parishes didn’t feel any sting – some dioceses started making cuts in the early months of the pandemic – smaller churches and dioceses at the outset didn’t have the financial wherewithal to deal with its consequences.
One thing is certain: The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline to parishes and dioceses of all sizes.
If a diocese is “mainly rural or there’s not a lot of Catholics in that region, those things affect a diocese,” Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told Catholic News Service. “For the most part, the church relies on Catholics to support it.”
“Working with 86 of the poorest dioceses in the United States, if you were to add up all of the financial assets of the 86 dioceses we work with, they do not equal the assets of a large metropolitan archdiocese like Chicago or New York or L.A.,” said Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension.
Boland added, “It’s a far different playing field. They were financially struggling even before the pandemic started.”
He compared it to society at large: “There were people that made it through and organizations that made it through the pandemic OK – barely scathed. And there were the people who were on the shakiest financial footing, those are the ones who suffered the most. … The same is true for the Catholic Church.”
Catholic Extension labels the 86 dioceses with which it works “mission dioceses,” most often due to the small percentage of Catholics in a diocese relative to the diocese’s sizable territory, which means Catholics are spread far apart. Eighty of those 86 dioceses received PPP grants, Boland said.
“The financial impact of the pandemic was not equally felt even among our dioceses,” he added. “We know that particularly in the Southwestern dioceses – many of them the poorest to begin with, even before the pandemic began – they are the ones that were reporting to us the greatest signs of distress.
By comparison, Markey said initial parish collection drop-offs nationwide were in the 40%-60% range, and have since settled in the 15%-30% range.
Boland spoke of the situation of Father Fabian Marquez, pastor of El Buen Pastor Parish in Sparks Colonia, an unincorporated area of El Paso, Texas. “They had to shut down El Paso, and the entire county was experiencing a great deal of infection,” Boland said. “We remember the images of the refrigerator trucks just to keep up with the death toll that they were experiencing.”
Because of the pandemic-related deaths, infection, job losses and fear of contracting COVID-19 all affecting Mass attendance, “their weekly collection would go down to, like, $45 on a Sunday. He had to look at forgoing his salary just so he could pay staff, so he could make sure the church was open … to the community,” Boland said.
Catholic Extension unveiled Ash Wednesday its Catholic Kinship Initiative – Parishes United Across America, hoping to match 1,000 U.S. parishes with 1,000 of Extension’s poorest parishes in the country, in hopes the stable parish can raise or contribute $1,000 during Lent and beyond to its matched parish.
The largely rural Diocese of Victoria, Texas, is getting by. It qualified for PPP loans for many of its 50 parishes, 17 missions and some schools. Offertories are down 3%-45%, and school enrollment is down 6%, according to Tony Martinez, chief financial officer of the diocese.
“Our parishes suffered … They don’t have a big staff. They’re just a few people. But they were able to operate,” said Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria.
He acknowledged the PPP loans were seen as “controversial for the Catholic Church, but we’re an employer, and the idea was to protect people’s jobs. And that helped our schools, especially.”
The upshot, said the DFMC’s Markey, is “there’s a lot of adjustments that need to be made or have been made.” He said, “We have to see what happens in this year. Offertories will probably stay low until people can come back into churches again.”
Markey added, “On the other hand, people are incredibly generous. The generosity we’ve seen in our parishes and our charities – people are hurting but they’re giving. They’re really helping one another. From my perspective, it’s really heartwarming.

(Editor’s note: Sacred Heart Greenville is one of the parishes selected for Catholic Extension’s Kinship Initiative. To learn more, visit

In memorium: Sister Brenda Monahan

EVANSVILLE – Sister Brenda (Brenda Mary) Monahan died peacefully on Feb. 28, 2021 at Seton Residence in Evansville, Indiana. Sister Brenda was born on May 23, 1964 in Wildwood, New Jersey and was one of four children of Elizabeth (Ryan) and Michael Monahan. Sister graduated from Tallassee High School in Alabama in 1982 and received a BS in Elementary Education from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama in 1986. She entered the Daughters of Charity in Evansville, Indiana on June 29, 1991.

Sister Brenda Monahan

After initial formation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Sister Brenda began her ministry in education in Pritchard, Alabama as a teacher and principal. During this time, she also earned her M.A. in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton, Ohio. In 2003, Sister was missioned to St. Therese School in Jackson, Mississippi to serve as principal of the school until 2009 when she went to Chicago, Illinois to participate in the Vincentian Integration Experience (VIE). In 2010, Sister returned to Alabama as Principal of St. Barnabas School in Birmingham and later as Director at Beacon of Hope, Inc. In 2014, Sister Brenda began her ministry as principal of Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg, Maryland until 2019 after which she was missioned to San Antonio, Texas and was asked to serve as Mission Coordinator for Sponsored Works of the Daughters of Charity until she came to Seton Residence in Evansville, Indiana to serve in the ministry of prayer until the time of her death.
On March 6, a Wake Service and Mass of Christian Burial were held in the Chapel at Seton Residence; burial followed in St. Joseph Cemetery, Evansville. Sister Brenda was preceded in death by her parents, brother-in-law Vernon Stabler and sister-in-law Nati Monahan, and she is survived by her sister, Patricia Lee Stabler and her brothers Michael David and William John (and wife Kellie) Monahan, nieces Alexandria Monahan and Shannon Sayler (and husband Matthew) great-niece Lorelei, great-nephew Caspian and nephews Mitchell and John Monahan, as well as her Sisters in Community and many friends. Donations may be made to the Mother Seton School Scholarship Fund, 100 Creamery Road, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727.

Calendar of events

NATCHEZ Retreat, “A Day of Hope” by Father Anthony Okwum, SSJ, Holy Family Administrator, will be held at St. Joseph’s Inn/Edgewood, 31 Airport Road, Saturday, March 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sister Anne of the Theotokans will be speaking. Worship led by Alvin Shelby and his Gospel choir. Lunch will be brown bag and water. Details: RSVP to

BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Knights of Columbus Blood Drive, Sunday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details: call the church office to schedule your appointment (601) 833-1799.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, Holy Hour with Adoration for Vocations led by Father Nick Adam, Vocations Director on Tuesday, March 16 from 6-7 p.m. Young men and women who might be discerning God’s will for their future are espectially invited, along with anyone of any age who would like to pray for this cause. All are also welcome to the Mass at 5:30 p.m. Details: Father Kent Bowlds at (662) 588-5868.
GRENADA St. Peter, Lenten Bible study program “Come, Lord Jesus!” Tuesdays at 6 p.m. on Zoom. Join in this Lenten journey to study and meditate upon the Sunday Gospels with an unparalleled spiritual process. Books are $5. Details: office (337) 233-6277, or Annette Tipton (985) 518-5674.
GREENVILLE St. Joseph, Central Grocery Muffuletta Sale. Thursday, April 8, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All proceeds benefit St. Joseph School. Pick-up location is St. Joseph Parish Hall. Cost: $25 Details: office (662) 335-5251
MAGNOLIA St. James, “Faith and Racial Equity” is a nine-session online experience from the Just Faith Program. It will be held every other Thursday, beginning April 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. via Zoom. It introduces a framework for understanding and recognizing racial disparities and takes a deeper dive into specific issues related to power and privilege. There are three primary goals for Faith and Racial Equity: 1) Develop awareness of the ways that racial privilege impacts our communities and ourselves; 2) Through a deep dive into the Gospel of Luke, learn how Jesus’s teachings guide us in seeking racial justice in today’s world; 3) Learn practical tools for becoming anti-racist, and for effecting change in our communities. Cost: approximately $25 plus cost of the three books required for this course. We look forward to YOU joining our group. Details: Call Chris at (301) 266-0433 or send an email if interested to
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, Wednesday night Spaghetti Dinners at the Family Life Center from 5:30-6:30 p.m. All dinners will be served in to-go boxes. Cost: $2 per person with a $5 maximum for a family. There will also be limited seating in the gym and/or outside on the grounds for anyone who may want to eat their dinner on site. Details: church office (601) 693-1321.
Catholic Community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass” led by Father Augustine on Wednesdays that PSR is in session beginning Feb. 24 at 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center. All adults are welcomed. Details: Mary Billups at the church office (601) 693-1321 Ext 5.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Save the Date — Spring Blood Drive, Tuesday, March 23 in the Family Life Center from 1-6 p.m. We hope that all our regular donors and many new donors will give blood on this date and help to save lives! Call the church office to schedule an appointment at (601) 445-5616 or go to to schedule your appointment.

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Big Deal meets Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Join us! Get connected to stay informed! Details: or the church office (601) 992-9547.
MADISON St. Francis, Senior Bible Break, Sundays 4-5 p.m. in the Family Life Center lounge to break open the Sunday Scripture.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick School, Save the Date, Annual St. Patrick School Countdown, Friday, April 16. Tickets are now available from any School Advisory member or at the school office or parish office during regular business hours. Details: school office (601) 482 6044.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Trivia Night, St. Mary’s Vanguard (Young Adult Ministry) will host in the Family Life Center Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. Cost: $5 to play, $1 soft drinks available, no food, prizes for the winner(s). Don’t forget your mask! Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
SOUTHAVEN Sacred Heart School, accepting applications for the 2021-22 school year. They are recognized by Today’s Catholic Teacher as one of three most innovative Catholic Identity Schools in the U.S. They provide a small, close knit family atmosphere with students representing 25 different countries. Details: (662) 349-0900 or

BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Stations on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. followed by Mass at 6 p.m.
CLARKSDALE Catholic Community of St. Elizabeth and Immaculate Conception, Fridays at 5:30 p.m., alternating churches each week.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, Stations on Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
FLOWOOD St. Paul, Stations on Fridays at 6 p.m. during Lent. The responses will be displayed on the monitors. (Stations will also be livestreamed.)
FOREST St. Michael, Stations, Sundays at 8:30 a.m. before 9 a.m. Mass
JACKSON St. Richard, Stations at 5:30 p.m. (Stations will also be livestreamed.)
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Rosary on Fridays at 6 p.m. followed by Stations at 6:30 p.m.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick, Stations on Fridays, March 19 and 26 at 6 p.m. The Hispanic Ministry will lead a special Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, April 2 at 5 p.m.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Stations on Fridays at 5:15 p.m. and Assumption, Stations on Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
OXFORD St. John, Stations on Fridays at 5 p.m.
STARKVILLE St. Joseph, Stations on Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
TUPELO St. James, Stations on Fridays following 12:10 Mass and at 6 p.m. English, 7 p.m. Spanish.

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Fish Dinners to Go, Knights of Columbus will be frying fish and serving it to go with a drive thru. Sign up each week on the website to reserve your dinners. Donations will be accepted. Pick up will be a drive thru at 6:30 p.m. Fridays during Lent. Delivery within a 10-mile radius of the church is available. Be sure to complete the address and phone number section if you need your dinners to be delivered. Details: church office (601) 992-9547.
JACKSON St. Richard, Knights of Columbus Friday Fish Fry To-Go in Foley Hall. Cost: adults $10; kids $5 (12 and under); $35 family maximum. Pick up at 6 p.m. after Stations of the Cross. Boxes include catfish, sides, and dessert.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Knights of Columbus annual Lenten Fish Fry each Friday of Lent. The Fish Fry will be drive thru only at the Family Life Center from 5-7 p.m. Cost: catfish dinners $10; shrimp dinners $11 and combo dinners $12. Dinners include: fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. For grilled catfish, please call 30 minutes ahead: Darren (601) 597-2890 or Joe (601) 431-7744.
OXFORD St. John, Knight of Columbus Friday Catfish Dinners, take out only. If you want five or more plates, order in advance by 3 p.m. Fridays. Details: Basil (662) 816-0252.
SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, Knights of Columbus Council 7120 will be serving Lenten Fish Dinners on Friday, March 19. In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, this will be carry-out only. Funds raised from Knights of Columbus fish fries are used to support ministries such as the Pregnancy Care Center. Details: church office (662) 342-1073.
TUPELO St. James, Knight of Columbus Meatless Spaghetti Dinner, March 19 5-7 p.m. in Shelton Hall. Cost: $8 adults, $5 children under 10. Details: Robby (662) 871-8995 or Calvin 662-372-0948

Deferred Prosecution Agreement brings implementation of systems to bring greater transparency

By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – As part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the Diocese of Jackson has entered with the Federal Government, a Compliance Board has been established to guide the diocese through next August. The Board consists of financial and legal experts along with pastoral and diocesan curia consisting of Rev. Lincoln Dall, vicar general, Carolyn Callahan, diocesan finance officer, and Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor.
The board, which will gather quarterly, met for its initial meeting on Oct. 13, 2020, to discuss ideas and ways to move forward in implementing the steps listed in the DPA to ensure greater transparency and better communication between the diocese and parishes.
The second meeting of the Board was Jan. 12. The following items were addressed for follow up and implementation:
Improved Communication with parishes – The Flocknote communication system is being implemented in parishes. This is an email and text system that allows the diocese to communicate directly and expeditiously with parish leadership and parishioners. Parishes also can communicate to their parishioners through Flocknote with bulletins, notification of events, Mass reservations during the pandemic, etc.
Lighthouse Hotline – Complaints through this system (see sidebar for more information) may be made anonymously by individuals who have witnessed violations of financial policies and/or ethical conduct by church personnel, including parish or diocesan staff and clergy. For each complaint there are three site administrators who receive notification of that complaint. If one of these site administrators is mentioned in a complaint, the complaint goes to other two administrators.
The board asked that the diocesan Ethical Conduct Review Board, which was established by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in July 2019 to address abuse of vulnerable adults by church personnel, add a member with a finance background. The Board then asked that members of the Ethical Review Board serve as administrators on the Lighthouse System so they can receive all reports made in the system.
The board further recommended the Ethical Review Board develop protocols for consistent handling of reports made to Lighthouse that would encompass response, investigations, and actions. The Ethical Review Board will be meeting in mid-March to develop these protocols for implementation with Lighthouse. The protocols will be presented at the next Compliance Board meeting on April 20.
Annual Audit – The Board was given draft copies of the annual diocesan finance audit ending fiscal year June 30, 2020. The final copy is now posted on the diocesan web site at:
The diocesan department of Temporal Affairs is developing training sessions for parish leadership, including pastors, bookkeepers, finance councils and pastoral councils to educate these entities in best practices and sound policy regarding stewardship of parishioners’ donations.
The Compliance Board will continue to collaborate with and make solid recommendations to the diocese for several more months. These meetings have been beneficial to the ongoing improvements and adjustments in diocesan structures and policies.

Black Catholic education in diocese “Cradle Days” – part II

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – When I was in the eighth grade at Bailey Junior High in Jackson, this is what I was taught in American History class about the cause of the Civil War: The people of the South enjoyed importing shoes from France as they liked nice shoes. Massachusetts was home to a large shoe-making industry and wanted to sell shoes in the southern market. To force southerners to buy Massachusetts-made shoes, the government imposed high tariffs on imports from France. This angered southerners; so southern states seceded from the United States and formed the Confederacy.
There was never any mention that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. Even though all the key leaders in the South continually based their secession on maintaining the way of life in the South with slavery at the forefront, our eighth-grade class was taught that it was about shoes.
At the same time (1978-80), we were being taught this “white-washed” version of history, a controversial new textbook was being written and proposed for use as a textbook for ninth grade Mississippi History curriculum. “Mississippi: Conflict and Change,” edited by James Loewen of Tougaloo College and Charles Sallis of Millsaps College, gave a clear history of the state, especially in addressing difficult subjects such as slavery and lynchings. The textbook was not accepted for use in Mississippi school curriculum due largely in part to a graphic photograph of the lynching of a black man.
This reflects how history can be manipulated systemically to make it more palatable, especially considering at that time 97% of Bailey’s students were black. By rejecting the tough history in Conflict and Change, the board of education continued to present softened history to students throughout the state.
Having prefaced with 20th century education, let us journey back to 19th century Natchez education. Last issue we discussed early efforts by Bishop John Joseph Chanche and Bishop William Henry Elder to educate slave children in the afternoons in the rectory in Natchez. We continue that theme this week as we journey through the Civil War and into post war education efforts and the establishment of a school.
The custom of having slave children attend catechism classes in buildings on the church grounds continued throughout the Civil War. After the Emancipation Proclamation was given by President Lincoln in 1863 at Gettysburg, several thousand slaves, now emancipated by the proclamation, gathered in and around Natchez since it was occupied by Union troops.
We find the following letter from Bishop Elder to the Propagation of the Faith Society from early 1864 addressing the conditions in Natchez:
The proclamation of liberty caused several thousands of Negroes to gather in and around Natchez. And, although the military authorities provided them as well they could with shelter and food, yet great numbers of them sickened and died – and they are still dying every day. Almost all that we could get an opportunity to see were well disposed to receive the teachings of the Church and glad to be baptized, and we have been occupied, sometimes one and sometimes three of us, a part of almost every day, preparing them for death. Personally, I had the happiness of baptizing more than five hundred during the sickly period last fall.
After the war in 1868, Msgr. Mathurin Grignon, who had arrived in Natchez from France at the end of Bishop Chanche’s tenure as bishop, and was now Vicar General of the diocese, began a school in the church basement for Catholic children who were former slaves. According to “Cradle Days of St.

Msgr. Mathurin Grignon was born in Brittany, France on Nov. 29, 1822. He served under Bishop John Joseph Chanche, Bishop James Oliver Van de Velde, Bishop William Henry Elder and Bishop Francis August Janssens for the Diocese of Natchez. In 1868, he established the Society of the Holy Family to help support the poor among the Black Catholic community in Natchez. Grignon served St. Mary Cathedral, now Basilica, for over thirty-seven years, longer than any clergymen to date.

Mary’s,” Msgr. Grignon taught catechism to the children and hired teachers for other subjects. In 1868, he established the Society of the Holy Family to help support the poor among the Black Catholic community in Natchez.
Hoping to fortify the school with Sisters as teachers, Bishop Elder wrote to the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1873 promising a house for the Sisters and a playground close by for the children to play. The Oblates were unable to fulfill Bishop Elder’s request however and the school enrollment dwindled.
A description of the school in 1878 is included in “Cradle Days” as: The basement of the Cathedral was divided into two large rooms. The one nearer Union street was vacant; the other was used as the schoolroom. The teacher in 1878 was a Mrs. Sarah Daigle, whose piety made quite a profound impression upon the children. … When Mrs. Daigle fell into ill health, the account continues: the school was moved from the basement of the church to the brick building just south of the Bishop’s Residence. This school was taught by Miss Beauvais and then for a short time by Miss Hammond.

Francis August Janssens was appointed the fourth Bishop of Natchez in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. He served the Diocese from 1881 until 1888, when he was appointed Archbishop of New Orleans. Catholic education was a hallmark of his time in Mississippi. When he arrived in 1881, there were 15 schools; when he left for New Orleans seven years later, there were 26. (Photos courtesy of Diocese Archives)

When Bishop Elder was named Archbishop of Cincinnati in 1880, Bishop Francis Janssens was appointed the new bishop for Natchez. He, too, was committed to providing a school for Natchez’s Black Catholic community. Enrollment in the early 1880s was 25 students.
Bishop Janssens arranged for the Sisters of Charity, who were staffing St. Joseph School for white girls, to teach in the school. Here is a quote from his diary dated Oct. 4, 1886: Today, the Colored School was opened by the Sisters of Charity in the lower room of the house next to our residence. The number of pupils the first day was 24. Sister Mary Elizabeth and Sister Louise were the teachers.
By the end of 1886, the enrollment was up to 15 boys and 35 girls. The school was named St. Francis. In 1887, the school was flourishing with 65 students. The building had to be adjusted to fit all the students. A room on the second floor of the building became a classroom for the older girls.
The evolution of education for Black Catholics in Natchez from the establishment of the diocese, through the Civil War and into the 1880s does reflect a dedication on the part of the early bishops and pastors to evangelize in this community. As we move forward in exploring this ministry, we will see it evolve even further as a parish is established in Natchez for African Americans in 1890 under Bishop Thomas Heslin.

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

Celebrate World Marriage Day

By Charlene Bearden
JACKSON – Traditionally, the Diocese celebrates the anniversaries of married couples with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, and a reception on the second Sunday of February at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the annual diocesan World Marriage Day 2021 celebration was cancelled. The diocese hopes to resume the annual celebration in 2022.
According to World Marriage Day history, the idea of celebrating marriage began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1981 (40 years ago), when couples encouraged the Mayor, the Governor and the Bishop to proclaim St. Valentine’s Day as “We Believe in Marriage Day.” The event was so successful, the idea was presented to and was adopted by Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s National Leadership.
By 1982, 43 Governors officially proclaimed the day, and celebrations spread to U.S. military bases in several foreign countries. In 1983, the name was changed to “World Marriage Day,” designated to be celebrated each year in February. In 1993, his Holiness, Saint Pope John Paul the II imparted his Apostolic Blessings on World Marriage Day. World Marriage Day celebrations continue to grow and spread to more countries and faith expressions every year.
To honor couples in 2021, the Diocese of Jackson on behalf of the Office of Family Ministry asked parishes to submit the names of couples celebrating their 60th, 50th, 25th or any significant anniversary to the Office of Family Ministry, 82 couples from throughout our diocese submitted their names.
Additionally, each couple will receive by mail at a future date, an anniversary certificate that has been blessed and signed by Bishop Kopacz.
Please join us in celebrating the anniversaries of the following couples:

60 Years
Marie and Irvin Baugh, St. Joseph, Greenville
Dorothy and James Bright, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Renate and Sario Caravalho, St. John, Oxford
Marilyn and Ray Hansen, St. Francis, Madison
Carol and Herman Cooper, Holy Savior, Clinton
Iris and Cecil Harrison, St. Richard, Jackson
Shirley and Bert Haydel, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Louise and Duke Mallory, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Rose Marie and Joe Portera, St. Joseph, Greenville
Anna and Jerry Roan, St. Jude, Pearl

JoAnne and Tom Zettler. St. Patrick, Meridian

50 Years
Lynne and Raymond Abraham, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Socorro and Charlie Benn, St. Francis, Madison
Rebecca and Tony Bombich, Holy Savior, Clinton
Teresa and Emmett Burns, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Maureen and Nicolas Calico, St. Jude, Pearl

Rosie and Bob Conner, St. Patrick, Meridian
Evelyngayle and George Cricenti, St. Francis, Madison

Delanie and Hanson DarDar, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Donna and Lucien Finn, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Sheila and Sam Franco, St. John, Oxford

Cheryl and Frank Grove, Holy Savior, Clinton
Linda and Robert Gunther, St. Mary, Iuka

Beth and John Hinkle, St. Joseph, Greenville
Val and Jerry Hosemann, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Joy and Marcel Jojola, St Joseph, Holly Springs

Myra and Pat Kalahar, St. Jude, Pearl

Doris and Jack Kerwin, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Pam and Bill Lawhead, St. John, Oxford
Kathy and Johnny Martin, St. John, Oxford
Debbie and Fred Miller, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Jamae and Mike Sellari
, Holy Savior, Clinton

Lydia and David Smith, St. John the Baptist, Sardis
Laura and John Valentine, St. John, Oxford

25 Years
Wendy and Alan Blue, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Libby and Chris Callegan, Holy Savior, Clinton
Michelle and Mark Chmielewski, St. Francis, Madison
Sandra and Michael Cirilli, St. Joseph, Greenville
Kelley and Drew Clinton, St. John, Oxford
Joy and Mike Crown, St. Joseph, Greenville
Julie and Stephen Hornaday, St. Francis, Madison
Melodie and Lawrence Deese, St. Mary, Batesville
Schrie and Jack Duthu, St. Joseph, Greenville
Susannah and Wade Heatherly, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Michelle and Hayden Kaiser, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Christie and Robert Loper, St. Joseph, Greenville
Tara and Kurre Luber, St. John, Oxford
Jennifer and Jerry Myrick, St. Francis, Madison
Christina and David Overton, St. Jude, Pearl

Octavia and Byron Poindexter, Christ the King, Jackson
Connie and Andy Reynolds, St. John, Oxford
Mirna and Alex Robles, St. Mary, Batesville
Ashley and Donald Roesch, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Rachel and Sean Simmons, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Delaney and Rob Smith, Holy Savior, Clinton

Beth and Lonnie Stinnett, St. John, Oxford
Paige and Robert Suares, St. Joseph, Greenville
Amy and Brett Tisdale, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Jennifer and Chris Tonos, St. Joseph, Greenville
Heather and Chuck Trost, St. John, Oxford
Katie and Brewer Vaught, St. Joseph, Greenville
VeSheler and Pertis Watts, Christ the King, Jackson

Special Anniversaries
Mary and Alex Balducci, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Linda and Joe Boisse, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Sierra and Blake Cannon, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Carol and James Cooper, St. Francis, Madison
Rosalie and Jack Garner, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Debbie and John Gibson, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 40 Years
Julia and Tom Graham, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Betty and Tom Griffith, St. Patrick, Meridian, 70 Years
Kathleen and Adam Hamilton, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Julie and Mike Harkins, Holy Savior, Clinton, 40 Years
Kimmy and Chad Hill, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Renee and Robert Hoover, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Sallie Ann and Will Inman, St. Francis of Assisi, Madison
Anna and Blake Jeffries, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Faye and George Jones, Christ the King, Jackson, 55 Years
Janet and Richard Karsten, St. John, Oxford, 61 Years
Antinette and Fred McFadden, Christ the King, Jackson, 56 Years
Margaret and Dave Moody, St. Francis, Madison
Lacey and Matt Nalker, Holy Savior, Clinton, 30 Years
Carrie and Dennis Ott, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Ling and Mathias Romkens, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Susan and John Schenk, St. Francis, Madison, 20 Years
Darlene and William Smith, St. Francis, Madison, 63 Years
Vance and Parks Smith, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Maria and John Bryant Stewart, Sr., Sacred Heart, Canton 26 years
Ana and Jorge Vidal, St. Francis, Madison, 20 years
Kristen and Jacob Whelan, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Selena and Steve Wies, Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland, 30 Years
Sheila and Gary Yeck, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 51 years

Intro to diocese intercultural ministry team

By Father Clement “Clem” Olukunle Oyafemi
JACKSON – Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, it is my pleasure to introduce myself to you once again. I am deeply grateful to Fran Lavalle and Bishop Joseph Kopacz for inviting me to this diocese. I joined the Office of Intercultural Ministry last October and if not for COVID I would have toured all the parishes of the diocese by now.

Father Clem and Daisey Martinez of the Office of Intercultural Ministry. (Photo by Abbey Schuhmann)

The philosophy behind intercultural ministry is that it is not enough to just know that people from other cultures exist among us; we need to dialogue with them. Interculturalism, therefore, involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a many cultures in a community. The beauty lies in the many cultures effectively existing in society to the level of promoting mutual respect and dialogue. I believe that intercultural ministry is a genuine fruit that must grow out of authentic multicultural ministry.
People cannot just exist side by side in the church for several decades without engaging with one another in fruitful and respectful dialogue. Intercultural philosophy/theology challenges the idea of legitimizing segregated communities, leaving them in isolation from each other. Why? Because isolation leads to death. That explains why most of the national churches in our big cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., died out.
From pastoral experience, effective multicultural offices in Catholic dioceses should after some years grow into one intercultural office. That is why the people serving in multicultural offices cannot just be proficient in various human languages but must also be fluent in reading and speaking the language of the heart – love. It is only when we are converted and transformed that we can make ourselves available as instruments of transformation.
Today’s church is not just talking about tolerance or collaboration, but we are talking about being in profoundly genuine communion with God and with one another.
Daisey Martinez is the associate for this office. She is also fluent in Spanish and English and also in the language of the heart – her smile. We are here for everyone. Our plan is to visit every parish to introduce ourselves. That is done right now by invitation for obvious reasons. Some parishes would prefer to see us only when the pandemic is completely over, and we don’t have to mask up like a masquerade ball – LOL. We have a few parishes lined up for the months of February and March.
We hope to also visit schools, (public and private), hospitals, youth groups, and so on, building bridges and encouraging people to see diversity as a gift to be celebrated and not a problem to be solved.
During our visit to parishes, especially for workshops, we will dwell heavily on “Open Wide our Hearts,” a pastoral letter the USCCB published in 2018. We will build on the workshop that Bishop Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, presented to the clergy of the Diocese of Jackson in the month of January.
Post COVID, we hope to have a big celebration in which all the different ethnic groups in the diocese will gather with the bishop to celebrate our diversity.
As we begin this Lenten season, let us continue to pray for one another that the true spirit of Repentance may be experienced by all.

(Father Clem Oyafemi is the coordinator for the Office of Intercultural Ministry of the Diocese of Jackson.)

Missionary, Father Mullaly retires after 50 years of service

By Mary Margaret Edney
GREENVILLE – As a seminarian, Father Thomas Mullaly wrote a letter to his superior general of the Society of the Divine Word who resides in Rome, detailing where he’d would like to end up as a priest. In the letter, he asked to go south, which is where he’s been ever since.

Father Mullaly

Mullaly, a native of Emmett, Michigan, has retired from administering of parishes after 50 years of service as a Divine Word Missionary priest.
“It went by very fast,” Mullally said with a laugh, reflecting on his decades spent in the priesthood. “If you are open to people, if you are compassionate and merciful, the laity will respond. They enjoy a priest who can laugh and cry with them and minister to them.”
And that’s exactly what Mullally did.
“I’m not a cook, so I ate with a lot of families,” he explained. “One of the great joys I had was sitting down and having a wonderful meal with parishioners. People love to have their priests come to their home and have a meal with them.”
But being a parish priest in the deep south wasn’t originally what Mullally had in mind. While he was a junior in high school, he talked to his guidance counselor about going overseas to work in foreign service. His counselor suggested priesthood, and he imagined he would end up being a missionary in a foreign country after his ordination on Dec. 19 1970, in Techny, Illinois. However, Mullally wasn’t a linguist, and his health at the time wasn’t ideal for international travel, so he decided to stick with the southern United States.
“I was very happy; I definitely made the right decision,” he said, when reflecting back on his decades of priesthood. “I have no complaints, I love my ministry.”
Though his vocation didn’t take him to foreign countries, it did bring foreign countries to him. Since 1996, Mullally has mentored young missionaries of his religious order, the Society of the Divine Word, which pastor in many of Mississippi’s African-American Catholic and multi-cultural churches. From Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Ghana and Benin — he’s had the chance to mentor young priests from all over the world.
“I tell them that to learn about the black community or any community, you have to walk in the streets and get to know them,” he said. “To minister, you must visit their homes, visit the sick and listen to their stories.”
From St. Martinville and Jeanerette, Louisiana, to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and finally to Mississippi’s Sacred Heart in Greenville, St. Francis in Shaw and Sacred Heart in Rosedale, Mullally always made it a goal to become entrenched in the local community he serves. By spending quality time with his parishioners outside of Sunday Mass, he really got to know them, and they got to know him.
“I really enjoyed working with the youth, I’d go to basketball and football games,” he said, adding that when he left St. Martinville in 1975, he was given a team letter jacket. “It’s 45 years old, and I still wear it. I wore it yesterday, and I’ll wear it tomorrow.”
Now, as a retired priest, Mullally’s responsibilities have shifted, and he still plans to fill in for priests who need a substitute. But, one thing that won’t change with his retirement is his commitment to knowing his community.
“I always evangelize, especially with young people,” he said. “I just walked recently even though was cold in a park in Greenville, and I talk to group of young teenagers and — ask them how they’re doing, how school is coming along. Even in Kroger, I talk to the young cashiers and asked them if them know where Sacred Heart church is located, and if they do not, I tell them where the church is.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience to know African-American people and understand their side of their side of the story of life,” Mullally said. “The relationships I’ve made are incredible. I’m a missionary, that’s me.”

Lourdes: Sacraments of healing and my memory of shrines

Theology at the movies
By James Tomek, Ph.D
Jessica Housner’s 2009 Lourdes, recently on the Turner Classic Movie channel, is a beautiful, yet complex study of the Lourdes phenomenon that gives insight on the powers of the healing sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. The story concerns a group of pilgrims in different stages of suffering who visit Lourdes to experience the healing waters of Saint Bernadette’s village. Christine, the major character, suffers from multiple sclerosis and is paralyzed from the neck down. Her roommate, an older woman, Frau Hartl, has some kind of facial paralysis. The leader of the group is Cecile, a rather tough talking nun who leads the pilgrims in their tour that includes the grotto, baths and confessions. Many of the scenes are of actual pilgrims. The film also shows the tourist aspects of the town, but is very ambiguous about condemning it, as it also puts us solemnly right in the middle of all the devotions with the beautiful music and chanting of the prayers. Silvie Testud, the popular French actress who plays Christine, accepted the part only on condition that the film not bash Lourdes. Two ladies, who serve like the Greek chorus, comment on miracles and why a God would help some and refuse others. After taking you on a “pilgrimage” through the film Lourdes, I will share some memories of sacred trips to our closer Canadian Shrines.

Empty pews are seen at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in early April during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Thibaud Moritz, JMP/ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters)

We see Christine first wheeled into the large cafeteria by Maria, a nurse’s aid dressed like a nun. Soon she is put to bed by the leader, Cecile, and Maria who kneel afterwards in night prayer. Cecile leads the group through their itinerary of visiting the grotto, receiving the general solemn “monstrance” blessing, along with the baths, confession, the Stations of the Cross and final picnic. Christine is not a devout pilgrim. She explains that it is only the wish to leave her assisted living place to have varied cultural experiences. In her confession, she admits not having sympathy for her fellow sufferers. She is jealous when her nurse Maria flirts with Kuno, a military helper, at the shrine from the order of Malta. When she is later cured, the two “chorus” ladies doubt her merit. Christine’s roommate, an older lady with facial paralysis, is in direct opposition to Christine devotion-wise. She takes care of Christine when Maria neglects her duties. She is sincere as we witness her praying in front of the primary statue of Mary.
Is the film somewhat critical of the tourist attitude? I am not sure. When the older lady prays in front of the statue, we see a souvenir sign to the left. However, if we look closer, the souvenir shop is in a mirror reflection and well behind the holy area. The head of the group Cecile seems cold at first. She scolds Christine for excessive pride when her roommate wheels her closer to the priest giving the solemn blessing. However, Cecile also devoutly prays for her after she has put Christine to bed. In the end, she faints, and we see that she is suffering from a cancer as her head reflects the ravishes of chemotherapy. I am reminded of the 1943 film, The Song of Bernadette, when an older nun, who had been criticizing Bernadette, changes her view when she sees the condition of her legs. I change my mind and see Cecile as a saint who leads hurting people to places of prayer and possible healings.
How do we look at this movie with respect to miracles? There is one young girl who regains a little consciousness, but then falls back into a state of non-being. Christine is cured and dances at the farewell dinner, but falls and needs a wheelchair as the film ends. Is the cure only temporary? Is the place a tourist trap? Why does God help some and not others?
The two chorus ladies pose questions of Divine Justice worthy of Job. The consulting priests assuage the sufferers in that they are all “cured” on some level, if they can accept their condition. I pray that this is true. On one level, I would advise believers to read someone like John Haught, who takes on why a powerful God would allow such misfortune, in his God After Darwin. There are beautiful adult explanations on why we should have faith in a “weak” God.
On another level, this film takes me back to pilgrimage trips that I took with my parents to the Canadian shrines of Saint Anne in Quebec, the Blessed Mother in the Cap de la Madeleine in Three Rivers, and Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. I remember processions and services and also souvenir shops. However, most people were there to pray. Real pilgrims. Some left their crutches, but all were there in devout prayer. I went five times with my parents, who in the last time, bribed me by letting me drive. Two later trips were done on my will power. I took my mother to the shrines the Summer after my father died — a beautiful trip where we reminisced about dad and our religion. The second — a trip through the shrines with my spouse Yvonne. We had a controlled naivete as we visited the shrines, observing the major ceremonies at each place. There were tourists, yes, but the majority of the experiencers were people who prayed and were looking for meaning in life. Sometimes the pilgrimage effect can help you pray when a local church service might become too repetitious. The two trips helped me remember my family and religion.
The film Lourdes is so beautifully presented, with real pilgrims, that it creates the atmosphere of prayer and music, even if one questions at times the commercial aspect. It is a prayer.

(James Tomek is a retired language and literature professor at Delta State University who is currently a Lay Ecclesial Minister at Sacred Heart in Rosedale and also active in RCIA at Our Lady of Victories in Cleveland.)