Parish remembers beloved Glenmary

By Maureen Smith
ABERDEEN – St. Francis Parish honored one of the Glenmary missioners who helped plant and nurture the seeds of the Catholic Community there by naming the parish hall after Brother Terry O’Rourke. A new sign went up April 27. Brother Terry O’Rourke died on March 10, 2017, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served as a Glenmary Missioner for 58 years, many of those in Mississippi.
Parishioner Bob Seymour said Brother Terry built the original parish hall at St. Francis. That building burned 12 years ago, but the mark Brother Terry left on the community is indelible.

ABERDEEN – St. Francis named the parish hall in honor of Bro. Terry O’Rourke, a beloved Glenmary and member of the community. The sign was finished on Friday, April 27. (Photo by Bob Seymor)

“The idea came up at the parish council meeting in April. It had been a year since he passed away and we thought this would be a good thing to do. The parish council presented the idea to the parish and everyone loved it,” said Seymour. He remembers Brother Terry and Father Tim Murphy started a food bank out of the garage of the parish hall. That operation, known as Loaves and Fishes, is not its own non-profit with a grocery store and its own delivery truck.
Although much of what Brother Terry did was visible, he also helped in small, quiet ways. Seymour said he always helped cook Wednesday suppers, played horseshoes with a group of retirees and, in his spare time, helped train service dogs for other people to use. “Seemed like he always had a dog here. Even when he moved into the retirement home he had a dog,” said Seymour.

Catholic Charities offers financial training

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Tuesday, April 24, Catholic Charities of Jackson and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) offered a unique training at Grenada St. Peter Parish with Bobbie Lison of Catholic Charities in Green Bay, Wis. Lison is a national trainer for “Your Money, Your Goals,” (YMYG) a set of financial empowerment tools. The idea is to give some specific problem-solving resources to just about anyone who works with people in need, especially social workers and case workers.
“This program is not meant to turn people into certified financial health counselors, but to provide them with tools and resources,” said Lison. “Say you are a mental health counselor and you can tell a client is stressed. When you ask why, they tell you payday lenders are calling and calling and they don’t know what to do. You can dip into these materials to find what you need to help,” she said.
Danna Johnson, who runs the Catholic Charities Office in Vardaman went to a training in YMYG a couple years ago and has been using the lessons with her clients.
Daughter of Charity Sister Mary Walz works at the Lexington Medical Clinic as a social worker. This may not seem like the kind of place to offer financial advice, but she says YMYG is an amazing resource for her. “I thought I was going to get a specific curriculum to follow, but this is better, because no matter what setting you are in, you can use this workbook to tailor your response.” she said. Sister Walz explained that when people come to the clinic she tries to spend a few minutes with them before their appointment with medical staff. She asks what their top stressors are. Many times the answer is money. “Finances can affect you – including a worry that you won’t be able to pay your clinic bill.”
Rather than try to steer her clients into a class, she can get specific information about their challenge and she and the client can tackle it together. “This program has modules to address different things, savings, repairing your credit, things like that,” she explained. One workbook asks clients to list all their bills and when they are due along with income. Seeing the information on paper can help people prioritize what to pay first, what resources may be available for shortfalls and it may help them see ways they can better manage their money. “This is very practical in helping someone line up their wants and needs. It is done in a very user-friendly model and is sensitive to the reality of people struggling with finances,” said Sister Walz. She said some clinic staff members want to go through the exercise for themselves.
The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) created Your Money Your Goals and partnered with Catholic Charities USA and other community service organizations to get it up and running across the country. CCUSA has three trainers who travel the country offering workshops like this one, usually for Catholic Charities staff members. At the Grenada training, other organizations were invited, including the president of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in Jackson, a representative of CHANGE Amory and someone from Canopy Children’s Solutions in Tupelo. “This gave us an opportunity to network because it brought together people from the Delta and North Mississippi who are in ministry who wouldn’t normally know one another,” said Dorothy Balser, coordinator for Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities of Jackson.
Each participant got a binder full of modules with lessons and exercises they can use with their clients, but the CFPB offers even more material on its website. Some material can be downloaded or ordered from the agency. To see the material go to www.consumerfinance.gov and search for Your Money, Your Goals.

Photos by Danna Johnson

Catholic Charities to honor St. Dominic executives

Claude Harbarger

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Charities will honor two healthcare leaders at this year’s Bishop’s Ball, set for Saturday, June 9, at the Jackson Country Club. During the evening event, Claude Harbarger and Lester Diamond will be honored with the Samaritan Award. Harbarger is the president of St. Dominic’s Health Services while Diamond is the president of St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The Samaritan Award highlights the work of individuals whose support of Catholic Charities has made a lasting impact on the organization and community. Diamond and Harbarger are ever-present at Catholic Charities events and work with other community partners to advance the work of Catholic Charities in the community. John Lunardini, COO of Catholic Charities explained that the board felt the men provide a model of how community organizations can work together to amplify their positive impact.
“Their leadership running a faith-based healthcare system has greatly enhanced the quality of medical services provided to the community. And, their support of Charities through the St. Dominic Foundation has enabled us to serve many more people in a more diverse capacity throughout the state,” said Lunardini.
Harbarger, a Huntsville, Ala., native worked with hospitals in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee before coming to Jackson in May, 1987 as Senior Vice President of Professional Services for St. Dominic Hospital. He was named president of the hospital in 1991 and served in this role for 20 years. In January, 2012, Harbarger began serving as President of St. Dominic Health Services. He serves on a number of regional and national healthcare boards as well as being active at his church, First Presbyterian of Jackson, and in the local community. He and his wife Karis live in Jackson.
St. Dominic Health Services, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, is the parent organization operating St. Dominic Hospital, St. Catherine’s Village, Madison Health Services and Community Health Services–St. Dominic, Inc., which incorporates the outreach services of The Club at St. Dominic’s, New Directions for Over 55, St. Dominic Community Health Clinic and the Care-A-Van screening program.

Lester Diamond

Diamond was actually born at St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital, but was raised in Millington, Tennessee. He worked in Texas and Georgia before he came back to Jackson to be vice-president of St. Dominic’s North Campus. He continued to move up through the ranks at the hospital before becoming president in 2012.
He and his wife, Gina, have three children and are active members of Jackson St. Richard Parish. St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital is a 535-bed acute-care facility in Jackson. It traces its history to 1946, when the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., purchased the Jackson Infirmary in the center of the city. The infirmary was the foundation for a health system that today includes the acute care hospital, a continuing care community, and a full range of outpatient and community services.
Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, associate executive director of the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, has worked closely with both men. “Claude (Harbarger) and Lester (Diamond) both outstanding leaders at St. Dominic’s are worthy of recognition as recipients of the Catholic Charities Samaritan award. Both define the role of a Samaritan as they inspire St. Dominic’s 3,500 employees to reach out to help others through their words and actions while they themselves serve others without counting the cost,” she said.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz will give the awards to Harbarger and Diamond. “This provides us with the opportunity to direct the spotlight onto the mission and long-standing service of the Saint Dominic Health Care System in Mississippi. During their tenures these two have advanced the mission of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield ‘to provide compassionate care and hope as a healing ministry of the Catholic Church,’” said the bishop.
“As a member of the Board of Directors of the Saint Dominic Health System, I am privileged to experience first-hand their leadership, professional expertise and Gospel commitment to the advancing the state of healthcare across the South, and in particular for many years in the St. Dominic Health Care System.”
Tickets to the Bishop’s Ball are $85 per person. The evening includes dinner, live and silent auctions and dancing to live music. Call Catholic Charities to purchase tickets call Julie O’Brien at (601) 326-3714 or email at julie.obrien@catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

Invitation

Parish calendar

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT
BROOKSVILLE Dwelling Place Retreat Center, private or directed retreats, June 8-16 or July 14-21 (schedule 3, 5 or 8 days within this block of time). Donation: $90 per day. Director: Clare Van Lent, founder. A directed retreat is a personally guided prayer experience following the Spiritual Exercises adapted to your needs. Enjoy a time of solitude and prayerful reflection primarily using Scripture. Meet daily with the director for guidance and mutual discernment. Join the community in daily Worship. Details: (662) 738-5348 or dwellpl@gmail.com.
John of the Cross – Hope in Our Darkness, June 22-23. Though John of the Cross lived in the 16th century, he has left us a treasure in understanding the spiritual life and leading others in growth in prayer. As we struggle with the normal dry spells in prayer, John gives us deeper insight into that darkness and dryness, encouraging us in our desire for an ever-deeper relationship with God. He urges us to carve out silence in the midst of all the noise in our culture. Presenter: Father John Bohn, pastor of Jackson St. Richard Parish, a long-time student of Saint John of the Cross. Donation: $100. Details: (662) 738-5348 or dwellpl@gmail.com.

PARISH, SCHOOL AND FAMILY EVENTS
AMORY St. Helen, English as a second language class meets Fridays, 10 a.m., at the parish hall. Details: (662) 256-8392.
CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, Dutch luncheon at the Ranch sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary, Tuesday, May 15, at 11:30 a.m. Details: Joyous Sbravati at (662) 624-6185.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, Ladies Bible Study will be studying the book “Walking with Purpose.” Resumes Wednesday, June 6, at 6 p.m. Details: Jenifer Jenkins (662) 846-6273.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Pentecost celebration, Sunday, May 20 at 4 p.m., Special celebration for all six parishes. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
Open House for new chapel and hall that is being renovated, Sunday, June 10, 10:30 – 1p.m. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
JACKSON The president of the National Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Ralph Middlecamp, will be speaking at St. Richard Parish on Thursday, May 24, at 4:30 p.m. in Glynn Hall. His topic is the strategic plan of the National St. Vincent de Paul Society in the United States. All are welcome. Details: George Evans, 601-707-3218.
PEARL St. Jude Parish international Pentecost celebration. Saturday, May 19, 5:30 p.m. Stations representing peoples’ countries of origins will feature food and cultural heritage representations. The party is open to all and celebrates the founding of our church. Please note Mass will be at 4 p.m. this day. Details: (601) 939-3181.

YOUTH BRIEFS
GREENVILLE St. Joseph School, Color Me Cured – 5K Color Run Run/Walk for Aries Cotton, a St. Joe student, Thursday May 31, at 5:30 p.m., Benny Strazi Football Field. Special pricing on early registration by May 16. Details: school office (662) 378-9711.
Mini Cheer Camp, June 4-6, 8 – 11:30 a.m. Ages 3-12 years. Cost: $50 per camp, includes T-shirt if registered by May 21, snacks and drinks. Details: Perlita Dixon (662) 378-9711.
Tennis Camp, June 18-20. Mark Apartments Tennis Courts, 481 Cyress Lane, Greenville. Camps for 4-6 years, 7-9 years, 10-12 years and 13 years and older. Cost: $40 due with application to ensure place at camp. Details: school office (662) 378-9711.
Football Camp, June 4-6, 8-11 a.m. St. Joseph School Field House, coach John Baker.
Basketball Camp, June 4-6 12 noon – 3 p.m., St. Joseph School Gymnasium, Coach James Hunter.
Softball Camp, June 11-13, 8-11 a.m., St. Joseph School Softball Field, Coach Billy Ainsworth.
Soccer Camp, June 25-27, 8-11 a.m., St. Joseph School Practice Field, Coach Craig Mandolini.
Above four camps are for 5-12 years, boys and girls. Cost: $50 per camp. Includes T-shirt if registered by May 21, snacks and drinks. Details: school office (662) 378-9711.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Christian Service Initiative – Putting Mercy in Motion. June 3-8 for girls and June 17-22 for boys. For youth currently in high school to spend the week at Sacred Heart Southern Mission’s Volunteer House in Walls, helping clients in need with odd jobs. Deadline is May 20. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Class of 2018 Senior appreciation Mass and reception on Sunday, May 20, 5 p.m. Reception to follow. Details: (601) 856-5556.
PEARL St. Jude, Homework mission experience for youth, June 27-30. Instead of traveling out of this community for a trip this summer, our youth will have a mission experience in our own backyard, reaching out to our parish, our community and the diocese. It will include service work, spiritual reflection and a lot of fun. Details: church office (601) 939-3181.

POSITION AVAILABLE
JACKSON Mississippi Catholic seeks Spanish Language content manager/office manager. Reporting to the Director of Communications, this position oversees content for Mississippi Catolico, the Spanish language paper for the diocese, as well as providing translation services as needed. The candidate must be fluently bilingual. Limited travel. Experience with writing and photography beneficial. The office manager for the department of communications is responsible for the day-to-day business operations. This includes managing the subscription database, billing, record-keeping and office maintenance. Candidate will also provide some clerical support for the office of vocations. Application deadline: June 1. Send resumes, writing samples to editor@mississippicatholic.com.

Tome Nota

El programa “Hands ON + Hearts IN” (Manos ENCIMA + Corazones DENTRO) brinda experiencias en Holly Springs, Mississippi de discernimiento de una semana para mujeres que están considerando la vida como hermanas católicas. No hay costo para los participantes. Las próximas experiencias están programadas para el 7 al 11 de mayo, del 21 al 25 de mayo, del 20 al 24 de agosto y del 10 al 14 de septiembre.

Durante cinco días completos, las mujeres estarán acompañadas por hermanas de varias órdenes para proporcionar servicios prácticos a los necesitados como tutoría de niños, ayudar en una despensa de alimentos, limpieza de hogares para personas mayores, reparar casas dañadas o sirviendo comidas en un comedor de beneficencia.

Todas vivirán en comunidad durante la semana, compartiendo oración, cocina, reflexiones, orientación y mucha diversión. Los solicitantes deben registrarse un mes antes del inicio de un programa específico. Acompañados por los Ministros de Vocaciones, la experiencia de lunes a viernes ofrece una oportunidad práctica para ayudar a los necesitados mientras se discierne la vida como una hermana.
Para obtener más información sobre esta oportunidad de discernir la vida como hermana, contáctese con Hermana Sharon Glumb, SLW sglumb@slw.org; 847-577-5972 ext. 233 (oficina); 601-291-6738 (celular).Campamento Católico
junio 17- 23 niños/as 8 – 11 años

El campamento está ubicado cerca de Amory, Mississippi e incluye Misa diaria, natación, arte, música, juegos y deportes.
Para más información, favor llame al padre Tim Murphy, 662-304-0087 e-mail: catholiccampms@juno.com

Hermana Lourdes celebra su 25º aniversario

JACKSON – Hermana Lourdes Gonzalez, MGSpS, celebró su 25° aniversario de vida consagrada con una misa y una fiesta animada en la parroquia de Santa Teresita el domingo, 8 de abril.
En la misa, la Hermana Lourdes renovó sus juramentos mientras sostenía la Vela Pacual. Después de la misa, la comunidad se reunió en el centro parroquial para una fiesta. El salón estaba decorada con girasoles, la flor favorita de la hermana. Una banda de mariachis tocó y todos incluido el pastor Msgr. Elvin Sunds y la hermana bailaron toda la tarde.
Hermana Lourdes es parte de la comunidad de Misioneras Guadalupanas del Espíritu Santo que viven en Brandon. Ella trabaja como ministra pastoral en Santa Teresita.

JACKSON – Hermana Lourdes Gonzalez, MGSpS, baila en la celebración de su 25º aniversario de vida consagrada en la parroquia de Santa Teresita. (Foto de la hermana María Elena Méndez)

Visita pastoral a la misión de Saltillo

Por Msgr. Michael Flannery
SALTILLO, Mex. – El jueves 12 de abril, el Obispo Kopacz y yo comenzamos nuestra visita anual a la misión en Saltillo, México. Los padres David Martínez y Evelio Casarubias, los sacerdotes de la misión, se reunieron con nosotros en el aeropuerto para llevarnos a la unidad de 70 millas a Saltillo a tiempo para la misa de las 6 p.m. en la Iglesia de la Divina Misericordia, dedicada por el Obispo Kopacz hace dos años. Después de la misa, se sirvió una comida deliciosa en honor a la llegada del obispo Kopacz.
La mañana siguiente (viernes), estábamos en la carretera a las 7 a.m. para visitar los ranchos acompañados de cinco acólitos y tres músicos. Nuestra primera parada fue en el pueblo de San Francisco para celebrar el sacramento de la Confirmación. Es rara vez que los pueblos ven un obispo. Por lo general, un aldeano tiene que viajar a la iglesia catedral para su confirmación, trayendo a familiares y patrocinadores con él/ella y tal vez pasar la noche. Por lo tanto, la visita del obispo es un gran ahorro para las familias. Después de la confirmación, todos compartimos un gran desayuno con los aldeanos y las personas recién confirmadas.
En el transcurso de ese día, dejamos el estado de Coahuila en el estado de Zacatecas, visitando los pueblos de Jalapa, Anima, Sabanilla, Garambullo y Tapon. Tapon es el pueblo más remoto y toma seis horas de viaje para llegar allí. La mayor parte del camino sigue un sendero hinchable, viajando aproximadamente de cinco a siete millas por hora. Nuestra última parada del día fue el Rancho el Cuervo, un famoso campamento de caza donde el amable anfitrión había preparado una deliciosa comida. En total, fue un día completo para el Obispo Kopacz, habiendo celebrado tres ceremonias de Confirmaciones, cuatro celebraciones de la Palabra y la Sagrada Comunión y una bendición de los aldeanos.
El sábado, el obispo don Raúl Vera, obispo de Saltillo, se unió al obispo Kopacz para bendecir la piedra angular de una nueva iglesia, San José. La bendición se llevó a cabo al aire libre bajo una sombra improvisada. La emoción de los 200 aldeanos fue increíble. Ellos participaron en la Misa con gran reverencia y entusiasmo. La realidad de tener su propio espacio de culto estaba a la vista. El obispo Vera predicó la homilía. Él habló de cooperar con los obispos de Texas y los obispos mexicanos cuyas diócesis estaban adyacentes a la frontera con los Estados Unidos. Este grupo recién formado de obispos estaba en el proceso de redactar una carta al presidente Trump en la que le suplicaba que no construyera un muro entre los Estados Unidos y México. El Obispo Kopacz, parafraseando al Papa Francisco, habló de construir puentes como el puente que las diócesis de Biloxi y Jackson han tenido con la Diócesis de Saltillo durante 49 años.
Después de la misa, viajamos a Presa San Pedro para la celebración de la Confirmación para los aldeanos de La Rosa, La Purísima y La Ventura. De nuevo, fue un gran festival de fe. Antes de irse, el Obispo Kopacz hizo una visita a una señora que sufría de parálisis cerebral. Ahora tenía 24 años y no pesaba más de 45 libras. Ella nunca había hablado y solo hacía sonidos guturales. La familia estaba muy agradecida por la visita del obispo.
El domingo por la mañana, en Saltillo, tuvimos una misa a las 9:00 a.m. en la Iglesia de la Divina Misericordia, que incluyó varios bautismos y un desayuno con las personas mayores. Después de la comida, nos unimos a una procesión a cuatro cuadras de la iglesia liderada por bailarines aztecas, que se dirigían a la Misa más grande del día a la 1:00 p.m. Una vez más, el obispo Kopacz fue el celebrante principal, acompañado por el obispo Vera. Las celebraciones continuaron hasta las 11:00 p.m.
Obispo Kopacz también visitó al sepulcro del padre Patrick Quinn, el fundador de la misión y el seminario local en Saltillo.
El martes viajamos a Aguascalientes para la ordenación diaconal de Adolfo Suárez Pasillas. Después del ensayo, conocimos a su familia encantadora y compartimos una comida deliciosa. El miércoles por la mañana Adolfo nos mostró los sitios históricos de Aguascalientes. La ciudad estaba haciendo preparativos extensos para la Feria de San Marcos, un festival anual de tres semanas que asisten varios millones de personas de todo México. Este festival musical tuvo una tradición ininterrumpida de 190 años. Los locales alegan que se consumirá más cerveza durante este período de tres semanas de la feria que durante el resto del año calendario.
Lo más destacado de nuestra visita fue la ordenación de Adolfo en su ciudad natal, Jesús María, en la iglesia parroquial de Jesús de Nazaret a las 5:30 p.m. Miércoles, 18 de abril. El Obispo Kopacz presidió la misa con una iglesia abarrotada de aproximadamente 500 personas, otras 400 se habían congregado en el patio. El apoyo de los feligreses fue increíble. El Vicario General de la Diócesis de Aguascalientes saludó al Obispo Kopacz y lo recibió en la diócesis. Señaló que la parroquia de Jesús de Nazaret era la parroquia más espiritual de toda la diócesis. La Diócesis de Aguascalientes ordena un promedio de 12 sacerdotes por año y actualmente tiene suficiente excedente que algunos de sus sacerdotes están sirviendo en otras áreas de México. De hecho, el vicario mencionó que podrían compartir algunos sacerdotes con la Diócesis de Jackson.
El padre Kent Bowlds, pastor de la parroquia de Nuestra Señora de las Victorias en Cleveland, donde Adolfo ha servido, dio el testimonio de la buena disposición del candidato. Después de la ordenación, nos dirigimos a un salón cercano donde fuimos recibidos por una banda de Mariachi y la celebración continuó hasta las 11:00 p.m.
En total, fue una semana llena, una tremenda experiencia de compartir la fe y una gran bendición para todos los participantes. En nuestro viaje de regreso a casa, el obispo Kopacz ya estaba haciendo planes para su viaje de regreso para el próximo año, cuando con suerte bendecirá la iglesia recién construida de San José y participará en el jubileo de oro de la fundación de la Misión Saltillo. El buen trabajo iniciado por el Padre Patrick Quinn, el fundador de la Misión Saltillo todavía continúa en su alcance a los pobres.
El diácono Adolfo será asignado a la parroquia de Jackson Santa Tersita durante su año como diácono.

(Mons. Michael Flannery es un sacerdote retirado de la Diócesis de Jackson. Ha escrito un libro sobre la misión de Saltillo, disponible en la Parroquia Madison St. Francis.)
(Nota del editor: una cobertura más amplia de la ordenación del Diácono Adolfo aparecerá en el conjunto especial de ordenación en el Mississippi Catholic en junio.)

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Advocates praise parole reform law signed by Governor Bryant

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Wednesday, April 18, Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 387 into law. Prison reform advocates are praising it as a long-needed step forward in the state. It has a number of different impacts on parole and sentencing regulations.
“What’s so great is that this is the first step in reform that we have needed for so long. We finally have some momentum,” said Marvin Edwards, coordinator for prison ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. He was invited to witness the bill signing. He has long advocated for reforms that would help both inmates inside prison and those who have been released and wish to start new lives. “Bigger issues are being tackled. We are getting people involved who have not been,” he said. Edwards said reform, while a moral issue, is quickly becoming a huge economic issue for the state.
André de Gruy, the state public defender and member of Jackson St. Richard Parish, outlined the main points in an email to Mississippi Catholic. He called special attention to two sections dealing with parole violations. Section five of the new law expands parole eligibility for non-violent offenders who were not covered in a previous reform. It means almost 200 non-violent offenders can now get parole. “The vast majority, more than 140, will be parole eligible on July 1; the fiscal impact estimate of this provision is $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019,” he wrote.
Another significant reform eliminates a judge’s ability to “stack” technical parole violations, such as failure to report or pay a fine. The practice means a parolee who has not committed a new crime could be sent back to prison for years on non-violent technical violations.
“The result was that despite 80 percent of revocations involving only technical violations almost 80 percent of people being revoked were going to prison for years not to Technical Violation Centers for 90-180 days. If this change is instituted with fidelity, the savings for the Department of Corrections are estimated to be between $12.3 and $18.5 million dollars,” de Gruy explained.
Incarceration is an expensive business. When an inmate is eligible for parole, but ends up back in a cell because he cannot pay a fine, the state or county has to pay for his food and supervision in an already overcrowded facility. If a parolee does not check in with her parole officer, she can end up back in jail on a parole violation. If she gets a job, she has to ask her employer for time off and find transportation. This can cost the parolee their job – another potential parole violation.
The new law allows parolees to use video conferencing such as Skype or Facetime to check in with their officers, saving the state, the parole officer and the former inmate time and money. The prison system is already running tens-of-millions of dollars in the red so money-saving reforms are welcomed.
One aspect of the law Edwards praised eliminates what some have called “debtor’s prisons” – when a judge can jail a person for not paying a fine. If an inmate cannot pay a fine, the judge has to conduct a hearing to find out if the reason is poverty or willful contempt. If someone does not have the money to pay, the judge has the option to establish a payment plan, lower the fine or waive it altogether.
The law also includes creation of a taskforce to examine sentencing disparity between judges, calls for a jail census, allows counties to request inmate workers and addresses sentencing in non-violent habitual offenses.
Edwards said he looks forward to seeing what comes next in the reform movement. As a member of the Catholic Charities Faith in Action Team (FIAT), he sees an opportunity for Catholics across the state to become engaged in the process. FIAT hopes to educate parishes about advocacy in general and about specific issues people can help with in the state. “Our goal is to be a clearinghouse for parishes to know the issues here,” said Edwards.
Prison reform, he said, is the perfect example. “The legislators want to do something, but if they don’t have support from the people, they are not going to rock the boat,” he explained. If Catholics knew what reforms are needed and thoughtfully contacted their lawmakers, Edwards is convinced more and even better reforms can happen. The law goes into effect July 1.

Program aims to help paroled inmates become good citizens

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Prison ministers for the Diocese of Jackson are taking their work outside the cells thanks to a new initiative meant to help people adjust to life after incarceration. The program is called Getting Ahead While Getting Out and it starts months before an inmate is released. The idea is to help someone gain some life skills and start building a support network before they ever leave prison.
On Saturday, May 19, Marvin Edwards, who coordinates prison ministry for the diocese, and Daughter of Charity Sister Madeline Kavanaugh will host a training at Flowood St. Paul Parish for people who want to be facilitators in the Getting Ahead While Getting Out program. Anyone is welcome to attend – including non-Catholics – but the workshop is primarily for people who already have clearance to visit prisons. Everyone needs to register.

Photo courtesy of Bickstock

Edwards and Sister Kavanaugh are collaborating on the new program. It is a relationship-based model for reintegration. Facilitators will meet with small groups of inmates in the months before their parole to prepare them for their life after release. “They have a workbook and they answer questions such as ‘how did I get here, what factors contributed to my situation,’ things like that,” said Sister Kavanaugh. The participants learn how to manage finances, how to seek a job and how to build a support network. According to the program website, a large percentage of released convicts will get into trouble within days of release. Often, they return to old habits or they simply don’t know how to start a new life.
“There are so many inmates that are there simply because they didn’t know any better. They didn’t have any background – any roots. They are very intelligent. Don’t get me wrong, there are some in prison who don’t need to get out, but the majority of them could change if they had the opportunity,” said Edwards, who has been a prison minister for years in Mississippi. He said the prison system does not offer inmates the opportunity to transform their lives. “Lots of them just messed up. They were teenagers and they end up in prison for 20, 30 years. When they get out, they don’t know what to do,” he added.
This program, said Sister Kavanaugh, gets them to start to think critically. “The woman who started it was a real educator. She realized we are always going in and telling people how to live their lives and that doesn’t work. Participants in this program are considered investigators,” explained Sister Kavanaugh. “The facilitators don’t tell them what to do, the participant goes through his or her own program,” she said. The inmates take control of their own lives. The program materials refer to the participants as ‘returning citizens’ to help them see themselves in a new way.
“We are looking for people who can listen and accompany these prisoners as they go through the process,” she said. “When they are thinking out loud and being listened to, they find their own power and their own wisdom. They realize they have all this potential,” she added. In addition to facilitators, Sister Kavanaugh said the program will need community partners.
“We hope people realize that the people coming out of prison have not had the advantages that many others have had. They need support. They need people who can be mentors, who can help them get jobs, who will welcome them into the parish,” she said.
The training takes a few months to complete. While facilitators are being trained, Edwards will make contact with the individual prisons to lay the groundwork for the program. He already has support from the prison system. He believes it’s because the program is free for the prisons, and has the potential to save the state money by reducing recidivism. He hopes to have it up and running in February of 2019. Those interested in the training can call Marvin Edwards at (601)594-8254 or Sister Madeline Kavanaugh at (213)215-6103.