Upcoming ordinations, invitation to celebrate with the church

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson celebrates two ordinations this year, giving the faithful across the diocese an opportunity to join in this special chapter in the life of the church.

Deacon Carlisle Beggerly will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson. The ordination is open to all. There will be reserved seating for family members and a reception will follow where all may receive a blessing from the newly ordained.
After ordination, Beggerly will celebrate his first Mass in his home parish of Immaculate Conception in West Point on Sunday, May 28 at 9 a.m.

A priestly assignment for Beggerly will be announced in the near future.
On Saturday, May 20 at 10:30 a.m. seminarian Tristan Stovall will be ordained to the transitional diaconate for the diocese.

Typically, transitional deacons spend one final year in seminary before priestly ordination. Men ordained as transitional deacons do so with the intention of becoming a priest.

Shortly after his ordination, Stovall will be joining Father Nick Adam and other diocesan seminarians on a two-month immersion trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, located outside of Mexico City at the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. Father Nick says that the purpose of the trip is to aid seminarians with Spanish language fluency by the time of ordination to the priesthood.

After the immersion experience, Stovall will embark on his diaconal assignment at the Basilica of St. Mary and Cathedral School in Natchez with Father Aaron Williams.

Please keep both ordination candidates in your prayers as they prepare for entry into Holy Orders for the diocese and service to People of God.

Not forgotten: Historical marker dedicated at former orphanage site at Cathedral School

By Sabrina Simms Robertson/The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ – Cathedral School students, officials and community members of all ages gathered around a historical marker on a hilltop behind Cathedral School on Wednesday, April 26 to celebrate the dedication of a historical marker for the former Devereux Hall Orphan Asylum, out of which the Catholic school was established.

Between 1861 and 1966, the Devereux Hall Orphanage, led by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, cared for more than 1,500 boys.

One of them was James Shaidnagle, who entered the orphanage in 1955 and graduated from Cathedral School in 1962.

NATCHEZ – On April 26, Cathedral School students gather around a historical marker that marks the location of a former orphanage for boys where the school was later built. (Photo by Sabrina Simms Robertson/The Natchez Democrat)

“As a representative of these boys, we do not want this piece of history to (be forgotten). The brothers instilled in us an everlasting work ethic and values that allowed us to become productive citizens,” Shaidnagle said during Wednesday’s dedication.

His brothers, Donnie, Billy and Paul, were raised by the orphanage also.
Shaidnagle, a lifelong teacher, retired from Cathedral in 2022 and turned his attention to memorializing the orphanage.

In 1855, William St. John Elliot willed his mansion, Devereux Hall, for the creation of a boy’s orphanage. His widow Anna Elliot later purchased the estate from the church in order to keep the house in the family and the proceeds were used to purchase 35.19 acres for a new orphanage on Aldrich and Pine streets, which could only accommodate 12 boys.

NATCHEZ – James Shaidnagle, in the green shirt, stands among Cathedral School students at the dedication of the new historical marker outside the school on Wednesday, April 26. (Photos by Sabrina Simms Robertson/The Natchez Democrat)

After the Civil War, a larger brick building was constructed and was right away filled with 41 orphans. Through the years, the building expanded in size. But in 1966, several factors, including the escalation in operational costs and a decline in the number of orphans, contributed to its closing and demolition.

With Wednesday’s dedication of a marker at the site of the former Devereux Hall Orphanage, younger generations learned about it and the impact it has had on their lives and the generations before.

“The school, the gym, and the football field are all on the original orphanage land,” Shaidnagle said. “The cornerstone and original bell that went with this orphanage are displayed at the back of Devereux Hall Plantation located on Devereux Drive.”

Students read aloud the Mississippi Department of Archives and History marker that explains the site’s significance.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and Father Aaron Williams, St. Mary Basilica rector, blessed the location and the marker.

(Reprinted with permission)

In memoriam: Sister Rosalie Bulanda

ADRIAN, Michigan – Sister Rosalie Bulanda, formerly known as Sister David Miriam, died on Monday, March 27, 2023, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian. She was 83 years of age and in the 66th year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister was born in Aurora, Illinois, to Walter and Dolores (Senneke) Bulanda. She graduated from St. Joseph Academy in Adrian and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Siena Heights College (University) in Adrian. Sister was also certified as a registered nurse by the Mercy School of Nursing in Toledo, Ohio.

Sister Rosalie spent 15 years ministering in elementary education in Toledo, Ohio; Detroit, Farmington, and Adrian, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Bronxville, New York. Sister later served for 30 years in nursing care in Detroit, Dearborn and Westland, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi. In Jackson, she ministered in nursing for 17 years at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. She then spent more than 14 years as a volunteer, first with Hospice of Mississippi and then at St. Richard Parish, Jackson, Mississippi. Sister became a resident of the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2020.

Sister was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Edward Bulanda. She is survived by a brother, Warren Hickman of Marengo, Indiana, other loving family and her Adrian Dominican Sisters.

A Funeral Mass was offered at St. Catherine Chapel on Friday, March 31, 2023, with prayers of committal in the Congregation Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, MI, 49221.

Sacred Heart School alum to head Sacred Heart Southern Missions

By Laura Grisham

WALLS – Priests of the Sacred Heart, Inc. dba Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM), announced that Timothy Courts has been named as president and chief executive officer. Father Jack Kurps, SCJ, who has been president and CEO for 36 years, will continue on as spiritual director of the organization.

Father Jack Kurps announced his decision to step back as President and CEO to staff last Friday at a prayer service and luncheon in celebration of the 100th anniversary of ministry the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States.

Courts began as Sacred Heart Southern Missions president and CEO on May 1, 2023 and is uniquely qualified for his new role. He attended Sacred Heart School in Walls, Mississippi, before attending Southaven High School. Before earning a Bachelors of Business Administration, Management Information Systems at the University of Memphis in September of 1993, he worked part-time at SHSM as a maintenance helper before transferring to computer assistant in March of 1992. He rose to information systems manager in 1995, director of management information systems in 1999 and transferred to director of operations in 2003.

WALLS – Timothy Courts was named president and chief executive officer of Sacred Heart Southern Mission (SHSM) on Monday, May 1. Courts is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, as the organization serves families across northern Mississippi. (Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Southern Missions)

Courts resigned in 2004 and began working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital before moving to Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in 2007 to become the micro applications implementation manager before being promoted to director of information security. He left Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and returned to SHSM as director of finance in February of 2015. In his role as director of finance he oversaw the finance, information system, human resources and facilities departments. He was promoted to executive director of corporate services in November of 2022.
Courts also earned a Masters of Business Administration from the Executive MBA program at the University of Memphis and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in both Mississippi and Tennessee.
Courts said: “I am honored and humbled to have been appointed to lead Sacred Heart Southern Missions. I have been affiliated with the organization my whole life and believe in its mission and that of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. I look forward to working with the SHSM team to break the cycle of poverty, as we serve the thousands of financially struggling individuals and families across northern Mississippi who depend on us and the tens of thousands of donors across the United States who support our mission.”

Provincial Superior of the Priests of the Sacred Heart US Province Father Vien Nguyen, SCJ, said to the SHSM staff, “With the approval of the Provincial Council of the US Province and the approval of the Sacred Heart Southern Missions board of directors, I appoint Tim Courts as president and CEO of Sacred Heart Southern Missions. With this appointment, Tim will collaborate with you and with the Priests of the Sacred Heart, and the Diocese of Jackson to carry out the mission of church, the mission of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and the mission of Sacred Heart Southern Missions.”

“On behalf of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and the board of directors of Sacred Heart Southern Missions,” Father Nguyen continued, “I would also like to thank Rev. Jack Kurps’ ministry to carry on the Dehonian mission in northern Mississippi and for his love and dedication to the people and the staff.”

Father Jack became executive director of SHSM in 1987. “As I look back on 36 years of ministry here in Mississippi, there is much that has been accomplished,” he said. “Our HIV/AIDS ministry began in the early 90s when a diagnosis was a death sentence. The program continues to serve a very important need with all the stigma that is often associated with the disease. Our Dehon Village and the Dehon Learning Center provides affordable housing and adult life skill development. Our food pantry has become a major program and serves a tremendous need. Our volunteer program matches the desire of individuals to give of themselves with people who need help and our volunteer housing makes it possible for groups to come from around the country to assist others. Merging Sacred Heart League back into Sacred Heart Southern Missions removed some of the duplication of efforts and made us a stronger organization.
I will take credit for some ideas – but often my contribution was to green light the ideas and suggestions of others. SHSM is blessed with a dedicated staff. I look forward to continuing to be part of SHSM and I will assist Tim in any way he asks. With Tim, SHSM is in good hands. SHSM is in his blood.”

Since 1942, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) with the help of generous volunteers and donors, has been helping those living in poverty experience God’s love and mercy through food, clothing, housing, education, spiritual enrichment and other assistance.

From their humble beginnings, with one priest in one church in one small town, they have grown to include six parishes, two Catholic elementary schools, eight social services offices, housing, a thrift store and food pantries serving thousands of people each year.
For more information visit: www.shsm.org.

Calendar of events

GREENWOOD Locus Benedictus, “Inner Healing through Scripture” Retreat on Saturday, June 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the retreat center on 1407 Levee Road. Presenters are Dr. Sheryl Jones and Joyce Pellegrin. Details: contact (662) 299-1232.

HOMEWOOD, Ala. Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference, July 21-22 in the Family Life Center at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at 1728 Oxmoor Road held by the Diocese of Birmingham. Conference theme is “Victory in Jesus” and will feature Father James Blount, with Father Eric Gami and Teresa Ragusa, a miracle COVID survivor. Father Blount is an internationally known healing ministry priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity (SOLT) of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Registration fee is $25 for individuals and $65 for a family of three or more. All are welcome! Details: Sally Smith at (205) 983-4150 or mustardsally14@gmail.com. To register visit www.catholiccharismaticrenewal.org.

METAIRIE, La. Five-day Silent Directed Retreat, June 26 – July 2 at the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center (5500 Saint Mary Street, Metairie). Cost $500, includes room and board. Meet daily with a spiritual director, pray with scripture and spend the rest of the day in silence, prayer and rest. Register at franu.edu/retreat. Details: tyler.trahan@franu.edu or call (225) 526-1694.

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Cocktails and Catholicism, Friday, May 12 at 6 p.m. with Sister Margaret Sue Broker, OSF. Topic is “Sister says …” Adults only. BYOB. Register at https://bit.ly/CocktailsCatholicismMay12.

JACKSON St. Richard, Bereavement Support Group, Thursday, May 11 at 6 p.m. in the Chichester Room. Topic is “Grief, Grace and Gratitude” with speaker Kathy Devenney, pastoral care director at St. Dominic. This group is for all who are hurting from losing a loved one or for those who are trying to comfort and understand the grief of a family member or friend. Details: Nancy at (601) 942-2078 or ncmcghee@bellsouth.net.

MADISON St. Francis, Cajun Fest Fundraiser, Sunday, May 21 from 12-4 p.m. Enjoy crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, pulled pork sandwiches, shrimp po-boys and homemade desserts. Live music by Waylon Thibodeaux, kid games, prizes and the chance to fellowship with friends, family and parishioners. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.

PEARL St. Jude, Pentecost International Food Fest, Saturday, May 27 following 5 p.m. Vigil Mass.

YAZOO CITY St. Mary, Mary in the Garden, Sunday, May 14 at 9 a.m. Join us for breakfast and the Rosary. Details: church office (662) 746-1680.

SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, Save the Date: Trivia Night, Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m. Details: church office (662) 342-1073.

GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph, “Win the World for Jesus!” VBS, June 5-7. Registration for children (K5-fourth graders) and youth volunteers (fifth graders on up) will begin May 7. Registration forms are in the church foyer or email Karen at kworrellcre@hotmail.com.

GREENVILLE St. Joseph, VBS for grades K to fifth grades, July 16-18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Visit stjosephgreenville.org to register or volunteer. Details: Alyssa at (662) 820-0868.

MADISON St. Francis, Rocky Railway VBS express, June 19-22 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All pre-K4 through fourth graders are invited. More volunteers are needed before registration will open. Details: mc.george@stfrancismadison.org.

SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, “Camping in God’s Creation” VBS for K through third grade, June 19-23 6-8 p.m. Island Luau for fourth through eighth grade, June 26-30 from 6:30-9 p.m. Details: call Donna to register at (662) 342-1073.

JOB OPENINGS Catholic schools across the diocese have a variety of positions open from athletic directors, teachers, bookkeepers, substitutes and more. Please visit https://jacksondiocese.org/employment for an opportunity near you.

ENGAGED ENCOUNTER WEEKENDS July 14-16 and Oct. 27-29 at Camp Garaywa in Clinton. Please register at www.jacksondiocese.org/family-ministry.

NATIONAL BLACK CATHOLIC CONGRESS GATHERING, July 20-23 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Join with other Black Catholics and those who minister to Black Catholics for a celebration of faith and culture. Details: nbccongress.org.

INDIANAPOLIS Eucharistic Congress, July 17-21, 2024. Registration is now open. See what Our Lord has in store for this next chapter for the Catholic Church in United States. Purchase tickets at https://bit.ly/3ydav9Q. Details: EucharisticCongress.org.

INDIANAPOLIS National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), Nov. 16-18, 2023 at the Indiana Convention Center. This distinctly Catholic three-day conference will include opportunities for spiritual growth, prayer, learning and service. For more information, visit ncyc.us.

WORLD YOUTH DAY: LISBON 2023 Event for young Catholics ages 16-35, though all are welcomed to attend in Lisbon, Portugal. For more information visit: https://www.lisboa2023.org/en/.

Two potential Black Catholic saints inspire audiences through theatrical productions

By Kimberley Heatherington

(OSV News) – Their births were separated by almost a century, but Venerable Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) and Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990) both endured and triumphed against the sin of racism in their own eras and in the Catholic Church, offering future generations of every race a timeless legacy of what it means to live in the freedom of following Jesus Christ.

As they progress toward sainthood, and the possibility of becoming the first recognized Black Catholic saints of the United States, Father Tolton’s and Sister Thea’s lives are inspiring theater audiences from coast to coast in two plays, St. Luke Productions’ “Tolton: From Slave to Priest” and ValLimar Jansen’s “I Will Live Until I Die.”

“I was in Springfield Diocese in Illinois,” shared touring actor Leonardo Defilippis, “and this country priest – a pastor – gave me a book on (Tolton), a prayer card and a picture of him.”

Defilippis is founder and president of St. Luke Productions, a theatrical company that brought Father Tolton’s story to the stage, as well as those of many other saints. The priest asked, “Leonardo, why don’t you do a show on him?”

This is a poster from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., about a musical that capped the school’s annual Sister Thea Bowman Celebration Week March 27-30, 2023. ValLimar Jansen, a singer, composer, recording artist, professor, worship leader and workshop presenter, performed the musical on the life of the late Sister Bowman. Viterbo was founded in 1890 by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the order to which Sister Bowman belonged. (OSV News photo/courtesy of Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration)

Born to enslaved parents in Missouri, Augustus Tolton, two siblings and his mother, Martha Tolton, fled to Illinois for freedom in 1862 after his father, Peter Tolton, escaped to join the Union Army during the Civil War.

An Irish priest, Father Peter McGirr, encouraged young “Gus,” as he was known, to consider the priesthood. No U.S. Catholic seminary would then admit African Americans, so in the face of this racist opposition, Augustus Tolton eventually studied for priesthood in Rome. He was ordained in 1886 – the first publicly known African American Catholic priest – and instead of becoming a missionary to Africa, as he expected, Father Tolton returned to the U.S., serving in two Illinois cities, Quincy and Chicago, before dying of heat stroke in 1897.

“Tolton: From Slave to Priest,” which uses multimedia projections and music, has been seen by 65,000 Catholics in parishes, seminaries and schools. Audiences newly aware of Father Tolton have responded by asking his intercession and praying to him, which may assist his sainthood cause.
“His story is one of unity,” Defilippis said, “one of peace and forgiveness, and the complete trust in God – that God will take care of us.”

In the role of Father Tolton is veteran television and stage actor Jim Coleman. “It is my mission to share his story,” Coleman told OSV News. “It is something that has become my passion.”

The production also is impacting vocations. Coleman shared that seminarians have told him, “’This is the push I needed. I was close to giving up – and then to see what he had to go through makes me realize I have nothing to compare to that. My journey is easy.’”

Father Jim Lowe, a Companions of the Cross priest who serves at St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Detroit, recalled the play’s scene of Father Tolton’s first Mass when the play came to his parish March 25. “It was very moving. It felt like I was actually present at his first Mass,” he told OSV News.

Father Lowe detected a presence in that moment – and has no doubt who it was. “In a sense, being at this play brought Father Tolton to life both theatrically and spiritually,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he was interceding on our behalf as we witnessed his heroic life journey.”

After repeatedly being told she reminded people of Sister Thea Bowman, ValLimar Jansen – a singer, composer, recording artist, professor, worship leader and workshop presenter – decided “someone” was sending her a message.

Using as source material the biography penned by a nun who knew Sister Thea, Jansen wrote and arranged a musical, “I Will Live Until I Die,” which takes its title from Sister Thea’s reaction to her cancer diagnosis later in life.

“Her main message was everyone should be valued – everybody’s culture,” Jansen told OSV News. “And to learn what that is; to celebrate it; to bring all that we are to the Eucharistic table.”

Born to African American Methodist parents, Sister Thea was raised in the “Jim Crow” South, with its racial segregation and persistent threat of anti-Black violence. While her grandfather was born under slavery, her father, a physician, actually moved his family from New York to Mississippi to provide medical care to Black families who were denied this basic human right.

After attending a Canton, Mississippi, school staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), Sister Thea became a Catholic at age 9. As a teenager, she joined the FSPA and later taught, evangelized, earned a doctorate and directed intercultural affairs for the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. Breast cancer cut her life short – but not before Sister Thea established a prophetic witness to the Black American Catholic experience. Despite various injustices and limitations she encountered, Sister Thea nonetheless steadfastly maintained, “God makes a way out of no way.”
“ValLimar truly embodied Sister Thea,” said FSPA Sister Laura Nettles, professor and executive director of Mission and Social Justice at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Jansen’s musical capped the school’s annual Sister Thea Bowman Celebration Week in March.

“It was a resounding success, a full house with multiple standing ovations,” Sister Nettles told OSV News. “People walked away happy, and singing the spirituals that were so important to Thea.”
Sister Nettles reflected, “This work is especially poignant for my congregation and university given that Sister Thea experienced racism in both. We need Sister Thea’s message and guidance now more than ever.”

The positive reaction of Sister Thea’s own religious community has been important to Jansen – energizing her as she tours the musical nationwide, opening eyes and ears to Sister Thea’s essential teaching. “It wasn’t about a color issue,” explained Jansen. “It was about how we are a family of families.”

Parishes reach out to communities in need after tornadoes

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – Parishes around the diocese have been lending a hand to communities devastated after recent tornadoes. Whether by second collections, monetary donations to charitable causes, donating items or by traveling to affected communities to serve, the Catholic community has been there to help.
Catholic Charities has also been on a mission to be a visible sign of Christ’s love in affected communities. In addition to being present to serve, just hours after a tornado ripped through Rolling Fork, Charities has been assisting with community needs including non-perishable food, toiletries, blankets, pillows, flash lights, batteries, water and more.

“I encourage all to continue to pray and find ways to support all affected communities,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz.

To support the work of Catholic Charities disaster relief, learn more or donate online at https://jacksondiocese.org/storm-donations.

Members from the young adult group at Sacred Heart Camden led a caravan with a commercial cooker to prepare and serve grilled chicken and beverages to approximately 200 people in the Rolling Fork community. (Photos courtesy of Father Guy Wilson)

Dcn. Dien Hoang and his wife Hong, of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Jackson, purchased and delivered supplies to Rolling Fork on April 5. (Photos by Hong Hoang)

Men’s Holy Week prayer breakfast at St. Richard builds on decades of tradition

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – For Anthony Thomas and the guys who put on the annual St. Richard men’s prayer breakfast on the Monday of Holy Week, an especially early start to the day carries on a tradition that’s in its seventh decade. It’s the opportunity to see old friends, make new ones, and grow in their faith together that keeps these men coming back.

“I moved to the parish in 1974 and got involved in the breakfast the following year,” Thomas said after a group of over 40 enjoyed a tasty, balanced meal of pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit, orange juice and coffee in Foley Hall. “We’ve had only four chefs over the years: Joe Daschbach, Jay Potter, David Evers and Mike Prince, who’s doing it now. We’re fortunate to have had people who can cook that know what they’re doing.”

Bishop Kopacz, Anthony Thomas and Father Joe Tonos

Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who celebrated a pre-dawn Mass while Thomas and his team of volunteers were next door preparing the meal, also spoke at the breakfast and described his recent pastoral trip to Ireland, a journey that included visits with retired Irish priests who pastored in the Diocese of Jackson and family members of deceased priests who pastored here.

“The presiding bishop has always been the Holy Week speaker since I’ve been in charge of the speakers, which goes back to the mid-1980s,” Thomas said. “I think anybody you talk to who attends enjoys the fellowship as much as the message, but we don’t ever want to book a speaker and then have a small crowd. We enjoy Bishop Kopacz, and there’s always a good turnout for him. We had a nice group this morning.”

“For me to be here as bishop, with the privileged position to be able to go to Ireland, represent the diocese, visit these retired priests and offer a word of thanks and affirmation, that’s a beautiful thing,” Bishop Kopacz said. “And to come back and share the experience with (the breakfast attendees) gives them a perspective and the understanding that the church here has a lot of life. We never need to take that for granted; it’s a gift of faith that we have to keep alive.”

Bishop Kopacz noted that many of the breakfast attendees have had personal relationships for decades with the bishops he and Msgr. Elvin Sunds visited in Ireland, such as Father Michael O’Brien and Father P.J. Curley. (Visit mississippicatholic.com/category/bishop to read Bishop Kopacz’s column about the trip, “May the road rise up to meet you,” his first to Ireland since before the Covid pandemic.)

“For Anthony, this is a niche,” Bishop Kopacz said. “It requires others who are setting it up, doing the cooking. He’s an old pro; he’s up early and bringing it together.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz speaks at the annual men’s prayer breakfast at St. Richard parish on Monday, April 3. (Photo by Joe Lee)

St. Richard parishioner Jeff Cook, who served as an altar server during Mass before enjoying the breakfast, was an attendee for several years before returning after the pandemic to begin helping in the kitchen. He’s one of many regulars who has known Thomas for years and finds his energy and leadership inspiring.

“If it wasn’t for Anthony, I wouldn’t be here,” said current breakfast chef Mike Prince. “I’ve cooked for fifteen years, and the breakfast is a sacrifice, but I learned to keep my head up, keep a positive attitude and trust in the Lord. The first one I ever did, (Foley Hall) was brand new. I forgot to turn the oven hoods on, and in the prayer before breakfast, all the fire alarms in the building went off.

“We always pray before we serve, and God always seems to blaze the trail. In our heyday, 50 was a good crowd, but today was a good crowd. I think the breakfast is a good outreach program for the church, and a great opportunity for the men of the parish to get together to share faith, hear positive stories, and just fellowship.”

Synod’s ‘messy,’ ‘joyful’ North American phase concludes with call to mission, moves to Rome

By Gina Christian

(OSV News) – The final document for the North American phase of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality was released April 12, capturing a process of dialogue and discernment that two participants described as ‘messy,’ ‘joyful’ and unifying – like the synod itself.

“It’s amazing what comes about when … you invoke the Holy Spirit in the conversation,” Julia McStravog, a theologian and co-coordinator of the North American team for the synod’s continental phase, told OSV News.

“The synodal approach provoked a genuine appreciation and joyfulness on the part of the people of God to be able to engage in conversation, even if they were talking about difficult issues,” team co-coordinator Richard Coll told OSV News. Coll also serves as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Led by Catholic bishops from Canada and the United States, McStravog, Coll and their fellow team members have now synthesized the results of synod listening sessions throughout the two countries, producing a 36-page final document available for download at usccb.org/synod. (According to the USCCB, the Catholic Church in Mexico is participating in the global synod with the Latin American Episcopal Council, or CELAM, given its long partnership with that conference.)

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez joins college students, other young adults and ministry leaders during a synodal listening session at La Salle University April 4, 2022. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

The North American synod team – consisting of eight bishops, three laywomen, two priests, two laymen and two women religious – spent time in prayer, silence and discussion to distill responses for inclusion in the text, which forms a response to the Document for the Continental Stage issued by the Holy See’s General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops in October 2022.

The final document for the continental stage from North America, along with the contributions of the six other continental assemblies, will form the basis of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” the global synod’s working document, to be released by the General Secretariat in June.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, who leads the North American team with Canadian Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier, Quebec, presented the document at the Vatican April 12.

Launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, the multi-year synod of bishops – the theme of which is “communion, participation and mission” – seeks to cultivate an ongoing dynamic of discernment, listening, humility and engagement within the Catholic Church.

The North American report highlighted three key themes: the implications of baptism, communion with Christ and one another, and missionary discipleship as a living out of the baptismal calling.

“Our baptismal dignity is inseparable from our baptismal responsibility, which sends us forth on mission,” the document stated. “Every human person possesses the dignity that comes from being created in the image of God. Through baptism, Christians share in an exalted dignity and vocation to holiness, with no inequality based on race, nationality, social condition, or sex, because we are one in Christ Jesus.”

By virtue of their baptism, participants in the synod’s North American phase expressed “a desire for a greater recognition of, and opportunities for, co-responsibility within the church and her mission,” with greater collaboration “among the laity and the clergy, including bishops,” said the document. It stressed “there can be no true co-responsibility in the church without fully honoring the dignity of women.”

An “authentic acknowledgment and respect for the gifts and talents of young people is another vital aspect of a co-responsible church in North America,” said the document.

Amid “polarization and a strong pull towards fragmentation,” synod participants in North America emphasized the need to “maintain the centrality of Christ,” especially in the Eucharist.

The document candidly acknowledged that a “significant threat to communion within the church is a lack of trust, especially between bishops and the laity, but also between the clergy in general and the lay faithful.”

The clergy sexual abuse crisis in particular has caused “major areas of tension in North America,” as have “the historical wrongs found in the residential (and) boarding schools for Indigenous people, which … included abuse of all kinds,” said the document.

In their introduction to the document, Bishop Flores and Bishop Poisson admitted the need to “(make) efforts to listen more effectively to those from whom we have not heard, including many who have been relegated to the margins of our communities, society and church.” They noted their “absence” in the synodal process was “not easily interpreted but was palpably felt.”

Among those often missing from synodal sessions were priests, with bishops acknowledging their responsibility to address that lack “by example and by conveying the transparency and spiritual/pastoral fruitfulness of synodality.”

Synod participants listed women, young people, immigrants, racial or linguistic minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, people who are divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment, and those with varying degrees of physical or mental abilities as marginalized within the church.

Outreach and inclusion of these groups is ultimately driven at the local level by the faithful actively living out their baptism, McStravog told OSV News.

At the same time, “the bishops really took to heart the call … to reach out to the periphery,” Coll told OSV News, who added that virtual synod sessions enabled broader participation.
Synod participants consistently articulated a longing for better formation in the faith and in Catholic social teaching, the document said.

As the synod process moves into its next phase, Coll and McStravog pointed to the need for humility and openness to God’s will.

“We don’t have all the answers, and none of this is pre-packaged,” said Coll. “You have to trust that the Spirit will be there to guide us despite the messiness – or maybe because of it.”

(Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.)

Calendar of events

METAIRIE, La. Five-day Silent Directed Retreat, June 26 – July 2 at the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center (5500 Saint Mary Street, Metairie). Cost $500, includes room and board. Meet daily with a spiritual director, pray with scripture and spend the rest of the day in silence, prayer and rest. Register at franu.edu/retreat. Details: tyler.trahan@franu.edu or call (225) 526-1694.

CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, Parish Community Social in McKenna Hall on Friday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m. Congregations of Immaculate Conception, St. Elizabeth and St. Mary will have a meet and greet and fish fry. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.

FLOWOOD Birthright of Jackson, Mom’s Day 5k, Saturday, May 13 at 8 a.m. at the Flowood Nature Park. For more information or to register: https://raceroster.com/events/2023/67290/moms-day-5k

GREENVILLE Paul and Wadel Abide Memorial Golf Classic, Friday, May 12 at the Greenville Golf and Country Club. Cost: 4-person scramble $150 per golfer, includes cart fee, drink tickets and entry to social. Non-golfers cost is $60 and includes two drink tickets and entry to social. Enjoy food, drinks, door prizes and awards after golfing. Proceeds benefit St. Joseph School Scholarship Fund. Details: school office (662) 378-9711.

GREENVILLE St. Vincent de Paul, Open House, May 2 from 4-6 p.m. Stop by to see renovations and God’s hands at work. Details: call (662) 378-3105.

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Yard Sale, Friday, May 19-20. Start saving item donations now. Donations accepted beginning May 8. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.

HOLLY SPRINGS CSI – Catholic Service Initiative presented by Northwest Parishes of Mississippi Youth Ministry, Sunday, June 4 through Friday, June 9 at Gregory House. For students completing grades 9-12 in May. Deadline for sign-up is April 30. Cost is $50, with scholarships available upon request. Details: For more information contact Vickie at (662) 895-5007.

JACKSON 17th Annual Sister Thea Bowman School Draw Down, Saturday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the school multi-purpose building. $5,000 Grand prize. Cost $100, second chance insurance extra $20 per ticket. Details: (601) 351-5197 or stbdrawdown@gmail.com.

MADISON St. Catherine’s Village, Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, meets fourth Wednesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Campbell Cove building. Lunch provided. All are welcome. Details: call to RSVP (601) 856-0123 or email cynthia.armstrong@fmolhs.org.

MADISON St. Joe School, Bingo Night, Tuesday, May 2 in the St. Joe gym. Early bird games at 6:30 p.m. and regular games at 7 p.m. Packages range from $25-45. Concessions available. Must be 21 to play but all ages welcome to attend. Details: email tharris@stjoebruins.com.

MADISON St. Francis, Save the date: Cajun Fest, Sunday, May 21. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
MERIDIAN Knights of Columbus State Convention, April 28-30 at the Threefoot Hotel. For more information visit: kofc-ms.org/convention/2023

NATCHEZ Cathedral School, 39th annual Crawfish Countdown, Friday, May 5. Join us for a fun night of crawfish, ice-cold beverages, chance to win $5,000 and more.

NATCHEZ Rosary-making Workshop with Face in the Sun Custom Jewelry, Thursday, May 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at OutsideIN MS (112 N. Commerce Street). Participants will learn to make a rosary using a beading method. Class fee $25, all materials and tools provided. Bring your reading glasses. Pre-registration and advanced payment required. Details: To register contact Robin at (662) 515-0490 or rsperson@bellsouth.net.

GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph VBS June 5-7 Registration for children (K5-4th graders) and youth volunteers (5th graders on up) will begin May 7. Details: email Karen at kworrellcre@hotmail.com.

MADISON St. Francis, Rocky Railway VBS express, June 19-22 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All pre-K4 through fourth graders are invited. Details: mc.george@stfrancismadison.org.

SOUTHAVEN Christ the King VBS K-3rd grade June 19-23 6-8 p.m. and 4-8th grade June 26-30 at 6:30-9 p.m.

NATIONAL BLACK CATHOLIC CONGRESS GATHERING, July 20-23 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Join with other Black Catholics and those who minister to Black Catholics for a celebration of faith and culture. Details: nbccongress.org.

INDIANAPOLIS Eucharistic Congress, July 17-21, 2024. Registration is now open. See what Our Lord has in store for this next chapter for the Catholic Church in United States. Purchase tickets at https://bit.ly/3ydav9Q. Details: EucharisticCongress.org.

INDIANAPOLIS National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), Nov. 16-18, 2023 at the Indiana Convention Center. This distinctly Catholic three-day conference will include opportunities for spiritual growth, prayer, learning and service. For more information, visit ncyc.us.

WORLD YOUTH DAY: LISBON 2023 Event for young Catholics ages 16-35, though all are welcomed to attend in Lisbon, Portugal. For more information visit: https://www.lisboa2023.org/en/.