Parish celebrates 75 years and new renovations

By Laura Grisham
WALLS – In one of the northern-most towns of the Delta, a crowd of about thirty invited guests gathered recently for a Mass in honor the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Sacred Heart Church. Those assembled represented many of the founding families and familiar faces that have been a part of the congregation and the missions over the past seven-and-a-half decades.
Many of those present had not been inside the little church in a number of years. Prior to Mass, Father Jack Kurps, SCJ, took them on a tour of the renovations. Recalling the old sanctuary, he said, “I don’t know whether the statue of the Sacred Heart came first, or whether the plastic Jesus did,” noting the importance of Sacred Heart Auto League to the missions.
Gone are the old wooden pews and floors of the original church. With new seating and tile, better acoustics were accomplished. Vivid paint, richly colored marble and refurbished windows complete the new look. The new layout provides an open and inviting space for worship and prayer.
Father Kurps also provided some background on the custom altar, ambo and base upon which the statue of the Sacred Heart rests — all of which are new additions. A Pennsylvania artist carved the stunning wood pieces using the bases of trees to garner the unique look. The new crucifix is a mixed-media collaboration between the original artist and another Pennsylvania sculptor.

Other beautiful pieces also adorn the church. A dove, representing the Holy Spirit, hangs watchfully from the ceiling. Constructed from antique furniture pieces, one must carefully study it to discern its parts. Flanking the altar, one cannot escape the gaze of the Faithful Companions and Angels of the Heart. The two commissioned paintings honor the saints and angels, and our benefactors, who are devoted to the Sacred Heart.
During his homily, Father Kurps marveled at how a conversation in 1941 between an SCJ and a priest in Natchez, resulted in the formation of this church, and subsequently six parishes, Sacred Heart Southern Missions and two schools. Kurps shared highlights of the struggles and triumphs of those early years.
At that time, the Catholic population in this area was the smallest in the state. Headquartered in Water Valley in 1942, Father John Flanagan, SCJ, found himself serving a mere 29 Catholics scattered over the 2,000 or so square miles of Marshall, Benton and Tippah counties. The next year, Father Flanagan moved to Holly Springs and was given the charge for priestly work in DeSoto, Tate, Marshall, Benton and Tippah counties by Bishop Gerow of Natchez.
In January of 1944, Mass was celebrated for the first time in DeSoto County at the home of Mrs. L.A. Johnson. A week later, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Patterson (Patty) Harris family hosted the service, and in mid-February, the O’Donnell family had the privilege. By that time, there were 40 adults and children squeezed into living rooms and parlors. The tiny Catholic population in northwest Mississippi was growing.
On Feb. 21, 1944, Father William Noelken, SCJ, the U.S. Provincial for the Priests of the Sacred Heart, gave approval for a small church in DeSoto County. Plans were quickly drawn up but constructing a church during wartime was no easy feat. Money, supplies and workers were scarce. The War Production Department was another hurdle. Established to prevent unnecessary construction, the government agency halted many a project. After many applications, permission was finally granted on June 6, 1944. A month later, Patty Harris generously donated land for the church and ground was broken.
In August, Father Stephen Hoyga, SCJ, joined Father Flanagan as construction continued. Remarkably, just three months later, the date for dedication was set.
On Nov. 26, 1944, the church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Recognizing the parishes in Southaven, Olive Branch, Hernando, Senatobia and Tunica, Father Jack remarked, “From start of this small church at the northwest corner of Mississippi, a lot has happened.”
Noting the contributions of the School Sisters of St. Francis, Father Kurps talked about the positive impact of our schools through the years. He also commended the SHSM housing and social service ministries and all that has been done to lift up the poor in our area.
“Because of the faith of all of these men and women, the faith has taken hold in northwest Mississippi. … It will be interesting to know what this will all look like 75 years from now,” said Father Kurps. “I hope that the progress made in the last 75 years is nothing compared to what is accomplished in the next.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Millions of pilgrims gathered on the evening of Dec. 11 in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to greet the Patroness of the Americas, with an environment of love, faith and praise.
With the same spirit, millions more Mexicans and fervent Guadalupans around the world celebrated the mestizo queen. In the southern central United States, Mexicans have brought the following traditions, that have been embraced by the diversity of the Diocese of Jackson:
Mañanitas: Some parishes celebrate the tradition of singing Happy Birthday to the Virgin Mary.

Pilgrimage, Procession and Fiesta: Not only in the Mexican capital is the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrated exuberantly in San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico, with a twelve day of pilgrimage full of dance and thanksgiving. In the Diocese of Jackson, each parish adapts its fiesta, so that all parishioners can pay their respects.
Children: On this day parents often dress their childrenup like the Virgin Mary or Juan Diego; or wear the image of Guadalupe or as Aztec warriors.
Aztec, Concheros, Dance of the Conquest or Matachines Dance: These dances recall with music, drama and song the moment of the battles against the conquerors and the moment in which the conquest ends with the acceptance of Christianity and the recognition of Jesus as savior.
Representation of the Apparition: The story of Juan Diego, the appearance of the Virgin Mary and the miracle is represented. The new generations listen to it, participate and with the passing of the years continue the tradition. This is one of the most reproduced Catholic stories, told and known by millions of Catholics and non-believers.

Folk dances: Celebrations for the Virgin Mary always include traditions. Where there is no Aztec dance or Matachines, the Guadalupanos dance to Mexican folklore songs, wearing beautiful costumes typical of the country.
For 40 years, the same love for the Mother God is spread in Mississippi and shared by millions of Marians around the world.

MARC(ed) for reentry

By Sister Madeline Kavanagh, DC
JACKSON – It was an unusual beginning. Slow. Something like a seed finding its way to the right spot at the best time with just enough support. Unlikely, like matching summer with winter, but it happened.
Just two years ago a seasoned prison chaplain met up with an over seasoned “nun” and together they nurtured a dream into being. First there was the discovery of a common concern for prisoners and a mutually respected program called Getting Ahead While Getting Out. Then came the resources for a beginning and in the spring of 2018 the workshop that ignited the initial spark. The Mississippi Association for Returning Citizens came into being, happy to go by its acronym MARC.
Although it is founded on faith-based principles, MARC’s name is meant to attract and serve people of various faith traditions as well as those not practicing any particular faith.

Since that time, a core group of faithful members was formed and meets monthly at the very welcoming St. Paul Flowood.
Several facilitators were trained, and two prisons have opened their doors in Pearl and Parchman. Two groups of prisoners have graduated and are waiting for their release dates while two groups are in process. Meanwhile in January two more groups are expected to begin the program.
In November MARC sponsored two days of training, the first entitled Bridges Out of Poverty which address poverty at the individual, organizational and community levels whereby people in poverty become planners and decision makers. The second day dealt with the Getting Ahead While Getting Out program which is designed to reduce the current problem of released prisoners reoffending. Participants come to learn more about their personal and situational reality, begin building resources, accept responsibility and work together while preparing a reentry plan designed by the prisoner for his or her particular reality.
Philip DeVol, one of the authors of Bridges Out of Poverty, led the session saying that “people who are in poverty and people who are coming out of prison can do all they can possibly do and still run into barriers – and the barriers often come from our institutions. So, our institutions have to make changes too.”
The MARC is now a fully accredited 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accompanying prisoners in their pre-release preparations and supporting them as returning citizens by way of networking with service providers and volunteers who maintain support during those difficult initial months of reentry.

This writer happens to be that over seasoned “nun” who sees the present need for generous people, gifted with the recognition that we all are called by God who loves ALL of us to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure; and that some are called and welcomed to provide that support through MARC.
If you would like to learn more about MARC visit or call Chaplain Marvin Edwards at (601) 594-8254.

Annunciation school celebrates expansion

By Katie Fenstermacher
COLUMBUS – Supporters of Annunciation school celebrated the institutions expansion on Thursday, Nov. 21 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception. Talks of expanding the campus have been ongoing for several years due to increasing enrollment every year. Annunciation Columbus enrollment has almost doubled in the last seven years and the school has seen a 97% increase in that time. After much discussion and research, school administration decided the best plan of action financially would be to build on the current location.

Annunciation began a capital campaign last spring to raise the $3 million needed to move forward with an expansion. The new expansion includes six new classrooms, a computer/STREAM lab, science lab, library and administrative offices. The front of the school also received a revamp. During the ceremony, representatives from each committee that worked on the expansion were present, as well as Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Catherine Cook, Superintendent, to cut the ribbon on this exciting new venture.
Principal, Joni House stated, “The construction of this new building is more than just walls and ceilings, it is the opportunity to continue our mission of higher learning in a Christ-centered environment. It gives us the opportunity to accept additional students each year and offer a more STREAM focused curriculum.”
“What an honor it is to work along so many others who have sacrificed personally and financially to provide an ever-expanding learning environment for our Annunciation Catholic School students and faculty. As we continue our school’s mission of building character, fostering community and creating lifelong learners, we can’t help but remember those sacrifices of so many in our school’s history. They formed the foundation that we have the privilege to be building on. The new opportunities that will be afforded our students and faculty is absolutely amazing, What a challenge and opportunity,“ said Father Jeffrey Waldrep, pastor of Annunciation school and church.
For more information, or to schedule a private school tour, please contact (662) 328-4479 or visit

Catholic Build 2019

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – As Inora Glass looked up from the tree and limb removal all around her on a steamy Saturday morning in October, she was covered in dirt and leaves and felt hot, sticky and fatigued.
She also felt exceedingly grateful. The mother of a seven-year-old daughter, Glass was hard at work with a dozen Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area (HHMCA) volunteers, putting in the sweat equity required of any Habitat homeowner as the group worked to restore and rebuild the home at 534 Cedarhurst Drive of Jackson that she will take possession of in January.
“We were out there since October,” Glass said. “We tore down the front porch of the house and two sheds in the back. We pulled roots from the ground and took limbs from the trees in front and along the back fence. It looks so much better now.”

The Cedarhurst home was designated by HHMCA for the annual Catholic build. Many Jackson-area organizations and parishes joined in, including St. Richard Jackson, St. Paul Flowood and St. Dominic Hospital. All made funding donations and the parishes contributed bottled water, breakfast, and labor at various times toward the project.
“The Catholic Build is such an important build each year. We count on the continued support of the churches and the Diocese to make the build possible,” said Merrill McKewen, executive director of HHMCA. “This year the Catholic Build is rehabbing a home in the Broadmoor area which is very important to our promise of 100 houses in five years. We are so grateful for their hard work and generous funding.”
Glass worked side by side with volunteers on Saturdays for more than two months. She even joined them at the Habitat warehouse on Mitchell Avenue to paint when the weather turned inclement on a Saturday in November. She had a front-row seat for all aspects of the construction of the home, as well as the extensive training she received from the organization that will help her as a homeowner in the future.
“It feels great. The overall experience is wonderful,” Glass said of her interaction with Habitat and the friendships she has made. “We will close on the house in January and move in. The volunteers and everyone at Habitat have been so kind. I will always thank them for coming out and making my dream come true for me and my baby.”
“Inora Glass has an incredibly beautiful spirit and is truly grateful for Habitat,” said HHMCA volunteer coordinator Kimberly Crowder. “Her spirit also reminds me of why I love doing what I do.”
For more information, visit

Catholic campus ministry keeps faith alive in students

By Joanna Puddister King
STARKVILLE – Catholic faith is alive and thriving in colleges in the Golden Triangle area through an outreach of St. Joseph church. The church’s Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) at Mississippi State University also serves students at East Mississippi Community College and the Mississippi University for Women.
Students are the heart of this peer-led organization that believes college is a time for growth and formation for the whole person – body, mind and spirit.
College is truly a time for social growth and community, an avenue that CCM excels at with – free food, a language every college student understands. Tuesday Night Dinner (or TND as it is more affectionately known) hosted at St. Joseph is a great way to feed hungry students bellies and give them spiritual fuel to get them through the week by hosting interactive talks ranging from relationships, vocations, apologetics and more.

“When I first moved to Mississippi, I knew approximately three people here. I … learned about Tuesday Night Dinner (TND) and free food – every college student’s dream! As I started going to TND, I met lots of new people, learned about other CCM happenings and joined in on events and volunteering,” says Mississippi University for Women senior, Maggie Rodriguez.
“Over the past few years CCM has become my second family, a home away from home.”
In addition to free food, CCM has two important Catholic figures in their corner – Mother Teresa and Pope Francis – well, life-size cut-outs that is. The pair have been a main feature since the summer at campus events.
“At the New Maroon Camp, a freshman orientation type set of events, we were the first table people saw as they came into the auditorium filled with representatives from the clubs at MSU. With the cowbell in hand, Pope Francis received lots of smiles from Catholics and non-Catholics alike; likewise, Mother Teresa and her ‘Hail Mary, Hail State’ flag got plenty of positive feedback,” said director of campus ministry, Meg Kanatzar.
“They’re fabulous conversation starters! People come over just to take selfies with them.”
The “Hail Mary, Hail State” phrase ignited a powerful fundraiser that has Catholic Mississippi State fans near and far sporting the phrase on the groups signature t-shirt. Former student Joseph Kerstiens helped come up with the idea for the hugely popular shirt, with the silhouette of Saint Pope John Paul II with a cowbell and rosary in hand, with the slogan.
“We really wanted to have something that incorporated MSU and the Catholic faith, and it wasn’t long before we had the slogan ‘Hail Mary, Hail State,” said Kersteins.
Though there are a lot of fun and games, like Catholic intermural sports and monthly trivia night, the group finds time to allow students to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ with Eucharistic adoration and Bible study, in addition to service to others.
Mini-mission trips to Smith Park in Jackson with Deacon John McGinley is one way the group ministers to others. Often times, the group come on a Sunday so that they can invite the people they meet to Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter. They also make plastic bags into beds and pillows and distribute to those that need them.
In addition to serving the homeless in Jackson, the group also ministers to their local community with volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, working in the St. Joseph food pantry and serving home-bound individuals with a food box delivery on a monthly basis.
“I want to give back to the community that has given me so much over the past four years,” says co-president of CCM, Jeremy Irwin.
“I had a tough time sophomore year and my CCM family still managed to make my time here at State enjoyable, while still growing in my faith. My hope is that I am able to help bring others the joy CCM has brought me, through Christ.”
That joy is the fuel that keeps director of the campus ministry, Meg Kanatzar going.
“Seeing someone come back on fire for their faith after attending a retreat or observing one student counsel a peer in a difficult time, or entering a chapel or church filled with students praying during Adoration. There are countless moments when I am privileged to witness students making God a priority in their lives,” said Kanatzar.

Elsa Baughman – a Catholic Messenger

Elsa Baughman

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Before being known as Mississippi Católico, the Spanish-speaking newspaper of the Diocese of Jackson was published as El Mensajero Católico (The Catholic Messenger) for more than ten years.
With the consent of Bishop William Houck, the action of several people who recognized the need to communicate in Spanish with a growing community and a team dedicated to informing, the idea materialized, and on Oct. 10, 1997, the first edition of The Catholic Messenger came to light, more than 22 years ago.
As a protagonist and record keeper of the history is Elsa Baughman. She began working in 1996, for the diocesan newspaper, then called Mississippi Today. Baughman, Venezuelan by birth, graduated of Journalism at the University of Zulia in Venezuela,and with a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). A mother and grandmother, Elsa (as everybody knows her), brought her rich experience, culture and the desire to break stereotypes to the diocesan newspaper.

JACKSON – From left to right, Elsa Baughman, Maureen Smith and Tyna McNeely – past employees of Mississippi Catholic pose for a photo. (Photo from archives)

Elsa arrived in Mississippi in 1976 when there were few Hispanics in the state. After graduating from USM, getting married and working in several international companies and being a Spanish teacher, she started working at Mississippi Catholic.
In December 1979, Bishop Joseph B. Brunini was the main celebrant of the first Mass to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Cathedral of San Pedro. Father Mario Vizcaino, SchP. founder of Southern Pastoral Institute (SEPI), auxiliary Bishop William Houck and father Paul Madden were co-celebrants. From there, the tradition of the Spanish Mass was established and the need to serve the growing Latino community.
Since 1982 Rogelio Solis reported Spanish activities to Mississippi Today. Among many people who contributed to promoting the newspaper in Spanish, it is Janna Avalon, who for more than 40 years directed Mississippi Catholic, Fabvienen Taylor, who wrote the first article about the differences and similarities of Latinos, Elizabeth Ayala, who wrote about the sacraments, Sister Patricia Brown, who founded and directed the Hispanic Ministry, Sister Day, Ligia Fenton, Susan Falkner and the priests Jerry Mattingly of Hazlehurst, Richard Smith of Forest, Anthony Quyet of Forest, Maureen Smith, Diocesan Communications Director and brother Ted Dausch who worked for 20 years as coordinator of Hispanic Ministry. All of them; and many more, who always supported the Hispanic celebrations and their dissemination in the Spanish newspaper.
As a committed editor, reporter and Catholic, everyone met Elsa. Even today, after her retirement, Elsa follows the events of her community and she can be seen taking pictures at St. Therese Parish in Jackson. She currently enjoys her free time with her husband, Brian, their daughters, Carla and Verónica and their grandchildren, Arianna and Roman.
“For me, working in the newspaper was a dream come true. Having met so many people and priests, traveling throughout the state and working for three bishops – William Houck, Joseph Latino, and Joseph Kopacz – were wonderful experiences. … One of my best memories, that I keep with great affection, it was the trip to the Saltillo Mission in Mexico, by invitation of Bishop Kopacz, after having reported for many years about the importance of this mission to the diocese,” Elsa concluded.

Hispanic Ministry in Mississippi, a history

By Sister Patricia Brown and Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – The first celebration of the anniversary of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Jackson was 40 years ago, it was not only a success but also the seed that, over time, began the creation of the Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Jackson.
On Sunday, Dec. 16, 1979, at 4:30 p.m. Bishop Joseph Brunini, auxiliary Bishop William Houck, Father Mario Vizcaino, SchP., founder of Southern Pastoral Institute (SEPI), and Father Paul Madden celebrated the first Mass in Spanish at St. Peter’s Cathedral. About 200 Hispanics from the Jackson area attended that celebration.
In January 1980, a pastoral council was organized in Jackson, meeting regularly and the Sunday Mass was celebrated at St. Peter’s Cathedral in the afternoons. Religion and English classes were offered, social and religious parties were held, and a newsletter was distributed to 95 families.
The United States Census in 1980 indicated that the population of Hispanics in Mississippi was less than one percent. Many of these were migrant farm workers dispersed in the Delta area and in chicken processors in the center of the state.

Although Sister Thea Bowman did not speak Spanish, she helped the Hispanic community to continue celebrating the Eucharist in Spanish and their activities in the Jackson area.
During the 1980s, Father Michael Flannery and Father Richard Smith assisted migrant workers, near Clarksdale.
The 1990 census counted 9,752 Hispanics in the 65 counties of the diocese. The Diocese of Jackson asked Sister Patricia Broderick for a study of the Hispanic community and a plan to meet their needs. The suggestions of that proposal, written in November 1990, remain valid today, only the numbers have increased, and the needs have multiplied.
In 1991, Father José Daniel López, began celebrating Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral. Deacon Roberto Jiménez began assisting Father Lopez, and Father Anthony Quyet, in St. Michael parish in Forest, began celebrating Mass in Spanish on April 7, 1991. Prior, Father Madden celebrated Mass in Spanish at the residence of the Echiburu family in Morton.
In 1993, Sister Jeroma Day began visiting Hispanic homes in Rosedale. Gene and Mary Helen Grabbe, lay missionaries of the Glenmary order, formed a stable community Hispanic family in the St John Neumann Mission. In September 1994, the Diocese of Jackson established the Office of the Hispanic Ministry under the direction of Sister Patricia Brown. Sister Patricia Godri arrived in Carthage in September 1994 to work as a pastoral minister in St. Anne’s Church. In 1995 the missionaries of the Glenmary Order sent Father Francisco Pellissier to serve as a sacramental minister in six counties in northeast Mississippi. On Dec. 17 that year, Father Pellissier celebrated the first bilingual mass at San Christopher Mission in Pontotoc.
Father Steve Pawelk, Sister Nancy Schreck, Father Jerry Peterson and Father Gerry Richardson were some of the first religious who served in the Hispanic community in New Albany. Sisters Patricia Sullivan, Rosemary Empen and Kris Vorenkamp oversaw services in Chickasaw and Calhoun counties. In 1996, the Catholic Center in Morton was inaugurated. The first Spanish mass in Ripley was celebrated on Dec. 12, 1997. Father Jerry Mattingly started Mass in Spanish at San Martín Mission in Hazlehurst since 1997.
In 1999, Christian Brother Ted Daush assumed the leadership the Hispanic Ministry until June of this year, giving twenty years to this ministry, supported by Guadalupean Missioneries sisters and parish leaders. Last July the Diocesan Intercultural office was created where Hispanic and Black Catholic Ministries were merged.

The establishment of the Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Jackson allowed the increase of religious, social and cultural services to the Hispanic community in the 65 counties of the diocese.

(This article was published in Catholic Messenger on Dec. 17, 1999. Elsa Baughman updated it for this edition. Read the article in its entirety on

Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Monsignor Michael Flannery
JACKSON – The actual apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place on the mountain of Tepeyac. There was a temple to the goddess virgin, Tonantzin, who was the mother of the gods. She was also known as the woman clothed with serpents. In the Aztec mind, the serpent stood for wisdom and perfection. It stood for death and resurrection as the snake cast its skin off every year.
Juan Diego was a 56-year-old convert to Christianity. It was Dec. 9, 1531. He was on his way to Mass at Tlatelolco by way of Tepeyac, when he heard beautiful music. He was immediately attracted to it. Music after all was the way to communicate with the gods. Then he heard a gentle voice calling his name. Before him stood a very beautiful lady. She radiated like the sun. She asked him where he was going? He responded that he was going to attend Mass. She, then, introduced herself as the mother of the true God who made the heaven and the earth. She instructed him to go to the bishop in Mexico City and to tell him to build for her a temple at Tepeyac. Juan responded immediately to say that her wish would be fulfilled, and he would go immediately. Upon arriving at the home of the bishop, he had to wait a long time before seeing him. He recounted for the bishop what he had seen and heard and the command of the Lady who called herself the Mother of God to build a temple for her. The bishop listened attentively to him and had him repeat the story again. The bishop then asked Juan Diego to return on another day to hear him again. Juan felt he had failed in his task to convince the bishop to build a temple to Our Lady.
Sadly, Juan returned to where he had seen the apparition at Tepeyac, and the apparition was before him again. He told Mother of God that he had failed in his task. Juan explained to Our Lady that he was not the one for the task as he was just a lowly unlettered man and was not one to be listened to. Our Lady should find someone more prominent for the task.
Our Lady reminded him that she could send many people to fulfill the task and that she had chosen Juan Diego and she still had confidence in him to fulfill the task she had given him. She asked Juan to return the following morning and Juan promised that he would return the next day and do as she commanded and then added that the bishop would probably not believe him.
On Dec. 10, Juan Diego went again to the residence of the bishop. The bishop questioned him at length about what he had seen, where he had seen it and what the message of the Lady was. Juan Diego answered all questions put to him. However, the bishop did not believe him and said that he needed some sign before he would believe. As Juan Diego was leaving bishop’s residence, the bishop asked two members of his household to follow Juan Diego and see what he was up to and to report back to the bishop. The two individuals followed Juan Diego back to Tepeyac but, they lost track of Juan Diego. Meanwhile, Juan was reporting back to Our Lady the details of his encounter with the bishop and how he was demanding a sign before he would believe Juan Diego. Our Lady responded that Juan Diego was to return tomorrow and that she would give him a sign to bring.
Upon his arrival at home, Juan Diego found that his uncle was gravely ill and needed the attention of a medic. On Dec. 11, Juan went in search of a doctor to assist his dying uncle Bernardino. Juan was not successful in getting a doctor, although he spent the whole day in search of a medic. On Dec 12, Juan Diego could see that his uncle was declining rapidly so he decided to look for a priest to give his uncle the last rites. In order to get the priest, he would have to pass by Tepeyac. He decided that he would go the other side of the mountain to avoid seeing Our Lady. While making his way along the other side of the mountain, there was Our Lady before him. She asked him what was going on and he explained that his uncle was about to die. He asked forgiveness for not fulfilling the task the day before. Our Lady told him not to worry about his uncle. She would take care of him. In the meantime, he was to go to the bishop and bring the sign that the bishop had requested.
She then instructed Juan Diego to go to the top of the mountain and there he would find roses. Juan reminded Our Lady it was not the season for roses to grow in December. Our Lady told him to do as he was asked. Juan Diego climbed the mountain and there before him were these beautiful roses. He picked the roses and brought them to Our Lady. Our Lady arranged the roses in his poncho. The poncho was made that it could fold up in the front and strings attached which could be tied to the shoulders. After Our Lady arranged the roses, she sent Juan Diego on his mission to go to the home of the bishop and present him with the roses. She instructed him that he was not to allow anyone else to see the roses except the bishop. Juan was also to tell the bishop that he was to fulfill what was being asked of him and to build a temple in Tepeyac in honor of Our Lady. The roses had a beautiful aroma.
The servants of the bishop were slow to tell the bishop that Juan Diego had come back. Juan was persistent. The servants wanted to examine the roses. Juan refused and said only the bishop was to see the sign. Eventually, Juan was brought into the bishop’s office. On entering, Juan reverenced the bishop and told him that he had brought the sign he had requested. With that, he released the strings on his poncho and the roses dropped to the ground. At that same moment, the impression of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on his poncho.
The poncho of Juan Diego was made from the maguey plant. The poncho is also called a tilma. Its normal life span is 25 years. However, the tilma of Juan Diego has survived nearly 500 years. The original can be seen in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is still in good condition and is now encased in glass.

Las posadas: Hispanic tradition keeps story of Holy Family alive

JACKSON – One of the most popular Latin American Christmas traditions is a nine-day celebration called “Las Posadas.” “Posada” means “inn” or “shelter.” This tradition is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find lodging before the birth of Jesus. Posadas are celebrated in different countries, so there are variations within each respective culture.
Traditionally, las posadas begin the night of Dec. 16 and end on the night of Dec. 24, which commemorates Mary’s nine months of carrying Jesus in the womb. Eight families volunteer to host the posada at their home and the last night is hosted at the church. Each night, a nativity scene is carried by a group of people; they represent Joseph and Mary, along with a crowd of angels, shepherds and wise men. The group carries candles and sings an interactive song of begging for shelter outside of each of the houses. The group on the inside of the home represents the innkeepers and sing back, refusing to open the door.
Some of the dialogue of the song includes:
Outside crowd: In the name of Heaven I beg you for lodging, for she cannot walk, my beloved wife.
Innkeepers: This is not an inn so keep going. I cannot open, you may be a rogue.
Outside crowd: Don’t be inhumane; have mercy on us. The God of heavens will reward you for it.
Innkeepers: You can go on now and don’t bother us, because if I become annoyed, I’ll give you a beating.
Outside crowd: We are worn out coming from Nazareth. I am a carpenter, Joseph by name.

CANTON – In 2018, Geancarlo Ramires, Juana and Leslie Marroquin participate in a las posadas hosted by Sacred Heart church. (Photo courtesy of archives)

Innkeepers: I don’t care about your name. Let me sleep because I already told you, we shall not open up.
Outside crowd: I’m asking you for lodging dear man of the house. Just for one night for the Queen of Heaven.
Innkeepers: Well, if it’s a queen, who solicits it, why is it at night that she travels so alone?
Outside crowd: My wife is Mary. She’s the Queen of Heaven and she’s going to be the mother of the Divine Word.
Innkeepers: Are you Joseph? Your wife is Mary? Enter, pilgrims; I did not recognize you.
Outside crowd: May God pay, gentle folks, your charity, and thus heaven heap happiness upon you.
Inkeepers: Blessed is the house that shelters this day the pure Virgin, the beautiful Mary.
The song continues but during the last verse, the doors are opened and everyone makes their way inside. The song then transitions to a joyful song of welcoming. Usually, a Rosary is prayed once everyone is packed inside. Other times, the Bible is read and there is a time for reflection. The host family typically provides some type of drink or food that can range from a snack to a full meal. One popular choice is the atole; a hot drink made from corn or wheat flour and milk, but a local favorite is arroz con leche, a hot drink made with rice, milk and cinnamon.
“Celebrating las posadas is a beautiful tradition in the Latino/Hispanic culture and I am thankful that the opportunity to experience this tradition is available in towns throughout Mississippi,” says Daisey Martínez, Associate for Youth and Young Adult Ministry for Intercultural Ministry at the Diocese of Jackson.
Las Posadas is a time to draw attention to our own journey to find room for Jesus at Christmas as well as participate in and honor a rich tradition of Latinos.

(Daisey Martinez contributed to this story)