Sister Dorothea, rather ‘wear out than rust out’

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Growing up an hour from Chicago, Illinois, long, cold winters were a way of life for Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth as well as an opportunity to enjoy sports that most Mississippians may never experience.

“We went ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling,” said Sister Dorothea, a registered dietician and a 2017 recipient of the Catholic Health Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her ministry at St. Dominic Health Services. “Later, I snow skied in Utah and Colorado when meetings would take me to that part of the country. I’ve gone dog sledding out there.”

MADISON – Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth and Bishop Joseph Kopacz share a laugh at the opening of the Clarence and Sue Smith Rehab Center and Tuscany Skilled Nursing Center at St. Catherines Village in July 2019. (Photo by Joanna King)

The broken neck Sister Dorothea suffered on Palm Sunday in 2015 brought an end to the sledding and snowmobiling the beloved Dominican Sister still enjoyed by then, but in no way did it put a stop to her desire to remain active.

“My broken neck wasn’t from skiing or dog sledding,” she said. “I was at the chapel at St. Catherine’s Village. I got out of a chair, lost my balance, fell back and hit my neck on the back of a padded chair. I had no pain when I stood, but as I drove back to the convent, I felt a lump in my throat and decided to go to the E.R. and have it checked out.”

Sister Dorothea, as she would learn, had torn a ligament in her neck. She had surgery that night and left the hospital the next morning wearing a neck brace.

“I didn’t need rehab, and I thank God and the doctor for the surgery,” she said. “It was a miracle. I had an assistant whose mother is a paraplegic after being injured in a tornado. Another assistant, when I was a dietician, was broadsided in a car accident and died from a broken neck. I said, ‘The Lord has something for me to do.’”

There would be no more snowmobiling, no more daydreams of skydiving. But Sister Dorothea remains active to this day, walking often and gardening the lovely expanse behind the convent every chance she gets. She’s quick to offer gentle encouragement to those who find it difficult to cope with the aging process.

“I was not depressed. It was the reality of it,” she said of the Palm Sunday fall. “I knew God had intervened. God has plans. There’s a reason for everything. We’re not as young as we used to be, and when I’m asked by people, ‘You’re really still working?’, I say, ‘I’d rather wear out than rust out.’

“My mantra is to have everything in your life in balance, everything in moderation. Good exercise, good nutrition, good rest and prayer.”

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Corazón Ardiente llega a Mississippi

Por Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – La película está basada en una historia real sobre la investigación de los milagros del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.

En su página oficial señalan que Karyme Lozano, reconocida actriz Mexicana, protagoniza a una “escritora de exito que investiga las apariciones del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús en busca de inspiración para su próxima novela. Guiada por María (María Vallejo-Nájera), experta en misterios, Lupe descubrirá las revelaciones a Santa Margarita María de Alacoque y conocerá a santos, asesinos, exorcistas, papas, presidentes, conspiradores…, así como milagros y crímenes. Al hilo de su investigación, Lupe irá descubriendo también los secretos de su propio corazón, afligido por viejas heridas que necesitan ser sanadas.”

Esta es una película para la familia. En tiempos de necesidad material, de paz y espiritual en todas las comunidades, la consagración a los corazones de Jesús y María se hace más fuerte.

Iliana Salmerón Hall, feligresa de St. Francis Madison, católica y devota del Corazón de Jesús, se ha convertido en la líder del grupo, que en Mississippi, está promoviendo la puesta en la gran pantalla de esta película, producida y promovida por el Festival Internacional de Cine Católico El filme ya ha estado en los cines de diferentes países. En 2020 fue galardonada con el “Grand Prix” del “Niepokalana 2020”, XXXV Festival Internacional de Cine Católico en Polonia.

Gaby Jácoba, directora del Festival Internacional de Cine Católico y promotora del filme, ha estado en contacto con Iliana y las dos están muy entusiasmadas con la oferta que hacen por primera vez a los católicos de Mississippi. El filme es en español con subtítulos en inglés.

Iliana, proveniente de California, trabaja en Jackson dando clases y conferencias promoviendo oportunidades de negocios y de administración de finanzas personales para la comunidad Hispana.
Iliana espera una buena acogida de la película y celebra la oportunidad de ofrecer la primera producción católica en español en Mississippi a todos los católicos de la región, especialmente a todos los devotos del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.

La pelicula ha sido promovida a traves de redes sociales. Para más información sobre la película visite las páginas de Facebook.

Cookbook for Lent offers much more than just delicious recipes

By Nancy L. Roberts (CNS)
The Lenten Cookbook” by David Geisser and Scott Hahn. Sophia Institute Press (Manchester, New Hampshire, 2022). 224 pp., $29.95.

Just in time for the penitential season of Lent, this beautifully written and illustrated guide features 75 delectable international recipes. Ranging from breakfast dishes, soups and salads, to main dishes, breads and desserts, they honor distinctive Catholic Lenten traditions.

This is the book cover of “The Lenten Cookbook” by David Geisser and Scott Hahn. The book is reviewed by Nancy L. Roberts. (CNS photo/courtesy Sophia Institute Press)

Eggplant salad, snow pea curry with prawns, spelt-nut bread and ginger broth with noodles are among many recipes that don’t contain meat, eggs, milk products or alcohol. The many full-color photos of various dishes are tantalizing.

All of the book’s recipes are newly developed by David Geisser, an award-winning chef and former Pontifical Swiss Guard who has written several cookbooks including “The Vatican Cookbook.” Here he includes many meatless dishes, such as cottage cheese frittata with cucumber and radish dip and lentil and eggplant moussaka.

There is even a list of substitutions for those who wish.
For instance, buttermilk can be replaced by adding 1 teaspoon of vinegar to any of the milk substitutes (such as plain soy, almond, rice or oat milks). For eggs, several substitutes include hydrated flax meal or chia seeds, 1/4 cup of applesauce and 1/4 cup of pureed silken tofu.

But this is much more than a cookbook.

Along with five variations for the Lenten hot cross bun recipe, we learn that they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday: “The cross etched on the top of the buns symbolically ties it to Christ’s crucifixion, while the raisins often used in the recipe symbolize the spices used in the embalming of Christ’s body for burial.”
This is but a small sample of the engaging essays contributed by Scott Hahn, a well-known biblical scholar who has written or edited more than 40 books. Here he covers the history of fasting and its place in modern practice.

You may be surprised to learn that “fasting wasn’t invented by Christians (or Jews, for that matter) but is a universal human practice that the Lord and his church have sanctified.”

And, Hahn writes, “Fasting does improve our relationship with the divine, but it’s the loving, triune God of the Bible, not the cranky, man-made gods of ancient times, or even the gods of fitness, to whom we must dedicate our sacrifices.”
Historically, Christian fasting has been tied to particular days or seasons of the year and is “meant to be shared by entire Christian communities rather than invented by individuals to meet their own needs.”

Today while the tradition of liturgical fasting has faded in many regions, in some locales it still has a powerful cultural impact.

Indeed, “in parts of the country with significant Catholic heritage, major fast-food chains promote fish sandwiches during Lent,” Hahn observes. “This is a vestige of a real, living Catholic culture, one that transforms spiritual truths into embodied realities.”

Both a cookbook and a guide to Lenten history and practices, this well-designed and edited book encourages personal spiritual growth through the rediscovery of Lent.

Occasional Scripture verses and quotes from the saints enrich it, along with inspiring reproductions of classic paintings such as Millet’s “The Angelus” and Raphael’s “Disputation of the Sacrament.” Any Catholic will find much of interest here.

(Roberts is a journalism professor at the State University of New York at Albany who has written/co-edited two books about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker.)

Teams vie for the annual Bishop’s Cup

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Twenty-two teams from across the diocese vying for the coveted Bishop’s Cup trophy met at the Lake Caroline Golf Club in Madison on Thursday, Sept. 16 for the 39th annual Bishop’s Cup golf tournament.

After a day of golf, teams gathered for an awards dinner and silent auction at the Mermaid Café. “Though we believe all of our golfers are of first place quality. I was happy to announce that the winning team was sponsored by BankFirst and represented by Annunciation Catholic Church in Columbus,” said Rebecca Harris, executive director of The Catholic Foundation. “We truly appreciate all the silent auction sponsors that also helped raise funds for a wonderful cause and brought some extra competition to the event at the close of the tournament.”

The wonderful cause Harris mentions refers to the Bishop Joseph N. Latino Memorial Trust. This year proceeds from the tournament helped raise funds for the trust, which will help fund grant projects proposed by parishes, schools and organizations around the diocese. “Bishop Latino believed in helping others and he would be excited to know that many projects across the diocese will be supported each year with this grant,” said Harris.

The 39th annual Bishop’s Cup was sponsored by: St. Dominic Health Services, Inc.; Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC; Citizens National Bank; Rusty and Yvonne Haydel; BankFirst; Capital Glass; BankPlus; Homeland Title; Community Bank; Irene Jones; Ken and Maetta Lefoldt; Matthews Cutrer & Lindsay, CPAs; Mike and Diane Pumphrey; Raymond James; Regions Bank; Tico’s Steak House; Trustmark National Bank; Benchmark Construction; Friends of Father Patrick Noonan; Old River Companies; and Chris and Laura Walters.

“On behalf of The Catholic Foundation, I would like to thank all of our golf tournament sponsors for helping to make the day such a huge success. We invite all to join us in 2022 to celebrate the 40th annual Bishop’s Cup,” said Harris.

MADISON – Father Gerry Hurley and the team from St. Paul Flowood compete at the 39th Bishop’s Cup at Lake Caroline. (Photo by Brandi Fournet)

Diocese and New Group Media shoot documentary commemorating Sister Thea Bowman

By Joanna Puddister King
CANTON – New Group Media out of South Bend, Indiana is working to tell the story of Sister Thea Bowman. Filming is taking place in many locations where Sister Thea Bowman lived and worked, requiring in-depth work for both crew and community members.

CANTON – Actors portray the Bowman family taking a stroll to Sunday Mass near Holy Child Jesus parish. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Writer and producer, Sister Judy Zielinski, OSF said that she wanted to touch base and operate out of the spaces that Sister Thea lived in and used. “She was a brilliant, charismatic, prophetic, outspoken woman,” said Sister Judy during an interview. “And she is a force of nature.” Spaces chosen for filming include sites in Canton, Jackson, Memphis, New Orleans and in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

The film will explore Sister Thea’s life and path to sainthood through interviews and commentary from her family, sisters in community, colleagues, friends and former students. While filming in Mississippi, the crew filmed interviews with Bishop Joseph Kopacz, and those that knew Sister Thea personally, including Sister Dorothy Kundinger, FSPA; former students, Myrtle Otto and Cornelia Johnson; and childhood friends, Mamie Chinn and Flonzie Brown-Wright.

The crew began scouting sites in April 2021 and at the end of May, they filmed in Canton, Jackson and at Sister Thea’s grave site in Memphis at Elmwood Cemetery. In addition to interviews, scenes were filmed depicting young Bertha Bowman’s life before entering the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

On hand for most of the production in Canton, Flonzie Brown-Wright, a self-described “non-crier,” was moved to tears during depictions of herself, young Bertha Bowman and friend Mamie Chinn.

(Left) A sign sits outside of the old Bowman family home on Hill Street in Canton.

“She was so special to me. This morning, … when I saw the little girls sitting on the porch, I just lost it. I just lost it because it was just so reminiscent of what actually happened during those days,” said Brown-Wright.

The crew filmed re-enactments at the Bowman family home on Hill Street in Canton, complete with a 1936 Grand Master roadster car parked out front. Scenes with Thea, Brown-Wright and Chinn eating cookies on the front steps, playing with dolls and socializing were filmed with local talent.

Eleven-year-old, Madison Ware of Canton was chosen to play young Bertha. “I was really excited to do the part of Thea,” said Ware.

In addition to scenes at Holy Child Jesus Canton and playing outside the Bowman family home, Ware also re-enacted young Bertha’s hunger strike after her parents forbade her to go off to Wisconsin to become a nun. Ware sat at the dining room table in the Bowman home with determination stating as young Bertha would – “I’m not hungry.”

Other scenes depicted in Canton include portrayals of young Thea, Brown-Wright and Chinn walking to school and playing dress up as nuns.

In Jackson, the crew sat down with Bishop Kopacz at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle to talk about the cause for Sister Thea and spoke about what he called “her first miracle,” when she addressed the U.S. Bishops Conference in June 1989 and led them to join arms and sing “We Shall Overcome.”

Drone operator and grip, Matthew Nemeth, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and producer/writer, Sister Judy Zielinski, OSF review drone footage taken during filming of the Sister Thea Bowman Documentary on Saturday, May 29.

At Sister Thea’s grave site at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, the crew arranged for a beautiful white spray filled with gardenias, roses and magnolias to sit at her plot. Re-enactment at the grave site included prayer and a hymn led by Myrtle Otto – “I’ll Be Singing Up There.”

The final day of filming in Canton concluded at Holy Child Jesus with Mass, a performance by the church choir and solo of “On Zion’s Hill” by Wright-Brown.

CANTON – Flonzie Brown-Wright dressed in a dashiki and sang “On Zion’s Hill,” honoring her childhood friend, Thea Bowman. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Life-long friends, Brown-Wright kept in contact with Sister Thea up until her passing from cancer in 1990 traveling from her home, at the time, in Ohio just two weeks before her death. She said Sister Thea told her “what I want you to do when I’m gone … [is] to come back to play and sing the song “On Zion’s Hill.” The same song Sister Thea sang at both her father and mother’s funerals.

With Wright-Brown in an African dashiki and headdress singing there was hardly a dry-eye between the crew present, as Sister Thea’s presence was felt in the moment.

(Above) Madison Ware re-enacts young Bertha Bowman’s hunger strike to get her parents to allow her to travel to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to become a nun.

Between June 20-23, the crew filmed in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at St. Rose Convent and Viterbo University, shooting re-enactments of Sister Thea at the FSPA motherhouse. Director Chris Salvador described plans to capture Sister Thea arriving at the convent in a white pinafore dress and then using a machine to morph her. “So, it goes in 360° and she changes from her first outfit, and she eventually comes out in her African dashiki,” said Salvador.

Brown-Wright reminisced during filming in Canton about one trip to LaCrosse to visit her friend. When she got there, Brown-Wright expected to see her friend dressed in a habit, but instead found her in “a dashiki, sandals and a natural.”

“I asked her what happened, and she said, ‘Girl, those petticoats were just too hot,” laughed Brown-Wright. “What she was doing was preparing a culture for a yearning to understand our culture. That was her transformation from coming out of the habits … to her natural dress because that’s who she was,” said Brown Wright.

The crew sets up a scene at the old Bowman family home, from the upcoming documentary on Sister Thea Bowman to air in the fall of 2022.

“She taught the world how to be a Black Catholic sister.”

In New Orleans the film crew will conduct more interviews and film at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, where Sister Thea offered courses in African American literature and preaching.

The working title of the film is “Going Home Like a Shooting Star – Sister Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood.” It is drawn from a quote attributed to Sojourner Truth. When Sister Thea was asked what she wanted said at her funeral, she answered,” Just say what Sojourner Truth said: ‘I’m not going to die, honey, I’m going home like a shooting star.’”

Production of the documentary was delayed about a year due to COVID. The film makers, with Bishop Kopacz as executive producer, hope to air the documentary nationwide in the fall of 2022 on ABC.

MaHalia Calvert, playing young Flonzie Brown-Wright, and Madison Ware prepare for a scene outside Holy Child Jesus parish where the girls play dress up at sisters. The scene brought back many memories for Wright-Brown, who was on-site for filming and reminisced about her experiences with her friend Sister Thea Bowman.

Monsignor pens new books, vowing to keep busy in 2020

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Already the author of four books, including Saltillo Mission, his tribute to the humanitarian efforts of his friend and mentor, the late Father Patrick Quinn, Msgr. Michael Flannery vowed to do something productive while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Instead of simply working on his next manuscript, he completed and published a whopping four new titles through Covenant Books, a Christian publishing house based in South Carolina. All four titles weave fiction with history and matters of faith and spirituality, an approach that plays to Msgr. Flannery’s strengths as a storyteller.

“When I taught religion,” he said, “I felt the best way to do it was to tell stories and bring them to life for the kids. But these books aren’t just for children; they’re for parents and grandparents, too.”
Here’s a look at each:

MADISON – Pictured are books by Msgr. Michael Flannery. He stayed productive while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

The Chalice of Limerick explores a dark, dangerous period in the history of the Irish people and uses a chalice belonging to Bishop Turlough O’Brien and cared for (after Bishop O’Brien was hanged) by Father James Kelly to represent the lengths the Irish people would go to defend their Catholic faith from persecution, as well as the resilience they showed in surviving the Irish Potato Famine. A story of hope, bravery and loyalty, the book’s message underscores the true value of our beloved Catholic symbols, such as the chalice.

The Holy Grail is allegedly the cup Jesus used the night of The Last Supper. Many books have been written about where the Holy Grail might be, and a major Hollywood film a generation ago, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” included the search for the cup as a significant part of the plot. In a previous book, Padre’s Christian Stories, Msgr. Flannery penned an inspirational story about the Holy Grail, and in One View of the Holy Grail, he takes a new and creative approach to what might have happened to the mythical cup.

In The Emerald, young Adolfo Rodriquez finds a rare and valuable stone in his native San Pedro, Coahuila, Mexico. As Adolfo learns, the emerald is rare and valuable because of the powers and opportunities it affords him — such as being the first from the village of San Pedro to attend college, where he earns a master’s degree in engineering. Adolfo goes on to do great things, including bringing a wind turbine back to the village, which greatly improves the lives of the people there.

A first-person work of fiction, In Search of My Twin is seen through the eyes of William Musgrove. After he and his twin brother, Joseph, survive a deadly car crash that takes the lives of their parents when the boys are only two days old, they become wards of the state and are separated. William is especially intrigued to learn, as he grows up, that he actually has a twin brother, and his generation-long search to find Joseph takes him on a path that mirrors the close relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(All four new releases by Msgr. Flannery are available in paperback and digital formats through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Signed copies are also available for purchase at St. Francis of Assisi in Madison, located at 4000 W. Tidewater Lane, (601) 856-5556)

Youth news

Mississippi history

COLUMBUS – Mrs. Moore’s fourth graders at Annunciation School worked to create a large timeline for Mississippi history events. (Photos by Katie Fenstermacher)

Learning is yummy

CLARKSDALE – Learning is fun (and yummy) in Mrs. Curcio’s first grade math class at St. Elizabeth School. Student Bowen Anderson sorts and graphs using skittles. (Photo by Mary Evelyn Stonestreet)

Southaven silly socks

SOUTHAVEN – Students celebrated the 73rd anniversary of Sacred Heart School with crazy sock and shoe day on Sept. 16. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

Field day fun in Natchez

NATCHEZ – On Sept. 13, St. Mary’s CYO members had some field day fun at Memorial Park behind St. Mary Basilica. (Photo by Carrie Lambert)


FLOWOOD – Mariah Grace Morris St. Paul Catholic Church received the Sacrament of First Communion on Aug. 9. (Photo by Jamie Morris)
GREENWOOD – Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, First Communion, Aug. 16, Left to Right: Orla Barnes with sponsor Jessica Barnes; Lucy Hicks with sponsor Meredith Brown; Michael Martin with sponsor David Grossman; Nate Slater with sponsor Mandy Skelton; Kittrell Smith with sponsor Javier Zapien; Britt Nokes with sponsor Barry Barth; Jack Stuckey with sponsor Daniel Smith; and Louis Brown with sponsor Matthew Hicks. (Photo by Caroline Stuckey)
LELAND – (right) St. James Parish, Confirmation, Sept. 10, Front row (l-r): Ellie Zepponi, Graci Pickell, Madison Henry, Hannah Lloyd and Lane Walker.
Back row: Reeves Polasini, Walker Zepponi, Leland Zepponi, Kaid Polasini and Brett Chustz. (Photo by Deborah Ruggeri)
CORINTH – St. James Parish, Confirmation, Aug. 15, Pictured are Ania Ambrocio, Andrew Ayala, Angela Fuentes, Eulises Cobos, Brisanda Luna, Julia Martinez, Kevin Posadas, Elizabeth Soliz, Luis Zuñiga, Jesus Robles, Oswaldo Mejia, Mateo Molina and Italy Molina.
(Photo by Josefina Preza)
CORINTH – St. James Parish, Laisha Sorcia received her First Communion certificate on Aug. 15 from Father Mario Solorzano. (Photo by Josefina Preza)
VICKSBURG – Jackson Fontenot and Elizabeth Theriot recently received the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Michael parish in Vicksburg. They are pictured with Father Robert Dore.
VICKSBURG – Jameson Piazza is all smiles after receiving his First Holy Communion at St. Michael from Father Robert Dore. (Photos by Caroline Stuckey)
MERIDIAN – Pictured left to right, Manning Miles, Matthew Heggie and Lauren Massey received their First Communion from Father Andrew Nguyen and Father Augustine Palimattam on Saturday, Aug. 1 at St. Patrick Parish. (Photo by John Harwell)
MERIDIAN – Ollie Holcomb received her First Communion at St. Joseph Parish from Father Augustine Palimattam on Sunday, Aug. 16. (Photo by John Harwell)
FLOWOOD – Tennyson Walker receives a certificate for his First Communion at St. Paul parish from Father Gerry Hurley on Sunday, Aug. 9. (Photo by Kimberly Walker)
FOREST – Morton’s Confirmation group at St. Michael Parish, Pictured left to right: Emily Ponce, Hugo Salazar, Diana Carrillo, Father Roberto Mena, ST, Catti Pérez, Iris Pérez and Marvin. (Photo courtesy of Father Roberto Mena, ST)

Fe durante la pandemia: Tupelo Hispanic ministry provides strength to families struggling through the pandemic

By Danny McArthur (Daily Journal)
TUPELO – For María Pérez, a member of the Hispanic Ministry at St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo, the ongoing pandemic has had a profound emotional toll.
Perez, who considers herself a very affectionate person, said being unable to interact physically with people has been incredibly difficult. For her, friends are family, and not being able to hug and talk to others has been a struggle. And the pandemic has made her husband, Salvador, incredibly anxious.

TUPELO – Members of St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo attend Spanish-language Mass. The Church has increased the number of services to accommodate social distancing. (Photo by Adam Robison, Daily Journal)

Faith, she said, is pulling them through.
“My faith has been the strongest, knowing that nothing is bigger than the Lord,” she said in Spanish. “Everything will pass except the love and compassion the Lord has for us.”
Faith guides the members of the St. James Hispanic ministry in nearly all aspects of their lives. It’s something the pandemic hasn’t changed.
Impact in the church
When the pandemic began, the church had to close its doors to in-person services. St. James Hispanic Community Coordinator Raquel Thompson said they began focusing on access. Services were recorded and posted on Facebook so families could participate from home.
“It affected a lot of the people spiritually to not be able to be in the church. I think it had a big impact,” Thompson said.
For associate pastor Father César Sánchez, who started at St. James on July 1, the church wants to show their congregation that they are never truly closed. As a priest, it was harder to celebrate and preach to a camera, but Sánchez saw it as an opportunity to take advantage of social media to reach more people than before.
“In these two months, July and August, from our point of view as a church, we never closed the church,” Sánchez said. “I told people; ‘the gospel is not closed. Even though you cannot come to the church, the church comes to you in your house by online and Facebook Masses’.”
Even once St. James reopened, it was important to keep everyone safe. Thompson has more than 250 registered families in her ministry and said the church overall ministers to over 400 families. There are also many families that do not register.
Services look different these days. Rather than having 300 to 400 people at Spanish Mass, attendance is limited to 150. There are also more Mass services on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to cover spiritual needs. Aside from limiting the number of people inside at a time, they also began requiring masks and social distancing. Sanitation occurs between each Mass.
Socially distanced
Several church members cited feeling socially affected by COVID-19. For Oralio Martínez of Tupelo, the pandemic has affected her family mentally. She said she is grateful to God that her family has not suffered financially, although their lives have definitely changed.
“We have to be home, we can’t go anywhere,” she said in Spanish. “We’re scared to go out because there are so many people or where there’s a lot of gatherings. We’ve been very limited.”
Marco López said the change brought on by the pandemic has been drastic and difficult for a family accustomed to spending time together going to Mass, attending his grandson’s baseball games, or doing activities.
But the pandemic has also taught López the importance of spending time with his family. An employee of BancorpSouth, López said working at home during the pandemic has allowed him to spend more time with his wife, Verónica Salgado.
“We used to have gatherings, especially on Sundays after Mass with some of our friends, so not having that was an impact. For social distancing, we couldn’t do that … but what we couldn’t do with other families, we did with ours,” López said.
The family takes turns having Sunday Mass at home at either his home or with his daughter who lives in Shannon, and they have lunch at home together instead of going to a restaurant.
Role of faith
The church represents a bit of normalcy in strange and difficult times. Martínez recently sent her son back to school, saying it was important he have something familiar. She thinks it is more beneficial for him to return to school with his peers.
Sánchez said faith plays an important role in the Hispanic community and is the reason they have seen more people return to in-person services.
“They really need to pray and want to come to the church and pray because they know during this time, we need to increase our faith, our prayer,” Sánchez said.
López said what is getting his family through this time is prayer. Salgado began praying with the Divine Mercy Chaplet on Facebook Live with friends in March, and López said he believes it has brought them together and strengthened them.
“We overcame the situation of being at home and quarantining through prayer. We keep doing that … We’re almost six months into it and we fall in love more with that prayer,” López said.
For María Pérez, faith is the reason she sent her children back to school rather than distance learning. She admitted to feeling some initial anxiety about sending her kids back to school. But then, she thought about how returning to society, even a changed one, holds lessons for her children to learn.
The way through the pandemic, she said, is through caring for each other.
“I want my children to know that you cannot live in fear. No matter what happens, you must confront the situation,” Pérez said.
And have a little faith.
“Remember, centuries back, we’ve had epidemics and things like this, and people come out of them,” she said. “Have confidence in the Lord that this is permitted for a reason and to keep living your life and try to live your life as gracefully as you can.”

(This article was published by the Daily Journal of Tupelo on Sept. 6, 2020. Follow the author at; Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_. Ana Acosta, Raquel Thompson and Berta Mexidor provided translations for this story.)

Parishes postpone and cancel events due to COVID-19

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Parishioners at St. James Parish of Leland were greeted in a recent church bulletin with this sobering news regarding their annual parish fair:

“The council felt that it was in the best interest of the community to postpone the upcoming fair. Without it, we will have substantial loss of income. Discussion was held regarding ways to offset this loss. Any contributions will be greatly appreciated. Please mark your contributions ‘Parish Fair.’”

A tiny Mississippi Delta town with a population of less than 4,000, Leland is in an economically-depressed area to begin with, and this month’s cancellation of St. James’ biggest annual fundraiser — which debuted in 1933 — was not an easy decision to make. While health and safety concerns came first, the loss of the event puts the parish in a significant financial hole.

“We (usually) serve about 800 spaghetti plates with meatballs, all homemade by the ladies of the church from a very old recipe,” said Debbie Ruggeri, St. James Parish secretary. “They’re served in the parish hall, where we also have a silent auction. The outside booths — a ribeye booth, a ham booth, a bingo booth, and teddy bear and fishing booths for children — usually handle about 1,000 people. Everything is donated.”

Raffle tickets are also sold, and those who purchase the highest-priced $100 tickets are competing for a $10,000 grand prize. Not only are the loyal parishioners of St. James missing the badly-needed fellowship opportunities amid the pandemic, the gaps in the parish budget will be felt for some time.
St. James is not alone. At St. Joseph of Gluckstadt, Germanfest has been a September staple since the 1980s and draws crowds of 10,000. Attendees drive in from neighboring states as well as all corners of Mississippi.

“The family-oriented festival is best known for its delicious German food, including bratwurst, shish kabobs, and homemade sauerkraut,” said Pam Minninger, St. Joseph lay ecclesial minister. “Visitors also look forward to participating in the beer stein-holding contest and authentic German Folk music and dancing.”

“A significant amount of the proceeds is donated to local charities. Hopefully we will be able to absorb the shortfall and still be able to support some of these charities this year.”

With no way of knowing what the pandemic restrictions on large groups will be from month to month, St. James has postponed their parish fair until early 2021 and are having initial discussions about possibly having a modified event. Likewise, talks are underway at St. Joseph about cooking up a small-scale Germanfest.

“We are anticipating, at some point after the first of the year, possibly having some type of take-out bratwurst meal that folks can come by and pick up,” Minninger said. “That way they can get their ‘German food fix.’”

Cajun Fest at nearby St. Francis of Assisi in Madison is that parish’s largest fundraiser and features mouthwatering Cajun delicacies and lots of family-friendly fun. With an extensive facilities overhaul and building campaign underway, the cancellation of this year’s event (already delayed from May until October) will leave a deep shortfall in parish fundraising. St. Francis will go virtual, however, in an effort to make back at least some of the losses.

“We will host live the drawing of our annual raffle associated with Cajun Fest at 2 p.m. on October 4,” said Father Albeenreddy Vatti, St. Francis of Assisi pastor. “We chose this date because it is Feast Day for St. Francis, our patron saint. Annually, we celebrate this day with an event, A Taste of St. Francis. It is a time we can gather and celebrate the many cultures that make up our parish with great food and music.”
One of the more disheartening cancellations is the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksdale. Because of pandemic concerns, the small parish hasn’t yet reopened for services and, without the anniversary event, must find other ways to raise money to fund facility upgrades and insurance payments on the church building.

“It has been customary that a fun gathering with a cookout or soul food dinner is planned during the week of the anniversary,” said Father Raju Macharla, Immaculate Conception pastor. “In January the members met to plan a jubilant celebration, and plans were made for a Mass with a reception planned for Sept. 5 to coincide with Bishop Joseph Kopacz’s trip to Mound Bayou that evening.

“One of the highlights would have been to visit with former teachers, students, sisters, priests, and parishioners. We had already started reminding them to save the date and have received regrets and disappointments since the pandemic has occurred.”

Catholic Charities also lost their annual Journey of Hope fundraising luncheon to COVID-19, but the organization — thanks in part to the flexibility of keynote speaker Elizabeth Smart — is back on the calendar for early 2021.

“We’re still at the Jackson Convention Complex and set for February 25,” said Michael Thomas, Catholic Charities development director. “We would have seated ten to a table and will now seat six, but we will have more available tables. Everyone will wear masks to enter and exit unless the mask order has been lifted by then.

“At the meet-and-greet the evening before, we’ll have a book signing with Elizabeth, a paid event at 6 p.m. at a location that has yet to be determined. Her story covers so much of what we do at Catholic Charities in our counseling: kidnapping, rape, domestic violence, and abuse. She is wonderful to work with and has such a strong faith in God.”

Thomas said that a Peer to Peer social media campaign will launch Sept. 15 to begin recouping the loss of funding from this month’s Journey of Hope cancellation. Football coach Lou Holtz drew nearly 1,000 attendees in 2016, and hopes are high that Smart, who was abducted from her Utah family home in 2002 at the age of fourteen before being rescued nine months later, will pack the convention complex in February.

Ultimately, while some events can’t be recreated — Immaculate Conception will never have another seventy-fifth anniversary — many parishes and organizations are thinking creatively and trying to find silver linings in preparing for the future.

“We normally have our Bishop’s Ball each year, and this year we had a virtual event,” Thomas said. “It was a great success and touched more people than the usual ones. We had the live auction online a week before, and everything sold — we were shocked. Wanda Thomas is our new executive director and hosted the hour-long event on Facebook. We were faced with either no Bishop’s Ball or thinking of another way.”