Youth news

CORINTH – On July 19 and 20 St. James Parish children and teachers hopped on the Jesus train. Children (not in order pictured) – Aaron, Yuri, Briana, Emmanuel, Kimberly, Karely, Yoselin, Dilan, Cristian, Marlene, Carlos, Maylin, Mia, Evolet, Kelly, Maiying, Ashley, Jeshua and Ailyn. Teachers (not in order pictured) – Tania, Maria, Edith, Roberto, and Luisa. (Photo by Luis Rosales)

MERIDIAN – Recently the Catholic Youth of Meridian participated in Love out Loud, a week long mission event where local churches come together to serve the people of Meridian. Youth and adults volunteered their time in various ways, such as completing random acts of kindness, visiting nursing homes, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Care Lodge, Hope Village and various schools. Catholic student representatives included Jekalah Keyes, J’Nae Keyes, Carter Eakes, Edwar Hernandez, Macarena Frias, Elena Stroot, Aaliyahmarie Nance, Zemaree Hampton, Wes Pritchard, Zane Pritchard, Reed Gorgas, Ryann Gorgas, Star Cayer, Alana Frias, Miller Hodge, Tom Tom Nguyen, Cassandra Klutz, Hannah Kidd and Sha Hare.Adults who helped included Marvin Nance, Edna Blanks, Ginny Parsons, Liz Bartlett, Janet Reece and Catrina Kidd.
The highlight of the service week was on Wednesday, July 17 when 15 youth and four adults worked at St. Patrick School painting in the main hallway, the cafeteria and in the Pre-K4 classroom.
All together more than 25 churches and over 600 volunteers brought the love of Jesus around the community of Meridian.

CORINTH – St. James Parish, July 19-20. Teachers and kids playing on church grounds during the “Summer School Vacation with Jesus” program. (Photos by Luis Rosales)

CORINTH – St. James Parish, Aug. 4, children getting ready for a back to school blessing from Father Mario Solórzano. (Photo by Luis Rosales)
Pope Francis arrives for an audience with thousands of Scouts in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 3, 2019. Young men and women from 16 to 21 years of age who belong to the International Union of Guides and Scouts in Europe attended the event with the pontiff. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

Journey of Hope for football star Rocky Bleier

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – From winning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, to playing football with the Pittsburg Steelers and winning four Super Bowl rings, Rocky Bleier is the true definition of success.
He played college football at the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 1968 with a degree in business management. While there he led the Fighting Irish to a National Championship in 1966 and served as team captain in 1967.
After college, Bleier experienced two drafts. The first was by the NFL to the Pittsburg Steelers. He saw little action in his first year but did not know a second draft awaited him in December of 1968 into the U.S. Army, as his rookie year ended.

At a time when President Nixon was coming into office, Bleier found himself serving on the battle fields of Vietnam. After his platoon was ambushed, he was seriously injured, losing part of his foot in a grenade blast and was told by doctors he would never play professional football again.
After such harrowing, heart-wrenching news, where did Bleier find the strength and courage to go on to win four Super Bowl rings?
Bleier will tell his story on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the Jackson Convention Complex for Catholic Charities Journey of Hope fundraiser luncheon at 12 p.m. A sponsorship meet and greet event will be held Monday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., where guest will have the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Bleier.
Julie O’Brien, development associate at Catholic Charities, feels that Bleier is the perfect fit for their Journey of Hope event. “[He] has a tremendous message of encouragement, hope and helping those who have been less fortunate in life. His support of veterans and their families coincides with our Supportive Services for Veteran families program and the other programs at Catholic Charities,” said O’Brien.
For over 50 years, Catholic Charities has strived to provide help and create hope for residents of the 65 counties of the Diocese of Jackson. With a breadth of services that include adoption, mental health counseling, refugee and immigrant services, domestic violence shelters and counseling, housing for low-income families and elderly, emergency assistance and veteran support, among many others, Catholic Charities is here to serve all of God’s children.
Being a veteran himself, Bleier appreciates how Catholic Charities works to provide housing stability among low-income veteran families and the outreach and case management services the organization provides to them.
“I have seen the difficulty that some of our veterans have in making the transition from military to civilian life. I believe that home ownership is one of the foundations for that transition and veterans are a proud group of people who at times find it difficult to ask for help,” says Bleier.
For the Journey of Hope event, Catholic Charities needs table leader volunteers. Information on the event and volunteering can be found at or by contacting Julie O’Brien at 601-326-3758, email

Youth news

Vacation Bible School

CLINTON – Holy Savior, Vacation Bible School
July, theme: Roar! Life is Wild…God is Good!
Dancing to the theme song “I’m Trusting You.”
(l-r) above picture: Mary Katherine Yentzen, Somto Agbahiwe, Madalyn Weisenberger, Dominic Weisenberger, Melinda Weisenberger. (Picture by Isaac Martinolich)
HERNANDO – Holy Spirit, Vacation Bible School “Roar!” Mary Jacinta Baskin, Benjamin Baskinand other children made binaculars to show how to look out for signs God sends them! (Photo by Allison Baskin)

Carmelite Monastery welcomes new nun to community

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – There was much to celebrate July 16 at the Carmelite Monastery of Jackson. Not only was it the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the Carmelites, but the day a new sister in Christ was veiled for the small community of Discalced Carmelite nuns.

The small chapel was standing room only with friends, family and supporters filling the pews and the extra seats brought in for the occasion. The first few rows of pews were taken by Discalced Carmelite Seculars from all walks of life, wearing their large brown scapulars as a symbol of their devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The order of cloistered nuns and the choir sat behind the grille that separates them from the public portion of the chapel.

Eight priests, along with Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Bishop Joseph Latino, gathered to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Solemn Profession and Veiling of Sister Geraldine of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The homily delivered by Discalced Carmelite Father Danilo Fauste, superior of Our Lady’s Hill in the Philippines, was set to remind Sister Geraldine of the difficult promise of commitment of surrendering to God’s call to contemplative life and prayer. He explained having a true “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” as a cloistered nun includes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. “The vows speak for your past, present and future . . . and will reflect to others the touch and the love of Jesus,” he said.

In the ceremony dating back to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Sister Geraldine stated the formula of profession of vows, which she herself wrote beforehand. After this profession, Sister Geraldine sang Holy is His Name by John Michael Talbot signifying her willing spirit of self-giving and joy. As the song went on, Sister Geraldine was overcome with emotion, an outward expression of her love of the Lord. The chapel filled with loved ones and supporters beautifully finished the song for her as she sobbed into Sister Mary Jane Patricia of the Resurrection’s shoulder, who came to comfort her.

After Bishop Kopacz consecrated the professed, he blessed the black veil that Sister Geraldine will wear as an insignia of her profession along with a stunning crown made of delicate white and pink roses.
Now admitted as a life-long member of the order of Carmelites with her black veil, Sister Geraldine beamed with excitement and joy. All in attendance sang the hymn You are Mine. “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me. I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.”

Sister Geraldine, after a long journey of religious life as a Franciscan, entered the Holy Family of Carmel in San Fernando, La Union in the Philippines before her journey to Jackson to join the Carmelite monastery. She is now a member of the small family of Carmelite nuns and will spend her days balancing times of solitude, study, work and community acts, including celebrating Mass, and participating in the Divine Office and joining in meals and recreation.

(Berta Mexidor also contributed to this story.)

Youth news

Vacation Bible School

Madison, Ms

St. Francis of Assisi Miraculous Mission theme for VBS, children working on their “Mary, Queen of the Universe” prayer booklets.
4 year-olds – 4th grade “astronauts” perform at the closing VBS program
(Photo by Mary Catherine George

Greenville, Ms

A Wilderness Adventure Through the Sacraments –Jesus in my Heart Noah Signa, Ashley Alexander, Campbell Hooker, Ann Leighton Maranto and Warren Signa.
(Photo by Rayetta R. Serio)

Flag retirement at St. Richard

JACKSON – On Sunday, June 30, Jackson St. Richard Parish hosted its annual Fourth of July Celebration. At the start of the picnic, the Boy Scouts hold a flag retirement ceremony using flags the parish has turned in. American Flags which are torn or worn out can be retired by burning if the ceremony is conducted in a proper way. The Knights of Columbus had an honor guard on hand for the service. As a side note, this is the last time the Knights will wear this regalia. Starting in July, they will wear the new regalia, which uses a beret-style hat instead of the feathered hat and a jacket. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Companions on the journey – Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady welcome St. Dominic into health system

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – July 1 marked a sponsorship change from the Dominican Sisters for St. Dominic Health Services to the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. With the completion of the transfer, St. Dominic’s became the seventh regional center served by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS).
Prior to the transfer, St. Dominic Health Services had been sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, since 1946, when the Sisters purchased the Jackson Infirmary in the center of the city. Following more than 70 years of dedicated support, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield sought to secure the future of the system and its mission, as their numbers dwindled. The partnership with the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, the largest Catholic health care organization in Louisiana, will preserve a bright journey of continued service to the Jackson community.

The sponsorship change was marked with a celebration at the St. Dominic Medical Mall during a “Companions on the journey” ceremony. Throughout the event, speakers talked about continuing the steadfast mission of providing Catholic health care in the area. Emphasis also focused on the unique partnership between the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, truly companions over the years on a journey to provide compassionate care blessing the lives of those in need of physical and spiritual healing.
The celebration began with Claude Harbarger, past president of St. Dominic Health Services, welcoming a large crowd. Among the hundreds of people at the event were members of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. Harbarger thanked Bishop Joseph Kopacz and retired Bishop Joseph Latino for being on hand and celebrating Mass before the ceremony. He said that Bishop Kopaz provided “a spiritual focus . . . reminding us that the underlying reason for today’s events is to strengthen our collective ability to continue the St. Dominic healing ministry.”
Dr. Richard Vath, president and chief executive officer of FMOLHS, recognized that both parties have had a decades long relationship, as Catholic health care providers have been a close-knit family, united in mission and striving to provide the best care for patients and their families. Dominican Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth and Harbarger worked with FMOLHS serving on the board for many years prior to talks of a change in sponsorship. Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic Health Services, also served on the board for a short period of time, as the health care systems began discussions to assume sponsorship of St. Dominic.
Vath is delighted in the joining of St. Dominic and FMOLHS and pleased that of Diamond is staying on as president. “We know we do the same work, we know that we have really the same mission, we have similar ministries, we all lead by the Church’s guidance and by Christ’s will. But really to see it come together today is really, really special for us.”
Even though, “FMOLHS itself is taking over operations, we want to make sure we continue the influence, the charism, the word, [and] the mission of the Dominican sisters of Springfield,” said Vath.
Diamond spoke on a positive note saying that St. Dominic has “a partner who will be a guide to even more exciting opportunities.” Optimistic about the changes, he said, “that this is not the end of something great, but … the beginning of something potentially greater.”
Also speaking at the event was Sister Barbara Arcenaux, regional minister of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. She shared the story of the day St. Francis and St. Dominic met and reflected on the saint’s beautiful words. “St. Dominic said to St. Francis, ‘You are my companion,” she said. “We will work together supporting one another toward the same end and no one will prevail against us.’”
She concluded her talk directing her own powerful words to her sisters in Christ. “Let us always remember we are companions on the journey,” Sister Arcenaux told the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.
As the event neared its close, Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield let the crowd know that “this call [of Christ’s healing ministry] will remain as our sisters continue to be present and our associates and our co-workers carry this legacy into the future.”
Additionally, to share her deep gratitude to the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, Sister Gemma presented Sister Arcenaux a “gift of grace and remembrance,” a picture of the mosaic in the Dominican motherhouse chapel. The mosaic with small pieces of colored glass, stone and other materials, formed images of Dominican saints, including St. Dominic and St. Catherine with Christ featured at the center. The picture also contained a Dominican blessing.
To close the “Companions on the Journey” ceremony, Sister Gemma reiterated that she and the Dominican sisters had hope in the future. She then offered the Dominican sisters’ blessing. In unison, the sisters sang the blessing. The song was by no means a goodbye song bringing tears of sadness. It was a song of moving forward with the help of God and continuing to closely work together as companions and as healing ministers serving God and his people, a joyful note to the end of a historical day.
St. Dominic Health Services, Inc., which includes St. Dominic Hospital, the Community Health Clinic, St. Dominic Medical Associates (physician network), New Directions for Over 55, The Club at St. Dominic’s, the School Nurse Program, St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, St. Catherine’s Village and Care-A-Van, will join Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady sites across Louisiana, which include Our Lady of the Angels in Bougalusa, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Lafayette, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales and St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe.

Saltillo mission 50th anniversary

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Bishop Louis Kihneman are traveling to the Diocese of Saltillo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Jackson and the Diocese of Biloxi’s relationship with the missions, July 11 – 15.
Bishop Kopacz and Bishop Kihneman are visiting San Miguel, Ranchos Notillas, San Jose, Garambullo, Rancho La Brecha, Rancho La Ventura and Rancho Rocamotes (they will bless Father Quinn Hall in the village). The bishops will concelebrate Masses at Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Garambullo. They will concelebrate a Mass of Dedication of a new church in La Brecha and concelebrate Confirmation Masses at San Miguel and San Jose Church in La Brecha.
Others on the anniversary celebration trip to Saltillo include Msgr. Michael Flannery, Dr. Charles Caskey (Jackson St. Richard), Msgr. Michael Thornton and Father Sergio Balderas of the Diocese of Biloxi, as well as, Terry Dickson and Juliana Skelton with the office of communications for the Diocese of Biloxi.

Youth news

Sacred Heart students complete renovation Service Project

By Laura Grisham
SOUTHAVEN – During the first week of June, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) was blessed to welcome The Catholic Service Initiative (CSI) for Young Men. Three young men from the six parishes in North Mississippi served by the priests of the Sacred Heart arrived Sunday evening along with their chaperones (and parish DREs), Vickie Stirek and Donna Williamson, to assist on a number of projects. The youth were Michael Marking from Hernando Holy Spirit parish, Alexander Najera and Alex Castro from Southaven Christ the King parish.
Their first stop was at the home of Willie and Thomas. The elderly couple has been on the SHSM project list for a while, but Willie says it was worth the wait. The bathroom at the couple’s home had several issues, starting with a crack in their bathtub. Thankfully this was remedied by a volunteer team earlier this spring.
Next on the agenda was the rotten flooring and dilapidated vanity. Alexander Najera, Michael Marking and Alex Castro jumped in, under the leadership of jobsite foreman Paul Smith, to install a new sink and vanity and lay a new tile floor in place of the peeling linoleum.
Moving just a few miles down the road, the young men made quick work of some minor repairs to a wheelchair ramp for Joy. Next on the list, Alexander, Michael and Alex widened the front door of Robert’s mobile home. Robert can now guide his wheelchair in and out without difficulty.
But it was not all work and no play for the retreat participants. Father Quang Nguyen, SCJ, vice provincial superior and director of the province vocation office, spoke to the teens about vocation choices on their first evening.
A Wednesday evening respite of swimming rejuvenated the young men for the week’s work. The experience for them culminated at the Garden Café on Thursday, where the guys cooked, served and cleaned up after the evening meal in Holly Springs.
Many people have signed up to spend time in the Mississippi Delta with Sacred Heart Southern Missions’ Volunteer Program. By the time this is printed, CSI Young Women from the Sacred Heart parishes and St. John’s from Milwaukee, will be hard at work on home rehab projects and helping with other mission activities. At least nine more volunteer groups are scheduled through the first week of August.

(Laura Grisham is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sacred Heart Southern Missions. Full client names and locations are kept private out of respect.)

Youth news

Blood drive at West Point

WEST POINT – On Wednesday, May 29, the youth group from Immaculate Conception Parish hosted a blood drive in their parish hall. (l-r) Michelle Aguda; Dominic Borgioli, first-time donor and youth group member, and Jack Elliott III, in the background, donate blood. Parishioner Cathy Johnson and Interim CYO advisor Penny Elliott coordinated the project with the young people. Johnson said she worked on similar projects in her previous parish. Prior to donation day, the young people recruited donors and helped spread the word about the event within the community. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Johnson)

St. Patrick youth take on liturgical roles

MERIDIAN – On Saturday, June 15th, Cassandra Klutz led the Choir during the Youth Mass. She picked out and arranged the music, organized the practices and then led the choir during Mass. Pictured are (l-r) Alana Frias, Elena Stroot, Macarena Frias and Cassandra Klutz. Kirstie Graves is playing the piano during the Communion song “Holy Spirit.“
Additionally Noah McCaffrey and Helena Rutledge served as lectors and Vanessa and Diego Espino served as altar servers to complete the youth involvement during the Mass. (Photo by John Harwell)

Vacation Bible School at St. Jude Parish

PEARL – St. Jude pastor Father Lincoln Dall celebrated a childrens’ Mass during the parish Vacation Bible School in June, in photos above, attendees enjoyed snow cones after some fun outdoor and indoor activities. (Photos by Rhonda Bowden and Stacy Wolf)