Greenwood Franciscans celebrate their order’s 150th anniversary

By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are celebrating 150 years as a religious community. The community is based out of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, but different sisters have served in Greenwood at St. Francis of Assisi Parish and School for 21 years.

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Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity collaborate with the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption of the BVM Province serving as teachers at St. Francis of Assisi School, as well as catechists, spiritual advisor to Secular Franciscans, organist, choir director, visitor to the elderly, and in other supportive parish leadership roles.
On Sunday, Jan. 27, the sisters currently serving in Mississippi – Sister Judith Norwick, Sister Annette Kurey, Sister Kathleen Murphy and Sister Maria Goretti Scandaliato – helped their students serve at Mass to kick off Catholic Schools Week. At the end of Mass, Father Camillus Janas invited the congregation to bless the sisters in prayer. Then they invited the congregation to the convent for an open house.
People were able to pray a house blessing in the sisters’ chapel as well as add a prayer intention to their prayer book. The sisters had historical photos on display of the mother house as well as photo books from the order’s service in Greenwood. Many attendees found themselves and their children in the photos. The parish has been publishing articles about their service in the community in the bulletin.

Youth convention builds faith, hope, love

VICKSBURG – High School youth from dozens of parishes gatherd at the Vicksburg Conventon Center for the Diocecan Catholic Youth Convention 2019 on Feb. 1-3. The theme was faith, hope, love. Look for coverage in the next issuse of Mississippi Catholic. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Youth convention, Vicksburg

Youth convention, Vicksburg

Youth convention, Vicksburg

Youth convention, Vicksburg

Youth convention, Vicksburg

Remembering Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, pastor, preacher, writer

By Bobby Ardoin (Opelousas Daily World)
OPELOUSAS, Louisiana – Father Jerome Ledoux, SVD, will be remembered as a man of faith, whose prolific religious writings, words of spiritual guidance and affable personality uplifted numerous African American Catholic church congregations across the South for more than six decades.
Father Ledoux, 88, who spent his final three years as a priest at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas, was buried Wednesday at the St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where he began his religious training at age 13.
A large gathering filled the pews at Holy Ghost on Monday, January 14, for an afternoon visitation that included ceremonial prayers by the Knights of St. Peter Claver, followed by a Mass.
Many of those in attendance provided testimony about Father Ledoux, who died Jan. 7 at Lafayette General Hospital following a nearly month-long treatment for a heart ailment.
Father Ledoux’s ministry, which began in 1957 after his ordination, was often colorful and poignant, according to those who knew him during his various services at St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Orleans, Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and at Holy Ghost, whose estimated 2,500 congregation members comprise one of the nation’s largest African American Catholic churches in the U.S.
Until the time of his death, Father Ledoux was also a weekly contributor to publications across the U.S., including Mississippi Catholic.
Father Ledoux’s spiritual guidance and his availability to his parishioners was always legendary, said Robert Carmouche of Opelousas.
“He has been my inspiration. Despite his age, he was still working and that showed that if he could do that, I can too.
“I have kept all of his articles on religion and the e-mails that he would send to me and others in the church. They were wonderful and they addressed how to deal with life and death,” said Carmouche, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette faculty member and Holy Ghost parishioner.
Brenda Curtis, a cook and housekeeper at the Holy Ghost rectory across the street from the church, said Ledoux maintained a dedicated vegan diet. She described Father Ledoux as a “very religious man, an awesome preacher and a wonderful person who lived his faith.”
Curtis said that Father Ledoux’s meals normally consisted of beans, salads, vegetables and fruit. “Oh yes, all of the meals he ate were very healthy and all along he tried to teach us how to do that too,” she said.
Hazel Sias, a two-term St. Landry Parish school board members and Holy Ghost parishioner, said she originally met Father Ledoux years ago while she was visiting in New Orleans.
“He related to people so well. He lived a life of faith and always talked about God. He had the ability to draw people in to what he was saying to them. He could also sing. Sometimes when he’d want to start a song, then hold off, he would ask the pianist to hit a note and (Ledoux) wouldn’t start until the person got the note right.
“From talking with people I know that wherever he went, Father Ledoux’s church parishes loved him. For someone as old as he was, he was able to give advice that touched everyone, all generations,” said Sias.
Carmouche said that what made Ledoux’s communicative skills so effective was his overall demeanor.
“When you met him, you connected immediately because he was such a down-to-earth person. He came across as this normal person, who was also very religious, passionate about his faith.
“Father Ledoux had this unique way of preaching. He wouldn’t just stand in front of his people at church. He sometimes would move through the aisles and mix that presentation with psalms, some of which you could find in scripture and others that I think he must have made up on his own.
“He had this beautiful voice when he sang. It caught your attention and you wanted to join in,” Carmouche said.
Lena Charles, chairman of the Opelousas Downtown Development Authority, said despite his age, Father Ledoux never turned down a chance to speak with someone who needed his advice.
“He just loved people, loved his ministry. His words were always encouraging. The man also loved to write. He’s already written two published books with another that he was completing at the time of death.
“In one of (the books) he talked about his experiences in New Orleans with the church there and about (Hurricane) Katrina. They were all very interesting. When he got ready to write a column, he would send some of us a preview. We all knew how dedicated he was to his writing,” Charles said.
Carlton Jordan of Opelousas said he will never forget how Father Ledoux helped a family member with the death of a relative.
“I got to meet him when he was in Texas. It was then I really got to know him well and my first impression was he had the ability to lead people in the right direction,” Mouton said.
Carmouche said Father Ledoux’s inspiration throughout the church was evident, even despite the health issues.
“He always talked about the need to do something good for someone. What was impressive was how he was able to fight until the end. (Father Ledoux) was not afraid of death,” said Carmouche.

(Reprinted with permission from the Opelousas Daily World.)

Bishop Howze dies at 95; was founding bishop of Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.

By Terrance P. Dickson (CNS)
BILOXI – Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi and the first black bishop in the 20th century to head a U.S. diocese, was laid to rest Wednesday, Jan. 16. He died Jan. 9 at the age of 95.

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Eight bishops, including Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, presided at this funeral along with another 50 priests and about as many family members. Archbishop Thomas Rodi, of the Archdiocese of Mobile, presided.
“While we are saddened by the death of Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, we rejoice in his life,” said Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi. “His was a life well lived in faithful service to almighty God and to the people of Mississippi, both as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and later as first bishop of Biloxi from 1977 to 2001.”
Noting that establishing a new diocese was difficult work, Bishop Kihneman said Bishop Howze was “very proud of what he, with the help of devoted clergy, religious and laity, accomplished during his tenure” and was “forever grateful to the people of the diocese for their unfailing generosity of time, talent and treasure.”
Bishop Kopacz commented on Bishop Howze’s legacy as a leader and evangelizer in the black Catholic community locally and nationally.
Despite deteriorating health in recent years, Bishop Howze remained interested in events in the diocese, Bishop Kihneman said.
“He loved the Diocese of Biloxi and prayed unceasingly for its continued success. He had a genuine concern for the salvation of souls,” he added.
Joseph Lawson Howze was born in Daphne, Alabama, Aug. 30, 1923, to Albert Otis Howze Sr. and Helen (Lawson) Howze. He began his school years at Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Mobile, Alabama, but his first year of school was interrupted in 1928 by the death of his mother, just six days after she bore her fourth child. The eldest, then age 5, young Lawson (Joseph is his baptismal name) was shuttled back and forth between the homes of his grandparents, aunts and father, who later remarried and fathered three more children.
After graduating as valedictorian of his 1944 high school class, a young Lawson Howze graduated with honors and as president of the senior class from Alabama State College. He had intended to study medicine, but instead earned a bachelor’s degree in science and education and began teaching biology and chemistry at Central High School in Mobile.

Bishop Howze first had been a Baptist, then a Methodist, serving as a choir director and church organist and pianist. But while teaching at Central High School he was drawn to the Catholic faith through the example of Marion Carroll Jr., one of seven Catholic students in his biology class. Soon he began instruction in the Catholic faith under the direction of Josephite Father Benjamin Horton.
At age 25 on Dec. 4, 1948, he was baptized a Catholic at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Mobile. An interest in the priesthood soon developed. After inquiring about becoming a priest with Bishop Vincent S. Waters of Raleigh, North Carolina, he later was adopted as a student for the diocese and began studies at the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo, New York.
The young Howze became the first black priest ordained in North Carolina, when he was welcomed to the priesthood in 1959 in the Diocese of Raleigh. He subsequently celebrated his first Mass at the parish in Mobile where he was baptized. He served as pastor of several parishes in North Carolina during his 13 years of ministry there.
In November 1972, St. Paul VI appoint Father Howze as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, Mississippi. His episcopal ordination followed on Jan. 28, 1973, in Jackson.
Within a year, Bishop Howze accepted the presidency of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
On March 8, 1977, Bishop Howze was appointed as the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Biloxi.
Bishop Joseph Latino, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Jackson, sent his condolences to the church in Biloxi. “From being a convert to Catholicism and then following His Lord’s call to the priesthood, Bishop Howze was fully enveloped in his Christian faith. With his appointment as auxiliary bishop of the then Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and subsequent historic appointment as the first Bishop of Biloxi, he ministered through good times and challenges with the steady hand and heart of a devoted shepherd,” said Bishop Latino.
During his leadership of the Biloxi Diocese, Bishop Howze served on several U.S. bishops’ committees focusing on justice, peace, interreligious and ecumenical affairs, and black Catholic ministry.
Bishop Howze held several honorary degrees and was a member of the Knights of Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus.
He retired May 15, 2001, after serving the Biloxi Diocese for 24 years.
After his funeral, a horse-drawn carriage took him to the newly-esablished prayer garden for bishops behind the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral.

(Dickson is editor of Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Biloxi. Maureen Smith contributed to this report.)

Students offer gifts to nursing home

JACKSON – St. Richard Catholic School’s annual service project, Manhattan Mall, is one of the yearly endeavors that speaks to the Catholic Social Teaching of the school’s option for the poor and vulnerable, and to the works of mercy that are at the root of our Mercy Sisters’ heritage. Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation Center sits across the street from the school. Many of the residents are not able to leave the nursing home and shop for Christmas presents for their children, grandchildren or even fellow residents and staff, so the sixth grade brings the stores to them. The stores, which are supervised by the sixth graders, are divided into different sections and each resident will receive Manhattan Mall “money” to shop for five gifts each. Once the residents have purchased their items, they have the option of having them gift-wrapped for their loved ones. The hope is for the residents to be able to personally buy gifts for their family and friends, which allows them to feel independent.

Holy Hour for vocations

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On a rainy, cold Thursday, Dec. 20, diocesan seminarians and a small group of faithful gathered in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle for a Holy Hour for Vocations. Father Aaron Williams, diocesan liaison to the seminarians, coordinated the event. It included prayers for the priests and seminarians of the diocese as well as prayers for more priestly vocations. Deacon Mark Shoffner offered a brief reflection on the readings. The hour closed with Benediction.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz said he was pleased with the event and believes it will build momentum in years to come. All of the seminarians were on break from their studies. The diocese currently has eight men studying for the priesthood.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe holds special place in Diocese of Jackson

Por Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and dozens of priests celebrated Masses to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe around the entire diocese in early and mid-December. Guadalupe is not the only Marian feast this month.December, 8 marks the Immaculate Conception of the blessed Virgin. The next day, December 9 is dedicated to St. Juan Diego, the man she appeared to in Mexico. The feast for the Virgin of Guadalupe is on December 12.
Miracles, love, fulfillment and hope are some of the symbolic “roses” the Virgin of Guadalupe gives to each of her children when they are coming for her help. These roses of faith are found in the path of each Guadalupano.
The love and admiration of St. Juan Diego have been passed down to his spiritual children. While most reside in Mexico, in Mississippi, many immigrants have brought their devotion to the parishes in the Diocese of Jackson. Mississippi Catholic staff members traveled to a number of these celebrations to showcase the variety of cultures and celebrations.
“Divine consolation, light of all roads”
Pearl. Ismael and Nadia Garcia paid their respects to the Virgin, whose love “has strengthened my faith, the virgin is my adoptive mother” Luis said, and Nadia danced for her with joy.
“Her name is Guadalupe and she’s my brunette virgin”
Forest. “It is a pride to celebrate our mother,” said María Aurora García, who prepared the costumes and the dancers for a cross-city procession.
“I know that your mantle covers us with zeal”
Pontotoc. Hilda Morales and her grandson Sammy Almeida carried the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and San Juan Diego in the procession. “For us it is very significant to see how traditions are passed from grandparents to grandchildren. Sammy is very devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe thanks to the examples of faith of his mother and grandmother,” explained Danna Johnson of St. Christopher Parish.
“White dove, mother of the creator, … you charm my heart “
Cathedral of St. Peter. Dancing, a sea-shell trumpet, incense and faith without shoes: these are some of the attributes of the” Aztec Dance” group created in 2012 and led by Celia Alemán. Their celebration included a rosary procession during which “… a sea shell is blown to the four winds, as a sign of gratitude for the goods received,” and as a signal to begin the next dance explained Alemán. “I’m also brown-skinned and I come to sing”
The five Guadalupean Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit working in the diocese: Sisters Obdulia Olivar, María Eugenia Moreno, Magdalena Carrillo, María Josefa García and María Elena Méndez, celebrated this day with the renewal of their vows inspired by the Liberating Message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“In heaven, you listen to my song”
Father Anthony Quyet of Vietnam, pastor at the Cathedral, joins in the procession of faith and love for the Virgin every year.
“I cannot leave without telling you a thousand thanks”
Msgr. Michael Flannery, in his homily at St. Francis, Madison, explained: “For Latin Americans, Mary is doubly our Mother: spiritual mother for being the mother of the Church and for giving us Jesus Christ and mother in second place for having inspired and protected the birth of our peoples. The Latin people are united by many things: the earth, the past, the language, the Christian faith and in a special way, the devotion to Mary.”

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From beach to basilica: ‘Sand Nativity’ brings unique style to Vatican

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN (CNS) – From the beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, just a stone’s throw away from Daytona Beach, Rich Varano never imagined his unique talent of sculpting sand would take him to the heart of Christianity.
Varano is the artistic director of the “Sand Nativity,” a massive 52-foot-wide sculpture made of sand imported from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. It will be the centerpiece of the Vatican’s annual Nativity scene on display in St. Peter’s Square.
“What does it mean for me to be here? I think, quite understandably, it’s the greatest honor there is” and certainly the biggest client he’s ever had, Varano told Catholic News Service Nov. 21.

A worker sculpts an angel on a Nativity scene made entirely of sand in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 26. The 52-foot wide sculpture is made of sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside town near Venice. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The American artist and three other sculptors were charged with creating the intricate sculpture, which, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was to be unveiled at the Vatican’s annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.
Bas-relief sand sculptures, like the one to be featured in St. Peter’s Square, are a tradition in Jesolo, which, since 1998, has been the home of an annual sand sculpture festival. Varano is an accomplished sand sculptor with over 40 years’ experience and has organized various international sand sculpture festivals, including the annual event in Jesolo.
Yet, his artistic journey in sand sculpting began many years before his artistry would hit the sands of the Venetian resort town and, subsequently, the cobblestone square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“I’ve been sculpting sand since I was 6 years old,” Varano told CNS. “My father was an amateur and the beach where I grew up had good sand.”
Varano began as an amateur, too, “until I discovered that people would pay for it in my late 20s. And within a year, sand sculpting was the only thing I’ve been doing professionally ever since.”
The process of creating the sculptures, however, is more than just molding and shaping sand. Unlike the sand castles vacationers often see disintegrate from a single touch or the occasional passing wave, sand sculptures are made durable enough to even withstand light rain through a process of compression.
The sand, which was delivered from Jesolo to St. Peter’s Square in massive trucks, is mixed with water and compressed into layers of blocks stacked on top of one another.
Varano said that this process allows for the sculpture to last “indefinitely as long as it wants to be left on display.” The “Sand Nativity” scene and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.
“It’s like a tiered cake going upward and when you get to the top, you’re finished,” Varano told CNS. “Then it can be sculpted immediately; it’s suitable to carve right away.”
Unlike sculpting harder materials like marble, which artists can work on at any given part, sand sculpting begins from the top. The artists must ensure their artwork is finished before continuing downward.
“You don’t carve something below first because if you try to go above, it affects what’s below. So, it’s a process, like a scanning, from the top down to finish.”
Another important aspect, he added, is the composition of the sand, which needs to hold enough moisture to allow it to be sculpted and subsequently “stay in its shape and dry like a mud pie in the sun.”
“Really, the only difference that separates us as professionals and people that play on the beach doing it is that we understand the basics of why sand sticks or, more importantly, why it doesn’t stick,” Varano explained.
Of the 20 artists he works with creating sand sculptures at the annual Jesolo Sand Festival, Varano selected three of his top sculptors not just for their talent, but also “for their ability to work well together, (which) is kind of critical.”
“This piece is over 700 tons but, with 15 days, it still needs to be done in a way that everyone can work productively and stay out of each other’s way and help each other,” he said. “So, this team is very well versed in that; they’re used to working with each other, not just here in Italy, but around the world. So, it’s a good fit.”
Varano and his team have created sand Nativity scenes for the past 17 years in Jesolo, which allowed them to flesh out different more elaborate pieces that told various stories, such as “a day in the life in Bethlehem” and ending with the “crescendo piece” of Christ’s birth.
However, the sand art piece in St. Peter’s Square will feature the “basic, iconic and traditional scene” complete with “the angel with Jesus, Joseph and Mary and then the three kings on one side, the (shepherd) and the sheep on the other side and, of course, the donkey and the ox.”
Nevertheless, for Varano, the intricate planning and subsequent labor that goes into creating one of the most unique art pieces to feature in St. Peter’s Square is worth the effort.
“A lot of expense goes (into) it to bring joy to people. To be able to do the kind of work that we do that is joyful for us and brings joy to others, it can’t be beat,” Varano told CNS. “And to do it in a place like this, there really aren’t words to convey how special it is.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)