VICKSBURG – On Tuesday, Dec. 3 Vicksburg Catholic School elementary students participated in Mass to celebrate Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day.
On right Father Rusty Vincent blesses first grade students during the feast day Mass. (Photos by Lindsey Bradley)
Dashing though the streets
MERIDIAN – Timothy Duong, Denise Quedado, Ashton Taylor dash through the streets for the Candy Cane Fun Run. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)
Checkmate Father MarkNATCHEZ – Cathedral School third graders Quin Branton and James Gammill enjoyed learning the game of chess with Father Mark Shoffner. The students received a little free time for meeting their Accelerated Reader goal early. (Photo by Cara Moody Serio)
Here we go a caroling
GRENADA – The youth of St. Peter won first place Overall in the Grenada Christmas parade, themed “Here we go a caroling.“ Father Savio is holding up the banner as the children carollers look on in delight. (Photo courtesy of Michael Liberto)
Mapping the path of Jesus
GREENVILLE – Mrs. Lee’s religion class created salt dough maps of the travels of the public ministry of Jesus before the holiday break. (Photo by Nikki Thompson)
Children Celebrate Our Lady Guadalupe
MERIDIAN – On Dec. 8 at St. Patrick parish’s Celebration of Our Lady Guadalupe, Macario Espino, jr. picks up a fresh made tortilla for his delicious meal after the procession and Mass. (Photo by Tereza Ma)
St. Nicolas visits
(Right) MERIDIAN – On Dec. 6, 2019 St. Patrick School students had a special visit from St. Nicholas. First graders Aiden Walker, left, and TJ Dunn race to check their shoes for gifts from St. Nicholas. (Photo by Helen Reynolds)
By Monsignor Michael Flannery SALTILLO – The good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn continues south of the border in Mexico. Bishop Joseph Brunini, adopted a mission in Saltillo, Mexico in response to an appeal from Pope Paul VI to all the bishops of the world to send priests to Latin America. The ratio of priests to congregants was one priest for every 10,000 people. The ideal is one priest per 1,000. Father Patrick Quinn was chosen to be the first pastor and he was presented to Bishop Luis Guizar y Barragan for assignment and appointed as pastor of Perpetual Help Church, within the city of Saltillo July 1, 1969. Prior to that date Father Quinn had resided at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Saltillo for six months while learning Spanish. At the time of his appointment, the population of Saltillo was 200,000. The city has quadrupled in size and is now over 800,000 population. Initially, Perpetual Help parish had 33 mountain villages and three colonies within the city of Saltillo, giving a total population of 30,000. The people in the mountain villages had not had the services of a priest in over 10 years. Father Quinn was joined by Father Patrick Murray to serve the parish in July 1969.
A rectory was built adjacent to the church to accommodate the priests. Every village or rancho would now have the services of a priest at least once a month. Perpetual Help Church would have two daily Masses and the three colonies would have Mass every Sunday. The main thrust of the ministry of the priests would be to the mountain villages. The city of Saltillo is 5,000 above sea level and the mountain villages range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet. At first, Fathers Quinn and Murray celebrated Mass in the open air. Then an effort was made to build a place of worship in every rancho or village. A wooden altar was provided. Benches were used instead of pews. These chapels served as community centers, funeral parlors and places where a wedding could be celebrated and village meetings could be held. Not with-standing the fact, that these people did not have the services of a priest, the faith was still very strong and mostly centered in the home. Every home had a sacred space where there was at least a picture of the Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Guadalupe. The people were elated with the services provided by the priests and responded graciously to them. The priests now had the trust of the people.
Within two years of establishing the mission, the Saltillo Summer program was born, where the youth of Mississippi were invited to come and spend a week at the mission. Over time more than 20,000 of the youth of Mississippi participated in the Saltillo Summer program. Accommodations were added at Perpetual Help which could house 100 people. For the most part, these facilities were in a dormitory-style. For all the participants who joined the Saltillo Summer program, it was a game-changer in their young lives. For the first time in their lives, they came face to face with real poverty and met people who did not know where the next meal was coming from. When they came back to Mississippi, they appreciated the basic amenities of life, such as: when you turned a switch, a light came on, when you turned faucet water came out. On their return to Mississippi, some of the youth chose professions such as medicine, social ministry, all of which were ministries to other people. A great program at the mission was called “Bean Monday.” On the first Monday of every month, two kilos of beans were distributed to every family that came to Perpetual Help for assistance. Word spread throughout the whole of Saltillo. Two kilos of beans would feed a family of six for a week. On any given year 100 tons of beans would be distributed to the poor. The villages ranged from a 45-minute drive from Saltillo to a six-hour drive to the most remote villages. Over time, the number of the villages grew to 62 and the number of churches within the city of Saltillo being served grew to ten. Another program at the mission was the building of cinder block homes for the poor. Again, Father Quinn built 2,340 homes for the poor. The building of these homes was a cooperative venture. The petitioner had to own the land on which the home would be constructed. Father Quinn provided the raw material such as cement and sand for the footings and the cinder blocks for the walls. The owner had to provide the labor to build. After the basic structure was near completion and after an inspection, a steel door and windows were provided as well as material for the roof. These homes certainly made a difference in the lives of the people and were greatly appreciated.
The mission was blessed from the beginning by the generosity of the good people of Mississippi who not only supported the mission financially but also with their time. When medical doctors, nurses and dentists came to visit the mission, they would also often serve the poor of the mountain villages. Usually, the priest was the interpreter and translated the symptoms which the patient indicated to the doctor, nurse or dentist. Little or no medical help was provided to the rancheros except for the visits of the medical doctors, dentists and nurses from Mississippi. For over 30 years, Dr. Kuluz, a pediatrician from Pascagoula, went to the mission and donated his services for at least a week every year. He convinced his colleagues to join him and not only to donate their time but also, their sample medicines to the mission. Many a life was saved through the medical services provided. There is no question that Father Patrick Quinn was the inspiration behind the mission and its success. He gave his life to the mission and was called to the Lord on Jan. 9, 1997, after suffering a heart attack. He served the mission for 28 years and is buried in an alcove of Perpetual Help Church. His death marked a time of transition and change at the mission. Bishop William Houck of Jackson, asked Bishop Francisco Villalobos (Bishop of Saltillo) for three months to find a priest who would be familiar with Mexican culture and speak Spanish to replace Father Quinn. Msgr. Michael Thornton from the Diocese of Biloxi was chosen for the task. Msgr. Thornton was first assigned to Saltillo in Sept. 1973 and served the mission until Aug. 1977. He was familiar with the mission, spoke fluent Spanish and had acquired a knowledge of Mexican culture and customs. In 1998, Bishop Villalobos created San Miguel as a parish and named Msgr. Thornton as pastor. This new location is still within the city of Saltillo and surrounded by a beautiful colony named Vista Hermosa (The Beautiful View).
Presently at San Miguel there are two priests: Father David Martínez Rubio, administrator, Father Evelio Casarubias Rodríguez, his assistant. The present number of villages being served by San Miguel is 24. The number of churches within the city of Saltillo, served by the priests of San Miguel number eight. Every mountain village is served at least once a month and every church within the city at least weekly. In total, the priests are covering 32 different locations.
JACKSON – There are the hungry and homeless in Mississippi. There are the troubled families and marriages. Immigrants desperate for a kind gesture and vulnerable elderly alone and needing a little help.
These are just a few of the issues at the heart of the Diocese of Jackson’s many initiatives funded each year by the Catholic Service Appeal that Bishop Joseph Kopacz kicks off in January aimed at raising $1,203,235.
In a letter to faithful, Bishop Kopacz is asking for financial and prayerful support for a successful 2020 campaign, which in turn will safeguard God’s work in the Diocese of Jackson and help the local Church to continue to thrive and grow.
As part of the drive, a special collection will be taken at all parishes Feb. 8 and 9, and all gifts, no matter what size, are appreciated to help the many ministries, programs and services that reach out to the diocese’s diverse and widespread people.
Although called by many other names and bearing a variety of themes, the Church appeal is conducted in almost every diocese in the country to raise necessary funds so the different dioceses may continue to function and provide ministry and pastoral and administrative services needed for its parishes, agencies and people.
This year, the theme of the Diocese of Jackson’s campaign is taken from Luke 1:47 and is the opening stanza of Mary’s Magnificat, “My Spirit Rejoices.” The campaign logo specifically created for the appeal is an image of Mary by artist Jill Steadman Strickland, a parishioner of St. Richard in Jackson.
“Her beautiful artwork helped us capture the theme of the campaign,” said Rebecca Harris, diocesan director of stewardship and development, who also heads up The Catholic Foundation, about the appeal inspiration.
As the campaign begins, Harris encourages all to reflect on the beautiful image of Mother Mary, the first disciple of Jesus, and her spirit of commitment, giving and praise to God for blessings. “Her ‘yes’ to God is a perfect example for all throughout our diocese,” said Harris.
Why is the appeal so important?
The appeal is essential and without it, many impactful initiatives would not be possible. For example, funds are needed to promote vocations to the priesthood and to support the education of seminarians, tomorrow’s parish leaders. At the present time, Andrew Nguyen and Cesar Sánchez, are on their final steps of the priesthood path with the help of past campaign monies. Both men will be ordained May 16, 2020 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson and receive first assignments.
Funds help services and programs of Catholic Charities, the primary diocesan social service agency that reaches out to the vulnerable and very poor of the area’s communities, who otherwise may not receive assistance.
Appeal funds support retired priests, shepherds who have faithfully given their lives to serve in the diocese’s parishes taking care of sheep and sharing the good times and the bad moments going above and beyond. Many senior shepherds have no family members of their own, but continue to hold on to memories made during their ministry years with parish families once so much a part of their lives.
Campaign funds are needed to continue outreach to the diocese’s mission parishes, many with parishioners of low-income households. Many of the special communities thrive with support from appeal funds making mission ministry possible for the communities known for their hardworking people of great faith and love for God and his Church, which many call a second home.
Campaign funds help the diocese’s work to strengthen family life and enhance intercultural ministry. Monies make possible lay formational programs, counseling and spiritual guidance to the forgotten in prisons, religious education in parishes and outreach to young adult students on college campus, who are the church leaders of tomorrow.
Finally, contributions support evangelization and communication efforts through media, print and today’s internet touching millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is a vital ministry in the modern world of materialism and culture of death when so many are searching for something better. Promoting the gospel message and spreading the Good News through various platforms is a significant tool that helps reach faithful and people of little or no faith. Initiatives are changing hearts and reaching and saving souls.
All are asked to answer the call and say yes as Mary did and generously support the 2020 diocesan Catholic Service Appeal. Contributions, in turn, help the Church in its mission in Mississippi. “When we join together as one diocesan family to support all these ministries, we can all make a difference,” said Harris.
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.”
GREENVILLE – Why do turkeys eat so little? Because they are always stuffed. Unfortunately, not all of us are turkeys and there are a number of people, both young and old, in the Greenville community who go throughout the day without anything to eat. Members of St. Joseph church youth group reached out to St. Vincent de Paul to see how they could help this holiday season. This young and charismatic group worked diligently to fill 300 food bags with stuffing mix, mushroom gravy mix, vegetables and a host of other tasty treats that were distributed to those in need for Thanksgiving. (Photo by Alyssa Ingram)
GALLMAN – Youth gathered for a SEARCH retreat Nov. 22-24 at Camp Wesley Pines. SEARCH is a unique experience designed for juniors and seniors who have a strong desire to deepen their faith and relationship with Christ. Thirty-five “searchers” participated, coming from different parishes around the diocese. Each year the diocesan office of Youth Ministry has two SEARCH retreats, coordinated by Abbey Schuhmann and Ann and Jeff Cook. Thirty people, staffers and volunteers helped the searchers during their new experience of Christ. Among the volunteers were former searchers, there to serve and to help others to reach the fullness of spirituality. (left) Caroline Coffelt and Danielle Murphy, two adult volunteers welcomed searchers. (below) Searchers walk down a hill, eyes closed, during a “Trust Walk” exercise to learn how to rely on each other. (Photos by Berta Mexidor)
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 www.AnnunciationCatholicSchool.org.
By Berta Mexidor JACKSON – Father Odel Medina tugged at heartstrings as he read a letter written by a child pleading for his father’s freedom after being jailed since the federal agent raids on Mississippi last summer. Missionary Servant Father Medina, pastor of St. Therese Kosciusko and St. Anne Carthage, was among the many people presenting testimonies and stories and expressing concerns during public hearings Nov. 7 in Tougaloo before U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security members. Committee members attending the hearing included Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Al Green (D-TX.) Also on hand was Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN), who heads up the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Looking back. More than 600 federal agents raided chicken processing plants across Mississippi Aug. 7 resulting in the arrests of 680 people. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid was the largest statewide workplace operation in U.S. history with a price tag of $1.3 million so far according to reports. For the most part, those arrested were not dangerous criminals, but rather workers in many cases outstaying their visas. There were six more serious charges involving domestic violence and two cases of battery that were reported but details were unclear. One recent report indicated that 300 are still living in detention. In the aftermath of the raids, many are calling the operation inhuman and unnecessary. During hearings, Jere Miles, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security investigation office in New Orleans, was questioned on the project’s costs. Other questions directed at him focused on the timing and execution of operations that took place on the first day of school when children were heading back to classes after the summer break. According to reports, only county school districts were contacted about the raids. Communications with other schools were lacking and left educational facilities in crisis management at the end of the day when the parents were not there to pick up their children. Reports say that ICE provided 11 phones for the more the 680 detainees to use on that day to get in touch with loved ones and to seek help.
Miles defended his agency saying that his office was incompliance with the law, and as a result of the raid, 400 cases of illegally use of SSN or identity theft were found. When Mississippi Catholic questioned Miles about the outcome of the raids, he said, “After this hearing and each raid, the agency tries to learn how to improve this kind of operation. We are taking all the suggestions, but there are some things we cannot change because we need to take care of our country,” he explained about the administration’s press on immigration and security and enforcement efforts. Several Catholic communities of the Diocese of Jackson have been facing the consequences of the immigration raids over the past months. In emergency response and social justice efforts, the diocese has been working with parishes to provide assistance to families faced with hardships struggling to pay rent, buy food and pay bills after heads of households lost work due to the raids. Father Medina is heading up long-term recovery efforts at crisis centers established as part of the diocese’s humanitarian aid efforts in coordination with Catholic Charities and other community organizations joining in the outreach. Help including financial assistance and legal advice is offered as part of outreach to families in the parishes and also residents living within the community-at-large touched by the raids. Father Mike O’Brien, pastor of Sacred Heart in Canton, and Father Roberto Mena, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity and pastor of St. Michael Parish in Forest, are also part of the diocese’s humanitarian aid initiatives. During the Tougaloo hearing, Father Medina gathered with community leaders who one-by-one shared their testimonies and concerns. They included Scott County Sheriff Mike Lee; Lorena Quiroz Lewis of Working Together Mississippi; Canton Mayor William Truly; Clift Johnson, director of MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law and Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey, president of the Board of Legacy Education and Empowerment Foundation. One of the most troubling aspects of the raids on the minds of many speaking at the hearing is the difficult situations of the families, who are struggling to make ends meet. According to records, about 1,000 children are affected by the raids including the minors now without both parents and the ongoing psychological, economic and social effects. The language barrier between Guatemalan detainees, who speak Mam, a Mayan language, is also a concern that calls for special translators. Monserrat Ramirez and Roberto Tijerina, members of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), broadcasted the hearing on the Facebook page of Mississippi Resiste, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping the immigrant community. SONG’s activists from Mississippi and other states are uniting forces with South East Immigrant Rights Network. Together, they are creating a network of individuals including lawyers, local authorities and Catholic lay and priests giving time and talents to help families in need of assistance and to get back on their feet. During hearings, Father Medina talked about the generous support received from people everywhere after the raids. Donations poured into Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson from 40 different states and several organizations reflecting the compassion and concerns that the people of the United States of America have for the immigrant families of Mississippi now in crisis and seeking social justice, guidance and help. Father Medina thanked members of the committee for his opportunity to speak on the behalf of people in the diocese’s family of parishes and to read the letter of the child from his own parish family hurting and traumatized in the aftermath of the raids. “I assure you of my prayers. God bless you,” said the priest with a heavy heart, as he closed his talk.