Graduating students

MERIDIAN –The Catholic ommunities of St. Patrick and St. Joseph honored 14 graduates at the annual Baccalaureate Mass on Sunday, May 6. Each graduate received a Catholic Bible, a personal note and they along with their families were treated to lunch afterwards in the St. Patrick Family Life Center. (Photo by John Harwell)

COLUMBUS - Annunication staff join the rest of the student body to wave good-bye to the eighth graders as they leave campus on the last day of school, Thursday, May 24th. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

JACKSON – At left, Deacon Nick Adam shakes Gracie Hamilton’s hand at the St. Richard sixth grade recognition Mass on Friday, May 25. Teacher Sarah Sistrunk looks on. (Photo by Dave Vowell)

NATCHEZ – Holy Family Kindergarten graduate Robert Terrell leading the graduates in the pledge of Allegiance before their ceremony. (Photo by Valencia Hall)

MADISON – Graduating St. Anthony sixth-grader JJ Tice receives congratulations from principal James Bell at the St. Anthony Mass to honor outgoing students held at St. Francis of Assisi Church. (Photo by Dave Vowell)

NATCHEZ – Cathedral Principal Norm Yvon sings to seniors before they walk the halls in their caps and gowns. During this tradition, students from pre-k through high school line the halls to cheer for the graduating students. (Photo by Cara Serio)

Snapshot reveals character of Class of 2018

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson’s Catholic High Schools awarded 169 diplomas during the week of May 21-26. These communities of faith, knowledge and service demonstrate their mission in each of their graduating classes.
The Catholic schools class of 2018 will claim $6,371,932 in scholarship money at colleges and universities across the nation including the Citadel, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Rice University in Texas, Rhodes, Spring Hill College and, of course, all three Mississippi universities.
Catholic schools earned state championship wins in football, tennis, swimming, cheer and baseball this year. The senior class logged a combined 11,320 hours of service participating in unique projects.
When students and administrators at Cathedral heard that the shelves were bare at Stewpot in Natchez, they got creative with the “Hem in the Headmaster Food Drive.”
“They were in major need of large canned goods. Cathedral Headmaster Norman Yvon encouraged students PreK 3 – 12th grade to bring canned goods and challenged them to “hem” in his office with as many canned goods as possible – and they did,” wrote counselor Jana Slay in an email to Mississippi Catholic. Cathedral students delivered three truckloads of canned goods to the Stewpot which overflowed the shelves.
Madison St. Joseph Students took a stand for children in need of medical care with their BruinThon, a fundraiser for Batson Children’s Hospital. “We stand for eight hours at the event in order to ‘stand for those who can’t,’ reminding ourselves of the blessing of our quality of life and reminding the children of the hospital that they are not forgotten,” said organizer Kathryn Sckiets. The effort raised more than $12,000 in one night.
The entire graduating class from Vicksburg Catholic’s St. Aloysius School volunteered together at the Good Shepherd Center.
Greenville St. Joseph students helped one of their own throughout the year. Aries Cotton, a St. Joseph eighth-grader and brother of senior Reggie Cotton, was diagnosed with Leukemia in October 2017. His classmates have supported his family throughout his diagnosis and treatment with different events, culminating with the “Color me Cured” 5-K color run. Seniors, Carsen Mansour Olivia DeAngelo, Sarah Hayek, Brice Johnson, Sarah Tonos, Erica Keller, Rebecca Jones and JoQuez Sanders came together to help plan the event, held May 31. All proceeds went to the Cotton family.
This edition is dedicated to the top students from the class of 2018, including students from all Catholic schools and one Catholic student from Indianola Academy.

For Valedictorian and Salutatorian profile click here: GRAD PAPER 2018



Two ordained as priests

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Father Nick Adam and Father Aaron Williams were ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Visitation, Thursday, May 31, at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Both are local vocations. Father Williams grew up at the Cathedral and graduated from Jackson St. Richard and Madison St. Joseph schools. While Father Adam grew up out of state, he first felt the call to the priesthood while working in Meridian so he calls St. Patrick and St. Joseph his home parishes.
At the ordination Bishop Joseph Kopacz announced that Father Adam has been assigned as parochial vicar at Jackson St. Richard Parish and Father Williams has been assigned as parochial vicar at Greenville St. Joseph Parish. Father Williams will also teach at St. Joseph School.
Both men also celebrated their first Masses of Thanksgiving the following day. Father Williams celebrated a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart at 12:05 Friday at the Cathedral while Father Adam celebrated his Mass at 6 p.m. at St. Richard Parish.
Mark Shoffner is set to be ordained a transitional deacon on the day this paper is delivered to homes, Friday, June 9, at his home parish of Greenville St. Joseph. Deacon Adolfo Suarez Pasillas was ordained in Mexico earlier this year. Deacon Shoffner will serve his transitional year at Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish while Deacon Pasillas will serve at Jackson St. Therese Parish.
Full coverage of all four of this year’s ordinations will appear in the next edition of Mississippi Catholic, set to publish Friday, June 29.
In Bishop column you can read the bishop’s ordination homily or click here.

Cleaning robot to compete nationally

JACKSON – A team of sixth-graders from St. Richard Catholic School won top honors in the state eCYBERMISSION competition, which will send them to the nationals in Washington, D.C. this summer.
Team Squeegee Feast won the state and then regional levels of the eCYBERMISSION competition – a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative offered by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP). The St. Richard students built “The Squage,” a working robot, to clean tables and floors in their school cafeteria.
“These kids came in after school, on weekends and during the holidays to brainstorm, problem-solve and perfect their robot,” said St. Richard Principal Jennifer David. “We are so proud of all the work they put into it and thankful to have such dedicated team leaders in Ashley and Allan Klein, who volunteer to lead this project every year.”
Students compete on state, regional, and national levels for monetary awards, with national winning teams receiving up to $9,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds, valued at maturity. Two teams from Madison St. Joseph School received state recognition for their projects.
All 20 regional winning teams move on to compete as national finalists at the National Judging and Education Event (NJ&EE). NJ&EE is an all-expenses-paid trip set for June 17-22 in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Sponsored by the U.S. Army and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), eCYBERMISSION is a web-based STEM competition that is free to students and designed to help build their interest and knowledge in STEM. Students in grades six through nine are challenged with developing a solution to a real-world problem in their local community.

Schools, parishes honor Mary in May

JACKSON – Sixth-grader Lillian Boggan places the crown on Mary’s statue during the school Mass on Wednesday, May 9. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

MADISON – St. Joseph students Gianna Altamirano and Syndi Vandevender, below, crowned Mary at the Thursday, May 10 school Mass. Fathers John Bohn and Jason Johnston also blessed junior class rings at the Mass. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

GRANADA – Tony Le, presents flowers at the May crowning at St. Peter Parish on Sunday, May 13. Children in the parish each presented flowers before Madeline Liberto placed a crown on Mary’s statue. (Photos by Michael Liberto)

St. Francis’ Cajun Fest pleases all ages

By Joe Lee
MADISON – The 33rd annual Cajun Fest fundraiser at St. Francis of Assisi on May 6 made approximately $32,000 in sun-baked, mouth-watering profits, as people from all over central Mississippi enjoyed boiled crawfish, pulled pork sandwiches and many other culinary favorites. The proceeds will help repair the interior of St. Clare Hall on the St. Francis campus. On May 12, Knights of Columbus Council 9543 at St. Francis raised approximately $15,000 for seminarian education at their annual Floyd Q. Doolittle Memorial Golf Classic, held at Whisper Lake Country Club of Madison.

Spring Sacrament Edition

Mississippi Catholic will publish a Spring Sacraments edition in July. This means we need your First Communion and Confirmation photos. This is your only chance to submit posed group photos to Mississippi Catholic by email to The final due date for submissions is Friday, July 6.

PEARL – St. Jude celebrated First communion Sunday, May 6. (Photos by Tereza Ma)

Five priests to celebrate significant anniversaries

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Five priests in the Dio

cese of Jackson will mark significant anniversaries of ordination in 2018. Father Noel Prendergast marks 60 years as a priest on June 7, Msgr. Elvin Sunds was ordained 45 years ago on August 5, Fathers Kent Bowlds and Tim Murphy are celebrating 25 years and Father Lincoln Dall was ordained 10 years ago on May 31.

Father Prendergast’s photo from when he first arrived in Mississippi. (Diocese of Jackson Archives)

Father Prendergast was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1934. He was ordained in St. Patrick’s Church in Carlow in 1958 and arrived in the then Diocese of Natchez Jackson that fall. He grew up with six brothers and one sister. Two of his brothers became priests. One stayed in their home diocese and another went to Africa as a missionary. The other siblings became farmers. Father Prendergast still goes home to visit his great-grand nieces and nephews.
When he arrived in Mississippi, starting his ministry at Biloxi Blessed Nativity Parish, the church was on the cusp of Vatican II and the state was just starting to see the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. Father Prendergast said he and his brother priests had to listen and be patient as history took its course.
The priests got updates on Vatican II as the council progressed. “Our bishops were very supportive, Bishop (Joseph) Brunini and Bishop (Oliver) Gerow. Bishop Brunini would go over to Vatican II and come back after two or three months over there and tell us what went on. Then then we had workshops to prepare ourselves for what was coming out of Vatican II. It was all very helpful,” he said.
Father Prendergast went on to serve at Jackson St. Mary, Natchez Assumption, Columbus Annunciation, Vicksburg St. Michael, Yazoo City St. Mary and St. Francis and Clinton Holy Savior as well as at the mission in Gulfport. These days he is retired in Clinton. He helps out at Holy Savior, offering Masses when the pastor is out of town, between playing golf and visiting with friends.
Holy Savior will celebrate Father Prendergast’s anniversary on Monday, June 18, with Mass at 6 p.m. followed by a reception. All are welcome.

JACKSON – Msgr. Sunds, with Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman, opened the 2016 Mississippi Legislative session with prayer. He was often at the capitol advocating for Catholic Charities. (Mississippi Catholic File Photo)

Msgr. Sunds said he can hardly believe he is celebrating 45 years of priesthood. Although born in Nebraska, he was raised in Iowa where he attended Catholic schools. After high school, he went to seminary. He was not convinced he had a vocation, but “had a feeling this is what God wanted me to do.” Msgr. Sunds always tells young men they don’t have to go to seminary with their minds made up. Seminary, he said, helps men discern their call and acquire the skills they will need to do the job. “After all, as they say, God does not call the enabled, he enables the called,” he said.
When he advises young men who believe they have a vocation, Msgr Sunds urges them to “pray. Really listen to the Lord. He’s not going to whisper in your ear, but he will tug at your heart.” He took a year off during his seminary formation to be sure he was following the right path. He was serving in New York when he met some priests from Mississippi. “They were very involved in social ministry and serving the poor and I thought ‘that’s the kind of priest I want to be,’” said Msgr. Sunds. He returned to seminary and asked to be ordained for the Magnolia state.
He started on the coast, serving at Biloxi Sacred Heart before coming to Jackson for the most significant part of his career, working for 19 years at Catholic Charities. He was the director of the agency for 16 of those years. He left Charities and served as the Vicar General of the Diocese for 10 years. In parishes, he served at Jackson Holy Family, Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph and currently serves as pastor of Jackson St. Therese.

JACKSON – Father Kent Bowlds celebrates Mass with Bishop William Houck at St. Richard Parish in this 2001 photo. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

Father Kent Bowlds will mark 25 years of the priesthood this June. The Kentucky native moved to Jackson with his parents, four sisters and one brother, when his Dad’s job was moved here. He was in seventh-grade so he finished school at St. Joseph School.
“I started thinking about priesthood in my junior or senior year of high school, and I think an important factor was all of the priests I had known — from Father Mitchell in Kentucky, who was young and down to earth, to Fathers Eddie Balser, Joe Dyer, Elvin Sunds, and others who helped me grow in faith, perhaps without their ever realizing it, while also being themselves with their unique personalities,” wrote Father Bowlds in an email to Mississippi Catholic.
Father Kent was not convinced of his vocation so he went to college and started a career. “After graduation I worked at Mississippi Public Broadcasting for ten years. I enjoyed that immensely but the idea of priesthood had never entirely gone out of my mind. I was ready for a change and after some good spiritual direction I decided the only way to truly discern was to enter seminary and was accepted by the Diocese of Jackson. In seminary the discernment continued and the call to priesthood solidified,” he wrote.
He worked as vocations director for the Diocese of Jackson for a number of years, so Father Kent has spoken to many young men about vocations. He urges them to have courage and be open. “And it’s important not to pray in a total vacuum, ‘just me and God,’ but also to consider all sorts of things, such as what others are saying about him, what his experiences tell him, where he finds himself naturally drawn, etc. A good spiritual adviser, also, will not try to talk someone into the priesthood, but can help one figure out what God could be saying,” he explained. “Some men think, ‘I might want a family someday’ — which doesn’t necessarily mean they are not called to priesthood. A desire for family can also indicate a generous spirit and an openness to long term commitment, qualities that are also essential for priesthood.”
He served at Madison St. Francis of Assisi, Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph, Clarksdale St. Elizabeth and Immaculate Conception, Jackson St. Richard and Holy Family, Crystal Springs St. John and Hazelhurst St. Martin as well as his current parish of Cleveland Our Lady of Victories.
Father Bowlds will celebrate his anniversary with a Mass and reception at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 22, at Cleveland Our Lady of Victories, Parish.
Also celebrating a quarter of a century of priesthood is Father Tim Murphy, pastor of Tupelo St. James and Pontotoc St. Christopher, ordained Nov. 27, 1993. “I was ordained by Bishop (William) Houck at Glenmary in Cincinnati. It was a wonderful privilege,” said Father Murphy, who was born in New Jersey.
He came to the diocese as a Glenmary Home Missioner in 1991. He was working with the Glenmary research center out of Atlanta as part of the order’s Commission on Justice. At that time, the Glenmarys had founded and were staffing several missions and parishes in the state including Amory St. Helen, Fulton Christ the King and West Point Immaculate Conception.
When the Glenmarys left in 2015, he was incardinated into the diocese. Father Murphy has always served in some of the diocese’s rural locations, often caring for more than one community at a time. He said he came to Mississppi “by the grace of God.”
His postings include Amory St. Helen, Fulton Christ the King, Aberdeen St. Francis, Houston Immaculate Heart of Mary, Okolona St. Theresa, Pontotoc St. Christopher and Bruce St. Luke.
“I am very happy to be here and I am grateful for the mission and to be a part of it,” said Father Murphy.

TUPELO – Father Lincoln Dall brought the tradition of the Camino del Santiago to St. James Parish. Wearing his pilgrim’s shell, he walks a pilgrimage to the parish in 2015. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

Ten years ago, the diocese welcomed Father Lincoln Dall to the presbyterate. Dall was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was a lay missionary for eight years in Canada, Ecuador and the U.S. before he ended up in a teaching corps in Greenville. He joined Sacred Heart Parish. “I had been looking into the priesthood and they encouraged me,” he said of the parish community. He went to Sacred Heart Seminary in Wisconsin where he “had the most wonderful experience possible,” said Father Dall. “It encouraged me and nurtured me.” He was ordained on May 31, 2008.
Father Dall said he tells young men they don’t have to be 100 percent sure to attend seminary. “Just listen to where God is calling you and don’t be afraid to take little steps,” he advised.
Father Dall has made a number of pilgrimages – including several to the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James in Spain. He said the first one he made helped him discern his vocation. “Sometimes, you don’t understand what is happening while you are on the pilgrimage and you come home and unpack it – sometimes even years later,” he said. He started a pilgrimage at Tupelo St. James Parish to celebrate the parish’s patron.
Father Dall has served at Jackson St. Richard, Yazoo City St. Francis and St. Mary, Belzoni All Saints and Tupelo St. James. He is currently pastor of Pearl St. Jude Parish.

Weeks before grand opening, shelter burns

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Sunday, April 29, the dream of opening a new shelter for those fleeing domestic violence almost went up in flames. Catholic Charities was only a few weeks away from opening a new shelter in Jackson when an abandoned house next to the facility caught fire. The flames were so intense, they jumped to the roof of the facility.
“It was pretty devastating,” said John Lunardini, COO of Catholic Charities Jackson. Investigators continue to look for a cause, but Lunardini said the blaze may have started when a vagrant started a fire inside the abandoned house to stay warm on the cold night.
Catholic Charities was going to purchase the house and tear it down to put in a play area for children, but did not yet own the property. This move has been about four years and a million dollars in the making. When the previous shelter was facing some costly repairs, the Catholic Charities board looked at all the available options and decided moving to a new facility was the best approach.
After an exhaustive search, Charities found a new site and started work more than a year ago. The new facility, once renovated, could house nine families at a time. The building included rooms for staff members to be housed on-site to assist victims 24-hours a day. Other amenities include a therapeutic group and counseling area, a suite of offices, a family room, commercial kitchen facilities, a dining area and bathing facilities. The shelter will serve Copiah, Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Issaquena, Sharkey, Simpson, Yazoo and Warren counties.
Workers had begun to move in furniture and plans were in place to tear down the house next door when the fire erupted. Fire damaged the roof and firefighters had to smash a window to get inside to douse the flames. There is also water damage inside, but cleanup started within 12 hours of the fire under the supervision of Restoration 1 and program directors are hopeful they can evover.
The Domestic Violence program offers more than just shelter. Case workers and counselors work with survivors, usually women and their children to start a whole new life. Families must attend counseling. Survivors get childcare, help finding a new job and a new place to live and have access to resources even after they leave the shelter.
Counselors told Mississippi Catholic in 2016 that it can take time for a woman to transition from feeling like a victim to taking charge of her life. She needs support and sometimes some practical knowledge to break the cycle of violence and control abusers use against them.
The program can still use furniture and cash donations to get the renovations back on track. Insurance will cover repair to some of the damage to the building, but the agency will need to cover the gap and the program is always looking for items for the families who stay with them such as toiletries, clothing, gift cards for stores and toys for the children. To make a donation, call 601-355-8634 or donate online at

St. Matthew hosts NET Retreat

RIPLEY – Several dozen teenagers from several area parishes attended a retreat at St. Matthew Parish offered by the National Evangelization Team (NET) on April 21. NET teams travel across the country to lead Catholic retreats for young people. (Photo by Madeleine Hale)

Photo by Madeleine Hale

Photo by Madeleine Hale

Photo by Madeleine Hale

Photo by Madeleine Hale

Photo by Madeleine Hale