Houses unite at St. Richard school

JACKSON – St. Richard Pre-K4 Andrew Whitfield and Cruz Spiller students enjoyed their lesson on “Tt is for Teddy” with a tea party with teddy grahams and teddy bears.
JACKSON – The St. Richard House of Pascal had their first meeting of the year on Friday, Sept. 24. Sixth grade leaders shared their knowledge of their house saint with the other Cardinals. The house system is similar to Harry Potter, but the St. Richard houses are named after Saints such as Benedict, Blaise, Cornelius, Demerici, dePaul, Ignatius, Maximillian, Paschal, Pius, Sebastian, Seton, Sienna, Trinity and Xavier. (Photos by Chelsea Hamilton)

Fiesta time at Annunciation

COLUMBUS – Pre-K student, Carson McCann dances to the beat during the class fiesta. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

Natchez CYO is serious about service

NATCHEZ – (Above) Helen Schwager, Gracie Bradley and Ricky and Brent Warren work to load up trucks for a trip down to Luling, Louisiana to aid with Hurricane Ida relief.
NATCHEZ – Led by Deacon Andrew Bowden, the St. Mary CYO worked on cleaning and filling old votive candle holders from the Sacristy with new wax and wicks before painting them to sell them in a fundraiser after Mass in November for people to light in memory of loved ones. Above, Deacon Andrew demonstrates the technique. Also pictured are Sally Hudson Linton, Emma Ledford and Helen Schwager. (Photos by Carrie Golden Lambert)

Are you ready for some football?

MADISON – St. Anthony and St. Richard third and fourth graders faced off at their first flag football game of the season on Wednesday, Sept. 29. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)
MADISON – St. Joseph Bruins battled Simpson Academy on the gridiron on Friday, Sept. 24. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

Synods date back to 1858 in diocese

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – On Sunday, Oct. 24, at the 10:30 Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will officially open the diocesan phase of the church’s preparation for a universal synod on the synodal process in 2023. In the Mass, Bishop Kopacz will offer prayers for the diocesan church as we undertake this important aspect of church life on the local level.

More information on the preparations for the synod is shared in this week’s paper and will be shared as the process moves forward. This is an exciting time for our church.

Bishop R.O. Gerow, seventh bishop of the diocese, sits surrounded by his clergy for a 1935 Synod held in Bay St. Louis at St. Augustine Seminary on July 9. (Photos from archives)

From an archive’s perspective, synods have been held in our diocese dating back to 1858. Bishop William Henry Elder called the First Synod of Natchez to gather his priests together to discuss diocesan life and business. In 1856 the Archdiocese of New Orleans had hosted a synod for the province, which included our diocese. Decrees, including the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, rules for the election of bishops, and several disciplinary items, were promulgated from that synod. Bishop Elder called the 1858 local synod in Natchez to discern those decrees and discuss in collegial fashion how to implement them in the diocese.

Nowadays we get information immediately; in the mid-19th century news travelled much more slowly. It is not unusual that it took two years to discuss these decrees and how they will affect the growing church in Mississippi.
The 10th and last official diocesan synod was held in 1957. This synod took up some very weighty topics such as the teaching authority of the church, the Sacraments, Christian education for children, and the administration of church property.

After each synod, a book was published of the decrees and decisions. In the 1957 book we find some great paragraphs on the sacraments and sacred things. These quotes will sound familiar to many of us.

Paragraph 96 states: “The Sacraments should be administered with dignity and decorum and in accordance with the regulations of the church. The rubrics shall be carefully studied and scrupulously observed.”

Paragraph 100 is most important to an archivist and chancellor: “Great care should be taken that records of Sacraments administered be plainly legible. All names of recipients should be written in BLOCK CAPITAL LETTERS. Ink to be used must be of a permanent type.”

Bishop William Henry Elder called the First Synod of Natchez to gather his priests together to discuss diocesan life and business.

Paragraph 211 is most informative: “The music for all church services shall be that found in approved liturgical books and only hymns which have been approved by recognized authorities in church music shall be used.”

Those are a few of the 261 statements coming forth from the 1957 synod. The 10 synods in our history were clergy attended. Diocesan convocations grew out of the synods. These convocations up until COVID met every two years and in recent years had included parish leadership other than just priests.

The themes for the 2023 worldwide synod are: Communion, Participation and Mission. It will involve listening sessions with local parishioners around the world on these powerful foundations of our faith. Our diocese will participate in this process as stated above.

Stayed tuned to how you can be a part of this historic and spiritual process in our church.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson)

Mississippi Catholic

October 8, 2021

September 24

24 de septembre

September 10

August 20

Back 2 school

20 de agosto

Bishop Joseph N. Latino in memoriam

July 16, 2021

16 de julio de 2021

June 18, 2021

18 de junio de 2021

May 28, 2021

28 de mayo de 2021

May 14, 2021

April 30, 2021

30 de abril de 2021

April 16, 2021

March 26, 2021

26 de marzo, 2021

March 12, 2021

February 26, 2021

26 de febrero de 2021

February 12, 2021

January 29, 2021

29 de enero de 2021

January 15, 2021

December 24, 2020

24 de diciembre de 2020

December 11, 2020

November 20, 2020

20 de noviembre de 2020

November 6, 2020

October 23, 2020

Espanol 23 de octubre de 2020

October 9, 2020

September 25, 2020

25 de septiembre de 2020

September 11, 2020

August 28, 2020

August 14, 2020


MADISON – St. Anthony fifth grade students, Tanner White (left) and Drew Ring (right) used the scientific method to test the effectiveness of different types of face coverings. A specfic face covering was deemed ineffective if a candle flame could be blown out while wearing the face covering. The students determined that neck gaiters were ineffective face coverings. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Moorehead)
NATCHEZ – Youth get creative in the St. Mary CYO scavenger hunt. Clockwise from top: Kinslee Young (in purple), Lacy Fair, Wells Linton, SK Cauthen, Graci Gamberi, Sally Hudson Linton and Liza Gregg (in green). (Photo courtesy of Carrie Golden Lambert)
GREENVILLE – Elementary students had some pre-game fun for the first home football game. Go Irish! (Photo by Nikki Thompson)
VICKSBURG – Vicksburg Catholic School took time to honor first responders for a special 9/11 Prayer Service. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick first grader, Cayden Gray hangs up his art work about Adam and Eve after completing a lesson on how God made man in His image. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
COLUMBUS – Annunciation Pre-K students, Atlas McCullough and Atlas Banks practice good manners during a manners tea party. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)
MADISON – St. Joseph seniors (l-r) Cole Spivey and Jake Ramsey help Catholic Charities supporters to find the correct table for the Journey of Hope luncheon with Elizabeth Smart. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Bishop Gunn’s photo scrapbook offers glimpse of history along Gulf Coast

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – The month of September in Mississippi normally brings to mind football and a little bit of a cooler breeze coming through. September also is an active part of the hurricane season. We have started this September off with Ida and Nicholas. So far, we have been more fortunate than our Louisiana neighbors.

Archives and hurricanes are not generally talked about in the same sentences unless you are involved in archival work and are located in hurricane prone areas. Archivists throughout the Gulf Coast region have disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plans in place to help alleviate the damage wind and water can cause to artifacts and manuscripts.

In our diocesan archives, we often get requests from parishes in the Biloxi diocese for photos of their original churches. Many of those churches built in the early 1900s did not survive the years. Some were lost to fire and age, others to population shifts and neglect, but many were lost to hurricanes. These storms bring with them swells of water, triple digit winds and torrential rains.

Hurricane Camille came barreling ashore in 1969 and left a path of destruction not seen in modern times. Camille became the benchmark for destruction along the Gulf Coast until 16 years ago when Katrina removed most everything south of I-10 in the Biloxi diocese.

While the world focused on the terrible flooding in New Orleans caused by the backside of Katrina, the people of the Gulf Coast were trying to dig themselves out from under miles of debris. For the Diocese of Biloxi, which encompasses the 17 counties closest to the Gulf, nearly every church property sustained severe damage. Some were completely destroyed.

Imagine St. Clare Church in Waveland. When Katrina came ashore with a 30-foot swell of water, St. Clare’s front door stood at normal sea level, 100 feet from the water. Needless to say, there was nothing left but the front steps of the church and the slab of the school. St. Michael’s seashell roof in Biloxi looked fine from the air, but the main altar which weighed several tons was tossed off to the side and the pews were sucked out to sea.

After concerns about the safety of people, a Catholic diocesan archivist starts to think about sacramental registers, photographs and sacred vessels. Many of these items were lost.

Just recently Sacred Heart in d’Iberville called because they will be celebrating their 100th anniversary next year and were hoping we had some photos of the original church. Fortunately, we were able to provide them with a couple of photos. They had never seen what the original church looked like.

This week in a tribute to our neighbors on the Gulf Coast, we are sharing some images from Bishop John Gunn’s photo scrapbook. The photos or postcards range from 1915-1923 and give us a glimpse of churches during that time. Sacred Heart in d’Iberville (then Seymour) is among them.

As you look at them, offer a prayer to St. Medardus, patron of weather, to protect us all from storms. Amen.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson)


School is back in gear

VICKSBURG – Lizzie McSherry receives communion from Bishop Joseph Kopacz at a special “Back to School” Mass at Vicksburg Catholic School. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
SOUTHAVEN – Kindergarten students with their teacher, Amber Hayes, work on “cheer them up” posters to send to the hospital. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)
JACKSON – Sister Thea Bowman first grade student, Ja’Kayla Davis, along with her other classmates, work on one of their first class assignments during the first week of school. In the background, teacher, Ashanti Moses works with class member, Caliyah Hopson. (Photo by Shae Robinson)
LELAND – Father Sleeva Mekala blessed backpacks at St. James parish on Sunday, Aug. 22. (Photo by Deborah Ruggeri)
MADISON – At St. Joseph School, Diane Waldon explains a chemistry experiment to sophomore, John Eatherly, on Tuesday, Aug. 10, the first day back to school. (Photo by courtesy of St. Jospeh Catholic School)
NATCHEZ – Seventh grader, Julia Claire Jex strikes the right combination at Cathedral School. (Photo by Cara Moody Serio)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School volunteer, Frank Washington, helps fourth grader Halle Smith with her backpack on her first day of school, on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Photo courtesy of St. Patrick Catholic School)
COLUMBUS – Third grade student, William Marrett takes his star pre-assessments for math and reading in the computer lab at Annunciation School. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

Diocese and New Group Media shoot documentary commemorating Sister Thea Bowman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SEARCH – Exploring the call

GALLMAN – Youth gathered for a SEARCH retreat July 23-25 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. Each year the Office of Youth Minsitry offers SEARCH retreats. This retreat was themed ‘Explore the Call’ with a focus on Jeremiah 29:11-13. “For I know well the plan I have in mind for you.” (Photo by Abbey Schuhmann)

Summer camp fun

SOUTHAVEN – Summer Camp students at Sacred Heart taste carrots and tomatoes from the children’s garden. The food could be tasted alone or with sugar, salt or Ranch dressing. What do you think they preferred? (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)
MADISON – Before school begain in August, students kept busy during the summer at St. Joe’s Volleyball camp. (Photo by Tricia Harris)

Vacation Bible School

McCOMB – Father Suresh Thirumalareddy surrounded by all the children who attended Vacation Bible School at St. Alphonsus parish. This year’s theme was “God’s Wonder Lab.” (Photo Connie Harrington)
MADISON – VBS instructor, Seth Dean shows a group of young “scientists” how magnets work at St. Francis of Assisi parish. (Photo by Mary Catherine George)
CLARKSDALE – (Left to right) Liza Stonestreet, Madison Williams, Virginia Johnson, Anne Taylor Tackett and Elsie Grace Young dance at St. Elizabeth’s VBS. (Photo by Mary Evelyn Stonestreet)

Graduating seniors recognized

LELAND – St. James parish celebrated their 2021 graduating seniors. Pictured left to right, Reeves Polasini, Madisyn Henry, Father Sleeva Mekala, Walker Zepponi and Lane Walker. (Photo by Deborah Ruggeri)
FLOWOOD – St. Paul parish celebrated seniors who graduated in 2021. Pictured left to right, Alexis Boman, Nikki Lawrence, Victoria Esparza, Cory Head (Youth Leader), Brendan McIntyre, Joshua Burton and Ares Colas. (Photo by Renee Borne)
WEST POINT – Father Bihn Nguyen celebrated graduating seniors Dominic Borgioli (left) and Aidan Henson (right) at Immaculate Conception parish. (Photo by Cathy Johnson)

Bishop Gunn’s diary provides insight to perils of travel in the early days of diocesan life

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – A bishop’s life is full of travel around the diocese to visit parishes, schools and missions. This time of year, it involves school masses for the opening of the new academic year. Because of COVID, these celebrations did not occur last August.

Confirmation celebrations have Bishop Joseph Kopacz all over the diocese from one end to the other. These celebrations normally take place between Easter and Pentecost, but due to schedules and once again the pandemic, Confirmation celebrations have been spread out into the summer months.

This weekend Bishop Kopacz will be in Ripley at St. Matthew Mission to confer Confirmation on more than a dozen young people. Ripley is in Tippah County, and I have a special connection to the area because my maternal grandmother’s family is from Tippah County. My great-grandparents are buried in the Pine Hill Cemetery just outside of Ripley on the way to Walnut.

Bishop Thomas Heslin, the fifth bishop of the diocese, died on Feb. 22, 1911. He guided the diocesan church through the turn of the century. A few weeks prior to his death while visiting churches in East Central Mississippi, he met with an unfortunate accident. Bishop Heslin most likely suffered a broken rib from this accident and may have ultimately succumbed to pneumonia. (Photos from archives)

Suffice it to say that our diocese being the largest diocese geographically east of the Mississippi River creates long drives. Tippah County borders Tennessee and is part of the rolling hills section of the state where beautiful views can be found around various bends in the road. Ripley is close to a four-hour drive from Jackson.

Imagine travelling to Ripley on horseback or in a cart from Natchez as was done in the early days of our diocese. This was the life of our bishops back in the day even up into the early 1900s when Bishop Thomas Heslin was making his way around the diocese for Confirmation celebrations.

Let me share a particular instance from Bishop John Gunn’s diary dated June 8, 1912, in which he accounts for an unfortunate incident that led to Bishop Heslin’s ultimate demise. It may give a better appreciation for a bishop’s life on the road.

“Visit to Montpelier. This is a little mission chapel about 13 miles from West Point, without a railroad and with the poorest roads imaginable. On the way out from West Point to Montpelier I heard a story about Bishop Heslin which is worth recording.

“The good Bishop was, like myself, going out to the little chapel to give Confirmation. The best pair of mules in the neighborhood were commandeered to bring the Bishop out. The Bishop’s carriage was a spring wagon and a plank put over the sideboards formed the cushions for the driver and the Bishop.

“The roads were of that peculiar type known in Mississippi as ‘corduroy’ roads. Branches of trees, stumps, logs, etc. are imbedded in the mud roads during the Winter, In the Spring these are covered with dirt and there is a good road until the first rain comes. Then the dirt is washed up and the stumps are very much in evidence, especially when the mules get into a trot.

“It seems that on the past visit of Bishop Heslin, the driver talked all he knew about cotton, lumber, and the country and talked so much that the mules fell asleep. It is thought that Bishop Heslin – if he was not asleep, was at least nodding – and at the moment the driver woke up and commenced to whip the mules into some kind of activity.
“The sudden start caught the Bishop unprepared and he made a double somersault over the spring wagon and fell on the road. The driver was so busy with the mules that he forgot the Bishop and did not know of the mishap for nearly half a mile.

“Then there was the difficulty of turning the pair of mules on the road and a convenient turning spot had to be reached. This delayed the recovery of the Bishop for a considerable time and when the mule driver and his mules found the Bishop – Bishop Heslin was in a dead faint.

“The good Bishop was a big man and a heavy man, and the mule driver was lean and lanky and there was no help in sight or available. There was nothing to do only to take the sideboards from the wagon and form an inclined plane and roll the Bishop up the plane and make him comfortable in the wagon. “He recovered consciousness before he reached West Point.

“It is said that the Bishop never really recovered from the shock and the injury sustained by this fall.

“The driver who brought me out to Montpelier was the same one who had brought Bishop Heslin and he gave me the story as written.”

Bishop John Edward Gunn, a Marist priest, was the sixth Bishop of Natchez. He was known as brilliant orator and for having tremendous energy. Through his writings, we learn that Bishop Heslin suffered a fall while travelling around the diocese for Confirmation celebrations in 1910.

This incident would have occurred most likely in 1910 because Bishop Heslin died in February 1911.

Bishop Gunn concludes his description of his own arrival and visit in Montpelier thusly: “I arrived at Montpelier for supper. The day was hot, and all the neighbors of the little village were invited to sup with me.

“There was a table spread for all comers on a kind of porch. The neighbors supplied the feed and there was plenty of it. I think that all the flies of the country got notice because they were present like the locusts of Egypt. They were in everything, tasting everything, and lighting everywhere, especially on the bishop’s nose.

“A few girls got branches of trees and used them to keep the flies away. It was all right as long as the girls minded their business but when they forgot the flies and hit the guests there was some embarrassment.

“We had Mass and confirmation in the little chapel, which strange to say was dedicated to St. Patrick and for that reason several parts of it were painted green. We returned to celebrate Sunday.”

More from Bishop Gunn next time…

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson)