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.

Bishop Howze

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.”















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)

Edict opens Sister Thea Bowman’s cause

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz read the edict to open the cause for canonization for Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, Servant of God, at a Sunday, Nov. 18, Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. The church was packed with people who loved Sister Thea and can’t wait to see her become a saint.
Days before the Mass, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously voted in support of the cause moving forward during their general assembly in Baltimore. Sister Bowman, a Mississippi native and the only African-American member of her order, the Wisconsin-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, was a widely known speaker, evangelizer and singer until she died of cancer in 1990 at age 52. She even made a presentation at the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in 1989, moving some prelates to tears.

Some of the songs she sang at that bishop’s meeting took center stage at the Mass. Phyllis Lewis-Hale, a professor from Jackson State University sang “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” as a prelude to the Mass and brought the congregation to its feet with “We Shall Overcome” after communion. Everyone in the church spontaneously joined hands and swayed as they sang with Lewis-Hale – much like the bishops did in 1989.
Lewis-Hale teaches opera and traditional voice classes, but also teaches classes in Negro Spirituals. “Those spirituals go across denominations – they are cultural so I have known these songs all my life,” she said. She believes people can find comfort and support during these times if they “go back to the soothing comforting words of spirituals,” she added. She said she was honored to be a part of the celebration. “I am glad Sister Thea has been given this recognition and this honor and I hope this can come to fulfillment.”
Members of the choir from Sister Thea’s home parish of Canton Holy Child Jesus offered “Be Encouraged” during communion. Bernadette Otto-Russell, one of the singers, first sang in Sister Thea’s choir when she was in the third grade. “This was awesome. This is an enjoyable and memorable moment – I’m getting full just thinking about it. I think the people that know Sister Thea – they know who she is and they will always cherish her and also her memories. She will never die,” said Otto-Russell, adding that it was a joy and an honor to sing for her childhood teacher.
Carolyn Brooks and her mother Jean Brooks came from out of town to attend the Mass. When the younger Brooks attended Christ the King School she met Sister Thea. Brooks called her an inspiration both in her childhood and today. Jean Brooks called the Mass “inspirational,” adding that “we need the spirit from this service in this day and age.”
The postulator, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi and his assistant, Nina Bartulica, sat in the front pew with representatives from Sister Thea’s religious community, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Sister Eileen McKenzie, president; Sister Marla Lang and Sister Helen Elsbernd, both classmates of Sister Thea and Sister Dorothy Kundinger, Sister Thea’s assistant during her illness.
“She was my sister and my friend,” said Sister Kundinger, who was all smiles after the Mass, greeting friends and enjoying the moment.
A delegation of students from Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in Jackson handed out prayer cards after Mass. The students were thrilled to be a part of this historic moment for their school’s namesake. Sixth-grader Alexander Mason said he and his fellow students know the story of her life and have learned many lessons from Sister Thea’s mantra that she wanted to live until she died. “She taught me to always have perseverance and that I should never give up – even if I am close to death, I should keep on pushing myself to try,” said Mason.
In his homily Bishop Kopacz quoted the old testament reading for the day from the Book of Daniel “The wise shall shine like the splendor of the firmament. Those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” He spoke of Sister Thea’s wisdom and joy and holiness, saying that today “her holiness shines upon us.”

(The Diocese of Jackson has launched a website detailing Sister Thea’s life and the cause for canonization,

Knights fight cool weather with chili

PEARL – St. Jude parishioners gathered on Saturday, November 1 to pit their chili-cooking skills against one another for a family-oriented competition organized by the Knights of Columbus. The winners are: Third place Melissa O’Brien, team Women of Faith; second place Victoria and April McDonald and Matthew Meadows, 1st place. Shannon Roe Torregano team Roe-Tel it on the Mountain. Pastor Father Lincoln Dall selected Dan and Danny Nelson’s chili for the “father’s choice award.”

Pear, St. Jude parish, photos by Tereza Ma

The family of Dennise Riordan and Jamison Taylor sharing thoughts about the chili during the Knights of Columbus Chili Cook-off.

Parishioners Nina Couey and Sandra Walker examine the chili very well before they pick their winning choice.

Mr. Walker

Brodey and Farren Clark

Jose and JJ Arellano

Dori, Beth, Jo and Thomas Paczak participated in judging the chili.

Aniston Pitts

Rory Clark

All kids from St. Jude having good time to get together

Shannon Roe Torregano from team Roe-Tel it on the Mountain.

The winner Shannon Roe Torregano from team Roe-Tel it on the Mountain.

Shannon Roe Torregano

Shannon Roe Torregano

Second place Victoria McDonald, Matthew Meadows and April McDonald.

Third place Melissa Obrien team Women of faith.

The Nelson team

Father's pick winner Danny Nelson

Danny Nelson with Nora and Father Lincoln

Danny Nelson with Nora and Father Lincoln

Line to pick the samples was pretty long

Father Lincoln Dall collects his chili samples from Pat McBride.

Father Lincoln with ladies from Philippines Riza Caskey, Myra Woodward and Ellen Bruno

Catholic school sports champions

In addition to spiritual formation and academic excellence, the four Catholic High Schools in the Diocese of Jackson have been garnering some sports championships as well. Here is a roundup of spring and fall sports championships held by Catholic Schools across the state.

Greenville St. Joe – Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) AA
2017-2018 Boys Basketball District Champions
2017-2018 Football MAIS 2AA State Champions
2018-2019 Football 2AA District Champions. Playoffs are underway. Junior Trey Benson broke the school record for most touchdowns in a single game with 8 touchdowns vs Greenville Christian School.

Madison St. Joe. – Mississippi High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) 2A
2018-2019 Boys Swim State Champions. They were second-place in state for 2017-2018.
2017-2018 Girls Swim State Champions. Girls swim we second place in the state for 2018-2019.
2017-2018 Boys Soccer State Champions
2017-2018 Baseball State Champions
2017-2018 Baseball District Champions
2017-2018 Boys Basketball District Champions
2017-2018 Boys and Girls Tennis District Champions
2018-2019 Boy and Girls Swim North State Champions

Madison St. Joseph’s baseball team celebrates after winning the state tournament in the spring of 2018. (Photos courtesy of Tricia Harris)

Madison St. Joseph’s boys swim team won the state title. The girls team was second in the state.

Natchez Cathedral – MAIS AAA
2018-2109 Cross Country, Varsity and JV State Champions. This is the third year the varsity has won the title.
2017-2018 Girls Golf State Champions
2017-2018 Boys Golf Individual State Championship.

NATCHEZ – As the bus load of Cross Country runners left Cathedral for the state meet, PreK 4 students with teacher Caroline Ferguson Nobile, assistants Betty Cusic and Jessica Byrne cheered them off campus. (Photo by Cara Serio)

Vicksburg Catholic. – MAIS AAA
2018-2019 Dance Competition State Champions in Jazz and Pom
2017-2018 Girl’s Soccer State Champions in Division III
2018 Girl’s Tennis second in State
2017-2018 Boy’s Soccer State Champions

Vicksburg Catholic Sports

St. Aloysius’ Wyatt Teague kicks Central Hinds’ Nick Lauderdale as they both go for the ball during Wednesday’s MAIS Class AAA semifinal in Raymond. St. Al won, 2-1, to snap Central Hinds’ 71-game winning streak. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg’s girls soccer team brought home a championship this spring. (Photo by YAS Photography)

Holy Ghost calls alumni home

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Holy Ghost Catholic School educated generations of students before it closed in 1969 and the graduates continue to have an impact on their communities. On the weekend of Oct. 12-14 the parish hosted an all-class reunion.
The gathering marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the high school at Holy Ghost, the first high school for African-Americans in the city of Jackson. The weekend included a Friday evening fish fry, a photo session for all classes on Saturday, a gala Saturday night and Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz on Sunday.
Mary Udoh, the last principal at the school, headed up organizing the events.
She even invited Sister Marie Angela Risi, a member of the Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit, to return to the parish where she served so long ago. Sister Risi spoke of the enduring love the Sisters have for the people of Jackson.
At the end of Mass, Derek Singleton, a Holy Ghost alumnus, spoke of the tremendous impact Catholic education had on all who attended Holy Ghost and invited everyone in attendance to support the nearest Catholic School, Sister Thea Bowman School, located at nearby Christ the King Parish.

Zachary Taylor, class of 1942, lines up for the class photo, assisted by his daughter, Fabvienen Taylor, who attended the school with her brothers until it closed in 1969. (Photo by Laci Smith)

During Mass Sunday morning, Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke to a packed church about attending his own school reunion recently and about the importance of education as one legacy of the Catholic Church.

(l-r) Nina McKinney Cook; Mary Udoh, the last principal at Holy Ghost School, and her daughter Okononwan Udoh brought up the gifts during Mass. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Sister Marie Angela Risi, SSpS, came from Illinois for the reunion. She spoke at the closing Mass of the Sisters' love for their students.

Parish ministers process out with Bishop Kopacz at the end of Mass.

A Friday night Fish Fry gave classmates a chance to catch up at a casual meal while the Saturday gala was a more formal event. More than 120 alumni attended events throughout the weekend. Organizers hope to host a reunion every-other-year. (Photo by Laci Smith)