Students stage FinnFest

MADISON – St. Richard students get snowcones at FinnFest on Wednesday, Oct. 10. Students at St. Joseph School organized FinnFest to raise money for Finn Blaylock, a six-year-old who is fighting cancer. Finn is a student at St. Richard School while his siblings attend St. Joseph. The Fest included a teacher dunking booth, games, food and a blood drive for Finn. (Photos courtesy of Bruin Journalism class)

In His Image: 2018 Middle School Retreat

By Abbey Schuhmann
MACON – Middle school youth from all across the diocese gathered at Lake Forest Ranch in Macon on October 13-14 for the 2018 Diocesan Middle School Fall Retreat. The retreat was led by NET Ministries (National Evangelization Team), a Catholic ministry program out of St. Paul, Minnesota.
NET Ministries was established about 35 years ago with the mission to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through prayer, sacraments, fellowship and service. NET Team #10 led the diocesan retreat along with a middle school retreat at Southaven Sacred Heart School. Each NET Team is made of 8-12 young adults usually ages 18-24 years old. The leaders commit to a year of missionary retreat ministry by traveling around the country hosting retreats for parishes and schools.
The theme of this retreat was “In His Image” and teens had the chance to reflect on what it means to be sons and daughters of Christ. Their identity is found in God as all are made in his image and likeness. The overnight gathering provided the youth with a high-energy, faith-filled program. The youth were able to hear powerful witness talks from members of the NET Team, engaged in several small group discussions, experienced a powerful prayer ministry with the team. Father Augustine Palimattam of Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph celebrated Mass with the group Saturday night and the evening ended with a bonfire by the lake. The NET team also performed funny and serious skits throughout the weekend.

Father Augustine Palimattam celebrated Mass for the diocesan middle school retreat. (Photos by Abbey Schuhmann)

The teens had the chance for some fun and fellowship on Sunday afternoon by participating in some friendly competition including games of ping-pong, basketball, and the latest craze – gaga ball. The adult youth leaders had the opportunity to meet one another and discuss the youth ministry programs at their respective parishes.
The next big event for the Office of Youth Ministry is the Diocese of Jackson Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC) set for Feb. 1-2, 2019, in Vicksburg. This year’s theme – faith, hope and love. The keynote speaker is Brian Butler along with worship leaders Greg and Lizzy. For more information regarding DCYC or any other diocesan youth activities contact Abbey Schuhmann, Coordinator for the Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson by email at

Next Encuentro phase: action by parishes, dioceses on ideas, priorities

By Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A Nearly 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders, like Dominican Sister Judith Maldonado, have gone back to their parishes and dioceses to share the ideas and fruits of the conversations that took place at the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas.
And as that phase of the multiyear process reached completion, the next phase is aimed at putting into practice the lessons learned and bear fruits.
“This has been like a retreat, the message that we were given at the end is like you have the Holy Spirit, you have to take it with you and you have to be saints, produce fruits of love,” said Sister Maldonado, a member of the Dominican Sisters of the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. Her order is involved with family ministry serving parishes in Maryland and Texas.
In the next few months, the leadership team of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, will distribute a concluding document listing the main priorities and problems identified across 28 ministry areas; the document will assist dioceses, parishes and national structures in drafting their own pastoral plans according to their own realities and priorities.
The Encuentro’s team of accompaniment, or ENAVE, plans to continue providing support and tracking progress.
“We have achieved things that in some ways we never would have imagined would be possible,” Ken Johnson-Mondragon, V Encuentro’s director of research, told Catholic News Service. “Walls have come down, people have experienced really the joy that Pope Francis talks about.”
The V Encuentro process that began about four years ago has helped thousands of Hispanic ministry leaders engage in faith-filled dialogues among themselves and reach out to those on peripheries. Encuentro has also promoted collaborations within and across dioceses, which is known as ‘pastoral en conjunto,’ and has helped remove the “fear to speak up,” bringing the participants closer to their pastors and bishops, added Johnson-Mondragon.
The V Encuentro also identified and prepared at least 25,000 new Hispanic ministry leaders across the country, and about a third of the leaders engaged were youth and young adults. An estimated 100,000 individuals participated in the process and about 150,000 others were reached on the peripheries.
Another important gain is that the V Encuentro has captured the attention and support of the bishops nationwide. At the gathering, about 125 bishops — Hispanic and non-Hispanic — walked side by side with their diocesan delegations, and about 160 out of 178 Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the country were represented.
“The Hispanic church is asking for formation, they’re asking for support, they’re asking for direction, so it will be on the part of the bishops and pastors to provide that,” Bishop Oscar Cantu told CNS. Formerly head of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, he is now coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California.

What mostly surprised and pleased Bishop Cantu was the size of the gathering — with over 3,000 participants — and like many others, he was energized by the optimism and drive of the attendees.
The top three recommendations that rose up in the Encuentro process are: the need to develop pastoral plans for Hispanic ministry tailored according to the needs of each parish and diocese; the need of the parish community to help strengthen families; and to hire more Hispanic young adults in paid positions of leadership.
The 28 ministry areas addressed by the V Encuentro include those that reach out to youth, young adult, college campuses, immigrants, families, people with disabilities, and the incarcerated, as well as ministries in vocations, pro-life, faith formation and catechesis, justice and peace, and even care for the environment among others.
As a word of advice from Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, who has witnessed all the Encuentros, it is important to connect the previous Encuentros to the current one, while staying focused on the work at hand amid the challenges it might present. “We’re being called to a very special moment in time and we need to step up to the plate to make sure that we are on the side of the poor, on the side of those who can’t protect themselves.” Sister Pineda said.

Hispanic ministry teams exchange pastoral visits

By Berta Mexidor
Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSpS, a coordinator for Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson visited her colleagues in the Diocese of Fresno, California’s, Migrant Ministry program on September 17-19.
This was the second half of an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) office of Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Members of the UCSSB committee make annual visits to dioceses who work with a large population of immigrant and temporary workers. In 2015 Bishop John Manz led a PCMRT visit to the Jackson Diocese. The local Hispanic ministry team took him on a tour of farms and work sites in the Delta so he could experience the reality of life in the rural South.
This year the committee invited Sister Mendez to accompany them to California. Bishop Armando Ochoa and Benito Medrano, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry of the Fresno diocese welcomed the visitors.

Representatives from the University of Detroit Mercy, the UDM Jesuit Community and the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network also attended.
The guests learned about the work of Fresno diocesan team; went to an Easton, California, vineyard and a dairy in Rosa to visit farmworkers and their families. They also witnessed the efforts of both the Immaculate Mary Eucharistic Missionary sisters (MEMI Sisters) and a community organization called Faith in the Valley. Sister Mendez said she was impressed by how well these organizations collaborated. “Each of the … communities represent a significant strength. Because they collaborate in the office as well as the field they have bonds of friendship and trust that becomes a house built on a foundation of rock.”
During the meetings they had time for a presentation about a basic formation methodology. Father Tom Florek, SJ., from University of Detroit Mercy was the presenter. During those days the visitors talked with adults cathechists and community leaders, joined Mass and enjoyed community gatherings. “We met Christ in the men, women and children we met in the grape fields. The good news was palpable in the hospitality, testimonies, prayers and blessings,” he wrote in a report he prepared about the visit.
Sister Mendez compared the migrant and farmworkers’ situation in Mississippi and California, concluding all of them have much in common “I thanked them for putting food on everyone’s table.” Getting to meet them, she said, affirms the work she does every day “…they called us as a church to encounter people on the periferies and to find ways to educate and evangelize.”
The farmworkers reminded her of these verses from Carlos Rosas’ song, “You are the peasant God who works from sunrise to sunset. I have seen you surrendered, and sweat runs on your face. You are the peasant God who works in the labor.”
“It is my hope that the various participating communities can benefit from what we have learned and further a dialogue that results in greater good for the lives of the farmworkers and their families,” said Sister.

Parish Fair traditions hold steady at St. Elizabeth

CLARKSDALE – The St. Elizabeth Parish Fair celebrated 71 years of fun, school and parish commitment and community-wide participation Tuesday, Sept. 18.
A program from the third fair in 1940 indicates that Father Geoffrey O’Connell first proposed the event. Early fairs included a raffle for a bale of cotton, a barbecue night and the signature meatball and spaghetti supper as well as “nickleodian dances, competitive games and a cake and candy sale,” reads the program.
Currently the fair has one overall chairperson with many chairmen in charge of numerous game booths, horse rides, a silent auction, and the famous delicious “Delta Italian” spaghetti dinner – topped, of course, with yummy meatballs made by the ladies of the parish.
These days, cash has replaced cotton in the raffle. Ticket-holders vied for a $10,000 pot and numerous other prizes.
The Fair’s “coming together” takes months of planning and organizing, ordering booth prizes, cooking and praying for good weather.

CLARKSDALE –Maci and Ellie Kate Flaut enjoy an evening horse ride during the St. Elizabeth Parish Fair Tuesday, Sept. 18. The evening of fun, food and games raises money for the school and parish. (Photos courtesy of Dawn Spinks.)

Will Young decides what to do next at the fair as students play carnival games for big prizes. Stuffed animals are some of the favorites.


Festival celebrates immigrant cultures

By Maureen Smith
TUPELO – On Saturday, September 15, St. James Parish hosted Hispanic Heritage Day which included music, dance, food and a friendly fund-raising competition for the title of Hispanic Queen. The celebration gathered more than 300 people from the parishes of deanery five.
“Our Parish of St. James, began to have this celebration in 2005 for the Independence Day of Mexico. The objective of this event was to spend a family afternoon and share our traditions, with music, dancing – without missing our typical Mexican snacks. Over the years this event has grown a lot and more people have joined,” said Raquel Thompson, coordinator for Hispanic Ministry for St. James. Latinos from New Albany St. Francis, Corinth St. James the Less, Ripley St. Matthew, Pontotoc St. Christopher and the host parish joined in by offering a display of costumes, bringing a dance or musical group, food and drinks typical of their homeland.

“We, as Hispanics in the United States, are proud to share a little of our cultures, customs and traditions that go beyond folk dances, food, etc., so this year we organized it at the deanery level,” explained Thompson. “The goal was to have a meeting of communities to share our faith, promote unity, family integration, inspire our youth and feel the joy of brotherhood that unites us as Latino brothers and sisters in this country, who has welcomed us and feel at home, although we are far from our land,” she continued.
Katia Cruz acted as emcee for the day. At the end of the celebration organizers named a “Hispanic Queen,” conferred on the girl who collected the most money through selling snacks throughout the event. The ladies wore costumes from the countries of origin of their parents. In a short interview with four of the participants, the common denominator was their desire to help their church and therefore their community. Joselyn Acosta, Karen Ruedas, Lorena Benavides and Kaelen López all have dreams for the future as an accountant, nurse and lawyer. The money raised will help all the parishes in the deanery. In the end Kimberly Huerta of New Albany St. Francis was elected as Hispanic Queen 2018, with second place for Daniela Pérez of Corinth and third place for Carolina Acosta of Tupelo.

(Berta Mexidor, Katia Cruz and Raquel Thompson contributed to this story. See more photos in this week’s Catolico.)

Listening sessions

In an effort to advance the healing process and to support our commitment to transparency, Bishop Joseph Kopacz is sponsoring a series of listening sessions open to the community. There will be four sessions to accommodate people all across our Catholic community.

Franciscan Sister Dorothy Heiderscheit will be the facilitator at each session. She is CEO of Southdown Institute of Toronto, Canada. Southdown Institute was founded specifically to address the needs of religious and clergy around mental health and addiction. Sister Dorothy served as a therapist and director of Family Ministry at Catholic Charities of Jackson from 1987 to 2000.

Before you come, we ask that you read the diocesan statement addressing what we do when abuse is reported, what we have done in the past and what we are doing now to prevent abuse in the Diocese of Jackson. It can be found here:

We also ask that you submit questions in advance in writing here: Use the subject “Listening Sessions.”

A Spanish interpreter will be available at each session.

Thursday, Oct. 4, Tupelo St. James Parish, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 5, Cleveland Our Lady of Victories Parish, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 6, Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 11 a.m.

Sunday, Oct. 7, Natchez St. Mary Parish, 4:30 p.m.

Feast day fiesta at St. Matthew

RIPLEY – Members of St. Matthew Parish in Ripley celebrated their patron saint on Saturday, Sept. 22. The actual feast is celebrated worldwide on Sept. 21.
Matthew, the evangelist and apostle was a tax collector for the Romans. He coverted to Jesus and after the resurrection, Matthew preached for years in Judea and in nearby countries. San Mateo (in Spanish) is credited for being a patron of bankers and is represented with a book.
The celebration started with Mass, but included dancers from Tupelo St. James Parish who came to share a traditional Aztec drama- dance. “Los Matachines,” usually dance in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The dance represents the fight of good versus evil. At the end good is the winner.

(Katia Cruz contributed to this story)

RIPLEY – Above “Los Matachines,” dancers from Tupelo St James Parish. For more than ten years this group has offered traditional Aztec dance performances around Mississippi. With 40 members including young and adults, the group came to bring color and music to the celebration for the Feast Day of St. Matthew. (Photos courtesy of Madeline Hale)

In right photo: Father Jesuraj Xavier accepts the gifts from the dancers during the Mass. (l-r)Carriying flowers Sindy Vázquez and her mother, Rosario Gonzalez, Brithney, Yaire López and Alma Diaz, the last two are current leaders of the dancers.

Catholic Charities gala event brings star to Jackson

Dan and Joyce Heart wait their turn to meet Caviezel and have their picture made with him. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Bishop Joseph Kopacz greets Kerry and Pam Minniger. Pam Minniger is the Lay Ecclesial minister for Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish.

JACKSON – Above, diocesan Chancellor Mary Woodward chats with Peter and Miriam Koury and Yvonne Haydel

Attendees could enjoy a light dinner before the evening's main event.

Catholic Charities COO John Lunardini and Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth greet Tanya Britton. Britton traveled from her home in Tupelo for the event.

Rusty and Yvonne Haydel have their photo made with Caviezel during the reception

WLBT anchor Maggie Wade was the emcee for the evening, providing a personal story about her love for the adoption program run by Catholic Charities. Caveizel spoke about opposing abortion, how playing Christ changed his life and about his own journey to adopt three handicapped children from China.