Saltillo mission 50th anniversary

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Bishop Louis Kihneman are traveling to the Diocese of Saltillo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Jackson and the Diocese of Biloxi’s relationship with the missions, July 11 – 15.
Bishop Kopacz and Bishop Kihneman are visiting San Miguel, Ranchos Notillas, San Jose, Garambullo, Rancho La Brecha, Rancho La Ventura and Rancho Rocamotes (they will bless Father Quinn Hall in the village). The bishops will concelebrate Masses at Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Garambullo. They will concelebrate a Mass of Dedication of a new church in La Brecha and concelebrate Confirmation Masses at San Miguel and San Jose Church in La Brecha.
Others on the anniversary celebration trip to Saltillo include Msgr. Michael Flannery, Dr. Charles Caskey (Jackson St. Richard), Msgr. Michael Thornton and Father Sergio Balderas of the Diocese of Biloxi, as well as, Terry Dickson and Juliana Skelton with the office of communications for the Diocese of Biloxi.

Youth news

Sacred Heart students complete renovation Service Project

By Laura Grisham
SOUTHAVEN – During the first week of June, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) was blessed to welcome The Catholic Service Initiative (CSI) for Young Men. Three young men from the six parishes in North Mississippi served by the priests of the Sacred Heart arrived Sunday evening along with their chaperones (and parish DREs), Vickie Stirek and Donna Williamson, to assist on a number of projects. The youth were Michael Marking from Hernando Holy Spirit parish, Alexander Najera and Alex Castro from Southaven Christ the King parish.
Their first stop was at the home of Willie and Thomas. The elderly couple has been on the SHSM project list for a while, but Willie says it was worth the wait. The bathroom at the couple’s home had several issues, starting with a crack in their bathtub. Thankfully this was remedied by a volunteer team earlier this spring.
Next on the agenda was the rotten flooring and dilapidated vanity. Alexander Najera, Michael Marking and Alex Castro jumped in, under the leadership of jobsite foreman Paul Smith, to install a new sink and vanity and lay a new tile floor in place of the peeling linoleum.
Moving just a few miles down the road, the young men made quick work of some minor repairs to a wheelchair ramp for Joy. Next on the list, Alexander, Michael and Alex widened the front door of Robert’s mobile home. Robert can now guide his wheelchair in and out without difficulty.
But it was not all work and no play for the retreat participants. Father Quang Nguyen, SCJ, vice provincial superior and director of the province vocation office, spoke to the teens about vocation choices on their first evening.
A Wednesday evening respite of swimming rejuvenated the young men for the week’s work. The experience for them culminated at the Garden Café on Thursday, where the guys cooked, served and cleaned up after the evening meal in Holly Springs.
Many people have signed up to spend time in the Mississippi Delta with Sacred Heart Southern Missions’ Volunteer Program. By the time this is printed, CSI Young Women from the Sacred Heart parishes and St. John’s from Milwaukee, will be hard at work on home rehab projects and helping with other mission activities. At least nine more volunteer groups are scheduled through the first week of August.

(Laura Grisham is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sacred Heart Southern Missions. Full client names and locations are kept private out of respect.)

Youth news

Blood drive at West Point

WEST POINT – On Wednesday, May 29, the youth group from Immaculate Conception Parish hosted a blood drive in their parish hall. (l-r) Michelle Aguda; Dominic Borgioli, first-time donor and youth group member, and Jack Elliott III, in the background, donate blood. Parishioner Cathy Johnson and Interim CYO advisor Penny Elliott coordinated the project with the young people. Johnson said she worked on similar projects in her previous parish. Prior to donation day, the young people recruited donors and helped spread the word about the event within the community. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Johnson)

St. Patrick youth take on liturgical roles

MERIDIAN – On Saturday, June 15th, Cassandra Klutz led the Choir during the Youth Mass. She picked out and arranged the music, organized the practices and then led the choir during Mass. Pictured are (l-r) Alana Frias, Elena Stroot, Macarena Frias and Cassandra Klutz. Kirstie Graves is playing the piano during the Communion song “Holy Spirit.“
Additionally Noah McCaffrey and Helena Rutledge served as lectors and Vanessa and Diego Espino served as altar servers to complete the youth involvement during the Mass. (Photo by John Harwell)

Vacation Bible School at St. Jude Parish

PEARL – St. Jude pastor Father Lincoln Dall celebrated a childrens’ Mass during the parish Vacation Bible School in June, in photos above, attendees enjoyed snow cones after some fun outdoor and indoor activities. (Photos by Rhonda Bowden and Stacy Wolf)

Pentecost at St. Jude parish

PEARL – For the Feast of Pentecost, St. Jude Parish celebrates its multicultural congregation with an International Food Festival. Above, flags on display in the parish hall celebrate many nations
Nadia & Ismael Garcia in traditional Mexican dance costumes
Filipino ladies show their folk dance with bare feet and straw hats l-r Myra Woodward, Melody Villa, Riza Caskey, Grace Trinanes and Maria Lopez.
Parishioners and guests enjoy visiting at the 16th annual multicultural food festival on Saturday, June 8, a beautiful afternoon to spend outside. Visible on the left is the Riordan family, Margaret is organist and music director for parish. (Photos by Rhonda Bowden and Tereza Ma)

Deacons from Mexico, Vietnam ordained for Jackson

CANTON/MCCOMB – The Diocese of Jackson wrapped up ordination season May 25 and 26 with the ordinations of Cesar Sanchez Fermin and Andrew Nguyen to the transitional diaconate. In the Diocese of Jackson, seminarians are ordained into the diaconate in their home parishes. Since both men are from abroad, they selected the parishes where they have found a second home for their celebrations. For Deacon Sanchez, that was Canton Sacred Heart Parish and for Deacon Nguyen, it was McComb St. Alphonsus.
Sacred Heart was crowded with parishioners of all ages and nationalities on Saturday, May 25. Dozens of priests and deacons including Father Joseph Krafft from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, where seminarians from the diocese complete their studies, and Father Aaron Williams as master of ceremonies.
During his homily, Bishop Kopacz recited all the deacon’s obligations focusing mainly on serving only one Lord. After, Bishop Kopacz asked Cesar about his willingness to follow Christ’s example to serve God’s people.
Deacon Sanchez is from San Andrés, Mexico, where he said he “learned to read, pray and reflect with the Bible.” He used to play drums, performing in a band with his friends. He still likes to play the guitar and sing. He found his calling to priestly life at 17, after a vocational retreat that touched his heart.
Cesar compared his journey of discernment with a musician on stage. “In other words, I was not playing the song of life with the instrument that God wanted due to my introversion and little initiative to life. It was a stage where I was content with the minimum, but my heart, made for the great and transcendent, was not fooled.
“There was something that led me to find Jesus Christ, the one who truly fills the deepest aspirations of our being. Although I did not understand very well what I was missing, or what I should do, I felt in the scene of my life the protagonist was missing; the one who gives meaning and direction to a new story in which prayer, sacramental life, service, generosity, joy and discipline will give shape to something new and exciting – called priestly vocation,” he explained.
Cesar’s family is mainly in Mexico, his father Feliciano García López, his mother Maria Graciela Sanchez Fermin and his siblings Lizet, Alan, Jonathan, Fabian and Joel. They couldn’t be physically present, so they followed the ceremony online. His brother, Diego, accompanied Cesar during his ordination weekend and ceremony. “My family is happy, he makes us feel proud. Cesar is my oldest brother, we are eight siblings, but we are close, we spend time together. This is a dream come true. I feel like the luckiest brother in the world” Diego said.
Deacon Nguyen is from Vietnam. His mother, Truong thi Mink, made the trip from Vietnam for the ordination and got a little help from the Catholic Community at large to get to the Mass. She had to fly into Chicago, where Deacon Peter Quan Tong of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, picked her up and brought her to McComb. It was the first time she has seen her son since he left home. The deacon spent several summers in McComb and the community embraced him.
“I took it as a special honor because he is such a sweet guy. On holidays and some summers, he was with us, helping out Father Brian (Kaskie). I just felt like he was part of our family so we were all honored to do this,” said Nita Pounds, who sang for the Mass.
Fellow choir member Susan Bellipanni agreed. “I have seen him the past couple of years here at the parish and he is a joy to be around. I just feel happy for him,” she said.
Earlier in May, Father Adolfo Suarez Pasillas and Mark Shoffer were ordained into the priesthood. Father Mark said he takes joy in all of the ordinations. “Mississippi gained another minister – somebody new to bring the gospel to another community in a state that is ripe for hearing the gospel,” he said of Deacon Nguyen’s ordination.
The pair are set to be ordained into the priesthood next year. For this year, Deacon Sanchez is assigned to Madison St. Francis of Assisi and Deacon Nguyen is assigned to Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes, effective June 14.
(Tereza Ma, Berta Mexidor and Maureen Smith contributed to this story.)

CANTON – Cesar Sanchez Fermin

McCOMB – Andrew Nguyen

Youth news

Saying goodbye to graduating students

COLUMBUS – Annunciation eighth grade students Luke Clarke and Rhett Shanahan give high fives to the younger students as they exit the school for the last time during the eighth grade sendoff ceremony on May 23rd. During this tradition, the younger students line the walkways to say goodbye to their older counterparts.
St. Vincent DePaul Society representative, Karen Overstreet, presents co-winner, Patrick Doumit with the St. Vincent DePaul award, given each year to a deserving seventh grade student who exemplifies the heart of Jesus in their actions of service both in school and in the community. This year the award was given to both Patrick and Elijah Clarke on May 22.

(Photos by Katie Fenstermacher)

St. Richard school performance

JACKSON – St. Richard’s after-school drama club performed plays they created on Thursday, May 16. At left, (l-r) Elijah Watkins, Maya Olivia, Allie Schuetzle, Rivers Lee, John Brody Fournet, Katherine Curley, Clara Clifford, Lily Frances Garner, Lorin Bass and Thomas O’Beirne sing a closing song.
Below, (l-r) Turner Brown, Christopher Brown, Jake Garrison, Nicole Amy, Lucy Smith, Sophie Bruckner and Davis Hammond take a bow after their ‘game show’ play.
(Photos by Tereza Ma)

Changing out crops in Southaven

SOUTHAVEN – Jonathan Barreto-Lorenzo from Southaven Sacred Heart School, picks okra seeds out of a pod as students get ready to plant a summer garden. Earlier in the day, the students dug up and said goodbye to the winter crop of broccoli. They hope to harvest okra when they return this fall. (photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

Wanda Thomas to lead Catholic Charities of Jackson

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Wanda Thomas, the new CEO for Catholic Charities of Jackson, is no stranger to the agency or the good work being done there. She is set to start Monday, June 17. Thomas worked as a therapist at Charities in the early 2000s and has gone on to earn more credentials and more experience both in social work and the supervision of that work at other agencies in the state.
Thomas spent many years at Canopy Children’s Services, formerly known as Mississippi Children’s Home Services, as a regional director, director of intensive in-home services and program director of their therapeutic foster care services. Catholic Charities has similar programs.
“I have a passion and drive for change. I like to see change over time. I like to look at where we have come from. I like to build things. The services and programs (at Catholic Charities) are there, but as the new person I can come in with new thoughts and new ideas and think outside the box,” said Thomas. “I am looking forward to adding to what is already in place and having a positive impact,” she added.

Wanda Thomas

Msgr. Elvin Sunds, former executive director for Catholic Charities, was on the search committee for a new leader. “She has 20-some years of experience in social work. She is a licensed master social worker, which is important to the agency. She has supervised programs similar to the ones offered at Catholic Charities. She is certainly qualified,” said Msgr. Sunds. “The committee was impressed with her enthusiasm, her communication skills and her commitment to the mission of Catholic Charities,” he explained.
Thomas describes herself as very mission driven. The mission of Charities, she said, is one of the reasons she felt called to apply for the position. She believes her experience will help her in her new role because she has faced many of the challenges facing the staff already in place. “That’s going to give me a great opportunity and window into what we may need to improve on, what we are missing, but I have also been in their shoes. I have had to come up with solutions to many of these challenges,” she said.
“I want to strengthen what we already have in place – highlight what we are doing well. (I want to focus on) retention. You can only be as successful as your staff, so I want to retain talented individuals, to recruit, to provide them with development to do their best jobs. I want them to teach me how to work alongside them. To me, I am building a whole new team,” she said.
Thomas said when therapists and staff members work with people in crisis or people who have experienced trauma, they can carry part of those burdens with them. “I want to restore hope, in a way. What they are doing is having an impact. I want them to see that impact. When you can show how they are being beneficial, that can be a motivator,” said Thomas. “The health of an agency and its culture carries out into the community,” she added.
For the past three years, Bishop Joseph Kopacz has acted as CEO for the agency in collaboration with John Lunardini, the Agency’s COO for the past year and a half. “I am most grateful to John Lunardini for his invaluable contribution to the wellbeing of the agency through the strengthening of our financial base, our relationships with our funding sources and the advancement of our marketing and development. For sure, he will bring his skills and added experience from the social service world to any future employment,” Bishop Kopacz said.
Thomas will be the first non-Catholic at the helm of the agency. The bishop plans to remain present to direct the Catholic identity efforts at the office, and to further strengthen the vital role that Catholic Charities has for the diocesan mission and vision, but will hand the day-to-day operations over to Thomas. “Wanda Thomas has a great sense of what our mission needs to be, and we will move forward with a great team,” said the bishop.
Charities was formally chartered in 1963, but has its roots in the founding of a pair of orphanages in Natchez in the 1850s. It currently operates a number of social service programs including therapeutic foster care, adoption, the Solomon Counseling Center, services for the survivors of domestic violence, refugee and migrant support services and services for families experiencing mental health crises.

Youth news

Students prepare backpack blessings for neighbors

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth students Kimber Wilkinson, Rivers Rico, and Kalyn Matthews with Liz Brewer in the background, pack food and other items into backpacks to be given to those who may go hungry once school lets out for the weekends or summer.
The backpack project is headed up by Liz Brewer, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth and volunteer at the school. (photo by Dawn Spinks)

Students take virtual field trip

VICKSBURG – Vicksburg Catholic School recently completed the first installation of a Virtual Reality Lab. Vicksburg Catholic School is the second school in the state to make this big step forward in technology in education. Seniors Elise Piazza, Mattie Derivaux and Sarah Jane Pierce took the headsets out for a spin during the program introduction. (Photo by Kristi Smith)

Storms offer opportunity for service

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A group of students from the University of Portland stepped in to help Jackson area residents trying to fight back flood waters on Saturday, May 11. The group is on a regional tour of sites significant to the Civil Rights Movement. They contacted the Diocese of Jackson to see if there were any service projects they could do while they were in town.
Paul Byrne, facilities manager for the diocese, had set up an outdoor project for them which involved painting. When storms rolled in the week before, he thought the students were going to get a day off. “That’s when I heard an announcement on the radio about sand and bags being available at the City of Jackson’s impound lot. I thought that might be a good way for the students to help people right now,” he said.
Twelve students and their two moderators went to the distribution site and filled and loaded sandbags into vehicles for a couple of hours. People facing rising waters could pick them up for their homes and businesses throughout the day. “I was a little worried on Friday, but it all worked out and those students worked hard,” Byrne added.
This is the second year for a group from the Catholic university to take this tour, which includes stops in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. (Photos by Paul Byrne)

Race for education

By Laura Grisham
The third annual Sacred Heart School Race For Education Day was held Friday, May 10. Students, teachers and parents came together to show their school spirit in this unique fundraiser by running laps around the school in exchange for sponsorship by family and friends. Prizes were given out in each homeroom for most laps run in an hour. DJ Rockin’ Robin once again kept the crowd moving with great music and dance contests. Volunteers made sure that hungry bellies were fed and the Koha Ice Truck provided frosty treats to cool off the runners.
This event continues to be a tremendous success, raising $35,205 so far. Principal Bridget Martin said that the final total would rise, as there continues to be a flood of sponsorship envelopes arriving daily. With the funds raised over the previous two years, the school has been able to replace bleachers in the gym and refurbish the school library. This year monies will fund new technology with the purchase of more Surface Pros and a Surface Pro Cart. (Photos by Laura Grisham)

Q&A: Father Mark Shoffner

Background:
“I was born in King’s Daughters Hospital in Greenville, Mississippi on the Feast of Our Lady of Victory(the Rosary). In the same hospital as Jim Henson who created Kermit the Frog. I was born into a family heritage composed of German, French, English, Sicilian, Mexican, Scotch-Irish and Choctaw. With ancestors ranging from Native Americans, to German indentured servants immigrating to the colonies in the 1740’s, to a 20th century Mexican immigrant, my family covers all of what makes America.
I am the first son of my parents, both whom are the oldest of their siblings, and I have one brother who is ten years younger than me. I grew up attending Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Greenville and attended Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School and then St. Joseph High School until my family moved to Fort Walton Beach, Forida, where I spent the last three years of high school at Choctawhatchee High School in Ft. Walton. I graduated in 2005, started college and then moved back to Greenville where I would attend college at Mississippi Delta Community College. I graduated from nursing school at MDCC as a Registered Nurse in 2010 and worked at Delta Regional Medical Center in the Cardiovascular ICU until entering seminary for the diocese.”

Home parish:
St. Joseph, Greenville.

Favorite Saints and why?
St. Augustine, because he was not perfect and he had a past which Christ Jesus rescued him from certain destruction. He is a good model for those who give themselves to God and work it out each day with hope.
Mother Mary, she is so loving and helpful to all of her children, making herself known to us all throughout the ages in our local circumstances. She is eternally glorifying God by pointing us towards her Son and reminding us of Christ Jesus’ love for us. St. Benedict, devoted and well-ordered. He founded monasticism which has given the world so much and his brother monks gave me so much to me in my time at St. Joseph Seminary College which is run by Benedictine monks.
St Patrick has always been inspiring as he was a missionary, he overcame so much, and he was so beloved by the Irish priests in my parish who loved me so much and gave me such good examples. He found ordinary ways of teaching great mysteries to those whom he ministered, something I´ve taken a cue from.
St. Mark, my confirmation saint who I picked because I thought I was being lazy. He was an evangelist, he ministered in the Nile Delta city of Alexandria. He stayed close to St. Peter and wrote what he heard. His Gospel shows in great brevity and hurriedness the Lord’s desire to cast out demons with the presence of the Word Incarnate. I hope to preach and heal with this closeness to the Lord and the Church.

Do you have a favorite devotion, religious image or prayer and why?
I am mesmerized by the icon of Our Lady of Bethlehem which I was able to see firsthand when I visited the Holy Land last year. She is so beautifully adorned, wife and mother, watching over her children. Pray for peace in the Holy Land and for persecuted Christians.
I love to move between the Sacred Heart and Good Shepherd image of our Lord as he guides me and gives me the greatest example of what I am to be.
I ponder the wounds of Jesus’ feet, and the place where his side was pierced. I reverence these wounds of Our Lord and I pray with them very regularly.

Who vested you at ordination and why?
Msgr. Patrick Farrell, who was my first parish priest and who baptized me as a baby. I loved him so dearly when I was growing up. I used to process out with him and I wanted to be the first to hug him on Sunday mornings. I want to thank him for his priestly ministry by having him vest me. There is a part of the baptismal rite where the minister speaks to the child and claims him or her for Christ our Savior with a sign of the cross, an eternal action upon a soul. As he claimed me for Christ Jesus and clothed me in the white baptismal garment of salvation, I see it most proper that he should further vest me in the garments of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Do you have any hobbies?
I like to cook. Baking, grilling, working a stovetop, I enjoy it all. I enjoy seeing the enjoyment of those for whom I cook for. I’ve played golf since I was two, I enjoy my annual dove hunt with my good friends, and I really enjoy gardening. Planting things, digging up stuff, stoppin on the roadside to dig up heirloom plants from old homesites, I love good dirt, really because I’m from The Delta.

In what parishes have you served?
Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland; St. Joseph Starkville, and St. Dominic Hospital.
 
Can you tell me a little about your vocation story?
I’d thought about priesthood since third grade and been encouraged by teachers, priests, sisters and parishioners. It was always in my head through elementary, high school, and college despite me not actively pursuing it.
I was working one night in the hospital on an elderly man and I thought of St. Mother Teresa and Father Richard Ho Lung. I’d seen the work of his order on EWTN. I had a profound thought of, ‘What is their motivation for doing their work,’ which was much like my own in the hospital? I worked up the courage to reach out to Father Kent Bowlds who met with me regularly for about a year to help me see where the Lord was leading me. The motivation I was looking for that night in the hospital, it was Love. The love and mercy God has for us all and how we are called to be his hands and feet to bring that love to all people
 
Can you share something about yourself people may not know?
I was my high school mascot, and I taught myself how to sew in order to make my costume.
I also carry a shovel and green boots in my car, so that nothing will stop me from bad weather or an interesting plant on the roadside.
 
What advice do you have for those discerning a vocation?
Talk to someone! Prayer is more than essential and there are people who need you. Religious sisters, Brothers, Priests, Deacons, there are people in our parishes who need you and Mississippi needs the witness of good Catholic Priests to bring the Gospel to the world through Christ in the sacraments.

Is there one part of priesthood in particular you are looking forward to?
What are you looking forward to about your first parish assignment?
It›s going to be exciting to say the Mass for people and lead them to God. I›m also looking forward to blessing people and the things that pertain to their lives (fields, homes, etc.). I am particularly excited about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, bringing people back to God who loves them despite their faults and desires to be with them in every aspect of their lives. The loving and merciful heart of God, poured out for us through Confession is what I’m looking forward to.

Bishop ordains Father Shoffner, Father Suarez-Pasillas

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson gained two new priests on Saturday, May 11 – one a native Mississippian and another from Mexico. Both have a devotion to the Blessed Mother and although both considered the priesthood as boys, both waited until after they had worked out in the world before they entered the seminary.
Father Mark Shoffner was working as a nurse in a cardiac unit when he finally realized that he did want to pursue the priesthood. But first, he wanted to take a sort-of pilgrimage. He told his mother about his plan on his next visit home. “It was January, 2012. He sat down to the supper table. I was making supper, and he said ‘I came home to tell you something – I am about to quit my job and travel around Europe for three months with just a backpack and then I am going to go to the seminary and become a priest,’” said Eva Shoffner.
His journey through the seminary started that fall and his family was thrilled to attend the ordination. “I am so excited. We have just been anticipating this time for a long time – seven years now – and we are just thrilled that the Lord choose our son to become a priest. He has always had a great faith in God and has always had such reverence. He has always greeted each day looking for something good. He is always grateful for all things. I believe he will be a good priest,” said his mother.
Father Adolfo Suarez-Pasillas lived in Mexico and the United States, searching for his true vocation. He said his family was devoted and constantly exposed him to prayer and sacraments, but it took a long time for him to respond to God’s love. His family told Mississippi Catholic that when he was very young, he would make play altars with sticks and flowers. His mother and aunts believe the seeds of his vocation were already starting to take root.
He went through a deep depression before he finally opened his heart and started to work towards the priesthood. Father Suarez-Pasillas could have gone to any number of dioceses, but chose the Diocese of Jackson because he wanted to serve in a place where he could be with the poor and marginalized and where the church needed him most.
The night before the ordination, the candidates, diocesan seminarians, Chancellor Mary Woodward and liaison to the seminarians Father Aaron Williams gathered for a rehearsal. The mood was joyful. Bishop Joseph Kopacz joked with the men as they walked through each part of the rite – the presentation, the litany, oath of fidelity, laying on of hands, vesting, anointing with chrism, receiving the chalice and paten and, finally, standing at the altar for consecration as priests of the church.
The Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle was standing-room-only full for the Mass of Ordination. Several days of bad weather cleared Saturday morning, leaving conditions breezy, but the sun peeked through by the time Mass started. Priests from across the diocese came to celebrate as well as Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino.
Sister Magdalena Carrillo, Monsignor, read the first reading in Spanish from the Acts of the Apostles – Paul’s instructions for the presbyters to watch over their flock, keeping them safe from wolves and liars. Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, OP, proclaimed the second reading from Ephesians in which St. Paul urges ministers to be humble and gentle and to unify the church. Deacon Andrew Rudmann chanted the gospel, a reading from John 17 about Jesus giving the word to his apostles and sending them out into the world.
At the conclusion of the Mass, all the priests sang Salve Regina in Latin, a tradition at many diocesan liturgies. As the new priests exited the church, their seminary classmates waited to greet them with cheers and hugs.
The next stop was Jackson St. Richard Parish where a team of volunteers and caterers, led by Berta Mexidor, had arranged a reception honoring the Mississippi and Mexican roots of the ordinands. Magnolias and mariachi music made for a merry reception. The priests offered first blessings while guests snacked on tamales, Delta-inspired stuffed grape leaves and a variety of other foods.
Father Suarez-Pasillas offered his first Mass of Thanksgiving that very afternoon at Jackson St. Therese Parish while Father Shoffner traveled to his home parish of Greenville St. Joseph for a Sunday Mass.