Poorer parishes, dioceses take a bigger hit from pandemic

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Just as it was in much of American society this past year, the financial toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic affected poor parishes and dioceses more starkly than it did larger and more well-to-do Catholic institutions.
While that’s not to say that bigger dioceses and parishes didn’t feel any sting – some dioceses started making cuts in the early months of the pandemic – smaller churches and dioceses at the outset didn’t have the financial wherewithal to deal with its consequences.
One thing is certain: The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline to parishes and dioceses of all sizes.
If a diocese is “mainly rural or there’s not a lot of Catholics in that region, those things affect a diocese,” Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told Catholic News Service. “For the most part, the church relies on Catholics to support it.”
“Working with 86 of the poorest dioceses in the United States, if you were to add up all of the financial assets of the 86 dioceses we work with, they do not equal the assets of a large metropolitan archdiocese like Chicago or New York or L.A.,” said Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension.
Boland added, “It’s a far different playing field. They were financially struggling even before the pandemic started.”
He compared it to society at large: “There were people that made it through and organizations that made it through the pandemic OK – barely scathed. And there were the people who were on the shakiest financial footing, those are the ones who suffered the most. … The same is true for the Catholic Church.”
Catholic Extension labels the 86 dioceses with which it works “mission dioceses,” most often due to the small percentage of Catholics in a diocese relative to the diocese’s sizable territory, which means Catholics are spread far apart. Eighty of those 86 dioceses received PPP grants, Boland said.
“The financial impact of the pandemic was not equally felt even among our dioceses,” he added. “We know that particularly in the Southwestern dioceses – many of them the poorest to begin with, even before the pandemic began – they are the ones that were reporting to us the greatest signs of distress.
By comparison, Markey said initial parish collection drop-offs nationwide were in the 40%-60% range, and have since settled in the 15%-30% range.
Boland spoke of the situation of Father Fabian Marquez, pastor of El Buen Pastor Parish in Sparks Colonia, an unincorporated area of El Paso, Texas. “They had to shut down El Paso, and the entire county was experiencing a great deal of infection,” Boland said. “We remember the images of the refrigerator trucks just to keep up with the death toll that they were experiencing.”
Because of the pandemic-related deaths, infection, job losses and fear of contracting COVID-19 all affecting Mass attendance, “their weekly collection would go down to, like, $45 on a Sunday. He had to look at forgoing his salary just so he could pay staff, so he could make sure the church was open … to the community,” Boland said.
Catholic Extension unveiled Ash Wednesday its Catholic Kinship Initiative – Parishes United Across America, hoping to match 1,000 U.S. parishes with 1,000 of Extension’s poorest parishes in the country, in hopes the stable parish can raise or contribute $1,000 during Lent and beyond to its matched parish.
The largely rural Diocese of Victoria, Texas, is getting by. It qualified for PPP loans for many of its 50 parishes, 17 missions and some schools. Offertories are down 3%-45%, and school enrollment is down 6%, according to Tony Martinez, chief financial officer of the diocese.
“Our parishes suffered … They don’t have a big staff. They’re just a few people. But they were able to operate,” said Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria.
He acknowledged the PPP loans were seen as “controversial for the Catholic Church, but we’re an employer, and the idea was to protect people’s jobs. And that helped our schools, especially.”
The upshot, said the DFMC’s Markey, is “there’s a lot of adjustments that need to be made or have been made.” He said, “We have to see what happens in this year. Offertories will probably stay low until people can come back into churches again.”
Markey added, “On the other hand, people are incredibly generous. The generosity we’ve seen in our parishes and our charities – people are hurting but they’re giving. They’re really helping one another. From my perspective, it’s really heartwarming.

(Editor’s note: Sacred Heart Greenville is one of the parishes selected for Catholic Extension’s Kinship Initiative. To learn more, visit https://www.catholicextension.org/advent-alms-across-america/)

Celebrate World Marriage Day

By Charlene Bearden
JACKSON – Traditionally, the Diocese celebrates the anniversaries of married couples with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, and a reception on the second Sunday of February at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the annual diocesan World Marriage Day 2021 celebration was cancelled. The diocese hopes to resume the annual celebration in 2022.
According to World Marriage Day history, the idea of celebrating marriage began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1981 (40 years ago), when couples encouraged the Mayor, the Governor and the Bishop to proclaim St. Valentine’s Day as “We Believe in Marriage Day.” The event was so successful, the idea was presented to and was adopted by Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s National Leadership.
By 1982, 43 Governors officially proclaimed the day, and celebrations spread to U.S. military bases in several foreign countries. In 1983, the name was changed to “World Marriage Day,” designated to be celebrated each year in February. In 1993, his Holiness, Saint Pope John Paul the II imparted his Apostolic Blessings on World Marriage Day. World Marriage Day celebrations continue to grow and spread to more countries and faith expressions every year.
To honor couples in 2021, the Diocese of Jackson on behalf of the Office of Family Ministry asked parishes to submit the names of couples celebrating their 60th, 50th, 25th or any significant anniversary to the Office of Family Ministry, 82 couples from throughout our diocese submitted their names.
Additionally, each couple will receive by mail at a future date, an anniversary certificate that has been blessed and signed by Bishop Kopacz.
Please join us in celebrating the anniversaries of the following couples:

60 Years
Marie and Irvin Baugh, St. Joseph, Greenville
Dorothy and James Bright, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Renate and Sario Caravalho, St. John, Oxford
Marilyn and Ray Hansen, St. Francis, Madison
Carol and Herman Cooper, Holy Savior, Clinton
Iris and Cecil Harrison, St. Richard, Jackson
Shirley and Bert Haydel, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Louise and Duke Mallory, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Rose Marie and Joe Portera, St. Joseph, Greenville
Anna and Jerry Roan, St. Jude, Pearl

JoAnne and Tom Zettler. St. Patrick, Meridian

50 Years
Lynne and Raymond Abraham, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Socorro and Charlie Benn, St. Francis, Madison
Rebecca and Tony Bombich, Holy Savior, Clinton
Teresa and Emmett Burns, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Maureen and Nicolas Calico, St. Jude, Pearl

Rosie and Bob Conner, St. Patrick, Meridian
Evelyngayle and George Cricenti, St. Francis, Madison

Delanie and Hanson DarDar, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Donna and Lucien Finn, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Sheila and Sam Franco, St. John, Oxford

Cheryl and Frank Grove, Holy Savior, Clinton
Linda and Robert Gunther, St. Mary, Iuka

Beth and John Hinkle, St. Joseph, Greenville
Val and Jerry Hosemann, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Joy and Marcel Jojola, St Joseph, Holly Springs

Myra and Pat Kalahar, St. Jude, Pearl

Doris and Jack Kerwin, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Pam and Bill Lawhead, St. John, Oxford
Kathy and Johnny Martin, St. John, Oxford
Debbie and Fred Miller, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Jamae and Mike Sellari
, Holy Savior, Clinton

Lydia and David Smith, St. John the Baptist, Sardis
Laura and John Valentine, St. John, Oxford

25 Years
Wendy and Alan Blue, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Libby and Chris Callegan, Holy Savior, Clinton
Michelle and Mark Chmielewski, St. Francis, Madison
Sandra and Michael Cirilli, St. Joseph, Greenville
Kelley and Drew Clinton, St. John, Oxford
Joy and Mike Crown, St. Joseph, Greenville
Julie and Stephen Hornaday, St. Francis, Madison
Melodie and Lawrence Deese, St. Mary, Batesville
Schrie and Jack Duthu, St. Joseph, Greenville
Susannah and Wade Heatherly, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Michelle and Hayden Kaiser, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Christie and Robert Loper, St. Joseph, Greenville
Tara and Kurre Luber, St. John, Oxford
Jennifer and Jerry Myrick, St. Francis, Madison
Christina and David Overton, St. Jude, Pearl

Octavia and Byron Poindexter, Christ the King, Jackson
Connie and Andy Reynolds, St. John, Oxford
Mirna and Alex Robles, St. Mary, Batesville
Ashley and Donald Roesch, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Rachel and Sean Simmons, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Delaney and Rob Smith, Holy Savior, Clinton

Beth and Lonnie Stinnett, St. John, Oxford
Paige and Robert Suares, St. Joseph, Greenville
Amy and Brett Tisdale, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Jennifer and Chris Tonos, St. Joseph, Greenville
Heather and Chuck Trost, St. John, Oxford
Katie and Brewer Vaught, St. Joseph, Greenville
VeSheler and Pertis Watts, Christ the King, Jackson

Special Anniversaries
Mary and Alex Balducci, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Linda and Joe Boisse, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Sierra and Blake Cannon, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Carol and James Cooper, St. Francis, Madison
Rosalie and Jack Garner, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Debbie and John Gibson, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 40 Years
Julia and Tom Graham, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Betty and Tom Griffith, St. Patrick, Meridian, 70 Years
Kathleen and Adam Hamilton, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Julie and Mike Harkins, Holy Savior, Clinton, 40 Years
Kimmy and Chad Hill, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Renee and Robert Hoover, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Sallie Ann and Will Inman, St. Francis of Assisi, Madison
Anna and Blake Jeffries, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Faye and George Jones, Christ the King, Jackson, 55 Years
Janet and Richard Karsten, St. John, Oxford, 61 Years
Antinette and Fred McFadden, Christ the King, Jackson, 56 Years
Margaret and Dave Moody, St. Francis, Madison
Lacey and Matt Nalker, Holy Savior, Clinton, 30 Years
Carrie and Dennis Ott, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Ling and Mathias Romkens, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Susan and John Schenk, St. Francis, Madison, 20 Years
Darlene and William Smith, St. Francis, Madison, 63 Years
Vance and Parks Smith, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Maria and John Bryant Stewart, Sr., Sacred Heart, Canton 26 years
Ana and Jorge Vidal, St. Francis, Madison, 20 years
Kristen and Jacob Whelan, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Selena and Steve Wies, Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland, 30 Years
Sheila and Gary Yeck, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 51 years

Missionary, Father Mullaly retires after 50 years of service

By Mary Margaret Edney
GREENVILLE – As a seminarian, Father Thomas Mullaly wrote a letter to his superior general of the Society of the Divine Word who resides in Rome, detailing where he’d would like to end up as a priest. In the letter, he asked to go south, which is where he’s been ever since.

Father Mullaly

Mullaly, a native of Emmett, Michigan, has retired from administering of parishes after 50 years of service as a Divine Word Missionary priest.
“It went by very fast,” Mullally said with a laugh, reflecting on his decades spent in the priesthood. “If you are open to people, if you are compassionate and merciful, the laity will respond. They enjoy a priest who can laugh and cry with them and minister to them.”
And that’s exactly what Mullally did.
“I’m not a cook, so I ate with a lot of families,” he explained. “One of the great joys I had was sitting down and having a wonderful meal with parishioners. People love to have their priests come to their home and have a meal with them.”
But being a parish priest in the deep south wasn’t originally what Mullally had in mind. While he was a junior in high school, he talked to his guidance counselor about going overseas to work in foreign service. His counselor suggested priesthood, and he imagined he would end up being a missionary in a foreign country after his ordination on Dec. 19 1970, in Techny, Illinois. However, Mullally wasn’t a linguist, and his health at the time wasn’t ideal for international travel, so he decided to stick with the southern United States.
“I was very happy; I definitely made the right decision,” he said, when reflecting back on his decades of priesthood. “I have no complaints, I love my ministry.”
Though his vocation didn’t take him to foreign countries, it did bring foreign countries to him. Since 1996, Mullally has mentored young missionaries of his religious order, the Society of the Divine Word, which pastor in many of Mississippi’s African-American Catholic and multi-cultural churches. From Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Ghana and Benin — he’s had the chance to mentor young priests from all over the world.
“I tell them that to learn about the black community or any community, you have to walk in the streets and get to know them,” he said. “To minister, you must visit their homes, visit the sick and listen to their stories.”
From St. Martinville and Jeanerette, Louisiana, to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and finally to Mississippi’s Sacred Heart in Greenville, St. Francis in Shaw and Sacred Heart in Rosedale, Mullally always made it a goal to become entrenched in the local community he serves. By spending quality time with his parishioners outside of Sunday Mass, he really got to know them, and they got to know him.
“I really enjoyed working with the youth, I’d go to basketball and football games,” he said, adding that when he left St. Martinville in 1975, he was given a team letter jacket. “It’s 45 years old, and I still wear it. I wore it yesterday, and I’ll wear it tomorrow.”
Now, as a retired priest, Mullally’s responsibilities have shifted, and he still plans to fill in for priests who need a substitute. But, one thing that won’t change with his retirement is his commitment to knowing his community.
“I always evangelize, especially with young people,” he said. “I just walked recently even though was cold in a park in Greenville, and I talk to group of young teenagers and — ask them how they’re doing, how school is coming along. Even in Kroger, I talk to the young cashiers and asked them if them know where Sacred Heart church is located, and if they do not, I tell them where the church is.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience to know African-American people and understand their side of their side of the story of life,” Mullally said. “The relationships I’ve made are incredible. I’m a missionary, that’s me.”

Our Lady of Victories celebrates renovations with rededication

CLEVELAND – Over seven years ago Our Lady of Victories Church, Cleveland, started having discussions about replacing worn out flooring and refinishing pews. The discussion was broadened to include a vision of the parish’s needs and hopes. This finally resulted in the just completed renovation of and addition to the church, which included re-staining the pews, replacing flooring, redoing all of the wall finishes, installing a new ceiling and lighting system, renewing the stations of the cross, and purchasing a new crucifix, tabernacle, St. Joseph statue, ambo and presider’s chair.

The new addition includes a spacious and welcoming narthex, two multipurpose rooms, and bathrooms. Parishioners have been very pleased with the finished project. It retains what was most liked about the church while giving it an even more sacred and grand yet intimate feeling, along with new space for fellowship.
The project was designed by JH&H Architects of Flowood and constructed by KT Builder of Greenwood. To make this dream possible, many parishioners donated their time, creativity and financial gifts, under the leadership of the OLV Renovation Committee — Brenda Aguzzi, Michael Aguzzi, Frances Janoush, Mary Helen Waller, Gloria Norquist and Ron Koehler.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz blessed the completed renovation and addition on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Calendar of events

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Stations each Friday at 6 p.m. during Lent. The responses will be displayed on the monitors. All are welcome. (Stations will also be livestreamed.)
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Penance Service, Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Rosary at 6 p.m. followed by Stations at 6:30 p.m.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick, Stations on Fridays – March 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 6 p.m.

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Fish Dinners to Go, Knights of Columbus will be frying fish and serving it to go with a drive thru. Sign up each week on the website to reserve your dinners. Donations will be accepted. Pick up will be a drive thru at 6:30 p.m. Fridays during Lent. Delivery within a 10-mile radius of the church is available. Be sure to complete the address and phone number section if you need your dinners to be delivered. Details: church office (601) 992-9547.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, the Knights of Columbus annual Lenten Fish Fry each Friday of Lent. The Fish Fry will be drive thru only at the Family Life Center from 5-7 p.m. Cost: Catfish dinners $10; Shrimp dinners $11 and Combo dinners $12. Dinners include: fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. For grilled catfish, please call 30 minutes ahead: Darren (601) 597-2890 or Joe (601) 431-7744.
SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, Knights of Columbus Council 7120 will be serving Lenten Fish Dinners on Fridays, March 5 and March 19. In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, dinners will be carry out only. Funds raised from Knights of Columbus fish fries are used to support ministries such as the Pregnancy Care Center. Details: church office (662) 342-1073.

NEW ORLEANS Our Lady of the Cenacle Retreat Center, Women’s Retreat – “The Infinite Tenderness of God,” Feb. 19-21. Presenter: Father Jacob DuMont, LC. God is infinite love and out of that love, he created and redeemed us. Father DuMont currently serves as the local superior and chaplain for Lumen Institute, as well as a spiritual director for the seminarians at Notre Dame Seminary. Capacity is limited – registration on first come first serve basis. Non-refundable deposit is required. Details: to register, contact the retreat office at (504) 267-9604 or https://www.neworleansretreats.org/retreats.
JACKSON 40 Days for Life Feb. 17 – March 28. Protect mothers and children by joining this worldwide mobilization. Vigil Location: on the sidewalk outside Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2903 North State Street, Jackson) Vigil Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Details: 601 956-8636 or plm@prolifemississippi.org or www.40daysforlife.com/Jackson

BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Knights of Columbus Blood Drive, Sunday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details: call the church office to schedule your appointment (601) 833-1799.
McCOMB St. Alphonsus, Men’s retreat “Rise Up O Men of God The Truth Will Set You Free” – Saturday, March 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. Alphonsus Liguori Hall, 104 South 5th Street. The retreat will focus on the truth of God’s Love, Salvation in Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and Christian warfare. Speakers: Al Mansfield and Father Bill Henry. Al has served the Catholic Church for 50 years. He holds a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary. He recently retired as Director of CCRNO. He and his wife, Patti, were awarded the Papal Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 2000 by St. John Paul II. Father Bill Henry retired last year after serving the diocese for 36 years. He previously pastored at St. Joseph Greenville; St. Alphonsus McComb and St. Therese Jackson. He has given many retreats and spoken at conferences throughout the United States. Cost: no charge, but registration is required. Lunch will be served. Masks and social distancing are required. Donations will be accepted. Details: (601) 276-5954 or mail name, address and phone number to: Mike Brown, 1053 Riverview Drive, Summit, MS 39666.
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass” led by Father Augustine on Wednesdays that PSR is in session beginning Feb. 24 at 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center. All adults are welcomed. Details: Mary Billups at the church office (601) 693-1321 Ext 5.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Oremus Study Program for Lent is an eight-week study program for parishioners who wish to deepen their prayer life. The Oremus program is from Ascension Press, led by Reverend Mark Toups of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and teaches you the essentials of an effective and fruitful prayer life. In order to arrange for proper distancing and materials, you will need to sign up for one of the following options: In person – Mondays at 6 p.m. in the Youth Wing of the Family Life Center beginning Feb. 15 or Virtual – Watch the video presentation online anytime at your convenience and discuss via Zoom Sundays at 6:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 21. Participants in the virtual sessions will receive an email with instructions regarding purchasing online access at a cost of $13.95. Details: church office (601) 445-5616 or email Ruth Powers at ruthprocoordinator@cableone.net to sign up for your preferred format.

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Big Deal meets Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Join us! Parents and Students, please connect to the Big Deal Reminder app for messages sent from Cory Head. Text @bigdeal to 81010. Also, each class has their own Remind app. Get connected to stay informed! Details: youth@spaulcc.org or the church office (601) 992-9547.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Confirmation Mini-Retreat led by Father Nick Adam for all 11th grade candidates, Sunday, March 7 from 3 – 7:30 p.m. All 10th grade Pre-Confirmation candidates will join the 6 – 7:30 p.m. segment. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick School, Registration for St. Patrick families & parishioners began on Feb. 9. School tours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Details: call the school office (601) 482 6044 or visit www.stpatrickcatholicschool.org.

Importancia de La Sagrada Familia: centro de MFCC

Por Susana y Edward Flórez
JACKSON – En la Catedral de San Pedro Apóstol, sus fieles del Movimiento Familiar Cristiano Católico (MFCC) de la Federación de Jackson, MS estuvieron presentes en Misa celebrada por obispo Joseph Kopacz, en conmemoración a la Sagrada Familia el pasado jueves 21 de enero a las 7 p.m.
El equipo de bienvenida del MFCC se encargó de recibir y acomodar en el recinto a todas las familias asistentes cumpliendo todas las recomendaciones en estos tiempos de pandemia. A esta distinguida ceremonia asistieron los nuevos presidentes del MFCC, Irma y Ernesto Sánchez, los vice-presidentes Natividad y Damián Román, al lado de su renovado cuerpo directivo y los delegados federales, Francisco e Isabel Mazy.

JACKSON – Matrimonios de las diferentes etapas del MFCC Federación de Jackson, MS, participaron de la Misa de la Sagrada Familia, mcelebrada por el Obispo Joseph Kopacz en la Catedral San Pedro Apóstol, jueves ene. 21. (Foto de Nereida y Miguel Solano, líderes del Ministerio de Oración del MFCC – Federación de Jackson, MS)

Así mismo, estuvieron presentes los reverendos Padres Gustavo Amell, ST, Alexis Zúñiga, ST y Odel Medina, ST; éste último sirve como asesor espiritual del MFCC y fue quien solemnizó la homilía.
Durante la celebración de la Misa a la Sagrada Familia, se reverenció a la Sra. Adelicia Velázquez quien falleció en diciembre del 2020 y quien en vida fue una madre dedicada, fiel sierva de Dios y su prójimo, además de ser muy activa y querida por el MFCC y nuestra iglesia.
Por su bondad, carisma, sencillez, voz melodiosa y fervorosa en el coro Hispano de la iglesia, y su infinito amor por su comunidad, la señora Velázquez siempre será recordada.
A pesar de las restricciones debido a las dificultades sanitarias y climáticas que se vienen enfrentando, el MFCC continúa desplegando esfuerzos orientados al fortalecimiento del amor incondicional, de la complicidad, de la unión, del compromiso, del sacrificio y de la ayuda mutua que son algunas de las virtudes que toda familia necesita cultivar día a día.
Por ello, el MFCC realza la importancia de la Familia, promueve que los momentos en familia sean valorizados e incentiva la importancia de la educación familiar para vivir en sociedad tal como nos lo indica el Papa Francisco en este extracto de su oración a la Sagrada Familia:
“Sagrada Familia de Nazaret, despierta en nuestra sociedad la conciencia del carácter sagrado e inviolable de la familia, invaluable e insustituible. Que cada familia sea un hogar acogedor de bondad y paz para niños y ancianos, para los que están enfermos y solos, para los pobres y necesitados.”
Recordemos que no existe ningún éxito en el mundo que compense el fracaso de una familia por lo que después de Dios nuestras familias deben estar siempre en primer lugar.
Que la oración continúe siendo nuestro principal instrumento para silenciar las tempestades de las palabras que busquen ofuscar el equilibrio de la paz en nuestro hogar y que el diálogo nos ayude a recuperar la serenidad y nos mantenga unidos en el amor para que viviendo en armonía seamos para el mundo imagen verdadera de la Sagrada Familia de Nazaret.

(Edward y Susana Flórez fueron bendecidos con el sacramento del matrimonio hace 4 años. Edward es doctor en Ingeniería Biomédica y Susana es doctora en Odontología Restauradora con especialización en implantes. Miembros del MFCC desde 2016 y responsables de publicaciones. Viven en Mississippi desde 2014 y tienen dos niños, André, 8 y Luke, 1 año.)

Ash Wednesday: Different look, same message

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Ash Wednesday, as with many other things right now, will have a different look at many Catholic parishes across the United States this year.
For starters, Catholic churches that are often standing-room only on this day – drawing crowds just short of the Easter and Christmas congregations – will be at their pandemic-restricted size limits with members of the congregation spread out in socially distanced seating.
Other Catholics will be watching the livestream Mass, as they have been for much of the pandemic, and will of course, not receive ashes.
Last year’s Ash Wednesday Masses Feb. 26 were celebrated just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, so church services and social media posts of people’s ashes followed the usual tradition. It wasn’t until the third week of Lent that dioceses began lifting Sunday Mass obligations and temporarily stopping public Masses.
Most churches are open now but are limiting congregation sizes and requiring parishioners to sign up for Masses. But parish life is not the same. This year, for example, there will likely be no parish pancake suppers on Mardi Gras, as there were just a year ago.

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses ashes before distribution on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. This year, Ash Wednesday will look different around the world, with many sprinkling ashes on top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads. (Photo from archives)

And during this year’s celebration of Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, many dioceses will be following the Vatican’s recommendation of a modified method for distributing ashes: sprinkling them on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads.
The note on the “distribution of ashes in time of pandemic” was published online in January by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
It said priests should bless the ashes with holy water at the altar and then address the entire congregation with the words in the Roman Missal that are used when marking individual’s foreheads with ashes: Either “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The sprinkling of ashes on individual heads would take place without any words said to each person.
Dioceses will respond to this adaptation based on how the effects of the pandemic in their respective regions, said Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
Some dioceses have announced their plans to follow this step.
Father Tom Kunz, associate general secretary and vicar for canonical services in the Pittsburgh Diocese, said the different approach with ashes “will help the priest or deacon to avoid having direct contact with a large amount of people.” He also said this method is common in other countries.
“Even in a pandemic, Lent is a season of grace and an important moment in the church’s penitential practice,” he told The Pittsburgh Catholic, online diocesan news site.
The website of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, posted videos in English and Spanish reviewing the practice of sprinkling of ashes on people’s heads explained by Father Thu Nguyen, diocesan director of liturgy and worship.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, in its online guidelines for parishes during Lent, said if parishes “choose to distribute ashes during the current health crisis” the ashes cannot be self-imposed but must be given by a minister wearing a face mask.
It gave parishes a few options, including the sprinkling of ashes on the head. It also said ashes could be imposed individually with a moistened swab or cotton ball “out of an abundance of caution”; or ministers could place ashes on foreheads with their thumbs as usual, making sure to sanitize after every two or three people.
The description on the diocesan website also stressed the “reception of ashes is not mandatory nor required.” It also said parishioners should know “their own internal disposition and intention to repent and start over” is the key to Ash Wednesday and that ashes are “an external sign of that internal reality. They may enter into Lent with a repentant heart even if they decide that receiving ashes is not the right thing for them this year.”
Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, said a change in the way ashes are imposed might disappoint many Catholics who are accustomed to the look and feel of Ash Wednesday.
But he pointed out, as have others, that sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads is not something new but is a customary practice at the Vatican and in Italy. It also has historical roots linking back to the penitent aspect of ashes.
Ashes’ symbolism comes from Old Testament descriptions of wearing sackcloth and ashes as signs of penance. The Catholic Church incorporated this practice in the eighth century when those who committed grave sins known to the public had to do public penitence and were sprinkled with ashes. By the 12th century, the practice of penance and either sprinkling or marking of ashes became something for the whole church at the start of Lent.
The change for many parishes this year – where the words used prior to the distribution of ashes are just said once before the entire congregation – might also be hard for many people who would prefer to have that message told to them individually, Father Morrill said.
But he also noted that the practice of addressing the communal body, not just individuals, also could be important this year when many are in this very different experience together.
The priest told Catholic News Service Feb. 1 he knows that doing something different is “hard for people especially when so many are already stressed out and tired. I get that, but such are the circumstances we are in,” he said, noting that amid the pandemic, church officials are looking at ways to prevent speaking in close proximity to others or being in direct contact with them.
The choice of words prior to the imposition of ashes also is key this year because the reminder of one’s mortality “to dust you shall return” is almost unavoidable with the daily increase of deaths from COVID-19 but the call to “repent and believe in the Gospel” leaves the congregation with something they have to do.
Father Morrill said other denominations have similarly been looking at ways to modify their Ash Wednesday practice. Some churches are forgoing their “Ashes to Go” traditions of giving out ashes in public sites. Others plan to hand out small Ziploc bags of ashes or to leave them at the church for members of their congregations to pick up, or they are doing away with ashes altogether.
One Episcopal leader said not having ashes was another loss of this year, while another said it might enable people to focus on the true meaning of the day.
Online Ash Wednesday resource materials provided by the Catholic Health Association for Catholic hospital and health care workers put the potential changes to Ash Wednesday in perspective.
“While Lent itself remains the same, with the global pandemic, some of our activities will have to be nuanced to fit the needs of this time – particularly Ash Wednesday,” said the group.
“As we come together by staying apart, we know our celebration of Ash Wednesday this year will look very different. For many of us, this marks a full year of managing and planning around the coronavirus.”

In memorium: Father Bob Tucker

FRANKLIN, WISCONSIN – Slightly after 1p.m. on Jan. 23, Father Bob Tucker, SCJ, died. He was 68. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, he was professed in 1975 and ordained in 1982.
In recent years, Father Bob had struggled with a respiratory disorder that led to a lung transplant last July. He was unable to fully recover from the transplant and moved into palliative care shortly before his death. Father Quang Nguyen, SCJ (vice provincial superior), Father Jim Schroeder, SCJ, (a member of his community at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake) and Mary Balistreri (province director of healthcare) were with him when he died.
Father Bob’s most recent assignment was with the province formation team. He was instrumental in overseeing the move of the program from Chicago to Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners. Prior to that, much of his life was devoted to parish ministry.

Bob Tucker

His first assignment was at St. Cecilia parish in San Antonio in 1982. From there he went to his hometown of Detroit, serving at his childhood parish of St. Rose of Lima. He also ministered in Milwaukee, and in Houston at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Matthew parishes. Before moving to Chicago, he served as a member of the pastoral team that serves much of northern Mississippi through Sacred Heart Southern Missions.
Since news of his death was made public, condolences and tributes have come in from around the world.
“I was a novice (for the British/Irish Province) with the SCJs in Detroit in the mid 1980s,” wrote Kevin Hogan. “I met Father Bob who was kind, generous and supportive, and was a great encouragement in seeking my vocation. Rest in peace.”
“I’m so sad to hear this,” wrote Jessica Bledsoe, a former parishioner. “Father Bob was the officiant at my wedding and he made such an impact on my husband and me.”
“I served with Bob at Sacred Heart parish in Franklin,” wrote former SCJ David Jackson. “Every Lent I remember that Father Bob organized the parish to present Drama of the Gospels for the Sundays. It is still the most powerful Lent I have ever had. Father Bob was short of stature, but bold in Father Dehon’s call to speak out.”
In 2017, Father Bob reflected on his vocation:
“My call to religious life was nourished by the Priests of the Sacred Heart who came to my home parish in the inner city of Detroit. It was then that my love for liturgy began to grow. I often reflect on the Gospel passage proclaimed when I took my first vows with the congregation 1975: ‘While Jesus was with them at table, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him… They said to each other, ‘Where not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way opened the scriptures to us?’ (Luke 24:31-32)”
“Throughout my 42 years as a member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart I have recalled and reflected on this passage often. I see in this passage what our baptism and our life as SCJs calls us to do; that is to listen and to reflect on God’s Word speaking to our hearts. In order that we may come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread sends us forth to be prophets of love and servants of reconciliation.”
“As a priest, I have had the pleasure of celebrating the wonder of the love of the heart of Jesus in the celebration of the Mass. I have ministered as a priest in San Antonio, Detroit, Milwaukee, Houston and in northern Mississippi.”
“It is a privilege to be with our religious students and candidates in their journey as they discern their calling in life to be a member of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. My hope is that we will discover hearts burning within us as Christ speaks to our hearts and that we will come to know him in the breaking of the bread and to know him in the faces of our brothers and sisters. Because, as Number 82 in our Constitutions challenges us: ‘the Eucharist has its effects on all that we are and do… and who unceasingly throws us back onto the streets of the world in the service of the Gospel.’”
Funeral services were held on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Good Shepherd Chapel in Hales Corner, Wisconsin.

Featured photo Marching for Life …

VICKSBURG – On Saturday, Jan. 30, the Vicksburg Council 898 of the Knights of Columbus held its 10th annual March for Life. The march began at St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg and ended at the Monument to the Unborn at Vicksburg’s Cedar Hill Cemetery. This year approximately 35 Knights and their families participated in the one mile march. (Photo by Charles Hahn)