Youth Enthusiastic about National Catholic Youth Choir

COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota – When Perry Leffler (NCYC Alum 2015) of Jackson St. Richard Parish went to Minnesota for a youth choir camp, she knew there would be lots of singing. What she found was so much more: fun, friendship, and faith. “[This camp] definitely strengthened my faith,” she said. “I like how we came to camp not knowing anyone leave it as close friends.”

COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota – St. Richard Parish member Perry Leffler, front row, far left, toured with the National Catholic Youth Choir in 2015. This year, there is a new scholarship available for a student who wishes to join. (Photo by Marc Leffler)

The National Catholic Youth Choir, which meets on the grounds of Saint John’s Abbey and University in central Minnesota, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019. Since the choir’s founding in 2000, more than 300 young Catholic singers have participated in the summer camp. They have all shared a powerful experience of singing sacred music, studying the Bible and their Catholic faith, learning some music history, and making new friends to play sports and recreate with. “It’s a positive, joyful experience of being Catholic that really speaks to young people,” said founding director Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB.
During the camp the choir members pray with the Benedictine monks and sisters, participate in experiences such as the Rosary or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and end each day by chanting Compline. After the intense music rehearsal on campus, the choir goes on tour to sing at parish liturgies and offer concerts of sacred music. “
Membership in the selective choir is by audition. To make it easy for applicants from across the U.S., the entire application process is done online. All young singers with note-reading ability and choir experience are invited to apply. For the 20th anniversary it is expected that the choir will be larger than ever – and they will be joined at the final Mass by dozens of alum singers from the past 20 years!
Thanks to the generosity and support of Bishop Joseph Kopacz, a young chorister from the Diocese of Jackson is eligible for a $250 scholarship toward NCYC camp and choir tour.
“The NCYC provides opportunity for every person to grow spiritually, intellectually, and socially into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. I am so very happy to have taken part in it,” said Remy Mumby (NCYC Alum 2016) from Lansing, Michigan
For information about the choir, including how to apply, go to Applications are due in mid-March.

(Story submitted by National Catholic Youth Choir)

Reconciliation retreat

CORINTH – St. James the Less’ First Communion Class plays during their First Reconciliation retreat on Saturday Dec. 1. Teachers include Yolanda Salinas, Edith del Ángel, Teresita Peña, Mariana García, Roberto Santamaria and the candidates are Maya Gomes, Jairo López, Emilio Ceron, Pascual Baltazar, Aylin Hernandez y Yoseline Ruiz. (Photo by Luis Rosales)

St. Nicolas visits St. Patrick

MERIDIAN – On the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, St. Patrick School students left a shoe outside their classroom for St. Nicholas to fill. The children received a candy cane, chocolate coins and a prayer card. Shown are first graders Hayden Thompson, foreground, and Chance Glass as they discover what St. Nicholas left for them. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)

St. Peter leads the way in Grenada Christmas parade

GRENADA – Members of St. Peter Parish won first place in the church division for their float in the annual city Christmas parade by offering “the greatest story ever told.”
Volunteers built the float, which held a living nativity made up of children from the parish. It rolled through the streets on Saturday, Dec. 1.

Merciful Mufflers : ministry of hands and hearts

By Mary Billups and Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Back in 2016, the Catholic Community of Meridian launched a new ministry in response to Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Seeking to respond to the Gospel challenge of “clothe the naked,” the members of the newly formed Merciful Mufflers gathered weekly to knit and crochet more than 150 scarves, hats and hand-warmers for the homeless and those fleeing domestic violence. The ministry then looked inward to its own parishioners, and for the past two years has provided prayer shawls and lap robes for the home-bound, the ill, and their caregivers.
“People have called and told me they were moved to tears when they received a blanket because someone thought of them,” said Pam Walston, who has been with the group from the beginning. “This (ministry) drew the parish together. Sometimes when people get older, they think you have forgotten them, especially if they can’t come to church anymore,” she explained. The blankets and scarves are a tangible reminder of their connection to their faith community. She said the original group had about five members but continues to grow each year. The group worked together to create a blanket for pastor Father Augustine Palimattam.
They only meet during the school year and each year they pick a particular project.
They instituted the tradition of giving hand-made white baby blankets to the infants newly baptized into St. Patrick and St. Joseph parishes. “Mary (Billups) has all these wonderful ideas – she genuinely wants to reach out and draw the community together,” said Walston.
The members’ mercy-driven commitment has further expanded to encompass Meridian’s Center for Pregnancy Choices, where the ministry provided layettes consisting of baby blankets, baby caps and booties for the infants, along with beautiful scarves for the mothers, all delivered in special tote bags.
“Everything we make comes with a prayer of one kind or another and sometimes a medal or something else,” said Walston. The group is about more than just the handiwork. The last half-hour of every meeting is dedicated to prayer for those in need, including those who will receive the blankets.
The parish helps with supplies, but members also participate. One member crocheted a bedspread this year that was auctioned off. The money raised went back into the ministry.
Beginning in January 2019, this ministry will work to fashion lap-size afghans for those dependent upon dialysis for their continued well-being. Walston encourages others to join. She said the members have all different skill levels in knitting and crochet and members help one another with projects.
For more information, or to begin a group like this one, contact Mary Billups at 601-693-1321 or

(Mary Billups is the director of adult faith formation for the Catholic Community of Meridian.)

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.”















Mother, daughter find comfort, care camaraderie at St. Catherine’s Village

MADISON – A Last year, when Lynette Hegwood lost her husband to cancer, she decided it was time to consider alternatives to assist her with the challenges of living alone. And she could think of no better place than where her mother, Flora “Flo” Mullins, has lived for more than a decade — St. Catherine’s Village. Now, daughter and mother live just one floor apart at the all-inclusive life care community in Madison, Mississippi.
“I was familiar with St. Catherine’s Village’s respected reputation,” said Lynette. “In 2004, when my husband’s mom was living with Parkinson’s disease, we accompanied her when she looked at several senior living communities. We kept coming back to St. Catherine’s Village because it offered multiple levels of care — independent living in apartments and garden homes, assisted living in Marian Hall, memory care in Campbell Cove, and skilled nursing in Siena Center.”

MADISON – Flo Mullins, her daughter Lynnette Hegwood and Hegwood’s service dog Prophet all enjoying independent living at St. Catherine’s Village (Photo courtesy of St. Catherine’s Village)

“My mother-in-law did not immediately warm up to the idea of moving, but she made the decision on her own,” said Lynette. Part of the reason was because St. Catherine’s Village offered a mission-focused environment that encourages residents in all levels to enjoy fullness of life, health and faith.
At this same time, Lynette’s own mother, Flo, became ready to leave the hassles and maintenance of her old home behind and gain more freedom.
“They were both living alone in their own houses and my husband and I were going back and forth to help them take care of yards and chores. It kept us busy,” Lynette explained. With the promise of a family Alaskan cruise after their moves as an incentive, Lynette’s mother and mother-in-law packed their belongings and the two women moved into St. Catherine’s Village between May and July, 2004.
“Over the next 14 years, I got to know so many residents and employees at St. Catherine’s Village. They all hold your hand whenever you need them. They became — and continue to be — our extended family,” she said.
It was only natural, then, when Lynette felt it was her time to consider benefits offered to residents at St. Catherine’s Village, she chose the life care community, too, even though her son and his family offered to move both Lynette and Flo near them in Pennsylvania. Plus, Flo knew so many people at St. Catherine’s Village that Lynette immediately had a built-in network of friends.
“If anyone here isn’t happy, I haven’t met them,” she laughed. “This is such a caring environment, you’ll never get as many hugs as you do here.”
When deciding which apartment to choose, Lynette thought, “I want to be close to mom,” adding that “it would be nice if she could bring me some chicken noodle soup every once in a while.”
Lynette’s one-bedroom apartment, which has been described as a showplace for Ikea furniture, is in the same building as her mother’s. However, Flo recently had hip surgery and is recovering in another level of care until she is able to return to her apartment in independent living.
“We have a bit of a role reversal now,” said Flo. “But we are thankful to have each other.”
Lynette was quick to point out that the independent living apartments “aren’t your mother’s nursing home!” As a second-generation St. Catherine’s Village resident, she has — with the help of her neighbors — energized the atmosphere on her floor by creating a gathering place set up for card games or happy hour with a Keurig coffee bar and an Alexa that plays relaxing music. This casual gathering spot allows everyone to get together spontaneously.
“Planned activities are good, but we like to do our own thing, too,” said Lynette.
Flo agreed. “I worked as an activity director in a nursing home before … and I’ve had enough Bingo.”
Now, Flo crochets clothes for American Girl dolls and leads the singing at Sunday morning church service. And she plays the dulcimer — an Appalachian mountain string instrument. She also has a green thumb and is pretty handy.
Beyond their living arrangements, both women also appreciate the care and security of St. Catherine’s Village. No one gets past the front gate without authorization by a resident or staff. And St. Catherine’s Village emergency responders have first-hand experience addressing health needs.
“I am a Type 1 diabetic and contend with low glucose,” said Lynette. “In the wee hours one morning I called security and they — along with nursing — arrived to assist me. They were top notch, even better than 911. It’s reassuring to have a registered nurse and security available 24 hours each day.”
Lynette also had committed to having a service dog for her diabetes prior to coming to St. Catherine’s Village. Complying with the Americans with Disability Act, management happily worked with Lynette to ensure her service animal was welcome and accommodated. The one-year-old black lab, Prophet, was delivered in November.
“The hole in my heart that arose after my husband passed away has been filled by the people at St. Catherine’s Village,” said Lynette. “You never have to be alone if you don’t want to be.”
Even though there are on average 475 residents at St. Catherine’s Village, the staff makes each and every one feel like the most important person. It is the first all-inclusive life care community in Mississippi to earn accreditation by CARF-CCAC. This “commitment to excellence” seal signifies that the campus exceeds the standards established by the only international accrediting body for CCRCs.
“I can’t talk to anyone without finding out how much they love it here,” said Lynette.
St. Catherine’s Village is a service of St. Dominic Health Services, Inc. and is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois. The private, gated community boasts 160 acres of wooded grounds, protected and beautiful outdoor spaces, and unparalleled facilities that provide the right care at the right time for those in their retirement years.
Speaking from experience — her mother-in-law went through every level of care at St. Catherine’s Village — Lynette noted that “at whatever stage or age, St. Catherine’s Village has something for everybody.”
To learn more about St. Catherine’s Village, log onto or call (601) 856-0123 to schedule a tour.