Leap of faith fuels diving adventure

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Former President George H. W. Bush might be the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of skydiving late in life.

Our country’s 41st president, Bush passed away in 2018 at the age of 94. A Navy pilot during World War II, he jumped from an airplane in 1999 to commemorate his 75th birthday. He enjoyed the experience so much he did so again on birthdays in 2004, 2009 and, remarkably, in 2014 – at the ripe old age of 90.

“It’s vintage George Bush,” said spokesman Jim McGrath to Fox News after Bush’s skydive in 2014. “It’s that passion for life. It’s wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I’m sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges.”

At age 83, Lois Booth of Sacred Heart Canton fulfilled her bucket-list item to skydive. She is pictured here with her grandchildren after her skydive over Thanksgiving in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Lois Booth)

Adventures in parasailing
Lois Booth didn’t make the national news after her skydive last Thanksgiving. Neither did Rita Martinson, her neighbor at St. Catherine’s Village in Madison. But the motivations for both – and their shared sense of accomplishment afterward – were comparable to those of our nation’s late Skydiver-in-Chief.

“My identical twin sister and I went to Orange Beach, Alabama, two years ago and parasailed. I loved it and she did, too,” said Booth, who grew up in Drew, Mississippi, became Catholic a year ago, and is a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Canton.

“The exhilaration I felt as we lifted off the back of that boat had me squealing like a teenager,” she continued. “I think we were 3,000-4,000 feet up. We were in the air about five minutes. There were six of us on the boat. You go off the back of the boat, and land on the back of the boat. I learned from parasailing how to land while skydiving.”
She also began thinking about skydiving for the first time that day.

Fascinated with flying
Rita Martinson, who served District 58 in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1992-2016, is a long-time parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. A native of Gloster, Mississippi, she thinks she has adventure in her blood.

“If you’d been raised in a little town like Gloster, you’d have it in yours, too,” she said of her formative years. “We lived in our imaginations.”

Always fascinated with flying, Martinson received her fixed-wing pilot license in 1965 and became certified to fly glider aircraft several years later. The move to parasailing probably wasn’t a surprise to anyone who knew Martinson and her late husband, Billy, who encouraged her and went along on her flights.

“Every chance I got, I flew,” Martinson said. “I was fascinated with hot-air balloon rides and rode in them. The next thing was to jump out of a plane. Billy and I joined several flying clubs. One was a Cessna club.”

In learning about flying a glider, Martinson became well-versed in thermals, or the combination of warmth provided by the sun and the ground that’s necessary to keep the lightweight craft aloft. As the sun warms the ground, the ground warms the air directly above it. This provides lift for the glider, which counters the natural sinking tendency of the plane.

“The higher you could get in one of those thermals, the longer you could stay up,” Martinson said. “The worst thing I ever experienced was actually a dream I had, where I pulled the rope too soon and couldn’t get the plane high enough to have altitude to land. That put the fear of the Lord in me for a while.”

Martinson and her husband went to Puerto Vallarto, Mexico, seven or eight times to parasail. In keeping with her lifelong sense of adventure, Martinson began to consider jumping out of a plane, thinking it would be fun.

“I’m in New Orleans often and found a skydiving club in St. Tammany Parish. I made sure they had precautions and safety measures,” she said. “Billy was still living when I made my first jump.”

Religious experience
Booth’s skydive took place last Thanksgiving in Raleigh, North Carolina. She relished the opportunity to go with her grandchild.

“I was tethered to an ex-Marine I met that morning,” she said. “He was delightful. I watched them pack the parachutes, and I had all the confidence in the world in him. There were 14-15 people on the plane, and when the green light by the door goes on, it’s done. There’s no turning back.”

“The most uncomfortable part is that once you jump, you freefall several thousand feet. It’s hard to breathe. Once (the ex-Marine) deployed the parachute, we sat upright, and it was absolutely beautiful. It was late afternoon, and the sun was getting ready to go down. It was a religious experience.”

“This was a drop of 13,000 feet,” Booth continued. “It was quiet and calm. You could not hear anything. It was about as serene as I have ever been. I told a friend that I soared like an eagle and landed like a feather. A lot of the people on the plane were true parachutists. One woman was making her fourteenth or fifteenth jump.”

Rita Martinson of St. Francis Madison, took her first skydive in November 2017 with grandson Eric McKie. She plans to ‘step out on faith’ in another dive on her 85th birthday on Sept. 11. (Photo courtesy of Rita Martinson)

Booth, who turns 84 in June, considered the skydive a bucket list item. Although she has no plans for another jump, the overwhelmingly positive first experience is something she’ll always carry with her.

“I think being able to step out of the box at this age is important, both to keep yourself up and running and interested – and interesting,” she said. “The pandemic took its toll on everybody, and I’m no exception. That was one more reason I needed to prove to myself that I could still do anything I wanted to do.”

“Sock it to me”
Martinson’s jump took place in November 2017. Like Booth, she went airborne with a grandchild.

“First, you don’t jump – you walk out of the plane,” she said. “Eric, who had jumped once before, was tethered to someone else. We were asked if we wanted to do any loops or twirls. I said, ‘Sock it to me.’ We were up at 11,000 feet when we jumped. It made me a little dizzy, but it’s fun to know what it’s like, and that you can do it.”

Martinson, who will celebrate her 85th birthday on September 11, will do what President Bush did on his 85th birthday – step out on faith and watch the world as she knows it come into focus while she floats back to earth.

“People who are afraid to take a chance never get to see what they can do,” Martinson said. “It helped me and our children that Billy always urged us to get out there and take risks. He did that, too.”

“I would like others to know that there are no firm boundaries keeping them from at least trying to do new things. There is so much to gain by at least giving it a whirl. I only wish there were more time to do more.”

(Joe Lee is the Editor-in-Chief of Dogwood Press, and member of St. Francis Madison.)

Papa: Países deben hacer más para que la migración sea segura y legal

Por Cindy Wooden

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — Continuando con el enfoque en la atención de migrantes y refugiados, el papa Francisco instó a una organización de la ONU a hacer más para convencer a las naciones de que abran vías seguras y legales para la migración y regularizar a las personas que han ingresado a países sin documentos adecuados.

En un mensaje enviado el 29 de noviembre a la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones, el papa Francisco dijo: “Existe una necesidad urgente de encontrar formas dignas de salir de situaciones irregulares”.

“La desesperación y la esperanza siempre prevalecen sobre las políticas restrictivas”, dijo, por lo que la migración continuará sin importar lo que hagan los países. “Cuantas más rutas legales existan, menos probable es que los migrantes se vean arrastrados a las redes criminales de los traficantes de personas o a la explotación y el abuso en contravención de la ley”.

El mensaje del papa fue leído por el cardenal Pietro Parolin, secretario de Estado del Vaticano, en una reunión para conmemorar el 70 aniversario de la agencia de la ONU. En 2011, el papa retirado Benedicto XVI decidió que la Santa Sede se convertiría en miembro de la organización.

Si bien insistir en la creencia de la dignidad humana significa que los migrantes deben ser tratados como individuos y no como un “fenómeno”, el papa Francisco también sugirió las políticas necesarias para ayudar tanto a las personas en movimiento como a los países donde buscan una vida mejor.

“Los migrantes hacen visible el vínculo que une a toda la familia humana, la riqueza de las culturas y el recurso para los intercambios de desarrollo y las redes comerciales”, dijo, pero eso siempre depende de la integración de los recién llegados.

“La integración implica un proceso bidireccional, basado en el conocimiento mutuo, la apertura mutua, el respeto a las leyes y la cultura de los países anfitriones con un verdadero espíritu de encuentro y enriquecimiento mutuo”, dijo.

Mantener a las familias migrantes intactas o ayudar a reunir a las familias es esencial, ya que las familias son “un componente esencial de las comunidades en nuestro mundo globalizado”, dijo. Lamentablemente, “en demasiados países a los trabajadores migrantes se les niegan los beneficios y la estabilidad de la vida familiar como resultado de impedimentos legales. El vacío humano que se deja cuando un padre o una madre emigran solos es un duro recordatorio del abrumador dilema de verse obligados a elegir entre emigrar solo para alimentar a la familia o disfrutar del derecho fundamental a permanecer en el país de origen con dignidad”.

Y dijo que en vez de simplemente quejarse de los flujos migratorios, “la comunidad internacional debe abordar urgentemente las condiciones que dan lugar a la migración irregular” (pobreza, conflicto, discriminación, cambio climático) para que la migración sea un bien, una decisión informada y no una necesidad desesperada.

“En última instancia”, dijo el papa Francisco, “la migración no es solo una historia de migrantes, sino de desigualdades, desesperación, degradación ambiental, cambio climático” pero también de “sueños, valor, estudios en el extranjero, reunificación familiar, nuevas oportunidades, seguridad y protección, y trabajo duro pero digno”.

Bishop to lift dispensation from obligation to attend Mass, diocese issues modified directives

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – After careful study and consultation with the clergy, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will lift the general dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, effective on the Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi beginning with the vigil Mass on Saturday, June 5, 2021.
In a letter released on May 20 by the diocese, Bishop Kopacz states, “The Sunday obligation will be restored on this great feast when we can satisfy our hunger for the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament with the reception of Holy Communion.”
Bishop Kopacz also reminds the faithful in his letter to keep in mind that the church always dispenses those confronting serious health concerns. “Therefore, someone can validly make the decision to attend Mass during the week, if able, and to participate in the Mass on the Lord’s Day through live streaming,”
In addition to lifting the general dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation, the diocese modified their protocols during the pandemic. The directives, which represents a combination of previously released protocols, detail how parishes can move forward towards more normal operations, taking a gradual phased approach, with a watchful eye on the developments and guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health.
For Masses, social distancing will be at 3 feet and parishes may use every pew, deciding how to stagger seating to maintain social distancing.
Also, masks are no longer required at Mass but encouraged for those who are not vaccinated and for children and youth under the age of 16. However, priests and eucharistic ministers are required to wear masks when distributing Holy Communion.
With the changes, some things remain the same. Holy Communion is still encouraged to be received in the hand and hand sanitizer should still be used by parishioners upon entrance to the church.
The updated protocols also include directives on meetings, gatherings, as well as youth activities and Vacation Bible School.
Pastors and their pastoral staff are responsible for the safe and prudent execution of the directives, recognizing that every parish has unique circumstances. The goal is to continue to provide a safe place for worship while maintaining a level of confidence for all the people of God.
On May 13, the CDC eased the mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and most indoor settings. The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
Father Lincoln Dall, vicar general for the diocese, stated at the end of the directives, “We want to thank all of you for your efforts in keeping our parishioners safe during the pandemic. We acknowledge that all of us are very weary of dealing with the pandemic. … However, we acknowledge that this is still is not the time to let our guard down completely. We will continue to monitor the situation and will issue modified guidelines when the reality of the pandemic changes.”
To view the letter from Bishop Kopacz lifting the dispensation and a full list of updated protocols, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/public-health-concerns/.

The Diaconate – Are you called?

By Deacon John McGregor
JACKSON – Have you ever thought or felt that God was calling you to greater service in the Catholic Church? Are you drawn to know more about your Catholic faith and to enter more deeply into a life of prayer and intimacy with Christ? If so, these could be indications that you are being called to the Permanent Diaconate. The Permanent Diaconate, restored by a Motu Proprio following Vatican II, is a ministry of service that is open to married and single men. In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, the deacon’s ministry “is the church’s service sacramentalized.”

Deacons are ordained to the Ministry of Service in three areas: word, sacrament and charity. As a servant to the word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, instruct the faithful and evangelize by word and deed, as did the great deacons St. Stephen and St. Francis. As a servant of the sacramental life of the church, deacons preside at baptisms, assist at the Eucharist, bring the Eucharist to the sick and suffering, witness marriages, bury the dead, and preside at Benediction. As a servant of charity, like the great deacon St. Lawrence, deacons report the needs of the community to the church and bring support and assistance to those in need. The deacon is called to be the “Icon of Christ the Servant” living out the life of charity for the people of God and inviting everyone to help feed the hungry, visit the sick and care for one another in our brokenness.

Because deacons have secular jobs and many are married with families, they are familiar with the daily stresses of life. By living and working in the secular world, the deacon seeks to model, in his person, the integration of what one believes and how one lives.

If you think you may be called to the permanent diaconate, the Diocese of Jackson is offering a series of five inquiry meetings via Zoom. Below are the dates and the topic for each of the inquiry meetings.

For Zoom meeting invitations and additional information, please contact:
Deacon John McGregor, D.Min.
Director of the Permanent Diaconate

In memorium: Sister Rita Joyce DiNardo

ST. LOUIS – Sister Rita Joyce (Rita Joyce) DiNardo died at St. Vincent Medical Center in Evansville, Ind., on Dec. 11, 2020. Sister was born on June 5, 1940 in Detroit, Mich., and was one of three children of Giulio and Mary (Pesavento) DiNardo. She graduated from the High School of Commerce in Detroit in 1959 and entered the Daughters of Charity in Evansville in 1977.
After initial formation, Sister Rita Joyce was sent to teach at St. Francis de Sales School in Lake Zurich, Ill., until 1979 when she returned to Evansville to complete a B.S. degree in Elementary Education at Indiana State University. In 1982 she began her ministry as a teacher at Cathedral School in Natchez, Miss. (1982 to 1988) and then at St. James Major School in Prichard, Alabama. Sister then was sent to be a Pastoral Care Associate in LaSalle, Illinois and a Music Minister at St. Mary Parish (now Basilica) in Natchez, Mississippi (1993 to 1999).

In 2001, she began serving at Eastside Catholic Elementary and Corpus Christi School, both in Milwaukee, Wis. In 2003 she began teaching at St. Vincent Day Care Center in Evansville, Ind., and then served as a Secretary in the Vocation Office at Mater Dei Provincialate. She then was a Librarian at Providence Hospital and Medical Center in Southfield, Mich., and a Docent at Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Md. In 2011, she was missioned to St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services in Indianapolis, Ind., until she came to Seton Residence in Evansville in 2014 to serve in the Ministry of Prayer.
Sister Rita Joyce will be buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, and a Memorial Mass will take place at a later date. Sister was preceded in death by her parents and her brother Luigi DiNardo and her sister Cynthia Raciti. She is survived by her nieces and nephews (Carmine, Dean, Lorna, Mark, Ann Marie, Kevin) and their children, her Sisters in Community and many friends.

Santo ahelo del Señor Jesús

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“El Espíritu y la Esposa dicen, ¡ven! El que inspira fe dice: Sí, vengo pronto. ¡Maranatha, ven, Señor Jesús!“ La Biblia termina con estas palabras del Libro de la Revelación o Apocalipsis, expresando el santo anhelo que cultivamos durante esta temporada sagrada de Adviento que conduce a la Navidad. Estas sinceras palabras han sido la oración diaria de la iglesia durante casi 2000 años; de seguro, un largo período de tiempo.
Sin embargo, escuchamos de la carta de Pedro el domingo pasado que “para el Señor, un día es como mil años y mil años es como un día”. (2Pedro 3:8) Ya que estamos a punto de comenzar el tercer día después de la muerte y resurrección de Jesús, no hay razón para que este gran drama y misterio de la salvación envejezca. Sigue siendo siempre antiguo y nuevo. Oramos por la gracia del hambre y la sed de San Agustín durante estos días de Adviento. “¡Tarde te amé, oh Belleza siempre antigua, siempre nueva, tarde te amé! Tú estabas dentro de mí, pero yo estaba afuera, y fue allí donde te busqué. En mi falta de amor, me sumergí en las cosas hermosas que tú creaste. Estabas conmigo, pero yo no estaba contigo“. (Confesiones) Es exagerado medir un milenio en nuestra imaginación, y es incomprensible captar la eternidad, pero podemos y debemos aprovechar la oportunidad que nos ofrece cada día para redescubrir la antigua y nueva gracia de Dios en sus múltiples expresiones.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

En el momento, Juan Bautista es nuestro guía. Prepara el camino del Señor, son las palabras de la voz que resuena a lo largo de los siglos. Él, cuyo púlpito es el umbral del desierto, abre el camino para el Verbo eterno hecho Carne. Esta es la Buena Nueva de Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios, las palabras iniciales del Evangelio de Marcos del segundo domingo de Adviento. Creyendo esto, ¿qué tipo de vida debemos vivir, hermanos y hermanas?, es la pregunta de San Pedro en su carta.
La respuesta a esta eterna pregunta se encuentra en la reunión en el río Jordán, donde la gente venía a Juan el Bautista para confesar sus pecados y ser bautizados por él en el río Jordán. El primer paso, que damos adelante, en el conocimiento de nuestra salvación es el perdón de nuestros pecados, (Lucas 1:76-77) y como se expresa en el Benedictus, la gloriosa oración de Zacarías, el padre de Juan Bautista. Volviendo a la carta de Pedro del domingo pasado, escuchamos que “No es que el Señor se tarde en cumplir su promesa, como algunos suponen, sino que tiene paciencia con ustedes, pues no quiere que nadie muera, sino que todos se vuelvan a Dios, … pero nosotros esperamos el cielo nuevo y la tierra nueva que Dios ha prometido, en los cuales todo será justo y bueno.”
La justicia bíblica se basa en la reconciliación con Dios y en hacerlo “bien” unos con otros. El regalo que recibimos se da luego como regalo. (Mateo 10:8). En medio de esta angustiosa pandemia, la exhortación del profeta Isaías es convincente. “Consolad, consolad a mi pueblo, dice vuestro Dios.” (Isaías 40:1). Tanta gente ha perdido tanto durante este último año. Una vida recta nos inspira a dar muchos pasos adelante al brindar consuelo, restaurar la esperanza y brindar apoyo de todas las formas posibles. Reconciliarse con Dios es unir cielo y tierra. Crear por la gracia de Dios un “cielo nuevo y una tierra nueva” cada día está en nuestro poder. La respuesta al salmo del domingo pasado transmite la visión de Dios y nuestro objetivo. “El amor y la verdad se darán cita, la paz y la justicia se besarán, la verdad brotará de la tierra y la justicia mirará desde el cielo.” (Salmo 85:10)
De hecho, ya hemos sido bautizados con el Espíritu Santo tal y como lo profetizó Juan el Bautista en el río Jordán, una unción y una morada que es la garantía de la vida eterna y la inspiración para edificar el Reino de Dios hoy y todos los días. Al hacer esto, tendremos un impacto durante 1000 años.
“¡Maranatha! ¡Ven, Señor Jesús! “

The four C’s of Christmas

By Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC
Coping doesn’t sound very festive, but it is an undeniable part of our holiday season. We cope with expectations others have of us. We are coping with the expectations we put on ourselves. And we try to cope with time deadlines, long lines and even perhaps ghosts from Christmas past. The holiday season is about jazzing up life during the winter season. A wonderful way to cope is to think about ways you can jazz up your life. Not the neighbor’s life, the economy or anything else. Jazz up life for you. If you enjoy certain traditions, do them. If you don’t enjoy the traditions or begin to find them monotonous, change them. Remember, it’s about jazzing up your life.

Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC

Centering is a must in an effort to cope. Take some time to center yourself. Focus on what holds value and meaning for you this holiday season. Forgetting to center can have the same results as forgetting to breath. You’ll get lightheaded and dizzy and feel like you just might faint.
In fact, after a prolonged period of being off center, you might find the thought of fainting for a few minutes oddly comforting. Centering can be done in three minutes or less.
For instance, instead of trying desperately to pass the slow driver in front of you, relax and enjoy the easy pace. Or sit in your car in the parking lot of the shopping center for about three minutes, just breathing. Another idea is to simply sit in your own living room and look around at all the comforts of home-quietly. Try smiling during these times. It’s amazing how far this will go to center your body, mind and spirit.
Caring is paramount to making the holiday season a positive one. We are all guilty of getting so caught up in holiday planning and pleasing, we find ourselves with no strength or energy left to truly care about our family and friends. Take away the glitter and decorations, the ribbons and bows and examine the true gift underneath.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were possible to wrap up a big box of caring and give it to the ones you love. Opening a big box of caring and love given to you by others would be wonderful as well. Showing more love and concern for each other goes a long, long way. In our communities, churches, synagogues and families, truly caring for one another will last long after the tree is taken down and the holiday decorations are packed away for another year.
Celebrate what it is you truly love. That can include most anything. Eat special holiday foods that you don’t indulge in the rest of the year. Think eggnog, or cheese straws; or candy canes and fudge.
Remember which songs you love to hear and sing during this season only. Play them, dance to them and sing them. If you have happy holiday memories, share them. Something as simple as putting a red bow on your pet’s collar can be a celebration of the season.
Learn a little about how Christian cultures around the world celebrate Christmas and maybe adopt some new ideas. Sometimes the best celebrations are quiet contemplations.
When we center ourselves, truly care for our family and friends, use our coping skills and celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas, we might look forward to doing it again next year. Masks or no masks.

(Reba J. McMellon, M.S. is a licensed professional counselor with 35 years of experience. She worked in the field of child sexual abuse and adult survivors of abuse for over 25 years. She continues to work as a mental health consultant and freelance writer. Reba can be reached at rebaj@bellsouth.net)

St. Dominic Health Services Marks One Year Since Joining Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System

By Grace Weber
JACKSON – July 1, 2020, marks the one-year anniversary of St. Dominic Health Services joining the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. This time last year, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, who are the sponsors of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS) headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, completed a transition of sponsorship from the Dominican Sisters for St. Dominic Health Services which is the only Catholic healthcare facility in Mississippi. With the completion of the transfer, St. Dominic’s became the seventh regional center, and first in Mississippi, served by FMOLHS which has grown to include other facilities since then.
Prayer and patron saints have always played an important role in Catholic healthcare. Fittingly, in the early 13th century, St. Francis and St. Dominic who were the two patrons of FMOLHS and St. Dominic’s sponsorships, respectively, are believed to have met while in Rome for the Fourth Lateran Council. The two men quickly developed a close bond enriched by their common goal of founding their orders, despite the many obstacles they both faced. In tribute to their inspired friendship, for the last year a specially written prayer titled Companions on the Journey has been used to guide today’s organizations’ integration into a single system ministry. Together, the Health System is faithfully serving those most in need in both Louisiana and Mississippi.

“I look back over the past year and am inspired by what’s been accomplished across our entire health system. We welcomed St. Dominic’s into our System ministry with the mindset of collaboration and learning from one another as we are together sustaining and growing the healing mission of Catholic healthcare in Mississippi. Today, St. Dominic’s remains an important beacon of hope and healing as our communities face the incredible challenge of COVID-19 and the local impact of a global pandemic,” said Dr. Richard Vath, president and CEO of FMOLHS. “St. Dominic’s ministry had been an asset to the Jackson community for more than 70 years, and one in which we all look forward to continuing to serve for generations to come.”
“Over the last year, we have experienced firsthand the blessing of being part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System and the benefit especially to our patients and community,” said Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic’s. “With the help and support of FMOLHS, St. Dominic’s is making important and timely progress as today’s healthcare industry continues to rapidly evolve. Despite industry change, our commitment and care for the families of Mississippi is unwavering. None of us could have predicted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and now our response as a strong and integrated health system assures St. Dominic’s legacy of high-quality, compassionate healthcare is protected for the people of Mississippi.”
Since the transition last July, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System opened the freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and welcomed Our Lady of Lourdes Heart Hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana.

United in prayer and focus for Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass best confirms that
the church, the Body of Christ,
is the sacrament of salvation for the world
when the anointing of the Holy Spirit
empowers all the baptized to live out
their vocation as collaborators in the
Lord’s vineyard.

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Earlier this week the Chrism Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle, approximately two months later than the normal Holy Week time frame. Most of our cherished traditions have been radically altered, postponed or canceled in the wake of the world-wide pandemic. Rather than a full Cathedral with representation from every corner of the Diocese of Jackson, the limitations of social distancing allowed for only 50 to 60 priests. A far less festive gathering, but the reality of who we are can never be diminished because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The Preface from the Chrism Mass distinctly proclaims our identity, established through faith, baptism and the path of those called to Holy Orders. “For by the anointing of the Holy Spirit you made your Only Begotten Son High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, and by your wondrous design were pleased to decree that his one Priesthood should continue in the church. For Christ not only adorns with a royal priesthood the people he has made his own, but with a brother’s kindness he also chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry through the laying on of hands. They are to renew in his name the sacrifice of human redemption, to set before your children the paschal banquet, to lead your holy people in charity, to nourish them with the word and strengthen them with the sacraments. As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love.”
The first letter of Peter in the New Testament declares this lofty image for those who are members of the Body of Christ. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Peter 2:9)
Along with the renewal of priestly vows and the affirming prayer of all in attendance and those who are there in spirit, the blessing of the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the consecration of the Oil of Chrism occur in the sanctuary. The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick empower the Christian faithful to embrace the way of life begun with Jesus the Christ, the “Anointed One,” he who is the Way and the Truth and the Life.
The Chrism Mass best confirms that the church, the Body of Christ, is the sacrament of salvation for the world when the anointing of the Holy Spirit empowers all the baptized to live out their vocation as collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard. Over the past three months there has been considerable collaboration and communication to make the best decisions regarding public gatherings on behalf of the common good. There have been weekly conference calls, and daily conversations that put into action the unity that is celebrated in the Chrism Mass. Likewise, the principle of subsidiarity shaped what should be or could be done on the local level across the expanse of our diocese as we gradually opened. Subsidiarity is manifest when all in attendance at the Chrism Mass return to their homes and ministries with the Holy Oils in hand to serve the People of God for another year in their particular circumstances.
Although our Chrism Mass was restricted this year by a once in a century viral tsunami, I saw a church filled to capacity with a cloud of witnesses from around the Diocese with whom we were united in prayer and purpose. I thank all of the leadership in our diocese, ordained and lay, who have redoubled their efforts in these worrisome times to serve the Lord in unanticipated ways. I ask your prayers for our priests, young and older, who like yourselves, are feeling the pain of separation from the people they love. Finally, may you share my joy with the forthcoming celebration of Holy Orders on June 27 when I will anoint Deacon César Sánchez and Deacon Andrew Nguyen with the Oil of Chrism, the beginning of their priesthood in the Diocese of Jackson.

U.S. bishops confront racism and call us to brotherhood

By Tony Magliano
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” With these beautiful words from Scripture (1 John 3:1), the U.S. Catholic bishops introduce us to their recent pastoral letter against racism titled, “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love.”
Just think about it. The almighty God is not a distant slave master, but a close loving father who calls us his children. That is a truly awesome thought! “Yet so we are.”
Thus, no matter what religion we claim or don’t claim, no matter what our nationality is, no matter what our ethnic heritage might be, and no matter what color we are or race we belong to, we all equally share one loving father.
And that unmistakably means that all of us are brothers and sisters!
Imagine how wonderful the world would be if only we would truly take this sacred teaching to heart, and with every thought, word and deed put it into practice.

Tony Magliano

But sadly, this is often not the case. Instead, over and over again many people negatively judge countless other people according to their skin color and/or what nation they or their ancestors are originally from. This is racism. And racism is always ugly and immoral.
The bishops write, “Racism comes in many forms. It can be seen in deliberate, sinful acts. In recent times, we have seen bold expressions of racism by groups as well as individuals. The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public places, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus” (see: https://nyti.ms/2UYzB7k).
Drawing forth specific examples of racism, the bishops highlight the fact that often Hispanics and African Americans “face discrimination in hiring, housing, educational opportunities, and incarceration. Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African Americans, for suspected criminal activity.”
The bishops critically say, “Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees. Finally, too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered.”
Why do so many white people of faith remain largely silent about racism?
I don’t think it’s because most white believers are prejudiced against African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Muslims or any other minority. Rather, as with other social justice and peace issues, it’s a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”
So as a corrective to this serious inattentiveness, let’s pray, educate ourselves on racism, talk with people in minority groups about their experiences, befriend persons of different races and ethnic backgrounds, lobby to increase refugee admissions, and vote for politicians who are committed to pursuing policies of racial/ethnic equality and comprehensive and just immigration reform legislation.
A thoughtful reading of “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love” would be time well spent (see: https://bit.ly/2AadwJo ).
And let us commit ourselves to praying and working for a society and world where as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “People will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” and where all persons recognize each other as brothers and sisters who are all equally loved by the same divine Father.
(Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.)

Editors note: This column is a reflection on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pastoral letter against racism – Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.