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:
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: ).
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

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.

Elders shape the future

Sister Constance Veit, LSP

By Sister Constance Veit, LSP
During February my thoughts turn to two of my favorite biblical figures, Simeon and Anna.
Simeon is described in St. Luke’s Gospel simply as “a man in Jerusalem” and Anna as an 84-year-old “prophetess.” These two elders greet Mary and Joseph as they bring their newborn infant to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. We celebrate this moment in Jesus’ life, referred to as the Presentation in the Temple, on February 2.
Simeon and Anna are not just two pious old people making a fuss over a baby. Each one had been waiting for the coming of the Lord for many years. Their whole lives were defined by their patient, prayerful waiting. When the moment came, they recognized Jesus as the Messiah and testified on his behalf before all the people.
Pope Francis wrote, “When Mary and Joseph reached the temple to fulfill the law, Simeon and Anna jumped to their feet. They were moved by the Holy Spirit. This elderly couple recognized the child and discovered a new inner strength that allowed them to bear witness.”
Simeon and Anna have an important message for our time. They represent the crucial role of older people who “have the courage to dream,” as Pope Francis said. “Only if our grandparents have the courage to dream and our young people imagine great things will our society go on.” Francis believes that older people who dream are able to move forward creatively as they envision a future.
“Without the witness of their elders’ lives, the plans of young people will have neither roots nor wisdom,” he said. “Today more than ever, the future generates anxiety, insecurity, mistrust and fear. Only the testimony of elders will help young people look above the horizon to see the stars. Just learning that it is worth fighting for something will help young people face the future with hope.”
We Little Sisters are privileged to share our lives with many successors of Simeon and Anna – older people who have persevered in their faith through the years as they sought a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Among them is a woman I know who poured her life-savings into the rehabilitation of a child stuck in the cycle of drug addiction, and who later sacrificed her own comfort to support three generations of her family members who were displaced after a hurricane ravaged their island home.
Another resident, a tiny woman in her mid-80’s, divides her time between helping in our chapel and working in the parish founded by her priest-brother – the only Vietnamese parish in our diocese – helping with sundry tasks and taking Holy Communion to the sick.
I recently attended Mass at this Vietnamese parish as part of our annual fund raising appeal and enjoyed seeing our resident in action. While she and many of the women of the parish wore their traditional Vietnamese tunics and flowing pants in bright hues and varied designs, most of the young people came to church in the jeans, yoga pants and baggy sweatshirts typical of American youth.
The liturgy was completely in Vietnamese. I saw what a fine line these young people walk – with one foot planted firmly in the land of their parents and grandparents and the other in America.
I was touched to see that even the young people venerated our resident. As she scurried around the church attending to many details, she would give the young people a quick word of direction in Vietnamese or a charming smile of encouragement.
Our residents embody Pope Francis’ dream of elders as “a choir of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise support the larger community that works and struggles in the field of life.”
Although I am not yet a senior it won’t be long before I am, and I am grateful for the example of our residents who, like Simeon and Anna, are teaching me how to assume the mantle of a wise elder in the believing community.

(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor. )

Northeast Hispanic Community Annual Encounter

By Berta Mexidor
TUPELO – Hundreds of parishioners gathered in the church of St. James on Saturday, Oct. 19 to hold a gathering of Hispanic families, youth and community leaders from all over the north part of the Diocese of Jackson under the motto “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” based on 1Samuel 3:9-10.
The main speaker of the event was Alejandro Siller-González who was born in Mexico and works at the Congar Institute in San Antonio, Texas. Siller-González worked at the Mexican Cultural Center for several years until 2014 and has actively participated in the National Committee of the V Encuentro. Siller-Gonzalez addressed the youth at the event with the topic “Faith and Culture.” In his conference Siller-González told an anecdote about how important it is to call people by name because God communicates to each one by name, and each time the answer must be that of Samuel “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” To identify when God speaks “You need to have a very close relationship with God and know him better,” summed up Siller-González.
Danna Johnson, community leader of the Deanery V, says that “… More than three hundred people from all over the north approached the event, not counting the children.” This activity is celebrated annually. “We need models of laypeople and families to help the church,” Danna concluded. The organizing team received the participation of the parishes of Southaven, Holly Springs, Vardaman, Columbus, Corinth, New Albany, Pontotoc, Houston and Tupelo. Daisy Martínez, coordinator of young Latinos in the Office of Intercultural Ministries of the Diocese, said that ”It was beautiful to see the number of people who gathered on this cloudy Saturday to open their hearts to the message of the day, let God’s will be our will and remember that God’s time is perfect.” During the day, the priests Mario Solorzano of Corinth, Jesuraj Xavier of New Albany and Roberto Mena, ST of Forest, offered reconciliation and Mass with the assistance of Deacon Francisco Martínez.
At the end of the work sessions and conferences the singer-songwriter, Jesus Rodríguez directed a song and praise session that included a song of his own “Speak Lord that your servant listens.” Rodríguez, of Mexico, has two record productions and is a Doctor of Medicine. He is recognized as one of the most important Spanish-speaking Catholic singers. Rodríguez encouraged the audience to sing to the Lord with a phrase he repeated several times. “When you sing, you pray twice.”


Answering the Call

Father Nick Adam

On Oct. 24, I invited leaders from around the diocese to St. Richard Parish to help me launch a Serra Club. Named in honor of the recently canonized St. Junipero Serra, who brought the Catholic faith to mission territories throughout the Southwest, Serrans are supporting vocations across the country through prayer, time, talent and in many other ways.
I have been positively impacted by the ministry of Serrans and I believe that a Serra Club could immediately help the Vocations Office accomplish two tasks:

1) To provide a base of lay support for vocation promotion initiatives (such as helping with discernment retreats, diocesan events, etc.) and
2) To provide a base of pray-ers, dedicated to praying for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

I hope to develop even more ways to use the Serrans to spark vocations and support our mission. A representative from the Archdiocese of New Orleans traveled to Jackson to run the meeting since this will be the first Serra Club established in the State of Mississippi. If you are interested in becoming a Serran, please contact the Office of Vocations and for more information on what Serrans do, visit Father Nick Adam

Vocations Events

Friday, Nov. 8-10, – “Come and See” Weekend, This is a helpful discernment retreat for young men considering a call to the priesthood. They get to see a seminary in a low-pressure environment with dozens of other men considering their own future. St. Joseph Seminary College, Covington, Louisiana

Creating and holding space for our brokenness

Father Ron Rolheiser

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Some years ago I went on a weekend retreat given by a woman who made no secret about the fact that not being able to have children constituted a deep wound in her life. So she offered retreats on the pain of being unable to have children. Being a celibate and not having my own children, I went on one of these retreats, the only man to venture there. The rest of the participants were women, mostly in their 40s and 50s, who had not borne children of their own.
Our leader, using scripture, biography, poetry and psychology, examined the issue of barrenness from many points of view. The retreat came to a head on Saturday evening with a ritual in chapel in which various participants went up to a huge cross and spoke out their pain for Jesus and everyone else to hear. That was followed by us watching, together, the British movie, Secrets and Lies, within which one woman’s heartache at being unable to conceive a child is powerfully highlighted. Afterwards there was a lot of honest sharing of feelings – and lots and lots of tears! But after that painful sharing of pain and the over-generous tears which accompanied it, the entire atmosphere changed, as if some dark storm had just done its thing but left us still intact. There was relief and plenty of laughter and lightheartedness. A storm had indeed passed us over and we were safe.
“All pain can be borne if it can be shared.” Art Schopenhauer is credited with saying that, but irrespective of who said it first, it captures what happened at that retreat. A deep pain was made easier to bear not because it was taken away but because it was shared, and shared in a “sacramental” way. Yes, there are sacraments that don’t take place in a church, but still have sacramental power. And we need more of these.
For example, Rachel Held Evans writes: “Often I hear from readers who have left their churches because they had no songs for them to sing after the miscarriage, the shooting, the earthquake, the divorce, the diagnosis, the attack, the bankruptcy. The American tendency toward triumphalism, of optimism rooted in success, money, and privilege, will infect and sap of substance any faith community that has lost its capacity for holding space for those in grief.”
She’s right. Our churches aren’t creating enough space for holding grief. In essence: In the everyday, practical spirituality of community, prayer, liturgy and Eucharist within our churches we don’t lean sufficiently on the fact that Christ is both a dying and a rising reality. We generally don’t take the dying part of Christ as seriously as we should. What are the consequences?
Among other things, it means that we don’t create enough communal, ritual celebrations in our churches within which people can feel free to own and express their brokenness and grief communally and in a “sacramental” way. Granted our churches do have funeral rites, sacraments of the sick, reconciliation services, special prayer services after a tragedy within a community and other rituals and gatherings that are powerful spaces for holding grief and brokenness. However (with the exception of the sacrament of reconciliation which though is generally a private, one-to-one ritual) these are generally tied to a special, singular circumstance such as a death, a serious sickness or an episodic tragedy within a community. What we lack are regular ecclesially-based communal rituals, analogous to an Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, around which people can come, share their brokenness and experience a grace that can only come from community.
We need various kinds of “sacramental” celebrations in our churches within which, to use Rachel Held Evans’ terminology, we can create and hold space for those who are grieving a broken heart, a miscarriage, an abortion, a dire medical diagnosis, a bankruptcy, the loss of a job, a divorce, a forced retirement, a rejection in love, the death of a cherished dream, the movement into assisted living, the adjustment to an empty nest within a marriage, barrenness and frustrations of every kind.
What will these rituals look like? Mostly they don’t exist yet so it is up to us to invent them. Charles Taylor suggests that the religious struggle today is not so much a struggle of faith but a struggle of the imagination. Nobody has ever lived in this kind of world before. We need some new rituals. We’re pioneers in new territory and pioneers have to improvise. Admittedly, pain and brokenness have always been with us, but past generations had communal ways of creating space for holding grief. Families, communities and churches then had less of a struggle with the kind individualism that today leaves us mostly alone to deal with our brokenness. Today there’s no longer a sufficient communal and ecclesial structure to help us accept that, here in this life, we live “mourning and weeping in a valley of tears.”
We need to imagine some new, sacramental rituals within which to help hold our grief.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website Now on Facebook

Journey of faith into order of Discalced Carmelite Seculars

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – On July 27, as the morning light shown through the stained-glass windows depicting Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Therese at the Carmelite Monastery chapel in South Jackson, four ladies were celebrated at a special Mass to further their commitment to the Discalced Carmelite Seculars.
Father Jorge Cabrera, OCD of the Mount Carmel Center in Dallas, Texas, Father Kevin Slattery and Deacon John McGregor were on hand to celebrate Mass and welcome Elizabeth Jones, making her rite of admission, as well as, Elena Buno, Maria Asuncion Cannon and Rizalina Caskey making their public petition of first promise.
Not to be confused with the Carmelite nuns, the Discalced Carmelite Seculars come from all walks of life, from every level of education and from every type of work. Seculars can be lay Catholic women and men over 18 years of age or ordained diocesan priests or deacons. There are over 45,000 Discalced Carmelite Seculars worldwide and more than 6,000 in the US. Each make a commitment to seek the face of God in prayer for the good of the Church and the needs of the world.
Elizabeth Jones of St. Richard Jackson is one seeking that commitment, as she received the secular order’s signature brown scapular with her rite of admission to the formation. When she was younger, a movie about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world, drew Jones in to wanting to explore the life of a religious. As she got a little older, Jones realized that she wanted to have a family and found that the Carmelite Seculars would allow her the “perfect balance of being able to still continue to pray and still have a family.”
As a graduate student at Jackson State University studying public health with a concentration in epidemiology, Jones aspires to continue her studies and growth in prayer to the formation of the rite of first promise in a few years.
At the celebratory Mass, Maria Asuncion Cannon, Elena Buno and Rizalina Caskey of St. Jude Pearl, all took the next step in the order by accepting their rite of first promise, which requires a minimum of two years of study and growth in prayer, the apostolate and community life.
Buno’s interest began in the order after she met the Carmelite nuns and started volunteering at the Carmelite gift shop. What ultimately led her to the secular were “the nuns . . . and the desire to deepen [her] relationship with Mary and Jesus Christ and to deepen my prayer and spiritual life.”
Families also play a large part in shaping the faith formation of the secular orders members. Caskey’s family reared her in the Catholic church and she always felt “inclined to the religious life” when she was a little girl. “That did not happen because I got married, but now I’m widowed,” said Caskey.
She came to Jackson from Phoenix, Arizona and did not know about the Carmelite nuns until she “ran into the nuns at a store” and asked them about the order.

Fascinated by her encounter, Caskey got involved the Carmelite secular and began to meet with them every month. She feels “so blessed” that she pursued more knowledge and is thankful for the close-knit community. Caskey plans to take the next step, which is the rite of definitive promise after at least three more years of continued growth and prayer.
It is no surprise that the Carmelite nuns play such a huge part in inspiring others into a relationship with Christ. Juanita Butler, a member of the seculars and Holy Ghost Jackson, was introduced to the monastery when she was a little girl.
“My Mom would come [to the Monastery] for us to hear the nuns sing. They were all behind the wall. We didn’t see them, but we heard them. They sounded like angels,” Butler reminisced.
As a child, “I said ‘Momma, one day I’m going behind that wall,” Butler asserted. Her mother was in disbelief at the certainty of her young daughter saying, “Don’t you know you cannot go behind the wall unless you are a Carmelite nun?” To that Butler responded, “Why not? I can do it.” She laughed a little and said, “here I am today a secular.”
Butler and the Holy Ghost Jackson choir uplifted all in attendance with their joyous hymns accompanied by drums and piano.
Asuncion Cannon summed up the occasion offering that “the Holy Spirit” guided them all to the order and to be followers of Christ.
The third order of Carmel meets monthly at St. Richard Jackson and welcomes all to join them in prayer and study. For more information call Dorothy Ashley, OCDS at 601-259-0885.

(Tereza Ma also contributed to this story.)

From the Holy Land to Mississippi

From the Holy Land to Mississippi

By Carlisle Beggerly
HOLY LAND – One of my favorite things about being Catholic is the church’s ancient devotion to holy relics. Over the years, I have been blessed to obtain quite a few of them. They range from pieces of bone from the bodies of saints to clothing that belonged to them to even articles associated with Christ Himself. The most prized relic of which I have custody is a tiny fragment of the True Cross of Our Lord, discovered by Saint Helena in the Holy Land when she made a pilgrimage there after her son’s conversion to Christianity.
This summer I was able to visit the same sites which Helena visited some 1,700 years ago and to obtain holy relics to bring back for veneration. Like her, this was not my only reason for going to the Holy Land. To walk in the footsteps of Christ draws the believer closer to the Lord and one cannot help but be transformed in some way by the experience. However, I wanted to recover physical, tangible reminders of those places in which God has made His presence known in a unique and corporeal way.
There are few places on earth where the very ground on which one walks is considered sacred. Lourdes, Fatima, the Catacombs of Rome perhaps come to mind. But nowhere is so holy as the land designated by the moniker Terra Sancta. Here, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Mother of God made her home here and raised up a son to be called the savior of the world.
The first stones I gathered were in Hebron, the location of the Oak of Mamre where all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves to Abraham. From here we went to the Cave of the Patriarchs, the resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. The next day I found olive leaves in the City of David; a stone from Caiphas’s palace; and a piece of the Pool of Siloam where Our Lord healed the man born blind. I came upon a sliver of the cave in which Saint Gabriel announced to the Shepherds the birth of Jesus before serving Holy Mass at the Church of the Nativity. A friar gave me scrapings of the walls of the cave where Our Lady nursed the Lord before setting out for Egypt, a drop of her milk having turned the limestone thereof a brilliant, lactescent white when it fell to the ground.
Over the next days, I procured some stone from the Jordan River where the Lord was baptized and later gathered flowers on the Mount of the Beatitudes and the site of the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. I gained a bit of the house of Saint Peter before traveling to Bethlehem where I collected pieces of Saint Joseph’s house and the grotto of the Annunciation.
After a week of archaeological excavation at a first century synagogue in the Golan Heights, I extracted a bit of the Mensa Christi, a makeshift stone table on which the Resurrected Lord cooked breakfast for His disciples along the shores of Galilee. On the following morning, I acquired stones from the site of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor after serving at the Holy Sacrifice there. At Jericho, I picked up a rock from the stream St. Elisha made potable again by casting salt into it and a seed from a descendant of the Zacchaeus sycamore.

We then returned to Jerusalem where I was able to fetch a bit of Lazarus’s tomb before collecting relics from the site where Our Lord taught the Pater Noster and the place where He wept over Jerusalem. We went to the Garden of Gethsemane from which I plucked some olive leaves; took stone from the birthplace and location of the Dormition of Our Lady; the place of the Ascension; the Caenaculum; and King David’s tomb.
As my pilgrimage came to an end, while at Mass inside the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre, I managed to find a bit of stone which had come loose from the interior walls. It serves to remind me of the extraordinary moment when I received the Sacred Body of the Lord in Communion inside the tomb of His Resurrection. Here I also retrieved some rock from the recesses of the cavern in which Saint Helena found that holiest of relics, the True Cross.
I now write this back at home in Mississippi as I gaze at the two reliquaries containing the tiny treasures from my journey. Like Helena before me, I look on these relics with holy joy. They are more than mere souvenirs. They contain a bit of the sacred in a bodily form. They are blessed by the presence of God and His saints. They serve as a prompt to recall the memories of the countless pilgrims who have gone before me. They evoke a kind of anemnesis of the whole economy of salvation. The stones themselves remember and attest to the Glory of God and His Incarnation. My humble collection is a connection to the special place on this planet where the incorporeal God was made flesh. These are sacred gifts of a holy land that I will treasure for many years to come.

(Carlisle W. Beggerly is a seminarian for the Diocese of Jackson studying at Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans after studies in Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Franklin, Wis.)