Super Bowl Blues: When Atlanta rhymes with Mylanta

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – I get it when people tell us to just get over it.
That’s normally a therapeutic suggestion. Holding onto anger – like tightly clenching shards of glass in a balled fist – can become much more than a flesh wound to the soul.
Just open your hand and let the shards fall to the floor!
And yet …
There is something about what happened – or did not happen – in the NFC Championship Game Jan. 20 that has left citizens of the Who Dat Nation in shock, anger and denial, prompting spiritual leaders to pick up the pieces.
Father Joe Palermo, who spent many years as a spiritual adviser to young men studying for the priesthood at Notre Dame Seminary, became pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Metairie last July. Because he was free on weekends to celebrate Masses across the Archdiocese of New Orleans, he frequently received calls from pastors looking for a “supply priest” for the evening Mass on the first Sunday of February.
“The priest who needed the substitute never would call me personally – it was the poor, unsuspecting secretary who would have no clue and call in October or November,” Father Palermo said, laughing. “I would say, ‘Oh, he’s got a Super Bowl party to go to.’ And she would say, ‘Huh?’ I would tell her, ‘I’ll take the Mass.'”
In all of his years doing the Super Bowl evening Mass – kickoff for the game is 5:25 p.m. – Father Palermo barely was able to fulfill Jesus’ command: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
“Fifty is the most I’ve ever seen at a Super Bowl Mass,” Father Palermo said.
So when Father Palermo became a new pastor, he started thinking about his lonely, echo-inducing Super Bowl Sunday liturgy experience.
“There’s usually only a handful of people in the church, and you want to have a vibrant liturgy,” Father Palermo said. “The more I thought about it, I thought we might not have a Mass during the time of the Super Bowl. But, if the Saints were in the Super Bowl, we were absolutely not going to have it. We would have nobody in the church, and I would be missing the game.”
Father Palermo posted the cancellation notice in his Jan. 27 bulletin, which went to press a couple of days before the Jan. 20 NFC Championship Game between the Saints and the Rams.
Then, all larceny broke out in the Superdome.
The non-call heard round the world robbed the Saints of a near-certain berth in Super Bowl LIII – which, someone noted the other day, might forever be remembered as Super Bowl “LIIIE.”
“That was a game-changer,” said Father Palermo, who was at the game and saw the officials’ sin of omission face-to-face on the HD Jumbotron, not as a shadowy crime through a confessional screen.

Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis during the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome Jan. 20, 2019. (CNS photo/Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters) See NFC-SAINTS-PIECES Feb. 1, 2019.

The next day, at morning Mass, Father Palermo encountered black-and-gold parishioners who were red-eyed and blue, hurting just as much as he was.
“It was clear that people had been hurt and that they were emotionally down,” Father Palermo said. “It’s funny, because even people who are not big Saints’ fans were telling me, ‘Father, this just doesn’t seem fair and just.’ So, I thought, rather than not have Mass on Super Bowl Sunday evening, we needed to have Mass to celebrate our unity as a community and celebrate all the good things that the Saints have done for us and brought to us – and pray for healing. All those things seemed very well-suited to a celebration.”
As Father Palermo reflected on what he would write for his “Pastor’s Corner” column for the Feb. 3 bulletin, he decided first that the parish would, in fact, offer a Super Bowl Sunday Mass at 5:30 p.m., and he invited everyone attending all five weekend Masses to wear black and gold and stay after Mass for Saints-themed hospitality.
But then, the muse in him could not sit still. In just a few minutes, he penned a new blues’ tune, which he titled, “Super Bowl Blues!”
At the end of Mass on Jan. 27 – during the announcements – he debuted his Casey Kasem Top 40 hit:
“I had my heart set on Atlanta/I’ve got the Super Bowl Blues/The ref’s blown call made me a ranter/I’ve got the Super Bowl Blues/Now I’m drinking straight Mylanta/To shake the Super Bowl Blues!
“I didn’t think anything could rhyme with Mylanta,” Father Palermo said. “That came from out of left field.”
The response? “Applause,” Father Palermo said.
In addition to the post-Mass pastries and coffee Feb. 3, Father Palermo also offered the blessing of the throats, courtesy of the feast of St. Blaise. Many throats were still raw from overuse injuries two weeks earlier.
In his Feb. 3 bulletin, Father Palermo recognized the unique bond between the Saints and the city, especially the team’s role in lifting spirits after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then winning Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
“Thanks be to God we have the Saints,” he wrote. “May we stand with them in this time of suffering, remembering that God didn’t promise justice in this life but victory for the Saints in the life to come. O Lord, bring healing to our grieving team and city, and, next year, help us to win a second Lombardi Trophy – with a heaping helping of Ram gumbo!”
Until then, I’m opening my clenched fist just enough to pick up a baby blue bottle – and swigging straight Mylanta.
A priest told me it would be good for the hole in my soul.

(Finney is executive editor and general manager of Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.)

Briefs nation and world

Catholic Charities USA leaders outline immediate, long-term goals
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Two top Catholic Charities USA leaders outlined some of the short-term and long-term goals for the organization and its affiliates throughout the country Feb. 3 during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Catholic Charities is in the midst of a five-year strategic plan to more sharply identify areas where it believes it can make a difference, said Brian Corbin, executive vice president of member services. One of those areas is refugee resettlement and immigration policy. Corbin said it has worked with Migration and Refugees Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to place 16,000 refugees across the country in collaboration with local Catholic Charities affiliates that have located sponsor families to help resettle those refugees. It also has partnered with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Corbin said, on issues surrounding the continued migration of Latin Americans to the United States. Affordable housing is another of Catholic Charities USA’s strategic priorities. “In your own town, you probably know there are housing issues,” Corbin said. “Catholic Charities as an institution is the largest nonpublic provider of housing after the government. We are there. We will continue to be there,” he said to applause. Catholic Charities’ commitment extends to shelters, domestic-violence shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing, he said.

House members introduce bipartisan measure to ban abortions at 20 weeks
WASHINGTON (CNS) – U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, was joined by more than 100 other members of the House Jan. 24 in introducing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act of 2019, a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Smith, a Catholic, who is co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, is the lead sponsor of the bill, which cites research showing that unborn babies “can feel agonizing pain” at 20 weeks of development. “The majority of Americans — some 59 percent according to a recent poll — support legal protection for pain-capable unborn children,” Smith said in introducing the bill. He was referring to results of an annual poll of Americans’ views on abortion conducted by the Marist Poll at Marist College and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The poll also showed that 75 percent of respondents want “substantial” restrictions on abortion access even as more than half of respondents describe themselves as “pro-choice.” The poll was conducted Jan. 8-10 and the results were released ahead of the Jan. 18 March for Life. “Today we know that unborn babies not only die but suffer excruciating pain during dismemberment abortion — a cruelty that rips arms and legs off a helpless child,” Smith said. “This tragic human rights abuse must end.”

Priest who was former national Renew leader and beloved pastor dies
TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) – Msgr. Robert D. Fuller, an Arizona priest who was a national leader of the Renew movement in the early 1980s and a beloved pastor in the Tucson Diocese, died Jan. 23. He was 88. “We are privileged from time to time to meet a living giant,” said retired Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, who worked with Msgr. Fuller for most of the last two decades. “I experienced that when I met Msgr. Fuller. He was an outstanding priest, a great preacher and a person of deep faith. He now enjoys the fulfillment of what he preached.” Tucson Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger will be the main concelebrant of a funeral Mass Feb. 1 for Msgr. Fuller at St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson, followed by interment at Holy Hope Cemetery. Ordained a priest for the Tucson Diocese April 25, 1956, his assignments included serving as director of the Bureau of Information, which later became the diocesan Communications Office. He was appointed editor and business manager of the Arizona Register, as the diocesan newspaper was called, on June 7, 1963, after serving as assistant editor in 1961-63. Msgr. Fuller left Tucson for five years, from 1981 to 1986, to work for Renew, which is based in Newark, New Jersey. Renew fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition at the parish level by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life.

Bishop tells Covington Catholic High School community he stands with them
COVINGTON, Ky. (CNS) – You could literally hear a pin drop as the faculty, staff and student body of Covington Catholic High School waited in the gym Jan. 23 for the arrival of Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys. The bishop was there to address the students about the events that took place Jan. 18, after the March for Life in Washington, where a student standing face-to-face with a Native American elder was captured on video and ignited a firestorm on social media — making headlines around the world. Bob Rowe, principal, opened with a prayer and introduced Bishop Foys, who said: “These last four days have been a living hell for many of you, for your parents, for your relatives, for your friends and it certainly has been for me.” He told the assembly they are “under all kinds of pressure from a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons.” The bishop also told the assembly that the contingent of students who went to the March for Life represented the best of the church and the diocese by standing up for life. Bishop Foys said an independent third party is investigating the Jan. 18 events that followed the march and he asked everyone to stay off of social media with regard to those events until the matter is resolved. “Regardless of what you heard or what you’ve read or what you think, I am on your side. I want you to come out of this in a positive light,” he said.

Vatican underlines support of universal health care coverage
GENEVA (CNS) – The Vatican supports efforts to build stronger and sustainable essential health care services on the way toward achieving universal health coverage, a Vatican official said. The Catholic Church is part of this effort in providing primary care to people in need and always “with due recognition to the sacredness of human life, from conception to natural death,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva. Speaking to the executive board of the World Health Organization Jan. 28, the archbishop noted the organization’s call for a renewal of primary health care and the Sustainable Development Goals’ target of universal health coverage to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The Holy See affirms the call to mobilize all stakeholders to take joint action to build stronger and sustainable primary health care toward achieving universal health coverage,” he said in a brief address. In fact, over the course of 2018, “Catholic-inspired organizations provided health care at 5,287 hospitals and 15,397 dispensaries, 15,722 residential programs for the elderly and for persons living with debilitating chronic illnesses and other disabilities in all parts of the world,” he said.

Pope arrives in Abu Dhabi, praying for nearby Yemen
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – The sun had set long before Pope Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi Feb. 3, but Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince, and Egyptian Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, still went to the airport to welcome him. It had been a rare rainy day on the southeast coast of the Arabian peninsula, which, the pope told reporters traveling with him, was seen as a sign of blessing by the people of the United Arab Emirates. Since the pope arrived at almost 10 p.m. local time, the official welcoming ceremony was scheduled for the next day. But there was a brief greeting inside the President’s Airport. The pope then went to Al Mushrif Palace, the government’s guesthouse for visiting foreign dignitaries.

Youth at Mass for Life thanked for offering sign of hope for the future

By Mark Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – They came from near and far, and even from Down Under, united in prayer and in standing together for life at the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life, held Jan. 18 at the Capital One Arena in Washington.
The estimated crowd of 18,000 came from the Washington area and from across the country and were joined by young adults from Sydney on their way to World Youth Day in Panama.
The main celebrant at the Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, entered and left the arena smiling and waving a blessing to the spirited crowd of teens and young adults, many of whom wore colorful, matching hats or sweatshirts along with their school uniforms.
They had come, the archbishop said, for a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and to stand up and speak out for all those who are vulnerable in society, and also “to give thanks to God for the gift of life.”
“Dear young people, thank you for the witness of your Catholic faith, both now in holy Mass, on the streets of Washington, and more importantly, when you return home to your families and neighborhoods,” he said.
Archbishop Pierre read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was united in prayer with the thousands of young people who had come to Washington to join the March for Life. The pontiff in his message said the challenging task for each generation is “to uphold the inviolable dignity of human life.” The pope’s message said respect for the sacredness of every life is essential in building a just society, where every child, and every person, is welcomed as a brother and sister.
Fifteen other bishops concelebrated the Mass including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher who was accompanying the Australian pilgrims. About 175 priests also concelebrated the Mass, assisted by about 30 permanent deacons.
The arena crowd also included an estimated 500 seminarians and 100 women religious.
Opening his homily at the Mass, Father Robert Boxie III, the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, said, “To see this arena filled with the Body of Christ, I’m looking out and seeing hope for the future of our church, and hope for the future of our country. It’s an awesome and beautiful sight!”
Noting that the first reading at the Mass included the passage from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” the priest added, “The womb is the first place God encounters us. God encounters us in the womb and seeks to encounter us in each moment of our lives.”

A participant cheers while attending a pro-life youth rally and Mass at Capital One Arena in Washington Jan. 18 before the annual March for Life. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)


West Point native appointed to USCCB post

Allison McGinn

WASHINGTON — West Point, Mississippi native Allison McGinn has been appointed as Executive Director of the Office of Human Resources for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
McGinn was not raised Catholic. She started RCIA to learn more about the faith when her children started Catholic school in Virginia. She felt called to the church through the classes. Monsignor Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment which took effect January 7.
“Allison has a wealth of experience as a Human Resources professional. I am confident that her skills and abilities will be of tremendous value to the USCCB, and I am grateful to her for accepting this important position in service to the bishops and to the Church,” said Msgr. Bransfield.
McGinn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Educational Psychology from Mississippi State University. She holds senior-level certifications in Human Resources from both the Society for Human Resources Management and the Human Resources Certification Institute.
Most recently, McGinn was self-employed as a Human Resources Consultant, working with firms in the areas of performance management, employee benefits and compensation, recruiting, HR policy and compliance. Prior to her consulting work, McGinn oversaw the HR function for organizations in the government contracting and airline industries, including over 18 years of service with US Airways.
McGinn lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and two daughters. They attend the Basilica of St. Mary Church in Old Town.
McGinn takes on the leadership of the department after the tenure of Theresa Ridderhoff, who had served until recently as Executive Director of Human Resources and was appointed as USCCB Associate General Secretary.

Bishop Howze dies at 95; was founding bishop of Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.

By Terrance P. Dickson (CNS)
BILOXI – Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi and the first black bishop in the 20th century to head a U.S. diocese, was laid to rest Wednesday, Jan. 16. He died Jan. 9 at the age of 95.

Bishop Howze

Eight bishops, including Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, presided at this funeral along with another 50 priests and about as many family members. Archbishop Thomas Rodi, of the Archdiocese of Mobile, presided.
“While we are saddened by the death of Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, we rejoice in his life,” said Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi. “His was a life well lived in faithful service to almighty God and to the people of Mississippi, both as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and later as first bishop of Biloxi from 1977 to 2001.”
Noting that establishing a new diocese was difficult work, Bishop Kihneman said Bishop Howze was “very proud of what he, with the help of devoted clergy, religious and laity, accomplished during his tenure” and was “forever grateful to the people of the diocese for their unfailing generosity of time, talent and treasure.”
Bishop Kopacz commented on Bishop Howze’s legacy as a leader and evangelizer in the black Catholic community locally and nationally.
Despite deteriorating health in recent years, Bishop Howze remained interested in events in the diocese, Bishop Kihneman said.
“He loved the Diocese of Biloxi and prayed unceasingly for its continued success. He had a genuine concern for the salvation of souls,” he added.
Joseph Lawson Howze was born in Daphne, Alabama, Aug. 30, 1923, to Albert Otis Howze Sr. and Helen (Lawson) Howze. He began his school years at Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Mobile, Alabama, but his first year of school was interrupted in 1928 by the death of his mother, just six days after she bore her fourth child. The eldest, then age 5, young Lawson (Joseph is his baptismal name) was shuttled back and forth between the homes of his grandparents, aunts and father, who later remarried and fathered three more children.
After graduating as valedictorian of his 1944 high school class, a young Lawson Howze graduated with honors and as president of the senior class from Alabama State College. He had intended to study medicine, but instead earned a bachelor’s degree in science and education and began teaching biology and chemistry at Central High School in Mobile.

Bishop Howze first had been a Baptist, then a Methodist, serving as a choir director and church organist and pianist. But while teaching at Central High School he was drawn to the Catholic faith through the example of Marion Carroll Jr., one of seven Catholic students in his biology class. Soon he began instruction in the Catholic faith under the direction of Josephite Father Benjamin Horton.
At age 25 on Dec. 4, 1948, he was baptized a Catholic at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Mobile. An interest in the priesthood soon developed. After inquiring about becoming a priest with Bishop Vincent S. Waters of Raleigh, North Carolina, he later was adopted as a student for the diocese and began studies at the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo, New York.
The young Howze became the first black priest ordained in North Carolina, when he was welcomed to the priesthood in 1959 in the Diocese of Raleigh. He subsequently celebrated his first Mass at the parish in Mobile where he was baptized. He served as pastor of several parishes in North Carolina during his 13 years of ministry there.
In November 1972, St. Paul VI appoint Father Howze as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, Mississippi. His episcopal ordination followed on Jan. 28, 1973, in Jackson.
Within a year, Bishop Howze accepted the presidency of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
On March 8, 1977, Bishop Howze was appointed as the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Biloxi.
Bishop Joseph Latino, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Jackson, sent his condolences to the church in Biloxi. “From being a convert to Catholicism and then following His Lord’s call to the priesthood, Bishop Howze was fully enveloped in his Christian faith. With his appointment as auxiliary bishop of the then Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and subsequent historic appointment as the first Bishop of Biloxi, he ministered through good times and challenges with the steady hand and heart of a devoted shepherd,” said Bishop Latino.
During his leadership of the Biloxi Diocese, Bishop Howze served on several U.S. bishops’ committees focusing on justice, peace, interreligious and ecumenical affairs, and black Catholic ministry.
Bishop Howze held several honorary degrees and was a member of the Knights of Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus.
He retired May 15, 2001, after serving the Biloxi Diocese for 24 years.
After his funeral, a horse-drawn carriage took him to the newly-esablished prayer garden for bishops behind the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral.

(Dickson is editor of Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Biloxi. Maureen Smith contributed to this report.)

Retiro de los Obispos

Por Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) Catholic News Service
Aunque el retiro de una semana de duración para los obispos católicos de Estados Unidos hizo hincapié en la reflexión tranquila, varios obispos hablaron en las redes sociales durante y luego del retiro, que concluyó el 8 de enero, con una reacción positiva al respecto y ensalzar al líder del retiro, el padre capuchino Raniero Cantalamessa, quien ha predicado a los papas y altos funcionarios de la Curia romana durante casi 40 años.

U.S. bishops listen to the homily at Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during their Jan. 2-8 retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Un obispo dijo que escuchar al padre Cantalamessa era como estar en presencia de los primeros teólogos cristianos. “Claro, intensamente lleno del Espíritu Santo, y todo por el Reino de Dios”, dijo el obispo auxiliar Michael J. Boulette de San Antonio en un tweet. “Sigamos orando los unos por los otros, nuestra iglesia y nuestro mundo. ¡Una bendición de estar aquí!” El arzobispo Paul D. Etienne de Anchorage, Alaska,
tuiteó que el líder del retiro era un “verdadero instrumento del Señor”. El obispo Lawrence T. Persico, de Erie, Pensilvania, describió las pláticas y homilías del padre Cantalamessa como “poderosas y atractivas”. El obispo auxiliar de Boston, Mark W. O’Connell, dijo que fue una “experiencia verdaderamente bendecida” estar en un retiro con el padre Cantalamessa, “El Espíritu Santo estaba poderosamente presente, y yo estaba bastante conmovido”, tuiteó.
El Papa Francisco sugirió al Padre Cantalamessa de 84 años, que ha servido como predicador de la casa papal desde 1980. El tiempo de oración del 2 al 8 de enero en el Seminario Mundelein en la Universidad de St. Mary of the Lake, cerca de Chicago, se planificó en gran medida en respuesta a las revelaciones del verano pasado sobre las denuncias de abuso sexual que alcanzaron los niveles más altos de la iglesia de Estados Unidos.
En un correo electrónico a CNS semanas antes del retiro, el Padre Cantalamessa dijo: “El Santo Padre me pidió que estuviera disponible para dirigir una serie de ejercicios espirituales para la conferencia episcopal para que los obispos, lejos de sus compromisos diarios, en un clima de oración, en silencio y en un encuentro personal con el Señor, puedan recibir la fuerza y la luz del Espíritu Santo para encontrar las soluciones correctas para los problemas que afligen a la iglesia de los Estados Unidos hoy en día “, agregó..

Obituary for Sister Mary Ann Grausam, SLW

Sister Mary Ann Grausam

CHICAGO – Sister of the Living Word Mary Ann Grausam died December 5 in Chicago.
Born in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1940, Sister Mary Ann made her final vows in 1967. She joined the Sisters of the Living Word in 1975. She taught in schools in Iowa and Michigan, and served as a pastoral minister in Michigan, Mississippi, and Illinois. She was the Novice Director for the SLW for 14 years.
In the Diocese of Jackson, she was a pastoral associate at Carthage St. Anne from 1992–1994, at Canton Sacred Heart from 1992–2001, and at Holy Child Jesus from 1992–2001. She was a Social Service Minster at Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Holly Springs from 2002–2003 and Director of RCIA at St. Joseph in Holly Springs from 2012–2013. She also was a homeless shelter volunteer from 2012–2013, and in prayer ministry in Holly Springs from 2013–2015.
Her funeral Mass was December 8 at St Martha in Morton Grove, Illinois.
Sister Mary Ann is survived by her sisters Patricia (Steve) Burdick and Nanette (Robert) Helgeson; her brothers Robert (Nancy) Grausam, Michael (Kathleen) Grausam, Tom (late Theresa) Grausam, John (Evie) Grausam and James (Sandra) Grausam and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.

Obituary for Sister Mary Joan Mike

Sister Mary Joan

NEW ORLEANS – Sister Mary Joan (aka Sister Mary Jo) Mike, the long-time principal of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School, passed away on January 2, at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans after a second battle with cancer. Sister Mary Jo was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on November 30, 1951.
She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Agnes Mike.
Sister Mary Jo is survived by her sibling sister, Judi Berger; her nieces and nephews; and her dearest friends, Margy and Dale Van Lerberghe of Port Clinton, Ohio.
Sister Mary Jo came to the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, from her Presentation Parish in St. Paul in 1970. She made her First Profession of religious vows in 1972 and her Final Profession in 1975. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the former Mary Manse College in Toledo and her Master’s from the University of Detroit. She taught in schools in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Louisiana and served as principal in Ohio and Mississippi. She served on the Sylvanian Franciscan Health Board for several years. She also held leadership positions in the Diocese of Biloxi where she was the beloved Principal of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Elementary school for 27 years. Sister Mary Jo mentored several generations of children in Biloxi and beyond.
Attesting to her superior work in education, Sister Mary Jo received the highly acclaimed Principal of the Year Award given by the National Catholic Education Association in 2015 held at their annual convention in Orlando. That same year, Sister Mary Jo served as a liaison to the Holy See in a symposium held for Catholic Education throughout the world.
She was awarded for her 25 years of service at Nativity BVM Elementary School in 2017 with a plaque and a ticket to the Saints/Viking opening game (being an avid football fan). Not only did Sister Mary Jo excel in leadership in our Catholic Schools, she was a valuable community leader in Biloxi highly respected for her willing cooperation with the City. Sister Mary Jo came to the assistance of the City of Biloxi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when she opened her school to the City’s first responders, whose facilities were heavily damaged and turned it into a “M.A.S.H. unit.” By her cooperation, the City’s firemen and policemen operated out of the school in the immediate days following the catastrophe. Despite the chaos, and amidst damaged buildings, Sister Mary Jo managed the school’s reopening for regular classes within only a few weeks after the storm.
Sister Mary Jo was an outstanding school principal. She helped develop Nativity BVM Elementary school as a premier Catholic elementary school excelling in academics, child health, sports, robotics, and faith. She was instrumental in developing the only Special Education component within the Catholic School System in the Diocese of Biloxi. Over the years, she built up a highly qualified and stable staff of teachers which the school enjoys even to this day.
To know Sister Mary Jo was to know someone who loved her vocation as a religious Sister and educator. She loved her God, her religious community, her students, co-workers and the many families she served. Her sense of humor, her ready smile, her bravery under duress (cancer and hurricanes) are just some of the characteristics of Sister Mary Jo Mike that will be dearly missed by the Sisters in her community, her sister, her family as well as the beloved people of Nativity BVM Mary Parish in Biloxi.
A visitation for Sister Mary Jo was held at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday evening, January 3. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Friday, January 4. Sr. Mary Jo will be sent to Sylvania, Ohio for interment in Porta Coeli Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, Sister Mary Jo requested that donations be made to The Nativity School Foundation. The proceeds from this perpetual foundation go directly to tuition reduction of the parents of school children. Donations should be mailed to Nativity School Foundation, P.O. Box 453, Biloxi, MS 39533-0453.

Nine Days for Life novena available

WASHINGTON – On January 14, thousands of Catholics across the country will join in prayer for “9 Days for Life.” The prayer campaign, sponsored by the Committee on Pro Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, leads up to the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The novena and day of prayer are a time of recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.

The overarching intention of the novena is that all human life will be respected. Each day of the “9 Days for Life” novena highlights a related topic and provides a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. For example, on the first day, the participant is asked to pray “May a culture of life grow ever stronger in our communities.” He or she will then read a reflection taken from Evangelium Vitae and decide which act of reparation to make for that day: abstain from caffeine, unplug from electronics for a time, or offer a sacrifice they feel called to make. Participants can subscribe to receive the daily prayers at
Since 2013 more than 100,000 Catholics have joined together to pray this annual novena for the respect of human life sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. is the dedicated website for joining the novena and for accessing resources. Participants can receive the novena by downloading the free 9 Days for Life app, or by subscribing to daily emails or text messages. A printable version is also available online. Those who join the campaign are invited to pray a multi-faceted novena that includes a new intention, brief reflection, related information, and suggested actions for each day. Participants can also share information about the campaign on social media platforms as they go.

Catholic advocates outline legislative goals for a new Congress

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? Thought not. Neither did several Catholic organizations, despite the last-minute flurry of legislation typical of a lame-duck Congress.
Even though there’s still 300-plus days until Christmas comes around again, those groups have recalibrated their priorities in light of a new, divided Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House and Republicans slightly increasing their heretofore razor-thin edge in the Senate.
Much talk prior to Congress being seated Jan. 3 focused on a “Green New Deal,” a sweeping series of energy efficiency measures that has yet to be written. According to Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, Dan Misleh, the last bill Congress tried to pass was the cap-and-trade bill in the 2009-10 Congress, when Democrats had majorities in both chambers plus a president in the White House.
Since that bill failed, “there really hasn’t been much legislatively happening,” Misleh told Catholic News Service. The Obama administration’s way of dealing with environmental issues was with regulations, but “this administration is rolling a lot of that,” he said. “There really haven’t been a whole lot of initiatives at the federal level that they’re tackling.”
Catholic Rural Life got a farm bill for Christmas – this time without any delays in shipping. It was the first time since George H.W. Bush was president that a new farm bill was enacted the same year the previous one was set to expire.
However, it didn’t come with everything Catholic Rural Life had sought. Still, noted James Ennis, its executive director, there are ways other than a farm bill to get rural America what it needs.
With two years of prep work and education among its members prior to the farm bill, “our hope right now,” Ennis said, is to “continue to keep attentive to the programs that are benefiting rural residents, farms, and having access to healthy food.” How farm bill provisions are implemented are also key, he added.
“There’s a lot of pressure on farmers right now, a lot of pressure,” and even more on smaller, family-run farms, Ennis said. “It’s a risky business. Always has been, but it makes it that much harder when prices are low. Catholic Rural Life is very aware of that, and it works with local parishes and pastors to address it from a pastoral standpoint. But there are policies that also can help – or not help – that situation,” he added.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, the nun-run social justice lobby, isn’t all that sad to see the Republicans lose one chamber of Congress. “What the Republican policies do is blame the people, not the system,” she said.
But what is good for the goose should be good for the gander, she argued. “Since they’re so into work requirements, none of the uber-wealthy should get a benefit for their unearned income unless they have maxed out their earned income on Social Security, which is, I think, $120,000,” Sister Campbell said.
Items she’d like to see addressed include health care and voting rights. “Our election system is being undercut by scheming, conniving people who want to win without seeing the people getting into the system,” she said.
The stocking might not be quite so stuffed, either, for pro-life Americans, to hear Tom McClusky, President of March for Life Action. “The last time Democrats were in power (in the House), there were 40 pro-life Democrats. Now there’s only two,” Reps. Bill Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, McClusky said. “Actual pro-life issues is going to be tough this Congress. In the Senate, (confirming) judges will always be a key thing, but what we’re already seeing on Day One,” he noted Jan. 3, “we’re already playing defense with the president’s foreign and pro-life policies.”
On the flip side of that coin, Catholic Charities USA is looking to the art of the possible, according to Lucas Swanepoel, its vice president for social policy.
Catholic Charities representatives will meet with House and Senate leaders to figure out their priorities and how Catholic Charities’ priorities can mesh with theirs. Then, it’s on to the 90 new members of Congress in both houses. “Most Congresses you have anywhere between 30-50 new members,” Swanepoel said. “It’s going to be a very busy time for our team. I’ll be going to those meetings, sharing the load because there’s so many.”
Two items on Catholic Charities’ wish list are flood insurance reauthorization and disaster assistance. For the former, “it’s critical if you’re in a flood plain and you’re low-income. You’re going to be more impacted by the consequences,” Swanepoel said.
As for the latter, Swanepoel wants to see low-income communities given greater priority. Currently, he said, “a disproportionate amount of the money will go toward Main Street, while low-income individuals are left behind and forgotten.”
But what Catholic Charities wants to get across to lawmakers is that they’re a ready resource. A Catholic Charities affiliate is active somewhere in each House member’s district. Moreover, Swanepoel said, “it’s key to our mission, frankly, the ability to build bridges between people and communities, but also between parties.”