SOUTHAVEN – Sister Margaret Sue Broker shows students at Sacred Heart School how the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday procession are burned to use as ashes to mark everyone’s forehead during this year’s Ash Wednesday. Sister teaches the students how this connects the Liturgical calendar. (Photos courtesy of Laura Grisham)
CLARKSDALE – Cold temperatures didn’t stop the students from St. Elizabeth School from celebrating Mardi Gras with a parade around campus. Older students threw the traditional beads and prizes from convertables to their younger classmates. Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday, was a day to eat all the sweets and meat a family might have to prepare for fasting and abstience during the season of Lent. (Photos by Dawn Spinks)
The Office of Faith Formation will once again offer a diocesan High School Confirmation Retreat. This year’s event is set for March 30-31, at Lake Forest Ranch in Macon. The cost is $50 per person, which covers food, the accommodations and event materials. Each attendee must be registered through a parish by Monday, March 11. Even teens who miss their parish retreat and would like to attend this must register through their parish to attend.
Famous Mississippian interviewed
JACKSON – Murphy Moorehead, a fourth-grader at Madison St. Anthony School interviews Dominican Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, of St. Dominic Health Foundation.Moorehead is researching Sister as a “famous Mississippian” for a school project. Students will report on and then portray their Mississippian during a living museum. Other famous people will include Sister Thea Bowman. (Photo by Bridget Moorehead)
Catholic Schools Week Service
Fun Sunday at St. Jude
By Maureen Smith
VICKSBURG – Young people from more than a dozen parishes spent the first weekend in February exploring Faith, Hope and Love during the Diocese’s of Jackson’s Youth Conference (DCYC). Participation was up from last year, with 130 youth attending.
The theme came from the readings for the weekend and each day explored one of the aspects. Abbey Schuhmann, Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson, plans the event with a team of youth ministers from across the diocese. “This (theme) was simple, basic, but we still felt like it was powerful and relevant to our teens,” she explained.
Keynote speaker Brian Butler led sessions on each concept. The teens got to have a dance party, participate in adoration, reconciliation, Mass and activities such as a ‘selfie scavenger hunt’ in which they had to take group selfies with particular people associated with the conference. Musical duo Greg and Lizzie led praise and worship and guest speakers including Greenwood St. Francis’ Derrick Faucheaux and his fiancé Mary Upchurch as well as Ray Lacy, youth director for the Diocese of Biloxi. Fathers Nick Adam and Aaron Williams led a young men’s session on vocation while Dominican Sister Kelly Moline led a young women’s session.
“In our talk with the men I wanted to help them to recognize that they absolutely have a call from the Lord, whether it is priesthood or married life is still to be determined, but to live out of the knowledge that God is calling them to greatness in Him, not just to worldly success,” said Father Adam.
Sister Kelly expressed a similar idea. “I wanted then to understand that everyone has a ‘big v’ vocation – whether that be married life, single life or consecrated religious life, but they also have a ‘small v’ vocation – to be the best doctor, nurse, mom or mechanic there ever was,” she said. She also urged the young women to pursue a life of listening and prayer, pointing out that “often the people around you, those who love you best, are the ones who may spot your vocation before you do,” she added.
This was the first conference for the newly-formed youth group at Forest St. Michael Parish. Diemmi Pham said she appreciated that members of her parish helped raise the money needed for teens to attend. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here. I was kind of expecting just praying, you know, and bonding as a parish, but the activities that we did together—yeah we bonded as a parish, but it took it to another level, so I got out of this making new friendships and strengthening our relationship with each other,” she said.
Many teens said they enjoy the chance to interact with a large group of other Catholics. “I actually live in Carrolton, but I go to school in Grenada and we don’t have a lot of Catholics so we are this small part of where we are from so I wanted to meet people and make some friendships. I’m a really big introvert so this is a way for me to expand my circle and just have new experience,” said Amelia Ferguson of Winona Sacred Heart Parish.
Merideth Johnson echoed the sentiment, saying “I felt like I needed something spiritual because a lot of gatherings are just for a concert or something — this is something different to go to and gather with a bunch of Catholic youth.”
This is the second year for Elvis Scott of Greenville Sacred Heart Parish to attend. “Last year we came and it was a wonderful experience so it was something I felt like participating in again,” he said. “To me this year is more of a spot-on connection with them teaching us to have trust in God and in Jesus. I never thought about what they were talking about yesterday – making a connection with Jesus – and it brought me closer to him because I didn’t have that in my mind before,” he said.
“I hope that our youth got a taste of the wider Church here in Mississippi,” said Father Adam. “Sometimes we think of our own parish as the ‘end-all-be-all’ of Catholicism, but the outstanding program that the diocesan Youth Office provided showed our young people how dynamic the young Church can be,” he added.
Many of this year’s new features came from evaluations turned in after last year’s event. “We take those evaluations seriously,” said Schuhmann. “We are just getting started with this conference,” she added.
One of last year’s special guests – a giant stuffed sloth – was joined by Llou the Llama. The plush animals are prizes for the youth groups who win different competitions throughout the weekend to take home. Only time will tell how large the menagerie will get.
More conference pictures click here.
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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.”
By Fran Lavelle
KENNER, Louisiana – his year the Go! Conference (Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference), offered a well-balanced and intentional diversity of subjects and speakers focused on the theme, “That All May Be One.” The Conference planners, including the diocesan directors of the region, work to reach as many ministries within parishes and schools as possible while remaining focused on religious formation. We are constantly looking at relevant topics that are spiritually nourishing as well as practical and hands on.
The first day of the Conference this year was quite different from years past. We offered three unique experiences: Liturgy and Music Workshop sponsored by WLP, a panel on the Interface Between Science and Religion sponsored by the University Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute and Leadership Thursday for catechist and formational ministry sponsored by Sadlier. Participants from the three cohorts began their day with Mass at 9:00 a.m. Each of the major workshops reached out to different constituents from STREAM teachers and administrators in Catholic Schools to parish catechists to musicians and liturgists. Hopefully the participants found, in their own niche, great insights and inspiration to bring home.
Karla Luke, Associate Superintendent, Office Catholic Education, a participant in the McGrath Institute’s session on science and religion, is a former teacher of both middle school science and religion. “This event was not only enlightening but also affirming. It gives ‘permission’ to Catholic school teachers to freely incorporate both Science and Religion into the other’s classes,” said Luke. She went on to say, “Furthermore, it clarified that acceptance of scientific theories and laws do not negate one’s faith; but, consequently may enhance it. The workshop not only confirmed my belief in God the Creator but confirmed the love God has for all creation.”
The idea that science and religion are mutually exclusive was addressed head on. Participants were given the examples of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle and Newton, all devoutly religious scientist who saw themselves as uncovering God’s majestic work through scientific reason. Dr. Chris Baglow, of the University of Notre Dame, shared with the group an analogy from Minicius Felix:
If upon entering some home you saw that everything there was well-tended, neat and decorative, you would believe that some master was in charge of it and that he was himself much superior to those good things. So too in the home of this world, when you see providence, order and law in the heavens and on earth, believe that there is a Lord and Author of the universe, more beautiful than the stars themselves and the various parts of the whole world. Minucius Felix (ca.200 AD)
On Saturday, the keynote speaker, Dr. JoAnn Paradise addressed the cultural roadblocks to creating unity over division. She talked about brain science and development of empathy from the womb. She stated that we are programmed in our DNA, on a cellular level, to learn behaviors through visual perception at a very young age — 0-3 months. Our addiction to digital media, in our culture, has worked to the detriment of developing appropriate human responses. God, she contends, planted in our brains a developmental need for an interconnectedness that technology cannot replicate or replace. One of the human responses not being developed is empathy. As we become less empathetic, we can quickly vilify others who look, think, pray and live differently because we see them as different. She showed a picture of three chicken eggs, one white, one light brown and one dark brown. In the following picture, the three eggs had been cracked and were in a frying pan next to one another. They all looked the same. She used the photos to illustrate that it is now more than ever the important work of the Church to proclaim the gospel, to end division and fully live out Catholic social teaching.
This is a rapidly changing cultural and technological world. Understanding current challenges and opportunities in ministry is essential if ministers, catechists and church members are to continue to share the faith. Creating awareness and strategies to deal with these changes is imperative. Mission accomplished for this year’s conference. We had great liturgies, enjoyed good conversations, met inspiring people, reunited with old friends and learned a lot. Save the date for next year’s Conference, “20/20: His Vision — Our Call” January 9-11, 2020.
“I thank thee, Lord God our Creator, that thou allowest me to see the beauty in thy work of creation.” Kepler.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)
CANTON – Niña Casey Arenas, sporting her best Guadalupe attire, participated in the celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe at Sacred Heart Parish. (Photo by Berta Mexidor)