JACKSON – St. Richard school displayed headshot signs of all sixth graders to honor their next step in their next academic journeys. (Photo by Tereza Ma)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick Catholic School held its final Mass of the school year in recognition of outgoing sixth graders on Thursday, May 20. Pictured (left): Elizabeth Crudup giving her farewell speech. Above, Father Augustine Palimattam and John Harwell offer blessings during communion to sixth grader Charli Robin and first grader Caden Ruffin. (Photos by Emily Thompson)
PEARL – St. Jude parish celebrated Pentecost with an open air picnic with chicken and catfish prepared by the Knights of Columbus, as well as, ice cream and popcorn. All members were excited to get together and connect with friends. Three generations of Paczak family are pictured at the picnic. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
All smiles for Baptism
ANGUILLA – Our Mother of Mercy Mission celebrated a baptism on Easter Sunday. Pictured is Father Sleeva Mekala, Brantley Weeks, Casie Weeks, Grant Weeks and Grady Weeks. (Photo by Latrice Mahalitc)
VICKSBURG – Girls in the community get together for Softball Camp at Vicksburg Catholic Schools to enhance their skills and have fun. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
VICKSBURG – Emmy Reese Walker, Lyla McMillin and Tegan Batey paint beautiful rainbows at Vicksburg Catholic Schools Art Camp. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
MADISON – Youth gather for St. Joseph’s baseball camp to enhance skills and have some fun. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Catholic School)
GREENVILLE – Jerrian King, Kye Nelson, Roury McCloyen, Greg Fore, Cliff Perry, Carson Graham and CJ Moore, members of the Fighting Irish, attended football camp at Mississippi State. (Photo courtesy of Nikki Thompson)
Vacation Bible Study
PEARL – St. Jude parish hosts Vacation Bible School on Wednesdays. The parish has fun ways for youth to learn more about Jesus and all of the saints. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
JACKSON – The Carmelite sisters set up livestreaming at their Monastery for the Worldpriest Annual Global Rosary Relay for the sanctification of priests on Friday, June 11. The sisters prayed the sorrowful mysteries to unite with others around the country and help encircle the world in prayer. This year over 2,600 locations participated around the world. The date for next year’s rosary relay will be Friday, June 24, 2022 on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For more information visit www.worldpriest.com. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
PEARL – There was a beautiful and culturally rich celebration of the Sacraments of Matrimony and Baptism at St. Jude parish on Monday, June 7. Three couples from the parishes Micronesian community were married in a triple wedding. Following the wedding Mass, five children were baptized. It was a special day for the community. (Photos by Rhonda Bowden)
By Joanna Puddister King JACKSON – The late Bishop Emeritus Joseph N. Latino, retired bishop of Jackson, who died May 28 at the age of 83 is remembered as a gentle and humble shepherd. A native of New Orleans, Bishop Latino was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at St. Louis Cathedral on May 25, 1963. During his priesthood, Bishop Latino served in parishes in New Orleans, Metairie, Houma and Thibodaux. When the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was formed in 1977, he remained in the new diocese and served in many capacities including chancellor and vicar general. In 1983, Pope John Paul II named him a Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor. He was appointed the 10th Bishop of Jackson on Jan. 3, 2003 and was installed on March 7, 2003 in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, the place of his final resting place. Msgr. Elvin Sunds, who served as vicar general for nine years under Bishop Latino and enjoyed his friendship for many years afterward, described him as a “humble, gentle and kind bishop.” In his homily at a prayer vigil for Bishop Latino on June 8 at the Cathedral, Msgr. Sunds spoke about Bishop Latino’s episcopal motto – Ut Unum Sint – “that all may be one.” The motto came from the Gospel passage of John that was read at the vigil, explained Msgr. Sunds. “In that Gospel Jesus is praying for his disciples, and he also prays, ‘For those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.’” “Jesus’ prayer is that through the proclaiming of the Gospel, may we all share together in the life of God as one. That was the motto and the focus of Bishop Latino’s episcopal ministry. He wanted all of us to be one in Christ Jesus. He promoted that unity in Christ,” said Msgr. Sunds. During his years as bishop, Bishop Latino fostered Gospel-based social justice initiatives, lay leadership and vocations. During his tenure the office for the Protection of Children was established to help insure a safe environment for children in our churches, schools and communities.
Msgr. Sunds described Bishop Latino’s social justice work mentioning that he publicly addressed such issues as racism, the rights of immigrants, care for the poor, the death penalty, and the right to life of the unborn during his tenure. Bishop Latino’s nephew and godson, Martin Joseph Latino delivered remarks about ‘Uncle Joe’ at the vigil service sharing stories of humor, of mystery and a little bit about his favorite movie “A Man for All Seasons.” It is still as mystery to Martin Latino how his Uncle Joe was able to call him in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At the time, Latino was the chief director of safety and was with the Mandeville Fire Department. With all of the cell towers down in the area, no one was able to receive any calls, but Uncle Joe got through. “His message to me that day was don’t lose heart. Work hard. Restore your community. Be a leader and keep everyone safe. … I still to this day do not know how he was able to get through,” said Latino. In attendance at the Mass of Christian Burial on June 9, were bishops from around the region with Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of the Archdiocese of Mobile as celebrant, along with the priests of the Diocese of Jackson, seminarians, deacons and the people of the diocese. In his opening remarks, Archbishop Rodi extended his sympathy to Bishop Latino’s family, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and the people of the Diocese of Jackson. “We gather here in sorrow over the loss of a powerful presence of a good man, a good priest, a good bishop, who in so many ways in his ministry blessed the people first in Louisiana, then in Mississippi,” said Archbishop Rodi. During his homily at the funeral Mass, Bishop Kopacz recollected his first encounter with Bishop Latino seven and a half years ago at the Jackson airport. He recalled Bishop Latino smiling “to know he had a successor that was real,” laughed Bishop Kopacz. From that point the two grew in their friendship over the years and he shared stories of Bishop Latino’s background and interactions they had over the years through his last one hours before Bishop Latino’s death. “My final encounter with Bishop Latino was sitting at his bedside within hours of his death, softly saying the rosary and praying … as he slowly passed from this world to the next. I spoke the words that he no longer could,” shared Bishop Kopacz. He also gave thanks for Bishop Latino’s trustworthy service for nearly six decades, through times of strength and his experiences of accepting the changes in his health. “In his retirement at times he grieved the physical limitations that prevented him from serving more actively in the diocese. But at the foot of the Cross, his ministry of prayer and presence was a treasure for us. And his early monastic formation served him well in his later years. He could be in that state for prayer and through it all he trusted in the Lord, who called him forth from his youth and in holy fear he grew old in God,” said Bishop Kopacz. Diocesan chancellor, Mary Woodward also spoke at the vigil service on her special friendship with Bishop Latino, as he lifted up her talents, supported her and mentored her. The two of them, along with Bishop Houck, who passed in 2016, traveled to Rome many times. Woodward described the last trip they had to Rome for an ‘ad limina,’ where they also added a trip to Sicily to the Latino family’s ancestral hometown of Contessa Entellina. Woodward described Bishop Latino as “energized” by the trip and said that he was excited that he would be able to celebrate a private Mass in the home church of his grandparents. “But when the doors opened the church was packed with the townspeople coming to see this bishop from America,” Woodward mused. Bishop Latino was always there for her and she for him, making sure he was “ok” until the end of his earthly life, just as the women in the Gospel wanted to do for Jesus. Most did not know that Bishop Latino was in constant pain for the last 40 years. “He had nerve pain in his legs and it never subsided,” said Woodward. “He bore that Cross with such grace and elegance.” Through many surgeries over the years to help relieve the pain, Woodward often felt like a “cheerleader” who was there to “help him carry the Cross.” “And that last day, … I felt like I went from helping him carry the Cross to being at the foot of the Cross. … It was a beautiful witness to ‘I’m in God’s hands. God’s going to take care of me. It’s ok,’” said Woodward who was with Bishop Latino up until his passing. “I don’t ever think that I could say in a few minutes the profound impact he has had on me and on all of us.” Woodward also took great care in organizing Bishop Latino’s vigil and Mass of Christian Burial, making sure all elements he wanted were included. As an “opera aficionado,” Woodward made sure to include some opera. During the vigil, Woodward included a piece from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. The significance being that Bishop Latino would come in most mornings into their shared office humming that tune. She even had to step away during the vigil upon hearing it. “The witness of his life, the witness of him carrying that pain was something that strengthens me and I feel very privileged to have been able to walk that journey with him. I will be forever changed,” said Woodward. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
(Editor’s note: Below is the homily that Bishop Kopacz delivered at the Mass of Christian Burial for Bishop Joseph N. Latino on June 9, 2021.) By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D. My first encounter with Bishop Latino was at the airport in Jackson when I arrived the night before I was announced as the 11th Bishop of Jackson on Dec. 12, 2013. He was there to welcome me. He had a very broad smile knowing that his successor was real and had arrived. His gracious and welcoming spirit remained constant over these past seven and a half years in many ways. There were some light moments even before arriving. Some mistook his middle name, Nunzio, for Nuncio, and they thought I was following the Apostolic Delegate. Others observed that my facility with the Spanish language will serve me well because I was replacing a Latino. Oh well. Ut Unum Sint – That all may be one
The unity that Bishop Latino’s episcopal motto proclaimed is at the center of the great priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. This prayer has its source and summit in the unity that Jesus Christ has with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a mystery woven throughout the Gospel of John that so inspired Bishop Latino as seen in his Gospel selection for today’s Mass. The Gospel of John begins sublimely: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In the middle of the Gospel at the Last Supper the washing of the feet commences with the bold assertion that “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from his supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself.” Toward the end of the Gospel on the night of the resurrection Jesus breathed into his apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, after embracing them in peace and saying to them, “as the Father has sent me so I send you.” His apostles, anointed in the Holy Spirit and consecrated in the truth for mission, were sent to preach the Gospel as a living body, in all of their diversity. They were one! In his Episcopal motto and in his choice of the Gospel for today’s funeral liturgy, we find the core of Bishop Latino’s vocation to the priesthood culminating in his consecration as the 10th Bishop of Jackson. Today’s Gospel passage is under the heading “The authority of the Son of God.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life … For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” There is no doubt that Bishop Latino lived his priestly vocation with a deep sense of the Lord’s call and authority over his life. Throughout his 58 years and two days in the priesthood of Jesus Christ he served with the heart of the Good Shepherd, to build up his body, the church, for the salvation of all, with that graciousness we heard at the end of the passage from Thessalonians: “Encourage one another, and build one another up.” Like the prophet Jeremiah he felt the Lord’s call to the priesthood from his youth. Like Jeremiah, there were daunting challenges as one can expect when coming forward to serve the Lord as the Book of Sirach soberly states, but once Bishop Latino put his hand to the plow he did not look back. He was ordained in 1963 in the middle of the Second Vatican Council. Just when he thought he had all the answers after 12 years of seminary formation, in a matter of two or three years, the church and the world changed most of the questions. Obviously, he dug deeper and in the words of Sirach he set his heart and remained steadfast, by the grace of God. Forty years later, after steadfastly serving in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux as vicar general and pastor of the Cathedral for many years, he was anticipating downsizing in his priestly duties, so to speak, like maybe a smaller parish. Oh well! The phone rang; he took the call, and answered the call, and once again he set his heart right and remained steadfast, and moved north to become the 10th Bishop of this amazing diocese. Bishop Latino had come forward to serve the Lord early in life, and steadfastness endured as a defining virtue of his character and his priesthood, a mindset that motivated him to work in the Lord’s vineyard in a variety of pastoral ministries, to achieve that unity for which the Lord Jesus prayed and laid down his life. Over his ten years as Bishop of Jackson, the Lord brought forth new growth, fruit that lasts to this present moment. Of course, in his unassuming matter he might say, I just stayed out of God’s way. St. Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination wrote a reflection on his priesthood entitled, Gift and Mystery. In chapter seven, he asks: Who is the Priest? What does it mean to be a priest? He recalled the words of St. Paul. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy.” (1Cor. 4:1-2) We give joyful thanks for Bishop Latino’s trustworthy service for nearly six decades, for years in the fullness of his strength and as time passed accepting the changes in his health that humbled him, in the words of Sirach, our first reading. In his retirement, at times, he grieved the physical limitations that prevented him from serving more actively in the diocese, but at the foot of the Cross his ministry of prayer and presence was a treasure for us. His early monastic formation served him well in his later years. Through it all he trusted in the Lord who called him from his youth, and in holy fear, grew old in God. My final encounter with Bishop Latino was sitting at his bedside within hours of his death, softly saying the rosary and praying the Night Prayer, as he slowly passed from this world to the next. I spoke the words that he no longer could. Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace. You have fulfilled your promise. My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples. A light to all the nations; the glory of your people Israel. This is the cornerstone of Night Prayer that all priests offer at day’s end, reminding us of who is the master, and whose glory is at work. I trust that as Bishop Latino’s body wasted away, his inner self was being renewed every day, in the words of St. Paul. What is seen is transitory, what is unseen is eternal. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon. May he rest in peace. Amen. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
(Nota del editor: A continuación, se muestra la homilía que el obispo Kopacz pronunció en la Misa de Entierro Cristiano del obispo Joseph N. Latino el 9 de junio de 2021.) Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D. Mi primer encuentro con obispo Latino fue cuando llegué al aeropuerto de Jackson, la noche antes de que me anunciaran como el undécimo obispo de Jackson, el 12 de diciembre de 2013. Él estaba allí para darme la bienvenida. Tenía una sonrisa muy amplia al saber que su sucesor era real y que ya había llegado. Su espíritu amable y acogedor se mantuvo constante durante estos últimos siete años y medio de muchas maneras. Hubo algunos momentos clarificadores incluso antes de yo llegar aquí. Algunos confundieron su segundo nombre, Nunzio, con Nuncio, y pensaron que yo estaba sustituyendo al delegado Apostólico. Otros observaron que mi facilidad con el idioma español me serviría bien porque estaba reemplazando a un Latino. ¡Oh bien!, pensando que él, en realidad descendiente de italianos, era Latinoaméricano. Ut Unum Sint – Que todos sean uno
La unidad que proclama el lema episcopal de obispo Latino está en el centro de la gran oración sacerdotal de Jesús en la Última Cena en el Evangelio de Juan. Esta oración tiene su fuente y cumbre en la unidad que Jesucristo tiene con el Padre y el Espíritu Santo, un misterio tejido a lo largo del Evangelio de Juan que inspiró tanto a Obispo Latino y que fue su selección del Evangelio para la Misa de hoy. El Evangelio de Juan comienza sublimemente: “En el principio ya existía la Palabra; y aquel que es la Palabra estaba con Dios y era Dios.“ En medio del Evangelio en la Última Cena, en el lavado de los pies comienza con la audaz afirmación de que “Jesús sabía que había venido de Dios, que iba a volver a Dios y que el Padre le había dado toda autoridad; así que, mientras estaban cenando, se levantó de la mesa, se quitó la capa y se ató una toalla a la cintura. …” Hacia el final del Evangelio, en la noche de la resurrección, Jesús insufló a sus apóstoles el don del Espíritu Santo, después de abrazarlos en paz y decirles: “como el Padre me envió a mí, así también yo os envío.” Sus apóstoles, ungidos en el Espíritu Santo y consagrados en la verdad para la misión, fueron enviados a predicar el Evangelio como cuerpo vivo, en toda su diversidad. ¡Eran uno! En su lema episcopal y en su elección del Evangelio para la liturgia fúnebre de hoy, encontramos que el núcleo de la vocación del obispo Latino al sacerdocio culmina con su consagración como el décimo obispo de Jackson. El pasaje del Evangelio de hoy está bajo el título “La autoridad del Hijo de Dios”. “De cierto, de cierto os digo: el que oye mi palabra y cree al que me envió, tiene la vida eterna… Porque como el Padre tiene vida en sí mismo, también le ha concedido al Hijo el tener vida en sí mismo.” No hay duda que obispo Latino vivió su vocación sacerdotal con un profundo sentido del llamado del Señor y la autoridad sobre su vida. A lo largo de sus 58 años y dos días en el sacerdocio de Jesucristo sirvió con el corazón del Buen Pastor, para edificar su cuerpo, la Iglesia, para la salvación de todos, con esa gracia que escuchamos al final del pasaje de Tesalonicenses: “Anímense unos a otros y edifíquense unos a otros”. Como el profeta Jeremías, Obispo Latino sintió el llamado del Señor al sacerdocio desde su juventud. Al igual que a Jeremías, hubo desafíos desalentadores, como uno puede esperar al presentarse para servir al Señor y como dice sobriamente el Libro de Eclesiástico, pero una vez que el Obispo Latino puso su mano en el arado, no miró hacia atrás. Fue ordenado sacerdote en 1963 en pleno Concilio Vaticano II. Justo cuando pensaba que tenía todas las respuestas, después de 12 años de formación en el seminario, en cuestión de dos o tres años, la Iglesia y el mundo cambiaron la mayoría de las preguntas. Obviamente, cavó más profundo y en las palabras del Libro de Sirácides (Eclesiástico) puso su corazón y se mantuvo firme, por la gracia de Dios. Cuarenta años más tarde, después de servir firmemente en la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans y en la Diócesis de Houma-Thibodaux como vicario general y pastor de la Catedral durante muchos años, estaba anticipando una reducción en sus deberes sacerdotales, por así decirlo, como tal vez ir a una parroquia pequeña. ¡Oh bien! El teléfono sonó; aceptó la llamada y respondió a la llamada. Una vez más enderezó su corazón y se mantuvo firme, y se mudó al norte para convertirse en el décimo obispo de esta asombrosa diócesis. El obispo Latino se había presentado para servir al Señor en una temprana edad, y la firmeza perduró como una virtud definitoria de su carácter y su sacerdocio, una mentalidad que lo motivó a trabajar en la viña del Señor en una variedad de ministerios pastorales, para lograr esa unidad para que el Señor Jesús oró y dio su vida. Durante sus diez años como obispo de Jackson, el Señor produjo un nuevo crecimiento, fruto que perdura hasta el presente. Por supuesto, sin pretensiones, en sus palabras se podría decir, “simplemente me puse a su voluntad, fuera del camino de Dios.” San Juan Pablo II, con motivo de su 50 aniversario de ordenación, escribió una reflexión sobre su sacerdocio titulada Don y Misterio. En el capítulo siete, pregunta: ¿Quién es el sacerdote? ¿Qué significa ser sacerdote? Recordó las palabras de San Pablo. “Así es como deben considerarnos, como servidores de Cristo y administradores de los misterios de Dios. Ahora se requiere que los mayordomos sean considerados dignos de confianza.” (1Cor. 4: 1-2) Agradecemos con gozo el servicio confiable del Obispo Latino durante casi seis décadas, durante años en la plenitud de su fuerza y con el paso del tiempo aceptando los cambios en su salud que lo humillaron, como en nuestra primera lectura, las palabras de Sirácides. En su retiro, por momentos, lamentó las limitaciones físicas que le impedían servir más activamente en la diócesis, pero al pie de la Cruz, su presencia y ministerio de oración eran un tesoro para nosotros. Su temprana formación monástica le sirvió bien en sus últimos años. A pesar de todo, confió en el Señor que lo llamó desde su juventud, y con santo temor, envejeció en Dios. Mi último encuentro con el Obispo Latino fue sentado junto a su cama pocas horas antes de su muerte, rezando el rosario en voz baja y rezandole la Oración Nocturna, mientras pasaba lentamente de este mundo al siguiente, dije las palabras que él ya no podía: Ahora, Maestro, deja que tu sirviente se vaya en paz. Has cumplido tu promesa. Mis propios ojos han visto tu salvación, la que has preparado a la vista de todos los pueblos. Una luz para todas las naciones;la gloria de tu pueblo Israel. Esta es la piedra angular de la oración nocturna que todos los sacerdotes ofrecen al final del día, recordándonos quién es el maestro y cuya gloria está en acción. Confío en que a medida que el cuerpo de Obispo Latino se consumía, su yo interior se renovaba todos los días, en las palabras de San Pablo ‘Lo que se ve es transitorio, lo que no se ve es eterno’. Concédele, oh, Señor, el descanso eterno y deja que brille para él la vida eterna. Ya puede descansar en paz. Amén. Que su alma y las almas de todos los fieles difuntos descansen en paz. Amén.
By Carol Glatz VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People’s hearts and the entire church must be wide open to wonder and devotion to Christ and ready to embrace everyone – sinner and saint alike, Pope Francis said. “The church of the perfect and pure is a room where there isn’t a place for anyone; the church with open doors that celebrates around Christ is, on the other hand, a large hall where everyone – the righteous and sinners – can enter,” the pope said in his homily during Mass June 6, to mark the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. “The Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the journey, let’s not forget this!” he said during the early evening Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica with about 200 people, who wore masks and maintained social distance. It was the second year the Mass was held with a reduced congregation and without the traditional outdoor Corpus Christi procession afterward as part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The ceremony instead concluded with a long moment of silent eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of the images presented in the reading from the Gospel of St. Mark which detailed Jesus’ instructions for preparing and finding a place for Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Pope Francis said the image of a man carrying a jar of water reminds people that humanity is thirsty, “always seeking a source of water that satisfies and restores.” “All of us journey through life with a jar in our hands” as “each one of us is thirsty for love, joy, a successful life in a more humane world,” he said, adding that only God can satisfy that real thirst for something more – that hope in an eternal life that sustains people in life. Because that thirst is often not acknowledged, with fewer people seeking or asking about God, Christians must evangelize, the pope said. It is not enough for the church to be a small group “of the usual people who gather to celebrate the Eucharist. We have to go into the city, encounter people, learn to recognize and reawaken the thirst for God and yearning for the Gospel,” he said. It will be that renewed thirst that brings people to the altar to encounter God in the Eucharist, he added. The other important image is the grand upper room they find for the Passover meal, he said, a meal that will be significant because of a tiny morsel of bread. “God makes himself small like a piece of bread,” so humble, hidden and sometimes invisible, that it is necessary that one’s heart be large, open and vigilant to recognize, welcome and adore him, the pope said. “Instead, if our heart is less like a large room and more like storage closet where we regretfully keep old things, like an attic where we have long stored away our enthusiasm and dreams, like a cramped and dark room where we live alone, with ourselves, our problems and bitterness,” he said, “then it will be impossible to recognize this silent and humble presence of God.” The church also must be a large, welcoming space, “not a small exclusive club, but a community with its arms wide open, welcoming to everyone,” and willing to lead to Christ the wounded, the wayward and those who have done wrong, he said. “To celebrate and live the Eucharist,” he said, “we, too, are called to live this love, because you cannot break Sunday’s bread if your heart is closed to others, you cannot eat this bread if you do not give the bread to the hungry, you cannot share this bread if you do not share the sufferings of those in need.” Earlier in the day, the pope greeted hundreds of people spread out in St. Peter’s Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer. The Eucharist, he said, shows “the strength to love those who make mistakes” because Jesus gave the world the bread of life on the night he was betrayed. Jesus reacts to the evil of Judas’ betrayal with a greater good, responding to Judas’ “no” with the “yes” of mercy, he said. “He does not punish the sinner, but rather gives his life for him, he pays for him.” “When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus does the same with us: he knows us; he knows we are sinners; he knows we make many mistakes, but he does not give up on joining his life to ours,” the pope said. “He knows that we need it, because the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners. This is why he exhorts us: ‘Do not be afraid! Take and eat.’”
Kathleen McMullin first began thinking about religious life while she was a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison, but she wanted to go to college and pursue a career in medicine. She graduated from Mississippi State and became a certified Occupational Therapist, but she says that Jesus kept calling for something more: “He is patient, but he is persistent.”
McMullin says that as a professional she had begun to struggle with her faith, “it reached a point where I realized that my relationship with the Lord was not where it had been, my faith was not growing, and that I was lost.”
That’s when I met Kathleen. She told me while recording an interview for The Discerning Catholic Podcast that her mother encouraged her to set a meeting with me. At that point I was the parochial vicar at St. Richard in Jackson. Kathleen says that at that point in her life she had seen her brothers get married and start families, and she says, “I wanted [marriage] as well…really religious life was off the table.”
We spoke over Zoom about how I encouraged her to pray and invited her to come on a “nun run” with some parish youth group members as a chaperone. Kathleen says that after these events she “started getting up earlier in the morning and praying with scripture and got to the point where I was craving that time in the morning.”
“Slowly over time the Lord revealed how he made my heart and made me pursue him and the fact that he was pursuing my heart as well. I became more open to at least going down that road of religious life.”
Kathleen started to look at different orders. She enjoyed a visit to the Nashville Dominicans, a rapidly growing order whose primary apostolate is teaching, and she says she benefitted greatly from going on a visit during a designated weekend at their mother house.
“A big thing is just interacting with sisters and getting to see their joy and what drew them to this life.”
But she says that through prayer she was drawn to share her professional gifts with the church, she explains, “I knew I wanted to explore an order that had a medical apostolate — that’s the word for their work.”
Through a friend she met in Nashville, Kathleen was pointed toward The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, a Franciscan order with a house in Alton, Illinois.
“Their charism — it’s kind of like their mission statement — is to make the merciful love of Christ visible…and there was a little flicker in my heart that was like, ooo, I like that.”
Kathleen contacted the vocation director for the order and says they had a great discussion. She made two separate visits over several months and made the decision to enter postulancy for the community.
Kathleen will enter the community this September, and I will have more from her interview later this summer. Her journey to this point has inspired me to be more confident in the Lord’s plan for myself and those that I serve. And she is not alone in seeking out the Lord’s will through religious life. Sister Kelly Moline, a Springfield Dominican working in our diocese at St. Dominic Hospital, will take her final vows with the community in Springfield, Illinois on the Feast of St. Dominic, Aug. 8. And elsewhere in this issue of Mississippi Catholic you can read about the priestly ordination of Father James Martin Nobles, O.P., a native of McComb and newly ordained for the Southern Province of Dominican Friars.
The church is one big family, and we rejoice that there are those in our midst who are giving themselves over to the Lord with vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. This gift speaks to all of us of the need to have greater confidence in the Lord’s power than our own abilities, and their joy tells us that it is worth it to give everything we have up to the Lord.
If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, please email Fr. Nick Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
IN EXILE By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI Often when listening to someone singing live or on television, I close my eyes to try to hear the song so as not to let the singer’s performance get in the way of the song. A song can be lost in its performance; indeed, the performance can take over so that the song is replaced by the singer. When anyone is performing live, be it on a stage, in a classroom, at a podium, or in a pulpit, there will always be some combination of three things. The speaker will be trying to impress others with his talent; he will be trying to get a message across; and (consciously or unconsciously) he will be trying to channel something true, good, and beautiful for its own sake. Metaphorically, he will be making love to himself, making love to the audience, and making love to the song. It is the third component, making love to the song, which makes for great art, great rhetoric, great teaching, and great preaching. Greatness sets itself apart here because what comes through is “the song” rather than the singer, the message rather than the messenger, and the performer’s empathy rather than his ego. The audience then is drawn to the song rather than to the singer. Good singers draw people to the music rather than to themselves; good teachers draw students to truth and learning rather than to themselves; good artists draw people to beauty rather than to adulation, and good preachers draw their congregations to God rather than to praise of themselves.
Admittedly, this isn’t easy to do. We are all human, so is our audience. No audience respects you unless you do show some talent, creativity, and intelligence. There’s always an unspoken pressure on the singer, the speaker, the teacher, and the preacher, both from within and from without. From within: I don’t want to disappoint! I don’t want to look bad! I need to stand out! I need to show them something special! From without, from the audience: What have you got? Show us something! Are you worth my attention? Are you bright? Are you boring? Only the most mature person can be free of these pressures. Thus, the song easily gets lost in the singer, the message in the messenger, the teaching in the teacher, and the message of God in the personality of the preacher. As a teacher, preacher, and writer, I admit my own long struggle with this. When you first start teaching, you had better impress your students or you won’t have their attention or respect for long. The same with preaching. The congregation is always sizing you up, and you had better measure up or no one will be listening to you. Moreover, unless you have an exceptionally strong self-image, you will be a perennial prisoner of your own insecurities. Nobody wants to look bad, stupid, uninformed, or come across as talentless. Everyone wants to look good. Moreover, not least, there is still your ego (and its power can never be underestimated). It wants to draw the attention and the admiration to itself rather than to what is true, good, and beautiful. There is always the temptation for the messenger to be more concerned about impressing others than about having the message come through in purity and truth. The subtle, but powerful, temptation inside every singer, teacher, speaker, preacher, or writer is to draw people to themselves rather than to the truth and beauty they are trying to channel. I struggle with this in every class I teach, every article or book I write, and every time I preside at liturgy. Nevertheless, I make no apologies for this. It is the innate struggle in all creative effort. Are we trying to draw people to ourselves, or are we trying to draw them to truth, to beauty, to God? When I teach a class, how much of my preparation and energy is motivated by a genuine concern for the students and how much is motivated by my need to look good, to impress, to have a reputation as a good teacher? When I write an article or a book, am I really trying to bring insight and understanding to others or am I thinking of my status as a writer? When I preside at Mass and preach is my real motivation to channel a sacred ritual in a manner that my own personality doesn’t get in the way? Is it to lead people into community with each other and to decrease myself so Christ can increase? There is no simple answer to those questions because there can’t be. Our motivation is always less than fully pure. Moreover, we are not meant to be univocal robots without personalities. Our unique personalities and talents were given by God precisely as gifts to be used for others. Still, there’s a clear warning sign. When the focus of the audience is more on our personalities than on the song, we are probably making love more to ourselves and our admirers than to the song.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website www.ronrolheiser.com.)
SPIRIT AND TRUTH By Father Aaron Williams The last segment of our study of the liturgies of Holy Week is the Mass of Easter Day. As I mentioned in an earlier column, historically there was no special Mass for Easter Day, per se. The Vigil was originally envisioned as lasting all-night and then ending shortly before dawn, making the Vigil Mass the Mass of the day as well. However, as time went on and the Vigil grew more and more complicated, it became more common to celebrate a separate Mass on Easter morning with its own proper prayer texts and readings. This is why apart from the presence of the sequence (Victimæ Paschale Laudes), the Easter Mass is no different from any normal Sunday Mass — having no special rites or particular rubrics as we see in the liturgies during the week. As a side-effect, this serves to underscore the Paschal character of every Sunday celebration. Each Sunday, we revisit the mystery of Our Lord’s Resurrection. It is fitting that when we arrive for Mass on Easter Morning that we feel as if everything is once again as it should be. The Resurrection, after all, is a divine recapitulation — Christ restores creation to its state before the fall, which is why the Resurrection happened in a garden. Humanity fell from grace within a garden, so it is fitting that our restoration to grace would likewise occur in a garden. If we compared the celebration of Easter Day from the traditional rite of Mass to our modern celebration, we would find very little textual differences. The prayers and readings are virtually unchanged. The modern rite, however, does give the interesting option to use the Gospel of the Road to Emmaus at Easter Masses which occur in the evening, which gives this well-loved passage its own proper place in the lectionary.
The sequence of Easter Day is a beautiful work of Christian poetry. The text contains a curious passage where the singer asks Mary Magdalene to retell us the story of the Resurrection, making this the only time in any liturgical text where we address someone other than God. Even on feast days of the Blessed Mother, liturgical texts never address Mary directly, but always speak to God regarding the mystery being celebrated. The Easter sequence is the one exception. This, perhaps, can underscore the unique role Mary Magdalene played in the early church as the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ — announcing to all of the Apostles the news of the Resurrection. Though our modern celebration of Easter is not particularly unique from any other Mass, there are a few examples from history of some local churches having their own customary rites associated with Easter Day. Perhaps the most significant of these comes from the Medieval English liturgy. The missals of Salisbury and York explain a rite which preceded the Easter Sunday Mass where the priest and ministers first process to the altar which served as the Altar of Repose during the Paschal Triduum. Unlike our modern celebration where the Blessed Sacrament is restored to the normal tabernacle after communion at the Easter Vigil, in the English custom the Blessed Sacrament remained secure at the Altar of Repose until the Mass of Easter Day. Once the priest reaches the altar, the choir would begin singing the traditional hymn of thanksgiving (Te Deum) while the priest slowly raised the ciborium up from the altar and over his head, as if Christ was literally rising up from the tomb. For this reason, the English traditionally called this altar the ‘sepulcher’ instead of the ‘altar of repose.’ After the elevation of the ciborium, the priest would carry the Blessed Sacrament in procession back to the normal tabernacle — traditionally with the procession proceeded by a banner or image depicting the Risen Christ. We find a similar custom in Medieval Spain, except there it was more common for a single Host to be used rather than a full ciborium. Some medieval parishes were even equipped with a special tabernacle or pyx which was suspended over the altar by a pulley system. In this case, the ‘elevation’ rite occurred by placing the Blessed Sacrament inside this tabernacle and then slowly winding the pulley until the tabernacle reached its normal height. An example of a tabernacle of this sort can be found in the oratory chapel of the Dominican parish in New York City: St. Vincent Ferrer. This was such a common ritual in European tradition that by the time of the renaissance it became common for churches to have a golden dove suspended over the altar with a small opening to serve as a pyx. Suffice it to say by the time of the 19th century Enlightenment, this rite was no longer seen as effective as it was on Medieval Christians and most local churches began to drop it from their liturgical texts until by the dawn of the 20th century it essentially disappeared.
(Father Aaron Williams is the administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Greenville.)