Youth

Around the diocese during holy week/Easter

MERIDIAN – First graders at St Patrick School performed live stations. (Photo by Kasey Owen)
MAGEE – Children at St. Stephen parish receive instructions
before their Easter egg hunt. (Photo by Kirby J. Rivere)
YAZOO CITY – Children at St. Mary parish participated in an Easter egg hunt after Mass on Easter Sunday with Father Panneer Selvam. (Photo by Babs McMaster)
MADISON – St. Joe senior, Adriana Terrazas, a reporter for Bruin News Now, sets up to interview seminarian Joe Pearson, along with four seminarians Will Foggo, EJ Martin and Grayson Foley on Tuesday, March 26. All four seminarians were former St. Joe students. The Bruin News Now story was included in the Thursday, March 28, edition of the award-winning, student-produced weekly newscast. (Photos by Tereza Ma)
St. Joe seniors, Andrew Doherty and Adam Williams set up the camera for a special interview with Bishop Joseph Kopacz by Bruin News Now anchors, Emerson Erwin and Maddie-Claire Spence, on Tuesday, March 26 before the annual diocese Chrism Mass during Holy Week. The journalism students interviewed Bishop Kopacz and seminarians for an edition of their award-winning weekly newscast – Bruin News Now.

Around our schools

JACKSON – The Cardinal Men’s Club of St. Richard School is hosting their annual Flight to the Finish 5k and fun run on Saturday, April 20. Pictured (l-r) celebrating the upcoming event are Thea Saucier, Charliegh Luzardo, Townes Crews, Thomas Eastus, Elizabeth Elmore, Patrick Crews (Past President), Andrew Ueltschey (President), Thiel Crews, Elsie Ueltschey, Sam Williams, Max Jones and Thomas Ueltschey. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)
COLUMBUS – Annunciation fourth grader, Joel Heard prays during adoration. (Photo by Jacque Hince)
VICKSBURG – On Feb. 28, 2024, Fathers Nick Adam and Rusty Vincent offered a Spanish Mass at the St. Francis Xavier Chapel for the Spanish II class at St. Aloysius. The students read, responded and participated in Spanish. (Photo by Vivian L. Velazquez)
VICKSBURG – Davis Jarabica from the one-year-olds class, explores rosary beads and baby’s Bible from the Lobby Altar at Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center. (Photo by Shannon Bell)
SOUTHAVEN – Students Nico and Aniyah enjoy the Holy Thursday Craft Retreat at Sacred Heart School. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)

Life among the relics

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – I had a dear friend who moved to a retirement compound (as he called it) when he was in his late 80s. When I would ask him how things were going at the “compound,” he would say: “you mean life among the relics?”

Most people when they hear the term archive think of old stuff, and indeed there is a lot of old stuff in the historical archive vault at the chancery in Jackson. Our diocesan historical archive holds records and documents dating back to the early 1700s.

The above relic of St. Peter the Apostle was found in the diocesan archive relic collection and placed in the new main altar of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson in 2012.

Let me add a disclaimer here: The diocesan archive is not open to the public. It is a small room holding official records of the diocese. It is not a library or museum that can be toured. The archive does not exist to provide genealogical research or assist in getting dual Italian citizenship. We will help with that for a fee when we have time. The records in the archive are not “secret;” it just is not public in the way you would check out a book in a library. The archive collection is open to qualified researchers doing professional research on church history for dissertations and publications.

Last week, I received a familiar email from a parishioner on the Gulf Coast wanting to know the saint’s relic in the altar of his church. The church was dedicated in 1951, so it was before the date we were split into two dioceses.

This is a common request, and we often are able to provide an answer, because of the Official Acts books we have dating back to 1924 and the diaries of Bishops.

In this case, although I was able to tell him that Bishop Gerow dedicated the church on Palm Sunday, and it rained buckets all day; I could only give possibilities of who the relic might be since this fact was not mentioned in the official acts book’s recording of the church and altar being dedicated.

I was able to tell him the relic would most likely be from either Sts. Victor, Modesta, Maximus, Maxima or Sergius – all martyrs. The reason this information was available was because a few pages before the church’s dedication listing in the acts book, there is an entry stating the bishop consecrated a myriad of altar stones containing those relics.

These marble stones measure 13 inches squares and would have been used in mission churches established throughout the diocese to be placed in wooden altars that would have a square cut out of the top in which the stone would be placed. I don’t know why 13 inches, but maybe it is because the stones would have come from Italy and 17 is the unlucky number there, not 13.

In each stone there is a small cut out circle in which a relic or several relics would be sealed along with three grains of incense. As mentioned in the acts book, several stones could be consecrated at a time and stored until needed.

A unique altar stone and the linen cloth that encases it are displayed in Chancellor Mary Woodward’s office. The stone was issued to Father Peter Quinn in 1943 for use on the battlefields in Europe during World War II. (Photos by Mary Woodward)

Another reason for this hypothesis of who the saint might be is there is a relics drawer in the archive with an old container marked “relics for altars” and the names of the saints are listed on a piece of paper with the container. Therefore, whether the church had a full marble mensa or just a stone, these relics were set aside for that purpose. This container and its contents are very fragile, so we do not handle it anymore.

We do have a unique altar stone in our collection. It is small – five inches x seven inches – and encased in a linen cloth. This stone was issued to Rev. Peter Quinn in 1943 for use on the battlefields in Europe during World War II. Father Quinn was a chaplain in the army and served on the front lines in one of General George Patton’s divisions making its way to Germany. The stone came with a Greek corporal, which has a relic sewn into it. On a similar note, Bishop William Houck used a Greek corporal as part of his travelling Mass kit and on the small altar he had in a chapel in his home. We have that in the vault as well.

As you can see, we do have some interesting artifacts in our archive collection at the diocese. Perhaps one day we can develop an exhibition for people to see, but for now I’ll keep sharing some interesting snippets of life among the relics highlighting various discoveries in the drawers and cabinets in the vault.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Bishop gives thanks for Pastoral Reimagining process

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz gathered representatives from Deanery II for the third phase of the diocesan “Pastoral Reimagining” process on Monday, April 8 at St. Mary Basilica for a Mass of Thanksgiving for the process; as well as, time to meet to discuss challenges and the growing edges and diminishing areas of ministry locally within the deanery and within the diocese as a whole.

“This process is about how to we dig deeper; how to we strengthen who we are as local parishes and as a diocese,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“We can grow where it’s possible and we can be stronger.”

Bishop Kopacz also met with Deanery III at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Greenwood and Deanery I at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Madison earlier this month.

He invites those in deaneries that have yet to meet, to come participate in a special Mass of Thanksgiving.
The Masses are as follows: Deanery V in the Golden Triangle area on Monday April 22 at 12 p.m. at Immaculate Conception West Point; Deanery V on Monday, April 22 at 5 p.m. at St. James Tupelo; Deanery VI on Monday, April 29 at 6 p.m. at St. Therese Kosciusko; and Deanery IV on Tuesday, April 30 at 5 p.m. at St. Mary Batesville.

NATCHEZ – Bishop Joseph Kopacz continues listening across the diocese for the Pastoral Reimagining process that has been taking place since Pentecost 2023. On Monday, April 8, he met with stakeholders from parishes making up Deanery II at St. Mary Basilica. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

Building a lasting legacy: My Catholic Will

GUEST COLUMN
By Rebecca Harris
For many Catholics, our faith is not just a belief system; it is a way of life. It permeates every aspect of our being, guiding our actions, decisions, and relationships. Central to our faith is the concept of stewardship – the understanding that all that we have and all that we are is entrusted to us by God to further His Kingdom on Earth. Stewardship encompasses giving our time, talent, and treasure to support our parishes and communities in our mission of spreading God’s love and teachings.

In our diocese, where Catholics make up only 3% of the population, the commitment to building God’s Kingdom is particularly pronounced. Despite being a minority, Catholics in our communities are deeply invested in making a positive impact. Our parish is not just a place of worship; it is a second home filled with people dedicated to doing God’s work. Together, we strive to live out our faith by serving others, fostering community, and supporting the church’s ministries.

While we readily give of our time, talent, and treasure through regular contributions and volunteer efforts, there is one aspect of giving that often goes overlooked: planned giving. Planned giving, simply put, is a way to make a larger contribution to our parish on a long-term basis. Unlike annual gifts, which are given in the present moment, planned gifts are scheduled for the future, typically as part of estate plans.

Planned gifts can take various forms, including bequests in wills, trusts, life insurance policies and other estate planning instruments. These gifts not only provide much-needed financial support to our parishes but also allow donors to establish a lasting legacy that will continue to impact future generations of Catholics. By including your parish in your estate plans, you ensure that the commitment to God’s work extends far beyond your lifetime.

The importance of planned giving cannot be overstated. These gifts not only provide vital financial resources for a parish’s ongoing operations and ministries but also offer a way for donors to leave a lasting impact on the community they cherish. Through planned giving, donors have the opportunity to support initiatives that are close to their hearts, whether it is funding youth programs, supporting outreach efforts, or contributing to the maintenance and upkeep of parish facilities.

Moreover, planned giving allows donors to fulfill their charitable and philanthropic wishes in a meaningful way. By designating a portion of your estate to your parish, donors ensure that our Catholic values and priorities are upheld even after we are no longer present. This sense of continuity and legacy is incredibly powerful, as it allows individuals to shape the future of their parish in accordance with their beliefs and principles.

A will is often the simplest and most straightforward way to establish a planned gift and leave a legacy to your parish. Through the Stewardship and Development Office, the diocese is offering a free will service to parishioners, making it easier than ever to take this important step. The Diocese of Jackson has partnered with My Catholic Will so that individuals can complete their wills in less than 20 minutes, ensuring that their wishes are clearly documented, and their legacy is preserved. This service is completely free to you.

Your legacy matters. By considering a planned gift, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on your parish and the wider Catholic community. Whether you are supporting initiatives that are dear to your heart or simply ensuring the continued growth and vitality of your parish, planned giving offers a meaningful way to leave a lasting legacy of faith, generosity and service.

Let us heed the call to action and embark on this journey of building a lasting legacy in Catholic parishes across the diocese. By incorporating your parish into your estate plans, you ensure that your commitment to God’s work extends far beyond your lifetime. Together, let us embrace the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy of faith, generosity, and service for generations to come.

To create your free legal Catholic will in three easy steps please go to www.mycatholicwill.com/jacksondiocese.org or scan the QR code. Rebecca Harris is available to address any questions or concerns you may have regarding planned giving.

“Blessed is the person who plants a tree so others may sit in its shade.”

Happy Ordination Anniversary

April 10
Father Pradeep Kumar Thirumalareddy
St. Mary Batesville

April 12
Father Raju Macherla
St. Elizabeth Clarksdale

Father Sleeva Reddy Mekala
St. James Leland & Immaculate Conception Indianola

April 14
Father Suresh Reddy Thirumalareddy
St. Alphonsus McComb


April 18
Father Vijaya Manohar Reddy Thanugundla
St. Francis Brookhaven

April 19
Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD
Sacred Heart Greenville

April 24
Father Arokia Stanislaus Savio
St. Peter Grenada

April 26
Father Jesuraj Xavier
St. Francis New Albany

Thank you for answering the call!

‘Caitlin Clark has the world by her fingertips’: Iowa Hawkeyes basketball superstar supported by Catholic faith, family

By John Knebels

(OSV News) – Wearing scrubs en route to the hospital to begin her day, a health care specialist was asked how much she knew about Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball superstar who has led her Hawkeye teammates — and by extension, all of “Hawkeye Nation” — to almost unprecedented acclaim in women’s basketball.

Not akin to assessing athletes and their acumen, she quickly and succinctly summarized Clark’s entrenchment in women’s basketball.

“That basketball that she dribbles and shoots and passes serves as a great metaphor for Caitlin Clark,” said the nurse. “The basketball is round, just like the world. And right now, Caitlin Clark has the world by her fingertips.”

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) controls the ball against Connecticut Huskies guard Nika Muhl (10) in the Final Four of the women’s 2024 NCAA Tournament at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland April 5, 2024. The Hawkeyes beat the Huskies to advance to the women’s NCAA tournament national championship game April 6 against undefeated South Carolina. Clark graduated in 2020 from Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. (OSV News photo/Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

That Clark has managed to permeate both the zealous and casual sports fan provides a testament to the level of her national impact at the young age of 22.

At this point, it’s an arduous task to cover new ground when it comes to Clark, a lifelong and reportedly devoted Catholic who attended St. Francis of Assisi parochial school in West Des Moines, Iowa, from kindergarten through eighth grade, and then spent four years at nearby Dowling Catholic High School.

Local reporters from Clark’s hometown have been sharing her exploits since the end of grade school. Clark wasn’t even a high school junior before national publications began pegging her as a can’t-miss collegiate standout. By the time she was a senior, the words “Caitlin Clark” had soared through the internet like an out-of-control locomotive with no definitive destination.

Those who have known Clark, however, said they never noticed any apparent change in her affable, comfortable, confident personality when early daily publicity — and subsequent almost-ridiculous national coverage last year and, in particular, the past few months — threatened to scrutinize every move Clark made both on and off the basketball court.

“She’s handled it as well as any 21- or 22-year-old could,” said Kristin Meyer, her high school basketball coach at Dowling, who somehow manages to cheerfully return countless phone calls from those researching Clark’s star-studded scholastic career.

“Her support system starts with her family. She doesn’t get caught up in fame or the business aspect,” Meyer said. “She was like that in high school. She didn’t look to seek attention. She didn’t spend much time on social media. She’s grounded. Humble.”

When Clark played in grade school, Meyer immediately noticed a “different type” of player. Clark’s improvement quickly skyrocketed, rising to uncommon heights.

To communally celebrate their 2020 alumna, the Dowling Catholic student council rented out a local theater April 1 to watch Clark in the Elite Eight that night. They weren’t disappointed after she scored 41 points and threaded 12 assists in a 94-87 win over Louisiana State University that earned a trip to the Final Four.

“It’s incredible,” said Meyer. “It’s still surreal … the level of notoriety to women’s basketball. It’s not all about Caitlin Clark, of course, but she is a part of it. As terrific a player as she was in high school, I can’t say I expected this level of success.

“Her court vision. Her understanding. I haven’t seen a higher IQ,” Meyer continued. “She’s fun to watch. She’s so consistent. Scores 30 or 40 against great teams. It’s an art. She can make it look effortless.”

Like Meyer, one of Clark’s grade-school mentors at St. Francis — sixth-grade math and science teacher Jill Westholm — recalls Clark’s kind, easygoing disposition as a youngster and has witnessed her former pupil’s ability to remain stable despite unlimited attention from fans, media and even curious bystanders who can’t quite make sense of Caitlin-mania.

“It’s so crazy to me to see her in this superstar world,” Westholm told OSV News. “The same Caitlin you see today is the same Caitlin who walked the halls as a 10-, 12- and 14-year-old. She’s the Caitlin Clark who is very smart. Intelligent. Very driven. The Caitlin Clark who never gave less than her best. The Caitlin Clark who was and is very loyal to her friends. The Caitlin Clark who, even in middle school, had their backs.”

A few months ago, Westholm and a few friends decided to purchase tickets to the NCAA women’s Final Four April 5-6 in Cleveland.

Figuring — correctly, as it turned out — that ticket prices could become unreasonable as the event approached, Westholm and her buds figured they were in win-win mode. The “worst” possibility would be sitting back and watching four great programs vie for the right to compete in the NCAA final.

The best scenario, however, was obvious.

“We gambled on Caitlin being there,” said Westholm. “We crossed our fingers and said some prayers.”

The prayers were answered. On April 5, Iowa met the University of Connecticut on the court in the Final Four, and Clark led the Hawkeyes’ rally for a 71-69 win over the Huskies. Iowa headed to the NCAA championship April 7 against undefeated South Carolina. The Gamecocks beat Iowa 87-75 for the national championship and completed a perfect season.

In an interview days before the final, Westholm predicted that regardless of Iowa’s fate, Clark would either either emerge eternally grateful for becoming a national champion, or quickly bounce back from any disappointment and recognize that she had been blessed to even be on the precipice of something so unique.

“She will rely on her faith,” said Westholm. “Her faith has always been important to her, and that’s real. Her whole family lives out their faith. Caitlin doesn’t reach her stardom without her family background.”

Westholm was referring to Clark’s parents, Anne and Brent, and her two brothers, Blake and Colin. Along with her siblings, Anne graduated from Dowling Catholic and her father, Bob Nizzi, coached football there.

Before graduating from Dowling in 2019, Blake became and remains involved with a club called Ut Fidem, Latin for “keep the faith.” Having experienced a Kairos retreat as a junior, Caitlin joined Ut Fidem as a senior.

The group’s focus, according to Dowling’s website, “strives to develop high school students into intentional disciples who will keep the faith for the rest of their lives, and especially through college” and supports students via weekly small groups of five or six led by adult faith mentors.

Students learn how to “defend their Catholic faith, and develop deep, personal relationships with Jesus Christ . . . grow their devotion to personal prayer, the sacramental life, understanding of church teachings, and enter into the lifestyle of an on-fire Catholic” and better understand how to discern the question, “Why am I Catholic?”

Using some of the tools she learned in grade school and high school and benefiting from a close, faith-sharing family, Clark recently started the nonprofit Caitlin Clark Foundation — described as a mission to “uplift and improve the lives of youth and their communities through education, nutrition and sport.”

Last November, Caitlin partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa and, with help from Nike, personally donated close to 100 hoodies, winter gloves and hats to help keep youngsters warm this past winter. Along with a sizable personal monetary donation, she also donated 57 basketballs, 15 footballs, 12 soccer balls and 15 jump ropes to the Boys & Girls Club.

“She uses her gifts to give back,” said Meyer. “She’s not bigger than the game of basketball, but she knows she has the capacity to help other people and is enthusiastic about doing as much as she can.”

Although it’s been argued that it’s actually her eye-popping passing ability that has separated her from former and current greats, Clark’s ascent from a consistently great scorer to tallying the most points in the history of college basketball didn’t happen out of nowhere.

From the time Clark decided to attend Iowa, the nation’s top coaches held their breath and readied themselves for a steady dose of nightly wonderment and more-than-occasional ESPN highlights.

No coach watched Clark more intently than Muffet McGraw.

The legendary Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer at the University of Notre Dame who retired in 2020 after an incredible career that included 936 total victories, a .762 winning percentage, nine trips to the Final Four, seven finals and two NCAA championships came within a whisker of coaching Clark.

After a painstaking decision process, however, Clark changed her mind at the last minute and chose Iowa black and gold over Irish blue and gold. Clark has gone on record as describing the phone call to McGraw as excruciating and lauds the coach for how she handled the disappointment with gentleness, compassion and understanding.

Not a person who dishes out unwarranted praise, McGraw, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball coach for 33 years, effusively commended Clark for helping elevate women’s basketball to its highest popularity ever among both the young and old, as indicated by the more than 12 million viewers who tuned in to watch the Iowa-LSU classic.

“I’ve never seen anyone like her,” McGraw told OSV News. “She is a phenomenal offensive player. She has confidence that never wavers. She’s fearless, relentless, competitive, driven … all the things that you want in a basketball player.

“And she’s also unselfish. Yes, she takes a lot of shots, but she also led the nation in assists last year, and I’m sure she’s in the top five this year. So she’s somebody that really knows how to get her team involved. She gets them to play at a higher level. She just has that charisma and that leadership that allows the people around her to thrive.”

Superstars sometimes can’t help but alienate teammates when all of the attention surrounds one person. But that hasn’t happened at Iowa.

“There could be jealousy and there could be problems in a situation like that when you have a player like that on your team,” said McGraw. “She makes them rise above everything and focus on just wanting to win. That’s, I think, the thing that sets her apart. It’s not all about her.”

McGraw particularly appreciates Clark’s vision that surpasses well beyond points, assists, rebounds, and championships.

“She wants to do something for the women’s game,” said McGraw. “She is certainly the center of attention, yet she always takes time for others. You see her signing autographs for lines and lines of people. She just does a great job in the community and continues to do whatever she can for the fans. She says the right things in public.

“I think she is definitely somebody that is a role model in our sport, and she’s changed the game,” McGraw continued. “I mean, nobody has done what she’s done in terms of the sellouts. The Big Ten sold out every single place. It’s unbelievable … unbelievable.

“The Big Ten tournament sold out for the first time,” she said. “Tickets for the last game were going for, I don’t know, $500 or something. It’s been amazing. I mean, 12 million people watched the Iowa-LSU game. That’s even more than a lot of NBA Finals. So it’s just phenomenal what she’s done for the game.”

Wherever Clark plays as a professional, McGraw will be watching.

“She’s one in a million,” said McGraw. “I think she’s going to do great things for the WNBA next year.”

(John Knebels writes for OSV News from suburban Philadelphia.)

On Easter, pope asks Christ to ‘roll away’ the stones of war worldwide

By Justin McLellan

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Just as Jesus removed the stone that sealed his tomb on the morning of the Resurrection, on Easter Christ alone “has the power to roll away the stones that block the path to life” and which trap humanity in war and injustice, Pope Francis said.

Through his resurrection, Jesus opens “those doors that continually we shut with the wars spreading throughout the world,” he said after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square March 31. “Only the risen Christ, by granting us the forgiveness of our sins, opens the way for a renewed world.”

Seated on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope asked the risen Christ to bring peace in Israel, Palestine and Ukraine and a host of other conflict-ridden regions in the world.

“In calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” he said. “All for the sake of all!”

Pope Francis observes the crowd in St. Peter’s Square before he imparts his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica March 31, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis then appealed to the international community to ensure access of humanitarian aid to Gaza and called for the “prompt release” of hostages taken during Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7 as well as “an immediate cease-fire in the strip.”

“War is always an absurdity, war is always a defeat,” he said, asking that the “strengthening winds of war” do not reach Europe and the Mediterranean. “Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Easter Mass in the flower-laden square began with the singing of the “alleluia,” traditionally absent from liturgical celebrations during Lent, as part of the rite of “Resurrexit” in which an icon of Jesus is presented to the pope to recall St. Peter’s witness to Christ’s resurrection.

More than 21,000 flower bulbs donated by Dutch flower growers decorated the square and popped with color against the overcast sky.

As is traditional, the pope did not give a homily during the morning Mass but bowed his head and observed several minutes of silent reflection after the chanting of the Gospel in both Latin and Greek.

Although the Vatican said Pope Francis stayed home from a Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum March 29 “to conserve his health” for the Easter vigil and Mass, the pope appeared in high spirits while greeting cardinals and bishops after the Mass. He spent considerable time riding the popemobile among the faithful, smiling and waving to the throngs of visitors in St. Peter’s Square and lining the long avenue approaching the Vatican.

The Vatican said some 30,000 people attended the pope’s morning Mass and, by noon, there were approximately 60,000 people inside and around St. Peter’s Square for his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, stood alongside Pope Francis for the blessing and announced a plenary indulgence available to those present and to everyone following through radio, television and other channels of communication.

Stopping only occasionally to clear his throat, Pope Francis read the entirety of his Easter message and prayed for peace in several conflict hotspots around the world, including Syria, Lebanon, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He also prayed for the Rohingya — a persecuted, predominantly Muslim, ethnic group residing largely in Myanmar — who he said are “beset by a grave humanitarian crisis.”

The pope praised the Western Balkan region’s steps toward European integration, urging the region to embrace its ethnic, cultural and confessional differences, as well as the peace negotiations taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“May the risen Christ open a path of hope to all those who in other parts of the world are suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity and the effects of climate change. May he grant consolation to the victims of terrorism in all its forms,” he prayed, asking visitors to “pray for all those who have lost their lives and implore the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of those crimes.”

On Easter, which Pope Francis said celebrates the life given to humanity through the resurrection of God’s son, he lamented “how much the precious gift of life is despised” today.

“How many children cannot even be born?” he asked. “How many die of hunger and are deprived of essential care or are victims of abuse and violence? How many lives are made objects of trafficking for the increasing commerce in human beings?”

“On the day when Christ has set us free from the slavery of death, I appeal to all who have political responsibilities to spare no efforts in combatting the scourge of human trafficking, by working tirelessly to dismantle the networks of exploitation and to bring freedom to those who are their victims,” he said.

Pope Francis also asked that the light of the risen Christ “shine upon migrants and on all those who are passing through a period of economic difficulty” as a source of consolation and hope.

“May Christ guide all persons of goodwill to unite themselves in solidarity, in order to address together the many challenges which loom over the poorest families in their search for a better life and happiness,” he said, praying that the light of the Resurrection “illumine our minds and convert our hearts, and make us aware of the value of every human life, which must be welcomed, protected and loved.”

Reimagining process advances toward season of refreshment and renewal

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you a season of refreshment.” (Acts of the Apostles 3:19-20)

During this Easter season there will be additional opportunities in each of our six deaneries to further the conversations in our undertaking of Pastoral Reimagining process. To apply the phrase from the Scriptures by St. Peter in the passage above, another way of expressing the goal of our process is to advance toward a season of refreshment and renewal under the gaze of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Although the process was organized from the diocesan center, the handiwork has taken place on the local level with conversations for the sake of reimagining of what could be, building upon the diocesan and world-wide undertaking of Synodality in the Catholic Church.

It must be a grassroots process in order for the diocesan center to engage in authentic listening and conversation with all points on the compass. In other words, “whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Acts 3:22) The Lord himself expressed spiritual and pastoral potential “…they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

Not surprisingly, healing and greater unity were a repeated theme during our diocesan synodal process, both for our church and society. Another expressed desire was for a more meaningful understanding and application of the Bible, the sacred word of God. All this is seen and heard on Divine Mercy Sunday from the scriptures, in the Eucharist, and in the recitation of the Chaplet.

In the classic resurrection appearance, the Lord was suddenly in the midst of his scattered and fearful apostles and immediately blessed them with peace, in fact, three times over two encounters. He proceeded to breathe upon them the power of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, theirs and all who would hear the Gospel and come to faith. With God’s grace in abundance, he sent them into the world so that “all may have life in his name.” (John 20:19-31) This is a Gospel account of healing and hope in the aftermath of the trauma of the violent crucifixion, and the division and conflict that come from such events. Many in our society and church are reeling from similar turmoil.

From Divine Mercy Sunday in the tradition of the beloved disciple John we heard in the second reading that this is the power, “that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.” (1John 5:6) Water and the blood, the blue and the red rays from the side of the crucified and resurrected One, Divine Mercy. The good fruit of all of this is heard and imagined from the first reading on Divine Mercy Sunday.

“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind … With great power the apostles bore witness to the power of the resurrection, and there was no needy person among them.” (1Acts 4:33-35)
This is the paradigm Christian community, strong in faith, hope and love, an ideal for sure, but also real on many levels. Although not formally expressed until the year 325 in the Nicene Creed, it is clear that One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic were unfolding at the beginning.

The process of Reimagining in our diocese is a hope that is ever ancient and ever new. “Late have I loved you, O Beauty every ancient, ever new…” (Saint Augustine, Confessions)

We want to see, hear, and understand the power of the Lord’s resurrection, his peace, his mercy, his call and mission for our lives, in our parishes, schools and ministries. Overall, the new life of Eastertide, a season of refreshment, by God’s grace, is producing the good fruit from the efforts of reimagining in our diocese. Let us continue to fight the good fight of faith, “the power that conquers the world.” (1John 5:4)

Called by name

The ‘Come and See’ at St. Joseph Seminary College in late March was a big success with more than 200 young men participating. Each spring and fall the seminary college, which is located in Covington, Louisiana on the campus on a Benedictine Monastery, hosts the event.

We had two discerners come down for the weekend and they both had very positive experiences. One of the recent developments at this event has been a greater focus on networking among vocations directors from around the country. I got a lot out of a roundtable discussion that we were invited to with the seminary faculty and in the other social times that were made available for vocations directors. As I reflect on nearly five years of promoting vocations, it is really important that I get new ideas and bounce my own practices off others who are in the field. Bishop Kopacz often reminds me that vocations is a specialized ministry, and often you can’t grow unless you are talking to others who know what the unique challenges and goals are that you are facing.

Father Nick Adam

I continue to be encouraged and blessed by our current seminarians, all of whom are working very hard and have been very diligent in their discernment. Many of our men were able to come back to the diocese to help out with Holy Week liturgies at various parishes and at the Cathedral. I was able to catch up with them on Easter Monday for a great lunch, and Bishop Kopacz and I went down to Covington again in early April for evaluations and were able to visit with everyone again. The group’s desire for community and their willingness to be present back here in the diocese is a great sign for the future. Our men in formation are men of the people who want to be a part of our diocesan life. This is a key point of formation and a benchmark that is very important to hit.

All of our seminarians showed this attitude in practice when they came up to serve for the Chrism Mass on Holy Tuesday and helped Chancellor Mary Woodward and I host a lunch for our guests after the Mass. For the past couple of years, we’ve invited fifth graders from our Catholic Schools to attend the Mass and to speak to them about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The boys were hosted by myself and the seminarians, while the girls got to hear from Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth about women’s religious life. Our seminarians were very engaged and the kids loved to hear their stories. I asked each of our seminarians to give a brief witness to the kids regarding their call to the seminary, and I hope that the kids will take to heart these stories and keep priesthood in mind as they grow and develop their talents and interests.

We look forward with joy to the ordination of Deacon Tristan Stovall this May. He will be ordained at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Jackson on May 18 at 10:30 a.m. Please make plans to come join us for this joyous occasion.

Father Nick Adam, vocation director

(Father Nick Adam can be contacted at nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.)