Archive researcher explores Bishop Elder

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – This past week our diocesan archives hosted Father David Endres, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Dean of the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary where he is professor of church history. Father Endres is also historical theology editor of U.S. Catholic Historian. Father Endres is working on completing an official biography of our third bishop, William Henry Elder.

Bishop Elder, a native of Baltimore, was our bishop from 1858 to 1880 when he was named Archbishop of Cincinnati.

On our diocesan website, we have this brief description of Bishop Elder’s tenure here in Mississippi.

One of his first actions was to appoint Father Mathurin Grignon vicar general of the diocese. He was a capable and energetic administrator who established a strong foundation on which the modern diocese was built.

Bishop Elder is pictured surrounded by his six brothers after he received his pallium as Archbisop of Cincinnati.

Father Grignon, who also served as pastor of the cathedral, had come to Natchez to teach in the school established by Bishop Chanche. It was he who administered the last sacraments to Bishop Van de Velde.
Wanting to make a good impression on Bishop Elder, Father Grignon, the Sisters of Charity and parishioners worked to improve the still unfinished interior of the cathedral, completing the woodwork and windows. By 1859, the task was completed.

Bishop Elder entrusted the running of the cathedral parish to Father Grignon while he traveled throughout the large Diocese to assist struggling parishes. At the same time, St. Mary Cathedral was also assisting missions attached to it in Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Cedar Creek, Rodney, Fayette, Meadville and Woodville.

D’Evereux Hall, an orphanage for boys, was opened in Natchez.

During Bishop Elder’s administration, the Civil War consumed the nation in violence and bloodshed for four years. Known as a saintly and scholarly man, Bishop Elder wrote to his father on the eve of the Civil War: “It is hard to tell what is to be the fate of the country. I have not enough of political sagacity to see what will be the course of events, nor what would be the fruit of the remedies proposed. … We can all unite in praying to God to guide and protect us.” Bishop Elder ministered to soldiers and celebrated Mass for the wounded throughout the war. He also ministered to a community of freedmen formed in Natchez by slaves who fled after the city was occupied in 1863 by federal troops.

Under Union occupation, the Bishop was expelled from Natchez and imprisoned in Vidalia, Louisiana for refusing to pray for the United States government. Although the war ended in 1865, Union troops remained in Natchez until 1876.

Bishop William Henry Elder and his chalice. (Photos from archives)

Expanding their educational ministry in the diocese, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened a school for boys in Natchez in 1865.

Bishop Elder was named coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1880 and would later become Archbishop there. When he arrived in Mississippi there were nine priests, 11 churches, three educational institutions, one orphanage and a Catholic population of 10,000.

When he left Mississippi, there were 19 priests, 42 churches, 12 schools for white children, three schools for black children and a Catholic population of 12,500. Among the parishes established during this time was St. Alphonsus in McComb.

For five days, Father Endres poured through original documents, letter books and correspondence from the 19th century carefully indexed by our master archivist, Bishop R. O. Gerow. Working in the diocesan archives vault among all the papers and files in boxes, cabinets stacked to the ceiling, there is a unique feeling of connection with those who have gone before us. We have a national treasure in our vault containing more than 200 years of American and church history.

JACKSON – Father David Endres of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently spent a week at the Diocese of Jackson’s chancery office researching Bishop William Henry Elder for a biography he is writing. He said that through his research he was “amazed by the fortitude that it took to be a missionary here in the 19th century.” (Photo by Tereza Ma)

The diocesan archive collection is only open to research by historians such as Father Endres. It is not like a library where one is able to walk in, browse and pull books off the shelf. Researchers must present credentials and an outline of the project they are researching before being approved for entry.

As archivist, I would then pull and group the information for the researcher to enable accomplishment of the project. For Father Endres’ research, there were 18 extremely fragile letter books, an 11-volume index, approximately 10 cubic feet of documents and several odds and ends in our vault.

By the end of the week, Father Endres had captured a wealth of information for the book. I very much look forward to reading Father Endres’ biography of Elder and placing a copy of it in our diocesan archive collection.

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


Around the diocese

SOUTHAVEN – Sacred Heart PreK students took part in a prayer service on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Brother Diego. (Photo by Sister Margaret Sue Broker)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick third graders learn about the Seven Sorrows of Mary. (Photo by Owen Kasey)

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth students joined around the flagpole for a prayer service in honor and memory of Patriot Day – Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Mary Evelyn Stonestreet)

MADISON – Brooks Holder speaks with his grandfather during the Grandparents’ Day celebration at St. Anthony School on Friday, Sept. 15. (Photo by Celeste Tassin)

School sports

RIDGELAND – The Junior Bruins, made up of students from St. Anthony and St. Richard students, rolled over the St. Andrew’s Saints with a 28 to zero victory on Thursday, Sept. 14. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

MADISON – Coach Dwyane Demmin challenged several teachers and student athletes to find out who is the fastest in the school at a pep rally on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at St. Anthony School. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

MADISON – The St. Joseph Lady Bruins middle school volleyball team celebrate their win of 25 – 8 over Simpson Academy on Thursday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Development day gathering highlights virtues in education and school safety

By Joanna Puddister King
MADISON – Diocesan schools will continue to focus on strengthening Catholic culture and school safety during the new academic year that has begun for all students.
The Office of Catholic Education hosted a development day for diocesan teachers and staff on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison with featured presenters Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, OP and Jim Brown, a school resource analyst with the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security.
“This day is filled with blessings, inspiration and joy for all who make our schools successful,” said executive director of Catholic Schools, Karla Luke. “This tradition is a fantastic opportunity for teachers and staff from around the diocese to share ideas that benefit our students and families and showcase the richness of our Catholic education.”

MADISON – Educators around the diocese gathered and heard from speakers Jim Brown (left), a school resource analyst with the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security and Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, OP (right), an over 30-year veteran of Catholic education.

The day began with a Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz in the performing arts building for the over 400 in attendance.
“Education is that gift of coming out of the darkness and ignorance into the light of faith, hope and love,” said Bishop Kopacz. “And, into the light of knowledge, wisdom and grace, like the Lord himself.”
Keynote speaker, Sister John Dominic highlighted the importance of grace as a part of the role of teachers and staff in the mission of Catholic education. She said that teachers can bring grace to their classrooms and to families, in order to help develop relationships and a Catholic culture that can aid in leading students and their families to God’s amazing grace through virtues in education.
“Grace is our participation in God’s light,” Sister John Dominic said to the crowd. “It is truly amazing!”
Sister John Dominic’s talk was especially fitting with this year’s theme “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” for Catholic schools from the Office of Education.
Educators also had the opportunity to hear from Jim Brown, who shared essential information on school safety. He has trained teaching staff around the state in best practices of responding to targeted violence and dangerous perpetrators through the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, or CRASE training.
“You are the last line of defense for those babies,” Brown told teachers and staff.
Teachers and staff also had the opportunity to come together and network with each other, plan collaboratively and share best practices.
“I enjoyed meeting with teachers from other schools in the diocese and hearing about how they were implementing the ‘Amazing Grace’ theme into their schools this year. I heard some great ideas that I am eager to bring back to our school,” said Jordan Amborn, director of student affairs at Vicksburg Catholic School.
Of the event, Bishop Kopacz said, “Today and every day, we pray for encouragement and building one another up in the Lord.”

MADISON – Educators gathered in prayer during Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz for their annual development day at St. Joseph School on Tuesday, Sept. 5. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Liturgical Norms for the Diocese of Jackson regarding the distribution and reception of Holy Communion

The following norms are in place for the Diocese of Jackson. More norms and directives may be found on the diocesan web site at

The Holy See establishes universal norms for the reverent celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. As part of this process the Holy See asks each bishops’ conference to establish norms and directives for its country or region. Furthermore, a local bishop may establish directives for his own diocese in line with the national and universal directives and norms.

Therefore, the following norms for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion in the Diocese of Jackson have been established by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz in line with Holy Mother Church’s process for establishing liturgical norms and directives.

  • All COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for almost a year now.
  • Communicants may receive the consecrated host in the hand or on the tongue. It is the communicant’s choice in how to receive not the minister of Communion’s. Do not refuse people who would like to receive on the tongue or in the hand.
  • In the Dioceses of the United States, which includes the Diocese of Jackson, the posture for receiving Holy Communion is standing. This applies to all Masses no matter the language or community. A minister of Communion should not refuse someone who kneels to receive Holy Communion, but kneelers and/or the implementation of a communion rail are not allowed.
  • Distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice is approved again. Keeping in mind that the ideal is for both species to be available, a pastor currently has the option to dispense distribution from the cup in times of flu or Covid outbreaks that present a danger to the community.
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may be used to assist in the distribution of the Precious Blood and Consecrated Hosts.
  • Purification of the sacred vessels must be done by the priest, deacon or instituted acolyte.
  • Under no circumstances is a communicant allowed to self-communicate by taking a consecrated host from the ciborium or paten. The minister of Communion must place the host on the communicant’s hand or tongue.
  • A communicant is never allowed to intinct (dip) the consecrated host into the chalice of Precious Blood.
  • Currently, intinction by the minister of Communion is not an option in the Diocese of Jackson.

Other resources on the Eucharist may be found on our diocesan Eucharistic Revival web site at:

10 things to know about October’s Synod on Synodality in Rome

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – The eyes of the Catholic world turn to Rome Oct. 4, as the worldwide Synod of Bishops convenes on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi to focus on “synodality” and understanding what it means in terms of “communion, participation and mission” in the church. Here’s what it is, how we got here and what to expect.

– 1. The Synod on Synodality is three years in the making.
Pope Francis announced in March 2020 (at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Italy) that the next Synod of Bishops would be held in October 2022 on the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission,” which quickly became known as the “Synod on Synodality.” In May 2021, he postponed the two-part meeting to 2023 (with a second gathering in 2024), due in part to the pandemic, and announced that it would be preceded by a two-year process.

That decision reflected Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod of Bishops outlined in the 2018 apostolic constitution “Episcopalis Communio,” including what Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, described at the time as “transforming the Synod from an event into a process.” Pope Francis officially opened the “synodal path” with a Mass Oct. 10, 2021, with dioceses around the world following suit.

– 2. Synodality is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”
Despite the long history of synods in the church, the term “synodality” is relatively recent, emerging in church documents about two decades ago. In 2018, the topic was addressed by the International Theological Commission, which defined it as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

Synodality was also a topic of conversation at the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” that took place in 2018.

In the Synod on Synodality’s “vademecum,” an official handbook issued in September 2021, “synodality” is described as “the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the hurch, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel,” adding, “Synodality ought to be expressed in the church’s ordinary way of living and working.”

In his homily for the Mass opening the synod process, Pope Francis said, “Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, walking together.” He said that when meeting others, Jesus would “encounter, listen and discern,” and those verbs “characterize the synod.”

“The Gospels frequently show us Jesus ‘on a journey’; he walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky roads of life.”

He continued: “Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves – all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

– 3. A synod is a meeting of bishops. It has ancient roots in the Catholic Church’s history and continuity in the Eastern Churches, but declined in the Latin Church. The modern Synod of Bishops was instituted near the end of Vatican II.
“Synod” has been historically interchangeable with “council,” such as the churchwide Council of Nicea or the Council of Trent, or more localized meetings, such as the Plenary Councils of Baltimore, which brought the U.S. bishops together in 1852, 1866 and 1884. The late Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley, a theologian at Georgetown University, noted in a February 2022 essay for America magazine that local councils declined in use following the First Vatican Council, which defined papal primacy, but they didn’t die out: “One of the first things that the future Pope John XXIII did when he became patriarch of Venice was to call a diocesan synod,” he wrote.

The idea for a permanent bishops’ council surfaced during the Second Vatican Council, and in 1965 St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops with “the function of providing information and offering advice.” “It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod,” St. Paul VI wrote.

– 4. The Synod on Synodality is the 16th Ordinary Synod since the global Synod of Bishops’ institution.
Three extraordinary general assemblies have also been held, including in 2014 to complete the work of the 2015 ordinary general assembly on the family. An additional 11 special Synods of Bishops have been held to address issues facing a particular region. Among them was a special synod on America in 1997 and one on the Amazon region in 2019. Synods have regularly resulted in the pope, who serves as the synod president, writing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

– 5. Preparations for the Synod on Synodality sought to be the most extensive ever, with an invitation to every Catholic to provide input.
An unprecedented worldwide consultation occurred at the diocesan/national and continental levels. The synod’s two-year preparation process invited all Catholics worldwide to identify areas where the church needed to give greater attention and discernment. That feedback was gathered and synthesized by dioceses and then episcopal conferences, before being brought to the continental level. The syntheses from episcopal conferences and continental-level meetings were shared with the Holy See, and they informed a working document known as an “Instrumentum Laboris” for the general assembly’s first session. The document’s authors describe it as “not a document of the Holy See, but of the whole church.” However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report indicates that only about 700,000 Catholics in the U.S. participated, representing just over 1% of the U.S. Catholic population of 66.8 million.

– 6. The Synod on Synodality’s objective boils down to answering a two-part question.
According to the vademecum, “The current Synodal Process we are undertaking is guided by a fundamental question: How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the church to proclaim the Gospel? and what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?”

The working document released in June to guide general assembly participants includes many other reflection questions; but it particularly asks participants to reflect on these priorities, guided by its focus on communion, participation and mission: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”; “How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”; and “What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

– 7. For the first time ever, non-bishops – including lay men and women – have a vote in the synod.
The synod’s general assembly includes more than 450 participants – 363 of whom are voting members – with leaders from the Vatican curia and episcopal conferences. More than a quarter of synod members are non-bishops, including laypeople, who for the first time will have a vote during synod deliberations. A deliberate effort was made to include women and young adults. As of July 7, when the Vatican released the initial list, the number of voting women was the same as participating cardinals: 54. The list was subject to change ahead of the synod, organizers said.

In previous synods, some non-bishop participants held the non-voting role of “auditor,” which has been eliminated at this assembly, although some attendees will be non-voting observers, called “special envoys,” or non-voting facilitators or advisers.

The presence of “non-bishops,” according to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s general relator, in a letter published at the time the change was announced, “ensures the dialogue between the prophecy of the people of God and the discernment of the pastors.”

– 8. More than 20 Catholics from the United States have been invited to participate.
Participating American bishops chosen by Pope Francis are Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, California.

Additional bishop-delegates selected by the USCCB and confirmed by Pope Francis are Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, and serves as USCCB president.

American prelates Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, formerly the bishop of Dallas, are also delegates by nature of prior papal appointments. Cardinal Tobin is an ordinary member of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Farrell is prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Pope Francis also nominated synod member Jesuit Father James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine and founder of Outreach, a ministry for Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+.

Other U.S. delegates were nominated by the USCCB and confirmed by the pope. They include: Richard Coll, the executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Integral Human Development; Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult faith formation at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis; Father Iván Montelongo of El Paso, Texas; Wyatt Olivas, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; Julia Oseka, a Polish student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; and Sister Leticia Salazar, a member of the Company of Mary, Our Lady and chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.

USCCB-nominated delegates participated in the continental synod, and Coll, Bishop Flores and Sister Salazar were members of the 18-person North American Synod Team that prepared the North American continental synod report for the U.S. and Canada. Bishop Flores has been named one of nine delegate presidents of the assembly.

Sister Maria Cimperman, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and theologian at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and American Jesuit Father David McCallum, executive director of the Discerning Leadership Program in Rome, are among the 57 non-voting experts.

– 9. In the U.S., the meeting has been a source of great expectation and great apprehension.
The synod has inspired both great praise and deep criticism for its approach, including allowing laypeople to vote; its subject matter, which includes controversial topics such as leadership roles for women, ministry to Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+, and the relationship between laypeople and clergy. At least one cardinal expressed concern that the meeting could lead to confusion and error in church teaching.
However, Bishop Flores, speaking recently with OSV News, said the meeting aims to better understand people’s reality so it can better minister to them. “We can’t respond with the Gospel if we don’t know what the reality they’re facing is,” he said of people, especially those on margins and in difficult situations.

– 10. October’s meeting is just the beginning.
In an unusual move, the synod general assembly has been divided into two sessions, with the first Oct. 4-29, and the second planned for October 2024. The decision, announced in October 2022, has parallels to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which met in 2014 for an extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and then continued its work the following year as an ordinary assembly. The work of both meetings culminated in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), released in 2016.

Prior to the synod, Pope Francis presides over an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 30. Synod participants attend a retreat Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Sacrofano, about 16 miles north of Rome. The retreat includes morning meditations – offered by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe of the United Kingdom and the Benedictine Rev. Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini of Italy – afternoon small-groups and Mass.

Meanwhile, the Taizé community and other organizations have organized a meeting in Rome that weekend called “Together – Gathering of the People of God” for young people to pray for the synod.
The synod’s general assembly opens Oct. 4 with a papal Mass that includes the new cardinals created at a Sept. 30 consistory. Among them is expected to be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)

World Day for Migrants and Refugees highlights apostolic nature of the church

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Sunday, Sept. 24 marked the 110th commemoration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in our Catholic Church tradition. This commemoration was inaugurated in 1914 by Pope Benedict XV at the peak of immigration from southern and eastern Europe to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Both sets of my grandparents immigrated from Italy and Poland in 1914-1915 seeking a life of dignity, rooted in faith, family and hard work.

This year Pope Francis has chosen the theme, Free to Migrate – Free to Stay. With this designation the Holy Father is only reminding the nations of the world of Articles 13 and 14 from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that state: (13) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own and to return to his country. (14) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

In our time the reality and plight of hundreds of millions of immigrants, migrants and refugees, displaced by natural disasters, war and violence, and unyielding conditions of poverty often strain the spiritual and material resources of many nations. However, there have been admirable responses to the waves of the displaced, for example, with Poland’s welcoming of millions of Ukrainians, Lebanon’s reception of Syrians, and in our own country, the daily processing of 1000s of immigrants, refugees and migrants. All of this is best proclaimed in the spirit of Lady Liberty in New York harbor. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, send these the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp besides the golden door.”

Yet, there are many in every generation of Americans who struggle with the reality of immigration, or who are even hostile toward the waves of migration that have come to our shores and borders. Today, the sheer number of immigrants at our southern border daily strain the resources of the receiving communities and states. The conditions that drive this mass exodus of people from their homelands will not change any time soon and challenge all of us in the United States, especially living on or near the border to respond at the very least, humanely and respectfully.

Recalling St. Paul’s instruction to the Philippians from last Sunday’s second reading, “to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a) the bar is even higher for a more humane and respectful response from those who are the Lord’s disciples.

The Holy Spirit who unveils the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and his Gospel, can illuminate the path to follow the Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus understood the experience of living in the flesh in everything but sin. (Hebrews 4:15-16) He responded to people’s spiritual and bodily needs with compassion and care.

In the light of the 110th anniversary, on behalf of migrants and refugees; soon after his birth Jesus, Joseph and Mary became refugees in Egypt seeking asylum, running for their lives away from King Herod’s raging paranoia.

Many are on the move today for similar threats to their lives. Throughout his life, Jesus Christ the exile in this world from heaven, had no status in the Roman world and so could be and was crucified. But God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) The mystery of God’s plan of salvation reveals that in the resurrection from the dead “you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one, and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us.” (Eph 2:13-14)

Therefore, driven by a love that cannot be walled in, and inspired to a mission that does not let anyone be walled out; the church continues to transcend borders, build bridges and build communities that are a sign of God’s presence among us. Moreover, the conviction of our faith that our citizenship is in heaven can transform our earthly allegiances and guide us from otherness to oneness, and from alienation to communion.

Confessing Jesus as Lord, means that Caesar is not. As Christians follow Jesus as Lord, they challenge the deification of money, the idolatry of the state and the glorification of power. Before God all are one. Here is the bulwark against an ideology of racial superiority, here is the challenge to absolute claims of natural or cultural boundaries, here is the basis for all human dignity, including the dignity of strangers in the land, the right of the migrant to cross borders, whether in fleeing danger or seeking opportunity; the obligation to welcome the stranger and to provide refuge and respect. (The Theology of Migration – Daniel G. Goody) This is the biblical vision which is embraced by the universal declaration of human rights.

In 1914 when Pope Benedict XV inaugurated a World Day for Migrants and Refugees, he understood the apostolic nature of the church; the Body of Christ perpetually in motion, a migrant church, sent into the world on the day of Pentecost with missionary zeal, scattered among the nations by persecutions and martyrdom, perennially and faithfully bearing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ until the Lord comes again. Although we are not of the world because we strive to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, we are in the world and for the world, for the ultimate good of all.

Called by Name

New posters are coming soon! Each year I’m excited to publish a new seminarian poster with the happy faces of our current seminarians. I love to see how guys ‘move up the ranks.’ For example, in 2020 and 2021, Grayson Foley was in the last spot on the poster and now he’s fourth in line (almost on the top row!) as he continues to progress through the program. Will Foggo is now second on the list, and it seemed like yesterday that he was second to last! It’s also fun to see when guys get their ‘collar.’ Deacon Tristan Stovall spent three years on the poster collar-less, but now he’s been wearing his roman collar for years as he makes the final approach to priestly ordination.

Father Nick Adam

  One of the biggest changes this year is the way that the ‘classes’ are listed on the poster. In years past, we designated the seminarians according to their academic standing. A seminarian listed as 2nd Philosophy meant that he was in his second year of philosophy studies. But the US Bishops recently approved a new Program for Priestly Formation, and instead of focusing on the academic standing of each seminarian, they are asking us to see their formation through the lens of ‘stages.’

The first stage that is required for seminarians now is the Propaedeutic Stage, or preparatory stage. During this time, the seminarian learns how to be a seminarian, and his class load is less than a typical undergraduate student. Once he clears this stage of formation, he moves onto the Discipleship Stage. During this time, the seminarian is expected to be growing in Christian virtue as a student of Jesus, the High Priest. He needs to show growth in charity, and of course continue to pass his classes as they start to ramp up to a normal undergraduate load. By the end of this stage, this man should be a public man of prayer and virtue, and someone who is showing real potential to be a pastor in the church.

The next step is the Configurative Stage, where the man receives Candidacy (he starts to wear the Roman collar), and he is now a public man of the church. He is being configured through continued study, prayer and practice into a man who is not only a disciple, but a shepherd. Once he has completed this stage, the seminarian is ready for diaconate ordination, or the Pastoral Synthesis Stage. During his time as a deacon, the seminarian uses all that he has learned in seminary formation and applies it to his life in the diocese and in a specific parish. Using the language of the new program Deacon Tristan, for example is in the Pastoral Synthesis Stage of his journey to priesthood, instead of his 4th Year of Theology.

It may seem tedious to change this language, but it is certainly helpful for me as I walk with our seminarians. I need to make sure I’m not just worried about whether they pass their classes, but I need to make sure I’m preparing them to go to the next stage of discernment. So far, I’ve heard good things from our men regarding these changes to their formation, and I believe the church is right to focus on formation, rather than simply completion of academic requirements.

Praying for vocations means understanding church’s needs, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life are declining in developed countries around the world, prayers for vocations should not try to “convince” God to send more workers for the church but seek to better understand the needs of its people, Pope Francis said.
Meeting with a group of Rogationists and Daughters of Divine Zeal at the Vatican Sept. 18, the pope praised the example of their founder, St. Hannibal di Francia, who made praying for vocations central to the charisms of the congregations he began.

St. Hannibal, he said, “understood that the first thing to do was pray, certainly not to convince God to send shepherds, as if he did not care for his people, but to let himself be overwhelmed by the deep passion of his paternal and maternal love, to learn – by praying – to be sensitive to the needs of his children.”

Pope Francis speaks to members of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus and the Daughters of Divine Zeal during a meeting at the Vatican Sept. 18, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The 19th-century Sicilian saint founded the congregations after drawing inspiration from a passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” St. John Paul II called St. Hannibal’s desire to dedicate “unceasing and universal” prayer for vocations a “providential intuition” when he declared him a saint in 2004.

Pope Francis said this type of prayer is particularly practiced in eucharistic adoration, where “docile and humble before God, one receives a specific understanding about the sense of his or her own life.”

The pope urged those walking in the path of St. Hannibal to be “specialists” in God, not through abstract theory, but in prayer and charity to communicate God to the world through their example.

“This is your mission,” he told them, “for even today the Lord is calling, and so many young people need credible witnesses and guides who, by showing them the beauty of a life spent in love, will help them to say ‘yes.’”

Giving up on fear

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
A friend of mine shares this story. He was an only child. When he was in his late twenties, still single, building a successful career and living in the same city as his mother and father, his father died, leaving his mother widowed. His mother, who had centered her life on her family and on her son, was understandably devastated. Much of her world collapsed, she’d lost her husband, but she still had her son.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

The next years were not always easy for her son. His mother had lost much of her world, save him, and he felt a heavy responsibility toward her. She lived for his visits. His days off and his vacation times had to be spent with her. Much as he loved his mother, it was a burden that prevented him from having the social life and relational freedom he yearned for, and it prevented him from making some career decisions that he would otherwise have made. He had to take care of his mother, to be there for her. As one can guess, their times together were sometimes a test of loyalty and duty for the son. But he did it faithfully, year after year. There was no one else his mother could lean on.

When his mother’s health began to decline, she sold her house and moved into a Seniors’ complex. Most times on his day off he would pick up his mother, take her for a drive in the country, and then take her to dinner before dropping her back at her mini apartment. One day on such an outing, driving along a country road in silence, his mother broke the quiet with words that both surprised him and, for the first time in a long time, had his full attention.

She shared words to this effect: Something huge has happened in my life. I’ve given up on fear. All my life I have been afraid of everything – of not measuring up, of not being good enough, of being boring, of being excluded, of being alone, of ending up alone, of ending up without any money or a place to live, of people talking about me behind my back. I’ve been afraid of my own shadow. Well, I’ve given up on fear. And why not? I’ve lost everything – my husband, my place in society, my home, my physical looks, my health, my teeth and my dignity. I’ve nothing left to lose anymore, and do you know something? It’s good! I’m not afraid of anything anymore. I feel free in a way I have never felt before. I’ve given up on fear.

For the first time in a long time, he began to listen closely to what his mother was saying. He also sensed something new in her, a new strength and a deeper wisdom from which he wished to drink. The next time he took her for a drive, he said to her: Mom, teach me that. Teach me how not to be afraid.
She lived for two more years and during those years he took her for drives in the country and for lunches and dinners together, and he drew something from her, from that new strength in her, that he had not been able to draw from before. When she eventually died and he lost her earthly presence, he could only describe what she had given him in those final years by using biblical terms: “My mother gave me birth twice, once from below and once from above.”

It’s not easy to give up on fear, nor to teach others how to do so. Fear has such a grip on us because for most of our lives we in fact have much to lose. So, it’s hard, understandably so, not to live with a lot of fear for most of our lives. Moreover, this is not a question of being mature or immature, spiritual or earthy. Indeed, sometimes the more mature and spiritual we are, the more we appreciate the preciousness of life, of health, of family, of friendship, of community – all of which have their own fragility and all of which we can lose. There are good reasons to be afraid.

It is no accident that this man’s mother was able to move beyond fear only after she had lost most everything in life. God and nature recognize that and have written it into the aging process. The aging process is calibrated to take us to a place where we can give up on fear because as we age and lose more and more of our health, our importance in the world, our physical attractiveness, our loved ones to death and our dignity, we have less and less to lose – and less and less to be afraid of.

This is one of nature’s last gifts to us, and living in a way that others see this new freedom in us can also be one of the last great gifts we leave behind with those we love.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website


By Sister alies therese

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (NAB, John 1:1) That God spoke one word is a clue for us because folks who babble and gossip are insecure, undermining and silly. I have to put it that way because it describes most of us!

In Proverbs and other places in Scripture we can learn. Consider in Proverbs 13:2 “the good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.” (Peterson) I can only hope to discover how to learn to speak the simplest and most direct and loving words as I mature. How shall my words not bully anyone, how can I speak with the ‘tongue of angels’? How can I learn to speak the truth? Can I speak in love?

Sister alies therese

Gossip is something that gets under my skin. Yours? Rumors and tales that particularly feature my neighbors or friends really get my goat. Proverbs again reminds us of this: “troublemakers start fights, gossip breaks up friendships.” (16:28, Peterson) “Don’t talk about your neighbors behind their backs – no slander or gossip please.” (24:28, Peterson).

Not gossiping is not just ‘good behavior’; it is also quite practical. “The person who lies gets caught; the person who spreads rumors is ruined.” (NAB, Proverbs 19:9) Rumors that are spread on internet, for example, about teens being fat, or ugly, or indeed promiscuous, have ended in suicide and at least eating disorders.

“The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.” (12:8, Peterson) Political discourse is damaged by the passing of lies and rumor; the public square is littered with persons executed behind lies and false witnesses. Gossip indeed is a killer.

Did you hear the one about? And then off it goes. Some bits of truth are usually embedded within, but the rest implies a certain knowledge, certain power, certain insight into something that is just not true. One day it will be about you.

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert points this out “Talk badly about people too often and your reputation of being a rumormonger will make others stop trusting you.” You might answer, however, what I found in an old Reader’s Digest: “I’m not a gossip. I’m a verbal documenter of other people’s dramas!” Or as to say…I have a right to pass on what I see and hear. Think so?

Another old Reader’s Digest mentioned “You can’t believe everything you hear but you can repeat it.” Perhaps you don’t know the difference between truth and lies? Zip yer lip, especially in this case! “Watch the way you talk…say only what helps. Each word is a gift.” (Peterson, Eph 4:29).

I was impressed with psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, who defined gossip as a “sharing information-real or imagined-without permission.” He also indicated how gossip is emotional sadism because “people tend to take pleasure in someone else’s misery and delight that it’s not happening to them!” Gossip and rumors steal a person’s dignity, they put another person at their lowest where they often have no way of restoration. If you want to be part of another’s destruction, try gossip. “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.” (Peterson, Proverbs 17:4)

Rather become what Proverbs also suggests “Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things; but reliable reporter is a healing presence.” (Peterson, Proverbs 13:17) Let’s go for that because “gossip is like a black hole – once we get sucked in it’s hard to escape.” (

Children often have the right question, if not the right answer. When asked, a dad defined a gossiper for his son as a “a person with a profound sense of rumor.” A little girl, when asked how she knew she was loved said “when people say your name, you know it’s safe in their mouth.” Are words and tales safe in your mouth?

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better use of language than that … thanksgiving is our dialect.” (Peterson, Ephesians 5:4)


PS: My newest collection of short stories 27 Tall Tales will be out soon!

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)