Pope prays for dialogue as tensions mount between U.S., Iran

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis led pilgrims in prayers for peace as tensions between the United States and Iran escalated following the assassination of a top Iranian general.
Several days after Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, warned of “harsh retaliation” for the Jan. 3 U.S. drone attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the pope said that “a terrible air of tension is felt in many parts of the world.”
“War only brings death and destruction. I call on all parties to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control and avoid the shadow of enmity,” the pope said after praying the Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 5.
He then led the pilgrims in a moment of silent prayer so “that the Lord may give us the grace” of peace.
The drone strike, which killed Soleimani and six other people, including an Iraqi militia commander, caused a sharp escalation in already tense relations after President Donald Trump pulled out of nuclear deal with Iran last year.
In an interview with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s decision and said that Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent.”

Mourners touch the casket of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani during his funeral procession in Tehran Jan. 6, 2020. The military leader was killed Jan. 3 in a U.S. drone airstrike at Baghdad International Airport. (CNS photo/Khamenei website handout via Reuters)

Shortly after the Iranian general’s death, the United States deployed an additional 3,000 troops to the Middle East to stave off any retaliatory attacks against forces in the region.
However, the attack was seen by world leaders as an unnecessary provocation that could further destabilize the Middle East.
Speaking to Vatican News Jan. 3, Archbishop Leo Boccardi, apostolic nuncio to Iran, said the assassination “creates apprehension and shows us how difficult it is to build and believe in peace.”
“The appeal is to lower tension, to call everyone to negotiation and to believe in dialogue knowing that, has history has always shown us, that war and weapons aren’t the solution to the problems afflicting the world today,” Archbishop Boccardi said.
Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

Pope lifts secrecy obligation for those who report having been abused

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has abolished the obligation of secrecy for those who report having been sexually abused by a priest and for those who testify in a church trial or process having to do with clerical sexual abuse.
“The person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case,” the pope ordered in a new “Instruction On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings,” published Dec. 17.
In an accompanying note, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the change regarding the “pontifical secret” has nothing to do with the seal of the sacrament of confession.
“The absolute obligation to observe the sacramental seal,” he said, “is an obligation imposed on the priest by reason of the position he holds in administering the sacrament of confession and not even the penitent can free him of it.”

Pope Francis and prelates from around the world attend a penitential liturgy during a meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican in this Feb. 23, 2019, file photo. In a decision published Dec. 17 the pope abolished the obligation of secrecy for abuse victims during Vatican trials and processes. (CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool)

The instruction was published by the Vatican along with changes to the already-updated “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” (“Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments”), the 2001 document issued by St. John Paul II outlining procedures for the investigation and trial of any member of the clergy accused of sexually abusing a child or vulnerable adult or accused of acquiring, possessing or distributing child pornography.
In the first of the amendments, Pope Francis changed the definition of child pornography. Previously the subject was a person under the age of 14. The new description of the crime says, “The acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of 18, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology.”
In describing the procedural norms for how the tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to be composed and conducted, Pope Francis has removed the requirement that the legal representative of the accused be a priest. The law now reads: “The role of advocate or procurator is carried out by a member of the faithful possessing a doctorate in canon law, who is approved by the presiding judge of the college.”
But the abolition of the pontifical secret over the entire Vatican process is the greatest change made. And, not only are victims and witnesses free to discuss the case, the amended law specifies that the still-in-effect obligation of Vatican officials to maintain confidentiality “shall not prevent the fulfillment of the obligations laid down in all places by civil laws, including any reporting obligations, and the execution of enforceable requests of civil judicial authorities.”
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican’s chief abuse investigator, told America Magazine the new law makes clear that “anybody who discloses misconduct or a crime and anybody who is impacted by the misconduct or the crime, and the witnesses, should never be subject to a vow or a promise of silence on the fact that they have reported.”
The new law, he said, explicitly states people’s “moral duty” to cooperate with civil authorities in reporting and investigating the crime of abuse. “Moreover, there is an obligation not to bind people who disclose misconduct or crimes by any promise or vow of silence,” he explained.
In a separate interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Scicluna described as an “epochal change” the pope’s decision to drop the “pontifical secret” – the highest level of confidentiality. “That means, of course, the question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level,” he said.
The new rules do not mean that documents from Vatican abuse investigations and trials will be made public, he said, but “they are available for authorities, or people who are interested parties, and authorities who have a statutory jurisdiction over the matter.”
In the past, when a government or court asked the Vatican for information on a case, the response usually was that the material was covered by “pontifical secret.” Now, Archbishop Scicluna said, once “all the formalities of international law” are fulfilled, communication with other authorities “and the sharing of information and documentation are facilitated.”
In September 2017, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors asked Pope Francis to reconsider Vatican norms maintaining the imposition of “pontifical secret” in the church’s judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes.
The secret ensures cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality. Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities.
But when Pope Francis called the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to the Vatican for a summit on the abuse crisis in February, victims and experts alike urged a revision of the policy.
Linda Ghisoni, a canon lawyer and undersecretary for laity at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, told the summit removing the pontifical secret from abuse cases would reverse a situation or the impression of a situation where secrecy “is used to hide problems rather than protect the values at stake,” including the confidentiality of the victims and the right of an accused to a fair trial.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, told the summit that removing the pontifical secret would promote transparency in a scandal where the lack of transparency has meant “the rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot and left to the whims of individuals.”
In his commentary, Bishop Arrieta noted that already in May with the publication of “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) on procedures for handling allegations of abuse or of the cover-up of abuse, Pope Francis already banned imposing confidentiality agreements on victims.
The bishop also took pains to note that the abolition of absolute secrecy – the “pontifical secret,” which is invoked with an oath – was not the same thing as removing all obligations for confidentiality.
The “secrecy of the office” still applies to Vatican officials and others involved in an investigation or trial of a cleric accused of abuse or of a bishop or religious superior accused of cover-up. Except for sharing information with civil authorities, the basic professional secrecy serves, as the new law says, to protect “the good name, image and privacy of all persons involved.”

’No end in sight to the horror’: Australian bishops respond to fires

By Catholic News Service
CANBERRA, Australia – Saying that “there is no end in sight to the horror which confronts us,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the bishops have implemented a national response to months of wildfires.
The bishops have set up a national network, connecting people affected by the fires with “people who can help with tasks such as preparing meals, clearing properties, rebuilding communities, as well as pastoral and counseling support.” They are collaborating with other religious agencies and their institutes and will take up a special collection the last weekend in January, when Australia Day is celebrated.

Charlotte O’Dwyer, daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O’Dwyer, kisses her father’s casket following his funeral Mass at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church in Sydney Jan. 7, 2020. Andrew O’Dwyer, a member of the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade in Sydney, died Dec. 19 when the truck he was traveling in rolled off the road after a tree fell in the town of Buxton. (CNS photo/Dean Lewins, AAP via Reuters)

Archbishop Coleridge said people who do not want to wait to donate to their parish collections can donate to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, known in Australia as Vinnies.
“We have all seen the apocalyptic images, even if we are not in the areas most affected,” the archbishop said. “Lives have been lost, homes and towns have been destroyed, smoke has shrouded large swathes of our country.
“The efforts of firefighters have been heroic. The resilience of the communities affected has been extraordinary.”
At least 24 people have died in the fires, which began in August and now are in four states. CNN reported Jan. 7 that more than 2,000 homes in the state of New South Wales alone have been destroyed.
Archbishop Coleridge said the bishops were aware of “the huge amount being done” by governments and first responders and noted that local faith communities also were responding.
“This has been Australia at its best, and we all stand with those who have been most stricken and with those who are putting their lives on the line to fight the fires,” he said.
He also renewed his call for “insistent prayer for those stricken by drought and fire, for those who have lost their lives in the fires and their families, for rain to quench the parched land and extinguish the fires, and for urgent action to care for our common home in order to prevent such calamities in the future.”

Featured photo . . . Roaring ‘20s at Sacred Heart Winona

WINONA – Sacred Heart Catholic Church sponsored their 8th annual Ladies’ Holiday Luncheon on Dec. 11, 2019. Pictured are Krystal Hogan (in front), Mike Lucio, Father Arokia Savio and Cecilia Lucio. This year’s theme was “A Roaring 20s Christmas.” With a backdrop of black, white and gold, guests were treated to an Art Deco atmosphere with a menu from the 1920s and original music from the era. They even had a photo booth! Guests were also able to take home a recipe book of their meal, treats and door prizes. (Photo by Cathy Edwards, OFS)

Parish calendar


BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, Introduction to Center Prayer, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2020 beginning with supper at 6:30 p.m. The retreat will help to enable you to spend time learning how to practice centering prayer and learning about how God uses this to not only transform our inner lives, but to also transform the world around us. Presenter is Reverend Anne-Russell Bradley, a United Methodist pastor in Columbus. She is a certified Spiritual Director through Journey Partners. Donation: $100. Details: (662) 738-5348 or dwellpl@gmail.com.
GREENWOOD Locus Benedictus Retreat Center, Introduction to Spiritual Warfare – What Every Christian Should Know presented by Father David Seid, O.P., Dr. Sheryl Jones and Joyce Pellegrin on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18.
“The Real Saint Francis from Sentimentality to Reality” presented by Father Joachim Studwell, O.F.M. on Saturday Jan. 25. Details: For more information, call (762) 299-1232 or info@locusbenedictus.org.
NEW ORLEANS, LA Our Lady of the Cenacle Retreat Center, Finding God in the Now! Every Day Experience, Jan. 17-19. In this retreat, we will learn to recognize God’s presence in the here and now. We will look for the good in challenging situations and through our high and low points in life Presenter: Reverend Jim Sichko. Actual cost of the retreat is $350; minimum payment is $250 and includes accommodations and meals. Details: Susan Halligan at (504) 267-9604 or https://www.neworleansretreats.org/retreats.
Living the Virtue of Hope, Jan. 24-26. Presenter: Reverend Joe Krafft. Actual cost of the retreat is $350; minimum payment is $250 and includes accommodations and meals. Details: Susan Halligan at (504) 267-9604 or https://www.neworleansretreats.org/retreats.


AMORY St. Helen, Book Discussion Group will discuss Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates at 12 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13, at the parish hall. Everyone is invited to read the book and join the discussion. Details: church office (662) 256-8392.
CLARKSDALE Catholic Community of St. Elizabeth, Abide in Me, nine-week program will meet on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in the church meeting room. Come and experience scripture through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Specific dates and details will be forthcoming. Details: church office (662) 624-4301 or Celese Zepponi at (662) 645-2113.
GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph, Parish Mission “Life of Passion, Life of Love” Sunday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 pm through Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30–7:30 pm. International Catholic speaker and author, Adam Storey, Director of Marriage Ministry Department, Diocese of Des Moines. Details: (601) 856-2054.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Mary Mother Guardian of the Faith, Patricia Talbot visits Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. She is from Cuenca, Ecuador and will share her experience of faith and the desire of the heart of our Mother to live a life of true conversion. She will talk about the dangers that threaten our faith and how to defend it with love. The talk is in Spanish with English translation. Details: Ruth Powers at (601) 445-5616 or www.guardianadelafe.com.
OLIVE BRANCH Queen of Peace, CALLING ALL MEN, Saturday, Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Just bring yourself to relax with the Lord Jesus Christ. Details: church office (662) 895-5007.
PEARL St. Jude, Men’s Retreat, all men are invited and is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. The theme is Jesuit spirituality. Retreat directors are Deacon John McGregor, Father Lincoln Dall and Cathy Hayden. Focus will be the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his approach to spirituality, including the spiritual exercises, lectio divina, imaginative contemplation and the examen. There is no cost to attend. Details: Call the church office by Jan. 22 to make a reservation (601) 939-3181.
SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, CALLING ALL WOMEN, Saturday, Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Just bring yourself to relax with the Lord Jesus Christ and experience His love in many different ways. For the women by the women. Details: church office (662) 342-1073.


MADISON St. Joseph School – “Jeans, Jazz and Bruin Blues,” St. Joe’s Annual Draw Down is Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 from 6-9 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities are available and tickets are on sale now. Details: To sponsor or purchase tickets, visit stjoebruins.com or call the school office (601) 898-4800.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick School, Countdown 2020, the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center. It will include dinner, 50/50 drawings, silent auction, wine pull and live music. Wine and spirits will be available. Cost: Tickets are $100 each and may be split. Details: Tickets are available from any St. Patrick school advisory council member or the school office at (601) 482-6044.

March for Life theme borrows page from suffragist centennial

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The March for Life, the annual march in Washington to protest legalized abortion in the United States, is tying itself in 2020 to the women’s suffrage movement for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The theme of the march is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman.” Jeanne Mancini, head of the March for Life, remarked how two noted suffragists of their day, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, were themselves staunchly against abortion. A video made to support the upcoming march, to be held Jan. 24, said the women called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.”
An unnamed woman speaking in the video said 30 million female babies had been aborted since the twin 1973 Supreme Court rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand.

A young woman joins other pro-life advocates outside the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27, 2017, during the annual March for Life in Washington. The theme for the Jan. 24, 2020, March for Life is “Life Empowered: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)

Mancini said speakers lined up for the pre-march gathering include Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat who authored a bill in 2014 to require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. It was ruled unconstitutional in 2017, but that ruling in June Medical Services v. Gee was reversed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court said in October it would take up the case, its first abortion-related case since the death of Antonin Scalia and the retirement of Anthony Kennedy.
Also on the speakers’ list is U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, long a pro-life advocate, who has sponsored the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, which would bar the killing of any baby who survives an abortion. Two such survivors will speak as well, according to Mancini.
The 2020 march will be the 47th such march. “We march regardless,” Mancini said during a Dec. 3 news briefing in Washington about the march. In 2016, “we had ‘Blizzard-geddon,'” she added. An even stronger blizzard in 1982 that crippled the Washington region and its transportation network did not deter those hardy but few marchers who had already made it to the nation’s capital.
The 2019 march was “the first one we marched during a government shutdown,” Mancini added. She said she is working with the U.S. Park Service to assure that there would be no complications to conducting the march should the government be shut down again.
The March for Life now bills itself as “the world’s largest human rights demonstration” and “the world’s largest pro-life event.” Mancini, during the news briefing, called it “the single unifying pro-life event” bringing together people from all points on the pro-life spectrum.
Mancini said more legislation on the abortion front is being advanced at the state level, and that the March for Life would be replicated elsewhere, including Virginia, Connecticut and Chicago.
While the march promotes legislation reflecting pro-life interests, it also aims to “change hearts and minds,” Mancini said.
Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, which is the sister organization of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund headed by Mancini, also spoke at the briefing. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned or weakened,” he said, “there will be even more action in the states.”
(Editor’s note: Groups from around the Diocese of Jackson will be in attendance at March for Life 2020, including students from Natchez Cathedral and St. Joseph Starkville Catholic Campus Ministry.)

Catholic, Christian, Muslim voices condemn knife attack on N.Y. rabbi

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON – A host of voices from throughout the religious spectrum condemned the Dec. 28 knife attack at the suburban New York City home of a Hasidic rabbi that wounded five, one of them critically.
The suspected attacker was later arrested and held in lieu of $5 million bond.
“Such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for,” said a Dec. 29 statement from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York. “An attack on any individual or group because of his or her religious beliefs is an attack on us all. This hatred has no place in our city, state, or nation, or anywhere else on our planet.”
Cardinal Dolan added that during Mass Dec. 29, he “prayed in a special way in solidarity with the victims of these heinous acts of violence” and urged all people “to come together in a spirit of unity to reject such hatred and bigotry wherever it occurs.”
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, vice president of the U.S. bishops, in a Dec. 29 statement, voiced his “outrage in learning of the violent attack on a Jewish household in New York during their celebration of Hanukkah.” He added: “We are particularly disturbed that this crime comes as only the latest of such vile acts of anti-Semitism in our nation.”
The archbishop asked pastors in the archdiocese to offer special prayers on Jan. 1, the liturgical feast of Mary, Mother of God, for “the protection of our Jewish brothers and sisters and the eradication of anti-Semitism from our society” and to “reaffirm … that all forms of anti-Semitism are evil and have no place in our community.”

People gather at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s residence in Monsey, N.Y., Dec. 29, 2019. A machete-wielding man attacked the residence during a Hanukkah celebration the night before. (CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)

“This past week, which should have been a holy celebration of lights, has been marked with tragedy and violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said a Dec. 29 statement by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York. “We also remember the recent attacks at a Jersey City kosher market that left three dead.”
Bishop DiMarzio added, “Hate like this has no place in a civil society. Today we are reminded it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Let us be that light as we pray for peace and practice tolerance today and always.”
“This is yet one more reminder to us how important it is to promote a culture of life everywhere,” said

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, in a Dec. 29 statement. My own faith is one of many that teaches that every human person is to be respected and loved as a child of God, a human being of ultimate moral worth.”
Citing nine anti-Semitic attacks in New York in a nine-day span, Bishop Scharfenberger said, “Such acts must be condemned in the name of God who loves all of humanity and, indeed, humanity itself.”
In a Dec. 30 statement, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago called the attack in Monsey, New York, “an unspeakable act of depravity. This violent act exhibits a level of depravity that many of us believed to be unimaginable.”
The council added, “This creeping religious intolerance gripping our nation can no longer be ignored. … Members of the diverse faiths in the United States must renounce any ideology that seeks to justify violence against any group of people based upon their faith. Fear-mongering must be challenged, and civility must dominate our social interactions.”
“Even as we witness a rising tide of religious hatred and terrorist extremism in our country, we must – with more urgency and vigor – support and defend all people of faith from those who worship nothing but death and destruction,” said a Dec. 30 statement by Archbishop Elpidophoros of the New York-based Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
“Such hateful acts of violence damage us all, and we all have a duty – both civic and religious – to respond with love and compassion for all those afflicted,” Archbishop Elpidophoros added.
The Rev. Jennifer Butler, a Presbyterian minister who is CEO of Faith in Public Life, a national network of clergy and faith leaders, took note of both the stabbing attack and the Dec. 29 shooting at a Texas church near Fort Worth that killed two congregants and the gunman.
“All people of faith must unite to defeat anti-Semitism and end gun violence targeting religious communities. Everyone must be free and safe to celebrate and live out their faith,” Rev. Butler said in a Dec. 30 statement. ” I pray that we build a society where every person can attend a holiday party or a worship service without fear. My faith demands we not rest until that hope is a reality.”
In mid-December, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued a statement about the Dec. 10 attack at a kosher deli in Jersey City, saying it and other such attacks highlight the need to publicly condemn “any and all forms of anti-Semitism whether in thought, word or action.”
The bishop said the Catholic Church “has an irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community” and acknowledges that “anti-Semitism is anti-Christian and should not be tolerated in any form.”

Youth news

Feast day for St. Francis Xavier

VICKSBURG – On Tuesday, Dec. 3 Vicksburg Catholic School elementary students participated in Mass to celebrate Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day.

On right Father Rusty Vincent blesses first grade students during the feast day Mass. (Photos by Lindsey Bradley)

Dashing though the streets

MERIDIAN – Timothy Duong, Denise Quedado, Ashton Taylor dash through the streets for the Candy Cane Fun Run. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)

Checkmate Father MarkNATCHEZ – Cathedral School third graders Quin Branton and James Gammill enjoyed learning the game of chess with Father Mark Shoffner. The students received a little free time for meeting their Accelerated Reader goal early. (Photo by Cara Moody Serio)

Here we go a caroling

GRENADA – The youth of St. Peter won first place Overall in the Grenada Christmas parade, themed “Here we go a caroling.“ Father Savio is holding up the banner as the children carollers look on in delight. (Photo courtesy of Michael Liberto)

Mapping the path of Jesus

GREENVILLE – Mrs. Lee’s religion class created salt dough maps of the travels of the public ministry of Jesus before the holiday break. (Photo by Nikki Thompson)

Children Celebrate Our Lady Guadalupe

MERIDIAN – On Dec. 8 at St. Patrick parish’s Celebration of Our Lady Guadalupe, Macario Espino, jr. picks up a fresh made tortilla for his delicious meal after the procession and Mass. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

MERIDIAN – On Dec. 8 at St. Patrick parish’s Celebration of Our Lady Guadalupe, Macario Espino, jr. picks up a fresh made tortilla for his delicious meal after the procession and Mass. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

St. Nicolas visits

(Right) MERIDIAN – On Dec. 6, 2019 St. Patrick School students had a special visit from St. Nicholas. First graders Aiden Walker, left, and TJ Dunn race to check their shoes for gifts from St. Nicholas. (Photo by Helen Reynolds)

Fifty years and counting in Saltillo

Father Patrick Quinn

By Monsignor Michael Flannery
SALTILLO – The good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn continues south of the border in Mexico.
Bishop Joseph Brunini, adopted a mission in Saltillo, Mexico in response to an appeal from Pope Paul VI to all the bishops of the world to send priests to Latin America. The ratio of priests to congregants was one priest for every 10,000 people. The ideal is one priest per 1,000.
Father Patrick Quinn was chosen to be the first pastor and he was presented to Bishop Luis Guizar y Barragan for assignment and appointed as pastor of Perpetual Help Church, within the city of Saltillo July 1, 1969.
Prior to that date Father Quinn had resided at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Saltillo for six months while learning Spanish. At the time of his appointment, the population of Saltillo was 200,000. The city has quadrupled in size and is now over 800,000 population.
Initially, Perpetual Help parish had 33 mountain villages and three colonies within the city of Saltillo, giving a total population of 30,000. The people in the mountain villages had not had the services of a priest in over 10 years. Father Quinn was joined by Father Patrick Murray to serve the parish in July 1969.

A rectory was built adjacent to the church to accommodate the priests. Every village or rancho would now have the services of a priest at least once a month. Perpetual Help Church would have two daily Masses and the three colonies would have Mass every Sunday.
The main thrust of the ministry of the priests would be to the mountain villages. The city of Saltillo is 5,000 above sea level and the mountain villages range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
At first, Fathers Quinn and Murray celebrated Mass in the open air. Then an effort was made to build a place of worship in every rancho or village. A wooden altar was provided. Benches were used instead of pews. These chapels served as community centers, funeral parlors and places where a wedding could be celebrated and village meetings could be held.
Not with-standing the fact, that these people did not have the services of a priest, the faith was still very strong and mostly centered in the home. Every home had a sacred space where there was at least a picture of the Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Guadalupe. The people were elated with the services provided by the priests and responded graciously to them. The priests now had the trust of the people.

Within two years of establishing the mission, the Saltillo Summer program was born, where the youth of Mississippi were invited to come and spend a week at the mission. Over time more than 20,000 of the youth of Mississippi participated in the Saltillo Summer program.
Accommodations were added at Perpetual Help which could house 100 people. For the most part, these facilities were in a dormitory-style. For all the participants who joined the Saltillo Summer program, it was a game-changer in their young lives. For the first time in their lives, they came face to face with real poverty and met people who did not know where the next meal was coming from. When they came back to Mississippi, they appreciated the basic amenities of life, such as: when you turned a switch, a light came on, when you turned faucet water came out. On their return to Mississippi, some of the youth chose professions such as medicine, social ministry, all of which were ministries to other people.
A great program at the mission was called “Bean Monday.” On the first Monday of every month, two kilos of beans were distributed to every family that came to Perpetual Help for assistance.
Word spread throughout the whole of Saltillo. Two kilos of beans would feed a family of six for a week. On any given year 100 tons of beans would be distributed to the poor.
The villages ranged from a 45-minute drive from Saltillo to a six-hour drive to the most remote villages.
Over time, the number of the villages grew to 62 and the number of churches within the city of Saltillo being served grew to ten.
Another program at the mission was the building of cinder block homes for the poor. Again, Father Quinn built 2,340 homes for the poor. The building of these homes was a cooperative venture. The petitioner had to own the land on which the home would be constructed. Father Quinn provided the raw material such as cement and sand for the footings and the cinder blocks for the walls. The owner had to provide the labor to build. After the basic structure was near completion and after an inspection, a steel door and windows were provided as well as material for the roof. These homes certainly made a difference in the lives of the people and were greatly appreciated.

The mission was blessed from the beginning by the generosity of the good people of Mississippi who not only supported the mission financially but also with their time. When medical doctors, nurses and dentists came to visit the mission, they would also often serve the poor of the mountain villages.
Usually, the priest was the interpreter and translated the symptoms which the patient indicated to the doctor, nurse or dentist. Little or no medical help was provided to the rancheros except for the visits of the medical doctors, dentists and nurses from Mississippi.
For over 30 years, Dr. Kuluz, a pediatrician from Pascagoula, went to the mission and donated his services for at least a week every year. He convinced his colleagues to join him and not only to donate their time but also, their sample medicines to the mission. Many a life was saved through the medical services provided.
There is no question that Father Patrick Quinn was the inspiration behind the mission and its success. He gave his life to the mission and was called to the Lord on Jan. 9, 1997, after suffering a heart attack. He served the mission for 28 years and is buried in an alcove of Perpetual Help Church.
His death marked a time of transition and change at the mission. Bishop William Houck of Jackson, asked Bishop Francisco Villalobos (Bishop of Saltillo) for three months to find a priest who would be familiar with Mexican culture and speak Spanish to replace Father Quinn. Msgr. Michael Thornton from the Diocese of Biloxi was chosen for the task.
Msgr. Thornton was first assigned to Saltillo in Sept. 1973 and served the mission until Aug. 1977. He was familiar with the mission, spoke fluent Spanish and had acquired a knowledge of Mexican culture and customs.
In 1998, Bishop Villalobos created San Miguel as a parish and named Msgr. Thornton as pastor. This new location is still within the city of Saltillo and surrounded by a beautiful colony named Vista Hermosa (The Beautiful View).

Presently at San Miguel there are two priests: Father David Martínez Rubio, administrator, Father Evelio Casarubias Rodríguez, his assistant.
The present number of villages being served by San Miguel is 24. The number of churches within the city of Saltillo, served by the priests of San Miguel number eight. Every mountain village is served at least once a month and every church within the city at least weekly. In total, the priests are covering 32 different locations.

Catholic Service Appeal: Lifeblood of Christ’s work in the diocese

JACKSON – There are the hungry and homeless in Mississippi. There are the troubled families and marriages. Immigrants desperate for a kind gesture and vulnerable elderly alone and needing a little help.
These are just a few of the issues at the heart of the Diocese of Jackson’s many initiatives funded each year by the Catholic Service Appeal that Bishop Joseph Kopacz kicks off in January aimed at raising $1,203,235.
In a letter to faithful, Bishop Kopacz is asking for financial and prayerful support for a successful 2020 campaign, which in turn will safeguard God’s work in the Diocese of Jackson and help the local Church to continue to thrive and grow.
As part of the drive, a special collection will be taken at all parishes Feb. 8 and 9, and all gifts, no matter what size, are appreciated to help the many ministries, programs and services that reach out to the diocese’s diverse and widespread people.
Although called by many other names and bearing a variety of themes, the Church appeal is conducted in almost every diocese in the country to raise necessary funds so the different dioceses may continue to function and provide ministry and pastoral and administrative services needed for its parishes, agencies and people.
This year, the theme of the Diocese of Jackson’s campaign is taken from Luke 1:47 and is the opening stanza of Mary’s Magnificat, “My Spirit Rejoices.” The campaign logo specifically created for the appeal is an image of Mary by artist Jill Steadman Strickland, a parishioner of St. Richard in Jackson.
“Her beautiful artwork helped us capture the theme of the campaign,” said Rebecca Harris, diocesan director of stewardship and development, who also heads up The Catholic Foundation, about the appeal inspiration.
As the campaign begins, Harris encourages all to reflect on the beautiful image of Mother Mary, the first disciple of Jesus, and her spirit of commitment, giving and praise to God for blessings. “Her ‘yes’ to God is a perfect example for all throughout our diocese,” said Harris.

Why is the appeal so important?
The appeal is essential and without it, many impactful initiatives would not be possible. For example, funds are needed to promote vocations to the priesthood and to support the education of seminarians, tomorrow’s parish leaders. At the present time, Andrew Nguyen and Cesar Sánchez, are on their final steps of the priesthood path with the help of past campaign monies. Both men will be ordained May 16, 2020 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson and receive first assignments.
Funds help services and programs of Catholic Charities, the primary diocesan social service agency that reaches out to the vulnerable and very poor of the area’s communities, who otherwise may not receive assistance.
Appeal funds support retired priests, shepherds who have faithfully given their lives to serve in the diocese’s parishes taking care of sheep and sharing the good times and the bad moments going above and beyond. Many senior shepherds have no family members of their own, but continue to hold on to memories made during their ministry years with parish families once so much a part of their lives.
Campaign funds are needed to continue outreach to the diocese’s mission parishes, many with parishioners of low-income households. Many of the special communities thrive with support from appeal funds making mission ministry possible for the communities known for their hardworking people of great faith and love for God and his Church, which many call a second home.
Campaign funds help the diocese’s work to strengthen family life and enhance intercultural ministry. Monies make possible lay formational programs, counseling and spiritual guidance to the forgotten in prisons, religious education in parishes and outreach to young adult students on college campus, who are the church leaders of tomorrow.
Finally, contributions support evangelization and communication efforts through media, print and today’s internet touching millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is a vital ministry in the modern world of materialism and culture of death when so many are searching for something better. Promoting the gospel message and spreading the Good News through various platforms is a significant tool that helps reach faithful and people of little or no faith. Initiatives are changing hearts and reaching and saving souls.
All are asked to answer the call and say yes as Mary did and generously support the 2020 diocesan Catholic Service Appeal. Contributions, in turn, help the Church in its mission in Mississippi. “When we join together as one diocesan family to support all these ministries, we can all make a difference,” said Harris.