Reflecting on five years as bishop

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
On February 6, I quietly marked the fifth anniversary of my ordination and installation as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Jackson. As we know some days never end, but a decade can pass in the twinkling of an eye. (1Cor 15) For me the past five years are officially history, having moved at the speed of a weaver’s shuttle, (Job 7,6).
Many events and memories stand out vividly; some have to be recalled by scrolling through my i-Phone calendar; others surface when I revisit schools and parishes and, still others when someone recalls an event or encounter in conversation.
All of it is to say that the Lord has blessed me abundantly through the episcopal ministry he so graciously bestowed upon me five years ago.
Even the current troubles do not suppress the beauty, truth and goodness that have flowed from our Mission and renewed Vision. Each day we have the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel by the way we live our lives so that all can experience the crucified and risen Lord.
The engaging design of our diocesan Vision reminds me wherever I am in the diocese about our priorities of inspiring disciples, serving others and embracing diversity, as was on display at our just completed diocesan youth conference. (See page 7 for photos)
The Vision has been embraced and applied in creative ways throughout the diocese through the application of our Pastoral Priorities, especially to be inviting and reconciling communities and to teach our Catholic faith by being good scribes in the Kingdom of Heaven in many and varied ways. We recall the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old,, (13,52).
We can think of all of the channels for communication and evangelization at our fingertips, that which is new, as well as the proven time tested ways of witnessing, encountering and accompanying.
Our first Pastoral Priority to be inviting and reconciling communities recognizes the fundamental call of the Lord to repent and rebuild one’s life and Church on the demands of the Gospel. This call is ever ancient and ever new, and must be vigorously applied to the suffering of the sexual abuse crisis, and the targeted financial upheaval in our diocese.
Crucified with the Lord we can rise with him to new life.
On February 6, my anniversary (which by the way also happens to be my father’s birthday), I am set to take the long flight to India for my first pastoral visit to the land that is blessing us with dedicated priests and missionary disciples. Going to Saltillo, Mexico, each year to our mission of 50 years can be a stretch, but the Indian subcontinent will be unchartered waters for me.
I will be going with my trusty guide, Father Albeen Vatti, pastor of Saint Francis in Madison, of the Diocese of Warangal where we will spend time with Bishop Bala, visiting many pastoral settings as well as some of the families of the priests who are serving currently in the Diocese of Jackson. From there we will travel to other Indian States for pastoral visits, as well as for seeing countless points of interests along the way. The culture and way of life of this densely-populated nation will make for an up close and personal experience at every bend in the road. I am looking forward to this opportunity to visit the land where Saint Thomas the Apostle planted the seeds of the Gospel.
As I briefly pause to reflect upon this five year milestone in my life, although there will be 18 hours of flying time to India to do considerable reflection, I am deeply grateful to so many coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord who serve throughout the diocese. These are the ordained, religious and lay women and men who have responded as disciples to the demands of the Gospel.
For example, more than 500 were on hand for the Diocesan Professional Development Day this past Monday led by Monica Applewhite, a leading practitioner in the field of abuse prevention. It sounds like a biblical number of disciples to whom the Lord has appeared gathered in one place, (1Cor 15,6).
This event is merely a sampling of the countless coworkers in our diocese busy about the Lord’s designs that the mere mentioning of them would far exceed the available space in this edition of the Mississippi Catholic.
The beauty of prayer is that it reaches from one end of the earth to the other and pierces the heavens. During the two weeks that I will be in India I will remember all y’all and the needs of our diocese especially at the altar each day.
I know that your prayer will also reach across the miles asking the Lord’s blessings on this extraordinary pastoral visit as I represent you to the people of India.

Catholic School students join national celebration

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Schools across the Diocese of Jackson celebrated national Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27 – Feb. 1. Each school community hosted celebrations of their own – but they all connected to the national theme: “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” A winter storm forced two schools, Columbus Annunciation and Natchez Cathedral, to close for a day, but most were able to celebrate with their communities.
One of the largest events of the week was a rally held at the state capitol. Students from Jackson and Madison attended the rally to show off the impact Catholic schools have on the state of Mississippi. Speakers included Bishop Joseph Kopacz, School Superintendent Catherine Cook, Father Nick Adam, parochial vicar at St. Richard Parish and Father John Bohn, who is the canonical supervisor of Jackson St. Richard and Madison St. Joseph Schools.

JACKSON – Senator Walter Michel (R) Ridgeland, reads the Catholic Schools Week proclamation from Governor Phil Bryant on the steps of the state Capitol Thursday, Jan 31. The Madison St. Joseph band provided music and students from Jackson and Madison attended the rally. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

At Capitol, Jackson

VICKSBURG – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools, joined administrators at Vicksburg Catholic School and retired Father PJ Curley for a ceremony to rename the library after retired pastor Father Tom Lalor (center). (Photo by Mary Margaret Halford)

Vicksburg

Vicksburg

COLUMBUS – Patrick Doumit, a seventh-grader at Annunication School, boxes lunches as part of a massive service project. Annunication partnered with soup kitchen, Loaves and Fishes, to pack and deliver sack lunches for their lunches-to-go program to be distributed on the weekends when the soup kitchen is not open. Each bag included a pasta meal, bottle of water and breakfast bar. Each student donated and packed five bags each for a total of 1,004 bags. According to Loaves and Fishes president, Pam Rhea, this is the largest donation of lunches-to-go that the program has ever received. Students delivered this huge donation via the school bus on Thursday, January 31. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

GREENWOOD – Sister Annette Kurey helps St. Francis of Assisi students prepare the gifts at Mass on Sunday, Feb. 27. Students served at the Parish Mass to kick off Catholic Schools Week. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood

In Greenwood the students from St. Francis of Assisi school combined their Catholic Schools Week kickoff Mass with a celebration for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, several of whom are on staff at the school. The order, based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The motherhouse has asked each community of sisters to mark the anniversary in some special way. At Mass on Sunday, Jan. 27, students took on liturgical roles by proclaiming the word, singing and serving at the altar. Sisters Annette, Kathleen and Judith hosted an open house in their convent after Mass and people came out in droves to thank and celebrate their Sisters. (See page 16.
Greenville St. Joseph kicked off the week Monday by celebrating a $300,000 gift to the school from the estate of Father Richard Somers, former pastor. Father Somers left the money to the school community in his will. “We at St. Joseph Catholic School are appreciative of Father Somers’s love of Catholic Education, especially here at St. Joseph Catholic School in Greenville,” said principal Steve Wies.
Jackson St. Richard school showed off it’s science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math (STREAM) program Tuesday night when families were invited to participate in STREAM projects together. Families made slime, operated robots and helped with other projects after everyone shared a meal.
Vicksburg Catholic School celebrated retired priest Father Tom Lalor by naming the high school library after him. Father Lalor was on hand for the dedication, part of a day of celebration at the school. Students at Columbus Annunciation Catholic School packed more than a thousand lunches for their local food bank.
Natchez Cathedral students also hosted a food drive, although their week was cut short by a day because of bad weather.
Each day at Madison St. Anthony day was focused on appreciating some part of the school community. The students and staff appreciated their parish, the clergy, their parents and their community helpers.
Clarksdale St. Elizabeth students got to invite special guests, such as grandparents or parents to each lunch with them during the week.
Southaven Sacred Heart students heard about different vocations in life from a priest, a religious sister and married couples. They also hosted their traditional “Hope Chain,” where students purchase paper chain links. On Friday, Feb. 1, the students hear about local charities and vote on which one should receive the proceeds from the chain.
Meridian St. Patrick school took their celebration to the streets – hosting a parade from the school to city hall where the mayor read a proclamation for Catholic Schools Week.
Academic excellence takes center stage at Jackson Sister Thea Bowman School, where honor roll and academic honors were presented after school Mass on Wednesday.
Catholic Schools Week is part of a national celebration. “Young people today need Catholic education more than ever,” said Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education. He also stressed that “being rooted in faith does not endanger the academic quality of Catholic schools, but in fact is their very motivation for excellence in all things.”
In a statement released for the observance, he said: “Following Christ’s example of loving and serving all people, Catholic schools proudly provide a well-rounded education to disadvantaged families, new arrivals to America and to all who seek a seat in our schools. Since the inception of Catholic schools in our country, we have always sought to welcome families of all backgrounds while maintaining our principles and teaching in a spirit of charity.”
Nearly 1.8 million students are currently educated in 6,352 Catholic schools in the United States.
Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week has been the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States, sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the USCCB’s Secretariat of Catholic Education. Schools typically observe the annual weeklong celebration with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members.

Sister Rita Goedken retires after ‘walking the talk’

By Diane Herring
MORTON – For the past 10 years, Sister Rita Goedken has been the face of Morton’s Excel Community and Learning Center (ECLC). In mid-December she returned to Dubuque, Iowa, and the Sisters of St. Francis. As a person who admits she does not like heat and humidity, when asked how she came to be in Morton, Sister Rita gives an answer that could be a lyric to a country song.
“Each person has a limited number of years to ‘walk the talk,’” she says, referring to committing to giving back to and serving the community. She not only “talks the talk” but “walks the walk” as well.
Joining the community of the Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque 55 years ago, Sister Rita has served in areas from Wisconsin to Oregon and from Michigan to Mississippi.
Born in Petersburg, Iowa and reared on a farm in a community she describes as, “very rural, smaller than Morton.”
“I had 11 brothers and sisters,” she says. “We grew up on a 160-acre farm where we raised chickens, dairy cattle and hogs. It is, I think, the root of my passion to take care of the earth.”
Trained as a teacher, having majored in history and minored in math, she taught in Iowa and Oregon and worked in pastoral administration in Michigan and Wisconsin. She served eight years to the leadership committee of Sisters of St. Francis.
She adds, “While serving on the leadership team, our community studied water issues. The Sisters commissioned us to come up with a project, one that all Sisters of St. Francis could support. As a result, Sister Water Project (SWP) was developed in 2006 and focuses on water, providing clean drinking water in areas where the need is the greatest, where it would benefit the poorest of the poor.”
“The SWP is active in Honduras and Tanzania,” Sister Rita says. “In Tanzania the SWP has completed 203 wells. All 203 are operative. In Honduras the SWP has collaborated with other entities to bring safe drinking water to remote villages that currently don’t have access to it.”
In the mid-1990’s the Franciscan Sisters decided to establish missions in low-income areas with multicultural populations. Morton is one of the sites selected. Sister Rita had been here to visit, and something sparked.
“It was just the place I needed to be,” she says.
So, Sister Rita came to Morton where she has helped the ECLC Excel to grow and serve.
“The first Franciscan Sisters to work in Morton came in 1999,” says Sister Eileen Hauswald, Director, ECLC. “Sisters Nona, Camilla, and Terri worked with local volunteers and implemented the initial programs, like the Faith in Action meal deliveries to elderly and shut-ins and the after-school tutoring for children and summer day camps. “Pnykii McDougle was a student at ECLC Summer Day Camps growing up and now, as a student majoring in education at Mississippi State University, is a teaching assistant in the after school tutoring program. She says, “Sister Rita is an inspiration to me.”
“Most people will speak of Sister Rita’s work ethic and they would be right,” says Claudia Rowland, Teacher Coordinator. “But I will remember her love of history. I’ll miss her very much.
Looking back, Sister Rita says, “When I came to Morton there was a recession but people in Morton came in and supported the center and our work. Today there is more life in town. Wonderful people come into the center and volunteer time, talents and materials, all gratis. ‘I would like to see everybody from every tribe, tongue and nation represented in our community come and participate in our programs and services. I’ve met a host of generous, competent, wonderful people. For each I am grateful. It is the people I will miss and remember.”
For 10 years Rita Goedken has walked the walk and talked the talk, managing to inspire volunteers to join her on the journey. Morton and Scott county will miss her.

(NOTE: It is requested that no gifts be given, however, contributions to Excel or the Sister Water Project would be appreciated and received in honor of Sister Rita.)
(Diane Herring is a member of the Excel Center Advisory Board.)

Parish calendar of events

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT

BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, Beloved Disciples, February 22-23. Begins with 6:30 p.m. dinner. Life is not about finding ourselves. We are not lost. It is about discovering who God created us to be. We are all beloved of God and if we allow Him control of our lives, He can love each one of us into being that beloved disciple that God describes in his Gospel. During this overnight there will be time to listen, pray and share. Presenter: Kathleen Grusek, Certified Spiritual Director and author of four books on spirituality. Donation: $100. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email dwellpl@gmail.com for more information.
COLLIERVILLE Tenn, Women’s Morning of Spirituality, Saturday, February 23, 8:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Catholic Church of the Incarnation, 360 Bray Station Road. Keynote speaker: Johnnette Benkovic Williams; Witness speaker: Sister Rita Marie Kampa, O.P. Love offerings accepted. Details: Mary Beth (901) 853-1819 or wmosmemphis@gmail.com. Register at womensmorning.com.
COVINGTON Louisiana, Married Couples Retreat, March 16-17, at St. Joseph Abbey Christian Life Retreat Center. Come away for rest and spiritual strength and nourishment. Suggested donation: $275 per couple. Details: www.faithandmarriage.org or call (504) 830-3716.
JACKSON Catholic Day at the Capitol, Wednesday, February 27, begins at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle and wraps up with networking at 3 p.m. The day will include Mass and lunch, as well as a visit to the capitol building. The topic is reform aimed at restorative justice – especially in the criminal justice system. Details: Sue Allen at sue.allen@ccjackson.org or 601-383-3849. (See page 1 for related story.)

PARISH, SCHOOL AND FAMILY EVENTS

BROOKHAVEN St. Francis of Assisi, Mardi Gras Party for adults hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the Ladies of St. Francis, Saturday, February 16, 5:30 – 10 p.m. with food and drinks provided; no babysitting provided. Details: church office (601) 833-1799.
FLOWOOD St. Paul, Women’s Guild Lenten Day of Reflection, “Refreshing the Body, Mind and Soul” Saturday, March 23, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Deadline to register is March 18. No cost, suggested donation for Domestic Violence Shelter. Details: wgstpaul@gmail.com or Renee Gosselin (601) 966-5452; Linda Rainey (601) 212-9802; Cheryl Marsh (860) 823-7878 or Renee Carpenter (601) 214-9457.
GRENADA St. Peter, Lenten Retreat, Saturday, March 16, begins at 9 a.m. and ends with 6 p.m. Mass. Most Rev. Dr. Sam Jacobs, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Houma Thibodaux, will be the special speaker. Details: church office (662) 226-2490.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, spaghetti dinner fund-raiser, Friday, February 22, 4-8 p.m. or until sold out. Cost: $10 adults and $5 children. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
JACKSON St. Peter Cathedral, Saturday, February 16, Pro Life Rosary. Bring your families out at 9 a.m. to pray the Rosary at the Marian Prayer Garden (weather permitting in the Cathedral Center if it rains). Light breakfast afterward for all who attend. Details: church office (601) 969-3125.
St. Richard, Saturday, February 23, 10-11 a.m. in the Chatham Meeting Room. The Carmelite Seculars, a lay (“Third Order”) Carmelite community from various parishes in the Jackson area welcomes parishioners to come and learn more about this lay vocation as you join them in praying the Morning Divine Office and Lectio Divina. You are welcome to remain as we explore the lives and writings of the saints of our Order. Meetings are held every fourth Saturday. Details: Dorothy Ashley at (601) 259-0885 or https://ocdsjackson.wordpress.com. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul St. Therese Conference, has changed their schedule of intake calls to every first and third Wednesday 1 – 3 p.m. of the month. As a reminder, the phone number is 601-896-8710
St. Therese, Men’s Lenten Retreat Faith, Family and Fatherhood – La Fe, Familia & Paternidad in the Parish Hall, Saturday, February 16, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., followed by Mass. Coffee and sweets at 8:30 a.m. Grow your faith with other men — Spanish and English fellowship. Details: Ben Mokry (601) 259-7926.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Save the Date, Cajun Fest, Sunday, May 5. Includes lots of Cajun food and games for the children. More details will follow. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, inaugural joint Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Dance, Saturday, February 16, in the Family Life Center, 6-8 p.m. All children ages three thru sixth grade are invited. Desserts and drinks will be provided. Volunteers are needed. Details: RSVP to Leslie Vollor (662) 321-1150 or Katie Rutledge (662) 803-2837.

YOUTH BRIEFS

CLARKSDALE Catholic Community of St. Elizabeth, Save the date, Vacation Bible School, June 17-21. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.
GREENVILLE St. Joseph School Drama Department is presenting the musical “Annie,” Friday, February 15, and Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance on February 17, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance or $7 at the door.
St. Joseph School Spring Fling, Saturday, March 2, at the Washington County Convention Center, 1040 South Raceway Road. Drawdown at 6 p.m.; you need not be present to win. Dinner at 6:30 p.m.; Live Band 8 p.m. – midnight; Cost is $100 for two adult admissions. Profits raised go to help close the gap at both schools. Details: school office (662) 378-9711.
JACKSON St. Richard School, Sixth Annual Krewe de Cardinal, Friday, March 1 at the Railroad District, 824 South State Street, 7-11 p.m. Details: School office at (601) 366-1157 or www.strichardschool.org.
MADISON St. Joseph School, “Jeans, Jazz and Bruin Blues,” Annual Draw Down, Saturday, February 23, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $130 and admit two adults. Each ticket gives you the chance at the $10,000 and allows you to participate in live and silent auctions. Guests will dine on gourmet food prepared by the Knights of Columbus of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Details: school office (601) 898-4800 or www.stjoedrawdown.com.

Advocates take Catholic approach to criminal justice reform

By Andre de Gruy
JACKSON – In 2000, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement calling for changes in how this country, deals with the problems of crime and criminal justice. Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, USCCB, Nov. 15, 2000. The Bishops began looking at these problems with the recognition that Catholics believe “the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender.”
In preparing the statement, the Bishops consulted Catholics involved in every aspect of the criminal justice system: prison chaplains, police officers, prosecutors, judges, correctional officers, crime victims, offenders and the families of both. Their statement examines Church teaching on crime and punishment, and in light of Catholic Social Teaching makes policy suggestions on this subject. The Bishops end with a call to action by Catholics and other people of good will to work to make the criminal justice system “less retributive and more restorative.”
Beginning in 2013 civil leaders began in earnest to address the need for criminal justice reform in Mississippi. In 2014, after considerable study, our legislature passed HB 585 which significantly altered the state’s approach to criminal justice. Although Mississippi saw decreases in both crime and incarceration after passage of HB 585, the state’s prison population is on the rise again. There is a strong consensus that it is time for more reforms.
In a poll conducted last August more than two-thirds of Mississippi voters said they believed the criminal justice system needed “significant improvements.” Remarkably the support was not just strong but bipartisan. Following the poll the state Reentry Council working with the Governor and Legislative Leaders convened a Criminal Justice Summit in December. In light of this convergence of Church teaching and civil authority initiative, Catholic Charities has again recommended the focus of Catholic Day at the Capitol be Criminal Justice Reform.
Catholic Day 2019 is scheduled for February 27. By that point in the session, a little over halfway, most of the more than 2,500 general bills filed will have died in committee but with the broad support shown so far advocates expect many of the ideas discussed below will be under consideration and in need of Catholic voices of support. .
One of the reasons for the broad support is the recognition that Mississippi’s incarceration crisis removes thousands of people from the economy and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, preventing the state from investing in other critical priorities such as education and drug and mental health treatment. The state’s high incarceration rate is hurting Mississippi’s economy, communities, and families.
In accord with the Bishops’ statement, some of the recommendations would change how we wage the “war on drugs.” The ideas include updating drug court statutes to allow different types of “problem-solving” or “intervention” courts such as mental health courts as well as ensuring people have access to the programs. There is also an initiative to reclassify a person’s first two simple possession charges to misdemeanor rather than felony offenses. These policy recommendations would both reduce the number of people going into prison for drug crimes and the number of people addicted to drugs.
The focus will not just be on the front end trying to keep people from prison or reducing their stay but rather in helping people reenter their communities prepared to succeed as productive members of society. Giving “second chances” isn’t just the right thing to do but keeping communities safe often means providing second chances and holding people accountable in their communities rather than harsher punishments. The “Scarlet F” of a felony follows tens of thousands of Mississippians for their lifetime, preventing many from fully participating in the economy, their families, and their communities.
There will be efforts to change laws to ensure that prior convictions more than 10 years old do not lead to harsher punishments down the road and that expungement, wiping a conviction off a person’s record, is available to most nonviolent offenders.
There are many other barriers to the workforce. Thousands of people are held in jails awaiting trial for misdemeanors each year, which causes job loss and prevents parents from providing for their families. At the same time, people who are serving their sentence in the community on probation or parole face barriers to employment that make it difficult to reintegrate into their families and communities. States across the south have proven it’s possible to balance accountability with employability to ensure that thousands of people are not needlessly locked out of the economy.
Some of the specific proposals designed to get people back to work include employer tax credits for hiring formerly incarcerated citizens, allowing people charged with misdemeanors to await trial at home rather than in jail and not barring people from securing an occupational license because of a conviction of a crime unrelated to the field. For example, many people become skilled barbers in our correctional system yet can’t get a license upon their release.
One of the most pressing reform issues – in fact the top issue for Republicans, independents and Democrats in the Public Opinion Strategies poll – is improving the public defender system to ensure poor people accused of crimes have proper legal representation. This issue has been the subject of years of study. Last summer a task force of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators and county supervisors issued its final report recommending changes to the system that would bring oversight, accountability and efficiency in efforts to meet this Constitutional mandate.
While there are numerous bills addressing parts of this broad agenda three bill cover most. HB 1415 represents the Public Defender Task Force recommendations. SB 2927 includes addresses most of the initiatives mentioned above including reclassification of simple possession, bail reform for misdemeanors and not allowing old convictions from causing sentence enhancements. HB 1352, titled the Criminal Justice Reform Act, includes many of these reforms as well as the establishment of a “Recidivism Reduction Fund” that would direct savings realized from reducing prison populations to programs designed to prevent new crimes.
Registration for Ctholic Day at the Capitol is open on the website www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org. See page 2 for more information.

(De Gruy is a member of Jackson St. Richard Parish, the diocesan Faith In Action Team and the Mississippi State Public Defender.)

Epiphany traditions include sweets, blessings

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Epiphany is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world and even around the Diocese of Jackson. From processions to door blessings, each tradition helps remind the community that the Christmas Season starts on Christmas and runs through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
In Carthage, the parish hosted a procession to celebrate the feast. In Corinth, parishioners dressed as the three wise men came to Mass to present gifts at the nativity set in the church and then to give candy and goodies to the children after Mass.
According to tradition, the three wise men represent the admiration of the world for the child that brought salvation. All three show the diversity of the world and the phases of the life of the human being that has to be saved by faith. Their gifts also have symbolic meaning. The Magi brought gold, incense and myrrh.

   

Father Nick Giving Thumbs up at Epiphany

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On January 6, in Rome, Pope Francis explained in his homily” “Gold, the most precious of metals, reminds us God has to be granted first place; he has to be worshiped,” he said. Frankincense is a symbol of the prayer that each person is called to offer God. And myrrh, the same ointment that would later be used to anoint Jesus’ dead body, is a sign of the gift of “care for bodies racked by suffering, the flesh of the vulnerable, of those left behind, of those who can only receive without being able to give anything material in return.”
Other cultures tell the story that Melchior, the gold-bearer, is an old man representing Europe. Gold represents the royalty of the Child King. Gaspar or Caspar is a young Asian who brought incense, for the divinity of the child. Balthazar is the mature man from Africa who offers myrrh, a product to embalm the dead and reflects the humanity of the Lord.
In Europe, Epiphany is a day to bless the house. At Jackson St. Richard School, Father Nick Adam blessed classrooms and “chalked” the doors. In this practice, a priest uses chalk to write the numbers of the year with crosses and the letters C + M + B in between each number. The letters represent the names of the magi as well as the Latin “Christus mansionem benedicat,” or “may Christ bless this house.”
In other cultures, Christmas presents are not exchanged until Epiphany. Often families eat their first “King cake” on this day. The sweet bread has a coin or small baby representing Christ hidden inside. The person who receives the baby is considered lucky for the year and sometimes has to make or buy the next king cake.

(Maureen Smith contributed to this article.)

Youth at Mass for Life thanked for offering sign of hope for the future

By Mark Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – They came from near and far, and even from Down Under, united in prayer and in standing together for life at the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life, held Jan. 18 at the Capital One Arena in Washington.
The estimated crowd of 18,000 came from the Washington area and from across the country and were joined by young adults from Sydney on their way to World Youth Day in Panama.
The main celebrant at the Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, entered and left the arena smiling and waving a blessing to the spirited crowd of teens and young adults, many of whom wore colorful, matching hats or sweatshirts along with their school uniforms.
They had come, the archbishop said, for a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and to stand up and speak out for all those who are vulnerable in society, and also “to give thanks to God for the gift of life.”
“Dear young people, thank you for the witness of your Catholic faith, both now in holy Mass, on the streets of Washington, and more importantly, when you return home to your families and neighborhoods,” he said.
Archbishop Pierre read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was united in prayer with the thousands of young people who had come to Washington to join the March for Life. The pontiff in his message said the challenging task for each generation is “to uphold the inviolable dignity of human life.” The pope’s message said respect for the sacredness of every life is essential in building a just society, where every child, and every person, is welcomed as a brother and sister.
Fifteen other bishops concelebrated the Mass including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher who was accompanying the Australian pilgrims. About 175 priests also concelebrated the Mass, assisted by about 30 permanent deacons.
The arena crowd also included an estimated 500 seminarians and 100 women religious.
Opening his homily at the Mass, Father Robert Boxie III, the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, said, “To see this arena filled with the Body of Christ, I’m looking out and seeing hope for the future of our church, and hope for the future of our country. It’s an awesome and beautiful sight!”
Noting that the first reading at the Mass included the passage from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” the priest added, “The womb is the first place God encounters us. God encounters us in the womb and seeks to encounter us in each moment of our lives.”

A participant cheers while attending a pro-life youth rally and Mass at Capital One Arena in Washington Jan. 18 before the annual March for Life. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

 

West Point native appointed to USCCB post

Allison McGinn

WASHINGTON — West Point, Mississippi native Allison McGinn has been appointed as Executive Director of the Office of Human Resources for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
McGinn was not raised Catholic. She started RCIA to learn more about the faith when her children started Catholic school in Virginia. She felt called to the church through the classes. Monsignor Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment which took effect January 7.
“Allison has a wealth of experience as a Human Resources professional. I am confident that her skills and abilities will be of tremendous value to the USCCB, and I am grateful to her for accepting this important position in service to the bishops and to the Church,” said Msgr. Bransfield.
McGinn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Educational Psychology from Mississippi State University. She holds senior-level certifications in Human Resources from both the Society for Human Resources Management and the Human Resources Certification Institute.
Most recently, McGinn was self-employed as a Human Resources Consultant, working with firms in the areas of performance management, employee benefits and compensation, recruiting, HR policy and compliance. Prior to her consulting work, McGinn oversaw the HR function for organizations in the government contracting and airline industries, including over 18 years of service with US Airways.
McGinn lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and two daughters. They attend the Basilica of St. Mary Church in Old Town.
McGinn takes on the leadership of the department after the tenure of Theresa Ridderhoff, who had served until recently as Executive Director of Human Resources and was appointed as USCCB Associate General Secretary.