Faith and dying

Father Ron Rolheiser

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
We tend to nurse a certain naiveté about what faith means in the face of death. The common notion among us as Christians is that if someone has a genuine faith she should be able to face death without fear or doubt. The implication then of course is that having fear and doubt when one is dying is an indication of a weak faith. While it’s true that many people with a strong faith do face death calmly and without fear, that’s not always the case, nor necessarily the norm.
We can begin with Jesus. Surely he had real faith and yet, in the moments just before his death, he called out in both fear and doubt. His cry of anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” came from a genuine anguish that was not, as we sometimes piously postulate, uttered for divine effect, not really meant, but something for us to hear. Moments before he died, Jesus suffered real fear and real doubt. Where was his faith? Well, that depends upon how we understand faith and the specific modality it can take on in our dying.
In her famous study of the stages of dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, suggests there are five stages we undergo in the dying process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Our first response to receiving a terminal diagnosis is denial – This is not happening! Then when we have to accept that it is happening our reaction is anger – Why me! Eventually, anger gives way to bargaining – How much time can I still draw out of this? This is followed by depression and finally, when nothing serves us any longer, there’s acceptance – I’m going to die. This is all very true.
But in a deeply insightful book, The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh, basing her insights upon the experience of sitting at the bedside of many dying people, suggests there are additional stages: doubt, resignation and ecstasy. Those stages help shed light on how Jesus faced his death.
The night before he died, in Gethsemane, Jesus accepted his death, clearly. But that acceptance was not yet full resignation. That only took place the next day on the cross in a final surrender when, as the Gospels put it, “he bowed his head and gave over his spirit.” And, just before that, he experienced an awful fear that what he had always believed in and taught about God was perhaps not so. Maybe the heavens were empty and maybe what we deem as God’s promises amount only to wishful thinking.
But, as we know, he didn’t give into that doubt but rather, inside of its darkness, gave himself over in trust. Jesus died in faith – though not in what we often naively believe faith to be. To die in faith does not always mean that we die calmly, without fear and doubt.
For instance, the renowned biblical scholar, Raymond E. Brown, commenting on the fear of death inside the community of the Beloved disciple, writes: “The finality of death and the uncertainties it creates causes trembling among those who have spent their lives professing Christ. Indeed, among the small community of Johannine disciples, it was not unusual for people to confess that doubts had come into their minds as they encountered death. … The Lazarus story is placed at the end of Jesus’ public ministry in John to teach us that when confronted with the visible reality of the grave, all need to hear and embrace the bold message that Jesus proclaimed: ‘I am the life.’ … For John, no matter how often we renew our faith, there is the supreme testing by death. Whether the death of a loved one or one’s own death, it is the moment when one realizes that it all depends on God. During our lives we have been able to shield ourselves from having to face this in a raw way. Confronted by death, mortality, all defenses fall away.”
Sometimes people with a deep faith face death in calm and peace. But sometimes they don’t and the fear and doubt that threatens them then is not necessarily a sign of a weak or faltering faith. It can be the opposite, as we see in Jesus. Inside a person of faith, fear and doubt in the face of death is what the mystics call ‘the dark night of the spirit” … and this is what’s going on inside that experience: The raw fear and doubt we are experiencing at that time make it impossible for us to mistake our own selves and our own life-force for God. When we have to accept to die in trust, inside of what seems like absolute negation and can only cry out in anguish to an apparent emptiness, then it is no longer possible to confuse God with our own feelings and ego. In that, we experience the ultimate purification of soul.
We can have a deep faith and still find ourselves with doubt and fear in the face of death. Just look at Jesus.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted through his website Now on Facebook

Are we truly grateful?

Melvin Arrington

Reflections on Life
By Melvin Arrington
As the year begins to wind down, it’s only natural to look back and reflect on all the memorable moments, both the highs and lows of the last twelve months: births, new friendships, personal achievements, health matters, family gatherings, financial windfalls/setbacks, deaths, community events, natural disasters, etc. But above all, it’s a time for giving thanks.
How quickly our modern world races from Halloween to Christmas! As a result, Thanksgiving has become little more than a brief respite from the mad dash to the big end-of-year holidays. Perhaps it’s because the merchandisers haven’t yet figured out how to market it for more than a day or two. Or maybe the fact that it’s usually considered a low-key, family affair has something to do with it. Now, think about how long we make merry for Halloween. When I was a child it was one day, really just one night, and that was it, but these days it’s practically a whole month of parties and hype, and then on Nov. 1 the big advertising push for Christmas begins.
Even though our culture downplays Thanksgiving, we shouldn’t let that derail our celebration of this important holiday. So, what are we truly grateful for? First and foremost, we should give thanks to God, the One who, according to St. Paul, knew us and loved us and chose us to be His adopted sons and daughters from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). That means we are adopted members of the family of God! That awe-inspiring statement should cause jaws to drop. I experience a sense of wonder every time I read those verses.
But let’s not forget all the “gifts” we receive every day of our lives, those daily endowments we often take for granted, such as each new day, the sunshine, the rain, water to drink, food to eat. Every breath we take is worth more than silver and gold. Also the treasure of family, friends and health, as well as the freedoms we enjoy in this country, especially our freedom to worship as we please. The list goes on and on. Life itself is a gift.
Did you ever try to recall all your blessings beginning as far back as you can remember? Did you ever attempt to count them? If you’ve ever tried this, you know it’s an impossible task because, since God is infinite, so are His favors; they just keep on coming. I’m reminded of that marvelous story called The Book of Sand, by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. No matter how many pages the main character flipped over, he never got any nearer to the end of the book. Such is God’s love for us – infinite and unending.
So one of the ways we can respond to these heavenly favors is with prayer, specifically ones of thanksgiving. In the spirit of “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) we pray at mealtimes, whether at home or elsewhere. Consider the Norman Rockwell painting “Saying Grace,” which appeared on the cover of the Nov. 24, 1951 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. It shows a young boy and an older woman, perhaps his grandmother, seated at a table in a restaurant. As they bow their heads to ask God to bless the food, the other diners look on, as if they were witnessing something odd or out of the ordinary. If prayer is viewed as an oddity, what does that say about our culture? Is gratitude becoming a lost virtue? Maybe it has already disappeared from sight in some areas of the country.
The act of expressing gratitude, implies the person doing the thanking, the thing he is grateful for and the one he acknowledges for this favor (“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts”). Giving thanks fulfills a psychological, as well as spiritual need, and completes the circle by joining gift, giver and recipient. All humans have an innate desire to participate in this circle of giving and receiving and expressing appreciation for the gift as well as the giver. It’s part of what it means to be human. No one is sufficient unto himself.
Fr. Romano Guardini calls gratitude a basis for community. We thank our parents for raising us and our teachers for educating us. Also, we give recognition to those who help us when we need assistance and those who give us presents. Theoretically, it’s a concept that encompasses the whole world because everyone has someone to appreciate for something.
This season let’s all give thanks to the ultimate source from whom all good things come and also to those who in some way have enriched our lives.
Gracious God, may we be truly grateful not just this time of year but all year long.

(Melvin Arrington is a Professor Emeritus of Modern Languages for the University of Mississippi and a member of Oxford St. John Parish.)

Kingdom of God

Tony Magliano

By Tony Magliano
When we pray Christianity’s most important single prayer – The Our Father – do we really attempt to understand and meditate upon the challenge of its words – especially “thy kingdom come?”
What is this kingdom of God that we are asking the Father to bring forth upon the earth? And what part do we play?
To put it in Jesus’ words, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.’ ”
Giving us another example, Jesus added, “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed [in] with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
The kingdom of God continues to grow large from tiny beginnings like a little mustard seed which becomes a shrub that may reach nine feet high. And a small bit of yeast which stimulates the dough to expand several times its original size.
Therefore, we don’t need to be rich and powerful people to build up God’s kingdom.
But entering in, living in, and laboring to advance the unfolding kingdom of God takes much prayer and great effort on our part. However, we should not be discouraged facing such a huge and difficult task.
A complimentary Chinese proverb encouragingly puts it this way: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A great accomplishment, an ambitious goal does not come about easily. It requires much effort. But over the course of time the goal can be reached.
But it will never happen if there is no effort to get started. It will never be accomplished if the first step is not taken. But it is encouraging to know that the great accomplishment, the ambitious goal – the journey of a thousand miles – only takes one step to begin.
The greatest accomplishment, the most ambitious goal that we can pursue, is doing our best to enter evermore deeply into the kingdom of God and advance its wonderful presence in our wounded world.
From abortion to war – and the arms industry which feeds it – from poverty to sickness, from human trafficking to child labor, from homeless people on our streets to fleeing refugees at our borders, from pollution to climate change, from corporate greed to militaristic nationalism countless fellow human beings are enduring tremendous suffering in a world that is largely indifferent to their cries.
But contrary to this indifference, those of us desiring to live in the kingdom of God need to be growing in the fruits of his Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – and to actively use these fruits to end the suffering of our heavy burdened brothers and sisters. And we need to tirelessly work to transform the structures of sin – as St. Pope John Paul II called them – which exist in our culture, government and corporations into structures aiding the building up of God’s kingdom.
Our self-centered kingdoms must go, so that God’s kingdom may grow.
At Sunday Mass and every other time we say the Our Father, may we pray with an ever-fresh compelling desire: “thy kingdom come!”

(Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Founding Father honored with plaque in German hometown

Father Aloysius Heick, SVD, was posthumously honored with a plaque in his hometown of Alteglofsheim, Germany on Oct. 27 for his extraordinary mission work in Mississippi.

By Joanna Puddister King

When looking through archives, you cannot help but see the name Father Aloysius Heick listed in connection with the construction of Catholic churches and schools in Mississippi.

Father Aloysius Heick, SVD, a German priest who traveled to America as a missionary more than 100 years ago was posthumously honored in his hometown of Alteglofsheim, Bavaria, Germany on Oct. 27, 2019 at St. Lawrence Church with the blessing of a memorial plaque commemorating his mission work in Mississippi.

This commemoration is through much efforts on behalf of Heick’s descendants, in particular his great-great nephew, Richard Heindl, also of Alteglofsheim. After seeing a picture of his great-great uncle, Heindl went on a quest to research the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Father Heick.

In the early 1900s, Father Heick worked to form churches and schools in Vicksburg, Jackson, Meridian and Greenville, in addition to the first seminary in Mississippi to train African Americans for the priesthood. Much of the work of Heick was controversial at the time and he often received death threats for his belief that all children, no matter their color, should have access to education.

An early assignment in the small Delta community of Merigold nearly cost Father Heick his life. In 1904, he was asked by Chicago millionaire, David Bremner, to establish a mission in Merigold for 140 black families sharecropping on his plantation. Father Heick started with about 12 students in a small warehouse in the downtown area, but within a week the school was closed. Heick was run out of town by whites, who did not share his passion for educating all citizen. According to lore, Father Heick narrowly escaped hidden in either a piano box or coffin and carted out of town to safety.

Father Heick is credited for baptizing over 685 people during his time in Mississippi and founding St. Mary Vicksburg in 1906, Holy Ghost Jackson in 1908, St. Joseph Meridian in 1910 and Sacred Heart Greenville in 1913. The Greenville seminary for African Americans was established by Heick in 1920 but was subsequently moved to Bay St. Louis in 1923.

To the German founded community of Gluckstadt, Heick was instrumental in the completion of the first church building in 1917, which was dedicated in honor of St. Joseph. Originally a mission, St. Joseph was named a parish in 2006.

Father Heick died at the age of 65 in 1929. After his passing, Bishop Gerow of Natchez wrote of Heick: “He might justly be called martyr to his missionary zeal.”

Descendants of Heick have traveled to Mississippi on several occasions to research his extraordinary life. Heindl, his wife and son attended the 100th anniversary of St. Joseph Gluckstadt and the 100th anniversary of Holy Ghost Jackson in 2009.

Pat Ross, parishioner of St. Francis Madison and descendant of one of the original German settlers of Gluckstadt, traveled to Germany for the dedication of the plaque in honor of Father Heick in late October.

“October was chosen for the dedication due to Pope Francis’ proclaiming October the Extra-ordinary month of Missions,” said Ross.

“The Catholics of Alteglofsheim are very proud of their priest and the work he did in the United States.”

In a letter to Father Matthias Kienberger of St. Lawrence church in Alteglofsheim, Bishop Joseph Kopacz stated that “Father Heick was committed to spreading the Gospel in some of the poorest communities of our diocese; and was dedicated to providing a solid education and faith formation to the underserved. We are forever in his debt.”

The plaque commemorating the extraordinary work of Father Heick was designed by Julia Heindl, Heick’s great-great-great niece. Made of bronze and steel, the plaque will occupy a prominent place on the wall of St. Laurentius church in Alteglofsheim.

U.S. bishops examine challenges faced by church, society

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – During their Nov. 11-13 meeting in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops elected new officers and discussed challenges in the church and the nation. They spoke of their renewed efforts to help immigrants, youth and young adults, pregnant women and the poor as well their steps to combat gun violence and racism.
On the second day of the meeting, Nov. 12, the bishops elected Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit as conference vice president.
Archbishop Gomez, the first Latino to be elected to this role, was chosen with 176 votes from a slate of 10 nominees.
At the start of the meeting, the bishops voted overwhelmingly on a revised set of strategic priorities to take them into the next decade. The next day, they approved adding new materials to complement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” their long-standing guide to help Catholics form their consciences in public life, including voting.
Bishops also heard a wide-ranging report on immigration Nov. 12, which included updates of policy, how programs to resettle refugees, including those run by the Catholic Church, have closed or reduced activity because the administration has moved to close the country’s doors to those seeking refuge, and efforts on the border to help asylum cases.
The bishops’ second day of meetings also included a presentation of the pope’s document “Christus Vivit,” which was issued following the 2018 Synod on Young People. Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a delegate at the synod, urged bishops to do more to support Catholic teens and young adults and to use the pope’s apostolic exhortation as their guide.
The previous day, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles told the bishops the church is losing young people in greater numbers and must face the challenges of how to get the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” particularly young people, back.
He presented a three-minute video on the issue and spoke of his concerns and ideas for bringing young people back to church which involved: not dumbing down the faith and involving young people in the social justice aspects of the church. Discussion about this from the floor lasted for more than an hour with bishops from across the country agreeing that the issue is of great concern and sharing other ideas to bring young people back which primarily involved catechism but also an increased devotion to Mary.
The bishops also heard that a new “pastoral framework for marriage and family life” should be ready for a vote by the U.S. bishops by next November at the latest, according to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
At the start of their meeting Nov. 11, the bishops raised pressing issues that included the priesthood shortage, gun violence and the need to provide support services for pregnant women.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, mentioned some of these challenges in his opening remarks, along with the need to welcome migrants and fight racism. He also urged the bishops not just to focus on the challenges before them but to consider how they could further develop collegiality and collaboration with one another.
In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told his fellow bishops that it has been “an honor to serve you, even in the difficult times.”
“Let’s begin anew,” he said, at the close of his address.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, listens to a speaker during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In a presentation on gun violence, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, said Catholic clergy and lay leaders can play a role in bringing together people along the rural-urban divide to build understanding of the need for sensible policies that can end the scourge of gun violence.
The bishop, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, outlined the USCCB’s long-held stance of the need for “common sense” legislation that governs the availability of guns. He also said it was time for people to come together so that there is greater understanding of how gun violence affects urban communities in particular.
He told Catholic News Service that the USCCB’s work on the legislative front was important, but that a pastoral response to gun violence was needed.
“It’s time for a different approach,” he said.
In a new approach for the bishops’ pro-life efforts, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, invited his fellow bishops to devote a year of service to pregnant women starting next March.
He said Catholic parishes can be one of the first places a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy can turn to for assistance rather than think of seeking an abortion and they could offer a variety of support services to women who may be thinking about whether to carry their child to term.
The bishops also voted for a new sixth edition of of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ existing Program of Priestly Formation for U.S. dioceses; before it can be implemented, it must first receive approval, from the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. They approved a text translation to be used in the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults and OKd close to 300 new hymn texts for the Liturgy of the Hours.
The three-day meeting wrapped up Nov. 13 with a presentation by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, who spoke about the ongoing work of the committee, highlighting the listening sessions that have taken place around the country.
At the meeting’s close, Archbishop Gomez thanked outgoing president Cardinal DiNardo for his “excellent service to this body and to the church.”

(Contributing to this report was Rhina Guidos, Mark Pattison and Dennis Sadowski.)

Maureen Smith joins Archdiocese of Atlanta as communications director

By Erika Anderson Redding
ATLANTA – Maureen Smith is home — and she couldn’t be happier.
Smith recently joined the Archdiocese of Atlanta as the new director of communications. Born and raised in Atlanta, Smith believes that she is exactly where God wants her — and her family — to be.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and for all the people who have welcomed us back with open arms,” she said. “It’s been very affirming to know we’re in the right place.”
Smith’s roots in the archdiocese run deep. Baptized at what is now the Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Atlanta where her father was a deacon for 25 years, Smith also attended St. Thomas More School in Decatur and St. Pius X High School in Atlanta. For her, Atlanta is home — and she can’t wait to learn more
When Smith’s husband, Jeff Amy, a reporter with the Associated Press (AP), was transferred to Jackson, Mississippi, Smith began her career with the Catholic Church, first as a reporter and editor for Mississippi Catholic, the official newspaper for the Diocese of Jackson. In 2015, when Bishop Joseph Kopacz realized the need for a Depart
ment of Communications, he turned to Smith for her expertise.
“It was a really great opportunity to start the department and build it from scratch,” she said.
Smith began her new role in the Archdiocese of Atlanta Oct. 23. She is looking forward to traveling throughout the archdiocese and learning about the history and culture. Jackson is a vast diocese, stretching to the Tennessee border, but Atlanta has more residents — and Smith hopes to meet as many as she can.
“I think it’s such a blessing to be able to do what you love to do in service to the church,” she said. “What we do as Catholic communicators is tell the Gospel story by telling the story of the local church and the church at large. It’s really a privilege.”
Smith and Amy live with their two daughters — Cat, a freshman at St. Pius, and Nicole a sixth-grader at St. Thomas More — in northeast Atlanta.
“I’m just so excited to be home,” she said. “This is a huge blessing for us.”

Pastoral against racism is starting conversations, healing, bishops told

By Carol Zimmerman
BALTIMORE (CNS) – One year after the U.S. bishops approved their pastoral letter against racism, the document is hardly just sitting on a shelf but is the basis for listening sessions in dioceses around the country and is an educational tool for individuals, schools and parishes, the bishops were told Nov. 13.
Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, reminded the bishops that in the two years since the ad hoc committee was formed, it has been “hard at work as the church works to acknowledge past harms and cultivate racial reconciliation.”
The document, titled “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” sold out its first 2,000 copies eight months after it was printed and was recently sent out for a second printing. It is available online in English and Spanish along with study guides at
Bishop Fabre said the ad hoc committee’s most important work has been the listening sessions that began last August. So far there have been 13 sessions around the country, and more are scheduled for next year.
These sessions spring from the very words of the pastoral letter: “We must create opportunities to hear the painful stories of those whose lives have been affected by racism.”
In these sessions, starting with the first one in St. Louis, the bishop said the committee’s members have heard both the hurt caused by racism and the hope that church and society will root it out.
Diocesan bishops attending these sessions have been linked to the laity in ways that open “new possibilities for further healing,” Bishop Fabre said, adding the bishops’ committee is helping these dioceses with follow-up sessions or other ways to implement the pastoral letter.
All the offices and committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are committed to ending racism, he said. He highlighted the educational outreach of the USCCB’s Justice, Peace and Human Development Office, which is helping to develop a children’s book in response to the pastoral on racism called “Everyone Belongs.”
The ad hoc committee has addressed several national Catholic organizations about their possible use of the pastoral letter. It also is working on developing catechetical resources for schools and supporting or developing Catholic college programs, seminary training and ecumenical efforts.
In closing, he said the “single cry” committee members hear most often at listening sessions is that “the laity never seems to hear homilies on racism.”
“I would ask you to work with me to change that perception,” he told the bishops, “so that we all will come to hear regularly, and with one voice, that racism is opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the Catholic Church in the United States is committed to standing against the evil and sin of racism with all its strength.”
To this end, he said his committee would seek to provide more homily resources to bishops and priests.
He also stressed that the committee’s work “goes beyond simply calling out the evil of racism” but involves urging “all people to see the deeper reality of God’s purpose and the in creating all of us with unique and unrepeatable value.”
The bishop didn’t say the work was easy, but he finished his presentation by saying: “With God’s grace our efforts will bear fruit in these challenging times.”
(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

Finding redemption in corrections

By Marvin Edwards, OFS
WINONA – Imagine life confined to a cold, hard world. Your surroundings are either rough pale grey, hardened concrete or cold uninviting steel. The atmosphere is filled with constant noises of confusion, threats, danger and a madness that comes from lack of privacy. There is nothing soft in your existence, even the small bunk you have as your only escape is a thin cold plastic mat laying on a cold hard steel base. Your ears never hear a child’s laughter or a soothing response from the mouth of a mother or a spouse. A world where you have no control over your time or your space. A place where the only thing that can take you away into another world is a small bed sheet or blanket, hanging from the bunk above yours, to encase you in a confined cubicle of 3 X 6 confinement. Everything you own is stored in an eighteen-inch drawer recessed in the solid sheet of steel under your thin, narrow, plastic bed mat.
Your every movement, your every activity outside this space is limited and controlled with firm and impersonal directions. Your every word, your every expression will be judged and challenged and affect your existence that day. This is the world of incarceration.
The thought is that those incarcerated have all they need to live as a human being, the idea that they are given enough food to eat, recreational facilities to enjoy, televisions to watch, games to play and time to read and study is a false understanding of what is meant by the dignity of the person. In a normal unit of 65 plus inmates there is one TV. Time in the yard or in the gym is also very limited, to only an hour or so during a week.
There is a myth that exists in our society about the operation of our prison facilities. The name that we give to our system leads to a misunderstanding of how we deal with incarceration. We call our system “The Department of Corrections.” There is a scripture in Jerimiah 10:24 where Jerimiah pleads for correction from God. In this prayer Jerimiah asks, “Correct me, Lord, but with equity, not in anger, lest you diminish me.” Our system today is based on anger and retribution. There is a bare minimum of correctional opportunities available or redemption possible in the system as it stands. This is a sure path to ruin rather than correction. Redemption is defined as the action of regaining possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing of debt. In our system of incarceration based on punishment, the payment may be made but redemption never takes place. The wound to all affected by the crime is never healed. For true redemption to take place there must be some form of correction involved. Healing is needed by all.
In Mississippi over 19,000 individuals are incarcerated within three major state operated, 15 regional-county operated and three privately operated facilities. Mississippi is continually listed among the states with the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the U.S.

Prison reform is one of the subjects for Catholic Day at the Capitol coming up in March 2020. (Photo courtesy of BigStock)

Facilities are over filled, under budgeted and understaffed. The pay rate for officers barely meets the pay standard of self-sufficiency in our state. Some work double shifts under poor conditions and tense environments. The lack of personnel and funding makes mandatory programs impossible to completely implement.
In recent years there has been a movement in our state for prison reform. Change is necessary, both financially and morally, in how we deal with crime. The failure of the process of punishment instead of correction, the cost to our tax system and the rate of recidivism demonstrates the how poorly our war on crime has worked. Crime effects more than the victim. It also affects the family of the perpetrator, the community in which the crime took place and society. Of course, redemption is the responsibility of the perpetrator, but for true redemption to take place the responsibility must be shared by all affected; the perpetrator, victim and community.
There is an opportunity for restorative justice. Restorative justice is a theory that emphasizes repairing harm caused by criminal or harmful behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. It requires a change in the way we react, solve and address crime in our society. The responsibility for redemption lies on all affected by the crime. It is thinking of crime as a violation of a relationship rather than damage to the state.
Because of the movement toward justice reform, the system has understood the need to allow concerned volunteers to aid in the effort to bring the attitude of correction to our system. Momentum can only be maintained, and correction only take place if the society promotes and supports opportunities as they are made available. Advocacy and contact with leaders of the state are essential to change.
The situation of our present system is what makes prison ministry such an important part of the success of correction within our state. Prison ministry is sometimes misunderstood in our parishes. We think that our responsibility to those incarcerated is to make the Eucharist available or to ensure the opportunity for Mass to take place. This is in no way a complete definition of prison ministry.
As Christians, we are called to build God’s kingdom in our world. Our teachings on social justices requires us as Catholics to take responsibility for the care and development of all human life. This includes those outside our circles, outside of our parishes and outside of society.
In Matthew 25, Jesus is asked; “When did we see you Lord,” He responds, “When you visited with those in prison.”
Opportunities for prison ministry abound. The ministry involves activities on the outside as well as the inside. The need is tremendous, the workers are few.

(Marvin Edwards, OFS, LEM Sacred Heart Mission, Winona MS. Coordinator of Catholic Ministry, Parchman)

Parish calendar


BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, Advent Hermitage Overnight, Dec. 13-14 begins with 5:30 p.m. dinner. In the prayerful space of a hermitage, come away, block out our society’s noisy Christmas preparation and focus on the real meaning of Christ/Emmanuel coming among us. Director: Clare Van Lent, MA CSp., founder and director of the Dwelling Place. Cost: $90 per day. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email
CHATAWA St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center, An Advent Day of Reflection “What am I Waiting for?” on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advent is always seen as a time of waiting and anticipation. Sister Pat Thomas, O.P., a member of the founding staff of the Peace Center in New Orleans, is currently a leader in pastoral and educational roles around the country. Suggested donation: $40, includes lunch. Details: Sister Sue Von Bank (601) 783-0801 or
METAIRIE, La. Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans (CCRNO), Holy Spirit Women’s Retreat, “2020: Without a Vision the People Perish,” Jan. 24-26, 2020 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Lafayette. Johnnette Benkovic Williams, Fr. Mark Goring, Deacon Larry and Andi Oney and Patti Mansfield will be featured. Details:; or (504) 828-1368.
JACKSON/GREENWOOD The Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Family Ministry/Catholic Charities’ Office of Parish Health Ministry, Mississippi State Department of Health and Belhaven University are co-sponsoring two day workshops on first aid for mental health: “Mental Health First Aid” (MHFA) teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in your community. The workshops are designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, law enforcement, and other caring citizens how to offer initial help to someone who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. Two days of training for adult participants are scheduled for: Feb. 20-21, 2020 at Belhaven University, Jackson; and Apr. 2-3, 2020 at Locus Benedictus Spirituality Center, Greenwood.


AMORY St. Helen, Adult Christmas Dinner and Auction, Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., and Mass and Celebration of Grandparents with children’s Christmas play, Sunday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. Details: church office (662) 256-8392.
CLEVELAND Our Lady of Victories, “Life After Loss – Invitation” Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. beginning Dec. 5 through Jan. 16. The sessions are led by Larry L. Lambert, LPC. Christmas is a season of anticipation and celebrations, but for some people, it’s not a festive time. Loss survivors may feel drained or disinterested in things that once made life meaningful. Family and friends may notice these differences about recovering and coping. All in the community are welcome to these free sessions. Details: contact Larry at (662) 719-8756 or email
GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph, Parish Christmas Pageant Children’s Christmas Program, “The Greatest Gift,” Saturday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. This program is held in conjunction with our annual Chili Supper. Please make plans for your family to attend. Details: contact Karen Worrell at
GREENVILLE St. Joseph, Celebration of the completion of their church restoration and the restoration of their church bell which dates back to 1854 (cast by Henry Hoover), Sunday, Nov. 24 at 10 a.m., Mass to follow at 10:30 a.m. Luncheon in the Parish Hall after Mass. There will be no 8 a.m. Mass on this Sunday. Details: church office (662) 335-5251.
GREENWOOD St. Francis, Mardi Gras Christmas Bingo, Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Proceeds help defray expenses for the next St. Francis Mardi Gras Ball in February 2020. Details: church office (662)453-0623.
JACKSON St. Richard, Lectio Divina During Advent, Come experience a richer way to pray the Advent Sunday scriptures during this wonderful season of our Church, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 10-11:30 a.m. each meeting. Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 meetings will be in the Mercy Room. Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 meetings will be in the Chichester Room. Participating will be a gift to yourself. Facilitators: Mary Louise Jones and Claudia Addison. You can come to one session or all the sessions. All are welcome – both men and women. It is not necessary to sign up to attend. Details: email Claudia at or call (601) 594-3937.
JACKSON St. Richard, Bereavement Support Group, Candle-light Remembrance Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m. in Foley Hall. There will be a discussion of various ways to honor our deceased loved ones followed by a brief candle-lighting prayer service. Each family or person will be given one candle to light in honor of as many loved ones as they wish to remember by name. A social time of wine and cheese and other refreshments follows the service. Details: Open to all. RSVP to Nancy McGhee at or call (601) 942-2078.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Advent Wreath workshop, Sunday, Dec. 1 after the 10 a.m. Mass in the Family Life Center. Coffee, juice and snacks will be provided. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
OLIVE BRANCH Queen of Peace, Advent Reflection Time, Signs of Hope for the Church with Father David Knight, Dec. 2-4 each night at 7 p.m. Details: church office (662) 895-5007.


HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Young People’s Christmas Program, Sunday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Rehearsals remaining are Sunday, Dec. 8 (lunch provided) and Dress Rehearsal is Saturday, Dec. 14. Details: Barbara Smith at (662) 233-4833 or (901) 413-8201.
JACKSON St. Richard, Special Kids Art Show, Thursday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. in Foley Hall. Icons, crosses, photographs, and other artwork by the Special Kids will be on display and available to purchase. Details: church office (601) 366-2335.
MADISON St. Joseph High School, “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook” in the Fine Arts Building, Thursday, Dec. 14, Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. each evening. Details: school office (601) 898-4800.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Breakfast with Santa, Saturday, Dec. 14 from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.
SOUTHAVEN Sacred Heart School, join us for pancakes, religious crafts and pictures with Santa, Saturday, Dec. 7 at 8:30-11:30 a.m. Cost: Adult/Child Breakfast Tickets: $4; Picture with Santa Ticket: $3. Details: Preorder ticket forms are at the bulletin board as you enter church or in the office or call the school office (662) 349-0900.

Celebraciones Virgen de Guadalupe y Posadas

Virgen de Guadalupe

Festividades Guadalupanas
Diciembre tiene dos fiestas marianas significativas: la Inmaculada Concepción el 8 de diciembre y Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe el 12 de diciembre. El Obispo John Joseph Chanche, primer obispo de la Diócesis de Jackson tuvo una devoción especial a la fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepción y ayudó llevar la devoción a los Estados Unidos.
Nuestra señora de Guadalupe es patrona de las Américas. La fiesta celebra la aparición de Maria a San Juan Diego, un indígena mexicano. Mexicanos e inmigrantes de América Central y del Sur han adoptado esta celebración aquí.
En la Diócesis de Jackson muchas parroquias, desde 1979, celebran alguna celebración de esta fiesta. Las celebraciones incluirán procesiones, Santo Rosario, Misa, una dramatización de la aparición de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, novena, vigilia, “Mañanitas” (canción tradicional de cumpleaños mexicana) y convivencia comunitaria – recepciones con canciones y bailes folclóricos.

Otra tradición latina, las Posadas, es una recreación del viaje que Jose y Maria emprendieron buscando refugio para ellos y su bebé. Muchas comunidades organizarán Posadas de varios días como parte de la temporada de Adviento. Estas reuniones pueden incluir representaciones de la sagrada familia en busca de posadas, rosarios, villancicos, piñatas y recepciones.

Aquí hay una lista de las celebraciones de Guadalupe en toda la diócesis. Para más detalles, y fechas de Posadas, por favor contacte a su parroquia.

Amory, St. Helen. Jueves 12 de diciembre.
Canton, Sacred Heart. Domingo 15 de diciembre, 9.30 am
Carthage, St. Anne. Sábado 14 de diciembre, 10 a.m.
Cleveland, Our Lady of Victories. Jueves, 12 de diciembre, 5.30 p.m.
Corinth, St. James de Less. Sábado 14 de diciembre, 6 p.m.
Forest, St. Michael. Inicio de Novena Nuestra Sra. de Guadalupe; martes, 3 de diciembre; Celebración de Nuestra Sra. de Guadalupe, jueves, 12 de diciembre, 6 p.m.; Celebración Guadalupana Parroquial en Centro Krudop de Forest, domingo, 15 de diciembre, 11 a.m.
Greenville, Sacred Heart. Jueves 12 de diciembre, 6 p.m.
Greenwood, St Francis. Rosarios. Misa, jueves 12 de diciembre, 6 p.m.
Hazlehurst, St. Martin of Tours. Mañanitas, miércoles 11 de diciembre, 7-9 p.m.; y Misa, jueves 12 diciembre, 6.30 p.m.
Holly Springs, St. Joseph. Misa, jueves 12 de diciembre, 7.30 p.m.
Houston, Immaculate Heart of Mary. Novena, comienza el jueves 3 de diciembre. Mañanitas, 12 diciembre, 5 a.m. y Misa, 7 p.m.
Indianola, Immaculate Conception. Domingo, 8 de diciembre, Rosario y Misa 10.30 a.m.
Jackson, Catedral de San Pedro. Domingo 8 de diciembre, procesión, 11.30 a.m. y Misa, 1 p.m.
Jackson, St Therese. Rosario bilingüe, mañanitas y convivio, jueves, 12 de diciembre, 8-10 p.m.; Misa, fiesta y danzantes, domingo, 15 de diciembre, 12:30 p.m.
Kosciusko, St. Therese. Domingo 15 de diciembre, 1 p.m.
Meridian, St. Patrick. Domingo, 8 de diciembre, 2.30 p.m.
Morton, St Martin de Porres. Celebración de la Inmaculada Concepción, sábado, 7 de diciembre, 7 p.m.
New Albany, St Francis of Assisi. Domingo, 15 de diciembre, 6 p.m.
Olive Branch, Queen the Peace. Misa, jueves, 12 de diciembre, 7 p.m.
Oxford, St. John. Novena de rosarios, del 3 al 11 de diciembre, 6 p.m. Mañanitas y Misa Guadalupana, jueves, 12 de diciembre en la Iglesia, 4.30 a.m.
Pearl, San Judas. Rosario y Misa, sábado, 14 de diciembre, 7 p.m.
Pontotoc, St. Christopher. Vigilia, miércoles 11 de diciembre, 6 p.m. Mañanitas, jueves 12 de diciembre, 5.30 a.m.
Ripley, St Mattew. Celebración de la Inmaculada Concepción. Misa bilingüe, lunes 9 de diciembre, 7 p.m.; Procesión, Rosario y Misa bilingüe, miércoles, 11 de diciembre, 7 p.m.; Mañanitas a media noche; Liturgia, comunión y convivio, jueves 12 de diciembre, 7 p.m.
Senatobia, St. Gregory. Misa, jueves 12 de diciembre a las 5.30 pm.
Southaven, Christ the King. Mañanitas, jueves 12 de diciembre a las 5.30 am. Misa a las 7.00 pm.
Tupelo, St. James. Domingo, 15 diciembre, 11 a.m.