Theology at the movies: an “Unorthodox” view from the diaspora

Guest column
By James Tomek, Ph.D.
How do we read “Unorthodox,” a recent four-part series on Netflix of a woman, Esty, who flees from a Hasidic community in New York in search of a new community in Berlin? Is the film about the problems of Jews to maintain their culture in the “diaspora” – the land outside of Palestine/Israel? Esty rebelling against the Hasidic culture? About how women are imprisoned in their religious cultures? Do we have the right to “educate” women and men who live “happily” in a culture that could be repressive? Ultimately, do we really learn anything specific about Hasidic culture other than seeing the stark clothing and witnessing devotions without understanding the words? Can we, in turn, question our Catholicism about some of its customs? We are all in the diaspora – “scattered” from our origins seeking security.

James Tomek, Ph.D.

In “Unorthodox,” Esty, escapes an unhappy marriage and flies to Berlin where she tries to fit in with a group of student-musicians. Flashbacks reveal how she was raised by her grandmother in a Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; entered into a prearranged marriage with Yanky Shapiro; was naive in the sexual facts of life; became pregnant, and at present, decides to flee the closed community to go to Berlin. Why? Her mother, excommunicated earlier from the community, had gone to Berlin where she now lives with her partner and works as a nurse.
The Hasidic (meaning pious/piety) form of worship started in the 18th Century in Poland. In the face of persecutions, the Hasidic Jews devoted themselves to preserve their form of worship. The black suits and head wear were ways of reminding themselves who they were, especially in the diaspora. The Williamsburg community people are more recent descendants of the Satmar community in Hungary, preserving their religion from the horrors of the World War II Holocaust.
Is Esty a descendant of the biblical Esther? Esty, like Esther, is a heroine in a foreign land. The book of Esther is about Jews living in Persia after the Exile in 486 BCE. The King chooses Esther, a Jew, to replace his first wife as Queen. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, enrages the current Prime Minister, Hamon, who wants to annihilate all the Jews. Mordecai convinces the King of Hamon’s evil plot. The Jews are accepted and Hamon is executed. The Jews celebrate their victory over death in a foreign land with the Feast of Purim. The Talmud, ethical commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures (in a way, a Jewish New Testament), is ambiguous about Esther. It is a difficult book to love since it is about vengeance and with little or no mention of God’s providence.
Is our Esty a new Esther in a foreign land? She meets with musicians studying in a Berlin conservatory. In an early outing, she enters a lake, and joyfully, baptismally takes off her sheitel, a wig used to hide her hair when out in public. She has an intimate relation with one of the group and finally is admitted to take a test to enter the conservatory. She finally chooses to sing a Yiddish folk song for her audition. She is pursued in Berlin by her equally naive husband Yanky, and a relative, Moishe, who is equally at home in Hasidic ceremonies as well as in capitalistic casinos and bars. Esty refuses Yanky. Moishe, at first aggressive in wanting to bring Esty back, undergoes his own baptism as he seems torn between the two cultures, seen in his symbolic undressing and wading in the Spree.
Do we have a right to educate people who are happy in a culture or religion that may imprison them? The Jewish community in Williamsburg seems to be getting along very well. Is Esty being deprived of the freedom to grow? Do we have a right to “free” this woman from her religious community? Do we know enough about our own religion?
The Hindu religion has four ways to the divine – four ways of being religious: knowledge (jnana) [study], devotion (bhakti) [ceremonies], duty (karma) [good deeds], and meditation (raja) [prayer]. The Hasidic Jews emphasize devotion. The film succeeds in showing the appearances of this Hasidic community and how its marriages are arranged and the Sabbath celebrated. However, it is short on the “knowledge” part. Why the elaborate headdresses or stremeil for the men? The growth of side locks of hair? What is the meaning of the Yiddish folk song through which Esty wins over her audience?
I prefer the way of “knowledge,” so by that I mean studying why we do certain things in our devotions. Some enjoy the karma or duty – doing good deeds. Others find pleasure worshiping without questioning the whys.
The film “Unorthodox” succeeds in showing appearances of a Hasidic community. But, how do these showings reflect their memories? We are all in the diaspora – away from our origins. Our Catholic way of remembering is in the Mass – not necessarily in the priest’s vestments or shape of the church and altar – but in the scriptures read and the shared meal where we remember Jesus’s sacrifice.

(James Tomek is a retired language and literature professor at Delta State University who is currently a Lay Ecclesial Minister at Sacred Heart in Rosedale and also active in RCIA at Our Lady of Victories in Cleveland.)

Mobile pantries are a lifeline for many

By Laura Grisham
SENATOBIA – A steady stream of cars maneuvered through the parking lot at St. Gregory The Great Catholic Church last Thursday. The mobile pantry in Senatobia had been open for just over an hour. Volunteers and staff, with machinelike movement, gathered boxes and bags of produce, cereals, meats and other staples and placed them in the vehicles as they rolled through.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the nation’s food supply and economy, nearly one in every five Mississippians had trouble getting enough food due to lack of income or other issues. Disruptions to food-supply chains, employment and other services because of COVID-19 worsened the situation.

SENATOBIA – A tractor-trailer full of fresh fruits, vegetables, shelf staples and meats is distributed at each of Sacred Heart Southern Missions mobile pantry sites. (Photos by Laura Grisham)

For more than six years, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) has sponsored the DeSoto and Marshall County mobile pantries, providing fresh, nutritious food to struggling families and individuals each month. The mobile pantry program brings regular food distributions to the hard-to-reach places that need it the most. A tractor-trailer full of fresh fruits, vegetables, shelf staples and meats are distributed at each of our mobile sites.
Given the toll the public health crisis has taken on communities across the area served, SHSM has intensified its efforts to safeguard the health and wellbeing of poor families, especially older adults and children, who lack sustained access to healthy food and adequate nutrition.
Since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, SHSM has hosted 22 mobile food pantries across the five counties of their service area. That’s an additional ten distributions on top of their regularly scheduled mobiles. In six months, more than 430,000 pounds of food has been given out to hungry families at these distributions — more pounds than all of last year’s mobile pantries combined.
Tragically, the disabled and elderly are some of the most vulnerable that SHSM serve. Nearly one third of those who come to SHSM social service offices for assistance are the elderly poor. Attempting to balance basic living expenses on fixed incomes, they are presented with an impossible choice — to pay for utilities, life-saving medicine or a meal on the table. And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they are more vulnerable and isolated than ever before.
“These days, at a trip to the grocery store, I only get about half of what I used to,” said Lee, as he waited in line. “I am on a fixed income. The price of everything has gone up, but what we old folks get has not. I can’t hardly afford to eat.”

SENATOBIA – A friend told Mattie about Sacred Heart Southern Missions mobile pantry. She was thrilled to find out another was scheduled the following month. Pictured is Mattie waving “thanks” to volunteers after they loaded her car with fresh produce, cereal, canned goods and other staples.

Lee says the mobile pantries provide him with the extra groceries he needs to make it through the month. For his sister, Carol, who was in the car behind him, SHSM’s distributions are even more critical. Carol has cancer.
“My twin sister, Carol, back there,” Lee motioned to the car behind his, “she is terminal. She can’t afford nothing with buying medicine and all. I told her about this food and it is helping her and her family out a whole lot.”
For seniors and other adults who are at high risk for COVID-19, the mobile pantry program is a blessing in several ways. Besides providing them with fresh, healthy food and supplementing their meager incomes, the drive-through distribution arrangement allows them to avoid crowded retail stores, thus reducing the possible exposure to the virus.
Mattie, another elderly woman in line commented, “This food sure helps me be able to pay my bills.” A friend had told Mattie about the mobile opportunity in Senatobia last month. Eagerly, she inquired when Sacred Heart would be returning for another distribution. “I was so glad that I could get it so close to home. Thank ya’ll so much!”
Food pantry manager Jose Franco said that grateful comments like these are a common occurrence at the mobiles. “You hear them all the time! There are so many people in need, and they are thankful for the help.”
Hunger is a problem that most often affects low-income families. Many hardworking families and individuals are living paycheck to paycheck, then suddenly, an illness or other disaster strikes and they can no longer afford food. Others juggle their bills every month, knowing there will never be enough money.
Jose recalled last month’s mobile food distribution in Senatobia. As he assisted a woman with her intake form, he noticed three young children in the back seat of her car. The woman explained that she and her husband had both recently lost their jobs and they had no food to give their family. Pointing to the form, she said, “We don’t have any income … is that ok?”
“That was heart-breaking,” Jose said quietly.
Unfortunately, this woman’s plight is something SHSM sees often. Yet, no matter how many times they meet people struggling in life and hear their stories, the impact on them never lessens.
SHSM continues to prioritize food distributions in their communities in Northwest Mississippi.
Through the generosity of our donors and the continued support of volunteers, SHSM is able to ensure that people like Lee, Carol, Mattie and countless others facing unimaginable financial challenges have access to nutritious food. Looking ahead, additional pop-up mobile pantries have been added to SHSM’s regular monthly schedule to help even more people in need, providing them an essential lifeline during these difficult times.

Sisters continue to help on the frontlines

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Catholic Extension, in collaboration with several organizations, has launched the program, Sisters on the Frontlines, to help families impacted by COVID-19 and at the same time ”recognize the vital role of Catholic sisters in communities where needs are great.” The goal of the initiative is to give 1,000 sisters, $1,000 each to provide rapid response to the poor and distressed.
Five sisters in the Diocese of Jackson have received the Sisters on the Frontlines grant, so far: Sister Lael Niblick and Sister Mary Christine Fellerhoff from St. Helen Amory; Sister Nancy Schreck in Excel in Okolona; and Sisters Maria Eugenia Moreno, MGSpS and Obdulia Olivar, MGSpS in St. Michael, Forest.
Excel in Okolona
Excel – a nonprofit organization in the area is the center for the sisters to help, explained Sister Nancy Schreck. There are five sisters from three different religious congregations working in Okolona. The regular outreach includes after school and summer learning, adult basic education, english language learning, a senior center, a resale store and a variety of other programs for community needs. “This provides our ability to know the community and for people to know Excel and to come with their needs. What we do is different from a traditional parish. These Excel’s programs provide us with good knowledge of the community needs,” Sister Nancy said. Due to COVID-19, all the programs have concentrated on providing material and emotional assistance to people living on the edge of poverty, immigrant families in the area who do not qualify for public assistance, families with school-age children and especially the elderly.
Food insecurity has been a major issue for the community. With COVID-19, “food scarcity became an issue to be addressed,” said Sister Nancy. “The assistance we at Excel get is uneven, sometimes people bring meat, at another time it has been dairy products from Prairie Farms in Tupelo, some funds from United Way, and Create, the grant from the Extension Society, and so forth.”

OKOLONA – Pictured, Sister Mary Beth Goldsmith, OSF distributes food to various families through Excel. Sister Nancy Schreck of Excel is the recipient of a grant from the Catholic Foundation through Sisters on the Frontlines that grants $1,000 to sisters to aid those impacted by COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Sister Nancy Schreck)

St. Helen Parish Amory
The grant from Sisters on the Frontlines was used to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, “…not because they themselves had COVID, but because their lives were changed by the pandemic,” said Sister Mary Christine Fellerhoff, CSA, the executive director of CHANGE in Amory. The organization is a community-wide, ecumenical nonprofit located in the parish center of St. Helen Parish in Amory, providing financial assistance since 2014 to families living in poverty.
Sister Mary said that CHANGE closed their operations around March due to the COVID-19 outbreak and reopened again in June, taking all the hygiene and social distance measures for the safety of staff and clients. “For me as a religious sister, COVID-19 has intensified the feelings I always experience when ministering to our clients. We share their suffering, their frustrations, their tears, and, yes, their small triumphs,” Sister Mary explained.
Sister Lael Niblick, CSA, lay ecclesial minister of St. Helen Amory says, “I feel both blessed and challenged in assisting our members to grow as disciples of Christ and to build a strong Christian community.” Along with Sister Mary of CHANGE, Sister Lael also received the Sisters on the Frontline grant.
As for the pandemic, she says her ministry has been impacted, with a few of the parish members have been diagnosed positive, a couple of them in a nursing home and two asymptomatic cases in a family. To impact her ministry further, Sister Lael was in a serious car accident at the end of July, putting her physically unable to help others, relying on other parishioners to aid her in continuing her mission to help others in need.
“Nevertheless, we have aged and ill members, several with cancer diagnoses. I am saddened by my inability to visit and take Eucharist to our homebound on a regular basis. Although we have opened the church to Mass on a restricted basis (masking, social distancing, and sanitizing), we feel deeply the fact that we cannot come together as a church community,” said Sister Lael.
Stories are bountiful from Sisters Mary and Lael on how they were able to help others with the Sisters on the Frontline grant. Here are a few of those stories (names have been changed for privacy):

  • “Sally” lost her job due to budget cuts from COVID-19, she was in the process of seeking a divorce from her abusive husband, with three children. Sister Mary was able to help her with an electric bill to help keep her family in their home.
  • “Sasha” lost her job when the pandemic struck. The restaurant where she worked let her go because she was pregnant and felt she was at a greater risk to catch the coronavirus. Normally able to manage, her income was drastically reduced, even with unemployment, government aid and SNAP benefits. The grant was able to assist her with a utility bill when funds were unavailable through CHANGE to help.
  • “Annie” broke her hip and after a successful surgery, entered a nursing rehab facility as the pandemic struck. She had to quarantine for weeks before therapy was possible. “Annie” learned that she would need a ramp built on her home before she could be released from the facility, but being on a fixed income, she had no extra funds for the project. With the help of the grant and a generous donation of labor from a contractor), CHANGE was able to assist in building a ramp for “Annie” to continue her recovery at home.
    Neither COVID-19 or a bad car accident stopped Sister Lael in her optimism. “This difficult situation calls forth creativity. We are developing ways to connect with our members in a variety of ways through social media, technology, and the written word,” she said. “Thank you FADICA and the Extension Society for the Sisters on the Frontlines grant enabling us to make Annie’s homecoming a joyous one.”
    Sister Mary concluded saying “We feel blessed to share these clients’ stories, their tears and their gratitude. We are privileged to serve them.”
    All the recipients of the Catholic Extension grant agree and share these challenges: trying to find a new way of delivering programs and create socialization this time with heavy safety measures and social distance. Sister Nancy expressed her gratitude for the ”flexibility of the Extension Grant. [It] has been very helpful in this regard.”
    Since the program began in June, more than 378 sisters have received support from the Sisters on the Frontline grant program and another 622 have requested funds.
    Sisters who have received funding are asked to report back to Catholic Extension as to how the funds were used. Catholic Extension will be sharing the sisters’ stories as they are received. To learn more or to donate, visit

Hawke talks faith in action at Queen of Peace Olive Branch

Michael Hawke, third degree Knight of the Father Leo John Dehon Council 14051, speaks about living out his faith on behalf of the “least of these.” (Matthew 25)

What does it mean to you personally to put your faith into action?
I was always taught that the best way to bring others to the faith is simply to show them what a person living a faith-filled life can look like. I have never been one to actively evangelize through discussions with people, but I try to do it by living as the best example I can, answering questions when people ask. My Catholic faith is part of my daily living. It shapes how I look at the world and other people. Always looking for Christ in others.

In general, how do the Knights show faith in action?
First and foremost by being an open, welcoming group of compassionate people. I firmly believe that Christ’s intention was for us to be welcoming of all people and walks of life and to refrain from being judgmental. That has never meant changing my own values to match others, but instead always trying to be understanding of where they are coming from. If their actions and thoughts don’t match up with Catholic teaching, it may simply be because they have been misled. But it is not for me to judge. It is always for me to act with compassion to them and treat them with respect.
I believe that the parish and the Knights of Columbus must embody that spirit. We believe in service to others without asking their affiliation or life choices. Simply helping those who need help and, hopefully, through that example, we bring more people to our faith. I believe that by being that example to the public, without using it only to “show off” or “gain publicity,” is the single most important thing any group of faith can do. Those actions are what will generate curiosity in others, sowing the seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to change a person over time.

Describe one or two of your ministries where faith in action is seen.
First, the Knights of Columbus as a group shows faith in action. As a group we stand together as practical, Catholic men, not ashamed to make that claim or wear the signs of our brotherhood. Through that we can seek support from each other on our own faith journey while aiding people in the community who need it. By being visible both in the community and the church, we show that it is still possible to be a practicing Catholic who has compassion and working to make things better for everyone.
A second ministry that is near to me is RCIA. I have acted as a sponsor and teacher for the program, currently and in the past. It is always important to me as the process unfolds to help people understand the misconceptions about the Catholic faith that were taught in my protestant and non-denominational church as a way to scare people away from Catholics. As they learn what our faith is truly based on, they can interact with Catholics in that setting where than can see that many of us have had faith struggles. They see people converting, and a change can be seen in their outlook and faith. It brings me a great sense of peace to know that I have helped sow the seed of faith in someone and brought them to our beautiful Catholic tradition. Through that process I continue to learn more about both our faith and myself. The questions and challenges that people learning our faith go through become a catalyst for me to question things myself in order to learn more about our faith.

What impact has this faith in action ministry had on the people served and on those involved in the ministry?
I think the biggest impact that I have seen with RCIA is to help bring people to our faith. Most importantly, providing some ways for them to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and God the Father. To understand that he is someone they can talk to as long as they are willing to listen. When I see people continuing to go to Sunday Mass after completing the program and becoming a full member it brings a sense of peace to my soul.

What challenges have you faced in developing this ministry and what kept you going despite the challenges?
I have faced a couple challenges, both personal and because of work. I travel frequently for work which makes it more difficult for me to participate at times in parish activities. But Queen of Peace parish, and the Knights of Columbus have always been understanding of those difficulties and been willing to work with me on schedules. I was always apprehensive to get involved because it was hard for me to commit, knowing that a sudden business trip could call me away. However, once I started into the parish as a lector and Extraordinary Eucharistic minister and realized that the parish and people in it would work with my scheduling issues, I slowly became more involved in other things.
As a teacher and sponsor within RCIA, it is sometimes a challenge to remember that we are all in a different place in our faith journeys. There are tenants of our faith or ways that the church has acted that some may accept and others will struggle with. It works both ways. It is important to remember that we each come to the Lord’s table as who we are, bringing our own doubts, sins, gifts, and talents. The Lord accepts all of us and expects us to do the same of others. Everyone has their own struggles of faith they are working through. I would guess that very few people besides maybe the Pope fully accept everything or understand everything the church presents or teaches. That is why as Catholics we believe that conversion and being “saved” is a lifelong process and not something that happens in an instant.

What suggestions do you have for people that aren’t sure how to put their faith in action?
To start somewhere, simply. The easiest and most comfortable place to start is with like-minded people. If your family shares your faith, that is a place to start. If not, work to find a group at your parish that you can act through. There is plenty of fellowship in the available groups of people, like the Knights of Columbus, or men’s and lady’s clubs, etc.
The important thing is to start somewhere. Once you start, you will continue to grow. And don’t be afraid to try a different parish if you can’t find what you need. Every parish has its own personality and groups of people. No one should feel bad about wanting to try a different parish to get what you are looking for. Our faith is a journey, that means accepting change and going to new places to find what you are looking for.
I have been blessed with living many different places in the U.S. and traveling abroad for most of my life. That has allowed me to experience parishes throughout the country and made me come to the realization that everyone is different. From the people, to small changes in how Mass is celebrated, or the flow of the church. All those things are part of the faith experience and you must be willing to hunt around and find what you are looking for. No one else can do it for you.

Calendar of events


NEW ORLEANS Our Lady of the Cenacle Retreat Center, Women’s Retreat “Joy in the Face of Adversity,” Oct. 16-18, check-in is at 3 p.m. on Friday and concludes after lunch on Sunday. We will reflect on God’s unconditional love for us and His desire that we live lives filled with joy. Presenter: Father Doug Doussan, retired and currently serving as Resident Chaplain of the Retreat Center. Cost: $350 and includes accommodations and meals. Because of the special circumstances of the COVID-19 situation, no deposit is required to register. Full payment will be collected upon arrival at the retreat center. Details: to register, contact Susan Halligan at (504) 267-9604 or If you need financial assistance, contact Kim Gandolfi at (504) 887-1420.


CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, Parish Fair, Tuesday, Oct. 6 from 5-7 p.m. This year the fair will be drive through food items only with some surprise booths. The sweet shoppe and frozen casseroles will only be offering their top five items to be purchased. Details: (662) 846-6273.
GREENVILLE St. Joseph, The Parish Fair originally scheduled in Sept. has been rescheduled for Nov. 2020. More information will be forthcoming. Details: church office (662) 335-5251.
LELAND St. James, Annual Parish Fair originally scheduled in Sept. has been rescheduled for 2021. Details: church office (662) 686-7352.
JACKSON St. Richard, Bereavement Support Group, resumes Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6:30 p.m. The topic will be general sharing on the difficulty of grief during the pandemic. Many have lost loved ones right before or during this time. The group is for all who are hurting from losing a loved one or for those who are trying to comfort and understand the grief of a family member or friend. If you know someone who is bereaved, please invite them. Masks are required and social distancing adhered to. Only bottled water and canned drinks will be served. Please RSVP as soon as possible in order to plan accordingly. Details: Nancy McGhee (601) 942-2078 or email or Suzie Cranston (601) 982-5464.
NATCHEZ Assumption of BVM, Grief Support Group, a 13-week program on Tuesdays beginning Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Tuite Hall. Cost: $15 for workbook. Details: Carolyn Verucchi at (601) 807-1698 or church office (601) 442-7250.
St. Mary Basilica, Women’s Retreat, Sunday, Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center. “Making Room for God in the Busyness” with Becky Eldredge, author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls. Come renew your spirit and explore practical ways we can make time for God and prayer in our lives, even amidst the busyness. Please join in and bring a friend. Cost: $15 includes box lunch. Details: Ruth Powers at or (601) 445-5616.
St. Mary Basilica, “Into the Breach,” Tuesdays, Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 6-7:15 p.m. It will be held in the Family Life Center and is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. This is a Faith Formation program specifically for the men of the parish. Many men receive mixed messages concerning who they are and what their role is. This program is focused on helping men of all ages grow into an authentic Catholic masculinity as men, as husbands and as fathers. Facilitator: Kevin Friloux, Lecturer and Faith Chairman of Bishop R. O. Gerow Council 1034. There is no cost for the program. Details: the church office (601) 445-5616 or Ruth Powers at to register.
SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser, Monday, Sept. 28 to Saturday, Oct. 31 from 12-8 p.m. sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council #7120. Some of the specific programs these funds support include: Coats for Kids, relief for persecuted Christians, Gary Sinise Foundation (for disabled veterans), priests’ formation and priests’ retirement. Details: church office (662) 342-1073.


NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, CYO Youth Day, Sunday, Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Facilitator: Stephanie Clouatre Davis, who was spent more than 23 years in youth ministry as a retreat facilitator, teacher and youth minister. The day will include lunch, fun, games and prayer. Cost: $10 registration fee; lunch and snacks will be served. Details: email to register your teen or for further information. Payment can be made via Venmo. You will receive the Venmo account information when you send an email to register. You can also call the church office (601) 445-5616.


In person Masses are now open at many parishes within the Diocese of Jackson. Check with your local parish for details and follow guidelines in place for attendance. All over the age of two are required to wear a mask.
The obligation to attend Mass continues to be dispensed by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, so if you do not feel safe attending, or have an underlying health condition, or feel sick, please stay home. Be safe and stay vigilant!

Recuerdos de Sacramentos

FOREST y MORTON – Después de la apertura de la iglesia de San Miguel, siete niños recibieron la primera comunión y seis jóvenes su confirmación (i-d) Emily Ponce, Hugo Salazar, Diana Carrillo, padre Roberto, Catti Pérez, Iris Pérez y Marvin. (Fotos por cortesía del padre Roberto Mena, ST)


CARTHAGE – En la foto (arriba-centro), en el día de su Confirmación (i-d) primera fila de arriba Edgar Modesto, Anthony Garcia, Sandra Pérez, P. Odel Medina ST, Efraín López, Giovany Garcia, Karol López; fila de abajo: (i-d) P. Gustavo Amell ST, Tracy López , Daysy Modesto, Yazmin González, Yocelyn González, Evelio Ramírez y Nicodemo López (catequista). (foto cortesía de Oscar Aguilón.)
En foto (derecha), en el día de su confirmación, arriba (i-d) Anderson Morales, Fr. Odel Medina S.T, Héctor Raúl; abajo (i-d) Hugo Agustín, Marco Vásquez, Mirna Miranda, Yesica López, Cheryl Salvador, Suleima Anahi, y Nicodemo Lopez (catequista). (fotos cortesía de Gionavy Garcia)

En foto (izquierda), primer grupo que recibió primera Comunión, el 25 de julio para celebrar la fiesta de Santa Ana, (i-d) en altar Poedro López, Padre. Odel Medina S.T, Enmanuel Modesto, Yens Snyder López; abajo (i-d) Edward López, Amber Salvador, Alan Modesto, Casandra López, JaDavis L. Rayveon y Lou Joyner (catequista).

Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana 2020

Celebrando contribuciones de estadounidenses, con raíces en España, México, América Central, América del Sur y naciones del Caribe de habla hispana, a sociedad y cultura de Estados Unidos

Por Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – En Estados Unidos, desde 1968, cada año se reserva un mes para celebrar la cultura y éxitos de los Hispanos en el país. Una larga historia de guerra territorial dejo la marca de Hispanidad en varias regiones del país. Hasta acá han llegado además varias generaciones de inmigrantes de países de habla hispana.
60.6 millones de Hispanos-Latinos viven en el país, según un estimado de la población del 2019 del Buro del Censo, señala un artículo publicado por el Pew Research.
Color, sabor, alegría, familia, patriotismo y Fe
Estos atributos son el común denominador, reconocido en la declaración oficial de la Casa Blanca por el comienzo del mes de la Herencia Hispana 2020, “… Durante el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, celebramos las innumerables contribuciones de más de 60 millones de hispanoamericanos a nuestra cultura y sociedad. Los hispanoamericanos son el grupo minoritario más grande de los Estados Unidos en la actualidad, y generaciones de hispanoamericanos han ayudado constantemente a que nuestro país sea fuerte y próspero. Contribuyen a nuestra Nación más allá de toda descripción. Los hispanoamericanos personifican lo mejor de nuestros valores estadounidenses, incluido el compromiso con la fe, la familia y el país.” En este año, el mes de la Herencia Hispana es celebrado desde el 15 de septiembre hasta el 15 de agosto.
La huella de la cultura se hace notar en cada uno de los rincones de este enorme país. La cultura, tradiciones e idiosincrasia de los Hispanos hace que no pase desapercibido su aporte al país que los acogió. Y todo en derroche, con pasión, humildad y sentimiento de amor. Durante este mes se destacan a personas de raíces hispanas, con contribuciones importantes al país. Esta conmemoración es para no dejar en el olvido a los hombres y mujeres que sembraron la semilla del acontecer hispano y abrieron el camino para la realización del “sueño americano,” con una mezcla de colores y tradiciones autóctonas.
Hasta aquí han llegado, para quedarse, las tradiciones católicas de las celebraciones vistosas de la Virgen de Guadalupe, la advocación Mariana de cada país, Santos patrones en cada parroquia y el movimiento nacional de Encuentro. La población Hispana está haciendo crecer los servicios en cada uno de los estados de la unión. Todavía hay que esperar los resultados finales del Censo de 2020, pero en Mississippi, ciudades como Forest, Pontotoc y Ripley, dan cuenta del incremento de la población hispano parlante en el estado.
Cada ciudad, en dependencia de la mayoría Hispana que posee, tiene su acento diferente. Mexicanos, Argentinos, Cubanos, Guatemaltecos y demás, sientan su cultura, sabor y tradiciones donde quieran que vayan. Houston, Los Ángeles, Miami Dade y Maricopa, en Arizona hablan por sí solos.
!Feliz Mes de la Hispanidad!

Hermanas en la Línea del Frente

Por Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Las dificultades económicas y de salud provocadas por COVID-19 se han sentido en todo el mundo. Para ayudar en los EE. UU., la organización Catholic Extension lanzó la alianza Sisters on the Frontlines, (Hermanas en la Línea del Frente, por su traducción al español) a fines de junio en respuesta a la pandemia, prestando especial atención a ayudar a las comunidades desproporcionadamente afectadas por la pobreza y la falta de recursos.

FOREST – La hermana Ma. Eugenia Moreno extraña a sus parroquianos de Forest. Ella sirve a una nueva comunidad en el estado de Alabama. (Foto de archivo)

El objetivo de la iniciativa es dar a mil hermanas, $1,000 cada una para brindar una respuesta rápida a los pobres y afligidos. Desde que comenzó el programa en junio, más de 378 hermanas han recibido apoyo del programa y otras 622 han solicitado fondos.

FOREST – Las hermanas Obdulia y María Eugenia se fueron del área, pero antes se aseguraron que esta madre soltera, con dos hijos y gran necesidad, recibiera asistencia con parte de los fondos de Extensión Católica. (Fotos cortesía del Padre Roberto Mena, ST)

Hasta ahora, cinco hermanas de la Diócesis de Jackson han recibido fondos a través de este programa especial: las hermanas Lael Niblick y Mary Christine Fellerhoff de St. Helen Amory; Nancy Schreck de Excel en Okolona; María Eugenia Moreno, MGSpS y Obdulia Olivar, MGSpS de St. Michael Forest, por su dedicación y servicio a su comunidad para ayudar en su labor con las familias que sufren por el COVID 19.
Según Joe Boland, vicepresidente de la misión de Catholic Extension, los fondos no tienen restricciones y el proceso para solicitar y recibir fondos es simple. “Si participan en algún ministerio que está sirviendo a los pobres, o tiene acceso a los pobres, determinan cómo se gastará el dinero”, dijo Boland. “Conocen a los de sus comunidades, conocen los nombres, los rostros, las familias. Podrán entregarlo u organizarlo de tal manera que el apoyo llegue a quienes más lo necesitan.” Boland dijo que los fondos se liberan a medida que se recaudan.
La hermana Obdulia, que trabaja con familias hispanas en el condado de Scott afectadas por las redadas de ICE de agosto de 2019 y ahora afectadas por COVID-19, dijo: “Las familias para ayudar son muchas, no fue difícil identificarlas. Sabemos qué familias se vieron afectadas por COVID y cuáles eran las que más necesitaban esta ayuda “.

FOREST – Las hermanas Obdulia y María Eugenia, ambas MGSpS, se llevan muchos recuerdos de la comunidad, muchos tristes, pero los más, de alegría y gratitud por el servicio prestado. En foto de archivo Hna. Obdulia ayuda en juego de la cuerda, durante la celebración comunitaria de la instalación del Padre Roberto Mena, ST en octubre del 2018, después de Misa celebrada por el obispo Joseph Kopacz. (Fotos por Berta Mexidor)

La subvención se utilizó para ayudar a las familias afectadas, “… no porque ellos mismos tuvieran COVID, sino porque sus vidas cambiaron por la pandemia”, dijo la hermana Mary Christine Fellerhoff CSA, Directora Ejecutiva de CHANGE, una organización sin fines de lucro ecuménica de toda la comunidad ubicada en el centro parroquial de la Iglesia Católica St. Helen, proporcionando asistencia financiera desde 2014 a familias que viven en la pobreza.
La hermana Mary dijo que CHANGE cerró sus operaciones alrededor de marzo y reabrió nuevamente en junio, tomando todas las medidas de higiene y distancia social para la seguridad del personal y los clientes. “… Para mí, como hermana religiosa, COVID-19 ha intensificado los sentimientos que siempre experimento al ministrar a nuestros clientes. Compartimos su sufrimiento, sus frustraciones, sus lágrimas y, sí, sus pequeños triunfos”, explicó la hermana Mary.

AMORY – Annie S. camina con seguridad en su nueva rampa, construida con la donación de un contratista local y parte de los fondos de Extensión Católica. (Foto cortesía de la hermana Lael Niblick)

La hermana Lael Niblick, CSA es la Ministra Eclesial Laica de la Iglesia Católica St. Helen con responsabilidades pastorales, espirituales y administrativas para una congregación diversa de aproximadamente 100 familias, con un número creciente de familias hispanas entre blancas, algunas afroamericanas, filipinas y vietnamitas. “Me siento bendecida al ayudar a nuestros miembros a crecer como discípulos de Cristo”.
La hermana Lael cuenta cómo su ministerio se vio afectado por la pandemia de COVID-19; pocos de los miembros de la parroquia han sido diagnosticados positivos, un par de ellos en un hogar de ancianos y dos casos asintomáticos en una familia, ninguno ha muerto aún por el virus, y en medio de todo, la hermana Lael tuvo un accidente automovilístico que la tuvo físicamente invalidada para ayudar a otros, haciéndola depender de otros feligreses para continuar su misión.A pesar de la crisis, el ministerio debe continuar y las subvenciones de Extensión Católica fueron útiles para las hermanas Mary y Lael en Amory. La cantidad puede ser pequeña, pero el impacto en la vida de las personas es enorme. Estas son las historias de los beneficiarios de Amory, contadas por las hermanas Lael y Mary. Los nombres se cambian para preservar la confidencialidad.
Sally A. perdió su trabajo en mayo de 2020. Ella es el único sostén en este momento para dos hijas adolescentes y un hijo de doce años. Tiene una orden de alejamiento contra un esposo abusivo del que solicita el divorcio. Ella está buscando activamente un nuevo trabajo.
Sasha W. perdió su trabajo cuando la pandemia golpeó porque estaba embarazada, y el restaurante no quería que una mujer embarazada trabajara allí con riesgo de contraer COVID-19. Sus ingresos se redujeron a $ 120 por desempleo, cupones de alimentos y el cheque del gobierno de $ 600 de abril a julio. Vino a CHANGE a fines de agosto para pedir ayuda con su factura de servicios públicos. Ahora su bebé tiene 4 meses.
Mary J. es la principal proveedora para su familia de un hijo adulto soltero y un hijo casado con su esposa y sus dos hijas, y la otra recién nacida. El hijo casado es asmático, pero obtuvo algunos ingresos para ayudar con los gastos. Mary trabajaba en un restaurante que cerró. Toda la familia tuvo que ponerse en cuarentena debido al asma del hijo, el embarazo de su esposa y el niño pequeño vulnerable.
Annie S. estaba en un hogar de ancianos para recibir terapia de rehabilitación después de la cirugía de su cadera rota. . Aunque Annie no contrajo el virus, su terapia se suspendió ya que estuvo en cuarentena durante semanas. Una vez que la terapia fue posible nuevamente, se enteró de que necesitaría que se construyera una rampa para poder caminar con seguridad con un andador. Annie tiene un ingreso fijo limitado y no tenía fondos para una rampa.
Stacy M. vino a CHANGE en busca de ayuda con el alquiler de su familia de cinco, que incluye a su esposo, dos hijos y una hija, de 15, 12 y 10 años. Cuando el COVID-19 golpeó, su esposo perdió su trabajo. Stacy cambió de trabajo cuatro veces tratando de ganarse la vida mientras atendía las necesidades de sus hijos que se quedaban en casa. No fue suficiente, y la familia pronto se retrasó varias semanas en el pago del alquiler.
La hermana Nancy explicó el cómo ayudan a una comunidad de 500 familias en un área sin una parroquia católica. El Excel, una organización sin fines de lucro en el área, es el centro para que las hermanas ayuden. “… Hay cinco hermanas de tres congregaciones religiosas diferentes trabajando en Okolona.” El alcance regular incluye la escuela para niños y adultos, un centro para personas mayores y una tienda de reventa. Lo que hacemos es diferente a una parroquia tradicional. Estos programas de Excel nos brindan un buen conocimiento de las necesidades de la comunidad,” dijo la hermana.

OKOLONA – La hermana Mary Beth Goldsmith, OSF distribuye comida a varias familias. Aquí se ve cuando lleva alimentos a una de las familias beneficiadas, después que las hermanas Nancy Schreck, OSF, Liz Brown, CSJ y la Sra. Verdine Judd, Miembro de la Junta de Excel, organizaran los artículos y Reyna Badillo, OSF preparara las cajas de alimentos para su distribución. (Foto cortesía de la Hermana Nancy Schreck)

Debido a COVID, todos los programas se concentran en brindar asistencia material y emocional a personas que viven al borde de la pobreza, familias inmigrantes de la zona que no califican para la asistencia disponible para los ciudadanos, familias con niños en edad escolar y especialmente ancianos. La hermana Nancy refuerza que “… la escasez de alimentos se convirtió en un problema a tratar. La asistencia que recibimos en Excel es desigual, a veces la gente trae carne, en otro momento han sido productos lácteos de Prairie Farms en Tupelo, algunos fondos de United Way y Create, la subvención de Extension Society, etc.” finalizó hermana Nancy.
Retos y gratitud
Todos los beneficiarios de la beca de Extensión Católica están de acuerdo y comparten estos desafíos: tratar de encontrar una nueva forma de entregar programas y crear socialización esta vez con fuertes medidas de seguridad y distancia social.
Ni el COVID-19 ni un mal accidente de coche detuvieron a la hermana Lael en su optimismo y miras hacia el futuro “… esta difícil situación despierta creatividad. Estamos desarrollando formas de conectarnos con nuestros miembros a través de las redes sociales, la tecnología.
Las hermanas expresaron su gratitud, Hna. Obdulia por la oportunidad de servir, aun días antes de mudarse del estado, Hna. Nancy porque la “flexibilidad de la Beca de Extensión ha sido muy útil,” Lael dio “Gracias a Catholic Extension and FADICA,” y la Hna. Mary concluyo “Nos sentimos bendecidas de compartir las historias de estos clientes, sus lágrimas y su gratitud. Tenemos el privilegio de servirles”.
La Diócesis de Jackson ha sido bendecida por el servicio de muchas órdenes de hermanas a lo largo de los años.
Catholic Extension compartirá las historias de las hermanas a medida que las reciba. Para obtener más información o para donar, visite

Solidaridad católica con valientes trabajadores hispanos

By Hosffman Ospino – CNS
Los primeros días de septiembre nos brindan la oportunidad de dirigir nuestra atención a una de las actividades más nobles: el trabajo humano.
Trabajamos para apoyar a nuestras familias, cumplir con nuestras vocaciones, vivir una vida mejor y asegurarnos de que nuestra nación prospere. Trabajamos para tener un presente digno y asegurar un futuro estable para nuestros hijos.
En un mundo ideal, trabajamos haciendo lo que nos gusta. La educación nos acerca a ese ideal. Millones de personas, sin embargo, simplemente deben trabajar en lo que esté disponible para llegar a fin de mes. Para ellos, un trabajo es un trabajo y eso por sí solo es una bendición. Permítanme llamar la atención sobre los valientes trabajadores hispanos que son la columna vertebral de las industrias principales de los EE. UU., Como la agricultura, la pesca, la construcción, la hostelería, los restaurantes, el cuidado personal y de niños, los servicios de limpieza, la asistencia médica y la minería, entre otros.

GREENWOOD – En el área de Indianola y Greenwood existen, entre muchas de todo el estado de Mississippi, granjas agrícolas, donde se cultivan diferentes verduras y hortalizas. En el área del Delta hay, además, plantas de captura y procesamiento del pez gato(catfish). En todas ellas trabajan Hispanos. En foto de archivo, obreros agrícolas, mayormente mexicanos con visa de trabajo, hacían la cosecha de calabacines. (Foto por Berta Mexidor)

¿Por qué hablar de estos trabajadores como valientes?
Además de las obvias exigencias físicas y mentales de estos trabajos, la pandemia actual colocó a millones de trabajadores hispanos cara a cara con el altamente contagioso y letal virus COVID-19. Los trabajadores como médicos, enfermeras, maestros y otros en profesiones similares también están expuestos regularmente a este virus. Sin embargo, es más probable que sus industrias ofrezcan protecciones de seguridad que no siempre están disponibles para, digamos, agricultores, trabajadores de hoteles y personas que realizan servicios de limpieza.
No es ningún secreto que los trabajadores de las industrias de la minería, la agricultura, los servicios y la hostelería suelen estar mal pagados. Muchos necesitan dos o tres trabajos para llegar a fin de mes. El impacto de tales circunstancias en la vida personal y familiar es evidente. COVID-19, en cuestión de meses, hizo aún más difíciles los trabajos duros. Muchos de los trabajos que realizan los hispanos son trabajos de supervivencia, literalmente. COVID-19 ha dado un nuevo significado al término supervivencia. Millones de hispanos no pueden darse el lujo de trabajar desde sus hogares, desde sus computadoras o en oficinas debidamente ventiladas. Recoger cultivos, cuidar a los ancianos en hogares de ancianos, limpiar espacios, cuidar niños, cocinar y servir comida en restaurantes, etc., son tareas que los hispanos y otros trabajadores en el terreno no pueden hacer de forma remota. Deben estar en el lugar y, por lo tanto, arriesgarlo todo, incluida la salud y la vida. También ponen en riesgo el bienestar de sus familiares y amigos.
Los hispanos tienen de tres a cuatro veces más probabilidades de infectarse con COVID-19 que los blancos. Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades informaron recientemente que más del 26% de las muertes por COVID-19 en los EE. UU. Se produjeron entre hispanos. Aproximadamente el 70% de los hispanos identificaron el COVID-19 como el problema más urgente que amenaza sus vidas y su bienestar. Más urgente que la inmigración, la economía y el racismo. Casi el 60% de los hispanos vive en hogares donde alguien recientemente perdió su trabajo o tuvo una reducción de salario significativa.
Teniendo en cuenta que aproximadamente la mitad de todos los hispanos se identifican a sí mismos como católicos, es probable que muchos de estos valientes trabajadores compartan nuestras parroquias. Muchos de ellos llevan a sus bebés para que sean bautizados, van a misa para ser sostenidos con la Eucaristía y buscan apoyo espiritual de los líderes pastorales católicos.

¿Nos hemos reunido con ellos? ¿Les hemos dicho, “Gracias por lo que hacen”? ¿Hemos expresado nuestra solidaridad con ellos diciendo: “¿Cómo puedo apoyarte?”
Aquellos trabajadores hispanos que arriesgan sus vidas para sobrevivir y asegurar que nuestra economía prospere no deben pasar desapercibidos para nuestra comunidad católica. Necesitamos participar en la solidaridad católica con estos valientes trabajadores. Son nuestros hermanos y hermanas. Con ellos, somos una nación y una iglesia. Oramos con gratitud por estos trabajadores, millones de ellos inmigrantes y refugiados, y todos los demás que trabajan todos los días con amor y sacrificio.

(El Dr. Hosffman Ospino es profesor de teología y educación religiosa en Boston College. Ha visitado varias veces el estado de Mississippi para dirigir talleres y ofrecer conferencias sobre inmigración, la familia y el papel de los Hispanos en la Iglesia católica de los Estados Unidos en enero y agosto de 2018.)

Sal de tu cueva. Ve cómo Dios pasa por tu vida

Por María Elena Méndez. MGSPS
En este tiempo vi una imagen en Facebook que decía “ya me estoy acostumbrado a vivir en mi cuarto y a ser antisocial” y, en cierta forma es verdad, la pandemia nos ha metido a la cueva de nuestra propia existencia.
La cueva, en este sentido, significa: primero, reflexión, intimidad, encuentro con nuestra fragilidad humana. Segundo, de manera contraria, encerramiento, depresión, sentir que la vida no tiene sentido y, por consecuencia, no querer salir de ahí por miedo a la nueva realidad. Esto último puede ser normal por un tiempo, pero después, tienen que resonar en forma de orden las palabras Dios al profeta Elías: “¡Sal de la cueva!”.
En nuestro interior, el Señor pasa a diario con ruidos, silencios y movimientos, en general, a los que no estamos acostumbrados. Puede ser ruidoso como huracán, temblor o tornado, o como una caricia, sonrisa o el dulce canto de un pájaro. Dios habla diferente a cada persona, a cada uno desde su ser. Puede estar en “el murmullo de una brisa suave” que te hace salir de tu escondite aunque sea con el rostro cubierto para ver al Señor. 1 Reyes 19, 9a. 11-13ª

¡Suéltate de donde estás agarrado!
En respuesta a mi propia experiencia vocacional, hice este dibujo años atrás. Era un momento de mi vida donde sentí la resistencia a Dios a soltarme de lo que creía mi seguridad. Eso me llevó a agarrarme fuerte para no ser separada pero esa fuerza atractiva era más fuerte que yo. Desde ahí, puedo entender a Jeremías (20,7-9) y a Mateo cuando se resistían a hacer cambios en su vida a pesar de que las circunstancias se los estaban pidiendo.
Cuando Dios llama alguien, esa seducción se convierte en fuego, amor “era en mis entrañas fuego ardiente, encerrado en los huesos; intentaba contenerlo, y no podía”, como lo describe Jeremías.
¿Quién no ha experimentado que la seducción de Dios es más fuerte que nosotros, aun cuando nos resistamos?
La lucha, el enojo, la victimización frustrada de Jeremías ante Dios, lo lleva a aceptar que es mejor rendirse y decir, “me sedujiste, Señor, y me dejé seducir; me forzaste y me pudiste.” No es una lucha de fuerzas, es el amor, ese fuego que le es imposible mantenerlo apagado que hace que la persona se suelte de lo que te mantiene trabado y seguro. En Mateo (16,21-27), Pedro, que se las da valiente, evade y justifica el cambio que le da seguridad, soltarse, implica dejar lo conocido, no le es fácil, como no lo es para nosotros tampoco. Tenemos un poco de Pedro y de Jeremías dentro de nosotros mismos.
El cambio de vida es una de las cosas por las que nos “quejamos” ante la pandemia, queremos volver a la vida “normal” que decíamos conocer, a pesar de que sabemos que ya no es posible, ahora hay un antes y un después del covid-19, pero cómo es lo único que conocemos, nos cuesta trabajo soltarnos de la planta frágil (seguridad) de la que estamos agarrados para que Dios haga el cambio en nuestras vidas.
Ve cómo Dios pasa por tu vida.
Ante la pandemia, tenemos miedo unos de otros, nos hemos separado física, emocional y afectivamente de nuestros familiares, amigos y conocidos. Pero, Dios nos llama a salir de la cueva en la que nos hemos metido para protegernos y nos pide buscar formas nuevas para encontrarnos. No permitamos que la distancia nos aleje unos de otros. Hay muchas pérdidas que estamos teniendo, pero también muchas bendiciones y aprendizajes ¿cuáles son?
He tenido la experiencia de subir cerros y montañas y, la experiencia de contemplar alrededor desde la cima es hermosa, contemplar a Dios a través de la belleza es el fin de subir a la cima, creo yo. Entrar a una cueva para resguardarse tiene lógica por un rato, pero ¿no podemos dejar que el Señor pase por nuestra vida sin salir para verlo pasar? ¡Tenemos que salir y contemplar las maravillas a nuestro alrededor y dejarnos transformar por ellas! Digamos salmista humildemente: “Mi alma está sedienta de ti, Señor, Dios mío, mi carne tiene ansia de ti, como tierra reseca, agostada, sin agua.”

(La hermana María Elena Méndez es Misionera Guadalupana del Espíritu Santo. Sirvió a la Diócesis de Jackson por nueve años, siendo una de las coordinadoras de la Oficina del Ministerio Hispano. Es actualmente la Directora Ejecutiva de Los Servicios Católicos de West Alabama)