Bishop Kopacz tells court Plowshares action is rooted in Catholic teaching

By Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The seven Catholic peacemakers who entered a naval base to symbolically dismantle nuclear weapons-armed submarines acted from the primacy of conscience rooted in their faith, the bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, told a Georgia court.
Testifying as an expert witness on behalf of the Kings Bay Plowshares activists, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz said their actions were consistent with long-standing Catholic teaching about the sinfulness of nuclear weapons.
The bishop took the stand during a Nov. 7 hearing before Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Georgia. The hearing was scheduled to present evidence explaining why the seven longtime activists entered Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay April 4.
The defendants include Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Baltimore; Jesuit Father Steve Kelly, 69, of the Bay Area in California; Carmen Trotta, 55, of New York City; Clare Grady, 50, of Ithaca, New York; Martha Hennessy, 62, of New York, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day; Mark Colville, 55, of New Haven, Connecticut; and Patrick O’Neill, 61, of Garner, North Carolina.
The defendants are seeking to have federal charges of conspiracy, trespass, and destruction and depredation of property dismissed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They have argued in court filings that their action is protected under the law.
The seven entered the submarine base, the East Coast home of the Trident nuclear submarine, and during approximately two hours placed crime scene tape and spilled blood at different locales while posting an “indictment” charging the military with crimes against peace, citing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Navy’s fleet of Trident submarines carries about half of the U.S. active strategic nuclear warheads, according to military experts.
Bishop Kopacz cited the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter on peace and nuclear weapons, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” during his testimony.
He said the document allowed for the temporary possession of nuclear weapons only as a step toward disarmament, and that after more than 30 years that goal has not been achieved.
He described the seven as a “spiritual special ops team” working to make a change.
A day prior to his testimony, Bishop Kopacz told Catholic News Service he was supportive of such actions to rid the world of nuclear weapons although he would find it difficult to take such a step himself.
“I believe in what they do. I believe what they’ve done is a courageous witness and very prophetic,” he said.
The court also heard from Jeannine Hill Fletcher, professor of theology at Fordham University. She discussed papal encyclicals and the documents from the Second Vatican Council that “condemn” the use of nuclear weapons. She also addressed why actions of conscience, such as those of the defendants, are important in modern-day society.
Grady told CNS Nov. 8 that on the stand she explained her family’s background and the long history of work for peace and justice extending from their Catholic faith.
Protesting nuclear weapons, she said she told the court, was a natural extension of her faith practice and that her conscience guided her to act for peace.
“For me there’s a geography to our faith, and what I experienced in that courtroom was a Catholic revival because of our choice to act in a certain geography, the geography of the courtroom and all that is the Gospel. You could feel the energy from all of that,” she said of the hearing.
Father Kelly, who remained jailed, testified that the actions of the group amounted to preaching God’s word that nuclear weapons are “sinful.” He said the world faced a crisis because of the presence of such weapons.
Near the end of the daylong hearing, federal prosecutors called the commanding officer of the naval base to the stand. Capt. Brian Lepine described the importance of maintaining tight security at the base and the danger posed by anyone illegal entering the base perimeter.
After more than eight hours of testimony, Cheesbro said the hearing would be continued on a date still to be determined.

(Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski)

Transformative encounter means to energize church

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
From Pope Francis, with love, to Grapevine, Texas to an estimated 3,500 Catholic Leaders from throughout the United States. The Holy Father encouraged those gathered for the V Encuentro national gathering to “tear down walls and build bridges.” “Through this V Encuentro process, you can promote a culture of encounter,” Pope Francis said. “It is a concrete way to move beyond our comfort zones and look for those who need hope in their lives, especially young people and those who are on the peripheries.”
The U.S. bishops initiated the Encuentro, which means “Encounter,” to better serve the growing Latin American community. The process will continue through 2020. “For the pope, missionary discipleship begins with an encounter with Christ,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said in his bilingual remarks. “We have come together to encounter the Christ that gives meaning to our lives. Once we have encountered him, we will share him with those we encounter.”
Amid the celebration, Archbishop García-Siller of San Antonio acknowledged the sexual abuse scandal brought to light by the Pennsylvania grand jury report and revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. “You are right to be broken-hearted by the faults of your shepherds,” he said. “Let us pray to God for the victims of the crimes of this crisis. Do all you can for the victims. Pray also for the perpetrators and for us your bishops.”
Then he brought the light and hope of the Gospel to the moment. “The Holy Spirit comes to wake us up and inflame our hearts with a renewed love for God,” he said. “We must not be afraid. The Lord will be present with us. He is the crucified one, but he is the risen one, too.”
Sister of Mercy Ana María Pineda, an associate professor at Santa Clara University and a founding member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, shared a reflection on the history of the Encuentro project, which began in 1972. Subsequent Encuentros in 1977 and 1985 helped the church better discern its changing demographics. The fourth Encuentro or Encuentro 2000, celebrated the contributions of the many cultures that make up the U.S. Church. “Once again God remembers us,” Sister Pineda said of the V Encuentro. “Today we once again claim who we are.”
“Who we are,” so to speak, is a far different reality from 46 years ago at the time of the first Encuentro.
The Latino community has grown and evolved over two additional generations through birth and immigration to nearly 40 percent of the Catholic Church in the United States. The focus of the V Encuentro is the recognition that Latinos are called to assume greater leadership in the Church. As the demographics of the Catholic Church in recent decades has shifted from the Northeast and the Midwest to the South and the West, so too have the descendants of European immigrants yielded to immigration from Central and Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Islands of the Caribbean.
Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 the laity by virtue of the universal call to holiness in Baptism and their vocation to exercise ministry in the Body of Christ, has embraced the mission and ministries of the Church that were once the nearly exclusive domain of the ordained and religious. The burgeoning presence of Latino Catholics and Asian Catholics at this moment in the Church of the United States will inevitably transform the complexion of leadership going forward. The V Encuentro is about making this transformation more intentional.
In spite of the shadows that obscure the Church’s mission and vision, The Encuentro was marked by widespread joy, considerable animo (spirit), enthusiastic love for the Lord and the Blessed Mother and hope for the future (sigue adelante). Morning and evening prayer and especially the Mass, were celebrated with reverence in the fire of the Holy Spirit. Our delegates from the Diocese of Jackson were fully engaged in all of the proceedings and many on the home front were present in prayer and spirit. Our commitment to and our collaboration with the Hispanic ministry throughout our Diocese is remarkable.
This is not just my humble opinion. This year Catholic Extension has selected our Hispanic ministry as one of their four finalists for the Lumen Christi award which is bestowed annually to a recipient in a mission ds iocese for exemplary work in service of the Gospel. With Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians, we can rejoice in the Lord, always and may the Lord who has begun the good work in us bring it to fulfillment on the day of Christ Jesus.

Heart of the Church: word, worship, community, service

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The proclamation from the Gospel of Mark of the healing of the man who suffered from deafness and an accompanying speech impediment, the one proclaimed on Sunday, Sept. 9, reveals the mission of the Lord Jesus and of the Church. “The Word became flesh and dwells among us.” (Prologue of Saint John’s Gospel) In this unique miracle, the humanity and divinity of Jesus shine forth. In summary, Jesus responded to the plea of the raucous crowd by going apart with the man to accomplish the cure. Jesus touched his ears, and spitting, touched his tongue and looking up to heaven he groaned and said, “be opened.” In that moment heaven and earth were in harmony and the physical healing led to praise and gratitude that could not be silenced.
From the beginning, the mission of the Church, with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, brought his saving message to all who had ears to hear. From the letter of Saint James, also from last weekend’s scripture, we hear that divisions emerged at the outset in the fledging Christian community. The rich were given first class treatment and the poor were left to stand on the margins of the gathered community. Immediately the Spirit of God convicted and enlightened the disciples to change their manner of thinking and acting. By virtue of the saving blood of the Lord who unites those who are far off and those who are near (Ephesians), all of the baptized have equal dignity around the table of the Lord, rich and poor, Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free. (Galatians)
The early Christians learned quickly in Jerusalem when we recall in the Acts of the Apostles that the order of deacons was established for Diakonia, loving service, to meet the growing needs of the Jerusalem community. The action of the Lord at the Last Supper when he washed his disciples feet fostered the vision for the early Christians who cared for one another in a manner totally unheard of in the Roman Empire. In contrast to the brutal culture of the first century, Christianity and the first Christians were warm, inviting, kind and generous, and early Christian culture was deeply personal. They extended the saving and healing touch of the Lord without cost to many on the margins of society.
Word, worship, community and service marked these early Christians, and indeed, ears were opened to hear the saving Word, and mouths followed in praise, and hands in loving service. Over time, the deacons were entrusted with the administration of the Church’s material resources, and the rapacious Roman Empire thought that they could enrich their coffers by confiscating the property and wealth of the Christians. In the middle of the third century, Deacon Lawrence, who in his martyrdom became the patron of Rome, was ordered to cough up the Church’s wealth to the governor. He gathered up the poor, the lame, the blind the leprous, etc. and paraded them before the governor announcing that these are the Church’s wealth and fortune. Not amused, they martyred Lawrence over a hot coals. In creative ways in different times and in worldwide settings, the Church has embodied the mission of Jesus Christ to touch the world with healing, hope and new life in the Kingdom of God.
On Friday evening, Sep. 7, Jim Caveizel made a cameo appearance in Jackson on behalf of Catholic Charities and inspired all with his deep commitment to the Lord and his Catholic faith. He began his presentation with a clip from Mother Teresa’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. The cornerstone of her inspiring speech was that there will never be peace as long as abortion ravages life in the womb. That made more than a few in the audience uncomfortable on that occasion but she was unapologetic about the dignity of life at all stages. She captured the imagination of the whole world when she went into the filth and squalor of the worst neighborhoods of Calcutta, India. Each day she woke up, she worked with the forgotten ones, the poorest of the poor, the HIV victims, and cared for them as if there were Jesus himself.
From this intro, Jim Caveizel affirmed the work of Catholic Charities as a living and breathing example of what it means to belong to Jesus Christ and to embrace his mission. Hearing and following the call of the Lord, Caveizel noted, can come at great cost, but what good is it to gain the whole world and to lose one’s soul. When the Lord touches us, we understand the closing verses of last Sunday’s Scripture from the letter of James, “we are called to be rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom, that God promised to those who love him.”
During these days of anguish for many victims of sexual abuse and their families, and for those who love the Church, may our groaning prayers directed to heaven, and our actions of loving service, open the hearts and minds of all who are suffer with the Lord’s healing, hope and peace.

Christ at the center of faith formation

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In season and out of season the Lord calls us to grow in wisdom, knowledge and grace as his disciples. This is the work of conversion, faith formation and ultimately, holiness. On a rolling timetable during this season of the year our Catholic Schools, Adult Faith Formation Certification, Religious Education programs, R.C.I.A., Sacramental preparation, scripture courses, Faith Formation Days, retreats, Safe Environment training and more, resume with great zeal and hope.
Our Diocesan Vision of Inspiring Disciples, Serving Others and Embracing Diversity is renewed once again. This external manifestation of beehive activity rests upon a summer full of well-deserved rest, review of the past year and planning for the new season. The work of faith formation is a 12-month quest and I am eternally grateful to all who remain on the path hearing the call of the Lord Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Earlier this year on March 19, Pope Francis opened a door for all who are engaged in the mission of evangelization and faith formation with his Apostolic Exhortation, “Guadete et Exultate (Rejoice and be Glad), the Call to Holiness in the Modern World.” This inspiring and readable exhortation begins with the Saints who encourage and accompany us, and the Saints next door.” Of course, the former is the Cloud of Witnesses already around the throne of God, as described in the letter to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation, and the latter refers to family members, neighbors, parishioners and friends. One of the gems of this document is the section on the Beatitudes that is a compass for all disciples to embrace the Lord’s mind and heart.
Our Catholic Schools have chosen the Beatitudes as central to this year’s focus. Another golden opportunity for diocesan leadership is our fall convocation whose theme is “Forming Intentional Disciples.” Sherry Weddell, the author of the landmark book pertaining to intentional disciples, and a national speaker in demand, accepted our invitation to our three-day convocation because of our Diocesan Vision to Inspire Disciples-Serve Others-Embrace Diversity. Kudos to our Continuing Formation Committee for this exceptional outcome.
The above is a remarkable package of faith formation and evangelization, but I want to reflect upon what for all of us is the source and summit of all formation, evangelization and holiness, the Mass. During the past five weeks the Church throughout the Catholic world has proclaimed the Bread of Life discourse from the sixth Chapter in Saint John’s Gospel. Today was the culminating dialogue between Jesus and those who were struggling to understand his shocking words. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
The Eucharist, Word and Sacrament, the real presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is life-long formation for all disciples. We in the Catholic world have the gift and mystery of Eucharistic faith that has been our food for the journey on the path to eternal life. I encourage all in faith formation to never tire of fully integrating everyone in faith formation into the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist. Word, worship, community and service are the total package of what it means to belong to Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, the Master Teacher draws us to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As the miasma of the sexual abuse crisis envelops the Church once again let us not forget that one of our critical pastoral priorities is the Gospel mandate to be forgiving, healing and reconciling communities. Evangelization and faith formation are not possible without repentance and conversion. Thanks be to God, the Church has planted many of these seeds which have grown and continue to flourish in all our ministries. The priority for healing and reconciliation are the victims of sexual abuse and their families, and we must never tire of restoring life through God’s mercy and justice at the foot of the Cross. Thank you to all who daily foster safe environments for our children and young people and who accompany victims who are on the path of healing and hope. Nothing is impossible for God, because God is love.

Santos de noviembre ofrecen luz en días oscuros

Obispo Joseph Kopacz

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
El mes de noviembre ya ha comenzado con la profundización de la oscuridad al final del día, y, espiritualmente, con las fiestas de Todos Los Santos y los Santos Difuntos que nos recuerdan que la Luz del Mundo siempre brilla en la oscuridad. Mucho más ardientemente en noviembre y principios de diciembre la Iglesia Católica mira más allá de lo visible a lo que es invisible cuando la vida eterna se desarrolla en su plenitud. En última instancia, nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos, y la vida eterna nos envuelve. Sin embargo, en cada temporada la Iglesia nunca da un paso para dejar vivir el Evangelio con la mente y el corazón de quien vendrá a juzgar a los vivos y a los muertos. De hecho, en noviembre y diciembre con la llegada de las fiestas, la Iglesia junto con muchas otras organizaciones y personas de buena voluntad, aumenta sus esfuerzos para servir a los pobres y marginados y a ser solidarios con todos.
Tenemos algunos maravillosos santos en noviembre que son una lámpara para nuestros pies para caminar con el Señor más fielmente en nuestra generación. San Martín de Porres es uno de estos discípulos del Señor, cuya fiesta es el 3 de noviembre de cada año, que puede inspirar a muchos en nuestro mundo a levantar aquellos atrapados por la oscuridad. Martín nació en Lima, Perú, el 9 de diciembre de 1579.
Él era hijo ilegítimo de un español y una esclava liberada desde Panamá, de ascendencia africana o posiblemente americana nativa. El padre de Martin lo abandonó en su niñez, junto con su madre y su hermana menor, dejando a Martin creciendo en la más profunda pobreza. Después de pasar dos años en la escuela primaria, Martin fue colocado con un peluquero/cirujano donde pudiera aprender a cortar el pelo y aplicar las artes médicas. Mientras crecía Martin experimentó un gran ridículo por ser de raza mezclada. En el Perú, por ley, todos los descendientes de africanos o indios no estaban autorizados a ser miembros de de las órdenes religiosas. No obstante, ni siquiera las penurias implacables y el abandono podría separar Martin del amor de Jesucristo.
Gradualmente su firme compromiso a derramar su vida en las huellas del Maestro superó su cultura y los prejuicios y el racismo de la Iglesia. Hasta el momento de su muerte a los 60 años de edad en 1639, fue elogiado por su atención incondicional a todas las personas, independientemente de la raza o la riqueza. Él tomó el cuidado de todos, desde los nobles españoles hasta los esclavos africanos. A Martin no le importaba si la persona estaba enferma o sucia y les daba la bienvenida en su propia casa. La vida de Martin refleja su gran amor por Dios y por todos los dones de Dios. Esta es la Iglesia en trabajo, como la Madre Teresa, en cada rincón del mundo, el Señor encarnado lavando los pies de sus apóstoles y derramando su vida en la cruz.
En las lecturas bíblicas en la Misa de ayer, San Pablo en la primera carta a los Tesalonicenses, la primera palabra escrita que existe en el Nuevo Testamento, alrededor del año 50 D.C., revela el carisma evangélico que ha transformado la vida de las personas y las culturas por casi 2000 años. “Hermanos y hermanas: fuimos suaves entre vosotros, como una madre que amamanta cuida de sus hijos. Con tal afecto por ustedes, estábamos decididos a compartir con ustedes, no sólo el evangelio de Dios, sino a darnos a nosotros mismos, tan queridos han llegado a nosotros. Ustedes recuerdan, hermanos y hermanas, nuestros esfuerzos y fatigas. Trabajando día y noche para no ser una carga para nadie, les proclamamos el evangelio de Dios.” (1Tes 2, 7b-9)
El testimonio de san Pablo y San Martín, de la Madre Teresa, y de todos los santos, católicos y no católicos, canonizados o no, es la levadura del servicio amoroso en nuestra Iglesia y en nuestro mundo que superará el odio y la violencia, la codicia y la lujuria que continúan envenenando el alma de nuestra nación y el mundo. Con un mayor sentido de urgencia ante la invasión de la oscuridad, en la naturaleza y en las manos de aquellos impulsados por el mal, y junto con las innumerables oportunidades de generosidad y solidaridad que nos atraen en el tiempo futuro, que podamos escuchar la llamada del Señor a vivir el evangelio y a valorar las cosas que realmente son importantes.

Pilgrimage ‘across the pond’ provides fellowship, food, thanksgiving for Irish priests

Bishop Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
After three and one half years as the 11th bishop of the Jackson Diocese it was time to follow in the footsteps of our diocesan bishops in the modern era who traveled to Ireland. Many may not know that for the greater part of a century half of the priests in Mississippi were from Ireland, the seedbed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Countless thousands of Irish missionaries were sent as heralds of the Gospel throughout the English speaking world. Of course, I like to say that the best came to Mississippi to serve in the Diocese of Natchez, Natchez-Jackson, and since 1977, the dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi, to the American Missions, as is commonly understood in Ireland.
Bishop Joseph Brunini had the joy of going to Ireland to ordain clergy for the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. In the latter part of his episcopacy the ordinations ceased, and the purpose of his visits was directed toward the celebration of Masses of Thanksgiving with the families of priests who had served, or were still serving in Mississippi.
Bishop Joseph Howze during the time of Bishop Brunini did the same in his ministry as the Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. Bishop William Houck and Bishop Joseph Latino continued the pastoral visits to the locales and counties in Ireland where family members and priests could gather with the bishop to offer the Eucharist, the Church’s great prayer of Thanksgiving.
Although my pilgrimage of a week’s duration is not a large period of time, it still required a generous measure of organization and coordination. In this regard I thank Father Mike O’Brien, and his family and the family of Father Patrick Noonan back home in Ireland.
Originally, Father Mike and I had planned to celebrate two Masses of Thanksgiving, one in Roscommon and the other in Limerick with Father Noonan as the local guide. His unexpected death on July 4 added a third Mass, his Month’s Mind, or the Mass offered a month after someone has died, on the Vigil of the Assumption in his home parish church of Saint Ita’s at Church Raheenagh.
Our first Mass of Thanksgiving took place at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Roscommon and nearly 60 family members of the priests, living and deceased, who have served in Mississippi were in attendance: Father Brian Carroll, Father Gerry Hurley, Father Dan Gallagher, Father Frank Cosgrove, Father Tom McGing, Father P.J. Curley, Msgr. Patrick Farrell, Father Bernie Farrell, Father Tom Delaney, Father Mike O’Brien, Father Mattie Ruane, Father Sean Atkinson, Father Jim O’Riordan and Monsignor Noel Foley.
After the Mass we gathered at the Abbey Hotel to continue the reunion with the original Dominican Abbey, constructed in the early 1200s, providing the background setting, reminding me of how ancient the Catholic faith is in Ireland. Our second Mass of Thanksgiving occurred in the Library Room of the Strand Hotel in Limerick overlooking the River Shannon and the city center.
Although a much smaller gathering, the ambience was well suited for a comfortable and more intimate Mass and luncheon.
The families of Father David O’Connor, Father Mike O’Brien, Father Patrick Noonan, Father P.J. Curley, Father Jim O’Riordan, and Father Frank Corcoran were represented on this occasion.
With this second Mass of Thanksgiving, the pilgrimage shifted its locus from Roscommon in the center of Ireland to the southwest of the country to Father Noonan’s beloved County Limerick. In classic Irish banter, Father Noonan had pointed out to me, knowing that Father O’Brien would be my chauffer and guide for the first leg of the journey, that there is a lot more to Ireland than County Roscommon, the home turf of Father Mike.
As we had enjoyed the hospitality and home of Tom O’Brien, Father Mike’s brother in Roscommon, we were warmly welcomed into the home of Michael Noonan where we were lodged for the remainder of our time in Ireland.
On three consecutive mornings we had the pleasure of enjoying and the challenge of consuming the “Full Irish,” the smorgasbord breakfast for which Ireland is well known. These meals were provided graciously by five of Father Noonan’s nieces.
On Monday evening the family of Father Noonan and many of the parishioners of his home parish devoutly participated in the cherished Month’s Mind Mass on the Vigil of the Assumption. How fitting it was to celebrate the Blessed Mother’s entrance into eternal life through the merits of her Son’s death and resurrection while commending Father Noonan to God at the Eucharist that he celebrated for 54 years as a priest.
Afterwards, we gathered at the family farm where Father Noonan spent his formative years prior to his seminary formation and ordination. His younger brother, now in his 70s, and his sons continue the family’s tradition of dairy farming.
In conclusion, I recall the words at the end of the Gospel of Saint John when the Evangelist asserts that if he wrote down everything that Jesus said or did, there wouldn’t be enough books in the whole world to contain it all. Likewise, there was so much to see as we drove through the Irish countryside.
There were so many engaging conversations that rolled on into late night gatherings. Always, there was plenty to eat and plenty to drink. There were bog lands and stone, a pint of Guinness, and a drop of Jameson. There was men’s hurling, and women’s rugby, goats and cows, and, of course, an opportunity to golf. It was the “full Irish” of hospitality and graciousness at every turn along the country roads. Until we meet again, may God hold us in the palm of his hands.

Convocatoria de líderes católicos: La alegría del Evangelio en América

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

La Conferencia Católica de los Estados Unidos fue establecida en 1917 como una respuesta a las demandas de la Primera Guerra Mundial, a fin de tener una organización nacional con una voz nacional. En anticipación al aniversario de su centenario, la planificación comenzó hace casi 10 años. Providencialmente, la Conferencia de Obispos realmente encontró su ritmo en las etapas de planificación, con la publicación en el 2013 de la Exhortación Apostólica del Papa Francisco, La Alegría del Evangelio. La convocatoria descubrió su nombre y su propósito. Convocatoria de líderes católicos: la Alegría del Evangelio en América. A lo largo de los cuatro días de la convocatoria, julio 1-4, hubo cerca de 3.500 participantes, representando el rostro de la Iglesia en América. Hubo aproximadamente 3000 líderes religiosos y laicos de todo el espectro de organizaciones y ministerios de la iglesia.
Había 155 obispos, principalmente de rito latino, pero también de rito oriental, en representación de sus diócesis de todo el país y cerca de 500 sacerdotes y diáconos permanentes. En total, estuvieron presente 185 organizaciones católicas nacionales. Algunos lo describieron como una Jornada Mundial de la Juventud para adultos, algo parecido a un retiro y una reunión de celebración. Fue un evento muy bien equilibrado.
Los discursos de apertura fueron inspiradores y entretenidos y los paneles que siguieron inmediatamente aumentaron la profundidad y amplitud de la visión de los presentadores. Quizás, incluso más valiosas fueron las sesiones, que no fueron conferencias, sino conversaciones sobre una variedad de temas en los que se trató la realidad de la sociedad moderna y cómo responder a ellas como discípulos del Señor en el espíritu y convicción de la alegría del Evangelio. De hecho, las conversaciones fueron el sello distintivo de esta convocatoria, y en cualquier dirección a la que uno volteó los obispos estaban hablando con sus delegaciones diocesanas, y en cada esquina y en cada mesa, los participantes estaban en animado diálogo.
El ritmo en todo fue el llamado al discipulado misionero para todos aquellos que se autodefinen como católicos en el siglo XXI. Estamos llamados a ir a las periferias para encontrar y acompañar a los pobres y a los marginados. Estos podrían ser un miembro de la familia, los jóvenes, los ancianos, los pobres, las personas cercanas, aquellos que están fuera de vista y mente. Este es el liderazgo apostólico del Papa Francisco, la mente y el corazón de Jesucristo. El Arzobispo Gómez de Los Angeles poderosamente presentó esta realidad en su discurso.
“Las periferias son partes de nuestras ciudades y áreas rurales que nunca visitamos, que están al otro lado de nuestras rutas. Son las áreas donde viven los pobres. Son las cárceles y las ciudades de carpas en nuestros lugares públicos. Estos son los lugares de los que nuestra sociedad está avergonzada y prefiere olvidar, donde las personas están heridas y sienten que sus vidas no tienen sentido y no hacen ninguna diferencia, envolviéndose a sí mismos en el pecado, la adicción, la esclavitud y el auto-engaño.
El papa está diciendo que estas periferias están creciendo en el mundo moderno y son nuevos territorios de misión. La Iglesia siempre ha estado presente en las periferias, pero podemos hacerlo mejor; estamos llamados a hacer más”. En general, la convocatoria fue un gran signo de unidad en la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos y las personas estaban allí por las razones correctas.
En este encuentro los obispos experimentaron su conferencia nacional no sólo como una burocracia, sino también como una herramienta fenomenal para involucrar a toda nuestra iglesia en su misión del siglo 21. Los líderes de la iglesia parece que están intentando algo nuevo, otra forma que no ha sido probada. Todas las personas estuvieron dispuestas a sacrificar su descanso de vacaciones del 4 de julio para aprender y ser desafiados. No fueron para que les dieran unas palmaditas en la espalda sino para aprender. ¿Cómo podemos compartir a Cristo mejor?
Una fertilización cruzada de ministerios, un gran signo de unidad para algunos y todos fueron desafiados a escuchar las voces de los pobres y marginados. La convocatoria encendió los medios sociales durante cuatro días, lo que significó que la alegría del Evangelio pulsaba a través del ciberespacio, plantando semillas de fe, esperanza y amor. En la Diócesis de Jackson está en marcha la implementación de nuestra visión y prioridades pastorales.
El camino adelante es inspirar a los discípulos, servir a los demás y a abrazar la diversidad invitando y reconciliando a las comunidades, al ser intencionales sobre la formación en la fe a largo plazo y proclamando a Jesucristo y nuestra fe católica.
La convocatoria de los líderes católicos, la Alegría del Evangelio en América amplía nuestra visión con la exhortación a ser discípulos misioneros que salen de sus zonas de comodidad y van a los pobres y marginados con el siempre renovado vigor en la obra de proclamar al Señor crucificado y resucitado viviendo el evangelio en toda su verdad, bondad y belleza.

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: Joy of the Gospel in America

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

The United States Catholic Conference was born in 1917 as a response to the demands of WW1 in order to have a national organization with a national voice. In anticipation of the anniversary of the centenary, nearly 10 years ago the planning began. Providentially, the Conference of Bishops really found their stride in the planning stages with the publication in 2013 of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel. The convocation discovered its name and its purpose. Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.
Over the four-day convocation, July 1-4, there were nearly 3,500 participants, representing the face of the Church in America. There were approximately 3,000 religious and lay leaders across the spectrum of church ministries and organizations. There were 155 bishops, mostly Latin Rite, but also Eastern Rite, representing their dioceses from around the nation, and nearly 500 priests and permanent deacons. In total, there were 185 national Catholic organizations on hand. Some described it as a World Youth Day for adults, something resembling a retreat and a pep rally. It was a well-balanced event. The keynote addresses were inspiring and engaging, and the panels that immediately followed them enlarged the depth and breath of vision of the speakers. Perhaps, even more valuable were the break-out sessions that were not lectures but conversations on an array of topics addressing the reality of modern society and how to respond as the Lord’s disciples in the spirit and conviction of the Joy of the Gospel.
In fact, conversations were the hallmark of this Convocation, and in whatever direction one turned bishops were speaking with their diocesan delegations, and in every corner and at every table, participants were in animated dialogue. The drumbeat throughout was the call to missionary discipleship for all who define themselves as Catholic in the 21st century. We are to go to the margins, to the peripheries to encounter and accompany the poor and marginalized. This could well be a family member, the young, the old, the poor, those close at hand, those out of sight and mind. This is the apostolic leadership of Pope Francis, the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles powerfully unpacked this reality in his Keynote Address. “The peripheries are parts of our cities and rural areas we never visit, the other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are prisons and the tent cities in our public places. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about, where people are wounded and feel their lives have no meaning and make no difference, trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception. The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world, and these peripheries are new mission territories. The Church has always been present in the peripheries, but we can do better; we are called to do more.”
Overall, the Convocation was a great sign of unity in the Church in the United States and people were there for the right reasons. In this gathering the Bishops experienced their national conference not only as a bureaucracy, but also as a phenomenal tool for engaging our entire Church in its 21c mission. Church leaders seemed to be trying something new, another way that hasn’t been tried. All of the people were willing to sacrifice their leisurely 4th of July holiday and go to learn and be challenged. They didn’t go to be patted on the back but to learn. How can we share Christ better?
A cross fertilization of ministries, a great sign of unity for certain, and all were challenged to hear the voices of the poor and marginalized. The Convocation lit up social media for four days, which meant that the Joy of the Gospel was pulsating through cyberspace, plantings seeds of faith, hope and love. In the Diocese of Jackson the implementation of our vision and Pastoral Priorities is well underway. The path ahead is to inspire disciples, to serve others and to embrace diversity by being inviting and reconciling communities, by being intentional about life long faith formation, and by proclaiming Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith.
The Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the Joy of the Gospel in America enlarges our vision with the exhortation to be missionary disciples who break out of our comfort zones and go the poor and marginalized with ever renewed vigor in the work of proclaiming the crucified and risen Lord by living the Gospel in all of its truth, goodness and beauty.


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The power of God’s Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is once again at the center of the Church’s public prayer as we celebrate the Ascension on this weekend, with the exalted feast of Pentecost to follow.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love… and we shall renew the face of the earth.” During the past month the Holy Spirit has kept me active with the celebration of 16 Confirmations to date around the diocese, confirming God’s presence in the lives of our young disciples. In a noteworthy manner our Sacred Mission and Vision come alive through Confirmation as we embrace the diversity of gifts, ministries and works of the Holy Spirit, serve others in many creative ways, and, of course, inspire disciples in the knowledge and understanding that Jesus is Lord, and God is our Father. The fullness of Christian Initiation is accomplished with the mark of holy Chrism, and the promises made at Baptism by parents and godparents have been realized. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s blessings is evident in the love of family, godparents, friends and the parish community. There are no visible tongues of fire upon the heads of the newly confirmed, but the slow and steady fire of faith has been burning and the love of the risen Lord is evident.
In the midst of the Confirmation campaign we honored our beloved religious, Sister Paula Merrill, SCN and Sister Margaret Held, SSSF, who were murdered last fall. Faithful friends and family gathered with prayer and the blessing and unveiling of their monument in Liberty Park in downtown Durant. It was a spirited gathering, comprised of people from the local community, from St. Thomas parish in Lexington, from their religious communities based in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and from the faithful from around the diocese of Jackson.
The Holy Spirit, the pledge of eternal life, was our consolation, hope and peace. As we began the the prayer service the heavens opened, and accompanying the presence of the Holy Spirit, was also an outpouring, or better said, down pouring of torrential rains, Mississippi’s abundance. This drenching had the whole package with sights and sounds, lightening and thunder. This display of God’s creations often overwhelmed the words of prayer, but it did not dampen our spirits and resolve to give fitting tribute to the sisters’ lives and deaths in service to the Lord and to the poor. In some profound way, it was like a dialogue between heaven and earth.
Nature spoke and we could only pause and wait, and then we responded with prayer that pierced the clouds. In the end we blessed the monument, and their lives and deaths will stand as a testimony to loving service over the course of a lifetime in this stressed area of our state.
We recall that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds, and souls is a foretaste of the promise of eternal life, and the feast of heaven. This is true for all believers who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and further strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a visible sign of this interior reality the vowed lives of the religious and ordained among us point to our goal to be with the Lord forever. They remind us that our citizenship is in heaven, and that we have no lasting city here. The violent deaths of Sisters Paula and Margaret only serve to deepen the conviction in the wisdom of the sacred scriptures that “blessed are they who die in the Lord, let them rest from their labors for their good deeds go with them.” They remain with us as witnesses to the truth, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
The blessings of the Holy Spirit dwell within us and surround us in countless ways. Over the next week we can all enrich our journey to Pentecost by praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit. Most often we pray in the power of the Spirit through the name of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. During these days we can pray more intentionally to the Holy Spirit to inspire us, to free us from sin, to empower us to live the gospel, and to lovingly serve as disciples of the Lord.  
Come, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth.

Obispo reflexiona sobre su aniversario

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

Escribo la columna de esta semana en el fin de semana del 40 aniversario de mi ordenación sacerdotal, el 7 de mayo de 1977. Durante momentos más tranquilos y mientras estoy en el altar durante las celebraciones litúrgicas, me impresiono por la gracia y la maravilla de que han pasado 40 años y el buen pastor me ha guiado a través de las interminables montañas del noreste de Pennsylvania en la Diócesis de Scranton hacia el sur profundo en la Diócesis de Jackson, Mississippi. Después de casi treinta y seis años y medio allá y cerca de tres y medio aquí, estoy feliz de estar vivo y bien, con buena memoria y gratitud, y capaz de servir con motivación y propósito.
El año 40 y los 40 días de tiempo en la Biblia representan tiempo sagrado, kairos, cuando Dios y su gente caminaron juntos (o flotaron en el tiempo de Noé) en el desenvolvimiento de la historia de la salvación. Es un tiempo de purificación, regeneración y la gozosa esperanza de algo nuevo en el horizonte. Para el cristiano, las aguas del diluvio prefiguran las aguas purificadoras del Bautismo y un período de 40 días que está estrechamente asociado con la temporada de cuaresma. Una vez en tierra el arco iris a través de las nubes era el signo del pacto entre Dios y la humanidad, y la promesa de una nueva vida. En mi breve tiempo aquí, un nuevo día ha amanecido y he conocido la vida abundante que el Buen Pastor prometió en la lectura del evangelio de este fin de semana. Además, con las ruidosas tormentas que he experimentado desde que me mudé al sur, multiplicado por 40 días y noches, podría imaginar la construcción de un arca en cada esquina.
En la experiencia del Éxodo tenemos dobles períodos de tiempo de 40 años y 40 días. Los israelitas vagaron durante 40 años en el desierto y Moisés pasó 40 días y 40 noches en el Monte Sinaí que trajeron consigo el don de los Diez Mandamientos, el corazón del Tora, y el signo y la sustancia de la evolución de la alianza entre Dios y los israelitas. \Estas tablas de piedra fueron hechas y adoptadas en los comienzos de la permanencia en el desierto y fijó el estándar para la creación de relaciones que Dios exigía de los israelitas antes de abrir la puerta a la tierra prometida a Abraham y a Sarah y a sus descendientes. Y así he reflexionado sobre los 40 años de preparación que los israelitas sufrieron, y de una manera muy real puedo saborear todas las experiencias de mi sacerdocio como pábulo para el molino que el Señor ha utilizado para fortalecer mi relación con él, y para servir ahora como el 11º obispo de Jackson. Una lección aprendida es que Dios puede redimir y transformar todas nuestras labores fieles y esfuerzos vanos para cumplir su voluntad.
Asimismo, me siento confiado trazando un paralelo entre los 40 días que Moisés pasó en el monte Sinaí y los cuarenta días que Jesús soportó en el desierto en previsión de su ministerio público con mi ministerio en la Diócesis de Jackson. Cuando Moisés bajó de la montaña él sabía que Dios, quien es misericordioso hasta la milésima generación, era un Dios fiel, y siempre estaría con ellos. El becerro de oro fue un gran bache en el camino, pero fue atravesado exitosamente. Los israelitas tenían ahora una misión y visión sagrada con prioridades pastorales claras. (Ustedes saben a dónde voy con esto.)
 Del mismo modo, cuando el Espíritu Santo sacó a Jesús del desierto puso en marcha la misión sagrada de la Nueva Alianza a establecerse en su sangre, arraigada en la profecía de Isaías. “El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque él me ha ungido para predicar el evangelio a los pobres… y anunciar el año de gracia del Señor (Lucas 4:18ff). En el mismo sentido, el Espíritu Santo ha ungido y facultó al Cuerpo de Cristo en nuestra diócesis, con una renovada misión sagrada y visión de futuro que está encarnado en nuestras prioridades pastorales.
Esta es la vida de la nueva alianza en la sangre del Señor para mí mientras viajo y sirvo a través de la diócesis. Dios está renovando mi fervor cuando veo la sabiduría de nuestra visión: servir a los demás, inspirar discípulos, abrazar la diversidad en cada curva en la carretera.
Esta noche será mi 12ª de 23 celebraciones del sacramento de la confirmación y la diversidad de los dones y ministerios en la iglesia, la llamada al discipulado y el mandato de servir están vivos y bien en nuestros discípulos jóvenes. Los recién confirmados son las piedras vivas que representan la mano de obra de la fe, la esperanza y el amor, que sucede a diario en sus familias y parroquias a través de la extensión de nuestros 65 condados en el estado de Mississippi.
La visión también se realiza en nuestras escuelas y programas de formación en la fe, a través de Caridades Católicas y del Hospital St. Dominic, a través de innumerables servicios sociales y la promoción de un orden social más justo. Para mí el trabajo de planificación pastoral en el último año y medio ha permitido al Espíritu Santo llevarnos suavemente hacia adelante con mayor determinación y pasión por la obra del Evangelio en la Iglesia Católica para la salvación de todos. Nos arraiga profundamente en la Biblia y las palabras del profeta Miqueas nos vienen a la mente como una lámpara para nuestros pies. “Dios le ha mostrado, oh mortales, lo que es bueno. Y lo que el Señor exige de vosotros? Actuar con justicia, amar la misericordia y caminar humildemente con tu Dios.” (6:8).
A los 40 estoy agradecido a todos los que rezan por mí fielmente a diario en la plegaria eucarística en la Misa, a través del rosario, y en una multitud de otras maneras, porque mi celo y deseo de servir permanecen fuertes. Este es un don del Señor, el Buen Pastor, el fruto de la oración. Como nos gusta decir en estas partes, Soy bendecido. “Estoy seguro de esto, que él que comenzó en usted (nosotros) su obra buena la irá llevando a buen fin hasta el día en que Jesucristo regrese” (Fil. 1:6).