Purple Dress Run, same mission, new venue

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Purple was the color for the day for more than 200 runners in Northeast Jackson on Thursday, Oct. 18, as Catholic Charities hosted it’s annual Purple Dress Run to support its domestic violence programs. The run started this year at The District, a shopping and entertainment center just off Interstate 55, and wound its way through the Eastover neighborhood. Members of the Madison St. Joseph cross country team led off the race while the band played to inspire runners and walkers at their last turn near the end of the 5K.
Charities was set to open a new domestic violence shelter earlier this year when a fire heavily damaged the building. Rebuilding efforts are underway. Organizers hope to open early next year. Events such as the run help support the programs Charities offers to those who wish to escape a life of abuse and violence.

(Photos by Maureen Smith)

JACKSON – Members of the Madison St. Joe High School cross country team line up at the front of the Purple Dress Run on Thursday, Oct. 18.

The St. Joseph School band inspires runners at the last turn of the race.

The St. Joseph School band inspires runners at the last turn of the race.

Catholic Charities gala event brings star to Jackson

Dan and Joyce Heart wait their turn to meet Caviezel and have their picture made with him. (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Bishop Joseph Kopacz greets Kerry and Pam Minniger. Pam Minniger is the Lay Ecclesial minister for Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish.

JACKSON – Above, diocesan Chancellor Mary Woodward chats with Peter and Miriam Koury and Yvonne Haydel

Attendees could enjoy a light dinner before the evening's main event.

Catholic Charities COO John Lunardini and Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth greet Tanya Britton. Britton traveled from her home in Tupelo for the event.

Rusty and Yvonne Haydel have their photo made with Caviezel during the reception

WLBT anchor Maggie Wade was the emcee for the evening, providing a personal story about her love for the adoption program run by Catholic Charities. Caveizel spoke about opposing abortion, how playing Christ changed his life and about his own journey to adopt three handicapped children from China.

Catholic Charities presents evening with Christian actor, producer

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Actor, producer and philanthropist Jim Caviezel knew when he accepted the role of Jesus in the Passion of the Christ, that his career would be impacted by the decision, but he wanted to use his life’s work to honor God. “My talent came from God, not from man,” he told Dave Cooper in an online interview for the show Christus Rex.
Caviezel is bringing his testimony to Jackson for an evening fundraiser for Catholic Charities on Friday, Sept. 7, at Thalia Mara Hall starting at 7:30 p.m.
Caviezel grew up in Washington State in a devout Catholic family. He first pursued a career in baseball until an injury sidelined him. He discovered acting instead.
In 1992 Caviezel landed a small role as an Italian ticket agent in Gus Van Sant’s My Private Idaho which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award. To further his career Caviezel moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s and while making his round of auditions, Caviezel found small roles on popular TV shows Murder She Wrote, The Wonder Years and the CBS miniseries, Children of the Dust. Caviezel geared toward the big screen and accepted a role in Michael Ritchie’s drama Diggstown, followed by Lawrence Kasdan’s action film Wyatt Earp and in the action drama G.I Jane opposite actress Demi Moore.
Caviezel’s breakthrough role came in 1998 when he was casted in Terrence Malick’s Oscar nominated film The Thin Red Line, a dramatic adaption of a popular book about World War II alongside Sean Penn and Adrien Brody. Directors were drawn to Caviezel as he continuously demonstrated his powerful ability to fuse soulful introspection with physicality.
That generated quality and mainstream roles in films such as Ang Lee’s Civil War drama Ride with the Devil, Mimi Leders dramatic romance Pay it Forward and Luis Mandoki’s romantic thriller Angel Eyes. In 2002, Caviezel played the lead in an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo based on the classic novel by Alexander Dumas. His next two roles included High Crimes opposite Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman and in Robert Harmon’s crime thriller in film Highwaymen.
Caviezel was recognized for his intense preparations for film roles and his role as Jesus in Passion of the Christ earned him a Grace Award from the Movie Guide Awards for the Most Inspired Movie Acting. Next, Caviezel played the character of Bobby Jones in the biographical drama Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius. In 2006, Caviezel played opposite Denzel Washington in the sci-fi thriller Déjà vu. Caviezel’s role on the mini TV-series The Prisoner for six episodes allowed him to prepare for his biggest TV role. In 2012, Caviezel appeared in the drama thriller Transit, alongside James Frain and Elisabeth Rohm. Premiering in 2011 Caviezel starred as ex-CIA special operations agent Jon Reese in CBS’s critically lauded drama, Person of Interest for all five seasons.
His second spiritual role was in Paul, Apostle of Christ, which was released earlier this year. When he speaks he challenges his audiences. In the Christus Rex interview he asked the attendees to “set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation my brothers and sisters, you weren’t made to fit in, you were born to stand out,” but he also warned that being a Christian and seeking salvation takes work. “Everyone wants resurrection. No one wants suffering,” said Caviezel.
“For any person, Christian or fan of the Passion or Caviezel’s other films, they are in for a treat. We are even more excited to bring his message to people of all faiths and denominations,” said John Lunardini, COO of Catholic Charities. He said he hopes people of all denominations will attend this inspiring evening.
Sponsors and VIP ticket holders will have access to the pre-show Meet and Greet with Jim Caviezel. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster online and in person at the box office.
Ticket prices range from $100 to $25 and group discounts are available. For more information about tickets and sponsorships contact Julie O’Brien at 601-326-3758, e-mail: julie.obrien@ccjackson.org or visit www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org

(Julie O’Brien contributed to this story.)

Bishop’s Ball honors St. Dominic leaders, offers dining, dancing, bidding

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – More than 300 Supporters of Catholic Charities of Jackson gathered at the Jackson Country Club on Saturday, June 9 for the Bishop’s Ball, a gala fund-raising event. In addition to a silent and live auction, attendees are treated to dinner, dancing and live music.
Catholic Charities uses the gathering to honor those who have made a lasting impact on the organization. This year, Claude Harbarger and Lester Diamond were recognized with the Good Samaritan Award. Harbarger is president of St. Dominic’s Health Services while Diamond is president of St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital Both men have been very supportive of the work and mission of Catholic Charities since they began working at the Catholic hospital, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters.
In another month, Catholic Charities will welcome film producer, actor and philanthropist Jim Caviezel to Thala Mara Hall in Jackson. Tickets available here.

Catholic Charities quiere construir una red de abogados

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Si bien la Diócesis de Jackson actualmente no está cuidando a ningún niño separado de sus padres en la frontera, el Centro de Apoyo a Inmigrantes de Caridades Católicas está anticipando un aumento en las solicitudes de asilo.
La directora de programas del Centro de Apoyo a Migrantes de Caridades Católicas, Amelia McGowan, visitó a centroamericanos que están solicitando asilo – principalmente mujeres y niños- en la frontera de Estados Unidos y México en Nogales, México, y escuchó sus desgarradoras historias de huir del abuso y la violencia de pandillas en sus países de origen para buscar seguridad y refugio en los Estados Unidos. En Mississippi, un aumento en las redadas de inmigración, que incluyen el arresto de personas sin antecedentes penales, ha destrozado a familias, parroquias y comunidades de Mississippi.
El Centro de Apoyo para Migrantes de Caridades Católicas defiende a las comunidades inmigrantes al proporcionar representación a los inmigrantes más vulnerables de Mississippi, incluyendo a los solicitantes de asilo y a niños sin acompañantes, y participa en la comunidad para difundir la conciencia y el apoyo a los inmigrantes dentro del estado.
En Mississippi, los solicitantes de asilo, especialmente los niños no acompañados, se encuentran en una posición particularmente vulnerable, ya que deben enfrentar un proceso legal complejo y desalentador, a menudo sin asistencia legal. Como escribió el Cardenal Daniel DiNardo, “el asilo es un instrumento para preservar el derecho a la vida”, y el Centro de Apoyo para Migrantes ha respondido a este llamado, prevaleciendo en más de 25 casos de asilo para clientes de ocho países.
Sin embargo, con solo dos abogados, el Centro de Apoyo para Migrantes no tiene la capacidad para ayudar a todos los que necesitan representación de asilo en Mississippi. La agencia ha organizado una recaudación de fondos en línea con la esperanza de capacitar y asesorar a una red de abogados en todo el estado para defender, sin cobrar, a las familias y a los niños de Mississipi que huyen de la persecución en sus países de origen, y aumentar el alcance y la educación de comunidades inmigrantes en todo el estado. Las donaciones se pueden hacer en línea a través de la página de Facebook de Caridades Católicas de Jackson o llamando a la agencia al 601-355-8634.
McGowan también recomendó las siguientes agencias que brindan asistencia directa a las familias en la frontera:
– Kino Border Initiative (una organización jesuita que proporciona suministros y apoyo en ambos lados de la frontera): https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/
– Samaritanos de Tucson (colaboran estrechamente con Kino): http://www.tucsonsamaritans.org/
– Proyecto de Detención Familiar de CARA (un consorcio de proveedores de servicios legales que incluye la Red Católica de Inmigración Legal que brinda servicios legales a las familias detenidas): http://caraprobono.org/
– Niños necesitados de defensa (representan a niños en procedimientos de deportación): https://supportkind.org/

Catholic Charities of Jackson wants to build attorney network

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – While the Diocese of Jackson is not currently fostering any children separated from their parents at the border, Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center is anticipating an uptick in asylum claims.
Program Director of the Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center, Amelia McGowan, visited Central American asylum seekers – primarily women and children – at the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico, and heard their harrowing accounts of fleeing abuse and gang violence in their home countries to seek safety and refuge in the United States. In Mississippi, an increase in immigration raids – including arrests of individuals without criminal records – have torn apart Mississippi families, parishes, and communities.
In Mississippi, the Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center defends immigrant communities by providing representation for Mississippi’s most vulnerable immigrants, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, and conducting community engagement to spread awareness and support for immigrants within the state.
Mississippi asylum seekers – especially unaccompanied children – are in a particularly vulnerable position, as they must face a complex and daunting legal process, often without legal assistance. As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote, “asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” and the Migrant Support Center has answered this call, prevailing in more than 25 asylum cases for clients from eight countries.
With only two attorneys, however, the Migrant Support Center does not have the capacity to assist all in Mississippi who need asylum representation. The agency has set up a fundraiser online with hopes of training and mentoring a network of pro-bono attorneys throughout the state to defend Mississippi families and children fleeing persecution in their home countries, and increasing outreach and education to immigrant communities throughout the state. Donations can be made online through the Catholic Charities of Jackson Facebook page or by calling the agency at 601-355-8634.
McGowan also recommended the following agencies who are providing direct assistance to families at the border:
– Kino Border Initiative (a Jesuit organization providing supplies and support on both sides of the border): https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/
– Tucson Samaritans (collaborate closely with Kino): http://www.tucsonsamaritans.org/
– CARA Pro Bono Family Detention Project (a consortium of legal service providers that include the Catholic Legal Immigration Network that provides legal services to detained families): http://caraprobono.org/
– Kids in Need of Defense (represent kids in removal proceedings): https://supportkind.org/

Catholic Charities offers financial training

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Tuesday, April 24, Catholic Charities of Jackson and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) offered a unique training at Grenada St. Peter Parish with Bobbie Lison of Catholic Charities in Green Bay, Wis. Lison is a national trainer for “Your Money, Your Goals,” (YMYG) a set of financial empowerment tools. The idea is to give some specific problem-solving resources to just about anyone who works with people in need, especially social workers and case workers.
“This program is not meant to turn people into certified financial health counselors, but to provide them with tools and resources,” said Lison. “Say you are a mental health counselor and you can tell a client is stressed. When you ask why, they tell you payday lenders are calling and calling and they don’t know what to do. You can dip into these materials to find what you need to help,” she said.
Danna Johnson, who runs the Catholic Charities Office in Vardaman went to a training in YMYG a couple years ago and has been using the lessons with her clients.
Daughter of Charity Sister Mary Walz works at the Lexington Medical Clinic as a social worker. This may not seem like the kind of place to offer financial advice, but she says YMYG is an amazing resource for her. “I thought I was going to get a specific curriculum to follow, but this is better, because no matter what setting you are in, you can use this workbook to tailor your response.” she said. Sister Walz explained that when people come to the clinic she tries to spend a few minutes with them before their appointment with medical staff. She asks what their top stressors are. Many times the answer is money. “Finances can affect you – including a worry that you won’t be able to pay your clinic bill.”
Rather than try to steer her clients into a class, she can get specific information about their challenge and she and the client can tackle it together. “This program has modules to address different things, savings, repairing your credit, things like that,” she explained. One workbook asks clients to list all their bills and when they are due along with income. Seeing the information on paper can help people prioritize what to pay first, what resources may be available for shortfalls and it may help them see ways they can better manage their money. “This is very practical in helping someone line up their wants and needs. It is done in a very user-friendly model and is sensitive to the reality of people struggling with finances,” said Sister Walz. She said some clinic staff members want to go through the exercise for themselves.
The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) created Your Money Your Goals and partnered with Catholic Charities USA and other community service organizations to get it up and running across the country. CCUSA has three trainers who travel the country offering workshops like this one, usually for Catholic Charities staff members. At the Grenada training, other organizations were invited, including the president of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in Jackson, a representative of CHANGE Amory and someone from Canopy Children’s Solutions in Tupelo. “This gave us an opportunity to network because it brought together people from the Delta and North Mississippi who are in ministry who wouldn’t normally know one another,” said Dorothy Balser, coordinator for Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities of Jackson.
Each participant got a binder full of modules with lessons and exercises they can use with their clients, but the CFPB offers even more material on its website. Some material can be downloaded or ordered from the agency. To see the material go to www.consumerfinance.gov and search for Your Money, Your Goals.

Photos by Danna Johnson

Spots still open for Mental Health Conference

JACKSON – Catholic Charities still has spots avaiable for the Catholic Day at the Capitol Mental Health Conference set for Wednesday, May 23, at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.
The conference, originally scheduled for January but postponed due to bad weather, will focus on the need for mental health care reform in the state.
Keynote speakers include Joy Hogge of Mississippi Families as Allies and Angela Ladner, executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, will offer insight into what reforms are needed and how people can support them.
The day starts at 9 a.m. and wraps up around 3 p.m .and includes lunch. Register online at www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

Weeks before grand opening, shelter burns

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Sunday, April 29, the dream of opening a new shelter for those fleeing domestic violence almost went up in flames. Catholic Charities was only a few weeks away from opening a new shelter in Jackson when an abandoned house next to the facility caught fire. The flames were so intense, they jumped to the roof of the facility.
“It was pretty devastating,” said John Lunardini, COO of Catholic Charities Jackson. Investigators continue to look for a cause, but Lunardini said the blaze may have started when a vagrant started a fire inside the abandoned house to stay warm on the cold night.
Catholic Charities was going to purchase the house and tear it down to put in a play area for children, but did not yet own the property. This move has been about four years and a million dollars in the making. When the previous shelter was facing some costly repairs, the Catholic Charities board looked at all the available options and decided moving to a new facility was the best approach.
After an exhaustive search, Charities found a new site and started work more than a year ago. The new facility, once renovated, could house nine families at a time. The building included rooms for staff members to be housed on-site to assist victims 24-hours a day. Other amenities include a therapeutic group and counseling area, a suite of offices, a family room, commercial kitchen facilities, a dining area and bathing facilities. The shelter will serve Copiah, Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Issaquena, Sharkey, Simpson, Yazoo and Warren counties.
Workers had begun to move in furniture and plans were in place to tear down the house next door when the fire erupted. Fire damaged the roof and firefighters had to smash a window to get inside to douse the flames. There is also water damage inside, but cleanup started within 12 hours of the fire under the supervision of Restoration 1 and program directors are hopeful they can evover.
The Domestic Violence program offers more than just shelter. Case workers and counselors work with survivors, usually women and their children to start a whole new life. Families must attend counseling. Survivors get childcare, help finding a new job and a new place to live and have access to resources even after they leave the shelter.
Counselors told Mississippi Catholic in 2016 that it can take time for a woman to transition from feeling like a victim to taking charge of her life. She needs support and sometimes some practical knowledge to break the cycle of violence and control abusers use against them.
The program can still use furniture and cash donations to get the renovations back on track. Insurance will cover repair to some of the damage to the building, but the agency will need to cover the gap and the program is always looking for items for the families who stay with them such as toiletries, clothing, gift cards for stores and toys for the children. To make a donation, call 601-355-8634 or donate online at www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

Life-changing opportunity: families needed for foster care program

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Hundreds of children in Mississippi need foster homes so Catholic Charities is putting out a call for willing families right now. Charities can train, certify and support families who take on this very special challenge.
Kelly and Kendall Spell wanted to adopt and started their process by becoming foster parents while Aiysha Johnson-Burks and her husband Justin Burks are supporting a nine-year-old foster child as she works toward family reunification. Both families foster through Catholic Charities.
The Spells talked about adoption back when they were high school sweethearts. They were working on a private adoption when they lost touch with the mother. When the baby was born, they got a call, but not from whom they expected.
“The mother tested positive for drugs and so did the baby when she was born, so of course CPS (Child Protective Services) was called. In order to bring the baby home we had to become licensed foster parents,” explained Kelly. Amy Turner, director of children’s services for Catholic Charities, took on their case, working to get their home certified and complete their training quickly.

JACKSON – The Spell family, (l-r) Kelly, Brooks, Kendall and Paxton. The family fostered their daughter before they adopted. (Photo courtesy of Spell family)

When Johnson-Burks married she and her husband knew they wanted to be foster parents, but she already worked for the Department of Human Services and could not take in a child from the county where she worked. Additionally, Justin’s late-night shifts at a local television station prevented them from going to the classes they needed to be certified. As a family protection worker, Johnson-Burks often had to take kids into custody from situations of abuse or neglect. She learned first-hand how overwhelming the need for foster families is in the state.

Aiysha Johnson-Burks, her husband Justin Burks became foster parents after their son, Roman, was born.

“I knew we had more than 500 kids in custody in Hinds County. In my very first case, I took two kids into custody, but did not get home until 3 a.m. because we had no home to place them in. That same week, I took two more kids into custody and had to drive them to Hattiesburg (to a group home) because we had no foster homes,” she said. She learned about Catholic Charities as she referred clients to programs such as the Solomon Counseling Center and Born Free/New Beginnings that helps mothers with addiction stay off drugs during and after pregnancy. A few years later, Johnson-Burks changed jobs and her husband changed shifts. They had a son of their own, but still wanted to foster so they started training.
“The whole process took about two-and-a-half months. We got licensed one day and got her (their foster child) the next,” she said. The family consciously chose to go through Catholic Charities. “For the support. We could have gone through DHS, I knew everyone there, but I wanted the support, especially for the child. Most of the children in custody in Hinds county are on psychotropic medicines. With Catholic Charities, she has a therapist, so we have a therapist. The foster team is awesome. They are so present and so patient. We have had to call the hotline,” she said.
Kelly Spell said the family had some rough days and nights when the baby first came home so they, too, relied on the extra support Charities offers. “We had been praying for her for so long because we knew about her so I guess its just what we felt like we needed to do,” she said. All foster families attend a monthly support and education group.
She tells families considering foster care or adoption they might be surprised. “We can do a lot more than we think. If anybody had asked us prior to this, I would have said no, I would have said there is no way that he and I could do it.” They are glad they worked with Catholic Charities. “This is more like a family. I can call them when I have something I want to talk about without having to make an appointment,” said Kendall Spell.
His wife said faith and support have been key throughout this process. “It’s God. God puts the child in your home and he helps you get through all the hurdles and crazy times.”
The Spells have a son, Paxton, who loves to play with his sister and he knows she’s special “because she got adopted.”
Johnson-Burks said she tries to make sure her foster child gets lots of opportunities to play and interact with extended family. “She was in an adult role in her home and doing adult things, so we want to let her know that she is a kid and she can be a kid.” She also wants to support her child’s desire to reunite with her biological family.
“She has an aunt who wants to go through the foster training process so she plans to reunite with her family,” said Johnson-Burks. “We explain to her that her mom has a problem she needs help with. One thing my husband and I understand is that we are fostering. We are keeping and caring for someone else’s child,” she said.
She and her husband see foster care as a way to be present not just to a child in need, but to a whole family. “Becoming a foster parent, I didn’t think about the what-ifs, I know what God’s gifts to me are and I run with that. I tell people to always have an open mind, you never know how you will be blessed. You will come to a crossroads in your life when you need help – financially, spiritually, physically. This is a family that needs help, so I can provide that,” she said.
“I think just knowing that you can provide what a child needs for a week or a month, that may be more than they may have had their whole life, so (do) anything you can do to show them that they are loved. Tell them that God loves them – even if it’s just for a week, we have no way of knowing what impact that will have on that child,” said Kelly Spell.
Turner said her office is ready to start training any family who has the calling and meets the standards. Therapeutic foster parents complete extra training and have extra supervision, all coordinated by Catholic Charities. To inquire, call Shamir Lee at 601-624-5288.
Those who wish to support the program overall can run or donate to Run, Foster Run. See page 6 for details.