Bearden joins Chancery staff as Coordinator of Family Ministry

By Maureen Smith

Charlene Bearden

Charlene Bearden

JACKSON – The Office of Faith Formation welcomes Charlene Bearden as the Coordinator for the Office of Family Ministry. Bearden, a member of Jackson Holy Family Parish, is no stranger to lay ministry. She has led Cursillo weekends, helped with marriage preparation, been a catechist and was in training for a role as a lay leader. Her volunteer work goes back more than 25 years at parishes in the Jackson area.
“I thought I was training to be a lay ecclesial minister,” said Bearden of how she came to the position. Father Michael O’Brien encouraged her to join the program after he saw her natural leadership in parish life. When the family ministry job became available, she found her place.
“When I finished the interview I knew this was where I belonged. It’s a match. I have been involved with children’s CCD, Marriage Encounter, events for the engaged,” she explained. She also served on the St. Richard School advisory council and in a number of other volunteer ministries.
The Office of Family Ministry works with parishes to provide a variety of services that support and minister to families, whether these families are traditional, single parent, blended or extended. Many of these programs are focused on supporting couples. This includes marriage and remarriage preparation, natural family planning, celebrating World Marriage Day and more.
“I have known Charlene for several years and can always count on her for a kind word or encouraging smile. She lovingly sees the family as the foundation on which the whole Church built, from the example of the Holy family to our very own modern day families,” said Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the diocese. “I am thrilled to have her on board leading the office of family ministry and look forward to seeing where God takes her in this ministry,” she added.
Bearden said she sees the office as a way to help people better understand God’s very personal love for them. “There is something about the family that is basic to all of humanity. Everyone started with a family,” she said.
“Even though family life can be complicated, there is always the option to move towards, love, intimacy, understanding.”
Bearden also understands something about loss. She and her husband lost their first child to complications after she got meningitis. She was not quite a year old and she died in her mother’s arms.
Years later, Bearden nursed her husband through four years of cancer before his death. “When someone we love is taken from us and we feel their loss we can see that they were loaned to us. They really belong to God,” she said.
Her friends stepped in to become a new kind of family. “Family can expand beyond your immediate family. The family of community, your church family, they are also family.” She sees families as models for the kingdom of God.
She said she and her husband were “babies” when they married and had to mature into their relationship. “That storybook version of marriage is not how God wanted me to see marriage. Living with another person in an intimate environment where the other person can be who God is calling that person to be- that’s where marriage is.”
Bearden credits Father Joseph Dyer, Father O’Brien and Father Frank Cosgrove for supporting and encouraging her through the years and she said she looks forward to showing people all the love God wants to offer them.
Her first event will be the World Marriage Day celebration at the Cathedral Sunday, Feb. 12.

Pastoral Ministries’ workshop offers new opportunity for ‘easy listening’

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Every year lay pastoral leaders gather for a week-long series of retreats and classes offered by the diocesan Department of Faith Formation. Most of them are going through a five-year certification program for catechists in the diocese, but this year, the Pastoral Ministries Workshop is open to anyone who wants to attend one of the classes, even if that person does not wish to enroll in the certification program at this time.
While the classes were never formally closed to other students, Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation, wanted to make it especially clear this year that all are welcome.
“We heard at the listening sessions that people are hungry for good faith formation opportunities. We have some wonderful presenters and we want people who are interested in these topics to feel welcome,” said Lavelle.  Bishop Joseph Kopacz hosted a series of Listening Sessions in February to start the process of pastoral planning for the diocese. While the final results are still being processed, some departments are able to address some common themes that emerged immediately.
The workshop is at Lake Tia O’Kahata in Louisville, is June 6-9. Classes this year include:
– Effective communications in ministry taught by Leo Trahan, director of religious education for the Diocese of Biloxi.
– Developing, maintaining and balancing programs taught by Janet Masline, associate director of religious education for the Archdiocese of Mobile.
– Ministry and Canon Law, taught by Father Kevin Slattery, Vicar General for the Diocese of Jackson.
– Spiritual and Prayer Leadership in a Parish taught by Father John Bohn, pastor of Jackson St. Richard Parish.
– Lay Reflecting from a Prayerful Heart taught by Sheila Przesmicki, lay ecclesial minister of Booneville St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
The cost for the week-long workshop is $500, which includes a room, meals and materials. Those who wish to commute can pay $200 for meals and  materials. Scholarships to pay for a third of the cost are available to anyone who is in the diocesan lay ministry formation program.
In addition to classes, the Pastoral Ministries Workshop offers retreat opportunities for catechists. The Pastoral Ministries Retreat starts Sunday, June 5, at 3 p.m.  and ends Monday, June 6, after lunch. The cost is $120 for this guided retreat. This covers three meals, one night lodging, and program expense.
An extended retreat which begins Monday, June 6, after lunch will run through Thursday, June 9, after lunch.  Retreatants will meet as a group for guided reflections on the 2016 catechetical theme, “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.” Every year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) selects a different catechetical theme which parishes, schools and individuals can embrace and explore.
The cost for just this extended retreat is $400. This covers three nights lodging, 10 meals, and program expense. Participants may combine the Sunday/Monday retreat with the extended retreat for a reduced combo rate of $485. The retreat portion of this week is intended for catechists and those in the lay formation program.
Registrations for all classes are due May 23. To request a registration form, email Lavelle at or call her at 601-960-8473.

Faith Formation revises catechist guidelines

By Maureen Smith
Jackson – Among the projects in the works in the diocesan Department of Faith Formation this year: reinvigorate youth ministry with a new director, plans for diocesan gatherings and new energy; train and certify more lay catechists than ever; find a new director of family ministry; and revise the catechist companion, the book used as a guide for catechists in parishes and schools throughout the diocese.
Fran Lavelle is the head of faith formation. She works with diocesan coordinators and parish employees and volunteers to make sure Catholics can deepen their knowledge and faith at every stage of their lives. This means ensuring children in religious education are reaching certain milestones as they mature, offering rich faith opportunities to young adults and college students, preparing couples for marriage and supporting them in family life and making opportunities available for adults to explore church teachings and spirituality.041516catechistcompanion
A cornerstone in ensuring that we are setting young Catholics on a path of life-long learning and a love of their faith is good catechesis.  One of the major aid in this work is the Catechist Companion, a guidebook for teachers guiding students in religious education and preparing young people and their families for the sacraments of initiation. As Bishop Joseph Kopacz writes in his letter of introduction, “The most important work of the church is in passing the faith on to subsequent generations.”
“We want to respect each community’s approach to preparing their children for sacraments, but we also need to set some expectations of what they will know when they approach the altar,” said Lavelle. The book is a guideline, but different parish and school communities will offer the lessons in the way best suited to their students.
She and many others spent weeks going through the material to update and streamline it and hopes to set up a regular review schedule to keep it up-to-date all the time. Lavelle appreciates the assistance she has had in updating and revising the document. “It would have been an impossible task without the peer review group that reviewed the guide for continuity and having excellent colleagues at the chancery to help with layout and proofing,”  Lavelle said.
The book is divided up by age-group and by sacrament. It contains not only the concepts students should grasp by the end of the grade or by the time they receive a given sacrament, but it also has suggestions on presenting the material to students and their families, including scripture readings families can use for reflection and prayers.
“It is through teaching these beliefs that we aid those entrusted to us to deepen their relationship with God. Moreover, we hope to inspire a love for learning, growing and loving our faith in a way that is life-long,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
The revised book will be finished mid-summer and will be distributed in printed form to catechists. An online version will be posted to the diocesan website so anyone can download and use it.
Lavelle’s office also offers a full complement of classes to help catechists earn certification and exchange best practices so they can better serve their students as well as gatherings and workshops for catechists and pastoral leaders to share best practices and resources.
The Catholic Service Appeal (CSA) directly supports the department of faith formation. Your pledge to CSA supports the work Lavelle and her staff are doing to offer faith formation opportunities to everyone in the diocese. Donate through your parish office or online at