Annunciation School breaks ground on expansion

By Katie Fenstermacher
COLUMBUS – On Thursday, November 29, members of the Annunciation School community celebrated the much-anticipated groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s expansion. Talks of expanding have been ongoing for several years due to increasing enrollment every year – enrollment has almost doubled in the last seven years.
After much discussion and research school and parish administrators decided the best plan of action financially would be to build on the current location. A capital campaign started last spring to raise the $3 million needed to move forward with an expansion. As of today, the school has raised just shy of $2 million, which will allow work to begin on the first phase of expansion to include six new classrooms, a computer/STREAM lab, science lab, library and administrative offices. The front of the school will also get a revamp.
Representatives from each committee that worked on getting the school to this point joined Bishop Joseph Kopacz to “break ground” on this exciting new venture. The ceremony included alumni, parent, student and faculty speakers as well as a ceremonial turning of the dirt on the worksite. Earlier in the week, principal Joni House and Father Jeffery Waldrep got behind the controls of a backhoe to smash the front wall of the old building. Once they took a swing or two, construction crews took over to clear the lot for real work to begin.
Kyle McConnell, alumnus and committee member spoke about being in the first first grade class of 1963 and how much Annunciation school has grown since. His children and now his grandchildren have attended. Current parent Ashley Matthews, spoke about what this expansion means to her and her children while seventh-grader Jules Gallo, spoke about his excitement over having a new building.
Principal Joni House said her excitement is about more than just the new facility. “It’s just a joyful feeling. It’s been extremely heartwarming to see all the support that we have,” said House
Debbie Leonard, faculty member, spoke about her many years of employment and what a blessing physical growth means for the school.
Bishop Kopacz, and Father Waldrep also spoke at the ceremony. The new rooms should be ready by fall 2019.
Organizers hope to continue the capital campaign to add even more to the expansion, such as a stage for the gym and a working cafeteria.

(Katie Fenstermacher is the public relations and admissions director for Annunciation School.)

St. Patrick students offer peace

MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School students sing a song during their Pinwheels for Peace program on Friday, Sept. 21, which is the International Day of Peace. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade students gave speeches on what peace means to them and students made pinwheels for peace which they displayed outside the school.  (Photo by Celeste Saucier)

Parish Fair traditions hold steady at St. Elizabeth

CLARKSDALE – The St. Elizabeth Parish Fair celebrated 71 years of fun, school and parish commitment and community-wide participation Tuesday, Sept. 18.
A program from the third fair in 1940 indicates that Father Geoffrey O’Connell first proposed the event. Early fairs included a raffle for a bale of cotton, a barbecue night and the signature meatball and spaghetti supper as well as “nickleodian dances, competitive games and a cake and candy sale,” reads the program.
Currently the fair has one overall chairperson with many chairmen in charge of numerous game booths, horse rides, a silent auction, and the famous delicious “Delta Italian” spaghetti dinner – topped, of course, with yummy meatballs made by the ladies of the parish.
These days, cash has replaced cotton in the raffle. Ticket-holders vied for a $10,000 pot and numerous other prizes.
The Fair’s “coming together” takes months of planning and organizing, ordering booth prizes, cooking and praying for good weather.

CLARKSDALE –Maci and Ellie Kate Flaut enjoy an evening horse ride during the St. Elizabeth Parish Fair Tuesday, Sept. 18. The evening of fun, food and games raises money for the school and parish. (Photos courtesy of Dawn Spinks.)

Will Young decides what to do next at the fair as students play carnival games for big prizes. Stuffed animals are some of the favorites.


St. Joseph stages ‘Curious Savage’

MADISON – St. Joseph School students will present their fall production, “The Curious Savage,’ the first weekend in November. The play, set in a sanatorium, tells the story of wealthy widow Ethel Savage and her greedy relatives, who hope to prove she’s insane to get their hands on her fortune. The action draws in the current residents of the sanitorium and leaves the audience wondering who really has lost their mind.
Students not only perform in the show, but work on the backstage crew, in the lightbooth and do publicity. The poster for the show was designed by St. Joseph junior Aislinn Boggan. The show opens Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. with a second show Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. and a closing matinee show Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased from

Rehearse, St. Joseph fall production, ‘The Curious Savage.’ (Photo courtesy of Joy Dodson)

Blue Mass at St. Richard honors first respondents

JACKSON – On Wednesday, Sept. 12, St. Richard School participated in a 70-year old Catholic tradition by blessing and praying for first responders at a “Blue Mass.” Above, local officers, deputies, paramedics and firefighters receive their blessing. At right, fourth-grader Aiden Wheatley reads scriptures at Mass. After Mass, the Knights of Columbus provided a breakfast for the guests.(Photos by Wendi Shearer)

Crossing over thresholds: Jonestown center welcomes new leadership

JONESTOWN – A gospel choir sang, prayers were shared and friendships were reaffirmed in a ceremony on May 24 to transfer the sponsorship of the Jonestown Family Center (JFC) from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary to But God Ministries (BGM).

JONESTOWN – The Jonestown Family Center, pictured in Dec. 2016, is now under the care of But God Ministries. The Holy Name Sisters returned this summer to bless the new arrangement. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

Holy Names Sisters Mary Ellen Holohan, Kathleen Hilton, Peggy Kennedy, Cathy Leamy, Kay Burton, Teresa Shields, and Maureen Delaney traveled to Jonestown and presented a framed blessing to BGM. About 80 people from the town gathered on the lawn in front of the center for the ceremony of transition. Sister Maureen gave the blessing while the other Sisters joined in prayers to support continued ministries to the people of Jonestown.
Sister Teresa related the history of the JFC, Sister Peggy thanked the JFC Board – which she has chaired for the past 10 years – and the board members all received gift cups made by Sister Kathryn Knoll with their names and the JFC logo on them.
Stan Buckley, the founder and executive director of BGM, said he believes God led him to Jonestown and Sister Teresa. He and his organization feel honored to carry on the ministry that ties in so well with the goals and values of BGM.
BGM has already constructed a new building in Jonestown called the Hope Center, which will house volunteer mission teams as well as providing office and meeting space. BGM volunteer crews have undertaken other projects in Jonestown including painting a local restaurant, establishing a dental office and building houses using the Habitat for Humanity model. Information about BGN can be found at
Jonestown Durocher Service Development, founded by Sister Kay Burton, will continue to operate, and Sister Kay welcomes the presence of BGM.
After 30 years of ministry in Mississippi, the Holy Names Sisters will remain connected to the people of Jonestown and will support them through their prayers, as well as their presence whenever possible.
The text of the blessing from the Sisters reads:
A Blessing from the Sisters of the Holy Names For All The Days to Come
God surprises us with new life and abundance. May the days to come never cease to surprise you.
We trust the loving grace that frees the oppressed and restores justice. May the days to come amaze you with the wondrous changes that God’s love makes possible.
The faith that empowered and sustained the Sisters of the Holy Names in this place is your inheritance in the days to come.
In the holy names of Jesus and Mary, we bless all who minister among the people of Jonestown, Mississippi for all the days to come.

(Submitted by Jennifer Brandlon, director of communications and administrative services for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.)

St. Patrick school’s Irish Festival

MERIDIAN – A volunteer helps St. Patrick School student John Henry Wilkinson play one of the many games at Irish Fest. The annual event was held on Saturday, April 21. Students and community members could “dunk” their pastor, play games and enjoy a day together. (Photos by Helen Reynolds)

Photos by Helen Reynolds)

Charlie Brown hits the stage in Greenville

GREENVILLE – Saint Joseph school Presented “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” April 25-29. Charles Schulz’s beloved comic became a broadway musical written by Clark Gesner. Two casts of students alternated at performances, bringing the whole gang from the comics to life: bossy Lucy was hopelessly in love with piano prodigy Schroeder; perfectionist Sally mocking blanket-toting Linus; Snoopy was in the doghouse, and “blockhead,” himself, Charlie Brown. In photo above, Linus, played by J.R. Duncan, extolls the virtues of his beloved security blanket. The cast also included Zack Woodard as Charlie Brown, Olivia DeAngelo (pictured) and Cecilia Azar, both playing Snoopy, Rebecca Jones (pictured) and Gracie McGaugh as Sally, Carsen Mansour( pictured) and Sarah Tonos as Lucy and Ethan Morales as Woodstock. (Photos by Missi Blackstock)

Photos by Missi Blackstock