BILOXI – Mississippi’s Knights of Columbus gathered on the coast for their 114th annual convention the last weekend of April this year. Bishop Joseph Kopacz joined Bishop Louis Kihneman of Biloxi to concelebrate a memorial Mass at St. Michael Church. Diocese of Jackson chaplain for the Knights, Father Scott Thomas, joined them.
Among the honors the Diocese of Jackson councils brought home, Bill and Carolyn O’Connor of Clinton Holy Savior Parish are the family of the year for the state. The couple serve in multiple ministries at their parish and are known for their willingness to do whatever is needed.
The convention gives the knights a chance to participate in workshops and trade ideas as well as renew their commitment of service to the church.
Photos by Juliana Skelton, Gulf Pine Catholic
The Eagles have landed
Due to the hard work of Ed Marsalis and his family, the bronze eagles are in place on top of the western entrance pillars of St. Anthony School. Ed Marsalis, Knight of Columbus Council #9543, was the project manager and supervised everything from beginning to end. The final stage of the placement took four hours on Saturday March 24. For the installation, a steel template had to be made on which were fastened the eagles with four bolts per eagle. These steel frames where then fastened to the concrete top of the pillar with bolts, which in turn were added further 18 inch bolts and the center of the standing pillars were filled with concrete and the mounted eagles, together with the concrete slabs were hoisted by an excavator to their position on top of the pillars and the projecting 18 inch bolts inserted into the fresh concrete to make the eagles a permanent fixture. It was a family affair with the following members participating; Ed Marsalis and his wife Corley, his daughter Paige and her husband Mason Spratlan, together with their children Megan, Marleigh, Matthew and Mason Jr. Mason and his family provided ground work and form assembly for the concrete work and brought the excavator to the site. John Ramsey of Pelahatchie was the equipment operator, concrete man and technical expert who placed the eagles in position after they were assembled on the ground. The excavator was provided by Gamma Enterprises of Madison. The attached photos give insight to the work in progress.
MADISON – A pair of bronze eagles now greets students at the entrance to St. Anthony School. Ed Marsalis and his family managed the tricky installation in late March. Msgr. Michael Flannery donated the sculptures of the school mascot. (Photos by Msgr Michael Flannery)
By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Diocese of Jackson School Superintendent Catherine Cook signed a letter urging Mississippi Lawmakers to expand school choice in the state by passing Senate Bill 2623. The bill made it out of the committee process, but as of the publication day for this issue, the House has not debated it.
SB 2623 would expand eligibility for the state’s existing Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to all public school students, students entering kindergarten or first grade, students in foster care, children of active duty military, and siblings of eligible students. The ESA would be funded at $6,500 for special needs students and at 95 percent of the state’s formula for all others, which comes to about $5,700.
Basically, parents who qualify would get access to an account or debit card to use for their child’s education. The bill gives preference to students with special needs. Two-thirds of the Catholic Schools in the diocese serve special needs students and stand ready to enroll more.
The letter from Bishop Kopacz and Cook states, in part, “The Catholic Church teaches that parents are the primary teachers of their children and that public support should empower their choice to send their children to schools that fit their conscience. Expanding eligibility for the ESA, while prioritizing those students with special needs and from low-income families, will allow parents a real option in choosing an education that best fits their child’s learning needs.
“The Catholic schools of Mississippi have long served the neediest students and communities, educating Catholics and non-Catholics across income-levels and racial groups. Our schools have offered a well-rounded education to Mississippians for generations, and we stand ready to give an opportunity to the families who would benefit from an expanded ESA.”
The bishop and Cook got some unexpected assistance in this effort this year thanks to a mission appeal trip the bishop took to Indianapolis. When Bishop Kopacz was preaching in Indiana he met Brittany Vessely, executive director of Catholic Education Partners, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help more families have access to Catholic education. One of the services Catholic Education Partners offers is advocacy and education in states where school choice could help the community.
The organization sent Greg Dolan to Mississippi. He delivered the letter to lawmakers, helped answer questions and visited Jackson area schools during Catholic Schools Week. He explained that the current bill is not a new program. The state already has ESAs. This bill simply expands the categories of eligibility.
“This program is in existence and functionally it wouldn’t change very much. Really, the same process would go on in that parents are given a portion of the funds used for their public education,” he explained. Dolan added that school choice programs are about empowering parents to make decisions in their children’s best interest regardless of their income or location.
“We don’t do this (support school choice) because we want Catholic schools to have higher enrollment. We do it because this is what the church has taught for at least 150 years in our modern schooling environment – that the state should support parents in choices they make for good education. I happen to think personally that more people, if they had the option, would choose Catholic schools,” said Dolan.
The letter was only part of the effort to support this issue. Students from across the diocese attended a School Choice rally at the capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Wearing bright gold scarves, the students provided a backdrop for advocates to speak to lawmakers about the bill.
A group even came down from Greenwood St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis principal Jackie Lewis said she believes parents should have the right to choose the education best for their students. “My child might need something different from your child. You have to look at the specific child and the specific family and find the school that fits,” said Lewis. “Public school is not one-size-fits-all, nor is private or parochial school,” she added. The advocacy group Empower Mississippi helped organize the trip for the St. Francis students.
By Annette Tipton
GRENADA – Joy, peace and clarity were the observed fruits from a thought-provoking retreat held at St. Peter parish as part of the community’s ‘Year of Faith.’ “Becoming thoughtful men and women of God” was the theme for the adult faith formation retreat offered by the Apostolate of the Returning King on Oct 13-14.
The event included talks given by the team consisting of a humorous priest, a humble layperson, and a sharply knowledgeable psychologist. Father Darragh Connolly, the spiritual director and priest for the Apostolate, presented the organization’s mission and history. Anne, a layperson, shared ways to become self-aware with a challenge for the participants to change negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Margaret, a psychologist, brought all the talks together with striking teachings on how the brain functions.
“The speaker, Margaret, was exceptionally brilliant,” said Barbara Liberto. The retreat was a mixture of parishioners and non-parishioners, who were all greatly touched by the deep commitment and passion the team brought to their lessons about dealing with anxiety and stress using Contemplative Prayer.
GRENADA – Representatives from the Apostolate of the Returning King presented a faith formation retreat at St. Peter Parish Oct. 13-14. (Photo by Annette Tipton)
The focus of the apostolate is as follows: “We lay people seek to develop as co-responsible Catholics. As we become more aware of God’s presence, accepting His love and healing, we are able to bring His light and love to those around us. By allowing Jesus to love others through us, we call them back into the safety of the family of God. Jesus calls this a rescue mission for souls. It involves people accepting their call to personal holiness, which then leads to service in the Church.”
Lori Arreola explained that the retreat “helped me to become more aware of how my brain works and to focus on reinforcing a positive uplifting atmosphere around myself and others.”
The retreat also included Saturday morning Mass, confession and adoration. “One take away for me was the Blessed Sacrament: it is not only you looking at Jesus, but Jesus looking back at you,” said Teresa Owens.
Many of the attendees also expressed their joy at the contemplative prayer structure, which teaches a way to quietly and slowly go through parts of one’s life with Jesus so He can bring healing and truth.
St. Peter in Grenada has a lay apostle prayer group that reads and discusses the writings of the apostolate every second Thursday of the month after 8 a.m. Mass. All are welcome. Anyone interested in starting a Lay Apostle prayer group in their parish can contact Annette Tipton at 985-518-5674. Additional information is available on the website, www.directionforourtimes.com.
(Annettee Tipton is the director of religious education for Grenada St. Peter Parish.)