Inaugural Pilgrimage for Life celebrates Respect Life month


By Elsa Baughman
GREENWOOD – The first “Pilgrimage for Life” in the Diocese of Jackson, was held Saturday, Jan. 14, at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center. January is Respect Life Month.
During the three mile walk around the retreat center and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Delta, the pilgrims, flanked on both sides by dancers from Tupelo and Jackson, prayed the rosary, sang songs and prayed after each mystery. Leading the way were four people carrying the cross, (the source of salvation) the banner of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe (source of conversion) and the banner of the event. The dancers took turns dancing after each mystery.
“We want to present God our needs and pray for justice, for life and hope,” said Father Michael McAndrew, CsSR, before starting the walk. “This is why we walk in pilgrimage, it is a very Catholic tradition. And on this day we are going to celebrate life, from conception to natural death, and we’re going to pray for the honor and dignity of every person and every race,” he said.
The petitions after each mystery were offered for the healthy and happy conception of all infants and for the end of abortion; for all migrants and immigrants of the world; for all elderly people so that they may always be treated and cared for with gratitude and love; for all the youth and young people of the world so that they live their lives with purpose and be brave men and women of God; and for the care and respect of our environment, our home.
“This is something beautiful, I loved it,” said Ernestina Mata, of Jackson, who attended the pilgrimage with her teenage daughter. “I was not planning to come,” she added, “but God wanted me to come. I saw myself in need to accompany my daughter because my husband didn’t want her to come alone.” Mata commented that the event reminded her of something that she witnessed as a child in the village where she grew up in Mexico. “On special occasions the people of the town gathered in the field to ask God or give him thanks for something in particular, such like that it rains or for a good harvest,” she said. “Today, these childhood memories came to my mind.”
The closing Mass was celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Delta by the priests of the Redemptorist community living in Greenwood.
In his homily, Father McAndrew said that the Mass was celebrated for all the families affected by the migratory situation in the country and especially by migrants who do not have a house, who are not welcomed and for the success of the Fifth National Encuentro. During Mass, a family whose father is facing deportation, offered their testimony.
Veronica Lopez, coordinator for Hispanic young adult ministry for the diocese, said she thinks this first Pilgrimage for Life was very good and successful. “We were able to gather 150 people; whole families, including children, youth, young adults, grandparents and even Father Ted’s dog,” she said, adding that “precisely, all of these people, human beings, were the focus and objective of our pilgrimage. And we prayed for the human rights of each one of us, from the youngest to the oldest.
Lopez said she was very pleased for the support and help she received from the young Hispanic adults of the diocese and the Redemptorist priests who guided and led the pilgrimage. “It was great,” she said. She noted she wants to continue having this pilgrimage every year and hoped that more people attend it. “I would like to see more than 500 people attending next year.”
Salomón Esparza, from Greenwood, attended the event with his wife and children and said he liked that people from other areas of the diocese took the day to attend the event. “This is something very nice to experience and I think the children will always remember it. I would like to continue attending and that it becomes an annual tradition.”

Miraculous Icon to visit Greenwood

By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – A special icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, commissioned in honor of the Jubilee of the original, will spend two weeks with the Redemptorists in Greenwood along with a companion historical exhibit.
Redemptorist missionaries are celebrating 150 years of spreading devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, one of the most beloved images of the Mother of God in the worldwide Catholic Church. Ever since Pope Pius IX entrusted the Redemptorists with the Perpetual Help Icon with the mandate to “Make her Known” in 1866, this ancient image of the Mother of God has enjoyed “great veneration and fame for its miracles.”
“I want people to know that Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a powerful intercessor for us and we have a privileged time with her in Greenwood and in the diocese,” said Father Scott Katzenberger, CSsR, leader of the Redemptorist community in Greenwood.
While the faithful gathered in Rome and major centers of Redemptorist ministry throughout the world on June 27, the feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Redemptorists of the Denver Province hosted a capacity crowd at the historic St. Alphonsus “Rock” Church in St. Louis, MO, where the seed of the perpetual novena was planted in the western USA on July 11, 1922. omph-original-copy-c
Most importantly, the jubilee celebration launched a renewal of the Redemptorists’ commitment to preach the Gospel, especially using the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to illustrate the mystery of redemption: the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
A special Jubilee Missionary Icon touched to the original in Rome has been traveling to Redemptorist ministry sites in the Denver Province with portions of the historical exhibit, and will visit the Mississippi Delta Monday, Nov. 21 through Saturday, Dec. 3.
The Redemptorist community at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center in Greenwood is offering two presentations about the meaning of the symbols contained within the icon. The first, in English, is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26. A Spanish presentation will be offered at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.
People are also welcome to walk through the exhibit and venerate the icon daily from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and in the evenings from 5-7 p.m. except on Thanksgiving.
“We will arrange the items in such a way as to create a space for people to venerate the icon in an appropriate space and be able to enjoy the exhibit,” said Father Katzenberger.
The historical exhibit highlighting the 150-year history of the Redemptorists and Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the western United States includes images and articles about Our Lady of Perpetual Help as well as the history of devotion beginning in the early 20th century.
Part of the exhibit showcases the powerful intercessions of Our Mother with a sampling of the many miracles attributed to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
(Kristine Stremel, public and community affairs director for the Redemptorists of the Denver Province, contributed to this report.)

Delta teens enjoy retreat

By Tara Trost
GREENWOOD – Recently, a group of 55 youth from Greenwood, Greenville, Indianola, Leland, Winona and Grenada gathered at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center for a day of reflection led by eight facilitators from South Louisiana.
“We’re young adults with a passion for retreats and serving the youth,” said one of the facilitators. “We discovered this passion by serving on various retreat teams such as DYRT, a retreat team for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, and NET Ministries.
The Saturday retreat, organized by Father Greg Plata, OFM, pastor of Greenwood St. Francis and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes, delved on the themes of self worth, God’s grace and love, and their Catholic community. In one of the talks, through the activity “Nail struggles to cross,” participants wrote their struggles on notes and hammered them to a wooden cross with nails.
Sophia Moreno told her youth minister that she truly noticed that God was with her during the day. “We had to write a message about something we were struggling with,” she said. “I was calling out his name and I felt his presence. I cried and told him that I wanted to fully accept him into my life.” She noted that she felt so much joy in her heart that she began to laugh. “It was awesome and it changed me forever.”
For CisLee Trost, her favorite part of the retreat was the small groups because “it made me realize that other people struggle with the same thing I do.”
The day also included skits based on a story in the Bible, adoration and confessions by six priests from the youth’s parishes along with several Redemptorists. Mass of Good Shepherd Sunday was celebrated by Father Plata followed by dinner.
Several times in the last year youth from a 60-mile radius have met at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center which is nestled on 67 acres of serene countryside.  “The youth love it out here.  It is so peaceful, quiet and very welcoming,” mentioned Christy Strong from Grenada St. Peter Parish.
Father Plata told participants there will be plans for everyone to meet again for a fun day.  Since the retreat, plans have begun for Kampfire and Karaoke on Friday, June 17, at Locus Benedictus for all youth to join in a fun faith-filled summer night.
Father Plata said this was a wonderful gathering of our young Catholics in this part of the Delta. “Often they feel they are a minority, since Catholics make up less than three percent of the population. This event showed they are not alone. It also showed the wonderful diversity among the Catholic family. What a wonderful sight to see black, white and Hispanic kids have a great time together.”
For further details and/or information visit to RSVP for the event.
(Tara Trost is the director of outreach for Locus Benedictus ministries and youth minister for Grenada St. Peter Parish.)

Redemptorists commissioned by Bishop Kopacz

By Elsa Baughman
GREENWOOD – “Here we are, called by the grace of God,” announced Father Harry Grile, CSsR, provincial superior for the Redemptorists of the Denver Province, during a special commissioning Mass for the four Redemptorist priests who are serving in the Mississippi Delta.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz prays the prayer of commissioning for the four Redemptorist priests as members of the Hispanic ministry initiative in the Mississippi Delta. The Mass was celebrated in the newly built Chapel of Mercy on the grounds of the Locus Benedictus Retreat Center. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

Bishop Joseph Kopacz prays the prayer of commissioning for the four Redemptorist priests as members of the Hispanic ministry initiative in the Mississippi Delta. The Mass was celebrated in the newly built Chapel of Mercy on the grounds of the Locus Benedictus Retreat Center. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

Several priests, religious and lay ministers joined Father Grile and Bishop Joseph Kopacz in the new, tiny, Chapel of Mercy, Wednesday, Oct. 15, at noon.
Fathers Patrick Keyes, Ted Dorsey, Scott Kastenberger and Thanh Dinh Nguyen, have committed to working in Hispanic ministry in the Delta for five years.
During the homily, Father Grile said he was very happy to be in Mississippi. He told the story of his congregation and their journey to minister in the United States in 1832. “There is something in our blood, the Redemptorists, that where there is a need, where there are people that God calls us to, sometimes those living in the margins of society, that is where our heart goes out,” he said.
The strategy of the church, Father Grile said, is “you gather the people (Hispanics, in this case), you tell the story (the love and mercy of God) and you break the bread (Jesus, whose life was broken for us).”
At the end of Mass, with the four priests gathered around the altar Bishop Kopacz said, “. . . In the name of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, I, Bishop Joseph Kopacz commission you to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, in the manner of the great apostle St. Paul, to the communities of the Mississippi Delta. May God bless your labors and open the hearts of our people to hear the word of God.” Then he handed each one a cross which they placed inside their belts.
Bishop Kopacz thanked Father Grile for his glimpse into the length, breath, height and depth of the Redemptorist spirit and heroism in their mission and ministry in their serving of the Lord and their presence in the diocese.
“A lot of heart and mind has come together as we celebrate today. It’s very clear what the Lord is doing.”
Before the recessional hymn, Father Dorsey said it is a Redemptorist tradition in a gathering like this to end with a prayer for perseverance to Our Mother of Perpetual Help with the singing of the Salve Regina.
The Redemptorists’ motto is “with Him there is plentiful redemption.” Like St. Alphonsus Liguori, their founder, they follow Jesus the Redeemer in preaching this Good News to the poor.
A dinner, hosted by Lee and Magdalene Abraham, followed in the hall of the Tallahatchie Crest, a new building which houses the Locus Benedictus Retreat Center. The Abrahams are members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and owners of the land where the Chapel of Mercy was built.
In the Sept./Oct. 2014 newsletter the Redemptorists of the Denver Province, Father Keyes wrote, “The people of the Delta are people of great faith: churches are full on Sunday mornings. People generally don’t ask strangers where they work, they ask where they attend church.
This ministry is a daunting task, but St. Alphonsus, St. Clement and St. John Neumann are surely applauding the new initiative. In the people we minister to, we see the shepherds of Scala, the children of Warsaw and the immigrants of Philadelphia. No one needs to ask where the poor and abandoned are in the Delta. We are grateful to the Denver Province and to our benefactors who support this ministry.”