Getting organized for love

Sister Constance Veit

Little Sisters of the Poor
By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
I began the new year with 8,000 college students at the Student Leadership Summit (SLS18) of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). It was an inspiring event that enabled us Little Sisters to engage with hundreds of enthusiastic young people on fire for their Catholic faith.
As exciting as the whole event was, the most moving moment for me was completely unexpected. During Eucharistic adoration, Jesus Christ present in the monstrance started moving through the crowd, carried by a team of bishops and priests. An entourage of altar servers led the procession with candles and incense.
What caught my eye was one of the white robed altar servers walking backwards, swinging a thurible from which billowed sweetly scented smoke, his attention firmly fixed on Christ in the Eucharist. The only thing that kept him from stumbling into the crowd of young people was a second altar server who kept his hand firmly planted on the first man’s shoulder to direct his every move.
It was a highly choreographed and striking scene – this entourage of clergy and altar servers walking together in perfect unity, leading one another, supporting each other’s efforts to carry Christ! I was profoundly struck by this “holy teamwork,” which must have required significant practice and single-minded focus.
This Eucharistic procession was a fitting metaphor for the ideals of solidarity and union of hearts and minds in continuing our Lord’s mission on earth. Imagine the wonderful things we could do for Jesus if each Catholic apostolate, religious community or lay movement were this well ordered and united around a common purpose! In his encyclical on love, Pope Benedict XVI said, “As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.”
As we head into Lent this month, we first celebrate the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11. Just as the procession I witnessed at SLS18 kept Our Eucharistic Lord at the center as it moved through the crowd of young people – a veritable field hospital of souls – Catholic health care is called to place the human person at the center of all its activities, projects and goals.
In his message for this year’s World Day of the Sick Pope Francis wrote, “Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the center of the therapeutic process.”
Our Holy Father continued, “Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power … The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion. Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions.”
Pope Francis recognized the invaluable contribution of families, “The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.”
He also speaks of healthcare as a shared ministry: “Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.”
As we observe the World Day of the Sick and then begin our Lenten practices of prayer, penance and almsgiving, let’s resolve to keep Jesus Christ and the human person at the center of our spiritual efforts and works of mercy.
And let’s endeavor to give the world a striking witness of the unity of Christ’s disciples. May the world be able to say of us, “The believers are of one heart and mind … sharing everything they have” (cf. Acts 4:32). May our united efforts to serve the poor, the sick and the most vulnerable among us lead others to believe in the power of God’s love at work in the world!

(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

Can You Lose Your Vocation?

Father Ron Rolheiser

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Recently I received a letter from a man who shared that he was still deeply haunted by a story he’d heard in grade-school many years before. One of his religion teachers had read them a story about a priest who went to visit a childhood friend. While staying with his friend, the priest noticed that, while his friend was cheerful and affable enough, he seemed to be harboring some deep, residual sadness. When he asked his friend about it his friend confessed that he “had lost his salvation” because he had felt a call to priesthood when he was young but had chosen instead to marry. Now, he felt, there was no existential redemption from that. He had had a vocation and lost it and, with that, also lost for good his chance at happiness. Though happily enough married, he felt that he would bear forever the stigma of having been being unfaithful in not accepting his God-given vocation.
I was raised on stories like that. They were part of the Catholicism of my youth. We were taught to believe that God marked out a certain vocation for you, that is, to be a priest, a sister, a married person, or a single person in the world, and if you didn’t accept that, once you knew your calling, then you had “missed” or “lost” your vocation and the consequence would an abiding sadness and even the danger of missing heaven. Such were the vocation stories of my youth, and, truth be told, I went to the seminary to become a priest with that lingering as a shadow in my mind. But it was only a shadow. I didn’t enter religious life and priesthood out of fear, though some moral fears did play a part in it, as they should. Fear can also be a healthy thing.
But it can also be unhealthy. It’s not healthy to understand both God and your vocation in terms that can have you missing out on happiness and salvation on the basis on singular choice made while you are still young. God doesn’t work like that.
It’s true that we are called by God to a vocation which we are meant to discern through conscience, through community, through circumstance, and through the talents that we’ve been given. For a Christian, existence does not preceded essence. We’re born with a purpose, with a mission in life. There are many clear texts in scripture on this: Jesus, praying for entire nights to know his Father’s will; Peter, conscripted on a rock being led by a belt that took him where he did not want to go; Paul being led into Damascus and instructed by an elder as to his vocation; Moses being called to do a task because he saw the suffering of the people; and all of us being challenged to use our talents or be stripped of them. We’re all called to mission and so each of us has a vocation. We’re not morally free to live our lives simply for ourselves.
But God doesn’t give us just one chance which, if we miss it or turn down, will leave us sad forever. No. God opens a new door every time we close one. God gives us 77×7 chances and more after that, if needed. The question of vocation is not so much a question of guessing right (What very specifically was I predestined for?) but rather a question of giving oneself over in faith and love to the situation that we’ve chosen (or which more often than not has by circumstance chosen us). We should not live in unhealthy fear about this. God continues to love us and desires our happiness, even when we don’t always follow to where we are ideally called.
Recently I heard a homily in a church in which the priest compared God to a GPS, a Global Positioning System, that is, that computerized instrument, complete with human voice, that countless people have today in their cars and which gives them ongoing instructions on how to get to their destination. One of its features is this: No matter how many times you disregard or disobey its command, the voice never expresses impatience, yells at you, or gives up on you. It simply says “Recalculating”. Sooner or later, no matter how many times you disregard it, it gets you home.
Delightful as is that image, it’s still but a very weak analogy in terms of understanding God’s patience and forgiveness. None of us should be haunted, long-term, by sadness and fear because we feel that we’ve missed our vocation, unless we are living a selfish life. Selflessness rather than selfishness, a life in pursuit of service rather than a life in pursuit of comfort, not guessing correctly, constitutes one’s vocation. Our Christian vocation is to make what we are in fact living – married, priest, religious, single in the world – a life of selflessness and service to others. Happiness and salvation are contingent upon that, not upon guessing correctly.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Still learning from founders of Catholic education

Bishop Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Catholic Schools Week is celebrated this year from January 28 to February 3 wherever a diocese throughout the United States is blessed to have a Catholic School system. This year’s theme is: Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. Our legacy of schools in the Diocese of Jackson dates back to 1847 in Natchez before spreading upstream to Vicksburg and Greenville and then gradually fanning out eastward across the State of Mississippi. Because our diocese was the 13th Catholic diocese established in the nation, our Catholic School tradition began not too long after the first Catholic Schools were launched in the United States.
The founding mother and father of Catholic Education were St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1784-1821) was an Episcopalian believer through half of her life, and a wife and mother of six who always found the time for charitable works and outreach. She became a Catholic after the death of her husband and within a short time founded the Daughters of Charity based upon the rule of Saint Vincent de Paul and his religious community in France. Her mission became faith-based education, stepping out into deep and unchartered waters. She founded the first Catholic School in the United States in 1812, and by 1818 the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today, six groups of sisters can trace their origins to Mother Seton’s initial foundation. The following are excerpts from the writings and wisdom of this great matriarch.
“I share your struggles as educators today, and I am with you in that struggle. The signs of the times beg you to be spiritually mature to foster a climate of missionary renaissance faithful to (my) legacy of Catholic Education. Are you convinced of the need of a strategic vision in the name of the Gospel? Are you willing to risk carrying out new ideas that respond to absolute human need?
“What unmet needs exist in your school, parish or community that you can realistically address? How do you interface with public, private and home school networks? What new programs or courses would benefit your students or attract new ones? What timely services do you currently offer which can be extended to others? Are there ways you can combine efforts and resources for new ones? What improvements can be made by adopting new techniques? I invite you to discuss whether your definition of education really meets society’s changing needs.
“In your role as educators, focus on the whole person – teach the lesson and touch the heart. Above all, my friends, teach your pupils about God’s love for them. Oh! Set your gaze on the future and always strive to fit your students for the world in which they are destined to live.
“Good home-school relations were important to me and I often corresponded with parents about their children’s progress-or lack of it. I will tell you, I know American parents to be most difficult in hearing the faults of their children.
“I tried several methods of discipline but always with gentle firmness. I discovered the loss of recreation, deprivation of fruit, or payment of a a penny for good works often worked well. Kneeling down was also the only form of physical punishment I allowed.
“I shunned every form of prejudice or discrimination. Inclusiveness was my goal. My school was founded on the enduring values of respect and equality. I pray that you keep in mind that authentic Christian compassion is expressed universally rather than selectively. This is to be extended to mountain children who are poor, to the Pennsylvania Dutch children, and to the African American children of slaves and free parents whom I myself taught.”
Her Daughters of Charity came to Natchez in 1847 and remained until 2003. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was beautified in 1963 and canonized in 1976.
The patriarch of Catholic School education is Saint John Neumann who was born in 1811 in Bohemia in the modern day Czech Republic. After traveling to America he was ordained and entered the Redemptorist Order and faithfully served the poor in Buffalo, New York. Father John Neumann was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852 and was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. As a founder of Catholic Schools in this country, he increased the number of schools in his diocese from two to 100 in eight years and wrote catechisms and other pamphlets to teach the faith, while working to bring good teachers into the diocese. His life’s work was to spread the faith.
Bishop John Neumann never lost his love and concern for the people. On one visit to a rural parish, the parish priest picked him up in a manure wagon. Seated on a plank stretched over the wagon’s contents, John joked, “Have you ever seen such an entorage for a bishop!”
The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, “Isn’t it grand that we have an Irish bishop!”
Once on a visit to Germany, he came back to the house he was staying in soaked by rain. When his host suggested he change his shoes, John remarked, “The only way I could change my shoes is by putting the left one on the right foot and the right one on the left foot. This is the only pair I own.”
The words of the Lord Jesus to “go and teach and make disciples of all the nations” were emblazoned in the hearts and minds of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint John Neumann. May these patrons of Catholic School education continue to intercede for us as we strive to be faithful to our vision to “inspire disciples, to embrace diversity and to serve others” in our Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Jackson.

Carmelites Celebrate Feast Day with Jackson area parishes

The small chapel in the Carmelite Monastery on Terry Road was overflowing with friends and supporters of the Carmelite nuns and Carmelite Seculars during Mass at 6:30p.m. on Sunday evening, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This, too, was the final day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel which began on Sat., July 8, and continued with daily Masses and Novena Prayers to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Celebrants and choirs were from different parishes in the Jackson area each day of the Novena. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Richard Choir graced the chapel with beautiful harmony. Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, and Father Kevin Slattery concelebrated the Mass. The homilist was Deacon Denzil Lobo.

Deacon Lobo reminded the congregation that when Mary stood under the cross with John, the beloved disciple, she then understood Simeon’s prophecy, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword.”  Looking down and seeing his mother with his beloved disciple, Jesus passed the responsibility of taking care of his mother to him.  John then took her into his heart and his home.  Just like John accepted Mary into His home, Jesus invites us to accept Mary into our hearts and homes. Mary is now our mother and prays for us, her children, and we, in turn invoke her protection and intercession. After the Mass, all were invited to a reception on the lawn of the Monastery catered by the Catholic Filipino Community and Carmelite Seculars. (Those who may be interested in learning more about the Carmelite Secular lay vocation may contact Dorothy Ashley, 601-259-0885 or

Jackson St. Richard choir was one of many local parish choirs who helped celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Sisters of the Carmelite community in their chapel, decorated for the feast.

The Sisters of the Carmelite community in their chapel, decorated for the feast.

Sick, suffering, our everyday heroes

Guest Column
By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
sr_constance_veit-head-shotOver Christmas, two of my family members were talking about a mutual friend who, though chronically ill, routinely does heroic acts of kindness for others. Though they get exasperated with her when she overextends herself, they realize that caring for others is what makes life meaningful. I thanked God that these women are kind enough to support their friend through both good times and bad, helping her to live a full life.
This incident came to mind as I read Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, in which he reflects on St. Bernadette’s relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady spoke to Bernadette “as one person to another,” he says, treating her with great respect, even though she was poor and sickly.
“This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life.”
In light of the expanding legalization of assisted suicide, Pope Francis’ insights are invaluable. Studies have shown that the majority of people who support assisted suicide do so because they fear the loss of personal autonomy and dignity in their final days. Suffering, they say, is meaningless and should have no place in the human experience. It seems that the thought of having to go on living when faced with serious disability or illness is becoming unacceptable in our post-Christian society.
What I find most tragic in this exaltation of independence and personal choice is that this attitude denies the beautiful reality that we are made for community. Created in the image and likeness of God, who is a Trinity of Persons, we are inherently relational, not autonomous.
Mutual dependence, rather than independence, is the true Gospel value, and so we should not be ashamed when we need the assistance of others. Our weakness or infirmity can be a graced opportunity for those who help us, as well as for ourselves, for as Saint John Paul II so often repeated, we can only find fulfillment through the sincere gift of self to others.
This is why Pope Francis is asking us to honor the sick by helping them to share their gifts and abilities. “Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance,” he writes, “but who have a gift of their own to share with others.”
St. Bernadette turned her frailty into strength by serving the sick and offering her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that Mary asked her to pray for sinners, the pope writes, “reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life.”
Social media has allowed me to become acquainted with numerous heroes who go on giving in the midst of tremendous suffering. If you are looking for inspiration just google Zach Sobiech or Lauren Hill, young adults who made a difference in the world while dying of cancer; J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Action League, who triumphed over a brain tumor; or O.J. Brigance, a former professional football player who inspires thousands though he is completely paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I am sure that you have unsung heroes in your midst in the person of sick, disabled or elderly persons who enrich your life despite their own trials. This year as we celebrate the World Day of the Sick, let’s honor these everyday heroes by letting them know that we admire them and are there for them in their moments of need, and by asking them to pray for us!
(Sister Constance Veit, lsp, is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

90-year old sister not slowing down, teaching the faith

By Joe Lee
At the time Sister Michele Doyle grew up in metropolitan Chicago, it was possible for young Catholic ladies to join a sisterhood after eighth grade and begin a lifelong commitment to faith and religious life.
Now 90 years young, and having spent more than five decades in Mississippi as a Catholic schoolteacher, college professor and parish religious education leader, she’s grateful to her parents for holding firm when they thought she was a bit young to begin chasing her dreams.

Sister Michelle Doyle talks about dealing with loss during a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

Sister Michelle Doyle talks about dealing with loss during a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

“From the time I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be a (religious) sister,” Doyle said. “All during elementary school and high school, I continued with that desire. My parents were wise, because at that time religious communities were taking people out of eighth grade. I would do a little tantrum because I wanted to go, and they would say, ‘No, not until you finish high school.’”
After graduating in LaGrange, Illinois, Doyle entered School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That year she and her fellow sisters took the first in a series of vows which, over a period of several years, led to a lifetime vow the women were asked to make.
“We call ourselves sisters,” Doyle said. “Nuns are formally cloistered. Sisters are active (in the local community). For a long time we were trying to live both lives: the active life and the prayer life. And we still pray, of course. But today we understand that you can’t be a fully contemplative community and at the same time be an active community.”
Doyle asked to be sent to China once she was ready for active life, but when the assignment from the mother house came in 1949, she was told she was being sent to Mississippi.

Sister Michelle Doyle leads a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

Sister Michelle Doyle leads a Catholic religion class Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

“I was in Yazoo City for 20 years at St. Francis, an all-black mission school. I taught and was principal part of the time,” Doyle said. “The purpose in sending sisters down was in response to a request from Bishop (Oliver) Gerow, because this was a period of strong segregation — we were asked to go and not so much convert people, but the ultimate goal was to educate the African American students to help them move forward in the world.”
Doyle joined the faculty of St. Joseph Catholic School in 1969, the year St. Francis of Yazoo City closed its doors. St. Joe, now on Mississippi 463 in Madison, was located on Boling Street in West Jackson then.
“It was the year the schools were integrating, and I thought I still had something to give to the African American community,” Doyle said. “So I taught at St. Joe part time and taught history at Jackson State University part time.
“I did that seven years — I’d gotten a master’s in history from the University of Loyola in Chicago and a master’s in religious education from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, so by then I was free to move into the Jackson diocesan office in the areas of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and Adult Formation.”
Those areas of study — which involve, respectively, bringing new Catholics into the church and getting parish catechists (teaching candidates) certified — are crucial in rural parishes that may not have anyone on staff who is trained in religious education.
Although Doyle retired from full-time work in 2005, she remains very active in Adult Formation today. She continues to work closely with Holy Family of Jackson, St. Mary of Yazoo City, St. Thomas of Lexington and St. Francis of Assisi in Madison, and she’s teaching small groups of catechists right now at St. Mary and Holy Family.
Joyce Adams coordinates Adult Faith Formation at Holy Family and is also working toward certification while enjoying the series Doyle is currently teaching, “Mary and the Saints: Companions On the Journey.” It’s one of eight different classes Doyle has taught at the parish.
“Sister Michele is very meticulous,” Adams said. “She ensures that we get a minimum of 16 hours of instruction with each class. Discussions often include ways that the content has impacted one’s personal spiritual journey. Seeing the sunrise, visiting the zoo and hearing the sounds of children playing took on new meaning for me after taking the ‘Christian Prayer and Spirituality’ class.”
“Sister Michele taught me religion in 1976 (at St. Joe),” said Mary McDonald, part of the Adult Formation class at St. Francis of Assisi. “I always thought she was a wonderful teacher, and she was always very dedicated to her profession. It was so clear even to a high school student that she not only talked about service to others, but she lived it.”
“I think there is something extraordinary about a person who does not see age as a limitation to maintain a sense of purpose,” said Fran Lavelle, director of the department of faith formation with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. “She is a great inspiration to me as I think about all of the years she has served God’s people. She could sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labor. But, for Sister Michele, the fruits are her labor.”
Diane Melton, religious education coordinator and a St. Mary’s parishioner in Yazoo City, took catechist Level II classes from Doyle in 2009 and became certified to teach adults at her parish. Doyle is currently teaching “Christology: Jesus of the Gospels and History” at St. Mary’s through the end of February.
“She has a way of making things relevant to our day and time as well,” Melton said. “Several of us have taken some of her classes the second time because she is so easy to listen to, and just to gain more information regarding our Catholic faith.”
It has been a full 75 years since the eighth grade sister-to-be was itching to leave home and serve. And as her students see each day, Doyle shows no signs of slowing down.
“I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s an opportunity to be with people and be creative,” Doyle said. “And to share the gifts I have — everyone has gifts. I don’t garden and I don’t cook and I don’t sew, so I do what I can do. People keep coming back.”
(Reprinted with permission from the Clarion Ledger.)

Documentary depicts work of Jonestown Family Center’s founder

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Mississippi Public Broadcasting is set to air a documentary about the work of Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, and the Jonestown Family Center for Education and Wellness on Monday, Dec. 12, at 10 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at noon and 4:30 p.m. The film will then be posted to the MPB website.
“Enriching Destiny” is the third documentary to come out of the True Delta Project, a collaboration between Erickson Blakney, philanthropist and film producer, Lee Quimby, professor and documentary filmmaker and Daniel Scarpati, cinematographer.
The documentary showcases the almost 30 years of service Sister Teresa offered in the Delta. She founded the Jonestown Family Center, which includes a Montessori School, a pre-school, parenting programs, a fitness center and summer programs. She moved back to her home in Seattle in January.
Blakney said he met Sister Teresa while he was working in Clarksdale and figured out pretty quickly he had the makings of a good story. “Sister Teresa herself is a wonderful storyteller, smart, aggressive and fiercely protective of those kids and the Family Center,” he said. When he found out she was leaving, he knew he had to act quickly to capture the story.

JONESTOWN – Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, speaks with some of the students at the Jonestown Center in this still from a documentary about her life. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

JONESTOWN – Sister Teresa Shields, SNJM, speaks with some of the students at the Jonestown Center in this still from a documentary about her life. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

Sister Teresa admits she is careful about letting journalists, writers or filmmakers have access to the Family Center. Many of them, she feels, are looking to show the worst parts of Delta life, highlighting only the challenges and not the success stories. “We have had some bad experiences,” she said. The crew from True Delta was different.
“They came in May for the Montessori graduation. They interviewed me and members of the staff. They were so respectful,” she said. The crew returned in June to see the summer education program at work. She felt comfortable with their approach and with the end product.
“We don’t have narrators. We let the subjects tell their story. We just wanted to give them a platform,” said Blakney of how they put the story together.
Sister Teresa even decided to talk about a chapter in her life she does not often reveal. In 2012 she was stabbed and beaten during a robbery in her home. She does not like to talk about it and declined to speak about it in May when the crew started their work. By June, they had earned her trust. “By then, I had prayed and discerned and changed my mind. The attack is part of my whole story,” she said.
“It was a special joy to work with Sister Teresa and see how much the Jonestown Family Center benefits the families of Jonestown,” wrote Quinby in an email to Mississippi Catholic. “Erickson and I hope that our documentary will inspire support for the Center and show that the vision that Sister Teresa brought to Jonestown can be achieved in other communities as well,” she added.
Quinby and her partners have used their other documentaries to tell the stories of blues musicians and children in the Delta who are maintaining the legacy of blues music. When they work in Mississippi, they see opportunity and hope.
“In the center of Jonestown is the Family Center, which is this beacon of light and hope and it’s safe and nurturing,” explained Blakney. He and his crew rode the bus to go pick up the children participating in the summer program.
“As the kids are boarding the bus the women picking them up are singing and the kids start singing. When you are on that bus you really feel like you are involved in something special,” he added.
Blakney points out that Sister Teresa and Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, who is still in Jonestown running a number of projects to improve the community, did not come to the Delta with their own agenda. “She and the other Sisters did not come to impose what they thought people should be doing. They worked with the town to create something special,” he said. “It’s unique in that the town owns the Family Center. They understand the value of it,” he added.

A sign welcomes visitors to Jonestown in the Mississippi Delta. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

A sign welcomes visitors to Jonestown in the Mississippi Delta. (Photo courtesy of True Delta Project)

When Sister Teresa retired from her position as director of the Family Center, Stanley Lang, a native of the Delta, was hired as a replacement. Sister Teresa said she is thrilled to know she left the center in good hands. She still visits, but said she always wanted to see the programs become self-sufficient and run by members of the community.
Sister Teresa is enjoying being on sabbatical while she contemplates her next ministry, spending time with her family, traveling and enjoying herself.
“Enriching Destiny” will be available on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting website,, for about a year. True Delta also hopes to make DVD copies available for purchase.

Called to Serve: Pray for seminarians, priests, religious

During National Vocations Awareness Week, we ask you to keep the seminarians, priests and religious for the Diocese of Jackson in your prayers. Here is a look at orders serving in the Diocese of Jackson.

Congregation of Christian Brothers, C.F.C
Franciscans, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.

Priests of the Sacred Heart, S.C.J.
Diocesan Priests
Franciscan Friars, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.
Norbertine Fathers, O.Praem.
Redemptorist Fathers, C.Ss.R.
Society of the Divine Word, S.V.D.
St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart, S.S.J.

Adrian Dominican Sisters, OP
Congregation of Humility of Mary, CHM
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, CSA
Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL, OP
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, FSPA
Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, MGSpS
Order of the Discalced Carmelites, OCD
Sisters for Christian Community, SFCC
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Atlantic Midwest Province, SSND
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central
Pacific Province, SSND
School Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, SCN
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, US/Ontario Province, SNJM
Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, S.H.Sp.
Sisters of the Living Word, SLW
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, South Central Community, RSM
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, PBVM
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, CSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, SSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA, CSJ
Solitary, Diocese of East Anglia, UK
Union of Presentation Sisters, PBVM

Guest Column: At life’s end, your best gift

By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
As a resident of Washington, D.C., I have been closely following the campaign to legalize assisted suicide in our nation’s capital.
At the same time, my siblings and I have spent the last two weeks at my mother’s bedside in a hospital intensive care unit in my hometown. For days, I’ve been watching the physicians and nurses tending, with incredible focus and professionalism, to my mother, who is unconscious. No clinical sign has been left unexamined; no potential treatment option left undiscussed. Witnessing all of this has given me a lot to think about.
Such attention to detail; so many resources spent on a single life – and the lives of each of the other critically ill patients in this and so many other hospitals – how can we explain such an intense level of financial and human investment in the sick and elderly?
For me the answer to this question is obvious: Each human life is worth our care and attention because every person has been created in God’s image and likeness and is thus endowed with inviolable dignity and worth. As Pope Benedict XVI often said, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” in God’s plan.
Every human life is sacred, even when the individual is unaware or no longer values life.

Sr. Viet

Sr. Viet

To those who are advocating for the ability to cut short the lives of the sick and elderly, and to those who express the desire to end life on their own terms, we must offer a heartfelt response: Even if you no longer value your own life, we do. We value your life because you are inherently worthy of love and reverence. There is no need to prove your usefulness or your personal worth; you are valuable simply because you are, and because you are a fellow child of God.
The sick, disabled and elderly play an essential role in our human community, in part, because they draw us together and teach us, through their state of dependence, how to be more loving. This was highlighted by Tracy Grant of The Washington Post, whose reflection about caring for her terminally ill husband went viral several weeks ago.
Grant referred to the time she spent caring for her husband as the best months of her life. Prior to her husband’s illness, she wrote, “I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end.”
“Some days were more difficult than others,” Grant recalled, “but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day – if I was willing to look hard enough. I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous. But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life.”
Grant believes that she “will never again be as good a person” as she was when she cared for her husband. “I am a better person for having been [his] caregiver,” she concluded. “It was his last, best gift to me.”
My siblings and I returned home to share a home-cooked meal dropped off by an old friend. We watched the World Series and talked about all we’ve been through with my mother so far, as well as our own wishes and intentions in such a situation. If my mother had chosen to check out early, we, her children, would not have these weeks together to shower her with our love and grow up a little more, together. This may be her last, best gift to us.
As you consider your end of life wishes think twice before you deprive your family members and friends of your last, best gift.
(Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p., is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

‘God charmed me’ into life of simplicity, joy

JACKSON – Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit Sisters Lourdes Gonzalez (right) and Obdulia Olivar share a happy smile during the recent meeting of Hispanic ministers in Jackson.

JACKSON – Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit Sisters Lourdes Gonzalez (right) and Obdulia Olivar share a happy smile during the recent meeting of Hispanic ministers in Jackson.

By Sister Lourdes Gonzalez, MGSpS
“Vocational experience! Are you crazy? What is happening to you? I don’t understand anything” These are some of the comments I heard from several people when I shared with them my desire to respond to God’s call, when He was calling me to be part of his life, to dedicate my life to him, in service to my brothers and sisters.
With simplicity, I share with you the way in which God charmed me and I let myself be seduced by him.
I was 20-years-old when suddenly, without knowing why, I began to feel a sense of emptiness, of dissatisfaction. Nothing of what I did or saw around me made sense. By then I had finished my interior decoration studies at the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and I was working. With my savings I had bought a new car which made me feel like I was living in a dream. I was very pleased to have achieved one of my dreams in such a short time.
And I had a boyfriend. He was a nice young man, a professional, responsible and respectful. It was a good match, as it is commonly said. I also had good friends with whom I traveled frequently to the beach and other places we enjoyed and I had a good relationship with my extended family. I could not understand why I was feeling this inner emptiness.
Although my parents were active Catholics, I only attended Mass on Sundays and Holy Days but tried to live my life in a very healthy and responsible way. I say this to mention that God’s call came without me asking.
I put in my lips the words of the Prophet Amos, “I was not a prophet nor the son of prophet, I was a pastor and seller of figs.” The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, go prophesy to my people Israel.”(Amos 7:14-16)
I went through a period of uncertainty, searching in my inner self, trying to figure out, to discover what was going on. I wanted to get to the root of this feeling so strange that I was experiencing in my heart.
By chance, one day I met Mother Mary of Jesus Ramos, MGSpS, who worked in my parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. She had been working there for two years but I didn’t know her. I remember very well, it was a Tuesday. Luckily, I was at home that day and at 5 in the afternoon as she knocked on the door to lead a Bible study, something she did weekly at different homes as part of her apostolate.
As soon as I saw her my heart began to beat at a rapid pace, as if the presence of a religious was a novelty to me, as if I had never seen a Sister in my life. That was not the case because I had studied at a Catholic school with the Servants of Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament.
Since the first moment I was very impressed by Mother Mary – her joy, her joviality, when my gaze crossed with hers, and I liked the way she conducted the meeting, so cordial, direct when she spoke to all the people gathered there.
From then on I asked her to talk with me so she could help me discover what was going on in my life. Kindly she accepted, I don’t remember how often we gathered and for how long we talked.
Finally I asked her to let me live an experience with the community to learn more, to see how they lived and what they were doing. A short time later she told me I could go to Morelia to have an experience with the postulants (girls who are starting their process in religious life).
I remember that when I arrived at the community’s house, and from the moment they opened the door I said ‘here it is! This is what I am looking for!’
The ministry I have undertaken as a Missionary Guadalupana of the Holy Spirit has been in this beloved country, United States, specifically in California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and now here in Mississippi for almost six years. Currently I am serving the Hispanic community of Jackson St. Therese Parish.
“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong form me, and you triumphed. (Jr. 20:7)