Scholarships benefit Catholic college students

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Every year the Diocese of Jackson awards a pair of scholarships to students studying at Catholic colleges and universities. This year Patti Greene, youth minister at Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish, will receive the Stella Schmidt Scholarship while Nicole Becker, member of Tupelo St. James Parish, will receive the Bishop Brunini Memorial Scholarship.
“What a blessing it is to be able to provide scholarship assistance to students studying at Catholic colleges and universities,” said Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Jackson. “The Bishop Brunini Memorial Scholarship goes to an undergraduate student at any Catholic college or university. Any undergraduate can apply as there are no restrictions to field of study,” Lavelle continued.
Becker is studying mathematics at St. Mary’s and engineering at Notre Dame. “It was so apparent from her essays that she is dedicated to her Catholic faith. The love she expressed for serving God and his holy people was palatable,” said Lavelle. While Becker is a sophomore at St. Mary, this is her first year at Notre Dame. She is hardly intimidated by going to two schools at once or by the rigor of her studies. The best part of school for her – the growth of her faith life.
“I went to a non-denominational Christian high school. I loved Bible study and being able to talk about faith, but I wanted to learn more about my Catholic faith,” said Becker. Each dorm at Notre Dame offers a different Mass for students. The Masses sometimes have themes or traditions such as waffles or milkshakes after Mass. “I love the milkshake Mass at 10 p.m. on Thursday nights. There are about 80 people in a chapel built for 50. People are sitting on the floor and the music is great and the priest is so welcoming and great,” she explained. The dorm offers milkshakes after the Mass, but the main attractions, according to Becker are the community atmosphere and the dynamic priest. Becker hopes to attend Mass in every dorm before she graduates.
“All my hard work is paying off for me both academically and in my faith. To be honored or recognized as a woman of faith (through the scholarship) means a lot to me,” said Becker. She does not yet know what she wants to do when she graduates, but knows she wants to serve others with her life.
The Stella Schmidt Memorial Scholarship is for graduate students enrolled at Spring Hill College studying to earn a masters degree in Theological or Pastoral Studies. “Patti Greene exemplifies the role of life-long learner. She has a thirst and drive to keep growing as a youth minister to better serve her students. She sets a high standard for the quality of ministry she provides,” said Lavelle.
Greene believes getting her certification as a catechist is important to her ministry so as she completed the diocesan courses and attended professional developments and retreats, she came to realize the value of continuing on to Spring Hill for the masters. “It was the obvious next step as far as my personal formation goes,” she said. The program has helped her grow both academically and in her faith life. “I am learning so many things I can pass along to the students in my parish,” said Greene. “I would not be able to do this without support from the diocese and the staff in the Office of Faith Formation,” she added.
Both scholarships come from trusts administered by the Catholic Foundation. Executive Director Rebecca Harris said this is a tangible way donors can see how their support builds up the church in Mississippi. “Each year the Catholic Foundation is pleased that a student in our diocese can receive a scholarship from the Brunini Catholic College Scholarship Trust to attend a Catholic college of their choice. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Schmidt Jr. also established the Stella Schmidt Memorial Trust for tuition assistance for advanced studies of religious education at Spring Hill. We are so pleased that the Foundation can be part of helping students with these scholarship programs,” said Harris.
The scholarships are available annually. Applications will be posted again next fall. For additional information about applying, contact Fran Lavelle at For information about starting or supporting a trust, contact Rebecca Harris at