2017 Diocese of Jackson Seminarians

The Diocese of Jackson currently has 10 men in discernment for the priesthood serving in parishes or studying at one of three seminaries. Please keep them in your prayers. Anyone interested in learning more about vocations in our diocese can find contacts and details on the vocations page of the website: www.http://jacksondiocese.org/about/offices/vocations/

Deacons to be ordained May 31, 2018
Deacon Nicholas Adam
Deacon Aaron Williams

Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, La
Mark Shoffner
Adolfo Suarez Pasillas
César Sánchez Fermín
Franklin Eke
Andrew Nguyen

Sacred Heart Seminary, Franklin, Wis.
Carlisle Beggerly

St. Joseph Seminary College, St. Benedict, La.
Andrew Bowden
Tristan Stovall

L-R bottom: Adolfo Suarez Pasillas, Mark Shoffner, Deacon Nicholas Adam, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Deacon Aaron Williams, Andrew Nguyen, 2nd and 3rd row Andrew Bowden, Franklin Eke, group of Knights of Columbus 2nd row on left Tristan Stovall.

Donate to Seminarian Endowment, Catholic Extension will add to gift

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson is sending ten sons to college this year. Some of them are pursuing an undergraduate degree while others seek advanced studies in theology, philosophy, liturgy and ministry. All of them intend to spend their lives in service to the church, in fact, most of them spent the summer serving at parishes across the state.
As the seminarians report back to Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, St. Joseph Seminary college in Benedict, La., and Sacred Heart Seminary in Wisconsin, the costs begin to add up. Of course, the return on the investment is out of this world, but, the bills are pretty steep in the meantime. The diocese will pay $325,000 this year on seminary education.
The diocese featured snippets from the seminarians’ summer assignments on the facebook page for the last couple weeks. Among the more far-flung adventures were Tristan Stovall’s nine-day wilderness hike with COR International, Andrew Nguyen’s participation in the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University and Aaron Williams’ continuing studies at the Liturgical Institute. Closer to home, Cesar Sanchez and Adolfo Suarez learned about pastoral ministry in a hospital setting at St. Dominic’s Hospital. Andrew Bowden and Marc Shoffner served in parishes.
While regular college students might take summers off or work at home, these men continued their formation in one way or another.
Catholic Extension has offered a $25,000 match if the diocese can raise $100,000 in new donations for seminary education this year. To help people better understand how anyone can support this effort, the Office of Vocations and Stewardship and Development are sponsoring a series of brunches in three locations.
Flowood St. Paul Parish will host the first brunch on Saturday, Sept. 9. The second is at Natchez St. Mary Basilica’s Family Life Center on Saturday, Sept. 23. The final brunch is set for Saturday, Nov. 4 at Oxford St. John Parish. At the brunches, donors will meet the seminarians and have the opportunity to support this fund.
A group of people can pool their money, but each new gift must equal at least $1,000. Those who cannot attend the brunches are welcome to send donations separately. To learn more about the Seminarian Endowment, to RSVP to a brunch or to donate, contact Pam McFarland at 601-960-8479 or by email pam.mcfarland@jacksondiocese.org.
Donations can be mailed to Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Seminarian Education Challenge, PO Box 2248, Jackson, MS 39225.

Service as deacons makes better priests

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The ordinations to the transitional diaconate of Nick Adam and Aaron Williams were joyful celebrations for all who have nurtured their vocations throughout their lives. Most of all we are grateful to their families of origin, and especially their parents, who planted the seed of faith in baptism and raised them in such loving ways that they were open to the call of the Lord Jesus to follow him in the vocation of ordained ministry.
Surrounding the newly ordained deacons and their families at Saint Patrick’s in Meridian and in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson were many others who accompanied them through the years. Seminarians and faculty, priests and deacons, parishioners from around the diocese and friends, all part of the Body of Christ, the people of God, who embraced them in a joyful expression of faith, hope and love in both Eucharistic liturgies.
On the path to priesthood the transitional diaconate passes quickly and Deacons Nick and Aaron then will be ordained as priests for the Diocese of Jackson. Yet the enduring character of the diaconate will remain as a distinguishing mark of the priesthood. They have been configured to Christ the Servant as deacons and will strive each day by God’s grace to follow the Lord who came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20,28) As I have done, so you must do, (John 13,15) are the timeless words of Jesus at the Last Supper after he washed the feet of his disciples.
They will serve the Lord in a threefold manner: in his Word, as heralds of the Gospel and preachers, as ministers of the sacred mysteries at the altar and as dedicated disciples of charity and goodness in manifold ways. This ministry of service will deepen their call to become priests who will be servant-leaders with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Deacon Nicholas Adam was ordained on the feast of Saint Patrick, March 17, and the name of the great missionary apostle to Ireland was added to the Litany of Saints. Besides the gift of corned beef on a Friday in Lent, the gift of Saint Patrick’s inspiring words nourished the Eucharistic celebration of ordination. Like the Irish missionary who came from elsewhere to evangelize and serve, so Deacon Nick has embraced the people of Mississippi, having come from another land to the east.
Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling, that you worked through me with such divine power? You did it, so that whatever happened to me, I might accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God. God is never to be doubted. He answered my prayer in such a way that I might be bold enough to take up so holy and so wonderful a task, and imitate in some degree those whom the Lord had so long ago foretold as heralds of the Gospel, bearing witness to all the nations.
Heralds of Good News indeed. The ordained deacon is given the Gospel of Christ at the culmination of the ordination ceremony to bear witness to the nations in the 21st century. “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read; teach what you believe; practice what you teach.”
On the following day Deacon Aaron Williams was ordained at the Saturday evening liturgy of the third Sunday of Lent. As the Gospel of John narrates, Jesus sat down to rest at Jacob’s well at the same time the Samaritan woman arrived with her bucket. As we know the encounter transformed the train wreck of this woman’s life. She arrived dragging her bucket in the noon day heat which we know a little bit about in our Mississippi summers, and departed with winged feet into her new life as a missionary disciple. She understood that the Messiah did not need a bucket to immerse her in the spring of water welling up to eternal life. She is our paradigm during Lent as we thirst for the Lord to stir the waters of our own Baptism, knowing that he is already waiting before we arrive.
Another outstanding saint invoked during the Litany of Saints in the ordination liturgy is Saint Ephrem, a deacon of the Eastern Church who lived in the fourth century. He loved the liturgy and composed an enormous compilation of hymns and poetry which are replete with biblical wisdom and theology. He is a fitting intercessor for Aaron who loves the liturgy and has also written liturgical pieces. The following is from the works of Saint Ephrem and we recognize the harmony with the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

The breath that wafts from some blessed comer of Paradise
gives sweetness to the bitterness of this region,
it tempers the curse on this earth of ours.
That Garden is the life-breath of this diseased world
that has been so long in sickness; that breath proclaims that a saving remedy
has been sent to heal our mortality.

Thus it is with another spring, full of perfumes,
which issues from Eden and penetrates into the atmosphere
as a beneficial breeze by which our souls are stirred;
our inhalation is healed by this healing breath from Paradise;
springs receive a blessing from that blessed spring which issues forth from there.
‘If you knew the Gift of God’ are the words that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman revealing his deep thirst for her faith and salvation. We celebrate the Gift of God through faith, and the hope that does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5,5) May the Lord renew our faith during this season of Lent as we follow the Samaritan woman from darkness into the light of a new day.

From anchor desk to altar: Deacon Adam discerned call in Mississippi

By Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Nick Adam moved to Meridian to be a sports anchor. By his own admission, he practiced his faith, but never considered a deeper commitment before he landed in Mississippi. His time at St. Patrick Parish, under the direction of Father Frank Cosgrove, changed all that. He started to hear a deeper call.
Friday, March 17, on the feast of St. Patrick, he was ordained into the transitional diaconate in St. Patrick Church. He will be ordained into the priesthood next summer.
During the homily, Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke of the parish patron as one of the greatest of all evangelizers. He also spoke about this history of the diaconate and how these men of service are so important to the work of the church. At the end of the homily, Bishop Kopacz invoked the prayer known as the breastplate of St. Patrick, a call to bring Christ into the center of all we IMG_2136_cdo.
Deacon Adam’s sister, Julie Bordes said Adam, the youngest of eight siblings, was always the peacemaker of the family. “With so many siblings there was always something. He kind of had to keep us together and he was the youngest. If he said ‘oh…’ or if he started crying about something we would all turn, look, feel guilty and act right,” she said. “I think it’s special in so many ways that as a youngest child he is going to now take that leadership role and be over a parish,” she added.
Bordes said the family did not suspect that he had a call, but in a way the siblings were not surprised when he announced his plan to enter seminary. “We were just so proud of him when he went into communications and was a sports anchor and a news anchor and he gave us each a call and said ‘you know, I think I might go into the priesthood’ and we just really couldn’t be prouder.”
Deacon Adam had to go back to school to earn a theology degree and learn about parish and church administration. Bordes said she knows he has the right personality for the job. “Ever since he was a little child he was so kind and nurturing. He always used his voice to help others and I just feel like he has found his place. He seems completely at peace,” she said.
Bordes said Deacon Adam’s vocation has been a blessing to the whole family that now the whole diocese gets to share. “He comes off as not very shy, but I think in his heart he is and that is sort of unique because it shows his true passion that he continues to talk and mentor and preach I would urge everyone to get to know him. He is such a fun guy. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and they have truly learned that priests are not just someone that stand up at Mass every Sunday, they like to watch football games, they like to run they are silly, they will tackle and play, so that has been special for our family as well with so many nieces and nephews,” said Bordes.
While ordinations into the priesthood still take place in the cathedral, Bishop Joseph Kopacz has started ordaining men into the transitional diaconate in their home parishes. Nick considers St. Patrick as his Mississippi home parish since he discerned hiIMG_2420_cs call here.
Denise Huntley is a parishioner at St. Patrick. She said she is thankful Bishop Kopacz was willing to ordain Deacon Adam in Meridian. “This has just been wonderful because we knew Nick before he even thought about becoming a priest and to watch him discern and grow in his faith and make the decision to become a priest – it’s just awesome to be here to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Huntley.
“We look forward to the final ordination next year. There are not enough people going into the priesthood so to personally know someone like Nick – he’s an amazing young man and he’s going to make a wonderful priest,” said Huntley.
Deacon Adam will spend his transitional year at Jackson St. Richard Parish.

Liturgy as pointless as Valentines

Seminarians speak
By Aaron Williams
aaron-williamsThe twentieth century liturgical theologian, Romano Guardini, devoted the fifth chapter of his famous “Spirit of the Liturgy” to discuss the seeming lack of purpose in the liturgy. He raises a series of important questions which are at the heart of why so many people find the “extravagance” of the liturgy a form of useless pageantry. Why is it necessary, for example, that a Church be richly decorated or that a priest wear vestments?
In a few days many couples will celebrate Valentine’s Day during which they will engage in many other “meaningless” acts. Gifts will be given of jewelry or flowers. Others will go see a movie, or share a more extravagant meal than they normally eat. Children will give their classmates candy or homemade cards.
All of these acts have no real purpose if divorced from love. The lover, however, does not focus on the “pointless” nature of his acts, but on what these gifts mean as an expression of love. In some cases these gifts may even be regarded by the sacrifice they require, either in time or in money.
The liturgy is our expression of love for God. We could offer the Eucharistic sacrifice by merely recalling the words of Christ at the Last Supper, but our prayers and sacrifice are sweetened by the actions of the liturgy. We build giant stadiums to enjoy our favorite sports and even pay exorbitant amounts of money to put granite countertops in our bathrooms, yet we question the necessity of some of the gestures of the liturgy.
When the sinful woman poured perfume over our Lord’s feet, Judas asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:5). There are some things we do for those we love which oftentimes may not make sense to other people. Why, for example, is it necessary that the “happy birthday” song be sung? Could it not simply be spoken and its purpose still be accomplished?
The monks at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma are constructing a massive Church for their small community. I noticed in this church a very large and empty space between the altar and the monastic choir. The guest master explained to me, “This place is for Gospel processions.” If we truly believe that Christ is alive in the words of Holy Scripture, why shouldn’t we make space to provide for a procession to celebrate his presence?
Ancient Jewish scholars tell us that during the time of Passover, a veritable river of blood flowed from the side of the Temple in Jerusalem due to the sheer number of lambs being sacrificed. God commanded Moses that a bull was to be offered each day for a week when Aaron and his sons were ordained. God made these “pointless” acts rich in meaning for his chosen people. And, in the fullness of time, God sacrificed his only Son so that his creatures could become holy. What better example could be found of a seemingly-useless act done in the name of love?
Perhaps the reason we find our liturgical practice lackluster today is because we do not give it a chance to fully express our love for God. Instead, we focus on how to make the Mass shorter or the building less expensive. Yes, not all communities can afford large churches, have the number of servers to produce grand processions or choirs to sing difficult choral works — but our worship must be an expression of the true love and devotion we have for God, which does not imply rich ornamentation, but means that it should be a real sacrifice of our time, talent and sometimes even our money.
One of my professors once questioned why so many people build churches out of concrete. “The homeless sleep under concrete bridges. When they step into a beautiful church they are able to enjoy its beauty as an equal with even the richest person there. Because, both are home in their Father’s house.” We should not ignore the poor by demanding ostentation in churches, yet, our service to one another must flow from the outpouring of our love for God.
Dorothy Day — a hero of the American Catholic social movement — insisted that the poor who lived in her house recite daily prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours. If we want to actively live our faith, we must fully participate in our worship, which, I would suggest, is why “active participation in the liturgy” was a primary goal of the Second Vatican Council.
This goal can be better fulfilled on an individual and a parish level by a deepening engagement in the liturgy — by preparing beforehand, being willing to sacrifice our time, and refusing to cut corners in the worship of God.
One thing we could all do is strive to make Sunday truly the day of the Lord by spending time with our family and, most importantly, in prayer. It isn’t enough for a husband to tell his wife that he loves her. He must act. And, so too must we act to demonstrate our love to God.
Guardini says, “When the liturgy is rightly regarded, it cannot be said to have a purpose, because it does not exist for the sake of humanity, but for the sake of God…man is no longer concerned with himself.”
(Aaron Williams is a third-year theologian studying to become a priest in our diocese. He and his classmate, Nick Adam, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate in mid-March.)

Adam, Williams announce ordination plans


Aaron Williams


Nicholas Adam









The Diocese of Jackson is pleased to announce the ordination to the transitional diaconate of Nick Adam and Aaron Williams. All are welcome to the celebrations.Adam, an Alabama native who considers Meridian his hometown, will be ordained Friday, March 17, at 6 p.m. at Meridian St. Patrick Parish. Williams, a Jackson native, will be ordained Saturday, March 18, at 5:15 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. A reception will follow both Masses.

The men will spend a year in service as deacons before being ordained priests. During that year they can preach and proclaim the Word, witness marriages, preside at funeral liturgies and baptize babies. They cannot celebrate Mass until they become priests.
Please keep our seminarians in your prayers as they make final preparation for this next step in their journey to the priesthood.

500 years from Reformation: Grace remains key issue

By Aaron Williams
For Lutherans across the world, this past October 31 was more than just your average Halloween. It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Now, the countdown has begun leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s split with the Catholic Church and the start of modern-day Protestantism.



This year is a good opportunity for all Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, to join together in prayer for unification so that “all may be one” (John 17:21) as our Lord intended of his church from the beginning. But, this anniversary also provides for Catholics a moment to reflect on those differences which still cause separation. Especially for we who live in a overwhelmingly Protestant area, it can be helpful to know where the Catholic Church stands on significant issues which divide us from our protestant brothers and sisters.
One such issue is the matter of grace. Grace is not something most Christians often give much thought, but it is a word which we, perhaps deafly, hear preached, read in scripture, or sung in hymns. So, what is “grace”?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2003) states, “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.” Grace is that gratuitous gift of God which purifies us and assists us in living the Christian life. Understanding the role of grace requires us to ask why we need grace in the first place and to answer that question we have to consider the role of sin in our lives.
For Catholics, all sin has its root in the original sin of Adam and Eve. God commanded them, “You must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…lest you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). But, we know that Adam and Eve did eat of this fruit and so they and all their children died. The church teaches that the guilt of the same sin of our first parents has been passed down from generation to generation, so that all humanity shares in this guilt. This sin was so significant that it damaged the very nature of humankind so that we were no longer able to do good works.
But, God the Father, in his infinite mercy, gave up his only Son and by the sacrifice of Christ on calvary, grace entered the world — grace enough that for all who are baptized, the guilt of original sin is totally wiped away and human nature is restored to its justified state. Men and women are made sons and daughters of God and are therefore holy and able to freely choose to do good works with the help of God’s grace.
Luther, however, did not share this view. It was his argument that human nature was so harmed by Adam and Eve’s sin that Christ’s sacrifice only served to declare all of us “justified” — even though we remained guilty of sin and incapable of doing good works. For Luther, humankind is incapable of freely choosing to do good things and even though every man and woman is sinful and their nature is turned towards evil, those who have faith in Christ will still be saved on the last day.
His view is similar to that of a child who, instead of sweeping the house, pushes the dust under a rug. For Luther, God does not restore our nature to its previous state but simply declares us “justified” — so that we appear holy from the exterior, while are still guilty of original sin interiorly.
Catholics, however, are so confident that baptism regenerates us from our sinful state that we insist even the smallest among us (infants) be baptized, even though they may not understand what it means at the time. It is a sacrament which fundamentally heals our nature interiorly and not simply from an external appearance.
For Catholics, baptism gives us the gift of faith, by which we may be saved. And since we are all made a part of the Mystical Body of Christ in baptism, all of us are capable of doing good works because we are enabled by Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Moreover, since Christ enables us to do good works and all Christ’s works are pleasing before the Father, our own works can merit us a greater capacity for grace. This is not to say that Catholics think of salvation as if it is “bought” by good works. Humankind is justified once and for all by Christ’s sacrifice through baptism, but after that initial grace of justification, each of us is able to merit more grace to assist us in living a virtuous life and to have a greater capacity to experience God in heaven. Thus, St. Paul writes, “God will render to each according to his works” (Romans 2:6). After baptism, God gives more grace to each person according to the works they do through Christ, because everything that Christ does is pleasing to the Father.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it would be good for each of us to reflect on those things which make us Catholic — our theology, our liturgy, our faith in the leadership of the church. There are so many blessings in our faith which so few of us understand. Maybe this year each of us can buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and commit to reading a little bit each day. And most importantly, we should each pray that “all may be one” once more.
(Aaron Williams is a third-year theologian studying at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He and his classmate, Nick Adam, will be ordained to the the transitional diaconate in the Spring.)

Seminarians gather for convocation before school starts

By Aaron Williams
Eight of the nine seminarians studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Jackson gathered at Chatawa St. Mary of the Pines retreat center recently for our inaugural convocation. The seniors, Nick Adam, Mark Shoffner and myself organized the event.
The theme of the retreat was “Take courage, it is I,” taken from Matthew 14:27.
There were four conferences. I spoke about the particular virtues seminarians for Jackson need to foster, using figures from our diocesan history as a reference. Shoffner talked about the benefits of our summer pastoral assignments to our overall formation. Adam spoke about building fraternity amongst ourselves in preparation for being a part of the fraternity of priests.
Father Augustine Pattimalam, a native of India serving in Philadelphia, spoke about his perspective and difficulties of entering the diocese as an outsider.
(Editor’s note: During the weekend Bishop Joseph Kopacz accepted Schoffner into candidacy for ordination. The three seniors will be ordained to the transitional diaconate in the spring of 2017.)

Seminarians earn degrees

COVINGTON, La., – Two of the Diocese of Jackson’s seminarians received degrees and a third received a certificate from St. Joseph’s Seminary Friday, May 9. Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma was the speaker at commencement.
Nick Adam got a certificate of completion in the pre-theology program since he already has an undergraduate degree. Mark Shoffner received a BA in Philosophy and Theological Studies and Aaron Williams earned a BA in Philosophy. Williams also got the Esse Quam Videri Award for “quiet service to the seminary community.” The men will continue their studies in the fall at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Most of the seminarians will spend the summer either doing extra study or doing work in various parishes.
The seminary, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary year, reported record enrollment this year and opened a new dorm to accommodate all the students.