Pastoral ministries workshop, retreats mesh with new priorities

By Maureen Smith
The Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson continues to respond to the diocesan priority of intentional formation of life-long disciples with new offerings at its annual Pastoral Ministries Retreats and Workshops in the first week of June at Lake Tia O’Kahata.
“One recurring theme that was brought up at all of the listening sessions with Bishop Joseph Kopacz was intentional faith formation for catechists and other lay persons in pastoral ministries including adult faith formation, youth ministry, RCIA and pastoral care,” wrote Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the diocese in an email. “As we move forward, we are evaluating the programs, workshops and retreats provided by the diocese for professional development and catechetical training. The Pastoral Ministries Workshop is a useful tool to help form and inform Catholic lay leadership for your parish,” she added.
The retreat and workshop is really three events rolled into one week: a retreat for those in ministry, an opportunity for an extended retreat, and a four-day workshop including classes needed to be certified as a lay minister for the diocese. The certification process is five years long and starts at the Pastoral Ministries workshop.

The retreats are guided. The shorter one starts Sunday, June 4, and ends at lunch on Monday, June 5. The cost is $120. The extended retreat starts Monday and runs through Thursday, June 8, and can be combined with the workshop. The extended retreat alone costs $400. The theme this year follows the 2017-2018 catechetical theme announced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ‘Living as Missionary Disciples.’
The workshop is part of the five-year certification process and each year builds on the previous one, so people taking it tend to form a community with others going through the program. It runs from Monday, June 5, through Thursday, June 8. Classes progress from introductory level theology through prayer, canon law and administration in a parish. The workshop is $500. Those taking a combination of the workshop and the retreat will pay reduced rates and scholarship money is available. The deadline to register is May 15.
The classes are taught by a team of excellent presenters, the atmosphere is relaxing, the daily liturgies are inspiring and for those attending the retreat there is ample opportunity for personal quiet time and reflection. Lavelle said a concerted effort is made to create a welcoming and inviting environment. “A lot of our attendees work for the Church in full time capacities, but some work full time in a job outside the church.” Lavelle hopes to provide a solid formation experience, mixed with great liturgies, and time to make connections that are helpful the other 51 weeks of the year. “We try to maximize the benefits of the limited time we have together,” Lavelle added.
Patti Greene, youth minister at Gluckstadt St. Joseph, and Canton Sacred Heart Parishes, is completing her last year in the program. “For me, the Pastoral Ministries Workshop has made all the difference in how I conduct my ministry. My first year, I had no idea what to expect, and was not looking forward to ‘another workshop.’ But this is not just a workshop. The Pastoral Ministries Workshop is where I finally surrendered my reservations and preconceptions about my ministry and opened myself to the guidance of the Spirit to truly lead my ministry. It was there that I found value in becoming a lifelong disciple and servant, so I could become a better teacher and leader” she said. “Each year that I attend, I discover multitude of resources in materials shared as well as in a network of common experiences and bonds with my brothers and sisters in Christ and in ministry. During this time of spiritual and professional renewal, I began once again my creative process of shaping the next year of our youth ministry. This year, my fifth year, as June approaches, I grow increasingly impatient to begin my next, but hopefully not last, journey to Lake Tiak O’Khata,” Greene added.
To enroll in the certification process or inquire about the retreats, contact Fran Lavelle at (601) 960-8473 or by email at

Nursing workshop registration open

By Maureen Smith
BROOKHAVEN – A training for those interested in faith community nursing is set to start in late June in Brookhaven. The training is Monday June 30, Tuesday July 1, Monday July 14, and Tuesday, July 15. Each day starts at 7 a.m. and is packed with coursework, prayer and fellowship.
“The days are long, but we will try to make it as much of a spiritual retreat as possible,” said Ann Elizabeth Kaiser, coordinator for faith community nursing for the diocese.
Catholic Charities’ Faith Community Nursing program is partnering with King’s Daughters Medical Center for the workshops. The King’s Daughters Medical Foundation has donated a $1,000 to educational materials for the training. Active licensed registered nurses will receive 34 continuing education credits. This course is designed to prepare registered nurses, allied health care professionals, faith community leaders and lay volunteers of all faith denominations to develop health ministry programs within their own faith communities. The course follows the standardized curriculum developed through the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC).
“St. Francis of Assisi Health Ministry is a host as well. Cheri Walker, the Director of Nurses, has been instrumental in the planning stages. A local FCN, Evelyn Stiner, has been a tremendous help in organization of the required documents needed for Catholic Charities, Inc. to apply as a Continuing Education Provider through the Mississippi Nurses Foundation,” said Kaiser
The facilitators for the modules are Faith Community Nurses and other volunteers who are experts in their field. The training is open to all denominations. The program will close with an Affirmation Service and pinning ceremony the last day.
Total cost of the four day program is $200. Lunch and refreshments are provided daily.     Registrations, including a personal letter stating each nurse’s purpose and goals for taking this course and a letter of support from each nurse’s pastor, institution or congregational sponsor, are due June Tuesday, June 24.
Those interested can register online at

Conference features health partnerships, art

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bob Willis’ hands started shaping and carving a lump of clay as be began a 45-minute talk to a group of nurses and health care workers and they never stopped. Willis was just one of the presenters at a day-long workshop organized by the Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Health Ministry. Other presentations focused on healthcare partnerships and faith-based healthcare groups.

Caregivers and healthcare professionals packed Foley Hall at St. Richard Parish for a one-day nursing workshop sponsored by Catholic Charities’ Office of Health Ministry.

Caregivers and healthcare professionals packed Foley Hall at St. Richard Parish for a one-day nursing workshop sponsored by Catholic Charities’ Office of Health Ministry.

More than 60 attended the event, held at  St. Richard Parish Thursday, March 6. Willis, a sculptor from Oklahoma who works in hospice ministries, was speaking on grief and caregivers. He spoke about how nurses, as caregivers, deal with lots of grief. All people grieve change, he explained, and often those in a hospital or hospice situation need help with that grief.

His presentation was aimed at giving caregivers some tools to use in their ministry. One of his strategies is to honor the relationship between the caregiver and the one needing care. He suggested asking about the relationship to get the caregiver talking. “I tell them to think about what they would say if they could speak to the person again. What would you thank them for? What happy memories do you have? For what would you forgive them,” he said.

Forgiveness, he explained, is a big part of the grief and mourning process. “In grief work, forgiveness is giving up the hope of a different yesterday,” he said. People can’t change what happened in the past, but they can let go of old hurts. “When you don’t forgive it’s like a big heavy coat – and it stinks,” he said. The longer a person ‘wears’ the coat and the more anger and other emotions they pick up the heavier it gets. When a person forgives, they can lay down that burden. “Sometimes forgiveness is for things you did not hear,” he added, explaining that people sometimes wanted to hear ‘I love you’ or some similar sentiment from a loved one, but never did.

Sculptor and grief counselor Bob Willis carves a broken heart while he speaks about grief among caregivers (Photos by Maureen Smith)

Sculptor and grief counselor Bob Willis carves a broken heart while he speaks about grief among caregivers (Photos by Maureen Smith)

As he spoke, he shaped a heart with a fissure cut through it out of the clay. He said that grief expressed is mourning and explained that organizing and expressing grief will help people heal. The last part of his sculpture is adding stitches and a bandage to the fissure in the heart. He uses this symbol to speak to those who are caregivers or those who work with them. He said in his work in hospice he learned that “bandages don’t heal things, they just hold things together while you heal. You can’t fix a griever, but you can be a bandage – holding them together while they heal,” he said.

Prior to his presentation different community nursing representatives, including groups from Magee St. Stephen and Brookhaven St. Francis of Assisi presented information about their collaborative efforts. The gathering was organized by the Parish Health Ministries Office, headed by Ann Elizabeth Kaiser. Nurses who attended were able to earn continuing education credits.

The following day, Willis led a workshop for caregivers in Natchez at the St. Mary’s Basilica Family Life Center and Monday, March 10 he met with the grief and loss group from the parish.