Loss of Sisters in Durant

We are terribly saddened to have to announce the murder of two sisters in our diocese. Police found two bodies in the home of Sister Paula Merrill, SCN, and Sister Margaret Held, OSF, in Durant, Miss. this morning after they did not show up to the Lexington Medical Clinic, where they worked.

“These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi. They absolutely loved the people in their community,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz. “We mourn with the people of Lexington and Durant and we pray for the Sisters of Charity, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the families left behind,” he added.

“These were the two sweetest sisters you could imagine. It’s so senseless,” Father Greg Plata, OFM, told a reporter on the scene. Father Plata is the priest at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have posted a remembrance on their website:

Pray for Sisters found dead in Mississippi

Mississippi of State Secretary of State also released a statement late Thursday: “Lynn and I grieve the loss of Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held, who were found violently killed in their home in Durant, Mississippi, this morning. Unbridled love and care for mankind has been met with unparalleled savagery. These faithful nuns worked tirelessly at the Lexington Medical Clinic to make the Holmes County community and Mississippi a better place to live. We hope justice will be swiftly served.”

Media inquiries:
Maureen Smith
601-969-3581
maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

Bishop Kopacz releases radio spots

Bishop Joseph Kopacz recorded a series of radio spots to air throughout the state on the News Mississippi Network of stations throughout the year. Here is a sampling of the spots. Learn more about faithful citizenship at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org. Any parish that wants copies of the spots can contact Maureen Smith, director of communications at 601-969-3581 or maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org.

 

Bishop Kopacz releases statement on court actions on HB1523, abortion

“We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.”

This introductory paragraph to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement on religious liberty encapsulates the struggle of all Americans with deeply held religious beliefs.

Both the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal regarding abortion laws and the blanket rejection of HB1523 vividly represent the current struggle for religious freedom in America. People of faith are called to be active in the political process – to protect the dignity of each human being and to make our communities stronger overall.

While we are disappointed that a Federal Judge has blocked the entire religious liberty law passed this year in Mississippi, we are glad the law has opened a dialogue about the tension between religious belief and civil law. The Catholic Church in Mississippi will continue to seek exemption in the specific areas of marriage and employment in certain ministries while engaging in respectful dialogue with our neighbors.

We are saddened at this country’s insistence on abortion, the destruction of innocent lives, and the laws that have been passed to support this continued destruction. The laws requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, although seen as a roadblock for abortion facilities, are in reality a commitment to the good health of all. Especially when a crisis happens and a woman who has undergone an abortion needs other medical attention. Presently they must go to the nearest emergency room and be treated by the next available emergency doctor.

The church will continue to work and pray for an end to abortion while supporting those in crisis pregnancy through ministries such as Birthright and Rachel’s Vineyard.

We must strike a just balance between church and state, not just for our own protection, but for the protection of other faiths and society as a whole. The USCCB document continues, “This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.” Once the state begins to limit the rights of people of one faith, we must be concerned for people of all faiths and beliefs.

The Catholic Church welcomes everyone in our parishes, schools and service centers. We have and will continue to help anyone in need through Catholic Charities, schools and parish ministries, regardless of your faith, beliefs or background. And we will continue to raise our voices both in our churches and in our communities in defense of human dignity and justice.

+Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Additional resources: USCCB document Our Most Cherished Liberty; Previous statement on HB1523BirthrightRachel’s Vineyard; Catholic Charities of Jackson

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)
Maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

Bishop’s Statement on Orlando tragedy

June 13, 2016

As Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, I ask all the faithful to offer prayers and acts of mercy on behalf of the lives of so many innocent people extinguished in the blink of an eye by a deranged and misguided gunman in Orlando yesterday morning. We pray for them and for their families and friends who are now facing an unimaginable grief.

This senseless act of hatred adds to the seemingly unending number of acts of violence in our world against the life and dignity of each and every human person. In the face of such evil, now more than ever, we must respond with the love and compassion of Christ in order to bring true and lasting peace in our families, our communities and our world.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

+Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of Jackson

 

Diocese seeks Coordinator for Office of Youth Ministry

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson is seeking a new coordinator for the Office of Youth ministry.

The Office of Youth Ministry wishes to minister to, with and for young people and guide them to an intimate and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. Our youth have been given a life-long challenge that includes full involvement in the life, mission and work of the Catholic Church.

Believing that the most effective ministry to youth occurs at the parish level, we assist parishes and the adults called to lead our youth by offering programs, events and outreach to build and maintain a strong youth presence.

Download the Youth Ministry job description here.

Father Pat Smith dies

Father Patrick Riley Smith, age 73,went to his eternal reward on August 29, at St. Catherine’s Village, Madison.

Father Pat was born on September 7, 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Jackson on December 20, 2003. His assignments were as follows:

2003-05 Associate Pastor, St. Paul, Brandon
2005-07 Pastor, St. Teresa, Chatawa and its mission, St. James, Magnolia
2006-08 Dean of Deanery II
2007-11 Pastor, St. Joseph, Woodville and its missions, Holy Family, Gloster and St. Patrick, Fort Adams
October 1, 2011 Retired

A Memorial Mass was held September 4th at 10:30 am at the Cathedral of St. Peter’s.
Father Pat is survived by his nephew, Matt Smith and wife, Arlena Smith; their children, Abbey and Jesse of Summit; his niece, Angela Smith Gore and husband Steve Gore; their children, Anna, Andrew, Christina and Julia of Waynesville, North Carolina; sister-in-law, Lloyd Deane Smith of Summit. He was preceded in death by his parents, D.R. and Katherine Smith of Meridian; brother, Mike Smith of Summit and sister, Ann S. Rye of Macon, Georgia.
If you would like to send a Mass or sympathy card to his family, his nephew’s address is:

Matt Smith
6641 – A Chisholm Road
Summit, MS 39666