Joint Statement of Bishops Kopacz and Kihneman on Execution of David Cox

Joint Statement of Bishops Joseph Kopacz and Louis F. Kihneman, III on Execution of David Neal Cox

November 16, 2021

In anticipation of the execution of David Cox tomorrow, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Cox family as they continue to grieve and heal from his horrific acts of violence. Their unspeakable suffering remains a heavy cross in their lives.

We share in their suffering. In 2016, two Catholic Nuns were murdered in Holmes County, Mississippi. Sister Paula Merrill, and Sister Margaret Held, served at a local medical clinic. Their brutal murders in the small community of Durant, Mississippi caused shock and sadness.

Even in the midst of such profound loss, the Sisters’ religious communities, their families, and the local Church stated their opposition to the death penalty. This response is deeply rooted in our Christian faith and Catholic tradition.

The death penalty is not a deterrence to murder. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. Likewise, the antidote to violence is not more violence.

The execution of David Cox is the first in more than a decade in Mississippi. We respectfully submit the perspective and teachings from our Catholic faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that promote the abolition of the death penalty.

We encourage and pray for a more comprehensive debate that calls into question our assumptions used to morally legitimize the death penalty in Mississippi and in our nation.

We recognize that the State must protect innocent people from violent criminals. Our State and country have the ability to provide justice and protect the innocent without using the death penalty. At this time in our nation when violence afflicts the web of life, we do not need state sanctioned violence to add to this vicious cycle.

We implore our fellow citizens to ask our elected official to end the violence of the death penalty and to replace it with non-lethal means of punishment. We are called to respect every human life because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27)

As Christian leaders we call for alternatives to capital punishment more in keeping with our Christian values, the common good, and the dignity of the human person.

Sincerely yours in Christ,                                              Sincerely yours in Christ,

Joseph R. Kopacz                                      Louis F. Kihneman, III
Bishop of Jackson                                      Bishop of Biloxi

Download pdf of statement by clicking here.

Pray for Dobbs National Prayer Event

Thursday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m. Central (8 p.m. Eastern)

Join Catholics and Protestants across the country coming together online to pray for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

This is the case that could overturn Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states.

This historic online gathering will bring together Christians across denominations. Together, we will pray for a just outcome that protects millions of preborn babies and their mothers.

Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).
Reserve your spot today: https://www.prayfordobbs.com/

A message for all from Bishop Kopacz for Respect Life Month

Bishop Joseph Kopacz speaks about building a culture of life, of justice and of peace during 40 Days for Life and Respect Life Month. He touches on The Gospel of Life by St. Pope John Paul II, saying “the house is the foundation the life of the unborn and upon that foundation we build.” Additionally, hear Bishop Kopacz on St. Joseph as a defender of life and speak on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case coming before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.

“We are pro-life because human life has the ultimate value.”

 

Updated Catholic Schools COVID Guidance

The Office of Catholic Education, recognizing that we will continue to see cases within our state and our communities fluctuate, has worked to create a plan to ease COVID guidance when it is safe to do so and reinstate mitigation strategies when deemed necessary. Below is a document outlining the updated protocols. The Office of Catholic Education has created five levels that schools will move between as needed. They range from level one, which allows masks to be optional for all individuals with minimal other mitigation strategies in place, to level five, which is a complete switch to virtual learning.

Covid Guidance Letter for Schools

COVID Guidance Levels for Schools

 

Catholic Scholarship Opportunities Now Open

The scholarship applications for the Brunini Memorial Scholarship and the Stella Schmidt Memorial Scholarship are open.

The Brunini Scholarship is for any undergraduate at a Catholic college or university. Area of study is not restricted. Applications are due by December 1.

The Stella Schmidt Scholarship was established to be used specifically for tuition assistance for advanced studies in theology or religious education at Spring Hill College. Applications are due by December 1.

If you or someone you know may be interested in applying, email fran.lavelle@jacksondiocese.org.

Motion submitted to dismiss deferred prosecution agreement

JACKSON – On or about July 16, 2021, Assistant United States Attorney Scott Leary presented to Judge Sharion Aycock a motion for dismissal with prejudice of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between the Diocese of Jackson and the United States Attorney General ‘s Office. The charges dismissed stemmed from the actions of a former priest of the diocese, Rev. Lenin Vargas. Judge Aycock signed the order granting the motion on August 13, 2021, bringing to close almost three years of investigation and cooperation between the diocese and the government. As a result of the investigation, neither the diocese nor any diocesan chancery personnel were convicted or pleaded guilty to any charges of wrongdoing and no fines were levied against the diocese.

Over these past 30 months, the diocese has created a compliance program that reflects a commitment by the diocese to uphold the highest standards, best practices, and sound management techniques in the areas of diocesan and parish finances, ethical behavior of clergy and church personnel, and improved, transparent communications between the diocese, parish leadership and parishioners. A diocesan compliance committee was established and gave much insight and input into the development of the program.

The diocese regrets the following measures and programs were not in place three years ago. We are confident if they had been in place, we would have been more effective in dealing with the complaints made about Rev. Vargas.

This process of improving diocesan structures began in October 2018 with the appointment of Rev. Lincoln Dall as interim finance officer for the diocese by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz. Rev. Dall was tasked with working with Carolyn Callahan, diocesan controller, to bring diocesan financial policies, protocols, and practices more clearly in line with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the USCCB’s Diocesan Financial Management, Guide to Best Practices.

With the commencement of the Federal Investigation in November 2018, of Vargas, at that time pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Starkville, and reports of his misappropriation of parishioners’ donations, the diocesan finance office cooperated with the investigation in order to facilitate reconciliation of parishioners with their funds and restoration of trust between the diocese, the parish, and parishioners.

Throughout the past three years, leadership at the diocese has stabilized with Dall being appointed Vicar General and Callahan being named director of temporal affairs. Working with the diocesan Chancellor, Mary Woodward and Bishop Kopacz, the team has strengthened previous procedures that left the diocese vulnerable to potential mismanagement. Sound accounting practices and procedures have been implemented and an official human resources office has been developed.

The Office of Temporal Affairs, along with full review and approval by the Bishop and Vicar General, has created a Parish Finance Best Practices Guide, a detailed internal control questionnaire required annually, and a routine internal audit program that involves pastors, parish councils, finance councils and bookkeepers to help maintain solid fiscal management. Regional training and information sessions on these tools will be provided at least annually by the temporal affairs office.

To facilitate reports of fraud or unethical behavior being handled independently and objectively, the diocese engaged Lighthouse, a third-party reporting service and database. The diocese welcomes all to report, either anonymously or named, this type of behavior by visiting www.lighthouse-services.com/jacksondiocese or by calling 888-830-004 (English) or 800-216-1288 (Spanish).

To further address possible exploitation of vulnerable adults by clergy and church personnel, Bishop Kopacz established an Ethical Conduct Board in August 2019, to review cases involving possible manipulation or abuse of adults. The board defined a vulnerable adult in this manner:

A vulnerable adult is any person 18 years of age or older who is unable to protect his or her own rights, interests, and/or vital concerns and who cannot seek help without assistance because of a physical, mental, or emotional impairment; and any person capable of being physically or emotionally damaged by another person in a position of power. Exploitation or abuse of any adult by clergy or church personnel by means of spiritual, emotional, sexual, mental, physical abuse or manipulation is extremely egregious.

One realization made as part of the transition and the federal investigation was communication between the chancery office and parishes could be improved significantly. To facilitate this, Bishop Kopacz mandated the use of Flocknote as a standard tool to be used for official communication between the diocesan offices and parishes and parishioners. Protocols for better monitoring of diocesan communications through the diocesan newspaper, social media and websites have been developed.

The diocese thanks members of the compliance committee for assisting in helping to strengthen diocesan structures and protocols. Also, the diocese appreciates the work of the U.S. Attorney, Scott Leary, and our diocesan counsel, Steve Carmody, in guiding it through the legal structures involved.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

“The past few years have been a period of growth and enlightenment for the diocese,” said Bishop Kopacz. “Because of the hard work of all involved, we know we are in a better place than we were three years ago. We continue to keep in prayer those who were adversely affected by the actions of Rev. Vargas. We look forward to a time when forgiveness and reconciliation will be ardently achieved, though we know some wounds still run deep and need time to heal.”

Bishop Kopacz reiterated, “The Diocese of Jackson is committed to maintaining a culture of transparency, professionalism, and savviness that is inherently tempered with justice, mercy, and compassion that comes from the Father through his Son, Jesus.”

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For pdf of the above statement – click here.
For Spanish – click here.

Dominican Sisters launch first-ever podcast series

For the Life of The World Dominican Sisters Launch First-Ever Podcast Series on Congregation’s 148th Anniversary

The new Springfield Dominican Sisters’ podcast series, F.L.O.W.cast, is streaming now at https://flowcastlisten.podbean.com/. You can also visit https://flowcastlisten.org/ to subscribe and receive each new episode in your inbox every Thursday.

F.L.O.W.cast is meant to be welcoming to a younger audience that appreciates intergenerational conversation and an eclectic mix of inspiring stories about the sisters’ lives and ministry.

Each week, one-to-one conversations and roundtable discussions with Springfield Dominican Sisters, coworkers, and associates are meant to acquaint listeners with the lives and ministry of the sisters and share stories about how they are changing lives in hopeful ways.

“From the day our first sisters landed in Jacksonville, on August 19, 1873, they fostered relationships with those they served as an expression of their desire to bring the compassion of the Gospel to people on the margins of society,” said Sister Beth Murphy, series producer and the communications director for the sisters. “Launching F.L.O.W.cast today is a way of honoring their vision, courage, and commitment.”

The F.L.O.W.cast format was inspired by the relationships host Jeremiah Washington began building with the sisters when he began working at Sacred Heart Convent five years ago. “I didn’t know anything about the sisters when I started working at the convent,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and learning about their dedication to their ministry. They’ve inspired me a lot. I’m happy to be able to share that with the world.”

The inaugural episode is Sister Bernie has a Fan Club. Jeremiah chose to launch his podcasting career with Sister Bernadette Marie McGuire because he was aware of her reputation for humor at Rosary High School in Aurora where she was previously the librarian. “Sister Bernie has a quirky sense of humor. That helped me escape the nervousness I was feeling as we recorded that first episode,” he explained.

New episodes of F.L.O.W.cast are available every Thursday throughout the estimated 6-month podcast season.

Aaron Tebrinke, the project manager for the sisters, doubles as the podcast editor and sound engineer. He recognized the gifts Jeremiah could bring to the project. “I noticed the respect he has for the sisters, his curiosity about their lives of ministry, and his comfortable way of relating with others, and thought he could share those gifts with a broader audience of young people like himself,” Aaron said of Jeremiah, who is on loan to the F.L.O.W.cast team from the Sacred Heart Convent housekeeping department.

The podcast name, F.L.O.W.cast, is an acronym for the phrase For the Life of the World, which appears in John’s Gospel and is used by the sisters to summarize their response to God’s mission.

Completing the F.L.O.W.cast production team is Veronica Brown, the communications and advancement specialist for the Dominican Sisters, who designs the graphics and manages the distribution platforms.

Search for F.L.O.W.cast on your favorite podcast app starting August 19, or visit https://flowcastlisten.org/ and subscribe to receive the podcast in your inbox.
Listen to all the recordings in the podcast channel starting on the 148th anniversary of the Springfield Congregation (1873-2021) Thursday, August 19, 2021: https://flowcastlisten.podbean.com/