Diocesan Statement regarding financial investigation

Federal agents served search and seizure warrants on the chancery office and on St. Joseph Parish in Starkville on Wednesday, November 7. Their investigation centers on the financial activities of Father Lenin Vargas. As of this posting, no charges have been filed.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 11, Father Jeffrey Waldrep shared the following statement with the parishioners of St. Joseph in Starkville and Corpus Christi Mission in Macon:

Earlier this week the government began an investigation of the financial administration of Saint Joseph in Starkville. Saint Joseph Parish and the Diocese of Jackson are cooperating with the investigation. Pending the resolution of the investigation, Father Lenin Vargas will not engage in any public ministry, and has been removed from all pastoral and financial administration.  In the interim, Father Jeffrey Waldrep, the pastor of Annunciation in Columbus, will serve as administrator and Father Rusty Vincent will be responsible for all pastoral ministry at St. Joseph, Starkville and Corpus Christi, Macon. The continued spiritual and financial well being of St. Joseph Parish and Corpus Christi Mission is of the utmost importance, and we will continue to aid you both in sound fiscal management of all of your resources. Let us pray with trust that the Lord Jesus will shepherd us through this difficult time of upheaval and uncertainty.   

After receiving complaints, Bishop Joseph Kopacz ordered an internal accounting audit of the Starkville Parish’s finances.  After Bishop Kopacz’ staff conducted the audit, the Diocese placed fiscal constraints on Father Vargas’ spending and found that he was violating diocesan policy concerning soliciting charitable donations and demanded that he stop these activities and conduct no further charitable fundraising without first informing the diocese of these planned activities. Federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPPA, prohibits our discussion of Father Vargas’ medical condition — not only when we first learned of it, but also throughout the time period mentioned in the affidavit. In fact, HIPPA law continues to bind us today in that we can neither admit nor deny anything related to Rev. Vargas’ medical condition.

We ask that you pray for everyone involved as we continue to work toward a resolution.

 

Declaración diocesana sobre investigación financiera.

Agentes federales cumplieron órdenes de registro e incautación de documentos, en la oficina de la cancillería y en la parroquia St. Joseph en Starkville, el miércoles 7 de noviembre. Su investigación se centra en las actividades financieras del padre Lenin Vargas. Hasta el momento de esta declaración no se han presentado cargos.

El sábado 10 de noviembre y el domingo 11 de noviembre, el Padre Jeffrey Waldrep compartió la siguiente declaración con los feligreses de St. Joseph en Starkville y la Misión Corpus Christi en Macon:

“…A principios de esta semana, el gobierno inició una investigación de la administración financiera de Saint Joseph en Starkville. La parroquia de Saint Joseph y la diócesis de Jackson están cooperando con la investigación. En espera de la resolución de la investigación, el padre Lenin Vargas no participará en ningún ministerio público y ha sido destituido de toda administración financiera y pastoral. Mientras tanto, el Padre Jeffrey Waldrep, pastor de la parroquia Anunciation en Columbus, servirá como administrador y el Padre Rusty Vincent será responsable de todo el ministerio pastoral en St. Joseph, Starkville y Corpus Christi, en Macon. El continuo bienestar espiritual y financiero de la Parroquia St. Joseph y la Misión Corpus Christi es de suma importancia, y continuaremos ayudándoles a lograr una administración fiscal sólida de todos sus recursos. Oremos con confianza para que el Señor Jesús nos guíe en este difícil momento de conmoción e incertidumbre…”

Después de recibir quejas, el obispo Joseph Kopacz ordenó una auditoría contable interna de las finanzas de la parroquia de Starkville. Después de la auditoría que el personal del Obispo Kopacz realizó, la Diócesis impuso restricciones fiscales a los gastos del padre Vargas. Se descubrió que el mismo estaba violando la política diocesana con respecto a la solicitud de donaciones caritativas y se le exigió que detuviera estas actividades y no realizara más sus planificadas recaudaciones caritativas sin informar primero a la Diócesis. La ley federal, Ley de Transferencia y Responsabilidad del Seguro de Salud, más conocida como HIPPA, por sus siglas en inglés, nos prohíbe discutir la condición médica del Padre Vargas- no solo cuando nos enteramos de la misma, sino también durante el período al que se hace mención en la declaración jurada. De hecho, la ley HIPPA continúa atándonos hoy en día en el que no podemos admitir ni negar nada relacionado con la condición médica del padre Vargas.

Le pedimos que ore por todos los involucrados mientras continuamos trabajando hacia una solución.

A reason for hope: The Diocese of Jackson’s commitment to our children

A reason for hope: The Diocese of Jackson’s commitment to our children

En Espanol: Una razón para la esperanza

The Diocese of Jackson has a plan and a team in place to prevent and to respond to allegations of sexual abuse against minors. The topic is a fresh wound in our Church since the release of a grand jury report out of Pennsylvania detailing a horrifying pattern of abuse and coverups in six dioceses in that state and revelations of years of abuse at the hands of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz met with the priests, lay ecclesial ministers, permanent deacons and other pastoral leadership of the diocese in August to hear their concerns and yours. Your pastors passed along your anger, devastation, and prayers. We are grateful for all these emotions. Your anger is righteous, your devastation shows the depths of your faith and your prayers are much needed for the Church.

In response to those meetings as well as the many calls, emails and conversations chancery staff and pastors have had with you, the faithful, we want you to know what has been done, what we continue to do and what’s in store for the future. Bishop Kopacz describes this approach as having four aspects: our safe environment program, victims’ assistance, cooperation with law enforcement and transparency.

To start- an assurance of transparency: A handful of bishops across the U.S. are inviting their state Attorneys General to review their files. The Diocese of Jackson did that back in 2002. In response to both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pending Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and a contemporary case being presented to the state attorney, diocesan leadership decided the best course of action was to be proactive. A member of the diocesan review board and the vicar general at that time reviewed an accounting of all known cases with staff at the attorney general’s office.

Since that time, all new credible allegations have been turned over to the district attorneys in the counties where the abuse is alleged to have happened.

The bishop has reviewed these cases in-depth in the last few weeks to make sure the diocese has done its due diligence in offering care to victims of abuse, reporting cases to law enforcement and informing local communities about cases. Bishop Kopacz will approach the current Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to offer review of all substantiated cases of the abuse of minors by clergy reported since the 2002 meeting.

Safe Environment:

Anyone who offers to volunteer at any parish, school, or institution affiliated with the Diocese of Jackson will first be asked to submit to a criminal background screening. Some 15,613 employees and volunteers have been vetted in this way since the diocese initiated criminal background screenings in 2004. If the screening is clear, the volunteer or employee will begin to receive training in how to recognize the warning signs of abuse, how to report it and how to protect the children in their care from predators.

The diocese uses a company called VIRTUS for safe environment training. It starts with a live-training session with a VIRTUS facilitator. Ongoing adult training continues every month in the form of an email with an article about the latest research or information on fostering safe environments in the Church, in the home, and in society. VIRTUS has developed both the lessons and the database management program used to show who is continuing to take their training and who is not compliant. There are about 4,600 adults currently active, including clergy, religious, and lay employees.

Moreover, children are better informed now than ever before. This year, the diocese has implemented VIRTUS’ curriculum for children in parish religious education programs as well as the Catholic schools. In these lessons, children learn about safe and healthy boundaries and what they can do if someone tries to violate them in Church-sponsored programs, and in their daily lives. During the last fiscal year, 7,602 children received an age-appropriate safe environment lesson.

Vickie Carollo, the safe environment coordinator, and Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation, will visit every parish and school during this fiscal year to audit their participation in the Protection of Children program. Carollo has performed these audits since 2003 because we know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The Diocese of Jackson has had a policy to respond to credible allegations of sexual abuse since 1987, long before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the Charter. The early document was less detailed than today’s version but delineated the commitment of the diocese on responding to abuse, removing offenders, assisting victims, and promoting safe environment. The policy was revised in 1994 when an Independent Review Board of lay Catholics was established. This is a consultative body that assesses the credibility of all allegations of sexual abuse against minors and advises the bishop accordingly.  This board remains an essential resource for Bishop Kopacz, as it was for Bishop Houck and Bishop Latino. The current one includes two psychologists, a physician and two professional business people.

Victim’s assistance:

When an allegation is made, it triggers a number of responses. First, if the victim is a child – even if the abuse is just a suspicion – the case is turned over to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and then to either Carollo’s office or the vicar general’s office.

In the case of an adult who comes forward years later, he or she is offered professional counseling at no cost. A victim does not need to give his or her name to the diocese to receive this service. Valerie McClellan is the victims’ assistance coordinator for the diocese. She can offer counseling based out of Jackson. If the victim lives out of state, she can arrange for a counselor in the victim’s community. The goal is to offer a healing opportunity to the victim and his or her family.

Likewise, McClellan will gather as much information about the abuse as possible and, with the victim’s consent, turn it over to the diocese. The vicar general, through the diocesan attorney, hires a private investigator to begin to look into the case and the accused is removed from active ministry or suspended while the investigator prepares a report for the review board.

The review board meets without the bishop present and votes on what actions to recommend to the bishop.  When the allegation is judged to be credible the abuser is removed from ministry as soon as possible.

Cooperation with Law Enforcement:

If a case is deemed credible, the vicar general’s office will inform the district attorney in the county where the abuse happened. The bishop withdraws faculties from an ordained accused abuser at this time.

The vicar general’s office prepares a statement to be read at Masses or other parish gatherings in the communities where the alleged abuser has served. The statement will never name a victim, but will name the alleged perpetrator and encourage other victims to come forward. These statements are now also posted to the diocesan website.

Even if there are no active cases of abuse being investigated, each parish must regularly publish a statement encouraging victims to report abuse. A recent study indicates that it can take an average of 34 years for a victim to report abuse. This means the diocese has to constantly offer the invitation for all victims to come forward.

For some perspective, since 2002, the Diocese has received nine credible reports of abuse. In all of these cases, the abuse happened 20 or more years prior to the report. The ministers reported were either deceased or already removed from ministry.

Transparency:

Most importantly, we want you to be assured of the Diocese’s commitment to transparency as we move forward. Since a group of lay journalists in Boston in 2002 exposed a pattern of abuse and cover-ups, the church has undergone a culture shift.  In biblical language, this is metanoia which entails repentance and conversion, a change of heart, mind, and practice.

This horrible scandal prompted new social science research into the psychology of abusers and forced bishops to remove priests who were a danger to their flock.

What we now understand about abuse, it’s devastating impacts on individuals, families and whole communities is dramatically different than it was in the 20th century. Dioceses, parishes, and schools have a new paradigm for caring for those placed in their care, especially those most vulnerable to predators. Those same communities have resources for identifying abusers and protocols for removing them from ministry as quickly as possible.

That’s the good news.

The sad truth is there were predators in the Church. Piled on that is the fact that there were leaders in the church who were willing to protect their fellow clergymen rather than expose them or the Church to scandal. The Church must now face yet another reckoning.

The Diocese of Jackson has a team of people who share your anger, sorrow, concern and commitment to our Church and our children. The diocesan policy, including protocols for responding to allegations, is available on the website (link here) and in printed form by emailing Vickie Carollo at Vickie.carollo@jacksondiocese.org.

We are unflinching in our commitment to our promise to protect and pledge to heal as a serious part of our vocation. With the mind and heart of Jesus Christ we echo his words: “Let the children come to me for to such belong the Kingdom of Heaven.:”

Resources: USCCB Charter

Office for the Protection of Children

Valerie McClellan: 601-326-3728

(Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Vicar General Father Kevin Slattery, Chancellor Mary Woodward, Safe Environment Coordinator Vickie Carollo and Director of Communications Maureen Smith collaborated on this statement.)

Response to Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

Bishop Joseph Kopacz Statement Regarding the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report of Clergy Sexual Abuse:

“The recently released Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing cases of sexual abuse going back to the late 1940’s in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, including Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Allentown, Scranton and Erie brings to light more horrific behavior within our church. The report is a stark reminder to all to whom children and young people are entrusted, starting with me in the Diocese of Jackson, that we must redouble our efforts to create safe environments for all vulnerable children of God, younger and older.  Likewise, we must recommit ourselves to exposing past abuse and encouraging victims to come forward.  We must never tire of healing and reconciling the pain that victims and families have suffered through the behavior of church personnel, especially the ordained.  All perpetrators of sexual abuse must be removed from ministry. Because I served in the Diocese of Scranton during the relevant period and am referenced in connection with my handling of three complaints of abuse, I feel it is essential — in keeping with our commitment to transparency — that you be informed of my role in those cases.

I was the Vicar for Priests for eight years in the Diocese of Scranton from 1998 to 2006 during the time that the sexual abuse crisis exploded on the scene.  As the Vicar, it was my responsibility to respond to all allegations of sexual abuse that involved clergy, along with other diocesan officials. Tragically, during that period, I was called upon to respond far too many times to such allegations.  Of those, the report references three instances where I was tasked with responding to the complaints of parishioners.

In the first reference, the victim initially confided in me that she had been abused but stated that she wanted it to be held in confidence. I kept that confidence and made no report. Though her request to maintain the confidentiality of her report was documented in a prepared memo that was available to the Grand Jury, the Grand Jury report excludes this fact.  The report does however confirm that once she removed the restriction of confidentiality, I and other diocesan officials quickly acted to report the abuse to civil authorities and remove the offending priest from ministry.  In the second reference, which involved a deceased priest who had been removed from ministry, the victim requested counseling and I arranged for him to receive counseling. In the third reference, I questioned the offending former priest and despite his denials (and the fact that he had previously been removed from ministry), reported this additional allegation to local authorities.

Forged in the fire of the abuse crisis, the vast majority of dioceses in the United States, including the Diocese of Jackson, have worked hard during the past 16 years to be faithful to the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal, the document we know as the Dallas Charter. The fostering of safe environments in our ministries is now the norm, and the steadfast support for victims of sexual abuse who struggle for healing and hope in their lives, has been an unflagging commitment.

The full document is available through the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. The Charter directs action in all the following matters:

  • Creating a safe environment for children and young people;
  • Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;
  • Making prompt and effective response to allegations;
  • Cooperating with civil authorities;
  • Disciplining offenders;
  • Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board.

It is my great hope that anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy or an employee or volunteer of a church come forward. Our victim’s assistance coordinator, Valerie McClelland, a licensed social worker, is available to assist in making a report. You can contact her at (601) 326-3728. Suffering has no statute of limitations.  Sexual abuse is an evil and a crime that wreaks havoc, destruction and despair, and the enemy, the Evil One, loves it, because it is shrouded in darkness, lies and shame. It unleashes the power of hell upon victims and their families and it often spreads from one generation to the next unless the cycle is broken by the light of truth, healing and reconciliation.

With my brother bishops, I offer my apology for the grave sin of sexual abuse and I pledge to continue the needed work to create and maintain a safe environment within our parishes, schools and service centers.”

Most Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Diocese of Jackson

Statement Regarding the Removal from Ministry of Deacon Rick Caldwell

Statement Regarding the Removal from Ministry of Deacon Rick Caldwell

On June 24, 2018, the Diocese of Jackson became aware of a report of inappropriate sexual contact by Deacon Rick Caldwell with a minor female occurring in the early 1980s. The alleged conduct occurred many years before Caldwell joined the Church and became a deacon.  After an investigation into the allegations, the Diocese has concluded that the claims are credible.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has a zero tolerance policy and requires the removal from ministry of any priest, deacon or other religious upon determination of a credible claim of sexual misconduct with a minor. Accordingly, Deacon Caldwell’s faculties have been suspended as of July 24, 2018, and he has been removed from ministry.  He is no longer free to function as a Deacon. The allegation of abuse has been reported to civil authorities by the Diocese.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

For more information about the Diocesan policies and procedures, you can visit the diocesan website at www.jacksondiocese.org.

 

Statement Regarding Allegations against former Bro. Paul West

Statement Regarding Allegations against former Bro. Paul West

An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by former Brother Paul West, OFM while in ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Greenwood has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board.  The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.

Parish assignment included serving as a Brother at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Greenwood from June 1993 – November 1998.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

Statement Regarding allegations against Rev. Timothy Crowley

Statement Regarding allegations against Rev. Timothy Crowley

An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Rev. Timothy Crowley while in ministry at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Chatawa has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board.  The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.

Parish assignment included serving as Pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Church, Chatawa from 1968-1970. He is deceased.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

Bishops release statement on abortion bills

Joint Statement of Bishops Kopacz and Louis F. Kihneman, III 

The Catholic Bishops of Mississippi, Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson, and Most Reverend Louis F. Kihneman III, Bishop of Biloxi, have authorized the release of the following statement regarding last week’s U.S. Senate vote protecting unborn human life and the upcoming Mississippi Senate vote:

Last week the United States Senate sought to pass the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” This proposed law, which cleared the House of Representatives in 2013, 2015, and 2017, would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks and beyond after fertilization. Once again, the Senate failed to pass this into law, this time by nine votes. We Catholic Bishops of Mississippi wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as “a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.”

We regret that this golden opportunity to protect innocent human life has once again passed us by, and we express deep sadness. We remind our representatives, once again in the words of Evangelium Vitae, that “they have a duty to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures.” We ask continued prayer for a culture of life to prevail in our society, and we urge those who voted against this legislation — especially those who are Catholic — to reconsider. Here in Mississippi, our House of Representatives is to be commended for voting to protect unborn human life after 15 weeks of gestation, and we hope and pray that the state Senate will, in tum, enact such protection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,                                                   Sincerely yours in Christ,

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

 

Joint Letter download here

Unborn Child Protection Act download here

 

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

Bishop Kopacz, remembering MLK, calls for just immigration reform, end to prejudice

When tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were forced from their homes in the 1970s, Catholic Charities across the nation, including the one right here in Jackson, Mississippi, welcomed them.

When thousands of boys in the Sudan faced the choice of being forced into a murderous militia or fleeing for their lives, again, Catholic Charities opened the door, offering a new home, counseling to ease the burdens of what they had witnessed and families to walk with them on their new journey.

As drug wars and civil strife destroyed the fabric of the simple agrarian cultures in Central America, driving families northward, Catholic Charities smoothed their transition into new communities. As the evil of war, prejudice and violence spreads from one global region to another, we stand ready to welcome the stranger.

In our own nation, Catholics, primarily women religious, answered the call to educate and empower the African American community in a time when they were denied the right to vote, to learn and to have access to equal rights as citizens of the United States. As the Civil Rights Movement took shape, clergy and lay Catholics stepped up. They marched, spoke out and, in some cases, protected the very lives of Civil Rights icons in their homes, convents and rectories. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took refuge at Holy Child Jesus in Canton. Franciscan sisters in Meridian protected another Civil Rights leader from a mob hoping to lynch him. In Natchez, Greenwood and beyond, we find stories of those who worked to advance the movement.

The central theme to this work — all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Reports this week of disparaging remarks made by President Donald Trump regarding people from nations wracked by poverty, natural disaster and civil unrest warrant a strong response. No one asks to be born into poverty, thrust into war or see their homeland destroyed.

As we mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is appropriate to remember and renew our commitment to the poor and vulnerable.

I call again on our lawmakers to forge a just and equitable solution for Dreamers, those brought to this nation as children who are now a part of the very fabric of our nation. I call on them to work out immigration policies with an eye to global justice and mercy. I urge them to put aside politics and be leaders with practical integrity.

In the meantime, in collaboration with the State Department, Homeland Security, the State of Mississippi, State wide agencies and a host of dedicated individuals, Catholic Charities in Jackson will continue its work with unaccompanied refugee minors, ministering to those driven from their homes as Joseph and Mary were driven from Bethlehem. Our Migrant Resource Center will continue to assist those who are here legally and who wish to call themselves Americans, as well as those who are undocumented to uphold their basic human rights.  Our parishes and schools will continue to strive toward our mission to Embrace Diversity, Serve Others and Inspire Disciples.

Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Jackson

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

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covers 65 counties in Mississippi and includes 96 parishes and missions, 12 schools and more than 25 service programs administered through Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. Bishop Joseph Kopacz is the 11th bishop for the diocese.

Statement regarding death of Cardinal Law

JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson acknowledges the death of Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Wednesday, Dec. 20, in Rome. He was 86-years-old. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but will likely take place in Rome.

Cardinal Law served as a priest in the Diocese of then Natchez-Jackson from 1961 – 1973. During his time here, he was a tireless and ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. “While many will criticize his harmful decisions while he was Archbishop in Boston, others, especially here in Mississippi, remember his work as a pastor and an advocate for social justice,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the Diocese of Jackson.

Cardinal Law was ordained for the priesthood on May 21, 1961, after having completed his seminary training at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, La., and at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, OH.

He was assigned as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in Vicksburg where he served for two years. In January 1963, Law was appointed as associate pastor of St. Therese parish in Jackson and in addition to his pastoral duties he began studying to become editor and business manager of the diocesan newspaper – The Mississippi Register. He assumed these duties in March of 1963.

During his five-year tenure at the newspaper, Law used his editorial column to address a myriad of issues and topics in society and the church. Most notably he wrote forcefully in opposition to segregation and racial injustices. His March 1964 editorial entitle “Legal Segregation is Dying” won Editorial of the Year from the National Catholic Press Association.

Law also used local TV to conduct an eight-night on-air evangelization mission. Law reached more than 100,000 viewers each night.

He was very active in interracial, interfaith and ecumenical committees and action groups. This earned him the opportunity to be under the watchful eye of the KKK, the Citizens’ Council and the State Sovereignty Committee. It also earned him the opportunity to serve as executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ secretariat on ecumenical and interreligious affairs in Washington, D.C., from 1968-1971. Upon his return, Law was appointed vicar general of the diocese by Bishop Joseph B. Brunini. He served in this capacity until his appointment as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri on Oct. 23, 1973. He was ordained and installed there on December 5, 1973.

On January 11, 1984, he was appointed Archbishop of Boston and was installed March 23 of that same year. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on May 25, 1985.

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

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covers 65 counties in Mississippi and includes 96 parishes and missions, 12 schools and more than 25 service programs administered through Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. Bishop Joseph Kopacz is the 11th bishop for the diocese.