Dominican Sisters Leadership in Solidarity with Victims of Miss. ICE Raids

Call for Compassion, Understanding, and an End to Practices that Create Fear

Springfield, Ill.— “In recognition of the rights and dignity of children and families frightened and separated during the ICE raids on August 7, 2019” the leadership of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, “cry out” in solidarity compassion, and support.

The sisters offer their solidarity to all those affected by the raids and “those who are living in fear,” the statement says. “We hope that you and your families can feel the support of our prayers.

Springfield Dominican Sisters have ministered in Mississippi for more than 70 years. Their ministry, St. Dominic Health Services, was recently transferred July 1, 2019, to the sponsorship of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, based in Baton Rouge, La. Eight Dominican sisters continue to live and serve in Jackson.

The statement, issued from the congregation’s Illinois-based leadership, asks that “all people of good will in Mississippi” acknowledge that the trauma created by a broken immigration system “Unravels the bond of our common humanity and weakens the foundation of trust” essential to every Mississippian’s well-being and safety.

“At the foundation of our desire for a more just immigration policy is gospel-based Catholic Social Teaching,” Said Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, prioress general of the Springfield Dominican Sisters. “The United States Catholic Bishops have very clear guidelines on this.”

For access to resources from the bishops and other helpful materials for those accompanying immigrants anywhere in the U.S., visit springfieldop.org/immigration-resources.

The sisters encourage donations of time, expertise, and financial assistance to one of two Mississippi-based organizations. Donations may be made through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson or through a coalition of Mississippi organizations responding to the needs of immigrant families, which includes the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), and the MacArthur Center for Justice at the University of Mississippi.

The coalition includes the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), and the MacArthur Center for Justice at the University of Mississippi.

For more than 800 years, Dominicans have preached the Gospel in word and deed. The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, established in 1873, are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. Today, thousands of Dominican sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world. To learn more about the Dominican Sisters of Springfield visit springfieldop.org.

Click Here to download pdf of statement.

Kids Prayer Rally on the Historic Canton Courthouse Square.

Joint Statement of Bishops Kopacz, Kihneman, Seage, Swanson and Gordy on ICE Raids

August 9, 2019

Raids, such as those conducted on Wednesday in the central part of Mississippi, only serve to, as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote last month in a letter to President Trump, “cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities.” We, the undersigned, condemn such an approach, which, as he rightly states, “has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the United States.”

To say that immigration reform is a contentious and complex topic would be an understatement. As Christians, within any disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises. Our baptism, regardless of denomination calls us to unity in Jesus Christ. We are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches and for the common good of our local communities and nation. We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families. Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis.

We are grateful to all who are reaching out to help. Catholic Charities is organized to directly assist immigrant families. You can donate to support this humanitarian cause at: https://catholiccharitiesjackson.org/ and go to “August 7 ICE Raids” at the top right of the website.

Thank you for your concern, prayers and generosity.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Eleventh Bishop
Catholic Diocese of Jackson                                                                                        

Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III
Fourth Bishop
Catholic Diocese of Biloxi

Bishop Brian R. Seage
Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of Mississippi                                                                                                 

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Resident Bishop, MS Conference
The United Methodist Church

The Reverend H. Julian Gordy
Bishop, ELCA Southeastern Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Click here for pdf version of Bishops Joint Statement

Reform Not Raids

Declaración conjunta de los obispos Kopacz, Kihneman, Seage, Swanson and Gordy

Agosto 9, 2019

Las redadas, como las realizadas el miércoles en la parte central de Mississippi, solo sirven como “causa del inaceptable sufrimiento de miles de niños y sus padres, y crean un pánico generalizado en nuestras comunidades,” según escribió el cardenal Daniel DiNardo, presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos, el mes pasado en una carta al presidente Trump.

Nosotros, los abajo firmantes, condenamos ese enfoque, que, como se afirma acertadamente, “ha creado un clima de miedo en nuestras parroquias y comunidades en todo Estados Unidos.”

Decir que la reforma migratoria es un tema polémico y complejo sería quedarse corto. Como cristianos, dentro de cualquier desacuerdo, todos debemos mantenernos unidos por nuestras promesas bautismales. Nuestro bautismo, independientemente de su denominación, nos llama a la unidad en Jesucristo. Somos su cuerpo y, por lo tanto, estamos llamados a actuar con amor como una comunidad unificada para nuestras iglesias y para el bien común de nuestras comunidades locales y nuestra nación. Podemos solidarizarnos para brindar consuelo, asistencia material y fortaleza a los niños, padres y familias separadas y a los traumatizados. Por supuesto, estamos comprometidos con una reforma justa y compasiva al sistema de inmigración de nuestra nación, pero hay una necesidad urgente y crítica en este momento de evitar un empeoramiento de la crisis.

Agradecemos a todos los que están buscando ayudar. Catholic Charities se está organizado para socorrer directamente a las familias inmigrantes. Usted puede hacer una donación monetaria, para apoyar esta causa, en: https://catholiccharitiesjackson.org/ e ir al “August 7 ICE Raids” en la parte superior derecha de su sitio web.

Gracias por su preocupación, oraciones y generosidad.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Eleventh Bishop
Catholic Diocese of Jackson                                         

Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III
Fourth Bishop
Catholic Diocese of Biloxi

Bishop Brian R. Seage
Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of Mississippi                                                                   

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Resident Bishop, MS Conference
The United Methodist Church

The Reverend H. Julian Gordy
Bishop, ELCA Southeastern Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en PDF de la declaración

Reform Not Raids

Help Families Affected by ICE Raids

Please help families affected by the ICE Raids in Mississippi by making a donation through Catholic Charities. Families affected need additional legal and financial assistance as the parents go through the legal process, which may take months to complete.

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Mississippi Bishops praise abortion ban

March 25, 2019

Download statement HERE..
Statement in Espanol HERE..

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mississippi Bishops praise Abortion Ban
When the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, she did not hesitate to say ‘yes.’ What a wonderful world we would live in if every parent could feel free to echo that ‘yes’ when they learn of a new life in the womb.

We, the Catholic bishops of Mississippi, applaud the Legislature for passing and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant for signing into law the six-week abortion ban. This so-called heartbeat bill protects the tiniest and most vulnerable of our citizens.

We hope the courts will uphold this law and continue to pray for an end to abortion in our nation.

Knowing that many face pregnancy with fear; that many must overcome unbelievable obstacles and that the news of a new life can be overwhelming, we encourage women facing an unplanned pregnancy to seek support. There are organizations who can help you. Birthright statewide, ProLife Mississippi, the Center for Pregnancy Choices in the Jackson area; the Oxford Pregnancy Test Center; Life Choices Pregnancy Care Center in Columbus; Morning Star Pregnancy Care Centers in Harrison and Jackson Counties and St. Gerard Community Outreach in Waveland, just to name a few. The staff at these centers stands ready to accompany you from the fear of the unknown to the joy of new life.

Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Louis F. Kihneman, III                         Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of Biloxi                                                             Bishop of Jackson

Bishop Kopacz announces release of list of accused

On the weekend of March 16-17, Bishop Joseph Kopacz sent a letter to parishes in the Diocese of Jackson to inform Catholics that he will release a list of credibly accused clergy and lay ministers. Below is the text of that letter:

Dear Friends in Christ,
This week the Diocese of Jackson will release the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. It is our hope and prayer that releasing these names will confirm our commitment to transparency in the pursuit of our Promise to Protect and our Pledge to Heal the harm caused by abuse in the church. The list will be posted on the diocesan website on Tuesday, March 19, and will be printed inside the Mississippi Catholic set to come out at the end of the week.
We know that this list will cause pain to many individuals and communities and I am truly, deeply sorry for that pain. The crime of abuse of any kind is a sin, but the abuse of children and vulnerable adults is especially egregious. First and foremost, it is a sin against the innocent victims, but also a sin against the Church and our communities. It is a sin that cries out for justice.
The time for trying to keep these cases quiet in the church has come to an end. We now know that this deep wound in the Body of Christ will not heal until we lay bare the sins of the past and work together toward reconciliation. Releasing this list is not the end of a process, it is another step forward in the ongoing effort to reform our church.
In addition to the list, look for additional information about how our Office of Child Protection and Safe Environments is working to screen and educate employees and volunteers as well as educating children and families in self-protection, in hopes of preventing abuse in the future.
The majority of the cases on our list are from the past. This does not make them any less hurtful or significant, but it does indicate that the measures the Church and the Diocese of Jackson have put into place to prevent abuse are having an impact.
We know it can take years for a victim to come forward. We want to hear from those who have been abused by a member of the clergy or an employee of the church. Not only is it our legal duty to report these cases, helping victims find healing and wholeness is our moral imperative. Anyone can contact our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator Valerie McClellan at (601) 326-3728 to seek help.
Again, I apologize from the depths of my heart to those who have been sexually abused by clergy and church personnel, to the families damaged by these crimes and to the Catholic community for the scandal this scourge has brought upon our Church. There is no room for this evil in our society or our churches.
It is my hope that the release of this list during the penitential season of Lent will remind us to pray for all those impacted by abuse and recommit all of us to the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal.
Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of Jackson

Bishop Kopacz release letter Spanish

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.