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By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – In honor of the centennial of the appearance of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal, and as a way to strengthen the Pastoral Priorities implementation, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will consecrate the Diocese of Jackson to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday, Oct. 8.
All are invited to the Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle at 1:30 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 7, representatives from each parish will come to the cathedral for a Marian procession in downtown Jackson and a rosary starting at 10:30 a.m. The representatives will leave the cathedral with prayer cards to take back to their parishes to use during the implementation of the Pastoral Priorities. Bishop Kopacz is asking every parish to offer the prayer as the Pastoral Priority teams start their work.
Outlying parishes can participate by offering a rosary at that hour so the diocese is all praying together. The bishop will also ask parish priests to consecrate individual parishes to the Immaculate Heart the weekend following the diocesan consecration.
When Mary appeared to a trio of poor shepherd children in Fatima 100 years ago, she asked them to spread a message of prayer and repentance. She appeared to the three for six months and asked that people pray the rosary and make sacrifices for sinners. Two of the visionaries, 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, became the church’s youngest non-martyred saints earlier this year. Both died young of illnesses. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, went on to become a nun. Her cause for sainthood is underway. The three shared Mary’s messages, which included predictions of war, a vision of hell and encouragement to pray and repent.
“This is one way we can ask Mary to guide us and watch over us during implementation (of the Priorities),” said Mary Woodward, chancellor for the diocese.
Bishop Kopacz pointed out that Mary is already prominent in the Pastoral Priority plan as her image, taken from the rose window at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, is on the cover of the booklet outlining the Priorities. “The Blessed Mother is almost a subtle presence on our Pastoral Priorities booklet, yet clearly present,” said the bishop. “I think we can safely say she is our model for life-long intentional discipleship – right to the foot of the cross and into the resurrection and Pentecost event,” he continued. ” She gave birth to the incarnate Son and was central to the birth of the Church. As the Mother of the Church I think it is fitting to consecrate the diocese to her intercession and maternal care on the 100th anniversary of Fatima,” concluded Bishop Kopacz.
The Congregation for Divine Worship lists the consecration as one of the devotions approved by the church, but only with a proper understanding of what it is. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy describes it this way: “The history of Marian devotion contains many examples of personal or collective acts of ‘consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary’ … Seen in the light of Christ’s words (cf. John 19, 25-27), the act of consecration is a conscious recognition of the singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage, of the many maternal functions she has, since she is a true mother in the order of grace to each and every one of her children (253).”
“There is a rich tradition of Marian consecrations in the Church. Many people immediately think of Louis de Montfort’s 33-day consecration – or the spinoff, ’33 Days to Morning Glory,’” explained Deacon Aaron Williams, who composed the prayer to be used in the Diocese of Jackson. Deacon Williams researched different forms of consecration during the process. He also took language from the Pastoral Priorities and the new mission and vision statements.
“Pope Pius XII wrote his own consecration prayer, in response to the request of Our Lady of Fatima, which he urged all priests to make use of in parishes during his reign. We could have naturally looked to any of these prayers, but in the end, I felt it was more fitting for our situation to have a prayer which expressed the goals we had in mind for the consecration of our diocese,” said Deacon Williams.
“I decided to look at a number of consecration prayers and see what elements should be included, and used some elements of the Pius XII prayer as a model. I also wanted to include references which were particular to our own diocese. For example, the Diocese of Natchez was established under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows (the titular title of the Basilica in Natchez). So, there was already some form of consecration to Mary in our diocese. The prayer I composed makes the consecration itself to ‘the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.’ A later line speaks of Mary as ‘constantly showing [Jesus] the sorrows of [her] heart,’” explained Deacon Williams.
When an individual consecrates themselves to the Virgin, they commit to receive reconciliation, pray a rosary, receive Eucharist and offer certain prayers and meditations on the first Saturday of each month. They put themselves entirely in Mary’s care in their prayers.
“Since this consecration is being done to highlight the envisioning plan, I also wanted the prayer to reference that in some way. One of the intercessions of the prayer quotes the diocesean Mission statement. ‘Help us, Joyful Mother, through your example of living the Gospel, to faithfully proclaim Jesus Christ to be Savior of our hearts,’” said Deacon Williams.
“Finally, as a sort of homage to the Pius XII prayer, I wanted something in this prayer to hint at the ministry of the Holy Father. Pope Francis is often talking about the need to ‘accompany’ people in their journey towards holiness. The prayer I composed speaks of Mary saying, ‘you do not abandon any person who loves your Son, Jesus, but instead accompany the Christian people in true discipleship.’”
Jackson joins a number of dioceses across the nation who have consecrated themselves to Mary this year, including the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Diocese of Victoria in Canada and the Diocese of Winona, Minn.
Diocesan Chancellor Mary Woodward is working on a brochure to distribute at the consecration with information on the devotion and prayers people can use in their homes with their families.
(Editor’s note: to see the Pastoral Priorites or find the prayer, go to https://jacksondiocese.org/vision/)
By Danna Johnson
VARDAMAN – Summer 2017 had a different flavor for about 35 children from Vardaman. This was possible thanks to the partnership between Vardaman Victory Project Enterpreneurial Learning Center (ELC), part of the University of Mississippi’s MacLean Institute, and Catholic Charities’ Vardaman office. The mission of this program was to provide a fun, educational experience for students to keep them engaged during the summer.
Karson Nelson, Seth Dickinson, and Jessica Clarke were the enthusiastic students from Ole Miss who brought to town this wonderful learning experience. The camp offered speakers, sports and games, engaging activities and enrichment opportunities. Local authorities and parents supported the effort as did businesses such as Sweet Potato Sweets, and Mi Valles Restaurant.
As part of the citizenship and civic enrichment, children had the opportunity to hear from Kenney Scott, Vardaman’s chief of police, about the importance of “making good choices in life, because every choice has a consequence.” He also spoke about falling prey to bad influences, drugs and delinquencies.
Janet Swindle, Director of the Vardaman Public Library, offered a marvelous class about gardening. Each child received a gardening container and planted seeds at the beginning of the summer program. Every week as they were watering and caring their plants, Swindle graciously cultivated the habit of reading in children’s minds and hearts. Each child also received a library card and were able to take home their favorite books and movies. At the end of this program children toured the Ole Miss campus, and closed with a symbolic evening ceremony where each child received a certificate of participation. Organizers wanted the participants to keep learning in the summer, develop healthy habits, and participate in experiences that built self-esteem.
The staff and board members of the Catholic Charities Northeast office are delighted with the outcome and offer thanks to all the supporters of our programs. It is our hope to continue to carry out the mission and vision of the Diocese of Jackson in everything we do: to serve, to embrace, and to inspire.
(Danna Johnson is the director of the Catholic Charities office in Vardaman.)
By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – As the Diocese of Jackson rolls out the new Pastoral Priorities, Mississippi Catholic will feature goals, projects and success stories from different groups. The first comes from a youth minister in the Delta. The youth groups from the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Francis of Assisi are focusing their year on the priority of ‘embrace diversity.’
“We have about 30 kids in our LifeTeen program between the two parishes,” said Derrick Faucheux, youth minister for both parishes. “And they are all from different cultures.” Half, he said, are Hispanic. The rest are African-American or white. The group has been meeting and getting to know one another, but Faucheux was ready to take them a step farther.
When the group started meeting, Faucheux said the kids did not all sit together, but would cluster in groups. “We were not sure how we were going to break that mold,” he said. One night, the students and a group of adult leaders played an icebreaker game and everything changed. “I don’t even remember what the game was, but THAT night, there was an electricity in the room. The kids started actually talking to each other,” he explained. This one breakthrough was the first step in a months-long process to unite the members of the group.
“These kids go to five or six different schools, public and private, they come from different cultural, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. If not for this youth group, they probably would never have known each other at all.”
Once the students got a little more comfortable together, Faucheux started working on ways to explore their diverse backgrounds as a group. They started with a retreat-style gathering at the Locus Benedictus retreat center on the edge of town. The gathering, Saturday, May 6, offered a glimpse into the Hispanic devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Redemptorist community in Greenwood helped with Guadalupe Youth Day, providing insight and the location. The students participated in soccer, a picnic and other outdoor activities, but also spent time exploring how Hispanic cultures honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“The Catholic Church is universal. Even though Our Lady of Guadalupe is mostly a Hispanic devotion, she belongs to everyone,” Faucheux said. He wanted the teens to see how they can worship or participate in devotions specific to their culture, but also appreciate the devotions of other cultures.
He plans to expand these lessons throughout the year, examining African-American Catholic culture and leaders, Southern Catholicism, anything that will show the students how they can be diverse, but also unified. “I want the kids to see that the Church is universal,” he said.
Some members of the youth group went to Abbey Youth Fest together. The trip allowed the teens to spend a long time together getting to know one another better within a Catholic context.
Faucheux attended a national gathering of youth ministers where he asked others about their challenges with diversity.
“Very few of those leaders have a group as diverse as this one,” he said. The Mississippi Delta is unique in its blend of cultures. Far from being discouraged, Faucheux finds the challenge to be the perfect way to showcase how the Catholic church can embrace everyone. “Something was telling me to put all these kids together because it is such a witness to the Catholic Church that we can be together, we are universal.”
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Among many examples of the Church alive in the Diocese of Jackson this past week two in particular were outstanding in my pastoral visits. The annual commemoration of Catholic Schools Week was marked with abundant joy and creativity in each of the ten out of 16 school communities where I celebrated the Eucharist. (I am scheduled to visit and celebrate the Eucharist in the remaining six schools in the weeks ahead.)
School pride was evident around every corner and down every hallway. I am grateful to many who are dedicated to the wellbeing of our Catholic schools that continue to be a vital part of our diocesan mission to proclaim Jesus Christ so that all may experience him, crucified and risen.
The second event of this past week was the Convocation for parish leadership, priests, lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs), deacons and several diocesan staff who immersed themselves in our renewed mission, vision, and pastoral priorities. The enthusiasm and collaborative work were evident from Monday evening through Wednesday afternoon, the first major step of the implementation of our pastoral plan which began last year in the listening sessions around the diocese.
It has been an inspiring process that recalls for me the captivating words of the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, which were read at the end of the workshop. “Then the Lord answered me and said, write down the vision. Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run (with it). For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will sure come, it will not be late.” (Hab. 2,2-3)
The next step nearly one year after the listening sessions will be to host implementation sessions around the diocese for parish leadership and staff who can in turn work with their pastors, parochial vicars, LEMs, and deacons in very specific ways in each pastoral setting. Our renewed diocesan statement of vision is well designed in its simplicity, and far reaching in its relevance. Serve Others — Inspire Disciples — Embrace Diversity
These three phrases emerged from the deliberations of the diocesan envisioning team throughout seven sessions during the summer and fall which were characterized by considerable reflection and dogged dialogue, all of it under the nudges of the Holy Spirit. The input from our 17 listening sessions and the clamor of our current culture cry out for our statement of vision. There are pastoral priorities with SMART goals and tasks that flow from the vision and these will be presented and applied beginning next month. Each parish, school, and pastoral ministry will engage in the work of specifically applying the vision to the reality of each ministry.
I write this column on the eve of the third anniversary of my ordination and installation as the 11th bishop of Jackson, and without a doubt, it has been an action-packed adventure in faith since the outset. I recall that immediately following the ordination ceremony a reporter asked me if I could elaborate on the vision I had for the diocese. I smiled because I was still unable to find half of the stuff I packed for the move to Jackson from the Scranton diocese, let alone articulate a vision for a diocese that was just two hours old for me.
Seriously, I knew that it would take time to settle in and have the opportunity, in the words of Pope Francis, “to encounter, dialogue with, and accompany” the faithful of the Jackson diocese in order for the Holy Spirit to take us to the vista that now lays before us. This is clearly one of the meanings in the prophetic words of Habakkuk cited above with regard to waiting for the vision to arrive at its appointed time.
Remember that the mission of the Catholic Church and every diocese remains the same until Christ comes again, i.e. to make disciples of all nations. Our sacred mission as a diocese is to proclaim Jesus Christ by living the gospel so that all may experience the crucified and risen Lord. Out of this mission comes our vision which will guide us for the next three to five years.
One hoped-for blessing will be to bring about a deeper unity throughout our 65 counties which can be complex due to our geography as the largest Catholic diocese east of the Mississippi river. One of the mantras that I have periodically heard in my travels and pastoral visits is that “we do not feel like we are a part of the diocese because Jackson is so far away.” This is challenging to overcome, but I believe that our renewed vision with its pastoral priorities will go a long way to bring about a unity that will empower us.
An exhortation from St Paul to the Corinthians who were struggling with unity for many reasons, helps us to understand the wisdom of who we can be. “I urge you brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” (1Cor 1,10) A vision can inspire in us the same mind and purpose that no distance can weaken.
As our 180th year as a diocese unfolds before us, may the Lord Jesus, ever ancient and ever new, who began this good work in us, continue to renew and inspire us to serve him faithfully and creatively in our hard pressed, and yet hope filled times.
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