Nate-related postponements, cancellations

 

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Due to Tropical Storm Nate,  some parishes have had to adjust their schedule of weekend activities. Check here for more information. Here’s what we know so far.

  • The Healing Mass scheduled for this Sunday at Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Church in Biloxi has been rescheduled for Sunday, October 15 at 1pm.
  • Sacred Heart Parish’s Bazaar, scheduled for this weekend has been postponed until postponed until next weekend (Oct. 14-15).
  • The Diocese of Biloxi ‘s 2017 Rosary Rally, scheduled for Sunday October 8 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Pass Christian, has been cancelled.
  • St. James Parish’s Fall Festival (Gulfport) has been postponed until next weekend – October 14-15.
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Father Patrick McDermott’s priestly ministry ‘a source of great blessing’ to the Diocese of Biloxi

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Father Patrick McDermott, pictured above, died Sept. 16 in Ocean Springs. Photo/Terry Dickson

 

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Bishop Louis Kihneman celebrated a Funeral Mass for Father Patrick McDermott on Sept. 25 at Our Lady of Victories Church in Pascagoula. Burial took place in Ireland. Photo/Juliana Skelton

BY TERRY DICKSON
PASCAGOULA – The year was 1965, and newly ordained Fathers Michael Kelleher and Bernie Farrell had just arrived from Ireland for their very first assignment in Mississippi at Nativity BVM Church in Biloxi.
After being given their assignments for the next day by one of the outgoing associates – one was to celebrate Mass at the Little Flower Convent, and the other at Sacred Heart- the two young priests were left to their own devices.
Enter Father Patrick McDermott – “Father Mac,” as he was known – a fellow Irishman, who arrived at Nativity the previous year.
“Thank God for Father Mac. This young, strong, powerful man with shiny, black, well-groomed hair came through the back door. He greeted us with a very pleasant smile, told us that we were very, very welcome and that this was indeed a very wonderful parish, that we would be treated well and accepted by the people,” said Father Farrell. “He told us that he would be there for us throughout the year, that we would be friends and that we would work together,” said
Father Farrell was a homilist at a Sept. 25 Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Victories Church in Pascagoula for his friend, Father McDermott, 77, who passed away Sept. 16 after a brief illness. Bishop Louis F. Kihneman was principal celebrant for the funeral Mass; also present were Bishop Roger Morin, Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, and priests from the Diocese of Biloxi and Jackson.
“I remember Father Kelleher and I realizing that we hadn’t asked Father Mac how we were going to get to Mass. Father Mac said, ‘Don’t worry about the Masses. I’ll call in the morning and tell the sisters you won’t be able to make it.’ He told us not to tell the pastor, Msgr. Geoffrey O’Connell, and then he showed us to our rooms. These are the first impressions I had of Father Mac, and they have stayed with me for all these years. He was a very, very faithful companion and friend.”
Fathers Farrell and McDermott served at Nativity during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and would regularly attend local meetings.
“By our presence, we were showing our support for the cause of the times,” said Father Farrell. “I remember going to those meetings and hearing all the clatter and arguments and frustration. But I also remember that, when things would quiet down, Father Mac would say a few words and his words were very persuasive. He would say, ‘We’re all children of God, and we should treat each other as equals, and be fair and just without exclusion or exception.”
Father Farrell said he will remember Father McDermott as “a man of faith, who loved God, family, parishioners and fellow priests.”
Acknowledging the sadness of Father McDermott’s passing, Bishop Kihneman, who anointed him the day before his death, said, “It’s also a time of great joy, because one of God’s beloved has been called home.”
Bishop Kihneman thanked the McDermott Family, who were represented by his sister Rosaleen Deery and her husband, Eddie, for the gift of their brother.
“He’s been a great blessing to us as a diocese,” Bishop Kihneman said.
“Over the past four months, I’ve gotten to know him a bit,” said Bishop Kihneman, who visited Father McDermott at nursing facilities in Biloxi, Wiggins, Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs. “At one point, he said to me, ‘You’re never going to get away from me, are you?’”
Bishop Kihneman called those times spent went Father McDermott “a source of great blessing.”
“Of course, right now, being able to hold his chalice today was a wonderful blessing for me and a great joy. So, we lift him up in a very special way. The life of a priest, especially a missionary priest like Father Mac, is not an easy one. When the guys symbolically give up the boat and they hit the heat of Biloxi, there’s a true longing for Ireland. But he found a home here and he truly loved the people.”
Father McDermott was the son of the late Con and Frances McDermott and brother of the late Con, Jim and Gerard McDermott. He attended the local primary school where his father Con was principal teacher. He then attended St. Eunan’s High School in Letterkenny, Donegal; later he attended St. John’s College in Waterford, Ireland where he was ordained June 14, 1964. He arrived in Mississippi in September 1964, where he was assigned as assistant pastor of Nativity BVM Parish, Biloxi. He also served as assistant pastor in St. Elizabeth parish in Clarksdale and St. James Parish in Gulfport.
His assignments as Pastor included St. James Parish in Gulfport, Our Lady of Victories Parish in Pascagoula, Sacred Heart Parish in D’Iberville and a second stint as pastor in Our Lady of Victories Parish in Pascagoula, where he served until his retirement in 2010. He then resided in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Biloxi.
Father McDermott was also an avid golfer and devoted fan of Notre Dame football. In fact, before his health declined, he would make an annual trip to South Bend with Dr. Matt Kuluz, Father Farrell and others to see the Fighting Irish play.
Dr. Kuluz and Father McDermott became fast friends shortly after Father McDermott’s arrival in the United States 53 years ago.
“He was at Nativity and I was living on Point Cadet in Biloxi. When he came to Our Lady of Victories Parish, that’s when I really got to know him,” said Dr. Kuluz.
“He was a very solid person and very welcoming to everyone, including people of all faiths, all kinds of people. That’s the thing that struck me over and over and over again. He was a good person, a good friend and just solid as a person.”
Father Fintan Kilmurray served as associate pastor of Our Lady of Victories Parish from 1989 to 1990, and remembers Father McDermott as a good friend. “He was a great friend to the young priests of his day, very supporting with a super sense of humor,” Father Kilmurray said.
Larry Tabor, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in D’Iberville, said Father McDermott’s “dedication spread through the parish.”
“He was well-loved by members of Sacred Heart Parish. He just contributed so much to the well-being of the parish and the school. He also made sure that everything was well taken care of with the St. Vincent de Paul Society,” said Tabor. “He was a very good-hearted priest who grew the parish. At a time when many of the youth were leaving the Church, he choreographed a lot of things that held the people together, and actually brought new people into the parish.”
As Bishop Kihneman said, it’s not easy for a missionary priest to pick up stakes and leave home for a foreign land. But Father McDermott embraced the challenge and, ultimately made Mississippi a home away from home as well as a place of welcome for his family members.
“He opened up a whole new world to us when he left Ireland for Mississippi, especially when it came it to the Gulf Coast, because we would have never known about Biloxi, Gulfport or Pascagoula or Ocean Springs. Those little towns would not have been on the map” said Father McDermott’s sister, Rosaleen. “He opened up a whole new world for us and it was wonderful when he would come home. It was a great occasion. We’d always go to the airport to meet him.

“The children – our kids all loved him. We made many trips to Mississippi too. One time, when the kids were younger, we drove to Disney World. We also went to Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis. We have great memories.”
Deery said her brother truly loved Mississippi. “The parishioners were so good, so loving, so supportive,” she said. “Twenty years ago, he was offered by the bishop to come back to Donegal because there was a bit of a shortage of priests at the time. But he said no. He could not leave his parishioners in Mississippi. I think he believed he’d be betraying his flock here.”
In addition to his sister and brother-in-law, Father McDermott is survived by his brothers, Donald and Liam McDermott, sisters in law, nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives and a large circle of friends.
In lieu of flowers the family prefers donations be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509, New York, NY 10018 or to Notre Dame Hospice of Mississippi, 5407 Indian Hill Drive, Diamondhead, MS 39525.
Deery also wishes to thank Kare Med in Ocean Springs, where Father McDermott spent his final days, and Notre Dame Hospice.
Father McDermott was buried in Ireland.
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Words of Reflection from Father McDermott’s brother, Liam
The death has taken place on September 17th last of the Rev. Patrick Mc Dermott. Fr. Padraig (as he was known to his family) was born in Edeninfagh, Glenties in 1940 and was the son of the late Con and Frances Mc Dermott and brother of the late Con, Seamus and Gerry.
Fr. Padraig attended the local primary school in Edeninfagh where his father Con was the Principal teacher. He received his secondary education in St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny. Later he attended St. John’s College in Waterford where he was ordained a priest on June 14th 1964. In September 1964 he was assigned as assistant Pastor of Nativity BVM Parish, Biloxi, Mississippi. He served in many parishes as Pastor in Biloxi diocese and finally in Our Lady of Victories Parish, Pascagoula where he served until his retirement in 2010.
Because of his dedication and hard work, Fr Padraig was extremely popular in all the parishes he served in. This was demonstrated by the huge numbers who attended his Mass for Christian Burial held in Pascagoula last Monday. There was a great showing and outpouring of love and admiration by his former parishioners.
Fr Padraig never lost his love for his native country and travelled to Ireland every summer on vacation. He also visited all his friends and relations and travelled extensively throughout the country. Never losing his interest in Irish sports, he was a keen and avid fan of the Donegal football team and indeed all GAA matters. Every Sunday night during football season he rang his brothers and sister asking for match scores and accounts of matches. He was especially proud when Brian Mc Eniff managed the county team to win the All Ireland Football final in 1992. And again in 2012 when Glenties man Jim Guinness managed the Donegal All Ireland winning team. Fr Padraig played a lot of Gaelic football himself and to a very high standard whilst attending both St Eunan’s College and St John’s College, Waterford. He was also a keen handball player – a game widely promoted in St Eunan’s College.
Golf was his passion sport in Mississippi and he played it a lot with his friends. After settling down in Mississippi he soon became interested and became a great supporter of American football and baseball. Later he became a fan of the Notre Dame college football team and of the local Saints football team in New Orleans – often attending their games.
Fr Padraig was a wonderful family man and every member of his family visited him many times in Mississippi. His parents, Con and Frances, visited Mississippi on numerous occasions. Although they had a little difficulty at first understanding the drawl of the Deep South, they soon mastered it and they loved the American way of life – the food and the culture. They enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Mississippi and socializing with them was one of the joys while on holiday there. On their return from Mississippi, Con and Frances had many stories and anecdotes to tell their friends and neighbors.

 

In Memoriam: Father Patrick McDermott

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Father Patrick McDermott died on September 17 in Ocean Springs.
Father McDermott, 77, a native of Donegal, Ireland, was ordained at St. John College in Waterford on June 14, 1964. He served as assistant pastor of Nativity BVM Parish, Biloxi; St. Elizabeth Parish, Clarksdale; and St. James Parish, Gulfport. His assignments as pastor included St. James Parish, Gulfport; Our Lady of Victories Parish, Pascagoula; Sacred Heart Parish, D’Iberville and a second stint as pastor of Our Lady of Victories Parish in Pascagoula, where he served until his retirement in January 2010. In retirement, Father McDermott resided at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Biloxi. A Funeral Mass was held on Monday, September 25 at Our Lady of Victories Church in Pascagoula. Father McDermott will be buried in Ireland.

Msgr. Francis Farrell, a priest of 62 years, dies in Gulfport

 

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Msgr. Francis Farrell, who celebrated 62 years of priestly ministry in June, died Saturday in Gulfport. Msgr. Farrell, 86, a native of Lacanvey, Westport County, Mayo, Ireland, was ordained at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow, Ireland, for the Diocese of Natchez on June 5, 1955. His appointments included: Liturgy Commission chair; member, Board of Advisors to Liturgical Apostolate, Diocese of Biloxi’s Board of Consultors and Diocesan Building and Real Estate Committee chair. He served as assistant pastor at St. Richard, Jackson, and at St. Paul, Vicksburg, and as pastor at Assumption, Natchez; Sacred Heart, North Biloxi; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis, and Our Lady of Fatima, Biloxi. Visitation will be on Thursday from 6pm to 8pm at Our Lady of Fatima and on Friday from 10 am to 11am, followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11am, with burial to follow at Biloxi City Cemetery.

New Permanent Diaconate class to commence in 2018

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Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III has authorized information sessions to be held across the diocese which will begin the implementation of a new Diaconate Formation Class.

The selection process will begin in the fall of this year and classes would commence in the fall of 2018.
Pre-selection information sessions will be conducted from 8:30 until Noon on the following days:

Saturday, August 19th at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Hattiesburg
located at 3117 W. 4th Street
Saturday, September 9th at St. Joseph Parish, Gulfport,
located at 12290 DePew Road (Orange Grove)
Saturday, September 16th at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Ocean Springs,
located at 4900 Riley Road

For interested men, attendance at one of these sessions is mandatory, and your wife is required to attend. Please see your pastor, and for further information, call the Diocese of Biloxi, Office of the Diaconate, (228) 702-2107.

For more on the Permanent Diaconate, see PP???

Msgr. Flannery’s book tells the history of the Saltillo Mission

Fr Flanntery and His Book

BY TERRY DICKSON
MADISON – Msgr. Michael Flannery has written a definitive history of the Saltillo Mission, which was established by the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson in 1969.
In his book, “Saltillo Mission,” Msgr. Flannery, who served in the mission from 1971-74, tells how the Catholic Church in Mississippi came to serve the people of Mexico and delves into the life and ministry of the mission’s founder, Father Patrick Quinn, who faithfully served the people of this poor, mountainous region until his untimely death in 1997.
A native of Ireland, Msgr. Flannery, 77, was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. His first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Mary Parish in Jackson. In 1968, he was appointed associate pastor of Our Lady of Victories Parish in Pascagoula, one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of the Saltillo mission.

Saltillo Summers
“Actually, Pascagoula was the first group that went down there,” said Msgr. Flannery, alluding to the genesis of the Saltillo Summer Experience.
“I was teaching the seniors religion and I challenged them to do something for the poor. There were three guys – Robbie Goff, Cary Olsen and Donald Martin – who volunteered to drive a nine-ton U-Haul truck filled with clothes and medicine to the Mexican border. We gave them $50 a piece for their own expenses and a credit card to pay for their gas and hotels. They were to leave the truck in Laredo. Father Quinn was on his way to Ireland for vacation and was going to meet them at Christ the King Church in Laredo. Well, they decided to go into Mexico and visit the mission. Father Quinn was not going to be there, but they went in anyway by bus. They came back to Laredo and had enough money to buy a bus ticket to New Orleans. When they got to New Orleans, they met a lady who gave them a dollar, which was enough money for bus fare to Hwy 90. From there, they hitchhiked to Bay St. Louis. Cary Olsen had an aunt in Bay St. Louis who fed them and got them bus tickets for the rest of the way back to Pascagoula.”
By the time the three boys returned to Pascagoula, Msgr. Flannery said, the three boys hadn’t shaved in a week and were barely recognizable to their own parents. However, there beards weren’t thing to grow out of that initial trip.
“OLV was actually the first parish to send a group of kids down there and that’s what started the summer program,” he said.
“That really took off and became the best program that we actually had for youth. Conservatively, there were over 20,000 kids from all over the country who visited the mission during Father Quinn’s time. It was a game changer for most of those kids who went down there.”
According to Msgr. Flannery, the first high schoolers to visit the mission were OLV students Pat Stone, Mary Evans, Kathleen Moore and Genevieve and Yvonne Walker. In addition, Dr. Matt Kuluz, a Pascagoula pediatrician and OLV parishioner, solicited donations of supplies such as vitamins, proteins, baby food, bandages, antibiotics and antihistamines to take along on the maiden voyage.
In fact, Msgr. Flannery dedicated his book to Dr. Kuluz, “who has supported the Saltillo mission more than anyone I know.”
Msgr. Flannery notes that Dr. Kuluz has visited the mission more than 30 times and “inspired other medical doctors to join him in reaching out to the poorest of the poor.”

Serving the poorest of the poor
In the book, Msgr. Flannery discusses his decision to volunteer for service in the Saltillo Mission.
“I had been before and was inspired by what was going on there,” he said.
“I came to Mississippi from Ireland looking for missionary work. If I had stayed in Ireland, the probability is that I would have ended up teaching high school for 25 years. That did not appeal to me. There was more variety in the work here. There was also a shortage of priests here and that’s why I volunteered to come to Mississippi. Most of my contemporaries went to places like California and Florida because those were the popular places to go. I chose Mississippi because it was the poorest state in the union.”
The difference between Mississippi’s poverty and Saltillo’s poverty, however, was very stark.
“In Mississippi, you have some resources. You can call on welfare and get state and federal assistance,” he said.
“In Mexico, there’s none of that. A lot of people would live from hand to mouth. They didn’t know where their next meal would come from, particularly in these mountain villages. They were the poorest of the poor. The lived in adobe mud huts. They had no running water and no basic amenities of life.”
One thing they did have was a deep faith in God. So, whenever a priest would visit – sometimes just once a month – the people would turn out for Mass and other sacraments. In 1969, Father Quinn reported just over 500 baptisms. In 1978, he reported 1,416 baptisms, 1,200 First Communions and 256 marriages.
“The mountain villages had been neglected,” Msgr. Flannery said. “Some of these villages hadn’t seen a priest in ten years, yet the faith was alive, which was strange enough. Mexicans are religious people, basically. They might live in a mud hut, half the size of my living room. But, generally, in the corner there is a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a sacred space. That’s very important to them. They have a deep faith response. It’s very different from ours, but, if you could take the best of their faith response and add it to ours, you’d really have something going.”

Father Quinn
By the time of his arrival in 1971, Father Msgr. Flannery said the number of villages being served by the mission had grown from 44 in its infancy to 62.
“Father Quinn could never say no to anyone,” Msgr. Flannery said.
“Initially, Father Quinn made a commitment to staying in Mexico for five years and ended up staying for 30 years. After five years, Bishop (Joseph) Brunini asked him to stay on and he was happy to do that. By the time of his accident (which is detailed in the book), he was so enamored with the people that he didn’t want to go back to the United States for medical treatment. He nearly died down there because he got two pulmonary embolisms”
Father Quinn initially refused to go to the United States for treatment, Father Flannery write, “on the grounds that this service was not available to the people he served and he should show good example by staying and accepting what was available to a regular patient.”
Msgr. Flannery remembers Father Quinn as a visionary.
“He could look at any situation and know how best to approach it,” he said.
“During his time there, the city quadrupled in size. It went from 400,000 to 800,000 people. Part of that was caused by drugs in the mountain villages. If you lost a crop for two years in a row, you had nothing. You had no seeds to sow. So, people moved at that point and a lot of them became squatters on the side of the mountain. A lot of the growth happened to be at Perpetuo Socorro (Perpetual Help). He responded to that need. He could see that people were living in cardboard boxes. So, he started this program of building cinderblock homes and he ended up building 2,250 of them in his time.”
Msgr. Flannery came back to Mississippi in 1974 and ministered to the poor in the Mississippi Delta. He retired from active ministry in 2014 and currently resides in Madison.
He continues to visit Saltillo on an annual basis.

HOW TO GET A COPY

Copies of Msgr. Michael Flannery’s book, “Saltillo Mission,” ($15) are available at in the offices of the Gulf Pine Catholic, located inside the Diocese of Biloxi’s Pastoral Center, 1790 Popps Ferry Rd, Biloxi. Msgr. Flannery is also planning to bring the book to the Diocese of Bioxi later in the fall to offer at several parishes. Check the Gulf Pine Catholic for more details. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit St. Anthony School in Madison.

Priestly Ordination of Colten Symmes set for June 24 at 10am

untitledc.pngBishop Louis F. Kihneman III will ordain Deacon Colten Symmes to the priesthood on Saturday, June 24 at 10 a.m. at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral, 870 Howard Avenue, Biloxi. A reception will fall in the Nativity BVM Parish School, 1046 Beach Blvd.
Masses of Thanksgiving
He will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, June 25 at 6 pm. at Our Lady of the Gulf Church, 228 South Beach Boulevard, Bay St. Louis. Father James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans will be the homilist.
He will also celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on July 2 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Victories Church, 503 Convent Avenue, Pascagoula.

Sacred Heart Honors Life of Pat Sanchez at Mass of Christian Burial Feb. 27

 

BY DAVID TISDALE

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HATTIESBURG – Patricia “Pat” Sanchez touched lives not only through the written and spoken word, but also in her selfless devotion to her faith, family, friends and parish community.

Those are the sentiments expressed by many about Sanchez, a widely acknowledged expert on scripture and longtime member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg, who died Feb. 23 after a lengthy illness. She was 70.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Sacred Heart Feb. 27, with Sacred Heart Pastor Father Ken Ramon-Landry and Associate Pastor Fr. Ignacio Jiménez Morales joined by brother priests Father Tommy Conway, Father George Murphy and Father Godfrey Andoh as concelebrants.

A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Sanchez was born into a military family and lived in various places across the U.S. and in Japan following WWII, where her father was stationed as part of the post-war Allied occupation forces. In Japan, she assisted burn victims injured during the war. For the last several decades, she made Mississippi home with her children and husband, retired Southern Miss foreign language professor and Sacred Heart Music Minister Dr. Rafael Sanchez, whom she met during mission work for the poor in Uganda. The couple moved to the Magnolia State shortly thereafter to marry and raise their family.

Sanchez initially pursued a pre-med education in college, but her passion for the Bible re-directed her studies, as she went on to earn an M.A. from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York, mentored by noted scripture scholar Father Raymond Brown.

Her love for God’s word is reflected in her inspirational writing that has influenced and shaped homilies and inspired Christians around the globe, including through her longtime work as a scripture editor and contributor for Celebration magazine, a sister publication of National Catholic Reporter. Through her commentaries she shared her talents for putting the issues of the day in biblical context.

“She is a treasure – such a gentle, quiet leader,” said friend and fellow Sacred Heart parishioner Sandy Kinnan. “Her heart was in everything she did.”

Approximately two decades ago, Pat Sanchez was diagnosed with kidney disease. In need of a kidney, she found what many believed both a miraculous and ironic match for a donation from a live donor – Father Ramon-Landry. Tests for the procedure found the Sacred Heart pastor as nearly compatible with that of a relative.

He reflected on this close bond with his friend and parishioner during his homily, as he also recounted a life well-lived in her tireless passion for God’s message to mankind. “Pat knew God, and shared God with anyone who would listen,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to celebrate Pat’s life with her.”

Borrowing a phrase spoken often by Sanchez when she sought to reassure and comfort others – “Everything’s going to be alright” – Father Ramon-Landry bid his friend farewell. “My sister, rest in peace. Everything’s going to be alright.”

In addition to her husband, Pat Sanchez is survived by her children, Paul; Rafael, Madalena; and Patrick; a brother, Gregory; and five grandchildren. Memorials to Sanchez can be made to the Pat Sanchez Sacred Heart Catholic Church Hispanic Fund.                                                                         ####

 

Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-elect Kihneman III rescheduled for Friday, April 28, 2pm

dsc_3406The Episcopal Ordination and Installation of Bishop-elect Louis F. Kihneman III as Fourth Bishop of Biloxi has been rescheduled for Friday, April 28 at 2 p.m. at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Biloxi, 870 Howard Avenue.
Vespers will be held on Thursday, April 27 at 7pm.
Pope Francis named Msgr. Louis Kihneman to serve as the fourth Bishop of Biloxi on Dec. 16, 2016 and Bishop-elect Kihneman’s ordination and installation was originally scheduled to take place on Feb. 17, but had to be postponed due to health reasons.

Reason for the season found in St. Francis Xavier parishioner’s hobby

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Reason for the season found in St. Francis Xavier parishioner’s hobby

BY DAVID TISDALE

WIGGINS -Krystyna Korba’s hands have done much in her lifetime – from making string musical instruments in high school in her native Poland to milking cows at her family’s scenic dairy farm in the Wiggins, Miss. area.

Then, there was the time she shook the hand of Pope Saint John Paul II, who was also on hand for her confirmation in 1969 when he was still Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła.

In recent years, the wear and tear on her hands and back have limited what Korba can do around the house and farm. Still, with a strong desire to remain as active as possible and be creative, she’s painted Christmas tree ornaments over the last two years, many depicting primarily nativity scenes, as well as some that capture idyllic images of the farm life she’s known for so many years.

With no formal art education, she’s produced more than a 100 of the ornaments that have been a hit with family, friends and fellow parishioners at Saint Francis Xavier. She has also engaged in beadwork, inspired by the art and dress of Native Americans.

“I helped milk cows for about 20 years, but I had to quit because of issues with my back and hands,” she said. “So I sat down one day and decided to take up painting. It’s truly a gift from God and one that I’ve really enjoyed.”

Her husband Danny, who also has Polish roots (his parents left Poland for the U.S., settling in Vancleave before moving to Wiggins), helps in prepping the ornaments, cleaning and spraying them with primer before Krystyna goes to work on the small round canvases, painting Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the manger, or of wise men traveling from afar to pay their respects and brings gifts to the newborn King, among others variations on the theme.

“Too often when you go to a store, you’ll see ornaments that just portray snowmen or reindeer, but rarely any featuring what she does, which reminds us of why we celebrate this holiday,” he said.

When one meets Krystyna Korba, it soon becomes obvious her faith is an integral part of her of her life. She speaks fondly of John Paul II, especially when recalling the time she stood in line to shake his hand after he transitioned to the papacy from the Cardinal Wojtyła she knew as a young girl.

“It was a wonderful moment when it was announced he was elected. We (Poles) felt a great sense of pride when we heard the news,” she said. “It made me feel even closer to my faith.

“He was such a great man. When you looked him in the eye, you felt like you were with your best friend.”

Korba says she’ll continue pursuing her passion for painting Christmas ornaments as she is able, inspired by her faith and love of the season known best for the gift of God’s son.

“I don’t advertise my hobby to make money. I do it mainly because it brings me joy and I believe captures the spirit of my love for my faith and this wonderful time of year,” Korba said. “I’ve often thought, how fortunate I’ve been to live and work on a farm, often working in a stable like one Jesus was born in.”