Bishop of Jackson Diocese visits Vicksburg Catholic School, talks with seniors

Published 4:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

Bishop Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, visited Vicksburg Catholic School on Thursday, saying Mass for the student body and then meeting with seniors at St. Aloysius to discuss a variety of topics from the principles of Catholic social justice to the post-COVID future of the church.

 “Each of us is unique and made in the image and likeness of God,” Kopacz said as he discussed the principles of Catholic social justice in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s our foundation but not in isolation; we’re never in isolation. We are always part of the world and families, extended family, neighbors and schools.

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“The common good is accompanied by another principle, solidarity — we don’t do things in isolation. We’re always mindful of what’s best for others. But in creating that sense of community there could be legitimate differences of opinion on a lot of matters how to do things,” he said. “What we believe, we believe is part of our tradition that began in the scripture and the dignity of the human person that creation made in the image and likeness of God.”

The issue going forward with the common good, Kopacz said, is “How do we apply it in the middle of a pandemic that won’t go away and that’s what’s nice; it’s not like it’s not oppressive, it’s not a matter of controlling, although there are rules and guidelines, it’s the common good, it’s creating community, creating a sense of solidarity; it’s caring for one another.”

The common good, he said, also needs to be addressed with respect to individual rights.

“In the United States, there’s nothing more prominent in the foundational documents than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Kopacz said. “Freedom to pursue your destiny, but where does that come in conflict sometimes with the common good?”

He said there are examples where individual liberty is sometimes put aside for the good of others.

Kopacz said the seniors have been through some unusual times with the start of COVID at the close of their sophomore year and the schools closing in 2020.

“Now this year, your senior year, is turning out to be better but still under some restrictions. So high school’s second half (of the year) has been very challenging,” he said. “And that applies to the diocese — our schools and churches.”

The schools, however, can provide seniors an opportunity for leadership, he said.

St. Aloysius theology teacher Joan Thornton said the seniors have shown resiliency to recover from the problems caused by the pandemic and are eager to be engaged in programs.

“The seniors are willing to work and have a personal connection; they still want to do it,” she said.

Other teachers said they were concerned that the changes in the church made during the pandemic may mean the church may lose a whole generation of young Catholics. They were concerned the younger priests are not taking full advantage of social media to bring younger Catholics back to church.

“People are tired; it requires patience and quietness,” Kopacz said. “Some people are suffering.”

The issue, he said, is, “How do we stay in the fold with Jesus? It requires focus and presence and from suffering comes hope. We need to see what we can do to build better and learn how we can be better.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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