MISSION APPEAL 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
Once again, this year, I am grateful to Bishop Ronald Gainer for allowing the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi to participate in the Mission Cooperative in the Diocese of Harrisburg. I am Bishop Joseph Kopacz, formerly a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, and now in my 8th year as the bishop of the Diocese of Jackson. We are a mission diocese where Catholics are a mere 2-3% of the population in Mississippi. Our diocese has the largest territory of any Catholic diocese east of the Mississippi River, approximately 38,000 square miles encompassing 65 counties. A small Catholic population over this expanse of territory results in many smaller rural parishes who on their own struggle to sustain their mission and ministries. In fact, there are some counties where the Diocese of Jackson does not have even a mission station. In addition, we are implanted in the State that consistently ranks at the bottom of national poverty-indicators, with respect to wages, health and access to health care, education, food, etc. Under these circumstances, it is clear that the Diocese of Jackson benefits enormously from the generosity_ty bestowed through the annual Mission Appeals.
The pandemic which has had a more adverse impact upon the poor and the marginalized, has exacerbated further the pastoral realities already straining under financial pressures in normal times. Many of our rural parishes are experiencing a significant loss of income because the majority of the parishioners are immigrants who work in the massive poultry industry in Mississippi. The gravity of their vulnerability to the COVID-19 virus is well documented and some of the large plants closed their doors because of the high rate of infections. In turn, the parishes and the Diocese of Jackson are reaching out to families whose breadwinner has lost their job because of the impact of the virus, or because of the downturn in the economy. Since June, 2020 our diocesan parishes opened under careful protocols, but for the past 10 months the number of parishioners who can attend Mass in-person is greatly reduced. When speaking with our pastors and lay leadership, it is obvious that they will need the assistance of the Diocese of Jackson through the Mission Cooperative to manage the impact of the pandemic.
I, and all leadership in the Diocese of Jackson, ordained and lay, thank you for your attention, prayer and generosity during these very challenging times for all of us, and especially for the poor and marginalized.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D., PH.D.
CATHOLIC DIOCESE of JACKSON