A Review of the News and Events in 2016 in the Local Diocesan Church

Five parishes in the Belleville diocese celebrated milestone anniversaries of their faith communities totaling over 600 years of parish life.
Two parishes, St. John the Baptist in Piopolis and St. Joseph in Stringtown celebrated their 175-year anniversaries; St. Francis of Assisi in Aviston its 150-year anniversary; St. John the Baptist in West Frankfort its 100-year anniversary; and St. Augustine of Hippo in East St. Louis (a merger of four former East St. Louis parishes) its 10-year anniversary.

St. John the Baptist School in Red Bud celebrated its 150-year anniversary.

Two parishes looked to the educational future of their young parishioners. St. Joseph Parish in Olney dedicated a new parish school; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Herrin broke ground for a new regional Catholic school.

Youth from the diocese participated in a number of service projects — the traditional Catholic high school three-week programs, which included projects in Korea, Honduras and Ecuador. Youth from a number of diocesan parishes spent summer days in service projects from Cairo to Alaska and the Twin Cities. Parish youth also took seriously the corporal works of mercy in the Year of Mercy programs.

Some of the photos that remind us of significant moments in the past year are here. 2016 photos

Senior students at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese participated in their annual three-week service projects. The students served in 91 different projects, including, for several Althoff seniors, in Korea and Honduras. The 206 seniors from the two Catholic high schools performed almost 20,000 hours of service including to children with cancer, adults in nursing homes or with autism, people affected with HIV/AIDS, and people in remote Honduran villages.

It wasn’t “marching” as usual for the more than 50 diocesan adults and youth who joined in the annual March for Life in Washington. Eye-opening experiences and works of mercy in action were the “gift” of a severe snow storm that stalled their return trip and ended in an overnight at an emergency shelter.
Also reported in January:

• The January 14 issue included a  Travel section, with a feature on the “living stones,” who help maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land.
• The “Through the Doorway,” an RCIA Formation workshop, sponsored by the Springfield diocese and the Belleville diocese’s Office of Worship, was held Jan. 17 at King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville.
• The Jan. 28 issue included photos of Bishop Edward K. Braxton with Pope Francis during a Vatican visit. The bishop thanked the pope for his pastoral visit to the United States in 2015 and his encyclical “Laudato Si,” (On the Care of Our Common Home.)
• Lily Kampwerth, fifth-grader at St. Clare School in O’Fallon, and Olivia Heinzman, eighth-grader at St. Mary School in Mt. Vernon, were “framed” in the January Kids Connection sections for setting great examples for others.
• The January 28 issue included the Feb. 1-July 31 Diocesan Six-month Calendar.
•January obituaries: Sister Eleanora Marie Maurer, OSF; Sister Bertilla Seiffert, OSB.

The Feb. 11 issue included the annual Catholic Schools Week supplement. Included in the Week’s celebrations were special liturgies and  corporal works of mercy and service projects, rummage sale and collections for special needs, a “saints wax museum” at St. Joseph School in Olney and a vocations fashion show at St. John the Baptist School in West Frankfort. A Gibault Catholic High School graduate shared the challenges in facing ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The school’s band continued the tradition of playing at area feeder schools.

St. Teresa School in Belleville cut the ribbon on the school’s new STEM lab (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

In a CSW feature a number of school personnel commented on the importance of a Catholic  education.

At the annual Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion Feb. 14, Bishop Braxton welcomed catechumens and candidates.

An insert in the Feb. 25 edition focused on the 2016 Catholic Ministry and Service Appeal, including a report on the 2015 Appeal, with  $1,116,883 pledged and $1,049,920 distributed. Appeal recipients: The Catholic Newman Center in Carbondale, Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School and Catholic Urban Programs in East St. Louis were included in insert features.

Also reported in February:
• Kindergartner Nathan Harris, St. Clare School in O’Fallon and Abbygail Grabowski, St. Ann School in Nashville, were “framed” in the February Kids Connection sections as outstanding young Catholics.
• Sixth- to eighth-graders from 14 diocesan parishes participated in a Luke 18 Feb. 5-7 at Notre Dame Academy-St. Mary campus in Belleville.
• Forty two cantors participated in a workshop Jan. 30 at St. Teresa Parish in Belleville, directed by Paul Inwood, internationally known British composer. Inwood composed the hymn chosen by the Vatican as the official  hymn for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
• February obituary: Sister Colette Collings, OSF.

Rick Kenner and his nephew’s friend Megan Crawford had planned to process through the RCIA together, but for Rick the Easter celebration of his baptism was fast-forwarded to the summer of 2014 after diagnosis of progressive cancer. He had accompanied his family to Mass for 20 years. His children were his godparents.
The annual Easter Greeting supplement in the March 24 issue included the traditional welcoming of the diocese’s catechumens and candidates who were baptized or welcomed into full communion at diocesan parishes’ Easter Vigils.

The diocese’s Catholic Committee on Scouting recognized Scouts from throughout the diocese Feb. 28 at the annual recognition ceremony at St. Augustine Church in Belleville, with Father Eugene Kreher presenting the traditional Catholic Scout recognitions.

The March 10 issue included the annual Spanish supplement, mailed to 1,200 families on file at the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry.
About 150 youth and adults gathered March 4-6 at the Gateway Center in Collinsville to consider the theme: “Here to Serve: God’s Love in Action.”
Also reported in March:
• St. Augustine of Hippo Parish in East St. Louis celebrated the 10th anniversary of the merger of four former East St. Louis parishes: St. Patrick, St. Philip, St. Regis and St. Joseph.
• Bishop Braxton was among the speakers at a conference on the racial divide held at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
• Second-grader Nora Hager, St. Agatha School, New Athens, and eighth-grader Sarah Wollesen, St. John the Baptist School in West Frankfort were “framed” in the March Kids Connection sections as students who put their faith into action.
• The diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry sponsored two classes to teach parish and diocesan staff rudimentary Spanish.
• Althoff Catholic High School basketball team won the Class 3A state basketball championship.
• The letter written by eighth-grader Mandy Fields from St. Theresa of Avila School in Salem, was chosen by Bishop Braxton as the representative letter of Catholic school students to be forwarded to Pope Francis on the third anniversary of his election as pope.
• March obituaries: Sister M. Michaeline Hoffman, OSF; Mrs. Hilda Mary Schaefer.

The Messenger’s April special supplements — Deacon Appreciation and Senior Living — met at the intersection of ministry in at least one instance.
The diaconate ministry prioritizes a ministry of service — focusing in the special on Deacon Charles Litteken and Deacon Archie Bowers.

The Senior Living supplement featured Dorothy Suchomski, who at 85 continues a more than 30-year ministry using her sewing skills to make baby crib sheets for the Pregnancy Care Center in Belleville. In April the Center picked up 60 sheets. She also makes small blankets which her daughter, a nurse, uses at a dialysis center.
The Diaconate supplement also featured the assistance and support of two diaconate spouses: Josie Weiler and Diane Lanter.

The April issues included the first two installments of Bishop Braxton’s  pastoral “The Catholic Church and The Black Lives Matter Movement: The Racial Divide in the United States Revisited” — a companion peace to his earlier pastoral “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015.”

Also reported in April:
• Father Mark Stec, vicar forane for the East Vicariate, led the Spring Farm Blessing at the farm of the Jeanne and Jim Tennis family near Mt. Carmel.
• Youth from Sacred Heart Parish in Du Quoin collected a truckload of food for the local food pantry, and collected more than 175 pairs of socks for the Community Clothes Closet — a Year of Mercy project.
• Construction of HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s $300 million replacement hospital and ambulatory care center continued its progress toward an anticipated fall of 2017 opening.
• The Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal Fund for Ministry awarded 24 grants totaling $15,180 to projects in each of the five diocesan vicariates.
• Eighth-grader Noah Lintker, St. Agatha School in New Athens, and sixth-grader William Mayberry, St. Mary School in Mt. Carmel,  were “framed” in the April Kids Connection sections as young Catholics who lead by example.
• April obituary: Father John Joyce.

The Rev. Mr. Brett Judkins, 29, was ordained to the priesthood for the Belleville diocese May 14 by Bishop Braxton at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville. In a pastoral letter inviting diocesan Catholics to the ordination ceremony Bishop Braxton emphasized: “Last year we did not ordain any Priests for the Diocese. We are ordaining only one Priest for the Diocese this year. Next year we are not ordaining anyone at all.”

The third installment of Bishop Braxton’s  pastoral “The Catholic Church and The Black Lives Matter Movement: The Racial Divide in the United States Revisited” was published in the May 5 issue.

A Memorial Day feature in the May 19 issue included an interview with Lenora Palovic, 91, whose brother, Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Olympio Zanini, 23, was killed on a bombing mission of German oil fields May 19, 1944. Their father, Caesar was killed in a  coal mining accident in 1927, when “Limp” was 5 and Lenora 2.
Gibault Catholic High School service projects included for 14 seniors  two weeks in Ecuador where they painted structures, built a chicken coup, and learned about family life and life lessons as well. The were accompanied by a pharmacist, doctor and nurse.

Health and Fitness features in the May 5 issue focused on helmet safety for kids, walking as a necessary exercise and healthy eating habits.

Also reported in May:
• Bishop Braxton addressed the annual Oblate convocation April 21 at Our Lady of the Snows shrine.
• Third-grader Ella Umbdenstock, St. John the Baptist School in Red Bud and eighth-grader Haily Leath, St. Mary Parish, Carlyle were “framed” in the May Kids Connection sections as students always anxious to help.
• With Kings House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville celebrating its 65th year, a May 5 feature included an interview with St. Louis photographer Tom McCarty, who has participated in a retreat every year since the Center’s opening in 1951.
• Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville made plans for a STEM (Science, Technology, and Math) lab and an outdoor athletic complex.
• Eighth-grader Jane Whelan, Immaculate Conception School in Columbia with her friend Hannah Jansen organized support for Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research. Jane wanted to honor and support her dad, who was suffering, and continues to suffer from cancer.

The Messenger’s June special supplements celebrated milestone experiences in the lives of diocesan Catholics. The June 2 issue included the annual Graduation supplement; the June 16 issue included the annual supplement devoted to diocesan priests celebrating anniversaries.

The annual Graduation supplement saluted 41 valedictorians and salutatorians and congratulated graduates from the diocese’s three Catholic high schools and Catholic graduates from public high schools throughout the diocese. Recipients of the Bishop’s Discipleship Award, presented after the annual Baccalaureate liturgy at St. Peter Cathedral, were seniors Zachary Tate, Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville; Adam Zeveski, Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo; and Ashley Vonder Haar, Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese.

The Diocesan Jubilees supplement congratulated diocesan priests and priests serving in the diocese celebrating ordination anniversaries in 2016. A diocesan celebration beginning with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter Cathedral was held June 6.

Diocesan priests or priests ministering in the diocese  celebrating anniversaries were: Father Charles Kribs (65), Father Donald Lenzini (65), Father Christian Reuter, OFM (50), Father James Thomas (40), Msgr. David Darin (25), Father James Deiters (25), Father Tadeusz Gegotek (25), Father Ray Schultz (25), Father Stanley Konieczny (10).

Also reported in June:
• Karen Waterbury, a science teacher at St. Mary School in Mt. Carmel, was named the 2016 American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation’s Teacher of the Year.
• The final installments of Bishop Braxton’s  pastoral “The Catholic Church and The Black Lives Matter Movement: The Racial Divide in the United States Revisited” were published in the June 2 and June 16  issues.
• HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville hosted its first “Bundles for Babies” Community Baby Shower to collect donations for the Pregnancy Care Center in Belleville.
• More than 200 people from area nursing homes gathered June 8 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center for the annual picnic sponsored by the diocesan Ministry to Sick and Aged.
• The annual Mass of Thanksgiving in Celebration of Life and Love recognizing couples celebrating anniversaries was celebrated June 5 at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville by Bishop Braxton.
• Over 100 Hispanic youth and 30 adults gathered June 4 at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows to participate in the annual Hispanic Youth Day under the theme: El Camino: Mercy in Motion.
• Partnering with Catholic Church Extension Society, the Diocese of Belleville sponsored a workshop  June 7-8 called “Money Tools for Presbyters” at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
• The June 30 issue included a feature on the novel and screenplay (Caged and Caged No More) by Molly  Olson Venzke, addressing sex trafficking in America. Venzke is the daughter of Deacon Richard and Jan Olson, St. Nicholas, O’Fallon parishioners.
• Deacon Douglas Boyer was named the new director of King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville.
• The June 30 issue included a feature on the June 19-25 activities at the diocese’s  Camp Ondessonk near Ozark.
• Young people from St. Mary in Carlyle and St. Teresa in Marydale were involved in a Year of Mercy water project focusing on funding community water stations, latrines and hand washing stations, sending the money to Catholic Relief Services.
• Seventeen youth accompanied Kristi Sandschafer, Holy Cross Parish, Wendelin and other East Vicariate adult chaperones to participate in a Heart Workcamp mission trip to the Twin Cities where they helped spruce up a camp for the developmentally disabled ages 6-74.
• June obituaries: Father Charles Kribs; Sister Wilfreda Kern, ASC; Sister Magdalen Hellmann, PHJC; Stephen Chukwuma.

Youth from diocesan parishes traveled to Alaska and Cairo to participate in service projects. Fifty-two youth and 14 adults from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel/Holy Spirit Youth Ministry, in Herrin and Carterville respectively, performed more than 1,200 hours of service July 10-16 in Anchorage, Alaska in multiple locations in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. Youth from St. Mary in Mt. Vernon continued a special relationship they have developed with the people of Cairo through their work with Daystar, a diocesan outreach agency.

Youth were also on the minds of four new parish elementary school principals introduced in the July 14 issue. The new principals are: Cindy Brogan, St. Mary School in Mt. Carmel; Dan Nickerson, Sister Thea Bowman School in East St. Louis; Brittany Goldman, St. Bruno School in Pinckneyville; and John Correll, St. Joseph School in Freeburg.

Bishop Braxton published a commentary in the July 28 issue titled “Moral Leadership in Action: All Lives Really Do Matter.”

Also reported in July:
• Ryan Bomberger, an international speaker and founder of the Radiance Foundation was announced in the July 14 issue as the speaker at the annual Vitae Foundation Pro-Life Dinner scheduled Aug. 4.
• Sonya Jones, a finalist on “The Biggest Loser” TV program, spoke July 7 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville on creating a healthy lifestyle.
• Msgr. Thomas Flach, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Marion, fulfilled a lifelong dream by alternately walking and wheelchairing (with his nephew, Keyan) part of the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain.
• Sister Grace Mueller’s 25 years of ministry at St. Luke Parish in Belleville were celebrated July 10.
•  St. Nicholas Parish in O’Fallon organized a Bridges Retreat. Instead of the traditional 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola the retreat is experienced over an extended period of time.
• In the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy the Poor Clare nuns invited people to their Belleville monastery to join them Aug. 2-10 in a novena honoring St. Clare of Assisi and focusing on the Works of Mercy.
• Diocesan parishes continued their traditional picnics dating back to the 1800s — famous for quilt bingos and suppers.
• The July 28 issue included the semiannual Diocesan Calendar.
• July obituary: Msgr. Joseph Schwaegel.

Fifty-nine women and men religious from 10 communities celebrating anniversaries were recognized in The Messenger’s Aug. 11 annual Religious Jubilee supplement. The jubilarians’ years of ministry and life are more than 3,500. Behind the numbers is a legacy of relationships with countless children and adults accompanied on their faith and human journeys in all walks of life.

Featured in the supplement were Poor Clare members Mother Marie Therese Tremblay and Sister Rose Marie Tremblay, sisters celebrating their 65th and 25th jubilees respectively. Also featured was Father Christian Reuter, OFM, coordinator of diocesan Prison Ministry and sacramental minister at Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia.

The Aug. 25 Senior Living supplement included features on SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia’s new geriatric inpatient unit for seniors over 65, and on linking staff and residents in creative ways at Aviston Countryside Manor, programs and innovations developed by administrator Leslie Pedtke. Celebrated in the supplement were centenarians Inez Wilson (106); Rose Theising (101); Verena Nothaus (102); Blanche Cobb (108); and Josephine Tripamer (100).The Aug. 25 issue included a report on Bishop Braxton’s address at the Cardinal Regali Center in St. Louis on the need for moral leadership to bridge the racial divide in the United States.

Also reported in August:
• Belleville’s Althoff Catholic High School’s graduate Kevin Lisch participated in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a member of Australia’s basketball team. The Lisch family are members of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Belleville.
• Two new Catholic elementary school principals were introduced in the Aug. 11 issue: Jason Swan, St. Mary School in Centralia; and Roy Monti at St. John the Baptist School in Smithton.
• Youth from St. George Parish in New Baden joined more than 5,000 teens in July at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., for a Steubenville Mid-America conference.
• Griffin Center in East St. Louis celebrated its 30th anniversary of ministry through day camps and after-school programs at public housing developments in East St. Louis.
• St. John the Baptist Parish in Piopolis celebrated its 175th anniversary as a community of faith.
• Bishop Julio Cabrera Ovalle of Jalapa, Guatemala visited the Belleville diocese. More than 150 representatives of sister parishes met at St. Mary’s in Trenton with him and Shelly Sands, president of Missions International which oversees the sister-parish relationships.

Faith was the underlying theme for employers and employees at work and for catechists and students in The Messenger’s September supplements.

Seven people were recognized at The Messenger’s annual Faith in the Marketplace dinner. Recognized for taking their faith into the marketplace were: Anne Kehrer, St. George, New Baden; Janette Kocher, St. Joseph, Stringtown; Donna Meyers, St. Clare of Assisi, O’Fallon; Hon. John J. O’Gara Jr., Our Lady Queen of Peace, Belleville; Ron and Pam Pechacek, Mary Help of Christians, Chester; and Stephen L. Raben, M.D., Holy Childhood, Mascoutah.

The annual Parish Religious Education supplement focused on parish plans and programs. The supplement looked at classes in session at Notre Dame Academy, held at St. Mary’s in Belleville, St. James in Millstadt, Corpus Christi in Shiloh, St. Francis in Aviston and St. Mary in Carlyle.

Also reported in September:
• Corpus Christi Parish in Shiloh, and St. Clare and St. Nicholas parishes in O’Fallon sponsored a youth rally Aug. 28 for grades 5 and 6.
• A JustFaith, an intense small group process for Catholics, informational program, was held Sept. 12 at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville.
• A Sept. 8 feature highlighted continuing ministries of retired priests and a first-time special collection for diocesan clergy.
• Bishop Braxton hosted a luncheon Sept. 12 for Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria and missionaries from the Onitsha archdiocese serving in the Belleville diocese.
• Catholic high school freshmen attended a special liturgy at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville, with Bishop Braxton as celebrant and homilist.
• Third-grader Braydon Vaughn, St. Mary School in Mt. Carmel and seventh-grader Olivia Antoine, St. Ann School, Nashville were “framed” in the September Kids Connection sections for serving and helping others in a number of ways.
• The annual St. Vincent de Paul “Walk for the Poor” was held Sept. 17 at Our Lady of the Snows shrine.
• September obituaries: Deacon Robert Lippert; Sister Dorothy Marie Dietz, ASC.

Three diocesan parishes celebrating milestones in their parishes’ history were highlighted in The Messenger’s October issues.

St. John the Baptist Parish in West Frankfort celebrated a century of faith Sept. 25 at a Mass of Thanksgiving, with Bishop Braxton as the  principal celebrant and homilist. Parishioners adjourned to the parish hall for refreshments and a display of parish memorabilia after the liturgy.

St. Joseph Parish in Olney dedicated a new parish school Sept. 30, including display of a plaque dedicated to former pastor Father Jerome Wirth, who died in 2013.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Herrin broke ground for a new regional Catholic school Oct. 9.

The annual Respect Life section in the Oct. 6 issue displayed testimony and support for life from “womb to tomb.”

The Oct. 6 issue also included the annual High School Open House section inviting prospective students to open houses at Catholic schools. Highlighted in the section was Mater Dei’s (Breese) award-winning band, Gibault’s (Waterloo) ambitious environmental program, and Althoff’s (Belleville) implementation of a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) lab.

The Oct. 20 issue included the annual Priest Appreciation supplement with expressions of gratitude in commentary and ads for individual priests’ ministry.
The annual Belleville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women convention was held Oct. 12 at St. Joseph Parish in Marion. The organization celebrated 90 years of fellowship and ministry in the diocese. Keynote speakers were Father Mark Dean, OMI and Amanda Mohl.

Also reported in October:
• Bishop Braxton published an election context commentary titled “There Are No ‘Minority’ Voters.”
• Bishop Braxton was the celebrant and homilist at the annual Red Mass to mark the opening of the judicial term in the United States.
• Eighth-grader Sam Helmink, Breese Faith Formation Program, and siblings Clayton (5th grade) and Maddy Rae Schomaker (3rd grade) and their cousin Austin Schomaker were “framed” in the October Kids Connection sections for their generous involvements, and the Schomakers for their participation in the parish youth choir.
• October obituaries: Mrs. Helen Rudolphi; Sister Mary Linus Erzer, ASC.

St. Joseph Parish in Stringtown  closed it 175th anniversary celebrations with a Nov. 6 liturgy with Bishop Braxton as celebrant and homilist, followed by a reception.
Four parish elementary school teachers, who have taught for 25 years in parish schools were recognized at the Oct. 7 annual Diocesan Teachers Convention after a 9 a.m. liturgy with Bishop Braxton as celebrant and homilist. The teachers were: Patricia Wayer, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Herrin; Judy Glaeser, St. James, Millstadt; Michelle Jones, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Belleville; and Dianna Zagorski, St. Clare, O’Fallon. Keynote speaker was Rich Curran on “Beyond Content: Engaging the Heart, Not Just the Head.”

The Nov. 2 issue included the annual Vocations supplement with features on diocesan Vocations director, Father Nicholas Junker and the journey to ordination of deacon candidates.

The Nov. 17 issue noted diocesan employees observing milestone anniversaries who were recognized at a December employee gathering. Recognized for 35 years of service was Nicanor “Nic” Duran; for 30 years, David Waeltz; for 25 years, Connie Barre and Sherry Miller; for 20 years, Sue Huett, Bonnie Martin, Yolanda Moody, Judy Phillips, and Tonya Simmons. Five employees were recognized for 15 years of service, four for 10 years, and seven for 5 years.

The annual Blessing of the Harvest was held Oct. 13 at the Philip and Kelly Diekemper family farm near Carlyle, with Father John Iffert, vicar forane, as presider and homilist.

Also reported in November:
• Eighth-grader Greta Ripperda, St. Andrew School, Murphysboro and Madison Varner, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, Herrin were “framed”  in the November Kids Connection sections for their leadership roles and parish and school involvements.
• Holy Childhood Parish in Mascoutah hosted a parish mission Nov. 7-10, conducted by Father George Knab, OMI.
• Bishop Braxton made a school visit Oct. 27 to Sister Thea Bowman School in East St. Louis.
• A regional mission, described as a celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, hosted by St. Mary Parish in Mt. Vernon Nov. 6-8, featured the scriptural story-telling and singing talents of ValLimar Jansen.
• With the upcoming Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection scheduled Nov. 19-20, the Nov. 17 issue included the distribution of the 25 percent ($11,200) of last year’s collection that remains in the diocese to 12 non-profit groups.
• Bishop Braxton published his annual “Prayer of Praise for Thanksgiving Day” in the Nov. 17 issue.
• November obituary: Sister Salesia Muckensturm, SSND.

A gathering at St. Mary Parish in Mt. Vernon initiated V Encountro in the diocese at an Oct. 29 gathering. V Encountro is preparing for parish, diocesan, regional and national  gatherings to discern ways the U.S. church and parishes can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, inviting fuller integration into the life of parishes.

Christmas reflections and greetings, including Bishop Braxton’s, filled the pages of the Dec. 15 Christmas Greetings supplement.

Included in the supplement were exemplary and notable Prayers for Christmas by 4th- to 6th-graders responding to a Messenger invitation. Three prayers selected as exemplary were submitted by: Kendra Vaughn, St. Mary Parish School of Religion, Carlyle, Emma Howard, St. Teresa Parish School, Belleville; and Caroline J. Bouc, Notre Dame Academy, Belleville, St. Mary Parish.

Also reported in December:
• The Dec. 1 issue included a summary of Amanda Mohl’s keynote address focusing on human trafficking at the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 90th annual convention, held Oct. 12 at St. Joseph Parish in Marion.
• The December 1 issue also included readers’ favorite family recipes.
• Eighth-grader Alex Vega, Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis and Avri O’Daniel, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Herrin were “framed” in the December Kids Connection sections for their exemplary involvements in parish ministries and school activities.
• The 2016 Advent Calendar with daily suggested Advent exercises was published in the Dec. 1 issue.
• December obituaries: Sister Clara Ternes, ASC; Deacon Dennis Reichert; Father Joseph Pitts, OMI.