Bishop joins in SHSM groundbreaking ceremony

Smiles before the shoveling begins: Fr.Thi Pham, SCJ, Christine Greer, Barbara Caldwell, Mayor Kelvin Buck (Holly Springs), Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, and Sr. Nancy Schreck, OSF

Work gets underway

After a snow delay in January, on January 25th Sacred Heart Southern Missions held a rescheduled groundbreaking for the Gregory Bezy Volunteer House in Holly Springs, Miss. Among those who took part in the ceremony was Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson.

Each year SHSM hosts hundreds of volunteers from all over the country. Many are high school and college students who want to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Often, volunteers find that those whom they have helped have made a difference in their lives as well.

Fr. Jack

“In volunteering, they find that they too have been changed,” said Fr. Jack Kurps, SHSM executive director. “Their hearts have been changed by their experience. They learn what it means to be a Christian.”

The house will have space for 32 volunteers (four each in eight bedrooms) and is expected to be completed by fall. It is named after Fr. Gregory Bezy, SCJ, who came to Mississippi in 1952 and served as director of SHSM for more than 30 years. He was instrumental in establishing churches in northern Mississippi, expanding schools and initiating social outreach programs.

“He touched the lives of many in Mississippi and across the nation,” said Fr. Jack.

Some of the stories

Below are just a few of the stories of the impact of Sacred Heart Southern Missions volunteers. Click here to go to the SHSM website to learn more not only about the volunteer program and those whom it assists, but about the many ministries of Sacred Heart Southern Missions. 

Housing rehab

In Holly Springs, two families with health challenges were recently assisted. Alice and her husband live not far from our social service office. Alice once had a thriving home-based hair salon, but her mobility issues have made the work impossible to continue. Her husband, elderly and stricken with a number of health problems, is also unable to work. Their poor physical condition combined with limited income has resulted in their home falling into disrepair—so much so that the insurance company threatened to discontinue coverage. Two groups, St. Martin of Tours and St. Ignatius, were able to tackle exterior painting and replacement of rotten wood, as well as refurbishing the couple’s bathroom, which was nearly inoperable.

Wheelchair ramps 

SHSM volunteers

Ida, another elderly Holly Springs resident, was the recipient of a wheelchair ramp courtesy of these two volunteer groups. Her project had been delayed several times due to heavy rain in the spring. Bringing sunny weather and even sunnier dispositions, St. Ignatius began the ramp and St. Martin of Tours completed the rails and the landing, giving Ida more mobility.

Other families also saw phenomenal improvements as the summer sun sizzled overhead. Charlene and her son both have epilepsy. Epilepsy is chronic neurological disorder whose hallmark is seizures. The mother and son both suffer multiple seizures daily, sometimes as many as 20. It is not unusual for EMTs to assist several times a week. The family lives in a trailer tucked away on a steep bluff. A wheelchair ramp is a necessity, enabling the safe removal and transport of Charlene and her son during life-threatening situations. Their old ramp was literally falling apart. The wood that remained was spongy at best. Regnum Christi and St. John’s College High School were able to remove the old ramp and reconstruct a safe and solid one.

Keeping a family together

Sometimes it seems that one misfortune has a snowball effect. For Hailey, a kitchen fire in her trailer was a disaster, but it was nothing compared to the shock of the Department of Human Services knocking on her door, informing her that her two children might be taken away if she didn’t make the kitchen functional again soon. While Hailey and her children stayed with her mother, our volunteers came to the rescue. A good cleaning, lots of primer, buckets of paint and elbow grease were just what the doctor ordered. The Mission Youth from Regnum Christi were able to get the kitchen looking good as new. They were also able to freshen up other areas of the trailer home that suffered smoke damage.

A new roof

Joyce’s home is also getting a facelift. One of our ongoing renovation projects, we have been able to make great strides this summer. Thanks to many hands, the roof is near completion. Structural elements fixed, it is sealed up and has brand new shingles! All new windows and doors, insulation, and exterior sheathing make the exterior nearly ready for siding. The inside has also seen some dramatic changes. Kitchen gutted and new floors and sheet rock installed, it is now ready for new cabinetry. The home’s electrical was rewired, eliminating the fire hazard of the weatherworn wires. Crews have also cleaned, constructed a shed, and helped straighten up Joyce’s disheveled yard.

Volunteers make such a difference. Their presence here, whether for an hour, a day or a week, is a blessing for us and for all of the people we serve. These groups and individuals that give of their time and talent truly are the heart and hands of Christ in our world.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz blesses the land for the new volunteer house.