The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock
Inspiring parishioner Donna Saldana, of St. Joseph Church in Conway, stands by her prayer wall, filled with patches from law enforcement and first responder departments throughout the state and prayer intentions. She’s handed out more than 5,000 St. Michael necklaces, thank you notes and prayer cards to first responders, including in every Arkansas county, and celebrated with a Blue Mass at St. Joseph on Sept. 11, 2019. (Aprille Hanson, Arkansas Catholic file) During the April 15 Chrism Mass, Cathedral Knights of Columbus council #16947, diaconate candidates and others fill individual containers with holy oils for each parish. The group showed the importance of behind-the-scenes work. (Aprille Hanson, Arkansas Catholic file) After 40 years of ministering from the diocese, Little Rock Scripture Study was sold to longtime partner Liturgical Press. Cackie Upchurch (left), retiring director of LRSS, shakes hands June 27 with Peter Dwyer, director of Liturgical Press, after he and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor signed papers transferring ownership. (Aprille Hanson, Arkansas Catholic file) Manuel Ordonez not only teaches Spanish II to ninth graders at Trinity Junior High School in Fort Smith, but is an example of living out God’s call through mentorship. (Maryanne Meyerriecks, Arkansas Catholic file) Thanks to donations from the Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal, it was announced at the end of 2019 that the digital version of Arkansas Catholic, a page-for-page replica of the weekly print newspaper, is now free to everyone for the first time. (Arkansas Catholic screen capture) Bishop-elect Francis I. Malone (center) smiles after the press conference where he was introduced as the next bishop of Shreveport, joining only two other Arkansas priests elevated to bishop. He was joined at the event Nov. 19 by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor and Shreveport diocesan administrator Father Peter Mangum. (Samantha Maiette, Diocese of Shreveport) In 2019, St. Luke Church in Warren became the first parish to benefit from the year-long One Church mission. In a ceremony before Mass Nov. 23, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor hands the keys to the new church to the pastor, Father Eddie D’Almeida (right). (Malea Hargett, Arkansas Catholic file)

Church's Year in Review 2019: Goodbyes, new beginnings

A pastor turned bishop, school closures and free news were top stories this year

Published: December 30, 2019      
Dwain Hebda, Arkansas Catholic file
PreK student Lillian Richards waits for her mother after the day’s final bell. St. Edward School in Little Rock dismissed for the last time May 24, a victim of declining enrollment. St. Edward and St. Boniface School in Fort Smith both closed in 2019, one of the top moments of the year.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In 2019, Catholics in Arkansas faced heartbreaking ends and new beginnings. But the faithful are not called to remain in despair, but to look to God for guidance and strength to push ahead. In each goodbye to a priest, school or ministry, there was a family of faith ready to make the transitions easier. And in the joyous moments, the faithful celebrated a new place of worship and the prospect to spread the news to more people than ever before. In every moment, Arkansans were called to trust in the Lord’s plan and did so with faith-filled hearts.

Here are the top five moments of 2019:


Congrats, bishop

On Nov. 19, the Diocese of Little Rock learned they would soon be saying goodbye to Msgr. Francis I. Malone, who was appointed by Pope Francis to be the third bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, La. Bishop-elect Malone has been pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock for 18 years and made a profound impact on his flock. He has been a constant spiritual presence for both students and teachers at Christ the King School, involved in all aspects of school life, from celebrating school Masses to being a part of interviews for prospective Catholic teachers.

Bishop-elect Malone credited the establishment of perpetual adoration during his Nov. 19 press conference in Shreveport for the blessings of vocations from Christ the King — 11 seminarians from the parish at one point. He has also been dedicated to making Christ the King a tithing parish and giving back with both international missions — including the Honduras mission that lasted about 20 years — and at-home giving, to the diocesan One Church mission.

Out of the diocese’s 176-year history, Bishop-elect Malone is only the third Arkansas priest to be appointed to the office of bishop. His ordination will be Jan. 28 in Shreveport.

“It’s a tremendously humbling experience to be asked to be a bishop. No one should aspire to this office. It is a very, very difficult responsibility,” Bishop-elect Malone said in part during the press conference Nov. 19. 


Giving back in-state

On Nov. 23 Bishop Anthony B. Taylor dedicated the new St. Luke Church in Warren, the first church in the state to benefit from the year-long One Church mission.

The diocesan mission selects one church each year as a partner that needs a boost to become a thriving faith community. Starting in September 2018, Catholics throughout the state rallied around the Spanish-speaking community of St. Luke, which had been raising money for 20 years to build or renovate their 100-year-old church. Bursting at the seams with 60 families and just 180 seats, their new church — formerly a farmer’s co-op store — has 350 seats.

Almost $150,000 was raised by donors and Catholic Extension donated $140,000 toward the mortgage.


Arkansas Catholic — for free

Arkansas Catholic has been the official publication of the Diocese of Little Rock for 108 years. In that time, it has seen a variety of changes — the name, format, leadership — but has always stayed true to providing award-winning news to readers. Thanks to donations to the Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal, Arkansas Catholic began offering its digital version of the weekly newspaper for free.

In keeping with the modern era, the exact replica of the newspaper in a digital format can be accessed on the go through a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor said in a Nov. 23 Arkansas Catholic article the increased readership will help with “missionary transformation” in the Church. 

In a letter to parishes, Bishop Taylor wrote, “One of my most valuable vehicles for evangelization is our award-winning Arkansas Catholic newspaper. We are one of the smallest dioceses in the country to be blessed with a weekly diocesan newspaper, which enables us to provide you much information about our faith and the life of the Church in a timely way.”

The faithful can register for a free account at Paid print subscriptions are still available, as well as donations to support the ministry through the Guardian Angels fund.


School’s out forever

With a combined 266 years of sharing the faith through Catholic education, St. Edward School in Little Rock and St. Boniface School in Fort Smith permanently shut their doors.

In February, students, faculty and staff were informed that St. Edward School would close at the end of the school year in May after 134 years in downtown Little Rock, the oldest continuing elementary/middle school in the city.

St. Boniface, which spent 132 years in Fort Smith, announced it would close immediately July 18, less than a month before the new school year. While there was no denying the heartache surrounding each closure, area Catholic schools rallied to give new spiritual and educational homes to students and some teachers. Of the remaining 129 students at St. Edward, 77 were enrolled in Catholic schools, including 26 at St. Theresa School in Little Rock. In August, the St. Edward Early Learning Center, a childcare and preschool program, opened at the former school.

The majority of the 72 students who were enrolled for the upcoming school year at St. Boniface went to Christ the King or Immaculate Conception Schools in Fort Smith.

In a September interview with Arkansas Catholic, Misty Helms, who left St. Boniface in May to teach at St. Joseph School in Paris, summed up the sadness of the closures: “I cried that whole first week (of school); you worry about them in different schools and you know they’ll be OK, but you get so attached to them. It was like a little family and they’re having to leave that family. It’s hard.”


Little Rock Scripture Study sold

For 40 years, Little Rock Scripture Study guided Catholics to a deeper spirituality and love for the Bible.

What started as an idea from Tammy and Fred Woell of Little Rock with Father Jerome Kodell, OSB, of Subiaco Abbey in 1974 to provide Catholic Bible study materials locally grew into the official adult education program of the diocese in 1977. Throughout the years, it added a Bible Institute, published the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible — after nine years of collaboration with national Scripture scholars — and Bible series, like the shorter Alive in the Word resources.

LRSS was officially sold July 1 to Liturgical Press, which had been a partner of the Scripture study program since 1985.

Cackie Upchurch, who retired July 3 after 30 years as director of LRSS, said the program would continue to be an important resource.

“You can’t do evangelization without Scripture, period. It is just not possible. You can’t be formed as an evangelist without Scripture. … It was a very different world when (LRSS) was conceived. The Spirit has led us from the beginning and any new chapters will be Spirit-led,” Upchurch told Arkansas Catholic in a June 29 article.


Anniversaries, milestones and goodbyes

There were many memorable celebrations and heartfelt goodbyes in 2019: 

"‘Joan of Ark.’ moves, leaves behind legacy in social justice," Jan. 12

"Traditional, modern meld at new church in Jonesboro," Jan. 19

Mass for Life, Eucharistic Procession mark pro-life weekend, Jan. 26

At milestone win, coach looks back on Catholic school time, Feb. 9

Renovation at Sacred Heart Church uplifts spirits, Feb. 23

Greenbrier Catholics now have their own community, March 23

New vicar general Father Connell is 34 years in the making, March 30

St. Mary’s history tied to ups and downs of Hot Springs, May 4

Principal Mark Tyler retiring after nine years in Russellville, May 18

Priests, family surround Father Amaro at ordination in Rome, May 18

Father Jon Miskin puts family first in his ordination Mass, June 8

Sisters in Hispanic ministry leaving to take leadership jobs, June 8

Little Rock parish swaps Honduras mission for One Church, June 15

Vincentian priests say goodbye to the faithful in Arkansas, June 15

Fourth commandment leads LRSS director to retirement, June 22

Millionaire or ministry? Father Reaves follows his calling, July 13

NWA pro-lifers thankful for Fayetteville clinic closing, Aug. 10

Christopher Homes housing program a model for 50 years, Aug. 24

Is it a miracle? Diocese gathers facts in alleged healing, Aug. 24

Subiaco Academy relies on services of Lou Trusty, Oct. 12

Dumas trailblazer inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame, Oct. 26

For 50 years, teens find their own bond to Christ in Search, Dec. 7

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