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Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics.

Our guest today is someone who has been on the frontlines in helping people during these times of the coronavirus pandemic. Her name is Jennifer Dagarag. She is a registered nurse serving the diocese at her parish in Cypress, St.

Irenaeus. Jennifer is seeing firsthand how parishioners’ mental health is being affected by the pandemic.

She shares stories of both heartbreak and triumph. Join us for this important discussion!





Originally broadcast on 2/13/21


According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of millennials worry about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health. The same young adults reported feeling disconnected from family even when they are together. 

Americans have started to develop strategies to deal with technology concerns. Some common approaches include prohibiting cellphones at the dinner table, doing a “digital detox” periodically and turning off social media notifications. 

All of these strategies are commendable, but they fail to address the more fundamental change being wrought by the digital environment on our psyches. 

When we learn to read, our brain changes. Scientists refer to this as “neuroplasticity.” This just means that all of our experiences have the potential to forge new connections between the “circuits” in our brain. No matter how old we are, there is always some capacity for “rewiring” the way we think. 

Digital tools have introduced new changes in the brain, not all of them good. Distraction and heightened anxiety are all too common features of life in the digital age. The strategies that restrict smartphone use in family situations are attempts to lessen these effects, but they don’t attend to the deeper transformation taking place. 

There is a Greek word, “metanoia,” that relates well to these modern developments. Metanoia literally means “change of mind.” 

In Scripture, the term appears in the context of spiritual repentance and conversion. In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus launches his public ministry, he announces that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and urges his followers to metanoia or repentance. 

To repent is to turn away from sin and toward righteousness and virtue. In a million little instances, every time we turn toward the screen, our brain is making small changes to how we react to the world around us. 

When feeling lonely or anxious, is our first impulse to seek God in prayer or to watch a video to soothe our aching psyche? 

When worried about an illness, do we place our trust in God or do we Google symptoms and treatments until we think we know more than the doctor? 

When stumped by a question or bit of trivia, do we allow ourselves to wonder at what the answer might be or do we Google it immediately? 

All of these practices are indications of the metanoia taking place in the digital age. 

Contemplation is a corrective for distraction; trust in God is a worthy substitute for Google and as Socrates had it, wonder is the beginning of wisdom. When these things are hollowed out by our technological “conversion,” then we would do well to repent and return our minds to Christ.  


JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) — A good talk with your mother every day could improve your health. At least, that’s what’s happened for immigrants in one Mississippi community.

A study out of the University of Alabama exploring the link between faith and health demonstrated that those with a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had fewer negative health issues related to stress.

“This drives home how important faith is. In the study results, I found that people who are exposed to stress – their well-being goes down over time. Those who were Guadalupan devotees broke that pattern,” explained Rebecca Read-Wahidi, the study’s author.

She grew up in Forest, where the state’s largest concentration of Latinos works in poultry plants. They worship at St. Michael or at its mission San Martin.

A community of religious sisters, Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, ministers to the mix of Mexicans, Guatemalans and other Latin Americans. The sisters teach English, host consulates and even offer workshops in what to do if people are stopped by police or immigration agents.

Constant worry about immigration raids can wear down an already poor population. Read-Wahidi has told stories of a 2012 road-block that led to the deportation of 40 people, sending a wave of fear through the rest of the community. Having a patroness, a protector and a surrogate mother helps ease that physical and mental stress.

Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego at dawn Dec. 9, 1531, on Tepeyac Hill, in what is now northern Mexico City. She appeared to Juan Diego twice more, and the last time, on Dec. 12, filled his “tilma,” or cloak, with roses. When he emptied his cloak of the roses, he found that it bore her image. The cloak is still on display at the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe built on the site where Mary appeared.

In the image, she is dark skinned, pregnant and surrounded by stars. She stands in front of the sun’s rays, a commonly known symbol of an Aztec god, symbolically eclipsing his power as she looks lovingly down on her people. Millions of pilgrims still flock to see the tilma.

Read-Wahidi studied at Mississippi State University. Her Spanish studies took her to Mexico where she was exposed to the pervasive devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is Dec. 12.

“While I was there, I became interested in Mexican Catholicism because it was different than what I was familiar with,” she told the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Jackson. When she returned home, she began to see the Virgin of Guadalupe in her own hometown.

“It is really fascinating to me because it really is a contrast in Mississippi — which is very Protestant. Here is this Mexican feast being carried out in the streets of a Mississippi town,” she said.

Read-Wahidi wrote her master’s thesis about Our Lady of Guadalupe and migrant communities in Mississippi. She expanded upon her earlier thesis while studying for a doctorate in bio-cultural medical anthropology at the University of Alabama.

“I liked going there because I could continue working with the same community,” Read-Wahidi said. “I went from (looking at) the celebration itself into how they use it to deal with stress, specifically immigration stress.”

The sisters in Morton welcomed her, introducing her to the community and facilitating meetings. Read-Wahidi developed a survey to gauge the impact of their faith on their health.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just a mother figure to her people, she is their mother. Read-Wahidi said most of the devotees she interviewed have conversations with her throughout the day.

Mary “listens to their worries,” said Sister Lourdes Gonzalez, a member of the Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, who helped with the study. “It’s a way to pray. People talk to her as if she is alive and in the room. She has a special place in the family.”

Father Tim Murphy, pastor at St. James Parish in Tupelo, calls the relationship profound and inspiring. “She is their mother in faith, in heaven and is present to them,” he said.

This connection to the poor may be why people see Mary as the perfect intercessor. “They may not feel comfortable talking to God — but they can speak to the Virgin. She is the mother figure. When they are so far from home, they need a mother figure,” Read-Wahidi said.

Redemptorist Father Michael McAndrew has been working in Hispanic ministry for many years and gives presentations on St. Juan Diego’s experience. “When Juan Diego does not want to go to the bishop, Mary tells him ‘am I not here? Am I not your mother? Would your mother not protect you on your journey? I am with you.'”

Read-Wahidi wrote in a journal article that immigrants place their stress in Mary’s hands: “When I asked what people petition the Virgin to help them with, they mentioned: finding work and keeping their jobs, not getting deported or arrested, the health of their family back in Mexico and here in the United States, the safety of family members who were making the journey across the border, and their own safe return back home.”

These prayers offer relief from the stress of their everyday lives. “They are seen as outsiders. They are not equal (here). They have the experience of racism. It is a way to remind themselves that in the eyes of the Virgin, all people are equal,” said Read-Wahidi. This idea has spread to other immigrants through public celebrations surrounding the feast.

Every year on or around the Dec. 12 feast day, immigrants across Mississippi leave the safety of their homes and churches to take their mother to the streets and celebrate her love and protection.

Celebrations include processions, hours-long traditional Aztec dances, meals and liturgy. Everyone, especially other immigrants are welcome. In this way, the celebration in America is unique. Instead of being only a Mexican feast, it is a feast for all.

“They make the celebration public — it is taken out into the streets. It gives the Mexican community a chance to share her (the Virgin). They enjoy seeing other people embrace her,” explained Read-Wahidi.

“We make processions because we know as a people we are walking in life, we are on a journey — we are walking to heaven, to God,” said Sister Gonzalez.

The celebrations are a sharp contrast to daily life for immigrants. They spend most of their lives trying to avoid attention. But for the feast, they come out in droves. Father Murphy said 300 people attended one procession in northeast Mississippi.

“They will come straight from the fields. This will be the end of the sweet potato harvest so they will come with the dust still on them, but they will come and celebrate,” said Father Murphy.

“The best of liturgy does not represent, it re-presents the truth,” said Father Murphy. “This celebration is good liturgy. Who does (Our Lady of) Guadalupe appear to? The lowest of the low,” he said. Asking Mary to intercede offers a powerful conduit to Jesus since, as Our Lady of Guadalupe, “the mother of our savior is the mother of the poor.”


“I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”
—1 Corinthians 14:15


Bedtime prayers once were part of every child’s nighttime routine along with warm baths, teeth-brushing and stories read aloud. But how many parents still kneel with their children before tucking them in every night to offer bedtime prayers?

Surprisingly, many Catholics still heed the advice from Thessalonians, which urges us to “pray without ceasing.” A 2013 Pew Research Poll found that more than half of Americans pray every day, while a similar 2012 poll discovered that over 75 percent believe prayer is an important part of daily life.

Even recent scientific research confirms that prayer offers people important psychological benefits in addition to the spiritual benefits they seek. A 2014 Psychology Today story noted five scientifically supported benefits of prayer:

  1. Prayer improves self-control. Studies demonstrate that self-control, like muscle, becomes fatigued and must be exercised regularly to remain strong. Studies demonstrate that prayer can reduce alcohol consumption and has an energizing effect.
  2. Prayer makes you nicer. Having people pray for those in need reduced the aggression they expressed following an anger-inducing experience.
  3. Prayer makes you more forgiving. People who pray for the needs of a romantic partner or friend are more willing to forgive others.
  4. Prayer increases trust. Those who pray together experience feelings of unity and trust, suggesting that praying with others can help build close relationships.
  5. Prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress. Researchers discovered that people who prayed for others were less vulnerable to the negative physical health effects associated with financial stress. In addition, the focus on others seemed to contribute to the stress-buffering effects of prayer and enhance the overall feeling of wellness.


Still, though prayer is proven to be scientifically beneficial to individuals and society, it is the strong spiritual connection with God that drives us to pray, whether individually, with others or as a family. Both the scientific benefits and the spiritual strength offered by prayer are important reasons why Catholic parents continue the tradition of bedtime prayers.

Rather than the old-fashioned ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ today’s parents teach their children bedtime prayers as simple rituals focused on gratitude, appreciation, thanks and reflection. Bedtime is the perfect opportunity for parents to encourage their young children to stop and remember what has gone well that day, what is good about their life, and what could be better with concentration and effort.

A simple bedtime thank-you may include phrasing like ‘I am so happy about the good things that happened today. Thank you, Lord, for ….’ Or, ‘I did something not so good today, Jesus, when I … Next time this happens – because You want me to behave well – I will know better.’

Prompting children to examine their behavior encourages empathy and maturity, so prayer can double as a lesson and a virtue.

Faced with an increasingly distracting and chaotic world, too many adults and children rush through their days without pausing for thought or reflection. Many of us take our blessings for granted and forget to thank God for the people who love us, the jobs that help put food on our tables, the experiences that make us unique individuals, and the friends who help us through the darkest times.

Pausing at the end of each day in gratitude forces us with to recognize the love and blessings in our lives. Bedtime prayers help relax our anxieties, connect us with our Creator, boost our self-esteem and are a lasting way to help our kids lay the foundation for lasting happiness.