Dr. Celso Palmieri (far right), talks with the Braga family. Palmieri was instrumental in bringing the family from San Paolo, Brazil to Shreveport, Louisiana to treat 3-year-old Melyssa's myxoma tumor. (Photo Courtesy of LSU Health Shreveport)

Medical Miracle: Shreveport Catholic Doctor Reaches Out to Brazilian Family Seeking Help for Their Daughter

by Lisa Cooper When Loyola parent and St. Joseph parishioner Dr. Celso Palmieri saw the face of Melyssa Delgado Braga while looking through online publications from his native country, Brazil, he felt More »

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Ignatius of Loyola Movie Coming to Diocese of Shreveport

by Randy Tiller Ignatius Press announced the new theatrical release of Ignatius of Loyola, Solider, Sinner, Saint on December 1, 2016. Due to the past relationship our diocese has with Ignatius Press, More »

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The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Addicts

Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This is the second article in a four-piece series on pornography; the first can be found in the January 2017 More »

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Shreveport Mom and Daughter March for Life with Love in D.C.

by Katie Aranda Who would have imagined that my daughter and I would be at the March for Life in Washington D.C. this year?  Not me! My best friend from college, who More »

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Irish Heritage Brought to Life with St. Brigid Feast at St. Mary of the Pines

by Kelly Phelan Powell Kim Long, Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport, is one of those rare and wonderful souls who dream big, then More »

Deacon Bill Roche and Deacon Larry Mills carry in the oil for Chrism Mass.

Vocations View: My Blessings in the Diaconate

by Deacon Bill Roche When I was a youngster, I thought about the priesthood, but being a priest was never a serious consideration after I entered high school. I never expected to More »

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Navigating the Faith: Lenten Fasting Through the Ages

by Dr. Cheryl H. White As we enter the season of Lent, it is helpful to pause and reflect on both its purpose, how it is expressed, and to know we are More »

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Mike’s Meditations: An Experience with God

by Mike Van Vranken Ask most Christians why they participate in the season of Lent, and many will respond with some explanation that they want to get closer to God. A holy More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: What Will You Do When Jesus Knocks?

by Bishop Michael G. Duca “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is one of the exhortations that can be used for the imposition of ashes and it beautifully sums up the More »

Medical Miracle: Shreveport Catholic Doctor Reaches Out to Brazilian Family Seeking Help for Their Daughter

Dr. Celso Palmieri (far right), talks with the Braga family. Palmieri was instrumental in bringing the family from San Paolo, Brazil to Shreveport, Louisiana to treat 3-year-old Melyssa's myxoma tumor. (Photo Courtesy of LSU Health Shreveport)

by Lisa Cooper

When Loyola parent and St. Joseph parishioner Dr. Celso Palmieri saw the face of Melyssa Delgado Braga while looking through online publications from his native country, Brazil, he felt compelled to get involved.  Braga’s family posted a plea seeking help to get their daughter to America, where she could find treatment for a large, rare facial tumor.  Dr. Palmieri, associate professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at LSU Health Shreveport, took a screen shot of Melyssa and sent it immediately to his colleague and department chairman, G.E. Ghali, DDS, MD, FACS, who said right away that they could help the little girl.  Dr. Ghali then contacted Willis-Knighton Health System seeking help to support the effort, and the health system agreed to provide housing for the family and to underwrite the cost of the hospital stay.

Within an hour, Palmieri found the Bragas on Facebook, and told them the good news.  In the course of his correspondence with them, Palmieri discovered that the family had been able to raise enough money through donations to cover their travel expenses.  He also discovered an underbelly of predators who sought to take advantage of the family.  “The family had people contacting them, offering their help if they could have control of the money,” Palmieri stated. From the time of his initial communication with the Bragas, he sent them links to the LSU Health Shreveport website and to his department in hopes of assuring them of his and Dr. Ghali’s credibility and sincerity.  It was on the night before the Bragas were to arrive in Shreveport, that Palmieri discovered something surprising.  Speaking of Caroline, Melyssa’s mom, he said, “She called the night before we were to pick them up from the airport and asked for a picture of me.  I realized she had never opened the links I sent.” When he asked her about why she hadn’t followed up on the information he provided, Caroline said that she never felt a need to.  She said she had a peace about Palmieri’s offer and trusted God through the entire process.

Once in surgery, Palmieri served as Ghali’s assistant in removing what turned out to be a five-pound myxoma tumor from the jaw of three-year-old Melyssa.  When asked about the possibility of the tumor’s returning, Palmieri said he is confident that there is “almost no chance” of that. Melyssa’s surgery was a great success, but she still has some time ahead of her before she is fully recovered.  After having been relieved of such an enormous weight, Melyssa is having to learn to balance differently so that she can walk fluidly again. She has a titanium plate reconstructing her mandible now, so she will have to have more surgeries in the future to replace the plate, and at the end, she will need a bone graft to reconstruct the mandible. She will also need to have implants placed so she can have teeth. “At this point,” says Palmieri, “chewing and eating is a challenge for her as well, since she has no teeth in the right side of the mandible, but she is recovering well and finding her way to eat.”

 

Before LSU Health Shreveport faculty successfully removed a myxoma tumor from 3-year-old Melyssa Braga.

Braga with her mother Caroline after successful removal of the tumor.

Although this story, which has now been covered across the globe, has pushed Palmieri and Ghali into the world-wide spotlight, Palmieri says it was the compassion he had for Melyssa the moment he saw her that prompted him to work to meet an immediate need.  He never expected such notoriety.  Sharing about how his faith prompted him to act on Melyssa’s behalf, Palmieri acknowledged that he has been “blessed with a gift and blessed to have received an excellent education and experience in Brazil, at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and here at LSU Health in Shreveport.  I felt I needed to give something back.”  For the Palmieris, giving back has been a family affair.  The Palmieri family went together to meet the Bragas at the airport, and Palmieri’s wife Ingrid, a computer analyst, would spend time she had away from work serving the Bragas and helping to make the family feel at home here.  “Because they did not have a car here, [Ingrid] would drive them to the grocery store or take them to run errands.  We also had the help of many great friends who welcomed the Bragas with us and helped them shop and run errands as well,” says Palmieri.

Noting the effect his involvement has had on his children, Palmieri says, “It’s important to me that my children see my faith through my actions and not just through my words.”  Palmieri’s son, Loyola junior, Felipe spent last summer putting this principle into practice as a volunteer at an MDA camp, where he served as the daily caretaker for a camper with MD. The Palmieris are intentional about teaching their children the importance of living their faith.  “Giving money is easy compared to being involved,” says Palmieri, “but your time and attention are what people need most.”

When it comes to living his faith, Palmieri takes a practical approach.  “I don’t worry about changing the world.  I probably won’t,” he says, “but if I can change the life of just one person, I have lived my faith well.”

3 Minute Lenten Reflections in Diocesan App

by Shelly Bole

Social Media has quickly become a venue for evangelization, catechesis and Bible study.  Two years ago the diocese moved into the app world with the CatholicConnections app.

Last year we launched three minute Lenten reflections featuring adults, lay and clergy from all over the diocese. The 3 Minute Reflections will begin on March 1, Ash Wednesday, with a message from Bishop Duca. Each week a new reflection, focusing on the Sunday readings, will be added.   In addition there will be weekly tips for encouraging families to experience Lent together.

Our app, also links you to the following:
• Diocesan calendar
• Catholic Connection magazine,
• Audio and/or text of daily readings
• Saint of the day
• The Divine Office
• Catholic News Service

If you have not yet explored CatholicConnections, it can be found in both the Google play and the Apple app stores by searching for “CatholicConnections.”  Encourage your friends and family to download the app and begin following the diocesan and universal life of the Church.

Holy Father’s Message for Lent

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend Who never abandons us. Even when we sin, He patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, He shows us His readiness to forgive.

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift
The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds. The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means “God helps.” This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us
The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man. Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man.” His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (Jer 10:9) and kings (Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day.” In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence.

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting and lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift
The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.” In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.” Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and with our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the 40 days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

Kids’ Connection: St. Brigid of Kildare

Click to download and print out this month’s Kids’ Connection on St. Brigid of Kildare.

7 Reasons for Laypeople to Explore the UD Catholic Formation Program in Our Diocese

from the University of Dallas

A moment of silence can be a rare thing in this day and age — and a few minutes to catch your breath even rarer. Our days are full of buzzing phones, pinging social notifications, meetings and surprises — not to mention those hectic Sunday mornings tumbling into the pew just as the entrance chant begins. What if you had the opportunity to slow down? To take in that moment of silence while growing in faith, service and community?

Now, there’s a new way to do just that through a new Catholic formation program in the Diocese of Shreveport from University of Dallas for both laypeople and aspiring deacons. Here are seven reasons to explore the new program:

1) Journeying in faith with a community is always more transformational than we think. If you’re looking for a “boost” in your spiritual life, this program brings believers together to learn more about the Lord and His church. You will experience a unique level of communication among faculty and peers who support, challenge and illuminate one another at every turn.

2) You get to learn from the University of Dallas’ nationally recognized theology faculty. The professors have served on the “front lines” of ministry in leadership positions and bring their experience into their teaching, like Professor Jim McGill, an expert in applied ministry who also has 40-plus years’ experience directing adult religious education programs in parish settings.

3) If you haven’t yet undertaken a comprehensive study of your Catholic faith, now is the time. The four-year program covers a broad scope of topics, including Christian spirituality, sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church in America, the history of liturgy and bioethics.

4) Don’t worry if four years sounds like a big commitment. Aspiring deacons take all four years of formation in sequence, but laypeople can participate at their own pace. Take a course for a 10-week session and see how it goes; then, when you’re ready for more, go for it!

5) Courses are offered through an educational partnership with the University of Dallas, which brings its intellectual resources to the life of the local Church. The university consistently enjoys a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 10 Catholic colleges in the West and is recommended by the Cardinal Newman Guide. The university also organizes the annual Dallas Ministry Conference, which draws nearly 5,000 attendees.

6) The more you grow in knowledge of the faith, the more you’ll grow in your life of service, both personally and professionally. As Pope Francis shared in one general audience, “You may know the whole Bible, you may know all the liturgical rubrics, you may know all theology, but from this knowledge love is not automatic: loving has another path, it requires intelligence, but also something more. … There is no true worship if it is not translated into service to neighbor.”

7) Earn a Certificate of Theological Studies upon completion of the program. This continuing education certificate from the University of Dallas recognizes that you’ve worked hard and grown intellectually, spiritually and professionally —  and you’re ready for mission. Now we go together to “make disciples for all the world” (Mt. 28:19).

Interested in learning more about the Diaconate Intellectual Formation Program? Contact Deacon Clary Nash, director of the Permanent Deacon Formation Program, at 318-219-7303, or cnash@dioshpt.org. The program is open to both lay ministers and aspiring deacons. Classes start fall 2017.

Ignatius of Loyola Movie Coming to Diocese of Shreveport

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by Randy Tiller

Ignatius Press announced the new theatrical release of Ignatius of Loyola, Solider, Sinner, Saint on December 1, 2016. Due to the past relationship our diocese has with Ignatius Press, the Diocese of Shreveport was one of the first to be offered the opportunity to book a showing for this film.

Not since the release of Mary of Nazareth and Restless Heart has there been such an epic Catholic film of this scope, quality and grandeur. The last full-length feature film on St. Ignatius of Loyola was produced over 70 years ago.

Filmed on location in Spain with an extremely talented cast of Spanish actors, the story of Ignatius, his tumultuous life, passions, sinfulness, conversion and ultimately virtuous life bursts onto the screen and into the minds and hearts of the viewers, illuminating the life of St. Ignatius like never before.

The story of St. Ignatius is as relevant today as it was more than 500 years ago. And now, our diocese is able to offer an opportunity to view this powerful story in the Holoubek Theatre at the Catholic Center, located at 3500 Fairfield Avenue in Shreveport.

This outstanding Catholic film is being brought to our diocese for the purpose of evangelization and entertainment.

The diocese is offering this film on three different days and times so that everyone will have an opportunity to view it. Although there is no admission charge, donations are accepted. Your generosity makes it possible to continue bringing such events to our theatre.

Showings will be as follows:
• Wednesday March 22, at 2:00 p.m.
• Thursday, March 23, at 6:00 p.m.
• Friday, March 24, at 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school students. (The producers advise the film is not suited for under 13 years of age).

Souvenir bookmarks will be handed out at each showing as a memento of the screening. Patrons will also have the opportunity to purchase DVDs for sale at the theatre after the screening. They will only be available at the theatre, not online or at other locations until its general release after April 2017.
Some interesting facts:

In 1521, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in the legs. One leg was merely broken, but the other was badly mangled. After suffering for a month, his doctors warned him to prepare for death. Ignatius began to improve and part of one leg was amputated. During his healing, Ignatius began to read De Vita Christi (The Life of Christ). The book would inspire Ignatius’ own spiritual exercises.

Other men joined his exercises and became followers of Ignatius. The group began to refer to themselves as “Friends in the Lord.” Pope Paul III received the group and approved them as an official religious order in 1540. They called themselves the Society of Jesus. Some people who did not appreciate their efforts dubbed them “Jesuits” in an attempt to disparage them.  Before Ignatius died in 1556, his order established 35 schools and boasted 1,000 members.
For more information about the movie, contact Randy Tiller, 318-868-4441, or rtiller@dioshpt.org.

The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Addicts

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Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

This is the second article in a four-piece series on pornography; the first can be found in the January 2017 edition of the Catholic Connection.

“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties” (Catechism, 2354). Pornography is found in sexually descriptive literature, movies with explicit scenes, images and videos. Though it is more often used by men, women too can be lured into consumption.

As a multi-billion dollar giant, pornography promises fantasy, yet leaves users and loved ones in pain. Despite its distortion of humanity, there are arguments that pornography is harmless or healthy.

“It’s a problem because every human person is created in the image of God, who is a Communion of Persons; our imitation of that communion is expressed through the sexual union between a husband and wife,” says Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL, theological advisor for IntegrityRestored.com. “Pornography is wrong because it exploits that which is sacred.”

And it’s an exploitation that attracts, confuses and harms. What can begin as curiosity or childhood exposure can develop into an addiction.

Dr. Kevin Skinner is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) and Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT). According to his professional experience, pornography addiction is “the compulsive attempt(s) to meet legitimate emotional needs through viewing pornography and seeking sexual gratification…” It involves repeated “failure to resist impulses to view pornography,” preoccupation with “fantasy, sexualized thoughts,” acting out in spite of consequences and increased tolerance requiring “more frequent or intense pornography…”

Both consumption and addiction are on the rise with society’s increased use of technology, and researchers have become more interested in its consequential effects. The draw to “use” for a porn addict is no different than that of a drug addict. Pornography use, like cocaine, releases high levels of dopamine, a neurological chemical responsible for positive feelings and reward-driven behavior. Pornography use also releases oxytocin and vasopressin, chemicals involved in memory and bonding.

These forces of nature make pornography addiction a challenge to combat, even when the addict is desperate for sobriety. Withdrawal symptoms like persistent headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, anxiety, jitters, low libido, insomnia and even suicidal thoughts can last from a week to several months depending on the level of addiction.

But pornography affects more than the brain. It wounds the hearts of consumers, often leading to depression, disinterest in marital intimacy, isolation, shame and loneliness – which can trigger acting out.

“Even basic connections with others become difficult,” said Matt Fradd, CEO and founder of The Porn Effect, “One guy came to me and said he couldn’t look women in the eyes anymore.”

The shame associated with porn use makes one prone to secrecy, which not only isolates a person socially, but also makes him susceptible to psychological damage, according to FighttheNewDrug.org.

“What I see most commonly is denial that it affects family,” said Fr. Kilcawley. “Addicts aren’t as in tune with their spouses or children because there’s an objectification that reduces family to just things that live with you.” But kids notice when their parent becomes clean. “One man told me his little boy said, ‘I like the new daddy,’ after he had been clean for two months. He was able to tap into a part of his fatherhood that he didn’t know he was missing.”

The harm is evident, but hope for healing is abundant. According to Fr. Kilcawley, the “three pillars of recovery” are seeing a CSAT, seeking spiritual direction, and participating in an accountability or 12-step group. A list of CSATs in your area can be found at IITAP.com and there are several sexual addiction therapists beyond state lines willing to Skype or phone-in with clients.

“There are people who pray every day and they still look at porn,” Matt Fradd said. “There is a natural component to addictions and if you ignore it, you can’t make much headway.” Which is why a healthy spiritual life coupled with therapy is a more thorough approach than one or the other alone.

“It’s not helpful to tell someone who’s clinically depressed to cheer up, just like it’s not helpful to tell a porn addict to just stop,” said Fradd. “They need professional help and support.”

One of the most important ways to heal from pornography addiction is to understand why it exists, personal triggers and associated emotional trauma. Below are resources for those seeking recovery. Every pornography addict must be assured of the hope of real healing and the love Jesus Christ has for him or her personally. God will offer the grace to step forward in recovery; and beyond the pain and challenges awaits a life of clarity and peace.

Resources – Books

Treating Pornography Addiction by Dr. Kevin Skinner

Out of the Shadows by Dr. Patrick Carnes

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Dr. Mark Laaser

Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography  by Dr. Peter Kleponis

The Porn Myth by Matt Fradd

Resources – Online

AssessingPornAddiction.com
IntegrityRestored.com
AddoRecovery.com
SA.org (Sexaholics Anonymous)
CovenantEyes.com
•The RTribe App and the Victory App
• The Integrity Restored Podcast

Shreveport Mom and Daughter March for Life with Love in D.C.

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by Katie Aranda

Who would have imagined that my daughter and I would be at the March for Life in Washington D.C. this year?  Not me!

My best friend from college, who lives four hours from D.C., wrote on her Facebook page the week of the march that she was organizing a group to go to the march.  I jokingly wrote on her post that I wanted to go.  Then she called and I briefly entertained the idea before thinking of all the reasons I couldn’t go.  My husband teasingly said I could go… if I took all four of our kids.  As we discussed it further, we decided that it was important for our family to support those who cannot speak for themselves in the largest pro-life march in the country, especially at a time when our country is focused on marches. He had already been to a D.C. March for Life, so he graciously gave his blessing for our six-year-old daughter, Genevieve, and me to go.  After quickly arranging childcare and booking flights for a three day trip, we were off on an adventure!

It was an adventure of love…love for your neighbor, the unborn, family, stranger, young and old.  Even as we exited the plane in D.C., people immediately wanted to become friends.  Genevieve had announced on the plane to anyone who would listen that we were going to the “March for Life.” At the airport one lady from Montana gave me her number just because we would both be at the march. Groups of young people were praying in the stairwells as we walked to our hotel room the night before the march. Despite the gravity of abortion, people at the march were joyful, friendly, and peaceful.  The message for life enveloped everyone.

Energizing the crowd, speakers spoke of a “movement of love, not anger.  A movement of compassion, not confrontation.”

Vice President Pence emphasized that “life is winning in America” and gave hope to marchers.  Genevieve (who thought we were actually going to march like in a band) and I walked with my best friend Lisa, her husband, and their four children.  It was frigid, but people smiled and didn’t complain. Genevieve, my Louisiana girl, whispered as we were walking, “Mommy, I don’t want to move to D.C.  It’s too far from the equator.” Nonetheless, she marched on.

Strangers handed out snacks to help families with little ones. Songs were sung. Rosaries were prayed. There was no hatred on the streets. I saw people hugging women who held signs proclaiming, “I regret my abortion.”  I saw older people, young adults, people with disabilities, Catholics, non-Catholics, large families, small families marching for a worthy cause. There was an atmosphere of love and hope.

Genevieve and I soaked in the experience. We saw signs reminding us of the sacredness of life. Signs speaking of the beauty of adoption reminded me of our own adopted children. We thank God for courageous birthmothers and birthfathers who bless families with an incredible gift. We saw signs reminding us that everyone has value and God loves us all.  I was reminded of the girls from Heart of Hope (our local maternity home for young women) who struggle and defy all odds, and of children and adults with disabilities who are loved and love beyond measure. I was reminded of all the orphans who thirst for love. We marched not just for the unborn that day, but for all life. When I asked Genevieve “Why do we march”?  Her answer was simple, but true.  “Mommy, we march for life.”

Irish Heritage Brought to Life with St. Brigid Feast at St. Mary of the Pines

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by Kelly Phelan Powell

Kim Long, Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport, is one of those rare and wonderful souls who dream big, then roll up their sleeves and get to work. “I was the rabble rouser,” she laughed, describing the beginnings of the annual celebration of the Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, now in its third year, that has become one of the parish’s most anticipated events. She and a committed group of women volunteers have carved out a fun, meaningful new tradition for people of Catholic faith and Irish ancestry.

As DRE, Long took part in planning the parish’s multicultural festival. As St. Mary of the Pines has a well-established Hispanic population, Latin and Hispanic traditions are a big part of the celebration. And while everyone enjoyed the festival, parishioners whose families were less recent immigrants of European origin felt that they had little to contribute. Long said it was parishioner Anne Eid who gave her the idea while they were discussing a St. Joseph’s altar. “When are we going to do something for the Irish? My maiden name is Kennedy!” Eid said, and the beginnings of the Feast of St. Brigid took root.

With permission from Fr. Francis Kamau, Long and a group of volunteers, including Mary Cadwell, Rachel Cobb, Jennifer Lee, Cindy McGowan and Mary Alice Owen, among others, formed a committee and began not only planning a celebration, but also learning more about their Irish heritage, language, folk songs and recipes. They referred to themselves as “Daughters of Brigid” and met regularly to practice céilí, traditional dances in which dancers arrange themselves in formations of two to 16 people.

The historical details of Brigid’s life are notoriously difficult to establish, but according to Hugh de Blacam’s essay in “The Saints of Ireland,” she was born around 450 A.D. The illegitimate child of a pagan chieftain named Dubthach and his Christian slave, Broicsech, Brigid was probably baptized and reared in the Catholic faith by her mother. At around age 10, her father removed her from her mother’s slave quarters and raised her in his own household.

Brigid took Dubthach’s riches and gave generously to the poor. Enraged, her father threatened to sell her to the King of Leinster. But the king, a Christian, understood her charity and convinced Dubthach to free his daughter. Once free, she was expected to marry, but instead, she marred her own face to make herself less desirable to would-be husbands. Brigid and her companions organized communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland. Her community eventually settled in what we know today as Kildare, or “Church of the Oak,” after the monastery she founded there.

Long and the other Daughters of Brigid have incorporated many traditions into the feast celebration. For instance, during the Mass processional, the women parishioners of Irish ancestry form the “Court of Brigid,” with adult women wearing sashes bearing their family’s county of origin and little girls donning blue crushed velvet capes after Brigid’s own legendary “cape of blue.” The children also carry bouquets of flowers to place around the icon of St. Brigid.

The Mass for the Feast of St. Brigid includes several other uniquely Brigidine components. Included in the processional is a Brigid’s Cross, traditionally woven from rushes. Long and parishioner Roishene Johnson recited the Mass readings in both English and Gaeilge (the Irish language, often referred to as “Irish Gaelic”). The sanctuary was adorned in green, with an oak leaf, an acorn and a flame representing Kildare, the seed of knowledge and the love of Christ, respectively.

At the céilí following Mass, Long and a number of others performed the legend of Irish pirate queen Grace O’Malley as “mummers,” performers who tell a story through song, dance and rhyme. Tim Glennon and Ceara Johnson played and sang Irish songs, and the Daughters of Brigid danced a céilí as well. No Catholic celebration is complete without delicious food, and Irish favorites like Limerick ham, brown bread, cabbage, potatoes and sausage were a huge hit with children and adults.

“Brigid is very much a saint for our time,” Long said, emphasizing St. Brigid’s traditions of hospitality, environmentalism and the pursuit of knowledge, all of which are particularly important in the tumultuous present.

Anyone interested in joining the Daughters of Brigid and/or volunteering for the Feast of St. Brigid in January 2018 can reach Long at celticdre1@bellsouth.net, or (318) 687-5121.

Vocations View: My Blessings in the Diaconate

Deacon Bill Roche and Deacon Larry Mills carry in the oil for Chrism Mass.

by Deacon Bill Roche

When I was a youngster, I thought about the priesthood, but being a priest was never a serious consideration after I entered high school. I never expected to be ordained.

So admittedly, I was a bit surprised when I felt a calling to the permanent diaconate about 16 years ago. I believe that God was calling me to step out of my comfort zone and embark on a new part of the journey I had been traveling throughout my life. It was a dramatic change – one that has been very good for me personally. I believe I am a better person than I was 16 years ago, but I am still a work in progress.

I was ordained in May of 2005. I was hired as the Director of Faith Formation at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Shreveport in December of that year. I count among the many blessings of my ministry and job that I have gotten to know so many kind and caring people.

My many blessings include:
• The ACTS ministry (first adopted by St. Joseph in 2011) has been a great experience and has helped the parish.

• Through a small men’s prayer and spiritual development group, I have been able to form and develop great friendships, as well as challenge my prayer life.
It has been very fulfilling to be a part of people’s faith journeys through RCIA.

Like all Catholic Christians, deacons are called to holiness. As ordained persons, we have to be visible and prayerful. Yet, as servants, we need to be on the sidelines or behind the scenes.  We stand front and center when we baptize, officiate at weddings, proclaim the Gospel and preach, but it’s not about us. At Mass, we stand next to the priest. However, we are as much in awe of the liturgy of the Eucharist as every faith-filled person in the pews.

We may be preaching, but the message is also one that we need to hear.

God surprises me frequently, usually by the people He puts in my path. If I seem to be helping someone, I am growing through that encounter, so I am also being helped. When I seek help, there are people who are more inclined to open their doors for me because of my ordination. The diaconate has truly been a win-win situation.

Diaconate FAQ

Q: Who is a deacon?  
A: A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. A deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church.

Q: What are the various ministries of the deacon?  
A: As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church’s resources to meet those needs.

Q: May married men be deacons?  
A: Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to “mature married men,” later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. While a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission.

Q: How do I find out more about becoming a deacon?  
A: The best place to start is with your pastor, who can put you in touch with Deacon Clary Nash, Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Shreveport by calling 318-868-4441, or cnash@dioshpt.org.

Article adapted from nccbuscc.org/deacon

The Diocese of Shreveport is planning to begin a new formation for the permanent diaconate beginning September 2017. The deadline for inquiries into the new formation is April 3. For more information, contact Deacon Clary Nash, formation director, at 318-868-4441, or at cnash@dioshpt.org.