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Confession is Good for the Soul

by Father Matthew Long “Confession is good for the soul,” all of us have heard this statement many times. I used to hear it before I became Catholic and did not understand More »

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Catholic Teen Summer Camps

Healthy bodies, minds and souls—that’s what our summer camps are all about! Experience an unforgettable, life-changing camp packed with awesome activities and authentic Catholic spirituality. Two camps, one for girls and one More »

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Deacon Nash Celebrates 30 Years of Ordination

After turning his back on atheism, Nash answered God’s call wholeheartedly This month Deacon Clary Nash marks the 30th anniversary of his ordination into the permanent diaconate. We sat down with him More »

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Catholic Campus Ministry at Tech Recognized Nationally

According to Best College Reviews, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish’s E. Donn Piatt (EDP) Catholic Student Center, the home of the Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS), is one of the top 50 More »

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Mercy in Action: St. Frances of Rome Circle Feeds During Times of Need

It was over 30 years ago when St. Mary of the Pines parishioner Mildred Ruttle opened her heart to a need in her church. The mothers of young children in the parish More »

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Catholic Charities Director Bids Farewell

by Jean Dresley As my time at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana comes to a close, I want to reflect on my work in the Diocese of Shreveport. When I was a More »

Diocese of Shreveport seminarians stand together at the St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary's annual bonfire.

Vocations View: Seminary – The First Year

My first year at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College has been an incredible experience. When I arrived on campus last fall, I had no idea what to expect. Having spent the More »

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Domestic Church: Dads, Imitate the Father in Heaven

After last month’s piece on how the Blessed Virgin Mary handled motherhood, I thought it fitting to write up a corresponding article for dads as Father’s Day approaches. The entire text of More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Silence is Essential to Communication

by Bishop Michael G. Duca As I write this article in May, I am already thinking about my summer vacation retreat in Red River, New Mexico.  I make a yearly pilgrimage to More »

Confession is Good for the Soul

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by Father Matthew Long

“Confession is good for the soul,” all of us have heard this statement many times. I used to hear it before I became Catholic and did not understand the truth of the statement. When I became a lawyer I had misgivings about confessions, especially if I was representing a criminal defendant. As a member of the faithful however, confession has always been an integral part of my sacramental life. Many people only go to confession when they are “forced” to do so, namely, preceding their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. I, like so many others, planned to do this as well.  As I approached the Easter Vigil in 2000, I knew I would be forced to go to confession before I could enter into full communion with the Church. I approached this sacrament with fear and trepidation.  I had to confess everything from my baptism at the age of 11 to this moment 13 years later.  I hate to admit it, but I was not a saint in high school and college. I made many poor choices and I had to tell a priest what they were. I resolved I would go this one time and then I would revert to my Baptist practice of asking God to forgive me. I knew and still know that God is not bound by the sacraments and he can forgive me anything if I only show Him that I am sorry, that I am contrite. Therefore this decision of mine made perfect sense.

I can still see the face of Msgr. Bergreen at St. Agnes in Baton Rouge as my face burned with embarrassment. I can still hear my words haltingly being forced out of my mouth. I was humiliated to have to tell this man of God what all I had done. When I paused for breath as my mind raced he said, “Today you begin with a clean slate.” I felt relieved that it was over and in my mind I knew I would never do it again. But that night at the Easter Vigil everything changed when I approached the priest who had heard my confession and he smiled at me. In that moment I felt God’s mercy and forgiveness in a tangible way. I knew that I was forgiven.  From that moment on I became a confession junkie. I went as often as I could.

After this I felt it was incumbent upon me to better understand the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The best place to begin to better understand it is from Sacred Scripture.  The most important passage regarding this sacrament is John 20:21-23:

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

It is clear from this passage that Christ gives authority to the Apostles to forgive sins.This authority rests with the Church, which is ruled by the successors to the Apostles: the pope and bishops in union with him.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-42) is one of the most beautiful expressions given by Jesus of how confession should work. The son sins through his desire to have all that he would inherit and he then goes and lives a life of dissipation, squandering his inheritance. After he has hit rock bottom, a Jewish boy feeding swine, he realizes his mistakes and desires to be reconciled to his father.  He then begins to pray and prepare himself for confession. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” He then makes his way back to his father, preparing the whole way for his confession. When he reaches his destination he begins his confession and is immediately forgiven. Every time I avail myself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation I experience the same mercy and forgiveness Jesus describes in this parable.

The best confession ever recorded can also be found in scripture. In the crucifixion, as recounted by Luke (Luke 23:33-43), Jesus and the two thieves hang upon the three crosses. The Good Thief, as he is known, admits that he has sinned and asks the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus responds, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” We have this same opportunity to receive God’s mercy and grace each time we make our way to the confessional.

During this Year of Mercy the Holy Father has encouraged all of us to make confession a greater part of our sacramental life. Confession is one of the few sacraments that we can avail ourselves of multiple times in our lives.

It is one of the sacraments of healing. It is the medical clinic of the Divine Physician. The forgiveness of sins is the most important part of this undervalued and underused sacrament, but the healing aspect of it is the most unappreciated part. We are reconciled to God, we are forgiven our sins, we are relieved of our guilt and shame and we are given the grace to sin no more. Our souls are also healed. When we speak the sins aloud to our priest, they lose their power over us. They are no longer our secret shame or our hidden guilt or our skeleton in the closet.  In that moment they are brought forth to the light of Christ and we can see them for the first time clearly. We can see that in Christ’s light they lose their power and are vanquished.

This is why confession is good for the soul. It is good for the soul not only because it cleanses it, but because it frees it, too. Confession allows the soul to reach its full potential. It allows the soul the opportunity to shine forth like the noon day sun as it basks in the glory of the grace of God. I have experienced that moment so often in my own life when I hear those glorious words spoken by a priest. Those words that take my faith in God’s forgiveness to a concrete reality as I hear His duly appointed representative speak them aloud:

“God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son  has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us  for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

As a priest I am privileged in a unique way to not only be a penitent, but also a confessor.  As a confessor I take the sacramental seal very seriously.  If I break this seal, then I can only be reconciled to God and the Church by the Holy Father.  This seal has given me the freedom I need to make a good confession as a penitent and it gives me the freedom to truly be a vessel of mercy for the Lord as a confessor. The seal requires me to forget everything I hear in confession and to never speak of what goes on, not even whether or not someone has made a confession. Every priest I know takes this sacred trust given to us by the grace of orders very seriously.  By doing this we give every baptized Catholic the opportunity to experience what the Prodigal Son experienced, what the woman caught in adultery experienced and what the good thief experienced.

In a General Audience on February 19, 2014, the Holy Father spoke about the sacrament of reconciliation. He said, “It is not enough to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness in our own minds and hearts, but rather it is also necessary to humbly and trustfully confess our sins to a minister of the Church.” His reasoning for this beyond the authority given the Church by Christ was that the priest as a confessor represents God and the community as a whole. He reminded us that when we sin it is not only God that we hurt, but our brothers and sisters and the Church as well. Therefore it is necessary not only to confess to God, but ask our brothers and sisters and the Church for forgiveness as well. His words “Do not be afraid of Confession” should encourage us all.

I urge all of you to listen to the Holy Father’s encouragement, to heed the call of the Church and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This moment of grace is one the Church asks us to participate in at least once a year if we have mortal sins upon our soul in conjunction with our Easter Obligation.  Most of us, however, go beyond our Easter Obligation and receive communion every time we attend Mass, which was the desire of St. Pope Pius X.  If we receive communion more frequently, I think it would be wise and prudent as stewards of our immortal souls to avail ourselves upon the sacrament of reconciliation more often as well.

Loyola Students Win Big in Regional Competitions

Spring has been a winning season for Loyola Flyers as both the media and science departments brought home big awards. This April, the Loyola Media Arts Department students were recognized at the Annual Regional CASE (Council of Advancement and Support of Education) conference in Dallas. The annual CASE conference recognizes outstanding visual and digital productions in education. Loyola students won the silver medal in the Student Produced Video category for their documentary Unforgotten: The Life and Legacy of Michael Bovenzi.

Bovenzi, a 1999 Loyola graduate, died of leukemia in 2005. The Media Arts Department also won an honorable mention in the Public Relations category for We are One, their video highlighting life at Loyola. This was a particular honor for Loyola because competitors in their district include University of Texas, Oklahoma State University, SMU, Baylor, Texas A&M and TCU, among others.

John James Marshall, teacher and faculty sponsor of the Media Arts Department, says of their accomplishment, “There is a great deal of creative talent in the class. To see the students place in both categories was such an honor and was quite a reward for the year-long hard work they put into these projects.” Marshall went on to congratulate his students by saying, “to win among such stiff competition, and to be the only high school to win, was an amazing accomplishment.”  Both winning videos, along with the Media Arts Department’s newest documentary, which tells the story of Loyola families impacted by Katrina, can be viewed at: www.vimeo.com/loyolacollegeprep.

The Media Arts Department wasn’t the only one to shine.  Loyola’s Science Department students dominated at the AFCEA (Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association) Awards.  Loyola students won four of only 11 scholarships awarded in the Northwest Louisiana Region. Seniors Jacob Kesten, David Hatten, Matthew Vitacca and Erica Graham were each awarded a $2000 scholarship for excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The AFCEA seeks to support students in their pursuits in STEM related fields and awards scholarships to applicants based on scholarship, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations.  Loyola AP Physics teacher Hal Meekins says the fact that Loyola students were awarded four of the 11 scholarships is “an incredible endorsement of the education that students at Loyola College Prep are receiving and of the quality of the students we have here.”

Loyola is proud of the many accomplishments of its students and continues to support students’ pursuit of  academic excellence both in and out of the classroom.

by Lisa Cooper, Loyola College Prep

The Pope Meets with Superiors General: Participation in Decision-Making and Study of the Female Diaconate

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On May 12, 2016,  in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis met with the participants in the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), on the theme “Weaving global solidarity for life,” which closes the celebrations for the Jubilee for 50 years of the UISG. The conversation between the Holy Father and the consecrated women took place in an informal context, with a series of questions and answers, and focused on the integration of women in the life of the Church and the role, mission and difficulties faced by consecrated women and the Union of Superiors General. The following are extracts of the discussion.

Q: Pope Francis, you have said that “the feminine genius is necessary in all expressions of the life of the Church and of society,” and yet women are excluded from decision-making processes in the Church, especially at the highest levels, and from preaching in the Eucharist. An important obstacle to Church’s full embrace of the “feminine genius” is the bond that both decision-making processes and preaching have with priestly ordination. Do you see a way of separating from ordination both leadership roles and preaching in the Eucharist, so that our Church can be more open to receiving the genius of women in the very near future?

Pope Francis: It is true that women are excluded from decision-making processes in the Church: excluded no, but the integration of women is very weak there, in decision-making processes. We must move forward … because in many aspects of decision-making processes ordination is not necessary. … For me the influence on decisions is very important: not only the execution, but also the development, and therefore that women, both consecrated and laywomen, enter into reflection on the process, and in discussion. … I experienced a problem in Buenos Aires: viewing it with the priests’ council – therefore all men – it was treated well, but then seeing it with a group of religious and lay women it was greatly enriched, and this helped the decision by offering a complementary vision. This is necessary!

[…] Then there is the problem of preaching at the Eucharistic Celebration. There is no problem for a woman – religious or lay – to preach in the Liturgy of the Word. There is no problem. But at the Eucharistic Celebration there is a liturgical-dogmatic problem, because it is one celebration – the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, there is unity between them – and He Who presides is Jesus Christ. The priest or bishop who presides does so in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a theological-liturgical reality. In that situation, since women are not ordained, they cannot preside.

In leadership, instead, there is no problem: in that respect we must go forward, with prudence, but seeking solutions.

There are two temptations here, against which we must be on guard. The first is feminism: the role of the woman in the Church is not feminism, it is a right! It is a right through baptism, with the charisms and the gifts that the Spirit has given. … The other danger, a very strong temptation I have spoken about several times, is clericalism. … Let us consider that today more than 60 percent of parishes do not have a council for economic affairs or a pastoral council. What does this mean? It means that the parish or diocese is led with a clerical spirit, by the priest alone, and that it does not implement the synodality in the parish, in the diocese, which is not a novelty under this pope. No! It is a matter of canon law: the parish priest is obliged to have a council of, for and with laymen, laywomen and women religious for pastoral ministry and for economic affairs. And they do not do this. This is the danger of clericalism in the Church today.

Q: […] In the Church there is the office of the permanent diaconate, but it is open only to men, married or not. What prevents the Church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive Church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter?

Pope Francis: This question goes in the direction of “doing”: consecrated women already do much work with the poor, they do many things … “doing.” And it touches on the problem of the permanent diaconate. … In effect this exists in antiquity: there was a beginning. …I remember that it was a theme I was quite interested in when I came to Rome for meetings, … there was a good Syrian theologian there and one day I asked him about this, and he explained to me that in the early times of the Church there were some “deaconesses.” But what were these deaconesses? Were they ordained or not? The Council of Chalcedon (451) speaks about this but it is somewhat obscure. What was the role of deaconesses in those times? It seems – I was told by this man, who is now dead but who was a good professor, wise and erudite – it seems that the role of the deaconesses was to help in the baptism of women, their immersion; they baptized them for the sake of decorum, and also to anoint the body of women, in baptism. And another curious thing: when there was a judgement on a marriage because a husband hit his wife and she went to the bishop to complain, deaconesses were responsible for inspecting the bruises left on the woman’s body from her husband’s blows, and for informing the bishop. … There are various publications on the diaconate in the Church, but it is not clear how it was. I think I will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to refer me to some studies on this theme, because I have answered you only on the basis of what I heard from this priest, who was an erudite and able researcher, on the permanent diaconate. In addition, I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type.

For a transcript of the meeting:
http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/05/13/160513c.html

Kids’ Connection: June is the Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Page!

The Holy Year of Mercy and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

“The blessing of the poor is that of God… let us go to the poor.”  – Blessed Frederic Ozanam

Born in 1813 in Milan, Italy, Frederic Ozanam grew to possess a rare combination of intellectual genius and extraordinary holiness.  He was a husband, father, professor, researcher, journalist, author and apologist. Frederic’s mother and father instilled in him his love of God, and they taught him, above all else, to seek Christ in the poor and in those who were heavy laden.

Interestingly, his first contact with philosophy challenged his faith. It was during that time that he promised God that if he would take away the darkness of doubt, that he would give his life in the service of the truth. With those doubts erased, Frederic fulfilled his promise until the day he died in 1853.

From the time he was a child, Frederic was blessed with intuition and sensitivity to those who were affected by the harshness and poverty of the lower social classes of the time.  He was a member of “The Society of Good Studies,” the goal of which was to develop among Catholics a desire for historical, philosophical and religious research. This organization would become the group to which the challenge leading to the formation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul would be made to Frederic by one of his fellow members.

During a meeting, the friend simply asked, “What is your Church doing today to meet the needs of society?”  From that moment, Frederic knew that he could no longer simply discuss and debate about the poor, but that in an apostolic way, knew that his life would be dedicated to the constant practice of charity.

Starting with only five other friends, they met with their mentor, publisher Emmanuel Bailly. At Bailly’s urging, they reached out to Sister Rosalie Rendu, “The Mother of the Poor,”, for guidance.  One of the most important things she taught them, which is true in our work today, is that we must not bring only bread to the poor, but also friendship.

From those humble beginnings, the Society now numbers more than 700,000 Vincentians in 150 countries.  We welcome anyone interested in joining the Society’s mission of service to our neighbors in need.

This is part three of a four-part series. Next month: Information and an invitation to join us on September 8, 2016 for our annual St. Vincent de Paul Banquet with Bishop Duca.

by Jim Beadles, VP Shreveport Diocesan Council of SVdP

Young at Heart Share Faith Together

Their faces sometimes show the creases of time, worry and prayer, the bodies of some beginning the pattern of betrayal that can dominate one’s “golden” years, but their spirit, their countenance, is equal to any 18-year-old stargazer.  They are the “Young at Heart” group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Shreveport, and they have spent nearly 15 years paving the way for effective outreach and evangelization to the chronologically advantaged in our diocese. With the average age of the Catholic faithful in our diocese rising, we should take note of the successful path blazed by this unique and dedicated cadre of senior Catholics.

Founded in 2002 and meeting once monthly, this group of around 35 senior Catholics rely on one another for fellowship, support and prayer as they live out their faith in the later years. “We love each other and keep up with each other,” said group leader Ray Vallilo. “Our group is filled with people who love the Church and want to share our Catholic faith with those around us.”

Every meeting is highlighted by a speaker on a Catholic topic and, of course, homemade baked goods brought by the members. “This is a key part of our worship family,” commented parish secretary Anna Provenza. “They are very diligent in their support for one another and are so helpful to our faith community as volunteers for parish events and programs.” Some of the causes supported by the Young at Heart group are sponsorship of St. Elizabeth’s “Yarn Angels” program, which provides knitted clothing to the needy, assistance to American troops serving overseas, pregnancy crisis assistance and outreach to area nurse care facilities and hospitals.

The average age of a “Young at Heart” member is about mid 70’s and the members are not all from this area, but hail from places as far away as New Jersey and Colorado. The proximity of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to adult care facilities also increases interest in the “Young at Heart” program. “Our age contributed to me and my husband moving to this part of the city,” comments member Betty Bianca.  “While we loved our former parish, we are thrilled to be a part of the Young at Heart group and it has really improved our Catholic experience and helped us greatly with this transitional period of our lives together.”

Wise, experienced members of our faith community are to be treasured and provided with opportunities to stay connected to the Church, and that is one goal the Young at Heart group works hard to accomplish. Consider starting a group for older members at your place of worship as this generation of Catholics is strong in numbers and they remain strong in their dedication to the Church!

by John Mark Willcox

Catholic Teen Summer Camps

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Healthy bodies, minds and souls—that’s what our summer camps are all about! Experience an unforgettable, life-changing camp packed with awesome activities and authentic Catholic spirituality. Two camps, one for girls and one for boys, are held at the rustic-but-comfortable King’s Camp, where a top-notch ropes course is flanked by the bayou and a picturesque pond. The days include competitive games, great food, Catholic devotions, and down time at the pool. Don’t miss these three days of faith-filled fun!


The camps are staffed by trained adults, including Fr. Matthew Long, Sr. Fatima, seminarians, youth ministers and parents. All staff have received Safe Environment training.

Camps are $50 per camper and include meals.
For more information and to register, visit www.shvcamps.com
or call 318-868-4441 and ask for the Office of Vocations.

Fr. Elavunkal Returns to India

When parishioners of St. John the Baptist and St. Terence in Many heard the news that their pastor, Fr. Thomas Elavunkal, was returning to India permanently, there was a flood of emotions. In less than two years, Fr. Thomas became bonded to the people and community, serving them with love and dedication. Likewise, when the news spread throughout the diocese, those who knew Fr. Thomas felt the same sadness.

Arriving in Many on July 1, 2013, parishioners and friends accepted Fr. Thomas with open arms. They were anxious to find out what kind of food he liked, what they could do to help him and make him more comfortable. Although they were unsure about having “a priest from India,” those feelings of anxiousness soon left.  His warm demeanor and love for Christ and His church were evident. Fr. Thomas told his congregation that his home parish in India was also named St. John the Baptist and that the small community of Many reminded him of home.

In the short time that he served the parish, many things were accomplished including building improvements, attendance growth and involvement in various ministries while an enthusiasm for Jesus and His church was rekindled.

Besides his numerous priestly duties, Fr. Thomas was known for always finding time to show people how important they were to him and to thank them for acts of kindness towards him.

His last few days were sad ones for those whom he had served and befriended. In addition to the good-byes from the parish, there was a steady stream of visitors from Shreveport, Monroe and other places, getting in as much time with him as his final few days would allow. His farewell dinner was packed with over 200 people who came from throughout the diocese to honor him.

“Although I am happy to be returning to my home country and my family, it is heartbreaking for me to leave my family of St. John the Baptist and St. Terence that I treasure so dearly,” Fr. Thomas told the parish.

And so, as Fr. Thomas Elavunkal stood before his congregation at his final weekend Mass as pastor of St John the Baptist, those whom he had served found it fitting to give him a standing ovation. The people were awash with emotion that said:  “We will always remember you. Our faith is much richer because of you. You have served us faithfully and with great compassion. You have held us close to your heart. We are so blessed and honored to have had you this short time. We love you and will always hold you near.”

by Shirley Rivers

Deacon Nash Celebrates 30 Years of Ordination

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After turning his back on atheism, Nash answered God’s call wholeheartedly

This month Deacon Clary Nash marks the 30th anniversary of his ordination into the permanent diaconate. We sat down with him to discuss his life, his journey and his ministry.

CC: You have an inspirational backstory. Would you mind sharing a bit of it?
CN: For over 10 years, I was a devout atheist. I had two alcoholic parents. It was an uneasy environment because one moment they could be happy and the next moment it could be the reverse. I didn’t always experience a loving, compassionate God. When I was in the military, which was one of the best things that ever happened to me, I would visit orphanages. I would look at all these kids, all different colors and shapes, and they had one thing in common –– no one wanted them. I asked, ‘How can this be an example of a loving God?’ Eventually, I thought what if God really was real? For six months, I was consumed with this one thought. One night it was cold and I was laying in bed. I was totally sincere and I said, ‘If there is a God, let me see.’ Instantly and spontaneously this light encompassed all of me without end. I knew for the first time that God was real, that God created all things, that God loves all of His creation, and that included me. From that moment on, I would wake up and say ‘Here I am Lord.’

CC: Tell us about your call to the diaconate.
CN: I felt that God was calling me to go to Shreveport, Louisiana. My wife, Mary, said, ‘Where is that?’ I felt that God was calling me to come to Shreveport. A year later, we were packed and headed to Shreveport. We started going to St. Mary of the Pines. Then we went on vacation to Panama City, FL. We were involved in the charismatic movement. There was a charismatic convention in Panama City. We went and something leaped within me. I knew then that I wanted to become a deacon. When I returned, I found out the diocese was going to have its first diaconate formation, so I signed up. There were 25 men in the program, 12 were ordained. I was one of them. It’s amazing how God speaks to us.

CC: What are your memories of your formation?
CN: It was a three-year formation that began in 1983. When I looked around, there were some very good people. They knew so much. I said, ‘Lord, are you sure I’m the one that is supposed to be here?’ But I was sincere. I was totally open to God. I was so humbled at my ordination.

CC: What happened after ordination?
CN: I was assigned to Sacred Heart. After three or four years, Bishop Friend asked me to go to the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. I spent 17 years at the Cathedral. Then, they were thinking about closing Sacred Heart and the parishioners wanted a second chance. They asked if I could come back. I’ve been back for about 10 years now. I’m responsible for the plant –– everything outside of Mass structure. You become close to a lot of very good people. I wish I had a diary of everyone I’ve been involved with over the years. I witnessed the weddings for my two sons. What an honor. My niece asked me to baptize her children. It was great. I’ve been blessed to do so many weddings and so many baptisms.

CC: We know how much your wife, Mary, means to your marriage and your ministry.
CN: When I said to Mary that God had called us to move to Shreveport, she said to me, ‘Where you go, I go. I will always be by your side.’ And she’s been there all that time. We’ve been married almost 46 years.

CC: Now you are the Director of the Permanent Diaconate. Tell us about that ministry.
CN: I asked Bishop Friend, ‘How can I best serve you?’ He said he wanted me to be the director of the next deacon formation in the diocese. Whatever capacity God is calling us to, it’s all about being a servant, and it is all about a life of service. Thirty years later, I feel happy. I feel complete. I feel in harmony with God.

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

Catholic Campus Ministry at Tech Recognized Nationally

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According to Best College Reviews, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish’s E. Donn Piatt (EDP) Catholic Student Center, the home of the Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS), is one of the top 50 Catholic campus ministry programs in the nation.  ACTS placed 32nd and is very proud of its ranking considering the size and location of its ministry.  The selection criteria concentrated on the number of activities and services provided in relationship to the possible number of students served.

The success of the campus ministry program at St. Thomas is due to the commitment the parish has to the students of Louisiana Tech, which started 75 years ago at the urging of Joe Aillet and other Catholic faculty members working at Tech.   This commitment is made evident through the official name of the community being St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church and Student Center. The first Masses were held in the history building at Tech and the beginnings of a campus ministry group began in parishioners living rooms!  Eventually, the EDP Catholic Center was built to facilitate parish gatherings, which by nature centered around the college crowd.  That building will turn 50 next year!  Although half a century old, the E. Donn Piatt Catholic Center is still a superb place for not only college students, but all who enter its doors.

The EDP Catholic Center has a lounge with a fireplace, offices for meetings, a full scale kitchen for student use, a library that boasts an impressive array of Catholic writings, two outdoor gathering areas, a prayer garden and a large multi-purpose room.  Such a facility allows for a number of activities for college students to participate in and feel as though the Catholic church in Ruston is really a “second home.”

Currently there are approximately 1,000 Catholic students at Tech, the majority coming from southern Louisiana. During the school year the church adds two Masses to its schedule, both of which are planned and orchestrated by students.   More that 200 students are registered with ACTS, which is also a chartered organization at Tech. Parishioner Don Braswell has been its faculty advisor for 10 years. Not all of its members are Catholic as ecumenism is one of the organization’s commitments.

The motto for ACTS is “Christ-Centered, Student-Led,” which is derived from its mission statement that can be summarized by one word, JESUS: Joy, Evangelization, Sacraments, Unity and Service.  ACTS is currently using the phrase, “Being Catholic at Tech,” to remind its members and assure those coming to Tech, that although there is only ONE Catholic church in town, the commitment to practicing the Catholic faith is strong and convincing.

Since the Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus have been at St. Thomas since its inception, the spirituality of ACTS takes its cue from the standpoint of  “servant leadership.”  The activities of ACTS are all student led under the guidance of its eight person leadership team. There is an activity happening every day on the grounds of St. Thomas with the students praying with each other in some manner. Each weekend there is a social event to ensure that there is an “alternative” option on Tech’s campus where all are welcomed and safe. With the construction of the Joe and Roger Luffey Catholic Life Center on St. Thomas’ campus, the opportunities for more athletic and musical events are now possible for ACTS members. Off campus, students are encouraged to participate in three retreats throughout the year and various other outings.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the tremendous support of the resident parishioners of St. Thomas, who continue to foster an attitude of welcome and support for any student. Along with its “religious structures,” the parish rents out three properties to ACTS members, providing homes for nine students. What an incredible witness of “being Catholic.”

Br. Mike Ward, OFM, the current campus minister, along with pastor Fr. Frank Folino, OFM,  know that the success of campus ministry at St. Thomas began years ago with campus ministers Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM, Sr. Edith Schnell, Ethel Papillion and Rose Fiallos (Serio).  Thank you for your commitment, your vision and your prayers.

by Bro. Mike Ward