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Diocesan Stewardship Appeal: Serving in the Year of Mercy

by John Mark Willcox, Director of  Stewardship & Development For only the second time in its history, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal will take place during a Jubilee Year for the Church.  More »

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CHRISTUS Highland Celebrates New West Wing Opening

by Jordan Harris CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier celebrated the official ribbon cutting of the new West Wing addition at CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center in Shreveport on January 14. The West Wing is an More »

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Mansfield Celebrates 160 Years with New Church Fixtures and Stained Glass

by Fr. Matthew Long, Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield One hundred and sixty years ago the first Catholic Church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, was built in More »

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Domestic Church: Make Your Fast Meaningful

by Katie Sciba I haven’t decided what to give up yet,” I told my husband. “Chocolate’s a good one. Or maybe snacks between meals.” “What’s the one thing you don’t want to More »

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Mercy in Action: Meet Vita – Hosting Orphans with Project 143

by Katie Aranda Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: The Rhythm of Winter Events

by Bishop Michael Duca When I last took to my keyboard to write my Catholic Connection article for the January issue in the balmy days of December, I remember being ready for More »

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Holy Door Pilgrimages

Click here to download this as a print out that you can use as a guide for your Holy Door Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage and Holy Door Spiritual Meaning The practice of pilgrimage has More »

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Mercy in Action: Visit the Imprisoned (Matt. 25:36)

by Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis Just before Christmas, youth and sponsors from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Holy Family (Barksdale) and Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic More »

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Winter Full of Events for Youth & Young Adults

Theology on Tap Expands East and South; Day Planned for Youth to Deepen Catholic Identity Our Youth and Young Adult Ministries are gearing up for an exciting new year. Beginning this month, More »

Diocesan Stewardship Appeal: Serving in the Year of Mercy

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by John Mark Willcox, Director of  Stewardship & Development

For only the second time in its history, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal will take place during a Jubilee Year for the Church.  As we work to serve during this “Year of Mercy,” there is no better way to enter into the Jubilee spirit than by supporting our Annual Appeal and all it provides for the people of our diocese. Various Appeal programs and ministries take on an even greater significance in light of our “Year of Mercy,” as your Appeal continues its mission to provide for the work of Christ in our region.

As in prior years, Appeal care for our retired and infirm priests remains a priority as our ordained workforce continues to age and require assistance.  This includes those dedicated priests who are currently working past retirement age to provide for the people of God within our diocese. This year, eight retired priests will depend on Appeal assistance with additional retirees expected.

“I have visited all of our retired priests recently and I can say with confidence that they are well cared for,” commented Vicar General Fr. Rothell Price.  “Appeal assistance makes a real difference in their lives and they greatly appreciate this annual support from the faithful.”

Working to replace our retired priests with the newly ordained remains the job of Vocation Director Fr. Matthew Long. “We simply could not facilitate the seminary education for our nine men in formation without Appeal support,” said Fr. Long.  “These seminarians are very aware of how our Appeal assists in their journey to ordination and I join them in thankfulness for the assistance of our Appeal supporters.”  To have nine men in training for the priesthood is indeed a blessing for our diocese, and your Appeal dollar is key to bringing their desire to serve as priests to fruition.

Appeal support is also assisting Catholic Charities in their efforts to establish an office in the Eastern Deanery.  “We are so excited to be able to have an office in Monroe,” related Catholic Charities of North Louisiana Executive Director Jean Dresley.  “Being able to provide assistance for the needy of our Eastern Deanery has been a goal since our inception and now, due in part to Appeal support, we will see it happen this year.”

Your Appeal gift will help to further the development of a comprehensive youth plan fostered by the Office of Campus, Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Since 2015, Kevin Prevou has directed this office which seeks to provide the very best in outreach and ministry to these critical members of our worship community.  “Our Appeal truly helps us reach out to our youth and young adults within this diocese.” reminds Kevin.  “Appeal support allowed us to host a number of special events and training opportunities for the youth of our diocese last year, including a November trip to Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Convention for nearly one hundred Catholic high-schoolers from across our diocese.”

Our Catholic educational system that includes our schools and catechesis remains strong because of yearly Appeal support of tuition assistance and services provided to those teaching the Catholic faith at the local parish level.  Our numbers of Spanish-speaking Catholics continues to grow and Appeal support of our Hispanic Ministry efforts is sustaining successful outreach to this vibrant part of our worship community.

Your Appeal also supports a Safe Environment Program that has educated thousands across our diocese. It also sponsors the mission of our diocesan Office of Worship, continuing education for our clergy and our award-winning monthly publication, the Catholic Connection.

Having visited all of our worship locations last year, Bishop Duca remains upbeat about our future as a combined worship family.  “Seeing and speaking with so many of our Catholic faithful last year just reminds me as bishop how lucky I am to serve such a diverse and active group of believers,” noted Bishop Duca.  “I am not only inspired by the work being done in our parishes, chapels and missions, but the generosity of our people is also very inspirational to me personally.  Know that your support of our Annual Appeal really does make a difference and I was able to experience that fact for myself during my weeks of visitation across the diocese.”

Whether you want to help a Catholic child attend school, provide for a retired priest, assist the needy through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, give a Catholic foundation to our youth and young adults or sponsor a man in seminary, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal is the perfect vehicle to accomplish all of this and more.  Take time this year in prayer to discern how you can assist our Appeal campaign and make your 10-month pledge on February 21 to aid the Church with ministries and programs that are available through no other source.  Let us strive to make this “Year of Mercy” a tangible Jubilee Year to those in need across our region.

Pope Begins His Fridays of Mercy

Vatican City, January 16, 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis began his “Fridays of mercy” with a visit to a rest home for the elderly on the outskirts of Rome. He announced this initiative at the beginning of the Jubilee, explaining that one Friday each month he would perform a special gesture of mercy.
The Holy Father, accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, responsible for the organization of the Jubilee of Mercy, arrived at 4:00 p.m. at the Bruno Buozzi rest home, which accommodates 33 elderly people. He spoke with all the residents, who were happy and surprised at the visit, which had not been announced in advance.

Before returning to the Vatican, the pope also visited the Casa Iride, which accommodates six patients in a vegetative state. The center is not organized as a hospital, but rather as a family house where the residents can be continually assisted by members of their families.

According to a note from the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis especially wished to counter the “throwaway culture” on this occasion by highlighting “the great importance and value of the elderly and grandparents, as well as the value and dignity of life in every situation.”

Kids’ Connection: Lent Acts of Love Tree

Click here to download and print this month’s Kid’s Connection.

#52weeksofmercy

Join us in our 52 Weeks of Mercy campaign throughout the Year of Mercy. Follow along, use the hashtag #52weeksofmercy and let’s serve together.

FEBRUARY 7 – 13

FEBRUARY 14-20

FEBRUARY 21 – 27

FEBRUARY 28 – MARCH 5

CHRISTUS Highland Celebrates New West Wing Opening

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by Jordan Harris

CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier celebrated the official ribbon cutting of the new West Wing addition at CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center in Shreveport on January 14. The West Wing is an expansion of services and facilities to the Highland campus, funded by a $60 million investment that was announced in 2013.

“Today is a true milestone in our ministry,” Isaac Palmer, CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier CEO, said. “The West Wing is proof that CHRISTUS Health is committed to this community and that we are here to stay. We are not only celebrating the opening of the West Wing. We celebrate our expansion into Bossier; we celebrate the wound care and breast center who are housed at the CHRISTUS Specialty Care Center. We celebrate our Associates, medical staff, volunteers, and our community who have supported us and understand our vision of bringing health care to where people live and work. Most importantly, we celebrate our legacy in this community that Dr. T. E. Schumpert started 120 years ago.”

The West Wing will be home to the CHRSTUS Cancer Treatment Center (first floor), hospital pharmacy (first floor), The Birth Place/Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (second floor), Acute Comprehensive Inpatient Rehab (third floor), and other office and conference space.

“This is a significant expansion of CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center. The entire campus, including the separate wound care and imaging centers, has been redesigned and expanded to better meet the needs of patients and medical staff,” said Stephen Wright, Senior Vice President Group Operations CHRISTUS Health.

“We are most excited about being together with our CHRISTUS family again in the new building with the state of the art facilities,” Dr. Scott Boniol, medical director of the CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, said. “This transition to a new building is like having a new church. At the end of the day it’s not the building that makes the church, but the congregation. In our new location, we are providing our patients with the same people who have such pride in what they do, the same humility and dignity. The West Wing is a new building, but it will still have our CHRISTUS family and values, and that’s what makes the difference.”

A faith-based, not-for-profit health system, CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier is part of CHRISTUS Health, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. CHRISTUS is among the 10 largest Catholic health systems in the country and one of the 20 largest of all health systems in the nation. CHRISTUS Health Shreveport Bossier has provided health care in Northwest Louisiana for over 100 years. Their mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

Q&A with Catholic Charities’ Lucy Medvec

Lucy Medvec began work at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana on January 4, filling the role of director of development and communications. Her job will be instrumental in helping raise awareness of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and the ministries they provide to help those most in need in our community, as well as assisting in raising funds to support one of the social justice arms of the Church.

Q: Welcome to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana! You have a background of working in development for hospitals and Catholic schools. Catholic Charities is a little bit different from those ministries. What do you look forward to most as you begin your job with Catholic Charities of North Louisiana?

What I look forward to most is the opportunity to interact with so many people; whether it will be our clients and their families, our volunteers, or our donors. We can all come together to make such a difference in our community and I want to get out there and let people know what they can do to help those who are in need. I have lived with my family in Shreveport for over 20 years and have worked in the non-profit community for a variety of organizations.  I like to say that if there is a non-profit in our community, it’s highly likely that I have worked for, volunteered, or donated money to it!  I have worked within the Diocese of Shreveport for the last eight years and am honored to be called to serve in this ministry.

Q: Development is an important part of any non-profit organization. Why is it so integral to the support of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana?

Every day, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana responds to the needs of many in our community who are struggling. We are one of many organizations who can provide assistance to those who need help and get them in a place where they can get back on their feet. Every donation we receive is greatly appreciated and put to good use. We take our role as stewards seriously and like to work with donors to make their gifts count. We have many viable programs at Catholic Charities that help so many, but they can only be successful with the support of our donors and volunteers.

Q: Catholic Charities of North Louisiana has put down strong roots in Shreveport with several well established programs to help people in our community help themselves and is now beginning to expand East. What is one of your greatest hopes for the future of CCNLA?

With the opening of our satellite office in Monroe this February, we are now able to reach a larger population of North Louisiana. It is amazing to see how large our diocese is and how Catholic Charities of North Louisiana reaches all corners of the region. My hope for the coming year is to expand our base of support (time, talent and treasure) throughout the diocese so we can touch thousands of lives who need us most. We have just completed our fifth year of service in Shreveport and see the coming year as one of expansion and growth.

Q: Pope Francis has announced a “Year of Mercy,” and it seems like Catholic Charities is a natural extension of the corporal works of mercy. What are some of the ways CCNLA is embracing this Year of Mercy? 

Pope Francis’ teachings on mercy speak directly to our organization’s mission to bring Christ’s message of love to the poor and vulnerable by providing quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination. Pope Francis has asked each of us this year to be vessels of God’s mercy for others. Through both corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we all have the opportunity to embody our faith on a daily basis.

Q: The Year of Mercy is a great opportunity to get more people, especially Catholics, involved in helping one another. What are some of the ways for people to get involved with CCNLA?

One thing I like most about Catholic Charities is that we reach people of all ages and faiths, whether they are clients, volunteers or donors – it is truly for everyone. We have dedicated volunteers who work with Gabriel’s Closet (items for low-income mothers and children, parenting classes), assist with immigration integration services and help us with other ministries. There are volunteer opportunities for all levels of involvement and we can help you find your place. I would love for our base of support to grow throughout our diocese and the community as a whole.  We do great things here every day and it is an amazing opportunity to be able to serve those who need us most.

Mansfield Celebrates 160 Years with New Church Fixtures and Stained Glass

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by Fr. Matthew Long, Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield

One hundred and sixty years ago the first Catholic Church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, was built in what is now Desoto Parish in Carmel. Sixty years ago the Catholic Church in Mansfield built a new brick church for $35,000 that replaced the original wood frame church built on the site in 1908. The church rose there, brick by brick, and over the years through the generosity of the people and the talent of Mrs. Eugenia Manning, religious art was added to the Church’s patrimony. One of the things done to enhance the worship experience and to glorify God was to paint images of the life of Christ on the existing windows. Time passed, the sun shone and paint faded.

During the sixtieth year of the current church’s existence, the people of Mansfield were inspired to once again be generous and use the talent God has blessed them with to enhance the worship experience and to glorify God. Needles and threads sewed a new curtain and cushion covers, seats were reupholstered, new paint was put on old wood, skilled wood workers built and a new, more beautiful church emerged. One family commissioned a wood carving from a local artist of the pelican sacrificing herself for her young (an ancient symbol of Christ) to be placed above the crucifix. Another family put a new floor in the sanctuary, another rebuilt the sacristy, and another replaced the existing windows with insulated clear glass. The magnificent wooden altar from Immaculate Conception Church in Carmel and the altar rails from St. Jude Church in Logansport were placed in the sanctuary, and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego were brought from Mexico. All of this was done in preparation for the fulfillment of a dream long held by the people to replace the painted windows with stained glass, to complete the work begun in 1955.

The third week of Advent dawned bright and clear, and although the people awaited the coming of Christ in joyful anticipation, something else would arrive instead: 13 stained glass windows.  These windows were carefully and thoughtfully chosen by the parishioners, mindful of the heritage they had received from those first Catholics who arrived there in 1855. On the south side of the church the windows represent the history of the Catholic Church in Desoto Parish. The first and second windows are images of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The third window is an image of the Immaculate Conception, which represents the Church at Carmel and St. Mary’s in Rambin. There are also images of the Rock Chapel contained in this window. The next window is of St. Anne. Her patronage is important in the life of the Church in Desoto Parish. She is the patroness of the Rock Chapel and the former church in Benson as well as of the only existing Mission of St. Joseph still active in Stonewall. The fifth and sixth windows on this side are St. Jude and St. Francis Xavier, representing the former churches in Logansport and Frierson. On the north side of the Church the windows represent the life of the church’s Patron St. Joseph. They are the betrothal, the nativity, the flight into Egypt, the ordinary life in Nazareth, the finding of the child in the temple, and the death of St. Joseph. The final window is of St. Michael the Archangel, above the front doors of the Church, who is the co-patron and protector of the church along with St. Joseph.

What a blessing the 160th year of Catholicism in Desoto Parish has been.  We are blessed with generous spirits and are blessed each time we pass into this beautiful church that represents all the history, all the goodness and especially all the love the vibrant People of God of Desoto Parish have to offer to the Glory of God.

Diocese of Shreveport Annual Report

Click here to download and read the Annual Report.

Vocations View: Pastoral Assignment at the Boys and Girls Club

by Martin Aviles-Vazquez, Seminarian

Before I started my pastoral assignment at the Boys and Girls Club (B&GC) in Covington, Louisiana for the fall 2015, I was very excited about it because I was going to be working with kids. I have a lot of experience working with them, and I love it. In 2011, when I was in the seminary in Mexico, I taught catechism to 45 kids every Saturday and I was the Hispanic Youth leader in Ruston for about a year. I was also happy because the B&GC is located very close to the seminary. However, I was not that excited about the size and facilities of the club. I had seen it before and it was not big enough for the great number of children attending it.

My experience with the kids in the B&GC was very different from what I expected. Some of these experiences were a huge challenge and some were enjoyable for me. Most of the kids who attend the club are African-American, and they taught me a lot about themselves and their culture. This has helped me see firsthand the multicultural reality of the United States, which is in the Catholic Church as well.

One of my favorite things to do in my pastoral assignment was to help the kids with their homework. Most of the time, when I was helping them, they actually paid attention and listened to me. Sometimes they also read for me and I would help them with their pronunciation. It was a good feeling to know that I was contributing to children’s education in a positive way.

One day I was drawing for them, and a few kids gathered around me and were very amazed at my drawing. That was remarkable, not because my drawing was so great, in fact, it was very simple, but the reaction of the kids was priceless. I also enjoyed playing sports with them outside, such as soccer or basketball. Of course they loved it as well.

One time we stayed longer than we were supposed to because the kids wanted us to stay to play football with them. They were having a lot of fun and we were too.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all positive. I experienced some difficulties that have helped me grow in my human formation. For example, sometimes kids don’t behave well and the instructors don’t respond adequately to them. In these cases I remember how I was educated. My parents didn’t allow their children to disrespect anybody, especially adults. I tried to teach this to the kids by treating them with respect. At first they still disrespected me, but I knew that perseverance always works. If I treated them with love and respect, they would treat me the same way. It is not the children’s fault if they are not well educated. By working with them, we can help them better themselves and create a brighter future.

Are you feeling called to a vocation in  the Church? Contact Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations, at 318-868-4441, or mlong@dioshpt.org

Second Collections and Programs in February

AID TO THE CHURCH IN CENTRAL and EASTERN EUROPE
Collection Dates:  February 10th  
Announcement Dates: January 31st & February 7th

T he poster for this year’s Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is especially endearing.  It features a captivating image of a mother and freshly bathed child. The happy mama is lovingly focused on this child who requires/needs so much of her. Our heavenly Father’s eyes and heart are fixed mercifully on us. The theme for this year’s Collection for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is “Restore the Church, Build the Future.” Each year, the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe assists Catholics who live in countries once dominated by the Soviet regime in order to rebuild their communities.  Show the Father’s mercy to our brothers and sisters in Central and Eastern Europe who still feel poverty, have infrequent pastoral care, and lack buildings for worship. Your support is needed to strengthen the Church in this region through grants that promote ministries for children and families, create affordable housing, and provide a cultural and spiritual education.  Please be generous in your parish collection.  Your gift will continue to restore the Church and build the future in Central and Eastern Europe.

OPERATION RICE BOWL
Collection Dates: February 10th – March 27th
Ash Wednesday – Easter Sunday
Announcement Dates: January 31st & February 7th 

O peration Rice Bowl is a project of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  CRS is our unique Catholic complementary counterpoint to the Red Cross.  It is easy to confuse this season-long spiritual program with the annual collection.  They are not the same.  The Rice Bowl program extends from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, while the CRS Collection is taken up on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  This year’s Rice Bowl program is titled, “For Lent, For Life.”  The Rice Bowl offers families, schools and faith communities an opportunity to prayerfully journey through Lent, putting their faith in action, and learning about the lives and struggles of our brothers and sisters around the world. Operation Rice Bowl allows us to express our Faith in Action, and see tangible results.  Look for the Rice Bowl in our Catholic schools and parishes prior to Ash Wednesday.  Increase your Easter Day joy by presenting your CRS Rice Bowl to our Risen Lord on Easter Sunday in your parish collection.

BLACK AND INDIAN MISSIONS
Collection Dates: February 13th & 14th   
Announcement Dates:     January 31st & February 7th

The Black and Indian Missions Collection exists to help communities build the Church and preach the Gospel of Jesus among the African American, Native American and Alaska Native people of God.  Every year, it is the amazing generosity of Catholic faithful just like you who enable the Black and Indian Mission Office to support the following priorities: enlivening parish life and catechesis, helping educators reach kids, encouraging vocations and empowering evangelizers. Proceeds from this collection are distributed as grants to dioceses supporting and strengthening evangelization programs, which would otherwise be in danger of disappearing among the Black, American Indian, Eskimo and Aleute communities of the United States.  In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, “Be Merciful like the Father.”  Self-sacrifice and generosity are among Our Father’s greatest attributes, gifts, and mercies to us. Please give generously to this work of the Church.