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Frontier Mission Beginnings: Fr. Jean Pierre and the Bayou Pierre Community

by Dr. Cheryl White The small community of Carmel, Louisiana is home to a rich cultural inheritance that resonates even today as an important and easily identifiable chapter of our Catholic history. More »

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Escape Routes: A Reflection on the Church Sex Abuse Crisis

by Kim Long Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God. In 2002 when the Boston clergy scandal erupted I had a vague notion of what was going on. Several More »

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USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Calls All Catholics to Fight with Renewed Vigor for the Unborn

from the USCCB WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to several states moving More »

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Be More: Northwest Louisiana Catholic Schools Unite

by Jessica Rinaudo The three Catholic schools in the Shreveport-Bossier area, Loyola College Prep, St. John Berchmans Catholic School and St. Joseph Catholic School, are joining forces. Together school principals, school council More »

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Vocations View: World Youth Day

by Raney Johnson, Seminarian I had the opportunity to attend my second World Youth Day (WYD) this past January in Panama. During this trip, I was able to encounter fellow young Catholics More »

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Navigating the Faith: Ash Wednesday Quick Guide

Ash Wednesday officially kicks off the Lenten season in the Church, a season dedicated to prayer, fasting and penance. It takes place 46 days before Easter. This year, that day is Wednesday, More »

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Domestic Church: How to Have a “Successful” Lent

by Katie Sciba The beginning of Lent feels like the New Year – it’s a clean slate paired with a handful of resolutions and a heart full of hope that this is More »

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Stewardship: A Reflection

by Mike Van Vranken After living 93 years as a faithful Catholic, Ashley passed from this life to her heavenly reward. She was immediately whisked away to the throne of Jesus where More »

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, was the leader for the Bishops' Retreat in January. (photo: Catholic News Agency)

Prayer Before Action A Reflection on the Bishops’ Retreat

by Father Peter Mangum, Diocesan Administrator We just celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and have brought the Season of Christmas to a conclusion. May the graces of that More »

Frontier Mission Beginnings: Fr. Jean Pierre and the Bayou Pierre Community

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by Dr. Cheryl White

The small community of Carmel, Louisiana is home to a rich cultural inheritance that resonates even today as an important and easily identifiable chapter of our Catholic history. Many will recognize its name as the home of a true historical jewel of the Diocese of Shreveport, the Rock Chapel, which is all that remains of a late nineteenth century Carmelite monastic community. Yet, the significance of Carmel pre-dates even that impressive marker of the past, and reaches back to the earliest days of the newly created Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853. In its beginnings are found the story of a remarkable priest, destined to become the first pastor of Holy Trinity in Shreveport, and destined to become one of the five “martyrs of their charity,” who gave their lives in the Shreveport Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873.

Natchitoches, as the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase (established 1713) and its surrounding region, grew so much in population that Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853. The first bishop of the new frontier diocese was Auguste Marie Martin from the seaside village of St. Malo in the Brittany region of France, who was tasked with finding priests to serve in a remote area that still had many characteristics of the western American frontier. From a recruiting trip through the villages and seminaries of his native Brittany in 1854, Bishop Martin returned to the Diocese of Natchitoches with Fr. Louis Gergaud, already ordained in the Diocese of Nantes, and two young seminarians from

St. Brieuc, Francois Le Vezouet and Jean Pierre. Bishop Martin sent Fr. Gergaud to Monroe, where he became the pastor of St. Matthew’s. Following their ordinations in Natchitoches,

Fr. Le Vezouet and Fr. Pierre also received their first assignments:  Fr. Le Vezouet to the settlement of Many, Louisiana, and Fr. Pierre to the tiny community of Bayou Pierre (today known as Carmel).

Fr. Jean Pierre

Fr. Pierre went immediately to work to construct the community’s first Catholic church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as an adjoining rectory. In his letters and memoirs, Bishop Martin provided an appreciative account of the success of Fr. Pierre’s labor in the Bayou Pierre community, noting the growing Catholic population there, as well as Fr. Pierre’s regular visits northward to Shreveport. In the following year of 1856, Fr. Pierre was assigned exclusively with the task of a new church in Shreveport, a project which culminated in the construction of the first Holy Trinity Church. From 1856 until his death in 1873 from Yellow Fever, Fr. Pierre worked tirelessly and selflessly as Holy Trinity’s first pastor, a period that is also well-documented in the available historical record.

Visiting Carmel today, one can see the vestiges of that community’s Catholic past – Immaculate Conception Church, its adjacent cemetery, and of course, the Rock Chapel. What is not evident to the visitor is the location of Fr. Pierre’s first church – Holy Apostles, which is long gone. However, its location can be approximated based on important known historical indicators. First, the location of the cemetery, with graves that pre-date the current church structure, provides an important clue as to the location of the original church. Also, a Confederate defense map from 1862 clearly shows the location of a church on the Smithport Road (as it was known even in 1862), and this structure so noted by the Confederate surveyors must have been Holy Apostles. The land transaction between the Laffitte family and Fr. Jean Pierre, acting on behalf of Bishop Martin, is also historically documented. Finally, of course, there is always the rich and enduring oral tradition of any given community, which although not considered history in its strictest interpretation, is yet another important component of piecing together the location of a structure no longer in existence.

Because of the historical significance of Fr. Jean Pierre and the other four priests of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873, there is a plan to place a Louisiana state historical marker at the site of Holy Apostles Church. This will honor both the first mission of this martyr-priest as well as the importance of the Bayou Pierre Community (Carmel) in the overall history of the region. The cultural and historical contributions of this community go far beyond its interesting outgrowth from the Natchitoches settlement, and touch upon the single most transformative event in Shreveport history. It was the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873 that determined the fate of a fledgling river-port, and yet the city survived, stronger than ever. The epidemic and its legacy will forever bear the memory of those who sacrificed all. Among them is Fr. Jean Pierre, and it is therefore more than fitting to permanently mark his first church for future generations of visitors and pilgrims.

A Confederate defense map from 1862 (LSU-S Archives).

A Message from Our Diocesan Administrator

by Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum

Appeal Sunday occurred last month on February 17, and thanks to the generous support of our faithful, we are off to a good start on this year’s campaign. If you have already provided your pledge to this year’s Appeal, you have my sincere appreciation. Thank you and God bless you for your support.

Please know that we still have a long way to go before we reach our pledge goal of $1,500,000. The month of March is a critical time each year for our Appeal, as follow-up efforts are taking place in each worship location to secure additional pledges to this combined effort to serve the needs of the people of our diocese.

Please take some time now to consider your 10-month pledge to support our array of Appeal ministries. A pledge card can be found below. You may use this to facilitate your annual gift to our Appeal. You can also visit our website at www.dioshpt.org, and click on the “Donate Now” button on our home page. Those making pledges this month will receive their first Appeal statement in the month of April.

Escape Routes: A Reflection on the Church Sex Abuse Crisis

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by Kim Long

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

In 2002 when the Boston clergy scandal erupted I had a vague notion of what was going on. Several priests, whom I knew personally, were uncertain of going out in public in their collars, fearful of being grouped with the abusers. It was during this time period that I found myself waiting with an altar server after a holy day Mass. Everyone had gone and we waited together until his brother picked him up. A simple thing.

The next day my pastor and I spoke about the boy waiting alone . He told me he was afraid to offer the boy a ride home with the sexual abuse crisis going on in the Church. I offered prayers for the victims of what seemed a faraway crisis.

When the Pennsylvania abuse scandal broke several months ago, I paid close attention. My previous ignorance seemed to ignite a hunger in me to know the truth, even if it turned out to be painful – and it did.
A coworker, knowing my love of movies, recommended a film called Spotlight. When she told me it was about the 2002 clergy abuse crisis, I knew I had to see it. One of my sons walked in about the time the movie began. Afterward, as the credits rolled, I asked him if this movie shook his faith in the Church. He said, “Mom I grew up knowing about this and nothing can take away the Eucharist, especially the way you explain it.”

Sworn testimony, a condemning document from a nuncio, two heartfelt and very different homilies from two different priests, and one newscaster after another, brought this topic home in a way no movie, even an award winning movie, ever could. The sadness, the brokenness was part of me now.

Following the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, I was in a diocesan meeting where the subject was discussed at great length. One of the results of that meeting was the decision to hold a prayer vigil for reparation and healing. I knew I needed to go to the service, but there was a deep resistance within me – a bit of a hard wiring issue really – that when I have no choice, I tend to resist. Knowing I should go lessened my desire to attend. This character flaw and I are well acquainted.

The prayer vigil fell on a Friday night, the same night as a local festival. My big plan was to pray, drive to the festival, have a meat pie and hear a favorite band from my high school days sing their one great hit, and then I would drive home and hit the hay.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

Entering the church I made my way into a back pew, chosen for its closeness to the exit. Kneeling, the pressure of my weight on the padded kneeler reminding me of the pain we were all facing, I prayed hard and felt an internal shift. A feeling of belonging seemed to surge within me.

Through scripture, song, litanies and moments of private prayer, I began to connect. All week I had felt at loose ends, not quite grounded in my faith, feeling the winds of change swirl and tug angrily at me. In previous weeks I assured so many people that all was not lost, and that night I was there with other members of the faithful, feeling our way in the dark.

It occurred to me that I found myself knee deep in covenant: an agreement I had made with God at my emergence from the waters of baptism. For even at the tender age of seven years, I knew I would never be alone again. Yet that feeling, one I had banked on all my life, was so far away from me, more intangible than I ever dreamed possible. Covenant had worked for me as I trusted in God’s presence, seeing it everywhere: in nature, people, the Cathedral building itself, the faces of my children. And at that moment it was revealed differently, not just serving to shore me up, but to also encourage my fidelity which had begun to look for an escape route weeks ago. I was filled with hope, faith and yes, love.

Just this past February, anonymity was stripped away as the names of the guilty were revealed. I was in shock as a former pastor from “back home” was listed among the names. I thought I would feel angry, disgusted, but instead I am just very very sad: sad for the victims, for the perpetrators, for God and for the Church.

In John Shea’s piece, “A Down and Out Disciple Meets His Match,” Jesus shows up just as a man is thinking of “divorcing him quietly.” Jesus reminds him, as Shea’s story has reminded me over the past 31 years, that “there will be no walking out of the covenant.”

The disciple in Shea’s story remained, and like that disciple I am going nowhere. At the end of the day, covenant is my foundation.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run toward God.

Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Contest

The National Right to Life is sponsoring its annual Pro-Life Oratory Contest. The competition is open to all high school juniors and seniors, who will address the issues of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research in five to seven minute oral presentations.

The Shreveport-Bossier contest, now in its 31st year, is sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport and will be held on Thursday, April 25, at 6:00 p.m. at the Catholic Center, 3500 Fairfield Ave., Shreveport. The contest is open to the public at no charge. The local first place prize is $500. The winner will represent Shreveport at the state contest.

The state contest will be held in Baton Rouge this year, on May 4 at the Louisiana Knights of Columbus Convention. The state winner will receive $500 cash, plus expenses paid (up to $1,000) to go to Nationals.
All high school juniors and seniors are eligible, there may be more than one student entered from each school.

For additional information and entry blanks, please contact Anthony Fabio, 1908 Carol Street, Bossier City, LA 71112, awfabio2@hotmail.com, or 318-402-6663.
Or visit:  www.facebook.com/SBProLifeOratoryCommittee/

CCNLA Celebrates Staff Diversity

CCNLA staff: Carl Piehl, Suhad Salamah and Allison Kulbeth.

 

by Meg Goorley, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) embraces the word “Catholic,” meaning universal, in every sense of the word by employing people of all faiths.

Carl Piehl, who is Jewish, has been with the organization for six years. Piehl is well known in the community for developing the Money School, a financial education course that aims to empower the poor to take control of their future. Piehl came to know the good work being done by CCNLA through the immigration program because he taught English as a Second Language. He loved the interaction between the staff and clients.

“The greatest part of my job is inspiring others to realize the strengths within themselves,” said Piehl. “Though not all of us are Catholic, we embody Catholic social teaching every day through our work.”

Catholic social teaching calls for the respect for human life, importance of family and community, dignity and responsibility for the worker and care for the poor, vulnerable and all of God’s creations.

Two other non-Catholic staff members came to CCNLA by way of a temporary employment agency. Suhad Salamah, who is Muslim, has been with CCNLA since September 2016. She is the State Benefits Manager and oversees Gabriel’s Closet – the parenting program that helps low-income parents with baby essentials.

“I am grateful that I have a chance to serve others,” said Salamah. “The clients are just so appreciative.”

Occasionally, she gets mistaken for a nun because of her hijab, and Salamah finds it humorous when someone calls her “Sister Sue.”

Intake Coordinator Allison Kulbeth, another temporary work referral, was surprised when she first came to the office on East 71st Street. Kulbeth, who is Baptist, didn’t know much about Catholicism before working at CCNLA, but she knew that clients did not have to be Catholic in order to receive help.

“What I like about Catholic Charities is that the people who work here aren’t judgmental. Everyone who walks through our doors is welcomed” said Kulbeth. “Now that I’m the one everyone sees when they first walk in, I try to make everyone feel special.”

Executive Director Meg Goorley is extremely proud of her diverse staff. She said, “The similarities of all of our faiths are greater than the differences between them.”

She added, “We are comfortable with our own faiths, yet learn that each person brings depth and value to the world. My colleagues are a living illustration of the vision of Catholic Charities: Together we invest in people to alleviate poverty, distress and injustice.”  •

USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Calls All Catholics to Fight with Renewed Vigor for the Unborn

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from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to several states moving forward with legislation that would permit a baby to be aborted at nine months.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is healthcare.’ A law recently passed in New York not only legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy but removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. A similar bill was proposed in Virginia along with several other states, all in the name of women’s health.

This legislation is evil, pure and simple. And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations. Most grieving to our Lord of Life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.

It is sickeningly dishonest to claim that women’s lives or health depend on intentionally killing their children. This is especially true for late-term abortion, which always involves the purposeful destruction of a child which could have been born alive, with much less risk to the mother, had they both received real healthcare.

Now is the time for all Catholics—bishops, priests, and laity—to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor. We must educate family, friends, legislators, and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children in order to save their mothers. Local action is especially important. Though ending Roe v. Wade is a central goal of the pro-life movement, if the decision were overturned, only 11 states would immediately ban abortion; the other 39 states would still allow it.

I urge Catholics, and thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change. Sign up for your State Catholic Conference or diocesan pro-life advocacy network, which can help you communicate to elected officials. Or seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference at the state level.

Though we live in very dark days, we know that the Lord has already triumphed over death. But we must use this time on earth to be His hands and feet. This means each of us rededicating ourselves to prayer, and fighting for the most vulnerable among us, especially unborn children and their mothers.”

USCCB President Issues Statement on McCarrick in Response to Judgement by Holy See

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement upon the decision of the Holy See announced today regarding Theodore McCarrick.

Cardinal DiNardo’s Full Statement Follows:

“The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.”

Be More: Northwest Louisiana Catholic Schools Unite

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by Jessica Rinaudo

The three Catholic schools in the Shreveport-Bossier area, Loyola College Prep, St. John Berchmans Catholic School and St. Joseph Catholic School, are joining forces. Together school principals, school council members, communications professionals, priests and superintendent Sr. Carol Shively, OSU, have begun meeting to discuss working together to share resources and create a unified Catholic school system in northwest Louisiana.

As part of this effort, several initiatives have launched. The first was to assemble committees, each with a different focus from finances to marketing. The marketing social media team has already begun their work by launching a Shreveport / Bossier Catholic Schools joint Facebook page, where news from all three schools, and in a particular way, news of the schools working together, can be shared with all of those who support Catholic education in the Shreveport / Bossier area.

The Facebook page launched officially in conjunction with Catholic Schools Week 2019, and each day of that week highlighted what the three schools do for their school families, the community and one another. Together the three schools are showing how their students can “Be More,” by attending Catholic schools.

Catholic Schools Week closed with an All Schools Mass at Loyola College Prep – the first to be held in many years – where the three schools celebrated Mass together.  The new Facebook page was used as a platform to live stream Father Matthew Long’s homily at the Mass, in which he fittingly spoke about how together, our schools build the future.

“We are the smallest school system in Northwest Louisiana… A lot of people would look at that and say that’s a bad thing…  But if we listen to the words of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we know that it’s a good thing, because we are blessed as administrators, as faculty members and as students that we have the ability to know… every one of our students, every one of our peers, every one of our faculty members. … This means we can be more like a family than an organization,” said Fr. Long.

He continued, “But you see, from that small seed of St. John’s and St. Joseph’s and Loyola is the future of northwest Louisiana. It’s the future of our community. It’s the future of our state. It’s the future of our nation. You are the ones who are being cultivated. You are the ones who are being taken care of. You are the ones who are being loved. You are the ones who are being given so much so that when you go forth, you will be able to be leaders. … Because you have received all the tools you need from these Catholic schools.”

“To all of you who are students, I think you should go home and tell your parents, ‘Thank you for making the sacrifice, thank you for loving me so much that you are willing to give me the best that you can.’”
Fr. Long also asked the Loyola students to stand up who attended St. John Berchmans School and St. Joseph School and pointed them out to all the elementary schools in attendance and encouraged them to “be one of the coolest kids in the City of Shreveport and to follow in their footsteps.”

Additionally, as part of this joint schools’ effort, Sr. Carol Shively, OSU, recently brought in a Catholic schools expert, Sr. Carol Cimino, SSJ, Ed.D, to speak to the collective group about different scenarios for both improving our Catholic schools and ways to help them create a bright future.

There are many exciting things happening for Catholic schools in the Shreveport / Bossier area. To follow along, visit and like the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SBCatholicSchools.

Come Away and Rest for a While

by Joe Bernal, Spiritual Director

Jesus said to his disciples, “Come away to some secluded place all by yourselves and rest for a while”. (Mark 6:31).

How often do we say to ourselves, “I wish I had some time to go to a secluded place and get away for a while?” Just like Jesus invited his disciples to “come away,” he also invites us to come and rest for a while.
Just a short three-hour drive away, Our Lady of the Oaks Jesuit Retreat house is a well kept secret. Head south on I-49 towards Lafayette and take exit 11 to find the 80-year old Spanish style house situated on the grounds of the Jesuit communities in the small town of Grand Coteau.

Our Lady of the Oaks was dedicated to the Greater Glory of God and the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The facility features a library, reading room, chapel, private visit chapel, enclosed courtyard, dining room, gazebos, beautiful landscaping and 51 rooms for occupancy. The grounds surrounding the retreat house are spacious and magnificent, with many grand old oaks, azalea-lined walkways and quiet places for reflection.
Since 1938, the Retreat House has offered thousands of men, women, and married couples a place to relax, time to reflect and time to pray. Anyone seeking peace and a closer relationship with God is welcome to attend.

A retreat at the Oaks offers:

“Time to relax … The refreshing thing about a retreat is our release from the daily grind. We get away from business problems and family worries. The quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the Retreat house will slow our pace and gradually draw our thoughts from daily demands. Doing this allows us to reflect on our life and the direction it is taking.

Time to reflect … We will be free to think without interruptions in the silence of the weekend. Free to get a fresh start on our lives and on our relationships with family, friends and God.
Time to pray … In the quiet of the chapel, in the peacefulness of the courtyard with the water flowing in the fountain, or in the beauty of the tree-lined paths, we will find the atmosphere for praying to God … to thank Him, to praise Him, to ask for His guidance.”1

The Preached Weekend Retreat is an adaptation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The retreat is a process of prayer, reflection and discernment that helps bring a person to freedom in order to hear God’s call and to respond in faith.

The Preached Weekend Retreat also offers the mature disciple, a person with a strong desire to mature in Christ, a time of silence and quiet, some instruction, daily Mass and opportunities for reconciliation and communion. Also available are traditional forms of piety including recitation of the rosary and the Stations of the Cross. During the retreat, Jesuit priests are available for confession and counseling.
For more information and to schedule a retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks in Grand Coteau, LA, visit their website at

www.ourladyoftheoaks.com, or contact the office by telephone (337) 662-5410 or e-mail: oloaks@centurytel.net.  •

Joe Bernal is a parishioner at St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe, a spiritual director for the Diocese of Shreveport and a retreat director at Our Lady of the Oaks.

1 Used with permission from Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House.

Vocations View: World Youth Day

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by Raney Johnson, Seminarian

I had the opportunity to attend my second World Youth Day (WYD) this past January in Panama. During this trip, I was able to encounter fellow young Catholics from around the world. The theme of World Youth Day was: “He aquí la sierva del Señor, Hágase en mí según tu palabra.” These words translated into English mean: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your Word.” The Blessed Virgin Mary says these words in St. Luke’s gospel. This passage of scripture was specifically chosen for the theme of WYD to emphasize the “Fiat” or “Yes” of Mary to God’s calling.  Throughout my time in Panama, the speakers continually emphasized Mary’s discernment in listening to God’s call and following that call.

One of my favorite parts of my second WYD was encountering the people in my group who were trying to listen to God’s voice in the same way as the Blessed Mother. The group I attended World Youth Day with was a sort of microcosm of the different vocations in the Church. There were religious sisters, a priest and two married men in my group. The group also contained young single Catholics discerning what God was asking them to do with their lives, as well as young men discerning vocations to the priesthood and a young woman discerning a vocation to the religious life. After talking with them about their different discernments, I began to reflect on my own discernment to the priesthood during my week in Panama.

I started to think about how three years earlier I had attended my first World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland after my first year of seminary. Then my mind went from the past into the future. I began to reflect on the next World Youth Day in 2022, and the fact that I might be a priest when it arrives. I began to reflect on my entire discernment of the diocesan priesthood, past, present and future, through the lens of World Youth Day. I imagined attending the next World Youth Day with a group of young Catholics discerning different vocations and celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass for them. This is an important part of WYD; it gives young Catholics from around the world the opportunity to reflect on what vocation God might be calling them to in the Church.

The Holy Father emphasized discernment by the youth in the Church when he celebrated Mass for us on the final day of our pilgrimage to Panama. Pope Francis encouraged us not to put off the discernment of our vocations, but to begin thinking about our vocations in the present.

If I could sum up my experience at World Youth Day, I would say that the Church is alive with young Catholics from around the world who seriously want to serve God and spread the Gospel message. So many young people are answering God’s call in the same way Mary did during the Annunciation. After attending World Youth Day twice, I hope that other young Catholics in the Diocese of Shreveport will have the same opportunity to experience this deeply spiritual event. The next World Youth Day will be in 2022 in Portugal, and I hope it will continue to help young Catholics discern their vocations.