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Outreach Ministries

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor It’s easy to look at all the hurt in the world, the homelessness, the shut-ins, the working poor, the disabled veterans, and think, “I am but one person, More »

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Our Lady of Sorrows Sisters Celebrate 175 Years

by Sr. Mary Coleman, OLS In our 175 years as a congregation, we now look back on our history from our origins in Italy and Louisiana. Blessed Elisabetta Renzi founded our congregation, More »

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Catholic Charities Programs Bolster Local Community

When Catholic Charities of North Louisiana opened its doors in late summer of 2010, it was with one program and one employee.  Executive Director, Jean Dresley, was charged with getting the agency More »

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Student Works to Help Revitalize Neighborhood

St. John Berchmans eighth grader Jake Watts is a quiet and polite young man, but ask him about his passion for local architecture and he comes alive with enthusiasm. “When my family More »

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LaTech Students Head to Guatemala Again!

Three years ago, led by Catholic student Rachel Hanks, four ACTS (Association of Catholic Tech Students) members ventured into the unknown to serve the young people of Valley of the Angels Orphanage More »

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Domestic Church: The Christmas Presence

I start my Christmas shopping early every year. I thrill in getting ahead of the game and being prepared, trying to be totally finished by the beginning of December. I’ll be honest More »

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Second Collections: Retirement for Religious & Diocesan Infirm Priests

NATIONAL RETIREMENT FUND FOR RELIGIOUS Collection Dates: December 13 & 14 Announcement Dates: November 30 & December 7 The theme for this collection to assist with the medical care of our 35,000 More »

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Bishop’s December Reflection: Stop Blaming and Start Living for Christ

by Bishop Michael G. Duca Before I was Bishop of Shreveport, I was Rector of a college seminary in Dallas. Every year I welcomed new seminarians who wanted to discern their vocation More »

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World Meeting of Families Publishes Catechesis

The World Meeting of Families, in anticipation of the event to be held September 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia, has published “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”  This 127-page book serves More »

Outreach Ministries

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by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

It’s easy to look at all the hurt in the world, the homelessness, the shut-ins, the working poor, the disabled veterans, and think, “I am but one person, there is nothing I can do to ease this hurt or change the world.” And it is overwhelming. Even in our own diocese, there are so many in need, so many who can’t get out of the cycle of poverty, homelessness or can’t leave their own homes. As Catholics though, social outreach is an integral part of our faith, a part that Pope Francis consistently brings to the forefront of our minds through his speech and actions.

And while we may feel inadequate standing alone against this onslaught of need, when we band together, help happens and lives change.
Jane Snyder is the Outreach Coordinator for St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport. When she originally took her post over nine years ago, she was the first paid Outreach Coordinator in the Diocese of Shreveport. Recently rekindled with her Catholic faith, she was on fire for social justice, but didn’t know where or how to begin.

“I showed up every day and said, ‘Ok God, here I am. Put the people in my path,’” said Jane.

“Three months after I started to work, the hurricanes hit in New Orleans, and suddenly we had 90 new families at St. Joseph Church and School, and they had lost everything,” she continued. “There were all these opportunities for people to volunteer, take them into their homes, help them get clothing, food and jobs. The parish really stepped up. So, that’s how I initially met the people in the parish who were interested in doing outreach things.”

This initial outreach effort pulled together people from all over the parish and together they began to reach out into the local community. The Meals on Wheels program, an outreach ministry to people who are over 60-years-old and homebound, by the Caddo Council on Aging, was one of the first ministries with which Jane became involved.

The Meals on Wheels program needed volunteer drivers so they could put more of their funds towards feeding people. The drivers deliver 1,000 meals four days a week, every month.

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to get enough volunteers to cover the route,” said Jane. “I spoke to someone at Broadmoor Presbyterian, and they said they could take one day of the week, so they took Monday. And then we did Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And then all of a sudden I had more volunteers than I could possibly imagine!”

“We now have three routes at St. Joseph’s. And then I started talking to people I knew in other parishes. So St. Elizabeth Ann Seton drives Meals on Wheels and St. Mary of the Pines drives Meals on Wheels and there’s a route at St. John’s that St. Vincent de Paul drives,” she added.

One of the most surprising and wonderful things about the program was how much the volunteers enjoy serving.

“I really thought people would sign up for six months, and then go on to do something else and it’s been about six years and most of those people who signed up in the beginning are still doing it,” Jane said. “They get attached to the clients. They take treats to the pets. We take poinsettias to them at Christmas time. For some of the clients it’s the only social interaction they have during the day and so they want to tell you about their grandchildren and their doctors’ appointments.”

Catholics are only 4% of the population in the Diocese of Shreveport, yet they are 40% of the Meals on Wheels drivers.

One of the best outcomes of this project was that it helped five local Shreveport-Bossier Catholic parishes form a bond and work as a cohesive team to help those in need in the area. To this day, St. Joseph Parish, St. Mary of the Pines Parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans and St. Jude Parish all work together to assist in various outreach ministries in the Shreveport-Bossier area.

Perhaps one of their greatest collaborative efforts has been the Hope House Meals, which is now called Hope Connections – an organization supported by churches of many denominations in Shreveport-Bossier that began by feeding the homeless. Jane knew that St. Joseph could not cover a meal every week, but she worked to get those five parishes together to help and the program has bloomed so that it now encompasses more than just providing meals. The Catholic Community now serves dinner every Wednesday evening at Hope Connections.

“In February of this year we moved to the Hope Connections on Levy Street. Hope Connections is a day shelter for homeless people. It’s where they go to take showers, wash their clothes and there are 12 non-profits who support homeless services there. In the evening, different churches provide a meal,” said Jane.

“The priests go with us sometimes and bless the food and talk to people and they seem really appreciative,” added Jane.

Together those same five churches collaborated to adopt the shower section of Hope Connections, raising $4,000 to build four bathrooms where homeless people can shower in privacy.  Those five churches continue to supply the shower area with all its needs, such as towels, body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant for the 30 people per day who take showers at Hope Connections.


Another area of important outreach in our area is to local veterans. The VOA is a refuge for many local veterans and our Catholic parishes and the Catholic Chapel at Barksdale Air Force Base both work to serve the men and women who have worked so faithfully to serve us.

Donna Seal, the Outreach Coordinator for the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, saw that the VOA Veterans Home down the street was looking for churches to help prepare meals for local veterans. She reached out to them, and as a result, parishioners now prepare meals in their homes, then take them to the Veterans home and serve about 50 men the last Sunday of every month. The types of meals vary, with the occasional BBQ and Knights of Columbus fish fry thrown in for good measure.

Both the veterans and the men and women who serve the meals get so much joy out of the program. “Our volunteers get to know the veterans by first name and they thank them for their service. The guys just light up – old and young alike!” said Donna.

Our Holy Family Catholic Community at Barksdale Air Force Base provides regular entertainment throughout the year at the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, as well as a Christmas Party each year with Christmas gifts for the veterans that are presented by Santa Claus.

Donna and Cathedral parishioners also serve with the Greater Blessings program at the Highland Center. Every third Thursday of the month, they provide a free meal at the Highland Center in conjunction with other area churches. It is open to anyone in the Highland neighborhood from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. What makes this meal special is that it is served “family style,” where seven guests sit down with a table host who engages them in conversation. The Highland Center provides their guests with resources, often pointing them to Catholic Charities or Hope Connections for more help.

These wonderful outreach efforts are happening in the Monroe area as well. Tess Cash, a member of St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe, has been actively involved with the Family Promise program for nine years. This interfaith program is a collaborative effort across many denominations of churches to help house, feed and educate homeless families and get them back on their feet.

Each quarter a church or group of churches is assigned a group of families in need.

“The parishes actually house and feed these families in their buildings,” said Tess. “St. Paschal is the place that houses them and then all the other Catholic churches participate by providing food, entertainment, treats for the kids during their stay.”

Families can stay one week in the parish, but can be in the program for up to 90 days. Family Promise has a day center where they work with the adults while the children are in school, or house the adults with the small children while they work. At the end of the day, families go to the parish around 5:30 for the evening. In addition to shelter, the participating churches provide the families with all their meals during their stay.

“The last big function I went to for Family Promise, I learned they had an 85% success rate with families maintaining their jobs and their homes. Family Promise helps them find jobs and homes and continues to follow up with the families in three month and six month visits,” said Tess.

The programs mentioned in this article are some of the many going on in our area that are assisted by local Catholics. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul continues to be a major force for change in all three of our deaneries. They feed the poor, help them with their utilities, and in the Eastern Deanery, they have a pharmacy to provide affordable prescriptions to the poor who could not afford them otherwise.
Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is a growing organization that started small in Shreveport four years ago, but has now spread into the Lake Providence area and has a number of programs, including financial planning, Gabriel’s Closet for new mothers, English as a Second Language courses and many wonderful immigration resources.

Little Flower of Jesus Parish in Monroe distributes around 100 bags of food to impoverished adults each month and just received a grant to increase the number of donations they will be able to make. They expand their efforts during the holidays by providing Thanksgiving meals to families in need and, during Christmas, many parishioners volunteer at a local restaurant to help prepare and deliver dinner plates to the poor and elderly on Christmas Day.

Even our local Catholic hospitals work to help others in the community. Christus Health has School Based Health Centers, the Cara Center and Gingerbread House for neglected and abused children.

In his address at St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, Pope Francis said, “In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! How often do we say: it’s not my problem! How often do we turn the other way and pretend not to see! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35).”

There are so many wonderful outreach programs going on in the Diocese of Shreveport, and December is often the time these programs come to our attention. Now is the perfect time to be the Good Samaritan and check out one of these programs mentioned in this article, or contact your local parish or St. Vincent de Paul Society to learn how you can begin to help change the world for the better. •

Seminarian Reflection: Advent and Expectation

Advent is a special time in our liturgical calendar that is supposed to draw us into the mystery of the coming of the Lord by filling us with a sense of expectation and anticipation. The season of Advent reminds us of the world’s longing for the messiah. The somber expectation of Advent helps us to better understand the joys of Christmas.

When I imagine the expectant joy that should be experienced during the season of Advent, I always remember the excitement that I had as a child when on Christmas Eve, the gifts would begin to appear under my family’s Christmas tree. I remember laying in bed, unable to sleep thinking about what I had waiting for me under the tree.  At the first light of day, my twin brother and I would spring out of bed and rush downstairs for the opening of gifts. The childish and simple way I looked forward to the material aspect of the holiday reminds me now of the way I should look towards the spiritual reality of Advent and Christmas. Advent should be something that excites the heart to one of the greatest mysteries that has ever taken place: God becoming man. It is an important time that gives life to the joyous experience of the Christmas season.

In many ways, our celebration of Advent can be overshadowed by the various social and family obligations that come with the holiday season. Instead of peaceful remembrance of the work of God that lead up to the nativity, we can easily get lost in an avalanche of tasks that must be completed in order to have the perfect Christmas. Advent can be lost in the excitement of the season or even replaced with the material side of our holiday experience.  Advent needs to be more than a mad dash to the Christmas feast. Advent needs to be more than violet vestments and wreaths. It needs to be a spiritual awakening to the coming of Christ at a historical point in time and an awakening to the coming of Christ in our own hearts and minds.

For me as a seminarian, Advent also means the close of the semester and all of the stress that comes with final exams, papers and projects. I found myself so busy with the completion of the semester that my own season of Advent was quickly eaten up.  This season, I have resolved to do more to be focused on the “reason for the season” and spend more time in prayer. In order to keep Advent in my heart during the close of this academic semester, I am resolving to spend more time in expectation of the Christmas season and less time in preparation.

Kevin Mues is a seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport in second year pre-theology at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, LA.

Our Lady of Sorrows Sisters Celebrate 175 Years

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by Sr. Mary Coleman, OLS

In our 175 years as a congregation, we now look back on our history from our origins in Italy and Louisiana.

Blessed Elisabetta Renzi founded our congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, in 1839 in Coriano, Italy. In the first school and boarding schools the girls were taught prayers, reading, religion, sewing, embroidery and other tasks that would help them become good mothers. The first schools were all in rural poor areas of Romagna and Marche regions.

Blessed Elisabetta also had a dream of her sisters becoming missionaries and leaving Italy to serve God and his people in different countries. Her dream did not happened until 1947 when Bishop Charles P. Greco invited the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows to his diocese in North Louisiana to staff parochial schools for African-American children: Our Lady of Sorrows in Moreauville, St. Anthony School in Cottonport and Our Lady of Sorrows in Pineville.

In the most recent years, while continuing to work at St. Mary’s School, we opened three community homes that belong to us. These are the OLS Community Homes in Alexandria for mentally challenged young men and women. There is an office building and the well known OLS Cooking Jar. Close to these homes is our St. Joseph convent.

We began the Elisabetta Renzi Child Development Center in Shreveport for early childhood education and the Renzi Education and Art Center in Shreveport to offer a safe environment, academic assistance and art education for at-risk youth. Our Lady of Sorrows Convent in Shreveport is the home for our retired and ill sisters as well as a place for preparing new vocations to our style of life.

Our latest call to serve Louisiana’s people came not long ago from Lafayette and we went to minister on campus at the University of Lafayette, working with the Our Lady of Wisdom Church and implementing vocation ministry to help young women and men discern their call from God to follow religious vocations.

These past few months have seen a new beginning in responding to a call from a school outside of Louisiana and now we have a new mission at Holy Cross School in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In remembrance of these 175 years of service, we will make a pilgrimage to the places in Louisiana where our sisters offered and continue to offer their services. It will be one of the ways we express our gratitude and thanks to God’s call to be a religious family and for the services we were and are able to offer in the past and those we continue to do.

Parish Support Makes 2014 Appeal a Success!

Our 2014 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal is nearing its conclusion with a real chance to be the most successful on record.  As of the printing of this issue of, our Appeal has enjoyed $1,374,000 in pledges with nearly $1,300,000 (95%) of that pledge amount already honored by our faithful Appeal donors. The Diocese of Shreveport also continues to have one of the highest Appeal pledge averages among nearly 200 dioceses and archdioceses throughout the nation. This year, donors provide our Appeal with an average gift of nearly $450 dollars!  Thank you! Below are those worship locations that either achieved their pledge goal or ran a successful Appeal effort in support of the programs and ministries available through no other source. Thank you for your hard work and this wonderful success.

PARISHES ACHIEVING 2014 APPEAL PLEDGE GOAL

Western Deanery    Pledged    % of Goal    Donor %

St. Joseph – Shreveport    $221,489        117%    23%
St. John Berchmans    $160,366        115%    29%
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton    $138,792        111%    28%
St. Mary of the Pines    $57,010        104%    37%
St. Pius X    $49,485        104%    33%
Mary, Queen of Peace    $48,540        100%    41%
St. Paul    $25,340        153%    36%
St. Margaret    $6,540        119%    53%

Eastern Deanery    Pledged    % of Goal    Donor %
St. Paschal    $34,988        103%    27%
St. Patrick    $10,796        103%    54%
Our Lady of Perpetual Help    $8,912        137%    36%
St. Theresa    $7,500        107%    27%
Sacred Heart – Oak Grove    $7,605        109%    36%

Southern Deanery    Pledged    % of Goal    Donor %
St. Joseph – Mansfield    $72,113        144%    23%
St. Joseph – Zwolle    $58,144        103%    22%
St. John the Baptist    $17,955        101%    30%
St. Ann – Ebarb    $16,287        112%    35%

Western Deanery: 8    Eastern Deanery: 5   Southern Deanery: 4
Number of Parishes at Goal: 17/38  (45%)

PARISHES AT 85-93% OF GOAL
All Deaneries    Pledged    % of Goal    Donor %
Jesus the Good Shepherd    $76,840        85%    29%
Holy Trinity    $65,560        91%    41%
Christ the King    $41,464        92%    61%
St. Lucy    $13,172        88%    55%
St. George    $9,255        93%    76%
St. Joseph – Bastrop    $6,340        85%    35%

PARISHES AT 70-82% OF GOAL
All Deaneries    Pledged    % of Goal    Donor %
St. Jude    $81,203        71%    16%
Our Lady of Fatima    $27,149        82%    27%
Sacred Heart – Shreveport    $16,550        81%    29%
St. Ann – Stonewall    $8,885        74%    32%
Little Flower of Jesus    $8,835        77%    26%
St. Clement    $8,045        70%    34%
Sacred Heart – Rayville    $6,915        73%    30%

Successful Appeal Efforts: 30/38  (79%)

Teaching Children about the Nativity

Happy Birthday Jesus?  Christmas isn’t just another birthday – it’s the Incarnation of our Savior, God made Man, the Word become flesh – the ultimate mystery of our Faith! From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God transcends all creatures.  We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God – ‘the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable’ – with our human representations.  Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.”  (CCC 42).

We must be careful not to inadvertently reduce the Christmas Miracle to something very common and routine, something which every single person on the planet experiences once a year, every year of their life.  While this is unintentional we must be cautious when trying to explain this Mystery to our children.

My mom wanted my nieces to know the Christmas songs “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” etc.,  but the girls only knew secular carols, so we went back to the basics of the Christmas story. Now, every year, I create a new way of telling the story.  Sometimes I write a script and each person has a part; or we tell the story with Christmas hymns scattered throughout. Last year each person got a matchbox with a number on it. In each matchbox was a part of the nativity story. As each person opened their matchbox in order, the story was told with the final box holding a baby Jesus. This has now become one of our family traditions.

Consider trying out one or more of these ideas to celebrate the birth of Jesus:

1.  Use age appropriate language. Pick out the simple details from the birth of Jesus that children can understand and relate to. These might include Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, staying at the inn with the animals and the wise men who visited Jesus.

2.  Tell the story first so the children know the basics.  Keep this brief using pictures and other visuals to help them learn. Picture books are helpful.

3.  Ask the children to draw what they believe the nativity looked like. This helps them remember where Jesus was born, the setting and who visited.

4.  Let the children/family members act out the nativity scene.  There are plenty of parts – Mary, Joseph, shepherds, innkeeper and wise men and, if your family is really big, include the animals!

5.  Play a game where the children each provide a sentence in order about what happened during the nativity.

6.  Reinforce the reason for the season. Many children already know the secular way to celebrate the holidays.

Challenge yourself and your family to develop a tradition that is special to Advent and Christmas – something that will honor the Incarnation while attempting to explain the sacredness of the season.

by Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis

Catholic Charities Programs Bolster Local Community

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When Catholic Charities of North Louisiana opened its doors in late summer of 2010, it was with one program and one employee.  Executive Director, Jean Dresley, was charged with getting the agency up and running. By January we moved to the former St. Catherine of Siena Church building. In just four years, we have grown to six programs of assistance and nine employees. We have an outstanding group of volunteers every week as well who help us accomplish our goals of making a difference in the lives of our clients.

Along with the help of many, Jean began reaching out to the most vulnerable in our community. That first program, Emergency Assistance, provides financial assistance for things like rent and utilities. We also have a small food pantry to help tide people over until they can visit a larger facility. An important element of every program at Catholic Charities is education. We require any client seeking financial assistance to attend our financial education course, The Money School, with a goal of helping them learn to better manage their money and become more independent.  Often this information is life-changing for them and their families.

Our Immigration Integration program assists families in overcoming the legal and social barriers that hinder their full participation in the community. With this program, we have several goals:  to raise awareness in our community about immigrant families and help them obtain needed legal papers, improve their living conditions and promote the welfare of their children. This program focuses on issues directly impacting quality of life, like housing and education and the family’s acceptance into our community. We are the only Board of Immigration Appeals accredited agency in North Louisiana. We help resident low-income immigrant families obtain the paperwork they need for legal status and also offer English as Second Language classes at Christ the King Parish and citizenship classes as needed.

Gabriel’s Closet, our program for low-income moms and their babies gives young mothers a place to “shop” for everything their little ones need. We offer classes in infant and child care and safety, but there are many other ways these mothers can earn points so they may shop in the closet, like attending school, seeing their doctor when pregnant, taking the Money School class and others. The closet is 100% staffed and run by our incredible volunteers and is a place where these young women can find everything they need for baby from a bed to strollers, diapers, clothing and much more. Many of them now enjoy the sewing class, taught by a volunteer.

Our newest program, Benefits Assistance, helps our clients to complete state applications for benefits like SNAP (formerly food stamps) and other government programs that aid in the well-being and safety of families. In addition, we offer a Healthy Eating on a Budget class that teaches good nutrition and economy with hands on demonstrations and a store tour.

All that we offer is designed to give a hand up and to move individuals and families toward a life more hope-filled, safer and with a promise of a better future.

by Theresa Mormino, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Student Works to Help Revitalize Neighborhood

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St. John Berchmans eighth grader Jake Watts is a quiet and polite young man, but ask him about his passion for local architecture and he comes alive with enthusiasm. “When my family travels to New Orleans, we see so many historic buildings that have been preserved. Whether it is French Creole architecture or your typical shotgun-style house, the city has embraced these buildings and made them architectural treasures,” said Watts. “When I first came to Shreveport and saw the state of some of our houses and neighborhoods, I wanted to work to preserve similar styles that reflect our local history.”

The area that Jake is focused on is known as the Blue Goose area located near Fairfield Avenue and Sam Fertitta Drive. The neighborhood formerly contained rows of shotgun houses that have since become dilapidated and torn down. It is now mostly overgrown, but there are plans in development to revitalize the area by creating a Blue Goose Blues district which would have restaurants, retail stores, a community park and museums, all surrounded by affordable housing.

Jake took several years to develop a preservation proposal titled “Rebirth of the French Creole Architecture” that would work to restore and preserve current historic architecture and enact design standards to give downtown Shreveport an “1800s Louisiana feel.”  He sent the proposal to City of Shreveport officials and is eager to work with local organizations to preserve local architecture. He has also researched past city plans including the Cross Bayou project and other local areas.

It is rare for someone to show such vision and maturity at a young age, but this future architect sees the benefits of revitalizing our local neighborhoods.  Jake feels that it is never too early to get involved in preserving local heritage. “By creating a district of shops, restaurants and affordable housing, it helps create energy in downtown Shreveport and makes our residents feel safe,” said Watts. “Shreveport needs a rebirth project in place in order to distinguish ourselves as a major Louisiana city.”

by Lucy Medvec

LaTech Students Head to Guatemala Again!

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Three years ago, led by Catholic student Rachel Hanks, four ACTS (Association of Catholic Tech Students) members ventured into the unknown to serve the young people of Valley of the Angels Orphanage located near Guatemala City.

The ACTS Guatemala Mission Program has now grown so that this year 12 students made the trip to spend two weeks 6,000 feet up in the mountains of Central Guatemala in August.

This mission trip is completely planned and orchestrated by ACTS members. This year’s leaders, Grant Reddoch, Zoe Martinez and Jessica Houte, organized the team in such a way that the children of the valley received hours of attention from the college students. The program is structured so that students are totally immersed in the culture of the native children –  they live in the  same housing, eat the same food and follow the same schedule.

Franciscan Friar, Fr. Michael Della Penna, OFM, the Director of Valley of the Angels Orphanage, is thrilled to have the ACTS members come to the boarding school. Because of their efforts and organizational skills, other groups are now sending missionaries to “The Valley.”
Each year the staff of the Valley and the mission team from Louisiana Tech make improvements that enhance the experiences of both the children of the Valley and the staff and members of ACTS. This year, they introduced a “mission intern,” Bethany Eppling, to the program with the hope that the person in this position would be able to oversee this quickly growing and very popular mission opportunity and add others.

Not only are the college students involved, but the entire parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ruston lends time and resources to this worthwhile cause.  This year the Women’s Guild hosted a bake sale for the trip and a “Burgers and Bingo” night to help cover expenses.  Additionally, the Quilting Group spearheaded a “Sweet Dreams Project” where parishioners were encouraged to donate and /or make pillowcases for the young children of the Valley of the Angels. The project collected over 300 pillowcases.

Rev. Bro. Michael Ward, OFM, the Campus Minister at St. Thomas could not be more proud of the dedicated and faith-filled college students. Each student is responsible for covering their own expenses and the group conducts fundraisers to cover general expenses such as ground transportation and food for the group.  The key to this program is that the college students themselves are completely in charge of what happens!

by Rev. Bro. Michael Ward

Navigating the Faith: Our Lady of Guadalupe

by Fr. Mark Watson, Pastor, St. Patrick Parish and Sacred Heart Parish

Central to the spiritual lives of Mexican Catholics is Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In my Hispanic ministry I have experienced both the love that Mexican people have for Our Lady of Guadalupe and the devotion which flows from this love.

THE APPARITION OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe began in 1517 when the Spanish explorer Cortez discovered the Yucatan, and on Good Friday of 1519 when he landed in Mexico.  He brought with him Spanish culture which was centered on Catholicism and its call to bring pagans to the faith. Cortez and his men encountered Mexican native tribes which had their own world of scientific advancements, religious beliefs, political and economic practices and educational processes. The Aztecs believed their culture was coming to an end. This would come about as a result of their encounter with the Spanish. The fighting began in April of 1521 and the tribes were finally defeated on August 13, 1521. After the defeat, there was a sense of despair among the natives and a lack of interest in converting to Catholicism.

The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place on Saturday, December 9, 1531, early in the morning on the hill of Tepeyac, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Tepeyac was the place where the virgin mother of the gods was venerated by the native people. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Christian Indian of middle age. At the top of the hill he saw a lady of glowing beauty. She was also a native who spoke a native language. She revealed that she was “the ever holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God” and told Juan Diego that she desired that he ask the bishop to build a temple to her below the hill. The bishop told Juan Diego that he would only believe him if Juan Diego would bring a sign from the Lady.

When Juan Diego next saw the Lady she told him to go to the top of the hill where he would find flowers, which he was to cut and bring to her.  He found roses of Castile and brought them to the Lady who rearranged them in his tilma or outer garment. She told him to open the tilma in front of the bishop and afterwards he would agree to her request. Juan Diego opened his tilma and the roses fell to the floor in front of the bishop.  The bishop recognized them as roses from Castile, his homeland, and ordered that a Cathedral be built in honor of Our Lady.
On the tilma was the exact representation or image of the Lady who had appeared to Juan Diego.

THE MEANING OF HER IMAGE
The following is the meaning of the various parts of the image.

Her dress was of a pale red color.  Red symbolized the East, the area from which the sun arises at the beginning of a new day. Thus red was the sign of a new beginning, of the continuation of new life and of life through death.

The predominant color of the painting is the blue-green of the mantle. This turquoise was the royal color of the gods and its use was reserved to the deities and royalty showing that she must be of divine, or at least royal origin. It was also the color which signified fecundity and life which comes out of opposing tensions.

The stars on the mantle of the Lady announced, in the native concept of time, the beginning of a new civilization.

In the image, the Lady is being carried by an angel. Only royalty and the representatives of the gods were carried by others. Being carried by an angel also represented the beginning of a new era.

The Lady hides the sun but does not extinguish it. The sun was the greatest of the gods in the native pantheon. Our Lady is shown to be greater than the greatest god.

She stands upon the moon.  One of the greatest gods was the moon god.  She is shown to be greater than the moon god but she does not do away with it or crush it.

Around her waist is a black maternity band which shows that she is with child.

Over her navel is found an Indian cross which shows that the child she carries in her womb marks the center of the universe.  She wears a broach close to her neck with a Christian cross showing that she is both a bearer and follower of Christ.

CONCLUSION
When all seemed lost, Our Lady of Guadalupe brought Christ to the sufferings of the natives of Mexico. Six years after the conquest, nine million Mexicans had converted to Christianity. From her intervention a whole new civilization was created from two different cultures. She continues to be a model of  protection for the oppressed and of bringing together ethnic and racial groups. May Our Lady of Guadalupe be our model of Evangelization as we bring others to her Son, Jesus Christ.

(This article is based on the book La Morenita:  Evangelizer of the Americas by Virgilio Elizondo.)

Meet the Author: Mike Van Vranken

Mike Van Vranken is the co-author of Faith Positive in a Negative World. He is a columnist for the Catholic Connection who resides in Shreveport.

Q: When did you first get the idea to write a book?
A: I wanted to write a book not just on how to run a business, but how to run an ethical business, and to use faith throughout it. Sometimes God’s working when you’re not looking – when you’re panicking, He’s got your back. That’s been in my mind the last 25 years.

Q: What made you team up with Dr. Joey?
A: I was talking with my co-author, who lives in Virginia. He is a business consultant, but he’s also an ordained Baptist minister. After a couple of months, he said, “I’ve been wanting to write a book about bringing faith to work,” and he had already developed the five core principles in this book. He said, “Do you want to do it together?” After some consideration, I said, “Yea, let’s do it.”

Q: What makes your book unique?
A: You can find 1,000 books on positive thinking, and they’re all out there and they’re all good. There’s nothing new in this book in terms of that. But what we hoped people would see is that there’s a scriptural base to every one of those books and the people that wrote those positive books in the past might think they wrote those thoughts on their own, but they are all God-given. So that’s what we really wanted to say. So we found foundational scriptures that would support those ideas. We hope that as people read it, those scriptures will become something that is internal for them from now on.

Q: Who is your book written for?
A: Anybody that does any kind of work at all – from washing clothes to doing yard work. Work is ordained by God and God has a very positive attitude about work. In particular, [it was written for] the Christian business professional because out in that world you face sometimes insurmountable obstacles to say, “I know I’m doing the right thing.” And it’s not easy.