Supporting New Life in North Louisiana

by Kelly Phelan Powell It’s difficult to think of an issue more pressing than abortion. In this country alone, the number of unborn lives that are lost each day is staggering – More »


Navigating the Faith: Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Parish When I was a child growing up in the St. Joseph Baptist Church, we sang so many wonderful old hymns many of More »


Domestic Church: Catholic New Year’s Resolutions

by Katie Sciba A NEW YEAR! A fresh start! Nothing gives hope like a blank slate and this, the beginning of 2015, offers all the opportunity for improvement that I could possibly More »


Bishop’s Reflection: Looking To the Future for the Diocese

by Bishop Michael Duca By the time you receive this month’s Catholic Connection, most of the excitement and wonder of the Christmas season is fading and our thoughts turn toward a new More »


Coming Soon to a Station Near You!

We are excited to announce that plans for North Louisiana Catholic Radio (NLACR) are underway! So just what is, or what will, North Louisiana Catholic radio be? The planning committee for this More »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »

Supporting New Life in North Louisiana


by Kelly Phelan Powell

It’s difficult to think of an issue more pressing than abortion. In this country alone, the number of unborn lives that are lost each day is staggering – the Guttmacher Institute reported that for 2011, there were 1.05 million abortions in the U.S. As Catholics, we know that life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death, but we are also well aware that abortion is a complex societal issue, one that will not be remedied by any simple means. Many of us want to get involved beyond praying for these innocent victims, but the problem of abortion is so overwhelming that sometimes we’re not sure where to begin.

Throughout the Diocese of Shreveport, parishes and individuals are tackling abortion and its many facets head-on. The first, and arguably the most important, is awareness. That’s how the Bishop’s Pro-Life Banquet, now in its fifth year, began. “We as Catholics and Christians can come together and pray for life and witness to life,” said Bernadette Boyd, chairwoman of the event. The banquet has grown each year since it began, but last year, Bishop Duca asked the committee to double the number of attendees, and they did, bringing the total from 250 to 500. They’re attempting to do it again this year, and if they succeed, this highly visible fundraising event will be 1,000 strong.

Boyd happily reported that although the event, the theme of which is “Witness to Life,” isn’t until March 11, they’re well on their way to their 1000-ticket goal. They nevertheless need everyone’s help, so tickets are still being sold and sponsorships, which begin at $1,000, are still available.

Tickets are $60 each, and the proceeds from the banquet will benefit pro-life activities throughout the diocese, one of which is brand-new. Mary’s House will be a pregnancy crisis center for women who have an unwanted pregnancy but want to turn away from abortion. L’Anne Sciba, Communications Volunteer for Diocesan Pro-Life Information, had the idea after she moved to this area from Dallas eight years ago. She saw a need for a Christ-centered pregnancy crisis center and also found that there were limited pro-life volunteer opportunities at the existing crisis center. As part of her efforts to help women who want to turn away from abortion as well as those who have already suffered an abortion, she went on a retreat in Dallas with Rachel’s Vineyard, an experience she calls “life-changing.”

Rachel’s Vineyard is an organization that holds weekend retreats “where women and men can express, release and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing,” as their website says. Sciba said she saw first-hand the pain both men and women had tried unsuccessfully to bury in their lives and it not only renewed her compassion and desire to help people post-abortion, it also vividly illustrated for her how urgently this area needs an abortion alternative.

Sciba held an interest meeting at St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport, and to her happy surprise, 20 people showed up, all of whom were prepared to volunteer their specific talents. “There are so many people who are pro-life and want to help,” she said. This also became abundantly clear during the Louisiana Right to Life Federation’s Louisiana Life March North, in which thousands marched across the Texas Street Bridge in downtown Shreveport to take a stand against abortion in Louisiana. The next march is planned for Saturday, January 17 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City. Participants will march across the bridge to Shreveport’s downtown Festival Plaza. For more information, visit LALifeMarch.com.

The Mary’s House committee hopes the center will be a calm, welcoming and safe haven where they can walk women through her entire pregnancies and help them explore non-abortive options. They also want to help women beyond their pregnancies by ministering to them, helping them find work and resources to improve their lives and counseling them to make good choices and positive life changes in the future. Mary’s House will be located in Shreveport, which is also where Hope Medical Group for Women, Shreveport’s main center for abortions, which performed 3,803 such procedures in 2013, is located. Having an alternative within the same city will strike a powerful blow for pro-life efforts in Northwest Louisiana.

Sciba said the Mary’s House message to women is “You’re not just your body – you have dignity and worth.” Acknowledging that abortion is a societal issue that won’t be fixed by simply providing an alternative, she added, “You kind of have to do it by being a light, not just fix their problem with a Band-Aid.” One of the features of the Bishop’s Pro-Life Banquet will be informational booths about local pro-life activities and ways the faithful can help not only Mary’s House, but other pro-life organizations, such as Vita –the pro-life ministry at St. Joseph Parish, as well.

Each guest at the banquet will receive a custom-created, limited-edition holy card along with something else very special: a medal blessed by Pope Francis. In November, Boyd traveled on a pilgrimage to Rome. She and the other pilgrims were accompanied by Fr. Mike Joly. In addition to being a dedicated priest, Fr. Mike is also an accomplished singer, songwriter and pianist, which is all the more impressive given that he is blind. The pilgrimage happened to coincide with the 20th anniversary of his priesthood, and Boyd decided that she wanted him to meet and receive a Papal Blessing from the Holy Father.

Determined but knowing the chances were remote, Boyd carried all 1,000 medals through the streets of Rome so she could hold them up during Pope Francis’s general blessing. But through a series of godly interventions disguised as coincidences and good luck as well as a lot of prayer, Boyd’s wish for Fr. Mike came true, and she was blessed too, all while holding the medals herself. “I am humbled and know that I am very blessed to have been given this amazing spiritual gift,” she said. “I revere this as a special blessing from God and I respect that honor.”

Vocations Director Fr. Matthew Long will emcee the Bishop’s Pro-Life Banquet, and the keynote speaker will be Fr. Jonathan Morris. A news coordinator for the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel and the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Morris covers ethical, social and religious news topics. To this work he brings a pastor’s heart as well as a journalist’s eye. In addition to his work as a journalist, he serves as Parochial Vicar of the historic Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City from 2009 to 2013 and currently ministers at Corpus Christi Church near Columbia University. Ordained in 2002, he has served in a number of capacities, including theological advisor in the making of the feature film The Passion of the Christ. In 2008, he published the book The Promise: God’s Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts. He wrote the book in order to address one of the most common and profound questions people ask, which is “How can a loving and merciful God allow pain and suffering?” He also authored God Wants You Happy: From Self-Help to God’s Help.

Besides Fr. Morris, the banquet will feature a professional string quartet and singers from Loyola College Prep. In fact, all students are encouraged to volunteer and should contact Boyd at drsboyd@bellsouth.net to find out what service opportunities are available. Students also receive a discounted price on tickets.

“We are excited to bring Fr. Morris to our diocese to promote our pro-life efforts and energize the faithful on how to continue uplifting the sacredness of life in our region,” said Bishop Duca. “I am truly pleased at how our banquet has grown over the years and I am hoping to see 1,000 people in attendance on March 11.” For more information about the Bishop’s Pro-Life Banquet, go to www.dioshpt.org and click on Pro-Life Ministry under the Ministries tab. If you’d like to purchase tickets, inquire about a sponsorship or donate to the event, email Bernadette Boyd at drsboyd@bellsouth.net. She said, “I know that it will be an amazing night for our diocese that many volunteers have come together with the common spirit of wanting to be a witness for life.” •

St. Francis Hospital Holds Blessing for Community Health Center

St. Francis Medical Center held a Blessing and Ribbon Cutting on December 9 for the new location of its Community Health Center (CHC), located at 2600 Tower Drive in Monroe. Pictured: Sr. Barbara Arceneaux, Provincial of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady – North American Province, and Scott Wester, Interim President and CEO of St. Francis Medical Center, cutting the ribbon.

Council of Cardinals Meeting Themes Included Reform of Curia & Protection of Minors

Vatican City, (VIS) – The seventh meeting of the Council of Cardinals (the so-called C9) concluded December 12. The cardinals’ three-day meeting, which began on the morning of December 9, was mostly dedicated to three themes: the reform of the Curia, the composition of the Commission for the Protection of Minors and the reorganization of the economic organs of the Holy See.

With regard to reform of the Roman Curia, alongside general observations on the criteria that must guide this task, the Cardinals also addressed the specific question of the reorganization of the Pontifical Councils that work in relation to the laity, the family, justice, peace and charity. However, no formal decision was reached; the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., remarked that reform will be a long and gradual process.

The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which currently has eight members and a secretary, is to be enlarged with the addition of representatives from various ecclesial and cultural contexts around the world, reaching a total of around 18 members. The candidates have been selected and their availability to participate is currently in the process of being verified. From February 6-8, 2015 the Commission will hold its plenary session and it is expected that all members will be confirmed by that date, enabling it to define its field of action and activities.

Professor Joseph Zahra, the lay deputy coordinator of the Council for the Economy, reported to the Cardinals on the matter of the reorganization of the economic dicasteries. Although no specific decisions were made, the importance of continuing good coordination between the Council for the Economy and the C9 was emphasized. It is hoped that another meeting of the Council for the Economy will take place before the next C9 meeting, to allow an overview of the reform process to be presented at the latter event.

The next plenary session of the C9 will be held from February 9 to 11, 2015, immediately before the Consistory convoked on the 12 and 13 of the same month, at which its work and proposals will be presented. Finally, it was announced that a consistory for the creation of new cardinals will be held on February 14 and 15.

Religious Leaders Gathered to Eliminate Modern Slavery

Vatican City, (VIS) – For the first time in history, the leaders of the world’s major religions gathered together in the Vatican on December 2 with the aim of eliminating modern slavery. A ceremony was held in the seat of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV for the signing of the Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery. This solemn act follows the agreement signed on March 17 in the Vatican, established by the Global Freedom Network to eradicate, by 2020, modern forms of slavery and human trafficking. The Declaration was signed by Pope Francis, along with eminent Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives.

During the event, Pope Francis said, “Inspired by our confessions of faith, we are gathered here today for an historical initiative and to take concrete action: to declare that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms. The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men, women and children that is currently inflicted on tens of millions of people constitutes a form of dehumanization and humiliation.

“Every human being, man, woman, boy and girl, is made in God’s image. God is the love and freedom that is given in interpersonal relationships, and every human being is a free person destined to live for the good of others in equality and fraternity. Every person, and all people, are equal and must be accorded the same freedom and the same dignity. Any discriminatory relationship that does not respect the fundamental conviction that others are equal is a crime, and frequently an aberrant crime.”

Youth Visit Ware Youth Correctional Facility

The feast of St. Nicholas presented an incredible opportunity to take the message of hope 29 miles south to the youth imprisoned at Ware Correctional Facility in Coushatta. Under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Ampatt at Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in South Bossier, our friends from St. Jude, St. Joseph Zwolle and St. Joseph Shreveport caravanned to bear gifts and good will for those who will spend Christmas alone with only childhood memories to warm their hearts and minds.

Once our group was settled into the common area of the prison, the anxious chatter quickly ceased as the inmates filed into the room wearing their solid orange attire, waiting for their next instruction from the guards.  The overwhelming fear of first-time visitors quickly subsided as Deacon Michael Straub began walking among the youth sharing the message of hope. He talked about all the things we hope for and the slight chance that those hopes become reality. He then alluded to the Hope that is promised by the Savior – hopefulness and confidence in the Word that will never fail any of us.

Peter Nolten led the groups in traditional Christmas carols. The room was filled with beautiful singing, truly resembling a choir of angels. Sacred Scripture was shared by some of our youth. Fr. Ampatt then expounded upon the Word in a message of resounding faith, hope and love. Gifts were exchanged and a little time was spent talking with the youth at Ware one-on-one. A young man from St. Joseph sat and discussed the books of the Bible with an inmate, spending his entire time sharing Scripture and exchanging friendly conversation. One of the imprisoned youth was celebrating his birthday that day and was happy to share some of his artwork with our young people. It was truly moving to see the Spirit flowing through our young people.

It is a stark reality of imprisoned youth that catches one’s breath each and every visit to Ware. This annual visit has become a tradition and a grace-filled experience for all. What a privilege to fulfill a corporal work of mercy, visiting the imprisoned, in preparing for the birth of our Savior, Jesus!

  by Jacquie Bierwirth, Mary, Queen of Peace Parish

Catholic Charities Celebrates Christmas with Local Children

One of the challenges of being a charitable organization is finding the best way to say thank you to those who donate time, talent and treasure to keep the agency open and offering help. Sometimes it seems a written thank you is just not enough, so we are taking the opportunity in this forum to offer a resounding thank you to every one of you who has given in any way to support Catholic Charities throughout this past year.

Every time we keep someone from becoming homeless, or keep utilities on it is because you made the decision to give of yourself. Each day when we open our doors to the marginalized in our community, it is because you thought about their needs. It’s hard to imagine what would happen without you!

There are so many individual stories that come to mind. Lives are forever changed because someone in our financial education class “got it” and made the hard decisions and changes that will edge them toward better lives. Lives are changed when a new mother, who can’t buy her baby a bed, receives that and much more from Gabriel’s Closet.  Perhaps, even more than the items for the baby, what sustains that young mother is the loving concern for her as an individual. The exceptional volunteers at Catholic Charities are the best listeners with the biggest hearts we’ve ever known. Love is a priceless gift that is given every day at Catholic Charities.

When we talk about the help we give our clients, we can always cite numbers, like the more than 5,000 people we have assisted in some way this past year; but what matters most is the people who sit in front of us asking for help and showing them that we care enough to help them endure through their crisis. We know you can’t be here to see those faces, but we want you to know that your concern and your gifts turn tears into smiles!

Of the many ways you have given, our first ever children’s Christmas party showcased how your gifts can make a big difference for those who have so little. On December 12, we hosted a party for the little ones. There were refreshments, singing, candy canes from our volunteer Santa, a reading of the Christmas story and gifts for moms. The large group of volunteers had almost as much fun as our guests!  Had it not been for such enormous generosity from you, we could not have offered this fun event for our clients and their children.

We are thankful to each and every one of you who has given in any way to support Catholic Charities.  Each day, when we have our morning devotional, we thank God for our donors, our volunteers, our board of directors and our staff because we know they are all gifts from God to Catholic Charities!

by Theresa Mormino, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

The Eastern Deanery Celebrates Family Style!

Two parishes in the Eastern Deanery hosted their first intergenerational catechetical events. Intergenerational catechesis is a model which brings the parish family of all ages together for fellowship, catechesis and prayer. A teaching is offered which speaks to all ages and then groupings by family or age break off for discussion or projects.
Sacred Heart Parish, Oak Grove celebrated St. Nicholas Day with a family retreat offered by Catechesis Director Shelly Bole. Through the life of St. Nicholas, the participants learned about the Advent virtues of charity, zeal and mercy. From a wee baby of four months to a wise woman in her 70s, the families were challenged to create their own Advent calendar focusing in on how to practice charity, zeal and mercy.

On Sunday December 7, St. Matthew Parish in Monroe offered its first intergenerational event at a Parish Advent Gathering.  Eighty participants gathered around food, song and activities. Fr. Richard Norsworthy and Susan Guthrie, the catechetical leader, knew there had to be another way to offer catechesis beyond the traditional classroom model.  What began as an idea quickly grew into a possibility and then a reality. Hoping for 20 participants, registration grew to 80.  Extra food was ordered and volunteers were dispatched in search of purple and pink candles for the Advent wreaths. After a teaching from Fr. Norsworthy and singing of Advent songs, the children learned about the Jesse Tree and made decorations while the adults played Advent bingo. The day concluded with Betty Malson guiding everyone in making their own Advent wreaths.

The primary purpose of all catechesis is to draw people to Jesus and the life of the Church. Using saints and the liturgical calendar as focal points speaks to all Catholics.

by Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis

Farmerville’s Musical Treasure

Just off Hwy. 2, in North Louisiana, sits a tiny brick church that boasts some of the most heavenly sounds every Sunday morning.  It’s all thanks to the spry piano playing of Hoppy Hallman.  Hallman became a fixture at the 9:00 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Farmerville in 2000, when he returned home to care for his aging mother.
“Gaye Gillum was a high school classmate from Farmerville High and she called me and asked if I wanted to play for the church,” Hallman recalls. “There were no other churches in town needing a piano player so I told her yes.”

Hallman’s arrival at Our Lady of Perpetual Help helped transform the liturgical service into a vibrant, musical event. Borrowing elements from such musical genres as jazz, country and gospel, Hallman puts his own special touch on each song during the Mass. “I just try to play each song as the composer would have wanted it to sound,” he says.

“Hoppy enhances our liturgy through his ability to lift spirits,” says Fr. Al Jost of OLPH.  “You can see what happens when he’s not here,” he jokes.

Hallman’s journey into music began at the age of five when he started taking piano lessons. By his teens, he was playing in the Farmerville High School band as well as at the First Baptist Church in Farmerville, where his family attended. After high school graduation in 1962, Hallman headed to Baton Rouge to major in music composition at LSU.  He was also a member of The Golden Band from Tigerland. In 1973, he earned his master’s degree in music and from there, his musical talents would take him far from his Union Parish roots to compose and arrange songs for orchestras.

For several years, Hallman worked for the Our Little Miss Pageants based in Baton Rouge. There he composed a number of songs which are still used by the pageant today.  He also worked the beauty pageant circuit in Texas. Soon, though, Hallman would find his way to Hollywood where he served as script doctor on a number of movies for Disney Film Studios.

After returning to Louisiana, Hallman was hired by Jeremy Davis to help create a big band sound for The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra.  The band, which began in Northeast Louisiana, is now based in Savannah, GA.  “Hoppy is extremely talented,” says Davis.  “He’s put together some really great songs for us.”

Now, Hallman’s musical talent continues to lift voices and souls at a small church on Water Street.  “Hoppy is one of the things that keeps the church together and helps us grow,” says long-time parishioner Dickey Cole. “And, people come to hear his music. I think that his music enlightens our spirits. It all ties in and it makes you feel good.”

Joan Jung, another long-time member of OLPH, says, “He lifts us up spiritually, emotionally and mentally every time he plays. And, he plays beautifully.”

And, the reason why this talented Baptist keeps playing at the Catholic Church?  “It’s wonderful,” says Hallman. “The people are so nice.  That’s why I’ve stayed there so long.  Plus, there’s much more music in the Catholic service than in the Protestant service.” And, that is music to everyone’s ears!

by  Bonny Van

Tech Students Reach Out to Community

For the fourth year, students from ACTS (Association of Catholic Tech Students) and the resident parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, have reached out to the local Ruston area providing food, paper items and toiletries for 15 families. The student run ministry, called “Operation: Help,” was begun by ACTS members in an effort to provide assistance to those in Ruston who were finding it difficult to make ends meet. Each year, St. Thomas parishioner Solidad Broyles locates the needy families and works with the ACTS Social Justice Committee to coordinate shopping lists and distribution of the goods.

During November, the student parishioners of ACTS solicited the assistance of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Community, collecting items and funds.  To complete the shopping lists, the students created a “Scavenger Hunt” around Ruston that required active participation. Over 40 college students participated in the event performing various acts like singing Christmas Carols to strangers. Through this rather ingenious event, not only does the local community benefit, but the student parishioner community is strengthened through healthy competition and fun. Although initiated by the student parishioners of ACTS, the entire parish of St. Thomas can take credit for this Advent Season tradition that operates from generous hearts and creative minds.

 by Brother Mike Ward

Reflection: Oceans & Seasons of Life

There is a time for everything… a Season for every activity under the heavens… ” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Where do we find models of the rhythm of life which are consistent and helpful? Living in Italy for so long and being near the Adriatic Sea has provided an exquisite model for me of what the rhythm of life is or could be for us oldsters. As I walk along its shores, leaving my footprints in the sand, which will be gone in seconds as the waves lap them up, leaves me with a calmness that is unexplainable. With the endless flow of the tide, I can see how consistent it is and how consistent I have been during the changing seasons of my life. I find my joy in the flow of those waters. Those mighty waters retreat somewhat in order to bring about another mighty wave to its shores. Aren’t we like that?

God speaks to us in different ways and to me, along the shores of the sea. When very quiet, I can hear the waves lapping up on the shore as I walk out the convent gate to the sea, not even a block away. Knowing that in these precious moments, no matter where we are, God can bring about the positive change we need in our lives.

“They were to seek God… though he is not really far from any one of us…” Acts 17:27. God is faithful and is full of surprises. These seasons in our lives which happen each new year, can be found in the inner depths of our souls, because within them, there lies an unquenchable fire shining within each person. If your winter is cold, you might feel restless and bored (check out this fire within), but during the spring, with all the flowers blooming, that arthritis flares up and it blossoms penance and sacrifices for us. Then the heat of summer makes a recluse out of us as we attach ourselves to air-conditioned places. Not very much remains the same and the colorful leaves of autumn bring new life and power to our souls. Don’t put your own interests before that of others when you can be of help with a kind word, or with the power of your joy, just surprise someone with your unquenchable fire. Remember this is a sacred fire coming from the soul.

If all the seasons have made us healthy older people, then we are a resource for our families, our communities and even the economy. We must stay as healthy and active as possible because we still have a critical role to play in life.

Consider what your new role might be in 2015. Are you still making a difference in the lives of others? What is that mighty ocean wave doing in our lives: making us retreat, pull back? That’s what will empower us with our next move. For 2015, pay attention to your surroundings and let them become an integral part of your lives. Nature can really help us in many ways and must we not live our lives to the fullest in the midst of its beauty?

Let’s be prepared for the plan of God for us. Keep a positive outlook because there is still a lot of magic to life, and we have to be mindful of this constantly. This is the only way we can make a difference again in the New Year. Pope Francis once said to the youth, “With Christ the HEART never grows OLD.” Those words keep passing before me and I think in the depths of our hearts, where the seasons come and go, year after year, our youthful hearts will be forever YOUNG. In 2015 there is another opportunity for us to give of ourselves to others who still need us. Perhaps this is the year for us to find where memory and beauty meet again and again.

by  Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS