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Catholic Charities Touching Hearts and Improving Lives in Our Community

by Lucy Medvec & Jessica Rinaudo Since its inception in 2010, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has dug its roots into the Shreveport-Bossier community and has begun to spread them across More »

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Cardinal Dolan Welcomes Continued Year of Mercy Provision for Post-Abortion Healing

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis’ More »

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The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction

A New Series for the Catholic Connection by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This piece is the beginning of a long sought-after series by the Catholic Connection on More »

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The Heart of Love: Berchmans’ Relic at the Cathedral Ignited Diocese

by Dr. Cheryl White For 10 glorious days in December, this area witnessed remarkable demonstrations of the ongoing universality of the rich tradition of relic veneration, when the heart of St. John More »

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Navigating the Faith: Meeting the Divine

Meeting the Divine   Seeking God in Every Moment & Season of Your Life by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Parish Several weeks ago in a Bible study class More »

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Domestic Church: Bring Jesus Into Your Resolutions

by Katie Sciba It’s here and now in the Domestic Church column that I usually hit the topic of resolutions. Whether you rang in the Catholic New Year last month with the More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Renewed Hope for the New Year

by Bishop Michael Duca In November of last year I was uncertain if I would be able to begin this New Year with an optimistic spirit.  I have to admit that last More »

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Students Participate in Relic’s Visit

The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans Catholic School in Shreveport highly anticipated the arrival of the heart of St. John Berchmans. The students prepared by saying a Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception More »

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Fidel Mondragon Ordained to Transitional Diaconate

St. Mary of the Pines Church in Shreveport was a place of happy celebration on Saturday morning, December 10, when diocesan seminarian and Mexico native Fidel Mondragon was ordained to the Transitional More »

Catholic Charities Touching Hearts and Improving Lives in Our Community

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by Lucy Medvec & Jessica Rinaudo

Since its inception in 2010, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has dug its roots into the Shreveport-Bossier community and has begun to spread them across the state to Lake Providence and Monroe. Through its vast array of social programs, CCNLA helps people not only meet their immediate needs, but also receive education on everything from money management to healthy eating, child care and safety to English as a second language.

Giving Families a Hand Up

April is one of the many hundreds of people Catholic Charities helps each year. April, 25, has three young children and her work fluctuates depending on how business is going. She found herself in need this past summer. Upon her mother’s suggestion, she approached Catholic Charities to both receive help paying her rent and to attend their Money School classes.

“I learned how to budget and save a little money when I come across it,” said April. “Mr. Carl [Piehl] showed me how to budget with food, how to save my money, save my meals, save my food and use my food stamps.”

The three-hour class takes place weekly and is a requirement for those seeking financial assistance from Catholic Charities.
“Our philosophy is, whether or not we can help you financially, we want to educate you. We want to help you with a budget and show you ways you can effectively use your money,” said Lucy Medvec, CCNLA Director of Development.

While attending the Money School classes, teacher and Director of Financial Education and Emergency Assistance Carl Piehl told April about Gabriel’s Closet – a ministry of Catholic Charities that reaches out to parents and young children, providing everything from children’s clothes to diapers, formula, car seats and pack and plays.

“With Gabriel’s Closet there’s no cash ever exchanged there, they earn merits,” said Lucy, “and they can earn merits not just by watching parenting videos, but by going to doctors appointments, taking their children to doctors appointments, working and turning in check stubs. If they go to church they can bring their church bulletin in and get merits for that.”

“It’s quite reasonable in the sense that they don’t need a large number of merits to get a car seat. The items are very achievable because we want clients to have a buy-in in a sense,” Lucy added. “We want to educate people and we feel that Gabriel’s Closet is really good in helping them become the best parents they can be.”

Gabriel’s Closet has been a huge relief and help for April and her family. The Closet has allowed her to provide clothing for her three-year-old and four-year-old children, freeing up funds to supply her five-year-old with clothing. “It takes so much stress off of me,” she said.

When asked about earning merits, April talked enthusiastically about some of the videos she has watched and things she has learned, especially the video about car seat safety.  “I didn’t use to have my kids in car seats, but that changed a lot. The videos showed me a lot of safety information, because I could easily lose my kids by not having them in a car seat. That made an impact on me,” said April.

In addition to the videos, there are also bi-monthly live classes on baby safety taught by volunteer nurses.

Gabriel’s Closet is one of the most visible ministries of Catholic Charities and operates purely on donations from individuals, churches and schools. It is manned by volunteers twice a week. Lucy said more volunteers is one of Catholic Charities’ chief needs. Right now the Closet is open twice a week, but they would like to open it more frequently with the help of volunteers.

Taking the Initiative: From Immigration to Education

In 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana saw a void in the community for services available to the immigrant population. With the formation of its Immigration Integration Services Program, CCNLA slowly grew its program and over the years added an Immigration Advocate and Immigration Attorney to its staff.  CCNLA has been able to provide a variety of services to low-income immigrants including assistance with legal documentation, relative petitions for family members, visas for immigrants seeking humanitarian relief, English as Second language classes and classes for U.S. citizenship.

Catholic Charities is the only agency in North Louisiana recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  Although the majority of its clients are provided assistance through the Shreveport office, immigration services will be offered on a regular basis in the Monroe office beginning in 2017. CCNLA has three members on staff who are fluent in Spanish and is able to offer all of its programs, including the Money School, in Spanish.  Since 2012, hundreds of immigrants have received assistance from Catholic Charities and have become active members of their communities. One such client felt a particular need to show his gratitude.

Raymund Benavidez, 52, first came to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana in November 2013 seeking help in converting his dependent visa to a work visa.  A native of Cebu, Philippines, Raymund and his wife, Maria came to Shreveport in May 2010 with their two daughters.  Raymund received help with the conversion of his visa through Catholic Charities’ Immigration Integration program and immigration attorney, Briana Bianca.

After learning more about Catholic Charities’ programs, he saw a need for a nutrition program and offered his expertise as a chef to teach clients how to cook healthy foods while living on a limited income.  In March 2014, CCNLA’s Healthy Eating on a Budget Initiative was created, offering free cooking demonstrations twice a month as well as nutrition classes and grocery store tours.  During these demonstrations, clients learn how to purchase healthy foods and prepare them for their families.  After Chef Raymund prepares the food, they get to eat the meal and take the recipes home to prepare for their families.

Raymund currently works as a sushi chef for Margaritaville Casino and his wife, Maria, teaches special education at a local high school. Their daughters attend school locally. As a family, they are currently applying for permanent residency in the United States.

The services offered by CCNLA’s Immigration Integration program helped the Benavidez family become engaged in the community. Raymund sees his volunteer service to Catholic Charities as a way of giving back to an organization that was able to help his family.

“What I enjoy most,” says Raymund “is teaching them not only how to prepare the food, but how to taste it and enjoy it. Too often, we eat our food so quickly that we are not taking the time to enjoy the taste, smell and experience of eating good food together as a family.”

Gilda Rada-Garcia serves as the Program Coordinator for Healthy Eating on a Budget. She works closely with Raymund to prepare for the cooking demonstrations and teaches the nutrition education portion of each class. “Raymund is very committed as a volunteer.  He works well with the clients and wants to talk to them about ingredients and cooking techniques,” said Gilda. “When teaching cooking classes to families, he works well with the children and is very patient.”

Growing Services in Monroe & Lake Providence

Monroe volunteer Brenda Taylor meets with Program Coordinator Joann Worley.

In July 2013, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana expanded its service area to help people in northeast Louisiana with the opening of an office in Lake Providence in 2013, and most recently, in Monroe this past May.

The Lake Providence office is run solely by volunteers under the guidance of Sr. Bernadette (Bernie) Barrett.  There, they teach The Money School and give emergency assistance funds for rent and utility bills to those in need. The dedication of Sr. Bernie and her army of volunteers and donors has created a vital organization to one of the poorest areas in Louisiana. The Lake Providence office wants to expand its services in 2017 to include SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits enrollment and the Cooking Matters grocery store tour program, teaching low-income families how to shop for healthy and affordable food items at the store.

Joann Worley serves as the Program Coordinator for the Monroe CCNLA office. A parishioner of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Joann teaches The Money School and serves as case manager for clients who seek assistance.  In addition to giving emergency assistance funds to help with rent and utility bills, the Monroe office also helps low-income parents through its Gabriel’s Corner, a small “shop” that contains baby necessities including clothes, diapers, formula and baby wipes. Clients, both male and female, can also receive professional clothing for job interviews.  Joann and her volunteers work with clients from as far away as Ruston and Grambling to provide financial education and assistance.  In 2017, the Monroe office will offer immigration services as well as SNAP benefits enrollment to clients throughout northeast Louisiana.

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is always working to carry out the social justice arm of the Church, and the staff and volunteers do so with love and compassion. Their care for clients shows. “My kids love coming here, they love the people,” said April. “And ever since I started coming here, it gives me a little peace of mind… I can come here and be in the lobby for five to 10 minutes and it’s like being in church. It’s so peaceful.”

For more information on donations and volunteering, contact Lucy Medvec at 318-865-0200, ext. 101, or lmedvec@ccnla.org. •

Pope Remembers the People of Aleppo and Condemns Recent Terrorist Attacks

from the Vatican Information Services

“Every day I am close, above all in prayer, to the people of Aleppo,” said the Pope after praying the Angelus. “We should not forget that Aleppo is a city where people live: families, children, elderly, sick people … Lamentably, we have grown accustomed to war, to destruction, but we should not forget that Syria is a country full of history, of culture, of faith. We cannot accept that all of this be negated by war, which is an accumulation of abuse and falsehood. I appeal to all to make efforts towards a choice in favour of civilization: no to destruction, yes to peace, yes to the people of Aleppo and of Syria.”

“We also pray for the victims of brutal terrorist attacks that in the last few hours have struck various countries. The places are different but unfortunately the violence that sows death and destruction is one and the same, as is the response: faith in God and unity in human and civil values. I would like to express my special closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II [Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church] and his community; while praying for the dead and the wounded.

Francis went on to mention the beatification today in Vientiane, Laos, of Mario Borzaga, a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Paul Thoj Xyooj, a lay catechist, and fourteen companions, killed in hatred of the faith. “Their heroic fidelity to Christ can be an encouragement and an example for missionaries, and especially for catechists, who in missionary lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work, for which the whole Church is thankful. Let us think of our catechists who work hard, and do such a good job. Being a catechist is a great thing: it means bearing the message of the Lord so that it grows in us.” He invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to applaud catechists.

Finally, he greeted the pilgrims from different countries, emphasizing that his first greeting was reserved for the children and young people of Rome, present in the Square for the traditional blessing of their figurines of the Baby Jesus, organized by parish oratories and Catholic schools. “Dear children, when you pray before the Nativity scene with your parents, ask the Baby Jesus to help all of us to love God and our neighbor. And remember, pray for me too, as I pray for you. Thank you.”

He also greeted the professors of the Catholic University of Sydney, the choir of Mosteiro de Grijo in Portugal, and Italian faithful from Barbianello and Campobasso. He concluded by asking the children in the square to sing a song for him, and wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch.

Cardinal Dolan Welcomes Continued Year of Mercy Provision for Post-Abortion Healing

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from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis’ November 20 apostolic letter “Misericordia et Misera ” (“Mercy and Misery”). In his letter, Pope Francis extended the Year of Mercy provision granting priests worldwide a faculty related to the sin of abortion: “Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.” Cardinal Dolan responded with gratitude in the following statement:

I express heartfelt appreciation for the Holy Father’s continued proclamation of God’s mercy worldwide, clearing the path to reconciliation and healing for all who have been involved in abortion.

Pope Francis wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” (Misericordia et Misera).

The Holy Father reminds us that God, the Father of Mercies, welcomes all those who are repentant, seeking mercy and peace after involvement in abortion — and that an experience of God’s great mercy gives rise to joy.

For many years in the United States, most bishops have granted their priests this faculty. In addition to sacramental confession, the Church offers confidential and compassionate help through diocesan Project Rachel ministries.

Since 1984, dedicated ministries throughout the nation have accompanied those seeking forgiveness, healing, and peace after losing a child to abortion. Wherever a person might be in their healing journey, Project Rachel offers free, confidential help.
To find the nearest diocesan healing ministry, go to the ‘Find Help’ map at www.hopeafterabortion.org or www.esperanzaposaborto.org.

A Statement from the USCCB President on Bombings and Church Collapse

WASHINGTON– Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers condolences, prayers and words of support for those involved in this weekend’s bombings in Cairo, Turkey and Somalia as well as the Church roof collapse in Nigeria.

As we enter the Third Week of Advent, we are reminded that even the shadow of violence and terrorism cannot obscure the light of our coming Savior. St. Mark himself was no stranger to the persecution of Christians. Those who gathered to worship the Lord at his cathedral this morning in Cairo are family to us. We draw near to our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer, sorrow and comfort. And we are confident in the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The lives lost strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere and offer a testament to the great privilege of worshiping God in peace. This weekend has witnessed the darkness of violence that reaches into many places, including Turkey, Somalia and the church building collapse in Nigeria. But the light still shines! Today let us offer a special prayer for all those facing persecution.

Kids’ Connection: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

This month we learn about Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first person born in the United States to be canonized a saint!

Click to download and print this page.

Aging with Joy and Laughter in the New Year

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

The New Year is our time to put the treasure of our wisdom at the disposition of everyone. As the New Year surrounds us, we are swept up in the enthusiasm for resolutions to change. This New Year gives us an opportunity to shape our future through aging with grace, more kindness and patience with ourselves and others. No procrastination or putting things off until tomorrow! Act while you can with gratitude.

Blessed are they who have embraced everything about aging, their hearts beat for others, and they are the joy of the soul; they are the “treasured age.”

In my experience at Azalea Estates nursing home, working with agers in their eighties and nineties, I smile at the priceless “joy-spreaders” I meet twice a week. They simply amaze me with all their wisdom, funny antidotes, smiling faces, bringing a favorite book for me to see and I thank God for those little things that come my way. These are the unexpected joys I hope to continue to see as 2017 comes around the bend. Their purpose in life is remarkable.

“For I know the plans I have for you.” (Jeremiah 29:11.) Another year with the Lord and His extraordinary action is taking place in our hearts right now. Joyful humor is a wonder to possess, because the fullness of JOY is to see God’s face in my aging moments.

Everyone wants to be happy and our source of joy must be found in prayer, charity and thanksgiving. This could be the best year we have ever experienced as we spread joy. Our love for others should make us feel happy.

It’s so much fun growing old with someone who laughs with you, and it all helps me to live in my aging body with peace. Let’s share the JOY of the Lord with others.

Can you imagine going through a whole day without smiling or hearing peals of laughter? Jesus too knew happiness. He enjoyed companionship of friends and children. He was happy to perform his first miracle at a wedding party. Jesus’ presence gave joy to others. Life is too short to be any other way, so keeping connected with others is a must for 2017.

Wear those new red tennis shoes and celebrate your life. “You have turned my mourning into dancing …and clothed me with JOY.” (Psalm 30:11.) Laughter can be a powerful antidote to stress as you age. Instead of letting yourself “be grim and bear it” try to “just grin and share it.” Your humor will keep open your lines of communication with others. People may think you ate “sunshine for breakfast” if you keep smiling. This makes us a blessing for others.

During the New Year, let us appreciate our moments of joy and remember what Victor Borge said: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Be warmed by the smiles of others, count your blessings and thank God for them.

At any age, your attitude, beliefs and values are at the core and essence of your being and define what your heart does as you age. We must prove ourselves worthy of old age. There is a great beauty inside of you to be shared with the world and your aging peers.

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22.)  Your humor should be a tool, never a weapon. Laugh with others – not at them. So in the New Year, we have lots to do. Let your laughter spark creativity, but stay sensitive to people’s feelings. Become a joy-spreader and count your blessings. Be thankful for another year to grace the world with your presence. You can make a difference knowing that today we celebrate again God’s great gift of life.

Everyone can tap their well of laughter and playfulness throughout life. It keeps the lines of communication open and improves your sense of humor. Happy 2017 filled with all God’s blessings!

The Church Welcomes Five Loyola Students Home to the Faith

by Lisa Cooper

At Loyola, we celebrate our students for countless reasons.  We have students who excel academically, some even making perfect scores on their ACT’s.  We have students who serve our community in impactful and sacrificial ways by gathering coats, feeding the hungry and helping the elderly.  We have students who inspire others through their willingness to take the lead and through their integrity.  One of the most significant occasions when we celebrate our students, though, is when they make life-changing decisions.  Recently, five Loyola students made such a decision. They chose to convert to Catholicism. Freshmen Griffen Valiulis, Gray Hodges, Steven Beruvides, Ian McDonald and junior Ryan Lee all received the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation in November.

When asked about the primary influence for their decision to convert, McDonald credits the writings of St. Pius X and podcasts from apologist Tim Staples at Catholic Answers.  Beruvides, on the other hand, credits his friend Carlos Gonzalez, who was not only a witness to the faith through his life and in his friendship with Beruvides, but also was able to answer his questions and even help him overcome some obstacles to his faith.  “I did have many doubts before coming into the Catholic Church,” Beruvides explains.  While taking catechism classes in another faith, he was told that the Catholic Church didn’t ordain women. “I didn’t agree that women shouldn’t be ordained.  What I was not told was that there were very good reasons why [the Catholic Church doesn’t ordain women].  Carlos explained everything to me [in a way that I understood].”

Taking the conversion process and the profession of their faith with great seriousness, these students faced obstacles as they grew in the knowledge of the faith and made their way into the Church.  “The hardest part of my journey,” says Beruvides, “was giving up the bad things that I was doing.”  For McDonald, “admitting that I needed spirituality in my life” was the most difficult challenge.

In addition to the joy of coming into the Church, for one student this journey came with an unexpected special moment as well.  When asked about his family’s being supportive of his decision, Beruvides says, “my family has been very supportive of my becoming Catholic.  My dad was raised Catholic and reverted back into the Church with me.”

Our Loyola family celebrates these students during such an exciting time.  We ask that you join us in offering prayers and support as they continue to be rooted and to grow in our rich and beautiful faith.

The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction

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A New Series for the Catholic Connection
by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

This piece is the beginning of a long sought-after series by the Catholic Connection on the subject of pornography and the influence this industry has upon our society, particularly the foundational unit of the family.  It is a sensitive subject, but those bound to Christ are called to label this sinful practice for what it truly is. Future articles will cover the dynamic of pornographic material to the public at large, the negative effect it has on the family, and recovery opportunities for consumers, spouses and children.

“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties…it perverts the conjugal act. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public)…It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354)

Pornography is perhaps the most subtle, most widely accepted toxin to society. As an industry, it’s a giant, an addiction that brings harm to both brain and heart by altering neurological responses and decreasing a consumer’s satisfaction with reality. It traumatizes children and brings shame to addicts and spouses.

And at last, the world is fighting back.

Armed with the Sacraments, several anti-porn non-profits, neuroscientific evidence and personal accounts, the Church is publicly addressing that which has remained secret.

Despite being mostly free of charge and easily accessible, consumption costs in matters of the heart. Covenant Eyes, an Internet filtering and accountability program, cites that 56% of divorces “involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” and 70% of wives of husbands with sexual addiction could be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from betrayal trauma. Dr. Jill Manning is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) whose research has uncovered the harmful relational problems with pornography. Her reports conclude that the number one effect of porn consumption is “increased marital distress and risk of separation and divorce;” number two is “decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction.”

It’s not just marriages that are in danger. Research reveals that the average age of initial exposure to pornography is eight, which means children even younger are being exposed. Regardless of age, pornography can be traumatic and confusing. Repeat exposure can alter brain chemistry, making it as addictive as narcotics and alcohol in a short period of time.

Despite research, addiction and dangers to the family, society struggles to pinpoint why pornography is wrong. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently responded to this epidemic in the document Create in Me a Clean Heart, which states, “Pornography objectifies people and brings hurt and pain. It is an illusory substitute for real relationships and intimacy, which in the end bring true joy.”

Repeat users give reasons of anxiety, depression, discontent, loneliness and anger for engaging in pornography — which can be audio and literary as well as visual.

Matt, a 28-year-old husband and father in Maryland, shared his story of early exposure, young addiction and eventual freedom with FighttheNewDrug.com. While his tone was heavy, he laughed with relief when he mentioned an unintended break from pornography: “[After] porn…I could think clearer. I was less anxious…I wake up and life is good.” Matt continued saying that sobriety from his addiction helped him enjoy people and regain confidence. He had hope.

So what now? Whether seeking addiction help or looking for healing as the spouse of an addict, you’ll find the greatest aid in a therapist specializing in sexual addiction (CSAT), especially one with training from the Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider Institute (SATP). IITAP.com has a therapist directory in the upper right corner of the site, easily used to find CSATs in our diocese. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) can be of help in areas of marital and parental communication as well as healing. Though there are few Catholic CSATs or LMFTs in the area, many will respect Catholic values, so be sure to inform them of your faith. Look also for a spiritual director and a safe group or trusted confidant to listen and discuss progress in recovery, as this support is invaluable and sometimes more readily available when the need is immediate.

IntegrityRestored.com is a fantastic resource for addicts, spouses, parents and clergy. Wives of addicts can find help at BloomforWomen.org with a monthly subscription to classes and live sessions with therapists. For children, check out Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson and Dr. Gail Poyner for advice on how to address pornography with children. Install software from CovenantEyes.com on all computers and devices, which both filters inappropriate content and sends accountability reports to recipients of the user’s choosing, keeping children safe and adults accountable.

There is hope beyond addiction and, by God’s grace, addicts and loved ones alike can find validation and healing through healthy connections with God and others to bring real healing and satisfaction.

History of Pro-Life Ministry in the Diocese of Shreveport

This is part 3 and the final installment in a series on the history of  pro-life ministry in the Diocese of Shreveport. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

by Susan Flanagan

Faced with the terrible distinction of Shreveport being the abortion capital of Louisiana, people have attempted to help in different ways. As recounted in earlier articles, Flo Alexander and others offered direct help to pregnant women. Rev. Ed Hopkins and members of Alpha Right to Life educated the public with forums, speakers and newspaper articles. There have also been committed individuals through the years who have gone to abortion clinics to pray, protest, sidewalk counsel and participate in Operation Rescue.

If you lived in Shreveport during the late 1980’s and drove past Hope Medical Group on a Saturday, you were bound to see Leslie and Dan Cirulli there. For over five years, every Saturday, rain or shine, they faithfully prayed on the sidewalk and handed out rosaries. Usually their young son Nick was with them, adding to their powerful witness. Nick was their miracle baby –it took five years for them to adopt him. Leslie said, “Praying at the abortion clinic was one of the ways I could thank and honor his birth mother for her incredible sacrifice of giving Nick to us.”  Leslie hoped her family’s presence and prayers at the clinic would encourage other pregnant women to consider giving their babies up for adoption rather than aborting them.
Nick Cirulli noticed through his years at the clinic the pain and helplessness men endured with the loss of their babies.  As a teenager, Nick spoke powerfully about his observations in the Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Contest.

Similarly, Marilyn Pettiette, Johnnie Crafts and Mary Barbour were regulars, praying every Saturday morning. Fr. Pike Thomas would bring carloads of parishioners from Minden to pray and witness for life, hoping to change hearts of participants and passers-by with their loving and peaceful presence.

In more recent history, Janice and Carlos Gonzalez, Roxie Tabor and the Vita Pro-Life group have prayed at Hope Medical on the first Saturday of every month for years. Camille Brocato has prayed and handed out thousands of hand-made rosaries through the years, while Angela Chagnard, Chris Davis, Catherine Gregorio, Susan Flanagan and others have experienced multiple “saves” of babies through their loving counseling efforts on the sidewalk. Catholics have continuously been in the forefront of attempting to help mothers, babies and even clinic employees, most recently through a peaceful prayer and fasting campaign called 40 Days for Life (see www.40daysforlife.com).

Another effort some locals participated in “back in the day” was Operation Rescue. This was a national organization which started in the mid-1980’s as a peaceful attempt to sit at the doorway and block the entrances to abortion clinics. At the time, blocking clinic entrances was a misdemeanor, but many committed Christians were willing to risk arrest in order to help save lives. An Operation Rescue was staged in Shreveport in November 1989.

Many felt called to participate in this large inter-denominational effort and a number of local Catholics were arrested at Hope Medical while peacefully blocking the clinic entrance. The Shreveport Times gave front page coverage to the story.

Abortion clinics struck back by lobbying Congress and filing lawsuits to end Operation Rescue. Consequently, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (F.A.C.E.) was passed by Congress in 1994 and signed into law. This made blocking clinic entrances a federal crime with stiff penalties and jail time. As a result, Operation Rescue was effectively ended.

There are currently many ways in which we can locally make a difference.  Consider getting involved with your parish’s pro-life ministry, or start one if there is not already one in place. The Bishop’s annual Pro-Life Dinner, 40 Days for Life, Mary’s House, the annual March for Life — the list goes on and on of organizations that need your help to be successful!  Be inspired by those spotlighted in these articles and add your efforts to theirs.

The Heart of Love: Berchmans’ Relic at the Cathedral Ignited Diocese

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by Dr. Cheryl White

For 10 glorious days in December, this area witnessed remarkable demonstrations of the ongoing universality of the rich tradition of relic veneration, when the heart of St. John Berchmans came home to Louisiana, where the miracle needed for his canonization occurred in 1866. There is perhaps nothing in the history of Christianity with so clear a lineage to the primitive Faith than the veneration (honoring) of relics. There is probably no practice within the Faith that so positively affirms our Catholic beliefs than the veneration of relics. This is because at the very core of the Church’s teachings is the Incarnation, which holds that it was an act of God to unite Himself to His creation and therefore imbue all created matter with His presence and grace. Indeed, this is the central revealed Truth of the Church. Therefore, relic veneration is an undisputed and well-documented practice, reaching back across nearly 20 centuries to the Apostolic age.

Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition both fully affirm the special honor due to the relics of saints, for by the full holiness still present in their earthly remains, there is a unique conduit to the God who created all. Throughout the pages of Church history are instructions regarding the great honor due the saints, from the testimony of the Fathers and Doctors such as St. Jerome, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, to the great ecumenical Councils of the Church. Furthermore, the social histories of all of Christendom are replete with moving descriptions of individual and community piety involving relics as a way to express belief in the great Communion of Saints. For the historian, something that emerges from such chronicles with great clarity is that the Christian faithful have always sought tangible and material means of connecting to the Divine grace that flows to us. Proof of the relevance of this even today, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans hosted thousands of people from around the country, all drawn to the holiness of a young 22 year-old saint known for his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Jesuit rule.

Besides participating in veneration, pilgrims had the opportunity to share in special liturgies and hear guest speakers on a variety of related topics designed to stimulate intellectual understanding as well as deepen individual faith. Also in Shreveport for the duration of the relic visit was the chasuble worn by Pope Leo XIII at the canonization of St. John Berchmans in Rome in 1888, as well as the Roman Missal that the pope used on that date for that specific purpose. Both of these special historic artifacts were used in several liturgies, and only further focused the mind and heart on the timelessness of the Church, and the beautiful connection we have to all who have gone before us. In addition, the Jesuits in Belgium have made a permanent gift of the original 18th century heart reliquary to the Cathedral!

The saints are always calling to us on God’s behalf, and that call may come in a whisper or a shout, but there can be no question that the soul responds. Just as Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages traveled from their towns and villages to nearby places where one might find the relic of a saint, so their modern counterparts came to the Cathedral in Shreveport to venerate the heart of St. John Berchmans. Having his holy heart relic was an opportunity for all in our area to share in the most ancient of Christian practices. In the span of 10 days, pilgrims who came and crossed the threshold of the Cathedral were actually joining with others across the ages, answering the mysterious and persistent tug on all hearts.

Perhaps most importantly of all, when the “Heart of Love” came home to Louisiana, St. John Berchmans reminded us all of the goodness and truth of our central Catholic teaching – that through the mystery of the Incarnation, God is fully with us. St. John’s witness might be one of reverent silence today, but the remarkable events of December provided numerous opportunities to share the deep and storied treasure of our Catholic faith with complete strangers. Scattered among the faithful pilgrims were curiosity-seekers drawn to simply know more, perhaps responding in their own way to a call they have yet to fully perceive. Without speaking words, the heart of St. John Berchmans pulled us all ever closer to the fullness of the Christian life and hope.