Author Archives:

Leading in Research and Education on the Shroud of Turin

By Dr. Cheryl White


In early 2018, Fr. Peter Mangum, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Shreveport and Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, and Dr. Cheryl White, Professor of History at Louisiana State University at Shreveport and Curator, Museum of the Holy Shroud, were granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives to research medieval papal documents potentially related to the Shroud of Turin. As a result of that initial research, Dr. White presented a scholarly paper they co-authored entitled,“Re-Examining the Record: Contextual Analysis of a Letter by Pope Innocent III,” at the 2019 International Conference on the Shroud of Turin held in Toronto, Ontario. The paper argues that there is contextual and linguistic evidence contained in letters of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) surrounding the Fourth Crusade which indicate an awareness of the Shroud’s presence in Constantinople at that time. The paper will be published in the proceedings of the conference in early 2020, as well as in other international peer-reviewed sites.

Their work related to this fascinating relic of Christianity has been ongoing and multi-faceted. Fr. Peter Mangum and Dr. White were recently able to consult with both the religious and scientific communities in Turin, Italy, where the Shroud has been kept since 1578. In September 2019, Fr. Peter Mangum and Dr. White met with the president of the Archbishop of Turin’s Commission on the Holy Shroud, as well as members of the International Center for Sindonology. They were accompanied by Barrie Schwortz, the original documenting photographer on the Shroud of Turin Research Project of 1978, and Fr. Andrew Dalton, professor of Shroud Studies at the Regina Apostolorum in Rome. The purpose of these meetings was to further collaboration between the center in Turin and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, which houses the Museum of the Holy Shroud (the Richard Orareo Collection), the second-largest publicly available collection of Shroud-related artworks and artifacts in the world, surpassed only by the Museo della Sindone in Turin. Following their meetings in Turin, Fr. Mangum and Dr. White were again given access to the Vatican Secret Archives to continue their research into the Shroud’s so-called “Missing Years” of the thirteenth century. This archival visit is expected to produce at least one more major scholarly paper as a follow-up to the findings presented at the 2019 international conference.

Their educational efforts have extended to public presentations and lectures to diverse national audiences, including seminaries and universities, and religious and secular groups. Their podcast series produced in 2018, Who is the Man of the Shroud? continues to reach a diverse international audience. They are also currently collaborating and consulting with the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. on a major planned Shroud exhibition. The national kick-off event for that major exhibit is planned for January 2020.

This past summer, the Louisiana State Senate passed Resolution 124, put forth by Sens. John Milkovich, Barrow Peacock and Ryan Gatti, commending Fr. Peter and Dr. White for their work in advancing knowledge of the Shroud, as well as contributing to the educational culture of the area. Dr. White was able to be present to accept the special resolution on the floor of the Senate.

The Shroud of Turin is believed by many to be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ, the same cloth described in the Gospel accounts that was found in the empty sepulcher. The cloth is the most studied object in history, yet the explanation for the mysterious image upon it, that of a scourged and crucified man, remains elusive to scientists and other academic disciplines. The research and educational initiatives of Fr. Mangum and Dr. White has been in response to these ongoing questions, as they continue to seek opportunities to reach the hearts and minds of many people through the message of the Shroud.


When Love Increases…Crime Decreases

By Elizabeth Boo Neuberget, Catholic Extension


In neighborhoods across Shreveport, Louisiana, a powerful movement is taking place that is rooted in neighborly love and faith. Based on the conviction that people crave connection and that vibrant communities are built on meaningful relationships, neighborhoods are being dramatically transformed, block by block.

Mack McCarter, who is leading the way, has seen the physical, emotional and spiritual evolution of several communities in the 25 years since he started his ministry.

Mack spent his adult life in ministry, having gone to seminary and been a pastor of an evangelical church in west Texas for many years. He returned to his hometown of Shreveport in 1991 and discovered many neighborhoods—that were once vital and thriving—were in great decline. They were facing gangs, drugs, violence, crumbling homes and people living in isolation.

During his time in Texas, he had poured over scripture, counseled members of his flock, and sought to lead them as faithful followers of Jesus. But even within this vocation, Mack has discerned a deeper voice, urging him to pay close attention to the poor.

Christian life, he understands, is more than seeking personal holiness. It is about loving your neighbor, no matter what it takes.

And that’s how he found himself, on a Saturday morning in 1991, walking through the Allendale neighborhood of Shreveport, just trying to be neighborly. He knew no one, and no one knew him. But he was aware that the murder rate in this area was at a rate averaging nearly two people every week.

God told him to head toward “the Bottoms,” the toughest area of the city, and go door to door. He thought about taking the easy route first—“drive-by blessings,” he calls them, recalling how he tried to hedge on his promise to God. But God told him to go door-to-door on Saturday mornings, when “the bad guys are hungover,” and try to make friends. The first people to greet him were kids, who unselfconsciously wanted to play with him. Emboldened by this spontaneous ice-breaker, he began to knock on doors, introducing himself and saying he wanted to be friends.

Many, he said, were more than a little dubious. But the key is that he came by every Saturday. And within three months, people were waiting on their row house porches, waiting for their turn to meet their gregarious neighbor.

Mack decided to enlist the help of the Bishop of Shreveport, William Friend, because in Mack’s experience, “Wherever the poor were, the Catholic Church was.”

He knew that Catholics reached out to the margins to help people. He explained to Bishop Friend his dream to renew their city by helping to establish new relationships among its residents. The bishop was convinced. He invited Mack to speak in any of the Catholic parishes in the city and gave him a check for $10,000 to get to work.

Mack and the bishop struck up a life-changing friendship. Not only did the bishop help Mack execute his dream, but he brought Mack to meet Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1998, and inspired Mack to convert to Catholicism.


Community Renewal International

In 1994, Mack founded Community Renewal International (CRI) to resurrect the foundation of relationships in neighborhoods. He understands that friendship between neighbors does more than just provide good block parties; they connect people to their faith and to the intrinsic dignity of each person.

Relationships make people feel safe, confident and optimistic. They motivate them to go to church, school and jobs and to be good and productive citizens. Mack believes that strong relationships define all healthy societies.

The areas CRI serves have seen a 52 percent reduction in major crime—but nothing is more transformational than how these neighborhoods “feel” now: children are playing outside, people are smiling, houses look tidy and colorful community gardens have replaced former drug zones. Outreach to neighbors, like what Mack did in Allendale years ago, is still fundamental to the CRI model. Mack and his team have scaled up that basic insight with three related initiatives: Haven Houses; the renewal team; and Friendship Houses.


Haven Houses

More than 1,700 diverse leaders live in Haven Houses throughout the neighborhoods and provide a broader platform for socializing among neighbors and helping each other. The leaders undergo training to become good listeners and build skills to develop relationships of trust.


The renewal team

The Renewal Team consists of more than 50,000 people — who Mack calls the largest gang in town — who have signed “We Care” pledge cards, committing to service towards their neighbors. In 2018, over 2,000 volunteers gave nearly 40,000 hours of service. Members of the Renewal Team have bumper stickers and yard signs to make their commitment visible. Driving through these neighborhoods, one now sees house after house bearing “We Care” signs.


Friendship Houses

There are 10 “Friendship Houses” spread throughout Shreveport in low-income, high-crime areas. With live-in leaders, typically a married couple, these houses are popular gathering places and a crucial presence in the neighborhoods. Children come for after-school programs, teens gather to socialize and anyone in need of comfort or a little socializing, stops by.

The success of CRI is now being replicated in nine other places: Abilene, Texas; Palestine, Texas: Houston, Texas; Shawnee, Oklahoma; Lawton, Oklahoma; Ringgold, Louisiana; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Washington, D.C.; and the country of Cameroon in Africa.



Reprinted with permission from Catholic Extension Society of America






Should Self-Care Be One of Your Duties in Life?

By Mary Arcement Alexander


Webster’s dictionary defines duty as one of the following: a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility or a task or action that someone is required to perform. Typically when people think of the word “duty,” work comes to mind as well as parenting, abiding the law, voting and/or paying taxes. But I would like to pose this question: Is self-care a duty or a choice? Let’s look at this from God’s perspective.


Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Cor. 6:19-20.


“Glorify God in your body.” Let this one phrase sink in, really sink in, and then answer this question: Is how you treat your body glorifying God? I have a strong feeling your answer is probably “no.” So often we as Christians will know and even speak of how we are made in His image or how our bodies are a temple, yet we often fail at living out this belief. As a counselor, I hear from both women and men, mostly women, about how much they hate their bodies. For some, the hatred is visceral. We know not to hate people, or for that matter, we know not to hate at all. Yet hating of one’s body is a truth for many and this truth reveals itself in both words and actions. We have control of only two things, our thoughts and our actions. Our feelings will happen on their own. Feeling hatred towards your body is technically out of your control. However, what you do with this feeling (hence thoughts and actions) circles back to what you can control. Would you like to glorify God in your body? If yes, stop wherever you are right now, close your eyes and whisper a quiet thank you to God for your body, just as it is.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35.


Had anyone told me just a few short years ago that I would not only love my time in solitude but I’d love it in the early morning, I simply would not have believed them. But here I am, relishing each day in the wee hours of the morning where it’s just me, my coffee and God. Silence truly is one of the best gifts in life and Jesus knew it all very well. I believe He too relished in His quiet time with His Father. Imagine for just a moment what it must have felt like to have people always vying for your attention?  It sounds a bit like motherhood, wouldn’t you agree, moms? I imagine, just like Jesus, you too want to go off to a solitary place and just be. I believe we all do. Taking time for yourself is not a luxury, it is a must! We all have the same 24 hours in the day, which means we all have the time. And although you may not like it, this time just may be “very early in the morning.”


You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Ps. 139:13-14


Oh how I love this scripture! When I was growing up, my mom’s hobby was sewing and quilting. She would sit for hours carefully weaving together the fabric that would evolve into her creation. Whenever I read this scripture, I have this image of God (much like my own mother), sitting in a chair with two large knitting needles in His gentle hands, carefully moving in and out, up and down, back and forth. His smile is brilliant and proud as He slowly begins to see the formation of my hands (His hands), my feet (His feet) all carefully being crafted. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.


I pose this question again: Is self-care your duty or choice? From what I hear God saying, it is not only our duty, but a way we can best glorify Him.


“God saw all that God had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31



Season of Growth and Transition

By Erin Smith


Although it may not feel quite like fall yet, autumn is officially here. Spring and fall are often seen as times of transition and new beginnings, both in our physical world and the spiritual one. In spring, we have new plant growth, warmer temperatures, and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In fall, we have the changing of the leaves, cooler temperatures (hopefully), All Saints Day and the coming celebration of the birth of our Lord.

Just as the earth and our spiritual calendars are transitioning, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is also experiencing change.

JoAnn Worley, the program coordinator in the Monroe CCNLA office, will be retiring later this month. JoAnn has served the organization for three and a half years and helped open the Monroe satellite office. She teaches the budget session for Money School in Monroe but attributes their success to the entire team. Executive Director Meg Goorley mentions that JoAnn “has the most compassionate heart of anyone I know. Her sincerity makes people feel safe in her presence. What a gift she has been to Catholic Charities!”

One of the highlights of her work at CCNLA is when a former client approached her in the store after work. The client explained to JoAnn that because of the information gleaned from the Money School budget session, she was able to find and keep a job, while paying bills on time. “That made my day!” said JoAnn.

“I can honestly say with a very grateful heart, that the beauty of the last three and a half years was seeing how God has brought all these individuals and agencies together to meet the needs of our fellow neighbors in our community,” JoAnn recounts. “Providing hope to our clients is what we do best, and it is through your generosity that this is being accomplished.”

Taking the vacant helm in Monroe will be Kirsten Gladen, a parishioner at St. Paschal’s in West Monroe. “I prayed that God would send me the perfect person to expand the office in Monroe from three to five days a week, and He sent me Kirsten Gladen,” Goorley said. “Kirsten’s experience with behavioral health and business made her the ideal candidate for us.”

“I’m excited to get out in the community and spread the word about Catholic Charities in Monroe,” Kirsten said. Mica Williams, a member of Jesus Good Shepherd, has transitioned to full-time so that she and Kirsten can better serve clients in Northeast Louisiana.

Another new face joining the organization is that of Erin Smith. Erin joins CCNLA as the new development coordinator, taking the place of Katherine Stringer-Davis. Erin’s background includes work with various nonprofits in the Shreveport-Bossier area as well as public relations and marketing efforts for various businesses. “I’m excited to help grow CCNLA,” Erin said, “and further our message of love, hope and help for the most vulnerable among us.”

CCNLA will soon begin work to ready the charity’s new location in Shreveport. The building at 902 Olive Street in Shreveport, a former breast-imaging center, is a gift from the Diocese of Shreveport. Thanks to a generous donation from the Christus Foundation in 2017, the Diocese was able to deed the property to CCNLA in September. Renovations may take up to 18 months.

While transitions can sometimes be scary, Catholic Charities is meeting their changes with excitement and anticipation for a season of growth. “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Second Collections

By Fr. Rothell Price


Archdiocese for Military Services

Collection Dates: November 9th & 10th 

Announcement Dates: October 27th & November 3rd 


The National Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) is taken up in Catholic parishes throughout the United States once every three years since it was established in 2013.  The proceeds from this national collection will support pastoral care and ministry to Catholic families stationed all around the world, as well as to Catholic patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs

Medical Centers throughout the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. Since the Archdiocese for the Military Services receives no funding from the U.S. Government or the U.S. Military, the AMS is entirely dependent on private giving from Catholics such as you and me.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the Ordinary of the AMS, wrote: “Increasing the Catholic community’s awareness about the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and its sole responsibility for the spiritual care of approximately 1.8 million Catholic men, women and children who hail from all 50 states and U.S. territories – including those from your own parish – is of critical importance.”  Please participate willingly and generously in the National Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

We American Catholics have a unique opportunity to support Catholic ministry in the U.S. military and to all who seek treatment at VA Medical Centers.  Through your participation in the National Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, active duty and retired veterans from East Texas, Southern Arkansas, North and Central Louisiana, and West Mississippi are spiritually cared for.

Please help the AMS meet an assortment of pressing financial challenges. Above all, make it possible for them to bring the presence of Jesus Christ and His Church to our active and retired military families.  Give generously to the National Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.


By Kim Long


“Behold, I am making all things new.”  Revelation 21


In our “post-modern” secular driven society it is even more difficult to be, as St. Paul tells us, “in the world but not of the world;” – more difficult to live the life of a believer.

Gratitude… I seldom see it coming. And let me tell you I absolutely didn’t see it this time. It crept up on my blind side and hit me over the head.

The church was pretty full, especially for a funeral these days. The cantor got us on our feet and we began almost with automation, singing the time-worn verses of “Amazing Grace;” its phrases and comforts sealed in my heart since childhood.  I watched as the family struggled down the aisle in varying stages of numbness and raw grief.

As the reader that day I whispered a prayer: “Please God let them hear you and not me.” The Mass of the Resurrection was moving right along. Time now for the Liturgy of the word. The First Reading posed no problem, an easy “two-pointer:” the Psalm, a favorite, sounded fresh on my ears and I seemed to really  hear it for the first time. I chose the Second Reading as a safe bet – a lesser-known passage from Revelation. Looking up I caught sight of my friend who was grappling with the loss of her husband and best friend. I faltered. Glancing up from the text my eyes rested on his daughters. I stumbled a second time. The rest of the words caught in my throat and I breathed deeply. Finishing up, my reading bouncing off the rim, merely passable.

Returning to the ambo for the intercessions, I felt, and not for the first time that day, tears pricking my eyes. Soon I was back in my seat, the song for the preparation of gifts reminding me that God is truly my stronghold and I shall not be afraid at all. And I do not believe I am afraid, but neither am I ready to look my own mortality in the face and if I am honest, for the first time it felt as if we were staring one another down.

The Mass of the Resurrection was at a close. I know from experience that the hardest days are still to come for this family. Those ordinary Tuesdays, “the rest of us barely register” when the casseroles are on the wane and everyone who was full of comfort has returned to work. The house can seem too empty and quiet. Perhaps this is why we lingered, first in the vestibule, then down the steps and finally in the Parish Hall where some food awaited the family and friends.

In the coming days, I will hold this family in prayer and for the first time in my life, I will pray for everyone who is going through this, that they feel the healing touch of God. I am sincerely thankful for the many times I have felt His touch in my own life.

Driving home I thought how gratitude had come into play with this funeral. It wasn’t that I was grateful “it wasn’t happening to me,” for as brothers and sisters in Christ, each death affects us on some level. I was suffused with gratitude that I responded to God’s invitation to the Catholic faith and its particular way of life; grateful that I had taken time from my busy schedule to be present in a small way to this family at this difficult time. I am grateful my path is laid out; that from baptism to the celebration of life in the world to come we are guided by, among other things, the liturgy which I see today so clearly, as alive and breathing life into us.

Behold we are all being made anew.



He Loves Us Wherever We Are

By Mike VanVranken


When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying: He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner Luke 19:7. This passage from the familiar story of Zacchaeus the tax collector and Jesus having dinner at Zach’s place might lead us to assume that Jesus is not doing his Jewish duty (keeping the more than 600 Mosaic Laws) which forbid him to dine with sinners. To them, this was both a physical and spiritual betrayal or separation from other law-abiding, righteous Jews. Why wouldn’t Jesus just do his duty and abide by the law and keep his distance from these sinners?

A single mother raised her three daughters teaching them from early childhood the importance of family relationships. Sunday meals became such a tradition that once the daughters were grown and married, the mother still prepared Sunday dinner for everyone. After many years, during one such Sunday meal, the mother asked her three daughters why they had been so faithful to bringing their husbands and children to these dinners each week.

The youngest began: “Mom, you know we are so busy with school-work, soccer games, our own jobs and many other responsibilities. But we know you would be very upset if we didn’t show up on Sundays, and we would never want to make you mad at us. We feel it is our duty to be here.” The middle daughter followed with: “Well, our family is just as busy as our baby sister’s family is. But you’ve always been there for us, so we feel like we owe it to you to at least be here on Sundays for you.”

The oldest smiled, walked over and hugged her mother and responded: “Yes, mom, we are all very busy, and we know how important these meals are to you and how wonderful you have always been to us. But, for me, over the years I have fallen in love with you and all who you are. I bring my family to Sunday dinners because I love you so much that I want what you want. I find joy wherever you find joy. Sunday dinner with you is an expression of my love for you, not because you might get upset if we don’t come, nor is it some duty I owe you. I’m here solely because I love you and love being with you.”

The mother beamed with joy and love as she walked over and hugged and kissed each of her daughters. She said: “I love all three of you so much, and you have all filled me with joy and consolation today.”

Which one of the daughters do you think the mother loved the most? She loved them all three equally. That’s what mothers do. They each have a relationship with their mother that inspired them to be present each Sunday. It brought her joy and happiness.

This story can somewhat mirror our own relationship with God. In our youth, it is necessary to learn discipline in our prayer practices, acts of charity, and our attendance at Sunday Liturgy. It begins as our duty. I believe this is good and holy to be trained this way.

As we grow in our relationship with God, sometimes we look back and realize all of the continuous and many graces God has blessed us with over the years and is still blessing us with today. At this point of our journey, we might feel so loved by God that we want to be with him from a perspective of “we owe it to him.”  After all, how can we ever repay him? Again, I believe this is a good and holy approach to our being with God in prayer, loving others, as well as worship.

And then sometimes, we find ourselves so madly, intimately and totally in love with God that we want only what he wants. We’ve grown from receiving the sacraments and going to Mass as a result of duty or even a debt, and find we experience the sacraments, Mass, and works of mercy because they are part of our love relationship with God. In Jesus’ case, he loved the Father so much, having dinner with Zacchaeus and his friends was his way of loving God as his neighbor.

Which of these is better?  They are all good and holy. The beauty is, wherever we are on this continuum with God, he loves us unconditionally and infinitely. We don’t compare ourselves to or judge each other. We are here to serve God by loving him and loving all of his creation, including all people. Each day, we just try to do it, with God’s grace, the best we can.

In your daily prayer time this month, remember to thank and praise God for loving you no matter where you have been, or are now in your journey with him. He loves you no matter what inspires you to serve him.

Director of Pastoral Ministry

By Randy G. Tiller

Diocesan Administration, which is often referred to as “the Catholic Center,” has always been envisioned to be a resource and of assistance to our priests, parishes, missions, schools, and the faithful of the diocese. In the past, there have been paths that were pursued in an effort to fulfill the mission.

It is with pleasure, excitement and enthusiasm that we make the following announcement of a NEW path – a new structure for outreach and ministry in our Diocesan Administration.

As of August 5, 2019,  after several discussions of what the future should hold and how it should look, we were fortunate to find an individual with the credentials and qualifications to step up to the plate and assist the Catholic Center as we begin our journey on this new path.

So what is this new role?  Seeing the need for more efforts toward our Youth and Young Adults, Campus Ministry, Hispanic Ministry and other outreach ministries; such as, Prison Ministry, Rachel’s Vineyard, Family Life Ministries, Catechesis, Vocations, Prolife, Liturgy and Worship; it became obvious to the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Administrator, the Moderator of the Curia and the Chancellor that something new and different needed to happen.

Therefore, a new position of responsibility and organization was established to enhance all “pastoral ministries.”  Mr. Mark Loyet, a staff member of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, will be joining the administrative team within the next month or so to take over the reins of “pastoral ministry.”  First Mr. Loyet will be getting a firm handle on Youth and Young Adult Ministries and Campus Ministry and will then be moving into the other pastoral fields.  He will have a wonderful opportunity to overlap with Mrs. Dianne Rachal, current Director of Worship, before her retirement in December 2019, and to establish a bond and relationship with Mrs. Rosalba Quiroz who will continue as the Director of Hispanic Ministry.

Mr. Loyet has years of experience as a Youth Minister of students in both high school and junior high and recruiting, training and managing teams of volunteers.  He assisted with the March for Life in Monroe, youth leadership camps, directed Teen ACTS retreats, and organized and worked with youth leadership and advisory councils.

In the realm of Catechesis and teaching, Mark has written and implemented lessons and curriculums as well as coordinated Confirmation preparation programs and Protecting God’s Children classes.  He has worked with business managers to maintain budgets in collaboration with pastors and has engaged in extensive fund raising for all youth events. He has taught Sunday School Catechism, been a 7th grade religion teacher, and a Confirmation catechist.

Other pastoral ministries Mr. Loyet has been involved with include Prison Ministry as a Juvenile Detention and Probation Officer, involving assessments which screen for abuse, making recommendations to Juvenile Court, and conducting audits to ensure that they were in compliance with juvenile justice department standards.

Liturgy and worship involvement has included training altar servers, teaching RCIA, coordinating Youth Masses, conferring with church staff and other ministry teams.All of this experience and these skills have been developed and honed in the workplace. His education has taken him to the University of Dallas to study Western Theology and Christology; he received a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of North Texas with relevant courses including Religions of the World, Micro-Counseling, Research Methods, and Human Behavior in the Social Environment.Mr. Loyet has been accepted to pursue a Master’s Degree over the next several years from Holy Apostles College and Seminary while staying on the job and sharing his wisdom and expertise with the Diocese of Shreveport.He has extensive musical training, audio/video engineering, extensive interior and exterior home remodeling, as well as, a youth band member and band leader.

Mr. Loyet was born and raised Catholic.  He and his wife are proud parents of four sons and one daughter.  Talking with Mark, you soon realize that he is a passionate and effective youth mentor, teacher, advocate and coordinator.  “He feels his primary goals in this position should be to collaborate with, support, assist and empower priests and parishes, both their youth and youth ministers in the evangelization, formation, education and commissioning of young people to know, love and live the Gospel through evangelization, catechesis, advocacy, leadership development, service opportunities, pastoral guidance, prayer and reception of the sacraments.”

“There is an appointed time for everything…a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to keep and a time to cast away…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NAB).

The timing is right for the Diocese of Shreveport to begin this new journey with a fresh approach to our pastoral ministries.

Please welcome Mark Loyet!

Exploring the History of St. Matthew Church

By John Mark Willcox

Exiting I-20 in downtown Monroe on Jackson Street you are met with a beautiful sight….the majestic spire of St. Matthew Church which has stood in downtown Monroe for nearly 120 years.  Close observation reveals that all four of the clock faces of the spire are new.  “They are working and tell perfect time,” comments Pastor Rev. Mark Franklin.  “We refurbished every one and we have a man that comes twice a year to keep them oiled and in good working condition.”  Spoken like a priest who loves his parish, and that has always been the case with St. Matthew Church and the generations of Catholics who have worshipped at the second oldest parish in the diocese.  Walking through the Sanctuary with Fr. Mark as your guide takes one back to a former time and place, when North Louisiana was beginning to grow while facing the formidable challenges of frontier living.

During the mid 1800’s, Monroe was the principal city of Northern Louisiana and Shreveport was referred to as “that small village in the Northwest.”  The Ouachita River was navigable and many times steam paddle wheelers counted the city of Monroe as their final destination northward in Louisiana.

Railroads had roared in from the East and Monroe was fast becoming a commerce center and the gateway to the northern reaches of a region that Spanish missionaries and explorers had been visiting for several centuries.  Shreveport suffered with a useless main water artery in the Red River which was choked with logs and debris (the great raft) for many miles, heading into Natchitoches.

Fr. Patrick Canavan received the assignment to provide the faithful of the Monroe area a place to gather and worship in 1851.  By 1856, St. Matthew had become an established parish and was pastored by now legendary Fr. Louis Gergaud who had migrated to the area from Britanny, France. Fr. Gergaud witnessed the arrival of steam ships on the Ouachita and the rapid growth of the rail industry while he shepherded his flock through the tragedy of America’s Civil War. He spent much of his waking hours tending to the wounded in makeshift hospitals and it is said that he brought over fifty soldiers into the Church as they lay on their deathbeds.   In addition, Fr. Gergaud established a Catholic school for the parish in 1863 with a beginning roster of sixty pupils.  The impact that Fr. Gergaud had on the foundational formation of St. Matthew’s faith community cannot be overstated as his tireless efforts produced a healthy, active parish.

 In 1873, Fr. Gergaud answered the call for help from Shreveport which was mired in a devastating Yellow Fever epidemic which had already taken scores of lives on a daily basis.  He knew he was going to his death and shared that feeling with the faithful before his departure from St. Matthew.  Just five days after his arrival in Shreveport, Fr. Gergaud contracted Yellow Fever tending to the victims and died on October 1, 1873.  After one year, his body was finally returned to his beloved  Monroe where he was laid to rest in St. Matthew’s Cemetery.  “He gave everything he had to God’s people including his life,” comments Fr. Franklin as he gazes on Fr. Gergaud’s crystal white grave marker.  “The people of St. Matthew have always been proud that his grave is in our cemetery.”  Fr. Gergaud was one of five Catholic priests and two women religious who lost their lives heroically caring for the stricken people of Shreveport during the famous Yellow Fever epidemic which took the lives of a quarter of Shreveport’s residents.As the faith community increased in size, the earlier wooden structure that had served as the Church was replaced with the present sanctuary that was consecrated on December 27, 1905.  A succession of dynamic pastors lead the faithful of St. Matthew through the next century beginning with Fr. N. F. Vandegaer who grew the number of families served by the parish to over one thousand by 1919.  With the help of Bishop Charles P. Greco, Rev. John C. Marsh guided St. Matthew to the completed  construction of a school gymnasium and rectory in 1950.  There is no more beloved priest of the Eastern Deanery than the legendary Msgr. George Martinez who served St. Matthew as Pastor from 1976 to 1990 before his retirement but he never severed his close connections to a parish he first began serving in 1948, with the St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy just down the street named in his memory.

Older structures require plenty of care, refurbishment and maintenance and St. Matthew  Church is certainly no exception.  It was only fitting that Fr. Joseph Puthuppally assumed the role of Pastor in 1997.  It was Fr. Joe who led the way to renovate the exterior and interior of the church, including the now famous cobalt blue ceiling f of the nave apse ceiling.  “People use to draw a quick breath when they first saw the roof,” comments Fr. Mark.  “But now, it seems like it has always been there.”

The parish  has also recently reacquired its former school gymnasium and now has a large gathering space for parish and community events.  When he is not using the space to build additional sacramental furniture for the church sanctuary, Fr. Mark is assessing what will be needed to make the space functional once more.  “We have over 6,000 square feet in this structure,” comments Fr. Mark.  “We are going to make it serve the parish effectively in the near future.”

The future looks bright for the faithful of St. Matthew as Mass attendance is strong and there is the benefit of new members joining the parish meaning that this beacon of the faith on Jackson Street will continue to share the light of Christ to the faithful of the region.  “We have a beautiful worship space and a fine congregation of good Catholic people,” reminds Fr. Mark.  “What more could you ask for at your place of worship!”


*Many thanks to Chase E. Machen for his detailed history of St. Matthew Church in his 2001 book of the same name which chronicles the remarkable story of this unique faith community.

How God Called Me Home

By Mary Arcement Alexander

As a child I was constantly getting into trouble for both my attitude as well as my eye-rolling. It would typically entail my mother yelling at me and telling me to go to my room. Fast forward to my later 20’s and early 30’s, and I found myself once again having a bad attitude and rolling my eyes, only this time it wasn’t in my childhood home with my parents, but rather in God’s home with my Lord.  He didn’t yell nor send me to my room, rather, He waited. He waited for my attitude to change and my eyes to once again focus on Him. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9

I grew up the last of four children in a small South Louisiana town. Everyone was Catholic, or at least that is what my child’s mind thought. I attended Catholic school K through 12, went to Mass every Wednesday and, of course, every Sunday. My family never missed Mass. Never. We used to joke that we could vacation in the Sahara desert and my parents would find a Catholic church for us to attend. This way of thinking stayed with me throughout my struggles to remain Catholic.

My first memory of questioning whether or not to remain Catholic came during college. It was primarily due to living in North Louisiana where Catholics seemed few and far between. Also, I did not like standing out. As I aged into my 20’s and 30’s my reasons shifted to the more common reasons people will give:  The Mass is boring, I’m not getting anything out of this, the Church has too many rules, the homily is boring, I don’t like the priest (to name a few). And to make my case even stronger, it was during this same time that the first scandals in the Church came to light. This is when my struggles grew even stronger. Ironically, God used those years to slowly but surely ease me back home. In my early 30’s I continued to attend Mass (almost) every Sunday, mainly due to my upbringing with a sprinkle of guilt. I would sit towards the back of church on the aisle and feel nothing but frustration and boredom. This is when my bad attitude heightened (along with eye rolling) and judgment towards the Church and priest became evermore present. I recall sitting in church at various times and asking myself, “Why? Why am I here? All I need to do is stop coming. I have free will. I can go to any church I choose. So why am I still here?” I did not know it then, but I kept going back because of God. Because He wanted me there. He had a plan, a vision for me and He needed me to stay steady despite how I felt. During these same years I would attend different churches from time to time and not one of them ever felt like home. I tried so hard to make one particular church feel like home, but it just didn’t happen. Nothing seemed to be happening, until my fateful conversation with my brother Corey.

Corey and I were riding to our parents house for the weekend, just the two of us, so I thought I would take this opportunity to pick his brain. My brother had then recently renewed his commitment to the Catholic church. I felt desperate for answers then and wanted him to give me the magic answer. Of course, there is no magic answer. Or perhaps there was? When asked, he simply replied, “Pray, Mary. Ask God for help.” Really (I thought). That’s all you have for me, brother? It was both a disappointment and a revelation all at once. I decided to take his advice and simply pray. Pray more, pray differently, pray with more feeling. And lo and behold, it worked.

I don’t remember the exact day or time, but I do remember the feeling. The feeling of sitting in Mass one random Sunday in my mid-30’s and no longer having my bad attitude nor rolling my eyes. He had waited patiently for me to once again fix my eyes upon Him. I willingly did so and I haven’t looked away since.