Category Archives: Local News

Loyola’s Villalba Brings Faith to Life

by Lisa Cooper

Often referred to as the happiest place on campus, the classroom of religion teacher Marcos Villalba is where freshman Flyers are learning to ARISE. An acronym Villalba has taught his students from their first day, it represents the life and conduct of a true follower of Christ. Each day, Villalba inspires his students to Aspire for greatness in all they undertake, offering each thought and deed to the Lord; Respect the dignity of all by treating each other as divinely created and worthy of that honor; Interact with courage and joy by heartily participating in class discussions without fear of criticism; Serve out of love by helping each other and completing service hours in the spirit of humility and charity; and Edify one another in Christ, serving as a witness of Christ by building each other up instead of tearing others down.

Each semester, classes vote and award five students with an award for those who best exemplify the virtues of ARISE. To help each student on this journey, Villalba uses the YouBible and YouCat daily, having students read, take notes, and, most importantly, ask and answer questions.

The innovation and inspiration in Villalba’s classroom don’t stop there. He has instituted a class-ranking system through which classes compete against each other for the highest average in order to win a pizza party at the end of each semester.
“I knew that to get guys involved, there must include some level of competition,” says Villalba, “and I wanted a way to get the students to work together for the greater good of them all.”

In addition to the class average, students compete for the highest number of golden crosses. “Just like a teacher may put a golden star on a paper, I put golden crosses on the tests of students who make 100 percent.” The winning class gets a dessert party at the end of the semester. A glance at the board where class rankings and golden crosses are listed indicates that students have enthusiastically embraced this challenge.

What may be most impressive about Villalba’s teaching style is his ability to take even the mundane tasks like cleaning up the classroom after each period and infuse them with purpose. Each class gets a participation grade, and any student who leaves books out of place or trash on the floor loses points for his class. What’s more is that the Bibles in Villalba’s class are treated with particular honor.

“By ensuring that they are never left under other books or on the floor,” Villalba says, “I can use even a small thing to teach students to respect God’s word.”

The students’ favorite perk of Villalba’s class is his willingness to recognize their ideas and input on how to make the class engaging. “Every class has a president and vice president that they elect,” Villalba explains. “They are responsible for coming up with ideas about how we can learn God’s word without having to be confined to the classroom.”

His students have participated in potluck Bible studies, gone together to see Paul, Apostle of Christ at the theater, and enjoyed class at various locations on and off campus. Students also participate in a unique way by contributing to a class music play list that Villalba allows during certain times during class. During Lent, students opted to give up their play lists to learn more about the saints – a practice that has been so well received it has continued through Easter. Instead of their music, students eagerly listen to audio-dramas depicting the lives of the saints in real stories about their lives.

Villalba’s credits his love for Christ and his desire to communicate that love to students for his success in the classroom, and students recognize and appreciate his passion. Finding freshmen who are eager to talk about how much they are learning from Villalba is easy, but one statement reoccurs among them all: “We just love Mr. Villalba – he’s the best.”

Celebrating Senior Month and Aging Beauty

by Sr. Martinette Rivers

As the world celebrates an “Ode to Elders” during this month dedicated to us, I think this lovely song is a great beginning. In the song, “Get It Together” by India Aire, she says “You’ll never be happy and you’ll never be whole until you find the beauty in growing old.”

Aging is a universal condition. But the way we try to hide it, you would think it was a plague. Everyone knows that we are growing older. I don’t ever remember being afraid of “oldness.”

In a youth-oriented society, we do not see the old as models of success. Rabbi A. Heschel, in his book, The Insecurity of Freedom, calls aging people the true “gold mines of a culture.” Most societies struggle with how they are to treat their elders. What do we do with those declining in years? With age comes maturity and wisdom. As we read in Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old.” As we treat another may we be treated as well.

Researchers find that the effect of a person’s attitude about aging has a lasting impact on how long they live. Attitude can be a problem if we think that we get worse as we become older and that we have less pep and feel less useful. Those oldsters need an attitudinal change before it’s too late. Getting older is not a negative experience for me, but it’s difficult to escape negative stereotypes about aging in our society. The more I read, and even at times experience this as I grow older, I reflect on The Seven Wonders of Aging that I wrote when I was in my sixties. They are still my suggestions for people to age gracefully, with an open mind, heart and spirit. They have helped me to create a stage where I feel comfortable aging with God, as the producer and we as the actors and actresses. It is on that stage that we will learn the mystery, the unseen beauty and the joy in aging. They are the motivating forces for me as I grow older, day by day.

Finding the beauty in growing old not only helps us, but rejuvenates the spirit of others in some way. My plan was and is to help others to savor and enjoy the best of their years. It can be a period of new vision. The blessings we have received we must also share with others. Without a spiritual purpose we can easily slip into ageist attitudes which can rob us of our joy and purpose in life as we age.

There is no one way, right or wrong, to grow older. Why should growing older be such a big deal? “Grey hair, wrinkles and smile lines are beautiful accessories,” according to Naomi Wolf. I tend to agree with her. She reminds us oldsters how futile it is to try to remain ageless and focus all our attention on our exterior looks.

Regardless of our outward appearance as we grow older, we are beautiful at our very core. We can’t stop our inner beauty from glowing forth. Beauty is found in respecting the needs of others, as well as in our response to their needs. Beauty is found in humor, the honor of giving and goodness in compassion. These are found more often than not in nursing homes.
Consider this during the Senior Month of May, an older person you know who is attractive and beautiful because of their age. “Beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder, and therefore beauty comes in many, many forms.” Psychiatrist Gerald May in Additions and Grace.

The moment an aging person begins to delight in beauty, their mind, body and spirit are beginning to see with the heart. As we each spend time reflecting on our age, we might ask ourselves this question: What kind of badges of aging do we have? Wrinkles, thinning grey hair, gnarled knuckles, shaky hands, smiles on our faces, wobbly knees – all genuine tales of our lives, work, joys and struggles which become more beautiful each passing day. What shape and form our future will take on, only God knows. Truly aging is a great art! When will God’s masterpiece of us be finished? Let’s go out dancing, laughing and smiling. In spite of the mystery in our aging, our beauty will live on in the hearts of others.

Diocesan Pro-Life Oratory Contest Winners Announced

Bishop Michael Duca gives 1st place winner, Celeste Lirette, her prize money. Pictured with them is Contest Coordinator Anthony Fabio.

by Anthony Fabio

The Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Committee has announced the local winners of its high school oratory contest. Celeste Lirette, a junior at Loyola College Prep, won first place with her insightful presentation about Pope Paul VI and his encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He predicted 50 years ago that artificial contraception would lead to a devaluation of human life, which unfortunately has come true beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. In some countries, China for example, the government has tragically mandated forced contraception, abortion and sterilization. Celeste was awarded $500 for her speech and will advance to the State Finals in Baton Rouge in May.

Second place honors were captured by Zaige Wills, a junior at Byrd High School. Zaige pointed out that the babies who are aborted could have been adopted and gone on to have happy and productive lives. He said a baby who was aborted could have discovered a cure for cancer. God has placed each child here for a reason and each one deserves the right to life. Zaige was awarded $200 for his stirring presentation.

The competition was held April 10, 2018, at the Catholic Center in Shreveport.

Now in its 30th year, the contest challenges students to consider the bioethical issues of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and fetal stem cell research from a pro-life perspective.

The contest is non-denominational and was sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport. Bishop Michael G. Duca considers the contest an important component of the whole spectrum of respect life and encourages all young people to make their voices heard on these important issues.

State and National sponsors are the Louisiana Right to Life Federation and the National Right to Life.

For more information, contact Anthony Fabio,
Visit their Facebook page:

Louisiana Tech’s ACTS Spring Retreat Builds Community

by Courtney Smith

The Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS) of Louisiana Tech in Ruston recently retreated to Gospel, Inc., for their annual Spring Retreat. The entirely student-planned weekend focused on the theme “the JOY of the Lord is our strength,” from Nehemiah.

The retreatants explored this theme through building, which resonated with the students who were mostly engineering majors. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the Exile, and on the retreat, the students built wells and in the process, their community.

The retreatants were gathered into small discussion groups who met throughout the retreat for reflection. Each time they met, they lit sanctuary candles (the candles next to the tabernacle, reminding us of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist). During their first meeting, each group got to build. The groups each built a panel of Styrofoam “bricks,” which were assembled to make a larger well that served the whole community for the weekend.

Retreatants took blue paper, symbolizing water, from the well to write affirmations of one another throughout the retreat.
In addition to small groups, the students met to reflect with prayer partners, and they too got to build. They built small “wells” that doubled as votive candle holders, which they lit each time they met for reflection.

The retreat ended at the 7:00 p.m. student Mass at St. Thomas Parish, where the retreatants brought their JOY and the strength they had gained from all their building, both physical and spiritual, back to the larger church community.

Grant Brings Money School to Rural Community


by Lucy Medvec

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) recently took its financial education class, The Money School, on the road to Ringgold and it was all made possible by a grant from Jonesboro State Bank. The Pledge 10 Grant Program is Jonesboro State Bank’s pledge to invest 10% of their profits in Jackson Parish and the surrounding areas (Bienville, Winn and southern Lincoln parishes) in order to create a better community.

Through the Pledge 10 Grant, CCNLA employees Joe Bulger and Carl Piehl recently held The Money School for citizens in Ringgold (Bienville Parish) in order to teach them financial literacy and provide assistance with their rent and utility bills. CCNLA was first approached by David Saucier, retired educator and a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Ringgold. After observing a Money School class in Shreveport, Saucier wanted to bring its message to the people of Ringgold because he felt that it could improve their lives. CCNLA worked with Saucier and a dedicated group of volunteers to present two weeks of Money School classes and then meet with clients to assess their financial situations. Volunteers worked alongside CCNLA case managers to interview clients, provide financial coaching and then help determine which clients would receive financial assistance.

Pledge 10 Director Christie Weeks was able to observe one of The Money School sessions in Ringgold and was extremely pleased with the results.

“Bringing The Money School to a rural community like Ringgold is important because many people have limited access to transportation and cannot travel to one of the Catholic Charities offices,” said Weeks. “The clients seemed to really enjoy the class and it was a great atmosphere.” Weeks was also pleased to see local students who were studying for their General Educational Development (GED) sit in on The Money School. “We can all learn something from The Money School and it is never too early to start.”

Volunteers David Feming, Martha Grigg, Steve Young and Alonzo Alford.

Funds from Catholic Charities’ Pledge 10 Grant were used to provide emergency financial assistance towards the clients’ rent and utility bills, with a small percentage used for travel expenses and outreach supplies. With the success of the Ringgold Money School, Catholic Charities will continue to reach out to other rural communities throughout the diocese to bring The Money School to their residents. As long as there are people in need, CCNLA’s Director of Financial Stability, Carl Piehl, is up for the trip.

“There are many people in our area who need help and need someone to listen,” said Piehl. “Through the lessons we provide through The Money School, we can continue to reach those who are willing to change their financial situations and improve their lives.”

To attend a Money School class (as a participant or observer), please visit for days and times. For more information about Jonesboro State Bank’s pledge to the community, visit

Summer Camps for Teens

Click to download the flyer!

St. John Berchmans School Reigns as 10 Time Science Olympiad State Champions!


by Mary Simpson

The St. John Berchmans Science Olympiad team won the State Science Olympiad competition held in Hammond, LA in March of this year – in fact, they have won it 10 times in a row! The team will represent the state of Louisiana when they head to Ft. Collins, CO, to compete in the National Science Olympiad Competition in May.

The National Science Olympiad was started 30 years ago as a grassroots gathering of science teachers. The short version of their mission is “… Improve the quality of K-12 science education, increase interest in science, create a technologically literate workforce and provide recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers.” The achievement of that mission is through the tournaments, incorporating Science Olympiad into classroom curriculum and attending professional development workshops. Over 7,800 teams from across the country compete in invitational, regional, state and national tournaments. Each team consists of 15 members. Teams compete in 23 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) events.

St. John Berchmans School (SJB) began Science Olympiad 12 years ago with Jo Cazes, principal at the time. Along with the late Norma Waters and Amy Knight, they coached and developed student skills to compete in Science Olympiad. This commitment to STEM was pervasive throughout the whole school. SJB not only became a STEM school, but it is now a STREAM school (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math).

When Cazes came to SJB, it was a time of transition. She brought the Science Olympiad program to give the students a “win.” That win began the second year they competed and has not stopped since.

Amy Knight is one of the coaches who started as a parent, and then not only became involved with Science Olympiad, she became the middle school science teacher at SJB. For her, the best thing about Science Olympiad is, “Being able to expose our students, from our small school to a nationally recognized program.” She went on to say, “the material they learn is at the high school level.” Many of the students take the knowledge and skills they learn and receive college scholarships. Knight added, “I am proud of how much effort our students put in to win medals and State Championship titles. They earn that trophy every year. It isn’t just given to us.”

Students have to try out for the Science Olympiad team. They join Science Olympiad for many reasons. Reese Mekelburg, a sixth grader, who is new to Science Olympiad, wanted to join the team as soon as he was old enough. He loves science. He loves to tinker and figure things out. His mother, Rene, loves the experience of the kids creating friendships through the different age groups.

“Seeing the mentors guide and help these kids is a wonderful experience. They give up so much of their time to help these kids. As a parent, this is a great benefit not only educationally, but socially as he learns to work with others.”

SJB reaps the benefits of Science Olympiad through the implementation of STEM curriculum. Students who participate have much to offer in the classroom. Since middle school science is collaborative, other students get to share in the knowledge and skills of the Olympians. While the competition outside of school is done by the middle schoolers, the elementary students participate in a mini Science Olympiad in the spring. Third, fourth and fifth grade students create projects in various STEM areas and compete in an afternoon full of science. Students learn how to collaborate and solve a multitude of scientific challenges.

SJB proudly displays 10 banners as state Science Olympiad state champions in the school’s multi-room. Students who have graduated from SJB have continued studying science in many areas, including graduating college with engineering degrees, attending medical school and conducting research in other scientific fields. Students are prepared academically to work hard and implement the Scientific Method.

The SJB Science Olympiad team will be traveling to the national tournament on May 17, 2018. Please keep this team in your prayers for a safe journey. There is a current fundraising drive as parents pay the cost of travel for their children. If you would like to contribute to this program, please send donations to the school office at St. John Berchmans School, 947 Jordan Street, Shreveport.

Behind the Scenes of the 2018 Pro-Life Reception

by L’Anne Sciba

March 20, the day of the 2018 Pro-Life Reception benefiting Mary’s House, dawned as a perfect first day of Spring! Decorating the Bossier Civic Center was complete, only Vivian and I were still there when Trisha, Mary’s House Clinic Director, called me to say Abby Johnson was in the Emergency Room in Austin, Texas, and might not make it to Shreveport. I thought Trisha was joking. She was not joking.

I asked Vivian to sit down with me and we prayed remembering that this was an opportunity to trust God.
In the end, Abby was determined to make it to our reception. She was released from the ER and she and her traveling companion, rented a car, drove five-and-a-half hours, making it to the event only 10 minutes late for her presentation.

When I compare what I would have done, it looks like this: Worn out from the stress of passing out in the airport, being transported by ambulance to the ER, going through three hours of medical tests and waiting at the hospital. I would have gone home and said I’m sorry this happened, I can not make it to the event.
Abby did not do that. That action alone, made me think about how I handle difficulty.

What happened in Shreveport was this:
The Reception team made alternative plans in case Abby didn’t make it in time, keeping trust in God, His peace and patience in the forefront of their minds. That evening, some things did not go according to our plans, we made changes as it seemed best.

Abby Johnson showed up. She gave an amazing, inspiring presentation that each one of us can “do something” to end abortion in Shreveport.

What I learned AGAIN was never give up or give in. Always try to do God’s will and trust in Him.
Mary’s House continues to spread that confidence to every young woman who comes to us. Volunteers, donors, the prayer team, churches, doctors and hospital staff who work with us all have the goal of helping young women in unplanned pregnancies.

The 2018 Pro-Life Reception was another way God showed me that He is God and His grace is always with us.

I love this quote from Pierre de Caussade: “Sanctity (holiness) is fulfilling faithfully and accepting lovingly whatever this paternal providence ordains we should do or suffer.”

What an adventure!

Confirmation Retreat

The Confirmation Class from St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport joined students from the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for a retreat at The Pines Camp in preparation for their upcoming Confirmations.

Black History Month Celebration at Sacred Heart in Shreveport

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Shreveport celebrated Black History Month with a special program honoring Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. on Sunday, February 25, at 2:00 p.m. The program included Music from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Crosby Family singers and Shachiri Henderson. Will Parker shared the story of Dr. King along with the “I have a Dream” speech. A special presentation honored Isaac Palmer for his many accomplishments and as the first African American CEO of Christus Health System of North Louisiana.