Category Archives: Local News

Evangelists Remind Us of Our Precious Gift of Faith

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by Deacon Mike Whitehead

Bunny Austin, Gerald Govin, Bobbie Harlan, John Munger, Terry Byrnes, Josephine Pupillo, Norma Lenard, Joycelyn Majeste, James Tuma, Sam DeFatta, Cambize Schardar, Maria Steele, Judy Landry, Maudie Baranowski, Agatino DiStefano, Sudie Corbett, Oris Remedies, Regina Rivers, Matilda Yamin, Ruth Driver, Charles Kammer, Mary Ann Simms, Jaye Byrd, Lelia Hill, Peggy Harky, Patsy Blanchard, Marilyn Lang
Perhaps you know one or more people on this list. Perhaps not. But every one of them has helped me improve my faith life. All of them reside at The Oaks of Louisiana and I have the  privilege of bringing them communion most Monday mornings.

If you asked them individually, they would never call themselves evangelists. But they are true evangelists, true witnesses to the good news of our Catholic faith. Over the time I’ve been going to The Oaks, these women and men have inspired me and guided me. Mostly, they have reminded me of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what a precious gift that is for all of us.

We begin our Monday at The Oaks with Mass at 9:30 a.m. Not all of our Catholic brothers and sisters are physically able to attend Mass, but we do have a faithful and faith-filled group that regularly come to the beautiful chapel.

John Munger is among them. For years, Mr. John has come early to set up for Mass. You always can count on Mr. John. Even if he’s not feeling his best, he’s there, and his sense of humor is always front and center. You could say he’s been the cornerstone to make sure everything is ready to go for the priest celebrating that morning. Lately, Terry Byrnes has been helping, as well. In fact, Terry is so excited, he arrives before all of us and gets things going. Mr. John, Mr. Terry and all our regular attendees live their faith, and you can see that in the sacred moments of our worshiping together.

Every week, Mr. Schardar wheels in on his motorized scooter, and every week we begin with the same greeting. I ask Mr. Schardar if he had a good weekend, and Mr. Schardar always describes his weekend in one word, “fabulous.” Now, I’ve had a fabulous weekend every-now-and-then, but not every weekend. But Mr. Schardar always has a great attitude, and that wonderful spirit always gives me a lift every Monday morning.

There is someone who comes every week, but doesn’t live at The Oaks –– Kenneth Richard. He’s been coming to The Oaks since 1989, the year his parents moved into the facility. In 1994, Kenneth lost his dad, then in 1995, his mom passed away. But Kenneth didn’t stop coming. He comes to Mass every Monday, and after Mass, he serves donuts, bananas and candy for everyone. Since the mid-1990s, he’s brought around 15,000 donuts and 50,000 bananas. He does this as a labor of love for the residents at The Oaks.

For those who are not physically able to attend Mass, I make my rounds to bring communion. It is an honor to be with these women and men and bring them Eucharist. This certainly is not about me.

My first two stops on my rounds are Mrs. Simms and Mrs. Hill. They are indeed the face of Christ to me, as is everyone I visit. They so embrace Eucharist and understand on a deep level what a cherished sacrament we have.

Everyone I see loves to pray with me, and no matter their physical or mental capabilities, they know their Catholic prayers. Mrs. Pupillo is particularly inspiring because she prays in Italian. I don’t speak Italian, but her prayers speak to me in a profound way.

When I leave The Oaks, I am so excited to tackle my week. The women and men at The Oaks remind me that God is indeed good all the time. After all, that’s what evangelists do.

A Call to Diaconate Service

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by Deacon Mike Whitehead

It’s not too late to respond to a continuing call of service in the Diocese of Shreveport, but the clock is ticking.

Bishop Michael Duca is looking for a few more deacons and laymen and laywomen to serve in leadership roles in our churches.

The University of Dallas once again will provide the Diaconate Intellectual Formation Program, along with the Theological Education Formation for those wanting a Certificate of Theological Studies.

This latest formation is scheduled to begin in January 2018.

“The University of Dallas has allowed us to increase the class size so we can offer this opportunity to more of our church community, but the cutoff date is November 13,” said Deacon Clary Nash, formation director. “Just email me that you are interested (cnash@dioshpt.org), then go the Diocese of Shreveport website under Ministries and Permanent Deacons for all the forms.”

This is a four-year diaconal formation of prayer, study and pastoral training. Course work will cover a wide range of topics, from philosophy and theology, to scripture and homiletics. Pastoral training will encompass a variety of ministries, including sacraments, parish social concerns and parish administrator training.

The Theological Education for Transformative Services Program is open to and beneficial for those who serve in a variety of leadership positions. Just a sampling of the course work being offered includes:

•  Christian Spirituality
•  Synoptic Gospels
•  The Catholic Church in America.
•  Introduction and History of Liturgy
•  Bioethics: Medical and Moral Ethics

This formation will mark the third group of permanent deacons to be ordained in our diocese. The first group of men was ordained in 2004 and the second group was ordained in 2014. Presently, 32 men are actively serving as permanent deacons in our diocese.

Since the year 2000, deacons of Shreveport have answered the call to service. They help make Christ more relevant, human and understood in the world. They give witness to Christian values in the marketplace as ordained ministers. Deacons are called to leadership, to find ways to promote justice and charity and support Christian values in the world, in the name of the Catholic Church.

Catholic deacons are ordained to serve and called to speak in the name of the Catholic Church. He is called by his community to serve his diocese, his community and anyone in need.

His motivation is to know the heart of God and to be that heart of God for God’s people. As an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, the deacon serves in four areas:

•  Word
•  Sacrament (or liturgy)
•  Charity
•  Pastoral Governance

If you feel called by God to serve God’s people in one or more service areas, and enjoy doing that; if you are at least 35-years-old; and if you have leadership ability, perhaps you ought to pray for the gift of discernment of your vocation, and talk with your pastor about the permanent diaconate.

“As a deacon for the past 30 years, my life has been enriched and rewarded in so many different ways as they are incalculable, Deacon Nash said. He will once again be the director of this formation. Deacon Nash also served as formation director for the past two diaconate formations in our diocese.
For more information, please go to the diocesan website, www.dioshpt.org/ministries/permanent-diaconate/ or call Deacon Clary Nash at 318-868-4441.

Flyers Make Hurricane Relief a Personal Mission

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by Lisa Cooper

Loyola Flyers strive each year to fulfill the charge to be men and women for others.  One of the most significant efforts toward this end is the hurricane relief sent to Catholic schools and dioceses most affected by these storms’ destruction. But this year’s efforts hit home in a tangible way as one of their own was directly affected by Hurricane Maria, which swept across Puerto Rico.

Spanish teacher and Puerto Rican native Arelis Soberal’s family lives in Puerto Rico. When Maria hit, Flyers went into action raising money and gathering gift cards to help Soberal’s family and others ravaged by the storm get the supplies they need.

Stephanie Johnson, Academic Assistant Principal, said “I think I can speak for the faculty as well as myself when I say that all of the relief efforts at Loyola have been important to me, but having such a close proximity to someone directly affected by this tragedy has really made it something we all take more personally.”

This year Loyola is working directly with Soberal’s family and others in order to get them the help they need. Hearing Soberal’s accounts of what is happening to her family and to others as they try to recover from the devastation of Maria has helped everyone in the Loyola family connect on a much more personal level with the suffering of others.

Conditions in Puerto Rico have made getting relief to those in need very difficult. Soberal explained that roads and bridges have been washed away by the storm, leaving many to travel by boat. Even in places where the roads are passable, food, water and gas are scarce, and help is not reaching people fast enough. Eighty-five percent of the island is without power, so supermarkets where food and water were once readily accessible are now closed.
Soberal said even the small things we take for granted become major obstacles as “ATM’s and banks are closed, so people have no access to their money in order to purchase supplies from the few stores that are open.”  Because many gas pumps are not working, gas has become scare as well. “People are waiting in lines for hours to get the limit of $15 worth of gas,” said Soberal.

Health care is suffering as well. “Without power, medicine that needs to be refrigerated can’t be, ventilators can’t work and pharmacies can’t distribute medicine,” explained Soberal.

“We heard on the Puerto Rican news that one hospital on the west coast had to be evacuated because the stench from the morgue was starting to move into the hospital, and a children’s hospital was about to run out of gas for the generators and couldn’t get more,” she said.

She went on to explain that those living in metropolitan areas are receiving more help than those in the outlying areas of the island. “The island is in bankruptcy,” says Soberal, “with a government that has never seen or prepared for a storm of this magnitude—and no logistics in place to tackle the resulting situations. The first response was chaotic—rescuers just trying to save lives in the areas that were flooded. Then came the realization that you can’t move things when your truck drivers can’t get to the port of San Juan. It’s been a mess.”

Although being separated from their families has been hard on Soberal and her husband, she has been greatly moved by the love and compassion her Loyola family has extended to her. “I can’t express my feelings,” she says, “I never thought the school would do something like this… it means so much to me.”

When Soberal was asked about the morale of her family under such trying conditions, she pointed to what she loves most about her culture: “Puerto Ricans can find the good in any situation. Yes, we are out of food and water, but neighbors are sharing. Yes, we do not have electricity, but now children are in the streets playing, running and getting to know each other. In reality, neither my family nor any Puerto Rican family will tell their loved ones in the States the real situation. They will always say, ‘We are okay. Do not worry. We got it!’ They are a group of people who trust in God and have their faith to get them through.

Soberal did make one simple request: “Please continue to pray for the people of Puerto Rico and for those of us who are an ocean away. Maria not only destroyed the physical land of Puerto Rico, but also it destroyed the hearts of five million Puerto Ricans who live throughout the world.”

A Tax-Saving Way to Help Your Diocese

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship & Development

See Your Generosity in Action
If you are 70½ years old or older, you can take advantage of a simple way to benefit the Diocese of Shreveport and receive tax benefits in return. You can give up to $100,000 from your IRA directly to a qualified charity such as the Church without having to pay income taxes on the money.
This law no longer has an expiration date so you are free to make annual gifts to support the mission of the Church this year and well into the future.

Why Consider This Gift?
•  Your gift will be put to use today, allowing you to see the difference your donation is making in the lives of the faithful of our region.

•  You pay no income taxes on the gift. The transfer generates neither taxable income nor a tax deduction, so you benefit even if you do not itemize your deductions.

•  If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution for the year, your IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I’ve already named the Diocese of Shreveport as the beneficiary of my IRA. What are the benefits if I make a gift now instead of after my lifetime?
A.  By making a gift this year of up to $100,000 from your IRA, you can see your philanthropic dollars at work. You are jump-starting the legacy you would like to leave and giving yourself the joy of watching your philanthropy take shape. Moreover, you can fulfill any outstanding pledge you may have made by transferring that amount from your IRA as long as it is $100,000 or less for the year.

Q. I’m turning age 70½ in a few months. Can I make this gift now?
A.  No. The legislation requires you to be age 70½ by the date you make the gift.

Q. I have several retirement accounts—some are pensions and some are IRAs. Does it matter which retirement account I use?
A.  Yes. Direct rollovers to a qualified charity can be made only from an IRA. Under certain circumstances, however, you may be able to roll assets from a pension, profit sharing, 401(k) or 403(b) plan into an IRA and then make the transfer from the IRA directly to The Diocese of Shreveport.  To determine if a rollover to an IRA is available for your plan, speak with your plan administrator.

Q. Can my gift be used as my required minimum distribution under the law?
A.  Yes, absolutely. If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution, the IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement. Contact your IRA custodian to complete the gift.

Q. Do I need to give my entire IRA to be eligible for the tax benefits?
A.  No. You can give any amount under this provision, as long as it is $100,000 or less this year. If your IRA is valued at more than $100,000, you can transfer a portion of it to fund a charitable gift.

Q. My spouse and I would like to give more than $100,000. How can we do that?
A.  If you have a spouse (as defined by the IRS) who is 70½ or older and has an IRA, he or she can also give up to $100,000 from his or her IRA.

Remember that the diocese has a quality planned giving section of our website provided through The Stelter Company.  Visit that section of our website today at http://plannedgiving.dioshpt.org. It is wise to consult with your tax professionals if you are contemplating a charitable gift under the extended law. Please feel free to contact John Mark Willcox at 318-868-4441 or jwillcox@dioshpt.org with any questions you may have about supporting the work of the Church.

This article is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such matters, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change.  References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.  •

Catholic Charities Employees Share Stories of Assisting in Houston

CCNLA Employee Carl Piehl volunteers in Houston.

by Lucy Medvec

One month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, over 500 employees and volunteers attended the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Houston. Even though the area was still recovering from devastating floods, CCUSA felt that its presence was needed more than ever in order to help those who had been affected. In addition to attending seminars and listening to speakers, Annual Gathering attendees were given the opportunity to go out into the community to help with disaster relief efforts. Here are stories from two Catholic Charities of North Louisiana employees who saw firsthand the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

Suhad Salamah, Benefits Manager
I worked in the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston- Houston warehouse where we assisted with sorting, creating packets/boxes and inventory. We were a group of 55 and we divided up into four groups to create packets/boxes of food, hygiene, cleaning supplies and baby items. Once the items were boxed up and completed, we loaded them onto the truck that would be taking them to the neighborhoods.

I didn’t get to speak with anyone that was directly affected by the hurricane, but I was told that while they were in neighborhoods doing intakes on the affected families, trucks loaded with boxes of items came and were hand delivered to the people. Knowing that our work in the warehouse went straight to the families the same day, gave me a good feeling.

Carl Piehl, Director of Financial Stability
“I participated in three relief projects. The first night there were about 100 volunteers assembling care packages consisting of personal hygiene and household cleaning products. We must have assembled several hundred boxes.  The next day we went into a low income neighborhood where the flooding had occurred. Neighbors told me that the water had risen very quickly. In a very short time they were unable to move their cars and within several hours, the water was chest high. People could do nothing more than escape with their lives. They couldn’t bring any belongings. They had to float their children or carry them over their heads as they searched for higher ground. It sounded like a nightmare. We went to unload and distribute a large truck of supplies that had come from some amazing people in Steubenville, Ohio. As soon as we started unloading, we were surrounded by the residents of the neighborhood. They were tired and weary from their ordeal but greeted us with smiles and expressions of gratitude. Everyone had suffered losses but they all seemed to share the same resolve: to fix what needed fixing and get on with their lives. The next day we went to an even poorer neighborhood where nearly all the homes had been completely ruined. We brought in two truckloads of relief supplies and canvassed the area looking for those who had returned to their homes. We collected names and phone numbers so that they could be contacted about ongoing needs.

I worked alongside CCUSA board members, executive directors from other Catholic Charities agencies, and even Sr. Donna Markham (CCUSA CEO). We were all there to help those who needed it most. What I took away from the experience was the knowledge that these disasters can happen to anyone. It takes an enormous effort and resources to respond to disasters and that there are thousands of great people that want to help. I’m grateful that I was able to do something to help.  Mother Teresa said “of ourselves we can do no great things, but only small things with great love.”

In addition to helping during the Annual Gathering, CCUSA has donated to date over $2 million to the Houston area. Disaster relief efforts are still going on in all areas affected by this season’s hurricanes. You can make a donation at www.ccnla.org/donate - 100% of funds raised are going to those affected. •

St. Francis Medical Center Hosts Memorial Service for Infants Born Before 20 Weeks

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by Bonny Van

Emotions were high at a special memorial service for infants born before 20 weeks. Parents and family members gathered at St. Matthew Parish Cemetery in downtown Monroe on Saturday, September 16, for the service. The prayer service, an annual event sponsored by St. Francis Medical Center, is intended to assist parents through the grief process.

“It is very important for most of the parents who have faith in God and eternal life. It offers a safe place for family and friends to honor the deceased baby and celebrate its life,” said Fr. James Dominic, manager of pastoral care at St. Francis Medical Center.

Bro. Charles Headrick, a hospital chaplain at St. Francis, said parents of a baby born before 20 weeks have the option of handling burial arrangements or letting the hospital handle them. For the latter scenario, St. Francis works with Mulhearn Funeral Home, Downing Pines Crematory and St. Matthew Catholic Church to handle the remains.

St. Francis Medical Center started this service in 2008. A special memorial bench and Guardian Angel statue was placed in the cemetery in honor of these infants.

Headrick said parents respond in different ways to the situation, especially so in the earliest stages of pregnancy. While some might want to “press on and move forward,” others will talk about the baby as being their child.

“The human life from conception is different from any other life,” said Headrick. “As scripture says, ‘God breathed the breath of life and created man.’”

St. Matthew Parish has placed two marble benches in the cemetery to serve as gravesites for the babies. One bench is inscribed with a passage from Psalm 119:76: “May your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise.” The other bench is inscribed with Isaiah 49:16: “See, upon the palms of my hands, I have written your name.” The area provides a place for parents to visit and remember a lost child.

Headrick said it’s important for parents to take time to grieve and process the loss of a child so that it won’t “manifest itself in other ways.”

Headrick knows first hand about such loss. His wife, Lydia, was pregnant with triplets 21 years ago. Only one, his second son, survived.

“Very often people will say, ‘At least you have your other children,’ or ‘God must’ve needed this baby more than we needed the baby.’ The comments are meant to help but they don’t acknowledge the reality of the loss,” he said. “Very often it’s not seen as a genuine loss because its not well formed as far as the remains are concerned. Very often people will not think of this as a child.”

More than 50 people attended the Infant Memorial Service for 35 babies. Among the group, six families were represented with some family members traveling from several states to attend the ceremony.

“We honor the dignity of life from conception to death,” said Fr. Dominic.

The 30-minute service featured special prayers, scripture readings, benediction and music by Lydia Headrick, which included a song she wrote titled “Your Life is Still Precious.”

“It helps many to get emotional support from those present at the service and help them to cope with one of the most difficult experiences of their life. It highlights the value of life from conception and the importance of spirituality. It is an opportunity to share with those who are undergoing the same grief,” said Fr. Dominic.

2017-18 Vocations Poster

Click to download the 2017-18 Diocese of Shreveport Vocations poster.

Warriors Hold eGaming Party

by Jennifer Patterson

Fifty students came to St. Frederick High School on Saturday, September 30, to participate in their first eGaming Party. Students brought TVs, computer monitors, games and extra controllers to help make the event a great success.

When Principal Blair David approached Jennifer Patterson, the schools religion teacher, about sponsoring an eSports Club, she had no idea what it was about. She hoped for at least 10 student members and ended up with 23 students on the team.

The St. Frederick Warriors will soon be competing against teams in other states in eSports tournaments. eSports has proven to be a nation-wide sport offering a healthy and competitive environment through an online platform that empowers high school gamers.

According to the High School eSports League (HSEL), studies have shown that 40% of students nationally do not participate in extra-curricular activities.This amounts to about 8 million students in the U.S.

eSports are a great opportunity for kids who may not participate in athletics or fine arts by giving them another avenue to be active in their school. It allows these students an outlet to engage with other students outside of an academic setting. Current league rules require that students be 13 years old and maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher in order to compete. The program has given students a reason to keep their grades up and develop a deeper connection with their school and their peers. It also helps them hone their communication skills with games that require constant coordination with their teammates. It’s a true sport that requires skills such as teamwork, collaboration, managing victory and defeat, setting goals, practicing and managing schoolwork.

Warrior eSports will compete online against other eSports teams across the country both regionally and nationally.  The Warriors practice Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for two hours in the computer room.

Currently, St. Frederick High School has the only eSports team registered with the High School eSports League in Louisiana.

More than 30 colleges currently offer $14 million in eSports scholarships. Some of the country’s best players now earn salaries to game professionally.
The season officially kicked off on Monday, October 16. Subscribe to our Twitch channel “Warrior_eSports” to tune in and watch the matches.

Balloon Rosary at St. Joseph School

With parish priests on retreat, St. Joseph Catholic School students used their regular Friday Mass time on October 6 to say a rosary in anticipation of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. With the help of the PTO, middle school students assembled a rosary made out of helium balloons and released it into the sky at the conclusion. Later that morning, the rosary was spotted by an SJS Family touching down in north Shreveport, over 12 miles from its starting point.

Principal Dr. Judith McGimsey said of the rosary, “In addition to the event being so meaningful to our student body and church family, our hope is that someone saw the rosary in the air, and it was a prayer or intention answered.”

SJB Visits Papa Simpson’s Farm

Each year at St. John Berchmans School, students in Pre-K3 and 1st grade take a trip to Papa Simpson’s Farm. There they have the opportunity to learn about farm life by holding and petting chicks and baby goats, planting pumpkin seeds, feeding the animals and even milking a cow! The farm workers even teach the children about what happens to the milk after it’s taken from the cows and the everyday groceries that milk goes into. This field trip is a hands-on way for students to see up close what they learn about in the classroom.