Category Archives: Local News

Living Out the Love to Which Jesus Calls Us

by Mary Ellen Foley

How do you define love? No dictionary can capture the essence of love. The same is true of our understanding of words like justice, solidarity and compassion. Before I experienced JustFaith, my understanding of justice and my definition of solidarity were dictionary definitions. So inadequate! Such understandings must be formed in relationships. For me, solidarity and justice came to life through our small group sharing and the relationships we formed during the JustFaith program.

In this program, we reflected on the lives of those who hunger for justice, compassion and understanding. We struggled with our preconceived notions; we challenged conventional wisdom. We visited with people in need, “the least of these.” We began to view their situation through their eyes. Through these experiences we began to develop the compassion that Jesus wants us to have for the poor. And we learned how justice and charity, the two aspects of love in action, go hand in hand.

The JustFaith program explores the long-standing social doctrine of the Catholic Church. From the early church fathers right up until our present time, the church has expressed concern for the poor and the laws and social conditions that lead to poverty. Pope Leo XIII responded to the working conditions of the Industrial Revolution with his famous 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Since that time the popes of the 20th and 21st centuries have responded to the conditions of their times with major messages concerning social justice. It is now up to us, the people of God, to read, experience and reflect on the principles of justice proclaimed by the Church for the last 130 years.

St. Joseph Parish, Shreveport, will offer the JustFaith experience this coming fall and spring, on Thursday evenings, beginning September 19, and ending in April. This experience uses the adult learning model to help us fully understand the principles of justice that the Church holds dear. We dialogue as a faith-sharing community to deepen our faith and our solidarity with our neighbors. We will explore today’s issues and engage in dialogue around those issues in the light of Catholic social teaching. The program is open to anyone who would like to participate.

“Thirteen years ago I participated in the JustFaith program. The program was a great learning experience in Catholic Social Teaching. The program challenged me to become more active in my faith. It allowed me to form deeper friendships with the other participants. Since that experience we have all been involved in more actively living out the love to which Jesus calls us.”  – Fr. Mark Watson.

“In 2007, St. Joseph Church offered the JustFaith program to people in our community who were interested in learning more about social justice in a small community setting. When I joined, I had no idea how powerful this experience would be for me. I learned to view the world with new eyes, seeing it from the heart of those who were less fortunate than me, and responding in a new compassionate way to those who are different from me. The JustFaith experience was truly life changing.” – Jane Snyder

For more information, contact Mary Ellen Foley at me.foley@comcast.net, or 318-869-1120.  •

Bidding Farewell to Longtime Connection Columnist

by Jessica Rinaudo

While every issue of The Catholic Connection is dear to me, this one, in particular, will always hold a special place in my heart. After more than eight years of column and feature writing, longtime columnist Katie Sciba has penned her last Domestic Church column in this May issue.

I’ll never forget when Katie first tentatively contacted me about writing for The Catholic Connection. Unbeknownst to her, she reached out to me at just the right time. I was in the middle of completely overhauling the format of The Catholic Connection, working to give it more of a “feature magazine” feel. Part of this reimagining meant that I would need regular columnists. Through conversations with my editorial board and while chatting with friends in the local Catholic community, I learned that there was an overwhelming desire for information on how to better bring the Catholic faith into the home, especially to children. And, fortunately, as a newly minted wife and mother, Katie was up to the challenge. Thus, the Domestic Church column was born.

Working in print media, readers often reach out to tell me what we did wrong, or how we infuriated them. I’ve discovered that we only really hear when we’re doing a good job through secondary sources, or, on occasion, people will joyfully call or email if a piece really knocks it out of the park. To this day, however, I still regularly hear from people who enjoy Katie’s column on family life. I know a mom who pulls out her Domestic Church column each month, laminates it, and places it on her fridge as a spiritual reminder!

I’ve always known Katie’s writing was special – partly because as a young mother myself I found her writing so encouraging – but also, because her column brought home a Catholic Press Award to our magazine for the first time in many, many years. And that was only the beginning. Katie’s column, feature writing as well as her in depth series on the harm of pornography, continued to rake in the awards in the years that followed.

I watched her grow from a tentative budding writer to a confident author, willing and able to share her own vulnerabilities to help others with the pains and struggles in their own lives.

I am so grateful Katie reached out to me that day more than eight years ago. Not only did she play an essential role in raising the quality of The Catholic Connection, but she became a dear friend and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your time and talent with the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, Katie. May God bless your future endeavors.

Ministry of Presence: St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Feeds Students at Louisiana Tech

by Jessica Rinaudo

The words “Ruston” and “Louisiana Tech” go hand in hand. And with only one Catholic Church in the city, St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners have taken up the task of bridging a relationship between the church and university.

In the early 90s, Father Paul Gallagher, OFM, began a “dollar lunch” program to feed any student who dropped by their student center every Wednesday. What began as a small group of 10 to 15 students has evolved into a weekly program that regularly feeds more than 100 students and faculty members.

Spearheaded by a group of volunteer parishioners including Coordinator, Pat Crawford, long time member Sandi Adams, and Brother Mike Ward, OFM, each week the parish offers a safe space, fellowship and a warm meal to students.

As the students walk through the doors of the St. Thomas Aquinas student center, their faces light up as the smell of homecooked shepherd’s pie wafts through the room. The meal and the volunteers are blessed, then students quickly seek out friends, grab a meal and a seat and enjoy fellowship with one another. Faculty members also stop by, visiting with one another and students. Other regular fixtures at the weekly meal are Louisiana Tech Campus Minister Brother Mike Ward, OFM, and St. Thomas Aquinas pastor, Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM.

“My favorite part of this program is that the students have a place to come where they can be with each other. And we provide that and provide a meal for them,” said coordinator Pat Crawford. “But we get as much out of it as they do, all of us. Most everybody has been involved with this for many years: our groups of people who cook. It’s kind of a scary thing to cook for this many people and stay within a budget. We are serving more now than ever. This year, we’ve offered 2,111 meals since September.”

Students echo Crawford’s sentiments, “We come every week that they have “Wednesday lunch.” I like the people and the community. It’s a way that the parish connects with the students, where the parishioners cook the meal and serve it and the students get to come in and get to enjoy a good home cooked meal away from home. I like interacting with the parishioners as well,” said student and Association of Catholic Tech Students member André Aguillard.

“I love being able to sit down at any table and have a great conversation and then enjoy the food and know you’re with like minded people with similar values,” added student Abby Morgan.
To make all of this happen every week takes a village both on and offsite. Pat Crawford manages the complete meal schedule for the year, calendaring meal assignments for different St. Thomas Aquinas ministry groups. Some people volunteer to bring desserts each week; some cook, but can’t serve; others show up on site to serve the students; still others are needed to take donations and keep track of how many students come through.

The result of all of this is a full meal for students including a protein, vegetable, side item, dessert and a drink – all for a minimal donation of $1. It takes a combination of budgeting, discounts and donations to make it work, but the results are undeniable.

“It’s a good witness. A good number of people who come to “Wednesday lunch” are not Catholic. So it kind of de-mystifies some of the thoughts other people have about Catholics,” said Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

“It’s a safe place to eat. It helps students feel at home, especially when they are feeling lonely. We’ve been here since the beginning, and this is the best I’ve seen it,” said cooking volunteer, Sandi Adams. She added, “The students are so appreciative. They’ll come by, some of them, and thank us.”  Adams also said that students regularly volunteer to help with setup and clean up.
The “Wednesday lunch” program has quickly become St. Thomas’ largest outreach ministry, and one that parishioners and students alike take great pride in. No one is ever denied a meal for not having money, and often people will come through and pay for others.

“My hope is always that the students see other people doing something for them, so that when they graduate, marry, whatever they do out in the world in their jobs and communities, they’re more likely to volunteer their time,” said Crawford.

Theirs is truly a mission of presence and kindness, following the command of Jesus to love thy neighbor.

Prior to Lent, St. Ann Church in Ebarb had a Mardi Gras Celebration. Pictured are Fr. Richard Norsworthy, King and Queen Benjie and Carol Rivers, and parish children.

Ashes at St. Francis Medical Center

Fr. James Dominic distributed ashes to team members in various departments around St. Francis Medical Center as part of Ash Wednesday.

Serving Others in Rayville

Society of St. Vincent de Paul members in Rayville, along with Fr. Philip Pazhayakari, CMI, prepared bags to accompany the jambalaya meal for their “Saturday Meals” February delivery.

Valentine’s Day Dance at St. Elizabeth’s

The church hall was filled to celebrate St. Valentine. Participants danced to a variety of music and enjoyed dance lessons as well as plenty of food and fun!

Students Make King Cakes to Raise Funds

The St. Paschal Sr. high Youth group held their annual Mardi Gras King Cake fundraiser. All of the ingredients are homemade by the youth, including cream cheese filling, pecan praline filling and dough. They sold 265 King Cakes this year to fund their upcoming conferences.

Minden Students Take Part in Ash Wednesday Mass

The PSR students at St. Paul Parish in Minden participated in the Ash Wednesday Mass. Students read, sang and explained Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Students gave each family a prayer card, crackers and rock to represent those three facets of Lent.

Schoolhouse Students Celebrate DI Win

Children from Catholic Schoolhouse, a Shreveport homeschooling co-op, entered the Louisiana Destination Imagination State Tournament. The younger group wowed the appraisers with their life-sized pop-up book and story about dinosaurs and saints. The older group took home 3rd place in the state in their category of service learning. Their service project raised $443 for Praise Academy through a bake sale at St. Mary of the Pines Parish. They also donated books to their school.