Category Archives: Local News

Ruston Catholic Received French Legion of Honor


by John Mark Willcox

There is always a first time for everything when you work for the Church and I had a first time experience recently when I conducted my first interview with an centenarian. Robert “Bob” Hurtig is now awaiting his 101st birthday and he has less grey hair than I do within my mere 59 years of life!

There are many amazing things about the life Bob has led since he was born in Cincinnati, OH, in 1917. He grew up an active Catholic and served as a eucharistic minister prior to joining the armed forces in January of 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent time at several bases in the south and was scheduled to board the famous French passenger liner Normandie for passage to Europe. Before that could happen, the Normandie was resting on the bottom of the Hudson River in New York due to what was reported at the time as a severe fire that broke out on deck. “That is not really what happened,” offers Bob. “The truth is that a German U-boat snuck up the Hudson River and torpedoed that ship before the United States could use it. The officials didn’t want that story to get out so they created the fire story.”

Bob ended up being part of the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier navigator assigned to the famous “flying fortress” which was of course the B-17. “We made bombing runs in France, Germany, Austria and Norway,” recalls Bob, as his still sharp mind recounts his years in combat. “I was quick then, and I’m quick today!” he proclaims with a broad and infectious smile.

Bob Hurtig was part of the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier navigator assigned to a B-17 during WWII.

Some of his bombing targets included chemical plants, factories, a buzz bomb launching platform and submarine pens housing deadly U-Boats. All of these missions resulted in a literal shirt full of medals and commendations for Bob, including the French Legion of Honor medal. “After one successful mission I was told that I was to be promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and slated to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. I was never promoted to Captain and I am still waiting on that medal!”

Bob flew his last mission in April of 1945 and looks back with a large degree of sadness on his involvement with the war. “I lost approximately 87 good friends during World War II. When we were flying in formation on bombing runs you would many times see our planes going down in flames. With a B-17, that’s 10 good men you lost with each plane shot down.”

I asked about his prayer life during the war and Bob offered “If you weren’t good at praying when you arrived in the European Theatre, you sure learned how to pray real quick.”

Returning to America, Bob had a successful career in New Orleans working in the wine, liquor and beer industry before moving to Ruston to be close to his only child, Dr. Dolliann Hurtig who is a professor at Louisiana Tech University. He has been a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ruston since 1993.

When asked about the secret to living one hundred years, Bob’s advice is straightforward and simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and don’t let politics or people ever convince you that the Lord God is not the most important thing in your life!”

Sock Collection for Prison Ministry

by Mary Morgan

Seeds of caring were planted last year and we all became real life gardeners as we harvested over 1,600 pairs of socks.

In the store of life, Jesus wants people to find the seeds that best suit them so they might live and make the Kingdom grow. His seeds might go wild and even get trampled, but He knows they can open hearts and make hands become loving and helpful toward others.

When the sock drive of 2017 ended, the small gift of a pair of socks had grown into a beautiful surprise for about 1,600 inmates in the Bossier and DeSoto parish facilities, a Christmas gift from the people of the Diocese of Shreveport. The great green thumb of Jesus is planning the Christmas of 2018 event, the 2nd Annual Sock Drive. The seeds are flying already and falling everywhere. If any of them land near your heart’s garden, plant them and let them grow.

All that is needed before December 2018 are men’s white socks (note: women are included and will receive the men’s socks). Help make this collection happen and we will again warm the feet and hearts of those in prison.

For more information contact Mary Morgan at 318-742-3774.

Sock Collection Detail:

Must be men’s white socks, crew or up the calf type only. Please keep them in the original packages. No used socks please.

Delivery will be two weeks before Christmas.

From Atheism to Seminary: Meet the Diocese’s Newest Seminarian


by Jessica Rinaudo

When you think of candidates for the Catholic priesthood, the word “atheist” likely never crosses your mind, but the Diocese of Shreveport’s newest seminarian, Francis Genusa, used that term to describe his life during many of his high school years.

“I was an atheist, or at least agnostic, and I didn’t really put much stock into Catholicism or anything at that time. I never really thought about my faith in a deep way, and so I pulled away from it… I got into looking into Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and other great thinkers who I still respect,” Francis said. “But I got into them and just thought it was reasonable not to be faithful, that God didn’t exist, and that all that was something that made people feel good and, not that I didn’t want to feel good or fulfilled as a person, I just thought that you didn’t have to have God to feel good… and that’s partly where my search picked up, I was trying to find fulfillment.”

“I was always that kid who argued so much in class, but our youth minister was a pretty smart guy. He argued with me and I met my match. So I had to do investigation and I had to do digging, and that led me to the seminary because of all those questions.”

And when Francis says it led him to the seminary, he means that quite literally. While in high school, he attended a “Come and See” event at St. Joseph seminary in south Louisiana.

“I had gone to seminary with the mind set that I wanted to talk to these people and figure out those arguments; throw those arguments at them and see what bounced off. But really what bounced off was faith,” Francis said.

During the weekend-long event, he was encouraged by a friend to go and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament.

“As I prayed, I said, ‘If you’re real and you’re not just a piece of bread on a stick, then nothing’s really more important than that.’ And it was a weird kind of epiphany. I started saying things in my mind that were incredulous … Like, ‘If you are the center of the universe, God of everything, the Creator … there really isn’t anything more important.’ And that’s really where the light kind of turned back on.”

Francis attended the Come and See events three times. And what began as a faith life full of incredulity, quickly grew into what Francis describes as a “mountain of faith.” He investigated St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for God, and it just, as he says, “clicked into my mind. ”

But even finding his faith again, the leap from atheism to discerning priesthood is a large one.

While at St. Frederick High School, Francis was critical of the Mass and he and former youth director, Mark Loyet, often talked about it and all aspects of the faith. “And one day he just asked me ‘Why do you care so much? Why do you come in here and keep trying to berate me about it?’ And I said ‘I don’t know.’”

Several weeks later, Fr. Keith Garvin, chaplain at St. Frederick’s at the time, talked to Francis after Mass and asked him if he had ever thought about a vocation. Francis’ immediate response was not positive.

“What a vocation?! Priesthood?! No… But then it started to settle in, and I started to think about it, and I thought, ‘Well, gee, this is important for some reason. Why?’ So I just started to feel it and it got a lot more real. … Mark Loyet had been in touch over the summer and he called Father Jerry [Diocesan Vocations Director] and we had a conversation. That’s when I knew.”

His discernment process has bloomed since then. Francis began attending St. Matthew Parish in Monroe, and has become very involved with the church, so much so that he was eventually hired on as their administrative assistant.

“I think the most impact on my vocation is being in the presence of the church and being in the presence of the priest,” said Francis. “And I’ve been with Fr. Mark [Franklin] so much, not only at the church, but we’ve also gone to eat and spent a lot of time together. That time has enriched me because a lot of what people think about the priesthood or religious life, in general, they don’t see it, and they can’t feel it. … I didn’t know what seminary was like, I thought they just went into a cave and prayed, but, no, they’re people. They live and they live even better than us.”

Francis began attending seminary at St. Joseph Seminary on August 10.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat: Post-Abortive Healing


by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward. . . there is hope for your future. (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

The Diocese of Shreveport is glad to announce the reintroduction of Rachel’s Vineyard retreat ministry. Janice Gonzales and her dedicated team of ministers conducted Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in the diocese from 2006 to 2008. Team members today acknowledge that they carry this ministry forward upon the firm, yet grace-filled foundation laid by their predecessors.

Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreats help women and men to heal in the painful aftermath of abortion. Exercises, scripture and ritual, combined with opportunities to share and listen, allow participants to work through emotions of anger, shame, guilt and grief on their journey to finding forgiveness and reconciliation and hope.

Over 60 million abortions have occurred since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Many people have been impacted by abortion, not just the mother and father of the aborted child, but their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, even clinic staff. Rachel’s Vineyard retreats give everyone a starting point to begin their healing journey.

The next Rachel’s Vineyard retreat will be October 26-28, 2018. Please call 318 588-1064 for information, or visit the website at

Absolute confidentiality is maintained by team members and participants prior to, during and following a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Spanish will be scheduled in the near future.

St. John Paul II: “I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision… If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. … You can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.” – Evangelium Vitae, 1999.

His Presence & Prayers Saved My Daughter’s Life


by Susan Flanagan

On a hot Saturday this past July, the local abortion clinic’s parking lot was filled with cars, business as usual getting underway there. On average, 60-70 babies are aborted at Hope Medical Group in Shreveport each week. But this day, the clinic sidewalk was the site of a special reunion between a mother, her child and the man whose prayers helped save her baby from being aborted there seven years ago.

Amy Blackwell of east Texas shared her story on Facebook earlier this year, about her “almost abortion.” She was, as she recounted, hopeless, far away from God, and not making good decisions in her life. She drove herself to Hope Medical Group for her initial consultation in April 2011, and she noticed a “little old man standing on the curb, praying the rosary.” Amy said he kept looking at her and she instantly knew that he was praying for her and her baby. She sat in her car a long time, alone and afraid, while he continued praying — they never spoke to each other, but his presence and prayers changed her life.

She finally went into the clinic for her consultation. Looking back now, Amy says she is amazed how Satan can package sin to make it sound so good. The reassuring abortion pamphlets stated that some people are just not ready to have children, financially or emotionally, which sounds plausible – until you stop to realize that their “logical solution” then is to kill those children. The abortionist asked her if she had kids already, which she did have two; he then pronounced that two was enough and he scheduled her abortion. “Someone will need to drive you home afterwards,” he added.

The friend enlisted to drive with her knew Amy was making a big mistake, and spent the better part of the drive from east Texas reminding her that God had a plan for this baby. Finally, as Amy puts it, she “came to her senses” and knew she could not proceed with the abortion. In her Facebook story, she tearfully adds, “I want to say to that little man standing on the curb, thank you because I know you were praying for me. I don’t know who you are, but I know prayers are powerful, and I won’t ever forget you. You are in my head and my heart for the rest of my life.”

Local 40 Days for Life Coordinator Chris Davis saw Amy’s Facebook post and contacted her, saying that he knew who that “little old man with the rosary” was and did Amy want to meet him? Needless to say, she jumped at the chance! Chris then called Mr. Camille Brocato and lined up the July meeting for mother, daughter and prayer warrior on the same abortion clinic sidewalk where their paths crossed seven years earlier.

Brocato has been praying the rosary his entire life, ever since he was around 10 years old. He was never involved in any pro-life activities or groups, but when he was 80 years old, he felt a call to pray the rosary at the abortion clinic with the VITA group on the first Saturday of the month. He later began to go every Saturday, but felt the Blessed Mother wanted more. Finally, he began to show up at the clinic every day, praying the rosary and handing out brochures and his hand-made rosaries to everyone he could. In the course of eight years of daily prayer at the clinic, rain or shine, hot or cold, he has given away over 3,000 rosaries. He would be there still, but finally had to stop because of hip surgery and health issues.

Brocato has a treasure trove of stories of encounters, both good and bad, during those eight years, but few have brought him greater joy than meeting Amy and her 7-year-old daughter, Emma Grace. He gives all the credit for positive outcomes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying that he just puts the rosaries in people’s hands and then “Our Lady works on them!” Over time, several people who had originally heckled him have returned with changed hearts and asked for more rosaries.

And when he finally met Emma Grace in July? He gave her a big hug, a few peppermints, and of course, a bag of rosaries! •

Money School Gives Value to Those in Need


by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

It’s 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday at Catholic Charities and the lobby is filled with people waiting to attend the Money School, the weekly financial literacy class. There is a sense of anxiety and hope as they wait for the class to begin, the first step in the process of potentially receiving financial assistance for rent or utility bills.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

Since 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has been “teaching people to fish” through its financial education class, the Money School. The nonprofit financial education program’s attendance reached a record number of 1,600 students in the past fiscal year. The Money School has evolved into a two-hour class offered on a weekly basis, followed by a “needs” assessment and personal financial coaching sessions with CCNLA case managers. It is mandatory that all clients who seek financial help for rent or utilities must attend the Money School in order to be considered for assistance. Class size in Shreveport is limited to 30 people per week and clients can only be considered for assistance once every 24 months.

The premise of the Money School is to help clients review their current spending habits and evaluate their “financial leaks” – habits that may drain their resources and leave little money to cover the basics (rent, food and utilities) – in order to make smarter money decisions. The Shreveport Money School is taught by CCNLA’s case managers, Carl Piehl and Joe Bulger, who work hard to make the class relatable and informative.

Piehl, who has been with the Money School since its beginning, teaches the class with enthusiasm. He describes the evolution of the Money School as “a living laboratory that experimented with new ideas, new approaches, new source material and media to connect powerfully with our clients.”

Clients in the class are pre-tested and post-tested for financial literacy. Scoring indicates a 40% improvement on a consistent basis, with many who have attended the class reporting that it has been a life changing experience for them.

The Money School can be defined as the beginning of the journey of financial capability, stability and ultimately the accomplishment of our client’s self-described goals. The needs assessment session conducted by CCNLA case managers provides an opportunity to discuss with clients how they perceive their situation and to reveal possible solutions to their problems. After meeting with the week’s clients, Piehl and Bulger meet to select who will receive partial assistance with their bills. It is never an easy task. Because of limited resources, CCNLA is only able to assist 25-30% of each week’s applicants.

“Some weeks, every client is eligible to receive assistance,” says Piehl. “There are many people struggling in our community, but we are only able to help a few of them financially. The true value we hope to give all of our clients is the lessons we teach in the Money School and through financial coaching.”

As the poverty levels rise across north Louisiana, so does the weekly attendance of the Money School. With all three locations serving a total of 40-45 clients per week, the lessons taught in the Money School are vital in the quest to create financial change. Clients who attend the Money School are contacted three months following the class to assess if they are putting the lessons they learned into practice. This is a service provided to all clients, whether or not they received financial assistance from CCNLA. Bulger sees the call as an important follow-up to the Money School class.

“Before we started contacting clients, we had no idea if they were actually putting the financial education steps into action,” explains Bulger. “The phone calls give us a chance to check in and also remind the client that they are always welcome to come in for free financial coaching.”

CCNLA’s Money School and Emergency Assistance programs are made possible in part by grants by The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, The Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation, First Presbyterian Church – Shreveport, First United Methodist Church – Shreveport, The Grayson Foundation, The Powers Foundation, United Way of Northwest Louisiana, and the support of individual donors. •

From the Editor: Thank You, Bishop Duca

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor, The Catholic Connection

There’s a certain rush, at least for me, that comes with good planning. Most issues of The Catholic Connection are planned well in advance, infused with ideas from our writers, editorial board, readers and myself. Riding the excitement of all the new ideas handed to me recently and some shiny new Catholic Press Awards, I was ready to tackle and plan the editorial calendar for the next 12 to 15 months of The Catholic Connection.

As I sat down at my computer Monday morning, June 25, I began laying the groundwork for our August issue – always an annual report on our Catholic schools – when our Communications Director, John Mark Willcox, walked into my office and closed the door. After a moment of staring down at the floor, he looked up and said, “They’re moving Bishop to Baton Rouge. There’s a press conference at 10:00 tomorrow morning down there.”

My heart stuttered. No. This couldn’t be happening. After John Mark reiterated that this news could in no way be shared until after the press conference, I sat at my computer, staring blankly into the white depths of the blank pages of the next issue of our magazine. I had a very short time to process the news before I had to move into action.

I found myself on the phone with my counterpart in Baton Rouge, both of us quietly panicking as we discussed who would cover what events, when stories could be released, how to stream our respective press conferences and what to post on our social media platforms. I wandered in and out of Bishop Duca’s office multiple times that day, ensuring that everyone was on the same page about when the news would be released and how it would be done. Tears flowed from the small group of us who were working together on this, but we tucked them away to uphold the Vatican’s embargo on the news.

I realized this would mean our August issue would change to a special edition of The Catholic Connection, honoring our bishop of the last 10 years. Bishop Duca has always been one of The Catholic Connection’s biggest cheerleaders – from looking over every issue before it goes to press, to committing to writing his reflection each and every month. He has personally reached out and congratulated our writers and me each time we have won Catholic Press Awards, and has even been awarded three himself.

So Bishop Duca, while this issue could have never been planned, especially months in advance, it has come together with the love and support of our publication’s writers, the editorial board, the chancery staff, the churches and faithful of the Diocese of Shreveport, and countless other dioceses across the United States. It is our farewell, our love letter to you, of a kind.

From all of us who work diligently on The Catholic Connection every month: thank you for your support, Bishop Duca. We hope all our readers will treasure this special issue as much as we do.

Despedimos a Nuestro Pastor

por Rosalba Quiroz

El buen pastor da su vida por las ovejas. Juan 10:11. El Obispo Michael G. Duca ha sido ese buen pastor y como tal, nos ha guiado por los últimos diez años. Desafortunadamente las ovejas estamos por todo el mundo y este mes despediremos a nuestro querido obispo, ya que el Papa Francisco lo ha nombrado Obispo de la Diócesis Baton Rouge Luisiana. Pareciera que nos quedamos como dice una vieja canción: “dicen que no se sienten las despedidas, dile al que te lo cuenta que esto es mentira… el que se queda se queda llorando y el que se va, se va suspirando… 

Después de diez años de tenerlo con nosotros, nos quedaremos tristes porque se va pero llevaremos en el corazón sus enseñanzas, y muestras de cariño. ¿Quién no estrechó su mano amigable en un convivio o celebración? o ¿Quién no vio como recorría las mesas en las fiestas preguntando a los niños que película o juego les había gustado últimamente? Todos en la diócesis, sin importar raza o lengua sentimos su cariño y nos favorecimos de su ministerio como obispo al servicio de Dios y de la Iglesia.

Aunque con el corazón afligido de verlo partir, nos alegramos por él, pues aunque este cambio trae consigo más responsabilidades, es también un desafío que por obediencia al Papa y a la Iglesia aceptó y está dispuesto a tomar el 24 de agosto.

Los invitamos a participar en las Misas y despedidas que se ofrecerán en su honor los siguientes días: el viernes 17 de agosto en la parroquia de San Jose en Zwolle, a las 6 p.m. El sábado 18 en la parroquia de Jesus el Buen pastor en Monroe a las 10a.m. y el domingo 19 en la Catedral a la 1:30p.m. Todas las Misas serán seguidas por una recepción a la que estamos todos invitados. Los exhortamos a que no falten y le muestren al obispo su cariño y agradecimiento por estos diez años que Dios nos permitió tenerlo como nuestro pastor.

Oremos por su futuro, por la Diócesis que lo recibe, así como también para que Nuestro Señor Dios y el Papa Francisco envíen pronto un nuevo Pastor a nuestra diócesis y continuar juntos construyendo su reino en esta área de Luisiana.

Oremos también por todas las necesidades de la iglesia, de todos los que sufren y de los que no conocen aún a Jesús, “El Salvador del Mundo” para que Dios envíe más pastores a guiarnos por el camino de la fe y la salvación.

Una de las enseñanzas que nos deja el obispo es algo que nos ha dicho y ahora le toca vivir: “Es difícil dejar algo cómodo y conocido o que necesitamos cambiar pero cuando lo hacemos, Dios llena ese espacio que abrimos con algo mejor y maravilloso porque Dios nunca deja de sorprendernos”. Que el vacío mutuo que se abre hoy, sea llenado de bendiciones abundantes como nos lo repitió nuestro obispo Michael G. Duca.

Well Wishes from Fr. Phil

by Fr. Phil Michiels

Bishop Duca has been a bright pastoral light in the administration of the diocese. I am very appreciative of his initiative in bringing Catholic Charities to the diocese, his respect for his clergy and his willingness to be present to parishioners in the diocese whenever possible.

Personally, I felt an instant rapport with Bishop Duca from the first time we met. I felt privileged to serve as a member of the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Clergy Personnel Board, the Priests Council and the Clergy Retirement Board. I value his acceptance of my voice and advice in the concerns of these important groups.

I value most of all his visitations to the parish for special occasions, which included the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation and his dining with parish staff members.

Again on a personal level, as well as pastoral, I valued his presiding for a special Mass celebrating my 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and the special Mass celebrating my “official retirement” after completing my 12th year as a very happy pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Shreveport.

I send my prayers and best wishes to Bishop Duca as he begins a new chapter in his episcopacy as Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

About the Diocese of Baton Rouge

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