Category Archives: Features

Shroud of Turin: Shroud Experts & Original STURP Team Members Gather at Shreveport’s Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for Special Panel

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by Jessica Rinaudo

On the second weekend in October, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host an event that’s drawing international attention. Two members of the original 1978 Shroud of Turin Research team (STURP), the project’s president and physicist Dr. John Jackson and photographer Barrie Schwortz, will join other experts in the field on a speakers panel to apply their shared research and expertise with visitors from across the country. The dinner on October 12, will be the anchor for a three-day Shroud of Turin speaking event in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Shroud of Turin Research Project.

In 1978, a team of scientists were granted unprecedented access to the Shroud of Turin. Over the course of five days, the team of scientists and photographers worked non-stop, using various techniques, including infrared spectrometry and thermography, as well as sticky tape samples to analyze the cloth. This was the only research of its kind ever conducted on the Shroud of Turin. The research results were published in peer reviewed scientific journal articles over the course of four years following the team’s work.

Photo of the Shroud of Turin taken by Barrie Schwortz, a member of the Shroud of Turin Research Project, in 1978. Schwortz will be part of a six person expert panel on the Shroud on October 12, 2018, at the Cathedral.

Dr. John Jackson, a physicist, led the original 40-person STURP team. His path to the project was a winding one that began in his early teenage years.
“I was introduced to the Shroud by my mother when I was 13 or 14 years old. She told me that she had a picture of Jesus. … She showed it to me. And my first experience with the Shroud was that I didn’t recognize the image,” said Dr. Jackson. “Suddenly it dawned on me that I was looking at the face and the face was looking right at me. And it was that moment of interaction, that encounter, that little did I know at that point that it was going to change my life,” he said.

Much later in his life, when Dr. Jackson was a graduate student at Colorado State University, he was finishing up his first year of the program, as well as his time in the Air Force ROTC program. “During spring break I was in a mountain cabin, and I read a book that was loaned to me by one of my other graduate student friends – a book on the Shroud, it was by John Walsh. It talked about the kind of science that could be done on the Shroud. Little did I know that when I was reading that, this was in 1968, that 10 years later I’d be in a position to actually do those studies.”

Dr. Jackson added, “When I arrived back at Colorado State University, I had every intention of finishing up my Master’s degree in Physics there. I told my professor that I would like to do a project, a thesis, on the Shroud of Turin. Of course, he had no idea what that was. When I explained it to him, I think he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.”
But the idea and project never materialized at that time and place. Several days later, Dr. Jackson received a phone call from the Air Force inviting him to attend naval postgraduate school to receive a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Effects, and then ultimately a PhD in General Relativity and Cosmology. Following that he became a scientist at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM, and taught physics at the Air Force Academy.

“It was during that time period that I was able to do something I had wanted to do back at Colorado State University. I wanted to explore the relationship of image intensity to cross body distance,” said Dr. Jackson.

He was able to analyze the Shroud of Turin using this technique, producing a 3D relief of a body. “It showed something very fundamental that science can sink its teeth into regarding the Shroud. This discovery was of such a nature that it immediately began to interest scientists,” he said.

This was the catalyst that launched two years of preparation for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, which came to fruition in 1978.

As the president of STURP, Dr. Jackson made the main decisions regarding what would be done during their time there. He worked on the scientific protocols, administration of the research and how to solve scientific issues related to the project.

“We learned a tremendous amount about the Shroud. .. Five days working around the clock with 30 people with very good scientific credentials lead to a very strong data characterization of the Shroud, which we have been using ever since to put together hypotheses of trying to understand what exactly we have here,” said Dr. Jackson.

Rebecca Jackson is married to Dr. John Jackson, and is a longtime convert to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism. She runs the The Shroud Center Exhibit Presentation Center in Colorado, and also conducts her own research into the First Century Jewish aspects of the Shroud.

“I grew up Orthodox Jewish in Brooklyn, New York, and I’m a descendant of Holocaust survivors. I started coming to Christianity in the middle of high school, a Jewish Orthodox high school. So I was a Catholic in my heart for many years – since about 1963.”

Rebecca spent many years abroad teaching in Israel before returning to the U.S. and joining the Army. In 1987, she officially converted to Christianity, all before she had ever met Dr. Jackson. In 1990, she saw a video called The Silent Witness, and Dr. Jackson was featured in the film. She eventually met up with John and began working on Jewish aspects of the Shroud of Turin in 1990. Two years later, the two were married.

“From 1963, I’ve been studying ethnology,” said Rebecca. “In order to understand the Shroud, you have to understand Jewish ethnology. I was made for that because of my background.”

Her Jewish and Christian background combined with her studies in ethnology and global trade, bring a unique perspective to Shroud of Turin research.

Together Dr. John and Rebecca Jackson will give a free presentation on the Shroud of Turin on Saturday, October 13 at the Cathedral. They will also join in on the Friday night panel discussion.

Barrie Schwortz was the photographer for the 1978 STURP project. He visited Shreveport in March of this year and delivered a talk on his experience to more than 600 people. He is returning for STURP’s 40th anniversary, the first time in many years that he and Dr. Jackson have reunited. During his visit this past March, Schwortz talked about his experience being up close and photographing the Shroud of Turin.

“I started looking for paint pigment binders, any indication of any artwork,” said Schwortz. “Now I’m not an authority on that subject, but I have good eyes and I had total access to the Shroud, no glass or anything in between. My nose was an inch from that cloth and I was looking at it and looking down in between the fibers because paint pigment binders are going to be visible. They’re not going to disappear and just leave an image.”

He continued, “And so I knew probably within 10 or 15 minutes of the Shroud being unveiled that whatever it was, it wasn’t a painting.”

Schwortz photographed the Shroud of Turin over those five days, and his now famous photographs have been published in national publications across the globe. He also runs Shroud.com, which remains a go to point for enthusiasts and the curious alike, boasting more than a million visitors a year.

Schwortz will be part of the panel discussion on Friday evening.

Russ Breault has no direct tie to STURP, but instead became interested in the Shroud of Turin while he worked for his college newspaper in 1980. Following STURP in 1978, articles began rolling out about the research project and the Shroud, and so he asked if he could write a couple of stories on the Shroud for his college newspaper.

“I spent a lot of time researching for that and did a lot of reading and talked to some of the scientists on the phone to get quotes. So by the time the articles ran in the fall of 1980, I was hooked. I thought, ‘Man, this is an incredible mystery.’ And so, it just kind of became my life’s work,” said Breault.

He began doing small presentations on the Shroud of Turin, and his work continued to grow. In 1997, he incorporated the Shroud Education Project. Since that time he’s spoken at numerous conferences and appeared in several nationally televised documentaries including Mysteries of the Ancient World on CBS. Most recently, he appeared in the highly acclaimed, Uncovering the Face of Jesus —a two-hour documentary on The History Channel.

Breault’s fascination with the Shroud is wrapped up in its possibility. “If the Shroud was the work of an artist, we would have figured that out 100 years ago. All it takes is a magnifying glass to see the paint…. Scientists never found any visible trace of any kind of paint pigment, dye stain, no substances that would have been used by an alleged artist…. You can’t just simply say that this is some medieval hoax, because at this point, we still have not been able to fully replicate it.”

Beault’s presentation, “CSI Jerusalem” is presented much like the beloved TV show, slowly unveiling clues about the Shroud of Turin, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. His presentation will be on Thursday, October 11, at 6:00 p.m. at the Cathedral. It is a free event. He will also join Friday night’s panel discussion.

Bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to the panel discussion, both Father Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Diocesan Administrator and Judicial Vicar, and Dr. Cheryl White, Associate Professor of History at LSU-Shreveport, will be part of the event as well. Together they have launched the extremely successful and globally listened to Man of the Shroud podcast series. Both are members of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud. In April of this year, both Fr. Mangum and Dr. White were granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives for further research related to the Shroud. Fr. Mangum is curator of the new Shroud Exhibit located at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Dr. White has studied the Shroud of Turin the entirety of her academic career, with a special interest in the Shroud’s so-called “Missing Years,” of 1204-1355.

Dr. and Mrs. Jackson, Schwortz, Breault, Fr. Mangum and Dr. White, will join their experience, intellect and insight to produce a once in a lifetime event at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. See page 15 for details of the weekend’s events, and visit sjbcathedral.org to purchase tickets.

Bishop Duca Installed in Baton Rouge Shreveport Bids Him Farewell

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by Jessica Rinaudo
photos by Marie Constantin & Bonny Van

August 24 was a bittersweet day for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, especially members of the clergy, diocesan staff and friends of Bishop Michael Duca who gathered together at St. Joseph Cathedral in our capital city in preparation for his installation as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge. We took our seats near the front, looking through our programs as we prepared for the Mass to begin.

After a long procession of bishops, priests and deacons filed in, the sanctuary stilled. Three long raps came from outside the church’s front door, Bishop Duca’s signal that he was asking to take possession of the Cathedral church. Those sounds sent a ripple of emotion through the people gathered there – both of excitement and sadness.

After the doors opened, the trumpets sounded and those gathered sang out “Lift High the Cross” as Bishop Duca made his way down the aisle and stood at the front of the cathedral. Rev. Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargè d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature, stood before the people and read the Apostolic Letter from His Holiness Pope Francis, officially appointing Most Rev. Michael G. Duca as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge.

After displaying the letter, Bishop Duca was escorted by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, and Msgr. Erbi to the cathedral chair, the cathedra, and was presented with his crozier – the same crozier which was used in the installation of the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s first Bishop, Robert E. Tracy in 1958. With that, Bishop Duca was officially installed as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge.

Bishop Duca, true to himself, preached that day with vigor and a touch of his signature humor. He talked about what it means to be a diocese, saying, a diocese is “a portion of the people God entrusted under the pastoral care of a bishop, who with the help of his presbyters and deacons, gathers the people in the Holy Spirit in the Word and the Eucharist.”
“So, right now, as we gather here, you could take away all the buildings and all the chapels, me as the bishop with the presbyters, and even in a more powerful way, Msgr. Erbi’s presence here representing the Holy Father and our universal unity, we are the Church, fully, completely,” said Bishop Duca. “Everything that is required to be the Church is present here – one, holy, catholic, apostolic. We are the Church. And, I want you to imagine, in the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God, around this altar, celebrating the Eucharist. That’s why everything we are comes to and from this altar, for here we are together in the body of Christ and we receive from this altar that strength, that nourishment that feeds us and we become what we receive. This is where we start and where we end. Everything we do, we must draw strength and meaning from here, because here we’re united with Christ on the cross. Here we die with Christ so that we can rise with Christ. Here we are fed and nourished.”

… “I will do my best because I take that definition (of diocese) seriously that this people, you, have been entrusted to my care. And it is an awesome responsibility.”

In a nod to his roots and loving heart, Bishop Duca’s brother, James, sisters, Irene and Rosanne, and his Shreveport secretary, Elaine Gallion, brought up the gifts.

During Mass, Bishop Duca greeted representatives from Catholic ministries from across the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Following the Mass, a reception was held at the Baton Rouge Catholic Life Center. There he greeted the people of Baton Rouge, snapped photos and bid farewell to his friends from the Diocese of Shreveport.

Our prayers continue to be with Bishop Michael Duca as he embraces his new role in our capital city.

Catholic Charities Employee Assists Clients in Sharing the Journey

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by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Since 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has provided assistance and guidance to immigrants as they seek to become legal residents or naturalized citizens of the United States. The Immigration Integration Services program consists of immigration attorney Briana Bianca, immigration advocate Gilda Rada-Garcia, and volunteer Izabela Carabelli, and serves clients throughout north Louisiana.

Last year, 14 of CCNLA’s clients became United States citizens. It is a long and arduous process, culminating with a special ceremony in a courthouse. In the past, Rada-Garcia has always attended this ceremony to cheer on her clients, but on September 12, surrounded by friends and CCNLA staff members, Rada-Garcia joined two of her clients as they took the oath to become United States citizens.

Rada-Garcia was born in Venezuela and came to the United States in 1986, where she lived and worked. Her oldest son was born in New York before she returned to Venezuela in 1999. In 2012, she returned to the U.S. and came to live in Shreveport with her family through a diversity visa, which was awarded through the lottery system.

It was after Rada-Garcia had lived in the U.S. for five years that she was able to take the first steps toward becoming an American citizen by filing an application in April 2018. She traveled to Fort Smith, AR, in July 2018 to be interviewed and take the citizenship test, a test that surveys show only one in three current Americans can pass. In order to prepare for the test, Rada-Garcia was given a list of 100 questions which could possibly be on the test, covering the subjects of government, history and civics, geography, symbols and holidays. The test consisted of 10 questions, with six correct answers needed to pass. After passing both the interview and test, Rada-Garcia was ready for the final step – taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

Immigration attorney Briana Bianca celebrates with client Julie Esie (Cameroon) and her son, Peter Nche, as Esie became a U.S. citizen on July 11, 2018.

When interviewed prior to the ceremony, Rada-Garcia said that she was looking forward to calling herself an American. “I got to know this country as a resident and have enjoyed working with our immigrant clients,” she explained. “I take my role as an American seriously, as well as all of the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.” When asked if she felt any hesitation about the ceremony, she replied, “I have not lived in my native country for many years and now consider the United States to be my home. I would not be the person that I am without my life as a Venezuelan, but now I am happy to say that I am an American.”

She described the process as “something that is finished, yet something that is just beginning.” Having gone through the citizenship process herself, Rada-Garcia will now be able to use her experience in order to help CCNLA’s immigrant clients go through the steps of citizenship.

The Immigration Integration Services program is funded in part by the Louisiana Bar Foundation and United Way of Northwest Louisiana. To find out more information, contact Catholic Charities at 318-865-0200 or visit www.ccnla.org.

St. John Berchmans Catholic School Celebrates Landmark Year

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by Lisa Cooper

This year marks two special occasions for the St. John Berchmans community as they celebrate the 70th anniversary of the school, as well as the 40th anniversary of their annual Monster Mash family night.

What started as a priest’s vision in 1946 has since been the foundation which has supported the education and faith of thousands of Shreveport’s families for 70 years. When Fr. Druhan became pastor of St. John Berchmans, he felt strongly that a Catholic education should become a reality for every child in the parish. Working with his parishioners who were dedicated to the prospect of building a parochial school in Shreveport,

Fr. Druhan purchased the property located next to the church on Jordan Street for a school, and the Ingersol home on Margaret Place was purchased as a convent for the Daughters of the Cross sisters from St. Vincent’s, who would serve at the school as staff and teachers.

In 1949, Sr. John Roberta served as the school’s first principal, and the doors to Shreveport’s first parochial school were opened with six grades. The cost of construction of the first phase of the parochial school was $250,000.

In those 70 years, much has changed for the school, but the tradition upon which it was built has remained its anchor. With a history that traces back to the original SJB School established in 1902, St. John Berchmans School was built upon the solid and constant foundation of faith and the rich heritage of our Catholic traditions.

The longstanding motto of “Kindness is practiced here” remains the bedrock of the culture of SJB, a culture that even families new to the school recognize from the moment they walk through the doors. There is a predictability and continuity of both faith and excellence in education that SJB staff and families count on. This thread of distinction not only holds the community of SJB together, but also provides that sure underpinning essential to allowing students to soar.

Although it remains unwavering in its traditions, SJB also leads the way in innovation. With a host of art and drama offerings and its tenth State Science Olympiad win under its belt, SJB continues to provide its students with a rare education founded in faith, the arts, and STEM. Whether working in the state-of-the-art media and computer lab or rehearsing lines and music for their yearly production, students at SJB are nurtured by a faculty who consistently refine and improve their educational processes to ensure they stay on the cutting edge of meeting the academic needs of each student, while keeping the faith formation of every child at the forefront of every school experience. Keeping with Fr. Druhan’s vision of providing an excellent Catholic education for the children in the parish, SJB continues to ensure every student enjoys unmatched academic opportunities while remaining grounded in the Catholic faith that is essential to their success.

Additionally, SJB will pull out all the stops to celebrate this year’s 40th annual Monster Mash on October 27th. This family festivity has been a haven for parents and students alike as they show up each year to enjoy carnival games, cake walks, costume contests and the annual haunted house. The fun will be multiplied this year, with numerous bounce-houses, carnival games, a strong-man tower and hayride. As a special feature, the school is asking SJB alumni from Monster Mash’s inaugural year to come back and judge the costume contest. All of the SJB community, both past and present, is invited to come out to kick off the Monster Mash celebration.

Current families as well as alumni are invited to join in participating in the school’s anniversary extravaganza, which will be held in May. Alumni are encouraged to enjoy a homecoming all year by coming back to see all of the improvements and innovations at the school. To register as an alumnus of the school and participate in any of the exciting activities planned this year, check the website, sjbcathedralschool.org, or call the office at 318-221-6005.

Bidding Farewell to Father Andre McGrath, OFM

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by John Mark Willcox

Our faith community lost a dear friend on September 8 as Fr. Andre McGrath, OFM, passed into the Lord’s hands at the friary of St. Mary of the Angels in New Orleans, LA.
Born April 20, 1940, Fr. Andre was blessed with a superior education by a number of learning institutes including Duns Scotus College, Southfield, MI, St. Leonard College, Centerville, OH, the University of Detroit, the University of Tubingen West Germany and Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Ordained as a Franciscan Priest in 1967, Fr. Andre taught at a number of Catholic high schools and colleges in the upper mid-west until his community asked that he travel to Africa to teach at Tangaza Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. It was this experience that would forever change Fr. Andre’s life and the lives of many faithful men of Africa who were inspired by the ministry of Fr. Andre.

Learning Swahili and working in union with his new comrades, Fr. Andre was instrumental in forming the Community of Franciscan Missionaries of Hope. This order is also known as the Lyke Community in memory of the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, who was the first African-American Archbishop of Atlanta, GA, and a big influence on
Fr. Andre’s priesthood.

When Fr. Andre arrived in the Diocese of Shreveport in the late 1990’s to share his immense knowledge of the Church as an instructor in the Greco Institute, he also brought to America some of the initial members of the Lyke Community – men who would later be ordained to the priesthood and serve in our diocese and other areas of the nation. What a blessing these fine priests have been to the faithful of our diocese and it would not have been possible without the steadfast and successful priesthood of Fr. McGrath.

The members of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Shreveport also benefited from Fr. Andre’s time with our diocese as he served as their pastor for many years, and as chaplain of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy elementary school before its closing.

Whether he was teaching, providing formation to seminarians, immersing himself in the vast culture of Africa, or simply pastoring a local parish, Fr. McGrath made a huge difference in the lives of Catholics on two continents. The people of our diocese are forever touched by Fr. Andre’s presence among us and we give thanks to the Franciscan Community for graciously sharing part of his holy priesthood with the Catholics of our region.

Diocese Welcomes Fr. Mangum as Administrator

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by Jessica Rinaudo

On Monday, August 27, following the installation of Bishop Michael Duca as the 6th Bishop of Baton Rouge, the Diocese of Shreveport’s College of Consultors, a group of 11 priests, convened to elect a diocesan administrator. The diocesan administrator is a priest who will oversee diocesan operations until the appointment of a new bishop by the Vatican.

Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum was elected to the position. Fr. Mangum received his seminary education from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas before attending North American College in Rome where he obtained degrees in Sacred Theology and in Canon Law. Ordained in 1990, Fr. Mangum has served as Judicial Vicar and has been pastor of the parishes of St. Paul in Minden, St. Joseph in Shreveport, and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, where he currently serves as Rector.

“I am grateful to my brother priests for their confidence in me to govern the diocese until we get a new bishop,” said Fr. Mangum. “This is an additional opportunity to serve, and I am grateful for the prayerful support of the people of the diocese and of the assistance offered to me by my brother priests and by the Cathedral staff. There is something inspiring about knowing the third Bishop of Shreveport is out there working in the Church, so it makes our prayers very concrete as I strive to maintain and prepare the diocese for him. Join me in praying for him in his pursuit of holiness and for his zeal for and love of the Church as Jesus Christ founded it.”

From Fr. Rothell Price’s article in the August Catholic Connection:

“The diocesan administrator enjoys the power of the diocesan bishop, with the exception of a few things; for example, he cannot ordain a bishop, priest, or deacon because he is not bishop. He can, however, invite a bishop to come to the diocese to preside over an ordination. Likewise, he cannot preside at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Again, he would have to recruit a bishop from outside our diocese to come preside at that Mass.”

He continued, “The diocesan administrator is forbidden to do anything against the rights of the diocese or those of the in-coming bishop. He is prohibited from removing or changing documents of the diocesan curia. During his administration nothing is to be altered or changed in the diocese. These rules are in place to ensure stability and tranquility in the diocese until the new bishop arrives. The diocesan administrator is obliged to live in the diocese and ensure Mass for the people of the diocese. His responsibilities end when the new bishop takes possession of the diocese.”

Fr. Mangum hit the ground running in his new role. With the support of his brother priests, he announced a diocesan prayer vigil for reparation and petition in the face of the Church’s sex abuse crisis that was held on Friday, September 14, at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Fr. Mangum also coordinated the distribution of the letter of Archbishop Gregory Aymond sent to all parishes of the Diocese of Shreveport regarding the same crisis and has drafted and published a prayer for a new bishop for the Diocese of Shreveport.

Domestic Church: Help Us, Lord! We’re Sinking!

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by Katie Sciba

My friend texted me, “Pleading for prayers for my husband,” she began, “All these scandals in the Church have shaken him up and he’s got one foot out the door of the Church.” Unfortunately it wasn’t the only message like this I received. Another friend called upset saying she knew an abuse victim in a diocese out of state; still another said her dear friend and favorite priest was removed from ministry to be investigated.

The present crisis in the Catholic Church is like a cancer; some way or another, it touches all of us in the Body of Christ.

My emotions have run all over the place: anger, disbelief, deep sadness, fear for what will happen to the remaining faithful. At times I’m sure that whatever the future holds, all will be well for the Church that’s been protected for 2,000+ years by the Holy Spirit; however, I have moments when my confidence is more like the disciples’ caught in a storm on the sea, “Help us, Lord! We’re sinking!”

Though the Lord lay sleeping, wasn’t He there with His frightened friends? While the scandals rock the Church at large, Jesus remains; only now the vessel caught in upheaval is the universal Catholic community, and Christ is still, yet present in the Eucharist.

I was in the grocery store when a young man, a stranger to me, approached and invited me to his church’s Bible study. Smiling, I declined saying I was already in one. His friendly expression fell when I told him I was Catholic. He was quick to ask if I had seen the news lately, and he reminded me of the deeply-rooted and widespread scandal in my Church. “You have to be looking for a new church home. How can you stay Catholic?” he asked, almost to himself. “I’m Catholic because of Jesus,” I replied.

God moves and loves us through others – especially through the leaders in our Church; still, though leaders fall or fail, though we may lose faith in people, it’s paramount that we keep our faith in Christ, who is after all, the very reason any of us are Catholic.

And in any moment when we struggle to trust in God’s wisdom, think back. Not only has He upheld the Catholic Church as a whole, He’s upheld us in personally trying circumstances. Psalm 143 says, “I muse on what your hand has wrought” — how has the Lord outstretched His hand and given grace the very minute we need it? How has He supported us each when we’re burdened? A mother of a young abuse victim told me that it was reading scripture, especially the words of Jesus, that kept her and her family in Mass.

The epic drama within the Catholic Church will not likely conclude quickly, but we can allow ourselves to be still and know God, who has forever upheld the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so. We can proceed bravely into the unknown armed with hope and certainty in the Eucharist. Above all we have to pray, offer sacrifices in the day, and penance for victims of abuse, for conversions of abusers, for faithful priests and laity to support the truth with humility and peace.

Ruston Catholic Received French Legion of Honor

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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!”

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

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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

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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 www.rachelsvineyard.org.

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.