Category Archives: Features

Faithful Step Up in Wake of Tornado Devastation


by Walter Johnson

On April 25, the city of Ruston found itself reeling from an EF3 tornado that blew into the area in the early hours of Thursday morning. The vicious storm was part of a severe weather system ultimately responsible for serious storms and tornado patterns all the way from east Texas into northwest Louisiana. National Weather Service warnings were issued in St. Augustine, TX around 11:00 p.m. and continued until 3:00 a.m., as the storm moved into the area. The severe weather traveled up through Lincoln, Bienville and Red River parishes, ultimately making its way past Pleasant Hill and into the northeast corner of the state. Although much of the damage occurred in Ruston around Tech Drive and the Cypress Springs community just south of I-20, there was widespread damage throughout the city.

The National Weather Service confirmed this tornado was considered at least an EF3, with produced winds as high as 165 mph. Of the surveyed damage, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards stated: “the damage is extensive and catastrophic.” Sadly, Kendra Butler, 35, and her son Remington, 14, lost their lives when a tree crashed into their home.

Ruston will be recovering from this event for months to come. In times like these, people fall back upon their family, their community, their faith and their fellow church members in order to make sense of such a disaster.

Several parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston lived through the experience, using their talents, resources and compassion to lend a helping hand to those the tornado left behind. Paul Jackson, who works as an Associate Professor of Plant Science at Louisiana Tech University, remembers how the day of the storm began. The tornado touched down about one mile south of his home in north Ruston. Paul didn’t even realize the storm was occurring until it was almost on top of the city. Paul witnessed the escalating chaos and was prevented from making an attempt to go anywhere in Ruston on the day of the storm. Downed and stripped trees and debris lay everywhere, blocking entry from entire streets and neighborhoods. Portions of a large tree had blown down onto the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish near the school building.

Luckily, Paul was able to use his chainsaw to start the process of splitting apart and removing the tree, clearing a pathway around the St. Thomas buildings. As he moved to other damaged sites, he attempted to check-in with a female colleague, but ultimately could not since city streets had become blocked off. Paul’s own home thankfully suffered no damages, but the post-storm-littered landscape of this formerly quiet college town won’t be soon forgotten.

As the week wore on, Paul continued to provide local support to various homeowners, cutting and removing everything from equipment to uprooted trees from local neighborhoods affected by the winds. Paul worked alongside another St. Thomas Aquinas member, Joshua Adams, an Associate Professor of Forestry at Louisiana Tech – as they helped various neighbors clear out material in or around their homes. Paul answered the call when some older sight-impaired St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners needed assistance in dealing with their own home damages from the high winds.

According to Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish served up huge portions of fresh jambalaya to displaced community members on Wednesday, May 1, free of charge. This tornado experience and the cleanup in the midst of the aftermath shed some spiritual light on this whole experience for Paul. It strengthened his Catholic faith, as he witnessed other members of the community coming together to help – regardless of faith or station. Paul had never been in the midst of such a disaster before, save for years ago working with the government during the aftermath of the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy over East Texas and Northwest Louisiana. As Paul surveyed the damaged neighborhoods, he could only ask one thing: “What do we need to do – right now?”

Joshua Adams experienced what the aftermath of a tornado is like, as well. At 2:00 a.m. on the morning of April 25, Joshua was yanked from sleep by the shrill pitch of his phone’s Weather Alert. Minutes after the message, his friend (with a background in meteorology) was texting Joshua with urgent instructions to “Go and hide!” in his home’s hallway with his young child. Thankfully Joshua’s family home was spared any major damage, but Joshua distinctly recalls the terrible sounds of the tornado as it ripped its way across Ruston’s skies that early morning.

Joshua started working immediately during the night and into the dawn, helping other neighbors even as the local roadways started to be blocked off by city authorities. He remembers walking around the empty, debris-ridden streets, commenting that it “felt surreal,” looking more like a scene from a zombie movie rather than his own hometown.

As a Forestry professor, Joshua collected his chainsaws and started moving from house to house down Ruston’s Robinette Drive, not far away from his daily forestry office on Tech’s South campus, cutting up trees and clearing debris where he found it. The University Hills neighborhood in Ruston was the hardest-hit from the storm. Days after the tornado, Joshua and Paul moved throughout their neighborhoods, helping to cut and clear downed trees and limbs too big or heavy to remove alone.

Despite the damage, Joshua described the scene as “heartwarming” as he witnessed people helping each other after such a drastic event.

On day three, Joshua visited with St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners who manage the Center for the Blind in Ruston. The sight-impaired couples’ home had an entire wall ripped away from a nearby falling tree during the storm. With Joshua’s assistance the couple was able to relocate to the Blind Center’s apartment complex.

Recounting his post-tornado experience, Joshua never anticipated how much room is required to stack up all of the excess wood cleared away by the citywide post-storm clearing efforts. And even though Joshua experienced a tornado so fierce that it spattered wall insulation from one house onto another, across the street he saw the working of his faith in the people and teams around him, summing up that this was “good people, doing good work – all over.”

Both Paul Jackson and Joshua Adams are active members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston, LA.

Fr. Kevin Mues Ordination to the Priesthood


A Q& A with the Diocese of Shreveport’s Newest Ordained Priest

During your time in seminary, what are some of the moments that have encouraged your vocation?
The things that have been most encouraging to me during my seminary experience were often the things that I had the most apprehension about. God has put me in places where I could learn and grow, and that hasn’t always been easy. The mission trips we took to Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as the Spanish language program I took in Mexico were really tough challenges because I had to adapt and experience a language and culture that remain unfamiliar. The love and depth of faith that I experienced from the people in those places was inspiring and made the challenges worthwhile.

I taught CCD at a New Orleans parish for two years and had to think of ways to make the faith interesting and exciting for young high school students. I think the most difficult part was tying the theological language I was taught in seminary with my own experience of God in order to bring the kids I was teaching to a fuller relationship with Christ. The trials that high schoolers face today seem harder than I remember from 11 years ago. I had to re-learn how to navigate the tough questions of youth while still bringing the light and hope of the Gospel to them in a real and accessible way.

My experience of hospital ministry was the most challenging of all the practical experiences I had during my years in seminary. At first, I was afraid to even knock on a door and go into a room. I didn’t want to be one more person who came in and woke up a patient or made the suffering of a hospital stay more taxing. The greatest thing I learned from that ministerial experience is that my fear of making mistakes or being out of place was far less important than the grace I could bring to a moment of suffering if I faced that fear and crossed that threshold. I walked with families during times of real joy and real pain during that experience, and I grew to understand in an intimate way that God could use me with all my own weaknesses and limitations.

What do you look forward to most about being a priest?
What a huge question! I look forward to being able to be a part of the lives and the faith of the parish. A priest is called to serve and I look forward to serving parishioners both spiritually and sacramentally. I can’t wait until I’m able to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to bring the sacraments of healing to people in need, and to begin the ministerial mission of priesthood. My hope is to join couples in matrimony, unite their children to God in baptism, and to watch as their families grow in their faith. I feel blessed to be called to walk with families and to serve them with the grace that I receive through ordination.

Have there been any role models who have helped you in this decision, or encouraged you in your vocation?
I don’t think I would have heard and responded to God’s call if it hadn’t been echoed through the encouragement of the people of Monroe who took the time to ask me, “Have you ever prayed about a vocation to the priesthood?” That invitation by the people I knew and respected at the Catholic Campus Ministry in Monroe, as well as the encouragement and support of Fr. Job Edathinatt Scaria, CMI got me to start asking the questions of God and of the diocese that I needed to ask. Fr. Matthew Long’s encouragement as the vocation director and his continued support throughout my seminary education gave me a good foundational example that has helped me tremendously.

The friendship with the seminarians that I began seminary with that have gone on to become priests has been inspiring. Fr. Keith Garvin, Fr. Jerry Daigle,
Fr. Fidel MondragÓn, and Fr. Duane Trombetta each gave me an example to strive for as I pursued my studies. Equally important was the encouragement I felt from the parishes that I have been assigned to and where I’ve spent time. While I haven’t been to every single parish in our diocese, I have felt the support of the entire diocese during my time in seminary formation. The people of St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield, the people of Christ the King Parish in Bossier City, and the people at St. Jude Parish in Benton, as well as the other parishes where I volunteered for shorter periods of time have given me the lived experience of ministry that can’t be imparted in the classroom. The people from these parishes as well as the friends that I have from the parishes in Monroe have helped to make this diocese my home. I’ve felt more loved than I could have ever asked for during my time in seminary.

What advice would you give a man who is beginning to discern priesthood?
My first thought is that we all need to be discerning! God is calling all of us to holiness and we could all spend more time in prayer seeking to do His will. Oftentimes, I think young men and women who feel a calling to priesthood or religious life expect a theophany, a thunderous voice of God from the clouds to point them in the right vocational direction. Just like for Elijah, God’s voice in our lives is often a whisper that we have to seek in prayer and through our reception of the sacraments. The great thing is that we don’t have to lean in and hear that voice alone. For those who think they may have a calling to the priesthood: Speak up! Discernment is a process you don’t need to do by yourself, and the Office of Vocations in the diocese is always available to give guidance and help.

Fr. Jerry wants to bring happy, holy vocations to the service of our diocese. He will provide the guidance and help you need in order to start your discernment of God’s will. Discernment is a long process and it must be done within and in concert with the local Church or religious community that you are seeking.

 Looking back to when you first entered seminary and then to where you are now, what have been some of the things that have played out as you expected? Some that haven’t?
When I was told that my formation would mean six years in school, I thought that it was going to feel like a lifetime. Looking back, it seems to have flown by. I am so grateful for my two years at St. Joseph’s Abbey and Seminary College and my four years at Notre Dame Seminary. When I first started out, the seminary experience was a scary one. Not having ever been in such a completely Catholic environment, being expected to stick to a rigorous schedule of prayer and classes, and in the midst of all that still trying to discern whether I was even called to the priesthood, was daunting. It was only with the help of my professors and formators, the priests back home, and the support of my family and friends that I was able to give myself over to the process of seminary life and formation.

I couldn’t have imagined the friendship and close fraternity that I already feel to the priests of the Diocese of Shreveport. I can’t wait to be a “coworker in the vineyard” with them.

In college I had professors I respected and cared about, but the formators at both of my seminaries showed me an example of true fatherhood. Their example as priests helped me find my gifts and strengths and see areas where I could grow.

Finally, I never thought that I would have this much love and excitement for the Diocese of Shreveport. Great things are happening in our diocese and now I get to be a part of them again, only this time as a priest.

Who would you like to thank?
If I took the time to thank every person who has helped me along the way, this month’s Catholic Connection would look more like a phone book than a magazine. I am always thankful for the support of my family. Each of them honors the reality of my vocation in a unique way. I have also been very blessed in my close personal friendships – people who have remained a part of my daily life across the miles. The encouragement of Bishop Michael Duca in his time here as our bishop was wonderful. He took the time to get to know his seminarians. He cared about my vocation, giving me the guidance and encouragement I needed to continue.

The priests of our diocese that have helped me throughout this process have given me the example of what it means to be a servant and a leader.
The parish staffs who have let me learn from them as they helped to guide their parishes have been amazing and dynamic. They set the example for the kinds of people I need to look for when I become a pastor one day. The people of the diocese have helped give me courage during all the different challenges we have met together in my time in seminary. I owe a great debt of gratitude for their love and support as well as for the love and support of all the people who faithfully sustained me with generous gifts as I pursued my studies.

Reflection on Minor Seminary


by Seminarian Kelby Tingle

Four years ago I graduated from Loyola College Prep in Shreveport and, feeling a call to discern a vocation to the priesthood, I made the prayerful decision to enter seminary formation. I have studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, LA, which the seminarians fondly refer to as “St. Ben’s.” With amazement at how fast time goes by and gratitude for the experiences that God blessed me with, I reflect on my formation in minor seminary as a graduate.
The structured life of the seminary, which includes time for personal prayer as well as communal prayer, allowed me to grow in a more personal and dedicated relationship with God and His Son. As a seminary community, we gathered three times a day in our chapel for morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer with Mass after morning prayer. I was often impacted by hearing the voices of more than 100 seminarians who had the same intention as me: to grow in discipleship.

In my first year of seminary, my spiritual director emphasized the importance of spending an hour in silent prayer before the Eucharist. While it was at times difficult for me to spend an hour in silent prayer, I realized the importance of my daily conversations with the Lord. It is through spending time asking Him questions and reflecting on my relationship with Him that I have come to understand and cherish more fully the calling He has given me. Spiritual formation is the foundation of all relationships, events and activities of the seminary.

I often consider myself blessed to have been integrated into a community as vibrant as that of St. Ben’s. Throughout my four years of formation, I have formed several remarkable friendships with seminarians from dioceses across the deep South. Throughout the course of the year, there are many times the seminarians gather to spend time with other seminaries. An event at the seminary that was always awaited with great anticipation was the annual Bonfire Flag Football game against Notre Dame Seminary. Apart from the special events the seminary hosts, it was amazing to form relationships with others by walking around the beautiful grounds of the seminary, discussing philosophy or simply sharing stories. I am exceedingly grateful for the relationships that, in many ways, have led me to a closer relationship with Christ.

Because I entered the seminary immediately after completing high school, I attained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and the Liberal Arts. While I remember questioning the relevance of studying philosophy, I have realized the importance of it and grown in admiration for the curriculum. Studying the liberal arts and philosophy has offered me the opportunity for deeper critical thinking. I came to the realization that mankind, including myself, is a people who are always striving to know and understand the truth more fully. Man has a longing to discover who he is and how he relates to the world and to the Divine Creator. In this way, the curriculum has not solely had an intellectual impact on my priestly formation, but it has impacted my prayer life.

When reflecting on my experiences at St. Ben’s, several events that the seminary hosts come to mind. It is through experiencing these events that a love for service has been fostered within me. In the spring semester, the seminary welcomes over 1,000 youth for the Abbey Youth Festival. The seminary also hosts discernment weekends where more than 100 young men visit to see the life of the seminary and discern God’s will in their  own lives. As a part of the formation program, every senior travels to Guatemala for mission immersion. While these events differ in some ways, they all invite me, as an aspiring priest, to give of myself and continuously invite others to live with Christ.

I will remember St. Joseph Seminary College with great fondness and believe that it has thoroughly prepared me to begin the major seminary in the fall.
In July, I will begin attending the Pontifical North American College and studying at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. I greatly look forward to studying Theology, as well as being fully immersed in the Roman culture. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and am excited for the experiences God will bless me with. I trust that these experiences will bring me closer to God and make me a more effective priest for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

For all of those who have offered prayers and support to me throughout my journey in minor seminary, I sincerely thank you. I ask for your continued prayers for me as I continue my discernment and formation.

CCNLA and SVdP: Side by Side and Hand in Hand


by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

At first glance, it may appear that there is a duplication of services in what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) does and what Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) does. To some, it may be confusing that SVdP and CCNLA are two, completely separate unaffiliated organizations within the same Diocese of Shreveport. However, largely because of the efforts of Bonnie Martinez in Shreveport and Jo Ann Crone in Monroe, these two Catholic social service organizations have formed a partnership in which both organizations join forces in their efforts to serve the poor and vulnerable.

According to the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served. It is evident then, that the mission and vision of SVdP aligns with CCNLA’s own mission to bring Christ’s message of love to the poor and vulnerable by providing quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination.

As President of the Western District Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which includes Shreveport, Bossier and surrounding areas, Martinez saw the opportunity for the two organizations to work together to mutually benefit and support each other’s programs. She proved to be the resource that bridged the gap of missing contact information for each organization. Through her leadership, conference members have gained an appreciation for the cooperative partnership with CCNLA and understand that the collective efforts of both groups better serve those in the community.

As the relationship has evolved over the years, when SVdP conference members are working with a family that they feel could benefit from the services of CCNLA could help supplement, they will refer the family to CCNLA. Likewise, CCNLA will refer clients to SVdP when we are unable to help with specific needs or when the client may benefit from supplemental aid that SVdP can provide. In this way, both organizations are able to reach more people and affect those lives for the better, doing more in collaboration than what could be accomplished individually.

“When we pool together our resources and efforts, we both get to serve the same individual,” said Martinez. “It’s a win-win situation. St. Vincent de Paul initiates an interpersonal connection through our home visits and with the educational component that Catholic Charities provides, we move closer to that which will result in long-term change for the individual.”

In the same way, Crone, Board President and a founding member of the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy in Monroe, has been pivotal in establishing a collaborative association with the CCNLA Monroe office as well. The CCNLA Monroe office works closely with the SVdP chapters of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Our Lady of Fatima Parish and St. Lawrence Church.

The special partnership that CCNLA and SVdP have created both in the Shreveport/Bossier and Monroe areas continues to grow stronger and proudly represents the Diocese of Shreveport hand in hand. The number of clients and families that CCNLA and SVdP have worked collectively to assist has been numerous. The relationship that SVdP and CCNLA have established embodies CCNLA’s vision that together SVdP and CCNLA invest in people to alleviate poverty, distress and injustice. •

Pro-Life Oratory Contest Winners Announced


he Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Committee has announced the local winners of its high school oratory contest. Kaiden Odell, a senior at Word of God Academy in Shreveport, won first place with his insightful presentation. He cited the “Unborn Victim of Violence” act, which charges a murderer of a pregnant woman with two counts of murder, one for her and one for her unborn child. Her baby is considered alive and a victim, at whatever stage of its development. Kaiden pointed out the irony that this recognition is unfortunately not provided to babies who are victims of abortion and infanticide, even though the babies are identical in their development. Kaiden was awarded $500 for his speech.

Second place honors were captured by Celeste Lirette, a senior at Loyola College Prep. Her stirring presentation relayed the fact that one in four babies are aborted. That child who never had a chance at life could have been your best friend. Celeste stated that young people need to be bold in proclaiming the truth about the evils of abortion, because “in the end, that aborted baby could have been me or it could have been you.” Celeste was awarded $250 for her presentation.

Zaige Wills, a senior at Byrd High School, won third place by pointing out that everyone deserves the right to life. He challenged the audience to action, saying “We must be the voice for the defenseless babies who are being deprived of this right.” He was awarded $100 for his inspiring speech.

First place winner Kaiden Odell advanced to the State Finals in Baton Rouge on Saturday, May 4 at the Louisiana Knights of Columbus Convention in Baton Rouge. Kaiden won the state competition and will represent Louisiana at the National Pro-Life Oratory contest, which will be held at the National Right to Life Convention in Charleston, SC on July 6.

The local competition was held April 25, at the Catholic Center in Shreveport. Now in its 31st year, the contest challenges students to consider the bioethical issues of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and fetal stem cell research from a pro-life perspective.

The contest is non-denominational and is sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport. State and National sponsors are the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, the Louisiana Knights of Columbus and the National Right to Life.

For more information, contact Anthony Fabio at Visit our Facebook page: •

Pope Exhorts Young People to Be Courageous; Encounter Christ on the 56th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Vatican Media/CNA

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The 56th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations was celebrated by the Catholic Church on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, a day which is also commonly referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. Inspired by the Lord’s instruction in the Gospels of Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2, in which Jesus exhorts the people to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” World Day of Prayer for Vocations unites the faithful together in praying for the fostering of all vocations, particularly those of ordained ministry and consecrated life.

In his Message for the 2019 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis reflected on the reality that all men are made “bearers of a promise” and are asked to have the “courage to take a risk” with Jesus and for Jesus. The Holy Father emphasized that just as the Lord beckoned Simon and Andrew to leave their nets and follow him, he also asks the same of us. He encounters each of us personally and uniquely, and it is in the midst of this encounter with Christ that Pope Francis says we are granted “the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfillment to our lives.” The Holy Father also urged those discerning to remember that “the Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a “cage” or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking.”

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, stated that it is precisely because of this encounter with Christ that we are given the courage to leave the security of our daily routines and decisively embark on the path the Lord has for us. “To have courage does not mean that we suddenly have no fear or uncertainty,” Cardinal Tobin said. To be courageous means to know with confidence that Jesus is walking with us and in challenging us to take a risk, intends only our greatest joy.”

Closing his Message for the 2019 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis beseeched young people to realize that following Jesus is always worth the risk. “Do not be deaf to the Lord’s call,” he urged. “If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyzes us before the great heights to which the Lord points us. Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boats behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey. •

One Last Time: Rinaudo Bids Farewell After More Than a Decade as Connection Editor


by Jessica Rinaudo

As I began to work on this, my final issue of The Catholic Connection, I looked back and counted the number of issues I’ve put together over the past 11+ years. This, it turns out, is my 129th issue.

The Catholic Connection has been so much more than just a job to me. As I scanned through the contents of all those back issues, I saw a timeline of my own faith journey and the friendships I’ve formed with all those who have worked diligently with me throughout these many years to produce an ever-evolving Catholic news and evangelization publication for the Diocese of Shreveport.

When I first took over the magazine at the end of 2007, relatively new to the publishing world, I had big ideas. We evolved the magazine to include more feature-based content with established columnists and full color! The page count climbed: first from 16 to 24 pages, and then from 24 pages to 32. With the page increases, we had more opportunities to include Catholic voices from all ages and backgrounds. My editorial board was flush with ideas, and our freshly minted new bishop, Most Reverend Michael Duca – bless him – always trusted me to do what I thought was best for the magazine.

Rinaudo speaks about The Catholic Connection magazine at St. John Berchmans School's Career Day.

The collaboration I’ve had with writers over the years has been invaluable. Each month has been an adventure as I worked closely with Kim and Katie to develop their content, and gleaned so much from Mike’s perspective on Scripture and Church teaching. Working with Bishop Duca was an opportunity to not only get to know and love the “man at the top,” but to hone my own editing skills and confidence.

All of these collaborative efforts began to draw national attention at the Catholic Press Awards each year. We went from a publication that never won an award to winning, at first, one, and then multiple awards each year.

“Why are you leaving?” and “Where are you going?,” you might wonder.

I’m happy to say, despite the sadness that comes from leaving this publication, I am overjoyed to be moving to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to take the helm of their publication, The Catholic Telegraph. The staff of their Archdiocese has opened their arms to me and have granted me the wonderful opportunity to work on a publication that reaches more than 100,000 Catholics. I am so grateful that God put me on this path and continues to show me that this is what He wants for my family and me (despite my own anxieties along the way).

Even with this excitement and joy in front of me, oh how I will miss the wonderful Catholic community in the Diocese of Shreveport! When I told the staff at the Catholic Center about my move, I was met with a mixture of reactions on every end of the spectrum. While Father Price shouted for joy, hugged me and told me how happy he was for me and my family, Father Long repeatedly told me “no,” and then reluctantly said that when I came back, there would always be a place for me.

There are more than 40 people who have some hand, small or large, in bringing The Catholic Connection to fruition each month. And while I can’t list them all here, I want to name a few who are very dear to me.

Rinaudo and Sciba

To my editorial board: thank you for your support and inspiring words throughout the years. Your care and love for the magazine has always encouraged me to push harder and grow more.

To my copyeditors: thank you for dropping everything at deadline time to carefully read through each and every line of text to ensure we are as accurate as we possibly can be before going to press.

To my Spanish translators, Rosalba and Melina: thank you for your patience with last minute articles and fast turn around times on translations.

To Msgr. Earl Provenza: thank you for hiring me and giving a fledgling designer and journalist the chance to do something great.

To Bishop Michael Duca: thank you for giving me the freedom, resources and confidence to grow The Catholic Connection into what it is today. Your mentorship and care for my family and me mean more to me than you will ever know.

To Father Peter Mangum: thank you for seeing something in me and pushing me to grow both at the diocese and at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Your vision, kindness, trust and leadership have helped shape my work and inspired me to always aim higher.

To my writers and dear friends, Kim Long, Katie Sciba, Lucy Medvec and Kelly Powell, who I worked with closely every month and who were on the front lines to cheer me into my new job position, I could not have done any of this without you. You are brilliant and inspire me in my faith every single day.

And finally, thank you to every reader who has ever taken the time to contact me through the years – whether upset or thrilled, frustrated or overjoyed, or to share a story idea – it means so much to me that you care about this magazine enough to reach out and to read it every single month.

I ask for your prayers as I move into my new position in Cincinnati, and for your prayers over the new editor and future bishop during this time of transition.

God bless you,
Jessica Rinaudo

Note: By the time this prints, I will no longer be working for the Diocese of Shreveport. Please forward all inquiries related to The Catholic Connection to Blanca Vice, Any personal correspondence can be sent to

The Beauty of Parish Life


by Kim Long

Recently I began to reflect on what God used to get my attention over 30 years ago when “becoming Catholic” began to go from a wild exotic notion to a path God put me on. The carrot on the end of God’s stick was something called “parish life,” and it intrigued me beyond measure.

The idea of people united under the banner of a common belief and the care bestowed upon one another seemed ideal. I was reading Fr. Andrew Greeley’s novels at the time, and his descriptions of the seamlessness between the parish and the lives of individual families reminded me that God isn’t left behind when we exit the parking lot on Sunday. I wanted that. I searched for it. And like most things we seek, we find… eventually. Thirty years later my view has altered very little, parish life is still a vital part of my Catholic experience.

I recall the first time on my journey toward Catholicism that I experienced the joyfulness of belonging. Picture this scene: a young mother of three on an early spring day, young children in tow, bringing donations of individually wrapped candy for the parish Easter egg hunt, dinner napkins for the St. Joseph Altar, and cakes for bingo – a then time-honored parish fundraiser, to the Parish Hall. The unity, the oneness I felt in that moment was crystallized in one word “Catholic.” Never underestimate the experience of “belonging.”  That feeling has been a great teaching moment for me as I have grown into parish life and shared my own experiences with other new Catholics: some through the RCIA process, others simply new to the area and the parish.

As I began to focus my thoughts in this direction, I found this statement on the USCCB’s Parish Life website: “The parish is where the Church lives.” This is the kernel of truth I found in those novels so many decades ago.

Psalm 133:1: See how good and pleasing it is for brothers to live together as one. 

Already we have an outline. In our “me” world, we are encouraged to want “me” time, encouraged to think solely along the lines of the individual rather than the whole. While my faith encourages me to go broader and think about how my actions affect my family, my parish, my community, parish life gives me a lived example of what life can look like when my focus is more outward than in. When I walk through the doors of the church building on any given Sunday it is good and pleasing to greet and be greeted and to just be with people who I may not see socially, but there in church we are offered another glimpse of the passage from the Our Father: “On earth as it is in heaven.”

1st Peter 2:9:10: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light. 


God has called us, claimed us for His own and the parish is where we join together. The parish is home to God’s marvelous light in so many ways. The Easter Vigil experience is one of the most obvious moments where we move together, literally from darkness to light. That experience can certainly be re-lived on a regular basis as we help one another in our small day-to-day actions. Each time we see candles on the altar we are reminded we are not alone, that the light of Christ helps us in the darkness, even in the darkness we pray no one else can see or feel. When someone in your parish reaches out to you or you to them, remember we are each going forward both in and toward the light of Christ.

Philippians 2:4-7: Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. 


On Holy Thursday I experience one of the most profound of these times. In the rubrics, 12 men represent the apostles, but in our parish, it has become a sweet moment of impromptu reconciliation and kinship between parents and children of all ages, between spouses, siblings, neighbors, and strangers. It is one of our most Christ-like moments, one which has been scripted on our hearts and souls, directed by the Holy Spirit. The choir sings, “the Lord Jesus after eating with His friends washed their feet and said to them, do you know what I your Lord have done for you? I have given you example so you also may do.”

Hebrews 10: 24-25: Rouse one another to love and to good works.

On the USCCB website under the heading Parish Life, there are many listings. I looked at “Call to Family, Community, and Participation.” There it says: “the person is not only sacred but social.”

Many parish celebrations have an element of rousing whether it is cooking together, baking thousands of cookies, preparing receptions, celebrating our various and rich cultures, or celebrating our unity in a particular way during that Holy Thursday Mass. It is also seeing families remove tags from the Angel Tree or tie knots on a quilt, offering pra

yers for a person experiencing sickness. We pray together in adoration and the Rosary. We gather for Mass, begin the modern version of the “prayer chain” by texting one another, donate what we can and are called to help our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The list goes on and it varies from parish to parish as we vary in our own lives. What is unified is that we are living out our Gospel missio

n by being strengthened in participation in the sacraments, and in the sacramental life of the Church. In that strengthening we are taking ourselves and our faith out of the church building, out of the parish hall, out of the PSR classrooms and bringing it to those among us who can no longer be present due to illness, immobility or even memory issues.

Bumps in the Road

Lest I make parish life sound like one big happy road trip, I want to stop here and say it is not always. Exhausted people are asked to go the extra mile; families whose budgets are stretched to the breaking point may feel they have no worth since money is not plentiful; sick people can become invisible; liturgies can seem unfulfilling; homilies and inspirational messages can fall flat – the list goes on. For every good thing about parish life, there is a counterpoint.

Here are the contradictions I have learned living, working, growing and being invested in parish life:

•  Parishes are inclusive; they are exclusive.

•  Parishes are exhausting; they are exhilarating,

•  Parishes are friendly; they are not.

•  Parishes are fulfilling; they are draining.

•  Parishes are where we live out the Christian life in the space between openness to God and our desire to carry out His will.

Finally Ever After

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Parish life is the glue which helps hold us all together, the example of the lived reality of “on earth as it is in heaven.”

For all its failures, human error and ego, for all its foibles and warts, I would never want to live without it. Parish life is the life for me, and the parish is where the Church lives!  •

On the Trail of History: France and the Priest-Martyrs of 1873


by Fr. Peter B. Mangum

As many are aware, I have been working on a project over the last two years to explore and raise awareness of the lives of five remarkable priests who gave their lives in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. This project has taken many forms, including the writing of a book-length manuscript for publication in the near future, as well as a graphic novel that is being published serially in the pages of The Catholic Connection. In addition, there was a special limited-edition podcast series produced to highlight the lives of these priests, which was released last fall under the title of “No Greater Love: Shreveport 1873.” Collaborating with me on this project have been author W. Ryan Smith and historian Dr. Cheryl White. Our ultimate goal is to develop rich and compelling biographies of these men to bring to the attention of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. These men were exemplary in their devotion to others and were truly “martyrs of their charity,” as all of them willingly died in the service of the sick and dying of Shreveport.

The roll call of names is by now becoming more familiar to us all: Fr. Isidore Quemerais, Fr. Jean Pierre, Fr. Jean Marie Biler, Fr. Louis Gergaud, and Fr. Francois Le Vezouet, all of whom died of Yellow Fever in the short weeks between September 15 and October 8, 1873. The search to know as much as possible about their lives led me to the region of northern France known as Brittany, to picturesque rolling fields and small villages and towns that these men once called home. That is, before they each answered the missionary call of the first Bishop of Natchitoches, Auguste Marie Martin, also a native of St. Malo in Brittany. In the mid-1850s, and again following the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870, Bishop Martin made a trip through Brittany to recruit young missionary priests for an area of Louisiana that was still very much a wilderness. All of them came to the uncertainty of Louisiana, leaving behind family and the only lives they had ever known, which is itself no small measure of sacrifice.

St. Nicholas Church in Heric, France, where Fr. Louis Gergaud was baptized in 1832.

In late February, I traveled to France with a small delegation that included project co-author Dr. Cheryl White, as well as Chantal Dickson (who served as translator) and her son, Michael. The primary purpose was to meet with the bishops of three dioceses – Nantes, Rennes and St. Brieuc to forge closer relationships over our shared priests and common historical link. Dr. White and I also hoped to be able to acquire more primary source information through archival research. An equally important purpose was to have the opportunity to visit the hometowns of these priests, dotted across the Brittany countryside: Heric, Plourivo, Lanloup, Brelidy, and Pleine-Fougeres.

The trip was a resounding success on all accounts! Not only did Bishops Jean-Paul James of Nantes, Alexandre Joly of Rennes, and Denis Moutel of St. Brieuc warmly welcome us, they had already made archival inquiries before we even arrived. The hospitality they extended to us was extraordinary indeed. Additionally, Bishop Moutel called a press conference for our visit, which resulted in coverage by French National Television, Catholic radio and several regional and national newspapers. Bishop Moutel also arranged for us to meet with officials from each of the hometowns, where again, we were warmly welcomed by townspeople eager to know more about their native sons. To be able to visit the churches where the priests were baptized (and in the case of Fr. Gergaud, the Cathedral of Nantes where he was ordained), added broad new dimension to telling their stories.

The baptismal record of Fr. Louis Gergaud held in Blain, France.

In exchange, we have shared with these dioceses of Brittany our graphic novel in a French translation, and are making plans to share much more over the coming months and years leading up to the 150th anniversary in 2023. Little did I know that I would return to the Diocese of Shreveport with much more than the historical record of previously unknown letters and documents, but with new friendships rooted in a story that we now share. I greatly look forward to the continued strengthening of our ties, and being able to honor the five priest-martyrs of 1873 with even greater fervor!  •

Ordination to the Priesthood


With Praise and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, the Diocese of Shreveport Announces with Great Joy the Ordination of

Deacon Kevin Joseph Mues

to the Sacred Order of Presbyter Through the Imposition of Hands and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit by His Excellency

Most Reverend Michael G. Duca, Bishop of Baton Rouge

On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 10:00 in the Morning

at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans

939 Jordan Street, Shreveport, Louisiana

First Priestly Blessing and a Reception to follow at St. John Berchmans Multi Room