Category Archives: Features

Fidel Mondragon’s Ordination

0617fidel

by Jessica Rinaudo

Before Fidel Mondragon landed in the Diocese of Shreveport, he spent many years in various seminaries, countries and a religious order, discerning the vocation God had planned for his life. After being a seminarian for the Diocese of Dallas, which downsized their foreign vocations, Fidel returned to Mexico before becoming a seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport. That was two years ago.

And Fidel has made the most out of his two years as a seminarian for our diocese. He first went to Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans where he took review classes on the sacraments and history of the Church, as well as English as a Second Language. He relished this time both for improving his English and for getting to know his brother seminarians of our diocese. Of them Fidel said,  “I got to know them, because once a month we would have dinner together – we would talk about how things were going.”

After finishing his seminary classes in May of last year, Fidel moved to Mansfield, where he assisted Fr. Matthew Long in parish life.
“When I arrived in Mansfield, I got involved with the community,” said Fidel. “I helped the Hispanic and Anglo communities… I started a new program – Christian Formation for Adults and Bible classes with Hispanics on Tuesdays. I visited people, I prayed the rosary with them. I helped Fr. Matthew with the Masses.”

During this time he also taught adult formation classes and assisted with retreats at St. Mary of the Pines in Shreveport, and Christ the King in Bossier City. His formation classes expanded to St. Thomas Aquinas in Ruston and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Farmerville, allowing Fidel to become acquainted with people across the diocese.

It was during this time that Fidel organized a Year of Mercy event for the Hispanic community.

“Rosalba Quiroz [Hispanic Ministry Director] asked me to organize the visit to the Holy Door with the Hispanic Community because it was the Year of Mercy. We invited all of the diocese. … We organized a Stations of the Cross and did them in the Cathedral. After that, we explained the Year of Mercy, the meaning of mercy and why Pope Francis convoked the Year of Mercy. Then we had a holy hour with Fr. Rigo Betancurt, Fr. Al Jost and Fr. Blane O’Neill.  Bishop Duca was there, too,” said Fidel.

On December 10, 2016, Fidel was ordained to the transitional diaconate at St. Mary of the Pines, and a month later Bishop Duca assigned him to the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, also serving St. Mary of the Pines two days a week. He still continues in this assignment.

“In the Cathedral I help with the everyday Mass and I have helped two times with the homily in English,” said Fidel “I help with the funerals, with the school Masses.”

After two years, Fidel has adjusted from life in Mexico to life in north Louisiana, and embraces his vocation here with open arms. The people and clergy, in turn, have welcomed him warmly.

“I am so grateful for Bishop Duca and all the priests here. They are very kind to me and welcome me. They tell me, ‘Fidel you are welcome. We are very glad to have you.’ They encourage me,” said Fidel.

“I feel comfortable here, I feel welcome in both communities. The Spanish community, ok they love you, but the Anglo community is very warm and they receive me,” added Fidel.

“I want to be part of this diocese, to consecrate my life as a priest,” he said.

And after so many years of discerning and traveling, Fidel is excited to finally be approaching his ordination to the priesthood and his ministry as a Catholic priest.

“I look forward to helping the people. I want to be the person who can manifest this mercy of God, this love of God and help the people be close to Christ. Because I talk with the people… they need somebody to hear them. I know my priest ordination is close, but this is when my work will begin,” said Fidel.
He added, “I remember my instructors in the seminary said, ‘This is not your goal to be a priest. The goal is first, your salvation.’ Following this vocation, I want to be with God, but I want many people, through me to be saved, too. They will hear the Word of God. I can give the Body of Christ. I can forgive sins, it is not me, but I can be this instrument. … This is what I want most for the people: to be this instrument to manifest the mercy of God, the love of God and drive them to Christ.”

As he reflected back on his long journey to the priesthood, Fidel shared stories of his time in seminary. One in particular reflected his vocational path.
“Sometimes when I was walking in the seminary, I would say, ‘I have this class and it is very difficult. And I will have a presentation tomorrow and the priest, he is tough.’ But I did my presentation, and when I finished I felt very good. I said, ‘This is not me on my own. Many people are praying for me, for my vocation. My family, my friends, the people around the world are praying for the seminarians, for the priests. … And after this difficult presentation I went to the chapel and I said, ‘Thank you God. For you are behind me, you sustain me. And I want to continue – because if you continue calling me, I want to continue answering you.’”

Fidel’s ordination to the priesthood will be Saturday, June 10, at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Bishop Michael Duca will ordain Fidel as a priest for the Diocese of Shreveport. All members of the faithful are encouraged to attend.

“As a diocese, we are fortunate that Fidel’s journey has brought him to us so that he can serve the wonderful people of our region,” said Bishop Duca.  “I am anxious for our local Church to benefit from his ministry as an ordained priest and I believe he has so much to offer to our entire faith community.”

Pope Francis Celebrated Mass and Canonization at Fatima Shrine

0617fatima2

At 10:00 a.m. on May 13, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fátima, on the plaza of the Shrine, the Holy Father Francis celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions, during which the Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto were canonized. The Eucharistic Celebration was attended by the Presidents of the Republic of Portugal, of Paraguay and of São Tomé e Príncipe, whom the pope greeted at the end of the rite.

During the Mass, after the rite of canonization and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:

“[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun.” So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son. Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27). We have a Mother! “So beautiful a Lady,” as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of May 13, a hundred years ago. That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady.” They had seen the Mother of Heaven. Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her. The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in His creatures. Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5). In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus.”

Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. We have a Mother! Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus. As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which He assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake. Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father. May this hope guide our lives! It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years. All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope. We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore Him. That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering. God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

In her Memoirs, Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfilment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The Lord, Who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love. •

Join Us for Summer Catholic Camps for Teens!

0617camps

Dear Parents,

As parents of teenagers, you want the very best for your children. As faithful Catholics, you want them to grow closer to the Church in their teen years, not drift away from it. You want them to discover their true vocations in life, whatever they may be. Most of all, you want your child to be happy – to be well educated, well rounded and well loved.

I want those things for your children, too. And not just for your kids, but for every teenager in our diocese. That’s essentially why we created the Mission Possible and Beloved summer camps. Over the past six years, I’ve seen firsthand what these camps do for our Catholic teens. Time and again, I’ve seen the proverbial “light bulb” go off, not just in their heads, but in their hearts.

In a very real way, our annual Summer Camps help “launch” teens into life. The camps are a springboard for becoming strong men and women who love Jesus and the Church, and are open to God’s will in their lives.

As I look back on my young adulthood, I can pinpoint key moments when I made choices for good – choices for God. For me, these moments began in my teens and continued in my twenties. I can say with sincerity that I wish I would have attended a camp like the ones offered by our diocese.

So I want to encourage you in the strongest possible language: please seriously consider registering your child for Beloved (July 13-16) or Mission Possible (July 16-19). Yes, the campers are going to have a blast. Yes, they are going to come home tired and happy. But most all, they are going to return home with a renewed love for Jesus. That, of course, is what matters most in life.

May the Lord bless you and your family in this Easter Season!

In Christ through Mary Immaculate,
Fr. Matthew Long

Relgious Education Gets Boost at Our Lady of Fatima

Left to right: Sr. Carol Shively, OSU, Superintendent; Fr. Joe Martina, Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish; Dr. Carynn Wiggins, Principal; Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis; Jamie Humphrey, Religion Teacher

by Bonny Van

During the school year, Wednesday morning Mass for students at Our Lady of Fatima School in Monroe is much more than just a time to celebrate the Eucharist.  It’s also much more than time spent in prayer, listening to scripture or taking a break from class work.  For the majority of the 200 students, it’s the only chance they have to experience God.

“So many of our students are un-churched, except through the school,” said principal Dr. Carynn Wiggins.  That is why a $5,000 grant from the Black and Indian Missions has been such a blessing.

Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Shreveport, applied for the grant a year ago after a visit to Fatima School opened her eyes to the lack of religious material available for teaching.

“Ninety-five percent of the students are funded by state tuition and zero funds from the state can be used for religious material,” she said.  “I was really saddened by this and Jamie, the religion teacher, told me that many of the children had never heard about God.”

Jamie Humphrey has been the religion teacher at the school for the past 12 years.  Teaching without books and other student materials has been challenging.
“We’re trying to teach them about the Gospel and instill good moral values,” she said.

Bole says the grant, awarded just before Christmas, was a great Christmas present.

“I said let’s dream big, what do you need?”

First on the list were books.  Bole contacted a representative from Sadlier Publishing Company, which donated 20 books.  Grant money was used to buy the rest.

Money from the grant has also been used to purchase a laptop and a rolling cart so that Humphrey can move to different classrooms.

“We’ve also used the money to buy a DVD set that covers the basics of our faith and Elmo clickers which allow the kids to answer questions remotely with the SMART board,” said Bole.

“We’ve also bought portable batteries and a keyboard for Jamie, and we still have $1500 left!  We’ve been able to do so much more than we imagined.  We’re going to hold off until the fall to see what they need,” she said.

Humphrey said the materials have made a big impact already.

Some of the religious resources purchased for Our Lady of Fatima School with the aid of a Black and Indian Missions grant.

“The children are more organized and we are back on track with our catechism,” she said.  “If not for us, most of them would not know about God.”
“This really does make a difference in the lives of these children,” says Dr. Wiggins.  “I tell people all the time, you don’t have to cross an ocean to have a mission field, you simply have to cross a parking lot.”

Vocations View: The Identity and Role of a Deacon

0617trombetta

by Duane Trombetta, Seminarian

By the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man is appointed to nourish the people of the Church with God’s Word and grace in the name of Christ.  He takes on a sacramental character and a share in Christ’s priesthood.  The word “ordination” comes from the Latin word ordinatio, which means “incorporation into an established, ordered, and governed body.”  Accordingly, Holy Orders are “ordered” into the three ranks of bishop, priest and deacon.

In a few short weeks, I will be ordained a deacon myself.  In this timely article, I will reflect upon the deacon’s identity (“who he is”), and his roles in the Church (“what he does”).

Though a deacon’s identity is different from that of a bishop or a priest, he does receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders – so, a deacon is a member of the ordained clergy. He is also a sharer in Christ’s mission and grace. In fact, a deacon holds this identity in a special way because his sacramental character configures him to Christ who is deacon, or servant, of all. In addition, a deacon is a sharer in the mission of the diocesan bishop. And because his respect and obedience extend to his local church, he is also a sharer in the mission of his pastor. Most of all, a deacon is a servant. This applies to his identity at the altar, in his administrative duties, to other clergy and, of course, to the people of God.

A deacon takes on some very important roles in the Church, each related to the “offices” of Christ: priest, prophet and king.  He participates in Christ’s priestly office by helping to sanctify the people – this includes assisting in the liturgy, celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony and presiding at Christian funerals.  A deacon participates in Christ’s prophetic office by proclaiming the Good News and by preaching homilies. Last but not least, a deacon participates in Christ’s kingly office by governing, guiding and administering within the parameters of his assignment – always submitting to the truth of the transcendent God.

It should be noted that ordination to the diaconate can be “permanent” or “transitional.”  This means that men over the age of 35, and married men may be ordained as permanent deacons to serve the diocese and a parish for life.

Alternately, suitable men who aspire to the priesthood may be ordained as transitional deacons for a short time, later to be ordained as priests. In the case of the transitional diaconate, the law of celibacy must remain, and he may not be married.  Regardless, both permanent and transitional deacons share the same identity and roles in the Church.

After six years of seminary studies and formation, I believe I am well-prepared and ready to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and to take on the identity and roles of a deacon.  I particularly identify with the diakonia of servant.  It is my hope and prayer to enjoy many years of ordained ministry to the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

Duane Trombetta will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate on Saturday, June 24, at 10:00 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in downtown Shreveport. All are invited and encouraged to attend this event and support Duane as he takes one of his final steps towards becoming a priest.

Additionally, there will be an informational meeting for interested men on the Permanent Diaconate on Saturday, June 17 at 9:00 a.m. in the Youth Room of the Catholic Life Center next to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston. For more information on this meeting, contact Deacon Clary Nash, Director of the Permanent Diaconate, at cnash@dioshpt.org.

Faithful Food: Vulnerability and Risk

0617kim

by Kim Long

Words and their meanings have become causalities in our current world. It seems we can be overly casual with their meanings, “loving” everything from soda to chocolate and “knowing” all who cross our paths.

Recently I attended three funeral services within a week. The pews were filled with people who were drawn by shared experiences with the deceased. Perhaps something as casual as a connection by marriage, rather than blood, a conversation from which we walked away transformed or even sitting together in shared silence.

Driving home from funeral number two, which was “out in the country,” I reflected on the concept of knowing someone else (or oneself for that matter) and the word “vulnerability” kept popping up.

Poet and storyteller Jack Shea in his talk on Christmas themes in Luke and Matthew, spoke about the vulnerability of a baby born in a stable, making the contrast that Luke’s gospel “is like an aria, everyone singing all the time” while Matthew’s gospel “is much gloomier with Herod wanting to kill the baby.”

A vulnerable Jesus did not rest well on my mind years ago when I first heard these talks. I had been taught Jesus was strong, all-knowing and all-forgiving of my shortcomings. On that drive going from what felt like one world to another, I began to realize that vulnerability cuts both ways: Jesus coming in the form of a baby and Jesus hanging on a cross. In these scenes vulnerability isn’t just encouraged, it is modeled for us by Jesus from birth to death. Jesus opened himself up to everyone, being vulnerable and taking the ensuing risk each situation offered – who am I not to follow?

Popular culture doesn’t encourage vulnerability, preferring to push the narrative of self. Jesus was so countercultural. His embrace of vulnerability is echoed in the lives of the people I knew who died that week. They lived full lives, accomplished many deeds, touched many and through those transcendent moments continue to be present in the lives of those still here.

Sitting in the pew in three different churches I realized I had been more influenced than I realized by popular culture’s love affair with self and privacy, not being vulnerable, not letting people in, not taking a risk.

For example, I will cook for the bereaved, pray for any request, serve in whatever way I can, but I seldom ask for prayer, or say I need much of anything. I seldom admit my own vulnerability. I don’t want to take any more risks, instead telling myself there is too much to lose. Driving home from one of the funerals, I realized there is so much to gain. I had wandered far from Emmaus, far from who I had known myself to be.

In the words of modern day mystic Bob Seger, “The ashes smolder and the fire is soon gone, we end up cold and only on our own. I’ll take my chances babe, I’ll risk it all, I’ll win your love or I’ll take a fall.”

While this might not seem like an engraved invitation, this is exactly that: we are invited to take the risk, be vulnerable and be amazed at what there is to be known.

“As the Father has loved me so I love you, remain in my love.”

Recipe for a Life Well-Lived

Directions:
1)  Take the life you have been given and open it carefully. You don’t want to miss the wonder it has for you.

2)  Add experiences that can be found at the intersection of vulnerability and risk.

3)  When you have enough, process the mixture with a combination of gentleness and forgiveness.

4)  To this mixture add humor (not too much of the self deprecating variety, it tends to sour the mixture). Stir well.

5)  Add blessings and burdens, laughter and sorrow. Blend well and bring this to your Creator on a daily basis.

6) Repeat these steps daily.

Mike’s Meditations: Embracing All Prayer Types

0617mvv

by Mike Van Vranken

I recently overheard two people discussing (maybe arguing) about whose form of prayer was best. One thought Sunday Mass was the best form of prayer because they could pray while hearing God’s Word, while taking communion, and while sharing the entire experience with other believers. The other was convinced that being one with God in a personal, individual engagement with the Almighty was the only way to pray. Of course, to put God in a box and suggest there is only one best way to be with Him limits our ability to experience Him in all things. In other words, it is not about pitting personal and internal prayer against vocal and communal prayer; it’s always about both. God is available to us in countless ways and forms. To limit those opportunities may be the saddest and most shallow decision we humans can make.

We know that the temple in Jerusalem and the local synagogues were important to Jesus’ faith walk. In Luke’s gospel, we are told it was Jesus’ custom to attend and even teach at the synagogue. We also find similar scriptures of Jesus in the temple.  If praying with a community was important to Jesus, it should be important to us too, right?

When we consider we are members of the Body of Christ, communal worship is a no brainer. It unites our praise and worship into a single celebration that more than just shows our connectedness as a body; it also solidifies our understanding that we are all daughters and sons of the living God. The joining together in prayer actually produces an experience of strength that reminds us we are not alone and we have comfort, support and encouragement in all the people around us.

Additionally, when we see Christ in the person next to us, we begin to realize that we have more in common with our diverse population than we first thought. It makes it easier to forgive, to assist, to feed and clothe and heal everyone around us because the Holy Trinity resides in each of us.

At the same time, even though we can and should find God in all things, especially in each other, we still have that inner desire to be one with God on a very personal and intimate basis.  Yes, we can hear about God’s love, and even feel it in other people. But, I have found there is nothing that compares to the truly knowing God’s love that comes from engaging one-on-one with the Father, Son and Spirit who is within me.  And again, if we want examples from Jesus, the scriptures are full of stories where he went off and prayed alone to the Father all night.

What did the desert fathers, the monks and the mystics all have in common?  A deep inner life of oneness with God that allowed them to experience the one who loved them first. Once they personally knew the lover, they fell in love with God in a way they didn’t know possible. They continually joined with Him in quiet, contemplative prayer. A prayer that was so devoted to the lover that they didn’t ask for favors or petitions. They talked with God, listened to Him, communed with Him and loved Him beyond their own beliefs. They realized the more personal and intimate love they gave to God, the more love they received in return. Consequently, the same love they shared with God, could now be shared with all people. And their experiences were so deeply interwoven with God, it was always hard for them to find words to communicate them.

Sometimes I’m asked how a person can begin a very personal and intimate prayer experience.  My advice is to consider a certified Spiritual Director for help. They are neither counselors nor therapists. Instead, their role is to help you with your relationship with God. You will have conversations with them about your prayer life and the ways you detect that God is moving in your life. He or she is interested in your actual experiences with God. It is as simple and as deep as that.

So, if you have limited yourself to either weekly or daily communal prayer with your church, or a regular interior and intimate contemplative time with God, I urge you to consider encountering the Holy Trinity in both forms.  Just as they were both valuable to Jesus, I believe you will find them both very beneficial to you and your relationship with God as well.  It’s not either one or the other… It’s “both/and.”

Mike is a writer, teacher, and co-author of the book, Faith Positive in a Negative World. You can contact him at  www.mikevanvrankenministries.org

Bishop’s Reflection: Don’t Be Afraid to Be “Religious”

0617bishop

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

I think it is fair to say that in today’s secular culture there is a bias against religion. Maybe the bias against it has always been there, but it is certainly more pronounced. How often have you heard a celebrity, friend or even a fallen away Catholic say, “I am spiritual, but not religious”?  It comes across as a statement that infers the spiritual path is the “higher path” and a person has somehow grown beyond religion.  This has become such a regular statement that to some it sounds profound, but I think it is just another way of stripping GOD more and more out of our culture as a binding truth.

It is true that there have been many sins committed in the name of religion, but the problem lies with individuals, not in our religion, our Catholic Faith.  The meaning of the word religion, (re-legio, Latin root) is to bind again. In the context of faith, the highest purpose and meaning of religion is to bind us back to God. In faith, we reorder our thinking so that our morality, our virtue, our prayer, the very ultimate meaning of our lives is grounded in the belief that God is the author of life, the great architect of creation and that He sent His son Jesus as the very revelation of who He is.

Often times in the business and temptations of life we forget this truth.  We may say that we believe in God, but can at the same time become functional unbelievers, stripping God out of our lives as our center and guide. We begin to act without regard for others in the attainment of success or wealth; to seek pleasures without respect for others, our own dignity or even our sacred vows. We find ourselves becoming more allied with the values of the world – becoming vain, judgmental, self righteous, envious and self-centered.  When we then stop praying and going to Church, we reach a moment when we need to ask ourselves a question: If there is no place for God at the center of my life, then what is the new center of my life? Is it my job, my search for success, my desire for more money, popularity, influence, pleasure, avoiding old age…? Whatever it is, it will not be enough.

How do we break out of this empty life, this functional unbelief?  The answer is simple: go to Church! Begin to seek out God as the center of your life. Get back into the religious practices that put you back in contact with Jesus, to help rebind yourself back to God, to remind yourself of what is good and true.  Your Catholic faith is your way to reorder your thinking and life in light of your faith in Jesus and belief in God. We do this by reconnecting with the sacraments, the teachings of the Church, the reading of scripture and prayer. We need to discover God not from within, but in the Body of Christ, the Church. It is there we will rediscover our authentic center and truth.  Some will suggest that this is an old-fashioned approach and a more spiritual approach is better and purer.

When someone says they are spiritual, and not religious, there is an unspoken assumption that they can discover God within themselves. I don’t think a Christian can make this statement.  Just think of how God revealed Himself.  The Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. The apostles had to listen to Jesus, come to know and love him, to allow Jesus to reveal to them WHO GOD IS! Jesus is not a fabrication of the human heart. He is the Revelation of God who comes from outside ourselves and reveals the deepest truth about the human heart and our identity as Children of God. To re-center ourselves we must allow God to reveal Himself to us once again.  We do not do this as simply a spiritual practice, but as a religious one, re-connecting with the Body of Christ, the Church, who continues to make known the truth and revelation of Jesus in the sacraments, the scriptures and the tradition of understanding coming from the apostles.  Once we find Jesus and discover who God is, we then begin to see spiritually the truth of Jesus revealed in our very being, finding joy, peace and a truth that resonates in our hearts.

I am aware the Church can be at times an imperfect reflection of Jesus in the everyday encounters we may have with parishioners or pastors.  Religious practices can become empty and at times self-serving.  But the heart of the Church is Jesus Christ and here we will find the true teaching and encounter with Christ. Stop worrying about being religious. Draw strength, inspiration and hope from your faith, from your religion as a Roman Catholic.  Come back to church to encounter Christ once again and reorder your life with God at the center.

Our Lady of Fatima Plenary Indulgence

0617fatima

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

On Saturday, May 13, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis declared canonized saints, Jacinta and Francesco Marto, two of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady appeared. A one-year Jubilee began on November 27, 2016, the First Sunday of Advent, and will continue until November 26, 2017.  The Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a plenary indulgence for the centennial anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.  “The plenary indulgence of the jubilee is granted: to pious faithful who visit with devotion an image of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly displayed for public veneration in any temple, oratory or adequate place, during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions (the 13th of each month, from May to October 2017), and devotedly participate there in any celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary, pray the Our Father, recite the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and invoke Our Lady of Fatima.”

“To obtain the plenary indulgence, the faithful, truly penitent and animated with charity, must fulfill the following conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.”

The parishes in the Diocese of Shreveport with images of Our Lady of Fatima for veneration at the time of this publication are:
• Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Shreveport
• Mary, Queen of Peace Parish, Bossier City
• St. Jude Parish, Benton
• St. Patrick Parish, Lake Providence
• Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Monroe

O God, who chose the Mother of your Son to be our Mother also,
Grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer
For the salvation of the world,
We may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.  

Reflection on the Four Marks of the Church

0517marks1

by Kim Long

The Nicene Creed was written centuries ago to help Christians remember the important beliefs of the faith. In the Nicene Creed we identify the four marks of the Church. These marks are not characteristics that the Church creates, develops or learns, but are qualities that Jesus Christ shares with his Church through the Holy Spirit. The four marks of the Church are that it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Events in our daily lives offer us the opportunity to connect with God in many ways, from visiting the sick, making a meal for a friend, offering a prayer and recognizing a deeper meaning to almost anything we do. Events in our daily lives can be viewed through many lenses or perspectives.

ONENESS

Several years ago my number came up – it was my turn to teach our eleventh grade Confirmation class. I liked all the students, but I feared I would not be able to connect with them. In the end, it was one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had. I spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection about how to lead this group, which was full of 13 very different personalities.

On day one the Holy Spirit set the tone for the coming year. Looking at the students, again who were so different from one another in background, personality and where they were in their relationships with God, I wondered how to break the ice. I posed the question, “How do people know you are part of your family?” Each stated their family surname but I gently pressed them to think  more about it. Then statements began to roll off their tongues: “We’re Hispanic,” “We’re Creole,” “My family are welders,” “All the men in my family served in the military,”  “My family are farmers,” “My uncle is a priest,” “We pray the rosary with my grandmother.”

I asked, “How do people know we are Catholic?” Those answers came a bit quicker: the cross of ashes, Communion, giving up something for Lent, pro-life, Advent. Then we began to talk about the marks of the Church, which they told me they did not know. I reminded them we pray them every Sunday in the Creed: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. They knew them, they were even “marked” by them, but they did not realize it.

In the visibility of the Church, oneness is easy to recognize through the liturgy. Whether we are in Shreveport, Ireland, Jordan, or anyplace on the planet, our Mass is the same, our readings are the same. This is a wonderful comfort in a world that seems to be ever-changing.  In the visibility of the oneness of the Church, diversity also exists just as it did in that Confirmation class.

Ephesians 4:4,5 “There is one body, one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.”

HOLY

I received a telephone call from my oldest son a few days ago. One of his employees and his wife were in town with their four-year-old son. They were at a local hospital due to their son’s condition. At four years old his body’s white blood cells needed to “wake up.” I offered to go by and check on them, but my son said, “No, I don’t think they will be there very long.” I offered a prayer for the family and went about my business and my busy-ness as Holy Week fast approached.

Late one night my text alert buzzed: “Mom, can you go by and visit them? I think they need a friendly face.”

The next afternoon I parked and went in search of this young family. I found them, introductions were made and the usual questions gently asked, “Can I do anything? Do you need anything? Is there a pastor I can contact for you? Would you like to pray?”

I gave them my number and wondered if I would hear from them. We had not met before that day. I texted daily to check on them and then they asked if I would be willing to stay with their son while they got something to eat.

In the entry to his hospital room were strict instructions to wash, put on gloves, mask and gown. I wondered if I would frighten this child whom I had not seen before. He thought I looked funny and we laughed about it. During that short 90 minutes, he laughed, we played cards, looked at every picture on my cell phone and then he said, “Do you want to see my back?” Not sure I did, I said ok.

He lifted his pajama top and there were two bandages and a clear plastic shield. He seemed to catch my inability to respond to this and assured me, “It doesn’t hurt. The doctor said it will come off by itself.”

As I left the hospital I prayed hard for that family and I thanked God for showing me His grace and His holiness in that small, brave four-year-old child. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s quote, “Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy” never rang louder in my ears as it did that moment.

CATHOLIC

This was a moment I dreaded. The phone call, the preparation, the loss. I did not want this funeral to happen because I did not want this friend, inspiration, disciple and brother in Christ to die, yet I knew he was tired and as it states in Timothy, he had finished the race.

In all the time I have been at my parish, I have seldom seen the church as full as it was that day; every pew was occupied. As I looked around at the sea of faces there were Creoles, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Anglos. There were young and old and we all knew and loved the same person.

As I sat there, I thought about how many lives he had touched, how loved he was, and how each one of us had known a different side of wonderful spirit. As the priest (one of five or six) rose to give the homily, he began to say everything that I was thinking.

Later I told that priest, whom I have known for many years, to “get out of my head.” But the truth is he wasn’t in my head, our brother in Christ, was in all of our heads.
As I walked away, the meaning of the word “catholic” was being widened past my pew, my grief, my parish; I was beginning to realize the fullness, beyond time and space that our faith offers daily. God had taught me through Pete’s life and now was teaching me through his death.

“The word of truth is growing…and bearing fruit in the whole world.” (Colossians 1: 5-6).

APOSTOLIC

The old television show Mission Impossible always began the same way. The main character would find a small tape recorder with a cryptic and dangerous mission and then the zinger at the end was always the same: “This is your mission should you choose to accept it.” So it is with the gospel.

Unlike the cast of Mission Impossible we have (in most cases) more than 47 minutes to fulfill our mission. What is our mission? To live out the gospel teachings of Jesus – simple, but not easy. If we take a look at the apostles, they went from being disciples (students) to apostles (teachers). And truth be told they came into this role gradually. Peter went from denying Jesus to being the rock upon which the Church was built. Thomas, in his doubting moment, gives me courage to know that when I doubt I don’t have to stay in that moment of flux. Apostolic can also be tied to learning. I ask myself, “Am I willing to let go of what I think I know and be open to the teachings of the Church? Am I willing to examine them and make adjustments in my life? Am I willing to accept my mission to do my part in echoing Jesus’s prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven?’”

I am growing in my appreciation of the marks and what they have to teach me. Did it happen all at once? No. But I am willing to learn, contemplate, pray over, accept what they have to teach me about being a better person, to lead me in a way that allows me to live my baptismal promises more deeply. This Eastertide I hope you will consider these teachings and all they offer us. May we walk in the light, may we rest in the shadow and may we continue the journey to deepening our faith. May we become “marked and dangerous,” fearless in our love of God and all that He has for each of us. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  •