Category Archives: Features

Our Lady of Fatima Plenary Indulgence


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


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.


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.”


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.


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).


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)  •

U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria


U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria
Bishops Echo Call of Pope Francis to Attain Peace in Syria “Through Dialogue and Reconciliation”
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, have issued a joint statement calling for renewed peace efforts in Syria.

The full statement is as follows:

“Three days ago, our Conference of Bishops decried the chemical attack in Syria as one that ‘shocks the soul. The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible. At the same time, our Conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.

The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

We once again make our own the earlier call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.

Join us as we pray for the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Peace that the work of humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding will find strength in the merciful love of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Shreveport’s Red Mass Celebrates 25 Years


by John Mark Willcox

The year was 1992, only six years had passed since the creation of our diocese and several Catholics in the law field, joined by another group of supportive lawyers and judges from other faith traditions, sought to renew the age old tradition of the Red Mass to invoke God’s blessing and guidance in the administration of justice.  Red is chosen for the Mass to invoke the Holy Spirit and the first Friday in May was selected to coincide with the nation’s Law Week.

Holy Trinity Church was chosen as the home of the Red Mass and the late Msgr. William O’Hanlon joined with a group of law professionals including Larry and Janey Pettiette, the late Don Miller (a non-Catholic), along with Trudy Daniel and others and they began the planning for the first Red Mass presided over by our late Bishop William B. Friend.  That first Friday in May of 1992 saw every Louisiana Supreme Court Justice seated at Holy Trinity to witness a unique and meaningful ecumenical gathering of those connected to the administration of law which included a real and heart-felt blessing placed upon those with the awesome responsibility of carrying out this task in our nation of freedom.

In the 25 years since, the Red Mass of Shreveport has seen a host of visiting bishops, prelates, one cardinal and the Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court as special guests for this time-honored tradition.  “We have been beyond blessed by the success of our Red Mass,” commented Shreveport attorney Larry Pettiette.  “The people of our shared field of law have really bought into the Red Mass, and participation among our associates has just been fantastic.”  Special honorees are also chosen each year for recognition of their ministry of the people of the region.  “We like to honor organizations that provide for people and our Red Mass provides that opportunity,” commented Pettiette.

Bishop WIlliam B. Friend at the 2004 Red Mass.

Current Holy Trinity Pastor Msgr. Earl V. Provenza remains amazed at how the Red Mass has been able to attract interest from across the nation.  “We wanted Cardinal Egan to join us in 2008, so Bishop Friend offered him an invitation and he accepted,” said Provenza.  “We continued to dream big so Judge Henry A. Politz sent an invitation to Anton Scalia in 2005, and low and behold, he joined us as well.”  Msgr. Provenza will serve as Master of Ceremonies and our own Bishop Michael Duca will be the principal celebrant and homilist for this special 25th year of the Red Mass.

All are invited to be a part of the ongoing tradition of this year’s Red Mass which will take place on Friday, May 5th, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in downtown Shreveport beginning at 9:00 a.m.  Holy Angels Residential Facility will be the special honoree for 2017.  A reception at the Petroleum Club will follow.

The Harm of Pornography & Hope Beyond Addiction: Arming & Healing Our Children


Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

This is the final installment in a four-piece series on pornography. The first three can be found in the January, March and April 2017 issues of The Catholic Connection, or online at

“[Young people] should be helped to recognize and to seek out positive influences, while shunning the things that cripple their capacity for love” (Amoris Laetitia, 281).
“The sad reality is that many children…begin viewing hard-core pornography long before their parents even consider discussing its dangers,” says Kristen Jenson, author of Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. The average age of exposure to pornography has slipped in recent years to a range of 8-11 years old, and because of its severe content, many children are afraid to approach their parents.

“Pornography today is violent; there are people enduring horrific sexual abuse” in addition to other lewd behaviors characteristic to the industry, says Matt Fradd, speaker and founder of The Porn Effect. “Kids don’t know how to process the combination of disgust, arousal, fear and excitement, so they hesitate to tell Mom and Dad, or don’t tell them at all.”

It’s this combination of reactions that adds up to a traumatic experience, according to Dr. Todd Bowman, director of the Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider Institute. Viewing pornography distorts sexuality, relationships and humanity in general. “Those traumas wire their ways into the brain’s memory and the damage comes when the sexual images or experience is incongruent with the level of development,” Dr. Bowman says.

But if a child isn’t saying anything, how do you know whether they’ve seen pornography? “It’s big differences within the child’s temperament that act as indicators,” says Dr. Bowman, such as if a child is suddenly aggressive when he usually isn’t, or moody and disconnected when she’s more often even-tempered and engaging. Is there a loss of interest in what usually draws them? “Sudden changes in a kid’s own ‘norm’ should alert parents. It may not be pornography, but something’s not right.” Exposure at any young age can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, frequent porn “use” or the inclination to mimic the behaviors seen.

This is why a conversation on pornography has to be initiated by parents, and with child exposure on the rise, moms and dads are taking a stronger initiative to arm their children. “It’s necessary because if we aren’t our kids’ primary source of information, the world will be,” says Jennifer Davis, wife and mom of eight. She and her husband Matt are turning over a new cultural leaf by having open, age-appropriate dialogue with their children.

The Davises are just one family who’ve found a prize in Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. Designed to be read by parents with their children as young as five years, the book broaches the subject of porn without corrupting a child’s innocence, and has been a helpful tool in navigating what many consider a daunting conversation. “Because this is all new to them, we realized the awkwardness was entirely on our side and by approaching the subjects of pornography and sexuality with confidence, we show them there’s nothing to fear,” says Davis.

Having open dialogue on pornography with teenagers is paramount to their safety as well, especially since so many are immersed in social media. Apps and sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, make accessing pornography easy, even by accident. “Parents shouldn’t be surprised if their teen has already been exposed,” says Fr. Sean Kilcawley, theological advisor of Integrity “Ask when they first saw it, how it made them feel. Say, ‘I’m sorry that happened to you,’ and tell them you’ll do your best to protect them.” Following through by establishing parental controls at home and having routine conversation will help them feel safe.

“If your child comes forward, reinforce their vulnerability,” Fradd advises. “Thank you for telling me. I’m so proud of you. It wasn’t your fault.” The more open the dialogue, the less room there is for emotional and psychological damage, and the more potential there is for recovery.

Regardless if a child is exposed or a teen is struggling with addiction, both are victims in need of their parents’ concern and compassion.

Fradd also advises that parents be apprehensive about equipping their kids with devices. “If it’s necessary, it has to come with boundaries. Safe places to charge it at night, a safe browser or Internet filtering.” Dr. Bowman and his family utilize a “device basket” where all kids – their own as well as friends – place their phones and other Internet enabled electronics during visits. Disabling downloads, turning off wifi during desired hours, or using routers with parental controls like OpenDNS (free), KoalaSafe or HomeHalo are ways to control Internet access, too.

It’s important to note that pornography addiction can be avoided. Though preventing exposure may seem impossible, the fallout can be minimized with open, receptive conversation and boundaries.

Resources – Books
•  Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr. by Kristen Jenson (for ages 3-6)
•  Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing by Kristen Jenson and Dr. Gail Poyner
•  Angry Birds & Killer Bees by Dr. Todd Bowman
•  Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography
•  Every Parent’s Battle: A Family Guide to Resisting Pornography by Dan Spencer, III
•  Wonderfully Made Babies by Ellen Giangiordano
•  Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Gregory & Lisa Popcak

Resources – Online for Internet filtering and accountability

Celebrating 60 Years of Priesthood, Msgr. LaCaze Continues to Serve


by Kelly Phelan Powell

“I can’t imagine the number of people this tireless priest and faithful steward of the mysteries of God has touched, inspired and profoundly impacted in his years of zealous service, especially in Shreveport-Bossier,” said Fr. Peter Mangum of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, and indeed, it’s impressive to see Msgr. Carson LaCaze still in action after 60 years in the priesthood.

Ordained May 25, 1957 by Cardinal Cicognanni at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH, the Natchitoches native has been writing his reflections on his life as a priest, and they are inspiring, surprising and even a touch humorous. “He brings a seriousness and reverence when called for and laughter and joy with all,” said Fr. Peter.

One very surprising (and extremely impressive) fact: In his six years at the Pontifical College Josephinum, he studied philosophy, moral theology, dogmatic theology, canon law, Old Testament and New Testament. All classes were taught and all exams were given in Latin. As his education took place prior to the Second Vatican Council, students never left the campus except for medical reasons.

In an excerpt from his reflections, Msgr. LaCaze writes about receiving his first priestly assignment. “On June 28, [1957], I and the other 13 newly ordained priests for the Diocese of Alexandria received our first appointments in Bishop Greco’s office. As Hurricane Audrey was bending the trees outside the office windows, the rain pounding on the windows, Bishop Greco lectured us on the behavior of the newly ordained. Then the bishop invited us to his dining room for lunch (we were so nervous and anxious, that we hardly ate).  The bishop, after eating in a hurry, gulping his food down, speedily announced each priest’s assignment in alphabetical order and then hastily headed out a side door as he needed to be at Maryhill where he had 415 youth for summer camp.” He was assigned to serve as Assistant Pastor of St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Cottonport, LA, a small, French-speaking town.

In October of 1968, Bishop Greco named Msgr. LaCaze Pastor of Christ the King Church and school in Bossier City. It was there that, four years later, in 1972, he gave Fr. Peter his First Holy Communion. Later, in the early ‘90s, Fr. Peter served as his Associate Pastor at St. Mary of the Pines parish, and for the last 12 years, Msgr. LaCaze has been Fr. Peter’s associate at the Cathedral.

In 2000, Msgr. LaCaze had to decide whether to retire or remain active in the priesthood, and thankfully, he decided to remain active in the priesthood without administrative duties. According to Fr. Peter, he hasn’t slowed down. “I can give eyewitness testimony to his constantly being on the go, doing all the things you can imagine a priest doing (and then some) for his current parishioners and plenty of others from his past and anyone in need, especially the sick, and always covering for priests without hesitation when they are on vacation, sick or on retreat, going to another Knights of Columbus Convention or Interchurch Conference [and] out and about in the evening at some restaurant where he could be with more people,” he said.

“To minister to God’s people through the Sacraments has been most rewarding,” writes Msgr. LaCaze. “How God uses our humanity to administer the divinity – to baptize, to absolve, to feed the soul, to counsel, to join two in marriage and to anoint the weak are rewarding moments. Thank you, Lord, for 60 years of priestly service. May the Lord grant me many more years of service to His people.”  •

Fr. Andre McGrath to Celebrate 50th Anniversary


by Deacon Mike Whitehead

From his birth, Fr. Andre McGrath was dedicated to God. The family never wanted to put pressure on Fr. McGrath, but they were pleased when he entered the seminary. Now, 50 years later, Fr. McGrath is celebrating his jubilee year as a Franciscan priest.

“My father’s father had a belief that the first born son of a first born son should be ordained,” Fr. McGrath said.

Fr. McGrath was heavily influenced by the spirituality of the Franciscans early in life. His mother and father were working for the Franciscan sisters in Albuquerque, NM, and one Sunday a month, a Franciscan priest would come to say Mass. After extensive training at the Franciscan’s Cincinnati seminary, Fr. McGrath was ordained in June of 1967. Fr. McGrath then earned a master’s degree in English literature.

He taught for a year in Indiana and was then sent to study for a doctoral degree in moral theology. He studied at Catholic University, then went to Germany and studied at Tübingen University.

“We had a professor there by the name of Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI,” Fr. McGrath said.

In 1973, Fr. McGrath returned to the United States and taught once again. That teaching experience then led him back to Catholic University where he studied the philosophy of John Donne Scotus. He completed his doctorate degree in 1978. For several years, he taught at the seminary.

The next stop for Fr. McGrath was Cleveland, OH, and that decision would change his life in a dramatic way. That’s when he met Bishop James Lyke, who would serve as Fr. McGrath’s mentor, friend and spiritual director.

“Bishop Lyke was the first true African-American friend I ever knew,” Fr. McGrath said. “Before he became an auxiliary bishop in Cleveland, [then Fr. Lyke,] was a pastor at St. Benedict’s at Grambling.”

Fr. McGrath and Bishop Lyke met under most unusual circumstances. Fr. McGrath became quite ill during a time when the seminary was empty during a semester break, and Bishop Lyke was the only other person there at the time. Responding to Fr. McGraths need for help, their first encounter would lead to six years of a growing respect and admiration between the two men.

“I would make popcorn and sit with Bishop Lyke many evenings,” Fr. McGrath said. “He would give me books to read and tell me his thinking. I would help him with his writing, and that is what we did for the next six years.”

On the 800th anniversary of St. Francis, Fr. McGrath made a decision to serve in Africa. It was there that Fr. McGrath, and others, established the Lyke Community in Nairobi, Kenya. That was 1993. Named for Fr. McGrath’s good friend, the Lyke Community is a Catholic congregation of priests and brothers that follow the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.

Fr. Francis Kamau and Fr. Mike Thang’wa are two of the priests from the Lyke Community currently serving in our diocese. “God brought this great man into my life when I needed him most,” Fr. Kamau said, “and I am the person I am today because of that association with him.”

Fr. Thang’wa agreed, “Fr. McGrath has been a shining example to me and to all the brothers who have encountered him. From the get go, I really admired his wisdom and spiritual guidance. I took, and still continue to take, every opportunity to learn from him.”

Eventually, Fr. McGrath came to Shreveport to work with the Greco Institute. And for the past 17 years, he has served as pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Shreveport. “Since he became pastor, I have witnessed his love for all the parishioners and our church, and the love our church family has for Fr. McGrath,” Deacon Charles Thomas said.

For the last 41 years, Fr. McGrath has kept a journal. He has never missed a day –– that’s almost 15,000 entries. As he moves forward to his 51st year, Fr. McGrath has not written the final chapter of his life. And for that, we are blessed. •

O’Neill Leaves Legacy of Faith and Joy in Ruston Upon Passing


by Nancy Bergeron

Blane O’Neill, the high school English composition teacher, was a tough cookie. If he thought a student’s paper was fluff, he’d stamp it with a picture of a cloud. If he thought it was worse than fluff, he’d draw a picture of an outhouse on it.

Fr. Blane, the parish priest, was kind, open, jovial and, parishioners said, always showed the mercy of God.

“Father Blane was an open book, caring, humble, who kept a smile on his face 24/7,” Alfredo Morelos, a parishioner at Ruston’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church where Fr. Blane was senior parish associate, said.

Fr. Blane died March 28 at age 92. Participants in the church’s Hispanic ministry the Franciscan priest helped found, guarded his body throughout the night as part of the Mexican tradition of honoring the dead.

Funeral Mass for Fr. Blane was held on Tuesday, April 4, at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

Fr. Blane, a Chicago native, spent 65 years in ordained ministry. He was transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas in 2006 at age 81. “The idea was he would be here to retire, but Blane never retired,” said Fr. Al Jost, one of the Franciscan friars who lives at the St. Thomas friary.

Instead, Fr. Blane remained active in the parish and especially in Hispanic ministry.

But that wasn’t where his career began. After completing his seminary studies, Fr. Blane was assigned to St. Joseph Franciscan Seminary in Oak Brook, IL, to teach English and Latin.

“His major role was to get us ready for college,” said Fr. Al, who was one of Fr. Blane’s students. “He was the toughest of teachers.” Yet Fr. Blane has what Fr. Al describes as a “profound effect” upon his students – so much so that years later they would stop to visit their former teacher.

In 1969, at age 45, Fr. Blane was sent to Mexico to learn Spanish. “That was the beginning of the major part of his legacy,” said Bro. Mike Ward, campus minister for the Association of Catholic Tech Students.

It was the era of liberation theology; many of the contemporary Church writings were being done in Spanish. Catholic leaders began to realize the growth of the Spanish-speaking population in America and the need for priests to be able to communicate in Spanish rather than the Church’s traditional Latin, Fr. Al said.

After his year in Mexico, Fr. Blane returned to St. Joseph’s to teach English and Spanish. In his off time, he began serving Spanish-speaking seminary employees. By the time Fr. Blane arrived in Ruston after two stints in San Antonio, one in St. Louis and five years as manager and editor of the Franciscan Herald Press, he was devoted to Hispanic ministry.

“He was very driven to see the Spanish community progress,” Morelos, St. Thomas Aquinas former coordinator of Hispanic ministry, said. The Hispanic community has grown from four families when the ministry began to now as many as 300 people, Alfredo said. A Spanish-speaking Mass is now celebrated every Sunday, as well as on major church celebration days.

“Father Blane was such a humble person. He always had something good to say about everybody. For that reason, he made us feel loved,” Alfredo said.
Ortega, a native of Mexico who’ll graduate from Louisiana Tech University in May, called Fr. Blane her “home away from home.” “He was so welcoming and never judgmental,” she said.

Fr. Blane’s first concern when he entered what would become his final hospital stay, was missing Mass and whether parishioners were being cared for, Bro. Mike said. “He must have asked me that 100 times,” Bro. Mike said, during a prayer service for Fr. Blane. “His dying wish was that y’all know how much God loved you.”

Colleagues and others describe Fr. Blane as vivacious, always game for a good time, yet studious and eager to listen and learn.

“He enjoyed good literature. He was always reading, reading,” Fr. Al said. Fr. Blane had a master’s degree in British literature.

“He had very strong opinions concerning some social issues,” Kevin Cuccia, of Ruston, said. “He was never afraid to voice his opinions. Sometimes his sermons would get a little fiery.”

Seminarian Raney Johnson, a Tech graduate and former parishioner, remembers the joy with which Fr. Blane ministered to St. Thomas.

“He motivated me because he showed me that someone can dedicate their entire life to God as a priest and live joyfully and full of life,” Johnson said.

Friends say Fr. Blane’s smile is one of the things they’ll remember  – and miss – the most, along with his charge at the end of every sermon to “have a magnificent Ruston day.”

“He did a lot for Hispanic ministry, but his ministry was much broader,” Fr. Al said. “He had a ministry of presence.”

Said Ortega, “You could tell God was in him and he was in God.”

Story courtesy of the Ruston Daily Leader.

Mike’s Meditations: Magnify the Living Christ


by Mike Van Vranken

How is your Easter going?”  Has anyone asked you that question over the last couple of weeks?  It’s ironic that we hear “How is your Lent going?” quite often during those 40 days after Ash Wednesday.  Yet, once the stores remove the bunnies from their shelves and we’ve eaten all our Cadbury eggs, Easter is quickly forgotten. We understand its importance in our Christian lives, but because resurrection is difficult to explain, we can easily lose sight of our own role in what it means.  Our authentic desire is never to explain resurrection, but to enter into it and live it.

Experiencing resurrection is not new to us. When we came out of the waters of our baptism, we rose as a new person. Resurrected!  “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But it doesn’t stop there. We continue to be renewed and transformed and live as resurrected “ambassadors for Christ” who have “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21).

During Lent we were determined to examine our lives and crucify those things that distract us or pull us away from God. Then, we celebrated his rising from the dead in his glorified body. But again, it shouldn’t stop there. We rise from Lent different and transformed as a new and living child of God, more joyful and more loving because we got rid of some of those attributes that draw us away from him. We are different. We are changed. And we are to live those changes as resurrected ambassadors for Christ.  This is how we enter into and live resurrection.

The incarnation, God with us, is made manifest and continues in our world because we magnify the risen Christ within us.  Men and women who are in the state of resurrection experience a radical change. It isn’t easy. It can be complex.

But the challenge is: How do I enter the ordinary world as the new person I am? And do I realize that I don’t wait until next Lent to find new ways to deny the worldliness in my life?  Each day I can find some part of me that distracts my focus from God and nail that distraction to the cross.  I continue in resurrection as changed again and again – the transformation continues, so resurrection continues. I literally begin to live it each day.  This is what transformation means.  It is crossing into those areas of our lives where annihilation of the self can begin and we then can move into a new life with God and find joy.

To remain resurrected is to keep our eyes focused on Christ and to continue walking in that resurrected way, even in our everyday lives.

Jesus in the resurrection accounts reveals who he is now – in all his divinity, which is shining through in all of his encounters.  He is filled with peace, love and joy. We live the resurrection by allowing the risen Jesus in us to shine through with this same peace, love and joy in the encounters of our daily lives. This new life of ours becomes a powerful experience for us and for those around us.

Sound scary? In his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus says: “Be not afraid,” and “Peace be with you.”  This is what we all have to learn when we move into new life – don’t be afraid, and trust the peace of God.  We become totally united with the incarnation itself. It is not us who shine with peace, love and joy – it’s Jesus shining through us. And it’s not an illusion. It’s real.

Finally, this entire new life moves us in two ways:

1. It ignites in us a capacity to be there for others in a new and more dynamic reality; a new way of loving, of ministering with compassion, and of sharing in the journeys of our sisters and brothers.

2. It also demands some alone time with God. To be present with Him in prayer. It is God who shows us how to practice being a resurrected people and spending time with Him in prayer and conversation is essential.

We are called to more than just believing in resurrection. We are called to be resurrection in our modern world. So rather than waiting for someone to ask how your Easter is going, just go ahead and ask yourself: “How am I resurrection for the people in my life and the entire world around me?”

Bishop’s May Reflection: Prepare for Pastoral Changes with an Open Heart


by Bishop Michael Duca

Every year brings new challenges to a bishop. This year the challenge is the retirement of three of our priests/pastors:  Father Pike Thomas, Father Phil Michiels and Father James McLelland on June 1, 2017.  I bring this part of Church life to your attention this month because I expect there will be a rather unprecedented number of changes throughout the diocese because of the retirement of these three pastors which will affect several of our larger parishes.  In fact, by the time you receive this issue of The Catholic Connection, you may have heard some of the changes already.

When I assign a priest as your pastor, I choose them first and foremost to love you with a pastor’s love and, as a spiritual father, to nourish your spiritual life (as well as his own) through the sacraments, preaching and in his pastoral leadership of the parish. I want the pastor to build a strong parish family that has, as its mission, to reach out beyond itself in charity and give witness to Christ in the larger community.  Your pastor must also administer the temporal goods of the parish (that’s paying the bills and keeping the air conditioning on in the summer) and reach out to all members of the parish: the young, single, married, divorced, elderly, infirmed, those preparing for marriage, the doubtful, the troubled, even the mean and stubborn. In short, I ask a lot of my pastors and their parochial vicars (these are harder to find today), but I know each of them works hard and faithfully to fulfill the responsibilities I have placed on their shoulders.

Yet a pastor cannot accomplish all the above responsibilities (and more) without his parishioners.  Your place is not only to sit back and grade the pastor; no, more is asked of everyone in the parish.

Have you ever thought that it is your place to love your pastor and to contribute in an active way to make your parish family a witness to the love of God and neighbor?  Every parishioner should actively join with the pastor in building up a vital parish.  Don’t be afraid to give an honest, even differing opinion on some aspect of parish life, but do give it with love and respect.  When I was a parish priest with many pastoral responsibilities, I often needed help and input from the parishioners.  In fact, much of the success attributed to me was accomplished through the willingness of the parishioners to work with me and I with them.  Working together in this transition will be essential to a successful pastoral change.

If your parish has a pastoral change this spring, here are a few helpful tips to make the transition smoother:

Give the new pastor a chance.  Don’t believe negative gossip that you hear about him.  Social media, texting, Facebook and even old fashion gossip has often made the changes for our pastors more difficult as they are judged and either sanctified or condemned before they even arrive at a new assignment.  Most of what you hear on the parish grapevine is vastly exaggerated and social media can make the concerns of a few seem larger and more important than they really are.  Make it clear to other parishioners that criticizing a pastor behind his back is always a mistake.  If there is a legitimate concern about the new pastor, talk to him about it.  Chances are it is some misunderstanding that can be easily fixed. Give a new pastor the time to let his actions and words speak for themselves.

Remember that it takes a while for a new pastor to learn the names of parishioners and to become familiar with parish ministries.  Pastors and parishioners need to be patient with one another, listen to each other and work together for the good of the parish.

Be open to change.  Let your new pastor be himself.  Recognize that he has unique gifts and talents that he will bring to your parish.  Allow him to minister in his own way.  Don’t keep telling the new pastor how the old pastor used to do things.  Be willing to consider that the new pastor has been sent by God’s grace so the parish will be challenged to develop in a new spiritual way.  I do believe that even through all my practical considerations and consultations that the Holy Spirit guides my decisions and is at work in this process.

Of course in all things be charitable.  I pray that the changes this year will bring new life, not only to our parishes, but will also revive and challenge our priests to a deeper commitment to their priesthood and they will be nourished and inspired by the zeal and support of their parishioners.  A parish succeeds when the pastor and parishioners work together.  May Christ remain at the center of these changes in our parishes.