Category Archives: Features

BIshop’s Reflection: Do You Accept?

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

On June 10th, as I pulled into my garage after having just ordained Father Duane Trombetta as a priest for the Diocese of Shreveport in a beautiful ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, my phone rang. It was an incoming call from Washington, D.C. I stared at the caller ID for a moment and my heart skipped a beat, because I knew who was most likely calling me: the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. And I knew he was almost certainly calling me about a change of assignment. I almost did not answer the call.

I had received a similar call sitting in my office at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas over 10 years ago. It was a different archbishop, but it was the same office and my heart had skipped a beat then, too, as I was told by the then Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, that I had been chosen by our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, as the next Bishop of Shreveport. You might imagine that at this point he would have kindly asked: “What do you think about this?,” or “Do you need some time to think about this?,” or “Does this fit into your life plan?” But the next words out of the Papal Nuncio’s mouth were simply, “DO YOU ACCEPT?”

Bishop Michael Duca serves soup for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Poor Man's Supper at Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe.

With this simple straightforward question Archbishop Sambi brought the matter into clear focus and asked the only important question. It was the right question, because at that point in my priestly life it was no longer about me, it was about my willingness to accept the will of God in my life.

I must admit that God prepared me for this profound question because, as I have spoken of in this column over the years, I had already come to the conclusion that I was not in control of my life any more. My priestly life had not been anything like I expected. It was a good life, but so different than I had imagined it would be. I remember talking with my vice-rector at the seminary years before my call to the Episcopacy. We discussed what would come next in our lives as priests. Surprisingly, we both said in so many words that if we were asked, we would respond, “Bishop, wherever you need me.” We had not given up, but rather learned to give our lives freely to God in our priestly vocations. (By the way, my vice-rector was Father Doug Deshotel at the time, now Bishop of Lafayette.)

At Encounter Jesus 3 diocesan youth event.

When I received the call 10 years ago naming me Bishop of Shreveport, there was only one important question, “DO YOU ACCEPT?” I immediately said, “YES,” not so much at the time to the Diocese of Shreveport, because I knew nothing about it then, but rather to the mysterious will of God. I have lived that “Yes” for the past 10 years as your bishop, but now the “Yes” is not just to the will of God, but to YOU the people of the Diocese of Shreveport whom I have come to love during my 10 years as your bishop.

So on that Saturday, about eight weeks ago, I was again asked by a different archbishop to accept the will of God. The will of God this time was for me to become the Bishop of Baton Rouge. As much as I love the Diocese of Shreveport, there was only one right answer: “YES, I accept.” The same decision that brought me to Shreveport 10 years ago now takes me away.

Bishop Michael G. Duca receives a blessing from newly ordained Fr. Duane Trombetta, the morning of the day he received the call from Washington D.C., asking him to become the new Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

It was easy to accept this new call because it was the right answer, but it was hard to say yes because I so desperately did not want to say goodbye to my people here in the Diocese of Shreveport. I trust that we will, in the days to come, receive the blessings God intends even though they have not yet been revealed.

I am sure the next Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport will find this diocese a blessing when he is called to say “YES” to the Apostolic Nuncio. I will always treasure my time here and count you all as my friends. I will pray for you always and I ask for your prayers for me. •

A Decade with Bishop Duca

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by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor, The Catholic Connection

In December 2007, newly married and stepping into a budding career as a graphic designer and journalist, I was hired as the editor of The Catholic Connection, the official magazine of the Diocese of Shreveport. It was a time of limbo at the diocese – we had no bishop, and the long wait time between the retirement of Bishop William Friend and the anticipated naming of a new bishop fueled both excitement and anxiety amongst the staff.

Would our new bishop like a magazine? Would he insist we move to a newspaper? Would he even want a publication? Similar questions floated through every office of the chancery. And then, in April of 2008, a priest from the Diocese of Dallas was appointed to be ordained the Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport. Once he was named, things began to happen very quickly while everyone waited on pins and needles, eager to find out what our new shepherd would be like.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Bishop Duca’s office many times since that day – and rarely has it ever felt like I’ve been called to the principal’s office. For just as he is a bishop, he is also a pastor. I have sat in front of him, relatively fresh off maternity leave, nervously and emotionally explaining that I was pregnant once again – this time with twins, no less – and I had no idea how I was going to make my life and my job work. He sat with me, listened, and told me, “We will do whatever it takes to keep you.” Very few responses have ever meant so much to me and inspired me to move forward when all felt impossible.

The twins made their appearance, and even though it wasn’t always easy, we did what it took to make it work. In that time since, I have seen Bishop Duca kneel down before my children and earnestly ask them about their favorite parts of Disney World and listen with sincerity as all the names of My Little Ponies were listed off and explained to him. I’ve seen him joyfully present them with candy bars – purchased from me to benefit their Catholic education.

He even once told me he would like to come over to our home for dinner. I said a quick prayer that I would somehow whip my house into a functional state in the couple of weeks I had to prepare. He insisted we do nothing special, but we couldn’t let our Italian bishop go without trying the Rinaudo family meatballs. He visited with us from the couch, allowing Sarah to place a unicorn helmet atop his head and laughing as tiny Vera stared at him nervously from the corner. And any time the Rinaudo children visited the Catholic Center, you better believe we had to make a bee-line for Bishop Duca’s office to tell him hello.

Bishop Duca and I had a conversation outside in the hall during a retreat recently. At the time we were talking about the plan God has for our lives. The reflection he had written for the upcoming magazine that month had touched me. In it he said, “It was as though no matter what I imagined my life to be, God was leading me in another direction that was very different. When I was finally able to accept (i.e., I gave up) that God may have a different direction and a deeper understanding of my life, I stopped fighting and second guessing God’s will for my life. Instead I embraced His will and with that surrender came a new freedom and wisdom that allows me every day to accept with joy this wonderful call to be your bishop, even though I often feel unworthy.”

During our conversation, I told him how I could have never anticipated having four children in four years – it completely derailed me, but it also made me who I am. His words encouraged me; by choosing to accept God’s will in my life, I’m a better person.

I have been blessed to have a bishop who always supports our magazine, always looks over each issue before it goes to press. He has written articles each month without fail, even when I had to chase him down at deadline time and knock on his office door, or call for him as he ran past my office door, his hand in front of his face yelling, “I know! I know! I’m working on it!”

Bishop Duca has taught me much, most importantly how to be a gracious servant of the Lord and listen with compassion in both difficult times and in the good ones. I am truly grateful to have worked with him these 10 years. He has been a pastor, a supervisor, a friend. I wish him the very best in Baton Rouge. •

The Priest and the Bishop

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by Father Rothell Price, Moderator of the Curia

When I first saw Msgr. Michael Duca, he struck me as an affable fellow. He brought to mind this passage from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, “… a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.” The sight of him was not a moment of comedy or derision, rather it was an encounter of joy and gladness. His Gospel joy radiated out from him, in spite of his nervousness. The gift and wonder of his episcopal dignity engendered hope and joy. There was a certain light in his eyes, a certain energy about his demeanor, and a certain inspiration in his person. Bishop Duca was not nearly as round and plump as Old St. Nicholas, but he was every bit a bringer of spiritual blessings and gladness.

I think this spiritual joy was the hallmark of my relationship with him over these past eight years. He constantly held up the bright light of his episcopal motto, “Hope in the Lord.” The spiritual torch he held aloft certainly was a constant source of inspiration and fuel for me. I have learned so much from him. Above all, I learned to “protect the mission of the Gospel.” This exhortation of his reminds me of the solemn dignity and hope of receiving blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday. On that day, we hear the Gospel call and challenge to, “Turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

For me, having worked so closely with Bishop Duca over the years, I have an extensive list of impressive things about him. I’ll share a few.

Listening: He has this amazing ability to be still and focus in totally on the person with whom he is engaged. He listens with his heart and soul, as well as his eyes and ears.

Compassion: He is always deeply concerned to do that which is spiritually advantageous to the person on the other end.

Love for his priests: His concern and goal has always been to do and permit whatever serves to strengthen each priest’s vocation. This was never a neutral compromise on his part, rather it was always his chosen goal for each of his priests.

Love for his people: Bishop Duca loved being with people. He never missed a parish reception, and he was usually among the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. Following the exhortation of Pope Francis, Bishop Duca was happy to take his place in front of the flock, behind it, to the left and right of it, and certainly in the midst of it as need dictated.

Soft touch: He taught me to engage people in the gentlest way possible. This is a skill I am continuing to learn and practice. In this soft touch, he makes me think of the golden rule stated in its positive form, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Discerning: Bishop Duca has an amazing capacity for looking at every person, circumstance and concern from all possible angles. He also is fantastic at striking that life-enriching balance between work and play. He is a man of God who knows how and when to work hard and when to rest in the Lord.

Passionate: Who does not know that Bishop Duca, Sicilian that he is, loves to cook, feed people, feast on fine food, (the spicier it is, the better he likes it), and good wines? It was an annual wonder to watch him become a teenager again at the sights, sounds and tastes of the Texas State Fair and the State Fair of Louisiana.

Bishop’s rallying cry in difficult times is, “It’s a great life…” to which I was to respond, “If you don’t weaken.” He always knew that his strength resided in the Lord Jesus. I think this was his paraphrase of St. Paul, who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Twas the Night Before Christmas, ends on this note: “But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” As Bishop Duca drives away from Shreveport, I know he will say with nostalgia about the Diocese of Shreveport and anticipation about the Diocese of Baton Rouge, “Hope in the Lord.”

It has been my distinct joy and honor to serve as his Vicar General and to be one of his “dinner and a movie” buddies. Our great loss is the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s great gain! What a gift we have had! •

Remembering Bishop’s “Study Tour” to India

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by Fr. Philip Pazhayakari, CMI, Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Rayville & St. Theresa Church, Delhi

While planning a visit to India, our bishop clearly mentioned to me that his intention was not primarily a pleasure trip or a sight-seeing trip. His intention was to make a “study tour” to India to have a firsthand glimpse of the Catholic faith in India and to have a birds’ eye view of the activities of the Order of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) and of the Oriental Church (Syro-Malabar Church) founded and nourished by the blood of St. Thomas the Apostle, whose place of martyrdom and tomb are still preserved and duly venerated in India. He wanted to visit and pray at the Shrines of the new Indian saints: St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and St. Alphonsa of Bharananganam.

I do not know why our bishop selected me to accompany him as a guide. I love and appreciate his confidence in me. He had only 12 days to spare for the visit. I planned the details of the tour, not as a guide, but as a guardian – or rather a “guardian angel” – during his journey to a new world. Here is a travelogue of our trip.

Bishop Michael Duca and Fr. Philip Pazhayakari, CMI, his guide and guardian on their trip to India.

11.27.16 – Sunday: We landed at Trivandrum (TVM) at 3.20 a.m. local time. Fr. Thomas Elavunkal was at the airport to fetch us to the CMI Provincial House, TVM. Fr. Thomas worked in the Diocese of Shreveport. There are currently 10 CMI priests working in the Diocese of Shreveport, and practically all of them have been members of the CMI Province TVM.

That day, we visited our prestigious Christ Nagar educational center at Thiruvallam. It is an educational complex with a Senior and a Junior Secondary School, a College of Education and Chavara Institute of Educational Research and Training. It provides instructions to about 4,000 students.

Our next destination was the famous Christ Nagar Higher Secondary School in Trivandrum where the CMI Fathers extended a hearty welcome to our Bishop. Christ Nagar is also an educational complex providing instruction to about 3,000 students. It is under the supervision of the Superior of the monastery known as Christ Hall. Christ Hall was established in 1946, the earliest institution in south Kerala to cater to the needs of the Christians migrating towards the south.

After dinner, we headed towards the next State and reached our CMI House in Kannyakumari.

Bishop Duca at one of the CMI schools, Christ Nagar School, Thiruvallam

11.28.16 – Kannyakumari or Cape Comorin (its old name) is the southern tip of peninsular India where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea join, the meeting point of three oceans. One of the important attractions at the beach is the Alankara Matha church dedicated to Mother Mary where thousands of devotees come and pray. After the beach, we went to the local bishop’s house where Bishop Rejendran extended a hearty welcome to us.

From the bishop’s house we went to the Carmelite Sisters’ (CMC) provincial house where we had lunch with Provincial Sr. Viji and the other sisters of the convent. We visited the nearby local shrine of a martyr, a Hindu convert to Catholicism, Blessed Deva Sahayam Pillai.

11.29.16 – Tuesday: We left for the next destination in Kochi, our Prior General’s House at Kakkanad. On the way we visited a High School for the deaf and mute at Eanath where Fr. Jose Kadavil CMI looks after about 100 deaf and mute boys. By 6:30 p.m. we reached our Prior General’s house at Kakkanad, and our Prior General, Fr. Paul Achandy, and the other priests of the house gave us a warm welcome.

Fr. Philip and Bishop Duca with the Sisters of the Destitute.

11.30.16 – Wednesday: We left for the nearby Sisters of the Destitute Generalate for Mass. We now have three of these sisters working at CHRISTUS Highland hospital in Shreveport. Bishop Duca celebrated Mass in their chapel with all the sisters of the institute and visited an old age home run by the sisters.

By 10:45 a.m., we left for Kochi. On the way we visited the famous St. George Basilica at Edapally, where thousands rush for regular novenas and prayer. We then went to the Punnapra Polytechnic run by CMI Fathers where my nephew,
Fr. Jacob Purakary, is a professor.

12.1.16: Thursday: This was the only day set aside for some rest, relaxation and sight-seeing. We started our trip in a house boat through Alapuzha backwaters. Frs. Biju Palamattam and Paul Thunduparampil took the lead for our day of rest and relaxation. After the boat trip, we went to the Chavara Shrine, the birth place of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the Founder of the CMI Order.

A scene from the welcome dance at the school.

12.2.16 – Friday: We visited the CMI Monastery at Chethipuzha where Fr. Zacharias Prakuzhay, who was a pastor in Lake Providence, LA, resides. Lunch was at Fr. Philip’s house where a non-meat Friday meal was served, Friday being a day of abstinence from meat in the Oriental Church.

Grand Welcome to the Bishop at K. E. School: After lunch we went to the Kuriakose Elias Higher Secondary School where the principal, Fr. James Mullassery, arranged a grand welcome for our bishop. Bishop Duca was led to the assembly hall escorted by a band display of the students that Bishop Duca very heartily enjoyed and commended a number of times with joy and enthusiasm, even after his return to the U.S. Kuriakose Elias School is a very prestigious institution of the locality where more than 2,600 students are given Catholic oriented education and training. This school was started by me in 1991.

We then visited the Deepika Daily Newspaper complex started by the CMI Order. The Deepika is the only Catholic Daily in India.

Our next destination was Vadavathoor diocesan major seminary which is the second largest major seminary in the state to train diocesan priests for Kerala.

12.3.16 – Saturday: We left the seminary to say Mass at St. Kuriakose Elias Shrine at Mannanam, where St. Kuariakose Elias was buried and his holy remains are venerated with special devotions on Saturdays. Our bishop prayed at the Tomb of St. Kuriakose Elias before the Mass. I am sure, he was surprised to see the vestments for Mass in the Oriental Liturgy. Bishop Duca was the main celebrant for the Mass, assisted by the prior. The church was full with more than 500 people.

Bishop visited the Chavara museum and then the Malayalam medium Higher Secondary School and Kuriakose Elias College. Our next visit was at Bharnanganam, where
St. Alponsa was buried and her holy remains are venerated.

With more than 1,000 children after the Mass in Eastern Rite.

12.4.16 – Sunday: After breakfast we moved to the Cathedral for a Mass for the CCD students of the parish, where Bishop was the main celebrant for the Eastern Rite Mass. A group of about 1,000 students attended with loud responses through their young and vibrant vocal chords.

Bishop’s extraordinary quality of adjusting himself to any situation is great and is appreciated with awe and admiration. Many priests and the people were wondering how he could wear a 10 to 15 pound oriental chasuble (kappa) for Mass that could take about one and a half hours. His endurance was great and very commendable, especially when we realized that the church was not air conditioned, the people kneel on the floor, and most of them enter the church bare-footed. There was absolutely no expression of displeasure or uneasiness from him. Many exclaimed: “What a great American Bishop he is!”

Then we visited some of the Agricultural Centers (PDS) at the High Ranges of Kerala run by the Diocese of Kanjirapally.

12.5.16 – Monday: The local Bishop Mathew Arackal, who was out of town, arrived quite early that morning to bid farewell to Bishop Duca. We left the Pastoral Center for the Kochi airport to take the last leg of our visits at Bangalore.

Dharmaram College is the most important major seminary of the CMI order started in 1957. I am lucky to have been a student of the college from its beginning until my ordination in 1962. Bishop gave an excellent talk to the 350 seminarians in the Seminary auditorium and had dinner with the community.

At the Arts Festival of Christ University, Bangalore

12.6.16 – Tuesday: This was his last day of this phase of his visit to India. Bishop celebrated Mass in Latin for the students of the seminary. After breakfast, he toured the Dharmaram complex that ended at the Christ University on the campus. We had lunch at the University with its Vice Chancellor, Fr. Thomas Chathamparampil and other CMI priests of the teaching faculties. Fr Lijo Thomas, who was the pastor in Bastrop, LA, is now a member of the teaching faculty of the Christ University Bangalore.

At 3:30 p.m. Rector Fr. Thomas Aykara was present to bid good-bye to our bishop as he was leaving for the Bangalore international airport for his return journey to Dallas via Dubai.

How great thou art: I was lucky to accompany our bishop to India from Dallas to the airport in Bangalore. What a great personality Bishop Duca is! A man of great and wonderful adjustments to every culture, people – old and young! Everyone throughout our visit loved him and appreciated his modest and humble personality. He appreciated any type of food that was served to him. Never did he have a complaint or wry face at any moment of our journey through various cultures and people.

My niece, who is a teacher to the little ones, told me, “Your bishop is simple and humble down to the earth. He speaks lovely English, articulating every syllable that we, all of us, could understand. A man of great flexibility and simplicity! He appreciates everyone who comes in contact with him, accepting everybody, irrespective of caste, race, religion or age with the love of God.”

My heart breaks as I think of him leaving us, but as he mentioned, it is the will of God. All my parishioners have the same response and send their love and appreciation to him.

May the light and love of God be ever bright and shining throughout his pursuit in proclaiming the Kingdom of God!  •

Bishop Michael Duca Announced as Bishop-designate of Baton Rouge

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by Bonny Van, The Catholic Commentator

The sixth bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge was greeted with applause, smiles and hugs as he approached the podium for his introduction to the people of the capital city on June 26, just hours after the Vatican announced the appointment by Pope Francis.

Bishop-designate Michael G. Duca replaces Bishop Robert W. Muench, who is retiring after 16 years. The two bishops arrived together, with Bishop Muench handling much of the introductions for the press event, which contained a variety of emotions from both men, who had clearly formed a special camaraderie.

“I was completely surprised by this appointment and while I am sad to leave the good people of the Diocese of Shreveport, I immediately accepted the appointment without reservation as I see this as the will of God in my life and, I guess by extension, the will of God in the life of the Diocese of Shreveport and Baton Rouge,” said Bishop-designate Duca to the dozens of priests, deacons, diocesan employees and members of the media packed into the Westerfield Center on the campus of the Catholic Life Center.

Bishop-designate Duca has been bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport for the past 10 years, his first bishop assignment. A native of Dallas, Texas, Bishop-designate Duca was ordained a priest in 1978 for the Diocese of Dallas. After serving in several parishes in that diocese, he served as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas from 1996 to 2008.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, with a Catholic population of 40,000. In contrast, the Diocese of Baton Rouge has a Catholic population of 227,052.

“I have to tell you I’m not clear about the ‘why me’ part,” said the bishop-designate. “I have to admit I have been surprised or puzzled by most of the pastoral assignments I have received over my life. But, no matter how quick I had to move, or how unprepared I felt or overwhelmed or humbled, in every case, when I embraced the assignment, without reservation, I found the joy and blessings I know now that God intended.”

Bishop-designate Duca then broke down in tears in recalling the special bond he had developed with the people in Shreveport, saying, “I fell in love with those I served, and I also found that in every case, I discovered the goodness in the people of God.”

“I intend to do no less here in Baton Rouge,” he continued. “And, I will give myself to you as your bishop and the work before us to build the kingdom of God, here in this portion of south Louisiana.”

Though the geographical area of the Diocese of Baton Rouge pales in comparison with that of Shreveport  5,513 square miles versus 11,129 square miles the bishop-designate inherits a much denser population concentration that includes 64 church parishes, one university, 31 schools, 51 diocesan priests, 56 active permanent deacons and more than 100 combined religious brothers and sisters. In his first public address, the bishop-designate said he is committed to supporting those who serve in the church.

“I look forward to meeting the priests and deacons of the diocese and also the diocesan staff,” said Bishop-designate Duca. “But, at the end, the priests, deacons and lay leaders of the parishes and institutions are those that I want most to be seen as in solidarity with. They are the ones we, the Catholic staff, are here to support because they are the ones, the outreach, that touch the people of God.”

Bishop-designate Duca, a self-described foodie, said he anticipates “hitting the ground walking” as opposed to “running” when he officially takes possession of the diocese because “there is a good organization, a good structure, a good spirit in the church” in the Baton Rouge diocese. He also mentioned an acquaintance in Shreveport, whose brother is a priest in Baton Rouge and stated that the Baton Rouge diocese has “the best group of priests in Louisiana.”

“That was very encouraging and Bishop Muench has given me the same kind of encouragement and so I come with a great enthusiasm and excitement,” he said. “And, I’m anxious to meet all of you over the next years of my life as a bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.”

In a nod to his Texas roots and the large Spanish-speaking population in his home state, the bishop-designate made a statement in Spanish, “especially now when things are so uncertain for so many people.”

“Basically, what I said was that I want them to know that they are part of our family, we are one church and I can say that openly because I know that this is a city of much diversity,” he added. “When I moved to Louisiana, I thought that I would have shrimp and seafood in my freezer, more than I could eat. I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and ended up with meat pies and tamales, which have been a great gift. But, I first experienced in Shreveport, the diversity of culture and influence throughout this whole Louisiana state.

“It’s a wonderful diversity, and I know we have Vietnamese, African-American; we have other cultures that are here all around, and I just want to say, we all have to consider that we are one family and when one part of the family suffers, we all suffer and we need to have that kind of unity together.”

Bishop-designate Duca then referenced a speech made at the recent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting “about the importance of being close to one another” and getting to know each other and each other’s struggles.

“We need to get close to (the poor) to understand their lives because in the end, we all want the same thing,” he said. “So to our brothers and sisters who don’t speak English, I want them to know that they are part of our family. If I could say this in Vietnamese, I would, but that’s way beyond me and I’m not going to try to say it in south Louisiana because I would mess that up, too.”

In follow-up questions, the bishop-designate acknowledged that the transition from “the north to the south” will not be an easy one, saying, “I’m in way over my head here.”

“I don’t even know enough to know how much I don’t know about south Louisiana to be worried about how much I don’t know,” he added. “Culturally, I know that I’m in a different place so I have to learn the culture and the way people interact.

“I know that there’s north Louisiana, there’s south Louisiana and there’s New Orleans.”

But he also emphasized the universality of the church, saying “even though there may be a great difference in culture, there is one church language, you might say, the language of the Mass, the language of the sacraments, the language of prayer. So we start off together with that.”

Bishop-designate Duca is scheduled to be installed on August 24, at 2:00 p.m. at Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. •

So Many Gifts to Share

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by Deacon Mike Whitehead

In his letter to parishioners on his new appointment in Baton Rouge, Bishop Duca said, “I am not clear about, ‘why me?’ I have to admit that I have been surprised or puzzled by most of my pastoral appointments over the years, especially my appointment as your bishop 10 years ago. But with every appointment, no matter how puzzled, overwhelmed or humbled I felt, when I embraced the assignments without reservation, I found the joy and blessings I now know God intended.”

That statement is quintessentially Bishop Duca.

It is rare to meet a truly great man or woman that doesn’t have that thread of humility as part of his or her DNA. There is no doubt Bishop Duca’s priority from Day 1 was a gift of service to this diocese, as well as north Louisiana.

I will cherish the times when I attended Mass where he presided. Bishop Duca reinforced that every Mass is a celebration and a miracle. Without exception, every homily he gave was as deep as the Caribbean and included humor that was always genuine and never forced.

Honestly, I never believed Bishop Duca would be with us until his retirement. He has too many gifts – gifts that must be shared with others. I choose to remember him with gratitude for the 10 years we had him with us, rather than dwell on the fact that he is taking on a new assignment.

Bishop Duca always was the same, whether he was leading a deacon retreat, calling bingo numbers at a Catholic Charities fundraiser or having dinner with friends.

Humility, authenticity, compassion. There are a lot of virtues that could describe the second bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, but whatever the description, we certainly have been blessed to have him in our lives. •

Mary’s House: Helping Mothers, Saving Lives

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by L’Anne Sciba, Executive Director and Founder, Mary’s House 

“I hope they… [people of the Shreveport Diocese] felt respected, I hope they feel they had a voice when they spoke with me, that I listened to them.”

Bishop Michael G. Duca to The Shreveport Times, June 27, 2018

In October 2013, I had the idea of opening a pregnancy care center (PCC) and realized before I went any further, I should ask Bishop Duca if this was an acceptable idea. I made an appointment with him.

A few months later I met some people from another part of the country, mentioned how I met with the bishop, and they burst out laughing. They couldn’t believe that I could get an appointment at all! That is when I realized that Bishop Duca’s heart was truly open to meeting and knowing the people in his diocese.

At that initial meeting in 2013, he listened to my idea, looked at my “charts,” asked some questions, and then he offered what he had: an empty room at the Catholic Center. Even though, as he said later, “it wouldn’t cost me anything,” and we never did use the room, his encouragement gave me and others the message that a new pregnancy care center was welcome in the diocese.

But, I had to keep working my day job.

Bishop Michael Duca and L'Anne Sciba sign papers to move Mary's House into their current home on Margaret Place in Shreveport.

In early 2014, one of Bishop Duca’s Pro-Life Banquet team members called to invite me to speak about Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center at the Pro-Life Banquet – I had a five minute limit! Considering Mary’s House had no donors, no money, and was only a vision to help young women find alternatives to abortion. How could five minutes do anything? Yet Bishop Duca’s idea seemed to be to let this idea of Mary’s House “run” and see where it would go.

At that Banquet, $80,000 was donated to Mary’s House by the attendees.

Later that year, Schumpert Hospital closed, and the diocese acquired a vacant yellow house in which the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word had lived. In December 2014, at our semi-annual meeting about the Mary’s House idea, the Bishop offered the vacant yellow house for Mary’s House to use. It turned out to be perfect! On November 20, 2015, Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center opened at the Margaret Place location.

As of June 2018, over 500 young women have come to Mary’s House for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, for someone to talk to, to gain access into the healthcare system and for information about other resources.

Bishop Duca, you are a true shepherd, pastoring and letting God work through you and the people in the Diocese of Shreveport. Thank you, Bishop Duca, from all the young moms, their babies, the volunteers and donors of Mary’s House!

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana: A Bishop’s Legacy

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by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana 

When Bishop Michael G. Duca arrived in 2008 as the second bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, he was surprised to see that there was not a Catholic Charities agency in North Louisiana. Up until that time, outreach in the community had taken place through Christian Service and at the parish level through the works of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Bishop Duca envisioned the formation of Catholic Charities as the Diocese of Shreveport’s response to helping those in need and being an agent of positive change in the lives of those being served.

Jean Dresley, Catholic Charities’ first executive director, remembers seeing the position advertised in her parish bulletin. After several weeks of contemplation, she applied for the position and went through the interview process. In her second interview, she met with Bishop Duca and was offered the job at the end of the interview. She recalls feeling “scared to death” at the time, but also believed that “God was pulling me to this moment to use whatever small gifts I had to serve Him.” With a new executive director in place, Catholic Charities of Shreveport (CCS) opened its doors in August 2010.

In the early days of the organization, Dresley received guidance and mentoring from both Bishop Duca and Sr. Pat Cairns. Sr. Cairns had supervised two other Catholic Charities agencies and understood the challenges of a young organization. Dresley credits Cairns’ experience and presence during this time as making a huge difference in the success of Catholic Charities.

Some of the initial challenges CCS faced included forming a board of directors, finding a place to start serving clients, and most important, securing funding for the organization. Dresley began seeing clients immediately and it soon became apparent that CCS would need its own location. The organization moved into the rectory and sanctuary of the former St. Catherine of Siena Church, located in the Cedar Grove neighborhood, one of Shreveport’s poorest areas.

As the organization grew, so did its service area, expanding across the Diocese of Shreveport’s 16 civil parishes. Catholic Charities of Shreveport changed its name to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana in 2014, with satellite offices opening in Lake Providence and Monroe. Under the guidance of its current executive director, Meg Goorley, CCNLA has expanded its staff to nine full-time and six part-time employees, and provided services to over 3,500 people in 2017.

Bishop Michael Duca at Bingo on the Bayou - a special fundraising event for Catholic Charities of North Louisiana.

“Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see how to fix a problem,” explained Goorley. “Ten years ago when Bishop Duca arrived, he could immediately see that the Diocese of Shreveport was in the middle of one of the poorest sections of Louisiana and he was committed to doing something about it. Because he knew that Catholic Charities in Ft. Worth and Dallas were effectively helping the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Duca laid the groundwork for Catholic Charities of Shreveport by hiring Jean Dresley to create an organization worthy of its name.”

Throughout its existence, Bishop Duca has been unwavering for his support of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Whether it is giving much-needed financial support, donating his time and culinary skills as auction items, calling bingo numbers at our annual fundraisers, or just lending words of advice, he has been the organization’s number one cheerleader.

Because of his vision and actions, thousands of people throughout North Louisiana have received education and assistance through Catholic Charities’ many programs, including Money School financial literacy, emergency assistance, Gabriel’s Closet parenting program, healthy eating classes, disaster relief and immigration legal services. The Diocese of Shreveport and all of North Louisiana have benefited from his presence, guidance and leadership. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is honored to be a part of his legacy.

Thoughts from CCNLA staff members: 

“In my interview with Bishop Duca after he offered me the job, he told me to let him know if I ever needed help. He gave me his cell phone number and told me call him if I needed something. I never needed to use that cell phone number, but it speaks to his commitment to CCNLA and to me personally. I am still humbled that he offered me the job.” – Jean Dresley, Executive Director, 2010-2016

Jean Dresley, former Executive Director of Catholic Charities, and Bishop Michael Duca, at the opening of CCNLA's Monroe office.

“What I will remember most about Bishop Duca is how intelligent he truly is and how carefully he makes decisions by taking into consideration everyone and everything involved. I will always appreciate him giving me the opportunity two years ago to lead this organization which is so close to his heart (and now mine), and I pray that I can continue to uphold his admirable legacy.” – Meg Goorley, Executive Director

“Bishop Duca is an admirable, kind, generous, thoughtful, funny man. In the past four years, I have witnessed him advocate wholeheartedly on behalf of CCNLA, rallying support and infusing hope. His dynamic presence has touched many lives and will leave a significant void in his wake.” – Kelly Vaden, Director of Finance and Human Resources

“I am thankful to Bishop Duca for his mission to help those in need, show Christ’s love and start Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. With his continual support of our organization, we have grown from assisting less than 100 the first year to well over 3,000 this past year in three locations.” – Allison Kulbeth, Intake Coordinator

“Because of Bishop Duca’s vision of CCNLA, we have been able to help so many mothers through our Gabriel’s Closet program. What started out as a small program helping just a few mothers, has now blossomed into a bigger program that has helped hundreds of mothers in the past few years. Whenever meeting with Bishop Duca, his kind, caring, and humorous characteristics always shine through. We will definitely miss him and wish him nothing but the best in his next journey!” – Suhad Salamah, Benefits Manager and Gabriel’s Closet Coordinator

“Bishop Duca’s immeasurable support of Catholic Charities has allowed us to help thousands of individuals and their families throughout North Louisiana. His enthusiasm and love of people has helped make our annual bingo fundraisers fun and successful events for our organization. His homilies and speeches are always memorable and teach valuable lessons. We were blessed to have him lead our diocese for the past 10 years.” – Lucy Medvec, Director of Development and Communications

“Bishop Duca was the first, and has continued to be one of the most ardent and dedicated supporters of the Immigration Legal Services Program of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Words cannot express how grateful we are and how much he will be missed.” – Briana Bianca, Immigration Attorney

“Bishop Duca has been a champion for the poor, the underprivileged and the immigrants in our community. He has been our leader and the backbone of support for Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Simply put, he is just a wonderful human being and will be greatly missed by our social services community and by those of us who have had the pleasure of getting to know him personally.” – Carl Piehl, Director of Financial Stability

“As a Catholic woman living in the Diocese of Shreveport, I have a great deal of admiration for Bishop Duca. For me, his final words in the promotional video for CCNLA in 2014 ‘…when the doorbell rings [at Catholic Charities], I’ll make sure there is somebody there to answer that door, every time,’ is a moment of blessing. I am also very grateful to him for being so clear in his stand on the side of immigrants and for showing Christian love towards them.”
– Gilda Rada-Garcia, Immigration Advocate

“Bishop Duca has impressed me greatly over the years with his humility, approachability and wisdom. While his preaching and conversation are extremely practical and relatable, his insights into the person of Jesus Christ and his confident proclamation of the gospel consistently inspire me to greater zeal and love for God. I am grateful for his constant support of Catholic Charities, as well as his ecumenical work and other endeavors around the diocese, but especially for his witness as a man of God, a man of faith, and a servant of the people.” – Joe Bulger, Case Manager •

Bishop Duca Altered My Priesthood Forever

Following his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Long blesses Bishop Duca.

by Father Matthew Long, Pastor, St. Joseph Parish

On April 1, 2008, I arose to news that would alter my priesthood forever. A seminarian at that time, it was John Mark Willcox, my vocations director, who informed me of an impending press conference concerning the Diocese of Shreveport. Msgr. Michael Duca, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, a priest of the diocese of Dallas, had been named the second bishop of Shreveport. I sat down at my desk and wrote a note congratulating him on his appointment and telling him of the joy I felt that we had been granted a new shepherd. On Friday of that week when I returned to my room, I had a message on my voicemail from Bishop-elect Duca thanking me for the note and asking me to call him back. In the course of the conversation he asked me many questions that gave me great hope for the future of our diocese. This marked the beginning of my relationship with Bishop Duca, the successor of the apostles whose wisdom and guidance would help shape me into the priest I am today.

Matthew Long as an altar server at Bishop Duca's Ordination and Installation as Bishop

On May 19 that year, I was privileged to be the book bearer at his ordination and installation as our bishop. I will never forget that liturgy, how exciting it was to be so close to this most important moment in the history of our diocese. Less than a year later, I sat in front of him as he exhorted me about the duties and responsibilities of the priesthood, about to lay hands on my head and pray the prayers that would mark my soul forever as a priest of Jesus Christ. Over the next nine years he was a constant support and guide through the continual process of being formed into that holy priesthood. As my pastor, he always listened to me without judgment, a quality I appreciated. I will miss that open door to his office through which I could freely enter and seek counsel. The best parts of the priest I have become I owe largely to the guidance I found from the man across that desk who so generously gave his time to a young priest who needed it.

Newly ordained Fr. Long and Bishop Duca at Fr. Long's Ordination Mass.

I was overwhelmed with emotion when on June 28 I was awakened early in the morning by a text message from a priest of the diocese of Baton Rouge. The message stated that he would be praying for our next bishop. I did not understand it at first, but then it hit me, and a quick Internet search confirmed the sad news that our shepherd, our successor to the apostles, our bishop, had been named the sixth Bishop of the diocese of Baton Rouge.

I wept, I worried, and I wondered what the future would hold for us. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to sit with Bishop Duca the next day to congratulate him and tell him how much he meant to me. I have been blessed in my priesthood to have such a shepherd, and we have all been blessed in our diocese to have been led by him. All of this reflects on his faithful obedience to the will of God. It is due to his obedience that he has been a beloved priest for 40 years and our most appreciated bishop for 10 years.

Bishop Duca’s role in our lives will never change because he has shaped us, he has led us, but, most importantly, because he has loved us. The sadness that we feel is the result of the love we feel for him. And through one of the darkest years of our diocese, with the deaths of Fr. Richter, Bishop Friend, and Msgr. Moore, this man gave us hope by his example of faith, hope and love. It is because he places all his hope and trust in the Lord that he has accomplished all he has. For his vocation, we owe a perpetual debt of gratitude. Thank you, Bishop Michal G. Duca. You will be with us always. •

Bishop’s Reflection: Make Your Daily Routine Positive

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

We finally made it to ORDINARY TIME. We all track our lives in many ways, but for me as a bishop, I track my life by the liturgical seasons. From February 14th of this year, we have been “church-wise,” in special seasons beginning with Lent, the Easter season, the Feast of the Ascension, ending with Pentecost and then followed the past two Sundays with the Feast of Corpus Christi and last week, June 4th, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This Sunday, as I write this article, June 10, 2018, we are finally back to Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is noted with green vestments and will mark our liturgical prayer life until the first Sunday of Advent in November. I suppose it is surprising to be looking forward to the “ordinary,” especially in a culture that is always trying to entice with the new and exciting, putting down the old-fashioned, ordinary and boring stuff of our lives.

As I get older, I work hard to preserve a certain routine because my everyday life as a bishop is so different. I need some parts of the day that are predictable and regular so I can make time for prayer, Mass and some spiritual reading and study. An intentional, ordinary daily routine or schedule, when built around spiritual and eternal values, is life-giving and helps us to reflect on our lives and what is most important to us and to our families.

Growing up in Dallas, some of our ordinary family routines were: family meals together every night, going to Sunday Mass as a family without exception, chores around the house and always pasta for lunch on Sundays. My family life growing up was built around these solid routines that supported our family life. They were intentional routines that keep us connected with God and supported us in meeting the demands of love to help build a life-giving stability in our lives. Family routines also teach children the important parts of family life and help them to develop good habits for their future family.  Routine is important to creating a fruitful prayer life because we make the intentional decision to set aside a time to be quiet and create a space for a faithful conversation with God each day. This idea that during the day I can say, “This is my prayer time,” is a way to incorporate in a real way a good routine that can be transformative to the whole day.

But, routines if they are not intentional, can be a burden or even a bad influence in our lives.

We should reflect on the unconscious routines of our lives. These are all the things we do everyday without thinking, but are like the white noise of activity around us. The radio we turn on in the morning, the TV always running in the background, regularly checking our phone and surfing the internet, may all be unconscious actions that are part of our very regular but unconscious routine. While it may not be obvious, our routines in life can be choosing positive things, or we can choose activities that distract us from things we want to avoid, but would be good for us. We might, without thinking, routinely turn on a television when there is a quiet space because we are uncomfortable with quiet or with prayer.

Ordinary Time and routines are good for us, but we must from time to time examine our routines to be sure they are forming a holy and virtuous framework for our lives. Spend a day becoming aware of your own daily routine and see if you can find some activities to subtract from your schedule so you can add a new, good activity that will help you make your routine more life-giving.

Here are a few new routines you may wish to consider adding to your life to nurture your Catholic faith:

1) Learn and begin each day with the Morning Offering. Set a spiritual goal for the day.

2) Make time to pray the rosary each day.

3) Make time to go to daily Mass or make a visit to your church or adoration chapel.

4) Find a spiritual book or pick up your Bible and read a little every day.

5) Commit and schedule at least 15 minutes each day for a time of prayer.

6) Learn and pray the Angelus at 12:00 noon and 6:00 p.m. each day.

7) Make a brief examination of conscience each evening, acknowledging faults and being thankful for the graces received. Then, make a small spiritual goal for the next day to be reaffirmed with your morning offering.