Category Archives: Features

Ministry of Presence: St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Feeds Students at Louisiana Tech

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by Jessica Rinaudo

The words “Ruston” and “Louisiana Tech” go hand in hand. And with only one Catholic Church in the city, St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners have taken up the task of bridging a relationship between the church and university.

In the early 90s, Father Paul Gallagher, OFM, began a “dollar lunch” program to feed any student who dropped by their student center every Wednesday. What began as a small group of 10 to 15 students has evolved into a weekly program that regularly feeds more than 100 students and faculty members.

Spearheaded by a group of volunteer parishioners including Coordinator, Pat Crawford, long time member Sandi Adams, and Brother Mike Ward, OFM, each week the parish offers a safe space, fellowship and a warm meal to students.

As the students walk through the doors of the St. Thomas Aquinas student center, their faces light up as the smell of homecooked shepherd’s pie wafts through the room. The meal and the volunteers are blessed, then students quickly seek out friends, grab a meal and a seat and enjoy fellowship with one another. Faculty members also stop by, visiting with one another and students. Other regular fixtures at the weekly meal are Louisiana Tech Campus Minister Brother Mike Ward, OFM, and St. Thomas Aquinas pastor, Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM.

“My favorite part of this program is that the students have a place to come where they can be with each other. And we provide that and provide a meal for them,” said coordinator Pat Crawford. “But we get as much out of it as they do, all of us. Most everybody has been involved with this for many years: our groups of people who cook. It’s kind of a scary thing to cook for this many people and stay within a budget. We are serving more now than ever. This year, we’ve offered 2,111 meals since September.”

Students echo Crawford’s sentiments, “We come every week that they have “Wednesday lunch.” I like the people and the community. It’s a way that the parish connects with the students, where the parishioners cook the meal and serve it and the students get to come in and get to enjoy a good home cooked meal away from home. I like interacting with the parishioners as well,” said student and Association of Catholic Tech Students member André Aguillard.

“I love being able to sit down at any table and have a great conversation and then enjoy the food and know you’re with like minded people with similar values,” added student Abby Morgan.
To make all of this happen every week takes a village both on and offsite. Pat Crawford manages the complete meal schedule for the year, calendaring meal assignments for different St. Thomas Aquinas ministry groups. Some people volunteer to bring desserts each week; some cook, but can’t serve; others show up on site to serve the students; still others are needed to take donations and keep track of how many students come through.

The result of all of this is a full meal for students including a protein, vegetable, side item, dessert and a drink – all for a minimal donation of $1. It takes a combination of budgeting, discounts and donations to make it work, but the results are undeniable.

“It’s a good witness. A good number of people who come to “Wednesday lunch” are not Catholic. So it kind of de-mystifies some of the thoughts other people have about Catholics,” said Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

“It’s a safe place to eat. It helps students feel at home, especially when they are feeling lonely. We’ve been here since the beginning, and this is the best I’ve seen it,” said cooking volunteer, Sandi Adams. She added, “The students are so appreciative. They’ll come by, some of them, and thank us.”  Adams also said that students regularly volunteer to help with setup and clean up.
The “Wednesday lunch” program has quickly become St. Thomas’ largest outreach ministry, and one that parishioners and students alike take great pride in. No one is ever denied a meal for not having money, and often people will come through and pay for others.

“My hope is always that the students see other people doing something for them, so that when they graduate, marry, whatever they do out in the world in their jobs and communities, they’re more likely to volunteer their time,” said Crawford.

Theirs is truly a mission of presence and kindness, following the command of Jesus to love thy neighbor.

Updating St. Joseph Cemetery

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by Randy Tiller

In 2023 we will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. This is not only significant for our diocese, but of importance to St. Joseph Cemetery. Never during the epidemic was Shreveport left without a priest to administer the sacraments and the last rites to approximately 25% of the population that was wiped out by the fever. Before a priest fell ill and succumbed to the fever, another priest was there to care for the people.

Since November, The Catholic Connection has been printing articles and a comic strip story about these five priests who ministered to those who succumbed to Yellow Fever in Shreveport (see page 17 in this issue). Additionally, our own Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Peter Mangum, recently traveled to France to conduct more research on these five men and has continued to share their stories.

You may not know though, that some of these priests were originally buried in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in downtown Shreveport. Fr. Isidore Quemerais, Fr. Jean Pierre and Fr. Francois LeVezouet were originally buried at Holy Trinity Church and moved in 1884 to St. Joseph Cemetery. Fr. Jean Marie Biler was originally buried in the Daughters of the Cross cemetery on Fairfield Ave., and exhumed and moved to Forest Park in the 1960s. Fr. Louis Gergaud was buried at St. Matthew’s Cemetery in Monroe.

With the approaching 150th anniversary, it affords us a fantastic opportunity to reconsider and restate the corporal work of mercy to bury and care for the dead. St. Joseph Cemetery is the only Catholic cemetery in the Shreveport/Bossier area. In conjunction with this anniversary, we will also complete necessary updating, uplifting, renovating, landscaping and beautification.
Some of our updates will include new registers for the tops of the graves of the three priests who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic, as well as pouring a concrete form around the crypts to seal them and keep water from seeping in. The calvary monument will also be restored. This includes cleaning and correcting the plaque, as well as reworking the steps and the landings. We will also be installing a new flag pole in front of the mausoleums, continuing the task of cleaning and straightening various monuments, replacing the fence at the back of the cemetery, widening streets, investigating stained glass windows in the chapel mausoleum, landscaping and adding statuary. Adding restrooms to the grounds is also a possibility.

All of these updates and changes will prepare the cemetery for visitors who will travel there from across the globe in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic. In order to do this important work, we will happily accept donations to the Cemetery Fund. If your family has monuments and tombstones that need renovation or crypts that need to be painted and cleaned, we have professionals available to handle those repairs and renovations for the family. We can facilitate having the work done if families notify us and are willing to pay for the renovations. If you know of families with historical ties to the cemetery, please share this with them. There are still plots available for purchase.

Keep looking for more updates as we continue refurbishing the cemetery. We will also be establishing a Cemetery Board to look into long range plans to build an additional mausoleum and columbarium.

Our Immediate Projects:

New granite tops on the crypts of the three priests who gave their lives in the Yellow Fever epidemic
$5,000 each installed

Wrapping the crypt walls with wire mesh and a concrete formto stop water seepage
$7,500

Repairing the steps and landings of the Calvary monument
$ 5,000

Re-fencing the back of the cemetery with 6’ black vinyl fencing
$12,000

Landscaping
$15,000

Future projects include stained glass in the chapel mausoleum, extending the irrigation system and establishing a priests’ section at the cemetery to encourage our diocesan priests to be interred in our historic Catholic cemetery.

Other projects will include building an additional mausoleum with 200+ crypts and adding several small columbarium around the cemetery. We are also looking into securing additional contiguous property. Donations can be made to Diocese of Shreveport St. Joseph Cemetery Fund and are tax deductible.

April 28th: Divine Mercy Sunday

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by Julia Doolin

The second Sunday of Easter is the Feast of Divine Mercy. This year, the feast falls on April 28. For the last 15 years, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans and St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport have alternated hosting a Divine Mercy Sunday Holy Hour. Those who are involved with this event have been inspired by the manner in which the devotion has grown in our diocese. This year, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host the holy hour with Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum, Diocesan Administrator, presiding. The holy hour will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m. and will include the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as veneration of the Divine Mercy image. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered immediately following the holy hour.

The Divine Mercy devotion began spreading throughout the world in the 1930’s and is based upon private revelations to a young Polish nun whom we now know as St. Faustina. The message is not a new one, but is instead, a reminder of what the Church has always taught through Scripture and tradition: God is merciful and forgiving and we, too, must show mercy and forgiveness. But the message of the Divine Mercy devotion calls people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone – especially the greatest sinners.

In a decree dated May 23, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” Taking the declaration of the feast day a step further, the Apostolic Penitentiary announced on August 3, 2002, that in order “to ensure that the faithful would observe Divine Mercy Sunday with intense devotion, the Supreme Pontiff himself established that this Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence…so that the faithful might receive in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”

With regard to the plenary indulgence associated with Divine Mercy Sunday, the usual conditions apply: sacramental confession (typically eight days before or after the indulgenced act), Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. The faithful are asked to gather in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!)

We are grateful to have the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful event. Please join us at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans (939 Jordan Street in Shreveport) on Sunday, April 28, at 2:30 p.m. for a wonderful opportunity to experience God’s unfathomable mercy.

Bossier Church Helps Provide Beds to Children

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by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Don Harper is seeing to it that “no kid sleeps on the floor in our town” and Mary, Queen of Peace Parish is helping him achieve that goal.

Harper oversees Sleep In Heavenly Peace, a non-profit that partners with organizations, churches and businesses to hold “Build Days” during which beds are built from scratch. But the cost for a bed, $175, must be in hand first.

Harper spoke to the Mary, Queen of Peace Ladies Guild at the request of member Donna Grimaldi about their organization. As a result, pastor Fr. Nicholas Onyach, FMH, allowed for Ash Wednesday and March 10 collections to benefit this project. More than $1,200 was donated, enough for seven beds. Additionally, the church collected more than 20 sets of new sheets to go with the new beds. One hundred percent of donations go toward Sleep in Heavenly Peace. This organization works with Lowe’s, who gives them a discount on supplies, and Johnson’s Furniture who works with them on mattress prices.

So who can help with beds? Anyone! No woodworking experience is needed. At one build, Harper said he had volunteers from age 10 all the way to age 70. Volunteers are supervised and tools are supplied.

Twenty beds can be built in about three hours, he said. They may be single twin or bunk. Bunk beds have scripture under the top bed for the child on the bottom to read.

The beds are delivered assembled to an appreciative home, complete with a mattress, bedding and pillow.

“Kids will be ready to be tucked in,” Harper said. Some of the deliveries have come with bibles provided by Lifeway Christian Store.

To qualify to receive a bed, a family must be sleeping in one bed with parents or siblings, on the floor, a couch, futon or between two chairs. Applicants for a new bed may apply online at www.SHPbeds.org.

Once an application is received, a selection committee will review it. Selecting a recipient isn’t done on a first-come, first served basis, but based on which children need beds the most, Harper said.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace makes and delivers beds as supplies and donations allow. When they’re out of beds or bedding, they file unselected applications away until they can make more.
Founded in Idaho in 2012, Sleep In Heavenly Peace is the only charity providing handmade bunk beds to children who don’t have their own. There are 140 chapters in 40 states, Bossier’s being the 86th (it serves Caddo Parish, also). The only other one in Louisiana is in Cutoff.

Harper was watching Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor, a reality web television series in which he searches for people giving back, when it featured Sleep in Heavenly Peace. While he was watching the show, he said his “eyes starting leaking a little bit” and he told his wife he wanted to do this project.
In a year, Harper’s chapter has made 52 beds and delivered 38. The remaining beds are waiting to be delivered once mattresses and linens can be secured. There are currently 78 people on a waiting list. •

Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Good Friday Way of the Cross & Walk for Justice

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by Jim Beadles, President, Shreveport Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

For more than 20 years, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has sponsored the Good Friday Way of the Cross and Walk for Justice in downtown Shreveport. The purpose of the event is to not only follow Christ in his Passion on the Way of the Cross, but also to recognize the efforts of multiple local agencies that put the Passion into practice by serving those in need.

The event continues to grow, and last year, more than 150 people participated. It is truly a community and ecumenical event. We are honored that our friends at First United Methodist Church graciously offer their property as the gathering place for both the beginning and end of the event. Along the way, we are privileged to have music from the New Dimension Youth Chorale.

In addition to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and First United Methodist Church, we also are joined by the following agencies: Mary’s House, The Fuller Center, Christian Services, MLK Health Center, The Mercy Center, Hope House, Holy Cross Episcopal, The Providence House, The Hub Ministries, Louisiana Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and VOA Lighthouse.

The event covers approximately 1.4 miles. It is a service of 14 prayers at 14 sites/stations. Representatives from the agencies will lead each station prayer. Another reason to participate is to learn more about each of the agencies and their ministries. We are all called to be more than observers. We are all called to discipleship. Perhaps you will find a calling to mission and ministry of one of these agencies as they serve those in need in our community.

There is plenty of parking behind First United Methodist Church at the head of Texas Street, downtown. We will begin the walk at 9:00 a.m., and it should be completed no later than 11:00 a.m. If it rains, the event will be moved to Holy Trinity Catholic Church located at 315 Marshall Street, also in downtown Shreveport.

This is a perfect way to move toward Easter. All who attend find it to be a meaningful experience. Please plan to join us at this year’s St. Vincent de Paul Walk For Justice. We hope to see you there.

When: Good Friday, April 19, 2019
Where: Behind First United Methodist Church,
head of Texas Street, downtown Shreveport
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Rain Venue: Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Vocations View: Reflection – Final Year of Seminary

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by Deacon Kevin Mues, Seminarian

Time flies when you’re having fun!” This statement seems particularly accurate to me at this moment in my life. As I approach the end of my final semester of seminary formation, I feel struck by how quickly this period of my life has come and gone. In 2013, I entered seminary formation. When I began, I thought that six years of learning philosophy and then theology would never end, but it has gone by in a flash. I am amazed by how much I have learned and humbled by how much I still have to learn. In the past year, this has been especially clear to me. Three recent experiences have given me greater insight into what it means to be a priest and what my life as a priest may look like after I am ordained in May.

When I was ordained to the diaconate in June, I was given the opportunity to minister at St. Jude Parish in Benton. There, I had the chance to really enter into the life of a Catholic parish. I was able to participate in the daily activities of the church and get to know the families that served and were served by the parish. Through Bible studies, family dinners, summer camps, hospital ministry, choir, and my participation in Mass as a deacon, I was able to experience a foretaste of the life of a priest. I had the opportunity to learn from Fr. Karl Daigle what it means to be a pastor–that real love of the people I am called to serve.

Deacon Kevin Mues at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In January, my classmates and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There, I had the opportunity to stand in the places that Jesus stood. I was at the Church of the Nativity, at the Sea of Galilee, on the bank of the River Jordan. I walked the way of the Cross. Being in the Holy Land was an amazing experience. The Church of the Annunciation was an amazing point of my journey. There, we had the chance to pray the Angelus with the Franciscans that serve the parish. When we pray the Angelus, we say, “Verbo caro factus est,” or “The Word was made flesh.” When they pray the Angelus, they say, “Verbo caro hic factus est” or, “Here, the Word was made flesh.” My experience in the Holy Land did that for me. It gave flesh to the faith that I believe in. By standing in the places that Jesus stood and seeing the locations from the Bible, I was able to understand more fully the ministry of Jesus and the apostles.

The thing that most inspired me this year was the funeral of Fr. Richard Lombard. It was amazing to see a priest who had given his entire life, 65 years of ministry, to the Diocese of Shreveport. I was able to see in his funeral, the only real encounter I had with his life and his ministry, the true goal of a priest: to live a life that is totally devoted to spreading the Gospel and serving the people of God. As I move toward my own ordination, I look forward to the opportunity to give my life to this diocese. I hope to follow that example and give everything to the people of God in our local Church.

Over the next two months, I will complete the formal education that will bring me to the Cathedral for my ordination. I look forward to the even greater lessons that I will learn from the people of God when I become a priest for them.

Mike’s Meditations: Put Jesus in Context

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by Mike Van Vranken

We’ve all done it. You know, take a bit of scripture that we love to remember and use it for our own justification. And, many times, if we had used the entire scripture rather than our out-of-context phrase, the message might convict rather than absolve us. Additionally, it is so much easier to spot this type of misinterpretation when others do it rather than when we choose to do so ourselves.

Recently I read an article and made the mistake of reading the online comments. Over and over I heard their voices shouting: “Jesus said to ‘go and sin no more!’” Of course, it is an impossible command to keep. Have any of us been able to “go and sin no more?” I certainly haven’t. Jesus did say some form of, “go and do not sin any more” in the gospel – twice. On one occasion it was to a man who couldn’t walk and Jesus cured, the other was to a woman caught in adultery. Both are found in John’s gospel where Jesus mentions sin about 16 times. Interestingly, in Matthew’s gospel he only mentions sin four times, once in Mark and not at all in Luke.

Let’s put the “sin no more” comment from Jesus back in the context of John’s gospel and see how it might look a little different. I’ll use John 8:1-11. Jesus is in the Temple area and the Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery. They reminded Jesus of the law where Moses had commanded to stone such a woman. He responded with his famous words: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Of course, Jesus is not only speaking to this woman’s accusers, he is speaking to you and me as well. In this passage, he is not allowing anyone to punish another person. In fact, I cannot remember any passage where Jesus calls on us to punish others. The story continues with the Scribes and the Pharisees walking away and leaving the woman alone with Jesus.

Stop now, take a deep breath and imagine you are in this scene watching and listening to our Savior and this adulterous woman. She is standing by herself with the Son of God. She is looking in his eyes, perhaps suspiciously wondering why he took up for her and what he plans to do next. She may be worried about his intentions. Yet, he tenderly turns to her and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, maybe with a scared and shaky voice: “No one, sir.” And then, in the sweetest, most compassionate words that can only come from an all-loving creator, with deep love in his eyes and gushing from his heart, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:10-11). Watch the tears begin to flow from her eyes. See and experience Jesus’ gracious and generous smile as she slowly backs away from Him and humbly walks off. Can you feel the freedom she is experiencing? Dare to ponder the joy and love that must now be running throughout her entire being. Can you witness the dramatic change that is overcoming her?

Does this surprise you to read this so familiar story this way? Would we expect anything else from Jesus? This is the man who commands His followers, several times in the gospel stories, to forgive over and over again. If He asks this from us, how much more will we experience it from Him? You may have even noticed that Jesus actually did not forgive this woman. Why? Because He never passed judgment on her to begin with. He never condemned her, so there was nothing to forgive. Rather than condemn and judge her, rather than preach to her, instead of reminding her of her sin, He confronted her with his love. He overshadowed her with his deep and abiding love. And, as St. Paul promised us: “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).

The entire Bible is the passionate and intimate love story of God and His people. In the four gospels, Jesus, who is God in the flesh, shows us how to live this love as human beings. Yes, He surely called us to follow Him and all that He taught us. He even summed it up for us in these words: “Love one another. As I have loved you so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Let’s all pray for the grace to keep God’s story of relationship with his people, especially the gospels, in their proper context. It is the context of God’s unconditional love for us, which is shown over and over again in his mercy, compassion and forgiveness, and not in forms of punishment. Our role is to share this mercy, compassion and forgiveness with each other just as He has shared it with us.

Frontier Mission Beginnings: Fr. Jean Pierre and the Bayou Pierre Community

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by Dr. Cheryl White

The small community of Carmel, Louisiana is home to a rich cultural inheritance that resonates even today as an important and easily identifiable chapter of our Catholic history. Many will recognize its name as the home of a true historical jewel of the Diocese of Shreveport, the Rock Chapel, which is all that remains of a late nineteenth century Carmelite monastic community. Yet, the significance of Carmel pre-dates even that impressive marker of the past, and reaches back to the earliest days of the newly created Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853. In its beginnings are found the story of a remarkable priest, destined to become the first pastor of Holy Trinity in Shreveport, and destined to become one of the five “martyrs of their charity,” who gave their lives in the Shreveport Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873.

Natchitoches, as the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase (established 1713) and its surrounding region, grew so much in population that Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853. The first bishop of the new frontier diocese was Auguste Marie Martin from the seaside village of St. Malo in the Brittany region of France, who was tasked with finding priests to serve in a remote area that still had many characteristics of the western American frontier. From a recruiting trip through the villages and seminaries of his native Brittany in 1854, Bishop Martin returned to the Diocese of Natchitoches with Fr. Louis Gergaud, already ordained in the Diocese of Nantes, and two young seminarians from

St. Brieuc, Francois Le Vezouet and Jean Pierre. Bishop Martin sent Fr. Gergaud to Monroe, where he became the pastor of St. Matthew’s. Following their ordinations in Natchitoches,

Fr. Le Vezouet and Fr. Pierre also received their first assignments:  Fr. Le Vezouet to the settlement of Many, Louisiana, and Fr. Pierre to the tiny community of Bayou Pierre (today known as Carmel).

Fr. Jean Pierre

Fr. Pierre went immediately to work to construct the community’s first Catholic church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as an adjoining rectory. In his letters and memoirs, Bishop Martin provided an appreciative account of the success of Fr. Pierre’s labor in the Bayou Pierre community, noting the growing Catholic population there, as well as Fr. Pierre’s regular visits northward to Shreveport. In the following year of 1856, Fr. Pierre was assigned exclusively with the task of a new church in Shreveport, a project which culminated in the construction of the first Holy Trinity Church. From 1856 until his death in 1873 from Yellow Fever, Fr. Pierre worked tirelessly and selflessly as Holy Trinity’s first pastor, a period that is also well-documented in the available historical record.

Visiting Carmel today, one can see the vestiges of that community’s Catholic past – Immaculate Conception Church, its adjacent cemetery, and of course, the Rock Chapel. What is not evident to the visitor is the location of Fr. Pierre’s first church – Holy Apostles, which is long gone. However, its location can be approximated based on important known historical indicators. First, the location of the cemetery, with graves that pre-date the current church structure, provides an important clue as to the location of the original church. Also, a Confederate defense map from 1862 clearly shows the location of a church on the Smithport Road (as it was known even in 1862), and this structure so noted by the Confederate surveyors must have been Holy Apostles. The land transaction between the Laffitte family and Fr. Jean Pierre, acting on behalf of Bishop Martin, is also historically documented. Finally, of course, there is always the rich and enduring oral tradition of any given community, which although not considered history in its strictest interpretation, is yet another important component of piecing together the location of a structure no longer in existence.

Because of the historical significance of Fr. Jean Pierre and the other four priests of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873, there is a plan to place a Louisiana state historical marker at the site of Holy Apostles Church. This will honor both the first mission of this martyr-priest as well as the importance of the Bayou Pierre Community (Carmel) in the overall history of the region. The cultural and historical contributions of this community go far beyond its interesting outgrowth from the Natchitoches settlement, and touch upon the single most transformative event in Shreveport history. It was the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873 that determined the fate of a fledgling river-port, and yet the city survived, stronger than ever. The epidemic and its legacy will forever bear the memory of those who sacrificed all. Among them is Fr. Jean Pierre, and it is therefore more than fitting to permanently mark his first church for future generations of visitors and pilgrims.

A Confederate defense map from 1862 (LSU-S Archives).

Escape Routes: A Reflection on the Church Sex Abuse Crisis

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by Kim Long

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

In 2002 when the Boston clergy scandal erupted I had a vague notion of what was going on. Several priests, whom I knew personally, were uncertain of going out in public in their collars, fearful of being grouped with the abusers. It was during this time period that I found myself waiting with an altar server after a holy day Mass. Everyone had gone and we waited together until his brother picked him up. A simple thing.

The next day my pastor and I spoke about the boy waiting alone . He told me he was afraid to offer the boy a ride home with the sexual abuse crisis going on in the Church. I offered prayers for the victims of what seemed a faraway crisis.

When the Pennsylvania abuse scandal broke several months ago, I paid close attention. My previous ignorance seemed to ignite a hunger in me to know the truth, even if it turned out to be painful – and it did.
A coworker, knowing my love of movies, recommended a film called Spotlight. When she told me it was about the 2002 clergy abuse crisis, I knew I had to see it. One of my sons walked in about the time the movie began. Afterward, as the credits rolled, I asked him if this movie shook his faith in the Church. He said, “Mom I grew up knowing about this and nothing can take away the Eucharist, especially the way you explain it.”

Sworn testimony, a condemning document from a nuncio, two heartfelt and very different homilies from two different priests, and one newscaster after another, brought this topic home in a way no movie, even an award winning movie, ever could. The sadness, the brokenness was part of me now.

Following the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, I was in a diocesan meeting where the subject was discussed at great length. One of the results of that meeting was the decision to hold a prayer vigil for reparation and healing. I knew I needed to go to the service, but there was a deep resistance within me – a bit of a hard wiring issue really – that when I have no choice, I tend to resist. Knowing I should go lessened my desire to attend. This character flaw and I are well acquainted.

The prayer vigil fell on a Friday night, the same night as a local festival. My big plan was to pray, drive to the festival, have a meat pie and hear a favorite band from my high school days sing their one great hit, and then I would drive home and hit the hay.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

Entering the church I made my way into a back pew, chosen for its closeness to the exit. Kneeling, the pressure of my weight on the padded kneeler reminding me of the pain we were all facing, I prayed hard and felt an internal shift. A feeling of belonging seemed to surge within me.

Through scripture, song, litanies and moments of private prayer, I began to connect. All week I had felt at loose ends, not quite grounded in my faith, feeling the winds of change swirl and tug angrily at me. In previous weeks I assured so many people that all was not lost, and that night I was there with other members of the faithful, feeling our way in the dark.

It occurred to me that I found myself knee deep in covenant: an agreement I had made with God at my emergence from the waters of baptism. For even at the tender age of seven years, I knew I would never be alone again. Yet that feeling, one I had banked on all my life, was so far away from me, more intangible than I ever dreamed possible. Covenant had worked for me as I trusted in God’s presence, seeing it everywhere: in nature, people, the Cathedral building itself, the faces of my children. And at that moment it was revealed differently, not just serving to shore me up, but to also encourage my fidelity which had begun to look for an escape route weeks ago. I was filled with hope, faith and yes, love.

Just this past February, anonymity was stripped away as the names of the guilty were revealed. I was in shock as a former pastor from “back home” was listed among the names. I thought I would feel angry, disgusted, but instead I am just very very sad: sad for the victims, for the perpetrators, for God and for the Church.

In John Shea’s piece, “A Down and Out Disciple Meets His Match,” Jesus shows up just as a man is thinking of “divorcing him quietly.” Jesus reminds him, as Shea’s story has reminded me over the past 31 years, that “there will be no walking out of the covenant.”

The disciple in Shea’s story remained, and like that disciple I am going nowhere. At the end of the day, covenant is my foundation.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run toward God.

USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Calls All Catholics to Fight with Renewed Vigor for the Unborn

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from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to several states moving forward with legislation that would permit a baby to be aborted at nine months.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is healthcare.’ A law recently passed in New York not only legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy but removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. A similar bill was proposed in Virginia along with several other states, all in the name of women’s health.

This legislation is evil, pure and simple. And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations. Most grieving to our Lord of Life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.

It is sickeningly dishonest to claim that women’s lives or health depend on intentionally killing their children. This is especially true for late-term abortion, which always involves the purposeful destruction of a child which could have been born alive, with much less risk to the mother, had they both received real healthcare.

Now is the time for all Catholics—bishops, priests, and laity—to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor. We must educate family, friends, legislators, and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children in order to save their mothers. Local action is especially important. Though ending Roe v. Wade is a central goal of the pro-life movement, if the decision were overturned, only 11 states would immediately ban abortion; the other 39 states would still allow it.

I urge Catholics, and thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change. Sign up for your State Catholic Conference or diocesan pro-life advocacy network, which can help you communicate to elected officials. Or seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference at the state level.

Though we live in very dark days, we know that the Lord has already triumphed over death. But we must use this time on earth to be His hands and feet. This means each of us rededicating ourselves to prayer, and fighting for the most vulnerable among us, especially unborn children and their mothers.”