Category Archives: Features

Exploring the History of St. Matthew Church

By John Mark Willcox

Exiting I-20 in downtown Monroe on Jackson Street you are met with a beautiful sight….the majestic spire of St. Matthew Church which has stood in downtown Monroe for nearly 120 years.  Close observation reveals that all four of the clock faces of the spire are new.  “They are working and tell perfect time,” comments Pastor Rev. Mark Franklin.  “We refurbished every one and we have a man that comes twice a year to keep them oiled and in good working condition.”  Spoken like a priest who loves his parish, and that has always been the case with St. Matthew Church and the generations of Catholics who have worshipped at the second oldest parish in the diocese.  Walking through the Sanctuary with Fr. Mark as your guide takes one back to a former time and place, when North Louisiana was beginning to grow while facing the formidable challenges of frontier living.

During the mid 1800’s, Monroe was the principal city of Northern Louisiana and Shreveport was referred to as “that small village in the Northwest.”  The Ouachita River was navigable and many times steam paddle wheelers counted the city of Monroe as their final destination northward in Louisiana.

Railroads had roared in from the East and Monroe was fast becoming a commerce center and the gateway to the northern reaches of a region that Spanish missionaries and explorers had been visiting for several centuries.  Shreveport suffered with a useless main water artery in the Red River which was choked with logs and debris (the great raft) for many miles, heading into Natchitoches.

Fr. Patrick Canavan received the assignment to provide the faithful of the Monroe area a place to gather and worship in 1851.  By 1856, St. Matthew had become an established parish and was pastored by now legendary Fr. Louis Gergaud who had migrated to the area from Britanny, France. Fr. Gergaud witnessed the arrival of steam ships on the Ouachita and the rapid growth of the rail industry while he shepherded his flock through the tragedy of America’s Civil War. He spent much of his waking hours tending to the wounded in makeshift hospitals and it is said that he brought over fifty soldiers into the Church as they lay on their deathbeds.   In addition, Fr. Gergaud established a Catholic school for the parish in 1863 with a beginning roster of sixty pupils.  The impact that Fr. Gergaud had on the foundational formation of St. Matthew’s faith community cannot be overstated as his tireless efforts produced a healthy, active parish.

 In 1873, Fr. Gergaud answered the call for help from Shreveport which was mired in a devastating Yellow Fever epidemic which had already taken scores of lives on a daily basis.  He knew he was going to his death and shared that feeling with the faithful before his departure from St. Matthew.  Just five days after his arrival in Shreveport, Fr. Gergaud contracted Yellow Fever tending to the victims and died on October 1, 1873.  After one year, his body was finally returned to his beloved  Monroe where he was laid to rest in St. Matthew’s Cemetery.  “He gave everything he had to God’s people including his life,” comments Fr. Franklin as he gazes on Fr. Gergaud’s crystal white grave marker.  “The people of St. Matthew have always been proud that his grave is in our cemetery.”  Fr. Gergaud was one of five Catholic priests and two women religious who lost their lives heroically caring for the stricken people of Shreveport during the famous Yellow Fever epidemic which took the lives of a quarter of Shreveport’s residents.As the faith community increased in size, the earlier wooden structure that had served as the Church was replaced with the present sanctuary that was consecrated on December 27, 1905.  A succession of dynamic pastors lead the faithful of St. Matthew through the next century beginning with Fr. N. F. Vandegaer who grew the number of families served by the parish to over one thousand by 1919.  With the help of Bishop Charles P. Greco, Rev. John C. Marsh guided St. Matthew to the completed  construction of a school gymnasium and rectory in 1950.  There is no more beloved priest of the Eastern Deanery than the legendary Msgr. George Martinez who served St. Matthew as Pastor from 1976 to 1990 before his retirement but he never severed his close connections to a parish he first began serving in 1948, with the St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy just down the street named in his memory.

Older structures require plenty of care, refurbishment and maintenance and St. Matthew  Church is certainly no exception.  It was only fitting that Fr. Joseph Puthuppally assumed the role of Pastor in 1997.  It was Fr. Joe who led the way to renovate the exterior and interior of the church, including the now famous cobalt blue ceiling f of the nave apse ceiling.  “People use to draw a quick breath when they first saw the roof,” comments Fr. Mark.  “But now, it seems like it has always been there.”

The parish  has also recently reacquired its former school gymnasium and now has a large gathering space for parish and community events.  When he is not using the space to build additional sacramental furniture for the church sanctuary, Fr. Mark is assessing what will be needed to make the space functional once more.  “We have over 6,000 square feet in this structure,” comments Fr. Mark.  “We are going to make it serve the parish effectively in the near future.”

The future looks bright for the faithful of St. Matthew as Mass attendance is strong and there is the benefit of new members joining the parish meaning that this beacon of the faith on Jackson Street will continue to share the light of Christ to the faithful of the region.  “We have a beautiful worship space and a fine congregation of good Catholic people,” reminds Fr. Mark.  “What more could you ask for at your place of worship!”

 

*Many thanks to Chase E. Machen for his detailed history of St. Matthew Church in his 2001 book of the same name which chronicles the remarkable story of this unique faith community.


Discerning a Vocation in Elementary and Middle School

by Seminarian Raney Johnson

It might seem too early to begin discerning a vocation in elementary and middle school. Yet, whenever I give a talk about vocations to young Catholics, I remind them that it is never too early to start thinking about a vocation. St. Therese of Lisieux first desired to become a Carmelite nun around the age of 9, and St. Don Bosco was a little boy whenever he first told his mama that he wanted to be a priest. I started discerning my own vocation to the priesthood when I was in elementary school, and I discerned my vocation with greater intensity while I was in the 7th grade. Discerning a vocation in elementary and middle school can be difficult because it seems so far in the future. However, we can imagine ourselves as doctors, lawyers, basketball players and so many other occupations in the future while in elementary and middle school, why not imagine being a priest or a religious.

I hope to offer some advice to young Catholics in elementary and middle school who are thinking about a vocation to the priesthood, and I hope my advice will also help their parents. My first word of advice is mainly for young Catholics who have already received First Communion. The best way to start discerning a vocation to the priesthood at a young age is to frequent the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Most young Catholics attend Mass every Sunday with their families, and those who go to Catholic School get the opportunity to go to Mass twice a week, on Sunday and once during the week. Jesus speaks to us through the Mass, and it is through the Mass that we grow closer to Jesus when we receive his Body and Blood during Communion. It is often at Mass while watching the priest that many boys feel drawn to the priesthood. My second word of advice is to develop a prayer life. It is always best to start off simple. At first it can be as simple as praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be every morning and every night. Developing the practice of a morning offering by thanking God for a new day and asking for God’s protection is another way to develop a spiritual life at a young age. Once it becomes routine to talk to God through prayer, then it might help to ask God about a vocation to the priesthood by praying, “God, are you calling me to be a priest, if so, please guide me” or “God, I want to be a priest, please help me to discern.” Even more beneficial is praying together with family members. This could be done by using any type of prayer, especially the rosary. My third word of advice is to become an altar server. Helping to serve at the altar during the Mass is a great way to explore a desire for the priesthood. Some parishes allow for young Catholics to become altar servers right after First Communion, but the age requirement to be an altar server might be around fourth or fifth grade at other parishes. I definitely encourage speaking with the parish priest and asking him about becoming an altar server.

My final word of advice is for the parents of young Catholics discerning the priesthood in elementary and middle school. Please share this article with your son if he is discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and encourage him to pray and listen to God’s will. To any young Catholics discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I encourage you with the words that St. John Paul II often quoted from Scripture, “Be not afraid.” God will guide you throughout your discernment.

Rite of Candidacy

A Q&A About the Rite of Candidacy with Seminarian Jeb Key

Q: What is the Rite of Candidacy? 

Candidacy is a rite in the Church that all people aspiring to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders receive before they become a cleric. If you are a cleric, that means you are either a deacon or a priest, that means you can wear clerics which is the collar and the black that all priests wear. The Rite of Candidacy is given to men who are preparing to give themselves to Holy Orders and it is the Church accepting a person to continue on to receive Holy Orders. It’s the church saying “this person has the qualities we are looking for to become a priest” and it means they have confidence in us. The confidence they have in us is affirming and  instills the motivation to continue.

 

Q: How did you feel when you received notification that you are about to become a Candidate? 

It’s something I’ve been very excited about, you’re getting closer to the end and that end goal is priesthood. In the same respect it means wow, this is getting close and it’s very real, it’s one of the first real steps towards priesthood and it’s not to be taken lightly.

 

Q: As you walked through the doors, what was going through your head?

It’s always awesome to go to diocesan events in the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans because this is the place I will be ordained a priest. That is what went through my mind as I walked through the doors, three more years and this is where I hope to be, laying down on the marble.

 

Q: What is something a reader should know Candidacy?

In many places, receiving Candidacy means you can wear clerics. It’s almost like an engagement in a relationship, it is both parties, the Church and the Seminarian promising that they will see this through to the end. Both parties have gotten to know each other and agree to be with each other for the rest of our days.

 

Q: Fun fact about being a Seminarian going through Candidacy?

One of the things seminarians are reminded is that you have no status. Candidacy is the Church saying we still have no status, but we’re getting closer to actually having status in the Church so Candidacy is all about looking forward to the day when we finally become a priest and that is strengthened through the graces received at Candidacy and is meant to motivate us more.

 

Q: Any fun stories to share regarding Candidacy?

I’ve been asked if people have to call me Father now. The answer is no. I’m still Jeb, no one has to call me Father or seminarian, but I am a candidate for Holy Orders.

Fr. Peter B. Mangum Addresses Thoughts on June USCCB Meeting and the Future of the Diocese

By: Fr. Peter B. Mangum

 

Dear People of Shreveport,

I begin this article on Pentecost Sunday, preparing for the gathering of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore. A year ago this past June, His Holiness Pope Francis announced the transfer of Bishop Michael Duca to the Diocese of Baton Rouge and two months later, I was elected to serve as Diocesan Administrator. I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of gatherings of bishops, including meetings with the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, accessing issues affecting Catholics and institutions in our state, as well as with the Catholic Extension Society and the bishops of mission dioceses who face similar struggles.

In April, I participated in the ceremony of installation of Bishop David Talley, the former Bishop of Alexandria, as the new Bishop of Memphis. One of the archbishops told me then, face to face and in all seriousness, that, given all the other more important and pressing matters the Apostolic Nuncio is dealing with, I needed “to hunker down” as Diocesan Administrator as he did not foresee us getting a new bishop any time soon. In fact, dioceses that have been without a bishop less time than ours have already received new bishops.  I cannot wait to approach the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, tomorrow!

I have participated in USCCB meetings before. The first of these meetings was in November 2018, slated to have the vote of the century related to the Sexual Abuse of Minors or Adults by Clergy and “Standards of Episcopal Conduct” and to set up a “Special Commission for Review of Complaints Against Bishops.” We can all recall what happened next, the Holy See insisted that the American bishops delay the vote until after the February 2019 Vatican summit of all the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide to discuss the abuse crisis. Our common anger and disappointment was indelibly stamped on my consciousness and the experience is still fresh. That watershed moment in the life of the Church would wait until after all the bishops of the country met in January of 2019 in a weeklong retreat with the Pope’s retreat master and until after the Vatican Summit in February and Pope Francis’ subsequent document, issued in May, to govern the world-wide handling of all cases. The meeting is about to begin.

In the coming days, we will discuss and vote on a document related to the ministry of Permanent Deacons, a document on the Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, the Church’s engagement with the growing population of the religiously unaffiliated (the so-called “nones,”) among other items. But the world will focus on the centerpiece of the agenda: four action items dealing with the investigation of abuse claims against the bishops, accusations they have been negligent in handling or covering up cases of credibly accused priests and other church workers.  (Remember:  a Diocesan Administrator is equivalent in law to a bishop so I have the same vote as any active bishop present.)

As we anticipate this gathering of bishops, Pope Francis wrote his Apostolic Letter “Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” a new universal law to safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable, a law which took force June 1st. It governs complaints against Church leaders worldwide regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. We will debate and then vote on directives for implementing this Church law. As Pope Francis wrote:  “The crimes of sexual abuse offends our Lord, causing physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.” This upcoming business meeting is to approve several proposals to hold the bishops accountable. The Holy Father, in his letter, calls for a “public, stable and easily accessible” reporting system for allegations, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, protection for “whistleblowers” making allegations and the use of “proven experts from among the laity.” This document strengthens the protections already in place and expands the definition of vulnerable adults to include seminarians and any person made to engage in sexual acts due to a power differential/abuse of power and establishes a process for investigating various forms of misconduct by bishops.

The metropolitan archbishop in each province will have the oversight for investigations – the Archbishop of New Orleans has oversight of our state. I am particularly glad to read of the importance of lay experts being used, so bishops are not policing themselves and the need for accountability and transparency is met.In November, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, expressed “hope… that the Church be purified and that our efforts bear fruit… moving forward in concert with the Church around the world will make the Church in the United States stronger, and will make the global Church stronger.” I am optimistic that the delay from November until now will prove beneficial and that we will have a most fruitful meeting.

 

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The June 2019 USCCB meeting has begun with Morning Prayer this Tuesday after Pentecost. Cardinal DiNardo offers the opening remarks, “We begin the sacred work, this week, of purging the evil of sexual abuse from our Church….Veni Sancte Spiritus.  (Come Holy Spirit.)” I see this as harkening back to Pope Francis’ letter to the assembled bishops on retreat this past January in Chicago when the Pope made it clear that the need to be prompted and filled with the Holy Spirit was essential before moving forward in the way God wants us to…the importance of prayer before action, and the huge decisions the bishops face could not be made by a group who were divided; we could not come up with a plan of action and just pray it worked.

As we had done in our diocese at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans with our Prayer Vigil for Reparation and Petition, so the bishops did in a beautiful Penitential Service led by one of the cardinals, themed “The Church on Her Knees,” highlighting the need to seek forgiveness personally and as a group. Every bishop of this country was so aware of the pain of everyone who has been let down by the Church. This has been a year of great suffering and pain for the Church in the United States and we all acknowledge this to be a critical moment in our history.

 

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I have come to learn that our Apostolic Nuncio is in ROME with Pope Francis and over a hundred other ambassadors to other countries. There goes my chance to ask him about where we are in the process of getting a new bishop.

 

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Today is the Feast of St Barnabas. This first day, which included discussion and debate amongst the successors of the apostles, concluded with Mass and hearing from the Acts of the Apostles. Cardinal DiNardo said that the bishops’ credibility is to be like St. Barnabas, desiring “to do God’s will and to do it carefully and with discretion but also with what the Holy Father calls boldness — apostolic boldness…ours is hard work to do this week.”

 

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We are all aware that it has now been one year since the exposure of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as a predator and the beginning of a crisis of confidence in the ability of Church leadership to handle sexual abuse cases. Last November’s attempt at more stringent accountability norms, postponed by the Vatican, has been refined and augmented and is now ready for the final debate and vote. We have dealt with all these matters via constant communication with the main USCCB Office, such that there is not anticipation of much more debate or discussion, though three and a half hours are set aside for such this morning.

We only needed 70 minutes. The Bishops voted on several proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. We specifically committed to involving and utilizing lay professional experts. We also established a new, independent mechanism for the reporting of such cases, ensuring complaints are evaluated thoroughly, and that justice is achieved for victims and survivors.  (cf:  USCCB Q & A)

These voted-on-proposals are now all based on and consistent with new universal law for the reporting and handling of complaints against bishops, new procedural norms, applicable around the world. This is all the latest in a series of steps the Church has taken to respond to the sin and crime of sexual abuse. The Church first implemented a strict zero-tolerance policy in the United States in 2002. (Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, commonly referred to as the Dallas Charter, along with the Essential Norms.)

In the resolution, “Affirming our Episcopal Commitments,” the bishops clearly state that we are “committed, when we receive or when we are authorized to investigate such cases to include the counsel of lay men and women whose professional backgrounds are indispensable.”  Indeed the new USCCB documents uplift the gifts and expertise of the laity.

The new law covers sexual harassment of adults if such harassment involved any sexual acts.  Other forms of sexual harassment are covered by codes of conduct that already exist in dioceses and eparchies. “Vos Estis” does not interfere with these local codes of conduct.

Remember, any complaint against a bishop can be made immediately to local law enforcement, the chancery, the Apostolic Nuncio, or to the Holy See directly. Those avenues of reporting will continue to be available. The third-party system will simply provide another means of reporting that will make the process simpler in the future. This all brings unprecedented accountability of all bishops throughout the country.

With the voting completed, I wanted to slam my fist down on the table for joy! Though part of me knows that, amongst many people there is a ‘crisis fatigue,’ now the cry for action is heard.

 

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As I noted in November, being in the thick of things as Diocesan Administrator, the past ten months has affected the way I pray. I am grateful for the great support I have received from the priests of our diocese as well as many lay people. Since then we have also seen the publication of the list of names of priests who were convicted of or very credibly accused of sexual abuse from the territory now defined as the Diocese of Shreveport, all before 1986 and our creation as a diocese. I continue to face this crisis and the need for healing for and with everyone in our diocese. I minister, not in a Church I would prefer, but in the Church as I find it. Yet even in our broken human condition, we get glimpses of the Church perfected and made whole in Christ, just as He promised…he will never abandon His Church! Lest anyone think to the contrary, I have not lost the sense of outrage at the abuse crisis and cover-ups. We must take seriously Christ’s call to holiness, starting with our bishops, priests and indeed everyone! Jesus Christ truly is the Word made flesh, the splendor of the Father, the One sent to save us and give us Himself in the Eucharist, and His transforming, purifying grace in and through the Church as He founded.

El padre Peter informa sobre la reunión del USCCB en junio y el futuro de la Diócesis

Querida Gente de la Diócesis de Shreveport


Comienzo este artículo en Domingo de Pentecostés mientras me preparo para la reunión de la Conferencia Episcopal de los Obispos Católicos de Los Estados Unidos, (USCCB) en Baltimore. Ya es un año que en junio Su Santidad el Papa Francisco anunció el cambio del Obispo Michael Duca a la Diócesis de Baton Rouge y dos meses después, fui elegido Administrador Diocesano. He tenido la oportunidad de participar en varias reuniones de obispos, incluyendo reuniones en Luisiana donde se han tratado problemas que afectan a las instituciones católicas en nuestro estado, así como con la organización Catholic Extension Society y con obispos de las diócesis misión que enfrentan luchas similares a las nuestras.

En abril, participé en la ceremonia de instalación del Obispo David Talley, quien era Obispo de Alexandria y ahora es el nuevo Obispo de Memphis. Ese día uno de los arzobispos me dijo de frente y con toda seriedad que, conociendo todos los asuntos graves que el Nuncio Apostólico necesita tratar que “yo necesito sentarme en la posición de administrador diocesano” por más tiempo ya que no parece que nos enviarán un obispo pronto. De hecho, algunas diócesis que han estado sin obispo menos tiempo que la nuestra han recibido ya nuevos obispos. Me gustaría poder hablar directamente con el Nuncio Apostólico Christopher Pierre, ¡mañana de ser posible!

He participado en reuniones de USCCB. La primera fue en Noviembre del 2018, cuando se propuso tener el voto del siglo sobre los escándalos de Abuso Sexual por parte del clero hacia menores y adultos y sobre “Medidas de Conducta del Episcopado” y establecer una “Comisión Especial para la Revisión de los Reclamos contra los Obispos.” Recordamos lo que sucedió después de esto, la Santa Sede insistió que los obispos de América deberían retrasar el voto hasta después de la Cumbre del Vaticano en febrero del 2019 donde los obispos presidentes de conferencias mundiales dialogarían sobre este tema. Nuestra rabia y decepción se estampó en mi conciencia y siento esa experiencia aun fresca en mi mente. Ese punto de partida en la vida de la Iglesia tendría que esperar hasta después que los obispos de este país se reunieran en enero del 2019 en una semana de retiro con el encargado de retiros del Papa; también hasta después de la Cumbre Vaticana en febrero y después que el Papa francisco sacara su documento que salió en mayo sobre cómo manejar estos casos en todo el mundo. La reunión está por comenzar.

En los días siguientes, dialogaremos y votaremos sobre un documento relacionado con el ministerio de los Diáconos Permanentes, un documento sobre la Ordenación de un Obispo, de Sacerdotes y de Diáconos, sobre el involucramiento de la iglesia y con la creciente población de personas que no tienen filiación religiosa (los llamados nada- o sea que no tienen religión,”) entre otras cosas. Pero el mundo se enfocará en el punto principal de la agenda: cuatro puntos de acción sobre el manejo de la investigación de reclamos de abuso contra los obispos, acusaciones que no se han manejado o casos que se han encubierto sobre sacerdotes acusados y otros trabajadores eclesiales. (Recuerden: un Administrador Diocesano es equivalente en la ley canónica a un obispo, así que tengo el mismo voto que cualquier obispo activo ahí presente.)

Mientras esperamos esta reunión de obispos, el Papa Francisco escribió su Carta Apostólica “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” una nueva ley universal para cuidar a sus miembros del abuso y acusar a los líderes responsables, y una ley que fue implementada el 1º de junio. Esta ley gobierna las quejas contra los líderes de la iglesia en todo el mundo en relación al abuso sexual de menores y de personas vulnerables. Debatiremos y después votaremos para implementar esta ley Eclesial. Como el Papa Francisco lo escribe; “crímenes de abuso sexual ofenden a nuestro Señor y causan daño físico, psicológico, y espiritual a las víctimas, y lastiman a toda la comunidad de fieles.” Esta reunión de negocios va a aprobar varias propuestas para que también los obispos tomen responsabilidad. El Santo Padre, en su carta, llama a que “el público, este firme y accesible” a implementar sistemas para reportar los reclamos, abrir estándares para dar apoyo pastoral a las víctimas y a sus familias, de manera eficiente y completa durante las investigaciones, para la protección de los “denunciantes” y que se pueda hacer uso de los “laicos expertos.” Este documento da más fuerza a la protección ya implementada y expande la definición de adultos vulnerables que incluya a los seminaristas y a cualquier otra persona que se involucre en actos sexuales usando el poder y además establece un proceso de investigación de varias formas a la falta de conducta por parte de los obispos.

Los arzobispos en cada provincia metropolitana tendrán la posibilidad de supervisar estas investigaciones – el Arzobispo de Nueva Orleans tendrá supervisión sobre nuestro estado. Estoy contento especialmente por la importancia que se dará al uso de laicos expertos para que los obispos no sean los mismos que vigilen y más bien se cumpla con la investigación responsable y con transparencia. El Cardenal Daniel DiNardo, Arzobispo de Galveston-Houston y Presidente de USCCB, expresó lo siguiente en noviembre: “espero… que la Iglesia sea purificada y que nuestros esfuerzos den fruto… caminando en sintonía con la Iglesia de todo el mundo haremos que la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos y la Iglesia global sea más fuerte.” Tengo optimismo de que esperar de noviembre hasta ahora será benéfico y la reunión será muy fructífera.

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La reunión de USCCB de junio ha comenzado con Oración de la Mañana este Martes des pues de Pentecostés, con los comentarios del Cardenal DiNardo, “ comenzamos este trabajo sagrado, esta semana, purgando la maldad del abuso sexual de la Iglesia… Veni Cancte Spiritus. (Ven Santo Espiritu.)” veo esto como una exclamacion de la carta del Papa Francisco para la asamblea de obispos en el retrio del pasado Enero en Chicago cuando el papa aclaro que la necesidad de invocar y llenarnos del Espiritu Santo era esencial antes de caminar en la camino que Dios quiere que vayamos… la importancia de hacer oración antes la acción, y las grandes decisiones que los obispos enfrentan no pueden tomarse por un grupo que esta dividido; no podemos primero trazar un plan de acción y solo hacer oración para que funcione.

Como habíamos hecho en nuestra diócesis en a Catedral de San Jon Berchmans con nuestra Oración de Vigilia por la Reparación y Petición, así los obispos hicieron un Servicio Penitencia hermoso dirigido por uno de los cardenales, con el tema “La Iglesia esta de Rodillas,” enfatizando la necesidad de buscar el perdón personalmente y como grupo. Cada obispo de este país estaba totalmente enterado del dolor de todos los que han sido abandonados por la Iglesia. Este ha sido un año de gran sufrimiento y dolor para la iglesia de los Estados Unidos y todos reconocemos que este es un momento crítico en nuestra historia.

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Me he enterado que nuestro Nuncio Apostólico está en ROMA con el Papa Francisco y mas de cien embajadores de otros países. Así que se ha ido mi oportunidad de preguntarle sobre el proceso de recibir a un nuevo obispo en nuestra diócesis.

Hoy en la Fiesta de San Barnabás, nuestro primer día hubo dialogo y debate entre los sucesores de los apóstoles, y concluyó con la Misa y lectura de los Hechos de los Apóstoles. El Cardenal DiNardo les dijo a los obispos’ hay que ser como San Barnabás, que deseaba solo “hacer la voluntad de Dios y hacerla cuidadosamente y con discreción pero también lo que el Santo Padre llama audacia – audacia apostólica… nuestro trabajo esta semana es arduo y difícil.”

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Todos sabemos que ya hace un año que el Cardinal Theodore McCarrick fue expuesto como predador y esto abrió el comienzo de una crisis de confianza en la habilidad del liderazgo de la Iglesia para manejar los casos de abuso sexual. El esfuerzo del pasado noviembre para vigorizar las normas de responsabilidad, postergado por le vaticano, ha sido refinado y aumentado y está ahora listo para el debate y voto final. Hemos trabajado con todos estos asuntos comunicándonos constantemente con la oficina principal de USCCB, para que no anticipar mucho mas debate o discusión y se han reservado tres horas y media para dialogar sobre esto esta mañana.

 

Se necesitaron son 70 minutos. Los Obispos votaron en varias propuestas para asegurar el compromiso de los obispos en situaciones de abuso sexual a niños y personas vulnerables, la mala conducta sexual, o el mal manejo intencional de estos casos. Nos comprometimos específicamente a involucrar y utilizar a laicos expertos profesionales. También establecimos un mecanismo independiente y nuevo para reportar estos casos, asegurándonos que todos son evaluados cuidadosamente, y que se haga justicia a las víctimas y para los sobrevivientes.    (cf: USCCB Q & A – sesión de preguntas de la reunión episcopal del 12 de junio)

Estas propuestas por las que se votaron son ahora la base de, y consistentes con la nueva ley universal de cómo reportar y cómo manejar las quejas contra los obispos, las nuevas normas de procedimiento y son aplicables a todo el mundo. Esto es lo último en una serie de pasos que la Iglesia ha tomado para responder al pecado y crimen de abuso sexual.  La Iglesia primero implementó una póliza de cero tolerancia en Estados Unidos en el 2002. Estatutos para la Protección a Niños y Gente Joven, comúnmente referido como los Estatutos de Dallas, junto con las Normas Esenciales.

En la resolución, “Afirmando nuestros Compromisos Episcopales,” los obispos claramente dicen que estamos “comprometidos, a investigar los casos que se presenten usando al consejo de hombres y mujeres laicos con experiencia profesional indispensable.”  En efecto los nuevos documentos de USCCB elevan los dones y destrezas de los laicos.La nueva ley cubre el acoso sexual de adultos, si este acoso involucra cualquier acto sexual. Otras formas de acoso sexual están cubiertas por códigos de conducta ya existentes en las diócesis y provincias eclesiales. “Vox Estis” no interfiere con estos códigos de conducta locales.

Recuerden que cualquier queja contra un obispo se puede hacer inmediatamente a la policía local, a la cancillería, al Nucnio Apostólico, o a la Santa Sede directamente. Todas estas maneras de reportar continuarán disponibles. Terceras personas que necesiten reportar – sistema de terceros, va a proveer otras maneras de reportar que harán que el proceso sea mas simple en el futuro. Esto impone una responsabilidad sin precedencia hacia todos los obispos de todo el país.

Al concluir la votación, quería ¡golpear la mesa con mi puño! Aunque parte de mí sabe que entre toda esta gente hay una ‘crisis exhaustiva,’ pero ahora escuchamos el llamado a la acción.

*      *      *

Como ya dije en noviembre, estando en medio de las cosas como Administrador Diocesano, los últimos diez meses han afectado mi manera de orar. Estoy agradecido por el gran apoyo que he recibido por parte de los sacerdotes de nuestra diócesis, así como también de mucha gente laica. Desde entonces también hemos tenido la publicación de la lista de sacerdotes convictos o de los acusados creíblemente de abuso sexual en el territorio que comprende la Diócesis de Shreveport, todos esos casos sucedieron antes de 1986 y que nuestra diócesis fuera creada. Todavía enfrento esta crisis y la necesidad de sanación para y con todos los afectados en nuestra diócesis. Soy ministro, no de una Iglesia como a mí me gustaría, sino en la Iglesia así como se encuentra. Aun así con nuestras condiciones humanas rotas, damos pequeñas miradas a la Iglesia preferida y que se ha completado en Cristo, así como Él nos lo prometió… ¡él nunca abandonará su Iglesia! Aunque alguien piense lo contrario, no he perdido la ira por la crisis de los abusos y los encubrimientos. Debemos de tomar el llamado de Cristo a la santidad seriamente, empezando con nuestros obispos, sacerdotes y de verdad entre todos! Jesucristo es verdaderamente la Palabra hecha hombre, el esplendor del Padre, el que fue enviado a salvarnos y entregarse Él mismo en la Eucaristía con su gracia transformadora y purificante en y a través de la Iglesia como Él la fundó.

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Kim Long

On the 15th day of August, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Body and Soul into heaven. The feast, which has a long and storied history in the Church, is one of Mary’s oldest. Let’s take a look…

 

History

The late Fr. Andrew Greeley stated  that the Celtic people celebrated a harvest festival in mid-August and in Christian times this became the festival of Mary in harvest time because Mary reflected the life-giving, life-nurturing love of God. From the days of the early church, this feast day was part of the fabric of believers. We glean this from the writings of some early Church fathers. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, issued Munificentissimus Deus, which officially defined the Dogma of the Assumption, meaning that the Church officially recognizes this belief as essential and vital to the life of Catholics. I read the document in preparation for this article. At 12 pages it was not a difficult read and is available online. According to many sources about this feast, it illustrates to us the way Jesus felt about his mother as well as the promise of eternal life. Pope Pius XII also wrote a beautiful prayer in honor of Mary and this feast.

 

Ways to celebrate

I read an article long ago that posed the idea of making a shift in our thinking from holy days of “obligation” to holy days celebration. I have always been of the mind that it is a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”.  One of the definitions of obliging is to bind. I like the idea of being bound to God in many ways; after all, we are not bound to those whom we love by only one way so why not expand our way of viewing these holy days of obligation. When we celebrate this feast we are also celebrating God’s love for us, Jesus’ promise that we will not die but have eternal life with Him. Who doesn’t love it when a mother is treated well, in this case, a literal queen as the responsorial psalm for this liturgy reminds us- “the queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” Personally, I like a little imagery that takes me out of an ordinary day and reminds me of God’s immensity.  This day accomplishes that very well. We are bound, obliged to attend Mass and celebrate with our community but there are additional (both/and) ways we can revel in God’s glorious love.

 

Food

In one of my favorite and well worn books “A Continual Feast” by Evelyn Birge Vitz in which she guides us through the liturgical year with food and family, she recommends a fresh fruit salad but only AFTER we fast from fruit from August 1st, breaking it finally after Mass on the 15th gives us an idea of waiting for first fruits of the season.

 

Processions

This is a great Catholic tradition. In our parish we are blessed to have a priest who embraces this part of our tradition and we are seen several times a year processing around the church property. I am unsure of what passers-by think but we know we are walking with a purpose! At home, if you have a statue or even a picture of Mary take it out, dust it off and gather your family and go for a walk with the Blessed Mother. Begin with a prayer, reverently walk with the image or statue and return, placing it in a place of honor.

 

Mary Garden

In preparing for this article I found that Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem (now St. Juvenal) told the Council of Chaldea that St. Thomas found lilies and roses in Our Lady’s tomb. That is inspiration enough for many to plant at least one flower in honor of our Blessed Mother. There is an Assumption Lily, part of the day lily family dedicated to this event Other plants include: violets, roses, Lady slippers, bleeding hearts, snowdrops and lily of the valley. There are also several herb plants dedicated to Mary especially rosemary, however, any sweet smelling and fragrant herb can represent her joys and any bitter herb her sorrows. St. Fiacre’ is said to have maintained a garden in honor of Mary all his adult life. Even if it is too late this year, looking forward to spring these selections could give your garden a “lift.” In addition to the idea of special plants in Mary’s honor, there is also the tradition of blessing of the gardens, orchards, and produce on this day; a way to honor first fruits. The Roman Ritual from 1964 has a beautiful prayer and blessing for this.

Ask your priest for more information, or sprinkle some holy water on your garden, thanking God for his bounty. These are a few ways to add an element of celebration to one of the most special days of our liturgical year! Happy Holy Day of Celebration!

Holistic Catholic Education

By: Mike Van Vranken

Almost forty years ago, I heard someone respond to the question “what do Catholics believe” with the confident answer: “We believe it all!”  Over the years, and often resulting in confused looks, I have repeated this response myself many times. But what does “believing it all” really mean?  And, how do we “teach it all” to our children?

For me, “believing it all” means, yes, we believe in the Trinity, the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, prayer, the sacraments, the importance of ritual liturgies, the living word of God in scripture, and the doctrines and traditions of the Church.  But there is more. We also believe that the experience of all of this in everyday life is crucial to being a follower of Jesus. Unless we put legs to the doctrine, to the statements in the creeds, to the ritual of liturgy and sacraments; unless we allow these experiences to change us, to transform us, to cause us to be reborn every day, then we only believe part of the Catholic reality – not all of it.

It is a beautiful and holy moment to experience the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But, unless we then go out and experience Christ’s Real Presence in the people we live with, work with and meet on the street, and these experiences change who we are, we are failing to “believe it all.”  If I can see Christ in the communion bread, but cannot receive new sight to see Christ in the unemployed person who needs my help, then I really don’t “believe it all.” If I can experience God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but am not reborn into a new person and therefore I fail to forgive someone who has wronged me, I have missed the transformation God wanted in me.  Or, as St. Paul put it: “if I have all faith as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:2. For truly, to experience Christ in everyday life can only happen if we are living, changing and evolving into who we are called to be.  We don’t just memorize and know Catholic Social Teaching.  We are personally called by Jesus of Nazareth to live it.

Another aspect of “believing it all” is our personal, intimate conversations with God. Devotional prayers, such as rosaries, novenas, chaplets and more are part of our Catholic faith. They are good, holy and helpful to our life in Christ. Additionally, the spirituality of our Catholic identity also includes opening our deepest emotions, thoughts, memories, understanding, ideas and needs to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus did, we go away and not only talk to God, but listen quietly and patiently for his response. God is not somewhere out in another galaxy.  “He is with us and in us always” Mt. 28:19; John 14:23. To experience him is to fall in love with God so deeply that we take time for personal, sensitive and intimate conversations with him, which sometimes means sitting with him in silence.

Unfortunately, many of us do not learn this experiential following of Jesus, this transformational aspect of our Catholic faith, until we are adults. But what would happen if, in our PSR classes, in our Catholic School curriculum, we taught our young people how to contemplatively sit with God and then share what we experience with him?  Share our blessings, our gifts, our love and our very lives with those in the world around us?

What would happen is, we would change. That’s right. We are not called to change others. We are called to receive God’s grace to change ourselves. Once we are transformed into the new person God has called us to be, our living as Jesus lived will inspire others to be transformed as well. Consequently, this entire world, all of God’s creation and everything in it would be transformed. And, if we read the gospel stories, this is exactly what you and I are called to do.

As this new school year begins, let us allow ourselves to be transformed right in front of our young people; right in front of our school students. Let’s explain that knowing about our faith is important. But Catholics living our experience with Christ is who we are called to be. Let’s model for them lives of deep, intimate and unitive experiences with God.  Then, we can allow God to place the desire in their hearts to also be transformed. This could be the school year when we teach our children to truly be Catholics who “believe it all.”

The Life of Sister Maria Smith, D.C.

by Patti Underwood

On Holy Thursday, we in the Diocese of Shreveport and beyond lost a rare treasure, Sister Maria Smith, D.C.  Sister Maria was Mother Superior of the Daughters of the Cross, serving in that position since 2003, last of the line extending from 1641.  Wise and compassionate, firm yet gentle, and steely strong, Sister Maria was in her 66th year of religious life.

As the only child of Earl and Myrtle Rambin Smith of Gloster, Earline Smith grew up on their dairy farm, milking cows, riding horses and listening to St. Louis Cardinals games with her father.  At age five she knew she wanted to be a nun after seeing a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word while visiting her mother at the hospital.  The family prayed the rosary daily, and her Protestant father dropped his girls off at St. Ann’s for Sunday Mass, he would become her first convert. After Mass, they would catch a ride home with the priest, who usually stayed for dinner.  In the tenth grade she entered St. Vincent’s Academy as a boarding student and upon graduating she entered the convent on September 8, 1953.  From 1957 to 1997, she taught at Presentation Academy (Marksville), St. John Berchmans (Shreveport), Jesus the Good Shepherd (Monroe), St. Patrick’s (Lake Providence), and St. Catherine’s (Shreveport), serving as principal at St. Catherine’s for five years and at Jesus the Good Shepherd for 17 years.

While sitting with Sister Maria, you were bound to hear stories from her teaching career, such as the time she financed uniforms for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Presentation by selling construction paper shamrocks downtown for a quarter and the time the Sisters picked up and sold enough pecans in Lake Providence to buy a car.  At St. Catherine’s she was struck by lightning she was unharmed, but the plastic buttons on her coat were melted.

Sister Maria impacted generations at Jesus the Good Shepherd, her tenure spanning from 1960 to 1997. Former teacher Minette Gilbert, mentions “[she had a] jovial heart and a can-do spirit, loved everyone who came through her door, but could get her message across.” Her memory is revered there, attested by the framed photo in the library, the Sister Maria Smith, D. C. Scholarship and the handmade cards she has received from current students, born long after her departure.

In retirement, Sister Maria continued to minister to family and friends, residents and staff through her friendship, cards, letters, prayers and discreet aid with personal problems.

Everyone who came into her circle became one of her children. She had a knack for seeing and bringing out the best in everyone, and she brought many into the Church. A few days before her death, she commented, “I don’t know what they’re worried about. I’m not worried,” as she gazed out the window and strummed her Breviary.

If you are lucky enough to possess one of her notes, hold onto it. You have a relic!

 

Faithful Step Up in Wake of Tornado Devastation

by Walter Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Fr. Kevin Mues Ordination to the Priesthood

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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