Category Archives: Features

Q&A with Illustrator Deacon Andrew Thomas

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Beginning with the cover of this issue of The Catholic Connection, we will start printing one to two pages of a graphic novel on the five priests who gave their lives in service to others in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. Deacon Andrew Thomas is the artist behind this amazing new series. We chatted with him about his art and faith to give you an idea of the person behind the pen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – when you became a deacon, where you serve.
I am married to my lovely wife, Patty, and I have four beautiful children: Sara (15), Lisa (11), Monica (10), and Benedict (4). I became a deacon on February 11, 2017, ordained on the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes for the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina. I am very blessed to be serving at St. Michael Catholic Church in Murrells Inlet, SC, just south of Myrtle Beach.

How did you begin drawing graphic novels?
I began drawing comics at a very young age. I really loved reading comic books when I was a child. There was a group of us in sixth grade that used to collect and draw comics, and I remember distinctly getting in trouble one day for drawing one of my comics during class time. My teacher told me to write on the back of the comic book I was making, “I was drawing this during English class,” and have it signed by my parents!

Did you go to art school?
Yes, I was very fortunate to go to one of the best art colleges in the world, Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. Our instructors there pushed us really hard on fundamental drawing skills. We had to study muscular and skeletal anatomy as well, drawing very frequently from live models. Our illustration instructors stressed the importance of sketching out and then choosing the best idea before starting the final composition. Competition was fierce, but the majority of us left the college as highly-skilled illustrators.

How did you grow your talent?
I have been drawing throughout my entire life. I don’t ever remember a period of my life when I was not drawing. The two desires I contemplated with respect to utilizing my art talent were either to draw animated cartoons, or to draw comic books. Animated cartoons are such an involved process and take so many artists to put together even a very short film, so I lost interest in doing so very early on. What I liked about comic books is that one person could do them, so I decided I would illustrate comic books, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity not only to draw captivating scenes, but also to use them to tell a story.

What are some other graphic novels / series you’ve done?
My first graphic novel is a book titled, Borderline. I did most of the drawing of this book when I lived in Puebla, Mexico, early on in my marriage. I think it’s a really unique story. The main character, Bart Selmer, a south Texan, crosses the border to Mexico for the first time, and he is shocked by the level of poverty he sees, but gains a healthier perspective of his neighbors south of the border.

My second graphic novel is a book titled, The Life of St. John Berchmans. I had found a reprint online of an old biography of the saint and had a strong desire to read about him. Once I found out that the miracle that led to his canonization took place only an hour west of Baton Rouge where I had grown up, I felt compelled to tell his story in a graphic novel format.

I’m continuing to work on A History of the Diocese of Charleston for our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Miscellany, which will culminate in the celebration of the bicentennial year for the diocese on July 11, 2020.

How does your faith play a role in your art?
I decided early on, having left my graphic art career in 2002, upon entering Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, that I would only use my artwork for God’s greater glory. In the seminary, I started an illustrated book of saints, but never finished the book or my seminary formation. However, my marriage benefited tremendously from the seminary formation, and my diaconal ministry benefited from it as well, and I would again illustrate saints, but now in a more compelling graphic novel format. God had a plan! I am very thankful that all of the graphic novel work that I have been blessed to produce has been God-centered.

What is your process for creating a comic book?
I start by researching as much as possible. Not only do I have to understand the time period and environment that I am illustrating, but I also have to be aware of the architecture and fashion of the time. Then, I try to make a number of sketches of the main characters that I will be illustrating. Once I feel comfortable, I jump in page by page and try to bring life to each panel, starting with pencils, then brush and ink, finally adding color and dialogue with the computer.

Many comic illustrators today produce all of their artwork digitally, and they certainly achieve dynamic results. I still prefer to use traditional materials, using pencil and paper, and brush and ink. I try to give my work a classic look throughout which lends itself well to the historical work I’ve produced lately.

Join Us for iGiveCatholic on Giving Tuesday

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by John Mark Willcox

shreveport.igivecatholic.org

We are excited to announce that the Diocese of Shreveport will be participating in #iGiveCatholic, the first-ever online giving day created to celebrate our unique Catholic heritage! The #iGiveCatholic Giving Day inspires faithful stewards to “Give Catholic” on Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving.

The goal of the #iGiveCatholic Giving Day is to rally the Catholic community of our diocese in support of the organizations that shape our souls: Our Annual Appeal programs and ministries, our Catholic schools and nonprofit ministries dedicated to helping those in need. We know that, for Catholics, generosity and giving have a profound meaning. As children of God, giving is the ultimate expression of mercy as we provide quality education to our young people and help those in need while preserving our Catholic heritage in North Louisiana for future generations. Compelled to action by our shared faith, our prayer is that area Catholics will be energized to give back with critical needed financial support.

This is the first year that the Diocese of Shreveport will take part in this unique and very successful program which has provided monetary assistance to many worthy ministries over the past several years. #iGiveCatholic will take place this year on November 27th (Giving Tuesday) from midnight until 11:59 pm Central Time. Plan to visit #iGiveCatholic on the web on November 27th and remember that this is a wonderful opportunity to offer your generous support to our core efforts to serve our region through gifts to our Annual Appeal, Catholic schools, the Society of  St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities of North Louisiana.

If you have any questions or need more information on this year’s #iGiveCatholic day of giving, contact the Diocesan Development Office, bvice@dioshpt.org. •

Martyrs and Saints: A History of Witness & Holiness in the Church

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by Cheryl H. White, Ph.D.

The earliest centuries of Christianity are punctuated by periods of severe persecution of the faithful in the Roman Empire, beginning in earnest under the reign of Emperor Nero, when the Church was just decades old. The very first persecution was of Jesus Christ, followed of course by the Apostles. The word “martyr” in Greek was applied to describe the Apostles, both who they were, and what they had done, for the word literally translates as “witness.” By their deaths, they provided the ultimate witness to the Truth they had seen and known in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the pagan culture of the Roman Empire, there was a civic expectation that people would recognize the gods worshipped by others, and the refusal of this in Christianity naturally made its followers suspicious to Roman authorities. Through the first three centuries of the Church, generalized edicts condemning Christianity were common, and resulted in many Christians going to what was often a sentence of horrific torture and death. This did not deter or discourage the faithful. In fact, martyrdom became the model and ideal for the Christian, as it has been likened to “the narrow gate” by some scholars. Tertullian of Carthage, a prominent theologian of the second century, expressed this concept well when he wrote, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The persecuted Church only grew in numbers.
Martyrdom became such an identifiable aspect of the faith that when active persecutions ended during the reign of Constantine the Great in the fourth century, Christianity sought new ways to find the highest possible calling in other expressions, such as asceticism and monasticism. Still, to die a martyr’s death remained an ideal for centuries to come, as Christians continued to identify with the sacrifice of the persecuted faithful of the earliest era. Those early martyrs quickly became recognized as the first saints of the Church, and the willingness to lay down one’s life for Christ became a clear path to holiness.

In the first centuries of the Church, there was no formal process of canonization as there is today, with elevation to sainthood usually occurring at the level of the local bishop. By the sixth century, the names of the most well-known of these were being commemorated in the liturgy, evidenced by the Roman Canon. Martyrdom, while the first ideal of the Church, eventually gave way to the recognition of other models of exceptional holiness, heroic virtue, and rigor of life, as equal potential for sainthood. By the tenth century, it became standard that all such canonizations took place at the level of the papacy, and the formal process known today has existed since the sixteenth century creation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The stages of the canonization process are defined as: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and Saint. To be recognized as a Servant of God states that the Church has begun the process of official investigation into the life of a potential saint; to be declared Venerable is to have been associated with heroic deeds; to be Blessed (beatified) is to have one miracle confirmed through the intercession of the person in question; and finally, to be a Saint (the final step) requires the confirmation of a second miracle.

In 2017, Pope Francis articulated another way to beatification in an apostolic letter, Majorem Hac Dilectionem, or “greater love than this,” drawn directly from the Gospel of John. The pope stated that besides martyrdom and heroic deeds, the offering of one’s own life out of charity is yet another pathway to the Church’s recognition, with the same requirement of at least one miracle for beatification. “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Pope Francis went on to say in the apostolic letter, “It is certain that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ, and therefore deserves the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised in a heroic degree the Christian virtues.”

From the persecutions and martyrdoms of the earliest Christians, to the countless heroic and selfless acts on the part of many other saints throughout history, the Church has always formally recognized holiness. By the new guidelines offered by Pope Francis, the Shreveport “martyrs to their charity” of 1873 seem particularly worthy of this consideration, as they all knowingly offered the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives in the service of others.

Picture: St. Stephen is considered the first Christian martyr. The objects around his head and body are the rocks, which were used to kill him.

Domestic Church: Taking Little Ones to Mass

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by Katie Sciba

I have a confession to make: I haven’t always liked going to Mass. There have been some lengthy periods when the idea of going to Sunday Mass with my family made me want to head for the hills. Our kids were challenging and obnoxious in Mass, so much so that I was resolved that Andrew and I would attend Mass separately each Sunday just so we could avoid hauling our traveling circus into parish-view. We’ve received fantastic advice and insight from veteran parents that made going to Mass as a whole family not just possible, but enjoyable. It’s taken tears, fits and persistence to get us where we are, but we’re grateful for the wisdom passed to us.

1. Up your pre-game.

We’ve learned there’s no such thing as getting ready for Mass “real quick” for our family. It has to start 1 ₂ to 3 hours ahead of departure time, and it takes a divide-and-conquer approach from Andrew and me. Teamwork from us parents is a must if we want to arrive on time and stave off mutual resentment. The kids’ Mass attire is presentable, but it has to be comfortable, too. Uncomfortable shoes, pants and shirts make it hard for the kids to deliver good behavior. To avoid further disruption and tears during Mass, every child takes two trips to the bathroom an hour before and immediately prior to our departure. Though things can be pretty chaotic at our house, we try to keep Mass prep slow to avoid the stress of rushing.

2. Check and voice expectations.

Regardless of how terribly or well our preparations go, the ride to church is a behavioral pep talk. We’ve been going over the same rules every Sunday for years, and now every little Sciba can recite them. They know there won’t be any trips to the bathroom, they have to be prayerful with their bodies – folded hands and upright posture – and they have to pray along, saying the responses. Three simple rules. When our kids slip in any area, we give them a nudge and then model what we want them to remember.

3. Sit up close and talk.

This one is counter-intuitive. It’s tempting to sit toward the back in case we have to make a quick exit with a fit-thrower or potty-goer; but it turns out that kids with comfy clothes and empty bladders are more likely to behave, and with the added bonus of being able to see, the whole family has a shot at making it through Mass, sanity intact. There in the front pews the kids experience every part of the liturgy in plain sight. For our younger ones, we hold them and whisper what’s happening on the altar, “See how Fr. Dan kisses the Gospel after he reads it?” “Watch the servers when they ring the bells. They do it because Jesus is here.” We talk almost the whole Mass to our little ones learning so we can help keep them focused.
4. Respond to behavior.

For the children with angelic manners during Mass, there are stickers or check marks on a chart at home; high fives for the older ones. Whatever we use to reward, the kids get psyched for it. For the kids whose behavior needs tweaking (or revolutionizing), there is a conversation about what they need to work on with follow-through the next Sunday. Really bad behavior gets bigger discipline.

Above all, the biggest, most important tip I’ve received was to KEEP GOING. Practically speaking, parents and kids need consistent practice for behavior and experiences to improve; but even setting this aside, there is nothing more powerful than bringing our families before God. Wild kids will at least be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, as well as their tried and tired parents. The Lord sees our persistence, our struggles and victories with our families, and loves us in both.

Protecting Our Children in the Diocese of Shreveport

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by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator

It is hard to miss all the news in the last couple of months on sex abuse by those placed in a position of trust in the Church. Even though most of these cases are 40 to 70 years old, they still bring strong emotions to the forefront. We are angry for those who were harmed, perplexed on how this could happen, and feel an urgency concerning the safety of our children today.

In 2002, the Diocese of Shreveport established a Safe Environment Program and Sex Abuse Policy, which can be found on the diocese’s website (http://www.dioshpt.org/administration/human-resources/safe-environment-2/), to not only protect our children and vulnerable adults from harm today, but to also address those who wish to report abuse that might have occurred in the past. This is where some confusion arises and questions are asked. What happens when someone wishes to report abuse?

It is important to know that our diocese has published information on how to report abuse. One document already mentioned is our sex abuse policy, or more formally titled Diocesan Policy Concerning Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clerics, Employees or Commissioned Volunteers. This almost 50 page document explains all the processes, procedures and individuals involved in assisting with sex abuse issues reported in our diocese. The full policy can be found on our website at the above mentioned link.

Another document is our one page handout, “Protecting Our Children in the Diocese of Shreveport,” which explains what we do in our diocese to protect children. On the back are clear, simple instructions on reporting a possible sex abuse issue within our Church (see the sidebar). All of our churches and schools are required to have these handouts easily accessible to all who enter our locations.

As these documents state, when reporting a possible child abuse issue, the authorities must ALWAYS be contacted, which in this case would be Child Protection Services. Following this, we ask that the victim or their family to call our Victim Assistance Coordinator. Contact information for CPS and Victim Assistance can be found in the sidebar, as well as on our website and flyer. This allows those who have been harmed to not wait for the courts to decide if there was abuse, but gives them a chance to receive immediate counseling and healing.
Our sex abuse policy calls for the establishment of a Permanent Review Board made up of non-Catholic volunteers who help the diocese in its decision making process for the victim and their families, as well as transparency to the authorities, church communities and the public in general. The victims’ names are not released to the public for confidentiality reasons, but if the claim is credible, then the offender’s name would be released and the diocese would encourage anyone harmed by this individual to come forward to find healing and help.

It is unfortunate that sex abuse occurs in our society, and more so in our churches. We as a Church are called to not only keep children, youth and vulnerable adults safe, but to also reach out to those who have been harmed. Yes, the Church is a place for our souls to be healed, but to also bring comfort and hope to those who struggle in their daily lives with past hurts and pains. Through the hard work of many volunteers, we continue to be the hand and heart to those who are in most desperate need of Christ’s love and healing.

Shroud of Turin: Shroud Experts & Original STURP Team Members Gather at Shreveport’s Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for Special Panel

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by Jessica Rinaudo

On the second weekend in October, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host an event that’s drawing international attention. Two members of the original 1978 Shroud of Turin Research team (STURP), the project’s president and physicist Dr. John Jackson and photographer Barrie Schwortz, will join other experts in the field on a speakers panel to apply their shared research and expertise with visitors from across the country. The dinner on October 12, will be the anchor for a three-day Shroud of Turin speaking event in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Shroud of Turin Research Project.

In 1978, a team of scientists were granted unprecedented access to the Shroud of Turin. Over the course of five days, the team of scientists and photographers worked non-stop, using various techniques, including infrared spectrometry and thermography, as well as sticky tape samples to analyze the cloth. This was the only research of its kind ever conducted on the Shroud of Turin. The research results were published in peer reviewed scientific journal articles over the course of four years following the team’s work.

Photo of the Shroud of Turin taken by Barrie Schwortz, a member of the Shroud of Turin Research Project, in 1978. Schwortz will be part of a six person expert panel on the Shroud on October 12, 2018, at the Cathedral.

Dr. John Jackson, a physicist, led the original 40-person STURP team. His path to the project was a winding one that began in his early teenage years.
“I was introduced to the Shroud by my mother when I was 13 or 14 years old. She told me that she had a picture of Jesus. … She showed it to me. And my first experience with the Shroud was that I didn’t recognize the image,” said Dr. Jackson. “Suddenly it dawned on me that I was looking at the face and the face was looking right at me. And it was that moment of interaction, that encounter, that little did I know at that point that it was going to change my life,” he said.

Much later in his life, when Dr. Jackson was a graduate student at Colorado State University, he was finishing up his first year of the program, as well as his time in the Air Force ROTC program. “During spring break I was in a mountain cabin, and I read a book that was loaned to me by one of my other graduate student friends – a book on the Shroud, it was by John Walsh. It talked about the kind of science that could be done on the Shroud. Little did I know that when I was reading that, this was in 1968, that 10 years later I’d be in a position to actually do those studies.”

Dr. Jackson added, “When I arrived back at Colorado State University, I had every intention of finishing up my Master’s degree in Physics there. I told my professor that I would like to do a project, a thesis, on the Shroud of Turin. Of course, he had no idea what that was. When I explained it to him, I think he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.”
But the idea and project never materialized at that time and place. Several days later, Dr. Jackson received a phone call from the Air Force inviting him to attend naval postgraduate school to receive a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Effects, and then ultimately a PhD in General Relativity and Cosmology. Following that he became a scientist at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM, and taught physics at the Air Force Academy.

“It was during that time period that I was able to do something I had wanted to do back at Colorado State University. I wanted to explore the relationship of image intensity to cross body distance,” said Dr. Jackson.

He was able to analyze the Shroud of Turin using this technique, producing a 3D relief of a body. “It showed something very fundamental that science can sink its teeth into regarding the Shroud. This discovery was of such a nature that it immediately began to interest scientists,” he said.

This was the catalyst that launched two years of preparation for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, which came to fruition in 1978.

As the president of STURP, Dr. Jackson made the main decisions regarding what would be done during their time there. He worked on the scientific protocols, administration of the research and how to solve scientific issues related to the project.

“We learned a tremendous amount about the Shroud. .. Five days working around the clock with 30 people with very good scientific credentials lead to a very strong data characterization of the Shroud, which we have been using ever since to put together hypotheses of trying to understand what exactly we have here,” said Dr. Jackson.

Rebecca Jackson is married to Dr. John Jackson, and is a longtime convert to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism. She runs the The Shroud Center Exhibit Presentation Center in Colorado, and also conducts her own research into the First Century Jewish aspects of the Shroud.

“I grew up Orthodox Jewish in Brooklyn, New York, and I’m a descendant of Holocaust survivors. I started coming to Christianity in the middle of high school, a Jewish Orthodox high school. So I was a Catholic in my heart for many years – since about 1963.”

Rebecca spent many years abroad teaching in Israel before returning to the U.S. and joining the Army. In 1987, she officially converted to Christianity, all before she had ever met Dr. Jackson. In 1990, she saw a video called The Silent Witness, and Dr. Jackson was featured in the film. She eventually met up with John and began working on Jewish aspects of the Shroud of Turin in 1990. Two years later, the two were married.

“From 1963, I’ve been studying ethnology,” said Rebecca. “In order to understand the Shroud, you have to understand Jewish ethnology. I was made for that because of my background.”

Her Jewish and Christian background combined with her studies in ethnology and global trade, bring a unique perspective to Shroud of Turin research.

Together Dr. John and Rebecca Jackson will give a free presentation on the Shroud of Turin on Saturday, October 13 at the Cathedral. They will also join in on the Friday night panel discussion.

Barrie Schwortz was the photographer for the 1978 STURP project. He visited Shreveport in March of this year and delivered a talk on his experience to more than 600 people. He is returning for STURP’s 40th anniversary, the first time in many years that he and Dr. Jackson have reunited. During his visit this past March, Schwortz talked about his experience being up close and photographing the Shroud of Turin.

“I started looking for paint pigment binders, any indication of any artwork,” said Schwortz. “Now I’m not an authority on that subject, but I have good eyes and I had total access to the Shroud, no glass or anything in between. My nose was an inch from that cloth and I was looking at it and looking down in between the fibers because paint pigment binders are going to be visible. They’re not going to disappear and just leave an image.”

He continued, “And so I knew probably within 10 or 15 minutes of the Shroud being unveiled that whatever it was, it wasn’t a painting.”

Schwortz photographed the Shroud of Turin over those five days, and his now famous photographs have been published in national publications across the globe. He also runs Shroud.com, which remains a go to point for enthusiasts and the curious alike, boasting more than a million visitors a year.

Schwortz will be part of the panel discussion on Friday evening.

Russ Breault has no direct tie to STURP, but instead became interested in the Shroud of Turin while he worked for his college newspaper in 1980. Following STURP in 1978, articles began rolling out about the research project and the Shroud, and so he asked if he could write a couple of stories on the Shroud for his college newspaper.

“I spent a lot of time researching for that and did a lot of reading and talked to some of the scientists on the phone to get quotes. So by the time the articles ran in the fall of 1980, I was hooked. I thought, ‘Man, this is an incredible mystery.’ And so, it just kind of became my life’s work,” said Breault.

He began doing small presentations on the Shroud of Turin, and his work continued to grow. In 1997, he incorporated the Shroud Education Project. Since that time he’s spoken at numerous conferences and appeared in several nationally televised documentaries including Mysteries of the Ancient World on CBS. Most recently, he appeared in the highly acclaimed, Uncovering the Face of Jesus —a two-hour documentary on The History Channel.

Breault’s fascination with the Shroud is wrapped up in its possibility. “If the Shroud was the work of an artist, we would have figured that out 100 years ago. All it takes is a magnifying glass to see the paint…. Scientists never found any visible trace of any kind of paint pigment, dye stain, no substances that would have been used by an alleged artist…. You can’t just simply say that this is some medieval hoax, because at this point, we still have not been able to fully replicate it.”

Beault’s presentation, “CSI Jerusalem” is presented much like the beloved TV show, slowly unveiling clues about the Shroud of Turin, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. His presentation will be on Thursday, October 11, at 6:00 p.m. at the Cathedral. It is a free event. He will also join Friday night’s panel discussion.

Bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to the panel discussion, both Father Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Diocesan Administrator and Judicial Vicar, and Dr. Cheryl White, Associate Professor of History at LSU-Shreveport, will be part of the event as well. Together they have launched the extremely successful and globally listened to Man of the Shroud podcast series. Both are members of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud. In April of this year, both Fr. Mangum and Dr. White were granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives for further research related to the Shroud. Fr. Mangum is curator of the new Shroud Exhibit located at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Dr. White has studied the Shroud of Turin the entirety of her academic career, with a special interest in the Shroud’s so-called “Missing Years,” of 1204-1355.

Dr. and Mrs. Jackson, Schwortz, Breault, Fr. Mangum and Dr. White, will join their experience, intellect and insight to produce a once in a lifetime event at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. See page 15 for details of the weekend’s events, and visit sjbcathedral.org to purchase tickets.

Bishop Duca Installed in Baton Rouge Shreveport Bids Him Farewell

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by Jessica Rinaudo
photos by Marie Constantin & Bonny Van

August 24 was a bittersweet day for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, especially members of the clergy, diocesan staff and friends of Bishop Michael Duca who gathered together at St. Joseph Cathedral in our capital city in preparation for his installation as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge. We took our seats near the front, looking through our programs as we prepared for the Mass to begin.

After a long procession of bishops, priests and deacons filed in, the sanctuary stilled. Three long raps came from outside the church’s front door, Bishop Duca’s signal that he was asking to take possession of the Cathedral church. Those sounds sent a ripple of emotion through the people gathered there – both of excitement and sadness.

After the doors opened, the trumpets sounded and those gathered sang out “Lift High the Cross” as Bishop Duca made his way down the aisle and stood at the front of the cathedral. Rev. Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargè d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature, stood before the people and read the Apostolic Letter from His Holiness Pope Francis, officially appointing Most Rev. Michael G. Duca as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge.

After displaying the letter, Bishop Duca was escorted by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, and Msgr. Erbi to the cathedral chair, the cathedra, and was presented with his crozier – the same crozier which was used in the installation of the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s first Bishop, Robert E. Tracy in 1958. With that, Bishop Duca was officially installed as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge.

Bishop Duca, true to himself, preached that day with vigor and a touch of his signature humor. He talked about what it means to be a diocese, saying, a diocese is “a portion of the people God entrusted under the pastoral care of a bishop, who with the help of his presbyters and deacons, gathers the people in the Holy Spirit in the Word and the Eucharist.”
“So, right now, as we gather here, you could take away all the buildings and all the chapels, me as the bishop with the presbyters, and even in a more powerful way, Msgr. Erbi’s presence here representing the Holy Father and our universal unity, we are the Church, fully, completely,” said Bishop Duca. “Everything that is required to be the Church is present here – one, holy, catholic, apostolic. We are the Church. And, I want you to imagine, in the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God, around this altar, celebrating the Eucharist. That’s why everything we are comes to and from this altar, for here we are together in the body of Christ and we receive from this altar that strength, that nourishment that feeds us and we become what we receive. This is where we start and where we end. Everything we do, we must draw strength and meaning from here, because here we’re united with Christ on the cross. Here we die with Christ so that we can rise with Christ. Here we are fed and nourished.”

… “I will do my best because I take that definition (of diocese) seriously that this people, you, have been entrusted to my care. And it is an awesome responsibility.”

In a nod to his roots and loving heart, Bishop Duca’s brother, James, sisters, Irene and Rosanne, and his Shreveport secretary, Elaine Gallion, brought up the gifts.

During Mass, Bishop Duca greeted representatives from Catholic ministries from across the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Following the Mass, a reception was held at the Baton Rouge Catholic Life Center. There he greeted the people of Baton Rouge, snapped photos and bid farewell to his friends from the Diocese of Shreveport.

Our prayers continue to be with Bishop Michael Duca as he embraces his new role in our capital city.

Catholic Charities Employee Assists Clients in Sharing the Journey

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by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Since 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has provided assistance and guidance to immigrants as they seek to become legal residents or naturalized citizens of the United States. The Immigration Integration Services program consists of immigration attorney Briana Bianca, immigration advocate Gilda Rada-Garcia, and volunteer Izabela Carabelli, and serves clients throughout north Louisiana.

Last year, 14 of CCNLA’s clients became United States citizens. It is a long and arduous process, culminating with a special ceremony in a courthouse. In the past, Rada-Garcia has always attended this ceremony to cheer on her clients, but on September 12, surrounded by friends and CCNLA staff members, Rada-Garcia joined two of her clients as they took the oath to become United States citizens.

Rada-Garcia was born in Venezuela and came to the United States in 1986, where she lived and worked. Her oldest son was born in New York before she returned to Venezuela in 1999. In 2012, she returned to the U.S. and came to live in Shreveport with her family through a diversity visa, which was awarded through the lottery system.

It was after Rada-Garcia had lived in the U.S. for five years that she was able to take the first steps toward becoming an American citizen by filing an application in April 2018. She traveled to Fort Smith, AR, in July 2018 to be interviewed and take the citizenship test, a test that surveys show only one in three current Americans can pass. In order to prepare for the test, Rada-Garcia was given a list of 100 questions which could possibly be on the test, covering the subjects of government, history and civics, geography, symbols and holidays. The test consisted of 10 questions, with six correct answers needed to pass. After passing both the interview and test, Rada-Garcia was ready for the final step – taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

Immigration attorney Briana Bianca celebrates with client Julie Esie (Cameroon) and her son, Peter Nche, as Esie became a U.S. citizen on July 11, 2018.

When interviewed prior to the ceremony, Rada-Garcia said that she was looking forward to calling herself an American. “I got to know this country as a resident and have enjoyed working with our immigrant clients,” she explained. “I take my role as an American seriously, as well as all of the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.” When asked if she felt any hesitation about the ceremony, she replied, “I have not lived in my native country for many years and now consider the United States to be my home. I would not be the person that I am without my life as a Venezuelan, but now I am happy to say that I am an American.”

She described the process as “something that is finished, yet something that is just beginning.” Having gone through the citizenship process herself, Rada-Garcia will now be able to use her experience in order to help CCNLA’s immigrant clients go through the steps of citizenship.

The Immigration Integration Services program is funded in part by the Louisiana Bar Foundation and United Way of Northwest Louisiana. To find out more information, contact Catholic Charities at 318-865-0200 or visit www.ccnla.org.

St. John Berchmans Catholic School Celebrates Landmark Year

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by Lisa Cooper

This year marks two special occasions for the St. John Berchmans community as they celebrate the 70th anniversary of the school, as well as the 40th anniversary of their annual Monster Mash family night.

What started as a priest’s vision in 1946 has since been the foundation which has supported the education and faith of thousands of Shreveport’s families for 70 years. When Fr. Druhan became pastor of St. John Berchmans, he felt strongly that a Catholic education should become a reality for every child in the parish. Working with his parishioners who were dedicated to the prospect of building a parochial school in Shreveport,

Fr. Druhan purchased the property located next to the church on Jordan Street for a school, and the Ingersol home on Margaret Place was purchased as a convent for the Daughters of the Cross sisters from St. Vincent’s, who would serve at the school as staff and teachers.

In 1949, Sr. John Roberta served as the school’s first principal, and the doors to Shreveport’s first parochial school were opened with six grades. The cost of construction of the first phase of the parochial school was $250,000.

In those 70 years, much has changed for the school, but the tradition upon which it was built has remained its anchor. With a history that traces back to the original SJB School established in 1902, St. John Berchmans School was built upon the solid and constant foundation of faith and the rich heritage of our Catholic traditions.

The longstanding motto of “Kindness is practiced here” remains the bedrock of the culture of SJB, a culture that even families new to the school recognize from the moment they walk through the doors. There is a predictability and continuity of both faith and excellence in education that SJB staff and families count on. This thread of distinction not only holds the community of SJB together, but also provides that sure underpinning essential to allowing students to soar.

Although it remains unwavering in its traditions, SJB also leads the way in innovation. With a host of art and drama offerings and its tenth State Science Olympiad win under its belt, SJB continues to provide its students with a rare education founded in faith, the arts, and STEM. Whether working in the state-of-the-art media and computer lab or rehearsing lines and music for their yearly production, students at SJB are nurtured by a faculty who consistently refine and improve their educational processes to ensure they stay on the cutting edge of meeting the academic needs of each student, while keeping the faith formation of every child at the forefront of every school experience. Keeping with Fr. Druhan’s vision of providing an excellent Catholic education for the children in the parish, SJB continues to ensure every student enjoys unmatched academic opportunities while remaining grounded in the Catholic faith that is essential to their success.

Additionally, SJB will pull out all the stops to celebrate this year’s 40th annual Monster Mash on October 27th. This family festivity has been a haven for parents and students alike as they show up each year to enjoy carnival games, cake walks, costume contests and the annual haunted house. The fun will be multiplied this year, with numerous bounce-houses, carnival games, a strong-man tower and hayride. As a special feature, the school is asking SJB alumni from Monster Mash’s inaugural year to come back and judge the costume contest. All of the SJB community, both past and present, is invited to come out to kick off the Monster Mash celebration.

Current families as well as alumni are invited to join in participating in the school’s anniversary extravaganza, which will be held in May. Alumni are encouraged to enjoy a homecoming all year by coming back to see all of the improvements and innovations at the school. To register as an alumnus of the school and participate in any of the exciting activities planned this year, check the website, sjbcathedralschool.org, or call the office at 318-221-6005.

Bidding Farewell to Father Andre McGrath, OFM

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by John Mark Willcox

Our faith community lost a dear friend on September 8 as Fr. Andre McGrath, OFM, passed into the Lord’s hands at the friary of St. Mary of the Angels in New Orleans, LA.
Born April 20, 1940, Fr. Andre was blessed with a superior education by a number of learning institutes including Duns Scotus College, Southfield, MI, St. Leonard College, Centerville, OH, the University of Detroit, the University of Tubingen West Germany and Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Ordained as a Franciscan Priest in 1967, Fr. Andre taught at a number of Catholic high schools and colleges in the upper mid-west until his community asked that he travel to Africa to teach at Tangaza Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. It was this experience that would forever change Fr. Andre’s life and the lives of many faithful men of Africa who were inspired by the ministry of Fr. Andre.

Learning Swahili and working in union with his new comrades, Fr. Andre was instrumental in forming the Community of Franciscan Missionaries of Hope. This order is also known as the Lyke Community in memory of the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, who was the first African-American Archbishop of Atlanta, GA, and a big influence on
Fr. Andre’s priesthood.

When Fr. Andre arrived in the Diocese of Shreveport in the late 1990’s to share his immense knowledge of the Church as an instructor in the Greco Institute, he also brought to America some of the initial members of the Lyke Community – men who would later be ordained to the priesthood and serve in our diocese and other areas of the nation. What a blessing these fine priests have been to the faithful of our diocese and it would not have been possible without the steadfast and successful priesthood of Fr. McGrath.

The members of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Shreveport also benefited from Fr. Andre’s time with our diocese as he served as their pastor for many years, and as chaplain of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy elementary school before its closing.

Whether he was teaching, providing formation to seminarians, immersing himself in the vast culture of Africa, or simply pastoring a local parish, Fr. McGrath made a huge difference in the lives of Catholics on two continents. The people of our diocese are forever touched by Fr. Andre’s presence among us and we give thanks to the Franciscan Community for graciously sharing part of his holy priesthood with the Catholics of our region.