Category Archives: Features

Moving Forward in Sede Vacante


by Jessica Rinaudo

Bishop Duca’s appointment to Baton Rouge earlier this year made our diocese, Sede Vacante or a “vacant see:” a diocese without a bishop, overseen by a diocesan administrator, who is elected by the College of Consultors. Many people wonder how the diocese is managing without a bishop in place. The answer? Well and busy!

Fr. Peter Mangum, in his capacity as diocesan administrator oversees the day-to-day management of the diocese.

“One of our first discussions after Fr. Peter’s election dealt with responsibilities in regards to the policies, procedures and protocols established over the years by previous bishops through decrees, decisions and documents,” said Chancellor Randy Tiller. “Fr. Peter and I both agreed that a large portion of our new positions was based on our ability to see that things went forward according to the policies in place.”

“Now after only a few short months, the diocese is moving along and the chancery is working side by side with Fr. Peter,” added Tiller.

Part of ensuring diocesan policies are working and moving along as they should is completion of the forms for the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). Through the efforts of all diocesan churches, priests, deacons, schools, hospitals, etc., and managed by the Chancellor’s office, these statistics on each entity are sent in to OCD annually. This is an essential part of maintaining the tax-exempt status of diocesan Catholic organizations with the Internal Revenue Service. Additionally, spiritual reports must be filed with the Vatican each year to keep them abreast of the status of the Diocese of Shreveport. This crucial reporting continues to be completed with the Chancery staff and parishes working together.

November was also an important month for the Diocese of Shreveport, as it hosted the Conference for Chancery and Tribunal Officials (CCTO) for the Provinces of Mobile and New Orleans, which includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Diocese of Shreveport also extended an invitation to the Diocese of Tyler, TX. This conference brought together tribunal officials such as the judicial vicars, canon lawyers, moderators of the tribunals and the chancery officials, including chancellors and chancery staff, in an effort to update everyone on Church issues pertinent to their ministry. This year’s conference was entitled “Legalism, Laxism and Antinomianism in the Church Today.” Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, IL, and Dr. Diane L. Barr, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, were the keynote speakers for the event.

In conjunction with the conference, Bishop Paprocki celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for participants of the event, as well as the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

Members of the Catholic Center staff contributed their time and energies to ensure the event, hosted in Shreveport once every 11 years, was a success.

“Everything was first class! Father Gomez and I truly enjoyed the presentations and the comraderies,” said Peyton Low, Chancellor, Diocese of Tyler.

The Diocese of Biloxi echoed that sentiment, “Thank you for hosting this year’s Tribunal Conference! It was a wonderful and informative experience. Your extra effort in kindness and hospitality was greatly appreciated.”

Sede Vacante translates to vacant see, but it is so much more than not having a bishop in place. It is a time for prayer and contemplation as we all consider what we each want a new bishop to bring to the table,” said Tiller.

“I often hear Fr. Peter say, ‘I want to be able to hand off a diocese that is positioned to move ahead and one that does not prejudice a new bishop,’” he added.

As of now, the diocese has no news on when a new bishop will be appointed. The chancery staff continues to work with the churches and schools to serve the mission of the Catholic Church as they pray for and await the appointment of a new bishop for the Diocese of Shreveport.

“Prepare him, we humbly pray, to fill our minds and hearts with the truth of the Gospel, the power of the sacraments, and the desire to actively work to build up Your holy Church.”   

An excerpt from a “Prayer for a New Bishop for the Diocese of Shreveport.

Praise Academy: Building Faith, Education and Community in Lakeside


by Jessica Rinaudo

Every city has them – areas rampant with crime, populated by the poor, the hungry, those surviving day to day. Shreveport, Louisiana is no exception. I found myself driving into one such area of town late in September, looking past the crumbling houses and overgrown grass on Yale Street. I had been told to keep my doors locked and come straight to the address I had been provided.

When I finally located the street, I made the turn and my eyes grew in wonder at what I beheld there: a row of structurally sound, neatly landscaped, beautiful homes lining the road. And out in the front of one of the houses was a sign that proudly declared that this was the home of Praise Academy.

But the outside was just the beginning. Inside held a much more beautiful treasure: 25 neighborhood children sat with their teachers learning everything from fine motor skills and their letters, to sentence structure and history lessons. This gift, this beautiful sight, was brought to fruition by the People of Praise, and, as they will tell you, was directed by God.

David Zimmel, a missionary for the People of Praise who moved to Shreveport from Oregon, walked out of one of the homes – his home it turned out – and greeted me with a smile. Together with People of Praise member, Julie Bruber, they offered to give me a walking tour while they told me about what they have accomplished, against all odds, in the heart of a depressed community in Shreveport since 2005.

“We heard the Lord calling us to go somewhere and do something, that’s about as specific as it was,” said David of his beginning days as a missionary. “So three of us went out and looked all across the country, specifically the South… And we got lost when we toured Shreveport. We got lost in this neighborhood and just fell in love with it… We felt the Lord was saying ‘This is it.’ Within a month we bought a piece of land. We built one house, and then we started a summer camp. And every year the houses and the summer camp have grown,” said David.

Today their summer camp is a four to six week long program for nearly 150 neighborhood children.

David also gave me a walking tour of the neighborhood. He showed me where the teachers live, because their mission is not just to come, teach and leave, but to truly be a part of the community.

He walked us past the homes of residents, telling me their names and life stories, pointing out projects they had worked together on.

“How did you do it?” I asked. “How did you get to know everyone?”

David laughed, “Going door to door.”

“We wanted to do fix it projects, so we went to every house and said, ‘We will fix your house for free. If you can pay for the materials, we will provide the labor and expertise. And, in fact, if you need help with the materials, we’ll help with the materials, too.’ And nobody called us back,” said David. “And then one lady, Miss Octavia, called us and said, ‘Hey, are you serious about fixing this stuff?’”

She asked if they would come fix her bathroom vanity. The missionaries went in and repaired it for her. David laughed and said, “And the next day we had 35 phone calls. The neighbors were just waiting to see if we were actually going to do it.”

As we continued our walk, we stopped by an unassuming home on a hill. David told me they had purchased the home from a man eager to be rid of it. With home ownership being a near impossibility for most in the area, David intends to make it a rental space for families with children at the school. But, when he walked through the space, he said he would not feel comfortable living there, so he undertook the home improvement project.

When he swung open the front door of this house for me, there stood Paul, bent over a line of fresh cabinet doors, sanding their surfaces, preparing to stain and hang them. Paul stood up, lifted his protective eyewear, and greeted me with a warm smile. It turns out he was a recently graduated engineering major from Notre Dame, and spends much of his time traveling to work on home projects for the People of Praise.

After we left the house, we continued walking back. I listened to more stories of neighbors, including one of a man who they met when the missionaries first moved to Shreveport.

“One of our earliest conversations, we talked to this older man who was 84,” said David. “ We asked him, ‘So what do you think God wants us to do in this neighborhood?’ And he looked at us and said, ‘Well are you serious? … We need a whole new city, new roads, new schools, new everything.’ And that for me was God speaking. You don’t just help and leave.”

When we returned back to the school, the students were lining up for recess. Together they walked with their teachers, singing songs of glory and praise to God, loud and proud.

On the playground, I settled in next to Joan Pingel, the school’s principal and a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. She told me about her faith journey from being raised by parents in the People of Praise, to rebelling against her Catholic faith in her teens, until she eventually “returned home” again when she was in her early 20’s. She reconnected with the People of Praise and felt called to leave Indiana in 2003 and teach in Shreveport, despite not knowing anything about the area.

She was part of the early conversations with neighbors in the area. A recurring topic for people of the community was the need for a neighborhood school. After four years of prayer, research and discussion, they brought the idea of a school to their missionary team. Through prayer and consultation, they agreed to move forward with Praise Academy.

“The first year, maybe a couple of days before school, we had one student who applied. By the end of the first day we had five, and by the end of the second day we had eight… Every year we have grown a little bit bigger,” said Joan.

As she spoke about the school and the students there, sharing their stories, tears formed in her eyes.

“Our first year, one of our students had a temper… I went to talk to the mom to figure out what’s going on. She said, ‘I don’t know how to be a parent. Can you help me?’ She had her when she was 15. So, we’re trying,” said Joan.

During the course of our conversation, I witnessed how the teachers manage conflict and discipline. They work to teach the children to self evaluate without raising their voices. “We give them parameters, but also teach them how to think through how they want to make choices in their life and get their needs met without yelling and violence,” said Joan.

“We want them to know Jesus,” she added. “That’s a big part of what parents said they wanted other than a safe environment and a neighborhood school their kids could walk to… And so we talk to them about Jesus. We have a Bible class. Jacquie Vaughan, who used to work at St. Joseph Catholic School and has retired, she is coming in once a week and working with our kids. We do morning prayer, we teach reconciliation and forgiveness… so that it’s not holding grudges and retaliating, which is in the culture these days,” said Joan.

Joan’s experience with the school has been life changing, both for her and her students.

“Our first year we had a student who was seven-years-old and did not know the alphabet, had never heard the song. He didn’t know what to do with letters, but his goal was that he wanted to write his name, oh he wanted to write his name. I didn’t know what to do with him because I had never started with someone that old before who didn’t know letters or sounds,” said Joan.

“I called people I knew who had worked with kids his age and we figured out a new way to do it. I had a volunteer who worked just with him. Now, this is his fourth year here, he can write his name… and he is reading! We had to figure out what his strengths were and work with what we have. … And I know that this is what the Lord is calling us to do – to hang in there and be with the ones who are usually pushed aside because they can’t keep up. … The Lord keeps giving us words of, ‘I was rejected, too. I was yelled at, but love them anyway because I’m there with you,’” she said.

As we walked into the school and through the classrooms, I was greeted by children’s hugs, smiles and “What’s your name? Is that your camera?” It is clear these children know love and kindness and share both openly with all in those school walls.

“This isn’t just school and that’s the end of our lives,” said Joan. “This is a community we’re building.”

The Praise Academy continues to grow each year. It’s funded through donations and volunteers. When I asked Julie what the school needed most to ensure a bright future, she instantly and emphatically replied, “Volunteers!”

For a full list of ways to help or be involved with the school, visit •

Who are the People of Praise?

“A majority of People of Praise members are Catholic, and yet the People of Praise is not a Catholic group. We aim to be a witness to the unity Jesus desires for all his followers. Our membership includes not only Catholics but Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals and nondenominational Christians. What we share is a common baptism, a commitment to love one another and our teachings, which we hold in common.”

From their website,

U.S. Bishops Approved “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”


from the USCCB

BALTIMORE— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved during its November General Assembly, the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.” The full body of bishops approved it by a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to three, with one abstention.

The USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee, chaired by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio, TX, spearheaded the letter’s drafting and guided it through the voting process. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, of Houma-Thibodaux, Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Chair of the Sub-committee on African American Affairs within the Cultural Diversity Committee, issued the following statement:

“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism was created to address the evil of racism in our society and Church, to address the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions, and to support the implementation of the bishops’ pastoral letter on racism.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is a Pastoral Letter from the full body of bishops to the lay faithful and all people of goodwill addressing the evil of racism.

The pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces. The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is not the first time the U.S. Bishops have spoken collectively on race issues in the United States, but it is the first time in almost 40 years.

In 1979, they approved “Brothers and Sisters to Us: A Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day.” Among the many things they discussed was the fact that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” The newly approved “Open Wide Our Hearts” continues the message that “Brothers and Sisters to Us” sought to convey.

The full text, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, are posted at Resources include a bulletin insert, homily help, prayer materials, background information on systemic racism, and activities for primary, secondary, and higher education classroom settings.  •


LaCaze Lagniappe Gala: Celebrating the Life of Monsignor J. Carson LaCaze


by Randy Tiller

Msgr. Carson LaCaze was a force of nature in the Diocese of Shreveport, but in sharp contrast to that dynamic personality, he was also well known to collect various kinds of rabbits  – ceramic rabbits, stuffed rabbits, large rabbits, small rabbits – to add to his vast collection, which continued to grow over the years. He also had an extensive collection of decanters of varying sizes, shapes and contents. This extensive collection of items has been donated by his family to the Diocese of Shreveport to help raise funds to directly benefit the retired priests of our diocese.

In order to make this collection available to as many people as possible, the Diocese of Shreveport and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans are working together to sponsor a LaCaze Lagniappe Gala, a Mardi Gras themed memorial event, where the items will be auctioned off.

The benefits of participating is not in the receiving, but in giving to honor Msgr. LaCaze and, more importantly, to help provide funds for our retired and future retired priests. Everyone is needed and encouraged to participate to make this a success.

Letters asking for table sponsors have been mailed. Notices are appearing in church bulletins. Groups are being asked to sell tickets to the Gala after Masses in several parishes; particularly where Msgr. LaCaze offered his ministry through the years.

Table sponsors levels are: Gold ($5,000), Purple ($3,500), and Green ($1,000), in keeping with the Mardi Gras theme. Individual tickets will be available for purchase for $50 through the Office at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, or at the Catholic Center. Table sponsors will receive exclusive perks, VIP seating and special mementos reminiscent of Msgr. LaCaze, as well as a table hostess at the event. Single event tickets include entrance, food, a drink ticket and a special memento from Msgr. LaCaze. Valet parking will also be available.

The Gala will be held in the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans multi-room on Saturday, February 16, 2019. The auction area and bars will open at 5:30 p.m. with the dining area opening at 6:00 p.m. Drinks and food will be provided throughout the evening.

There will be both a silent and a live auction. In addition to the collections and other memorabilia from Msgr. LaCaze, there will be several items in the auction from Bishop Michael G. Duca and other priests of our diocese.

Many people who knew and loved Msgr. LaCaze are working together to make this event a success. Jan Pou and Fr. Peter Mangum will be the Masters of Ceremonies for the evening and will handle the live auction.

Mary Kay and John Townley, along with the Cathedral staff and the Catholic Center facilities staff, will be responsible for the set-up, tear down and clean up. Other volunteer committee chairpersons are Aaron Wilson, entertainment;  John Mark Willcox, video tribute;  Jessica Rinaudo, publicity and print materials; Connie Sims, auction items; Kim Long, food; Pam Shaughnessy, finances; Jean Cush, volunteers; and Peggy Green, decoration coordination.

Anyone interested in serving on one of these committees should contact Carol Gates at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, or Randy Tiller at the Catholic Center.

Get your tickets NOW! Seating is limited.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Vocations View: Why I Want to Become a Priest


by Seminarian Nicholas Duncan

I am going to let you all in on a little secret: I never wanted to become a priest. When I was a kid, I didn’t dream about wearing brightly colored vestments, preaching homilies, hoisting chalices or blessing pets. I wanted to become a professional athlete, win a gold medal or two, and have lots of money and a beautiful wife. I was told to dream big. I could become whatever I wanted to be. Consequently, these were the goals I pursued in my youth.

Eventually, I had to lower my goals from my childhood fantasies to what was a bit more attainable. I became a good athlete – not “Olympic” level – but pretty good. I realized that happiness does not come from money, so I tossed that goal aside, and I had a beautiful girlfriend. I seemed to be doing well for myself, but I did not feel fulfilled. My focus was on myself and what I wanted: my dreams, my goals, my desires – everything was about me. Never did I stop to ask the Lord what He had planned for me.

I wouldn’t even let the thought of becoming a priest enter my mind until I was 26-years-old. And once I did, I did not tell anyone for over a year. The first person I told was a priest. We told some other priests, and eventually I let my parents know. This small group of people were the only ones who knew for another year.

When I decided I was going to seminary, I was forced to tell people. I had to give them an explanation because I was quitting my job and moving out of my apartment. This secret discernment of priesthood is an obstacle many men face. Part of the problem stems from fear of talking about the priesthood. It is something that is rarely discussed in our churches. When I started to tell people I was thinking about becoming a priest, a feeling of relief came upon me.

Another reason for this fear is that when you tell someone you are planning on becoming a priest, inevitable questions follow. “Why would you want to become a priest?” “You mean the Catholic kind of priest?” “You do know they don’t let you have sex?” “That means you won’t get to have a wife and kids.”

Sex and children are always everyone’s immediate response. I want to shout at them, “Of course I know priests are celibate!” I didn’t know how to respond to these questions. The reaction people have is a product of our sexualized culture and misplaced values.

On a deeper level, this concern stems from the fact that God has designed man and woman for each other. It is natural for a man and a woman to leave their families to unite as one flesh and create a new family. Today the family is under attack. Young adults are rejecting marriage or postponing it. Even worse are those who want to redefine marriage according to the whims of men instead of by the eternal order of God. But I think it is a positive sign that people’s immediate gut response to celibacy is that you won’t get to have a family. Even those who do not believe have this response, showing their natural inclination to the plan God has for them, despite their actions to the contrary.

I, like many people, desired to have a family. All I knew at the time was that I believed it was “possible” for me to become a priest, and that through will power and self-control I could be celibate. Additionally, I had a sense that perhaps I was not called to marriage, but to something else. This feeling is even harder to explain.

I have come to realize that this “something else” is still a type of marriage. This supernatural marriage of the priesthood is in union with Christ, the Bridegroom, and his union through his sacrifice on the cross to his bride the Church. This supernatural union is REAL; this marriage is not a meager metaphor attempting to explain Christ’s love for us. It is an eschatological reality.

This is the marriage I now feel called to. Dating is forbidden at seminary because we are already in a relationship with another: the Holy Mother Church, the Bride of Christ. We are discerning if we are called to this supernatural relationship, and She, “the Church,” is deciding if we are fit to be her spouse.

When I am ordained (God willing) I will not be called reverend or pastor or minister, I will be called father. This name is not an honorary title or a salutation. This spiritual fatherhood is real. Yes, I would like to marry and have children, but I feel an even stronger pull to become a father to young and old alike. This is why I want to become a priest.  •

Vulnerability is a Gift from God


by Katie Sciba

Deep breath, I told myself. Play it cool. I lifted my chin, squared my shoulders, and feigned confidence walking into Sportspectrum. In the few months prior, I took up running as a light hobby and, in time, felt ambitious enough to shoot for a half-marathon; but to go for it, I had to train with the right pair of shoes, and to get the right pair, I had to ask for help. I knew absolutely nothing about brands, fit or types of support for my particular gait. I was in over my head and mortified by my ignorance. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to know I was new; mostly because I felt vulnerable.

“Have y’all had a big rush since the new year?” I made conversation with the employee. “Ha, HUGE. It’s one of our busiest times,” she laughed.  “Yeah I wondered if I had just missed all the Resolution people,” I said, looking at big gaps in the shelf, obviously cleared recently by new athletes born from the new year. Maybe if I laugh about being new, she won’t realize I don’t know what I’m doing, I thought.

So maybe, unlike me, you’re a veteran athlete with the prowess of a cheetah; but we all have some sort of vulnerability that makes us take a step or two back. Understandably, we don’t typically volunteer our shortcomings, wounds and weaknesses – they’re the parts of ourselves we’re not proud of.

In this era of social media, we typically just see the best or most beautiful shots of others’ lives. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for gorgeous Pins on Pinterest, and I’m guilty of losing track of time on Facebook. It’s fun to see and share happiness and beauty, but with just highlights visible, it’s easy to believe that others don’t have the same struggles we do. I for one don’t like feeling uncertain or incapable, so my vulnerabilities aren’t usually out there for the world to see.

Most of us have experienced the fragility of a precious newborn. Defenseless and too weak to raise his head, a baby’s life is entrusted wholly to parents to provide everything from food to love. And it’s in this form that the mightiest being of all, the Lord Himself, came to humanity. Jesus was born vulnerable and He died the same way.

Follow my train of thought for a second: 1) As the all-powerful God, He could have chosen something a bit more impressive than a babe in a manger, but such is His divine nature. God is love and love is vulnerable. 2) Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God, we’re supposed to imitate our Creator. We’re supposed to do the best impression of the Lord that we can; therefore 3) to make ourselves vulnerable, is to imitate the Lord.

Now, the Lord doesn’t exactly have the shortcomings we imperfect people have, so this is by no means a call to cast your fragile pearls carelessly before everyone. I’ve learned in recent years that sharing my vulnerabilities with a precious few, can create a stronger bond with friends, family or even strangers when they echo the same hardships back to me. The “Me too” movement is powerful. It creates understanding, compassion, solidarity and safety all at once, which are most definitely gifts from the Lord.

Whatever your resolutions this year, don’t hesitate to share challenges with one or two trusted souls. You may find that you’re in good company, and you’ll no longer feel alone.

Administering in a Climate of Transition and Church Crisis


by Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum, Diocesan Administrator

I was standing at the corner of Peacock Lane and Southgates in Leicester, UK, having just visited the recently excavated burial site of King Richard III (found underneath a parking lot) when I learned via email on June 26, 2018, of the news of the impending transfer of Bishop Michael Duca to Baton Rouge. (Receiving significant news has a way of imprinting the time and place on one’s consciousness). I knew the 10 priests of the diocese that form our College of Consultors would need to select a diocesan administrator to run the diocese until the arrival of a new bishop, our third for the Diocese of Shreveport. As a matter of fact, from the time of the retirement of Bishop Friend until the announcement of Bishop Duca, we were without a bishop for 17 months. This inter regnum is a time without any major innovations meant to tie up any loose ends and to prepare the diocese for our next Shepherd. Little did I know that that task would soon fall to me.

On my way home, while in the Atlanta airport, Terminal D Gate 26, I learned of the death of Msgr. Carson LaCaze, a second date and place stamped on my memory. A few days later, I preached the funeral homily for the priest who gave me First Holy Communion, who was my pastor at my first priest assignment at St. Mary the Pines Parish, and for whom I served as pastor the last 12 years of his ministry and life.

Only three weeks later we learned that Archbishop McCarrick, already removed from public ministry for credible allegations of sexual abuse, had resigned from the College of Cardinals – the first time such a thing had happened in the Catholic Church since 1927. That was July 27, and I heard the news as I was sitting at my desk in my Cathedral office. The grand jury report from Pennsylvania investigating sexual abuse of minors by priests was made public shortly thereafter, on August 14.

I vividly recall Bishop Duca sitting in the cathedra, installed as the sixth Bishop of Baton Rouge on August 24 at 2:35pm, a significant date as the College of Consultors of Shreveport needed to meet within eight days of that event to elect a diocesan administrator. That same evening, an 11- page bombshell of a letter from the former apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Viganò, was released, alleging the cover-up of the activities of Archbishop McCarrick and ultimately asking for the resignation of Pope Francis.

The fifth of a series of five homilies based on John, chapter 6, on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and explaining parts of the Mass, was quickly shelved for a future date. I urgently needed my parishioners to hear, not from the media, but from me, their pastor, of my disgust related to this horrifying sex abuse crisis the Church was facing, yet again, and on the cover ups by many bishops.

The transfer of our bishop, the loss of my associate and friend, the grand jury report, the news surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, the explosive letter of the former nuncio, and my urgent homily: this was the context in which I was chosen to administer our diocese. It was as if the water had reached boiling point and I was thrown in.

Within the week of my acceptance of this position, the USCCB informed me of two November meetings I needed to calendar: the USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore of this year, and the November ad limina meetings in Rome of 2019, in case no new bishop had been appointed by that time. I also learned that as a diocesan administrator, I would have the same vote as any bishop present. I was given a password to access the BishopsOnly website, and that’s when hundreds of emails and letters flooded my inbox and mailbox, mostly to prepare me for the historical, monumental vote to take place at the November gathering of this country’s bishops (and those equivalent to them in law, like diocesan administrators).

As I prepared for the meeting, security concerns began to mount. Three times the number of media outlets were credentialed to cover this momentous meeting; the world would be watching this historical event.

The conversation during my first evening of the meeting centered on one thing only – the vote of the century: on “Standards of Episcopal Conduct” and the proposal to set up a “Special Commission for Review of Complaints Against Bishops.” I participated in a two-and-a-half hour long dinner presentation and discussion for new bishops specifically on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults, given by the professionals of the USCCB and the National Review Board. Others bishops were in their respective committee meetings, many having begun two days earlier, participating in plenty of behind the scenes meetings and activities.

The first day of the General Assembly was set: we would take care of some formalities then enter the Day of Prayer, hearing what would be very moving presentations by two victims of sexual abuse by priests, as well as talks related to the call to bishops to shepherd after the Heart of the Good Shepherd. Everything would culminate with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with the most providential, unbelievably apropos of readings to be proclaimed worldwide: Titus’ exhortation on a bishop “as God’s steward… blameless, not arrogant, … temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled… [called] to exhort with sound doctrine…”  And Jesus telling His disciples:  “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur…  If your brother sins, rebuke him… And the Apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” Archbishop Hebda was sure to give a great homily.

Chimes rang to get us all to our seats for the prompt beginning of the General Assembly. First, we prayed, commemorating the feast of a bishop martyred for his tirelessly laboring for the unity of the Church, St. Josaphat. Then came the special announcement from the Holy See, delivered by the clearly rattled president of the USCCB: “At the insistence of the Holy See” the American bishops would have to delay the vote on the proposed action items on the agenda for some time, until after the February 2019 Vatican summit of all the presidents of bishops conferences worldwide. This watershed moment in the life of the Church was now delayed, for the apparent fear that this one bishops’ conferences taking such bold and needed steps could affect the whole Church.

I wanted to slam my fist down on the table! Time and place indelibly stamped on my consciousness, yet again. What was up? Does Rome not recognize the urgency of the moment with our people crying out for action? One bishop near me said it felt “like a punch in the gut.” Even the cardinal leading us said he was deeply disappointed by the news he had received the day before.  Another said: “If Francis wanted to unite us, he just found the way to do it” – through common anger and disappointment.

Catholics are angry and losing patience. I know my parishioners are.  In the midst of the meeting, several texted their frustration: “The Holy Father’s record on this was weak in Chile, and then in Honduras, and now in the United States. This is a bit like telling the paramedics to stand aside until a real doctor can arrive at the scene.”

Another simply wrote: “Unforced error” later writing, “The crisis will decimate the Church in the United States for generations to come if the episcopacy does not immediately take decisive action. Even the most faithful Catholics will not support an institution that accommodates and protects sexual predators. I will not.”

A third texted: “The bishops don’t realize how impatient and disgusted guys like me are. It’s a fine line before we are lost.” There was the clear sense from parishioners that nothing meaningful will come from Baltimore or Rome in February. All the bishops were very aware that the world outside was livid!

Over the next two days, bishop after bishop expressed grave concern, on the assembly floor and in interviews outside, desiring to get a strong message to the Vatican of the urgency of reform and needed action regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Everyone knows that the stakes for the February meeting have been raised and must result in universal, global action.

In his closing statement, Cardinal DiNardo said: “Brothers, I opened the meeting expressing some disappointment. I end it with hope… that the Church be purified and that our efforts bear fruit… We leave this place committed to taking the strongest possible actions at the earliest possible moment. We will do so in communion with the Universal Church. 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.  But our hope for true and deep reform ultimately lies in more than excellent systems, as essential as these are. It requires holiness: the deeply held conviction of the truths of the Gospel, and the eager readiness to be transformed by those truths in all aspects of life.

Even in this disappointment and pain, the Church is the only one founded by Jesus Christ, reflecting for us all the glory of Creation, yet all the corruption of the Fall. The light of truth always shines, and no darkness can overcome it. With the long view afforded by history, the Church has deeply experienced that Jesus never claimed the gates of hell would not encroach on the Church; only that they would never prevail against it. I will never – in any way – minimize the present pain and crisis, but this is not new as we know who prowls about this world. Yet in every age, God raises up reformers to challenge evil, and this time we inhabit is no different.

Being in the thick of things these past months has already affected the way I pray. I am grateful for the support I have received from the priests of our diocese as well as many lay people. As one wrote from Monroe, during the final day of the General Assembly: “You did not choose the Church abuse scandal. But you were chosen to face it.” I face it for and with all in our diocese. I minister, not in a Church I would prefer, but in the Church as I find it. I have not lost the sense of outrage at the abuse crisis and cover-ups, nor do I wish that for anyone. We must be about real reform in the Church as we find her in our individual parishes. We must take seriously Christ’s call to holiness, starting with our bishops and 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.

One of the sexual abuse victims who earlier addressed the conference, summed up her experience saying: “A surprising aspect for me when speaking at the Conference was how utterly pained the bishops are about Church-wide suffering over abuse.”  There is no doubting that.

O Antiphons


by Kim Long

After 18 years of working for the Church, I have deemed Advent the season of quiet desperation. Our Church tells us to be reflective and prepare, while secular society is already booming about Christmas, the season following Advent.

The O Antiphons are not really well known among many of my Catholic friends and co-workers until I reference the easily recognized Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” With genuine relief they say “Oh right, yes I know that song.” But those prayers hold so much more for us.

It is at this moment in our “brand new year,” that the “O’s” offer us a bridge from the last few days of Advent into the Christmas season – a bridge from the wreath with four candles, all in different heights due to the celebratory “burn” of the previous weeks observance, to the stable. They bring us from promise to fulfillment, leaving behind the frenzied rush, offering instead the opportunity to stay connected to the anticipation of Christ’s birth. And if we “bridge the gap,” we can live out those last few days of Advent with some semblance of peace rather than greeting Christmas Eve and midnight Mass with sheer exhaustion, or even worse, with the silent battle cry, that “it will be over soon and life can get back to normal.”

History: The “Great O’s,” as they are called, have been around since roughly the sixth century. Prayed in the octave of Advent from December 17 though 23, they precede the recitation of the Magnificat during Vespers. By the eighth century they were regularly used in Rome. Although they have been used more in monastic settings, the laity has full access to these prayers, both in private devotion (there is an O Antiphon chaplet) and publicly during Vespers.

Meaning: An antiphon is a verse or psalm to be sung responsively. They have a dual meaning. First that each of these antiphons is a title of the Messiah, and secondly they point us toward Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. They also form a Latin acrostic, “Ero Cras” meaning “tomorrow I will come.” Acrostics are formed by using the first letters in a sequence of phrases.

Practice: What would our Christmas wish list look like if we, as adults, really gave some thought to what we are asking of God? After all, don’t we want what we ask for? Don’t we ask for what we want? In these prayers we are asking for, waiting for, hoping for the Messiah to come. What would that look like? How would He arrive? Would we recognize Him?

O Sapienta, O Wisdom

“Come with outstretched arms and redeem us.”

In the year 2000, I was working in my first church parish. The pastor ordered an exquisite statue of Mary and the child Jesus. The beauty of it overtook me; it was beyond any I had seen in a religious article. I asked him what “version” of Mary this was, and he told me “Seat of Wisdom,” Sedes Sapentiae in Latin.

She lived on my work desk for a time, and when I gazed upon her serene face I would be calmed almost at once. This came in particularly handy when our office handled calls for Christmas baskets. Each time I began to feel frustrated, there she was, seeming to tell me my heart should not be troubled. And miraculously, it wasn’t. According to Webster’s, wisdom is defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. Each day I am presented with situations, and approached by people who need answers. Be it my own family or my church family, I am so aware that my wisdom isn’t sufficient but God’s is.

O Adonai, O Lord 

“Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us.”

One of the definitions of redeem is “to free from what distresses or harms us.”  In an adult education class given years ago by the Greco Institute, our instructor told us “God is God and I am not and I am glad.” On the surface this sounds like a pithy, almost silly remark, but it is something I have considered since I first heard it. I have a friend who suffers from different levels of anxiety about nearly everything. When she asked me why I thought this was, my answer was rooted in this remark. She was not opposed to belief in God and religious practice, she was simply “unchurched.” I told her that if I had to believe everything, every decision, action, outcome depended only on me and not on God, I would probably be just as anxious as she is. She looked at me quite intently over her coffee cup and said, “You may be right, but how do I begin?” I shared the teacher’s statement with her and that sparked a genuine conversation, a true seeking of information, not just a platitude filled coffee klatch.

O Radix, O Root of Jesse

“Come and save us, and do not delay.”

Root has several definitions, but here is one worth considering: the unseen part which anchors and supports. My rootedness is something I need to reconnect with regularly. A few years ago I just “didn’t feel Catholic,” or in my estimation, not “Catholic enough.” These moments happen to us all. I longed for the feeling I had as a new Catholic where every piece of the Church’s vast history seemed like a newly discovered gemstone that I alone had mined. Every new piece of doctrine seemed like the missing piece, and now I was more complete, whole. None of those feelings were resonating with me. It seemed I had lost touch (temporarily) with my origin. I grudgingly returned to practices I didn’t “feel” like doing, ones I hadn’t thought of in years, in an attempt to reconnect. Slowly I made my way to a new feeling of connection; a path paved with things I knew to be true regardless of the “feeling” involved. In this moment I realized that my faith is not predicated on feelings alone, rather it is rooted in truth and love.

O Clavis of David, O Key of David

“Come and deliver the one from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

A metal instrument by which a bolt is turned is the common definition of the word key. This holds special resonance when I am in a new place, one that I do not really want to be in. There is a situation that I know God has given me, a lesson I now see is intended to unlock a part of me I had no wish to see, much less examine. It is here in the waning darkness that I ask the Messiah, the anointed one, Christ, to thaw my frozen heart, to turn the bolt, for deliverance.

O Oriens, O Rising Dawn

“Come enlighten those who sit in darkness.”

Dawn has a lesser known definition: to begin to appear or develop and to begin to be perceived or understood. The saying “things will seem clearer in the morning,” appears to be rooted here. At the end of a horrible day my one enduring thought surfaces, “I never have to live through this day again.” When I think of my ability to understand our faith and God’s love, I often feel as though I am peeling away the unending layers of an onion. The adage of not being able to stand in the same river twice applies here. We are always changing, growing, even if we go two steps forward and one step back. As a result, we are always peeling away the layers to get to, as Matthew Kelly speaks of, the best version of ourselves. We seek the light.

O Rex Gentium, O King of the Nations

“Come and save poor man, whom you fashion out of clay.”

When my sons were young we lived on a farm whose soil I called “hateful.” There was so much clay in the soil that when wet, it seemed to be slimy, and when dry, it cracked open so much that there were places I could set my entire foot inside. It seemed, like humanity, to have a mind of its own. The boys would often come home so covered in this slime that I would make them strip down to their underwear and wash off with a hose before coming in the house to bathe – otherwise the bathtub would not drain. This picture of childhood serves as a great illustration of my own willfulness. While a water hose no longer suffices, this prayer does.

O Emmanuel

“Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

I cannot remember when I first heard the somber refrain of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I do remember where; in the living room of a small house on Ash Street, the street where I grew up. My mother played stacks and stacks of Christmas recordings on her “hi-fi.” They were wonderful, scratchy teachers. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” was one such lesson brought to us by volume two of Firestone Presents, a series of Christmas recordings. The tone of the music, its minor key sound covering me like a blanket, was something my soul seemed to need, to recognize, and it was here that they were imprinted in me. It was here that my gratitude for salvation was born. It is these prayers that help that gratitude grow.

May your Advent and these antiphons lead you into the light of the star, the warmth of the stable, and the miracle of love.

Find Harmony This Holiday Season


by Kelly Phelan Powell

Since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of the perfect family Christmas morning. My handsome husband and I would spring, totally refreshed, from bed when our beautiful children awoke us with shouts of delight at their surprises from Santa Claus. We would sit, all of us together in our matching Land’s End pajamas, and sip cocoa in front of a roaring fire. The children would fully comprehend (because Fantasy Husband and I are model Catholic parents, you see) that Christmas Day is not just about Santa Claus, toys and turkey but instead celebrates the birth of our Savior. Spending the day with our entire combined families, all of whom adore each other and get along perfectly at all times, would give us even more reason to praise God on this beautiful Christmas morning that would never, ever be 78 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

Except for the handsome husband and beautiful children, not one of our eight Christmas mornings together have even remotely resembled my quixotic Dream Christmas. (And I have loved each and every one of them more than I ever thought possible.)

Unrealistic expectations are just one source of stress at the holidays. Emotions run high, and even the smallest slights can become A Very Big Deal Indeed. Old family grudges, politics, religion and even child rearing are landmine conversation topics at big family gatherings. And then, of course, there are far more serious matters between family members that could include physical, psychological or sexual abuse, domestic violence, racism and bigotry. Combined, these factors make holidays into anxiety-ridden nightmares for many people.

“Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive,” says St. Paul in Colossians 3:13, but that can seem impossible when you can’t even have a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner together.

As Catholic Christians, we’re called to build strong families, and there are some things you can do, at the holidays or any time, to help smooth family interactions so that peace and love have a chance to take root and grow. Dr. Brandi Patton, an adult psychiatrist in the public sector/government in Birmingham, AL, shared some advice for less stressful family gatherings.

1. Limit alcohol. 

We may joke about needing a stiff drink when times get tough (or Uncle Lester starts pontificating about politics), but alcohol can make things significantly worse. “Too much alcohol can lead to disinhibition and send conversations in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Patton.

2. Manage expectations and acknowledge anxiety.

“Practice self-care,” said Dr. Patton. “Know your limits – don’t invite 100 people if you only have space for 20 or a budget for 10. Communicate your needs; don’t expect others to read your mind or know [what you need] instinctively. Lower your expectations. Allow yourself to accept the holiday gathering or event as it actually is, not as you want it to be or thought it would or could be. Spend time alone before or after if that’s something you know you need. Try not to over-schedule yourself, and allow for a different definition of success.” In other words, focus on “We ate dinner together and everyone was satisfied,” rather than “We didn’t have a five-star, four-course meal served on China with silver.”

3. Use humor. 

Dr. Patton suggested a joke followed by a quick subject change to something you know the other person likes or is interested in: “I’ve started my New Year’s resolutions early – and one of them is giving up talking about politics! Have you been taking your boat out a lot?”

4. Take a break. 

“Take a bathroom or other break,” said Dr. Patton. “Or say you need to check the turkey. Seriously! This can be really helpful to rearrange the conversational groups and change the mood.”

5. Have a code word. 

“Agree with your significant other or another close family member or friend ahead of time that you will ‘rescue’ each other if you anticipate a particularly problematic issue with a certain relative,” said Dr. Patton. “You serve as each other’s ‘wingman’ who can request assistance in the kitchen or whatever makes sense for the two of you.”

6. Save complex topics for another time.

If a family member brings up a sensitive subject on which you know (or strongly suspect) you fundamentally disagree, Dr. Patton suggested, say something like “I’d really like to talk about that later when we have more time and privacy,” and then move on to another topic. If they press the issue, politely point out that you have feelings as strong as theirs, but out of respect for the holiday (and the host), you’d rather discuss such a serious topic another day.

7. Know your limits.

Nearly everyone knows that family member or friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who spouts off offensively about whatever topic is at hand. Dr. Patton suggested a firm but civil response like, “I don’t insult members of other races/cultures/religions/etc., and I expect the same of others while they’re in my home.” As a last resort, “if the person will not drop the subject or suggests violence, you may need to kindly but firmly ask them to leave,” she said. “Always consider safety first and contact authorities for assistance if a dangerous situation seems to be developing.”

May we all experience peace and joy this holiday season. But if you can’t find peace, at least try to find humor. We may never have the ridiculously perfect holidays of our dreams, but thanks to Jesus, joy is always within reach.

Fitzgerald Named Outstanding Philanthropist


by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

On November 7, 2018, the Association of Fundraising Professionals North Louisiana Chapter hosted their 27th Annual National Philanthropy Day awards luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bossier City. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) was there to support this year’s recipient for Outstanding Philanthropist: Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald is the immediate past president of the CCNLA board of directors and has served on the board since 2013. She has additionally supported our organization with personal donations in the eight years since Catholic Charities began its mission to serve the poor and vulnerable in North Louisiana.

It is because her many years of service to the Shreveport/Bossier community, and especially for her outstanding work at Catholic Charities that CCNLA Executive Director, Meg Goorley, nominated Fitzgerald for this prestigious honor.

“Because of her gentle demeanor, most people don’t know what a powerhouse she is,” Goorley said. “Martha Fitzgerald is the most remarkable, ordinary person I’ve met.”

Such sentiments couldn’t ring more true. Her community service contributions are impressive and extensive. Before her work with CCNLA, Fitzgerald served as a board member, a committee member or held office for LSU Health Sciences Center Foundation-Shreveport, the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences Visiting Committee for Loyola University, the Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation, Louisiana Press Women, National Federation of Press Women and the Leadership Council for Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves as a board member of Pet Pantry of Northwest Louisiana, a committee member of River Cities Network for business women, and serves as lector and minister of care at the Cathedral of
St. John Berchmans.

She has been a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Network of Shreveport since its founding. Through that program, Fitzgerald participates in the selection of grants for organizations such as Step Forward, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Volunteers for Youth Justice, Caddo Parish Transformation Zone, Caddo Parish School Board, LSU Shreveport Foundation and Biomedical Research Foundation.

Not only has Fitzgerald made a lasting impact on the community within the non-profit sector, but in her professional career as well. Fitzgerald, a former journalist, is an author, editor and independent publisher. She owns Little Dove Press LLC, Martha Fitzgerald Consulting, LLC and manages Holoubek Family, LLC.

She is a former columnist and associate editorial page editor for The Shreveport Times. In fact, she held several editor positions while at The Times and did her share of special assignments for Gannett as well.

A graduate of the 100th class of St. Vincent’s Academy in Shreveport, Fitzgerald earned her Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University, her Master’s degree from Louisiana Tech University and holds a Certificate of Advanced Biblical Studies from the University of Dallas.

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana could not be more proud or honored to have been a part of Fitzgerald’s legacy of service.