Category Archives: Features

Diocese Welcomes Fr. Mangum as Administrator


by Jessica Rinaudo

On Monday, August 27, following the installation of Bishop Michael Duca as the 6th Bishop of Baton Rouge, the Diocese of Shreveport’s College of Consultors, a group of 11 priests, convened to elect a diocesan administrator. The diocesan administrator is a priest who will oversee diocesan operations until the appointment of a new bishop by the Vatican.

Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum was elected to the position. Fr. Mangum received his seminary education from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas before attending North American College in Rome where he obtained degrees in Sacred Theology and in Canon Law. Ordained in 1990, Fr. Mangum has served as Judicial Vicar and has been pastor of the parishes of St. Paul in Minden, St. Joseph in Shreveport, and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, where he currently serves as Rector.

“I am grateful to my brother priests for their confidence in me to govern the diocese until we get a new bishop,” said Fr. Mangum. “This is an additional opportunity to serve, and I am grateful for the prayerful support of the people of the diocese and of the assistance offered to me by my brother priests and by the Cathedral staff. There is something inspiring about knowing the third Bishop of Shreveport is out there working in the Church, so it makes our prayers very concrete as I strive to maintain and prepare the diocese for him. Join me in praying for him in his pursuit of holiness and for his zeal for and love of the Church as Jesus Christ founded it.”

From Fr. Rothell Price’s article in the August Catholic Connection:

“The diocesan administrator enjoys the power of the diocesan bishop, with the exception of a few things; for example, he cannot ordain a bishop, priest, or deacon because he is not bishop. He can, however, invite a bishop to come to the diocese to preside over an ordination. Likewise, he cannot preside at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Again, he would have to recruit a bishop from outside our diocese to come preside at that Mass.”

He continued, “The diocesan administrator is forbidden to do anything against the rights of the diocese or those of the in-coming bishop. He is prohibited from removing or changing documents of the diocesan curia. During his administration nothing is to be altered or changed in the diocese. These rules are in place to ensure stability and tranquility in the diocese until the new bishop arrives. The diocesan administrator is obliged to live in the diocese and ensure Mass for the people of the diocese. His responsibilities end when the new bishop takes possession of the diocese.”

Fr. Mangum hit the ground running in his new role. With the support of his brother priests, he announced a diocesan prayer vigil for reparation and petition in the face of the Church’s sex abuse crisis that was held on Friday, September 14, at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Fr. Mangum also coordinated the distribution of the letter of Archbishop Gregory Aymond sent to all parishes of the Diocese of Shreveport regarding the same crisis and has drafted and published a prayer for a new bishop for the Diocese of Shreveport.

Domestic Church: Help Us, Lord! We’re Sinking!


by Katie Sciba

My friend texted me, “Pleading for prayers for my husband,” she began, “All these scandals in the Church have shaken him up and he’s got one foot out the door of the Church.” Unfortunately it wasn’t the only message like this I received. Another friend called upset saying she knew an abuse victim in a diocese out of state; still another said her dear friend and favorite priest was removed from ministry to be investigated.

The present crisis in the Catholic Church is like a cancer; some way or another, it touches all of us in the Body of Christ.

My emotions have run all over the place: anger, disbelief, deep sadness, fear for what will happen to the remaining faithful. At times I’m sure that whatever the future holds, all will be well for the Church that’s been protected for 2,000+ years by the Holy Spirit; however, I have moments when my confidence is more like the disciples’ caught in a storm on the sea, “Help us, Lord! We’re sinking!”

Though the Lord lay sleeping, wasn’t He there with His frightened friends? While the scandals rock the Church at large, Jesus remains; only now the vessel caught in upheaval is the universal Catholic community, and Christ is still, yet present in the Eucharist.

I was in the grocery store when a young man, a stranger to me, approached and invited me to his church’s Bible study. Smiling, I declined saying I was already in one. His friendly expression fell when I told him I was Catholic. He was quick to ask if I had seen the news lately, and he reminded me of the deeply-rooted and widespread scandal in my Church. “You have to be looking for a new church home. How can you stay Catholic?” he asked, almost to himself. “I’m Catholic because of Jesus,” I replied.

God moves and loves us through others – especially through the leaders in our Church; still, though leaders fall or fail, though we may lose faith in people, it’s paramount that we keep our faith in Christ, who is after all, the very reason any of us are Catholic.

And in any moment when we struggle to trust in God’s wisdom, think back. Not only has He upheld the Catholic Church as a whole, He’s upheld us in personally trying circumstances. Psalm 143 says, “I muse on what your hand has wrought” — how has the Lord outstretched His hand and given grace the very minute we need it? How has He supported us each when we’re burdened? A mother of a young abuse victim told me that it was reading scripture, especially the words of Jesus, that kept her and her family in Mass.

The epic drama within the Catholic Church will not likely conclude quickly, but we can allow ourselves to be still and know God, who has forever upheld the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so. We can proceed bravely into the unknown armed with hope and certainty in the Eucharist. Above all we have to pray, offer sacrifices in the day, and penance for victims of abuse, for conversions of abusers, for faithful priests and laity to support the truth with humility and peace.

Ruston Catholic Received French Legion of Honor


by John Mark Willcox

There is always a first time for everything when you work for the Church and I had a first time experience recently when I conducted my first interview with an centenarian. Robert “Bob” Hurtig is now awaiting his 101st birthday and he has less grey hair than I do within my mere 59 years of life!

There are many amazing things about the life Bob has led since he was born in Cincinnati, OH, in 1917. He grew up an active Catholic and served as a eucharistic minister prior to joining the armed forces in January of 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent time at several bases in the south and was scheduled to board the famous French passenger liner Normandie for passage to Europe. Before that could happen, the Normandie was resting on the bottom of the Hudson River in New York due to what was reported at the time as a severe fire that broke out on deck. “That is not really what happened,” offers Bob. “The truth is that a German U-boat snuck up the Hudson River and torpedoed that ship before the United States could use it. The officials didn’t want that story to get out so they created the fire story.”

Bob ended up being part of the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier navigator assigned to the famous “flying fortress” which was of course the B-17. “We made bombing runs in France, Germany, Austria and Norway,” recalls Bob, as his still sharp mind recounts his years in combat. “I was quick then, and I’m quick today!” he proclaims with a broad and infectious smile.

Bob Hurtig was part of the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier navigator assigned to a B-17 during WWII.

Some of his bombing targets included chemical plants, factories, a buzz bomb launching platform and submarine pens housing deadly U-Boats. All of these missions resulted in a literal shirt full of medals and commendations for Bob, including the French Legion of Honor medal. “After one successful mission I was told that I was to be promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and slated to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. I was never promoted to Captain and I am still waiting on that medal!”

Bob flew his last mission in April of 1945 and looks back with a large degree of sadness on his involvement with the war. “I lost approximately 87 good friends during World War II. When we were flying in formation on bombing runs you would many times see our planes going down in flames. With a B-17, that’s 10 good men you lost with each plane shot down.”

I asked about his prayer life during the war and Bob offered “If you weren’t good at praying when you arrived in the European Theatre, you sure learned how to pray real quick.”

Returning to America, Bob had a successful career in New Orleans working in the wine, liquor and beer industry before moving to Ruston to be close to his only child, Dr. Dolliann Hurtig who is a professor at Louisiana Tech University. He has been a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ruston since 1993.

When asked about the secret to living one hundred years, Bob’s advice is straightforward and simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and don’t let politics or people ever convince you that the Lord God is not the most important thing in your life!”

From Atheism to Seminary: Meet the Diocese’s Newest Seminarian


by Jessica Rinaudo

When you think of candidates for the Catholic priesthood, the word “atheist” likely never crosses your mind, but the Diocese of Shreveport’s newest seminarian, Francis Genusa, used that term to describe his life during many of his high school years.

“I was an atheist, or at least agnostic, and I didn’t really put much stock into Catholicism or anything at that time. I never really thought about my faith in a deep way, and so I pulled away from it… I got into looking into Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and other great thinkers who I still respect,” Francis said. “But I got into them and just thought it was reasonable not to be faithful, that God didn’t exist, and that all that was something that made people feel good and, not that I didn’t want to feel good or fulfilled as a person, I just thought that you didn’t have to have God to feel good… and that’s partly where my search picked up, I was trying to find fulfillment.”

“I was always that kid who argued so much in class, but our youth minister was a pretty smart guy. He argued with me and I met my match. So I had to do investigation and I had to do digging, and that led me to the seminary because of all those questions.”

And when Francis says it led him to the seminary, he means that quite literally. While in high school, he attended a “Come and See” event at St. Joseph seminary in south Louisiana.

“I had gone to seminary with the mind set that I wanted to talk to these people and figure out those arguments; throw those arguments at them and see what bounced off. But really what bounced off was faith,” Francis said.

During the weekend-long event, he was encouraged by a friend to go and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament.

“As I prayed, I said, ‘If you’re real and you’re not just a piece of bread on a stick, then nothing’s really more important than that.’ And it was a weird kind of epiphany. I started saying things in my mind that were incredulous … Like, ‘If you are the center of the universe, God of everything, the Creator … there really isn’t anything more important.’ And that’s really where the light kind of turned back on.”

Francis attended the Come and See events three times. And what began as a faith life full of incredulity, quickly grew into what Francis describes as a “mountain of faith.” He investigated St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for God, and it just, as he says, “clicked into my mind. ”

But even finding his faith again, the leap from atheism to discerning priesthood is a large one.

While at St. Frederick High School, Francis was critical of the Mass and he and former youth director, Mark Loyet, often talked about it and all aspects of the faith. “And one day he just asked me ‘Why do you care so much? Why do you come in here and keep trying to berate me about it?’ And I said ‘I don’t know.’”

Several weeks later, Fr. Keith Garvin, chaplain at St. Frederick’s at the time, talked to Francis after Mass and asked him if he had ever thought about a vocation. Francis’ immediate response was not positive.

“What a vocation?! Priesthood?! No… But then it started to settle in, and I started to think about it, and I thought, ‘Well, gee, this is important for some reason. Why?’ So I just started to feel it and it got a lot more real. … Mark Loyet had been in touch over the summer and he called Father Jerry [Diocesan Vocations Director] and we had a conversation. That’s when I knew.”

His discernment process has bloomed since then. Francis began attending St. Matthew Parish in Monroe, and has become very involved with the church, so much so that he was eventually hired on as their administrative assistant.

“I think the most impact on my vocation is being in the presence of the church and being in the presence of the priest,” said Francis. “And I’ve been with Fr. Mark [Franklin] so much, not only at the church, but we’ve also gone to eat and spent a lot of time together. That time has enriched me because a lot of what people think about the priesthood or religious life, in general, they don’t see it, and they can’t feel it. … I didn’t know what seminary was like, I thought they just went into a cave and prayed, but, no, they’re people. They live and they live even better than us.”

Francis began attending seminary at St. Joseph Seminary on August 10.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat: Post-Abortive Healing


by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward. . . there is hope for your future. (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

The Diocese of Shreveport is glad to announce the reintroduction of Rachel’s Vineyard retreat ministry. Janice Gonzales and her dedicated team of ministers conducted Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in the diocese from 2006 to 2008. Team members today acknowledge that they carry this ministry forward upon the firm, yet grace-filled foundation laid by their predecessors.

Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreats help women and men to heal in the painful aftermath of abortion. Exercises, scripture and ritual, combined with opportunities to share and listen, allow participants to work through emotions of anger, shame, guilt and grief on their journey to finding forgiveness and reconciliation and hope.

Over 60 million abortions have occurred since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Many people have been impacted by abortion, not just the mother and father of the aborted child, but their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, even clinic staff. Rachel’s Vineyard retreats give everyone a starting point to begin their healing journey.

The next Rachel’s Vineyard retreat will be October 26-28, 2018. Please call 318 588-1064 for information, or visit the website at

Absolute confidentiality is maintained by team members and participants prior to, during and following a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Spanish will be scheduled in the near future.

St. John Paul II: “I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision… If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. … You can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.” – Evangelium Vitae, 1999.

His Presence & Prayers Saved My Daughter’s Life


by Susan Flanagan

On a hot Saturday this past July, the local abortion clinic’s parking lot was filled with cars, business as usual getting underway there. On average, 60-70 babies are aborted at Hope Medical Group in Shreveport each week. But this day, the clinic sidewalk was the site of a special reunion between a mother, her child and the man whose prayers helped save her baby from being aborted there seven years ago.

Amy Blackwell of east Texas shared her story on Facebook earlier this year, about her “almost abortion.” She was, as she recounted, hopeless, far away from God, and not making good decisions in her life. She drove herself to Hope Medical Group for her initial consultation in April 2011, and she noticed a “little old man standing on the curb, praying the rosary.” Amy said he kept looking at her and she instantly knew that he was praying for her and her baby. She sat in her car a long time, alone and afraid, while he continued praying — they never spoke to each other, but his presence and prayers changed her life.

She finally went into the clinic for her consultation. Looking back now, Amy says she is amazed how Satan can package sin to make it sound so good. The reassuring abortion pamphlets stated that some people are just not ready to have children, financially or emotionally, which sounds plausible – until you stop to realize that their “logical solution” then is to kill those children. The abortionist asked her if she had kids already, which she did have two; he then pronounced that two was enough and he scheduled her abortion. “Someone will need to drive you home afterwards,” he added.

The friend enlisted to drive with her knew Amy was making a big mistake, and spent the better part of the drive from east Texas reminding her that God had a plan for this baby. Finally, as Amy puts it, she “came to her senses” and knew she could not proceed with the abortion. In her Facebook story, she tearfully adds, “I want to say to that little man standing on the curb, thank you because I know you were praying for me. I don’t know who you are, but I know prayers are powerful, and I won’t ever forget you. You are in my head and my heart for the rest of my life.”

Local 40 Days for Life Coordinator Chris Davis saw Amy’s Facebook post and contacted her, saying that he knew who that “little old man with the rosary” was and did Amy want to meet him? Needless to say, she jumped at the chance! Chris then called Mr. Camille Brocato and lined up the July meeting for mother, daughter and prayer warrior on the same abortion clinic sidewalk where their paths crossed seven years earlier.

Brocato has been praying the rosary his entire life, ever since he was around 10 years old. He was never involved in any pro-life activities or groups, but when he was 80 years old, he felt a call to pray the rosary at the abortion clinic with the VITA group on the first Saturday of the month. He later began to go every Saturday, but felt the Blessed Mother wanted more. Finally, he began to show up at the clinic every day, praying the rosary and handing out brochures and his hand-made rosaries to everyone he could. In the course of eight years of daily prayer at the clinic, rain or shine, hot or cold, he has given away over 3,000 rosaries. He would be there still, but finally had to stop because of hip surgery and health issues.

Brocato has a treasure trove of stories of encounters, both good and bad, during those eight years, but few have brought him greater joy than meeting Amy and her 7-year-old daughter, Emma Grace. He gives all the credit for positive outcomes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying that he just puts the rosaries in people’s hands and then “Our Lady works on them!” Over time, several people who had originally heckled him have returned with changed hearts and asked for more rosaries.

And when he finally met Emma Grace in July? He gave her a big hug, a few peppermints, and of course, a bag of rosaries! •

Money School Gives Value to Those in Need


by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

It’s 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday at Catholic Charities and the lobby is filled with people waiting to attend the Money School, the weekly financial literacy class. There is a sense of anxiety and hope as they wait for the class to begin, the first step in the process of potentially receiving financial assistance for rent or utility bills.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

Since 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has been “teaching people to fish” through its financial education class, the Money School. The nonprofit financial education program’s attendance reached a record number of 1,600 students in the past fiscal year. The Money School has evolved into a two-hour class offered on a weekly basis, followed by a “needs” assessment and personal financial coaching sessions with CCNLA case managers. It is mandatory that all clients who seek financial help for rent or utilities must attend the Money School in order to be considered for assistance. Class size in Shreveport is limited to 30 people per week and clients can only be considered for assistance once every 24 months.

The premise of the Money School is to help clients review their current spending habits and evaluate their “financial leaks” – habits that may drain their resources and leave little money to cover the basics (rent, food and utilities) – in order to make smarter money decisions. The Shreveport Money School is taught by CCNLA’s case managers, Carl Piehl and Joe Bulger, who work hard to make the class relatable and informative.

Piehl, who has been with the Money School since its beginning, teaches the class with enthusiasm. He describes the evolution of the Money School as “a living laboratory that experimented with new ideas, new approaches, new source material and media to connect powerfully with our clients.”

Clients in the class are pre-tested and post-tested for financial literacy. Scoring indicates a 40% improvement on a consistent basis, with many who have attended the class reporting that it has been a life changing experience for them.

The Money School can be defined as the beginning of the journey of financial capability, stability and ultimately the accomplishment of our client’s self-described goals. The needs assessment session conducted by CCNLA case managers provides an opportunity to discuss with clients how they perceive their situation and to reveal possible solutions to their problems. After meeting with the week’s clients, Piehl and Bulger meet to select who will receive partial assistance with their bills. It is never an easy task. Because of limited resources, CCNLA is only able to assist 25-30% of each week’s applicants.

“Some weeks, every client is eligible to receive assistance,” says Piehl. “There are many people struggling in our community, but we are only able to help a few of them financially. The true value we hope to give all of our clients is the lessons we teach in the Money School and through financial coaching.”

As the poverty levels rise across north Louisiana, so does the weekly attendance of the Money School. With all three locations serving a total of 40-45 clients per week, the lessons taught in the Money School are vital in the quest to create financial change. Clients who attend the Money School are contacted three months following the class to assess if they are putting the lessons they learned into practice. This is a service provided to all clients, whether or not they received financial assistance from CCNLA. Bulger sees the call as an important follow-up to the Money School class.

“Before we started contacting clients, we had no idea if they were actually putting the financial education steps into action,” explains Bulger. “The phone calls give us a chance to check in and also remind the client that they are always welcome to come in for free financial coaching.”

CCNLA’s Money School and Emergency Assistance programs are made possible in part by grants by The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, The Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation, First Presbyterian Church – Shreveport, First United Methodist Church – Shreveport, The Grayson Foundation, The Powers Foundation, United Way of Northwest Louisiana, and the support of individual donors. •

Catholic Schools Annual Report


by Sr. Carol Shively, OSU

This 2017 – 2018 Annual Report is organized around the four major themes of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools—Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence and Operational Vitality. “Catholic schools are an outstanding apostolate of hope…addressing the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of millions of children.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators, April 17, 2008, Washington DC, par. 5)

“The environment in our Catholic schools express the signs of Catholic culture, physically and visibly (The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School)

Mission and Catholic Identity

Each of our Catholic schools provide the students with faith-filled experiences. They participate in daily prayer, prayer services, holy day celebrations, weekly liturgy and service in the community. Our mission is to be Christ’s hands and feet to our neighbors.

Governance and Leadership

Successful Catholic schools require strong leaders. Seasoned, knowledgeable and collaborative principals, pastors and boards/councils can together help to guarantee that every student has access to a high quality, faith-filled education. Our schools are led and guided by faith-filled educators which is a hallmark of our schools. They work in full partnership with our pastors and school volunteers who guide us in reaching the needs of our families in the community.

Academic Excellence

For over 32 years, the Diocese of Shreveport has been known for providing high quality education, and that reputation continues to grow day after day. As an example of ongoing academic strength and growth, our Catholic schools have rapidly adopted STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) and related programs into their curricular and co-curricular instruction and activities. Our excellence is demonstrated in our ACT Aspire / ACT test scores and in our loyal and dedicated teachers. Our teachers are life-long learners and attend summer workshops and on-going development in our local colleges.

We want our families to feel a sense of confidence in their decision to invest in Catholic education.

Operational Vitality

Parents facing the many challenges of today’s economic challenges desire their children’s education to be strong and their schools to be stable. The long-term viability of our Catholic schools require us to focus on the school’s operations, such as its finances, human resources, facilities and advancement/development. Our attention to being good stewards of their investment enables them to feel confident about their decision to invest in Catholic education. During the year, our principals in Monroe developed ways to operate as a collaborative team of experts. Many successful events occurred to draw the schools closer together. The events included a unified message of excellence in recruiting students and in providing professional development for the faculties. The collaboration was very meaningful for the teachers. One teacher shared that it’s so easy to simply teach in a “silo mentality.” It is better when we think that there are two to three classes of grades in the Catholic elementary schools so I feel that I don’t work alone!”

Our commitment to our families is to return their child to them with a servant’s heart.

Click to download the Annual Report.

Domestic Church: Finding Treasure in Monotony


by Katie Sciba

If you have a family, you have monotony; there’s no way around it. Work, school, errands, activities – there is so much “same ol’” on repeat. Quite simply, all the repetition can be physically, or at least mentally, exhausting. Life in the domestic church demands time and energy to raise kids, work hard, make it through today so we can get ready for tomorrow. Work and sleep happen without much in between, and I tell you what, I have been really feeling this reality lately.

We have five small children, a small business, and a small house. The demands and routines our family have are necessary and integral to the life I’ve chosen; yet it’s so easy for me feel restless for the chance to do something fresh and new. Caught up in myself and my unfulfilled desires, conditions are ripe for ennui.

This isn’t exclusive to the life at home. I remember countless days of this feeling at the office; no matter how much I loved my job (and I did!), there were days when I would glance at the clock once and then again five minutes later, feeling like an eternity had passed between. In elementary school, I would gaze out the window, pining to break out of my desk to go have an adventure.

But in all circumstances, I’ve stayed.

On one of my hardest mornings, I waved goodbye to Andrew from the porch and, seeing a plane soar overhead, I cried because I wished so painfully that I were on it. I didn’t care where it was going, I ached for something, anything different.

Life is repetitious and stuck in the rut, we trudge through hoping for a thrill or some bit of excitement to whisk us away to a land where we’re not subject to obligation or bound by duties to vocation.

I’m diving into the Diary of St. Faustina and came upon this blessed passage that at once I knew applied to those of us who endure that love/hate relationship with the daily grind:

O life so dull and monotonous, how many treasures you contain! When I look at everything with the eyes of faith, no two hours are alike, and the dullness and monotony disappear. The grace which is given me in this hour will not be repeated in the next. It may be given me again, but it will not be the same grace. (St. Faustina, paragraph 62)

We fall into the habit of dealing with hardship without even mentioning it to Jesus, who above anyone else, has a ready ear. Praying a simple “Lord, I’m bored” can open our souls to peer through the monotony. When we seek God in our drudge, it’s no longer a drudge. He offers us countless graces to not just get through life but to fully experience it within our respective vocations. God has a plan for each particular soul for this very day; and if we respond to His offering of changing graces, dull will be the last word we’ll use to define our lives. The Life in Christ is never inwardly dull, though routine and monotony may remain, God is certainly not the author of boredom.

BIshop’s Reflection: Do You Accept?


by Bishop Michael G. Duca

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

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

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

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

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

At Encounter Jesus 3 diocesan youth event.

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

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

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

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

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