Category Archives: Features

Continuing the Mission: 2019 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal

by John Mark Willcox

One might ask these days, “Since our diocese is without a bishop, will we be conducting the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal?” The answer to that question is a resounding YES! Even though the Diocese of Shreveport is without a chief shepherd, the needs of our Catholic faithful have not dissipated, in fact they remain constant, and some of these needs have even grown larger.

As with our Appeal each year, major funds are allocated to providing for our retired and infirm clergy while subsidizing the education of our seminarians who will become our future priests. Our list of retired priests includes nine holy men who have given a life of service to the people of our diocese and they are certainly worthy of Appeal assistance. Replacing these men with newly ordained priests remains an urgent priority and your Appeal donations support the cost of room and board for educating our seminarians. Our diocese is fortunate to have a strong contingent of seven men in seminary training and we were blessed to ordain Fr. Duane Trombetta to the priesthood in 2018 and look forward to Kevin Mues’ ordination in May of this year!


The charitable endeavors of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana, Campus Ministry still depend on Appeal generosity to actively pursue their missions to make a real difference in thousands of lives within our regional boundaries. Appeal funding this year will help fund efforts to increase the leadership capacity of our diverse and growing Hispanic population. It also sponsors outreach to our youth and young adults through programs like “Theology on Tap,” which serves and supports members among our faithful in their young years of adulthood.

Appeal dollars also support our Office of Catholic Schools, catechesis for our youth in local parishes, and consistent, high quality liturgies through our Office of Worship. Our wonderful Slattery Library is now staffed each weekday and our Appeal supported Safe Environment Program continues to assist our parishes and schools in providing the very best in enriching environments for youth and young adults. Every issue of our monthly diocesan news magazine, The Catholic Connection is also completely funded by your generosity to our Appeal.

“Continuing the Mission” is our Appeal theme for this year and that is exactly what we intend to do,” comments our Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum. “So much of our outreach and ministry as a committed family of Catholic Christians is impacted by our Annual Appeal and that is why we plan to work diligently to keep the success of our Appeal a priority. I ask that every capable member of our united Catholic family choose to support our Appeal this year so that working together, we can see to the many needs of our worship community.”

Appeal Sunday this year falls on February 17th; please take some time until then to consider your 10-month pledge to support our array of Appeal ministries. A pledge card can be found on page 31, and you may use this to facilitate your annual gift to our Appeal. Please take time to join me in prayer for the success of our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.

Catholics and Methodists: Working Together to Bring Christ’s Message of Love to the Poor and Vulnerable

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA)has been working together with area Methodist churches to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ’s message of love to the poor and vulnerable by providing quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination. Through the relationships that have been established with local United Methodist Churches, CCNLA is carrying out its vision statement: Together we invest in people to alleviate poverty, distress and injustice.

Since 2013, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and First United Methodist Church (FUMC) Shreveport have established a partnership in which FUMC financially supports the Emergency Assistance Program at CCNLA on a monthly basis. In fact, although FUMC does manage a grant system open to organizations in the community, CCNLA holds the distinction of being one of only just a handful of local organizations that FUMC has decided to include as a line item on their annual budget.

“We love the way they do the program, constantly assessing it and finding ways to make it bigger and better,” said Michelle Osborn, Director of Local Missions at FUMC Shreveport. “We feel that the Catholic Charities organization is a very good steward of [our] funds.”

Osborn and her department refer the many people who contact FUMC every month for rent and utility assistance directly to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. She estimates that no less than five people a day contact her office asking for help, a figure that she feels is extremely conservative.

“We really believe in what that program does,” Osborn said. “We really do. And we need it.”

A direct result of this partnership is that FUMC Shreveport recently announced that it is increasing its annual funding to CCNLA.

Broadmoor United Methodist Church regularly supports CCNLA’s Gabriel’s Closet program through their donations of baby items and clothing. A year-round drop-off center is located at Broadmoor Methodist for members to donate items for Gabriel’s Closet and a baby’s crib holds the donations until they are delivered to Catholic Charities multiple times throughout the year.

This past summer, Catholic Charities was honored when Shawn Hornsby, Associate Minister at First United Methodist Church in Monroe, accepted a position as a board member for CCNLA. Hornsby saw the value in what Catholic Charities does and advocated for funding from FUMC Monroe to support the Emergency Assistance Program that CCNLA now receives.

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana continues to be blessed by the relationships with these other churches and look forward to what more we can do together in 2019!

Knights Raise Funds to Purchase Ultrasound Machine

story and photos by Kelly Phelan Powell

One of the most encouraging signposts in the recent years of the pro-life movement is the enthusiastic involvement of men. So often shouted down and scolded that abortion is a matter of women’s (and only women’s) “reproductive freedom,” many men, Catholic men in particular, are finally finding their places and voices within this life-or-death issue. The Knights of Columbus (KoC) Ultrasound Initiative is one of the most crucial ways local men are aiding the movement.

Four local councils of the Knights of Columbus raised several thousand dollars through activities such as the baby bottle campaign, in which empty baby bottles are distributed to individuals and families who fill them with money, then return them, and the Knights use the money to support local culture-of-life programs. A church and KoC council in Baton Rouge that closed contributed about $10,000. Together with matching funds from the Supreme (national) Council, all these donations enabled the staff at Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center to purchase a new abdominal ultrasound machine.

At the official presentation of the new machine at Mary’s House on January 4, ultrasound technician Julie Draper told the assembled knights, “This technology literally saves lives.”
Marian Council Grand Knight John Walker agreed. “It brings an awareness to the woman of the condition of herself and the baby. She can see for herself that it’s not just tissue – it’s a living organism. By seven weeks [gestation], you can see the baby’s heartbeat.”

The fight for life is an important issue to every knight. Rooted in the four principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, the Knights of Columbus endeavor to “build a culture of life and a civilization of love” through programs like the March for Life and the Special Olympics, in addition to the Ultrasound Initiative and countless prayers, rosaries and fundraising activities.

Sonographer Julie Draper, Clinic Director, Trisha Johnson, and Mary's House founder L'Anne Sciba.

Walker, a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1986, said a local KoC council is a great place for any man interested in furthering the cause of life. “Every life is precious, no matter the age,” he said. The Supreme Council publicly set a goal in 2017 to save 1 million unborn lives with the help of technology that helps mothers choose life over abortion. Knights of Columbus CEO, Carl Anderson, said they will accomplish this by placing 1,000 ultrasound machines in pregnancy care centers by the time the Ultrasound Initiative reaches its 10th anniversary this year. Machines donated by the Knights are already in use in all 50 states.

The new technology available to pregnant women at Mary’s House will no doubt make it clear to hundreds of mothers just how precious the tiniest lives are. The new ultrasound machine replaces an old machine from the ‘90s – obviously, not the clearest picture or sound available today.

As if to underscore just how vital these machines can be to the cause of life, the very first mother who had a scan by the new machine discovered she was expecting twins. Though there are few studies regarding the effect of ultrasound viewing on women’s abortion decisions, Draper told the Knights of Columbus assembled on January 4 that, in her time at Mary’s House, only one woman has ever made the decision to have an abortion after seeing her child in the womb via ultrasound. That’s a powerful testimony to the impact of this equipment, to say nothing of the women who work at Mary’s House.

Another way to support Mary’s House and the cause of life is by attending the Annual Pro-Life Banquet, the Fête For Life – A Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center Fundraiser at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, at the Bossier City Civic Center. For tickets and more information, please visit https://maryshouseoflafoundation.org or call 318- 220-8009.

Saying Goodbye to Father Richard Lombard

by Lucy Medvec

Fr. Lombard is why my family is at St. Joseph. When he baptized our son in 1995, and one year later welcomed me into the Catholic Church, our family knew that we had found a home. He made St. Joseph Church a special place for all of us because he loved this parish so much; and as Fr. Long said at Mass, because he loved every one of us so much. We were his family. Fr. Lombard had that special gift of making everyone feel special – we all believed that we were his favorite.  He was wise, quiet and kind, sometimes stubborn and gruff, but he was always faithful and had a heart of gold. I only knew him for the past 25 years, but I would have loved to have seen him as a priest in his younger days.

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking of my favorite memories and stories of Fr. Lombard – you know we all have at least one. Like the time a baby yelled “YAY” at the end of the Alleluia and he got so tickled, he could barely read the Gospel. We all laughed along with him, which made him laugh even more. Or the time that Mark, my husband, was in the ER for a minor heart issue, yet he panicked and believed that the end was near because Fr. Lombard immediately came to see him.

He was a humble servant who lived a simple life filled with love for God and for all of us. He encouraged so many of us to do more for St. Joseph than just attend weekly Mass. He believed that each of us had a special gift – our time, talent, and treasure – that would enrich our lives and those of our fellow parishioners. Years ago someone told me their nickname for him – The Great Lombardo. This name eventually morphed in our household into The Great One. That was what we called him within our family, but it was with sincerity and love. So as we celebrate his life, let us always remember the man who gave us a home at St. Joseph Parish that is filled with love. I am thankful to have known Fr. Richard Lombard and am blessed to have had him in our family’s life.

I think all of you will agree with me when I say that God truly blessed us when he sent us The Great One. •

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 https://www.praiselakeside.org/ways-to-help/. •

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, www.peopleofpraise.org

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 http://www.usccb.org/racism. 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.