Category Archives: Columns

Making God Smile

by Mike Van Vranken

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“God loves a Cheerful Giver.”  2 Cor 9:7.

The idea of freely sharing our own gifts to build up and support others must be very pleasing to our Father in heaven.  In other words, we are obedient when we give because God commanded it.  But, what the God of love really craves is for His children to give because we desire to.  Being Christlike is not just about compliance.  It’s about having the hunger to love others as much as we love ourselves.  Our yearning to help those in need is where God finds joy.

Someone recently may have asked you if they can borrow money and you know they cannot or will not repay it. Respond out of guilt and you still help that person. Responding with joy however, gives both you and God great joy and helps the borrower as well.

But, as humans, we can’t miss the point.  It is our own desire to give that the Lord loves and that desire must be the catalyst of our giving, not the guilt we may experience if we don’t give.  And, certainly not the hope of getting something in return.

Action Plan for this month:

  • Ask God each day where He wants you to share your gifts.
  • Each time you give, whether it’s time, talent or money, tell God in an audible voice that you are freely giving in a joyful, happy and laughing way.
  • Thank God unceasingly for the many, newly discovered opportunities to give He is providing for you.
  • Finally, meditate on your own picture of God.  Maybe He is sitting on a throne. Maybe He is standing next to you at work.  Whatever that picture, make sure you see Him with a grin on His face from ear-to-ear. And, laugh with Him knowing that He and you both love a cheerful giver.

Mike started a teaching ministry after graduating from the University of Dallas’ School of Ministry in 2006 ( He also serves as an adjunct professor for the Diocese of Shreveport’s Greco Institute.

Finding Faith Abroad

Photos from the Irish Road

by Kim Long

^ St. Brendan’s Well, Valencia Island, Kerry I have had a devotion to St. Brendan for many years so much so that my second son’s baptismal saint is Brendan. In Ireland there is a tradition of leaving something at holy wells. I left a paper with names front and back of all those I brought with me across the ocean, tucked between two loose stones. I dipped my hand into the dark water and renewed my baptismal promises marveling at how many people were baptized here in this spot.


^ Croagh Patrick, County Mayo My friend Sharon climbed Croagh Patrick which is THE pilgrimage site for locals. It is considered the holiest mountain in all of Ireland. It is known locally as “the Reek” and on the last Sunday in July over 25,000 pilgrims turn out to make the climb to the top where Mass is celebrated. I was intimidated and unprepared so I decided to try things at ground level. I moved to the outdoor chapel to pray, think and climb my interior mountain. Five hours after we arrived Sharon came down from the mountain and we both were exhausted from our own spiritual journeys.

^ Kildare Town, St. Brigid’s City St. Brigid is known as Mary of the Gaels and, along with St. Patrick, is a patron of Ireland. Did I mention she is also my confirmation saint? Walking in Kildare Town the symbols of Brigid are everywhere: the acorn, St. Brigid’s Cross as well as a bowl of flame. There is a well at the end of the walking pilgrimage in Kildare. It was here that we spoke prayer intentions and marked and tied our cloth to an old tree that held many other offerings.
















^ Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, off the coast of Portmagee, County Kerry Skellig Michael and Little Skellig rise seemingly straight from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a massive testament to the missionary spirit of “the monks.” There are 600 steps leading to the top where in the 6th century St. Fionan founded a monastic settlement on the island, which is 714 feet high and lies eight miles off the coast of Ireland. On top there are the remains of the beehive cells or huts. I had a lesson in progress, not perfection, this day as I realized I don’t really like heights so I sat and had a long talk with God and the monks.

Second Collections

A woman reaches for cedar ashes before Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Tohatchi, NM, on the Navajo Indian Reservation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Black and Indian Missions

by Fr. Rothell Price

Collection Dates: Sept. 22 & 23
Announcement Dates: Sept. 9 & 16

The theme for the 2012 Black and Indian Missions Collection is, “Faith: Anchored in Jesus, Alive in Mission.” This theme connects with Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of a special “Year of Faith.”  The Year of Faith is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II.

The Black and Indian Missions collection occurs each year as the hot, robust season of summer comes to a close, and the cool, mellow season of fall commences. We anticipate the advent of warm days, crisp nights and brisk mornings. September will be the month of final preparations for the inauguration of the Year of Faith which will span 14 months, extending from October of 2012 through November of 2013. Our diocese, parishes and schools will observe the Year of Faith by actively drawing closer to Jesus Christ through reflection and prayer on the Church documents born of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Bishop of Rome in union with his brother bishops and the expertise of many others during the course of the Second Vatican Council.

This is the background in which the special collection for Black and Indian Missions will take place this year.  All of our second collections have a strong connection with the Year of Faith and are a tangible manifestation of our devotion to our Lord. These collections have a clarion proclamation and eloquent expression in the voices of the Church fathers of the Second Vatican Council.  The Council documents call us, the Church, the pilgrim people of God, to be the authentic visible manifestation of Christ, our invisible head in the world, today.
The Black and Indian Mission Office was established in 1884. This office embodies the Catholic Church’s concern for evangelizing the black, Native American and indigenous peoples of the United States. The funds support pastoral ministry, Catholic schools, religious education programs and missionaries on reservations and black communities in impoverished areas.  Each year bishops request help from the Black and Indian Mission Office to support local black and Indian evangelization.

Please be generous in your support of this mission of Christ and his Church.

Fr. Rothell Price is the Vicar General for the Diocese of Shreveport.

The Privilege of Being a Primary Educator

Children first encounter faith and morality in the home

( Simona Balint)

My toddler is at the height of imitation in his little life right now. Whatever we say, he says. Whatever we do, he does. Our gestures, our inflection, our every move are all under the vigilant speculation of two absorbing, bright blue eyes. Andrew and I have a blast teaching him funny things to say and do and it’s hilarious seeing ourselves in his childlike interpretations.

It’s also pretty alarming.

For several years now, I’ve been familiar with the phrase “parents as primary educators,” but more so now that I have children. The idea seems simple enough: the role of educator is inherent to parenthood; and not just any educator, but the first. Simple, but not easy.

From the initial moments of life until death, children are forever assuming the attitudes and approaches to life of their parents. I read and have witnessed that even from within the womb, a child learns his mother’s vocal inflection and will mimic it back to her in his newborn cries. Further in life, kids tend to take on their parents’ passions and pursuits, and assuredly their personality traits. It’s not difficult for me to examine my own personality and trace my qualities and values back to one or both of my parents. I have my New Yorker mother’s sense of fun spontaneity and my Air Force father’s sense of practicality. While I certainly learned life lessons more formally seated at the kitchen table with them in conversation, processing one event or another, most of the principles I learned from them were in our day-to-day exchanges. There was no planning involved – just action and audience. They had my full attention whether they knew it or not.

The bottom line is that as a parent, you’re the first place your children will look for how to approach work and play, and, most importantly, faith. Though you may supplement your child’s catechetical instruction with PSR or a formal, Catholic education, what must necessarily foster the seeds planted in those environments is the foundation at home. The Catechism states, “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God” (CCC, 2226). This is not only a responsibility, but a privilege and quite an exclusive one. It is our task to educate our children, and it is by no means a burden.

In these days, parents should be racing fast against a secularist culture to win as the first source of information from faith to sexuality; and the way to do that is by cultivating a connection of love and comfortability with your child who will undoubtedly have questions as they grow up. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be totally self-sufficient in this; when faced with a charge so daunting, I hesitate thinking that I have to do it all on my own; but God’s grace is enough and with the support of my husband, much prayer, and educating myself, I can achieve all things He asks of me, including the blessing of educating my children.

Katie Sciba is the author of She lives in Shreveport with her husband Andrew and two sons Liam and Thomas.

Lifelong Desire to Learn


Pictured: Fr. Rothell Price leads a discussion with his brother priests during the Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program.

Supporting continuing education for clergy

Many of us may believe that when a man is ordained to the diaconate or priesthood that his days of the formal learning process are over. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth. Because of your Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal, our priests and deacons have access to a variety of programs and retreats that help them continue their education and see to their healthy appetite for spiritual renewal.

Over the past quarter of a century, Appeal donations have helped sponsor speakers, presentations, retreats and most recently, the “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” program specifically designed to help our clergy meet the challenges of the diminishing number of priests and the complex circumstances of pastoral ministry in today’s world.

“The Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program not only provided us with helpful education and insight,” commented Rev. Pike Thomas, Chair of the Continuing Education for Clergy Program maintained by the diocese, “but it also gave us valuable friendship opportunities as priests and deacons working together for the diocese and it enabled us to spend meaningful time with Bishop Duca who was newly arrived as our second bishop.”

Look for this important allocation of Appeal funding to continue as the need for deacons and pastors to stay abreast of today’s issues and tomorrow’s challenges remains. “A priest cannot be at his best as a pastoral minister unless he stays abreast of many things,” reminds Fr. Pike, “including the most current ways of expressing our theology, methods of catechesis, organization of parishes, and most of all, the elements of a healthy spirituality for both himself and those he serves.”

In honor of the exceptional stewardship shown by the people of our diocese, look for a monthly Appeal Ministry highlight in each issue of the Catholic Connection during this wonderful “Year of Faith.” May God bless our faithful donors who each year provide so much generosity which benefits so many throughout our diocese.

John Mark Willcox is the diocesan Director of Stewardship and Development. To give to the annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal that supports ministries like these, visit

All Things Transform

Trust God and embrace life’s disappointments

A mosaic depicts the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)

Sometimes our walk with God is so easy. Giving him worship and praise, praying unceasingly and bringing joy to the world flows from our every move. Still, there are times when life comes at us pretty hard and we have to make a choice.  Do we lean on our own understanding or do we continue to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus?

Our reactions to life’s disappointments are crucial to our ability to bring Jesus to the world. But, sometimes those disappointments are cruel, humiliating and even devastating.  The overwhelming evil of the spirit of disappointment can lead us to take matters into our own hands, or just give up.  The next time you find yourself in that situation, consider what Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, did in his time of embarrassing disappointment.

Matthew’s gospel tells us when Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child.  It may be hard for us to understand the painful reality that this story articulates.  An unfaithful fiancee’ or wife was to be publicly disgraced. The story tells us that Joseph, taking matters into his own hands, intended to divorce her quietly.  Instead, he listened to an angel in a dream and trusted God’s word and went on to live the life God had planned for him. The Lord turned Joseph’s mourning into joy. Oh yes, they endured public scrutiny but Joseph stopped thinking about what others would say and turned his thoughts to God’s word and plan.  Along with Mary, whom the Bible calls “blessed among women,” Joseph nurtured and raised the son of the living God, the savior of the world.  Luke 1:42

The next time life hits you with one of those cruel and humiliating disappointments, do what Joseph did. First, remember God has a definite and distinct plan for your life.  Second, lean only on the understanding that Jesus lives within you and allow his Holy Spirit to guide you.  Finally, remember “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28.

Mike started a teaching ministry after graduating from the University of Dallas’ School of Ministry in 2006 ( He also serves as an adjunct professor for the Diocese of Shreveport’s Greco Institute.

An Accidental Pilgrim

A “vacation” to Ireland became a spiritual journey

Donegal, Ireland

I recently had the opportunity to go to Ireland for two weeks on a final “road trip” with a friend before she committed to monastic life. We spoke for months on the telephone plotting and planning, until finally the big call came: she had booked our airline tickets.The wheels were in motion, there was no going back. We were off to Ireland and my life hasn’t been the same.

How does a journey begin? Is it merely a decision: choosing a suitcase, having an intention, saving money, destination? Perhaps those are significant factors. For me the single most important element was my mother, my childhood, my family heritage. Sometimes I think this journey began even before that, it began with my own mother’s conception and inculcation into the family origins. I am of Irish descent and I have the genealogical documents to remove all doubt as to the particulars. I look forward to passing them to my children and grandchildren.

My mother’s dream for as long as I can recall was to visit Ireland, our homeland, her spiritual homeland. I likewise wanted to see the place of our origin so it was with a real awe and humility, and not a little jet lag, that I stepped from the airplane onto Irish soil… or at that point Irish cement.

There is quite a difference between a vacation and a pilgrimage. This began as a vacation in my mind. I was looking forward to being “in Ireland” for goodness sake; bed and breakfasts, driving along the ocean road all the way to the Dingle Peninsula and lots of photos and souvenirs. This, however, was not quite the way things worked out. Ireland was on its own time, slower, quieter, more spiritual, telling me to step out of my worries and cares and be present to the creation that is Eire, that is Ireland. And so I was.

Of course it was easy. There were sheep everywhere, no where to run or hide from these iconic images of the Paschal Lamb and the lost sheep. Driving down narrow winding Irish roads the sheep seemed within reach.

On our first real day of “touring” we found a Marian grotto just along the roadside. It looked exactly like photographs I had seen in my dream books about Ireland. I knelt there on the roadside and prayed before a very beautiful and weathered statue of the Blessed Mother and asked her protection for us on this journey and also to bless those whom I love and am carrying with me in my heart.

Later that morning we parked the rental car and walked down a dirt road and as we crested the hill the ocean lay before us, a beautiful blue expanse bordered by clean sand. Walking towards the water felt as if I were going from one realm to another. The tide was beginning to go out and with each step I took into what had previously been covered by water, I realized a new meaning of the concept of proportion. Caves bordered the water and looking into them and then back to the ocean I thought of Catholic theologian Thomas Berry and his understanding of all of God’s creation as the “great curriculum.” I began to understand beyond the words in his book, and I began to know this in my bones.

After we left Donegal and drove south to County Kerry, all the way at the other end of the country, the outer landscape began to change a bit. The wildness and dark desperate beauty of the West of Ireland began to fill me, to overfill me and to flow into the journal I was keeping, the conversations we were sharing, the prayer I was making, the prayer that was making me.

Standing on the shore of Dingle Bay in temperatures of 50 degrees in a misting rain and brisk wind and gazing into the gray horizon, all the distractions I packed and brought through customs began to fall away, all the worries, all the negativity, the doubt and I became truly present to the gift of life, real life which is from God. I was beginning to understand where my blood came from.

Kim Long is the Director of Religious Education at St. Mary of the Pines Church.

Sacred Linens

In response to questions from sacristans and altar guilds about the proper name and care of liturgical linens, this is a review of the sacred linens used in the celebration of the Mass.

The term linen refers to any vestments or cloth accessories used in church. The fabrics used should be chosen because of the quality of design, texture, and color  (#95 of Environment and Art in Catholic Worship by the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy).

Altar cloth—This is the tablecloth that covers the altar.  It is usually white but may be of a color related to the liturgical season or occasion.

Corporal—A white linen cloth spread on the altar at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist on which the chalice, the paten(s), and ciboria are placed.  The corporal is traditionally folded inward in thirds horizontally and vertically so that any fragments of host may remain enclosed in it. Use of a corporal is required.  The corporal is not to be left on the altar, but is to be taken to and taken from the altar at the appropriate times.

Pall—This is a stiff square white cover that is placed over the paten when it is on the chalice and over the chalice during Mass to protect its contents. Usually the pall consists of a fabric pocket into which a piece of cardboard or plastic is inserted.  Use of a pall is optional.

Purificator—This is a cloth used to cleanse the chalice during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Traditionally, it is a white cloth folded twice lengthwise.  The purificator is placed over the chalice beneath the paten.
Hand towel—This is a small towel use by the priest to dry his hands during the lavabo at the Preparation of the Gifts.  No specific fabric is prescribed.  The hand towel is set up with the cruets and the bowl.

Care of Sacred Linens
To preserve the dignified appearance of all liturgical linens, especially purificators, they should be laundered frequently and kept in good repair.  It is customary that purificators and corporals be rinsed out in the sacrarium before being laundered.

Dianne Rachal is the diocesan Director of the Office of Worship.

MEET THE DEPARTMENTS: Worship, Permanent Diaconate and Information Systems

During the 25th anniversary year of the Diocese of Shreveport we are profiling those who work in each department for the diocese. We hope this helps you get to know the people who work for you.

Office of Worship assists in the sacramental and liturgical ministry of the diocese and its parishes, providing liturgical resources and formation to priests, parishes and the faithful to enrich the worship of the Church.

Dianne Rachal:  I have been Director of the Office of Worship for six years. I am also adjunct faculty for Greco Institute and a spiritual director.  I am married to Steve, and we have one son and four daughters. My hobby is going to school, and I just completed a second Master’s degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas. Contact me if you have questions about liturgy, sacraments, training of parish liturgical ministers, etc.

Brandy Wood:  I serve as Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Office of Worship and Permanent Diaconate. I am married to Matt and have one daughter and three sons. I have worked for the Diocese of Shreveport since August 2009. If you have any questions or need help concerning the Office of Worship or the Permanent Diaconate please call me.

Permanent Diaconate reaches out to all the people of God through the identification and formation of men for service as permanent deacons. This office also assists and supervises the ordained permanent deacons in their ministry and assignment.

Deacon Clary Nash: I was ordained in June 1986. I currently serve at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church as the Community Coordinator.  I am the Coordinator of the Permanent Diaconate for the diocese, including the formation of future deacons. I retired from General Motors after 34 years with management experience. I received a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University. My wife, Mary, and I have been married 40 + years with two sons and four grandchildren.

Information Systems is responsible for implementation, management and technical support for the diocese’s internet, email, desktops, servers, network and data security systems and serves as technical support to parishes and parish-based organizations.

Patricia Pillors: I am Director of Information Systems. I began work in the diocese in 1985 in the Schools Office and was appointed Director of Information Systems in 2000. As director, I am responsible for the implementation, management and technical support for the diocese’s internet, email, telephone system, desktops, servers, network and data security systems. I also serve as technical support to parishes, diocesan organizations and parish-based organizations throughout the diocese.

10th Anniversary for the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “A promise to protect, a pledge to heal” is the motto of USCCB’s office of Child and Youth Protection. After 10 years, this USCCB office has only increased their efforts to help keep those vulnerable from harm and stay true to this pledge. Our diocese’s history of having a policy for the protection of youth from sex abuse goes back to the late 1980’s, many years before the USCCB formed the charter. Since the inception of the USCCB’s charter in 2002 we have been adhering to its articles and policies.

The preamble of the charter states: “Since 2002, the Church in the United States has experienced a crisis without precedent in our times. The sexual abuse of children and young people by some deacons, priests and bishops, and the ways in which these crimes and sins were addressed, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion. As bishops, we have acknowledged our mistakes and our roles in that suffering, and we apologize and take responsibility again for too often failing victims and the Catholic people in the past. From the depths of our hearts, we bishops express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people have endured.”

These are the first words of the charter. It is the remembrance of where we were and where we do not wish to return. The ills of child abuse in our society may not ever change or disappear but what we do to counteract it makes all the difference. The charter has undergone two revisions, one in 2005 and another in 2011. It might experience many more revisions over the next 100 years, but it will remain in place and continue to play an essential role in Catholic dioceses across the country of keeping those who are vulnerable safe from harm.