Monthly Archives: May 2012

Marriage & Family Life Ministry

by Kelly Phelan Powell

In decades past, the word “family,” especially within the context of the Church, referred almost exclusively to the traditional nuclear family: mom, dad and a larger-than-average number of children. These days, however, there are many different iterations of “family” in parish life. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has recently launched an initiative in support of traditional Christian marriage, and the Diocese of Shreveport has followed suit with a renewed focus on Marriage and Family Life Ministries. And thankfully, some of these programs address aspects of the family that have been largely overlooked until now.

In a culture in which the significance of marriage is continuously and insidiously eroded, the USCCB holds fast in its insistence that marriage is and has always been “the ‘cradle’ of life and of every vocation.” The bishops go on to say, “We are well aware that the family founded on marriage is the natural environment in which to bear and raise children and thereby guarantee the future of all humanity. However, we also know that marriage is going through a deep crisis and today must face numerous challenges. It is consequently necessary to defend, help, safeguard and value it in its unrepeatable uniqueness. If this commitment is in the first place the duty of spouses, it is also a priority duty of the Church and of every public institution to support the family by means of pastoral and political initiatives that take into account the real needs of married couples, of the elderly and of the new generations.” (Angelus Talk, February 4, 2007)

But while marriage is inarguably the foundation of the family, the reality of life in the 21st Century is that not every family includes a marriage. Dotye Sue Stanford, Director of Family Life Ministries at St. Joseph Church in Shreveport, said this fact is due to our God-given freedom of choice. “God asks very little of us,” she said. “He asks us to love one another and to help each other get to heaven…but because He gave us free will, we have divorce, we have singleness and we have death.” She further emphasized that even in these states, the family still exists, even if that family includes only one person. “You’re still a part of God’s family and the Church’s family,” she said.

Programs throughout the diocese address the specific needs of different kinds of families – single life as a vocation, marriage as a vocation, family life and children, empty nesters, widows and widowers and divorce and annulment. You may be aware of some of these programs in your home parish, but others are less well known. The Marriage and Family Life Ministries page on the diocese’s website has contact information for each of these programs. Go to and click on “Marriage and Family Life” under “Ministries.”

This past spring, the parishes of the diocese sponsored a six-session Divorce Recovery Program at the Catholic Center. Utilizing tools such as group discussion as well as a video series, the course helped people come to terms with their divorces and begin to heal their emotional wounds. The program was successful, so new dates will be announced soon.

Coming up in June is a two-day marriage intensive, with topics including “The Fight-Free Marriage” and “Contraception: What’s the Big Deal?” Presented by Timothy and Kristin Putnam of the Tulsa Diocese, this free event will be held June 10 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. and June 11 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel. For more information, visit

Aside from addressing the needs of the faithful, these programs help bring non-practicing Catholics back to the Church. “People who may have felt shunned or like they didn’t belong since they weren’t married or didn’t have children feel important and included,” Stanford said. “There’s a place for everyone in the Church.” They also make the parish feel more like a home and encourage people to get involved at both a parish and a diocesan level.

As a director of Family Life Ministries, Stanford said this work is, for her, a calling. “I feel like this is what God wants me to do in Family Life, is go out and get these programs started at all the other parishes,” she said. She also pointed out that although their work may not have the “Family Life” title, all those involved with baptism, faith formation, engaged couples, weddings, divorce survival groups and grief processing are all part of family life. “There are so many doing the same thing,” she said. “Cathy Cobb [at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church]…Carol Gates [at the Cathedral]…I want them to see, ‘You’re doing family life, too. This is the divorce part of family life, this is the singles part of family life, these are the elderly, these are the empty-nesters.’”

Stanford urges all those within the diocese who are involved in some way with formation of the family to join the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers ( It’s a great resource for education, mutual support, networking and advocacy.

In fact, she’s trying to get as many as possible of the 18 couples who are involved in marriage ministry to attend the 2012 international conference of the NACFLM, “Strengthening Marriages and Families in Today’s Culture,” held this year in Dallas July 25 through 28. There are a number of “tracts” available for attendees, depending on the individual needs of their parishes, including a Hispanic/Latino tract and an after-divorce tract. Stanford is seeking sponsors to help offset the cost of the conference; if you know of a business or individual who might like to contribute, please contact her at (318) 865-3581, extension 23, or

The best ways to strengthen the family in all its forms, Stanford feels, are often the simplest. A good example she gave is the “Get Back to the Table” movement, where families make a concerted effort to sit down at the dinner table and eat at least one meal together each day without television, computers, homework or other distractions. Another way is to keep the Sabbath sacred and uphold the Sunday Mass obligation by removing activities that may come before or detract from God and the Church.

The diocese recognizes not only the importance of family, but the many forms that a Catholic Christian family can take. Family in all its configurations is a treasured part of parish life. Every parish has ways to offer ministry, fellowship and resources to help every family grow in faith. To take part in any of these valuable programs or to learn how you can help, visit your parish’s website or

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.

USCCB Joins in Petition Asking US to Change Nuclear Policy

Laborers work on the assembly of the reactor at Atucha II nuclear power plant in Zarate, Argentina, in early August. As nations are called to create a world free of atomic weapons, the international community must promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy, especially for development and cancer treatment in developing countries, a top Vatican official said. (CNS photo/Marcos Brindicci, Reuters)

by Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops joined about four dozen other national organizations in amassing more than 50,000 signatures on a petition asking for a change in the United States’ “outdated” nuclear arms policy. “You must act now to reduce the nuclear danger and the role of nuclear weapons,” said the petition, addressed to President Barack Obama. The petition urges Obama to “end outdated U.S. nuclear war-fighting strategy, dramatically reduce the number of U.S. nuclear weapons and the number of submarines, missiles and bombers that carry those weapons, and take U.S. nuclear weapons off high alert. Maintaining large numbers of nuclear forces on alert increases the risk of accident or miscalculation.” A May 15 announcement from the groups involved said the petition was delivered to the White House May 7. Stephen Colecchi, director of the bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, represented the USCCB. “This is just one of the many expressions of support for overdue changes in the United States’ nuclear weapons strategy which is still burdened by Cold War thinking,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which spearheaded the petition drive and assembled the coalition of organizations that signaled their support. The United States, Kimball told Catholic News Service in a May 15 telephone interview, possesses about 1,700 strategically positioned nuclear warheads. Russia has about 1,500. Each has more strategically deployed warheads than the rest of the “nuclear club” — China, France, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — has warheads of all kinds combined. “Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine can destroy several cities,” Kimball said. “We today possess 12 submarines with nuclear weapons.”

Faith in the Footlights: Religion Gets a Curtain Call on Broadway

by Catholic News Service

Kecia Lewis-Evans stars in a scene from the Broadway production of "Leap of Faith" at St. James Theatre in New York. Faith-themed shows such as this have transformed Broadway into a "highway to heaven, " says one theater observer. "Leap of Faith" recently closed on Broadway but producers are considering a national tour of the show. (CNS photo/Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK (CNS) — Can it be? Has Broadway found religion? According to one recent article, a bumper crop of faith-themed shows, like “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Godspell,” “Book of Mormon” and “Sister Act,” has transformed Broadway into a “highway to heaven.” So why the great awakening on the Great White Way? “I think there is a “God moment” breaking out in the entertainment culture that’s partly driven by a quest for profits in difficult economic times, but also by people’s never-ending quest for transcendent meaning,” said Tom Allen of Allied Faith and Family, a marketing agency that is trying to promote shows like “Sister Act” to Christians. The Tony-nominated musical is emblematic of this religious revival: flashy and brash, yet earnestly spiritual. The same can be said for the recently closed “Leap of Faith,” which is contemplating a possible national tour. Both musicals were adapted from 1992 movies and feature music by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken. Both also deal with themes of redemption and salvation. “I think people are tired of hearing about selfish people feeling sorry for themselves,” said Fred Applegate, who plays a pastor in “Sister Act” and who believes the uptick in religious productions underscores a need “for hope.”

At Audience, Pope Says Work Should Help, Not Hinder, Family Life

by Catholic News Service

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –  Work obligations should not harm a person’s family relationships but should provide support, giving couples the resources to have and raise children and spend time together, Pope Benedict XVI said. At the end of his weekly general audience May 16, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose “family and work” as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15. Work should not be an obstacle to the family, he said, “but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life” and interact with society and the Church. Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that Sundays would be respected by employers as “a day of rest and an occasion to reinforce family ties.” In his main audience talk, the pope looked at prayer in the biblical letters of St. Paul. The New Testament letters, he said, include prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession, demonstrating how prayer is appropriate for every occasion in life. “Prayer should not be seen simply as a good work we do for God — something we do — but as a gift, the fruit of the living spirit of the Father and of Jesus Christ within us,” the pope said. Pope Benedict said often “we do not know how to pray in the right way,” but simply opening oneself up and setting aside a bit of time for God, the Holy Spirit will take over. “The absence of words, but the desire to enter into dialogue with God, is a prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but carries to and interprets for God.”

Diocese of Shreveport Welcomes New Director of Catechesis

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

The Diocese of Shreveport is proud to announce the hire of Shelly Bole as the new Director of Catechesis.
Bole is well educated in matters of the Church. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Newman University in Wichita in 1989, and just recently completed her Master’s degree in Theological Studies from the same university this past August.

Her Bachelor’s degree focused on youth ministry, so Bole spent much of her early career working with youth ministry on the parish level and serving as a campus minister to a Catholic high school. She later felt called to minister in adult education.

Bole comes to us from the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas where she served as the Program Coordinator of Religious Education. During her time there she trained catechists and took on a number of projects including writing a confirmation curriculum specific to the Diocese of Wichita over a five year period and managing a resource library for the diocese that served all Catholics, especially catechists.

Shelly will begin work as the Diocese of Shreveport’s Director of Catechesis on June 1, 2012. She is excited about beginning work in north Louisiana, “The thing that struck me about my interview was the profound faith in this sense of place. I was very impressed with that.”

She is also very happy with the Diocese of Shreveport’s vision of lifelong catechesis.

When Bole begins her new position, she’s ready to hit the ground running. “One of my first priorities is to spend time with Bishop to understand his vision,” said Bole.

She added that she wants to meet the clergy and the Directors of Religious Education to garner an understanding of where they’re at now, what’s working for them and what can be improved.

Bole added, “The first goal of catechesis is to foster intimacy with Christ. How can I help [people] do that in their parishes? ”
Shelly is anxious to meet the people of our diocese. Please give her a warm welcome when you see her out in the parishes!

Air in the Tires and Fuel in the Tank: How to Keep Fathers Trucking Along

by Katie Sciba

(Photo by Valeer Vandenbosch,

Being a father is a 24/7, for-the-rest-of-your-life duty and honor. It can be fairly easy to come by, whether a man is the father in a family, the pastor of a parish, or a father figure to another; but, the significance of this role demands diligence, fortitude and humility. What can be daunting about fatherhood are the essential tasks of teaching sons how to be holy men, showing daughters what devotional love is, and ultimately leading children to heaven; none of which are easily done and all require a life-long effort to establish an eternal effect.

As if fatherhood isn’t challenging enough, those called to it are charged with these tasks whether they understand it or not; it happens naturally. Reflecting on my experience, it’s true that my own father set the bar for my expectations in a husband, and my sister’s as well. Likewise, his confident demeanor and approach are echoed in the life of my brother. What fathers do, their children will do; which is why it’s necessary that they set the example of holiness and responsibility for their children; show affection so children learn how to show it to others; respect their children’s mother whether married to her or not; and through it all, show kids that being their dad is fun and enjoyable.

Contrary to what you may think so far, this isn’t an article written for dads. It’s written for children and mothers. My above list enumerating the aspects of fatherhood is by no means exhaustive – there is much more to it and, as many of you know, parenthood isn’t easy. It can’t be done alone. No matter what our tasks in life, we all need encouragement and opportunities to recharge. Considering the weight of being a father, it is certain that they especially need support. Depending on how the father in your life best receives it, there are countless ways to help him feel affirmed and appreciated. (Please note that all of the following can be adjusted for your parish priest, who like any other father, could use the support!)

My husband is strengthened when I tell him he is my hero, that his hard work and love for our family is noble and admirable. When words aren’t enough, I make sure to give him a break to strike out on his own, which usually includes Bass Pro and local fishing hole or a night out with his buddies. I’ll bake him cookies and try to present a truly peaceful and welcoming home. Most importantly, I pray for him and my dad and tell them that I do so. The gift of prayer is certainly the most powerful, encouraging and the most fruitful.

Being a father, whether of children or a congregation, is no light task. While those called to fatherhood are charged with guiding children to God among other things, those of us who receive their guidance are called to respond to their efforts and remind them of our gratitude.

Another Side of Family

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Church

Altar for St. Mary of the Pines PSR students.

When I speak with couples about choosing a baptismal saint for their child I also ask if they have a family patron saint. Most couples say they don’t but many seem genuinely intrigued. “How can we do that?” they often ask. Choosing a patron saint for your family can be as simple as it was for my family—we are Irish so Saints Patrick and Brigid were natural and obvious choices. Our family celebrates their feast days and we have learned their stories. We have been inspired by their examples of courage and love of God regardless of cost. We invite them into our prayers in times of need, sorrow and joy! They have truly become a part of our family’s expression of faith.

The process need not be narrowed to your ethnic or cultural background but could extend to some saint with whom you regularly turn to for prayerful intercession, the saint whose feast day is celebrated on your wedding anniversary, a saint associated with the family professions like teaching or medicine or motherhood or metal workers or farming; the possibilities are endless!

Did your family have a family altar once upon a time? This is a very spiritual and sweet practice that seem to have been relegated to nostalgia. In the name of modernity, we seem to have abandoned the family altar. I love all things Catholica so when I read about family altars I was immediately on the lookout for an opportunity to create one. I have a couple of old and treasured statues that have traveled with us on every move so they had always had a place of honor but I wanted more!
We moved into a house that boasted an entire wall of built in shelves and cabinets. On this wall was a recessed space that we could tell held at one time a state of the art television and stereo receivers and all its accoutrements. Our television didn’t work in that space and it was too deep for books. I wondered as I tried various objects in the space how could we best utilize it. That’s when our family altar was realized. Our family has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus so I knew that statue had to be the centerpiece.

I had a wonderful time creating this sacred space literally in the midst of our home. Various statues and holy cards and other images came and went but three remained at all times, the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Mother and St. Patrick. Over the months we have added photographs of confirmations, family gatherings, candles and prayers printed on the backs of holy cards; during the Christmas season we placed our Nativity set in this space.

We have since moved from that particular home and into one with totally different configurations. My altar is now on the kitchen counter in a small corner with a votive candle, a small picture of my family and a small statue of the Blessed Mother. My Sacred Heart statue is on top of the bookcase and the Infant of Prague, for whom I have a very special devotion, is in my bedroom on a top shelf of yet another bookcase. Each time I look at these figures, prayerfully arranged, I feel refreshed and in good company.

An altar can be anywhere and very simple; for instance a candle in the center of the dining table with a holy card nearby; in a small corner of your kitchen, on top of a bookcase, or your dressing table. If you aren’t so keen on statues, consider arranging some inspirational pictures or even use the side of the fridge and make room for some heavenly helpers there – holy cards are an inexpensive way to begin living with sacred imagery.

I think family altars and family patron saints are important, so much so that I even surprised our catechists with one in the PSR Office. There are baskets, slips of paper and pens so that they can write prayer requests. During our monthly PSR Masses these requests are carried up at the offertory.

In a world that tends to further its own interests these little sacred spaces in the midst of laundry, report cards, bills, laughter, pancakes and dishes keep me mindful of a few things. The saints were human and had many of the same challenges my family and I face so they understand and have empathy. After all, I can never have enough prayer partners and reminders that God is truly in the midst of all this with us! When I have talked about Catholic practices and sacramentals some people don’t see the need or seem to be somewhat cautious until I tell them that all our symbols, and indeed everything we do as Catholics, are intended to point us to God. Carving out a little sacred space and including a patron saint in my family’s daily life has become as natural as breathing.

These altars for me have functioned as an oasis in an often busy, messy and hectic life, a touchstone in my day to remind me that I am not alone; I have friends in high places that are never too busy to listen and pray with and for me and that I should never be too busy to do the same.

For information on patron saints try The Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints and searching the internet. New Advent and St. Anthony Messenger Press websites are only a couple that provide an index of patron saints. Please be sure to choose a Catholic website if you consult the internet.

Walking Across the U.S. for Pro-Life

by Matt Sciba

In the summer of 2002, I attended a pro-life youth conference in New Orleans.  A group of young adults with “pro-life” printed on their t-shirts attended and spoke about their walk across the United States.  I pledged that I would spend the next summer walking with the Crossroads Pro-Life Walk Across America (

In May 2003, I bought a one way ticket on a Greyhound bus for a 30 hour trip from Dallas to Arlington, VA. After two days of orientation, our group of walkers drove an RV from Virginia to San Francisco to begin the greatest adventure of our young lives.

The purpose of the Crossroads walk is to offer every step as prayer and mortification for the protection of dignity and sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death. Crossroads also seeks to educate and encourage people to become more actively pro-life.

During my trip, I encountered thousands of people, most of whom were pro-life. We spoke at churches, visited youth groups, recruited young adults along the way, prayed at abortion centers, saved a few babies (that we know of), and formed lifelong friendships.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is that everything happens in God’s time. Various things broke, walkers got sick or injured, and many times we ran out of money and didn’t know from where our next meal would come.  Many times we didn’t know where we would lay our heads.  Every single time it appeared as though we would go without, God sent help at the last minute.

This year, Crossroads will begin their cross-country pilgrimages on May 19 in Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, with all walks concluding in Washington, D.C. on August 11th.  The three month trek will test the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual endurance of 50 or so young adults.

As a walker, my faith soared higher than ever before.  Life was no longer according to my will, but wholly according to God’s.  Living with 20 other people in tight quarters with only a backpack of personal belongings and no ability to set one’s own schedule tested my limits. Oddly enough, I had a difficult two months adjusting to life after Crossroads. My faith was at its peak and my will was aligned with God’s.  Fast-forward to today, and a great many people with whom I walked have become or are in the process of becoming priests or nuns, or are leaders in their communities.

The interesting thing about Crossroads is that it not only invigorates the walkers, but many communities are transformed as well.  I remember staying with a couple who were infertile, and the husband had been very bitter and angry at God because of it. We stayed nearly a week at their home, and by the end, the husband’s anger and bitterness had melted. The day we said goodbye, he gave a tearful speech explaining that our witness of God’s love had relieved him of 25 years of scorn.

Nine years later, Crossroads is still going strong, and has expanded to at least four walks per summer.  This summer, as they do every summer, the walkers will stop in Shreveport for a weekend. My wife and I will play host, listen to their stories, and share our own stories from the walks we completed.

The paths for four Crossroads walks this summer. The walkers will be in Shreveport beginning July 4.

Wherever you live, keep the Crossroads walkers in your prayers. They rely solely on divine providence for everything (food, water, shelter, clothing).  If you live near one of the routes, please consider meeting them as they pass by, and offering even something as small as a word of encouragement.  Not only will you lift the spirits of the walkers, but you too may be enriched by their love for God.

The Crossroads walkers will walk through Shreveport (most likely on Hwy 80) on or around July 4th, and will stay in Shreveport/Bossier on the weekend of July 6-8. A reception will be held for the walkers on July 6. More details will be available in the near future at our website

EDIT: For an update on the Crossroads walkers in Shreveport, check out this post at