Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pope to Visit Lebanon in September

Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will present a papal document addressing the church’s concerns in the Middle East, meet with representatives of local Christian and Muslim communities, and address political and cultural leaders on a three-day visit to Lebanon Sept. 14-16. Pope Benedict’s primary task on the trip will be to present a document, called an apostolic exhortation, based on the deliberations of a special synod of bishops held at the Vatican in 2009. That two-week meeting, which was attended by 185 bishops, focused on the precarious circumstances of 5.7 million Catholics in 16 Middle Eastern countries. A document released by participants at the end of the synod called for “religious freedom and freedom of conscience” in Muslim lands, a theme Pope Benedict is likely to address on his visit.

Pope Approves Archbishop Sheen’s Heroic Virtues

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has approved the heroic virtues of U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Vatican announced June 28, clearing the way for the advancement of his sainthood cause. Among the others honored in decrees announced the same day were first prelate of Opus Dei, the Canadian and Irish-American founders of two orders of religious women, a priest murdered by the Sicilian Mafia, and 154 martyrs killed during the Spanish Civil War. Archbishop Sheen heroically lived Christian virtues and should be considered “venerable,” said a decree issued by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and signed by Pope Benedict. Before the archbishop can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession. The decree came just more than 13 months after Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Sheen, whose home diocese was Peoria. Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, “Life is Worth Living,” aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957. Last September, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the allegedly miraculous healing of a newborn whose parents had prayed to the archbishop’s intercession.

Masses, Devotions, Rallies Mark U.S. Church’s ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann (CNS photo/Lori Wood Habiger, The Leaven)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Catholics to dedicate 14 days to the preservation of religious freedom through prayer, education and public action, they listened. Catholics in dioceses across the United States participated in Masses, devotions, holy hours, educational presentations and rallies during the June 21 to July 4 campaign to support the nation’s “first and most cherished freedom” and draw attention to actions Catholic and other religious leaders say are weakening religious liberty, including the federal contraceptive mandate. The U.S. bishops’ campaign began on the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More with Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom. He held up the two martyrs as a source of inspiration for American Catholics. The fortnight closed on Independence Day with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and the tolling of bells at churches across the country at noon Eastern time. Fortnight events in dioceses around the country included an Independence Celebration Walk & Picnic in Des Moines, IA; a motorcycle “Rosary Ride for Religious Freedom” in Colorado Springs, CO; nonpartisan voter registration drives after Masses in Atlanta parishes; a religious liberty conference in Covington, KY; an outdoor Faith and Freedom Mass in a park band shell in Savannah, CA; and a prayer service with special petitions for the fortnight in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, OH.

Annulment Workshops

Classes to explain Church annulment processes

Three parishes will be host centers for annual Annulment Workshops throughout the Diocese of Shreveport.  Sister Marilyn R. Vassallo, C.S.J., J.C.L., the Director of the Tribunal, will provide a 90 minute presentation explaining the annulment process of the Catholic Church. The purpose of these workshops is to educate the faithful about the Church’s official position on marriage and the annulment process.

Individuals in need of annulments, persons seeking entrance into the Catholic Church and all interested Catholics are encouraged to attend these sessions.

by Sr. Marilyn Vassallo, CSJ, Director of Canonical Services

New Leader for Hispanic Youth

Marcos Villalba embraces role as the new diocesan Coordinator of Hispanic Youth and Young Adults

The number of Hispanic Catholics is growing nationwide, especially in the Diocese of Shreveport. The Catholic Extension Society has recognized this trend and something else: the needs of Hispanic people often go unmet by the Catholic Church. In an effort to empower Hispanic Ministries, Catholic Extension has created the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative and offers grants to mission dioceses to help them hire personnel to reach out to Hispanic people.

The Diocese of Shreveport is one of the grant recipients. After conducting a local survey, it became evident that there was a large population of underserved Hispanic youth and young adults in the diocese. With this grant from Catholic Extension, the Diocese of Shreveport has been able to hire Marcos Villalba as the Coordinator for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Marcos, who is himself Hispanic, is looking forward to serving the needs of Hispanic Youth. “Since I’m bilingual I know I have all the talents and gifts God has bestowed on me and I want to make sure I use all of them to glorify His name and bring glory to His kingdom,” said Marcos.

Prior to coming to work for the diocese, Marcos received his Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Design from Louisiana Tech in 2006 and worked for the Monroe News Star newspaper in their graphics and advertising departments.
From there, he felt called to serve the youth at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ruston.

“I always loved working with the church, being around my faith and learning more, and sharing my faith,” said Marcos. “I came back to my faith through youth ministry and deepened my relationship with Christ. So I want to give back to the Church and help others to also grow in their faith and bring them closer to Christ, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life.”

In just under two years, Marcos helped the small St. Thomas youth group blossom into a very active youth organization with over 50 members. When asked how he accomplished this so rapidly, Marcos beams. He explains how they implemented Life Teen ministry and set up a core team at the church to help with weekly “life nights” where the teens felt comfortable talking with each other about their lives and futures. Marcos got both junior and senior high youth involved in parish events, diocesan events and even national events like summer camps and the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Marcos continued his education through the Dallas School of Ministry and is currently completing his certification in youth ministry through the diocesan sponsored CMD program.

Though Marcos is sad to leave the youth group at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ruston, he looks forward to helping all Hispanic youth in the diocese bridge the gap with their own parishes and help them overcome language barriers that might keep them away from diocesan wide youth events.

“I want to let them know that I’m here to help them to grow in their faith, invite them and help them. The church has all kinds of generous ventures towards coming to Christ. I want to let them know that they’re called to greatness as Pope Benedict XVI said.”

Marcos has moved back to Shreveport with his wife Stephanie and his son Eduardo. They are expecting another baby in August.

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

Office of Catechesis Fosters All Forms of Religious Education

The Greco Institute has moved under the Office of Catechesis

The word ‘catechesis’ means to echo and comes directly from scripture: Christ commissioned his apostles to go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Christ taught His apostles what He received from His Father, “What I heard from Him I tell the world.” (Jn 8:26)   The apostles, in turn, echoed this divine word with perfect faith.  This “echo” of the Word of God is catechesis (NDC 15.)  Second only to the Mass, Catechesis is the most important ministry of our church.

With our baptism, we are all called to be echo-ers of the Word of God. The echo/catechesis is not aimed solely at those preparing for Sacraments or children in PSR (Parish School of Religion) and Catholic Schools. It is a gift and responsibility that continues for all of our earthly lives. In April, Bishop Duca re-visioned the Office of Catechesis, creating an umbrella of lifelong catechesis. Under this umbrella is faith formation for all ages: sacramental formation (baptism, First Eucharist and Reconciliation, Confirmation), Greco Institute/Adult Faith Formation, PSR, and formation for Catechists and Parish Catechetical Leaders (DRE’s). The Office of Catechesis will work closely with the Offices of Worship, Catholic Schools and Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

How does one begin to tackle such an enormous and important ministry on a diocesan level?  Shelly Bole, the new Director of the Office of Catechesis, began by gathering the clergy and catechetical leaders in deanery meetings to listen to their “story” of faith in the diocese. “I have always been against ‘one size fits all’ catechesis and in listening to the good people of the diocese, it is even clearer that we need to offer many models of formation for the parishes.  The diversity in the Diocese of Shreveport is amazing and wonderful!” Bole stated. “What will work for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is not going to work for St. Joseph, Zwolle where one of the parents may be gone two weeks a month for work.”  The models need to be easily adapted to each parish’s personality and needs for all ages, not just the children.

Within a few months, Bole will establish an advisory council for the Office. Members will represent the varied catechetical ministries.  The purpose for the council is to help advance the vision of Bishop Duca by creating a three to five year catechetical plan for the diocese. In tandem to working with the council in creating the plan, Bole will also be visiting parishes, “Bishop has set forth many goals for me, one of which is to immediately begin supporting and forming the Catechetical Leaders and catechists who serve in PSR.”  (See calendar below for list of opportunities.)

The goal of all catechesis is an intimacy with Jesus Christ.  As privileged members of the Catholic Church, we are continually invited into this relationship and are also charged with inviting others to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and His church.

by Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis

Catholic Charties Updates

Pictured: Theresa Mormino and Jean Dresley cut the ribbon to open Gabriel’s Closet for new moms and children.

Gabriel’s Closet Opens; New Immigration Specialist & Financial Education Coordinator

It has been a busy summer for Catholic Charities! Our continued growth is allowing us to expand both our range of services and the number of people we are able to help.

In June we had a perfect day for the ribbon cutting for Gabriel’s Closet. Bishop Duca blessed this new program just before Jean Dresley and Theresa Mormino cut the ribbon and officially opened the shop for low-income new moms and their small children. The large crowd enthusiastically entered the beautifully appointed and well-stocked room. The many volunteers, donors and friends of Gabriel’s Closet made this all possible after weeks of hard work and preparation. Two of our earliest and strongest supporters were Dee Allen and her mother, Ann Calhoun. Their gifts enabled us to begin transforming the former chapel with paint, new flooring and store fixtures. One of our most faithful volunteers, Cedric Pickney, along with Michelle Valentine and others, painted, sorted, stocked and got the room looking like a fine infant shop. If you would like to work in the shop, donate items, teach classes, or perhaps even mentor a new mom, please let us know.

Our Immigration Integration Center is also growing and we welcome Briana Bianca as our newest immigration specialist and case manager. She will be working with Guiel Hausen to provide services to even more of our immigration clients. Briana received her law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU, and she also has done post-graduate studies in social work. Her skills, education, and compassion for our clients provide the perfect combination needed for this very special work. We are seeking volunteers who want to work as case managers for our immigration clients, helping them one-on-one.

We also welcome Carl Piehl as our financial education coordinator. Financial education is a key component of our Family Strengthening Program. Carl will be coordinating a series of four classes that cover budgeting, the wise use of credit and beginning asset-building. This is the type of information that many of our clients need in order to have more stability in their home life and more hope for their future and for their children. Carl will also be recruiting and working with volunteers who want to coach/mentor our clients.

We hope to expand these programs throughout the Diocese of Shreveport, so if you are interested in volunteering or supporting these programs, please contact Catholic Charities at 318-865-0200.

by Anita Crafts

Get Certified!

Take part in the Youth Ministry Certification

Since September of 2011, youth leaders and workers have had the opportunity to participate in a certificate of youth studies from the Center for Ministry Development (CMD). The certification is designed to equip parishioners with the skills and confidence they need in ministering to their respective flocks and beyond. CMD has been providing training, resources and parish consultation for pastoral and catechetical ministry since 1978.  CMD is firmly rooted in Church documents.

Due to being underwritten by a Catholic Extension Grant, the Diocese of Shreveport is able to offer this certification at the low cost of $100 per weekend. Eight courses are needed to complete the certification and we are hoping to extend the program after its conclusion in the spring of 2013.

If you would like to participate for continuing education requirements, or you are seeking to complete the certification, please contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry to register at 318-868-4441.

Our next class is September 22-23, 2012 and will be taught at the Catholic Center in Shreveport. This class will focus on “Fostering Faith: Growth of Youth through Prayer and Worship.” We would love to have you!
For additional information please go to

by John Vining, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

The Courtship of Two Doctors

Fitzgerald’s book highlights letters between her parents and benefits Diocese of Shreveport’s Marriage Ministry Programs

In 1937, two medical students began a two-year correspondence across 1,100 miles, and their fancy turned to deep respect and abiding love. Alice Baker of New Orleans and Joe Holoubek of Omaha became Dr. Alice and Dr. Joe, a professional couple known for their unbreakable bond. The Courtship of Two Doctors: a 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing chronicles their early history, providing an inspiring look at the birth of a marriage and a lifetime of service.

Alice and Joe met during a summer fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and dreamed of returning there for postgraduate training. It was the waning days of the Depression, and war was beginning to rumble overseas. Grave illness and career setbacks shook their confidence, but the two decided to face their uncertain future together, trusting in each other and the relationship they built letter by letter.

Compiled from a private collection of nearly 800 letters by daughter Martha Fitzgerald, The Courtship of Two Doctors recreates the medical era before antibiotics, when health workers were at risk of serious infection, and vividly illustrates the 1930s social barriers challenging two-career marriages. It relates the real-life romance that inspired Dr. Joe’s 2004 novel Letters to Luke, winner of the Writer’s Digest Award for inspirational literature and the Independent Publisher Award for religious fiction.

“I hope to inspire new generations of servant healers, encourage young couples to cherish one another, and generate new interest in personal family history,” said author and editor Fitzgerald.

In blog posts leading up to the release of her book, Fitzgerald said, “With Courtship, I hope to provide a new role model for young people who may be discouraged by high divorce rates and the freewheeling sexuality celebrated by popular culture. Romance is all the sweeter when it represents fidelity and draws on deep wells of faith.

“In June 1939, shortly before their wedding, my mother was taking instructions in Catholicism from a chaplain at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. A quote from one of her letters expresses the deeply held values she and my father shared: ‘I shall be so proud for you to meet Father Miget.Then he will understand why I agree so perfectly with the perception that marriage is one and indissoluble—and means infinite trust and confidence. Oh, dearest, my faith in you is truly infinite.’”
Fitzgerald has pledged proceeds from sales to causes she shares with her late parents, Drs. Alice and Joe Holoubek: the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport and the marriage ministry program of the Diocese of Shreveport.

Books will be for sale at Barnes and Noble, and Alice and Caroline’s Catholic Book Store beginning August 15, as well as at the upcoming St. Joseph’s Soiree.

Fitzgerald, an award-winning journalist of 27 years, served as a columnist and associate editorial page editor for the Shreveport Times. She is now an independent editor, writer and publisher. She and her husband, both Louisiana natives, enjoy living on a quiet country road in a bend of the Red River.

Fr. Long Appointed Vocations Director

Fr. Matthew Long prepares to foster vocations in the parish and the home

Greetings brothers and sisters in the Lord,

As most of you are aware, I was appointed Director of Church Vocations for the Diocese of Shreveport effective July 9, 2012.  This is a great challenge but one I am sure that with the help and support of you, the Catholic Faithful, will be a great blessing to me. I know the good work Fr. David Richter has done in the Office of Vocations over the last four years is something I hope to build upon. As I have reflected upon this work I have undertaken, I quickly realized the work of encouraging and fostering vocations does not occur in the Vocations Office.

This important work of encouraging men and women to hear and answer God’s call is primarily carried out in the parish and in the domestic church, the home. The Call of God is recognized by most because of the good work they witness by their parish priest and the religious sisters they come into contact with on a daily basis. The most important place that the Call of God is fostered and encouraged is in the home.  Seeing the devotion and commitment and most importantly the generosity their parents and grandparents have towards Christ and His Church will do more to increase vocations in our diocese than anything else.

Therefore, it is with faith in God’s grace, the good work of our priests, the dedication of our religious sisters and, most importantly, the devotion of the faithful people of God that the harvest will be great for our diocese. I thank you in advance for your support and help in fostering a culture of vocations in the Diocese of Shreveport.

In Christ through Mary Immaculate,
Fr. Matthew Long