Monthly Archives: July 2012

Field Advocates

Pictured: Sr. Marilyn training Field Advocates.

Lay leaders assist the tribunal, priests, deacons

The theological advances of Vatican II confirm the laity are not limited to the temporal sphere of life, but can assist in the mission of the Church traditionally found in the lives of the clergy and religious.

One of the ways laity have taken an active role in the mission of the Church in recent years is to provide assistance to tribunals as lay or field advocates. Their primary purpose is to assist individuals in the initial preparation and completion of case paperwork. These advocates are different from the degreed canonists assigned to Chanceries or Marriage Tribunals.

The Diocese of Shreveport has been developing a Field Advocate Program since 2001. Individuals throughout the diocese have participated in training sessions concerning the marriage laws of the Church, as well as the pastoral application of them in understanding the process of annulments in the Catholic Church.

This year, Bishop Duca has appointed 41 to serve as Field Advocates for the diocesan Marriage Tribunal. These appointments are for a year and renewed at the recommendation of  Fr. Peter Mangum, Judicial Vicar, and Sr. Marilyn Vassallo, Director of Canonical Services. While we gladly welcome the assistance of these Field Advocates, the bishop stresses this program serves to complement the priests and deacons already providing pastoral ministry for those individuals in need of annulments.

This past spring, the advocates were instructed on the five types of processes in nullity procedures in the Catholic Church.
We hope to assist priests and their parishioners throughout the diocese. Since this process differs from the traditional priest and parishioner, it will take time for all to get use to the role of the Field Advocate. The following is a short summary of the procedure that will be followed by those parishes utilizing Field Advocates.

After the initial meeting with a priest or deacon, the person in need of an annulment is to contact the Marriage Tribunal. The Moderator of the Tribunal, Ricole Williams, will assign a Field Advocate. The Field Advocate and person in need of an annulment will set up meeting times in which they will complete the paperwork associated with their specific type of annulment.

It is our hope Field Advocates will enable clergy to focus on the individual’s pastoral counseling while the Field Advocate acts as a bridge between clergy, tribunal and client. In communicating concerns, needs, financial responsibilities, etc., the Field Advocate can help the individual see this process as a means of reconciliation and hope, rather than just a legal requirement of Church law.

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

How Catholic Are Our Schools?

The Diocese of Shreveport Catholic School students excel academically under the guidance of focused and educated teachers and staff.

It would be very easy to read off the numbers of Catholic and non-Catholic students enrolled in our schools.   However, I don’t think these numbers truly demonstrate the deep Catholic practices and traditions in our Catholic Schools.
First of all, parents come to our schools because they are looking to become a member of the Catholic school team, a member of the Catholic school community. Each of the principals meets with every new family to share their desire to serve you, the parents, in providing your children with appropriate, challenging and exciting educational programs wrapped in a faith formation that is second to none.

Our teachers celebrate the fact that each student is created uniquely and thus requires individual attention. While each student is accepted as an individual and treated with special attention, that same student is taught to be a part of the total community through various groups, not only to belong to a group, but to become a contributing member of the group. Therefore, the formation of community is an important part of our Catholic school education.

As a part of this report,  you will find our Terra Nova scores. Please take time to study the scores and note that our students continue to place well above the national average norms. This may be contributed to the fact that there is a common sense of purpose provided by our Catholic schools. That is, students are in school to learn and the school provides the framework in which they need to operate.

Each of our Catholic schools calls the entire school to celebrate liturgy together once a week. Our students are very much a part of this special time and join with all to express their common faith. Those who are not Catholic also join in celebrating because they too help form this community and participate in the religious aspects of it as they are able.

More than any other program of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be unique, contemporary and oriented to Christian service; unique because it is distinguished by its commitment to the three fold purpose of Christian education and by its total design and operation which foster the integration of religion with the rest of learning and living; contemporary because it enables students to address with Christian insight multiple problems which face individuals and society today; oriented to Christian service because it helps students to acquire skills, virtues and habits of the heart and mind required for effective service to others.

– Sister Carol Shively, OSU
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Click on the image to download the full report.

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.

Pro-Life Messengers

Sidewalk Counselor and Crossroads walkers visited Northwest Louisiana

Crossroads walkers visit local pro-life groups

July was an active month for the pro-life groups in Shreveport and Bossier City. On the weekend of July 6 the Cathedral’s One Life, St. Joseph’s VITA, and St. Jude’s Pro-Life Group sponsored a training program by Joanne Underwood, Director of Convert-to-Life/Sidewalk Counseling Ministry Catholic Pro-Life Committee from Dallas, TX. Joanne gave a very informative discussion of pro-life counseling techniques used in Dallas during a St. Jude’s dinner meeting.

The young adult Crossroads Walkers were also at the meeting. They stopped in Shreveport, which is about halfway on their long walk from California to Washington D.C., which ends on August 11. Each summer for the last 17 years (since 1995) groups of young college age adults participate in this pro-life awareness journey.

There are four United States walks this year beginning in Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles and all ending in Washington D.C.  There is also a Canadian walk from Vancouver to Ottawa and walks in Ireland and Spain. The southern group who visited the dinner/program was accompanied by Fr. Dan Pettee, T.O.R., of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Roxie Tabor is the diocesan coordinator for pro-life activities and VITA Pro-Life ministries.

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.

Second Collections: Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry

In the month of August, we take up a collection to help our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters. Summer, fall, winter and spring, the mission of the Church moves towards completion in Christ.  In every season the Spirit guides us on our pilgrimage and impels us to attend to the lost sheep and other souls we encounter along the way. These second collections of the Church keep us mindful of our fellow pilgrims and those who are especially in need of the concern and compassion of the Church. As our Lord has said, “The harvest is abundant, laborers are few.  Beg the Master of the harvest to send forth laborers for the harvest.”  Our participation in the collection for the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry is the Master’s response to our prayer and our participation in the Master’s compassion.

These “second” or “special” collections of the Church have their roots in the Bible. The Scriptures exhort us to “have a concern for all.” The “Year of Faith,” announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will begin in October of this year. Pope Benedict XVI wants the Year of Faith to help the Church focus its attention on “Jesus Christ and the beauty of having faith in him.” This month’s special collection for the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry has several wonderful connections to the Year of Faith. “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” and the “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity” are three documents of the Second Vatican Council which connect us with the Catholic faith and migration of our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters in a powerful bond of Christian charity born of the Spirit.

The Sacred Scriptures have consistently called us to a profound concern for the alien and sojourner among us. The Old and New Testaments call us to God’s standard of compassion and hospitality for the least of His people. Please be generous to the second collection for the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry. Your participation makes it possible for the clergy and laity of our diocese to offer the Church’s care to the Hispanic Catholics of our diocese. Those whom we serve through this special collection bless us with their vibrant Catholic faith, strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, and their strong love for the Church.

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

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.

Bishop’s Reflection August 2012

Photo: Southwest United States Mountain scene in northern New Mexico. (


by Bishop Michael Duca

I write this month’s message from the peace of my summer vacation retreat in Red River, New Mexico where the air is clear and cool. I keep coming back here, not only for the cool temperatures, but also for the peace and the quiet. The idea is that “quiet” is easy, relaxed and without stress, but, in fact, quiet can be hard.

Why is it hard? Well, think about it. When we find some time in our busy life to be silent, as soon as we sit down a flood of projects and needs we have put off crowd into our minds and now seem to be urgent. Even when we overcome this distraction we are left with ourselves and discover that we may not know what to do with silence, or the feelings that begin to emerge are not relaxing at all, in fact they may be disturbing. Yet even though silence can be hard, our Holy Father recently reminded us that it is essential to our lives even though we can all admit it is hard to find silence in our noisy world.

Our Holy Father reminds us:
“Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.”

In our busy world we must make a real effort to find time to be quiet so we can discover the wisdom that is only found in silence. It is silence that makes real communication possible.  When we are quiet and listen to another, we have the opportunity to really understand what the other person is trying to communicate.  In silence we have the time to gather our thoughts and consider our choices from the deepest values of our lives and not be swayed by the loud shouting voices that want to force us to act against our deepest values. Silence is where we allow the voice of God to draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s love.  Silence is the space of prayer. One of the deepest wisdoms of the Church and the teachings of the saints is that we should meditate on the Word of God. Meditating is making time to be quiet and in silence allowing the full meaning of the scripture to emerge.  This deeper understanding is only possible in quiet, and in the silence we find time to put into words the surprising feeling a scripture has evoked in our hearts.

Sometimes we judge a Mass by whether the homily was good, but if we foster a silent listening heart during the Mass, God can touch our hearts through the prayers, the readings, the grace of receiving Holy Communion and in other surprising ways.  A silent heart can be fostered even in the middle of the congregation at Mass.

Summer often offers us opportunities for silence that gives us the time to consider the state of our spiritual lives. We should not be afraid of the silence and make time to consider how God is calling us to change our lives, reconsider our choices, and discover the wisdom of meditating on the Word of God.

This silent reflection does not leave us with only new personal insight, but it is also where we hear the needs of the poor and suffering and hear God’s call to mission. As our Holy Father recently said:
“In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission.… Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.”

Let us seek out the wisdom that can only be found in silence. The quiet is often not easy to endure but “do not be afraid,” for the wisdom we discover in the silence of our listening heart is the saving words of our savior inviting us deeper into the mystery of His love.