Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hope in the Lord: 2014 Annual Stewardship Appeal

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship & Development

Many thanks to the 3,175 donors among our diocesan faithful who provided a pledge to our 2013 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.  Your strong support of our Appeal programs and ministries enabled last year’s campaign to be the most successful in the history of our diocese with over $1.4 million dollars pledged and 98% of that pledge amount collected!  “A truly fantastic response to the needs of our Church,” commented Bishop Michael G. Duca.  “The generosity of our people is simply remarkable, and we want to build on this positive momentum in the coming weeks with the launch of our 2014 Appeal effort.”

While care for our retired priests has long been the largest Appeal allocation, the coming year will see our diocesan seminarian and vocations ministry following closely behind in Appeal funding.  The reason for this change is quite simple, we have more seminarians to educate and ordain!

“The Holy Spirit has brought us a very good group of men seeking formation for the priesthood,” says Diocesan Vocations Director, Rev. Matthew Long.  “This May will see our first priestly ordination since my own in 2009, and there will be more to follow in 2014.  Thanks to our Appeal, we can address the future needs of maintaining a strong group of priests for our diocese.”

Men who choose to attend seminary within our diocese count on our Annual Appeal for their tuition, room and board while they undergo formation.  With eight, possibly nine men in training in 2014, your Appeal will apply nearly a quarter of a million dollars is assistance to this critical ministry for the future of our diocese.

Those programs and ministries providing direct outreach to the poor such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities will receive continued Appeal support while outreach via our efforts in Campus and Pro-Life ministries will also be able to count on Appeal funding.
“People continue to look to the Church for help,” reminds Bishop Duca.  “Whether they are hungry, or in need of assistance with their families, seeking to promote and protect life or working to maintain their faith while pursuing higher education… the Church needs to be there for them and our Appeal helps make that possible.”

Appeal funding helped the Diocesan Office of Worship successfully promote our “Year of Faith” in 2013, and provided the funding for a renewed focus on Catechesis throughout the diocese that will increase in the coming year.  These religious educational ministries are also enhanced by our Catholic Schools and their worthy mission of forming our young people, and Appeal support of tuition assistance helps make that possible.  These ministries are joined in their growth by our continually burgeoning Hispanic Ministry efforts that bear much fruit in numerous locations and in every deanery of our diocese.
Even our diocesan safe environment program benefits from Appeal support as many thousands of employees, volunteers, teachers and anyone else involved with young people in the name of the Church have been trained to foster safe environments for our youth through the “Protecting God’s Children” program that has been in force within our diocese since 2002.

And don’t forget the publication you are reading has received complete funding from our Annual Appeal since its inception 26 years ago.  Because of Appeal support of the Catholic Connection, our diocese is able to offer it in print and electronically to the faithful of our region at no cost.  Award-winning, inspiring and informational, the Catholic Connection continues to provide our Appeal donors with real bang for their giving dollar.

These Appeal programs and many others help define who we are as Catholics within our diocese and the miracle remains that they are made possible by only 28% of our registered Catholics in 16 civil parishes.  Please consider encouraging others to join you in supporting our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.  Our ten-month pledge program makes giving easy and electronic giving is just a click away at dioshpt.org. You can also use the pledge card found on page 22 of this issue.

“Participation is the key,” says Bishop Duca.  “Our donors are so generous and every person who joins our Appeal donor family truly does make a big difference.”

St. John’s Science Olympiad Team Competed in Houston

The St. John Berchmans School Science Olympiad Team kicked off its 2014 season by competing at the Hopper Middle School Invitational in Houston.  St. John’s competed against 38 other middle school teams from Texas and took home medals in three events: First Place in “Can’t Judge a Powder” (Sarah Siharath and Skylar Nipper); First Place in “Disease Detective” (Peter Vanchiere and Colton Krauss); and Fourth Place in “Helicopter” (Blaise Chagnard and Tanner Hines).  The SJB Science Olympiad team will begin the quest of its sixth consecutive state title at the Regional Science Olympiad Tournament in March.

Our Lady of Fatima School Performed Christmas Program

Mary and Joseph are pictured from the  Our Lady of Fatima School Christmas program. Mary is MacKenzi Collins and Joseph is Taylor Howard. The program was the Christmas story told through narration and song. All K-6 students portrayed people or animals present for the event.

Jesus the Good Shepherd School Announces Student of the Year

Jesus the Good Shepherd School is proud to announce Julia Barkley as the JGS Student of the Year! This is quite an accomplishment as she met or exceeded all the requirements for Student of the Year. Julia is the daughter of Olga and Bill Barkley and a member of St. Matthew Catholic Church. We wish her well as she represents our school during the District Competition this spring!

St. Frederick Students Celebrated Day of Reflection

The St. Frederick High School students celebrated “A Day of Reflection” on Monday, January 6, with special guest speaker Roy Petitfils.  Petitfils spoke to the students about their relationship with God and each other.  Students also spent time working on service learning projects that they would complete as a class.  Many students were excited that this started off the new semester and felt refreshed and focused as the New Year began.  Pictured above: Chandler Chism, 7th grade; Mckenzie McDonald, 12th grade; Roy Petitfils; Kennedy Henderson, 7th grade; Kyrsten Boyles, 7th grade; and Mary Ann Lalehparvaran, 7th grade.

Germanic Year of Discernment

A year and a half ago my family and I were soaring over the immense  Atlantic Ocean towards Germany, the location of my dad’s new Air Force assignment. Throughout the 13 hours of grueling travel, I endured enough elbow rubbing, armrest stealing antics with my brothers to last me a lifetime. Stepping off the plane and escaping my metal prison into the refreshing 75 degree summer air was heavenly. However, I suddenly realized that a new chapter of my life had begun. I was enveloped by an entirely new language and culture. I realized that after spending four years in Shreveport, the longest period of time I have ever lived in one state, I had forgotten the anticipation, excitement, nerve-wracking emotions and anonymity that go along with moving.

One of the first German experiences I had was quite comical. We had to find our two Havanese dogs, who were somewhere nearby in the airport, and pick them up to head to the base. We had no idea where they were and none of us spoke a lick of German. We ended up finding the building they were in, which was about 10 minutes away at another site. My dad went in and awkwardly asked a German at a counter, “Sprechen Inglés?” My dad asked the lady if she spoke English in half German, half Spanish. This was just a tiny glimpse of the beginning of a whole slew of embarrassments that occurred that year.
After a month’s stay in the army post hotel, we moved into our fourth story apartment on one of the four army posts, Kelley Barracks. I can honestly say that after a year, I am a stair climbing guru.  There I often thought deeply on seminary formation and further discerned if I was truly called to return to the diocese the following year. My decision to return was ultimately molded by a myriad of eye-opening experiences.

In October of 2012 I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage with the base chapel and my family to Assisi and Rome. Assisi exposed me to the subtle, quiet beauty of our wonderful Catholic Church. We walked through twisting cobblestone streets filled with fresh Italian breads, fruits, desserts and other delicacies. In Rome a French priest, a former Swiss Guard, led us around and arranged for an American Cardinal to say a private Mass for us in a chapel near St. Peter’s square. Later in the year I was able to travel throughout Germany, getting to know the culture, devouring the scrumptious apfel strudel, and witnessing breathtaking views. In the spring I visited Venice and Bari in Italy, Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, Olympia in Greece and Dubrovnic in Croatia. Visiting these countries was an immersive teaching moment; it taught me about the history of different people and their beliefs. I was also exposed to many magnificent churches In the end, I was left with a longing for God and involvement in His Church. I wanted to bring God and peace to all the suffering impoverished people I saw along the way. Throughout the whole trip I had a burning desire that kept bringing the idea of seminary back into my mind as a way I could reach out to such people.

My two favorite moments of true enlightenment occurred during my trip to Lourdes, France and to Rome for a second time. In Lourdes there was a majestic aura of serenity that encased the entire city, an aura that felt like the gentle touch of a mother, cradling all within. During this time I prayed through our loving Lady of Lourdes, asking to better understand God’s will for my life. I returned to Rome this past summer. During this time I was able to visit St. Mary Major and the Church of St. Ignatius, which contains the body of Saint John Berchmans. I prayed for the courage to surrender, to be a humble servant and to be open to God’s will by putting aside any self-centered desires I had.

I finally answered the never ending, overwhelming restlessness in my heart to return to the Diocese of Shreveport to answer the call I was hearing.  After strenuous logistical planning, my grandmother, mother, sister and I finally arrived at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, LA. I felt internally at peace for the first time in five years, but also felt completely unsure of what the future would bring. For the first time in my life, I would have to wait five months in order to see my parents and siblings. After I said goodbye to my family, I sat down in my room, encompassed by unnerving, piercing silence. After a few long minutes, I took a deep breath and exited my room, plunging into the uncharted, crisp and cleansing waters of seminary life.

I have grown happier as the days have gone by. I feel fulfilled in a place of serenity where ancient oaks provide protective, shielding shadows in which I can ignore the blaring ruckus of our noisy culture in order to hear and understand better the will of our most gracious God.  There is also no greater environment than a place where fellow supportive brothers are earnestly seeking the same goal: Christ, as well as their identity in Christ, with all of their hearts. Although it is still difficult for me to wake up early in the morning for adoration, I find comfort in this minuscule sacrifice and everything else that is a part of our daily routine for the greater glory of God. It helps us grow in holiness, which will ultimately bring us the greatest happiness we can encounter in this world.

My time at St. Ben’s is a great blessing, an amazing time of spiritual maturation and intellectual growth balanced with good-hearted fun. My decision to enter seminary is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I sincerely look forward to many more days to come. May you receive the grace to be unconditionally ready for the day the King of Endless Glory calls out for you to leave all you have known to come and follow Him, even if it means you must journey across an ocean and back.

Steven Griego is in first year college at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, LA.

Navigating the Faith: Papal Infallibility

by Mike Van Vranken

While most media reports are produced to provide information, they sometimes create more questions than answers.  Throughout my life as a Roman Catholic, I’ve experienced many of those stories where the lingering questions were sometimes difficult to answer.  This has, for many years, supported my belief that adult education is critical for all Catholics to enhance their own relationship with Jesus, his Church and the entire Body of Christ.
But it seems this has been exponentially magnified over the last year following the election of Pope Francis last March.  His informal style, his access to reporters and to people in general, as well as his candid comments on his concern for the poor and vulnerable have made him a favorite of individuals from every walk of life and corner of the globe. Now with Catholicism in a very frequent spotlight, are you and I adequately prepared to answer the questions that all this publicity generates?

Here is an example:  As so many people have interpreted Pope Francis’ comments in a myriad of ways, how would you explain Papal Infallibility to someone asking about some of his comments?  Certainly, there are those who have such a misunderstanding of Papal Infallibility they could confuse some of Francis’ comments as a change of Church dogma.  Our ability to respond can play a key role in the effectiveness of our evangelization work.

Let’s begin with “when.”  When did Papal Infallibility come into existence?  The answer is that it was created along with the creation of the Church of Jesus Christ. Our understanding of this dogma grew over time, but it existed from the beginning.  We could compare this to the existence of the Holy Trinity.  We believe in faith that the Trinity has always been and always will be.  But, we did not understand that from the beginning.  Our “theology” of the Trinity grew over time.  We can use scripture and we can use writings of Church leaders since the first century, who may not have mentioned the words “Papal Infallibility,” yet emphatically emphasized the Church cannot be in error when speaking of faith and morals.  Yes, it was not until Vatican I in the 1860’s, and reaffirmed at Vatican II in the 1960’s, that Papal Infallibility was officially a dogmatic teaching of the Church.  Yet, the understanding of the authority that Jesus left with Peter and the Church began in the first century.

So, just what is Papal Infallibility?  The Encyclopedia of Catholicism calls it “a charism (or gift of the Spirit) that ensures immunity from error in the Church’s definitive teaching on matters of faith and morals.”  It goes on to explain that only God is infallible so this is a divine attribute that has been gifted to the Church and to the Bishop of Rome in the very restricted sense of faith and morals.  The teachings of Vatican I do not say the pope himself is infallible.  Again, the Holy Spirit gifts the pope with a power that Christ gave to his Church and belongs to his Church.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Infallibility is limited to certain criteria.  They include, first, the pope must be teaching in the official capacity as pastor of all Christians.  Again, it has to be a teaching on some doctrine of faith or morals.  It would include a teaching that he wishes to be irrevocable and binding on the entire Church.

Think about this from a logical Christian viewpoint.  The following comes from an EWTN article written by Jeffrey Mirus, PhD.  “When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called “infallible” and the teaching which he articulates is termed ‘irreformable’.” Again, from a Christian point of view, we know Jesus has promised to be with the Church until the end of time. Consequently, when all of the aforementioned criteria are met, we believe in faith the Holy Spirit would not allow any error to creep into such a teaching.  Tertullian even suggested that if the Church erred in some way in specifically teaching faith and morals, then the Holy Spirit did not watch over it.

A few scriptures we can study are:
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NAB)

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 NAB)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NAB)

Now it’s time for more of that adult education I mentioned earlier.  Suggestions would include Sacred Scripture, reading more from the Catholic Encyclopedia, the documents of the First and Second Vatican Councils, namely Pastor aeternus of Vatican I and Lumen Gentium of Vatican II, as well as reputable Catholic websites.

The Catholic dogma of Papal Infallibility is one we should all cherish; which is difficult to do if we don’t try to understand it.

Second Collections: Catholic Relief Services

Announcement Dates: February 23rd & March 2nd
Beginning and Ending Dates: Ash Wednesday, March 5th – Easter Sunday, April 20th
Collection Date: Easter Sunday

Each Lent, the Church calls us into a season of spiritual renewal and reflection. The CRS Rice Bowl is an inspirational way to participate in the journey through the renewal of Lent to the joy of Easter.  CRS Rice Bowl is the Lenten Program of Catholic Relief Services, the official international agency of the Catholic community in the United States.

Every year around Lent, my brothers, sisters and I were given our personal coin card or can for the purpose of putting money in it each day from the beginning of Lent up to Easter Sunday.  Receiving that card or can was always a happy occasion.  It signaled two things: that Easter was rapidly approaching, and that we had this great opportunity to do something special for Jesus and people who were poorer than ourselves.  Some years it was a dime card, other years it was a quarter card, other times it was a cardboard box or can.  The cards contained special slots during holy week for the purpose of inserting a dollar instead of the usual coin.  We used tape when we pressed our coin too zealously into the pocket and tore it.  Presenting our cards or cans in church on Easter Sunday added to the awesomeness of our celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.  It seemed to make us and our Easter clothes shine even brighter when we performed this kindness for Jesus and the poor.

The theme of the CRS Rice Bowl campaign is, “FOR LENT, FOR LIFE: What you give up for Lent changes lives.”  CRS asks us to: pray to deepen our relationship with God and reflect on what type of person He calls us to be; fast to remove the things that get between us and God and to live in solidarity with those in need; and, give alms to our brothers and sisters in need, honoring Jesus’ call to serve our neighbors.  My parents did a beautiful job of teaching us that we had something beautiful to offer to our Risen Lord and the least of his people.  It is my prayer that your prayer table, home altar, coffee table, dining room table, night stand or other special location is graced with your box, tin, jar, card holder, can or other container.  Whether your CRS Rice Bowl is an individual, family or class effort, you are gathering up and laying aside throughout the holy season of Lent a great gift to the Lord and those in need.  Please participate as fully as possible and enhance your Easter joy by presenting your CRS Rice Bowl to the Lord at the Easter Collection.

Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General, is the Director of Special Collections.

Surely He’s Not Talking to Us

After healing a blind man, Jesus declared that he came into the world “… so those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”  He was referring to the spiritual component of the physical miracle he had just performed.  The blind man could physically see, but there were those around him who could also physically see but not understand Jesus’ teachings. This compelled some Pharisees to ask: “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” (John 9:39-40)  It sounds like they were asking, “Surely you are not talking to us, are you Jesus?”  In their own minds, there was no way he could be saying they were blind.

Do we ever find ourselves doing the same thing?  When someone challenges us that we are not doing enough for the poor, do we respond with:  “surely he is not talking to us”?  Or, do we mutter to ourselves: “I sure hope my friend, or my cousin, or my neighbor or my spouse is listening to this message?”   How often do we shake our heads at the “poor Pharisees” because they just don’t get it, when we don’t even see how we imitate everything they do?

A more appropriate response when we hear Christ talking through scripture or through another person is to ask: “How can I use this message to be a better person myself?”  Our society spends way too much effort trying to “fix” each other rather than changing our own lives.  Before every plane flight, we receive emergency instructions to “put on our own oxygen mask first” before trying to help those seated next to us.  This is good spiritual advice as well.

Throughout this month, let’s make a daily practice to examine every message we read or hear and determine how we can use that information to transform our lives to be more Christ-like.  Let’s assume the Holy Spirit is trying to get our attention to change our own lives before we try to change another’s life.  Once this becomes our everyday habit, we will finally realize that, yes, he really is talking to us.

Mike is a writer and teacher. You can contact him at: www.mikevanvrankenministries.org or write him at: Mike Van Vranken, 523 Loch Ridge Drive, Shreveport, LA  71106.

A Joyful Vocation in the Church

My freshmen year at Benedictine College, one of my closest friends delighted us all with news that he was headed for the seminary. A young man with strong devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, Chris’s talents were in making people laugh and making people pray. His convictions were contagious and many of our friends grew as Catholics in his friendship; the fact that he discerned a vocation to the priesthood seemed perfect, and while we would miss him, we were excited. His parents, however, were less than thrilled. Chris is an only child, so with his entrance into the priesthood and its vow of celibacy, his parents would never have a daughter-in-law, grandchildren or fulfilled fantasies of big family Christmases. The idea of their only son being a busy diocesan priest was, understandably, a hard pill to swallow.

The reaction is all too common. Thinking of one’s grown up child entering the religious life as a priest, sister or brother can be generally foreign or perhaps peculiar. Even my dad, wonderful as he was, raised an eyebrow when I mentioned discerning life as a cloistered nun. And I get it; it seems contrary to the classic American ambition of “making something of yourself,” of going out and making the world your oyster. Young parents beam at their toddlers with wonder – will she be a doctor? Will he study law like his father? How many people look at their little ones with big, bright hopes of them taking a veil or collar?

I’d like to argue, though, that encouraging your children to think about what real life would be like as a monk, nun, or priest is the most hopeful thing you can do for the Church. Even if they consider it and don’t feel called to the religious life, entertaining the idea requires a bit of investigating and a lot of prayer, both as an individual and family, which will only better their souls. In a diocese that is still comparatively new, in a region with a small handful of religious and a shortage of priests like many others in the U.S., it’s difficult to see the impact and happiness a person experiences when fully consecrated to God. And neither is it well known that each religious order has a charism – a specific work or mission performed by the community as a whole to further the Kingdom of God and draw everyone closer to Christ. For example, the ever joyful Dominican sisters are committed to excellence in education; Benedictines are dedicated to prayerful work for the Church and Franciscans work for the spiritual and physical provision of the poor.

Every vocation, whether married or religious, invites a person to love and sacrifice in a particular way; and as Bishop Duca observed at Deacon Keith Garvin’s recent ordination, “Sacrificial love often allows us to become the best version of ourselves.” Entrance into a religious order is not a loss of life, it’s an enhancement of it. It’s a heroic adventure of the soul to accept the challenges God offers, to trust, and to commit entirely to his service. So ask your children, invite a priest or religious to dinner, go to an ordination Mass, and make daily prayer part of your family life. Above all, pray for your children’s joyful acceptance of God’s will and for the grace to encourage them.

Katie Sciba is the author of thecatholicwife.net. She lives in Shreveport with her husband, Andrew, and three sons, Liam,Thomas & Peter.