Monthly Archives: February 2014

Goodbye to the Smiling Priest: Beloved Father Edmund A. “Larry” Niehoff Passed Away

When Fr. Edmund A. “Larry” Niehoff left this world to be in certain paradise, I received a phone call from a worried local Catholic who happened to see his obituary in the newspaper.  He informed me that Fr. Larry looked almost “too happy” in the picture accompanying the obituary.  “Fr. Niehoff couldn’t have looked that jovial,” ventured my caller.  I was quick to point out that Fr. Larry not only looked just that happy, but he appeared that way all the time, never leaving you without that gracious smile and a loving hug for good measure.

Our diocese inherited Fr. Larry in 1989, after he had served a variety of locations including the Archdioceses of New Orleans and Chicago, and our mother Diocese of Alexandria/Shreveport.  After serving our region as a hospital chaplain, he moved into the pastor’s role at St. Mary of the Pines, then later at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield and St. Ann Church in Stonewall.

We were indeed lucky to have him finish both his priesthood and his life as an incardinated member of the Diocese of Shreveport.  People who received Fr. Larry’s care in the hospital, or those lucky enough to be his parishioners, all tell the same story: that Fr. Niehoff was a joy, an inspiration and a blessing in their life. This was a priest who embraced his vocation and strived to serve Christ’s people in a variety of remarkable ways. His style was always low key, yet firm, as he brought those around him closer to Christ.

As the eldest member of our presbyterate, Fr. Larry had a special role in the ordination of Michael G. Duca as our second bishop. It is only fitting that one so dedicated to the work of Christ in our diocese would play such a special part in the liturgical welcoming of our new bishop to the diocese.

The final years of Fr. Larry’s life were marked by health challenges resulting in great physical pain for this smiling man of God.  Despite these hardships, one never heard Fr. Larry complain about his condition, as he worked hard for the Church to the very end, faithfully serving his two parishes and the people who loved him.  Retirement was not part of Fr. Larry’s vocabulary and he many times stated his intention of working as a priest to the very end.

Thank you Fr. Larry for gracing us with your ministry as a priest.  Thank you Fr. Larry for your smiles, your hugs and your always positive attitude.  Thank you Fr. Larry for showing us what a priest can be, can do and can inspire in all of us.

by John Mark Willcox

Pope’s Message for Lent 2014: An Invitation to Evangelical Poverty in Our Time

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

Christ’s Grace
First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor… .” Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things. God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.”

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich.” This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptised by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” that he is “heir of all things.”

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road. What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy,” he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor,” to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the first-born brother.
It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

Our Witness
We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything,” sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.”

Catholic Charities Looks to Expand Services

Courtesy Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA

Throughout our short history, Catholic Charities of Shreveport has seen dynamic growth and developed four major programs:  Emergency Assistance, Financial Education, Immigration Integration and Gabriel’s Closet. These programs were created to address some of the greatest needs throughout the 16 civil parishes that comprise the Diocese of Shreveport, and each program includes important educational components that are intended to provide our clients with the tools and information they need to begin making long-term improvements. Until recently, however, we were only able to offer Emergency Assistance to some of those 16 parishes.

When people come to us for assistance, we understand their need is usually a symptom or outgrowth of a larger issue. We want to help with their immediate need, but the educational components are really the most valuable for creating long-term improvements. Gabriel’s Closet provides low-income new parents with necessary infant items, but it also includes classes such as well baby care and parenting skills.  The Immigration Integration program includes legal assistance to help people obtain necessary legal documentation, but it also includes English as Second Language and Citizenship classes. Emergency Assistance for rent or utilities is paired with Financial Education, and also includes our new Healthy Eating on a Budget Initiative which incorporates economical nutrition and cooking classes.

As we grow, we hope to make these programs available throughout the diocese. With the opening of the Lake Providence office, we can now offer Emergency Assistance and Financial Education to the farthest eastern areas of the diocese.

We are in the process of researching our next satellite office. We are assessing the greatest needs in potential areas, which programs volunteers can support in those locations, and what other resources would be available to sustain an office. The final decision will be based on a balance of needs, logistics and local support in terms of both volunteers and funding.

Because we want to offer our programs and services for many years to come, our growth must be done in a manageable and sustainable way. It is a time for prayerful discernment, so we may be wise stewards in this time of growth. However, it is also an exciting time for the agency as we explore options for helping even more people. Catholic Charities of Shreveport wants input from people in all areas of the diocese.  If you would like to be a part of this growth, we would appreciate hearing your ideas for your area. Call us at 318-865-0200.

by Anita Crafts, Catholic Charities of Shreveport

Parishes Pray for Immigration Reform

The Alvizo Family spoke about their experience in the United States during the St. Patrick Parish prayer service.

Since April of 2013 the American Bishops have led an effort to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The hard work of Catholics throughout our country bore fruit in June of 2013 when the United States Senate passed a comprehensive bill that provides a path to citizenship and helps to reunite families.

In order to pray that the House of Representatives pass a similar bill prayer services were held at St. Patrick Parish in Lake Providence on Sunday, November 24, 2013 and at Sacred Heart Parish in Oak Grove on Wednesday, December 4, 2013.  The prayer services were entitled, “I Was A Stranger and You Welcomed Me.” Included in the prayer services were Scriptural Readings (Galatians 3:23-39, Psalm 18 and Luke 10:25-37); a homily, Intercessions, a witness by a Mexican American Family and a reflection by Bishop Michael Duca. Those who attended both learned the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning immigration reform and were encouraged to contact their member of the House of Representatives.

The USCCB is asking that the House pass a bill which includes the following: 1) economic and social development in Mexico and Latin America in order to address the root causes of migration, 2) an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented in this country, 3) an expanded legal means to reunite documented and undocumented family members, 4) a temporary worker program which protects both foreign and domestic workers and 5) due process reforms for those detained for lack of documentation as well as reforms which protect undocumented immigrants from being returned to countries with oppressive regimes.

The Republican members of the House of Representatives are now considering various principles which could be included in an immigration reform bill. Please pray that the House of Representatives pass immigration reform which includes the points listed above, especially provisions which include a path to citizenship and the reuniting of families. In order to be a part of this effort, call your representative, Vance McAllister 202-225-8490 or John Fleming 202-225-2777.

by Fr. Mark Watson, Pastor of St. Patrick Church in Lake Providence and Sacred Heart Church in Oak Grove

Jail House Conversions

by Dr. Holly L. Wilson

Ever heard of “jail house conversions” or “fox-hole conversions”?  Ever wondered what that meant?  It is sort of like what happens when something bad and traumatic happens to a person, like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or some other event, and the person turns to God and from the world.

In fox-holes in World War I, a soldier would feel death at his heels and would begin to pray to God because he knew that his gun or bayonet was not enough to save him. Some people view this type of conversion as inauthentic because afterwards, if he survives, he tells God, “Thanks God, I’ll take it from here.” The same thing is thought about prisoners who convert to Christianity in prison.  They are confronted with very traumatic events: arrest, sentencing and imprisonment for many years. Suddenly, they feel the need for God. They believed they were perfectly capable of running their lives on their own before they were arrested, but afterwards they realized that they didn’t have the power to handle their freedom.  So some prisoners turn to God.  One of the differences between the fox-hole conversion and the jail-house conversion is that the latter goes on for years and prisoners have the time to study the Bible, take classes and really turn their lives over to Christ.

Some people are skeptical of these conversions because it seems like prisoners convert in order to prove to the parole board that they are worthy of parole. This may well be true of some men, there are always human beings who know how to work the system. But having taught at David Wade Correctional Center for the past 10 years with the Greco Institute of the Diocese of Shreveport, I have come to be convinced that there are real and genuine jail house conversions.

The men speak of how their lives have been changed by their arrest and how grateful they are that they were arrested because they wouldn’t be alive otherwise. They speak of how finding Christ in prison has changed them from being dependent upon substances to being dependent upon Christ. They even speak of being “happy” in prison. They know that prison was what caused them to turn from a life of crime, self-abuse and abuse of others to a wholesome life, a Spirit filled life, a life dependent upon the cross of Jesus.

Many of these men I teach are in a Sheriff’s prison, River Bend Detention Center, in Lake Providence, LA, where they have little access to education and vocational training other than religious education.  It is the one thing they can grab hold of to keep their sanity.  In Louisiana 52% of all prisoners are in locally run Sheriff’s prisons. I go out to the prison twice a week and teach them the Bible and Christ’s love for them. They learn what it means to be a Christian and even what it means to be a Catholic. I hope it is enough for them to embrace a true conversion.

Fr. Mark Watson, pastor at St. Patrick and Sacred Heart parishes, has been visiting prisons in East and West Carroll Parish Detention Center for the last two and half years. At West Carroll he confirmed a man and would lead a communion service once a week. In his preaching he explains aspects of the Catholic faith. He confirmed another prisoner at East Carroll Detention Center in Lake Providence and baptized him. At River Bend Detention Center in Lake Providence he is in the process giving a prisoner inquiry and Catechumenate materials. Fr. Mark finds the Catholic faith fills an important need, not only in the lives of these men, but in the lives of many of the inmates.

I drive 154 miles round trip to go to River Bend twice a week because the prison is divided up into two phases. The men there are so eager to learn and speak about the Bible. They not only want to learn, they want to talk about their own conversion experiences and the understanding they have developed as they have done their own reading. I try to help them understand Catholic teaching. We have to sit in a cold room on cold steel benches for our classes, and the men wear only  thin orange jumpsuits, but they have no chapel in this small Sheriff’s prison and so we do the best we can.

At State run prisons like David Wade, the men have more access to vocational training and even have a Chapel where Mass and religious services are held.  I see those men once a week and many of those I have taught were once Protestants and are now  interested in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), so I am holding an RCIA class in prison for 10 men who are considering becoming Catholic.

Fr. Mark Franklin celebrates Mass with the prisoners once a month at David Wade Correction Center in Homer.  Many men from different denominations, in addition to Catholics, attend and they are hungry for the Mass. Now they are learning from me what it means to attend Mass and what it means to be a Catholic as I teach an RCIA class in addition to my Bible study.  I drive 165 miles round trip every week to be at David Wade every Wednesday night. Most of the men have attended multiple classes with me and some of the men have been coming to every class and Bible study I have held since 2004 when I first started coming there. They tell me about their conversion experiences since going to prison and how Jesus has changed their lives.  They never stop expressing their appreciation for the Greco Institute.

Fr. Francis Kamau, along with Fr. Michael Thang’wa, visit the men housed in the Caddo Correctional Center in Shreveport to offer them Confession, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion. Fr. Francis is also an auxiliary deputy chaplain and serves not only inmates, but also sheriff’s deputies. Another local Catholic, Fred Douciere, goes to Richland Parish Detention Center to give a Bible Study to the women prisoners there twice a month.

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the United States and, in fact, on the planet.  It has seven times the incarceration rate of China and 20 times the incarceration rate of Germany.  In the past two decades, prison population in Louisiana has doubled. One in 86 adults in Louisiana is doing time, which is double the national average. It is thus important for us to reach out to prisoners and bring the Good News to them. In my experience the prisoners never stop thanking me for coming out week after week to teach them scripture.

The Greco Institute, parish priests and some lay people are trying to make a difference in these prisoners’ lives – helping them find Christ and live a Christian life so that when they do get out they will genuinely be transformed men and we can witness a true jail house conversion. So far I have noticed that none of the men who have attended my classes and have been released have ever come back to prison.  And all of this is possible because of the generous support the Diocese of Shreveport receives from people just like you to the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.

Second Collections: Black & Indian Missions and Catholic Relief Services

Black and Indian Missions
Announcement Dates:
February 23rd & March 2nd  
Collection Date: March 8th & 9th

“Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC 2447).  This 125-year-old National Collection for Black and Indian people was mandated by the III Plenary Council in 1884. The funds are distributed as grants to dioceses throughout the United States, supporting and strengthening evangelization programs which otherwise would cease.

Extremely impoverished neighborhoods and reservations among Black and Native Americans, economically, educationally and spiritually, are still a hampering reality across our nation. Your financial support of the Black and Indian Missions Office enables it to help form children in the faith, educate young people and build hope – a hope often so hard to find in the areas our missionaries serve. Instructing, advising, consoling and comforting are spiritual works of mercy (CCC 2447).

In our own mission diocese, the Diocese of Shreveport, we have a few small, but vibrant, black parishes: Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Shreveport, Little Flower of Jesus Parish in Monroe and St. Benedict the Black Parish in Grambling. There are Native American Indians at St. Joseph Parish in Zwolle and at St. Ann Church in Ebarb. There are Black and Native Indian Catholics present in many of the other parishes of our diocese. We have the much needed Newman Center that serves the black and international Catholic students studying in the university town of Grambling. Our participation in this special collection allows our Catholic faith to penetrate deeper into the African American and Indian populations of north Louisiana, providing education and hope. Join in this spiritual work of mercy!  Please give generously to the Black and Indian Missions Collection.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Announcement Dates:
March 16th & 23rd  
Collection Date: March 29th & 30th

“Help Jesus in Disguise.”  Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Community in the United States.  Whether it’s the person or family across the street or in another part of the world, CRS supports six Catholic agencies that touch more than 100 million lives. You and I, through CRS, are doing a tremendous amount of good in witness to the Lord at home and abroad. The funds from this collection provide food to the hungry, support to displaced families and show Christ’s love and respect to all people.

Jesus identified himself with our poorest brothers and sisters. Catholic Relief Services, representing us, our U.S. Bishops, the Church and the Lord, serves Jesus in the victims of human trafficking, in those who suffer from unjust laws and in those who need pastoral care. Through your generosity families will be reunited, valuable life skills will be taught to those seeking a better life, and many will have vital humanitarian needs met.

Our Lord said that the poor you will have with you always. Our Lord was not speaking in a defeated, resigned tone about the presence of poverty; rather, he was giving us the Good News that we would always have the opportunity to love and serve Him in “the least of these.” Help Jesus in disguise.  Give generously this Lenten season to the Catholic Relief Services Collection.

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

Navigating the Faith: Seeking a Decree of Nullity

by Dr. Kelly O’Donnell, Director of the Diocesan Tribunal

Everyone knows that marriage is “until death do us part”, right?  Some of us who have once spoken those very words with the best of intentions are no longer with our spouse.  We find ourselves, perhaps at some point in our lives, needing to petition the diocesan tribunal for what used to be commonly called “an annulment.”  Just to be clear, this does not mean that your marriage to your former spouse never existed. The Catholic Church recognizes “all” marriages (i.e. between baptized or non-baptized persons) and believes that you intended to give valid consent to each other unless one of you decides to challenge its validity.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines and asks us to follow regarding matrimony or marriage:

1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS (48 # 1).

1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

1662 Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child (GS 50 # 1).

What if you wake up one morning and realize after you have been divorced, or are in a current marriage where children were never a part of the picture, or unfaithfulness in the marriage is acceptable by one of the spouses? This may sound like a very typical scenario in today’s marriages. Christ did not intend for those who wanted to follow his precepts to remain in a marriage where they are impeded to live their lives fully in his name.

This is where the tribunal can be of great assistance. If one or both spouses were not able to live in accordance within the teachings of marriage:  children and faithfulness (there are many more fruits of matrimony as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states), you may decide to challenge the validity of the marriage.

Why would you petition for a decree of nullity?  There are many reasons to do so.  You may want to enter into religious life, become ordained, remarry or even lead a single life and serve in an ecclesiastical ministry where it may be required of you.  If we say we lead a life destined to be united with Christ, we need to be open to his word and live whatever vocation he is calling us to live out in our daily lives. Your vocation of marriage could change at the blink of eye, but we need to be trusting and look at what the Catholic Church offers us and invites us to become by always being prepared to respond to his call.  If you were married before, it may be in your best interest to challenge the validity of the marriage before the tribunal so that you don’t miss out living your true vocation!

Historically in the Catholic Church, “annulments,” or decrees of nullity, emanate from Sacred Scripture:

The idea that two people can go through a wedding ceremony and still not be married is not a new one. In the Christian tradition, we can find the roots of the declaration of nullity in the New Testament. Christ says to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: “You are right to say you have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:17-18). Saint Paul condemns the Corinthians for allowing a man to enter into a union with his father’s wife (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-8). The practice of declaring certain unions invalid has continued ever since. (cf. Preserving the Sanctity of Marriage, Rev. W. Soule, O.P., p. 6)

In closing, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also states:

1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.
Contact your parish priest or the tribunal in Shreveport so that we may assist you.  The process to apply for a decree of nullity requires prayerful reflection and seeking God’s grace and mercy.

Kelly was recently a guest speaker for the Marquette Reading Circle in light of their 100th Anniversary Year, Shreveport, Non-matrimonial Canonical Issues, received acknowledgement for contributions/ideas, Thirteenth Edition, Business Law Text and Cases, Clarkson, Miller & Cross, and invited to co-present, Tribunal Management, Canon Law Society of America’s Convention, Pittsburgh.

Manna from Mamaw

by Kim Long

My paternal grandmother wasn’t a great cook, she wasn’t a decorator or a “nester,” making her home a place of style or comfort. She was a large and funny woman who loved to laugh and quilt and could envelope a person in an enormous embrace. She was also a very hard worker. At a very early age she was taken out of school and sent to work in the fields; from there she went to work in a “dry goods” store. She worked there until her retirement.

Even though she wasn’t a great cook, there were three solid dishes in her repertoire and of those three, one is my all time favorite comfort food. There have been times when I would telephone my sister or brother and one or both of us would sing song, “Guess what I just made,” but we didn’t have to guess, we just knew… Mamaw’s spaghetti. Let me clarify that there isn’t anything intrinsically “Italian” in this recipe other than the fact that it uses pasta. I am fairly certain that she never expected to end up being the inspiration for our Lenten Fridays. My siblings and I laugh and talk about her regularly and her name, Louise, which my granddaughter, niece and great niece carry, along with her spaghetti, is perhaps her most enduring legacy.

Lent is upon us and with that the challenge of meatless Fridays which may not necessarily challenge our will or our faith, but, let’s face it, can be a challenge in the kitchen. Not everyone likes fried fish or tuna casserole, shocking but true. And how many pancakes can we prepare and still look the scales squarely in the eye, especially when we want to look our best in our Easter finery?

So one Lent I realized I could fix this and still maintain the no meat requirement. I will give you this recipe in two versions, her original and my slightly modified. Feel free to try either of them.

As you can see I have changed the recipe to reflect the availability of certain ingredients my Mamaw wasn’t always able to access. But I can tell you this, made her way it’s just as tasty, though perhaps very different than that to which many of us are accustomed. Made her way she is present at the table, with me at the stove, as I phone my sister or brother and brag about what I’m having for supper. She is reminding me that a few ingredients stirred with love and a bit of determination can nourish us throughout time.

Mamaw’s Spaghetti

Equipment Needed:
• Black iron skillet
• Colander

• 1 box spaghetti noodles (no substitute, pasta needs to be the thick kind)
• 1 can tomato paste
• Black pepper
• Bacon grease to just cover the bottom of the skillet

Cook noodles and drain. Heat the bacon grease and add the noodles and tomato paste. The grease helps the paste coat the pasta. Add black pepper to taste. Serve piping hot with garlic bread.

Modified Recipe:
• Olive oil
• Chopped celery, garlic, onion and bell pepper (adjust amounts to your own family’s taste)
• Favorite spaghetti sauce as long as there is NO MEAT (or as my friend Deb calls it “the gravy”)
• Pasta

Cook pasta (any kind you like, we use bow tie or angel hair). While pasta is cooking heat enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan, add chopped vegetables and let them cook until translucent. Add sauce and cook for about thirty minutes to an hour. Right before serving add pasta to sauce and let heat through. Serve with garlic toast and a salad.

Invitation to Abbey Youth Fest

Greetings from St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, LA! My name is John Parker; I am a seminarian from our diocese and I wanted to share with you a bit about my formation to the priesthood and extend to you an invitation to Abbey Youth Fest, a youth rally coordinated by the seminary and scheduled for this spring!

I am currently in my Junior year of undergraduate formation at St. Joseph’s, or St. Ben’s as we lovingly know it, and the time I have spent here has been truly life-changing. Since committing myself to this life two years ago, I really feel that I have grown in my discernment of the priesthood, and I am more excited than ever to serve the Diocese of Shreveport! I am in school with over 115 other seminarians studying for dioceses spreading from Texas to Georgia, and we get to enjoy the beautiful piney woods of Southeast Louisiana every day. The kindness and example of the Benedictine monks that run the seminary and the Abbey have contributed greatly to my experience, and on behalf of all the faculty, staff and the monastic community at St. Ben’s, I invite you, the youth of our diocese, to spend a day with us worshipping the Lord, discerning your vocation, all while having a lot of fun!

On March 22, St. Joseph Abbey will host its 14th Abbey Youth Fest, which is a full day of contemporary Catholic music, inspiring keynote speakers and beautiful liturgy. We’ll have Mass late in the afternoon, then as the sun sets, we will chant Vespers as the monks do, and the night will end with candlelit Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the Abbey Youth Fest field. Throughout the festival, you will have the opportunity for personal prayer in an outdoor chapel, confession, a tour of St. Joseph Abbey and exposure to several religious orders and various ministries who set up information booths to share their message with the thousands of Catholic youths in attendance.

For more information and pictures from previous festivals, plus funny promotional videos, check out our website at and find us on Facebook.

by John Parker, Seminarian

Almsgiving: Teaching by Doing

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a strong history of faithful success with Lent. Like a lit match, I flare with pious enthusiasm for fasting, penance and almsgiving, but my glow dims when I slip out of my practices. Before I know it, it’s Easter Sunday and I’m found feeling spiritually dry. Better luck next year, right?

The comforting and unfortunate fact is I’m not alone. It’s true that keeping up with Lenten commitments is tough when they’re not already habitual; but with our words and deeds always under the vigilant speculation of our children, it’s too important to let resolutions fall by the wayside. Because we parents are naturally the primary educators of our kids (CCC 2226), they’ll mimic our approaches to just about anything; and because the aspiration to imitate Christ is paramount, our children will learn to take it seriously from us. Don’t worry though – God in his infinite patience allows us to learn as we go, which means we can better ourselves and set an example at the same time.

The best way to achieve a lasting spirituality in Lent with kids in tow is to understand that Catholicism is an active faith. It’s meant to be lived as a testament to Christ’s love as evidenced by the practice of almsgiving, especially during this season.

Almsgiving is the deliberate act of charity toward the poor – it expresses concern for the salvation of others and considers their unmet material needs. There’s something so heavenly about almsgiving because through it, the giver has the chance to detach from material possessions – something we certainly won’t have in the next life – and he gives of himself so another’s life might thrive. What a great chance to teach our kids to value others over stuff!

To participate with children, have them tag along in your own efforts. Go through your home one room at a time to purge the excess and donate it to Catholic Charities or Providence House; invite your kids to evaluate which toys they really play with and which they don’t. You might be surprised at their natural generosity and eagerness to follow your lead. For the season of Lent, schedule a couple of visits to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantries at local parishes, volunteer for HOPE Connections – an aid to provide permanent homes for the homeless, or help provide meals for Hope House with St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport, or Meals on Wheels with St. Jude Parish in Bossier. Make it a family event and put it on the calendar to seal the commitment.

If you’re unfamiliar with these services, find them online, or call your parish for details and suggestions. Almsgiving can easily go beyond the common practices of financial contributions; sometimes all it takes is an offering of time. One of my favorite verses on parenthood is from Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). We need to be actively generous with our time and possessions not only for the good of others in need, but also to encourage the lasting behavior in our families. Investing our time for the poor will take us beyond ourselves and into the presence of God.

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