Monthly Archives: October 2014

St. Vincent de Paul Month a Success!

Friends of the Poor Walk
The Diocese of Shreveport hosted two locations of the 7th annual Friends of the Poor® Walk/Run on September 20. The Walk, conducted by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is a nationwide event intended to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the nation’s poor and to raise funds for use in direct service to the poor. Our two locations this year included one in Shreveport and one in Monroe. Nearly $3,000 was raised at the Shreveport event while the Monroe event included some 145 walkers who raised in excess of $5,200. All funds raised locally will be used locally within each SVdP Conference.

Poor Man’s Supper
On September 30, the 15th annual SVdP Society Poor Man’s Supper was held at Jesus the Good Shepherd School in Monroe. The Supper, which had over 25 varieties of delicious soups available plus a silent auction, was an overwhelming success with about 500 people attending. Bishop Duca was present for the occasion and helped serve soup to those in attendance. Proceeds from this event will benefit the SVdP Community Pharmacy in downtown Monroe which serves the needy in a 17-parish area in Northeast Louisiana. In excess of $22,000 was raised in connection with this event.

Book Review: The Heart of Catholicism: Practicing the Everyday Habits That Shape Us by Bert Ghezzi

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

From the beginning of The Heart of Catholicism, author Bert Ghezzi lays out his premise –– this book is geared toward women and men participating in the Christian Initiation process, as well as cradle Catholics looking for a way to plug the holes in their knowledge about faith and the Church.

So, we will use that as the standard to set the benchmarks by which we will judge Ghezzi’s work.
Actually, there is an interesting correlation between adults seeking to enter or learn more about Catholicism and Catholics practicing the faith over decades. Both groups need to be grounded in the basics of the faith. We see it consistently in the Christian Initiation process –– the Catholic spouse of the person going through RCIA learns a great deal, as well.

For Ghezzi, being Catholic is all about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s that simple. He says “Catholics are joined to Christ and to each other in the Church by these bonds: profession of faith and participation in the sacraments.” Score one for the author.

He offers a very good breakdown of faith, conversion and discipleship. For the author, faith and conversion must be in place before discipleship is possible. In Christian Initiation, as well as for practicing Catholics, we are called to be disciples of Christ.

As we know, the sacraments and Mass are a big part of our Catholic identity.

Ghezzi gives a good overview of the sacraments without getting tangled in language that might confound readers. Not only does he give straight-forward explanations of each of the seven sacraments, he takes it a step further by explaining what the sacraments do for us.

There is an entire chapter devoted to the Mass. Although we might argue that any discussion of the Mass is worth two or three chapters, The Heart of Catholicism gives a thorough nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the Mass. Of particular note: Ghezzi speaks from the heart about how the Mass is transformative in his life.

He does the same with prayer. All of us know obtaining and maintaining a meaningful prayer life takes time and attention. It can be difficult and overwhelming, especially if you are just entering the faith or your knowledge of Catholicism is grounded at an eighth-grade level. The author allows us into his life by offering personal reflections on his prayer life. That vulnerability makes us feel better about our struggle with the peaks and valleys of our own prayer life.

The most disappointing chapter in the book is called “Reading and Applying Scripture.” As a reader, you would think that reading and applying scripture would be one of the most important chapters in the book. And you would be correct. But, for whatever reason, Ghezzi truncated his discussion of the Bible. However, there is a useful breakout on how Catholics interpret scripture.

Speaking of breakouts, The Heart of Catholicism is full of breakouts, as well as end-of-chapter discussion questions. Plus, this isn’t a 500-page tome. In 164 pages, the author adheres to our 21st century mantra of a quick read.

Ghezzi also gets bonus points for his “Choose an Action” segment at the end of each chapter. For example, under the chapter titled “Observing the Liturgical Seasons,” his first plan of action is to make Sunday Mass central to our lives. Each chapter is full of great plans that can play a central role in your faith life. He also gets kudos for discussions on the importance of parish life, caring for the poor and putting faith into practice.

In the end, we give The Heart of Catholicism a B+ – Ghezzi maintains his focus and delivers an informative read that gives us all food for the journey.

The Heart of Catholicism can be found in Slattery Library at the Catholic Center, as well as Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Books-A-Million.

Domestic Church: Red Flags of Discontentment

I was in the carpool line at my boys’ preschool to pick up my oldest two. Without fail, my three-year-old gets 150% excited every time I arrive. “MAMA!!! I’m so glad to see you!!” he squealed with a tiny, tight hug as I buckled him and his big brother hurriedly, knowing the line was waiting on us. A teacher was helping me load them both and she laughed, “Isn’t it great to be such a rock star all the time?” I chuckled, playfully gesturing at my van full of three little boys and said, “Sometimes I wish I weren’t so popular!” More laughing from both of us, then the fellas and I were on our way.

It was a joke. It totally was. The teacher knew I was kidding, too. Still, I felt a slight sting on the drive home because the facts are that A) I was kidding about my kids being a burden B) in front of my kids, who, though they be little, are sharp and perceptive.

Honestly, I’ve noticed comments like this becoming a touch more frequent lately and I wonder at their effect not just on our family, but within myself as a mother.

Andrew and I have been married for just over six years and we’re four kids deep into wedded bliss. They’re work. They fight and they whine like pros. They have needs at inconvenient times and they wear me out; but they’re not the sum of my exhaustion or burdens to bemoan. Each little one is a huge gift – a unique soul God intentionally gave specifically for us to entrust back to Him and to love as members of our particular family. The crosses of parenthood are painful aspects of a much greater blessing; but in the emotional strain of my vocation, I think I’ve convinced myself that my lot gives me the right to complain, even if the complaint is veiled as a joke.

Taking a good look at general parenthood, it’s hard. But we know that. Whether parents have one or 10, raising kids is a harrowing task that consumes body and soul.

The position itself demands respect, but then so does the child overhearing my comments. There’s a fine line between making a playful jab at the trials of motherhood and belittling the children who seek shelter in our relationship. Sarcastic remarks are often red flags to discontentment; in such instances, it’s more fruitful to identify struggles and seek to overcome them rather than cultivate bitterness within ourselves. I certainly don’t want to consider my children as burdens, no more than they want to be regarded as such.

Was it a big deal? That two-second exchange with the teacher? No – probably not; but what I’d like to change is how I speak of my children in and out of their company. Even if this one slipped past them, they’ll reach a point when they’ll infer what they will from my sarcasm; which, though lighthearted, may cause true pain. And even when my kids aren’t around, I want my speech to be charitable without a hint of irony, so I can cultivate love and respect for them within myself and maybe, by a good example, in others as well.

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

Catholic Food: On Cake and Remembrance

by Kim Long

I love a good ghost story hands down, no questions asked. Fall decorations and autumnal menus court me with perseverance, those sneaky suitors. I find myself drawn to pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, and I have a Pandora channel called Spooky Symphonies. I am soothed by overcast skies, minor key music, and am seldom out of sorts when stirring a big pot of something on the stove.

Is it any wonder I love October and November? These are months we celebrate ghosts and goblins, begging door-to-door, saints invoked and souls prayed for.

Is it any surprise that I have my own real ghost story? Or at least a diligent search for the graves of two ancestors of whom I have only some stories from childhood, a fading, curling photograph and a sweater with more than a hole or two (gifts from the unwelcome combination of time, wool and moths).

Here is how it goes: Uncle Joe and Aunt Ruby Cumella lived in Shreveport. They were buried here. When I moved to Shreveport, I had a burning desire to find their graves if for no other reason (and there were many) than to pay my respects. I heard all my life about the gracious spirit Aunt Ruby had, how she was loved and respected. My paternal grandmother and she were sisters and “Mamaw” spoke in hushed tones about Aunt Ruby. At one point in my late teenage years I followed Mamaw around with a pencil and notebook desperate for family history. All I could get out of her about Aunt Ruby was she knitted, made a coconut cake each Christmas and was married to Joe who was “eye-talian.” Then after a strong cup of Maxwell House coffee, she could be persuaded to open the cedar chest (an experience not unlike a treasure chest) and pull out the photo of Aunt Ruby and the sweater she knitted. Now these artifacts rest in my care.

I recall examining the stitches and wondering what kind of needles she used, where the pattern originated and why in the world couldn’t she have lived a bit longer. Suffice to say I felt connected to her then and still do.

With the help of persistence I managed to write down Mamaw’s memory of the coconut cake recipe in longhand with a number 2 pencil in a wire composition book. With the help of ancestry.com, I found out about the pair of them. She was born in Grand Cane, he in Caccamo, Sicily. She married Joseph, born Giuseppe, at the age of 19 in Benton, LA. She died in 1963 and he lived for many years until they were reunited in Heaven in 1984. I called every Catholic church in Shreveport until I found out that Uncle Joe had been buried by Msgr. Clayton and finally I had a location.

When I stood before their double headstone it felt glorious to have found them. It was my Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail moment as this surely was a treasure! This November I will take fall flowers, write their names in the Book of Remembrance, and this year I shall, in their memory, make the 30 day prayer for the souls in purgatory, while believing in my heart they are smiling down on me and all of our scattered family.

May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. AMEN.

Coconut Cake

Cake Ingredients:
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 large eggs
• 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1 can Coco Lopez coconut cream (add a little more milk to achieve right consistency)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Sour Cream Filling Ingredients:
• 2 cups powdered sugar
• 1 (16 ounce) carton sour cream
• 1 small carton whipping cream, whipped
• 2 six ounce packages frozen coconut, thawed
Directions for filling: Combine all ingredients EXCEPT coconut. Once ingredients are combined, add coconut.

Directions:
1) Beat butter at medium speed until fluffy.
2) Gradually add sugar beating well.
3) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4) Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with coconut cream ( 1/2 cup milk if needed).
5) Stir in extracts.
6) Pour into greased and floured pans (you may use two layer pans, I used the large Wilton round pan)
7) Bake until tester comes out clean at 350 degrees (about 30 minutes or so). Let cool completely.
8) Split cool layers and spread with sour cream filling.
9) Use your favorite frosting recipe to frost the cake. Sprinkle coconut on cake if desired.

From the Pope: Pope Francis Closes the Synod and Beatifies Paul VI

Vatican City, October 19, 2014 – The Holy Mass celebrated at 10.30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, during which Pope Paul VI was proclaimed Blessed, closed the Synod of Bishops devoted to “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.” The ceremony was attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and 70,000 faithful from all over the world, and the Holy Father concelebrated with the cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops and presbyters who took part in the Synod.

Francis pronounced a homily in which he emphasized that during the Synod, the participants “felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church … called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost it.” He described the new Blessed as a “courageous Christian, a tireless apostle and the great helmsman of the Council.”

“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ Goaded by the Pharisees who want to put him to the test in matters of religion, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.”

He continued, “Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: ‘and [render] to God the things that are God’s.’ This means acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises. God is not afraid of the new! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us ‘new.’ A Christian who lives the Gospel is ‘God’s newness’ in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this ‘newness!’”.

“‘Rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace. Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”

“In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is. ‘Synod’ means ‘journeying together.’ And indeed pastors and lay people from every part of the world have come to Rome, bringing the voice of their particular churches in order to help today’s families walk the path of the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus. It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost it. For the gift of this Synod and for the constructive spirit which everyone has shown, in union with the Apostle Paul ‘we give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.’ May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey which, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown.”

Pope Francis went on to focus on the figure of Pope Paul VI, recalling on the day of his beatification the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”

“When we look to this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thank you. Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church. In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and savior.’”

The Holy Father concluded, “In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he was able to hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord. Paul VI truly ‘rendered to God what is God’s’ by devoting his whole life to the ‘sacred, solemn and serious task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ,’ loving the Church and leading her so that she might be ‘a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation.’”

from Vatican Information Services

Second Collections: Catholic Campaign for Human Development

by Fr. Rothell Price

Collection Dates: November 22nd & 23rd   
Announcement Dates: November 9th & 16th

Our very dear Pope Francis continues to encourage and challenge us to live our faith in Jesus Christ.  He, by word and deed, guides us in the way of “being” Good News.  Our Holy Father consistently urges us to evangelize with the unique testimony of our lives. This month we unite in participation with our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). This campaign is a special work of the Catholic bishops of our country to rally the Christian faithful to support and sustain those efforts and programs that are aimed at ending poverty in our nation. Through these second collections we can joyfully witness the love of Jesus Christ.

This campaign addresses the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled self-help organizations and transformative education. Grants are awarded by the subcommittee on the CCHD with the approval of local bishops.  The CCHD has funded organizations that work to end poverty and defend human dignity in neighborhoods throughout the U.S. In the Diocese of Shreveport, CCHD funding was instrumental in the effort to bring night bus service to Shreveport. People who want to work can now get to work. Employers needing workers in the evening, at night and in the early morning have them. CCHD funding has been instrumental in our regional efforts in the Lake Providence and the delta region for training people for “living wage” jobs at local employers’ requests.

I ask your generous participation in this pastoral ministry of the bishops of the U.S. The CCHD is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. You are essential to its success. Your generous donations will give those in poverty the support they need to make lasting changes.  CCHD is not a program of handouts; rather, it is a systematic program of a hand up. The work of CCHD is the embodiment of the popular saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Together we can make a difference in families and communities across the U.S.

Our Lord doesn’t ask a large contribution from us; He asks that we give, and do so from the heart. Our Lord teaches us that our small generosity given in faith is counted as more by our God than someone’s large surplus. Give what you can, not what you can’t. The Lord’s concern is not what, but how we give.

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

Mike’s Meditations: Love Your Enemies

by Mike Van Vranken

Our society seems to have lost any tolerance for the mistakes we make against each other.  The new definition of justice now includes punishing anyone who has wronged another human being.

In this meditation, I would like to ask you to sit up straight, lay your hands in your lap, take a deep breath, close your eyes and use your imagination.

Imagine yourself physically transferred back to the first century AD. You are sitting on the side of a grassy hill with a group of 40 or 50 people listening to the teacher – Jesus from Nazareth. You are comfortable sitting in the grass, the temperature is warm but not hot, and you feel a slight breeze brush across your face. The hill is high enough that you are removed from the noise down below. The atmosphere is quiet as you stare intently into the eyes of the speaker.  He is sharing with you many of the instructions and training he has taught over the last couple of years. He has just finished telling the crowd about this man who had two sons. One of the sons just returned home after committing some despicable acts. The man not only forgives his son, but reconciles him back into complete union with his family and with society – no condemnation or punishment. You are startled by this kind of love the father has for his son, yet joy has filled your being as you wait for more from the master. As he locks his eyes in on you, you hear him say: “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”

Chills start to run down your spine as your mind wonders if you heard him correctly. How many enemies do you really have?  Have you ever prayed for any of them? Finally, you hear him say: “I give you a new commandment – love one another.”  You stop your thoughts and realize – these are all new commandments and he’s giving them to you. The others on the hill are as amazed as you, but you have forgotten they are even there. This intimate conversation has become personal between you and Jesus.

Without losing the feeling of oneness with the Lord, allow yourself to come back into your present life in the 21st century, but keep your imagination on the words you just heard on the grassy hill. Which enemies do you need to love and pray for?

Maybe you can’t stand a political figure you don’t even know. You may disagree with the mayor of your town or the president of your country. Perhaps some famous star has shown his racial feelings or degraded someone publicly. Then again, your enemy might be your neighbor or even a family member. You continue to see Jesus’ piercing eyes as you linger on the thought of those “enemies” who you have privately or even publicly denounced and recommended they be punished. You now know your responsibility is not to punish them, but to love them and pray for them.

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.

Bishop’s Reflection: Break the Slavery of the World in Our Lives

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

The other day I read a quote from author Dorothy Bass who, in her book Keeping the Sabbath, suggested that in the book of Deuteronomy the commandment to “observe the Sabbath Day” is tied to the experience of a people newly released from bondage.  She reflected, “SLAVES CANNOT TAKE A DAY OFF; FREE PEOPLE CAN.”  This was a commandment, but one given to the now freed Israelites to live as the FREE people of God.

We enjoy in the United States a wonderful freedom to live our lives.  Unfortunately our culture can be so pervasive that we can become enslaved without realizing it, or we are forced to adapt, even against our wishes. When I read the quote, “Slaves cannot take a day off, free people can,” I thought of so many ways we may be slaves that we are unaware of: to our desires, to our things and to the opinions of others. Perhaps we are not free at all.

I am old enough to remember the introduction of the “answering machine.”  I did not have one because I felt the parishioners could reach me during my office hours.  After a while parishioners became a little angry when my phone was not answered when I was not home.  So eventually I had to give in to the pressure and connect an answering machine to my phone. The machine was supposed to be a convenience that made me freer, but instead it only allowed me to take more calls and made my life busier.

I remember the time before cell phones when you would go on vacation and the only way to communicate with your job or family was at a pay phone or at the hotel. Fast forward to today and look at how important our phones are and how we are attached (enslaved) to them.  Now I feel uncomfortable even going to the store a few miles away without my phone.  They are great helps, but we are never alone and always on call.

How can we be sure that we are free to live and make decisions as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as good Catholics?

The freedom of Jesus is the freedom to Love one another as God has loved us first.  The freedom we should be striving for is the virtue to be free to love others, our family, the poor, our coworkers with the love of Christ.  This is our goal as Christians and the conversion we seek will increase our love of God and neighbor and it will be a guide to break the slavery of the world in our lives.

The difficulty with this way is that to love others we must take the focus off ourselves. We have to decide to make our spiritual life a priority. We need to be aware of how our lives are controlled by subtle realities that seem to be an exercise in personal freedom, but may also be a kind of enslavement and obstacle to following Jesus. For example: Is our desire to be “in style” or to have the latest gadget a freedom or a slavery? Are we free to be out of fashion and/or choose a simpler lifestyle? Do we choose to schedule what Sunday Mass we will attend before we schedule anything else or do other things exert more influence in our lives?  In conversation with others are we free to put them first, giving our full attention while not looking at our phones?  Do we really need to check our phones or text when we are in church? (Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asked his apostles, “Can you not watch one hour with me?”)  Are we free to not look at pornography or do we fool ourselves that we can stop when we want to?  Are we free to forgive someone who has hurt us or do we enjoy holding on to the grudge?

Let us examine our lives and trust the wisdom of Christ and His Church more than the wisdom of the world. Look at your life with eyes of faith and see that some of the “free choices” we make are not so free. So many of the worries, concerns, wants, unhealed wounds, angers and grudges we carry are burdens that enslave us, drain our energy and make us feel like we cannot change. Often we may deep down not want to change because we feel safe in our enslavement; we like our sin and are even comforted in our self-centered world. But this is a lie that robs us of hope and enthusiasm for life.  Examine your life. Make your prayer and sacramental life and relationships of love a priority. Do not let yourself be distracted by self-serving choices but rather strive always to follow Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.”  It is only in the Christian way of Love that we will find joy, hope and true freedom.

Romper la Esclavitud del Mundo en Nuestras Vidas

por Obispo Michael G. Duca

El otro día leí una frase de la autora Dorothy Bass que, en su libro Keeping the Sabbath, dice que el mandamiento en el libro del Deuteronomio de santificar el domingo está ligado a la experiencia de la gente que ha sido liberada de la esclavitud. Ella dice, “LOS ESCLAVOS NO PUEDEN TOMAR UN DIA LIBRE; LA GENTE LIBRE SI PUEDE.” Este fue un mandamiento, dado a los israelitas cuando fueron liberados para vivir como la gente de Dios LIBRE.
En los Estados Unidos vivimos disfrutando de una libertad maravillosa. Desafortunadamente nuestra cultura puede ser tan poderosa que podemos esclavizarnos sin darnos cuenta, o somos forzados al adaptarnos, aun en contra de nuestros deseos. Cuando leí la frase, “Esclavos no pueden tomar un día libre, la gente libre si puede,” pensé de las muchas maneras en las que podemos ser esclavos y no nos damos cuenta: esclavos de nuestros deseos, nuestras cosas y de las opiniones de los demás. Tal vez no somos en verdad libres.

No soy tan grande para recordar cuando salió el uso de “la contestadora.” Yo no tenía una porque sentía que los feligreses podían encontrarme durante las horas de oficina. Después de un tiempo los mismos feligreses se molestaron un poco cuando mi teléfono no contestaba las veces que yo no estaba en casa. Así que a final de cuentas tuve que ceder para tener esa comodidad que me hacía más libre, sin embargo esto solo me permitió recibir más llamadas y tener mi vida más ocupada.

Recuerdo el tiempo antes de tener celulares cuando se iba uno de vacaciones y la única manera de comunicarse con el trabajo o la familia era por medio del teléfono público o en el hotel. Adelantémonos a la vida de hoy y vemos que tan importante son nuestros teléfonos, que estamos pegados (esclavizados) a ellos. Ahora me siento incómodo cuando voy a la tienda a solo unas millas fuera de casa sin mi teléfono. Son de gran ayuda, pero no estamos nunca solos, y estamos siempre en espera.

¿Cómo nos podemos asegurar que somos libres para vivir y tomar decisiones como discípulos de Jesucristo y buenos Católicos?

La libertad de Jesús está en la libertad de amarnos los unos a los otros como Dios nos ha amado primero. La libertad que debemos estar buscando está en la virtud de ser libres para amar a los demás, a nuestra familia, al pobre, a nuestros compañeros de trabajo con el amor de Cristo. Si esta es nuestra meta como Cristianos, la conversión que buscamos aumentará nuestro amor a Dios y al prójimo y será una guía para romper la esclavitud del mundo en nuestras vidas.

La dificultad con esta manera de pensar es que para amar a los demás debemos desenfocarnos de nosotros mismos. Tenemos que decidir hacer una  prioridad nuestra vida espiritual. Necesitamos estar conscientes de que nuestras vidas son sutilmente controladas por el amor de realidades que parecen darnos la libertad personal, pero que pueden también ser esclavitud y obstáculo para seguir a Jesús. Por ejemplo: desear estar “a la moda” o tener el último aparato, ¿Es una libertad o una esclavitud? ¿Somos libres para estar fuera de la moda y/o escoger un estilo más simple? ¿Escogemos a cual Misa Dominical iremos antes de escoger otra cosa o hacer otras cosas que nos interesan en nuestras vidas? Cunado conversamos con los demás, ¿Somos libres para ponerlos antes que a nosotros mismos, dándoles toda nuestra atención sin mirar nuestro teléfono? ¿De verdad necesitamos checar nuestro teléfono o los textos aun cuando estamos en la iglesia? (Recuerden que Jesús en le Jardín de Getsemaní les dijo a sus apóstoles, “¿Qué no pueden vigilar conmigo por una hora?”) ¿Somos libres para no ver pornografía o nos engañamos a nosotros mismos de que podemos parar cuando queramos? ¿Somos libres de perdonar a alguien que nos ha herido o disfrutamos seguir molestos con ellos?

Examinemos nuestras vidas y confiemos en la sabiduría de Cristo y Su Iglesia más que en la sabiduría del mundo. Vean sus vidas con los ojos de la fe y vean que algunas de las “opciones libres” que hacemos no son tan libres. Muchas de nuestras preocupaciones, deseos, heridas, rencores y miedos que llevamos son cargas que nos esclavizan, nos roban la energía y nos hacen sentir como que no podemos cambiar. Con frecuencia, en lo más profundo no queremos cambiar porque nos sentimos seguros viviendo en nuestra esclavitud; nos gusta nuestro pecado y somos consolados en nuestro mundo egoísta. Pero esto es una mentira que nos roba la esperanza y el entusiasmo por la vida. Examinen sus vidas. Hagan que sea prioridad su oración y su vida sacramental y las relaciones de amor. No distraigan con opciones egoístas, sino más bien busquen siempre seguir el mandamiento de Jesús “ámense unos a otros como yo los he amado.” Esta es la única manera Cristiana de Amar, donde encontraremos gozo, esperanza y la verdadera libertad.

Safe Environment Audit Passed!

The Diocese of Shreveport is audited annually for its safe environment policies and procedures. There is a three-year cycle for audits. For the first two years the audit is a “paper” audit. Our diocesan Safe Environment division, which is a part of the diocesan Human Resources department, collects data from our parishes and schools on the number of employees and volunteers who have been trained and background checked. This allows these individuals to be in compliance with our safe environment policies. The data collected is then compared with all our volunteers who are serving where children might be present and for all employees to see the percentage of those who are considered to be compliant with our Safe Environment Program.

Every third year is our “on-site” audit. The auditors from Stonebridge Business Partners, a CPA firm appointed by the USCCB, audit over a three year period all the dioceses in the country. During the on-site audit they perform record checks, interviews with certain staff and support members, and even do a handful of visits to some of our parish and school locations. The audits are concluded with a visit with the bishop to communicate their findings and give recommendations to improve our work to keep children safe through our Safe Environment Program. Approximately two weeks later the bishop receives a determination letter from the auditors stating our status as being compliant or not. As of September of this year we received confirmation of the findings from this on-site audit that the Diocese of Shreveport is compliant with its policies and procedures.

Safe environment training is a continual process and more individuals each month become trained in how to keep children safe. If you wish to attend a session please go to our VIRTUS™ website (www.virtus.org) and register to attend one of our sessions and make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable.

by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator