Monthly Archives: July 2015

What Makes a Catholic School Catholic?

by Sr. Carol Cimino, SSJ, Ed.D

Download the 2014-15 Catholic Schools Annual Report

Anyone old enough to remember the Baltimore Catechism probably can recall the question and answer format. “Who made me?” was question number one; “God made me,” was the answer. Question number two was, “Why did God make me?” And the answer was: “God made me to know, love and serve God in this world, and be happy with God in the next.”

When the bishops of the United States wrote their document (“To Teach As Jesus Did,”  1972)  describing the characteristics of the Catholic school, they went back to the Baltimore Catechism. The purpose of the Catholic school is to help children to know God, to create a community of faith so that the students can love God and each other, and to put all this into action through service. When these elements are present in the Catholic school, then the Catholic school is truly Catholic.

In order to help students to know God, Catholic schools provide a regular course of study of the Gospels, the beliefs of the Church, and the Church’s teachings on everyday challenges faced by young people. Catholic schools invite students to think critically, pitting what they learn in social studies, math, science and the other “secular” subjects against morality, ethics and right living. The curriculum of the Catholic schools meets and exceeds state curricula and is pervaded by students’ knowledge of God.

Thus, the Catholic school does not leave the youngsters adrift in a sea of uncertainty and amoral conclusions. By providing a solid program of study steeped in a pervasive formation of conscience, Catholic schools produce successful students who have a foundation in morality.

Since relationships are so important to young people, Catholic schools invite a community of believers to respect each other as children of God, and to love God through their regular prayer, Mass, observance of religious holy days and reception of the sacraments.

It has been observed that “it takes a village to raise a child.” If that is so, then Catholic schools do that exceedingly well. Recent studies around the success of Catholic schools suggest that their success is due to what is called “social capital;” that is, that the Catholic schools share and enforce the values of parents who send their children to these schools. In that way, parents and families play as much a part in children’s lives as teachers and other school personnel. It is this shared set of values that helps young people to avoid the daily conflict between what they are taught in Catholic school and what they are taught at home. It is also why families can find comfort in the loving community of the Catholic school.

Catholic schools are known for their hospitality, for their welcoming atmosphere and for making children of all faiths feel wanted and loved.

Finally, the New Testament letter of James (2:17) reminds us that “faith without good works is dead.” In Catholic schools, service is not an option; it is a requirement, and without this requirement of service by students, the school is not Catholic. Students in Catholic schools study the social justice teachings of the Church, with the understanding that they are called on to serve their fellow human beings. The vast network of service programs among Catholic schools offers up the true value of a Catholic education: that that education is obtained for the service of others.

It is hoped by Catholic school leaders that their graduates will go on to volunteer in their churches and their communities, to be civic-minded with a conscience, and to stand with the marginalized in their society. In short, Catholic schools produce valuable members of church and home.

People often get caught up in the paucity of nuns and priests in Catholic schools, but the lay men and women who labor in them, without receiving the material compensation that they would in other schools, are continuing this great work of the Catholic church. They strive every day to help their students to know, love and serve by providing outstanding examples themselves. They know they are tasked with creating the next generation of holy people by teaching in these schools and by continually striving to make them as Catholic as possible.

What makes a Catholic school Catholic? Do the “scratch and sniff” test: does the school teach children to know, love, serve? That’s as Catholic as it gets.

Launch Into the Deep: Bishop Duca Has Started Pastoral Planning Process

by Kevin Prevou & Pastoral Planning Council

Bishop Duca has launched the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Process, an initiative that will culminate in a Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Shreveport.  Twenty-three parishes and missions sent a total of approximately 100 representatives to the launch’s first gathering event, which was held at the Catholic Center on Saturday, June 20.
Many organizations develop mission statements to help keep them on track. Our Church already has a profound mission statement: to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.  The role of the Church is to carry on Jesus’ mission, or to “embrace the mission” to promulgate or spread the reality of divine love, and to manifest its active and ongoing presence in the world.

As we embrace the mission of Jesus in the world today, we look for guidance from the Holy Spirit about how best to spread the divine love in northern Louisiana. Over the next few months, “Embracing the Mission” gatherings will take place in parishes and parish clusters (several parishes/missions together) that will also include youth groups, schools and campus ministries.  These gatherings will give Bishop Duca and the faithful an opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit through the voices of our faith communities.
Bishop Duca, after listening to the voices of our diocesan Church, and through prayerful consideration, will then write a vision statement that will give direction to the entire diocese for the next two to three years. Parishes, missions and schools will then be invited to reflect on this vision statement and develop a parish faith response that will name specific actions each parish will take over the coming two years to live out the vision for our diocese. Diocesan offices will reflect on the vision statement and the individual parish faith responses to then develop a faith response that can best support the entire diocese over the coming two years.

What can you do? Everyone has a role to play in making sure that this process leads to a vision that can inspire the Church of Northern Louisiana in the coming years. The most important thing each one of us can do is pray for openness, courage and guidance by the Holy Spirit. Additionally, please plan to fully participate in this discernment process by attending one of the Embracing the Mission gatherings this fall.

Talk with your pastor about when your parish gathering is scheduled.  Volunteer to help your pastor with any aspect of hosting a gathering.

Want to know more about something that has been mentioned in this article?  Please contact any one of us on the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Process Core Team:
Fr. Rothell Price    •  Randy Tiller
Christine Rivers  •  Dianne Rachal
Kevin Prevou

Kids’ Connection!

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What Can We Do This Month?

This month we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Dominic on August 8!

Use this month to learn about him in a variety of fun ways:

1) Saint Dominic is the founder of the Dominican religious order. In his young years, he sold off his clothes, furniture and even priceless manuscripts to feed the hungry.  Collect cans, food items and toiletries and donate them to your local St. Vincent de Paul food pantry!

2) He spent much of his life preaching to the heretics and doing conversion work. Take time to learn a Scripture verse. The more we learn about our faith, the better teachers and witnesses we are to those around us.

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. – Psalm 19:7

3) The spread of the Rosary is attributed to the preaching of St. Dominic. Take time each day to say the Rosary, especially on St. Dominic’s Feast Day.

4) Saint Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers. The universe is an AWESOME part of God’s creation. Step outside and see how many constellations you can find!

Encounter Jesus Youth Event

by Kevin Prevou

Pastoral ministry with young people is a series of encounters with the person of Jesus that forms hearts and minds for discipleship and creates a deeper bond with the Church. Put another way, everything we do with young people is focused on offering them encounters with Jesus. On Saturday August 29, we want to bring the young church of the Diocese of Shreveport together for a day to Encounter Jesus!

Pope Francis says that an encounter is the means chosen by Jesus to change lives. A good example of this is Paul of Tarsus, the anti-Christian prosecutor who, by the time he reached Damascus, had already become an Apostle.

Pope Francis said, “Jesus never forgets the day we encountered Him for the first time; we should ask God for the ‘grace of memory’ so that we can always remember it…our faith is an encounter with Jesus.”

My own conscious encounter with Jesus began when I was a freshman in high school back at Holy Name parish in San Antonio.  We were participating in a day retreat led by a neighboring parish’s group of young adults.  These young adults were faith-filled, prepared, fun-loving and full of joy.  My memory of specific activities during the retreat are hazy except for a guided meditation led by one of the young adults.  During the meditation, I had an experience of Jesus being present with me.  It was so powerful that it has stuck with me all of these years and is one of the reasons that I continue to serve in ministry.

Encounter Jesus Will Be “Experience Rich”
The young people and adult leaders will be invited into an “experience rich” environment. The presentations by nationally known presenters Mike Patin, Katie Prejean and Project YM (Tony Vasinda and Scott Dougherty) will also include a reflection and response time.  Encounter experiences will include scripture, prayer, sacraments, works of mercy, family, relationships, creation/nature, digital world, a personal journal for the day and more!

Encounter Jesus Tracks for High School and Middle School Youth
There will be separate tracks for high school and middle school youth appropriate to their particular developmental levels.  We will of course share opening prayer and Mass with Bishop Duca together, but the presentations and encounter experiences will be done in separate tracks.

Preparing for Encounter Jesus
Every parish leader will receive a preparation packet for Encounter Jesus that will offer a session or two to help your group prepare for the day on August 29.  You will also receive a post-packet following Encounter Jesus as a way for your group to continue encountering Jesus.
For more information, contact Kevin in the Office of Youth at 318-868-4441, or

WHO: High School & Middle School Youth and Their Adult Leaders
DATE: Saturday, August 29
TIME: 8:30AM – 5:30PM

WHAT: Meet young people from across the diocese; have
Mass with Bishop Duca; see
Nationally recognized speakers & enjoy Encounter experiences

WHERE: The Catholic Center
3500 Fairfield Ave.
Shreveport, LA 71104

REGISTER: Through your church!

Youth Spread the Gospel in Belize

Mission trips:  they pull us away from our beloved electronics, our family and friends, and even our A/C, but most importantly they plug us into a life that is simple, a life free of distractions and full of focus where the voice of God is loud and clear. It is in this environment that I realized, at age 15,  that life is about this simple truth: Discovering God’s love and then giving that love to others. It is a truth that required being in a simple place to learn. From that age on I continued to seek God’s love and do my best to give it away, which has brought joy to my life. This is why our youth group goes on a mission trip every summer. It is my hope that these teens will step foot onto foreign land where their minds will be made clear and they will encounter God’s abundant grace and mercy.
- Roxanne Chumley

Harris Leblanc, Drew Whaley, Fr. Price on the bus ride heading to the work site.

“Are you a real American? If so you will be able to answer these six questions: Who are the first six presidents, in order…” These were the first words spoken to me by the man I would come to know as Vernon.

Elizabeth Bryan and Ben Robichaux shoveling gravel for the fence project around Trinidad Catholic Church

One hot afternoon during our mission trip to Belize, while taking a lunch break from our construction work, a group of friends and I wandered to escape to some shade. While sitting down we were approached by the 46-year-old man who introduced himself as Vernon. After telling us who the first six presidents were when none in our group could, Vernon sat down and began to talk with our small group of American high school missionaries. We discovered Vernon was an impressively intelligent man as he began inquiring about our studies and exhibiting his own wealth of knowledge by reciting some of his favorite poetry and the periodic table from memory, as well as displaying the magnifying glass he carries with him in order to closer observe the plants of Belize and identify them. Vernon’s love for knowledge was clear as he told us he could not finish school and therefore educated himself; however, Vernon confessed that all his knowledge was for nothing as he was a struggling alcoholic.

Vernon removed a beer bottle from his back pocket he had just bought. As he reached back for it though, he just barely nicked the bottle on the wall when it shattered into two pieces and alcohol spilled everywhere. Sulking in this puddle of alcohol, Vernon admitted that this was a sign from God that he needed to stop drinking. At this mention of God we began to ask Vernon about his faith life with the desire to be missionaries of the Lord. Vernon said that while he used to attend church quite often, he had not in many years as he believed God would not hear his prayers as a result of his alcoholic sin. At this misunderstanding, we explained to Vernon we are not perfect, but we are able to have a relationship with the Lord because we have accepted the grace that came from His son dying on the cross. Vernon began to ponder the thought and thanked us for this realization he desired to more fully understand. We prayed over Vernon and invited him to Mass, which he later attended with us, as well as adoration. Afterwards, with tears in his eyes, Vernon thanked us again for the hope we had shown him.

In Matthew 13, Jesus explains how the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed that when sown becomes one of the largest of trees. That week in Belize the Lord provided countless opportunities to allow Him to work in me. My interaction with Vernon was a divinely inspired opportunity to sow a mustard seed-sized amount of faith into Vernon that I believe shall grow into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. The opportunity to attend this mission has shown me “Vernon” is everywhere. This world is full of people who are suffering, whether they are in Belize or walking the halls of your high school, everyone needs someone to lend a listening ear and then extend an invitation that points them to Christ.
- Harris Leblanc


Vacation Bible School: A Grandparent’s Perspective

by Bonnie Martinez

I often find myself “grandparenting” a term I have coined for times I have second-guessed my success as a parent. As I observe my adult children, as well as other young parents, making decisions about educating their children about their faith, I often reflect upon my parenting role and ask myself, “How well did I do that?” or “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” Obviously, I cannot correct my parenting oversights now. Instead, we pray for spiritual guidance, particularly in the process of teaching our Catholic faith. My role as a grandparent affords me the occasional helpful suggestion to my children as to approaches that are in the best interests of my grandchildren.

My most recent “grandparenting” moments happened while serving as a volunteer for the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans’ Vacation Bible School. I felt compelled to volunteer as a way of “giving back” for these spiritual opportunities. Overall, I came away feeling spiritually lifted by this volunteering experience. My children attended Vacation Bible School each summer, where I often volunteered. However, there were no VBS opportunities once they reached middle school. So, their participation naturally stopped at that point. I fulfilled that parenting responsibility, right?

As soon as I arrived for the first morning of  St. John’s Vacation Bible School, I experienced my first “grandparenting” question, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” There were 19 teenage volunteers awaiting the arrival of the children and their parents. Why did I not encourage my children to serve as volunteers when they were in middle school and high school? The positive impact of these young volunteers as they interacted with the children was remarkable.

This prompted me to contact other Catholic churches in the area to inquire about their youth volunteer participation for VBS. Cathy Cobb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish shared, “Our Vacation Bible School has the largest involvement of youth (as volunteers). They can earn many service hours in a short period of time alongside their friends.”
Christine Sloan of St. Jude Parish shared the same sentiment, “Some of the youth serve as peer mentors while leading the children through the various activities and others serve as assistants to the adult volunteers. In fact, one of my five-year-old great-nephews shared that his favorite part of attending St. Joseph’s Vacation Bible School was ‘playing with the older kids who were helpers.’”

Sr. Anna Maria Iannetti, OLS, provided Bible lessons for the children attending the Cathedral’s Vacation Bible School. As I observed Sr. Anna Maria involving the first and second grade children in role-playing throughout the Bible stories, it dawned on me that perhaps several of the students had little to no experience interacting with a nun. One of the precious little kindergarten students shared with her great aunt that there was a lady at VBS wearing priest’s clothing, except that she wore a skirt instead of pants. What a priceless example of  “out of the mouth of babes.” This same little girl also shared what she had learned about the Holy Trinity and demonstrated the reverence one should exercise when making the Sign of the Cross.

Another “grandparenting” moment I experienced was hearing at least three of the children within the group that I worked with at St. John’s also attended St. Joseph’s VBS. Why didn’t I think of enrolling my young children (and volunteering) in more than one Catholic Vacation Bible School? I hear many young parents talk about their search for interesting and educational summer camps for their children. I encourage parents to maximize their young children’s participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Vacation Bible School opportunities. The diocesan parishes coordinate the dates of their VBS programs so as to not overlap. This is one avenue of support afforded parents in the awesome responsibility of teaching children about their Catholic faith. As recent as this past May, Pope Francis focused on the role of parents in the education of their children during his General Audience. He referred to parents’ role as “an essential characteristic” of the family, and also acknowledged that parents face many difficulties in this endeavor.

During my contact with the various coordinators of VBS, I became aware of the Diocese of Shreveport’s support manual for parents, “The Go-To-Guide for Catholic Parents & Guardians,” which can be accessed from the Diocese of Shreveport’s website.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Grant Will Help Needy in Shreveport

by Brian Burgess

Residents in the Shreveport area will receive emergency housing and utility assistance thanks to a $5,000 grant from the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP). The money is part of SVdP’s Friends of the Poor® Grant Program and will be disbursed by the Society’s St. Catherine of Siena Conference, one of two conferences at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport.

“Often we are asked to help a family or a single elderly person with a ‘sizeable’ utility payment. We also receive many requests for rent and mortgage assistance,” said Carol Brill of the St. Catherine of Siena Conference. “Our assistance will have a profound impact on approximately 20 clients and their families by maintaining stable housing and ‘creature comforts’ that others take for granted. Those individuals will receive counseling about budgeting, educational choices, local support resources, saving money, cutting utility costs and avoiding impulse buying.”

This grant was one of 10 distributed through the program around the country. Grant applications are evaluated and awarded quarterly on a regional basis by a Vincentian review committee. Funding is provided by the general public and the Society’s 150,000 members in the United States and is targeted to specific needs in each community.
“We are pleased to be able to assist local Conferences as they work to help those in need,” said Dave Barringer, CEO of the Society. “Our local Conferences are a great example of how a dedicated group of people can make a difference in alleviating suffering.”

One of the largest charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul ( is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization of more than 800,000 men and women who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 150 countries on five continents. With the U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, MO, membership in the United States totals more than 150,000 in 4,400 communities.

SVdP programs include: home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the sick, the incarcerated and the elderly, and prescription medicine. SVdP provides over $794 million in tangible and in-kind services, serves more than 11 million people each year and conducts more than 1.7 million personal visits (home, hospitals, prisons and more.) Every year, SVdP performs more than 11 million hours of volunteer service to aid those in need.

Mercy Ministries Group Enjoy Evening at Black Bayou

by Missy McKenzie

Residents at the Monroe Mercy Ministries home recently enjoyed a “Night of the Bayou” adventure with members of JGS Mercy Ministries Team at the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge just north of Monroe.   The annual outing included a brown bag dinner and an educational tour of the bayou led by a refuge ranger. Mercy residents learned about plants and animals native to the area. The Black Bayou –located in Ouachita Parish – features a spectacular 1,600-acre scenic lake and a 4,500-acre refuge that supports a variety of waterfowl, migratory songbirds and other wildlife.

Even though some residents were a bit anxious, they loved experiencing nature up close. “When I first found out that we were going to Black Bayou, I was a little uncomfortable because I am not a huge fan of the outdoors!” said Mercy resident, Rachel. “But once we arrived, I got a glimpse of God’s glory and magnificence. Through nature, God revealed His love and majesty to me, reminding me of how much He loves me. All in all, I had an absolute blast!”

Encountering some bayou creatures helped Mercy resident Emily overcome her fears. “The trip to Black Bayou was a blast,” she said. “Walking on the trail and learning about the native plants and animals was a neat experience. I also got to face my fears and pet a snake and alligator! I’m so thankful to the kind people of Jesus the Good Shepherd Church for hosting this event for us! I will certainly never forget it!”

Members of the JGS Mercy Ministries team are J. Randy Smith, Lori Hughes, Amy Sawyer, Lori Spence, Gina Greenwood, Jennifer Petzet and Allison Sherman.  If you would like to find out more or become a part of the JGS Mercy Ministries Team, please contact the church office at 318-325-7549.

Catholic Charities Welcomes Palestinian Intern

by Tamara Alqassis

Hello! Or as we say in Arabic, Marhaba! My name is Tamara Alqassis, and I am currently a senior at Bethlehem University studying English Language and Literature as a major and Translation as a minor.  I am spending six weeks in Shreveport as part of an internship program between Catholic Charities USA and Bethlehem University. I live in Beit Jala, Palestine which is about 1.24 miles away from the Church of the Nativity. I come from a big family, five sisters and one brother, and I have 16 nephews and nieces. My hobbies are running, dancing Dabkeh which is Palestinian Folk Dance, and drama. I am interested in traveling and learning more about communication skills.

Since my sophomore year I have been a member in Bethlehem University Students Ambassadors Program where we welcome foreigners and help them understand the truth about Palestine and promote the university. Being part of this program, I have gained confidence in my language skills through my experience in my daily talks and interactions. It also gives me an opportunity to learn about other cultures and their perspectives about Palestine and its people. I am honored to be an ambassador for my country and university, and to be interning at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Our internships were chosen for us, and I believe God has sent me to Louisiana for a definite purpose. My internship at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) includes developing an e-newsletter and helping in the development office.

The first day I arrived in Louisiana, I had my first Chinese food and my first fortune cookie (it said, “A pleasant surprise is in store for you soon”). I have been exposed to a really different culture with unique food. I also tried some seafood for the first time including frog legs. They look disgusting, but they are delicious! I believe I will become addicted to seafood. As I am exposed to different food and culture, my host family is exposed to some Palestinian food too. They now enjoy Zeit (olive oil) and Za’tar (roasted thyme) with bread, a traditional breakfast in Palestine.

The first week and a half, I was involved with CCNLA to help victims of the Red River flood. Just standing next to them, listening to their stories and helping them with the resources available, makes their hurts a little easier to bear for people who have lost much. This experience has affected me the most, and I believe it has been the most memorable experience I have had here.

Vocations View: Boy Tested. Church Approved.

by Sam Alzheimer, Vianney Vocations

“The guys had a blast,” said Fr. Matthew Long, “It was definitely our best Mission Possible yet.”

Thirty teen boys spent four days at King’s Camp in Mer Rouge, a beautiful property situated between a wide bayou and a picturesque pond dotted with cypress trees. The camp was run by the seminarians of the diocese.

One of the most popular activities (aside from the zip line –a perennial favorite) was an Olympic-styled event that pitted four dorms of boys against each other. Teams of six to eight boys competed in soccer, canoeing, disk golf, basketball, and Catholic trivia. It was a photo finish, with one dorm, St. Michael’s, edging out the other dorms because of their encyclopedic knowledge of scripture, Church teaching and the history of the diocese.

The camp is structured to offer a balance between high-intensity outdoor fun and meaningful spiritual formation. “Obviously the Masses were the best part of the weekend, because that’s what means most to us as Catholics,” said 17-year old camper Al Sloane.

The boys prayed the Rosary and the Divine Office, as well as nighttime Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament. One talk was titled, “Five Things Every Catholic Teen Boy Should Know.” “Mission Possible is one of the best things we do in the diocese,” said Fr. Long. “It’s an awesome opportunity for teens to encounter Jesus, make friends and just be healthy Catholic guys. Plus they have the example of our seminarians.”

As he was leaving the camp, Juan Monjares, a 16-year old from St. Thomas in Ruston, said, “I’m definitely coming back next year – and I’m going to bring my little brother, too!”