Monthly Archives: December 2015

Catholic Charities: A Story of Strength and Struggle

At Catholic Charities we ask our clients to share what brought them to us. One moving story reminded me of the power of love, faith and sheer tenacity. I have changed the names and received permission to tell you “Clarice’s” story.

Clarice is 31 years old and the proud parent of two boys, ages 15 and 6, both straight A students. They live near our office in Cedar Grove and their father is incarcerated, so Clarice is raising her sons alone; but this is nothing new to her as she has been raising children since she was a child herself.

Clarice is the oldest of nine children and her mother was a drug addict until five years ago. When her mother was using drugs she would often abandon her children for days at a time, leaving Clarice to take care of her younger siblings. “We had many nights without food. Some nights without electricity. It was hard on me growing up but I made it through it.”

At age 16, in the midst of raising her siblings and trying to keep her family together, Clarice became pregnant. She said “It was a hurtful feeling being young and pregnant and not having my mother there with me. I was a child having a child and already raising children.” Clarice quit high school and started working “to provide for her son and siblings.”

Sadly, tragedy struck this struggling family when a drunk driver hit and killed one of her brothers. Clarice wrote, “I just felt like my world was coming down on me. I lost my freedom as a child a long time ago. I didn’t know how to deal with my brothers and my other siblings didn’t even understand what was going on. I was in a dark place.” Out of this tragedy, Clarice’s mother came back and was able to stay off drugs for two or three years but relapsed when Clarice was 19.

Throughout this dark period she and her siblings stuck together. Her mother has been clean for five years and held a steady job for the past three. Clarice went back to school and received her high school equivalency diploma, then went on to earn a degree in cosmetology. Her sons are her motivation and inspiration. “Every day, I say to myself, I have to do better because I want them to look up to me… My boys see me further my education, they will further theirs and work to better themselves.”

Clarice works hard to ensure her boys never experience the hardships she did, but at $8.25 per hour she struggles to make ends meet. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana helped her apply for food stamps, develop a monthly budget and paid part of her rent.

“I started off on a rocky path. The rest of my path is going to be smooth sailing.  I know God has me and my boys. He brought me this far and He is going to take me further. I thank Jesus every day for battling for me because I know I would be nothing without Jesus.”

by Jean Dresley, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Give Gifts of Fair Trade This Christmas

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Fair Trade and their partner, Serrv want to help you and your family celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with decorations that do good this holiday season and beyond. The gifts in this collection are gifts that give twice. That’s because when you buy fair trade items, you are helping support the poor and vulnerable around the world. Fair trade means that the people who produced these products were paid fair wages and given the technical and financial assistance they needed to bring them to market. The fair trade movement connects these talented artisans, farmers and workers with consumers like you who understand that the choices we make every day as consumers have the power to combat poverty. This year marks the 20th anniversary of CRS’ partnership with Serrv. To learn more about our work together visit http://www.crsfairtrade.org/crafts/

 

1. Hand-knit alpaca-blend animals are arrayed with tiny colorful pom-poms, $10-15.
2. Hand carved from Alstonia, a tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia, this contemporary nativity features eight figures, $42.
3. Your fair trade purchase is a wish come true for the artisans who create these stars from handmade silk paper with silver cord wrapping. Set of 6, $12.
4. Tall and sculptural, these holy figures are beautifully carved from dark Toona wood, then meticulously painted by hand to create the colorful patterning, $110.
5. Cuddly-soft nativity inspires happy memories of Christmas past. Set of 8 figures is hand crocheted and includes a gift box, $38.

Planned Giving Goes Digital

1215plannedgiving

In a recent addition to our diocesan website, the Office of Development now offers a new digital Planned Giving section for those Catholics seeking to explore the careful organization of their estate in the present and planning for the near and distant future.

This unique section of our website features special gift illustrators which enable the donor to see the benefits of providing specific gifts without having to do the calculations themselves. This resource features planned giving tools and sample forms twinned with best practices for those seeking to put their affairs in order while supporting the mission of the Church.

We think you will find this new addition to our website easy to navigate and full of accurate, helpful material that easily enables you to understand the best planned giving vehicle for your particular needs.

Visit the new site today, http://plannedgiving.dioshpt.org or click on the link which appears on the front page of our diocesan website:  www.dioshpt.org.

by John Mark Willcox

Embracing the Mission: Parish Gatherings Mark the First Step in Developing Diocesan Pastoral Plan

1215deepp

Since September of this year, more than 2,000 Catholics from across the Diocese of Shreveport have experienced what many are calling an “energizing” and “truly spiritual” opportunity. Bishop Duca has now met with pastors and parishioners in each of the 29 faith communities of the diocese, leading participants in “Embracing the Mission” parish gatherings.

Glowing evaluations have pointed to the success of the gatherings, to which every Catholic in the diocese was invited as the first step in the bishop’s work to create a pastoral plan for the Diocese of Shreveport. The sessions, with the theme “Into the Deepp” (Diocesan Pastoral Plan), were designed to serve as an opportunity for the bishop to learn more about the experiences of the faithful of the diocese, an aspect of the planning process the bishop felt was essential.

The format of each gathering was the same, said Dianne Rachal, Director of the diocesan Office of Worship, who joined the bishop in helping to lead each meeting. Nine of the gatherings included the assistance of translators, in order to more effectively meet the needs of Spanish-speaking participants.

“Bishop Duca began each session with prayer,” explained Dianne. “Then he outlined some of his hopes for the process. He spoke about living our faith in the culture today, acknowledging some of the very good things that are a part of our contemporary culture, while also noting some of the challenges of the culture and some of the challenges that we face in our Church.”

Trained facilitators led discussions in small groups at each session, guiding conversations about participants’ most cherished aspects of their identities as Catholics, and also about the areas in which they have faced the most difficulty in living out their faith. Participants were also asked to offer positive suggestions about how they would like to see their faith communities and the ministries of the diocese continue to grow.

The process also provided opportunities for each participant to offer, in their own handwriting, some of their own most heartfelt experiences, needs and hopes for the future on brightly colored notes, which were then posted at the front of the meeting space. The bishop used his telephone to take pictures of each response. “We think that the bishop has now downloaded approximately 4,500 notes onto his computer,” marveled Dianne. “And he is reading every single one of those responses.”

After all responses from the meetings are compiled and professionally analyzed, the bishop will meet with the priests of the diocese to discuss key themes that emerge from the data. He will then write his pastoral letter, to be shared within the diocese by Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016. Members of each faith community will work together to create an “action plan,” designed to implement the directions outlined within the pastoral letter. This step will mark the beginning of a three-year process of integrating the plan into all aspects of ministry within the Diocese of Shreveport.

Helen Allen, a parishioner at Little Flower Catholic Church in Monroe, attended the Embracing the Mission session held at her parish on November 4. Having moved from Chicago to Monroe in 2009, Helen is still getting to know people within the parish.

“Just getting to hear their clarity of thought – these people with whom I have worshiped for the past few years – I found it amazing,” mused Helen. “This just made me realize that we know each other by seeing one another in church as we celebrate the Eucharist, but we don’t always know each other as human beings. It was inspiring to me to think that, as much as I enjoyed getting to learn more about the people in my small group, I would like to know 60, or maybe more, people in that way in my church. I know that this would enrich my spiritual journey.”

In reflecting upon the past three months of Embracing the Mission gatherings, Bishop Duca agreed that the sessions generated enthusiasm and a spirit of connection within the parishes and campus ministry communities of the diocese.

“I think participants were pleasantly surprised that the best part of the meeting was not the opportunity to ask and answer questions, but rather the unity they felt with one another.” Bishop Duca explained. “They discovered that their fellow parishioners had the same concerns about the Church and faced many of the same challenges in living their faith in today’s world.  They were also encouraged as they shared their common love of the Church and their hopes for the future.”

Didn’t have the opportunity to attend your parish Embracing the Mission gathering? Participate online at: www.dioshpt.org/news/into-the-deepp-pastoral-planning-process

by Nicky Prevou

Bulldogs Participate in Cupcakes for Life

As Jesus identifies with the vulnerable, we in Louisiana Tech’s pro-life organization see the need to promote the message of the dignity of every human being, especially the defenseless and innocent. Our group, Bulldogs for Life, adopts a compassionate approach to human dignity issues including abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment and suicide. The movement is going strong, as the club’s membership has more than doubled since last year, and we plan new, creative ways at each meeting to get the pro-life message to campus.

Recently, in an outpouring of support from all club members, we participated in the national Cupcakes for Life day, a day on which pro-life groups give away free cupcakes in memory of the children whose birthdays are never celebrated because of abortion. We gave away over 250 cupcakes, resulting in over $300 in donations for Life Choices of North Central Louisiana, the pregnancy resource center in Ruston.

Bulldogs for Life wants to dedicate so much attention to serving pregnant and parenting mothers that we have appointed two members as “Women’s Resources” chairpersons to coordinate efforts with Life Choices and foster a supportive environment for pregnant young women on Tech’s campus. We intend on participating in the March for Life in D.C. this winter, as well as hosting a speaker on the dignity of human life and comprehensive life issues later this spring. In promoting the dignity of all human life on our campus and protecting the most vulnerable members of society, we hope to serve Christ in “the least of his brethren.” •

Nuns and Priest Visit Students at SJS

On Tuesday, November 3, St. Joseph School students in grades 5-8 enjoyed a visit from Diocesan Vocations Director Fr. Matthew Long, and Sister Anna Maria, Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Both Fr. Long and Sr. Anna Maria spoke about their individual journeys from the beginning:  hearing a call to religious life, discerning what exactly God was calling them to do, and finally surrendering to God’s will and rejoicing in His plan for them.  The students were treated to this visit as part of National Vocations Awareness Week, which was celebrated November 1-7 this year.

- Polly Maciulski

St. Fred’s Students Raise Funds for SVdP

St. Frederick High School students raised over $2600 for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. For $10 students, faculty and staff were able to wear jeans for the week of November 9-13. The money will be used to purchase turkeys and perishable goods for local families in need for Thanksgiving.

Front row: Blair Breard, senior; Elaine Ezell, senior; Gabe Haney, 7th grader, Lee Randels, 7th grader; Tracy Stodghill, senior. Back row: Graham Sorrel, junior; Danielle Hall, senior; Mary Amanda Dickerson, senior; John O’Leary, senior; Kane Chunn, 7th grader and Jennifer Chunn, Librarian.

- Jennifer Chunn

SJB School Names Students of the Year

St. John Berchmans School has selected Peter Vanchiere (8th grade) and Addy Quintana (5th grade) as its Students of the Year for the 2015-16 School Year.

OLF Students Make Ornaments for Govenor

The fifth grade Students at Our Lady of Fatima School decorated Christmas ornaments for the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion.

All Saints Celebration at Jesus the Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd School celebrated All Saints Day with their annual Parade of Saints at the school Mass held on Friday, October 30. Everyone from St. Kateri and St. John Paul II to St. Francis and the Blessed Mother were represented at this beloved JGS tradition.