Monthly Archives: July 2016

Remembering Msgr. Franz Graef: A Priest of Great Faith and Humor

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I first met Fr. Franz Graef at Maryhill Seminary in 1962. At the tender age of 14, I had no inkling of how important to my spiritual growth this humble priest with a German accent would be.  Fast forward 54 years and, now retired, he sat in the second pew every Sunday at St. Lucy Parish.When I told him that he was “always welcome to concelebrate” he told me, “It is better that I sit with the people.”  Father Graef had a deep sense of his baptismal dignity.  He once told me, “I think God gives us all the power we need when we are baptized.  The sacrament of Holy Orders allows us to use that power.  In a way, it ‘unties our hands’ to allow us to exercise that power for the good of the Church.”

I mentioned that Fr. Graef was humble. Even after he was honored with the title “monsignor,” he preferred to be called “Father Graef.”  The first time I called him “monsignor” he told me, “I am nobody’s lord” (monsignor comes from the French for “my lord”).  When he would concelebrate on special feast days, I would ask him if he would like to say some of the prayers. His answer was always the same: “I’ll just be a holy flower pot.”  This is an example of his delightful sense of humor, one of his qualities that made him so beloved to the parishioners of St. Lucy, and to all of those to whom he ministered during his life.

Fr. Graef was the most learned theologian I have had the privilege to know personally.  He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Canisianum in  Innsbruck, Austria. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Sacrament of Penance. He was a personal friend to Karl Rahner, perhaps the greatest theologian of the 20th century, and this great theologian preached Fr. Graef’s first Mass at the Jesuit-Church in Heidelberg.  At his memorial Mass here in Shreveport, Fr. Phil Michiels gave a beautiful testimony of the impact Fr. Graef’s class on “Rahner’s Theology of Death” had on his life and spirituality.  This is only the most recent example of how Fr. Graef’s former students – priests, deacons, laity – mention words of wisdom they remember from this wise and holy priest.  Whether he was teaching seminarians in New Orleans, or laity and deacon candidates here in the Greco Institute, he always related theology to spiritual life and growth.

Fr. Graef was not only learned; he is one of the most pastoral priests I have ever met. As long as he lived he helped with the parish penance services.  He never tired of assuring the faithful of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness. One of his favorite sayings was “all is grace.” With a twinkle in his eye he would say that his “favorite heresy” was that of Origen – the teaching that, in the end, even the devil would be converted by God’s love.  Fr. Graef constantly reminded his flock how dear each one of them was to the God he loved and served in the Catholic Church.

One of God’s greatest blessings to Fr. Graef was his family, as well as his close friends. His younger brother and his five sisters — and their children, his nieces and nephews — kept this great priest and theologian “grounded” in real life. One tiny concrete example comes to me. On his recent home visit he brought some memorial coins as gifts for all the children.  For one little niece, the coin was her First Communion present. She asked her pastor to bless it because “It is a gift from my Uncle Franz who is very old and will soon die.”  Fr. Graef overheard and laughed heartily, but I am sure that this priest who taught “Rahner’s Theology of Death” knew the child was speaking the truth.

Among his close friends in America were Bill and Christie Weeks and their family.  He was blessed to have a cottage on their property where he could “go aside from the crowds” to rest on his day off, which eventually became his retirement home. With characteristic humor, he referred to it as his Swiegermutterwohnung (mother-in-law cottage)!

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I first met Fr. Graef in 1962. I will end with a brief personal testimony. Sometimes people are afraid to ask the deepest questions, afraid that such questioning will lead to “loss of faith.”  Sometimes people with deep questions even feel that they might be “bad Catholics” because such thoughts trouble them.  Father Graef taught me that questioning, deep questioning, can be painful, but that it is the way to spiritual growth. Fr. Graef taught me that it is possible to think deeply and to remain Catholic. He taught me this not only by his words, but also by his life.

by Fr. Pat Madden

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church Celebrates 50 Years

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Seeking to minister to approximately 100 Catholic families in west Shreveport, Bishop Charles Greco established Sacred Heart of Jesus Church as a new parish in 1966, and appointed Fr. Richard Lombard as the first pastor of this new worship community.

“I was at my first pastorate in Tallulah when I received a letter from Bishop Greco asking if I would be the first pastor of a new congregation in west Shreveport,” commented Fr. Lombard, “And I informed the bishop that I would be honored to take the assignment.”

At first, Masses were held at hotels located on Monkhouse Drive until the faithful happily moved into their newly constructed church occupying four acres on Lyba Street in west Shreveport.

“I knew right away that the spirit among our initial families was very good, and we accomplished so much in those first years, including the construction of the Church itself and the educational buildings that followed,” said Fr. Lombard

Nearly 150 worshipping families celebrated Sacred Heart of Jesus Church’s first Mass on August 21, 1966. It is only fitting that this day falls on a Sunday this month as Bishop Michael Duca will celebrate a special Mass with Fr. Francis Kamau, Fr. Thomas John and Deacon Clary Nash with the people of Sacred Heart in honor of 50 years of active, productive parish life dedicated to serving Christ.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church has a thriving outreach program. The church's Society of St. Vincent de Paul was recently rewarded for their efforts by the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana as the 2014-15 Outstanding Agency.

“We are proud of our worship community,” commented Deacon Nash. “Our people are truly committed to serving Jesus, each other and the neighborhood surrounding Sacred Heart. The spirit and outreach of our people is truly amazing.”

Today, nearly 300 families comprise the diverse and active faith community of “The Little Church with the Big Heart.” Sacred Heart parishioners take part in a host of community and activity offerings including a long established and very effective St. Vincent de Paul chapter, a Friends in Faith committee, Knights of Columbus and Ladies Guild, Bereavement Committee, Growth Committee and various Altar societies.

No doubt the next chapter of Sacred Heart’s history will include many more successes in promoting Christ Jesus to the people of Shreveport.

by John Mark Willcox

Diocese of Shreveport Catholic Schools Annual Report

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Click to download and read the Diocese of Shreveport Catholic Schools Annual Report

Essential Collaborators: School Boards and Councils

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Did you know that each of our Catholic Schools are supported by a group of dedicated men and women who believe in the mission of our Catholic Schools?  Each school has a volunteer board that meets monthly, studies current issues in the school and offers professional advice in areas of finance and planning. These volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year to support the bishop, pastors and principals.

The concept of collaboration and collaborative leadership is as old as the Church itself, and as new as the recent best seller describing the collaborative approach to successful management and leadership in business.

Collaboration is a concept that accurately describes the early Christian church. Jesus was a collaborative leader; he never ministered in isolation. From the start of his ministry, Jesus gathered a group of disciples around him and invited them to minister with him. It is this model of ministry that the Church is revisiting and using in today’s Church.

Within a Church context, collaboration is a simple concept. Predicated on the belief that each person is gifted and called, the goal of collaboration is to identify, release and unify all those gifts present in the Christian community for the purpose of mission. Therefore, collaboration is never an end in itself, but rather an approach to ministry whose focus is mission.

A primary responsibility of the boards/councils is to foster the development of collaboration at every level in the school community. This begins with the board/council’s modeling collaborative ministry and collaborative leadership for the entire school community. By functioning in a collaborative manner, the board/council gains credibility to challenge the other elements of the school community to act collaboratively. It is the responsibility of the board/council to challenge and support collaboration at every level of the school community: between the board/council and the school administration; between the board/council and the pastor particularly.

Finally, collaboration is more than a trendy or passing phenomenon. Failure to collaborate will condemn a school to a state of survival or maintenance. The board/council has the responsibility to ensure that collaboration is occurring within all areas of the school community.

Sr. Carol Shively, OSU
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Kids’ Connection: Saint Clare of Assisi

Click to download and print our Kids’ Connection on Saint Clare of Assisi.

The Holy Year of Mercy and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

“How much our hearts should be on fire with love for this ministry of assisting poor people and for devoting ourselves earnestly to it, because the need is so great, and God expects this of us.”– Saint Vincent de Paul.

St. Vincent de Paul was best known for his humility, compassion and generosity.  He is also known as the “Great Apostle of Charity.”

Vincent was born to peasant farmers in France on April 24, 1581, and died September 27, 1660 at the age of 80.  He was the third of six children and entered the seminary at the young age of 15. He spent the first part of his life seeking fame and wealth. Ironically, at one point, he found himself homeless and living on the streets among the poorest of the poor. In fact, at one point in his life, he was captured by Barbary pirates, auctioned off as a slave and spent two years in bondage.

Like many saints, he battled frequent darkness and doubts not only about himself, but also about God. After years of extensive prayer and meditation, God answered his prayers and he was moved by the Holy Spirit to dedicate his life to serving the poor out of “love for Jesus Christ.”  Interestingly, Vincent realized that in terms of the spiritual development of the poor, they were not living in unbelief, but rather what he called religious ignorance. He realized that the poor were either not being taught about God, or taught improperly.  So, he dedicated his life to properly bringing the knowledge and presence of God to the poor.

Vincent was insistent that service to the poor should take place where they live, either on the streets or in their modest homes. That is the foundation of the home visits that remain the cornerstone of the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul today. He believed that Jesus is personified in the poor, and truly understood the grace and blessing that comes from serving Christ through serving them.

On behalf of the Western District, I would like to invite you to our upcoming banquet. You will enjoy a unique evening of music and community. We are blessed to have Dr. Pat Day, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church, Shreveport, and Bishop L. Lawrence Brandon, Praise Temple Baptist Church, as speakers.  In addition, music will be provided by the Centenary Choir, which is celebrating its 75th Anniversary.  See our announcement (right) and please join us. The banquet is September 8, 2016 at the Bossier City Civic Center.  Seats are limited.  We look forward to a special night.

Diocese to Launch New Deacon Formation Class

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The Diocese of Shreveport is launching a new formation for permanent deacons beginning in September 2017. It will mark the third group of permanent deacons to be ordained in our diocese since the year 2000. The first group of men were ordained in 2004 and the second group were ordained in 2014. Presently, 32 men are actively serving as permanent deacons in our diocese.

“Our permanent deacons play a crucial role in serving the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Shreveport throughout north Louisiana,” said Bishop Michael Duca. “Our last two classes of deacons have created new ministries, been a help to our pastors and have made the presence of the Catholic Church more visible in the community.  I am glad to begin the planning stages of forming another cohort of men to discern and prepare to be deacons for the Diocese of Shreveport.”

If you feel called by God to serve God’s people in one or more service areas, and enjoy doing that; if you are at least 35-years-old; and if you have some leadership ability: perhaps you ought to pray for the gift of discernment of your vocation, and talk with your pastor about the permanent diaconate.
The new formation once again will be under the auspices of the University of Dallas. This is a four-year formation of prayer, study and pastoral training. Course work will cover a wide range of topics from philosophy and theology to scripture and homiletics. Pastoral training will encompass a variety of ministries, including sacraments, parish social concerns and parish administrator training.

Deacon Clary Nash, who just celebrated his 30th anniversary as a permanent deacon, will once again be the director of this formation. Deacon Nash served as formation director for the past two diaconate formations in our diocese.

“I am excited that Bishop Duca wants to start a third deacon formation for the service to the Church, the people of God,” Deacon Nash said. “Many people in need will benefit from highly-skilled, trained and dedicated men serving God by serving them.”

The process to become a permanent deacon begins well before the first class gathers in September of next year. The selection process will take four to eight months of prayerful discernment before the next group is formed.

Catholic deacons are ordained to serve and called to speak in the name of the Catholic Church. He is called by his community to serve his diocese, his community and anyone in need. His motivation is to know the heart of God and to be that heart of God for God’s people. As an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, the deacon serves in four areas: Word, sacrament (or liturgy), charity and pastoral governance.

“As a deacon for the past 30 years, my life has been enriched and rewarded in so many different ways as they are incalculable,” Deacon Nash said.
For more information, please go to the diocesan website, www.dioshpt.org/ministries/permanent-diaconate/ or call Deacon Clary Nash at 318-868-4441.

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

 

Money School Changes Lives with Financial Education

Since its inception in July 2010, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana has provided financial education to thousands of people throughout North Louisiana through its weekly class, The Money School. Taught by CCNLA case managers, this free, three-hour class provides important financial knowledge to its attendees and helps them find ways to create and manage a budget while also reducing their debt. Anyone who is to be considered eligible for emergency assistance from Catholic Charities must first attend The Money School and then meet with a case manager to determine the level of assistance that may be available.

Recent attendee Jeanay Hall learned important information that helped her manage her power bill costs, which in turn reduced her monthly costs of living. As with any other Money School attendee, Ms. Hall is also eligible for financial coaching with case managers to help her stay on track and accomplish her financial goals.

Money School classes are taught on a weekly basis at both the Shreveport and Monroe offices.  For more information about The Money School, please contact Catholic Charities of North Louisiana at 318-865-0200 or visit the website at www.ccnla.org.

Letter to Catholic Charities  From Jeanay Hall

My name is Jeanay Hall and I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed the Money Class that was taught by Mr. Carl.

I sat through the class with many questions and as the class continued most of my questions were answered. I really enjoyed listening to what Mr. Carl had to say.

He hit a lot of major situations / topics that were close to home. So learning how to minimize my electricity bill by reading my meter was very pertinent to my household. He hit other topics as well like: tips on saving money, not spending more than what I have, not going to money stores or rent to owns.

It gave me clarity to be able to talk to a customer agent from Swepco with confidence. The fact that my bill had needed an extension was the reason I called but by the end of the call I had pretty much testified about the class and how it helped me go from $5.84 a day to $1.89 a day. Once she asked how I did it I start[ed] to share with her what I learned [at] the money class I had taken at Catholic Charities in Shreveport, La.

It was like church because I wanted to share [the Money School] with everyone.

Mercy in Action: Mercy House in Monroe Transforms Women’s Lives

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Oh, let me hold him,” cooed one of the Mercy residents reaching for Grumpy, the six-foot constrictor slithering down the arm of another resident on a visit to Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge. She slipped her hand under Grouchy’s small head with its flickering black tongue and the snake eased over to rest draped around her shoulders.

Randy Smith of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe planned the outing as one of five annual events sponsored by the parish for local house of Mercy Multiplied. Smith learned about the ministry when he attended an informational luncheon at Mercy House several years ago and heard personal stories from some of the residents. Young women from around the country can apply to be part of a six to nine month residential program built on Christian principles designed to promote healing and support for those who are trying to break free of a multitude of challenges. Smith then put together a support team with the encouragement of then pastor Fr. Mark Watson, and they developed a calendar of special events.

“The idea is that the Church makes an effort to make the residents happy while we partner with Mercy to assist their ministry,” he explained.  “In the fall, for example, our first event is called ‘The Night of the Book’.  We have dinner at the church on the first Monday of October and the women all get books from a list of approved titles provided by Mercy.” Then residents are taken to a book store where they take part in a scavenger hunt with prizes.

“In February, we have a big Valentine’s event at Jesus the Good Shepherd on the Thursday evening ahead of the holiday.”

In March, residents are guests at the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens. They enjoy dinner followed by tours of the estate, the Bible museum and the formal gardens. The team provides Easter baskets as the fifth annual event.

Mercy Multiplied is a unique ministry.

“Nancy Alcorn started the Mercy program when visiting with friends here in Monroe in the early 1980s,” said Dana Owens, Community Relations Manager.  “She’d worked in criminal justice and child protection so she saw many teens who were broken. And she saw why.”

The Nashville native shared her vision of a Christian residential environment for young women where they could be freed from pressures leading to addiction, self-mutilation, eating disorders and other forms of abuse as they worked on transforming their lives. The Monroe house was the first of four currently operating in the U.S.

“These are healing facilities,” explained Owens. “The program is a counseling model based on seven keys to freedom that are all viewed from a spiritual standpoint. Residents arrive broken, defeated, labeled, hopeless – some feel they have nothing to live for. We help them understand that God has a future for them and has plans for them. Then, they get excited about that future.”

The Monroe house has a capacity for 22 residents who cycle in and out depending on when they were approved for participation and when they complete their programming.    The ministry is supported by private donations and some grant funding.

Residents have structured days that include classes in anger management, personal finance and spiritual growth as well as daily worship and Bible study.  Staff includes counselors, a nutritionist, an education supervisor, a director and a licensed nurse. Residents are assigned to teams to do the cooking and the cleaning, and they do their own laundry.

“The best part for us here at Jesus the Good Shepherd is that we get to spend time entertaining these young women and watching them transform,” said Randy Smith.  “You can’t help but be proud of what they’re accomplishing.”

by Linda Webster

Vocations View: Summer Assignment Shines Light on Mercy

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by Raney Johnson, Seminarian

In this year of Mercy, the works of mercy continue to receive extra attention in my spiritual life. I have especially tried to focus on the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. In my first year as a seminarian, I found many ways and opportunities throughout the year to do many of the corporal works of mercy. However, the opportunities to practice the corporal works of mercy increased during my summer assignment at St. Jude Catholic Church in Benton, LA.

Two of the works of mercy, visit the sick and visit the imprisoned, provided some of the most profound and important moments of my summer parish assignment. Before I started my summer assignment, I did not have a great desire to minister to the sick in the hospital, but after visiting multiple hospitalized parishioners from not only St. Jude parish but from throughout the diocese, my desire for hospital ministry increased. Going to the hospital to visit the sick made me more aware of Catholics who are unable to attend Mass on the weekends because of their hospitalization and how important of a ministry it is to bring Catholics in the hospital Holy Communion.

Many of the people I visited in the hospital expressed gratitude for someone coming to see about them and expressed even more gratitude for someone bringing them the Eucharist. On some of the visits, a deep peace would come over the person or the person would be moved to tears after receiving communion. Visiting the sick also involved going to the homes of parishioners from St. Jude unable to attend Mass on the weekend because of an illness. They expressed the same thankfulness for someone visiting them and bringing them Holy Communion as the sick in the hospital.

My understanding of the importance of going out to those in the Church who are sometimes forgotten definitely comes from the many times I visited sick parishioners in the hospital and in their homes, but I also owe this greater understanding to the multiple visits I made to David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, LA throughout the summer. I never thought my summer would involve prison ministry, and out of all the corporal works of mercy, I thought visiting the imprisoned would be the one I was least likely to do. Each week I attended a Greco class at David Wade, and throughout the many classes, I learned the great necessity to minister to those in prison. Throughout the summer I encountered not only many Catholic men trying to learn more about their faith while in prison, but also men of many other Christian denominations thirsting to grow in their spirituality. Through the men I ministered to in the prison, I learned the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Lk 25:36).

Visiting the sick and the imprisoned are two of the most influential aspects of my summer at St. Jude, but only part of the many amazing experiences I had over the summer. Now I will return to seminary for my second year with a greater desire to serve the people of the Diocese of Shreveport and a better understanding of God’s mercy.

Interested in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? Contact Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Vocations, 318-868-4441, or mlong@dioshpt.org.