Monthly Archives: October 2017

Embrace Grace: A Pro-LOVE Movement for Single and Pregnant Women

1017embracegrace1

by Kelly Phelan Powell

Amy Ford grew up in a happy, loving, church-going, Christian home. She knew abortion was wrong; she had even prayed with other believers outside abortion clinics. But when she found herself pregnant and unmarried at the age of 19, it suddenly became a very real and tempting possibility. “I know it was the enemy,” she says now. Too ashamed and afraid to face their families, she and her boyfriend decided the best way out of the trouble they were in was an abortion.

At the abortion facility, a nurse performed a sonogram in which Ford discovered she was farther along in her pregnancy than she thought she was. Having hoped she could simply “take a pill” and “make everything go away,” she was horrified to learn that a surgical abortion would be her only option. Hysterical and hyperventilating, she fainted. When she came to, she was surrounded by nurses. In a miraculous moment, something occurred that any woman who has ever visited an abortion facility will attest is not at all typical: One of the nurses told her she was clearly too distraught to make a decision that day and to go home and reschedule her appointment for an abortion. “She was an angel of a nurse,” Ford says. She and her boyfriend finally worked up the courage to tell their parents, who were understandably disappointed but supportive. The two married and now have four children. The baby who was almost aborted is now a 19-year-old young man, the same age his mother was when she nearly made a deathly tragic mistake. “I really feel like all of our kids are called to an amazing destiny in life,” she says.

Ford certainly is. Her experiences with unplanned pregnancy led her to co-found Embrace Grace, a national program for single and pregnant women. Their mission is “to inspire and equip the church to love on single and pregnant young women and their families.” With Bishop Michael Duca’s permission, Embrace Grace came to the Diocese of Shreveport in 2015. Director L’Anne Sciba explained that Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center at 906 Margaret Place in Shreveport (a block away from the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans) holds the program twice per year. Each program is 12 weeks long, or a “semester,” with the first 10 weeks focusing on basic Christian principles and encouraging the women to share life-giving fellowship through prayer, activities and crafts. In the 11th week, volunteers celebrate the mothers-to-be with a baby shower where they can invite family and friends. Week 12 includes a Special Event Day. Currently, there are three women enrolled in Embrace Grace, which is in its third semester.

This year’s Embrace Grace baby shower is taking place at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans Parish Hall. Like all showers, it hopes to furnish the new mothers with the items they will need to care for a newborn, but more importantly, it demonstrates to the women that the Body of Christ accepts them, loves them and celebrates them and their babies. “We would like as many ladies as possible to attend the shower,” Sciba said. “Gifts are really nice, but when complete strangers show up to attend a shower for your baby, it changes hearts and fills them up with God’s love.” If anyone is interested in bringing a gift or participating in upcoming showers, email L’Anne Sciba at maryshouse.sport@gmail.com or call (318) 220-8009.

Expectant mothers generally learn about Embrace Grace and Mary’s House online or through church members reaching out to women who are single and pregnant. Mary’s House invites every woman who visits to join an Embrace Grace group either there or at one of the other three groups in the Shreveport-Bossier area. In addition to addressing women’s spiritual needs, Mary’s House also offers free and confidential pregnancy testing (including Pregnancy Verification in order to receive medical care and other social services), ultrasounds and counseling services. Ford said, “The most common response from the girls who try Embrace Grace for the first time is, ‘I thought I was coming here to learn about where I screwed up and go over everything I’ve done wrong.’ But the good news is that they quickly find out how wrong they were. They are quickly overcome by the love and grace of Jesus…the pro-life movement saves babies, but the pro-love movement saves the babies and the mommies.”

Saving love can’t come too soon for Shreveport and the world. An abortion facility in Bossier City closed in April, but there is still one operating in Shreveport (in addition to one in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans, for a total of three in the State of Louisiana). Louisiana Right to Life Federation (prolifelouisiana.org) reports, “There were 8,972 abortions performed in Louisiana in 2016, down from 9,362 abortions reported in 2015 and 10,211 abortions reported in 2014. The number of abortions performed in the state had increased steadily from 2008-2014 as population numbers returned to pre-Katrina levels… Even with numbers going down, on average, 25 abortions per day were performed in Louisiana.” The website notes that these statistics are from the Louisiana Department of Health and do not factor in the number of women who sought abortions outside the state. On the positive side, these same statistics indicate that the number of abortions performed fell by 14 percent from 2014-2016, meaning that more than three babies were saved per day last year. Pro-life efforts are clearly making an impact, but they must continue stronger than ever.


“I heard today that Mother Teresa picked up 90,000 poor people herself, one person at a time,” said Sciba. “That doesn’t count her 4,000 Sisters of Charity across the world. Mary’s House and Embrace Grace are impacting North Louisiana one woman and baby – unless it’s twins! – at a time. It makes a big difference to that woman and child!” Anyone who wishes to make a difference through Embrace Grace and Mary’s House should email maryshouse.sport@gmail.com. “[We] always welcome donations of money and time,” Sciba said. Women in the diocese are welcome and encouraged to attend the Oct. 22 baby shower as well.

“We believe that the church should be the first place girls should run to during an unplanned pregnancy instead of the last because of shame and guilt,” said Ford. That’s exactly what Sciba and her fellow volunteers aim to do. She said, “In time, with God’s grace and by His providence, Mary’s House and Embrace Grace will have made a positive impact on North Louisiana.”

Embrace Grace & Mary’s House: Sylvia’s Story

1017sylvia1

by L’Anne Sciba

hen I first met Sylvia* she came to Mary’s House for a free pregnancy test. She’d already been to the abortion clinic and received the abortion pill. Now two months later, she realized she still might be pregnant. What if the pill hadn’t worked – she already had young twins at home.  Horrified, with a hurricane of whirling thoughts filling her mind, she thought the peer counselor at Mary’s House might hold a glimmer of hope for the next thing to do… at least she could find out for sure if she was pregnant.  She was.

Medical care is very important and a plan for Medicaid and a doctor’s care was addressed first. At the same visit, Sylvia was invited to join Embrace Grace, a 12 week course, hosted by Mary’s House and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. On the first night of class, Sylvia nervously rang the doorbell hoping for help from complete strangers. Was this a waste of time?
Week after week at class, Sylvia listened to stories of how women in similar circumstances let go of chains of resentment and un-forgiveness; she learned that the lies and wounds she carried around with her could be replaced with God – that made her feel better. As Sylvia prayed to God, He began healing areas in her life that created problems for her.

Little by little, she began to recover her sense of humor, and began to have small hopes and dreams. Then she took baby steps of action. By the time the Baby Shower at St. John’s was held, Sylvia had a new vision of herself, what her future could be with God in her life and her parents were so grateful for the change in their daughter.

It’s been one year since Sylvia came to Mary’s House that first time.  In that year, after having her baby, working at a steady job, talking with her parents, investigating possibilities and adjusting ideas, she has a solid plan for her future and her children.  Her parents are a big support and encourage her as she enrolls in college. Sylvia will be successful because she knows God guides her in His commandments, through family and people in the Church and in daily events. She is never alone because she trusts God who says: “Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you.” The Lord declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.

The vision of Embrace Grace is for every girl in an unplanned pregnancy to have a church to go to for spiritual, emotional and physical support. Its mission is to inspire and equip the church to love single and pregnant girls.

If you have the love of God and determination to  host Embrace Grace at your parish for single and pregnant young women, visit EmbraceGrace.com, or call Mary’s House for more information. Be Pro-Life. Be Pro-Love.

*not her real name

October Kids’ Connection: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on Blessed Fancis Xavier Seelos.

College Student’s Spirit-Filled Encounter with Pope Francis

by Lucia Boyd

The first time I saw Pope Francis he was far away in the back of the spacious hall in Vatican City. Of course, I was filled with exhilaration, but I could not help but wonder at the overbearing atmosphere surrounding the pope. The building was filled to capacity with approximately 12,000 Catholics, each one desiring a limited spot close to the aisle. I was lucky to be there with my mother, but even more fortunate to have squirmed my frame through the crowd adjacent to the aisle.

And then Pope Francis approached me. I froze, oblivious to the massive crowd around me. All of the other “clutter” was shut down. Pope Francis had my full attention. Nevertheless, I felt unworthy. I felt guilty, pondering that some Catholics behind me have prayed more rosaries than I, have never missed Mass, and have not forgotten about meatless Fridays during Lent. I also did not want to be disrespectful to this holy leader. As a result, I was careful to focus on the spiritual experience rather than the superficialness of filming a perfect video to show off on social media.

I did not feel comfortable initiating contact with the pope; I thought it would be shallow and uncivil if I flung myself on him. Therefore, I just stood there in shock, shaking and smiling uncontrollably as I reached my hand to grasp his.

Right after my fingertips brushed against Pope Francis’ arm, I realized he was human. We were breathing the same oxygen and had the same gravity holding us down on the marble floor. It was truly an inspiring moment because it made me realize that my potential is identical to that of the holy man in front of me.

I am an incoming freshman in college, about to embark on the next chapter of my life filled with majestic opportunities. In a wordless milli-second, Pope Francis communicated to me the idea that my faith and future had boundless possibilities. This single interaction with Pope Francis was very similar to multiple encounters I have had with our bishop. Bishop Michael Duca is the representative of Pope Francis who spoke at Loyola College Prep (my alma mater), confirmed me, and even cooked Italian sausage with my family. This experience made me realize how lucky we are in Shreveport to have a genuine bishop who is in touch with his people. In fact, Pope Francis reminded me of Bishop Duca in many ways.

The whole morning surrounding my meeting with Pope Francis was a blur, but the one moment of contact with St. Peter’s successor was as clear as crystal. My mother even commented on how she had never seen me so authentically radiant! I will never forget this pivotal turning point in my faith or the incomparable and pure joy of this experience. Thank you, Pope Francis.

Compassion for Outsiders: Locals Assist Immigrant Harvey Victims

1017harvey1

by Jessica Rinaudo

The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place, or disposable.”
 – Pope Francis, Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014

As Hurricane Harvey moved through Texas and dumped as much as 52 inches of water in some areas, the world watched as cities were swallowed and people were rescued from rooftops. Many lost everything, including access to basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. People piled into emergency shelters, quickly overfilling available buildings. And while the government stepped in to help, there was a group of people inside Texas who could not even accept that assistance.

Immigrants living in Texas without the documentation required by the government to gain assistance, found themselves at the mercy of whoever would take them in. Many found help in local churches, but they were quickly overrun.

A local group of Hispanics in West Monroe heard their pleas and pulled together to help. Maria and Lorenzo, members of St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe, have family members in Houston. As they spoke to one another, their family members told them about the things they were seeing there during the hurricane.

“If there was a shelter, they were telling people to go there,” said Maria, “but when they got to the shelter, they were asking for state ID’s and driver’s licenses. Everyone was afraid to go to a shelter.”

Maria and Lorenzo felt called to aid these people. Her family put her in touch with the churches there that were housing more than 400 people and who were in desperate need of supplies.

“I asked what they needed the most,” said Maria. “I noticed they weren’t worried about clothes for adult people. They were more worried about the little kids and needing canned food and medicine for pain relief. They gave me a list of their biggest needs.”

To help gather the needed supplies, Maria reached out to the local Hispanic community in Monroe through Facebook. She spoke with Sr. Edith Schnell and was granted permission to use the St. Paschal Parish parking lot as a collection point for people to bring their supplies. And the local community came through.

“We gathered Saturday before we left. We got a really good response from the Hispanic community. We got three pallets of water bottles, big boxes of personal care items, another of canned food, and another of cleaning supplies.”

Maria and Lorenzo packed up the supplies and drove them to Houston. They felt that it was their personal responsibility to make sure the items were delivered to the people who truly needed them.

When they arrived, many of the people had been forced out of overflowing shelters, so they created individual supply packages with the items they brought and let people in the neighborhood know the supplies were available.

Although Maria and Lorenzo had seen the news coverage of what was happening, it was still a shock to see the devastation and the faces of the hurricane’s victims in person.

“It was sad,” said Maria. “When we finally got there to the first neighborhood – it was so sad to look into people’s faces. It made me cry. I felt like I was one of them, it felt like it happened to me and to my children.”

Maria and Lorenzo answered God’s call for these people by putting their faith in action, working as the hands of Jesus Christ and loving their neighbors with their words, actions and prayers.

Deacon Duane Trombetta’s Internship at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans

1017duane1

by Jessica Rinaudo

Duane Trombetta was ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 24, 2017. This is one of the last and final steps he will take before being ordained a priest on June 9, 2018, for the Diocese of Shreveport.

As part of his last year before being ordained a priest, Deacon Trombetta has been taking part in a diaconate internship at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport. This is an opportunity for him to get a taste of parish life and develop a better understanding of what his priestly responsibilities will be.

“This is an opportunity to take my ministry experience beyond just the summer, and into the school year when Catholic schools are in session, when the deacons will have the opportunity to work with the school children, if they’re working at a parish with a school, and also see the parish ministry during the school year. That’s when the busiest time of all is,” said Trombetta.

He continued, “I think, ironically, some of the most normal and average days [of my work at the Cathedral] give the best sense of what priesthood is going to be like. For example, just an average day is difficult to plan on a calendar because there are many contingencies that arrive, such as funerals and pop in visits from parishioners in need. But it’s also possible to plan a daily schedule that incorporates prayer, office activities, preparation of homilies, administrative activities, service ministries and other recurring things.”

But his days are certainly not contained to the office. Many days Trombetta makes visits to the homebound, as well as those in nursing homes and hospitals. He also participates in the Cathedral’s daily Masses, serving as a deacon.

Deacon Trombetta’s even gotten in on the day-to-day running of the Cathedral, changing sanctuary candles and counting collections.

One unique project Trombetta has facilitated for the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans is working with Google to do an indoor view of the Cathedral interior and grounds. “There was an indoor, 3D, streetview photoshoot, and I walked them through the Cathedral, the prayer garden, the chapel, which they’ll be putting online, on Google maps, an interior set of three dimensional views of all our properties.”

Trombetta’s internship will be winding down this month, and he will be headed back to school to complete his final year.

“I’m very much looking forward to my last two semesters of school at Notre Dame Seminary,” said Trombetta. “This diaconate internship has given me a taste of what it’s like to serve at Mass and participate in liturgical ministry. And so, therefore, these last two semesters are going to be a little bit of a change in gears as I switch back to academic mode. But after this fall semester and next spring, God willing, I’ll be ordained a priest and begin participating in the ministry of priesthood and ministerial life in the Diocese of Shreveport.”

The prospect of becoming an ordained priest is now very real for Deacon Trombetta. His years of preparation will come to fruition on June 9, 2018. And while those first days and weeks of being a new priest may be both exciting and overwhelming, there is one thing he is really looking forward to.

“Getting to know the people of the parishes is going to be a real blessing for me. I look forward to participating with them in the high points of their lives – baptisms and marriages – and also working with them in the most difficult times of their lives, such as funerals and other struggles,” said Trombetta.

Please continue to pray for Deacon Duane Trombetta over the course of this next year. You can send him letters of encouragement at the seminary.
Deacon Duane Trombetta
Notre Dame Seminary
2901 S. Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70118

Celebrating the100th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun

Crowd looks at "the Miracle of the Sun" during the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions on October 13, 1917.

by Nancy Pierron

Three children, Lucia Ferreira, and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, first saw the vision of a beautiful lady on May 13, 1917. The lady told them to do penance and make sacrifices, to say the rosary every day and this would help save sinners. Mary also asked Lucia to learn to read and write so she could tell the world about Mary and her Immaculate Heart.
The people of the surrounding area, and even Lucia’s mother, were not happy about the stories the children were telling about the lady. They did not believe the children. Lucia was ridiculed and beaten because of her stories about Mary.

In July 1917, the lady revealed three secrets to the children. Lucia revealed two of the secrets in 1938. They concerned Mary asking for reparation, first Saturday devotions and the consecration of Russia. In January of that year, a huge aurora borealis appeared over Europe and a very bright beam of light was seen. The third secret was revealed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. It was a vision of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.

As many as 70,000 people were present for the sixth and last apparition. On October 13, 1917, the sun appeared to rotate and change its coloration, then fall to the earth. This was called the miracle of the sun – a miracle that Lucia had promised would happen on the day of the apparition. At that time, the lady identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
Lucia became a Discalced Carmelite nun in 1949. She returned to Fatima during all four papal pilgrimages. In February 2017, Sr. Lucia was granted the title “servant of God,” the first step toward canonization.

In February 1952, a fundraiser was started to establish Our Lady of Fatima Church in Monroe. Bishop Charles P. Greco donated the property for the church and school. Many came together to raise funds and work to complete the school building and gymnasium. A rectory and convent were prepared from two barracks buildings to house Fr. George Martinez and three Franciscan sisters.

The school began in 1953 with about 60 students in grades one through four. Later, a new wing was added to house fifth through eighth grades. The new church was completed in February 1959. A new rectory and convent were later built. Fr. Martinez and a determined group of parishioners were responsible for the success of the fledgling parish. Now, nearly 60 years later, the parish is still fueled by devoted parishioners.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish invites you to attend the celebration Mass of the 100th anniversary of the sixth and final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. It will be held at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, located at 3205 Concordia Street, Monroe on October 11. There will be a meal following Mass. All are welcome! 

Knights of Columbus Silver Rose Coming to Bossier City

Prayer Service for Our Lady of Guadalupe Silver Rose

Christ the King Parish
October 28
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
between Masses

For 57 years, the Knights of Columbus have honored Our Lady of Guadalupe by carrying silver roses across all of North America. In each location the rose stops, the culture of life is promoted, thus the program is called  “One Life, One Rose.” Every stop along the route of the Silver Rose Pilgrimage is an occasion for prayer and spiritual renewal centered on the rosary. This year, the rose will stop in Bossier City. Knights of Columbus and members of the community will escort the rose to Christ the King Parish for a prayer service on October 28. Please join them for this special occasion.

Shreveport’s Brian Burgess Named Vice President for National Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Brian Burgess with Bishop Michael Duca at his commissioning ceremony as the new SVdP National vice president.

by Bonnie Martinez

Each year in September, hundreds of Vincentians gather for a national assembly to deepen their spirituality, form new relationships with Vincentians from across the country, and learn from their counterparts in order to better serve those in need in our area.

September is the chosen month for every national assembly because Vincentians celebrate the Feast Day of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, their founder, on September 9, and the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul, their patron saint, on September 27. The recent Society of St. Vincent de Paul 2017 National Assembly in Tampa, FL, also celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism.

The entire Diocese of Shreveport, and more specifically the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Diocesan Council of Shreveport, has another reason to celebrate. On September 2, Brian Burgess, former Diocesan Council President, parishioner of St. Jude Parish and a member of St. Jude’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference, was commissioned as the new Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Vice President. Even more remarkable is that Bishop Michael G. Duca  was there to celebrate the Mass and conducted the commissioning ceremony for the new Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Council, including Brian as the National Vice President.

Brian’s focus during the first year of his six-year term as Vice President will be to facilitate the strategic planning process for the national council. This will be quite an undertaking as the national council strives to make the process as inclusive as possible, talking with Vincentians from conferences and councils from around the United States. Preliminary work has begun on developing the plan and how it will be used to help shape the vision for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul over the next six years.

“I am extremely humbled and honored that Ralph Middlecamp asked me to serve as National Vice President,” said Burgess. “Ralph is an outstanding Vincentian servant leader and will be a great President for us. I look forward to serving Vincentians in the Diocese of Shreveport and all around the country as we work to grow in our own spirituality and better serve those in need.”

On behalf of all Vincentians within the Diocese of Shreveport, we congratulate Brian on his national leadership role. Brian, your fellow Vincentians will be praying for you as you journey through your next six years as a servant leader.

St. Vincent de Paul’s Friends of the Poor Walk

• The FOP® Walk/Run began in 2008 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, one of the oldest and most effective charitable organizations in the world.

• Funds raised are applied to a wide range of assistance for the needy and those living in poverty, including: housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine.

• Each community’s Walk is organized and run by its own SVdP Conference or Council.

• Last year, our local Shreveport-Bossier Walk raised over $1,000 which was used to help those in need in Shreveport/Bossier City. Since the Walk began in 2008, more than $17 million has been raised.

• Walkers are encouraged to make a personal monetary donation and collect pledges from supporters.

• The website (www.fopwalk.org) offers more details, including all of the participating Walk locations that are currently registered across the United States.

Date: October 21, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Walk Location: Arthur Ray Teague Parkway (Bossier City) Main pavillion right next to the boat launch, just south of the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge.

Contact Brian Burgess
Phone: 318-746-1299
Mobile: 318-780-7755
E-mail: baburgess@gmail.com