Monthly Archives: October 2017

Walking with Philippians: Reflecting on Paul’s Words in Our Daily Lives

by Kim Long

Okay, I admit it, I was never really a big fan of the “apostle Paul.” Chalk it up to that often quoted verse reminding wives to obey their husbands – and here is the unfinished bit which seldom gets as much press – husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. As a daughter of the 60’s and 70’s, there was little room to embrace poor old Paul.

So imagine my joy and surprise when I realized Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains a perfect joyful framework for our holiday celebrations – celebrations which are too often strained to the breaking point with expectations and often misremembered moments laden with emotion.

My grocery bill will easily double in the next few months with ingredients for everything from turkey and dressing to the last gumbo and King Cake of the season. Frustration, anxiety and panic – an “unholy” trinity – often take over my mind.

Still though, grocery trips must be made. Things I tend to bring to the grocery store: 1. My list, usually written on the back of a used envelope. 2. The calculator on my phone. 3. An attitude which, at times, is fearful and less than charitable, not really wanting to let the person with a few items go before me in the line to checkout. In the end, at times with an uncharitable and forced smile, I grudgingly motion that they should “go first.” They are usually surprised, hurrying past me and my sense of exaggerated urgency and purpose.

Enter the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. It was hovering on my shopping list somewhere between produce and spices. In the letter of St. Paul, which is by all accounts the most loved, he stresses three themes: love for the community, appreciation for their support, and joy for the strength of the church in Philippi.

Thusly armed I exited my car and entered the grocery store.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Philippians 2:14
Well I am here, I muse, so I may as well get on with it. Surprised by unexpected sale items and smiles from other harried shoppers, I smile, but just a small one mostly to myself.

“I can do all things with Christ because he gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
The sign on the freezer says turkeys are 39 cents a pound and the line is a mile long. Two shoppers turn away to the opposite side on the bin where turkeys are selling for a higher price. My heart sinks. “There goes my carefully planned budget,” I think. A manager appears pushing a cart laden with the turkeys on sale. “That poor employee,” I think, knowing his day has been longer than mine. “I will remember him in my prayers tonight.” Then, not daring to wait lest I forget this patient person, this verse springs to mind: “I thank God every time I think of you.” Philippians 1:13

Finally all groceries are resting in my shopping cart. I make the final sweep of my list and realize it is finished. Wouldn’t you know it, a mother of several with only a few items in her cart is in line behind me. She looks tired. I notice her coat is careworn. Turning toward her, I tell her to go ahead. With a look somewhere between guilt and gratitude, she accepts.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
Now, belted in, I am driving toward home, purchases in tow.  I contemplate the apostle Paul and his letter to the church at Philippi. Their problems cannot have been, at their root, that different from mine, from ours.

Navigating the final miles, my thoughts turned to the upcoming days and weeks ahead. I am guilty of nostalgia abuse in this way. In memory my table was laden with food and family, at least 30 people deep. The front door opened and closed while laughter mingled with the blessing and joy of seeing those whom work and distance usually kept at bay. This memory is in sharp contrast to the 10 who will celebrate Thanksgiving Day around my table this year. And in sharper contrast still to those who will eat alone or not at all. Another passage is offered to me here…

“Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
Putting away the groceries I am assaulted with fatigue and guilt. I forego the usual cup of tea, which always serves as reward when a task, especially a difficult one, is finished. Reaching for coat, keys and purse, I head back to my car. I have done nothing for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul this year and that, I smile, is about to be remedied. Thank you St. Paul for being your persistent self. I don’t seem to be as bothered by the crowds in the grocery store just down the street, even though they are heavier. Instead I buzz around with the old youth group song we sang in a round rolling through my head…

“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
Of course feeding strangers, and donating food are often easier and more painless than dealing with some family situations. And we all have them… or at least most of us do. Going over my “to do” list, I fortify with a cup of tea and a bit of joy. Perhaps this year the dynamic will be softened, after all we are all a year older and theoretically wiser. I remember that my priest told our congregation we should all develop an “attitude of gratitude” Please God help me with that.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:5
As I get out of bed, I actually consider not going to Mass on Thanksgiving Day, but it is a fleeting temptation. There are only a few worshipers present, but our priest knows we need to get home to “see to the lunch,” as he put it, so we receive a brief few sentences which seem to be filled with meaning. After our true thanksgiving, the Eucharist, we go forth feeling the blessing of Almighty God in a distinct way.  I am soothed by the sure knowledge that I have control of nothing, a thought I normally rebuke in favor of my rebellious nature. I rationalize that God knows that about me, so I talk myself into believing my way is best. Today, however, that fallacy is easily cast aside. Soon my family will be putting their feet under my table and we will eat our annual meal of turkey and dressing. “Please God,” I pray, as I drive away from the church, “Help me to remember You are God and I am not.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. Our church bulletin asks for donations to the food pantry. The Angel Tree is assembled in the vestibule, its branches filled with tags and hope. I am re-reading Philippians not wanting to let go of the joy it brought me in the pre-holiday season. It is difficult though, holding onto that joy, which is strange since it carries a weightlessness that is almost indescribable.

I think the small space between Thanksgiving and Advent is the best time of the season – a quiet few days to acknowledge our gratitude and the expectant season we are moving toward.

Another verse buffets me from the relentlessness of advertising. It is a verse I carry with me to Mass as we celebrate the culmination of all our labor and God’s love for us on the Feast of Christ the King. It is the most well-known passage from this letter of unbridled joy. Yes, joy despite the fact that the author of this letter was likely imprisoned while reminding us of freedom and love. There is joy in the Lord, freedom given to us by God and love which IS the Lord.

“That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10
Joy and being grateful are often lessons which are acknowledged when something has shaken our world. They are simple lessons, but not easy ones. May your holiday season be filled with joy, grateful hearts and hands held with family and friends. May you find your way there and back with those you love. And as Paul reminds us, “Then the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 

(Dedicated to Jim McGill and Gene Guilliano, scripture teachers par excellence).

Evangelists Remind Us of Our Precious Gift of Faith

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

Bunny Austin, Gerald Govin, Bobbie Harlan, John Munger, Terry Byrnes, Josephine Pupillo, Norma Lenard, Joycelyn Majeste, James Tuma, Sam DeFatta, Cambize Schardar, Maria Steele, Judy Landry, Maudie Baranowski, Agatino DiStefano, Sudie Corbett, Oris Remedies, Regina Rivers, Matilda Yamin, Ruth Driver, Charles Kammer, Mary Ann Simms, Jaye Byrd, Lelia Hill, Peggy Harky, Patsy Blanchard, Marilyn Lang
Perhaps you know one or more people on this list. Perhaps not. But every one of them has helped me improve my faith life. All of them reside at The Oaks of Louisiana and I have the  privilege of bringing them communion most Monday mornings.

If you asked them individually, they would never call themselves evangelists. But they are true evangelists, true witnesses to the good news of our Catholic faith. Over the time I’ve been going to The Oaks, these women and men have inspired me and guided me. Mostly, they have reminded me of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what a precious gift that is for all of us.

We begin our Monday at The Oaks with Mass at 9:30 a.m. Not all of our Catholic brothers and sisters are physically able to attend Mass, but we do have a faithful and faith-filled group that regularly come to the beautiful chapel.

John Munger is among them. For years, Mr. John has come early to set up for Mass. You always can count on Mr. John. Even if he’s not feeling his best, he’s there, and his sense of humor is always front and center. You could say he’s been the cornerstone to make sure everything is ready to go for the priest celebrating that morning. Lately, Terry Byrnes has been helping, as well. In fact, Terry is so excited, he arrives before all of us and gets things going. Mr. John, Mr. Terry and all our regular attendees live their faith, and you can see that in the sacred moments of our worshiping together.

Every week, Mr. Schardar wheels in on his motorized scooter, and every week we begin with the same greeting. I ask Mr. Schardar if he had a good weekend, and Mr. Schardar always describes his weekend in one word, “fabulous.” Now, I’ve had a fabulous weekend every-now-and-then, but not every weekend. But Mr. Schardar always has a great attitude, and that wonderful spirit always gives me a lift every Monday morning.

There is someone who comes every week, but doesn’t live at The Oaks –– Kenneth Richard. He’s been coming to The Oaks since 1989, the year his parents moved into the facility. In 1994, Kenneth lost his dad, then in 1995, his mom passed away. But Kenneth didn’t stop coming. He comes to Mass every Monday, and after Mass, he serves donuts, bananas and candy for everyone. Since the mid-1990s, he’s brought around 15,000 donuts and 50,000 bananas. He does this as a labor of love for the residents at The Oaks.

For those who are not physically able to attend Mass, I make my rounds to bring communion. It is an honor to be with these women and men and bring them Eucharist. This certainly is not about me.

My first two stops on my rounds are Mrs. Simms and Mrs. Hill. They are indeed the face of Christ to me, as is everyone I visit. They so embrace Eucharist and understand on a deep level what a cherished sacrament we have.

Everyone I see loves to pray with me, and no matter their physical or mental capabilities, they know their Catholic prayers. Mrs. Pupillo is particularly inspiring because she prays in Italian. I don’t speak Italian, but her prayers speak to me in a profound way.

When I leave The Oaks, I am so excited to tackle my week. The women and men at The Oaks remind me that God is indeed good all the time. After all, that’s what evangelists do.

A Call to Diaconate Service

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

It’s not too late to respond to a continuing call of service in the Diocese of Shreveport, but the clock is ticking.

Bishop Michael Duca is looking for a few more deacons and laymen and laywomen to serve in leadership roles in our churches.

The University of Dallas once again will provide the Diaconate Intellectual Formation Program, along with the Theological Education Formation for those wanting a Certificate of Theological Studies.

This latest formation is scheduled to begin in January 2018.

“The University of Dallas has allowed us to increase the class size so we can offer this opportunity to more of our church community, but the cutoff date is November 13,” said Deacon Clary Nash, formation director. “Just email me that you are interested (, then go the Diocese of Shreveport website under Ministries and Permanent Deacons for all the forms.”

This is a four-year diaconal 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.

The Theological Education for Transformative Services Program is open to and beneficial for those who serve in a variety of leadership positions. Just a sampling of the course work being offered includes:

•  Christian Spirituality
•  Synoptic Gospels
•  The Catholic Church in America.
•  Introduction and History of Liturgy
•  Bioethics: Medical and Moral Ethics

This formation will mark the third group of permanent deacons to be ordained in our diocese. The first group of men was ordained in 2004 and the second group was ordained in 2014. Presently, 32 men are actively serving as permanent deacons in our diocese.

Since the year 2000, deacons of Shreveport have answered the call to service. They help make Christ more relevant, human and understood in the world. They give witness to Christian values in the marketplace as ordained ministers. Deacons are called to leadership, to find ways to promote justice and charity and support Christian values in the world, in the name of the Catholic Church.

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
•  Pastoral Governance

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 leadership ability, perhaps you ought to pray for the gift of discernment of your vocation, and talk with your pastor about the permanent diaconate.

“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. He will once again be the director of this formation. Deacon Nash also served as formation director for the past two diaconate formations in our diocese.
For more information, please go to the diocesan website, or call Deacon Clary Nash at 318-868-4441.

Flyers Make Hurricane Relief a Personal Mission

by Lisa Cooper

Loyola Flyers strive each year to fulfill the charge to be men and women for others.  One of the most significant efforts toward this end is the hurricane relief sent to Catholic schools and dioceses most affected by these storms’ destruction. But this year’s efforts hit home in a tangible way as one of their own was directly affected by Hurricane Maria, which swept across Puerto Rico.

Spanish teacher and Puerto Rican native Arelis Soberal’s family lives in Puerto Rico. When Maria hit, Flyers went into action raising money and gathering gift cards to help Soberal’s family and others ravaged by the storm get the supplies they need.

Stephanie Johnson, Academic Assistant Principal, said “I think I can speak for the faculty as well as myself when I say that all of the relief efforts at Loyola have been important to me, but having such a close proximity to someone directly affected by this tragedy has really made it something we all take more personally.”

This year Loyola is working directly with Soberal’s family and others in order to get them the help they need. Hearing Soberal’s accounts of what is happening to her family and to others as they try to recover from the devastation of Maria has helped everyone in the Loyola family connect on a much more personal level with the suffering of others.

Conditions in Puerto Rico have made getting relief to those in need very difficult. Soberal explained that roads and bridges have been washed away by the storm, leaving many to travel by boat. Even in places where the roads are passable, food, water and gas are scarce, and help is not reaching people fast enough. Eighty-five percent of the island is without power, so supermarkets where food and water were once readily accessible are now closed.
Soberal said even the small things we take for granted become major obstacles as “ATM’s and banks are closed, so people have no access to their money in order to purchase supplies from the few stores that are open.”  Because many gas pumps are not working, gas has become scare as well. “People are waiting in lines for hours to get the limit of $15 worth of gas,” said Soberal.

Health care is suffering as well. “Without power, medicine that needs to be refrigerated can’t be, ventilators can’t work and pharmacies can’t distribute medicine,” explained Soberal.

“We heard on the Puerto Rican news that one hospital on the west coast had to be evacuated because the stench from the morgue was starting to move into the hospital, and a children’s hospital was about to run out of gas for the generators and couldn’t get more,” she said.

She went on to explain that those living in metropolitan areas are receiving more help than those in the outlying areas of the island. “The island is in bankruptcy,” says Soberal, “with a government that has never seen or prepared for a storm of this magnitude—and no logistics in place to tackle the resulting situations. The first response was chaotic—rescuers just trying to save lives in the areas that were flooded. Then came the realization that you can’t move things when your truck drivers can’t get to the port of San Juan. It’s been a mess.”

Although being separated from their families has been hard on Soberal and her husband, she has been greatly moved by the love and compassion her Loyola family has extended to her. “I can’t express my feelings,” she says, “I never thought the school would do something like this… it means so much to me.”

When Soberal was asked about the morale of her family under such trying conditions, she pointed to what she loves most about her culture: “Puerto Ricans can find the good in any situation. Yes, we are out of food and water, but neighbors are sharing. Yes, we do not have electricity, but now children are in the streets playing, running and getting to know each other. In reality, neither my family nor any Puerto Rican family will tell their loved ones in the States the real situation. They will always say, ‘We are okay. Do not worry. We got it!’ They are a group of people who trust in God and have their faith to get them through.

Soberal did make one simple request: “Please continue to pray for the people of Puerto Rico and for those of us who are an ocean away. Maria not only destroyed the physical land of Puerto Rico, but also it destroyed the hearts of five million Puerto Ricans who live throughout the world.”

A Tax-Saving Way to Help Your Diocese

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship & Development

See Your Generosity in Action
If you are 70½ years old or older, you can take advantage of a simple way to benefit the Diocese of Shreveport and receive tax benefits in return. You can give up to $100,000 from your IRA directly to a qualified charity such as the Church without having to pay income taxes on the money.
This law no longer has an expiration date so you are free to make annual gifts to support the mission of the Church this year and well into the future.

Why Consider This Gift?
•  Your gift will be put to use today, allowing you to see the difference your donation is making in the lives of the faithful of our region.

•  You pay no income taxes on the gift. The transfer generates neither taxable income nor a tax deduction, so you benefit even if you do not itemize your deductions.

•  If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution for the year, your IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I’ve already named the Diocese of Shreveport as the beneficiary of my IRA. What are the benefits if I make a gift now instead of after my lifetime?
A.  By making a gift this year of up to $100,000 from your IRA, you can see your philanthropic dollars at work. You are jump-starting the legacy you would like to leave and giving yourself the joy of watching your philanthropy take shape. Moreover, you can fulfill any outstanding pledge you may have made by transferring that amount from your IRA as long as it is $100,000 or less for the year.

Q. I’m turning age 70½ in a few months. Can I make this gift now?
A.  No. The legislation requires you to be age 70½ by the date you make the gift.

Q. I have several retirement accounts—some are pensions and some are IRAs. Does it matter which retirement account I use?
A.  Yes. Direct rollovers to a qualified charity can be made only from an IRA. Under certain circumstances, however, you may be able to roll assets from a pension, profit sharing, 401(k) or 403(b) plan into an IRA and then make the transfer from the IRA directly to The Diocese of Shreveport.  To determine if a rollover to an IRA is available for your plan, speak with your plan administrator.

Q. Can my gift be used as my required minimum distribution under the law?
A.  Yes, absolutely. If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution, the IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement. Contact your IRA custodian to complete the gift.

Q. Do I need to give my entire IRA to be eligible for the tax benefits?
A.  No. You can give any amount under this provision, as long as it is $100,000 or less this year. If your IRA is valued at more than $100,000, you can transfer a portion of it to fund a charitable gift.

Q. My spouse and I would like to give more than $100,000. How can we do that?
A.  If you have a spouse (as defined by the IRS) who is 70½ or older and has an IRA, he or she can also give up to $100,000 from his or her IRA.

Remember that the diocese has a quality planned giving section of our website provided through The Stelter Company.  Visit that section of our website today at It is wise to consult with your tax professionals if you are contemplating a charitable gift under the extended law. Please feel free to contact John Mark Willcox at 318-868-4441 or with any questions you may have about supporting the work of the Church.

This article is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such matters, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change.  References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.  •

Catholic Charities Employees Share Stories of Assisting in Houston

by Lucy Medvec

One month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, over 500 employees and volunteers attended the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Houston. Even though the area was still recovering from devastating floods, CCUSA felt that its presence was needed more than ever in order to help those who had been affected. In addition to attending seminars and listening to speakers, Annual Gathering attendees were given the opportunity to go out into the community to help with disaster relief efforts. Here are stories from two Catholic Charities of North Louisiana employees who saw firsthand the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

Suhad Salamah, Benefits Manager
I worked in the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston- Houston warehouse where we assisted with sorting, creating packets/boxes and inventory. We were a group of 55 and we divided up into four groups to create packets/boxes of food, hygiene, cleaning supplies and baby items. Once the items were boxed up and completed, we loaded them onto the truck that would be taking them to the neighborhoods.

I didn’t get to speak with anyone that was directly affected by the hurricane, but I was told that while they were in neighborhoods doing intakes on the affected families, trucks loaded with boxes of items came and were hand delivered to the people. Knowing that our work in the warehouse went straight to the families the same day, gave me a good feeling.

Carl Piehl, Director of Financial Stability
“I participated in three relief projects. The first night there were about 100 volunteers assembling care packages consisting of personal hygiene and household cleaning products. We must have assembled several hundred boxes.  The next day we went into a low income neighborhood where the flooding had occurred. Neighbors told me that the water had risen very quickly. In a very short time they were unable to move their cars and within several hours, the water was chest high. People could do nothing more than escape with their lives. They couldn’t bring any belongings. They had to float their children or carry them over their heads as they searched for higher ground. It sounded like a nightmare. We went to unload and distribute a large truck of supplies that had come from some amazing people in Steubenville, Ohio. As soon as we started unloading, we were surrounded by the residents of the neighborhood. They were tired and weary from their ordeal but greeted us with smiles and expressions of gratitude. Everyone had suffered losses but they all seemed to share the same resolve: to fix what needed fixing and get on with their lives. The next day we went to an even poorer neighborhood where nearly all the homes had been completely ruined. We brought in two truckloads of relief supplies and canvassed the area looking for those who had returned to their homes. We collected names and phone numbers so that they could be contacted about ongoing needs.

I worked alongside CCUSA board members, executive directors from other Catholic Charities agencies, and even Sr. Donna Markham (CCUSA CEO). We were all there to help those who needed it most. What I took away from the experience was the knowledge that these disasters can happen to anyone. It takes an enormous effort and resources to respond to disasters and that there are thousands of great people that want to help. I’m grateful that I was able to do something to help.  Mother Teresa said “of ourselves we can do no great things, but only small things with great love.”

In addition to helping during the Annual Gathering, CCUSA has donated to date over $2 million to the Houston area. Disaster relief efforts are still going on in all areas affected by this season’s hurricanes. You can make a donation at - 100% of funds raised are going to those affected. •

St. Francis Medical Center Hosts Memorial Service for Infants Born Before 20 Weeks

by Bonny Van

Emotions were high at a special memorial service for infants born before 20 weeks. Parents and family members gathered at St. Matthew Parish Cemetery in downtown Monroe on Saturday, September 16, for the service. The prayer service, an annual event sponsored by St. Francis Medical Center, is intended to assist parents through the grief process.

“It is very important for most of the parents who have faith in God and eternal life. It offers a safe place for family and friends to honor the deceased baby and celebrate its life,” said Fr. James Dominic, manager of pastoral care at St. Francis Medical Center.

Bro. Charles Headrick, a hospital chaplain at St. Francis, said parents of a baby born before 20 weeks have the option of handling burial arrangements or letting the hospital handle them. For the latter scenario, St. Francis works with Mulhearn Funeral Home, Downing Pines Crematory and St. Matthew Catholic Church to handle the remains.

St. Francis Medical Center started this service in 2008. A special memorial bench and Guardian Angel statue was placed in the cemetery in honor of these infants.

Headrick said parents respond in different ways to the situation, especially so in the earliest stages of pregnancy. While some might want to “press on and move forward,” others will talk about the baby as being their child.

“The human life from conception is different from any other life,” said Headrick. “As scripture says, ‘God breathed the breath of life and created man.’”

St. Matthew Parish has placed two marble benches in the cemetery to serve as gravesites for the babies. One bench is inscribed with a passage from Psalm 119:76: “May your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise.” The other bench is inscribed with Isaiah 49:16: “See, upon the palms of my hands, I have written your name.” The area provides a place for parents to visit and remember a lost child.

Headrick said it’s important for parents to take time to grieve and process the loss of a child so that it won’t “manifest itself in other ways.”

Headrick knows first hand about such loss. His wife, Lydia, was pregnant with triplets 21 years ago. Only one, his second son, survived.

“Very often people will say, ‘At least you have your other children,’ or ‘God must’ve needed this baby more than we needed the baby.’ The comments are meant to help but they don’t acknowledge the reality of the loss,” he said. “Very often it’s not seen as a genuine loss because its not well formed as far as the remains are concerned. Very often people will not think of this as a child.”

More than 50 people attended the Infant Memorial Service for 35 babies. Among the group, six families were represented with some family members traveling from several states to attend the ceremony.

“We honor the dignity of life from conception to death,” said Fr. Dominic.

The 30-minute service featured special prayers, scripture readings, benediction and music by Lydia Headrick, which included a song she wrote titled “Your Life is Still Precious.”

“It helps many to get emotional support from those present at the service and help them to cope with one of the most difficult experiences of their life. It highlights the value of life from conception and the importance of spirituality. It is an opportunity to share with those who are undergoing the same grief,” said Fr. Dominic.

Vocations View: Where Will Our Future Priests Come From?

by Nicholas Duncan, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

Great News! The Diocese of Shreveport has more seminarians studying in a major seminary than it ever has. There are five of us enrolled at Notre Dame Seminary, which is bursting at the seams with 141 students – a number that has doubled over the last five years. This reflects a national trend of growth. Now for the Bad News: in the last 25 years we have rarely had more than one or two seminarians, with long gaps between priestly ordinations. So even though our numbers are up, we still need more men to serve the people in our diocese.

You might be wondering where the men are going to come from to answer the call. Most people assume the bulk of seminarians come from our Catholic schools and universities, but this is not where the recent bump has come from. Instead, young Catholic men have heard God’s call at secular, public universities like Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and even our own Louisiana Tech and ULM. But not all public universities are sending their graduates off to seminary, only the ones with active Catholic centers that promote vocational awareness.

Georgia Tech, for example, sends four to five men to seminary annually. How is it that a public university in downtown Atlanta, in the middle of the Bible Belt, turns out so many seminarians? These young men aren’t just showing up there already thinking about going to seminary. What if every university produced seminarians the way Georgia Tech does? We wouldn’t be talking about a priest shortage any more, the problem would be solved.
What secret do these schools have? What strategies have their dioceses implemented? How much did they cost? Which expert consultants have they brought in to develop a culture of vocations?  Well from my research, I have come to a rather simple conclusion: They just ask them! That’s it! In our pragmatic society, college students are constantly questioned about what their major is and their plans for after graduation. When they were children, they were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were told to be doctors, lawyers, engineers; but when a priest at their campus Catholic center asks them if they have ever thought about being a priest, they typically laugh and say, “Me? A priest?!”

In our culture young men are never confronted with the possibility of being a priest. It seems unrealistic, unattainable. But discernment (thinking about) one’s vocation in life to become a diocesan priest, a religious brother or sister (monk or nun), or living life under the sacrament of matrimony is of primary importance to who we are. Our vocational occupation (teacher, doctor, nurse, lawyer…) is of secondary importance, despite society’s attempts to place one’s success in their career above faith and family. When the process of discernment is taken seriously and students are encouraged to attend retreats and discernment groups about one’s vocation in life, the results are more men entering seminary, more women entering religious communities, and marriages that are fruitful and lasting.

So, we have to ask ourselves, “What are we doing in our own churches, schools and universities to foster vocations? What are we doing in our homes, which are the most important places of learning, the first place children hear the Gospel proclaimed by their parents?”

Vocations are not only to the priesthood, but also to often overlooked religious communities of monks and nuns, and the holy sacrament of marriage. Everyone is called to a vocation as a way of sanctifying our fallen natures, in order to be sanctified.

“For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness.” (1 Thess 4:7.)

Second Collections: Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Collection Dates: November 18th & 19th    
Announcement Dates: November 5th & 12th

First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is heralded throughout the world.”  These words of Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans express my feelings about you, the Christian faithful of the Diocese of Shreveport.  You have been moved with pity at the plight of so many people throughout the Caribbean, in Texas and southwest Louisiana, Florida, and Mexico, as our brothers and sisters in Christ have been so terribly affected by hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes.  Your compassion was the catalyst that moved you to do something, by way of our emergency second collections.  You not only felt compassion, but you went where the Holy Spirit moves all people of good will: you showed compassion.  So I thank you for responding with both prayers and actions.

Thank you for contributing to the emergency collection for Hurricane Harvey, and then again for Hurricane Irma. The bishops of our country will see to it that your gift to the Lord and His people in need gets to them in the most effective way.  May our Good Lord greatly bless you for this tremendous outpouring of spiritual and corporal mercy.

“Working on the Margins” is the theme for this year’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection.  Jesus told the parable of those servants sent out into the highways and byways to invite people into the wedding feast. Now in our own day, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, summons us to those same peripheries.  You very recently went to those highways and byways, those peripheries by your contributions to two emergency collections.
So I am again pleased to present to you our second collection for the month of November, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Through this “campaign” the Bishops of the United States work to permanently change the lives of people for the better.  This particular campaign is not emergency relief to a crisis movement. This is the bishops’ of the United States long-term goal to eradicate poverty and its root causes here at home in our country.  Through this campaign our chief shepherds fund grants that allow work to be done locally to bring about lasting and systemic change where it counts the most. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is our unified effort to end poverty right here at home.  Your contribution to the campaign is a way out, not a hand out.

We remember this month in our liturgical cycle the many Saints of God along with our Faithful Departed. At the time of their funeral, we often make a commitment to be faithful to the legacy of our dearly departed loved ones. Sustain their legacy of compassion in action by contribute to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection, so that we can work in union with Pope Francis and our bishops. Following their example we are Working on the Margins where our Savior also worked.

Again, I thank you in advance for your generous participation in the second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Your donation is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Give from your heart to the CCHD collection.  Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Illustrating the Faith: Crucifixes in the Diocese of Shreveport

by Linda Webster

This is the first article in a new series that will explore works of faithful art on display in churches across the Diocese of Shreveport.

Giunta crucifix in St. Michael the Archangel Chapel at the Cathedral

The crucifix defines a Catholic Church visually. We expect to see some representation of Christ crucified near the altar because it is an artistic element illustrating that fundamental part of our faith rooted in sacrifice. But there are as many ways to represent this sacrifice as there are artists. There is a full spectrum of artistic examples across the Diocese of Shreveport.

A 13th century Giunta crucifix is on display in St. Michael the Archangel Chapel at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. According to Fr. Peter Magnum and Carol Gates, the cross was stolen from a church during the 16th century Greco-Turkish wars. It was discovered in Istanbul early in the 20th century and sold at auction in New York to Mr. and Mrs. George Haddad of Shreveport after a failed attempt to return it to the original church.
“It hung at the back of the choir loft from 1928 until the chapel was completed in 1995,” explained Fr. Magnum. “It was really too small for the space and difficult to see until it was moved.”

This is one of only four Giunta crucifixes in the world and the only one in the United States. The artist, Giunta Pisano who was thought to be active from around 1200-1250, is known for depicting Christ in agony on these crucifixes which was an artistic departure from the earlier, more serene Byzantine representations of his death. Blood gushes from the wound in his side, from his hands, and from his feet while his head is slumped to the side and his mouth hangs open in a style described by some as barbarous.By contrast, the cross itself is decorated with elaborate gilded plaster fretwork. Symbols of Saints John, Mark, Luke and Matthew adorn the four corners of the cross providing a startling contrast between Christs’ agony and the glorious gift of salvation endowed through that suffering.

Paul Chambers describes how the faithful process images to get at the truth or theological elements behind the artistry in his article “The Power of Passion Imagery.” “There is the danger that Christianity’s discomforting and ‘distasteful’ elements be falsely prettified for an era characterized by a lack of depth,” he notes in reference to contemporary art. He explains that the earliest depictions of Christ’s passion, which showed stark images of venal human expression in contrast to Christ’s holy visage, seemed to arise in the thirteenth century, inspired by Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Francis of Assisi. This would encompass the era in which Giunta would have been creating his religious art.

Catholics who grew up in the pre-Vatican II church would recognize the crucifix hanging behind the altar at St. Clement in Vivian. The near-life-sized Christ figure dominates with fingers extending beyond the crosstree and the body composed in a posture suggesting death. While the wounds at the hands, the feet, and the side are set off with crimson, the posture and the otherwise unblemished body radiate a certain tranquility.

Crucifix at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Shreveport

The crucifix was stored for some years when a pastor decided that a smaller icon would be preferable. According to Patricia Whitecotton, church secretary and parish historian, it was stored in the confessional at the back of the sanctuary. “One of our parishioners showed up for confession at the scheduled time, opened the door, and got quite a fright. There she was, face-to-face with Jesus!”

Rosie Spearman, now deceased, had not been told that the crucifix was angled into the space with the corpus facing outward.  Eventually, it was returned to the wall behind the concrete altar where it remains today.

A similar crucifix is mounted high above the altar centered on a dramatic, soaring white wall at Sacred Heart Church of Jesus Church in Shreveport. However, the corpus is conscious and the gaze is upward. As a result, there is no gash in Jesus’ side and only his hands and feet show wounds.

Jeffrey Smith, a historian of Jesuit art in the early Reformation, explains that art is tied to Christian formation.  We connect emotionally with an image that should stimulate thought and increase faith as we meditate on the scriptural and traditional elements represented. None of this is accidental nor is it new. Smith writes that the theory behind engaging the senses and promoting spiritual reflection through imagery is documented as far back as the early sixteenth century. It is, however, up to the individual to make the connection and actively meditate on the meaning behind that sensual reaction.
A more contemporary rendering of the crucifix at Christ the King Parish in Bossier City shows Christ crowned and vested. “Msgr. LaCaze travelled the state to choose the type of church we would build in the 1970s,” said a life-long parishioner.  “Then he wanted a crucifix of the risen Christ. Stan Gall in Crowley, LA, had a catalog and Msgr. LaCaze chose this one.”

The figure is hand-carved lindenwood from the Art Studio Demetz in Italy, according to Mary Gall Fontenot of Louisiana Church Interiors in Crowley. The carved figure is serene and almost relaxed in the crucifixion posture. The gaze is directly ahead, the head and neck are upright, and there is tension in the arms and legs suggesting full consciousness.  The Christ figure has conquered the cross and stands erect in victory. There is very little ornamentation other than stylized, Byzantine-influenced extensions to the four points of the cross.   This is a relatively small icon but it hangs suspended high above the altar in front of a high white wall lit by a skylight overhead.

Modern crucifix at St. Theresa Church, Delhi.

“Properly lit, the crucifix should project the images of God and of a dove on the back wall so that the trinity is represented,” explained the parishioner.
Probably the most contemporary rendering of a crucifix in the diocese hangs in St. Theresa Church in Delhi. As part of a massive renovation in 1996, a stylized Christ figure was etched into a large glass cross suspended above the altar.

“That’s my favorite part of this church,” said Fr. Philip Pazhayakari, CMI in 2011 during an interview.  “When I walked into the church for the first time and saw the three-fold crucifix up on that wall, I was mesmerized.  It’s so beautiful.” •