Monthly Archives: April 2018

Preparing for June Ordinations: Q&A with the Candidates


What are you most looking forward to about being ordained to the Transitional Diaconate?
The transitional diaconate is a period of about a year. A man is ordained to the diaconate before priesthood. Every priest still retains his diaconal ministry once he’s ordained, but the diaconal ministry is really a call to service. It’s a call to serve at the altar and assist. As deacon you’re supposed to serve. It’s a beautiful ministry. I’m really excited. To me the image of the servant is the most important image, at least in my experienced reality, for the priests. So the role of the deacon, stepping into that role of service at the altar, is going to be the first step.

What moments in seminary or summer assignments have helped prepare you to be a deacon and a priest?
For the last two years I’ve had an assignment outside of school here in New Orleans where I taught CCD. Being a part of that classroom setting, helping the ninth graders have that first encounter with Christ, being able to teach the faith to kids who may or may not want to learn, but being able to teach them the faith, has been really beautiful. It’s really put me in that mind set of someone who will one day teach and preach from the ambo, from the pulpit.

When I was at St. Ben’s [St. Joseph Seminary College], we went on a mission trip to Guatemala and then in our first year here at seminary we went to Nicaragua. I got to see both of those countries and the people there that had encountered the faith. It impressed on me more of the need to learn Spanish. So I’ve been working on that, too.

This past semester I did volunteer hours at the nursing home that’s connected to our campus. I visited the people. It was my first encounter with knocking on the door of a stranger and going in there and seeing where they’re at spiritually. It better prepared me for the summer when I worked in a hospital for two months and I got to be with families in very dire situations – be with them in times of death, in times of mourning and loss. To some extent, it was a beautiful thing to learn because I’d encountered death before, but I hadn’t walked with a family through that process and it was a real eye-opening experience of how God works even in tragedy.

Has there been a moment that has helped you discern that becoming a priest is God’s plan for you?
During Holy Week this year, when I served at Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish (Monroe), I got to be around the families. The altar society was helping get the altar ready and the other groups were the active side of ministry, preparing for the liturgy, and participating in the liturgy with the altar servers. The choir was singing, and I was amazed by the whole action of the Church during the Triduum. It really made me realize that there’s nothing else I feel like I’m called to do and that I feel like I’d be happy doing, other than serving at the altar of God as a priest one day.


Are there any particular moments of seminary that have helped you discern that priesthood was the right path for you?
The process of developing a healthy life of prayer and spirituality has been the primary factor in my priestly discernment. However, I call to mind one distinctly academic factor that played a part as well. During my first year of theology studies at Notre Dame Seminary, I received an assignment to draft a model letter to an incoming seminarian, giving an introduction to seminary life, and offering guidance on how to rightly align academic studies toward effective pastoral leadership. That assignment was challenging, but rewarding. It compelled me to consider those principles in my own seminary studies and priestly discernment. Since then, I have occasionally referred back to that assignment, and found myself reassured that my early advice was well worth following. That memorable assignment played a small but influential role in my discernment that priesthood was the right path for me.

What moments in your ministry or missionary work have stood out for you?
Of all the works of ministry I have experienced, some of my most memorable have occurred during my summer assignments. For example, during my 2013 summer at Holy Trinity Parish in Shreveport, I learned the diversity of works of parish priests, including sacramental ministry, hospital visits, home visits and prison ministry. During my 2014 summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, I learned the unique spirituality of diocesan priesthood. During my 2015 summer at Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, I experienced the dynamic workings of Christ in the young and old. During my 2016 chaplain internship at Florida Hospital in Orlando, I experienced the grace of God from the moment of birth to the moment of death. And during my 2017 diaconate internship at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, I experienced the dynamics of a lively parish that features a grade school, a college prep next door, and a diverse array of ministries.

What does being ordained to the priesthood mean to you?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that through the Sacrament of Holy Orders and by the Anointing of the Holy Spirit, priests are signed with a special character and are configured to Christ in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ, the head. What an awesome responsibility! To me the priesthood is a gift, an opportunity and truly a vocation.

In what ways has your time as a transitional deacon prepared you for priesthood?
During my year as a transitional deacon, I experienced such a wide array of spiritual, pastoral and sacramental ministries. I believe the Sacrament of Holy Orders truly imparts the graces necessary to reach and help Christ’s faithful. Last summer, I particularly enjoyed serving as an ordained deacon for the Diocese of Shreveport’s “Mission Possible” outdoor adventure retreat at King’s Camp in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. Throughout the school year, I was honored to minister at many churches in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, including St. Rita Parish, Mater Dolorosa Parish, and the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France. Most recently, I enjoyed serving during the Masses and special services of Holy Week 2018 “back home” in the Diocese of Shreveport. I believe that each of these uniquely contributed to my preparation for receipt of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and ordination to the priesthood.

President of USCCB Welcomes Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness in the Contemporary World

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is welcoming the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), subtitled “On the Call to Holiness in the Contemporary World.” In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo expresses his deep gratitude to the Holy Father for the exhortation and the call for each Christian to “acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be.”

In the introduction to the exhortation, the Pope emphasizes that the goal of his exhortation is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

An apostolic exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching after an encyclical letter. Since his election, Pope Francis has issued two other exhortations: Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013 and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in 2016.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement on Gaudete et Exsultate follows:
“I want to personally express my deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his powerful, straightforward words in Gaudete et Exsultate. In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.

‘Do not be afraid of holiness (no. 32).’ These words of the Holy Father jumped out at me when I first read them. In a way, each one of us has a fear of striving for holiness – a fear that we would be mocked, ignored, or even hated by others because we would stand out. Yet that is what the Lord has called each and every person to! Pope Francis calls us out: A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification (I Thess 4:3) (no. 19).’

The Holy Father describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each of us face. In the ordinary course of each day, the pope reminds us, ‘We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root’ (no. 114). Yet, he says, this ‘battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives’ (no. 158).

One paragraph in particular points out the continuing need we have for civility in all our interactions, especially in the media. ‘Christians too,’ the Holy Father writes, ‘can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.’ This can be true even in Catholic media (no. 115). ‘Even in our heated disagreements with one another, we always need to remember that it is God who judges, not man (James 4:12).’

In the light of Easter joy, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, I encourage every Christian to rekindle their baptismal call to be holy by reading this wonderful exhortation by Pope Francis, especially the beautiful section on the Beatitudes. Through an exploration of the Beatitudes, and by offering examples of how to live out our call to holiness in everyday life, the Holy Father has given us a wonderful tool for renewing our love for God and for each other.”

The USCCB has made the exhortation available for order online at
The Vatican has also posted the exhortation online at

Kids Connection: Saint Florian

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on Saint Florian.

Loyola’s Villalba Brings Faith to Life

by Lisa Cooper

Often referred to as the happiest place on campus, the classroom of religion teacher Marcos Villalba is where freshman Flyers are learning to ARISE. An acronym Villalba has taught his students from their first day, it represents the life and conduct of a true follower of Christ. Each day, Villalba inspires his students to Aspire for greatness in all they undertake, offering each thought and deed to the Lord; Respect the dignity of all by treating each other as divinely created and worthy of that honor; Interact with courage and joy by heartily participating in class discussions without fear of criticism; Serve out of love by helping each other and completing service hours in the spirit of humility and charity; and Edify one another in Christ, serving as a witness of Christ by building each other up instead of tearing others down.

Each semester, classes vote and award five students with an award for those who best exemplify the virtues of ARISE. To help each student on this journey, Villalba uses the YouBible and YouCat daily, having students read, take notes, and, most importantly, ask and answer questions.

The innovation and inspiration in Villalba’s classroom don’t stop there. He has instituted a class-ranking system through which classes compete against each other for the highest average in order to win a pizza party at the end of each semester.
“I knew that to get guys involved, there must include some level of competition,” says Villalba, “and I wanted a way to get the students to work together for the greater good of them all.”

In addition to the class average, students compete for the highest number of golden crosses. “Just like a teacher may put a golden star on a paper, I put golden crosses on the tests of students who make 100 percent.” The winning class gets a dessert party at the end of the semester. A glance at the board where class rankings and golden crosses are listed indicates that students have enthusiastically embraced this challenge.

What may be most impressive about Villalba’s teaching style is his ability to take even the mundane tasks like cleaning up the classroom after each period and infuse them with purpose. Each class gets a participation grade, and any student who leaves books out of place or trash on the floor loses points for his class. What’s more is that the Bibles in Villalba’s class are treated with particular honor.

“By ensuring that they are never left under other books or on the floor,” Villalba says, “I can use even a small thing to teach students to respect God’s word.”

The students’ favorite perk of Villalba’s class is his willingness to recognize their ideas and input on how to make the class engaging. “Every class has a president and vice president that they elect,” Villalba explains. “They are responsible for coming up with ideas about how we can learn God’s word without having to be confined to the classroom.”

His students have participated in potluck Bible studies, gone together to see Paul, Apostle of Christ at the theater, and enjoyed class at various locations on and off campus. Students also participate in a unique way by contributing to a class music play list that Villalba allows during certain times during class. During Lent, students opted to give up their play lists to learn more about the saints – a practice that has been so well received it has continued through Easter. Instead of their music, students eagerly listen to audio-dramas depicting the lives of the saints in real stories about their lives.

Villalba’s credits his love for Christ and his desire to communicate that love to students for his success in the classroom, and students recognize and appreciate his passion. Finding freshmen who are eager to talk about how much they are learning from Villalba is easy, but one statement reoccurs among them all: “We just love Mr. Villalba – he’s the best.”

Community Members Share Professions at SJS Career Day

Dr. Steven Boniol, Oncologist/Hematologist at CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, shows students some of the imaging he uses to diagnose and treat patients.

On April 6, St. Joseph middle school students spent their morning learning about various careers. Doctors, dentists, construction managers and bankers – to name a few – were on hand to present to groups of students, giving them a glimpse into the life of each presenter.

“Our students loved the career day event. We are so grateful to all the community members who took time to be here and open our students’ eyes to so many potential careers,” said Principal Dr. Judith McGimsey. “It is important that middle school students are thinking about the future and planning for the path they want to take.”

Students rotated to different stations; at each they were informed about the education requirements, day-to-day tasks, and some interesting things about each career. The adults encouraged students to ask questions, and many brought props that students enjoyed. Dr. Angela Cush-John, pediatrician at Mid-City Pediatrics in Shreveport, brought x-rays of a broken arm. Dr. Jennifer Henley, D.D.S., walked students through the rigors of dental school and showed off several tools and instruments she uses in her daily practice.

SJS is so thankful to all the professionals who were there to share their specialties with our students.

Dismuke Selected for Summit at John Hopkins University

St. Frederick High School student, Alyssa Dismuke, has been selected to participate in a Student Leadership Summit at John Hopkins University this summer. Alyssa was nominated by Mr. Dan Lindow because of Alyssa’s academic dedication and interest in neurosurgery. Alyssa was 1 out of a 140 plus students selected from around the world to attend this summit.

Recently, Alyssa won an Oratorical Speech contest hosted by the City of Monroe. Alyssa was invited by Mayor Jamie Mayo to recite her speech at a Black History Month Program in Monroe. Her award winning speech is titled, “Stop the Violence.”

Jesus the Good Shepherd School Celebrated Holy Week

Jesus the Good Shepherd School 5th and 6th grade classes carried on the tradition of performing the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week in  JGS Gym. The reproduction of the Passion of Jesus Christ was reenacted with great reverence, spirit and devotion by our JGS students. JGS is extremely proud of their students and teachers who put so much time and preparation into the production each year! They are thankful to be able to share this blessing with the rest of the school and community.

Celebrating Senior Month and Aging Beauty

by Sr. Martinette Rivers

As the world celebrates an “Ode to Elders” during this month dedicated to us, I think this lovely song is a great beginning. In the song, “Get It Together” by India Aire, she says “You’ll never be happy and you’ll never be whole until you find the beauty in growing old.”

Aging is a universal condition. But the way we try to hide it, you would think it was a plague. Everyone knows that we are growing older. I don’t ever remember being afraid of “oldness.”

In a youth-oriented society, we do not see the old as models of success. Rabbi A. Heschel, in his book, The Insecurity of Freedom, calls aging people the true “gold mines of a culture.” Most societies struggle with how they are to treat their elders. What do we do with those declining in years? With age comes maturity and wisdom. As we read in Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old.” As we treat another may we be treated as well.

Researchers find that the effect of a person’s attitude about aging has a lasting impact on how long they live. Attitude can be a problem if we think that we get worse as we become older and that we have less pep and feel less useful. Those oldsters need an attitudinal change before it’s too late. Getting older is not a negative experience for me, but it’s difficult to escape negative stereotypes about aging in our society. The more I read, and even at times experience this as I grow older, I reflect on The Seven Wonders of Aging that I wrote when I was in my sixties. They are still my suggestions for people to age gracefully, with an open mind, heart and spirit. They have helped me to create a stage where I feel comfortable aging with God, as the producer and we as the actors and actresses. It is on that stage that we will learn the mystery, the unseen beauty and the joy in aging. They are the motivating forces for me as I grow older, day by day.

Finding the beauty in growing old not only helps us, but rejuvenates the spirit of others in some way. My plan was and is to help others to savor and enjoy the best of their years. It can be a period of new vision. The blessings we have received we must also share with others. Without a spiritual purpose we can easily slip into ageist attitudes which can rob us of our joy and purpose in life as we age.

There is no one way, right or wrong, to grow older. Why should growing older be such a big deal? “Grey hair, wrinkles and smile lines are beautiful accessories,” according to Naomi Wolf. I tend to agree with her. She reminds us oldsters how futile it is to try to remain ageless and focus all our attention on our exterior looks.

Regardless of our outward appearance as we grow older, we are beautiful at our very core. We can’t stop our inner beauty from glowing forth. Beauty is found in respecting the needs of others, as well as in our response to their needs. Beauty is found in humor, the honor of giving and goodness in compassion. These are found more often than not in nursing homes.
Consider this during the Senior Month of May, an older person you know who is attractive and beautiful because of their age. “Beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder, and therefore beauty comes in many, many forms.” Psychiatrist Gerald May in Additions and Grace.

The moment an aging person begins to delight in beauty, their mind, body and spirit are beginning to see with the heart. As we each spend time reflecting on our age, we might ask ourselves this question: What kind of badges of aging do we have? Wrinkles, thinning grey hair, gnarled knuckles, shaky hands, smiles on our faces, wobbly knees – all genuine tales of our lives, work, joys and struggles which become more beautiful each passing day. What shape and form our future will take on, only God knows. Truly aging is a great art! When will God’s masterpiece of us be finished? Let’s go out dancing, laughing and smiling. In spite of the mystery in our aging, our beauty will live on in the hearts of others.

Diocesan Pro-Life Oratory Contest Winners Announced

Bishop Michael Duca gives 1st place winner, Celeste Lirette, her prize money. Pictured with them is Contest Coordinator Anthony Fabio.

by Anthony Fabio

The Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Committee has announced the local winners of its high school oratory contest. Celeste Lirette, a junior at Loyola College Prep, won first place with her insightful presentation about Pope Paul VI and his encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He predicted 50 years ago that artificial contraception would lead to a devaluation of human life, which unfortunately has come true beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. In some countries, China for example, the government has tragically mandated forced contraception, abortion and sterilization. Celeste was awarded $500 for her speech and will advance to the State Finals in Baton Rouge in May.

Second place honors were captured by Zaige Wills, a junior at Byrd High School. Zaige pointed out that the babies who are aborted could have been adopted and gone on to have happy and productive lives. He said a baby who was aborted could have discovered a cure for cancer. God has placed each child here for a reason and each one deserves the right to life. Zaige was awarded $200 for his stirring presentation.

The competition was held April 10, 2018, at the Catholic Center in Shreveport.

Now in its 30th year, the contest challenges students to consider the bioethical issues of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and fetal stem cell research from a pro-life perspective.

The contest is non-denominational and was sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport. Bishop Michael G. Duca considers the contest an important component of the whole spectrum of respect life and encourages all young people to make their voices heard on these important issues.

State and National sponsors are the Louisiana Right to Life Federation and the National Right to Life.

For more information, contact Anthony Fabio,
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Louisiana Tech’s ACTS Spring Retreat Builds Community

by Courtney Smith

The Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS) of Louisiana Tech in Ruston recently retreated to Gospel, Inc., for their annual Spring Retreat. The entirely student-planned weekend focused on the theme “the JOY of the Lord is our strength,” from Nehemiah.

The retreatants explored this theme through building, which resonated with the students who were mostly engineering majors. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the Exile, and on the retreat, the students built wells and in the process, their community.

The retreatants were gathered into small discussion groups who met throughout the retreat for reflection. Each time they met, they lit sanctuary candles (the candles next to the tabernacle, reminding us of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist). During their first meeting, each group got to build. The groups each built a panel of Styrofoam “bricks,” which were assembled to make a larger well that served the whole community for the weekend.

Retreatants took blue paper, symbolizing water, from the well to write affirmations of one another throughout the retreat.
In addition to small groups, the students met to reflect with prayer partners, and they too got to build. They built small “wells” that doubled as votive candle holders, which they lit each time they met for reflection.

The retreat ended at the 7:00 p.m. student Mass at St. Thomas Parish, where the retreatants brought their JOY and the strength they had gained from all their building, both physical and spiritual, back to the larger church community.