Monthly Archives: July 2018

Bishop Michael Duca Announced as Bishop-designate of Baton Rouge


by Bonny Van, The Catholic Commentator

The sixth bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge was greeted with applause, smiles and hugs as he approached the podium for his introduction to the people of the capital city on June 26, just hours after the Vatican announced the appointment by Pope Francis.

Bishop-designate Michael G. Duca replaces Bishop Robert W. Muench, who is retiring after 16 years. The two bishops arrived together, with Bishop Muench handling much of the introductions for the press event, which contained a variety of emotions from both men, who had clearly formed a special camaraderie.

“I was completely surprised by this appointment and while I am sad to leave the good people of the Diocese of Shreveport, I immediately accepted the appointment without reservation as I see this as the will of God in my life and, I guess by extension, the will of God in the life of the Diocese of Shreveport and Baton Rouge,” said Bishop-designate Duca to the dozens of priests, deacons, diocesan employees and members of the media packed into the Westerfield Center on the campus of the Catholic Life Center.

Bishop-designate Duca has been bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport for the past 10 years, his first bishop assignment. A native of Dallas, Texas, Bishop-designate Duca was ordained a priest in 1978 for the Diocese of Dallas. After serving in several parishes in that diocese, he served as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas from 1996 to 2008.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, with a Catholic population of 40,000. In contrast, the Diocese of Baton Rouge has a Catholic population of 227,052.

“I have to tell you I’m not clear about the ‘why me’ part,” said the bishop-designate. “I have to admit I have been surprised or puzzled by most of the pastoral assignments I have received over my life. But, no matter how quick I had to move, or how unprepared I felt or overwhelmed or humbled, in every case, when I embraced the assignment, without reservation, I found the joy and blessings I know now that God intended.”

Bishop-designate Duca then broke down in tears in recalling the special bond he had developed with the people in Shreveport, saying, “I fell in love with those I served, and I also found that in every case, I discovered the goodness in the people of God.”

“I intend to do no less here in Baton Rouge,” he continued. “And, I will give myself to you as your bishop and the work before us to build the kingdom of God, here in this portion of south Louisiana.”

Though the geographical area of the Diocese of Baton Rouge pales in comparison with that of Shreveport  5,513 square miles versus 11,129 square miles the bishop-designate inherits a much denser population concentration that includes 64 church parishes, one university, 31 schools, 51 diocesan priests, 56 active permanent deacons and more than 100 combined religious brothers and sisters. In his first public address, the bishop-designate said he is committed to supporting those who serve in the church.

“I look forward to meeting the priests and deacons of the diocese and also the diocesan staff,” said Bishop-designate Duca. “But, at the end, the priests, deacons and lay leaders of the parishes and institutions are those that I want most to be seen as in solidarity with. They are the ones we, the Catholic staff, are here to support because they are the ones, the outreach, that touch the people of God.”

Bishop-designate Duca, a self-described foodie, said he anticipates “hitting the ground walking” as opposed to “running” when he officially takes possession of the diocese because “there is a good organization, a good structure, a good spirit in the church” in the Baton Rouge diocese. He also mentioned an acquaintance in Shreveport, whose brother is a priest in Baton Rouge and stated that the Baton Rouge diocese has “the best group of priests in Louisiana.”

“That was very encouraging and Bishop Muench has given me the same kind of encouragement and so I come with a great enthusiasm and excitement,” he said. “And, I’m anxious to meet all of you over the next years of my life as a bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.”

In a nod to his Texas roots and the large Spanish-speaking population in his home state, the bishop-designate made a statement in Spanish, “especially now when things are so uncertain for so many people.”

“Basically, what I said was that I want them to know that they are part of our family, we are one church and I can say that openly because I know that this is a city of much diversity,” he added. “When I moved to Louisiana, I thought that I would have shrimp and seafood in my freezer, more than I could eat. I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and ended up with meat pies and tamales, which have been a great gift. But, I first experienced in Shreveport, the diversity of culture and influence throughout this whole Louisiana state.

“It’s a wonderful diversity, and I know we have Vietnamese, African-American; we have other cultures that are here all around, and I just want to say, we all have to consider that we are one family and when one part of the family suffers, we all suffer and we need to have that kind of unity together.”

Bishop-designate Duca then referenced a speech made at the recent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting “about the importance of being close to one another” and getting to know each other and each other’s struggles.

“We need to get close to (the poor) to understand their lives because in the end, we all want the same thing,” he said. “So to our brothers and sisters who don’t speak English, I want them to know that they are part of our family. If I could say this in Vietnamese, I would, but that’s way beyond me and I’m not going to try to say it in south Louisiana because I would mess that up, too.”

In follow-up questions, the bishop-designate acknowledged that the transition from “the north to the south” will not be an easy one, saying, “I’m in way over my head here.”

“I don’t even know enough to know how much I don’t know about south Louisiana to be worried about how much I don’t know,” he added. “Culturally, I know that I’m in a different place so I have to learn the culture and the way people interact.

“I know that there’s north Louisiana, there’s south Louisiana and there’s New Orleans.”

But he also emphasized the universality of the church, saying “even though there may be a great difference in culture, there is one church language, you might say, the language of the Mass, the language of the sacraments, the language of prayer. So we start off together with that.”

Bishop-designate Duca is scheduled to be installed on August 24, at 2:00 p.m. at Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. •

So Many Gifts to Share


by Deacon Mike Whitehead

In his letter to parishioners on his new appointment in Baton Rouge, Bishop Duca said, “I am not clear about, ‘why me?’ I have to admit that I have been surprised or puzzled by most of my pastoral appointments over the years, especially my appointment as your bishop 10 years ago. But with every appointment, no matter how puzzled, overwhelmed or humbled I felt, when I embraced the assignments without reservation, I found the joy and blessings I now know God intended.”

That statement is quintessentially Bishop Duca.

It is rare to meet a truly great man or woman that doesn’t have that thread of humility as part of his or her DNA. There is no doubt Bishop Duca’s priority from Day 1 was a gift of service to this diocese, as well as north Louisiana.

I will cherish the times when I attended Mass where he presided. Bishop Duca reinforced that every Mass is a celebration and a miracle. Without exception, every homily he gave was as deep as the Caribbean and included humor that was always genuine and never forced.

Honestly, I never believed Bishop Duca would be with us until his retirement. He has too many gifts – gifts that must be shared with others. I choose to remember him with gratitude for the 10 years we had him with us, rather than dwell on the fact that he is taking on a new assignment.

Bishop Duca always was the same, whether he was leading a deacon retreat, calling bingo numbers at a Catholic Charities fundraiser or having dinner with friends.

Humility, authenticity, compassion. There are a lot of virtues that could describe the second bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, but whatever the description, we certainly have been blessed to have him in our lives. •

Mary’s House: Helping Mothers, Saving Lives


by L’Anne Sciba, Executive Director and Founder, Mary’s House 

“I hope they… [people of the Shreveport Diocese] felt respected, I hope they feel they had a voice when they spoke with me, that I listened to them.”

Bishop Michael G. Duca to The Shreveport Times, June 27, 2018

In October 2013, I had the idea of opening a pregnancy care center (PCC) and realized before I went any further, I should ask Bishop Duca if this was an acceptable idea. I made an appointment with him.

A few months later I met some people from another part of the country, mentioned how I met with the bishop, and they burst out laughing. They couldn’t believe that I could get an appointment at all! That is when I realized that Bishop Duca’s heart was truly open to meeting and knowing the people in his diocese.

At that initial meeting in 2013, he listened to my idea, looked at my “charts,” asked some questions, and then he offered what he had: an empty room at the Catholic Center. Even though, as he said later, “it wouldn’t cost me anything,” and we never did use the room, his encouragement gave me and others the message that a new pregnancy care center was welcome in the diocese.

But, I had to keep working my day job.

Bishop Michael Duca and L'Anne Sciba sign papers to move Mary's House into their current home on Margaret Place in Shreveport.

In early 2014, one of Bishop Duca’s Pro-Life Banquet team members called to invite me to speak about Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center at the Pro-Life Banquet – I had a five minute limit! Considering Mary’s House had no donors, no money, and was only a vision to help young women find alternatives to abortion. How could five minutes do anything? Yet Bishop Duca’s idea seemed to be to let this idea of Mary’s House “run” and see where it would go.

At that Banquet, $80,000 was donated to Mary’s House by the attendees.

Later that year, Schumpert Hospital closed, and the diocese acquired a vacant yellow house in which the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word had lived. In December 2014, at our semi-annual meeting about the Mary’s House idea, the Bishop offered the vacant yellow house for Mary’s House to use. It turned out to be perfect! On November 20, 2015, Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center opened at the Margaret Place location.

As of June 2018, over 500 young women have come to Mary’s House for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, for someone to talk to, to gain access into the healthcare system and for information about other resources.

Bishop Duca, you are a true shepherd, pastoring and letting God work through you and the people in the Diocese of Shreveport. Thank you, Bishop Duca, from all the young moms, their babies, the volunteers and donors of Mary’s House!

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana: A Bishop’s Legacy


by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana 

When Bishop Michael G. Duca arrived in 2008 as the second bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, he was surprised to see that there was not a Catholic Charities agency in North Louisiana. Up until that time, outreach in the community had taken place through Christian Service and at the parish level through the works of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Bishop Duca envisioned the formation of Catholic Charities as the Diocese of Shreveport’s response to helping those in need and being an agent of positive change in the lives of those being served.

Jean Dresley, Catholic Charities’ first executive director, remembers seeing the position advertised in her parish bulletin. After several weeks of contemplation, she applied for the position and went through the interview process. In her second interview, she met with Bishop Duca and was offered the job at the end of the interview. She recalls feeling “scared to death” at the time, but also believed that “God was pulling me to this moment to use whatever small gifts I had to serve Him.” With a new executive director in place, Catholic Charities of Shreveport (CCS) opened its doors in August 2010.

In the early days of the organization, Dresley received guidance and mentoring from both Bishop Duca and Sr. Pat Cairns. Sr. Cairns had supervised two other Catholic Charities agencies and understood the challenges of a young organization. Dresley credits Cairns’ experience and presence during this time as making a huge difference in the success of Catholic Charities.

Some of the initial challenges CCS faced included forming a board of directors, finding a place to start serving clients, and most important, securing funding for the organization. Dresley began seeing clients immediately and it soon became apparent that CCS would need its own location. The organization moved into the rectory and sanctuary of the former St. Catherine of Siena Church, located in the Cedar Grove neighborhood, one of Shreveport’s poorest areas.

As the organization grew, so did its service area, expanding across the Diocese of Shreveport’s 16 civil parishes. Catholic Charities of Shreveport changed its name to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana in 2014, with satellite offices opening in Lake Providence and Monroe. Under the guidance of its current executive director, Meg Goorley, CCNLA has expanded its staff to nine full-time and six part-time employees, and provided services to over 3,500 people in 2017.

Bishop Michael Duca at Bingo on the Bayou - a special fundraising event for Catholic Charities of North Louisiana.

“Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see how to fix a problem,” explained Goorley. “Ten years ago when Bishop Duca arrived, he could immediately see that the Diocese of Shreveport was in the middle of one of the poorest sections of Louisiana and he was committed to doing something about it. Because he knew that Catholic Charities in Ft. Worth and Dallas were effectively helping the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Duca laid the groundwork for Catholic Charities of Shreveport by hiring Jean Dresley to create an organization worthy of its name.”

Throughout its existence, Bishop Duca has been unwavering for his support of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Whether it is giving much-needed financial support, donating his time and culinary skills as auction items, calling bingo numbers at our annual fundraisers, or just lending words of advice, he has been the organization’s number one cheerleader.

Because of his vision and actions, thousands of people throughout North Louisiana have received education and assistance through Catholic Charities’ many programs, including Money School financial literacy, emergency assistance, Gabriel’s Closet parenting program, healthy eating classes, disaster relief and immigration legal services. The Diocese of Shreveport and all of North Louisiana have benefited from his presence, guidance and leadership. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is honored to be a part of his legacy.

Thoughts from CCNLA staff members: 

“In my interview with Bishop Duca after he offered me the job, he told me to let him know if I ever needed help. He gave me his cell phone number and told me call him if I needed something. I never needed to use that cell phone number, but it speaks to his commitment to CCNLA and to me personally. I am still humbled that he offered me the job.” – Jean Dresley, Executive Director, 2010-2016

Jean Dresley, former Executive Director of Catholic Charities, and Bishop Michael Duca, at the opening of CCNLA's Monroe office.

“What I will remember most about Bishop Duca is how intelligent he truly is and how carefully he makes decisions by taking into consideration everyone and everything involved. I will always appreciate him giving me the opportunity two years ago to lead this organization which is so close to his heart (and now mine), and I pray that I can continue to uphold his admirable legacy.” – Meg Goorley, Executive Director

“Bishop Duca is an admirable, kind, generous, thoughtful, funny man. In the past four years, I have witnessed him advocate wholeheartedly on behalf of CCNLA, rallying support and infusing hope. His dynamic presence has touched many lives and will leave a significant void in his wake.” – Kelly Vaden, Director of Finance and Human Resources

“I am thankful to Bishop Duca for his mission to help those in need, show Christ’s love and start Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. With his continual support of our organization, we have grown from assisting less than 100 the first year to well over 3,000 this past year in three locations.” – Allison Kulbeth, Intake Coordinator

“Because of Bishop Duca’s vision of CCNLA, we have been able to help so many mothers through our Gabriel’s Closet program. What started out as a small program helping just a few mothers, has now blossomed into a bigger program that has helped hundreds of mothers in the past few years. Whenever meeting with Bishop Duca, his kind, caring, and humorous characteristics always shine through. We will definitely miss him and wish him nothing but the best in his next journey!” – Suhad Salamah, Benefits Manager and Gabriel’s Closet Coordinator

“Bishop Duca’s immeasurable support of Catholic Charities has allowed us to help thousands of individuals and their families throughout North Louisiana. His enthusiasm and love of people has helped make our annual bingo fundraisers fun and successful events for our organization. His homilies and speeches are always memorable and teach valuable lessons. We were blessed to have him lead our diocese for the past 10 years.” – Lucy Medvec, Director of Development and Communications

“Bishop Duca was the first, and has continued to be one of the most ardent and dedicated supporters of the Immigration Legal Services Program of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Words cannot express how grateful we are and how much he will be missed.” – Briana Bianca, Immigration Attorney

“Bishop Duca has been a champion for the poor, the underprivileged and the immigrants in our community. He has been our leader and the backbone of support for Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Simply put, he is just a wonderful human being and will be greatly missed by our social services community and by those of us who have had the pleasure of getting to know him personally.” – Carl Piehl, Director of Financial Stability

“As a Catholic woman living in the Diocese of Shreveport, I have a great deal of admiration for Bishop Duca. For me, his final words in the promotional video for CCNLA in 2014 ‘…when the doorbell rings [at Catholic Charities], I’ll make sure there is somebody there to answer that door, every time,’ is a moment of blessing. I am also very grateful to him for being so clear in his stand on the side of immigrants and for showing Christian love towards them.”
– Gilda Rada-Garcia, Immigration Advocate

“Bishop Duca has impressed me greatly over the years with his humility, approachability and wisdom. While his preaching and conversation are extremely practical and relatable, his insights into the person of Jesus Christ and his confident proclamation of the gospel consistently inspire me to greater zeal and love for God. I am grateful for his constant support of Catholic Charities, as well as his ecumenical work and other endeavors around the diocese, but especially for his witness as a man of God, a man of faith, and a servant of the people.” – Joe Bulger, Case Manager •

Michael G. Duca, Son, Brother, Priest, Bishop

Some of the Catholic Center staff with Bishop Michael Duca at the Bishop Lynch Awards banquet. Front row: Randy Tiller, Dianne Rachal, Deacon Michael Straub. Back row: Patricia Pillors, Elaine Gallion, Bishop Michael Duca and Rosalba Quiroz.

by Randy Tiller, Chancellor

Bishop Mike, “the bish,” is our Bishop Michael G. Duca, the second bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport.

Over 10 years ago, a press conference was held at the Catholic Center announcing his upcoming episcopal ordination and installation. It doesn’t feel like 10 years ago. Meeting Bishop Duca, his parents, Louis and Aline Duca, his sisters Rosanne and Irene, his brother James, and of course their spouses and his nieces and nephews, was a wonderful and a long remembered event. Thus began the intense period of preparing for THE DAY, May 19, 2008 when the Diocese of Shreveport would ordain our second bishop!

After he was ordained, Bishop Duca sat with me a few minutes asking me exactly what it was the Director of Mission Effectiveness did. He admitted he was very interested in the position and I believe I said something stupid like, “I was very interested in his positon.” Needless to say, I remained the Director of Mission Effectiveness and he remained the bishop.

For a short while that neither Bishop nor I could understand, people would mistake me for bishop. I have had people try to genuflect and reverence my ring. I have had them make comments that I would answer with, “I am not the bishop. He has the black shirt and white collar. At one point I heard Bishop tell someone, “No, Randy is Lebanese!”

From the beginning we established a rapport that I am pleased to say has grown over the years. Very soon after Bishop moved to Shreveport, I learned he had been introduced to Lebanese food when he had been in a parish with a Lebanese priest from Tyler, Texas. I asked him to dinner one Sunday afternoon for a very traditional Lebanese meal. My son, Garrett, and my mom, Madeline, were with us. I gave Bishop Duca a seat at the table (whether it was the head or the foot is still up for discussion). By the end of the meal, my mom had gathered up some of the dishes. I was standing at the sink in the kitchen, and as Bishop walked by mother, she said, “Here take these dishes to Randy.” When he got to the sink, while I was kind of mortified, he said, “I am only the bishop.”

Since that time he has joined family, friends and me at many dinners, lunches and family gatherings through the years. I invited him to go with my sisters and me to a cousin’s house on the Mardi Gras parade route. I had so much stuff to carry from the two blocks away I had to park, that I took a baby stroller to put it all in. Bishop announced he was walking on the other side of the street away from the stroller.

Another time, Fr. Price and I accompanied Bishop Duca to the Texas State Fair to look at the new automobile offers, have “the corndog,” and fill up on all the other variety of fair food and see the new “Big Tex.” At one point Fr. Price and I looked at a ride that went up, down and all around, and decided to buy tickets to ride it. Bishop told us, NO, that we would have to ride one at a time. (I did not admit it then, but I was so relieved, I am not a “rider”).

We have laughed, we have had great times, tense times, times that one of us walked away upset and disenchanted; but we always came back together in the interest of the diocese and continued moving forward. There has been good news and bad news passed between us, but always with a sense of compassion, understanding, sincerity, fairness and something extra that I believe existed between the Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport and the Director of Mission Effectiveness.

Effective April 1, 2018, he appointed me the Chancellor of the diocese. On June 26, he announced he was leaving for Baton Rouge. I think he got the last laugh. Congratulations Bishop Duca, you leave behind a diocese with a heavy but a joyful heart as you embark on new challenges. Hip hip hooray, Bish!  •

Bishop Duca Altered My Priesthood Forever

Following his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Long blesses Bishop Duca.

by Father Matthew Long, Pastor, St. Joseph Parish

On April 1, 2008, I arose to news that would alter my priesthood forever. A seminarian at that time, it was John Mark Willcox, my vocations director, who informed me of an impending press conference concerning the Diocese of Shreveport. Msgr. Michael Duca, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, a priest of the diocese of Dallas, had been named the second bishop of Shreveport. I sat down at my desk and wrote a note congratulating him on his appointment and telling him of the joy I felt that we had been granted a new shepherd. On Friday of that week when I returned to my room, I had a message on my voicemail from Bishop-elect Duca thanking me for the note and asking me to call him back. In the course of the conversation he asked me many questions that gave me great hope for the future of our diocese. This marked the beginning of my relationship with Bishop Duca, the successor of the apostles whose wisdom and guidance would help shape me into the priest I am today.

Matthew Long as an altar server at Bishop Duca's Ordination and Installation as Bishop

On May 19 that year, I was privileged to be the book bearer at his ordination and installation as our bishop. I will never forget that liturgy, how exciting it was to be so close to this most important moment in the history of our diocese. Less than a year later, I sat in front of him as he exhorted me about the duties and responsibilities of the priesthood, about to lay hands on my head and pray the prayers that would mark my soul forever as a priest of Jesus Christ. Over the next nine years he was a constant support and guide through the continual process of being formed into that holy priesthood. As my pastor, he always listened to me without judgment, a quality I appreciated. I will miss that open door to his office through which I could freely enter and seek counsel. The best parts of the priest I have become I owe largely to the guidance I found from the man across that desk who so generously gave his time to a young priest who needed it.

Newly ordained Fr. Long and Bishop Duca at Fr. Long's Ordination Mass.

I was overwhelmed with emotion when on June 28 I was awakened early in the morning by a text message from a priest of the diocese of Baton Rouge. The message stated that he would be praying for our next bishop. I did not understand it at first, but then it hit me, and a quick Internet search confirmed the sad news that our shepherd, our successor to the apostles, our bishop, had been named the sixth Bishop of the diocese of Baton Rouge.

I wept, I worried, and I wondered what the future would hold for us. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to sit with Bishop Duca the next day to congratulate him and tell him how much he meant to me. I have been blessed in my priesthood to have such a shepherd, and we have all been blessed in our diocese to have been led by him. All of this reflects on his faithful obedience to the will of God. It is due to his obedience that he has been a beloved priest for 40 years and our most appreciated bishop for 10 years.

Bishop Duca’s role in our lives will never change because he has shaped us, he has led us, but, most importantly, because he has loved us. The sadness that we feel is the result of the love we feel for him. And through one of the darkest years of our diocese, with the deaths of Fr. Richter, Bishop Friend, and Msgr. Moore, this man gave us hope by his example of faith, hope and love. It is because he places all his hope and trust in the Lord that he has accomplished all he has. For his vocation, we owe a perpetual debt of gratitude. Thank you, Bishop Michal G. Duca. You will be with us always. •

Shared Glimpses

Bishop Michael Duca (center), with the Daughters of St. Brigid at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport. Kim Long is pictured far right.

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Parish

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

I had no idea what to expect when my friend Vonny met me at my home and we drove together to Bishop Duca’s ordination and installation. I certainly did not expect to feel so wonderfully Catholic, like the whole world at that moment was Catholic (or at least wanted to be!). The occasion was definitely a glimpse into a very different world, in video game speak (a fluent tongue in our home), I had “leveled up.”

As a convert to the Catholic faith and its ensuing way of life the Apostolic Succession was something that really only came to mind at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Seeing this ordination, participating in it, was a new experience for me. As newly ordained Bishop Duca walked through the makeshift aisles laid out in an enormous space within the convention center, blessing the crowd with holy water, I wondered if he were as self-conscious as I suddenly felt. He was newly a bishop and I was renewing my own set of promises. As the liquid fell on my face, I felt suddenly old and new, refreshed and sustained by all that had gone before me in our tradition.

As with many such liminal moments the impact lessened as time and ordinary days seeped into the foreground. That event, that sharing began to take on legendary status almost as if I were recalling an event on television where I had been an observer rather than a participant.

Then something happened.

Here’s the scene: Late one Friday night, there wasn’t much going on. I was gabbing with a friend on the phone and Jessica, the editor of The Catholic Connection, kept ringing in, but I (for a still unknown reason) kept putting her to voicemail and talking with Cindy. Finally, she and I finished up and by this time Jess was texting me, “Call me!!!” So, of course, I did. “We won! You won!” and she began to explain that I won an award from the Catholic Press Association for my column. What??? “I didn’t even know you entered my column,” and so the excited sharing went. But that’s not the something I’m telling you about. I received a text message from Bishop Duca, congratulating me and thanking me for sharing my gifts and talents with God’s people. Larger than life seemed to come into a smaller focus.

Later at a luncheon: Members of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission were gathered at Dianne Rachal’s home for our annual Christmas luncheon. Everything was breathtakingly beautiful, like Home and Garden beautiful, and where did I find myself seated – you know it – beside Bishop. There is a time when I like silence and don’t feel the need to fill the air with chatter, but this was not one of those moments. Instead, I turned to Bishop and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Startled he answered and then asked me. I said, “Well let me tell you a funny story. I’ve wanted a meat grinder for the last three years. My children know this – and what do I get? Fancy coffee, DVDs, candles, a laptop, – all great stuff but sadly, no meat grinder.”

“Why do you want a meat grinder?” he asked. Laughing, I told him that I enjoyed eating sausage, but I like to know what is in it. He got a nostalgic look and told me how his cousin’s grandfather made sausage and at Christmas, he put an orange through the grinder with the meat and called it his Christmas sausage.

The rest of the dinner remains a blur. Smaller focus still.

Later still: I am at one of the many Christmas parties of the season and my phone rings. It was Bishop Duca asking me if I was busy and apologizing for calling last minute, but he was making sausage and wondered if I’d like to come help. I couldn’t believe circumstances prevented it. What a chance of a lifetime! But as Maureen O’Hara said to John Wayne in the movie The Quiet Man, all I could say was, “I thank you for the asking.”

And then there were the macaroons… St. Mary’s (my parish) was chosen to host the annual Holocaust Memorial Service. I was put in charge of the reception and wanted to be extremely cautious in my choice of menu items, aware of dietary restrictions of the Jewish faith community. And while St. Mary’s does not boast a kosher kitchen, I knew to keep the dairy and the meat worlds away. In fact, there was no meat at all, but there were macaroons, French macaroons, about 1,000 assorted macaroons that Annette, Kristen and I labored over for several days.

During the reception, Janice came into the kitchen and said, “The bishop is out there and he wants to know where you are.”

I hoped this was not going in a bad direction. When I found him, he was enjoying those macaroons. He asked me where I bought them and I said, (I confess my reply was tinged with pride) that I made them. He looked at me somewhat intently and then said, “I always wondered if you walked the walk with food.” I replied, “With cooking, oh yeah.” We laughed and I asked if he was pleased with the reception and he said that I had raised the bar. He left with his pockets stuffed with macaroons.

Then there was the appointment. I had never in my life “gone to see the bishop,” but I had some things on my mind. So I made an appointment and had a meeting with “the boss.” He made me feel as though he had all the time in the world and my questions about religious education (my real job) were worth discussing. I left feeling that I had been heard and listened to, I left feeling great about being Catholic…again, which in the “God business” or paid ministry work is not always so easy.

I tell you all these stories to say this: what began as a huge event evolved into a series of personal exchanges where a knowing of one another, a sharing of a handful of stories and exchanges, opened up the definition of the word “Catholic” in a direction I never could have imagined on that morning when Vonny and I drove to the convention center all those years ago.

I pray that his new assignment is all that God intends, that he not change too much, and that he can still talk food to someone who shares that interest and that he walk in the light for all his days. •

Second Collections for August and September

Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection

Bulletin Dates: August 5th & 12th 
Collection Dates: August 18th & 19th

The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps the priests and laity of our diocese strengthen the faith of our vibrant Spanish-speaking Catholics and keeps them in the fold of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps Hispanic Catholics grow in their faith and dynamically share their devotion to Jesus and his Saints with us, especially their phenomenal devotion to the Holy Mother of God under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While our priests who speak Spanish in varying degrees from fluently to haltingly, are a great gift to us, more Spanish-speaking priests, deacons and catechists are needed to effectively attend to our ever-growing and dynamic Hispanic communities throughout the diocese. Fathers Betancurt, Garcia, Mondragón, Jost, Watson, Howard, Kamau, Crispin, Kallookalam, Madden and I, are happy stewards of God’s graces to them. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps us attend them with a shepherd’s care.

Your participation in this collection makes it possible for our Office of Hispanic Ministry to provide leadership training, minister to youth and young adults and married couples, provide whole family retreats, days of reflection, and liturgical ministry training for our devout Hispanic Catholics. The services of our Office of Hispanic Ministry provide spiritual formation which equips individuals, families and communities to give themselves ever more joyfully in service to the Lord Jesus and his people. The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection is our concrete way of helping our Hispanic Catholics serve English and Spanish speakers alike.

A hallmark of the Hispanic culture is the amazingly powerful family bond. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection ensures that those familial and ecclesiastical bonds do not break. Whatever you can give will help the Church serve our Hispanic brothers and sisters, they will bless us in return. Your donation, no matter what the size, makes a difference. Please participate as generously as you are able.


The Catholic University of America

Bulletin Dates: August 12th & 19th 
Collection Dates: September 1st & 2nd 

The second collection in our diocese for September is for the Catholic University of America. We ask you, the Catholic faithful of our diocese, to join with Catholics across our country to make Catholic higher education possible. Catholic education on any level is expensive. But many things we have that are of value are expensive. Catholic education is expensive, but no one ever complains that they did not receive their money’s worth. Those who were blessed with a Catholic education have excelled in life because of it. You may not know anyone who attends Catholic University, but every student at CUA is your brother or sister within the family of our Catholic faith. Please give for the strength of our Church family.

The Catholic University of America collection prepares and strengthens the current and next generation of Catholics who will explain our faith and social teaching to the rest of the world. Your gift supports scholarships for students who need financial assistance. Please support the next generation of Catholic leaders for our Church and nation – including those studying to become our future priests and religious men and women. Join your contribution to that of faithful parishioners across our country to spiritually and academically prepare this and future generations of Catholic students, particularly those who have financial need. Please give generously to The Catholic University of America collection. Strengthen the Catholic University’s mission with your contribution which will help our national university move forward, ensuring that current students and future graduates can continue to be God’s light in our world. Learn more at •