Monthly Archives: September 2018

Domestic Church: Help Us, Lord! We’re Sinking!


by Katie Sciba

My friend texted me, “Pleading for prayers for my husband,” she began, “All these scandals in the Church have shaken him up and he’s got one foot out the door of the Church.” Unfortunately it wasn’t the only message like this I received. Another friend called upset saying she knew an abuse victim in a diocese out of state; still another said her dear friend and favorite priest was removed from ministry to be investigated.

The present crisis in the Catholic Church is like a cancer; some way or another, it touches all of us in the Body of Christ.

My emotions have run all over the place: anger, disbelief, deep sadness, fear for what will happen to the remaining faithful. At times I’m sure that whatever the future holds, all will be well for the Church that’s been protected for 2,000+ years by the Holy Spirit; however, I have moments when my confidence is more like the disciples’ caught in a storm on the sea, “Help us, Lord! We’re sinking!”

Though the Lord lay sleeping, wasn’t He there with His frightened friends? While the scandals rock the Church at large, Jesus remains; only now the vessel caught in upheaval is the universal Catholic community, and Christ is still, yet present in the Eucharist.

I was in the grocery store when a young man, a stranger to me, approached and invited me to his church’s Bible study. Smiling, I declined saying I was already in one. His friendly expression fell when I told him I was Catholic. He was quick to ask if I had seen the news lately, and he reminded me of the deeply-rooted and widespread scandal in my Church. “You have to be looking for a new church home. How can you stay Catholic?” he asked, almost to himself. “I’m Catholic because of Jesus,” I replied.

God moves and loves us through others – especially through the leaders in our Church; still, though leaders fall or fail, though we may lose faith in people, it’s paramount that we keep our faith in Christ, who is after all, the very reason any of us are Catholic.

And in any moment when we struggle to trust in God’s wisdom, think back. Not only has He upheld the Catholic Church as a whole, He’s upheld us in personally trying circumstances. Psalm 143 says, “I muse on what your hand has wrought” — how has the Lord outstretched His hand and given grace the very minute we need it? How has He supported us each when we’re burdened? A mother of a young abuse victim told me that it was reading scripture, especially the words of Jesus, that kept her and her family in Mass.

The epic drama within the Catholic Church will not likely conclude quickly, but we can allow ourselves to be still and know God, who has forever upheld the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so. We can proceed bravely into the unknown armed with hope and certainty in the Eucharist. Above all we have to pray, offer sacrifices in the day, and penance for victims of abuse, for conversions of abusers, for faithful priests and laity to support the truth with humility and peace.

Faithful Food: Seeking Gifts Where They May Be Found

by Kim Long

Autumn, my favorite time of the year, in Louisiana is more often a state of mind than a meteorological fact, although that never prevents us from pumpkin spicing our way to Mardi Gras.

Each season brings lessons and gifts; autumn does not disappoint, offering the themes of abundance, harvest and the spring’s eventual promise.

August found me in Baton Rouge in a packed Cathedral, seated with the press corp. I was eager to see Bishop Duca take this next step, this transition, and in turn experience my own sense of transition. I was present when 10 years ago, he was ordained a bishop and installed in my adoptive Diocese of Shreveport. Now I was there, witness to the next step, another strand in the fabric of Catholic life which holds us all together.

A loud knock broke the silence. Bishop Duca stood at the threshold, literally and figuratively. We speak of Christian witnesses as they relate to the sacrament of baptism, but this day the assembled company witnessed a liminal moment, and if asked to give testimony to that we could. This is one way our faith is passed to us, by what we see and hear. A way our faith is passed to others is by what we do.

As the installation continued, the assembly seemed divided into those who were losing a bishop and those who were gaining one, merged into one people standing on the brink of what God has for them: harvest, abundance and the promise of spring and new life.

On the bus to the installation, I glanced at the program. Chef John Folse of legend, roux and renown was catering this event. I had to stay long enough to just taste his food!
Saturdays when my children were small found me rushing to make sure that laundry folding coincided with his time slot on the LPB lineup. As I folded towels, he worked his culinary powers on the natural bounty of Louisiana. Chef Folse, like those Saturdays of years past, had been tucked away in memory until June, when one of my sons surprised me on my birthday with a massive cookbook entitled, After the Hunt. I was eager to taste what I had watched him effortlessly prepare.

Arriving at the reception on what proved to be the first bus, I was able to ease into the space. I told myself I would have a couple of bites and then get on the road. In the serving line, I bumped into my seat mate from the ride over to the Cathedral. We greeted one another as though we were old friends. When I read her name tag, which neither of us was wearing when we met on the bus, I asked her if she were related to the family of that name in Natchitoches. She lit up, “Yes those are my cousins” – another strand of connection.
I fell in line to welcome Baton Rouge’s new bishop. Smiling I told him he didn’t need luck, he would be great. Jeanne, my seat mate, offered to snap a photo. I felt as though I had seen something through. I was there when he was ordained a bishop, and now I was among those seeing him move from strength to strength.

I savored the lingering memory of crawfish eutoufee, cheese grits and experiencing the ever widening understanding of being Catholic. In preparation for family dinner, I pulled out After The Hunt and found the recipe I needed. On Sunday nights when enough time has passed after supper, one of us makes the coffee to go with dessert. Tonight it would be Chef Folse’s version of cafe au lait, a perfect companion with apple cranberry pie.

Mike’s Meditations: Stop, Be Still and Breathe


by Mike Van Vranken

In my June article, I explained the difference between reactions and responses. I had no idea how much I would depend on my own words just a couple of months later. Seething with the news of abuse, cover-ups, demands for heads to roll and the like, I became furious that, as a Church, we were not reaching out to victims; asking them to come tell us their stories so we could listen and minister to them. Yes, we began praying for them, and I hope we have communal prayers for them for many years to come. But they are hurting and alone and we were not begging them to come to us so we can say we are sorry; that God loves them; and so do we. We seem to be, like Pilate, washing our hands of any responsibilities here. My training finally kicked in and I took my very deep feelings and emotions to God, rather than to the public. There is a reason why Matthew 11:28 is never translated: “Come to Facebook, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Pharisees asked Jesus about Moses’ law requiring a woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death. Instead of answering, he bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6). I’m confident he stopped, got quiet, and took his feelings and emotions to his Father in heaven. These people were trying to trick him. He was probably mad, offended and even self-righteous. But, he didn’t defend himself or even the woman right away. He stopped, got quiet, and took it all to God. Only when he heard from his Father could he respond. And, not with a “yes” or a “no.” He replied with words that made them examine themselves.

Another time, in a life or death situation, “the high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?’ But he was silent” (Matthew 26:62-63). He could have explained himself, but he waited. He would let his humiliating death and glorious resurrection be his explanation. Again, I’m certain he went to his Father, as he often did, and quietly discussed what was going on within him, and who his Father wanted him to be in this situation. To be a good leader, to be Christ-like, I knew this is also what I needed to do before responding to any of this.

As I took my pain, hurts and brokenness to God, I explained to Him how the Church needed to change so we could minister to the direct victims of this abuse. See, I once knew a priest who victimized young boys; around 25 of them. I am very close to people who were shattered when it was all made public. And their pain is passed on to friends, family, children, grandchildren and more. While I was letting God know what needs to be done, He gently and lovingly spoke to my heart in very specific words: “If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with my help, is yourself.” Ouch! This is not what I wanted to hear. But with His patience, and the grace of openness, my blindness was removed to see that it is true. If I want the Church to change, it begins with me.

We wonder how a change in one person can change the entire Church. He reminded me of the time when a whole lot of people were hungry, he took two fish and some bread and fed thousands (Luke 9:10-17). One other time He taught that if we plant good seed in good ground, the seeds would grow into fruit that was as much as 30, 60 and 100 fold (Mark 4:1-20).

A lot of energy has been used pointing fingers and lashing out. May I suggest that we take a very deep breath, be quiet, sit still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). Like Jesus did, like St. Ignatius Loyola taught, let’s spend time each and every day taking our feelings, hurts, shame, outrage and all we are experiencing to God. Ask Him where these movements within you are coming from. Are they coming from the enemy who wants us to hurt the Church and our relationship with God? Are they coming from our own inner self who loves to focus on others’ deeds rather than our own. Or, finally, are they coming from God who wants to reverently and lovingly help us change into new men and women in Christ; to be born again each day so we can continue to evolve into the saints He made us to be?

Please, spend 20 minutes a day taking all of this to God asking Him who he wants you to become. If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with God’s help, is yourself.

Review: God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet

God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet
by Barbara Lee

Reviewed by Marie Rinaudo

When you turn 80, it seems nobody listens to you any more and no one cares about your opinion. At least this is the sentiment that author Barbara Lee heard from an 86-year-old woman in a retirement home. In God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet, Lee, who is well over 80 herself and capable of attracting a lot of attention, wants to enable those who have reached, or are near reaching their eighth decade, not to despair; she is convinced there is still time for them to learn and still time to speak out.

When Lee retired from her career as an attorney and judge, still full of the energy that had kept her active for nearly 40 years, she set out on another path. First, she volunteered with the Ignatian ministry to the poor in New York, and shortly afterwards she began the natural next step –Ignatian Spirituality.

For three summers she, along with graduate students much younger than herself, studied Loyola’s spiritual exercises at Creighton University, the center for Jesuit Spirituality. At 86, she is now a practicing spiritual director.

Her book is a memoir on her retirement years as a volunteer and her experience as a director. But it is also a self-help book on understanding the aging process and how St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises can be a great aid in coping with the frequently frustrating experience of growing old. Having found success and consolation in retirement, Lee hopes to offer assistance to others in doing the same.

In each chapter she applies the spiritual exercises to daily life in an effort to move the aging from a sense of loss and sadness for the past to a life filled with grace and a vision for the future.

Lee offers strategies in deciding what to do with the new-found free hours after retirement, how to change self-perception by asking “Who am I ?” rather than “What do I do?” She accomplishes her goal of leading the reader to spiritual maturity with multiple references to Ignatius Loyola’s exercises, providing practical guides to prayer and reflection.

She reflects on one of St. Ignatius’ methods, the process of discernment, and explores how listening for God’s voice can ultimately lead to making wise decisions on any action from decluttering to taking on new ventures. One of the most informative explanations she gives is on imaginative prayer and lectio divina, a method on how to pray with scripture – not just read it. As Lee completes each chapter, she closes with a prayer and relevant scripture passages.

Having recently completed a course of study on the spiritual exercises, I can testify to the significance of Lee’s work. She manages to put the 16th century language of the original work in readable and accessible modern prose. By clearly presenting the methods for prayer used by St. Ignatius, she reveals the mystery of the spiritual journey that set the souls of the early Jesuits on fire.

Today those who want to invigorate their senior years will find much to explore in this short but appealing volume. Each day they may be rewarded with the possibility of experiencing a close encounter with God.

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement Following Meeting with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY—Following a private audience with Pope Francis on September 13 in Vatican City, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement regarding the recent moral crisis in the American Catholic Church.

“We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience. We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States –  how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange.

As we departed the audience, we prayed the Angelus together for God’s mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds. We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.” •

JGS School 6th Grade & Kindergarten STEM Collaboration

The JGS 6th grade and kindergarten classes met for their very first STEM collaboration. The STEM project was based on computer programming. A kindergarten student worked together with a 6th grade student, as computer programmers, sending instructions to their “computer,” another 6th grade student, who would place Legos in a design as commanded. The programmers and “computer” were partitioned and were only allowed to give and receive commands. The “computer,” a 6th grade student, could only accept or decline commands, but could not ask questions or speak otherwise. The goal of the project was to determine if the programmers and “computer” could work together as a team, following commands without being able to see one another and produce the same Lego design. At the conclusion, three teams produced close to identical Lego designs. This was a great learning experience for both grades .•

Backpack Donations at OLF

Our Lady of Fatima students were blessed with backpack donations! A special thanks to these ladies and gentlemen for all they do for the school.   •

SJS Remebers 9/11

On September 11, St. Joseph School remembered the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with a Patriotic Rosary. SJS began the Patriotic Rosary last year as a way to remember the victims of that tragic day in our nation’s history, and to pray to our spiritual mother, Mary, for peace. SJS alumnae Kevin Nolten opened with a brief presentation about the events of that day, and what it meant for us as Americans. Fr. Long began the rosary, then Middle School students led faculty, staff and students in grades K5 – 8th through each decade of the Joyful Mysteries.

Ryan Smith Award at LCP

Loyola College Prep teacher Laura Woolbert became the third recipient of the Ryan William Smith Award presented last month at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.

The Flyer volleyball coach humbly accepted the award that honors the late Ryan William Smith, a 2004 Loyola alumnus who joined the Lord in heaven at age 29 after battling cancer. His parents, Gethyn and Robin Smith, were present and loved continuing their son’s honor at one of his favorite places.

Smith considered himself blessed to have many great teachers during his 14 years of Catholic education. Because of this, the designation appropriately rewards employee excellence.

“I was a little shocked when I heard my name,” Woolbert said. “It was not something I was expecting, and after a second or two I thought, ‘Well you better get up and walk to the front.’ Receiving an award like this is such an honor.”

In her 30th year of Flyer education, Woolbert recalled the memorable passion Smith had for science in her chemistry class.

“I remember him being super excited about labs. Though labs are usually every student’s favorite part of class, Ryan took a particular interest in how things worked, what the equipment was and why we used it.”

Smith’s love for the laboratory later evolved into a Bachelor of Science in petroleum engineering from Louisiana State University. He always hoped to return to Loyola and teach an introductory engineering class where he said he’d do it for free.

“Teachers touch the lives of so many students over the years, and we sometimes forget the impact we have,” Woolbert said.

Healy Professes OCDS

Rebecca Many Healy, OCDS, a member of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, solemnly professed her Definitive Promise as a Secular to the Discalced Carmelite Order of the Roman Catholic Church. Rebecca’s profession brings the total of definitively professed members representing the Diocese of Shreveport to three: the other two members are Virginia Lazarus and Debbie Malarcher, both parish members of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.