Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Beauty of Parish Life

by Kim Long

Recently I began to reflect on what God used to get my attention over 30 years ago when “becoming Catholic” began to go from a wild exotic notion to a path God put me on. The carrot on the end of God’s stick was something called “parish life,” and it intrigued me beyond measure.

The idea of people united under the banner of a common belief and the care bestowed upon one another seemed ideal. I was reading Fr. Andrew Greeley’s novels at the time, and his descriptions of the seamlessness between the parish and the lives of individual families reminded me that God isn’t left behind when we exit the parking lot on Sunday. I wanted that. I searched for it. And like most things we seek, we find… eventually. Thirty years later my view has altered very little, parish life is still a vital part of my Catholic experience.

I recall the first time on my journey toward Catholicism that I experienced the joyfulness of belonging. Picture this scene: a young mother of three on an early spring day, young children in tow, bringing donations of individually wrapped candy for the parish Easter egg hunt, dinner napkins for the St. Joseph Altar, and cakes for bingo – a then time-honored parish fundraiser, to the Parish Hall. The unity, the oneness I felt in that moment was crystallized in one word “Catholic.” Never underestimate the experience of “belonging.”  That feeling has been a great teaching moment for me as I have grown into parish life and shared my own experiences with other new Catholics: some through the RCIA process, others simply new to the area and the parish.

As I began to focus my thoughts in this direction, I found this statement on the USCCB’s Parish Life website: “The parish is where the Church lives.” This is the kernel of truth I found in those novels so many decades ago.

Psalm 133:1: See how good and pleasing it is for brothers to live together as one. 

Already we have an outline. In our “me” world, we are encouraged to want “me” time, encouraged to think solely along the lines of the individual rather than the whole. While my faith encourages me to go broader and think about how my actions affect my family, my parish, my community, parish life gives me a lived example of what life can look like when my focus is more outward than in. When I walk through the doors of the church building on any given Sunday it is good and pleasing to greet and be greeted and to just be with people who I may not see socially, but there in church we are offered another glimpse of the passage from the Our Father: “On earth as it is in heaven.”

1st Peter 2:9:10: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light. 


God has called us, claimed us for His own and the parish is where we join together. The parish is home to God’s marvelous light in so many ways. The Easter Vigil experience is one of the most obvious moments where we move together, literally from darkness to light. That experience can certainly be re-lived on a regular basis as we help one another in our small day-to-day actions. Each time we see candles on the altar we are reminded we are not alone, that the light of Christ helps us in the darkness, even in the darkness we pray no one else can see or feel. When someone in your parish reaches out to you or you to them, remember we are each going forward both in and toward the light of Christ.

Philippians 2:4-7: Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. 


On Holy Thursday I experience one of the most profound of these times. In the rubrics, 12 men represent the apostles, but in our parish, it has become a sweet moment of impromptu reconciliation and kinship between parents and children of all ages, between spouses, siblings, neighbors, and strangers. It is one of our most Christ-like moments, one which has been scripted on our hearts and souls, directed by the Holy Spirit. The choir sings, “the Lord Jesus after eating with His friends washed their feet and said to them, do you know what I your Lord have done for you? I have given you example so you also may do.”

Hebrews 10: 24-25: Rouse one another to love and to good works.

On the USCCB website under the heading Parish Life, there are many listings. I looked at “Call to Family, Community, and Participation.” There it says: “the person is not only sacred but social.”

Many parish celebrations have an element of rousing whether it is cooking together, baking thousands of cookies, preparing receptions, celebrating our various and rich cultures, or celebrating our unity in a particular way during that Holy Thursday Mass. It is also seeing families remove tags from the Angel Tree or tie knots on a quilt, offering pra

yers for a person experiencing sickness. We pray together in adoration and the Rosary. We gather for Mass, begin the modern version of the “prayer chain” by texting one another, donate what we can and are called to help our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The list goes on and it varies from parish to parish as we vary in our own lives. What is unified is that we are living out our Gospel missio

n by being strengthened in participation in the sacraments, and in the sacramental life of the Church. In that strengthening we are taking ourselves and our faith out of the church building, out of the parish hall, out of the PSR classrooms and bringing it to those among us who can no longer be present due to illness, immobility or even memory issues.

Bumps in the Road

Lest I make parish life sound like one big happy road trip, I want to stop here and say it is not always. Exhausted people are asked to go the extra mile; families whose budgets are stretched to the breaking point may feel they have no worth since money is not plentiful; sick people can become invisible; liturgies can seem unfulfilling; homilies and inspirational messages can fall flat – the list goes on. For every good thing about parish life, there is a counterpoint.

Here are the contradictions I have learned living, working, growing and being invested in parish life:

•  Parishes are inclusive; they are exclusive.

•  Parishes are exhausting; they are exhilarating,

•  Parishes are friendly; they are not.

•  Parishes are fulfilling; they are draining.

•  Parishes are where we live out the Christian life in the space between openness to God and our desire to carry out His will.

Finally Ever After

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Parish life is the glue which helps hold us all together, the example of the lived reality of “on earth as it is in heaven.”

For all its failures, human error and ego, for all its foibles and warts, I would never want to live without it. Parish life is the life for me, and the parish is where the Church lives!  •

On the Trail of History: France and the Priest-Martyrs of 1873

by Fr. Peter B. Mangum

As many are aware, I have been working on a project over the last two years to explore and raise awareness of the lives of five remarkable priests who gave their lives in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. This project has taken many forms, including the writing of a book-length manuscript for publication in the near future, as well as a graphic novel that is being published serially in the pages of The Catholic Connection. In addition, there was a special limited-edition podcast series produced to highlight the lives of these priests, which was released last fall under the title of “No Greater Love: Shreveport 1873.” Collaborating with me on this project have been author W. Ryan Smith and historian Dr. Cheryl White. Our ultimate goal is to develop rich and compelling biographies of these men to bring to the attention of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. These men were exemplary in their devotion to others and were truly “martyrs of their charity,” as all of them willingly died in the service of the sick and dying of Shreveport.

The roll call of names is by now becoming more familiar to us all: Fr. Isidore Quemerais, Fr. Jean Pierre, Fr. Jean Marie Biler, Fr. Louis Gergaud, and Fr. Francois Le Vezouet, all of whom died of Yellow Fever in the short weeks between September 15 and October 8, 1873. The search to know as much as possible about their lives led me to the region of northern France known as Brittany, to picturesque rolling fields and small villages and towns that these men once called home. That is, before they each answered the missionary call of the first Bishop of Natchitoches, Auguste Marie Martin, also a native of St. Malo in Brittany. In the mid-1850s, and again following the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870, Bishop Martin made a trip through Brittany to recruit young missionary priests for an area of Louisiana that was still very much a wilderness. All of them came to the uncertainty of Louisiana, leaving behind family and the only lives they had ever known, which is itself no small measure of sacrifice.

St. Nicholas Church in Heric, France, where Fr. Louis Gergaud was baptized in 1832.

In late February, I traveled to France with a small delegation that included project co-author Dr. Cheryl White, as well as Chantal Dickson (who served as translator) and her son, Michael. The primary purpose was to meet with the bishops of three dioceses – Nantes, Rennes and St. Brieuc to forge closer relationships over our shared priests and common historical link. Dr. White and I also hoped to be able to acquire more primary source information through archival research. An equally important purpose was to have the opportunity to visit the hometowns of these priests, dotted across the Brittany countryside: Heric, Plourivo, Lanloup, Brelidy, and Pleine-Fougeres.

The trip was a resounding success on all accounts! Not only did Bishops Jean-Paul James of Nantes, Alexandre Joly of Rennes, and Denis Moutel of St. Brieuc warmly welcome us, they had already made archival inquiries before we even arrived. The hospitality they extended to us was extraordinary indeed. Additionally, Bishop Moutel called a press conference for our visit, which resulted in coverage by French National Television, Catholic radio and several regional and national newspapers. Bishop Moutel also arranged for us to meet with officials from each of the hometowns, where again, we were warmly welcomed by townspeople eager to know more about their native sons. To be able to visit the churches where the priests were baptized (and in the case of Fr. Gergaud, the Cathedral of Nantes where he was ordained), added broad new dimension to telling their stories.

The baptismal record of Fr. Louis Gergaud held in Blain, France.

In exchange, we have shared with these dioceses of Brittany our graphic novel in a French translation, and are making plans to share much more over the coming months and years leading up to the 150th anniversary in 2023. Little did I know that I would return to the Diocese of Shreveport with much more than the historical record of previously unknown letters and documents, but with new friendships rooted in a story that we now share. I greatly look forward to the continued strengthening of our ties, and being able to honor the five priest-martyrs of 1873 with even greater fervor!  •

Ordination to the Priesthood

With Praise and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, the Diocese of Shreveport Announces with Great Joy the Ordination of

Deacon Kevin Joseph Mues

to the Sacred Order of Presbyter Through the Imposition of Hands and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit by His Excellency

Most Reverend Michael G. Duca, Bishop of Baton Rouge

On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 10:00 in the Morning

at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans

939 Jordan Street, Shreveport, Louisiana

First Priestly Blessing and a Reception to follow at St. John Berchmans Multi Room

A “Slime” Sensation at St. Frederick High School

by Melissa Shepard

St. Frederick High School Junior, Giselle Fakhre, has become a social media sensation. The 16-year-old entrepreneur and member of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, spends her time working as somewhat of a celebrity in the world of slime. The 16-year-old entrepreneur has 920,000 followers on her SlimeSlime101 Instagram account.

Giselle is a creator of slime, which for those who are unaware is a gooey, sticky substance that is all the rage with children today. Slime lovers enjoy the gooiness of the stuff which they say relieves stress. Followers also love all the different slime designs Giselle makes. Slime is becoming an art form for this generation of youngsters. Slime lovers manipulate the sticky substance and all the different things that are mixed into it to make it both fun and attractive. Giselle mixes a variety of items into her slime creations including plastic balls, colors, sparkles, balloons and anything else she can think of to include.

Giselle’s business has grown so much that she is now sought after by toy companies such as ORB Toys and Compound Kings from Wecool Toys. Additionally, she is on the PR list for big name companies such as Elmer’s and Karina Garcia. This month she and her mother will attend Slime Bash, a slime convention in Chicago, IL, where she will be a VIP guest and will sell her slime add-in kits, which are of course packaged and decorated.

Giselle is a life-long member of Jesus Good Shepherd Parish. She attributes the start of her love of art to her elementary school art classes at Jesus Good Shepherd School. At St. Frederick High School, her civics class studied economic systems which inspired her to expand her small business. Giselle’s faith sustains her on days when she is extremely busy with school work, cheerleading, yearbook, social media accounts and business commitments. Her favorite Bible verse is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

Giselle is the daughter of Dr. Saidi Sowma-Fakhre and Dr. Fakhre Fakhre who are both extremely proud of her initiative and success. Upon graduation from St. Frederick High School she would like to attend an out of state university where she can study business and draw upon her entrepreneurial experiences.

Our Lady of Fatima Students Leap Into Testing

Our Lady of Fatima School is leaping into testing! Students are taking the LEAP test from April 24 to May 3.

St. Joseph Kindergartners Join In Stations of the Cross

St. Joseph School kindergarteners now attend the Stations of the Cross. Last year, Fr. Long decided to offer Stations to three groups of students, rather than have the whole school attended at once, providing each group with a more intimate, age-appropriate set of reflections and meditations. The kindergartners attend with first and second graders and listened to shorter, simpler meditations at each Station. In Religion class, they learned about the Stations, as well as the response, “…because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”  •

JGS Students Embrace Lent

Jesus the Good Shepherd School participated in the Stations of the Cross at JGS Parish with Deacon Tom Deal officiating the event. Students in grades 1st through 6th were present. It was a wonderful addition to the school’s Lenten activities, which also included a service project arranged by the JGS Student Council to help stock the shelves of Catholic Charities of Monroe with goods and supplies needed by those in our local area. Additionally, JGS 5th and 6th grade students held their annual “Living Stations of the Cross” on April 17 and 18. JGS School is grateful to be able to help students live out their Lenten responsibilities of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  •

SJB Wins Multiple Science Olympiad Awards at State

Congratulations St. John Berchmans Middle School Science Olympiad Team for winning 2nd place in the state tournament in Hammond, LA on April 13. Every team member placed in an event!

Loyola’s Dean Selected for Spain Academic Program

Iron June of this year, Junior Chloe Dean will experience classroom instruction with cultural activities and excursions throughout Spain.The National Spanish Examinations Junior Study Abroad Scholarship requires applicants to:

•  have received medal placement by scoring above the 75th percentile on the 2018 National Spanish Examination in Level II or above

•  be registered to take the 2019 National Spanish Examination in Level III or above

• agree to continue studying Spanish during senior year

Dean met the criteria with flying colors, and the award will not only include education and experience in Spain, but will include tuition for classes, lodging and meals.

Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, of Newark, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, have issued the following joint statement on the release of Christus Vivit.  Full statement follows:

“The Church of the United States welcomes this teaching from Pope Francis as the fruit of the synodal journey in which we walked with and listened to young people. This exhortation is a wonderful summons to the whole Church to more vigorously invest in youth and young adults, especially those on the peripheries and those who are disconnected from the Church.

We encourage all Catholic leaders to read and study this exhortation and the pertinent documents of the Synod. They provide for us a framework from which we can build upon in our dioceses, parishes, and communities.

Now more than ever, we must turn our attention to our young people and engage them as ‘protagonists’ of the Church’s mission. Their insights can help us grow as a Church and guide us as we all learn to become better missionary disciples in an intercultural and intergenerational context. We look forward to what comes next, in collaboration with Catholic ministry leaders already working alongside young people. We look forward to the journey ahead, and pray with St. John Paul II, a patron of young people whose passing we remember today, for the Church’s ongoing mission to all generations.

The post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, is a significant milestone of the synodal process begun by Pope Francis in 2016. After two years of consultation by episcopal conferences, movements, and Catholic organizations, along with a worldwide online survey and a Pre-Synod Meeting with young adults in March 2018, the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops met in October 2018 on the theme ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.’ Bishops, clergy, religious and lay people, including a number of young people, together with Pope Francis, addressed the challenges facing younger generations today and ways in which the Church can best respond. Now the work of the Holy Spirit, manifest in the sessions of the Synod, will bear fruit in the dioceses of the United States.”  •