Monthly Archives: April 2019

Ministry of Presence: St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Feeds Students at Louisiana Tech

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by Jessica Rinaudo

The words “Ruston” and “Louisiana Tech” go hand in hand. And with only one Catholic Church in the city, St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners have taken up the task of bridging a relationship between the church and university.

In the early 90s, Father Paul Gallagher, OFM, began a “dollar lunch” program to feed any student who dropped by their student center every Wednesday. What began as a small group of 10 to 15 students has evolved into a weekly program that regularly feeds more than 100 students and faculty members.

Spearheaded by a group of volunteer parishioners including Coordinator, Pat Crawford, long time member Sandi Adams, and Brother Mike Ward, OFM, each week the parish offers a safe space, fellowship and a warm meal to students.

As the students walk through the doors of the St. Thomas Aquinas student center, their faces light up as the smell of homecooked shepherd’s pie wafts through the room. The meal and the volunteers are blessed, then students quickly seek out friends, grab a meal and a seat and enjoy fellowship with one another. Faculty members also stop by, visiting with one another and students. Other regular fixtures at the weekly meal are Louisiana Tech Campus Minister Brother Mike Ward, OFM, and St. Thomas Aquinas pastor, Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM.

“My favorite part of this program is that the students have a place to come where they can be with each other. And we provide that and provide a meal for them,” said coordinator Pat Crawford. “But we get as much out of it as they do, all of us. Most everybody has been involved with this for many years: our groups of people who cook. It’s kind of a scary thing to cook for this many people and stay within a budget. We are serving more now than ever. This year, we’ve offered 2,111 meals since September.”

Students echo Crawford’s sentiments, “We come every week that they have “Wednesday lunch.” I like the people and the community. It’s a way that the parish connects with the students, where the parishioners cook the meal and serve it and the students get to come in and get to enjoy a good home cooked meal away from home. I like interacting with the parishioners as well,” said student and Association of Catholic Tech Students member André Aguillard.

“I love being able to sit down at any table and have a great conversation and then enjoy the food and know you’re with like minded people with similar values,” added student Abby Morgan.
To make all of this happen every week takes a village both on and offsite. Pat Crawford manages the complete meal schedule for the year, calendaring meal assignments for different St. Thomas Aquinas ministry groups. Some people volunteer to bring desserts each week; some cook, but can’t serve; others show up on site to serve the students; still others are needed to take donations and keep track of how many students come through.

The result of all of this is a full meal for students including a protein, vegetable, side item, dessert and a drink – all for a minimal donation of $1. It takes a combination of budgeting, discounts and donations to make it work, but the results are undeniable.

“It’s a good witness. A good number of people who come to “Wednesday lunch” are not Catholic. So it kind of de-mystifies some of the thoughts other people have about Catholics,” said Fr. Tony Posadas, OFM, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

“It’s a safe place to eat. It helps students feel at home, especially when they are feeling lonely. We’ve been here since the beginning, and this is the best I’ve seen it,” said cooking volunteer, Sandi Adams. She added, “The students are so appreciative. They’ll come by, some of them, and thank us.”  Adams also said that students regularly volunteer to help with setup and clean up.
The “Wednesday lunch” program has quickly become St. Thomas’ largest outreach ministry, and one that parishioners and students alike take great pride in. No one is ever denied a meal for not having money, and often people will come through and pay for others.

“My hope is always that the students see other people doing something for them, so that when they graduate, marry, whatever they do out in the world in their jobs and communities, they’re more likely to volunteer their time,” said Crawford.

Theirs is truly a mission of presence and kindness, following the command of Jesus to love thy neighbor.

Updating St. Joseph Cemetery

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by Randy Tiller

In 2023 we will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. This is not only significant for our diocese, but of importance to St. Joseph Cemetery. Never during the epidemic was Shreveport left without a priest to administer the sacraments and the last rites to approximately 25% of the population that was wiped out by the fever. Before a priest fell ill and succumbed to the fever, another priest was there to care for the people.

Since November, The Catholic Connection has been printing articles and a comic strip story about these five priests who ministered to those who succumbed to Yellow Fever in Shreveport (see page 17 in this issue). Additionally, our own Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Peter Mangum, recently traveled to France to conduct more research on these five men and has continued to share their stories.

You may not know though, that some of these priests were originally buried in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in downtown Shreveport. Fr. Isidore Quemerais, Fr. Jean Pierre and Fr. Francois LeVezouet were originally buried at Holy Trinity Church and moved in 1884 to St. Joseph Cemetery. Fr. Jean Marie Biler was originally buried in the Daughters of the Cross cemetery on Fairfield Ave., and exhumed and moved to Forest Park in the 1960s. Fr. Louis Gergaud was buried at St. Matthew’s Cemetery in Monroe.

With the approaching 150th anniversary, it affords us a fantastic opportunity to reconsider and restate the corporal work of mercy to bury and care for the dead. St. Joseph Cemetery is the only Catholic cemetery in the Shreveport/Bossier area. In conjunction with this anniversary, we will also complete necessary updating, uplifting, renovating, landscaping and beautification.
Some of our updates will include new registers for the tops of the graves of the three priests who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic, as well as pouring a concrete form around the crypts to seal them and keep water from seeping in. The calvary monument will also be restored. This includes cleaning and correcting the plaque, as well as reworking the steps and the landings. We will also be installing a new flag pole in front of the mausoleums, continuing the task of cleaning and straightening various monuments, replacing the fence at the back of the cemetery, widening streets, investigating stained glass windows in the chapel mausoleum, landscaping and adding statuary. Adding restrooms to the grounds is also a possibility.

All of these updates and changes will prepare the cemetery for visitors who will travel there from across the globe in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic. In order to do this important work, we will happily accept donations to the Cemetery Fund. If your family has monuments and tombstones that need renovation or crypts that need to be painted and cleaned, we have professionals available to handle those repairs and renovations for the family. We can facilitate having the work done if families notify us and are willing to pay for the renovations. If you know of families with historical ties to the cemetery, please share this with them. There are still plots available for purchase.

Keep looking for more updates as we continue refurbishing the cemetery. We will also be establishing a Cemetery Board to look into long range plans to build an additional mausoleum and columbarium.

Our Immediate Projects:

New granite tops on the crypts of the three priests who gave their lives in the Yellow Fever epidemic
$5,000 each installed

Wrapping the crypt walls with wire mesh and a concrete formto stop water seepage
$7,500

Repairing the steps and landings of the Calvary monument
$ 5,000

Re-fencing the back of the cemetery with 6’ black vinyl fencing
$12,000

Landscaping
$15,000

Future projects include stained glass in the chapel mausoleum, extending the irrigation system and establishing a priests’ section at the cemetery to encourage our diocesan priests to be interred in our historic Catholic cemetery.

Other projects will include building an additional mausoleum with 200+ crypts and adding several small columbarium around the cemetery. We are also looking into securing additional contiguous property. Donations can be made to Diocese of Shreveport St. Joseph Cemetery Fund and are tax deductible.

Prior to Lent, St. Ann Church in Ebarb had a Mardi Gras Celebration. Pictured are Fr. Richard Norsworthy, King and Queen Benjie and Carol Rivers, and parish children.

Ashes at St. Francis Medical Center

Fr. James Dominic distributed ashes to team members in various departments around St. Francis Medical Center as part of Ash Wednesday.

Serving Others in Rayville

Society of St. Vincent de Paul members in Rayville, along with Fr. Philip Pazhayakari, CMI, prepared bags to accompany the jambalaya meal for their “Saturday Meals” February delivery.

Valentine’s Day Dance at St. Elizabeth’s

The church hall was filled to celebrate St. Valentine. Participants danced to a variety of music and enjoyed dance lessons as well as plenty of food and fun!

Students Make King Cakes to Raise Funds

The St. Paschal Sr. high Youth group held their annual Mardi Gras King Cake fundraiser. All of the ingredients are homemade by the youth, including cream cheese filling, pecan praline filling and dough. They sold 265 King Cakes this year to fund their upcoming conferences.

Minden Students Take Part in Ash Wednesday Mass

The PSR students at St. Paul Parish in Minden participated in the Ash Wednesday Mass. Students read, sang and explained Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Students gave each family a prayer card, crackers and rock to represent those three facets of Lent.

Schoolhouse Students Celebrate DI Win

Children from Catholic Schoolhouse, a Shreveport homeschooling co-op, entered the Louisiana Destination Imagination State Tournament. The younger group wowed the appraisers with their life-sized pop-up book and story about dinosaurs and saints. The older group took home 3rd place in the state in their category of service learning. Their service project raised $443 for Praise Academy through a bake sale at St. Mary of the Pines Parish. They also donated books to their school.

Knights Create Seminarian Burse

The Knights of Peter Claver Council 144 have established a burse honoring Seminarian Raney Johnson at the Diocese of Shreveport. Contributions to Raney’s education can be made through the Diocese of Shreveport, earmarked for Burse #18. Pictured: Stanley Roque, Grand Knight; Regina White from the Office of Church Vocations; and Tim Ford, Area Deputy.