Monthly Archives: May 2019

Praying for the Dead: A Merciful Act

Catholics are called by Christ to comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one. A vigil, the funeral liturgy, and the rite of committal are each a part of the process of mourning the loss of a member of the Catholic faithful.

In Corinthians, St. Paul offers a reminder that the body is a temple; what happens to that temple when it is done serving God on earth holds great importance to members of the Catholic Church. The splendor of Catholic funeral rites offers a channel through which grief and remembrance can flow, but the merciful duty of those left to grieve is not complete upon burial. Burying the dead grants the body rest from pain; the flesh respites within sacred ground, cared for by Catholics performing the vital corporal acts of mercy decreed unto them by scripture, creed, and tradition. Though physically separated, those who have passed remain connected spiritually and therefore must be prayed for.

Living members of the Church are reminded, “You may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14

The book of Tobit conveys the idea of courage in burying the dead. Tobit’s courage shown by burying the victims of King Sennacherib has inspired many. However, a different courage is required of Catholics today; the courage to remember, to show strength in the face of pain and grief by continuing to honor and pray for the dead.

Serving to fulfill both a corporal work of mercy by burying the dead, and a spiritual work of mercy by praying for the dead, those who remain in this life doubly honor God with a Mass of remembrance.

Therefore, to honor those who have passed, and are part of the Communion of Saints, a Mass was conducted at St. Joseph Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m.; Msgr. Earl. V. Provenza presided.

For information on caring for the memorials of those interred at St. Joseph Cemetery, please contact the Diocese of Shreveport at (318) 868-4441 or email Kate Rhea at krhea@dioshpt.org or Randy Tiller, Chancellor at rtiller@dioshpt.org. The Diocese of Shreveport is honored to care for family and loved ones resting at St. Joseph Cemetery and offers options for tombstone repair, upkeep, or upgrades in addition to perpetual care. Please see the projects that have been completed and are scheduled for action. Thank you to everyone who has donated funds to assist with giving a face lift to St. Joseph Cemetery.

St. Joseph Cemetery Completed and Working Projects

Due to weather, the reconstruction of the crypts for the Yellow Fever priests has been temporarily delayed. However, as soon as we get a few dry days the crypts will be framed in concrete in order to replace the tops with the new granite registers. Project cost: $7,500.

Through generous donations we have the funding for the new granite tops for the priests who succumbed to the yellow fever epidemic in 1873. Project cost: $15,000

If groups would like to get together to cover costs for putting the same granite ledgers on the crypts of the deceased pastors of Holy Trinity, project cost is approximately $5,000 each.

Additional donations have been received to repair the steps up to the memorial statue at the Calvary Monument. Other necessary renovations for the Calvary Monument will cost $5,000.

We are still in the process of contacting families to request that they cover the cost of the renovations of their family plots. If you would like to make a donation to this cause, please contact the Diocese of Shreveport to inquire about the costs associated with cleaning, repositioning or ground entombments.
Additional information will be forthcoming as we move to the next areas of concern in the cemetery. We are working toward completing as many of the projects as we can over the course of this summer.

Faithful Step Up in Wake of Tornado Devastation

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by Walter Johnson

On April 25, the city of Ruston found itself reeling from an EF3 tornado that blew into the area in the early hours of Thursday morning. The vicious storm was part of a severe weather system ultimately responsible for serious storms and tornado patterns all the way from east Texas into northwest Louisiana. National Weather Service warnings were issued in St. Augustine, TX around 11:00 p.m. and continued until 3:00 a.m., as the storm moved into the area. The severe weather traveled up through Lincoln, Bienville and Red River parishes, ultimately making its way past Pleasant Hill and into the northeast corner of the state. Although much of the damage occurred in Ruston around Tech Drive and the Cypress Springs community just south of I-20, there was widespread damage throughout the city.

The National Weather Service confirmed this tornado was considered at least an EF3, with produced winds as high as 165 mph. Of the surveyed damage, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards stated: “the damage is extensive and catastrophic.” Sadly, Kendra Butler, 35, and her son Remington, 14, lost their lives when a tree crashed into their home.

Ruston will be recovering from this event for months to come. In times like these, people fall back upon their family, their community, their faith and their fellow church members in order to make sense of such a disaster.

Several parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston lived through the experience, using their talents, resources and compassion to lend a helping hand to those the tornado left behind. Paul Jackson, who works as an Associate Professor of Plant Science at Louisiana Tech University, remembers how the day of the storm began. The tornado touched down about one mile south of his home in north Ruston. Paul didn’t even realize the storm was occurring until it was almost on top of the city. Paul witnessed the escalating chaos and was prevented from making an attempt to go anywhere in Ruston on the day of the storm. Downed and stripped trees and debris lay everywhere, blocking entry from entire streets and neighborhoods. Portions of a large tree had blown down onto the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish near the school building.

Luckily, Paul was able to use his chainsaw to start the process of splitting apart and removing the tree, clearing a pathway around the St. Thomas buildings. As he moved to other damaged sites, he attempted to check-in with a female colleague, but ultimately could not since city streets had become blocked off. Paul’s own home thankfully suffered no damages, but the post-storm-littered landscape of this formerly quiet college town won’t be soon forgotten.

As the week wore on, Paul continued to provide local support to various homeowners, cutting and removing everything from equipment to uprooted trees from local neighborhoods affected by the winds. Paul worked alongside another St. Thomas Aquinas member, Joshua Adams, an Associate Professor of Forestry at Louisiana Tech – as they helped various neighbors clear out material in or around their homes. Paul answered the call when some older sight-impaired St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners needed assistance in dealing with their own home damages from the high winds.

According to Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish served up huge portions of fresh jambalaya to displaced community members on Wednesday, May 1, free of charge. This tornado experience and the cleanup in the midst of the aftermath shed some spiritual light on this whole experience for Paul. It strengthened his Catholic faith, as he witnessed other members of the community coming together to help – regardless of faith or station. Paul had never been in the midst of such a disaster before, save for years ago working with the government during the aftermath of the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy over East Texas and Northwest Louisiana. As Paul surveyed the damaged neighborhoods, he could only ask one thing: “What do we need to do – right now?”

Joshua Adams experienced what the aftermath of a tornado is like, as well. At 2:00 a.m. on the morning of April 25, Joshua was yanked from sleep by the shrill pitch of his phone’s Weather Alert. Minutes after the message, his friend (with a background in meteorology) was texting Joshua with urgent instructions to “Go and hide!” in his home’s hallway with his young child. Thankfully Joshua’s family home was spared any major damage, but Joshua distinctly recalls the terrible sounds of the tornado as it ripped its way across Ruston’s skies that early morning.

Joshua started working immediately during the night and into the dawn, helping other neighbors even as the local roadways started to be blocked off by city authorities. He remembers walking around the empty, debris-ridden streets, commenting that it “felt surreal,” looking more like a scene from a zombie movie rather than his own hometown.

As a Forestry professor, Joshua collected his chainsaws and started moving from house to house down Ruston’s Robinette Drive, not far away from his daily forestry office on Tech’s South campus, cutting up trees and clearing debris where he found it. The University Hills neighborhood in Ruston was the hardest-hit from the storm. Days after the tornado, Joshua and Paul moved throughout their neighborhoods, helping to cut and clear downed trees and limbs too big or heavy to remove alone.

Despite the damage, Joshua described the scene as “heartwarming” as he witnessed people helping each other after such a drastic event.

On day three, Joshua visited with St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners who manage the Center for the Blind in Ruston. The sight-impaired couples’ home had an entire wall ripped away from a nearby falling tree during the storm. With Joshua’s assistance the couple was able to relocate to the Blind Center’s apartment complex.


Recounting his post-tornado experience, Joshua never anticipated how much room is required to stack up all of the excess wood cleared away by the citywide post-storm clearing efforts. And even though Joshua experienced a tornado so fierce that it spattered wall insulation from one house onto another, across the street he saw the working of his faith in the people and teams around him, summing up that this was “good people, doing good work – all over.”

Both Paul Jackson and Joshua Adams are active members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston, LA.

Fr. Kevin Mues Ordination to the Priesthood

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A Q& A with the Diocese of Shreveport’s Newest Ordained Priest

During your time in seminary, what are some of the moments that have encouraged your vocation?
The things that have been most encouraging to me during my seminary experience were often the things that I had the most apprehension about. God has put me in places where I could learn and grow, and that hasn’t always been easy. The mission trips we took to Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as the Spanish language program I took in Mexico were really tough challenges because I had to adapt and experience a language and culture that remain unfamiliar. The love and depth of faith that I experienced from the people in those places was inspiring and made the challenges worthwhile.

I taught CCD at a New Orleans parish for two years and had to think of ways to make the faith interesting and exciting for young high school students. I think the most difficult part was tying the theological language I was taught in seminary with my own experience of God in order to bring the kids I was teaching to a fuller relationship with Christ. The trials that high schoolers face today seem harder than I remember from 11 years ago. I had to re-learn how to navigate the tough questions of youth while still bringing the light and hope of the Gospel to them in a real and accessible way.

My experience of hospital ministry was the most challenging of all the practical experiences I had during my years in seminary. At first, I was afraid to even knock on a door and go into a room. I didn’t want to be one more person who came in and woke up a patient or made the suffering of a hospital stay more taxing. The greatest thing I learned from that ministerial experience is that my fear of making mistakes or being out of place was far less important than the grace I could bring to a moment of suffering if I faced that fear and crossed that threshold. I walked with families during times of real joy and real pain during that experience, and I grew to understand in an intimate way that God could use me with all my own weaknesses and limitations.

What do you look forward to most about being a priest?
What a huge question! I look forward to being able to be a part of the lives and the faith of the parish. A priest is called to serve and I look forward to serving parishioners both spiritually and sacramentally. I can’t wait until I’m able to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to bring the sacraments of healing to people in need, and to begin the ministerial mission of priesthood. My hope is to join couples in matrimony, unite their children to God in baptism, and to watch as their families grow in their faith. I feel blessed to be called to walk with families and to serve them with the grace that I receive through ordination.

Have there been any role models who have helped you in this decision, or encouraged you in your vocation?
I don’t think I would have heard and responded to God’s call if it hadn’t been echoed through the encouragement of the people of Monroe who took the time to ask me, “Have you ever prayed about a vocation to the priesthood?” That invitation by the people I knew and respected at the Catholic Campus Ministry in Monroe, as well as the encouragement and support of Fr. Job Edathinatt Scaria, CMI got me to start asking the questions of God and of the diocese that I needed to ask. Fr. Matthew Long’s encouragement as the vocation director and his continued support throughout my seminary education gave me a good foundational example that has helped me tremendously.


The friendship with the seminarians that I began seminary with that have gone on to become priests has been inspiring. Fr. Keith Garvin, Fr. Jerry Daigle,
Fr. Fidel MondragÓn, and Fr. Duane Trombetta each gave me an example to strive for as I pursued my studies. Equally important was the encouragement I felt from the parishes that I have been assigned to and where I’ve spent time. While I haven’t been to every single parish in our diocese, I have felt the support of the entire diocese during my time in seminary formation. The people of St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield, the people of Christ the King Parish in Bossier City, and the people at St. Jude Parish in Benton, as well as the other parishes where I volunteered for shorter periods of time have given me the lived experience of ministry that can’t be imparted in the classroom. The people from these parishes as well as the friends that I have from the parishes in Monroe have helped to make this diocese my home. I’ve felt more loved than I could have ever asked for during my time in seminary.

What advice would you give a man who is beginning to discern priesthood?
My first thought is that we all need to be discerning! God is calling all of us to holiness and we could all spend more time in prayer seeking to do His will. Oftentimes, I think young men and women who feel a calling to priesthood or religious life expect a theophany, a thunderous voice of God from the clouds to point them in the right vocational direction. Just like for Elijah, God’s voice in our lives is often a whisper that we have to seek in prayer and through our reception of the sacraments. The great thing is that we don’t have to lean in and hear that voice alone. For those who think they may have a calling to the priesthood: Speak up! Discernment is a process you don’t need to do by yourself, and the Office of Vocations in the diocese is always available to give guidance and help.

Fr. Jerry wants to bring happy, holy vocations to the service of our diocese. He will provide the guidance and help you need in order to start your discernment of God’s will. Discernment is a long process and it must be done within and in concert with the local Church or religious community that you are seeking.

 Looking back to when you first entered seminary and then to where you are now, what have been some of the things that have played out as you expected? Some that haven’t?
When I was told that my formation would mean six years in school, I thought that it was going to feel like a lifetime. Looking back, it seems to have flown by. I am so grateful for my two years at St. Joseph’s Abbey and Seminary College and my four years at Notre Dame Seminary. When I first started out, the seminary experience was a scary one. Not having ever been in such a completely Catholic environment, being expected to stick to a rigorous schedule of prayer and classes, and in the midst of all that still trying to discern whether I was even called to the priesthood, was daunting. It was only with the help of my professors and formators, the priests back home, and the support of my family and friends that I was able to give myself over to the process of seminary life and formation.

I couldn’t have imagined the friendship and close fraternity that I already feel to the priests of the Diocese of Shreveport. I can’t wait to be a “coworker in the vineyard” with them.

In college I had professors I respected and cared about, but the formators at both of my seminaries showed me an example of true fatherhood. Their example as priests helped me find my gifts and strengths and see areas where I could grow.

Finally, I never thought that I would have this much love and excitement for the Diocese of Shreveport. Great things are happening in our diocese and now I get to be a part of them again, only this time as a priest.

Who would you like to thank?
If I took the time to thank every person who has helped me along the way, this month’s Catholic Connection would look more like a phone book than a magazine. I am always thankful for the support of my family. Each of them honors the reality of my vocation in a unique way. I have also been very blessed in my close personal friendships – people who have remained a part of my daily life across the miles. The encouragement of Bishop Michael Duca in his time here as our bishop was wonderful. He took the time to get to know his seminarians. He cared about my vocation, giving me the guidance and encouragement I needed to continue.

The priests of our diocese that have helped me throughout this process have given me the example of what it means to be a servant and a leader.
The parish staffs who have let me learn from them as they helped to guide their parishes have been amazing and dynamic. They set the example for the kinds of people I need to look for when I become a pastor one day. The people of the diocese have helped give me courage during all the different challenges we have met together in my time in seminary. I owe a great debt of gratitude for their love and support as well as for the love and support of all the people who faithfully sustained me with generous gifts as I pursued my studies.

Reflection on Minor Seminary

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by Seminarian Kelby Tingle

Four years ago I graduated from Loyola College Prep in Shreveport and, feeling a call to discern a vocation to the priesthood, I made the prayerful decision to enter seminary formation. I have studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, LA, which the seminarians fondly refer to as “St. Ben’s.” With amazement at how fast time goes by and gratitude for the experiences that God blessed me with, I reflect on my formation in minor seminary as a graduate.
The structured life of the seminary, which includes time for personal prayer as well as communal prayer, allowed me to grow in a more personal and dedicated relationship with God and His Son. As a seminary community, we gathered three times a day in our chapel for morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer with Mass after morning prayer. I was often impacted by hearing the voices of more than 100 seminarians who had the same intention as me: to grow in discipleship.

In my first year of seminary, my spiritual director emphasized the importance of spending an hour in silent prayer before the Eucharist. While it was at times difficult for me to spend an hour in silent prayer, I realized the importance of my daily conversations with the Lord. It is through spending time asking Him questions and reflecting on my relationship with Him that I have come to understand and cherish more fully the calling He has given me. Spiritual formation is the foundation of all relationships, events and activities of the seminary.

I often consider myself blessed to have been integrated into a community as vibrant as that of St. Ben’s. Throughout my four years of formation, I have formed several remarkable friendships with seminarians from dioceses across the deep South. Throughout the course of the year, there are many times the seminarians gather to spend time with other seminaries. An event at the seminary that was always awaited with great anticipation was the annual Bonfire Flag Football game against Notre Dame Seminary. Apart from the special events the seminary hosts, it was amazing to form relationships with others by walking around the beautiful grounds of the seminary, discussing philosophy or simply sharing stories. I am exceedingly grateful for the relationships that, in many ways, have led me to a closer relationship with Christ.

Because I entered the seminary immediately after completing high school, I attained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and the Liberal Arts. While I remember questioning the relevance of studying philosophy, I have realized the importance of it and grown in admiration for the curriculum. Studying the liberal arts and philosophy has offered me the opportunity for deeper critical thinking. I came to the realization that mankind, including myself, is a people who are always striving to know and understand the truth more fully. Man has a longing to discover who he is and how he relates to the world and to the Divine Creator. In this way, the curriculum has not solely had an intellectual impact on my priestly formation, but it has impacted my prayer life.

When reflecting on my experiences at St. Ben’s, several events that the seminary hosts come to mind. It is through experiencing these events that a love for service has been fostered within me. In the spring semester, the seminary welcomes over 1,000 youth for the Abbey Youth Festival. The seminary also hosts discernment weekends where more than 100 young men visit to see the life of the seminary and discern God’s will in their  own lives. As a part of the formation program, every senior travels to Guatemala for mission immersion. While these events differ in some ways, they all invite me, as an aspiring priest, to give of myself and continuously invite others to live with Christ.

I will remember St. Joseph Seminary College with great fondness and believe that it has thoroughly prepared me to begin the major seminary in the fall.
In July, I will begin attending the Pontifical North American College and studying at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. I greatly look forward to studying Theology, as well as being fully immersed in the Roman culture. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and am excited for the experiences God will bless me with. I trust that these experiences will bring me closer to God and make me a more effective priest for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

For all of those who have offered prayers and support to me throughout my journey in minor seminary, I sincerely thank you. I ask for your continued prayers for me as I continue my discernment and formation.

Feast of Corpus Christi: A Quick Guide

Click to view and download this month’s quick guide about the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Second Collections for June & July

by Father Rothell Price

PETER’S PENCE
Announcement Dates:  June 16th & 23rd
Collection Dates:  June 29th & 30th

Be a Witness of Charity.” This is the clear call and witness of our annual Peter’s Pence Collection. The Feast of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, celebrates these two pillars on which the Holy Spirit built up the early Church. Both apostles were guided by the Spirit to focus their zeal on the Jews and Gentiles. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded on the proclamation of these two and the other Apostles, takes up the Peter’s Pence Collection on their joint feast day.

As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is the head of the Universal Church and successor to St. Peter, he is called upon by suffering individuals, families, communities and nations to help them in a time of crisis and suffering. The Peter’s Pence Collection makes it possible for him to respond to this cry on behalf of Jesus Christ and His Holy People, the Church. Pope Francis has been inspirational in the humble yet dramatic way he makes the human and material resources of the Holy See readily available to those in need.

Join our Holy Father Pope Francis in representing Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters in need. “Be a Witness of Charity.” Participate generously in the Peter’s Pence Collection. •

SOLIDARITY FUND FOR THE CHURCH IN AFRICA
Announcement Dates: July 7th & 14th
Collection Dates: July 20th & 21st

The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa collection helps our brothers and sisters in Christ on the huge African continent grow in the Catholic faith. Your participation in the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa accomplishes the great spiritual and material good of building up the faith, transforming lives and contributing to the improvement of standards of living among people hungering and thirsting for God and the basic necessities of life.

Through the marvel of television and social media, we are blessed to see with our own eyes the good news that the Church in Africa is growing. Pope Francis and his predecessors, Benedict XVI, Saint Pope John Paul II, and Saint Pope Paul VI held the people of Africa close to their hearts. They admirably did their part in nurturing the growing and vibrant faith of the peoples of Africa. Join Pope Francis and the bishops of our country in strengthening the faith of the people of Africa. Your contribution to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa makes it possible for our bishops to provide grants to finance religious education, Catholic schools, clergy and religious education, youth ministry, communications, evangelization, leadership formation, justice and peace, construction and outreach programs.

Please be generous in your support of the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. This fund provides access to the Sacraments of the Church for a spiritually enthusiastic and hungry people. Help them overcome their spiritual and material challenges due to poverty, food shortages, disease and migration. Stand with the people of Africa. Give generously to the Solidarity Fund.

Faithful Food: Breath of Fresh Air

by Kim Long

The sacrament of Confirmation was celebrated recently in our parish. This class has been, well, different. We had some who had been with us “since the beginning” and some who were new students. Throughout the course of this year I came to know them better as I spent time with them on several occasions in a teaching and advisory capacity. On the morning of Confirmation though I was filled with anticipation. I was unprepared for my emotional reaction when the choir intoned the Veni Sancti Spiritus. I wondered how many really wanted the Holy Spirit to come and then suddenly I did, more than anything.
As the students brought the gifts during the Offertory I turned, craning my neck, in order to see each one, a smile breaking across my face. There, I thought, is one of the gifts a DRE receives: completion.

The verse from 2 Timothy came to mind: “I have finished the race, I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith.” I felt that verse applied to both the students and myself.

The day before I talked with them about the pros and cons of their Parish School of Religion journey ending. We talked about “growing up our faith” as we age. Sitting in the pew on Sunday a million thoughts raced through my head about all the changes that seem to be happening at an unbelievable pace, barely leaving me time to catch my breath. Losing an editor was not the least of these.

Meeting Jessica Rinaudo for the first time my one overarching thought was of her youth, which was immediately followed by wondering how this “work relationship” would pan out. Like Katie, my fellow columnist of many years, I too have learned so much from Jess. It has been an utter delight, a blessing, and an exercise in all things associated with the art of the well-turned phrase.

With each passing month, I sat at my computer, churning out what I hoped God wanted me to say and then feeling completely vulnerable when I hit send afterward thinking, “the wheels are in motion, there is no turning back.” This was more true than I could know.

With Jessica’s carefully crafted comments, she guided me forward each month and we have come so far that I barely remember the first piece of writing I proffered for consideration. Over the years I have told her countless times that she makes me look better than designer clothes.

So, as this class was confirmed, I thought of gifts and the concept of receiving and realized God is always offering me treasure in one form or another if I have eyes to see and ears to hear. I thought of all the moments Jessica and I have shared, some funny, some heart wrenching, always a blessing. In my mind we have helped one another “keep the faith” through laughter, prayer, lunch and attempted rehabilitation for my careless abuse of the semicolon and the dash. Time passes, we move forward, we move on, we pack, we keep, we discard, we embrace, we grow our faith up as we grow up. As we both draw to the close of this chapter in our relationship, I look forward to hearing of her adventures and sharing my own as we both journey onward. In the “spirit” of the season I offer the following sidebar…

The Care and Feeding of a Columnist

Wisdom… an editor knows when to push you to the edge and when to pull you back.

Understanding… an editor knows when to extend a deadline and when to leave a text message asking if everything is ok as, “I haven’t heard from you.”

Counsel… an editor knows how to hold the shaky hand of a columnist and say, “Yes, you can.”

Piety… (also known as reverence, coming to God with humility). An editor respects that a columnist is opening up completely and guides them to a place where their work is respected and shines. An editor is prayerful and prays with and for their columnists.

Fortitude… an editor knows when to send a piece back, knowing it can be made better. What seems a momentary rejection becomes a teachable moment.

Knowledge… an editor knows the audience and the writers and that both answer to a higher power. An editor knows that flowery phrases often obscure the message and isn’t afraid to prune.

Fear of the Lord… an editor knows that God is God, and columnists are not. An editor guides their columnists to a place in their craft where higher truths will shine.

Mike’s Meditations: What Are Your God-Given Gifts?

by Mike Van Vranken

As a child in school, I memorized the “gifts of the Holy Spirit:” wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord,” all from the prophet Isaiah. Then, we committed to memory the “fruit of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). I later learned enough Scripture to know that everything belongs to God. Consequently, all good gifts must come from God. And in addition, there are many Scriptures attesting that we have each received gifts from our good and gracious God.

So, how do we know what our gifts are? And equally important, how do we know when, where and how to use them? Do you have trouble, at this moment in your life, knowing your gifts and how God wants you to use them? Well, relax! You are not alone. I have learned that knowing our gifts takes effort. Doing something with our gifts, takes love.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us a starting point. He suggests we ask God for interior knowledge of all the great good we have received from Him. By “interior knowledge,” he is challenging us to do more than just memorize a list of gifts as we did as children. He wants us to open ourselves so God can place in our minds and hearts all the good things He has given us. He wants us to not only know of these gifts intellectually, but to feel them, to allow their very essence to penetrate who we are. Can we consume these gifts in our hearts to such a point that we can taste them, hear them, touch them, smell them and even see them? Can we, with God’s grace, experience these gifts, which are now part of who we have become?

Ignatius continues by asking us to consider how all these good gifts descend from above. He suggests that we, in silence, picture with our imagination how goodness, piety, mercy, justice, etc. all come down upon us like rays from the sun. See, feel, smell, taste and even hear those rays of sun, filled with God and His gifts, penetrating your entire body, soul and spirit. Experience each gift closely. Give each gift a name, and continually thank God for that particular gift. This is how we prayerfully obtain the interior knowledge he is talking about.

However, this interior knowledge is not enough. Ignatius now asks us to pray for God’s powerful grace to help us be so stirred with gratitude, that we may be able to love and serve Him in all things, all creatures, and all people. And, in all of this, he reminds us that God is assisting us, working with us, even laboring with us to love Him so much that we desire to serve Him by using these gifts to intimately and passionately love all of His creation; including each other.

I respectfully suggest that you take some time with God this month and pray for the grace to interiorly know and be aware of all of the gifts He has given you. Then, if you have the courage, pray for the further grace to be so moved with gratitude and thanksgiving, that you offer to serve Him in all things, in all creatures, and in all people. This is a transformation that allows us to work with God to change the world.

On Another Note:
When I began submitting these articles to The Catholic Connection about a decade ago, our editor, Jessica Rinaudo, graciously welcomed me as a contributing writer. With gentleness, compassion and a deep love for the people of God, she gifted her expertise and taught me how to share with the Church through my writing. Her many literary talents and gifts, as well as her countless spiritual gifts, always freely given with love, have been more of a blessing to me than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. By sharing her gifts with our entire diocese, we all will reap many harvests for decades to come. As she and her family follow God’s call to sow even greater seeds in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, I ask you to join me in prayer for Jessica and her family – that God will grant them the grace to joyfully and lovingly share their many gifts there, and that He will bless them with His love and His grace in this next leg of their journey, manifested in ways that are more than they could ever think or imagine.

CCNLA and SVdP: Side by Side and Hand in Hand

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by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

At first glance, it may appear that there is a duplication of services in what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) does and what Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) does. To some, it may be confusing that SVdP and CCNLA are two, completely separate unaffiliated organizations within the same Diocese of Shreveport. However, largely because of the efforts of Bonnie Martinez in Shreveport and Jo Ann Crone in Monroe, these two Catholic social service organizations have formed a partnership in which both organizations join forces in their efforts to serve the poor and vulnerable.

According to the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served. It is evident then, that the mission and vision of SVdP aligns with CCNLA’s own mission to bring Christ’s message of love to the poor and vulnerable by providing quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination.

As President of the Western District Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which includes Shreveport, Bossier and surrounding areas, Martinez saw the opportunity for the two organizations to work together to mutually benefit and support each other’s programs. She proved to be the resource that bridged the gap of missing contact information for each organization. Through her leadership, conference members have gained an appreciation for the cooperative partnership with CCNLA and understand that the collective efforts of both groups better serve those in the community.

As the relationship has evolved over the years, when SVdP conference members are working with a family that they feel could benefit from the services of CCNLA could help supplement, they will refer the family to CCNLA. Likewise, CCNLA will refer clients to SVdP when we are unable to help with specific needs or when the client may benefit from supplemental aid that SVdP can provide. In this way, both organizations are able to reach more people and affect those lives for the better, doing more in collaboration than what could be accomplished individually.

“When we pool together our resources and efforts, we both get to serve the same individual,” said Martinez. “It’s a win-win situation. St. Vincent de Paul initiates an interpersonal connection through our home visits and with the educational component that Catholic Charities provides, we move closer to that which will result in long-term change for the individual.”

In the same way, Crone, Board President and a founding member of the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy in Monroe, has been pivotal in establishing a collaborative association with the CCNLA Monroe office as well. The CCNLA Monroe office works closely with the SVdP chapters of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Our Lady of Fatima Parish and St. Lawrence Church.

The special partnership that CCNLA and SVdP have created both in the Shreveport/Bossier and Monroe areas continues to grow stronger and proudly represents the Diocese of Shreveport hand in hand. The number of clients and families that CCNLA and SVdP have worked collectively to assist has been numerous. The relationship that SVdP and CCNLA have established embodies CCNLA’s vision that together SVdP and CCNLA invest in people to alleviate poverty, distress and injustice. •

Pro-Life Oratory Contest Winners Announced

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he Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Committee has announced the local winners of its high school oratory contest. Kaiden Odell, a senior at Word of God Academy in Shreveport, won first place with his insightful presentation. He cited the “Unborn Victim of Violence” act, which charges a murderer of a pregnant woman with two counts of murder, one for her and one for her unborn child. Her baby is considered alive and a victim, at whatever stage of its development. Kaiden pointed out the irony that this recognition is unfortunately not provided to babies who are victims of abortion and infanticide, even though the babies are identical in their development. Kaiden was awarded $500 for his speech.

Second place honors were captured by Celeste Lirette, a senior at Loyola College Prep. Her stirring presentation relayed the fact that one in four babies are aborted. That child who never had a chance at life could have been your best friend. Celeste stated that young people need to be bold in proclaiming the truth about the evils of abortion, because “in the end, that aborted baby could have been me or it could have been you.” Celeste was awarded $250 for her presentation.

Zaige Wills, a senior at Byrd High School, won third place by pointing out that everyone deserves the right to life. He challenged the audience to action, saying “We must be the voice for the defenseless babies who are being deprived of this right.” He was awarded $100 for his inspiring speech.

First place winner Kaiden Odell advanced to the State Finals in Baton Rouge on Saturday, May 4 at the Louisiana Knights of Columbus Convention in Baton Rouge. Kaiden won the state competition and will represent Louisiana at the National Pro-Life Oratory contest, which will be held at the National Right to Life Convention in Charleston, SC on July 6.

The local competition was held April 25, at the Catholic Center in Shreveport. Now in its 31st 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 is sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport. State and National sponsors are the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, the Louisiana Knights of Columbus and the National Right to Life.

For more information, contact Anthony Fabio at awfabio2@hotmail.com. Visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SBProLifeOratoryCommittee/ •