Bishop Duca Reflects on Our Diocesan Stewardship Appeal

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by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship

 Incredibly this May, Bishop Michael G. Duca  will mark his first decade as the second Ordinary of the Diocese of Shreveport. During his 10 years as our spiritual leader, Bishop Duca has also led our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal to great success and stability. Commenting on our Appeal, Bishop Duca reflected, “I know that most of our people experience the Church through involvement at the parish community level, but I have always seen our diocese as one family, spread out over 11,000 square miles within 16 civil parishes, 40 places of worship that are intersected with three great rivers. Ten years ago I did not know what it would be like to be a bishop, but I now know that being sent to the Diocese of Shreveport has been the greatest blessing of my life and the heart of that blessing has been the support of our faithful who are strong in faith, supportive of me and our priests and the generous spirit of giving that continues to provide so much to our faith community.”

Looking at the many programs and ministries provided through Appeal support, Bishop Duca begins with Appeal sponsorship of our seminarians (1). “We have a solid group of six seminarians currently studying for the priesthood and our Appeal continues to help them achieve their goal of ordination. This is expensive work to educate and form men into good priests, but most of us would admit that a good, holy priest, well-formed who will serve our diocese for 20, 30 or even 40 or 50 years is a priceless gift. Appeal dollars prepared Fr. Jerry Daigle for ordination and he now serves as Chaplain at St. Frederick High School in Monroe and is our new Vocations Director.”

Appeal dollars also remain a mainstay of support for our retired and infirm priests (2) who are so deserving of our care. “This is another expensive area of ministry and outreach,” offered Bishop Duca. “I feel confident that our people feel as I do, that this is a necessary responsibility of the Catholics of our region. We will see the need in this area continue to grow. I can tell you as your bishop that our retired priests remain more than thankful for the many years of Appeal support that they have received.”

  

One critical need of any bishop is to have a strong, effective avenue of communication to the Catholics of his diocese. The Catholic Connection (3) fills that role within our combined faith community. Bishop Duca has always taken a prime interest in his monthly diocesan news magazine, “I’m proud of the insightful and timely information that The Catholic Connection provides to our diocese, which has always been fully funded by our Annual Appeal. This allows me the luxury as your bishop, to provide it free of charge to every known Catholic household on a monthly basis.”

Hispanic Catholics remain one of the most vibrant, active and growing communities within our diocese. For more than two decades, our Appeal has helped fund an Office of Hispanic Ministry (4) to serve this unique and special segment or our worship family. Bishop Duca is thrilled that this also resulted in a new member of our Presbyterate. “I am so pleased that our Hispanic Ministry Office, under the direction of Rosalba Quiroz, was able to make contact with a seminarian in Mexico who needed a diocese. She took our Vocations Director to meet him and Appeal dollars finished his formation here in the United States. That priest is Fr. Fidel Mondragón who now serves at St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport and the Latino community of St. Mary of the Pines.”

Appeal dollars support two agencies committed to assist the poor as both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (5) provide care through home visitation, assistance with the basic necessities of life and even programs designed to improve financial planning. Bishop Duca remains pleased in the growth of both entities, “Catholic Charities is also establishing connections with other agencies serving the needs of the poor to share resources and to build relationships that will serve us well in times of a large disaster. I am also encouraged that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is sponsoring a continued outreach funded by FEMA to assist victims of the disastrous flooding that plagued Monroe and Shreveport in the past several years. Combined efforts like these allow the Church to have an even greater charitable outreach throughout our diocese.”

Appeal support is provided to Pro-Life Ministries (6) and family life outreach, as we seek to answer the Holy Father’s call to strengthen the Catholic family. This is also accomplished through Appeal support of a Catechesis Office (7) to guide and support Parish School of Religion programs to accomplish what Bishop Duca describes as “instilling the beauty of our Catholic faith with our young people.” This is the same ministry goal for our Catholic Schools (8) as they seek to offer quality formation and education to our young people. Your Appeal provides funding for our Catholic Schools Office and tuition assistance for needy families. Bishop Duca sees a bright future for our four elementary schools and two Catholic high schools in the diocese, “One of my goals as your bishop is to see more of our Catholic families choosing to use our excellent school system, and strong support of our Appeal makes that possible.”

Directly addressing our diocesan family, Bishop Duca offered these thoughts: “The ministries and programs that I ask our people to support represent part of the work of our larger family as a diocese and are important to fulfilling all the responsibilities that are part of the ministry of the Church from Lake Providence in the East, to Monroe in our center to Shreveport and the South all the way to Zwolle and Many. These ministries may not be visible to you, but many of them directly support parish life.”

Looking at the past success of our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal, our bishop sees even more room for improvement. “I ask our readers to share the wonderful benefits of our Appeal with others within your own worship community,” noted Bishop Duca. “I do this because only about 28 percent of our known Catholic families contribute to this worthy cause. As we work in union with one another in stewardship, I am praying to see our number of Appeal donors increase so that we as Church, can increase what we are able to do for others. I am asking that everyone give something to our Appeal this year. We almost reach our goal of 1.5 million dollars every year with donations from only about 3,000 of our faithful Catholics. If everyone would offer support to our Church family, we would easily make and even surpass our overall pledge goal.”

Spatial considerations don’t allow for Bishop Duca to cover every Appeal program and ministry, but he concluded by adding, “I can assure you as your bishop that our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Campaign is the lifeblood of what we as Church are able to offer to our faithful and the community at large. These ministries and programs are available through no other source, so I thank you for your financial support of our Appeal.”

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