Bishop Duca Altered My Priesthood Forever

Following his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Long blesses Bishop Duca.

by Father Matthew Long, Pastor, St. Joseph Parish

On April 1, 2008, I arose to news that would alter my priesthood forever. A seminarian at that time, it was John Mark Willcox, my vocations director, who informed me of an impending press conference concerning the Diocese of Shreveport. Msgr. Michael Duca, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, a priest of the diocese of Dallas, had been named the second bishop of Shreveport. I sat down at my desk and wrote a note congratulating him on his appointment and telling him of the joy I felt that we had been granted a new shepherd. On Friday of that week when I returned to my room, I had a message on my voicemail from Bishop-elect Duca thanking me for the note and asking me to call him back. In the course of the conversation he asked me many questions that gave me great hope for the future of our diocese. This marked the beginning of my relationship with Bishop Duca, the successor of the apostles whose wisdom and guidance would help shape me into the priest I am today.

Matthew Long as an altar server at Bishop Duca's Ordination and Installation as Bishop

On May 19 that year, I was privileged to be the book bearer at his ordination and installation as our bishop. I will never forget that liturgy, how exciting it was to be so close to this most important moment in the history of our diocese. Less than a year later, I sat in front of him as he exhorted me about the duties and responsibilities of the priesthood, about to lay hands on my head and pray the prayers that would mark my soul forever as a priest of Jesus Christ. Over the next nine years he was a constant support and guide through the continual process of being formed into that holy priesthood. As my pastor, he always listened to me without judgment, a quality I appreciated. I will miss that open door to his office through which I could freely enter and seek counsel. The best parts of the priest I have become I owe largely to the guidance I found from the man across that desk who so generously gave his time to a young priest who needed it.

Newly ordained Fr. Long and Bishop Duca at Fr. Long's Ordination Mass.

I was overwhelmed with emotion when on June 28 I was awakened early in the morning by a text message from a priest of the diocese of Baton Rouge. The message stated that he would be praying for our next bishop. I did not understand it at first, but then it hit me, and a quick Internet search confirmed the sad news that our shepherd, our successor to the apostles, our bishop, had been named the sixth Bishop of the diocese of Baton Rouge.

I wept, I worried, and I wondered what the future would hold for us. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to sit with Bishop Duca the next day to congratulate him and tell him how much he meant to me. I have been blessed in my priesthood to have such a shepherd, and we have all been blessed in our diocese to have been led by him. All of this reflects on his faithful obedience to the will of God. It is due to his obedience that he has been a beloved priest for 40 years and our most appreciated bishop for 10 years.

Bishop Duca’s role in our lives will never change because he has shaped us, he has led us, but, most importantly, because he has loved us. The sadness that we feel is the result of the love we feel for him. And through one of the darkest years of our diocese, with the deaths of Fr. Richter, Bishop Friend, and Msgr. Moore, this man gave us hope by his example of faith, hope and love. It is because he places all his hope and trust in the Lord that he has accomplished all he has. For his vocation, we owe a perpetual debt of gratitude. Thank you, Bishop Michal G. Duca. You will be with us always. •

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