A Decade with Bishop Duca

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by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor, The Catholic Connection

In December 2007, newly married and stepping into a budding career as a graphic designer and journalist, I was hired as the editor of The Catholic Connection, the official magazine of the Diocese of Shreveport. It was a time of limbo at the diocese – we had no bishop, and the long wait time between the retirement of Bishop William Friend and the anticipated naming of a new bishop fueled both excitement and anxiety amongst the staff.

Would our new bishop like a magazine? Would he insist we move to a newspaper? Would he even want a publication? Similar questions floated through every office of the chancery. And then, in April of 2008, a priest from the Diocese of Dallas was appointed to be ordained the Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport. Once he was named, things began to happen very quickly while everyone waited on pins and needles, eager to find out what our new shepherd would be like.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Bishop Duca’s office many times since that day – and rarely has it ever felt like I’ve been called to the principal’s office. For just as he is a bishop, he is also a pastor. I have sat in front of him, relatively fresh off maternity leave, nervously and emotionally explaining that I was pregnant once again – this time with twins, no less – and I had no idea how I was going to make my life and my job work. He sat with me, listened, and told me, “We will do whatever it takes to keep you.” Very few responses have ever meant so much to me and inspired me to move forward when all felt impossible.

The twins made their appearance, and even though it wasn’t always easy, we did what it took to make it work. In that time since, I have seen Bishop Duca kneel down before my children and earnestly ask them about their favorite parts of Disney World and listen with sincerity as all the names of My Little Ponies were listed off and explained to him. I’ve seen him joyfully present them with candy bars – purchased from me to benefit their Catholic education.

He even once told me he would like to come over to our home for dinner. I said a quick prayer that I would somehow whip my house into a functional state in the couple of weeks I had to prepare. He insisted we do nothing special, but we couldn’t let our Italian bishop go without trying the Rinaudo family meatballs. He visited with us from the couch, allowing Sarah to place a unicorn helmet atop his head and laughing as tiny Vera stared at him nervously from the corner. And any time the Rinaudo children visited the Catholic Center, you better believe we had to make a bee-line for Bishop Duca’s office to tell him hello.

Bishop Duca and I had a conversation outside in the hall during a retreat recently. At the time we were talking about the plan God has for our lives. The reflection he had written for the upcoming magazine that month had touched me. In it he said, “It was as though no matter what I imagined my life to be, God was leading me in another direction that was very different. When I was finally able to accept (i.e., I gave up) that God may have a different direction and a deeper understanding of my life, I stopped fighting and second guessing God’s will for my life. Instead I embraced His will and with that surrender came a new freedom and wisdom that allows me every day to accept with joy this wonderful call to be your bishop, even though I often feel unworthy.”

During our conversation, I told him how I could have never anticipated having four children in four years – it completely derailed me, but it also made me who I am. His words encouraged me; by choosing to accept God’s will in my life, I’m a better person.

I have been blessed to have a bishop who always supports our magazine, always looks over each issue before it goes to press. He has written articles each month without fail, even when I had to chase him down at deadline time and knock on his office door, or call for him as he ran past my office door, his hand in front of his face yelling, “I know! I know! I’m working on it!”

Bishop Duca has taught me much, most importantly how to be a gracious servant of the Lord and listen with compassion in both difficult times and in the good ones. I am truly grateful to have worked with him these 10 years. He has been a pastor, a supervisor, a friend. I wish him the very best in Baton Rouge. •

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