Exploring the History of St. Matthew Church

By John Mark Willcox Exiting I-20 in downtown Monroe on Jackson Street you are met with a beautiful sight….the majestic spire of St. Matthew Church which has stood in downtown Monroe for More »

Discerning a Vocation in Elementary and Middle School

by Seminarian Raney Johnson It might seem too early to begin discerning a vocation in elementary and middle school. Yet, whenever I give a talk about vocations to young Catholics, I remind More »

Rite of Candidacy

A Q&A About the Rite of Candidacy with Seminarian Jeb Key Q: What is the Rite of Candidacy?  Candidacy is a rite in the Church that all people aspiring to receive the More »

Fr. Peter B. Mangum Addresses Thoughts on June USCCB Meeting and the Future of the Diocese

By: Fr. Peter B. Mangum   Dear People of Shreveport, I begin this article on Pentecost Sunday, preparing for the gathering of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore. More »

El padre Peter informa sobre la reunión del USCCB en junio y el futuro de la Diócesis

Querida Gente de la Diócesis de Shreveport Comienzo este artículo en Domingo de Pentecostés mientras me preparo para la reunión de la Conferencia Episcopal de los Obispos Católicos de Los Estados Unidos, More »

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Kim Long On the 15th day of August, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Body and Soul into heaven. The feast, which has a long More »

Holistic Catholic Education

By: Mike Van Vranken Almost forty years ago, I heard someone respond to the question “what do Catholics believe” with the confident answer: “We believe it all!”  Over the years, and often More »

The Life of Sister Maria Smith, D.C.

by Patti Underwood On Holy Thursday, we in the Diocese of Shreveport and beyond lost a rare treasure, Sister Maria Smith, D.C.  Sister Maria was Mother Superior of the Daughters of the More »

Faithful Step Up in Wake of Tornado Devastation

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 More »

Digital Trends Research Project

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Development

Key Takeaways to Improve Results at Your Parish!

Nic Prenger of the Prenger Solutions Group, in partnership with eCatholic, surveyed 188 parishes in January of 2019. The sample size included parishes from across the country, both large and small. Prenger was kind enough to share the eye-opening results.

1. Parishes should engage their parishioners on Facebook:
a. Parishes that are active on Facebook boasted an average household giving that was 6.4% higher than parishes that aren’t on Facebook.
b. Parishes that posted on Facebook at least once a day reported average household giving 44% higher than parishes who posted less than once a day.
c. Parishes with a high percentage of parishioner “followers” (measured as at least one follower per registered household) reported an average offertory increase of 10% from 2017 to 2018. All other parishes in the study reported a 1% decline, on average.

2. Parishes should promote online giving
a. Parishes saw growth in online giving (defined as a 10% or more increase in online giving from 2017 to 2018) saw their total offertory increase by an average of 9%.
b. Parishes that did not make a leap in online giving saw their offertory decline by an average of 2%.
c. Analysis: The data shows that we aren’t just transitioning donors from one method to the other. Online giving is helping parishes to raise more money overall.

3. The value of an email address:
a. Parishes with fewer than 30% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $589.
b. Parishes with between 30% – 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $597.
c. Parishes with more than 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $716.

4. The value of sending a regular e-newsletter
a. Parishes that sent a weekly, monthly or quarterly e-newsletter saw a 4% increase in 2018 offertory.
b. Parishes that did not send an e-newsletter saw a 1% decline in 2018 offertory.

Feel free to take this information and adapt your digital giving program where you worship so that your parish can enjoy these new forms of Stewardship!  •

Kids’ Connection: Triduum

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection.

Meeting the Needs of Hispanics in Many

by Shirley Rivers

Meeting the spiritual needs of a growing Hispanic population is a challenge, even to our larger diocesan parishes. But, what does a small rural parish with limited resources do to accommodate those needs?

St. John the Baptist, a parish of approximately 150 families, has been striving over the last few years to better accommodate the Hispanic Catholic families who live in the Many and Toledo Bend area. With much hard work and the support of several people and the church’s pastor, Fr. Francis Kamau, FMH, the ministry is moving forward.

A Spanish Mass is held on the first Sunday of each month.

Fr. Fidel MondragÓn has volunteered to make the hour drive from Shreveport every other month to celebrate the Mass. Fr. Kamau has been learning Spanish and celebrates Mass when Fr. MondragÓn is unable to attend. After each Spanish Mass, a meal is held in the church hall. In the near future, Fr. MondragÓn will begin hearing confessions in Spanish.

Recently, Fr. Kamau appointed two members of the Hispanic community to serve on the Parish Pastoral Council to provide better input on the spiritual needs of their families and friends. With the help of the St. John the Baptist Parish Director of Religious Education, Jean Rains, printed materials in Spanish, including Stations of the Cross, Missalettes, Bibles and prayer books have been ordered. Jean is also planning to schedule home visits, transportation and Sacrament preparation to better serve the needs of the Hispanic population.

Parishioner Shirley Veuleman, a retired Spanish teacher, also donates her time to teach English classes. She also translates the Sunday’s readings into Spanish for publication in the weekend bulletin.

Thus far, the largest celebration held at St. John the Baptist Parish is for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A special Mass is celebrated in December followed by a celebration of food and fellowship. Over time, the celebration has become more elaborate and is expected to expand in the future.

With prayer, the hard work of many, and collaboration with the local Hispanics, St. John the Baptist Parish is dedicated to better meeting the needs of a growing population.

April 28th: Divine Mercy Sunday

by Julia Doolin

The second Sunday of Easter is the Feast of Divine Mercy. This year, the feast falls on April 28. For the last 15 years, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans and St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport have alternated hosting a Divine Mercy Sunday Holy Hour. Those who are involved with this event have been inspired by the manner in which the devotion has grown in our diocese. This year, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host the holy hour with Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum, Diocesan Administrator, presiding. The holy hour will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m. and will include the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as veneration of the Divine Mercy image. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered immediately following the holy hour.

The Divine Mercy devotion began spreading throughout the world in the 1930’s and is based upon private revelations to a young Polish nun whom we now know as St. Faustina. The message is not a new one, but is instead, a reminder of what the Church has always taught through Scripture and tradition: God is merciful and forgiving and we, too, must show mercy and forgiveness. But the message of the Divine Mercy devotion calls people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone – especially the greatest sinners.

In a decree dated May 23, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” Taking the declaration of the feast day a step further, the Apostolic Penitentiary announced on August 3, 2002, that in order “to ensure that the faithful would observe Divine Mercy Sunday with intense devotion, the Supreme Pontiff himself established that this Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence…so that the faithful might receive in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”

With regard to the plenary indulgence associated with Divine Mercy Sunday, the usual conditions apply: sacramental confession (typically eight days before or after the indulgenced act), Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. The faithful are asked to gather in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!)

We are grateful to have the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful event. Please join us at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans (939 Jordan Street in Shreveport) on Sunday, April 28, at 2:30 p.m. for a wonderful opportunity to experience God’s unfathomable mercy.

Bossier Church Helps Provide Beds to Children

by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Don Harper is seeing to it that “no kid sleeps on the floor in our town” and Mary, Queen of Peace Parish is helping him achieve that goal.

Harper oversees Sleep In Heavenly Peace, a non-profit that partners with organizations, churches and businesses to hold “Build Days” during which beds are built from scratch. But the cost for a bed, $175, must be in hand first.

Harper spoke to the Mary, Queen of Peace Ladies Guild at the request of member Donna Grimaldi about their organization. As a result, pastor Fr. Nicholas Onyach, FMH, allowed for Ash Wednesday and March 10 collections to benefit this project. More than $1,200 was donated, enough for seven beds. Additionally, the church collected more than 20 sets of new sheets to go with the new beds. One hundred percent of donations go toward Sleep in Heavenly Peace. This organization works with Lowe’s, who gives them a discount on supplies, and Johnson’s Furniture who works with them on mattress prices.

So who can help with beds? Anyone! No woodworking experience is needed. At one build, Harper said he had volunteers from age 10 all the way to age 70. Volunteers are supervised and tools are supplied.

Twenty beds can be built in about three hours, he said. They may be single twin or bunk. Bunk beds have scripture under the top bed for the child on the bottom to read.

The beds are delivered assembled to an appreciative home, complete with a mattress, bedding and pillow.

“Kids will be ready to be tucked in,” Harper said. Some of the deliveries have come with bibles provided by Lifeway Christian Store.

To qualify to receive a bed, a family must be sleeping in one bed with parents or siblings, on the floor, a couch, futon or between two chairs. Applicants for a new bed may apply online at www.SHPbeds.org.

Once an application is received, a selection committee will review it. Selecting a recipient isn’t done on a first-come, first served basis, but based on which children need beds the most, Harper said.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace makes and delivers beds as supplies and donations allow. When they’re out of beds or bedding, they file unselected applications away until they can make more.
Founded in Idaho in 2012, Sleep In Heavenly Peace is the only charity providing handmade bunk beds to children who don’t have their own. There are 140 chapters in 40 states, Bossier’s being the 86th (it serves Caddo Parish, also). The only other one in Louisiana is in Cutoff.

Harper was watching Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor, a reality web television series in which he searches for people giving back, when it featured Sleep in Heavenly Peace. While he was watching the show, he said his “eyes starting leaking a little bit” and he told his wife he wanted to do this project.
In a year, Harper’s chapter has made 52 beds and delivered 38. The remaining beds are waiting to be delivered once mattresses and linens can be secured. There are currently 78 people on a waiting list. •

Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Good Friday Way of the Cross & Walk for Justice

by Jim Beadles, President, Shreveport Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

For more than 20 years, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has sponsored the Good Friday Way of the Cross and Walk for Justice in downtown Shreveport. The purpose of the event is to not only follow Christ in his Passion on the Way of the Cross, but also to recognize the efforts of multiple local agencies that put the Passion into practice by serving those in need.

The event continues to grow, and last year, more than 150 people participated. It is truly a community and ecumenical event. We are honored that our friends at First United Methodist Church graciously offer their property as the gathering place for both the beginning and end of the event. Along the way, we are privileged to have music from the New Dimension Youth Chorale.

In addition to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and First United Methodist Church, we also are joined by the following agencies: Mary’s House, The Fuller Center, Christian Services, MLK Health Center, The Mercy Center, Hope House, Holy Cross Episcopal, The Providence House, The Hub Ministries, Louisiana Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and VOA Lighthouse.

The event covers approximately 1.4 miles. It is a service of 14 prayers at 14 sites/stations. Representatives from the agencies will lead each station prayer. Another reason to participate is to learn more about each of the agencies and their ministries. We are all called to be more than observers. We are all called to discipleship. Perhaps you will find a calling to mission and ministry of one of these agencies as they serve those in need in our community.

There is plenty of parking behind First United Methodist Church at the head of Texas Street, downtown. We will begin the walk at 9:00 a.m., and it should be completed no later than 11:00 a.m. If it rains, the event will be moved to Holy Trinity Catholic Church located at 315 Marshall Street, also in downtown Shreveport.

This is a perfect way to move toward Easter. All who attend find it to be a meaningful experience. Please plan to join us at this year’s St. Vincent de Paul Walk For Justice. We hope to see you there.

When: Good Friday, April 19, 2019
Where: Behind First United Methodist Church,
head of Texas Street, downtown Shreveport
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Rain Venue: Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Volunteers are the Heart of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Each year Catholic Charities of North Louisiana hosts separate Volunteer Appreciation events for volunteers at both the Shreveport and Monroe offices. These are the times when CCNLA celebrates those who give to the organization simply out of service and love. They are the heart of the organization, these men and women who devote time and energy at both offices are vital to smooth office operations. You could say they are our lifeline because without them, it would be impossible to do all that we are able to do.

Many volunteers help make a difference at CCNLA every day. For example, Shirley Cashio has been volunteering at Catholic Charities since 2011. As a former nursing school teacher at Northwestern State University, she brings health and medical knowledge to the Gabriel’s Closet classes she teaches, as well as the ability to identify when a child might need specific medical attention. Maria Colon, a former librarian, has been volunteering with Gabriel’s Closet for the past two years. When her husband passed away in 2016, she had recently retired and she was looking for a way to spend her time giving back to others. Betty Mirts began volunteering at CCNLA eight years ago because of her interest in early childhood development. Her role today can be described as the Gabriel’s Closet Volunteer Coordinator and she dedicates every Monday and Thursday afternoon to Gabriel’s Closet.

Richard Goorley, a retired attorney, has recently been tending to the community garden on our property. He has been diligently working on revitalizing and bringing it back to life. Mary Ellen Foley, a former board member, continues to serve Catholic Charities by coming in every Friday afternoon to help sort and organize client files, make copies and other general office duties. Theresa George, a new volunteer who also works full-time, comes in once a week during her lunch break to help with data entry. The volunteers at CCNLA have diverse backgrounds, but share the common desire to serve others.

CCNLA is always looking for volunteers for Gabriel’s Closet, whether to teach a class or help sort donations. We always need volunteers to help teach our weekly Money School class and our Immigration Services program could use help organizing client files. Volunteers are also needed to help plan and execute the many annual fundraising events that Catholic Charities hosts throughout the year. These are only some of the needs CCNLA has that volunteers could help with. Currently, we have a great need for volunteers in our Monroe and Lake Providence offices.
Volunteers are an integral part of CCNLA’s success. There are always more tasks to be done than time in a day. With the volunteers’ help, CCNLA can devote time helping more clients, create awareness in the community and raise funds for additional programming. This way, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana can continue its mission to bring Christ’s message of love to the poor and vulnerable by providing quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination and in accordance with Catholic social teachings and professional standards.

** Volunteers at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana must attend a three-hour training class presented by the Diocese of Shreveport. These classes are offered at different locations throughout the diocese. A volunteer application, confidentiality agreement and a background check form and consent must also be completed. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at CCNLA, please email Tiffany Olah at development@ccnla.org or call at 318-865-0200 x109.

Vocations View: Reflection – Final Year of Seminary

by Deacon Kevin Mues, Seminarian

Time flies when you’re having fun!” This statement seems particularly accurate to me at this moment in my life. As I approach the end of my final semester of seminary formation, I feel struck by how quickly this period of my life has come and gone. In 2013, I entered seminary formation. When I began, I thought that six years of learning philosophy and then theology would never end, but it has gone by in a flash. I am amazed by how much I have learned and humbled by how much I still have to learn. In the past year, this has been especially clear to me. Three recent experiences have given me greater insight into what it means to be a priest and what my life as a priest may look like after I am ordained in May.

When I was ordained to the diaconate in June, I was given the opportunity to minister at St. Jude Parish in Benton. There, I had the chance to really enter into the life of a Catholic parish. I was able to participate in the daily activities of the church and get to know the families that served and were served by the parish. Through Bible studies, family dinners, summer camps, hospital ministry, choir, and my participation in Mass as a deacon, I was able to experience a foretaste of the life of a priest. I had the opportunity to learn from Fr. Karl Daigle what it means to be a pastor–that real love of the people I am called to serve.

Deacon Kevin Mues at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In January, my classmates and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There, I had the opportunity to stand in the places that Jesus stood. I was at the Church of the Nativity, at the Sea of Galilee, on the bank of the River Jordan. I walked the way of the Cross. Being in the Holy Land was an amazing experience. The Church of the Annunciation was an amazing point of my journey. There, we had the chance to pray the Angelus with the Franciscans that serve the parish. When we pray the Angelus, we say, “Verbo caro factus est,” or “The Word was made flesh.” When they pray the Angelus, they say, “Verbo caro hic factus est” or, “Here, the Word was made flesh.” My experience in the Holy Land did that for me. It gave flesh to the faith that I believe in. By standing in the places that Jesus stood and seeing the locations from the Bible, I was able to understand more fully the ministry of Jesus and the apostles.

The thing that most inspired me this year was the funeral of Fr. Richard Lombard. It was amazing to see a priest who had given his entire life, 65 years of ministry, to the Diocese of Shreveport. I was able to see in his funeral, the only real encounter I had with his life and his ministry, the true goal of a priest: to live a life that is totally devoted to spreading the Gospel and serving the people of God. As I move toward my own ordination, I look forward to the opportunity to give my life to this diocese. I hope to follow that example and give everything to the people of God in our local Church.

Over the next two months, I will complete the formal education that will bring me to the Cathedral for my ordination. I look forward to the even greater lessons that I will learn from the people of God when I become a priest for them.

From the Pope: Your Kingdom Come

from the Vatican Press Office

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the second invocation with which we address God is “Your Kingdom come” (Mt 6: 10). After praying that His name be hallowed, the believer expresses the desire that His Kingdom come in haste. This desire springs, so to speak, from the very heart of Christ, who began His preaching in Galilee proclaiming: “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk 1,15). These words are not a threat at all; on the contrary, they are a happy announcement, a message of joy. Jesus does not want to push people to convert by sowing the fear of God’s imminent judgment or a sense of guilt for evil committed. Jesus does not proselytize: He simply announces. On the contrary, what He brings is the Good News of salvation, and starting from this He calls us to convert. Everyone is invited to believe in the “Gospel”: the lordship of God brought close to His children. This is the Gospel: the lordship of God made close to His children. And Jesus proclaims this wonder, this grace: God, the Father, loves us, is near us and teaches us to walk on the path of holiness.
The signs of the coming of this Kingdom are many, and all positive. Jesus begins His ministry by taking care of the sick, both in body and in spirit, of those who experienced social exclusion –for example, lepers – and of sinners who were looked upon with disdain by all, even by those who were greater sinners than they were, but who feigned righteousness. And what did Jesus call them? “Hypocrites.” Jesus Himself indicates these signs, the signs of the Kingdom of God: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt 11: 5).

“Your Kingdom come!” The Christian repeats insistently when he prays to “our Father.” Jesus came; but the world is still marked by sin, populated by so many people who suffer, by people who are not reconciled and do not forgive, by wars and by so many forms of exploitation; let us we think of the trafficking of children, for example. All these facts are proof that the victory of Christ has not yet been fully implemented: many men and women still live with a closed heart. It is above all in these situations that the second invocation of the Lord’s Prayer emerges on the Christian’s lips: “Your Kingdom come!” Which is like saying: “Father, we need you! Jesus, we need you, we need you to be everywhere and forever. You are Lord in our midst!”. “Your kingdom come, may You be among us.”

Sometimes we ask ourselves: why is this Kingdom being realized so slowly? Jesus loves to speak of His victory with the language of the parables. For example, He says that the Kingdom of God is like a field where good wheat and weeds grow together: the worst mistake would be to want to intervene, immediately eradicating from the world those that seem to us to be weeds. God is not like us, God has patience. It is not with violence that the Kingdom is established in the world: its style of propagation is meekness (cf. Mt 13: 24-30).

The Kingdom of God is certainly a great force, the greatest that there is, but not according to the criteria of the world; this is why it never seems to have an absolute majority. It is like the leaven that is kneaded in the flour: it seemingly disappears, yet it is precisely this that ferments the mass (cf. Mt 13: 33). Or it is like a grain of mustard, so small, almost invisible, but it carries within it the explosive force of nature, and once grown it becomes the greatest of all the trees in the orchard (cf. Mt 13: 31-32).

In this “destiny” of the Kingdom of God we can intuit the story of Jesus’ life: He too was a meager sign for His contemporaries, an event almost unknown to the official historians of the time. A “grain of wheat” as He defined Himself, Who dies in the earth but only in this way can “produce many seeds” (cf. Jn 12: 24). The symbol of the seed is eloquent: one day the peasant sinks it into the earth (a gesture that looks like a burial), and then, “night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk 4: 27). A seed that sprouts is more the work of God than the man who sowed it (cf. Mk 4: 27). God always precedes us, God always surprises us. Thanks to Him, after the night of Good Friday there is a dawn of Resurrection capable of illuminating the whole world with hope.

“Your kingdom come!” Let us sow this word in the midst of our sins and failures. Let us give it to people who are defeated and bent by life, to those who have experienced more hatred than love, to those who have lived useless days without ever understanding why. Let us give it to those who have fought for justice, to all the martyrs of history, to those who have concluded that they have fought for nothing and that evil always dominates in this world. Then we will hear the Lord’s prayer respond. Those words of hope will be repeated for the umpteenth time, the same ones that the Spirit has placed in the seal of all the Holy Scriptures: “Yes, I will come soon!”: This is the Lord’s answer: “I will come soon.” Amen. And the Church of the Lord replies: “Come, Lord Jesus” (see Rev 2: 20). “Your Kingdom come” is like saying “Come, Lord Jesus”. And Jesus says: “I will come soon”. And Jesus comes, in His way, but every day. Let us have trust in this. And when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we always say: “Your Kingdom come,” to feel in the heart: “Yes, yes, I will come, and I will come soon.” Thank you!

Holy Week A Quick Guide

Click to download our Holy Week Quick Guide.