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Our Lady of Fatima Plenary Indulgence

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship On Saturday, May 13, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis declared canonized saints, Jacinta and Francesco Marto, two of More »

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Reflection on the Four Marks of the Church

by Kim Long The Nicene Creed was written centuries ago to help Christians remember the important beliefs of the faith. In the Nicene Creed we identify the four marks of the Church. More »

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U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria

U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria Bishops Echo Call of Pope Francis to Attain Peace in Syria “Through Dialogue and Reconciliation” from the United States Conference of Catholic More »

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Shreveport’s Red Mass Celebrates 25 Years

by John Mark Willcox The year was 1992, only six years had passed since the creation of our diocese and several Catholics in the law field, joined by another group of supportive More »

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The Harm of Pornography & Hope Beyond Addiction: Arming & Healing Our Children

Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This is the final installment in a four-piece series on pornography. The first three can be found in the January, More »

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Celebrating 60 Years of Priesthood, Msgr. LaCaze Continues to Serve

by Kelly Phelan Powell “I can’t imagine the number of people this tireless priest and faithful steward of the mysteries of God has touched, inspired and profoundly impacted in his years of More »

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Fr. Andre McGrath to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

by Deacon Mike Whitehead From his birth, Fr. Andre McGrath was dedicated to God. The family never wanted to put pressure on Fr. McGrath, but they were pleased when he entered the More »

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O’Neill Leaves Legacy of Faith and Joy in Ruston Upon Passing

by Nancy Bergeron Blane O’Neill, the high school English composition teacher, was a tough cookie. If he thought a student’s paper was fluff, he’d stamp it with a picture of a cloud. More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Magnify the Living Christ

by Mike Van Vranken How is your Easter going?”  Has anyone asked you that question over the last couple of weeks?  It’s ironic that we hear “How is your Lent going?” quite More »

Angelic Sweetness: The Blessed Mother’s Approach to Parenting

by Katie Sciba

I have a spiritual accountability partner (henceforth referred to as SAP). Like many souls, my drive and motivation toward the prayerful life tend to fluctuate and I can’t tell you how this girl helps keep my heart above water. We check up on each other every few weeks and though our discussions frequently stray from the spiritual to the domestic, I’m always inspired at the close of our conversations. We’ve been staying in touch for just over a year now, and it’s certain that God is working through her to move my soul. The other day we were talking about disciplining young toddlers and she mentioned maintaining “the angelic sweetness of Mary” toward both her little ones and husband. Since our conversation, this phrase has been incessantly ringing in my soul. I’ve read that angelic sweetness stems from a prayer life that is constant – a life that is centered on God. What’s particularly wonderful to me personally is that my confessor recently advised me to always stay in touch with God; to bring Him everything – EVERYTHING.

I’m amazed at how God is persistently sending me this message through my SAP and confessor mentioning at the same time. I want to bring God all matters great and simple because I know that without Him, I’m nothing but bad habits on two legs.

Both of my little ones are sick and my infant is especially crabby these days. Though in the midst of his constant crying I know he’s suffering and I try to console him, the wailing in my ear is enough to make me lose my mind when all I want is a quick morning nap for myself. While he’s crying, my toddler begs for breakfast right when the phone rings. I can’t tell you how often this situation hits our house – nearly every morning – and it’s the type of thing I want to have the presence of mind to bring to Christ; asking Him to help me calm my infant with tenderness and serve my toddler sweetly. The whirlwind provides a challenge, albeit less significant than most of the troubles in the world, but knowing that Christ is present in my endeavors strengthens my will profoundly. In bringing Him everything that’s on my heart – each stress and joy – my soul will certainly obtain peace and angelic sweetness. I have long had the desire to be sweet, but could never put my finger on how to go about it. Habitual and ritual occasions of prayer help develop the virtue of constant prayer: it should be breath, always flowing in and out of my soul, receiving the love of God and offering it back to Him in addition to the morning offering, blessing before meals and Sunday Mass.

The more crucial aspect of “the angelic sweetness of Mary” is the Blessed Mother herself. Consider how sweet she is – the Queen of even God’s heart. Consider how earth-shattering it would be to have Christ physically present in your family at all times as she and St. Joseph did. Consider the quality of marriage they had; that’s what I want: to have Christ always present in my marriage and family life and to accept the certain graces He brings. To a certain degree, I’m limited because I wasn’t born without sin like Mary; but if I allow God’s grace in my soul and breathe prayer in and out, I can offer to my family so much more than what I do now. With just one person moving toward a life of prayer and virtue, things change for every surrounding life. My husband is a “man after God’s own heart” and inspires me because he actively pursues to be even more so; and my sons set a great example because they haven’t even sinned yet, so I have to catch up! The truth is that developing angelic sweetness is a feat in itself, but when I do remember to offer Christ the little on-goings of my mind and heart, there is nothing more comforting or empowering than His presence in every nook and cranny of my life. With persistence and the grace of God, this extraordinary virtue can become ordinary for my soul.

Katie Sciba is a writer for the Catholic blog www.truthandcharity.net.

Who Does It Belong to Anyway?

by Mike Van Vranken

My employer provides a car for my use to accomplish the works they have given me to do. The car’s primary use is to perform the tasks my job requires. The company has strict rules explaining how it can be used for both business and personal needs. My responsibilities include keeping it in excellent working condition, not abusing it, protecting it from danger and harm and only using it in ways that respect its purpose. Now, I have the free will to abuse it or even damage it, but any use or care of the car that does not comply with the rules and responsibilities that come with it would be considered negligence and even immoral. The car is not mine; it belongs to my employer.

My God provides me with a physical body for my use to accomplish the works HE has given me to do. Scripture says it gives Him glory when I accomplish those works. (John 17:4).  He expects me to take care of this body, protect it from danger and harm and only use it in ways that respect its purpose. Of course, I have the free will to use it any way I want to, however, any use or care of my physical self that does not fall in line with His wishes would be considered disobedience and even immoral. This body is not mine. It is His.
God gives us clear direction concerning the use of our bodies.  We are called to specifically bring Jesus to the world. He explains how our bodies are to be used for that purpose:

• “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
• “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
• “…yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
• “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
• “For I know well the plans I have for you…” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Action plans for the month of May:
1. Save this message and read it one time every day in May.
2. Notice key words or phrases (“your spiritual worship”; “you are not your own”; “no longer I, but Christ”; “before I formed you”; “plans I have for you.”)
3. Make a commitment today to never, ever use your body for anything without first asking God His plan.
My God has provided me with a physical body to accomplish the works HE has given me to do.  But this body is not mine.  It belongs to Him!

Safe Environment Audit

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by Deacon Michael Straub, Human Resources Director and Safe Environment Coordinator

The Diocese of Shreveport participates in an annual audit on its safe environment program (Protecting God’s Children). Since the program’s inception in 2002, the diocese has been found fully compliant with each of the 17 articles of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. During this past audit period, which ended June 30, 2011, we were found to be again fully compliant in our training of adults and children and our background check processes. Unfortunately we were found to be noncompliant in regards to one requirement. Our Permanent Review Board is required to meet at least once each year and they did not meet within this audit period. Upon discovering this mistake we quickly assembled our review board, as required, which placed us back into full compliance with the charter.

The Permanent Review Board is an integral part of the diocese’s response to claims of abuse of a minor as outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  Even though the required yearly meeting was not held, the Permanent Review Board of the diocese was formed and ready to fulfill its responsibilities. This board consists of experienced professionals from law enforcement, legal council, and mental health disciplines specializing in child abuse trauma and family counseling.

In other aspects of the audit the dioceses of the United States have the option to have their audits also at the parish level. Only a third of the dioceses chose to have the audit firm enter their parishes. We are and will continue to be one of these dioceses. We have also been given recognition for our additional actions that go beyond the scope of the charter. We are recognized by the audit firm and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for our extra efforts in training and placing a Local Safe Environment Coordinator in each parish and school to help monitor safe environment compliance. These volunteer coordinators also receive annual reviews and updates and share their techniques for implementing safe environment in their parishes and schools with other coordinators.

Over the past 10 years we have trained almost 5,000 adults to be proactive in creating a safe environment for our children. We will continue to be steadfast in our efforts to provide a safe environment for our children, young people, vulnerable adults and families within our churches, schools and offices.

Bishop’s Reflection (May)

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gives the homily during the Good Friday service, led by Pope Benedict XVI, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gives the homily during the Good Friday service, led by Pope Benedict XVI, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A month or so ago I attended a workshop on priestly celibacy sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.  One of the presenters was Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap., who is the preacher to the papal household, that is, the preacher to the pope. This is an honored position that Father Cantalamessa has held since 1980.  If you watched the Holy Week services from Rome you will notice it was Father Cantalamessa who preached to the Pope on Good Friday. This position is a real reminder that even the Pope is in need of spiritual direction and support.

While I received many insights from this meeting, it was the words of Father Cantalamessa that struck me as profound. His message was one I knew intellectually, but his presentation made it powerfully relevant to me and I think to all of us in today’s world. He said we must remember that “GIFT comes before DUTY.”
This seemingly simple phrase takes us to the heart of our faith. Before we can fully embrace the demands of our faith, we must become aware of and appreciate the Gift of our faith.

What do I mean by “appreciating the Gift of our faith?” I mean we must be thankful for the moments of our Catholic spiritual journey when our faith is as real and as powerful as the first moment we fell in love — that moment in our relationship with God that we suddenly became aware of God’s mercy, God’s help and God’s love and care for us.

This is not just an insight of the mind but also, and maybe more importantly, an experience of the heart. We can be graced with these moments of spiritual insight at any time. We can receive this grace while watching children play, in times of prayer or adoration, even in moments of crisis or unbearable struggle.  For example, perhaps we decide to approach the sacrament of Confession and, without planning, we pour out our hearts about so much that we have been ashamed to confess and then, in hearing the words of absolution, we become overwhelmed with the undeserved but generous gift of God’s mercy and love.  In every case our hearts are filled with a deep sense of thankfulness and we are drawn more deeply into the love of God for each one of us.

In these moments we become aware of the GIFT of God’s love in our lives and when we experience this, the DUTY of our faith is surprisingly less a burden.  When we realize how much we have to be thankful for, that is, how much of our life is a Gift, then we find a new capacity for generosity that frees us to share more joyfully with those in need.   This is the source of a spirit-filled Church.  When we understand and experience the GIFT of our faith, then DUTY becomes an ACT OF LOVE!  The question then changes from a minimal one of obligation, “What do I have to do?” that just wants an answer, to a different question, “What does God call me to do?,” which requires a conversation in prayer to answer.

Father Cantalamessa reminded us of this scripture: “Love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he has loved us first.” (1 John 4:10) If there is to be a new evangelization, if we are going to breathe new life into our hearts of faith and into the life of our Church, then it must begin here.  We must ask in prayer for hearts of flesh and not hearts of stone. We should pray to God to give us the grace of a renewed appreciation of the Gift of our faith. The New Evangelization begins in our hearts and minds. The New Evangelization begins with hearts full of love, love that comes from an understanding that the Gift, the love of God, came first, before the requirements of love. The wonderful, freeing, unexpected twist is that when we appreciate the GIFT of our faith as Catholics, the obligation of DUTY is replaced by the invitation of Love.

La Reflexión del Obispo

por Obispo Michael G. Duca

Padre Raniero Cantalamessa (CNS photo/Gregg McIntosh)

Hace alrededor de un mes participé en un taller sobre el celibato en el sacerdocio patrocinado por la universidad de Notre Dame. Uno de los presentadores fue el Padre Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap., que es predicador a la Casa Papal, o sea predicador del Papa. Esta es una posición honorifica que el Padre Cantalamessa ha tenido desde 1980. Si vieron los servicios en Roma de la Semana Santa se dieron cuenta que era el Padre Cantalamessa quien predicó al Papa el Viernes Santo. Esta posición es un real recordatorio de que aun el Papa está en necesidad de dirección  espiritual y apoyo.

Aunque recibí muchas ideas en esta reunión, las palabras del Padre Cantalamessa fueron las que me llegaron más profundamente. Su mensaje fue uno que yo ya conocía, pero su presentación lo hizo poderosamente relevante hacia mí y pienso que a todos nosotros en este mundo actual. El dijo que debemos recordar que “EL REGALO llega primero que LA OBLIGACION.”

Esta frase aparentemente simple nos lleva al corazón de nuestra fe. Antes que podamos de verdad apreciar las exigencias de nuestra fe, tenemos que estar consientes y apreciar el Regalo de nuestra fe.

¿Que quiero decir con “apreciar el Regalo de nuestra fe?” quiero decir que debemos ser agradecidos por los momentos de nuestro viaje espiritual Católico cuando nuestra fe es tan real y tan poderosa como el primer momento que nos enamoramos – ese momento en nuestra relación con Dios que de pronto nos damos cuenta de la misericordia de Dios, la ayuda de Dios y el amor y cariño que Dios nos tiene.

Esta no es solo una idea de la mente sino también, y tal vez mas importante, es una experiencia del corazón. Podemos recibir la gracia en estos momentos de revelación espiritual en cualquier momento. Podemos recibir esta gracia mientras vemos  niños jugando, en momentos de oración o adoración, aun en momentos de crisis o insoportable sufrimiento. Por ejemplo, tal vez decidimos acercarnos al sacramento de la Confesión y, sin planear, sinceramos nuestros corazones de cómo hemos tenido vergüenza de irnos a confesar y entonces, al escuchar las palabras de absolución, nos abrumamos con el inmerecido pero generoso regalo de la misericordia y amor de Dios. En todo caso nuestros corazones se llenan de un profundo sentido de agradecimiento y nos acercamos más profundamente al amor de Dios por cada uno de nosotros. En estos momentos nos damos cuenta del REGALO del amor de Dios en nuestras vidas y cuando lo experimentamos, la OBLIGACION de nuestra fe es sorpresivamente una carga menos. Cuando nos damos cuenta de cuánto debemos estar agradecidos porque nuestra vida es un Regalo, entonces encontramos una nueva capacidad de generosidad que nos libera para ser mejores gozosamente con los más necesitados. Esta es la fuente de una Iglesia llena del espíritu. Cuando entendemos y experimentamos el REGALO de nuestra fe, entonces LA OBIGACION se convierte en un ¡ACTO DE AMOR! La pregunta entonces cambia de una obligación mínima, “¿Que tengo que hacer?” buscando una respuesta, a una pregunta diferente, “¿Qué me está llamando Dios a hacer?” que para ser contestada requiere de una conversación en oración.

El Padre Cantalamessa nos recordó de esta escritura: “el amor consiste en esto, no que nosotros hemos amado a Dios sino que Él nos amó primero.” (1 Juan 4:10) si ha de haber una nueva evangelización, si vamos a respirar una nueva vida en nuestros corazones de fe y  en la vida de la Iglesia, debemos comenzar aquí. Debemos pedir en oración corazones de carne y no corazones de piedra. Debemos orar a Dios para que nos de la gracia de una apreciación renovada del Regalo de nuestra fe. La Nueva Evangelización comienza en nuestros corazones y en nuestras mentes. La Nueva Evangelización comienza con corazones llenos de amor, amor que viene de un entendimiento que el Regalo, el amor de  Dios vino primero, antes del requisito de amor. El maravilloso, liberador e inesperado giro es que cuando apreciamos el REGALO de nuestra fe como Católicos, la obligación del DEBER es remplazada con la invitación al Amor.

Maronite Patriarch: Pope to Visit Lebanon Sept. 14-16

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

by Catholic News Service

BEIRUT (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will visit Lebanon Sept. 14-16, Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai announced during Easter Mass at the patriarchal seat in Bkerke, Lebanon. Patriarch Rai said April 8 that the pope will meet with the country’s religious and civil officials, including President Michel Sleiman, a Maronite Catholic. During an open-air Mass in Beirut Sept. 16, the pope will present the apostolic exhortation on the October 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which met under the theme: “Communion and Witness.” In a statement, Sleiman said the pope’s visit would affirm the depth of the “historical relations that tie Lebanon with the (Vatican) and will form an occasion to focus on Lebanon’s position, message and role as a witness of freedom and coexistence.” It marks the pope’s second visit to the Middle East; in May 2009 he visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The announcement comes amid increased concern over the plight of Christians across the Middle East, emigrating in increasing numbers. Of Lebanon’s population of nearly 4 million, approximately 33 percent are Christian, considered a high estimate. Half a century ago, Christians represented about half the population. In Iraq, a Christian exodus since the American-led invasion in 2003 has reduced the Iraqi Christian population by two-thirds. In an interview with Vatican Radio broadcast April 9, Archbisop Paul Sayah, vicar general of the Maronite Patriarchate, said the pope’s visit would “inject a new dynamism,” not only in the Lebanese society and Christians, but in the whole region.

Catholic Residents are New Face of Natural Family Planning

Resident physicians Brooke Jemelka, Gavin Puthoff and Alexis Simon stand around Carmen Hinze as the proud father, Dan, looks on in her recovery room after she delivered her son at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

by Catholic News Service

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — It was a month before she had to decide her specialty in medical school, and Brooke Jemelka found herself at a crossroads. She had been concentrating on pediatrics during her studies at Texas A&M University, but by the end of her third year, she was starting to question what she wanted to do with her life. Then she delivered her first baby, “and my whole life changed,” said Jemelka, a native of Yoakum, TX. As a Catholic, she was involved in pro-life activities, including sidewalk counseling, pro-life rallies and more. It was later that she realized that was preparing the way for a future in obstetrics and gynecology. “I felt like there was no way I could not be doing God’s work,” she said in an interview with the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Today, Jemelka is one of six — yes, six — resident physicians in the OB/GYN Residency Program at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis who plan to specialize in natural family planning, or NFP, in their future practices. As part of their training, the residents currently are caring for uninsured and underinsured women who come to Mercy’s JFK Clinic. Each of them has a different story of how they became involved in medicine, but all of them agree that God put them in the place where they’re at now for a reason. While doctors in St. Louis and around the nation who specialize in natural methods of fertility care are still considered the minority, all of these residents have encountered many women who want to know the truth about their fertility through the use of NFP.

Red Mass to Celebrate 20th Anniversary

The Annual Western Deanery Red Mass, honoring judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers and public officials is in its 20th year.

by John Mark Willcox

For a twentieth year, Red Mass in the Western Deanery will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in downtown Shreveport on Friday, May 4, at 9:00 a.m. This is a votive Mass offered to invoke the Holy Spirit as the source of wisdom, understanding, counsel and fortitude. Red Mass is sponsored annually by the Red Mass Society and Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

The Red Mass is offered throughout the world with the primary purpose of evoking God’s blessing and guidance in the administration of justice. Since the thirteenth century, scarlet vestments have been worn by the celebrants of this Mass which symbolize tongues of fire representing the Holy Spirit.  In ancient times the robes of the attending judges were also bright red, thus providing an additional reason for the name of this event.

Bishop Michael G. Duca will be the principal celebrant and homilist for this year’s Red Mass. He will assist the members of the bar in honoring Samaritan International for their medical ministry and ongoing efforts to promote social justice throughout the world.  Dr. William Norwood will represent Samaritan International for the award having served within the organization for many years.  Dr. Norwood helped to pioneer laparoscopic surgery centers in the former Soviet Union which have greatly reduced mortality rates for surgery in the region. He has also worked with several of our diocesan priests, assisting with some 40 orphanages located in the Ukraine.

The Annual Red Mass is a public, ecumenical worship service and people of all faiths are invited to participate in this special blessing for judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers and public officials.

St. Joseph Student Named State Student of the Year

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Just an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. This is Harris LeBlanc, St. Joseph School 8th Grader and St. Joseph Church parishioner. Harris was named the 8th Grade Student of the Year for all private schools in the state of Louisiana. This honor was achieved not only by his exceptional academic performance, but also by his involvement in his church and community. Congratulations to Harris, his parents Cliff and Colleen LeBlanc. He has represented St. Joseph School and the Diocese of Shreveport very well.

Loyola Opens New Cafeteria

For months, Loyola’s students have watched as the newest addition to the Loyola campus – the cafeteria/community center – was being built. On April 3 the Flyers found out that it was worth the wait as the lunch was served in the building for the first time. Students and faculty alike were all thrilled with the new building, which is located behind the gym.

The new cafeteria features 5,000 square feet of dining space and well as a completely modern kitchen and cooking facilities.
Loyola has not had a new dining facility for its students since the present building was constructed in 1938.

The new cafeteria/community center is part of Phase I of the Loyola Forever Capital Campaign. The school gym was renovated during 2011.