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Bishop Duca Reflects on Our Diocesan Stewardship Appeal

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 More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Letting Go of “Mine” for the Glory of God’s Work

by Bishop Michael G. Duca Maybe the first surprise to new parents is that children are born wild – not tame. I don’t mean this in a bad sense, but our first More »

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Faith Partners for Progress: Catholics Charities of North Louisiana and Society of St. Vincent de Paul

by Bonnie Martinez  The Western District Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been awarded a $5,000 systemic change grant by the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent More »

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Pro-Life Events Evolving in 2018: An Interview with Bishop Michael G. Duca

by Jessica Rinaudo As the Diocese of Shreveport continues to support and champion pro-life efforts in 2018, Bishop Duca is planning to keep awareness of the issue at the forefront but now More »

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Discerning a Vocation in College

by Raney Johnson, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian Some young men discover their calling to the priesthood in high school and decide to enter the seminary right after graduating from high school. However, More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Courageously Ask for God’s Opinion

by Mike Van Vranken Someone recently asked me what he could do differently for Lent. I suggested he think of a moral issue about which he’s always had a definite opinion, and More »

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Bishop’s January Reflection: Make Small Commitments for Big Changes

by Bishop Michael G. Duca As you receive this Catholic Connection, I suppose we are all well into our New Year’s resolutions. Changes are tricky things because we often have a strong More »

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Discerning a Vocation in High School

by Raney Johnson, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian High school can be a fun but stressful time. Life can easily become consumed with classes, extracurricular activities, jobs and finding moments to spend time More »

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50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

by John Parker On July 25th 1968, Pope Paul VI issued a brief but controversial document that shook the secular and ecclesial world. The document was Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life, and More »

Appeal Supports Pro-Life

With the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and the pro-life marches across the nation in January, it is good to be reminded that your Appeal donation helps provide effective billboard promotion of pro-life causes, and assists with the bi-annual Pro-Life Banquet scheduled to take place this year at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport on Thursday, January 31, 2013.

Appeal dollars also provide our worship locations with pro-life materials and information while supporting the annual mission of the National Committee for Human Life and the Louisiana Catholic Conference Pro-Life Committee and their January “March for Life” in Baton Rouge.  In addition, our diocese collaborates in the annual pro-life oratory contest hosted each year in Shreveport at the Catholic Center. This oratory contest has been a tradition in our diocese for many years, and is held for the high-school-aged youth of our region.

John Mark Willcox is the Director of Stewardship & Development. To give to the annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal that supports ministries like these, visit www.dioshpt.org/stewardship/stewardship.html.

Year of Faith Saint: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C.
Founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. Considered founder of the Catholic School system in the U.S.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the charming “belle of the ball” as a young woman in New York City, linked to all the first families. At the age of 19, she fell in love and married the wealthy, handsome William Magee Seton. The two had a very happy marriage, raising five children. Ten years after they were married, William’s business and health both failed, and Elizabeth was left a poor widow with five children to raise alone. Her love for the Eucharist led her to convert to Catholicism. She founded the first order of religious women in America, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, a religious community based on the Rule of St. Vincent De Paul. She was able to still raise her children, as well as live the life of a sister and found several schools. She became the cofounder of the first free Catholic School in America. Her legacy now includes six religious communities with more than 5,000 members, hundreds of schools, social service centers and hospitals throughout America and around the world.
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops & setonheritage.org

Documents of Vatican II: Lumen Gentium

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

by Mike Van Vranken

Christ is the light of the nations…” begins the opening lines of what has been called the centerpiece of all documents of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council.  The official title: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, hints at a formal expression of theological explanations and mystical direction of what we know as the Catholic Church. However, Lumen Gentium (Light of Nations), as it is informally known, reveals an explicit picture of how the Church views the meaning and purpose of itself.  Additionally, it is written in very easy to understand terms that are all supported by dozens of scripture references validating its remarkable insights.  Finally, it fosters the much-needed “fresh air” of the Holy Spirit as expressed by Pope John XXIII before the council began.

In her book The Road to Vatican II, Maureen Sullivan sees the overarching theme of this document to be the Church’s self-evaluation of the need for a major “…transition from a hierarchical model to a communitarian model.”  In other words, the religious, the clergy and the laity are all the people of God and are all called to holiness. Using 1 Peter 2:9, the writers of the document acknowledge the distinction between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial, or ordained, priesthood. Yet, they also stress the shared responsibilities of praying and evangelizing by clergy and laity alike.  The document stresses that “ministers invested with a sacred power, are at the service of their brothers and sisters” so the combined efforts of clergy and laity will pursue the common goal of salvation.

In addition to its focus that we all are the people of God, Lumen Gentium explains the Church as a sacrament of our salvation.  It describes the Church as a sign and an instrument that places us in communion with God – united with God and the entire human race.  And, as the Church is united with his body (the body of Christ), the Church itself becomes a sacrament.

The fathers of the council also projected our understanding of the Church to be a mystery. In essence, as a mystery, the Church contains the hidden presence of God revealed to us throughout our lives. Karl Rahner explained mystery as something that cannot be contained by a single definition. Maureen Sullivan uses the example that the Bible sometimes describes God “… as an eagle, or a rock, or a mother who never forgets her child.”  In short, this real Church in our real world enables us to experience the spiritual reality of God in our daily lives.

The document also details the significance of the local Church and its relationship to the universal Church. In this effort, we see explanations of several functions of the clergy and the laity.  We find a focus on the importance of including the laity in the work of the Church in the modern world.  It could be explained that the clergy are responsible for bringing Christ to the laity. The laity are responsible for bringing Christ into the world.

In this Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the fathers of Vatican II responded to the task of viewing and explaining the life of the Church with all its structures, with all its relationships and with all its ministries that ultimately reveal the salvation act of Jesus Christ, who is the light to all the nations.

Epiphany: Departing Another Way

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Photo: (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Epiphany, the commemoration of the Wise Men finding the Christ Child, is January 6th! In my short life I’ve not seen this event given much thought, let alone laud, among secular society. Outside of its Christian context, the word epiphany connotes a striking and significant revelation, especially one born of ordinary circumstances. It’s a lightning strike of deeper insight into a situation – the classic “AHA! moment” that comes out of the blue. Though often unexpected, an epiphany usually calls for a deeper understanding of an idea in order for the light to suddenly turn on in our minds. For any person or situation, the common epiphany is a life-changing event, compelling one to live or approach obstacles in a new way.

It’s fascinating how the secular understanding of epiphany makes sense in light of its biblical origin: the Wise Men anticipated the birth of the King of the Jews and had studied prophecies indicating the rise of a star corresponding with “a scepter [rising] out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Their background knowledge provided fertile ground for receiving news of Jesus’ birth. So immersed were they in the predictions that when the fateful star finally appeared, they left without hesitation to find the Christ Child, undaunted by the long trip and upheld by their determination. Upon finding him, the Wise Men presented Christ with the finest gifts they could offer and humbly worshiped him. Because King Herod would have used the Wise Men to find and kill the infant Jesus, the Magi departed for home by a route that circumvented Herod, ultimately protecting Christ’s life. This original Epiphany cultivated the highest meaning of approaching life in a different way.

The more I think about the Visit of the Wise Men from the Gospel of Matthew, the more clearly I see that the account provides insight into what should occur in our own souls when we encounter Christ. Christ can be seen in every moment of our lives; most commonly in our vocations, but also our children, work places and strangers; in moments of quiet and chaos, in company or solitude. The way we should react should mimic the behavior of the Wise Men. How well do we study Christ so that when we do encounter him, we are ready to respond immediately and humbly? Do we give Christ the finest we can offer of ourselves – our time and devotion, our gratitude and especially the willingness to give up our sins? When obstacles come in the way of maintaining our relationship with Christ, do we avoid them as the Wise Men did King Herod on their return home?
The story of Epiphany is ideal for Christians to hold themselves accountable, but it should especially compel Catholics to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Uprooting sins, avoiding occasions of sin and amending our ways will protect the life of Christ within us. More importantly, we encounter Jesus in the Mass and Eucharist, which is the physical reception of Christ into our being. After beholding the Lamb of God, worshiping him, and receiving him, shouldn’t our souls imitate the Wise Men, by also departing another way?

Katie Sciba is the author of thecatholicwife.net. She lives in Shreveport with her husband, Andrew, and two sons, Liam and Thomas.

Second Collections: Diocese of Shreveport Catholic Schools

I am grateful for this opportunity to wish each and everyone one of our readers a happy and blessed New Year! Now that the hustle and bustle of pre-Christmas Day preparations are over, we can at last slow down and enjoy the actual Christmas season.  We are blessed to walk ever more closely with the Lord Jesus in this “Year of Faith.”

We begin this year supporting a pastoral endeavor that brings the wonder of God and His creation to our always interesting children, teenagers and young adults. Our first Second Collection of the year is for the support of Catholic Schools in our diocese.  We support our Catholic Schools whether our children have long moved on from them or are yet traversing that interesting world of Christian learning.

One of the wonders of this New Year is the inspiration and holy activity of Catholic schools. Our Catholic schools are there working wonders in our lives, in the Church and in the good of society.  Conscious of them or not, Catholic Schools, like the Holy Spirit, are operating at the center of our spiritual activity in seen, unseen and transformative ways.

There are principals who minister to teachers, support staff, students, parents and supporters alike. They wonderfully oversee the life and mission of our schools and its inhabitants. There are teachers who minister to students, their families, one another, and the Catholic and civic communities in which their school resides.  There are students who through the varying stages of human development imbue the school with vitality, curiosity, joy, determination and challenge. There are so many others who are part of this pastoral ministry called Catholic education.

Please contribute generously to this Second Collection for our diocesan Catholic Schools. Lend your heart and treasure to Our Lady of Fatima School, Jesus the Good Shepherd School and St. Frederick’s High School in Monroe. Extend the same generosity to St. Joseph School, St. John Berchmans Cathedral School and Loyola College Prep in Shreveport.  Funds from this second collection also go to the Bishop’s Tuition Assistance Fund to help qualifying families send their children to Catholic school.

Amazingly, our diocese is a veritable beehive of this spiritual, ministerial, pastoral and educational activity to the children and youth of our region.

Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General, is the Director of Special Collections.

Defining Your Life in 2013

This is the Year of Faith and can be for us a year of love for Christ and others. Think about life’s defining moments and how they brought great meaning into our lives. Now, where are we today? What is the special and new defining moment for us? Our happiness is found in the ordinary moments of our lives.

Of course nothing will ever be the same again, and it’s not meant to be. Why do we tend to fear change so much? We must choose to make those changes as we age because no one can do it for us.

I found a lovely definition of change. “Change is something better that lies ahead and one can feel it awakening inside of you. You know you can’t go backward and you can’t stand still in this moment. You know peace will only come when you open your wings and fly on life’s changing winds.” Unknown Author

Become like the bee, eat nectar and make honey. We can only make our honey after taking everything in from our experiences: the experience of new teeth, a blood transfusion, heart surgery, knee replacement and learning how to cope with each; the positive moments after a family member visits you, brings you flowers, a new red hat, takes you out to dinner.

One of the statements at the World Synod of Bishops after Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed 2013 the Year of Faith was: “We are called to stir the embers of faith and bring new enthusiasm, new zeal and new energy to living our lives of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.” It’s one of my favorite statements and my resolution is to try to live in this way. In 2013 I shall celebrate my 60th anniversary of religious life. Perhaps you too are celebrating something important in your life. God’s grace has been with each of us.

If old age has invaded your life, refuse to let it touch your spirit. Let us reflect with St. Ephrem who compared an aging person’s life to the fingers of our hands: both to emphasize that its length is no more than a span and to indicate that each phase of life, like the different fingers, has its particular character and represents the different seasons we live through. As we passed through the seasons of life, God gifted us according to our abilities and with the necessary skills to cope. God not only loved us, but placed His hand upon each of us.

I wish you all that is beautiful and great for 2013. Let our goal for the new year, the Year of Faith, be to grow closer to God, to be filled with new energy and zeal. Keep well, wise, happy and whole. Share your truth, beauty and goodness with everyone.

Sr. Martinette Rivers is a Sister of Our Lady of Sorrows and a spiritual gerontologist. She currently resides in Rimini, Italy.

Download Yourself and Christ’s Spirit Into the World

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by Bishop Michael Duca

Today I received a personal “tweet” from the Holy Father, Benedict XVI.  Well, maybe personal is not exactly accurate; it was a personal message to over 1 million followers throughout the world in 10 languages. In just a few minutes our Holy Father made contact with over 1 million listeners with a message of hope and a proclamation that Jesus is “the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.” Benedict XVI tweet #1 12/12/12

Reading the Pope’s tweet made me aware of all the good we can accomplish today with technological advances.  But I also considered how much has changed in my life technologically in just a relatively few years. I first connected to the Internet in 1995, and in just 16 years, I find myself caressing my cell phone at times like Gollum caressed his “Precious” in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This change has not only happened fast, but it has happened without any real consideration of how these changes have affected my spiritual life.

I remember when answering machines first came out that I did not get one right away. This worked okay for a while until my parishioners became angry at me.  It turns out they had developed an expectation that they should be able to “get my machine” when they called, so I, in turn, could call them and leave a message on their machine.  In the end I got a machine and have been hooked to it ever since in all its developmental stages: from machines, to email, to texting to, well, whatever comes next.  I have been pulled onto this fast moving train and I am not sure where it is taking my soul or, even worse, where it has already taken my soul.

Why is this important? It is noted in some studies that those who use technology regularly average 70 minutes a day on the web and/or 127 minutes on mobile apps and/or 168 minutes on TV.  That could add up to almost two to six hours of our day.  One study says a person with a smart phone looks at their cell phone 150 times a day. Or, even more sobering, it is estimated that 40 million adults regularly visit Internet pornography websites, and 47% of Christians polled in a study said Internet pornography was a problem in their household.

Spiritually these statistics show our technology can have a deep effect on our family and on our spiritual lives. To me the most unnoticed effect is how the technology begins to direct and shape our lives slowly so that the center of our motivation is more in the texts we receive, the emails that demand response and the constant need to stay immediately connected.

This year take stock of how connected you are. Try this as a spiritual exercise: for one day (or more if you are willing) only use your phone for making phone calls and staying in contact with family and friends.  If you can ignore your email for a day or two, do so.  If you cannot then do not look at your email until after 11:00 a.m., or not until you have planned your day or accomplished some task of your choosing.  Do not surf the web or use any other app for the day.

I once read in a spiritual book that we need to be aware of whether we live by reacting or responding. To react is to act based on the problem outside, the need or expectation of another.  To live reactionary is to always find our motivation for our choices outside of ourselves. To respond, on the other hand, is to author our lives from within based on our values and faith.

If you step away from your technology for a day and find yourself lost and confused then it is possible you are letting your technology lead you.  You are reacting to all the INPUT into your life rather than recreating the world around you with the spirit of Christ from within. We should be downloading ourselves and Christ’s spirit into the world and not be allowing the world and its values to be downloaded into our souls.

In today’s time we are being challenged in every way as Catholics, as disciples of Jesus Christ. We must prepare ourselves by developing a deep inner strength and direction in our lives. Technology will help us but it will always betray us unless we are sure of where our true strength is. We need to have a clear understanding that, as the Holy Father tweeted, Jesus is “the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.” Benedict XVI tweet #1 12/12/12

Descarga ti mismo y el espíritu de Cristo en el mundo

por Obispo Michael G. Duca

Hoy recibí un mensaje personal de “tweed” del Santo padre, Benedicto XVI. Bueno, no exactamente personal; fue un mensaje personal a más de un millón de seguidores en 10 idiomas a todo el mundo. En solo pocos minutos nuestro Santo padre hizo contacto con más de un millón de seguidores con un mensaje de esperanza y una proclamación que Jesús es “la roca sólida en la que podemos construir nuestras vidas y su amor es siempre fiel.” Benedicto XVI tweed #1 12/12/12

Leer el mensaje del Papa me hizo darme cuenta de todo lo bueno que podemos hacer hoy con los avances de la tecnología. Pero también me puso a pensar de cuanto ha cambiado mi vida la tecnología en solo unos cuantos años. Me conecté por primera vez a la internet en 1995 y en solo 16 años y a veces estoy acariciando mi celular como Gollum acarició su “precioso” en Tolkien en la película de Lord of the Rings. Este cambio no ha sucedido solamente rápido, sino que ha pasado sin una verdadera consideración de cuantos cambios han afectado mi vida espiritual.

Recuerdo cuando salieron las primeras contestadoras de teléfono y yo no compré una rápido. Así estuve por un tiempito hasta que mis feligreses se enojaron conmigo. Sucede que ellos ya se habían formado una expectativa que “podían encontrarme con la contestadora” cuando me llamaran, así mismo, yo podía llamarles y dejar mensaje en su máquina. A fin de cuentas compré una contestadora y desde entonces estoy conectado en todos los cambios que ha tenido: primero  máquina contestadora, luego el email, ahora el texto y bueno en lo que salga después. Ya me he metido en este tren rápido y no estoy seguro a donde lleva mi alma o, aun peor, a donde ha llevado ya mi alma.

¿Por qué es esto importante? Se han hecho estudios de gente que usa la tecnología regularmente unos 70 minutos al día en internet y/o 127 minutos en las aplicaciones del celular y/o 168 minutos viendo la televisión que puede ser un total de 2-6 horas de cada día. Un estudio dice que una persona con un teléfono inteligente voltea a ver su teléfono 150 veces al día. O, aun nos da más que pensar, que 40 millones de adultos visitan los sitios pornográficos de Internet, y 47% en un estudio de una votación de Cristianos dijeron que tenían pornografía de internet en su hogar.

Espiritualmente estas estadísticas nos muestran que la tecnología puede tener un efecto profundo en nuestra familia y en nuestra vida espiritual. Para mí el efecto que menos tomamos en cuenta es como la tecnología comienza  a dirigir y dar forma a nuestras vidas lentamente, que el centro de nuestra motivación es más que los textos que recibimos, los emails que exigen una respuesta y la necesidad constante de permanecer completamente conectados.

Este año haz un recuento de cuánto estas conectado. Haz esto como un ejercicio espiritual: por un día (si estás dispuesto) solo usa tu teléfono para hacer llamadas y mantenerte en contacto con tu familia y amigos. Si puedes ignorar tu email por un día o dos, hazlo. Si no puedes entonces ve tu email hasta después de las 11:00 a.m. o hasta que hayas planeado tu día o hecho otras cosas que escojas hacer. No busques en el internet o uses ninguna otra aplicación por el resto el día.

Una vez leí en un libro espiritual que necesitamos darnos cuenta si vivimos para reaccionar o para responder. Reaccionar es actuar basados en el problema de afuera, la necesidad o expectativa de los demás. Vivir reaccionando es encontrar siempre nuestra motivación en las opciones de fuera de nosotros. Responder, al contrario, es ser el autor de nuestras vidas desde dentro basados en nuestros valores y Fe.

Si te alejas de la tecnología por un día y te sientes perdido y confundido entonces es posible que estas dejando que la tecnología te dirija. Estas reaccionando a todo el APORTE en tu vida en vez de crear un mundo a tu alrededor con el espíritu de Cristo desde dentro. Deberíamos descargarnos en el espíritu de Cristo en el mundo y no permitir que el mundo y sus valores se descarguen en nuestras almas.

En los tiempos de hoy tenemos desafíos en todos los aspectos como católicos, como discípulos de Jesucristo. Debemos prepararnos para desarrollar una fuerza interna y dirección en nuestras vidas. La tecnología nos ayudará pero siempre nos va a traicionar a menos que estemos seguros de donde esta nuestra verdadera fuerza. Necesitamos tener un claro entendimiento que, como el Santo Padre nos dijo en su mensaje de tweed, Jesús es “la roca sólida en la cual construimos nuestras vidas y su amor es siempre fiel.” Benedicto XVI tweed #1 12/12/12

Bishops OK First New Preaching Document in 30 years

by Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The U.S. bishops approved their first new document in 30 years on preaching Nov. 13, the second day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. The document, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily,” encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people’s daily lives. The vote was 227-11, with four abstentions. Approval required two-thirds of the membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or 182 votes. The document was prepared by the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. During discussion on the document Nov. 13, the bishops accepted a plea from Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., to include his amendment urging Catholics to make an extra effort to listen to the homilies of foreign-born priests for whom English or Spanish is not their first language. Those priests’ speech “may have a heavy accent that the congregation cannot understand,” Bishop Ramirez said. “We have many foreign priests coming to work in our dioceses,” he added. “Even though it takes an extra effort to understand what they are saying, they have wisdom. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit. … The people have to make an extra effort to understand their wisdom.”

Cardinal Sees Solidarity, Compassion in Sandy Recovery

by Catholic News Service

Outreach Center set up in Staten Island. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

NEW YORK (CNS) — Everywhere Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he has gone to visit people and communities in the hurricane-ravaged areas, he has heard stories “not just of the pain and destruction caused by Sandy, but the overwhelming goodness of people in helping those in need.” He made the comments in a statement to announce the success of a special collection to respond to individuals, parishes, Catholic institutions, charities and community organizations harmed by Sandy. Cardinal Dolan asked that all of the archdiocese’s nearly 375 parishes hold a special collection the weekends of Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 10-11. Pastors were already “reporting a generous response from the people to this special appeal for help,” the cardinal’s announcement said. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation and the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal will each contribute an additional $500,000 to the relief fund. Cardinal Dolan praised the response of individuals and agencies alike to the devastation and hardship caused by the super storm. “Catholic Charities and our parishes are doing a magnificent job in reaching out and providing help to people… as are so many other agencies and individuals,” he said. “This new fund will augment those efforts already under way in providing direct aid where it is needed most.” A board of pastors from those areas of the archdiocese most affected by the hurricane will oversee distribution of the funds to ensure they go to the people and institutions most in need of help with their recovery efforts. “We have an obligation — a sacred duty — to help those who are hurting,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The efforts of the Catholic Church, along with so many other organizations and individuals, are helping us to fulfill this responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in need.”