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 »

Labor of Love

By Kate Rhea

One important facet of restoring and preserving cemeteries involves the physical upkeep of the stones and markers representing the interred. St. Joseph Cemetery is over 125 years old and features thousands of beautiful, but timeworn gravestones in need of periodic restoration.

Regular maintenance provided by the diocese has always included grounds maintenance; road maintenance, straightening of stones, cutting grass, planting and caring for trees and other plants that have grown over time. But more recently, the diocese has been implementing a more meticulous aspect of maintenance at St. Joseph by having stones professionally cleaned.

Over the years, grave markers have been composed of different materials, each of which has a specific need when it comes to being cleaned. Marble, granite, limestone, and sandstone each require a different cleaning technique and while some family members are able to tend to the stones of their departed loved ones themselves, many markers of those interred at St. Joseph have been left needing a bit of help to stay tidy.

One need only stroll down the paths of St. Joseph to understand the importance of the beauty and reverence that emanates from a well-loved Catholic cemetery. These holy spaces were selected with care and intent by the hard-working Catholic faithful of decades past. Keeping their markers intact, legible, and clean is a duty the diocese takes seriously and with great honor.

With the ongoing restoration of the Yellow Fever priests’ graves, the diocese is still managing to develop a plan for cleaning more of the headstones in the coming months and years. Donations which specifically target this new project will be applied accordingly. The diocese is grateful for all of the support for the ongoing projects in connection with St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery. To stay informed of the progress and to be notified about upcoming events and initiatives, please e-mail Kate Rhea at: krhea@dioshpt.org to be added to our email list.

The average cost for cleaning a stone and/or statue is $100.00 while double slab stones are $150.00. When we have to call in stone experts to re-erect or re-attach a tombstone the cost rises.  If families wish to cover the cost of these cleanings and repairs it will allow us to focus on those that do not still have family in the area.  If you would like to help support these efforts please make your tax deductible donation to Diocese of Shreveport, St. Joseph Cemetery and mail to 3500 Fairfield Avenue, Shreveport, LA 71104.

Icons – Showing Me a Way….

By Kim Long

I joked, half-heartedly, about my upcoming trip to Russia and my plan to ditch optional clothing in order to have more room in my luggage to bring back icons. I did exactly that-two tee shirts, a sweater, and one pair of leggings later my suitcase barely closed.

I have not always appreciated icons. When I encountered my first one in the 1980s, I dropped it like a hot Irish potato. They were too severe, too elegant, too honest, too much. Not understanding the point of iconography I defaulted to the familiar images holy cards sported…the manly Jesus and the almost child-like images of Mary, and the earnest and careworn saints, weary from all that interceding.

In our parish gift shop, the icons were suspended on invisible hooks, lining an entire wall. They were beginning to speak to me. Later, I bought a triptych I was particularly fond of. In the early days, I was still not completely comfortable with them so I relegated them to the Easter season, hauling them out and using them to guide me through  the fifty days. They have turned out to be very good travel companions as we navigated our return to ordinary time. A lovely silver one of the Blessed Mother which could not find a home now rests in the center of my icon wall, my nod to the elaborate and holy iconostasis in all Orthodox churches.

Twenty years later, I began to listen as the icons tried whispering again.

My mother and I had a very difficult relationship as adults; a dynamic I fervently want to avoid with my own children. After her death, I realized we had left some things too late and they would never be resolved here in this plane of existence. Therapy helped, as did confession, both with a priest and my girlfriends complete with appetizers and glasses upon glasses of red wine.

Then, something happened. I don’t recall the nature of the trigger, it could have been a song, the feel of the day, even the particular way the wind brushed my check, once surfaced, it could not be ignored. The wounded emotions, the heavy heart, my mouth quickly filling with the taste of ashy regret all ganged up on me and the day became unbearable. In an effort to regain control, I refocused and dialed down on work.

Often I seek inspiration from other church’s bulletins, my effort to think outside the box, to see what the rest of the “God business” has going on, which is exactly what I was thinking when I pulled up the online bulletin of St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church in Shreveport. In it was a small blurb informing all that a miracle-working icon was to be traveling through the area and that very day it would be in Shreveport for only a couple of hours. I bolted with no hesitation and soon I walked through the door of St. Nicholas.

The priest recognized me as a visitor, welcomed me, and gave me information on this icon, known as the Kursk Root Icon, the single most beautiful item I had ever seen; sky blue enamelwork and ornate trim framed the blessed Mother and child whose eyes seemed to rest on me alone.

Suddenly the weight of this burden was completely unwelcome. I asked, begged, entreated, the Blessed Mother to help ease it. Concentrating on the sound of my breathing, an image formed in my mind’s eye-a strong, thick, green stem with tiny leaves growing from it. The whole image was vibrant with life and was glowing and slightly backlit. I would unpack this symbolism later but for now, I felt a smile break across my face and I held the image there gazing upon it, feeling peace being restored to my soul, my mind and my heart.

I cannot know how long or short a time I sat this way. When I opened my eyes the icon seemed to beckon me, this time I did not hesitate. The peace I felt remained with me throughout the day, for weeks and several months. The icon’s beauty, however, remains. This is what I wanted to bring home from Russia. I searched high and low and showed the image via screenshot on my phone to everyone. No one seemed to have seen or even heard of it before.

One of our last tours was to the oldest active monastery in Russia, Sergei Posad. I asked the tour guide if she had ever seen this icon. She immediately turned to our local guide and I saw a smile of recognition fall over the woman’s face. Yes, she knew the icon. It was dear to the hearts of Russian Orthodox in countries outside of Russia, very popular she said. I asked if she knew if I might find it and she smiled and said perhaps–ask in the shops. Later, we were given “free time” to shop or explore or walk around with our mouths hanging open, slack-jawed at the immensity of Russia’s beauty and stumble from one gilded onion dome to the next. I ducked into one of the shops. No luck. Then like Hansel and Gretel, I followed a breadcrumb trail to the next shop which was stuffed with icons of all shapes, sizes, and prices. I had nothing to lose with yet another inquiry “Do you have this icon?” I offered my phone with the screenshot of the longed-for icon. “Da Da. Yes.” “Spasiba-thank you,” I said. And there it was, the same beautiful image which haunted my prayers.

At home, I hung my new icons on my “icon wall.” Prayers of thanksgiving floated around me. Not only for the appreciation of icons and their whispered lessons but also gratitude for the faith of the people who still engage in this timeless practice. The iconographer writes the icon, as the creative process is called. Icons are a window into heaven, the doorway to the mystery. The icons have my full attention now; no longer are they too much. Instead, they center me, reminding me of the sacred wonder. Please God, never let me lose that. AMEN.

 

“In your presence, there is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16

Called to Obedience

By Seminarian Nicholas Duncan

This summer I was assigned to a pastoral internship at Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe. I was active in Vacation Bible School, youth ministry, and serving the Holy Mass. The parishioners have often thanked me for assisting in their parish. This gave me a weird feeling because they thanked me as if I chose to come to their parish this summer out of all the parishes in the diocese. But, I didn’t choose to go there. I was assigned to the parish. If you want to thank somebody, thank Father Jerry Daigle, the Vocation Director and my boss. He’s the one that makes the assignments. The academic year comes and goes at seminaries like it does at any other institution of higher education. It has fall/spring semesters with winter/summer breaks. However, these “breaks” may be time away from the seminary, but they are not free. It is not time off to do whatever your heart desires. The diocese that sponsors you gives you an assignment. These may include Spanish immersion in Mexico, or summer school at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) in Omaha Nebraska. My assignment just happened to be a parish assignment this summer.

I frequently get asked what am I planning to do once I finish seminary: “Will I remain in the Diocese of Shreveport?” or “Do I plan to come back to their area possibly to their church?” What they don’t realize is that I have already made my decision. I have already chosen to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport, and, God willing, in three years I will be ordained a priest. The future Bishop of Shreveport will decide what my first assignment will be, as well as the second, third, and fourth. I might be consulted on what I would like to do or what I believe my strengths are in ministry, but these decisions will ultimately be made by the bishop and his successors. The promise of obedience that is taken is actually quite freeing. I will not have to worry about where I see myself in five to 10 years or how the demographics of the business/industry are changing. I just have to discern whether God is calling me to become a priest for the Diocese of Shreveport and trust in the Holy Spirit from thereafter.

This decision is not to be made lightly. In seminary you are given a lot of time to determine what your calling is, four to five years is the minimum sometimes it is more than a decade. This is part of the reason I get so angry when I hear about priests abandoning the priesthood, such as the celebrity priest who is a contributor to Fox News, Father Jonathan Morris. He announced that he was leaving the priesthood last May after being a priest for 17 years. Many in the media and blogosphere have praised Father Morris for following his heart, but I don’t agree with that at all. It makes me angry. This response might seem to be lacking in compassion. But, if a young married man with a baby and a four year old child leaves his family because he, “doesn’t feel called” to family life and needs time to find himself, I would hope that no one would praise him for following his heart. I would like to think that as a society we would proclaim that he has a responsibility to his wife and kids, and that we should expect young men to keep the promises/vows they’ve made and to take responsibility for their actions.

People would understandably be angry with a man that has abandoned their wife and kids. I feel Father Morris, a 47 year old priest with 10 years in formation should be held be held to a higher standard. I feel compassion for those who have been affected by his public actions.

I feel upset when I hear of a priest leaving the priesthood, or when I meet people that say they know someone that “used” to be priest. I feel people do not understand the damage that is caused when people break the vows they have made to God. As I prepare to make my promises to God at my ordination, I pray that the Lord will give me the strength to be faithful and keep the promises I have made.

I pray that those who have discerned out of the priesthood will come back into the loving arms of the Church. I also pray to the Father that I will learn how to forgive those that have abandoned the call as He forgives.

Second Collections for September

By Rev. Rothell Price

Second Collection for September 2019

The Catholic University of America

Collection Dates: September 7th & 8th 

Announcement Dates: August 25th 

& September 1st   

 

The Catholic University of America Second Collection helps fund college for Catholics across our nation.  Our Catholic voice needs to be heard, more than ever, in our nation.  Our Catholic values need to be championed.  The light of Christ needs to be held aloft for all to see, know and follow Him.  Catholic men and women in all levels of the marketplace are an essential part of the Church’s missionary activity.  They are front-line evangelizers.  I encourage you to join with the Catholic faithful across our country to make Catholic higher education possible.  You may not have anyone at Catholic University, but every student at CUA is your child, grandchild, brother and sister in the Lord Jesus.  Participate gladly in the Second Collection for The Catholic University of America.

The Catholic University of America Collection prepares and strengthens the now and future proclaimers and explainers of the Catholic faith.  You, by helping them afford a Catholic education, ensure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teaching of the Church are carried to all levels of our economic society, from the bluest to the whitest collar.  Support scholarships for students who need financial assistance.  Please support the now and next generation of Catholic leaders for our Church and nation.

Since its establishment in 1903, The Catholic University of America has been greatly blessed by the generosity of parishioners across our nation through this national collection.  We know that many families in our country want and desire a higher education for their children.  It is a heavy but worthwhile challenge to cover the cost of education.  I ask you to willingly contribute to the sacrificial giving of Catholics across our country to spiritually and academically prepare the future generations of students, particularly those who have financial need.

More than 12,000 priests and religious are proudly identified as alumni of CUA.  Hundreds of priests and religious attend CUA each year furthering their charge to engage in ongoing priestly and religious formation.  The Catholic University of America’s mission centers on the discovery of knowledge and truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church – a service that is greatly needed today.  University faculty and scholars promote Catholic Social teaching and through their research and discourse, help form the Church’s response to challenging social issues of our time.

Please give generously to The Catholic University of America collection. Your heartfelt participation in the second collection is joined to the generosity of CUA alumni, friends, faculty and staff.  Your donation strengthens The Catholic University’s mission. Catholic University is uniquely “our” university.  It is Catholic through-and-through.  Daily Masses, departmental Masses, special occasion Masses, other devotional services and Christian service to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area are just some of the tangible fruits of your participation in the second collection for The Catholic University of America.  Your contribution helps “our” national university move forward, ensuring that current students and future graduates can continue to be God’s light in our world.

Help aspiring men and women. Help Catholic families.  Help spread the Good News and build-up the kingdom of God on earth.  Give generously to the second collection for The Catholic University of America.

 

Sincerely,

Very Rev. Rothell Price

Traveling Mercies

By Kim Long

As one of three children of a working-class father and a stay at home mother, money was not something we treated with frivolity. Often times, summer vacations were more “imagined” than real. As a young girl our local library served as my international port of call offering the world for my taking, via the printed page.  Mr. Owen, my high school English teacher, who was so fond of Emily Dickinsin’s work often quoted this famous, and his favorite, passage“there is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”

Of the few trips we did take we visited family. One trip I sojourned “all the way” to Alabama to stay with a cousin near my own age whose family, unlike my own, lived a very rural lifestyle. When my family came to bring me home we left laden with eggs and produce in styrofoam coolers and a “picnic” for the road. The bread was buttered and loaded with thick slabs of roast beef and strawberry milk in mason jars with the lids screwed on tight so they would be ready for us when thirst overtook us. We traveled by night with the windows down in my grandmothers huge Impala. It felt like a time machine. Sleep overtook us and soon we were being gently carried to our own beds. When we woke up the next morning we were home again, Aunt Dean’s home seemed “a world away.”

When my children were young we traveled when possible and I tried to make every trip regardless of destination an occasion. We always began with a prayer, sometimes hurried, sometimes forced and sometimes very natural for safe travel. Like my own childhood destinations, a trip to visit family was often an overnight one. Upon arrival, all the uncle, aunts and cousins would welcome us into another land. I am grateful that my grown children and I have this shared experience with family and a real lesson in traveling.

God has blessed me with some amazing travel opportunities. On my first overnight flight, I did wake up in another land, longing for coffee and the adventure which awaited me. The feeling of being in a time machine remained.

Traveling, whether real or imagined, always changes us; the degree of change often depends on the degree of openness. When we enter an unknown land, arrive at our destination, or even when we put both feet on the floor each morning it is not uncommon to ask the Lord to be with us. These prayers, known as traveling mercies, are mentioned in both testaments. Who among us has not prayed for safe travels for friends, family or self? Who among us has not “invited” God to come with us and protect us on our way?

On my most recent trip, I began to question not only the “what to bring back” to the family, but I also began to consider what changes are being made within me by this excursion and its experiences. Often I leave things behind in order to bring home what seems to matter most in the moment. In Russia it was clothing to make room for icons, in Ireland, toiletries to make a weight limit because I was bringing home knitting yarn and jigsaw puzzles, and in Israel I ditched some doubts in order to bring home a real sense of reconnection. This led me to examine whether or not I invite God on a daily basis.  It seemed normal to ask for traveling mercies when going a distance but not so much in daily life. Please do not misunderstand; I know God is always with me but I became aware that my invitation was not always forthcoming in the way it was when the pilot is taking us over the ocean or miles of land. This awareness, which was welcomed, also shocked me. How could I have been so inhospitable?

The psalmist states “you enlarge my steps underneath me and my feet do not slip.” Traveling anywhere can enlarge our worldview whether in appreciation of beauty and art or in the case of my pilgrimage to Israel, a trip to our spiritual home, as well as a walk around the block, a visit with a friend. What am I taking with me, leaving behind, what am I making room to bring home, are my travel questions now regardless of my destination.

Your Personal Salvation History

By Mike Van Vranken

One could say that reading the bible is a study of the salvation history of God and his creation. At the same time, our personal narratives, the stories of our individual experiences of life are our own personal salvation history. Throughout the existence of education, people have found it important to study mankind’s history. And as important as this has been to our evolution as a species, an even greater importance exists in our study of salvation history. How do we take the message of the bible, integrate it with our own personal narrative, and study salvation history as it pertains to the entire universe, as well as to us as individuals in that universe?

One question we might ask ourselves is:  “How has God approached me in my salvation history?”  When we are willing to take the time to research and study this history, we will begin to see who we are in God.

At the top of a sheet of paper, write the words: “People in my life who have reflected God’s face to me.”  Now ask God for the grace to be reminded of all the people from ages one through 12 in your life who reflected His face to you. Maybe you think of your parents, grandparents, priests, religious sisters, siblings or teachers. Talk to God about theses people and pay attention to what is stirring inside you as you remember them.  Now, who were the people who reflected God’s face from ages 13 to 20? What about in your 20’s, then your 30’s, your 40’s and each decade of your adult life? Who are the people reflecting God’s face to you?  As the feelings and memories stir inside you, continue your conversation with God. Ask him to show you how these people contributed to your salvation history.

Now, on another sheet of paper, write:  “What were the religious images that are important to me throughout my life?” Again, look at them through the ranges of ages one through 12, then 13 through 20, and so on. What movements are going on within you as you remember these?  How have the images changed as you matured?  Which images, if any, are still very important to you? Ask God what all of this is saying to you about your own history with him and his experiences with you.

On another sheet, which events in your life seem to show in the clearest ways how God has approached you?  Use the same age segments as you rediscover all the events of God in your life that have been so important. Talk to God about these events. What is he saying to you about them?

Let’s keep going. Do the same practice that we’ve done with people, images and events, with “songs or music” that have shaped your relationship with God.  Continue the exercises examining how God was approaching you as you recall “favorite virtues,” “enemies or troublesome persons in your past,” “places,” “books,” “tasks or work” and “gifts” you been given by God and/or shared with others.

A spiritual exercise like we’ve been discussing here could, and probably should, take about a month or more to complete. This is not a quick and easy, once and done activity. It requires a disciplined study of your personal history. And, this is not an intellectual exercise. This  is about entering in to your experiences with God throughout your life and recalling all he has done for you. This is about taking the time to reminisce with God and recall his blessings by paying attention to all that he has used to approach you, to be with you, to love you. This is about listening to God and to what he has been saying to you throughout your life; and what he is saying now.

As you peruse your own salvation history throughout this month, allow your eyes to be opened a little to see who you are to God; or as St. Paul would say, “who we are in Christ.” Do you recognize how he sees you as his  beloved daughter or son? Who has he been calling you to be?  Who is he calling you to be right now? Do you see yourself as his beloved? Do you recognize you have been his beloved since before the world began?

Yes, studying human history is an important way to grow in our understanding of God’s creation. Along with that study, a discovery of our own, personal salvation history helps us grow in our relationship with God and recognize who we are to him. Then we can discover the roles he is  calling us to play, right now, in helping him build the kingdom of God.

Please Consider…

By Kim Long

“God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Recently I was treated to an extremely leisurely supper with a dear friend where she and I dressed up for the occasion. We walked into the restaurant around 6 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. we were thanking our waiter who had taken wonderful care of us throughout the evening. The food was delicious, the company lovely and the birthday cake and coffee that rounded out our dinner were superb. But in truth what really made the evening for me was the pace…or should I say lack of one? We were in absolutely no hurry, our conversation even slowed down to a “civil” pace rather than the hurried sentences I often throw out before I forget what information I need to convey. This was different, it was mindful, purposeful without the sense of immediacy. It was a treat. This same friend has graciously invited me to dine with her in her home and she has such an ease in her manner that I drove home after several hours feeling rejuvenated. What, I thought, am I to learn from these interludes from her?

After reflection, I must confess, gentle reader, that I no longer wish to rush the seasons I cling tightly (complete with slightly sweaty palms) to the last traces of the summer. This registers as a surprise in my consciousness. For as long as I can recall I have begged autumn to hasten and settle on me and mine, gathering us in and giving us time and space to reconnect. I have concluded this new found comfort in being  “where I am” is maturity, an ever-growing awareness that time is not something to be casually wiled away and stowed in the back pocket, rather it is meant to be treasured and I want to tease every bit of meaning from each moment.

As Jimmy Buffet astutely reminds us “time is melting off the clocks”.

Now, I do know the value of a quickly thrown together meal or cooking on the fly. We all do it, we will all do it sometime, I am simply suggesting that we remember there are other options.

Summer commands several specific menus from me- birthday suppers, Father’s Day, as well as the first tomato, the first peach, pear and fig. Though all the aforementioned events are cyclical and one can celebrate a holiday early or late; not so with the first fruits and vegetables of the season. There is nothing like that first, real, homegrown tomato. My absolute favorite variety is Cherokee and when that first bite hits my tastebuds it can only be described as “liquid sunshine.” It cannot wait, postponement is not an option. It must be savored in its own time.  The same is true for the fig, the peach, and any other bounty the garden and orchard can offer us; the garden and the growing season also call the shots.

I believe, up to this point, one of my issues with summer and my subsequent “wishing it away” was that I saw it as a separate part of “my routine,” a transition to a different way of being and I found myself at loose ends because I no longer understood the idea of leisure which I would often associate with idleness. A gross miscarriage of definition!  Ecclesiastes states there is a season for everything so perhaps in these gracious interludes with my friend, God was reminding me that each season offers gifts if “we have eyes to see and ears to hear” and are willing to explore them. I was being invited to recognize anew God’s hand in all things, to slow down and savor rather than consume, to see God’s love revealed in the seasonal delight of the first tomato, fig, and peach. There is nothing frugal about God and He did after all plant eternity in our hearts. Let it go, let it grow.

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 them that it is never too early to start thinking about a vocation. St. Therese of Lisieux first desired to become a Carmelite nun around the age of 9, and St. Don Bosco was a little boy whenever he first told his mama that he wanted to be a priest. I started discerning my own vocation to the priesthood when I was in elementary school, and I discerned my vocation with greater intensity while I was in the 7th grade. Discerning a vocation in elementary and middle school can be difficult because it seems so far in the future. However, we can imagine ourselves as doctors, lawyers, basketball players and so many other occupations in the future while in elementary and middle school, why not imagine being a priest or a religious.

I hope to offer some advice to young Catholics in elementary and middle school who are thinking about a vocation to the priesthood, and I hope my advice will also help their parents. My first word of advice is mainly for young Catholics who have already received First Communion. The best way to start discerning a vocation to the priesthood at a young age is to frequent the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Most young Catholics attend Mass every Sunday with their families, and those who go to Catholic School get the opportunity to go to Mass twice a week, on Sunday and once during the week. Jesus speaks to us through the Mass, and it is through the Mass that we grow closer to Jesus when we receive his Body and Blood during Communion. It is often at Mass while watching the priest that many boys feel drawn to the priesthood. My second word of advice is to develop a prayer life. It is always best to start off simple. At first it can be as simple as praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be every morning and every night. Developing the practice of a morning offering by thanking God for a new day and asking for God’s protection is another way to develop a spiritual life at a young age. Once it becomes routine to talk to God through prayer, then it might help to ask God about a vocation to the priesthood by praying, “God, are you calling me to be a priest, if so, please guide me” or “God, I want to be a priest, please help me to discern.” Even more beneficial is praying together with family members. This could be done by using any type of prayer, especially the rosary. My third word of advice is to become an altar server. Helping to serve at the altar during the Mass is a great way to explore a desire for the priesthood. Some parishes allow for young Catholics to become altar servers right after First Communion, but the age requirement to be an altar server might be around fourth or fifth grade at other parishes. I definitely encourage speaking with the parish priest and asking him about becoming an altar server.

My final word of advice is for the parents of young Catholics discerning the priesthood in elementary and middle school. Please share this article with your son if he is discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and encourage him to pray and listen to God’s will. To any young Catholics discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I encourage you with the words that St. John Paul II often quoted from Scripture, “Be not afraid.” God will guide you throughout your discernment.

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 Sacrament of Holy Orders receive before they become a cleric. If you are a cleric, that means you are either a deacon or a priest, that means you can wear clerics which is the collar and the black that all priests wear. The Rite of Candidacy is given to men who are preparing to give themselves to Holy Orders and it is the Church accepting a person to continue on to receive Holy Orders. It’s the church saying “this person has the qualities we are looking for to become a priest” and it means they have confidence in us. The confidence they have in us is affirming and  instills the motivation to continue.

 

Q: How did you feel when you received notification that you are about to become a Candidate? 

It’s something I’ve been very excited about, you’re getting closer to the end and that end goal is priesthood. In the same respect it means wow, this is getting close and it’s very real, it’s one of the first real steps towards priesthood and it’s not to be taken lightly.

 

Q: As you walked through the doors, what was going through your head?

It’s always awesome to go to diocesan events in the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans because this is the place I will be ordained a priest. That is what went through my mind as I walked through the doors, three more years and this is where I hope to be, laying down on the marble.

 

Q: What is something a reader should know Candidacy?

In many places, receiving Candidacy means you can wear clerics. It’s almost like an engagement in a relationship, it is both parties, the Church and the Seminarian promising that they will see this through to the end. Both parties have gotten to know each other and agree to be with each other for the rest of our days.

 

Q: Fun fact about being a Seminarian going through Candidacy?

One of the things seminarians are reminded is that you have no status. Candidacy is the Church saying we still have no status, but we’re getting closer to actually having status in the Church so Candidacy is all about looking forward to the day when we finally become a priest and that is strengthened through the graces received at Candidacy and is meant to motivate us more.

 

Q: Any fun stories to share regarding Candidacy?

I’ve been asked if people have to call me Father now. The answer is no. I’m still Jeb, no one has to call me Father or seminarian, but I am a candidate for Holy Orders.

New norms for the whole Church against those who abuse or cover up

From the Vatican Press Office

Vos estis lux mundi. “You are the light of the world… Our Lord Jesus Christ calls every believer to be a shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness.” The Gospel of Matthew provides the title and first words of Pope Francis’ new Motu proprio dedicated to the fight against sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, as well as the actions or omissions of Bishops and Religious Superiors who in any way interfere with, or fail, to investigate abuse. The Pope recalls that “the crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.” The document represents another result of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors held in February 2019. It establishes new procedural rules to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable.

 

An “office” for reporting in every diocese

Among the new indications given is the obligation for every Diocese in the world to set up, by June 2020, “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports” concerning sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, the use of child pornography and cover-ups of the same abuse. The legislation does not specify what these “systems” consist of, because it leaves operational choices to the Diocese. The idea is, anyone who has suffered abuse can have recourse to the local Church, while being assured they will be well received, protected from retaliation and their reports will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

 

The obligation to report

Another new indication concerns the obligation for all clerics, and all men and women religious, to “report promptly” all accusations of abuse of which they become aware, as well as any omissions and cover-ups of cases of abuse to ecclesiastical authorities. Though this obligation was formerly left up to individual consciences, it now becomes a universally established legal precept. The obligation as such is sanctioned for clerics and religious, but any layperson can use the system to report violence and abuse.

 

Not only child abuse

The document covers not only violence and abuse against children and vulnerable adults, but also sexual abuse and violence resulting from an abuse of authority. This includes cases of violence against religious by clerics, as well as abuse committed against adult seminarians or novices.

 

Dealing with cover-ups

One of the most important elements is the identification of so-called cover-ups, defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious regarding the delicts” of sexual abuse. This section refers to those who hold positions of particular responsibility in the Church, and who, instead of pursuing abuses, have hidden them, and have protected alleged offenders.

 

The protection of vulnerable people

“Vos estis lux mundi” stresses the importance of protecting minors (anyone under 18) and vulnerable people. The definition of a “vulnerable person” is broadened to include “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want to otherwise resist the offense.”

 

Respecting the laws of states

The obligation to report to the local Ordinary or Religious Superior does not interfere with, or change, any other reporting obligation that may exist in respective countries’ legislation. In fact, the norms “apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.”

 

The protection of victims and those reporting abuse

The sections dedicated to protecting those who come forward to report abuse are significant. According to the Motu proprio, someone reporting abuse cannot be subjected to “prejudice, retaliation or discrimination.” The problem of victims who in the past have been told to keep silent is also addressed: these universal norms provide that “an obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report.” Obviously, the seal of confession remains absolute and inviolable and is in no way affected by this legislation. Vos estis lux mundi also states that victims and their families must be treated with dignity and respect and must receive appropriate spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.

 

The investigation of bishops

Motu proprio regulates the investigation of Bishops, Cardinals, Religious Superiors, all those who lead a Diocese, or a particular Church, in various capacities. The rules apply not only in the case of these persons being investigated for having committed sexual abuse themselves, but also if they are accused of having “covered up,” or of failing to pursue abuses of which they were aware, and which it was their duty to address.

 

The role of the Metropolitan

There are new indications regarding the role of the Metropolitan Archbishop in preliminary investigations: if the accused individual is a Bishop, the Metropolitan receives a mandate from the Holy See to investigate. This strengthens his traditional role in the Church and indicates a desire to make the most of local resources with regard to investigations into Bishops. Every thirty days, the person in charge of the investigation sends the Holy See “a status report on the state of the investigation,” which “is to be completed within the term of ninety days.” This establishes specific timeframes and requires the Vatican Dicasteries to act promptly.

 

Involvement of the laity

The Motu proprio provides that the Metropolitan, in conducting the investigations, can avail himself of the help of “qualified persons,” according to “the needs of the individual case and, in particular, taking into account the cooperation that can be offered by the lay faithful.” The Pope has repeatedly stated that the specializations and professional skills of the laity represent an important resource for the Church. The norms now provide that Episcopal Conferences and Dioceses may prepare lists of qualified persons willing to collaborate, but the ultimate responsibility for investigations remains with the Metropolitan.

 

Presumption of innocence

The principle of presumption of innocence is reaffirmed. The accused will be informed of the investigation when requested to do so by the competent Dicastery. The accusation must be notified only if formal proceedings are opened. If deemed appropriate, this notification may be omitted during the preliminary stage.

 

Conclusion of the investigation

The Motu proprio does not modify the penalties for crimes committed, but it does establish procedures for reporting and carrying out the preliminary investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Metropolitan forwards the results to the competent Vatican Dicastery. The competent Dicastery then proceeds “in accordance with the law provided for the specific case,” acting on the basis of already existing canonical norms. Based on the results of the preliminary investigation, the Holy See can immediately impose preventive and restrictive measures on the person under investigation.

 

Concrete commitment

With this new juridical instrument, the Catholic Church takes a further and incisive step in the prevention and fight against abuse. As the Pope writes: “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.”