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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »

Navigating the Faith: The Seven Penitential Psalms

by Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis

The Seven Penitential Psalms are a little known private devotion of our Catholic faith that were prayed by

St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica, as they neared their deaths. The Penitential Psalms, recited during Lent (traditionally on Friday), remind us of asking God for His mercy when we have sinned, with a true sense of contrition. The Seven Psalms are 6, 32, 38, 51, 102,130 and 143.

These are psalms of lament, living words to help us pray honestly, giving expression to our deepest feelings. Psalm 6 reads, “Do not reprove me in Your anger, Lord, do not punish me in Your wrath. Have pity on me, Lord for my bones are shuddering.” There is a poignancy throughout the psalms which correlate sin to physical and emotional anguish.

As you read and pray with the Psalms, it is important to know the author’s beliefs at the time. For the Jewish psalmist, these are open and honest expressions of pain in the context of faith. As Christians, the Penitential Psalms remind us that our response to sin must be trust in God’s love, confession and repentance.

I invite you to pray with these Penitential Psalms during Lent. There are seven, making it easy to pray one each week. Below you will find a short explanation of each of the psalms along with a reflection question.

Psalm reflections will be available in the Catholic Connections app. The full booklet and reflections can be found at

Psalm 6: Prayer in Distress

The psalmist does not claim innocence, but appeals to God’s mercy. Sin here, as often in the Bible, is both the sinful act and its harmful consequences; it is physical sickness and attacks of enemies. The psalmist prays that the effects of personal and social sin be taken away.

Reflection: Which of your sins cause you to “shudder”?  Consider its long-reaching consequences (family, community, etc). Ask God to be merciful as you face this sin. 

Psalm 32: Remission of Sin

The opening declaration – the forgiven are blessed – arises from the psalmist’s own experience. At one time the psalmist was stubborn and closed, a victim of sin’s power, and then became open to the forgiving God. Sin here is not only the personal act of rebellion against God, but also the consequences of that act – frustration and waning of vitality. Having been rescued, the psalmist can teach others the joys of justice and the folly of sin.

Reflection: Is there a sin which “withers your strength?” Talk to God about this and beg His forgiveness.

Psalm 38: Prayer of an Afflicted Sinner

In this lament, the psalmist acknowledges the sin that has brought physical and mental sickness and social ostracism. There is no one to turn to for help; only God can undo the past and restore the psalmist.

Reflection: Which sin makes you physical feel “stooped and deeply bowed?” Ask the Lord to help you stand upright. 

Psalm 51: The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance

This lament prays for the removal of the personal and social disorders that sin has brought. The poem has two parts. The first part asks for deliverance from sin, not just a past act but its emotional, physical and social consequences. The second part seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean: nearness to God, living by the spirit of God.

Reflection: When do you offer a “sacrifice” to God but your heart is not contrite? Speak about this in Confession.

Psalm 102: Prayer in Time of Distress

The psalmist, experiencing psychological and bodily disintegration, cries out to God. In the temple precincts where God has promised to be present, the psalmist recalls God’s venerable promises to save the poor.

Reflection: Remember a time when your heart felt “withered, dried up and wasted.” Talk to God about this. Listen for His mercy.

Psalm 130: Prayer for Pardon and Mercy

This lament is used in liturgical prayers for the faithful departed. In deep sorrow the psalmist cried to God, asking for mercy. The psalmist’s trust becomes a model for the people.

Reflection: Is there something in your life that you need to “cry out” to the Lord? What emotions come forth as you think about this? Hang out with Jesus and listen to what he says to you. 

Psalm 143: A Prayer for Distress

This lament is a prayer to be freed from death-dealing enemies.  The psalmist addressed God, aware that there is no equality between God and human beings; salvation is a gift. Victimized by evil people, the psalmist remembers God’s past actions on behalf of the innocent. The psalm continues with fervent prayer and a strong desire for guidance and protection.

Reflection: What “guidance and protection” do you need from God right now? Where is God’s mercy most needed in your life?   

From the Pope: The Hymn of the Gloria and the Prayer of the Collect

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! During our catechesis on the Eucharistic celebration, we have seen that the Penitential Act helps us to divest ourselves of our presumptions and to present ourselves to God as we really are, conscious of being sinners, in the hope of being forgiven.

It is precisely from the encounter between human misery and divine mercy that there comes the gratitude expressed in “Gloria,” “a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53).

The beginning of this hymn resumes the song of the Angels at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, a joyous announcement of the embrace between heaven and earth. This song also engages us, gathered in prayer: “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to people of good will.”

After the “Gloria,” or, when it is not included, immediately after the Penitential Act, prayer takes a particular form in the oration called the “Collect,” by means of which the proper character of the celebration is expressed, variable according to the days and times of the year. With the invitation to “pray,” the priest exhorts the people to gather with him in a moment of silence, in order to become aware of being in the presence of God and to bring out, each in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass. The priest says, “Let us pray,” and each person thinks of what they need, what they wish to ask for, in the prayer.

Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but rather it is the willingness to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the nature of the sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: “Within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.” So, before the initial prayer, silence helps us to gather ourselves and to think of why we are here. Here, then, there is the importance of listening to our heart to then open it to the Lord. Perhaps we come from days of weariness, of joy, of pain, and we want to say so to the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask Him to be close to us; we have relatives or friends who are ill or who are going through difficult times; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world. And this is why we need this brief silence before the priest, gathering the intentions of each person, expresses in a loud voice to God, on behalf of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making the “collection” of individual intentions. I strongly recommend that priests observe this moment of silence and not to be hasty: “Let us pray,” and then silence. I recommend this to priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the recollection of the soul.

The priest recites this entreaty, this prayer of the Collect, with his arms outstretched, in the attitude of the person praying, adopted by Christians since the early centuries – as the frescoes of the Roman catacombs testify – to imitate Christ with open arms on the wood of the cross. And there, Christ is the Orante and it is prayer together! In the Crucifix we recognize the priest who offers to God the worship he pleases, that is filial obedience.

In the Roman Rite the prayers are concise but full of meaning: many beautiful meditations can be made on these prayers. So beautiful! Going back to meditating on the texts, even outside of Mass, can help us learn how to turn to God, what to ask, what words to use. May the liturgy become for all of us a true school of prayer.  •

Domestic Church: Minimalism Makes Way for Lent

by Katie Sciba

It was five years ago when we were expecting our third child. I looked nervously around our 1200 square-foot home, wondering how we would make our small space fit our growing family. I found the minimalism trend online and it lit a spark. The idea of living simply seemed to equate with living joyfully. I jumped on the minimalism bandwagon, passionately purging the house, and what I found underneath the excess was a not just a home made new, but a transformed heart as well. I soon learned that simple living meant imitating Christ in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Our living room took forever to pick up, but after taking a hard look at what we needed and didn’t, cleaning was cut to just a few minutes. One of my biggest excuses for neglecting prayer was a lack of time. Without so much stuff around to clean or maintain, I had more opportunity to pray; but clearing clutter didn’t instantly make way for prayer. I saw that I had extra time, but lacked the discipline to make myself sit in God’s presence. What minimalism did for my prayer life was allow me to know myself better; it unveiled where I truly was and so I was able to take that to Jesus.

Fasting and abstinence also came to light in simplifying. I took the lens of “do I really need this?” and examined my personal food intake and entertainment sources with it. Catholic priest and speaker, Fr. Michael Denk, wrote, “True fasting always involves limiting food so as to hunger…if we can begin to discipline this, it will impact the other areas of our lives.” Genuine fasting can help us become masters of hunger instead of subject to it. Abstaining from and minimizing TV, technology or other sources of entertainment can reveal how we spend our time and whether it encourages closeness with Christ and others.

Giving alms felt less like an obligation and more like a blessing. Detaching from material possessions made stuff less important and people a priority. Simplifying our lives made way for giving freely and frequently. My eyes were opened to the beauty and value of others. Giving alms in light of minimalism underscores the fact that “you can’t take it with you” and that ultimately, we’re all called to Heaven.

“That’s fantastic,” you might think, “but I can’t go bare-bones on living.” The good news is you don’t have to. The most fruitful approach to minimalism is coupling it with prayerful discernment. What we can do is ask the Lord what He wants us to do or be. From that answer, we measure our families’ genuine needs and can more clearly see what among our possessions should stay, and what could serve someone else.

Like any trend, minimalism may disappear from society; but if we regard simplicity as a holy effort, one that can bring a more fruitful Lent, then it goes beyond trends and has lasting impact. Our family has more space, more time to spend in it, and more to give; but by far the most valuable prize of living simply is Jesus.

Faithful Food: Carrying Our Graced Moments Forward

by Kim Long

John Shea, writer, teacher and theological reflector, has a wonderful opening line: “first something happens.”

Something is always happening. In 1974 a family moved in next door to us. The street we lived on had been a quiet one until then. But then a family of seven moved into our 2.5 children, woodgrain station wagoned world. They were wonderful, completely unorthodox, and extremely loving toward one another.

A woman with her six children and all their big love turned our quiet neighborhood on its ear.

A thick hedge separated our two houses and I loved to hide in the big camellia bush and watch their comings and goings. Over time we all became friends and their home became the hub. Problems seemed small there, music sounded sweeter and the food tasted better there. Over the years I have wondered why this was – the family had little money and ate simple food. The ingredient must have been the love they had for one another, the love of a mother of many who stretched to make ends meet. This unassuming grasp of her own reality is what I loved the most. She did not seem to operate under the kind of panic that creates anxiety, simply she knew who she was and what she had to work with and labored under no illusions. And somehow everything worked out.

I recall the family’s faith, not only in God, but in one another, and that, perhaps, as much as the aforementioned love, was the glue which helped hold things together. It is a lesson I have tried to carry forward in my own life.

A few weeks ago I went to see this matriarch. She has dealt with some health issues, with some reversal in her “situation” but still, she was in many ways the brave, fearless and faithfully loving mother I met in 1974 who welcomed me each time with the words, “Hello baby, come on in.” It was a blessing to see her face and laugh as we recalled old stories. Leaving her was not easy and I hope to see her again soon.

As we approach Lent, this family is on my mind. Perhaps it is the proximity of seeing this matriarch who taught me so much about the kind of mother I wanted to be, perhaps it is the relief of seeing and laughing together after many years as though only a moment had passed, perhaps it is the realization that I am close to the age she was when she enveloped me in her arms, her heart and her family.

Lent is about many things, one of which is facing ourselves when we have come up short, but also being thankful for when we have done well and praying to carry those graced moments forward; a time to truly reflect in the safety of God’s embrace and to have no anxiety as we strain to make adjustments, much like the arms of the woman who became a second mother to me.

I confess I have not always known who I was or where I belonged. I grew up in a tumultuous atmosphere and it showed. Now at 57, I finally have a sense of who I am and where I belong. The road I traveled to learn this was not without price. I have thought of Juanita often and wondered at times what she would have done, but deep in my heart I already knew: she would have had faith in life and she would have loved deeply. I am reminded of two passages, one from tradition and one from scripture.

St. Catherine once said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” And from Paul, “Now these three remain, faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.”

May your Lent find you safe in the arms of our loving God and unafraid to reflect on the sum of our lives.

Pancakes ala Juanita


• 3 eggs

• 1 cup milk (or buttermilk)

• 2 cups self-rising flour

• ⅓ cup safflower oil (any oil except olive, really)


1) Crack the eggs and whisk until combined.

2) Add ⅓ cup oil and continue whisking.

3) Once combined add 1 cup milk (or buttermilk).

4) Measure flour into a separate bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour liquid into well and incorporate. If you need to add more milk, do so until the consistency is where you want it.

5) Drop by spoonfuls onto griddle or black iron skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Wait until edges are drying and bubbles are formed and turn ONLY ONCE!

6) Enjoy with butter and syrup or homemade fig preserves (one of Juanita’s favorites).


In Review: One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

reviewed by Kim Long

I confess I had never heard of Jennifer Fulwiler; family chaos, however, is somewhat familiar territory. I read a little bit about her and to be honest was, at my age, prepared to not only dislike her, but to actually disdain her as well. She seemed too good to be true. Plus I wondered if I had “aged out” of her target audience. In a word, NO.

I read the first chapter and she had me. She was me. I had been her. In.
So. Many. Ways. By page 25 she describes God coming into the lives of her and her husband. By her account she was a lifelong atheist and he a non-practicing Christian. Her descriptions are priceless and honest and endearing. For example, “God burst into our lives with all the subtlety of a neutron bomb.” I hadn’t heard it put quite that way before, but I have felt that sensation at times in my life.

In the ensuing short, meaty and heartfelt chapters (not heartfelt like a greeting card, read here: honest, gritty, funny and poignant), Fulwiler maps the journey from active non-belief and practice to immersion into the Catholic lifestyle.

In one chapter she tells of needing a vehicle that can accommodate their entire family with three car seats. Her husband, Joe, found a decent used mini van on Craigslist and they were $1,000 short. The money came to them, but the most interesting part was how – I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you these two recognize a blessing at 20 paces.

There are always chapters I read multiple times in almost every book I have ever read. In Fulwiler’s book, it is chapter 10, in which she describes in graceful and honest prose the knowledge of a fourth pregnancy, making a literal hard right turn on the way home from the doctor’s office and into the parking lot of her parish church for a noon Mass where she entered as a bartering daughter and exited into a grace-filled moment.

This book reads like a timeline, a roadmap, and a chat with the one friend who manages to get away with “telling it like it is,” because that friend speaks from experience. There is no judgment, just mutual lamentation and hope.

As a lifelong believer, some of her angst is not my own. I have always believed in God, but not always in myself. Her chronicle, even though written from a different place in our timelines – she still having children, me still searching for crumbs in my now empty nest – resonated with me. She is cool, messy, brutally honest in her self-assessment, faithful and incredibly interesting. I have subscribed to her blog and plan to read her memoir, Something Other Than God.

Intially I thought I was not the “right person” for this review. I am glad this book came to me and, with all books, I am a firm believer that books arrive at the precise moment God intends. My daughter-in-law is expecting her first baby in 10 weeks. This book will be a birthday gift for her. I think she will appreciate the author’s viewpoint and it will ease some of her anxiety about impending motherhood.

If you are like me, past the childbearing years, this is still a wonderful read. If you are like my daughter-in-law, just setting foot on the parenthood trail, it applies. If you are like my friends Amy and Jessica who are  mothers of many, take this book with you in the carpool line or the bathroom and make time to soak in the message Jennifer has for each of us!

Jennifer Fulwiler is host of her own show on Sirius radio called The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Channel 129. This book is published by Zondervan and is available for pre-order. Don’t wait!

One Beautiful Dream is available to purchase from Zondervan and Amazon.com.  It is available to borrow from the Slattery Library inside the Catholic Center in Shreveport.

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 to courageously and open-mindedly ask for God’s opinion on the same issue. I gave him the following example. (Remember, this is only an example; you’ll have to prayerfully come up with your own issue).

Suppose you have always supported capital punishment for the worst offenders. For Lent, let’s take that issue to God and see what He thinks. First, pray for the grace of an openness of heart to be able to accept whatever God reveals to you with no preferred outcome of your own.

Next, begin to review some of the positions of the Church over the last 50 years and look for any suggestions that the death penalty is no longer a legitimate form of punishment. An example might be that Pope Paul VI removed the death penalty from the laws of  Vatican City in the 1960’s. You might also read in Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life, that justice must be in line with human dignity and with God’s plan for man and society. He further states that because of improvements in the organization of the penal system any specific cases requiring the “absolute necessity” for the need for capital punishment are “very rare, if not practically non-existent (56).” So, we have one pope saying that the need is practically non-existent, and another pope removing the death penalty from existing law.

You might check the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read that “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of person, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete condition of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person (2267).” Again, a common priority in all of these teachings is the dignity of the human person.

Then there is the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (27) that continually stresses the reverence for the human person. It states that whatever is opposed to life itself, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, whatever insults human dignity – these are all infamies. “They poison society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.” This Vatican II document was influenced by the hand of Pope John Paul II, and was approved by 2,307 votes of the world-wide bishops at Vatican II.

Now you might be reminded that when Thomas Aquinas was teaching on the death penalty, he dismissed the idea that it robbed a person of their possibility of repentance. But, Pope Francis reminds us that the tradition of the Church cannot be kept in mothballs like an old blanket. In speaking of capital punishment, Francis also says it is like a torture inflicted on someone – not only death itself, but the long period, sometimes years, of waiting for their own execution can be an excruciating agony.

There are other resources you can find, but it’s now time to take this to God on a daily basis during Lent; sit with Him and allow Him to penetrate your heart. Pay attention to how you feel about the issue. Talk to Him with frank openness and love. Tell Him what you’ve learned and ask for His opinion. Then just sit quietly. Notice if He is bringing any teaching in particular to your consciousness. If so, sit with it and struggle with it if necessary. Ask Him what He wants you to learn from this prayer session.

Now remember, this issue of the death penalty was just an example. Find your own concern that you would like to lay before God and beg Him to update your opinions and beliefs. Each day during your Lenten journey, keep going back to God with this and try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on it. If you don’t have that kind of time, it’s fine. Just do what you can. Continually allow your conversations with Him, your reading and study of sacred scripture, and your research of Church teaching to help you form your own conscience. When you get to Easter, you may find that your former thoughts have been crucified and are now resurrected in a new and better understanding of God’s thoughts on the subject.

Deacon Class Postponed

A vocation to the permanent diaconate is a serious commitment and undertaking and interested men often need considerable time for prayer and discernment before enrolling in the program. Because the Diocese of Shreveport deeply desires to have a full class of men who are called to this ministry, Bishop Michael Duca and program director, Deacon Clary Nash have decided to temporarily postpone the program. This will allow for more discernment time, a chance for questions to be addressed, and time for applicants to complete all the necessary paperwork and enrollment procedures.

We are excited by the interest in the next deacon class expressed by church members and the clergy. We encourage men who feel God might be calling them to be a deacon to complete the application process. God needs you to assist His people.

For questions and application information, please contact Deacon Clary Nash at 318-532-0280, or email him at cnash@dioshpt.org.

Rite of Candidacy Mass for Mues

Seminarian Kevin Mues with Bishop Michael Duca at his Rite of Candidacy Mass at Jesus the GoodShepherd Parish in Monroe. This is one of the final steps Kevin will take before being ordained a
transitional deacon and then a priest for the Diocese of Shreveport. (photo by Gary Guinigundo)

USCCB President Calls for Courage and Commitment on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON— The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, has issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“In recent years—including last summer in Charlottesville—we have glimpsed an appalling truth that lurks beneath the surface of our culture. Even with all the progress our country has made on the issue, racism remains a living reality. As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith.

Our challenge is to bring Dr. King’s message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change. In a pivotal 1958 essay, he wrote that: ‘Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.’

Breaking the chain of hate requires both courage and commitment. Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary and the first African-American sister to march with Dr. King in Selma, exemplified these qualities. She told those gathered that: ‘I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.’ Sister Antona passed away on November 11 last year at the age of 93. She remained a bold and dedicated champion of civil rights throughout her lifetime, and her witness should inspire our own.

We pray in confidence that Jesus Christ will remind us all that he is the most powerful means to break the chains of hate that still bind too many hearts, a truth which lies at the center of Dr. King’s legacy.”

USCCB racism resources and information about the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/  •

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Emphasize Human Beings Are All Made in the Likeness of God

The following statement has been issued by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), emphasizing the USCCB position that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of our respect and compassion.

Full statement follows:

“Reports of recent disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti have aroused great concern. As our brothers and sisters from these countries are primarily people of color, these alleged remarks are especially disturbing. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors. It is regrettable that this comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and could distract from the urgent bipartisan effort to help Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status. As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters.”  •