Dr. Celso Palmieri (far right), talks with the Braga family. Palmieri was instrumental in bringing the family from San Paolo, Brazil to Shreveport, Louisiana to treat 3-year-old Melyssa's myxoma tumor. (Photo Courtesy of LSU Health Shreveport)

Medical Miracle: Shreveport Catholic Doctor Reaches Out to Brazilian Family Seeking Help for Their Daughter

by Lisa Cooper When Loyola parent and St. Joseph parishioner Dr. Celso Palmieri saw the face of Melyssa Delgado Braga while looking through online publications from his native country, Brazil, he felt More »

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Ignatius of Loyola Movie Coming to Diocese of Shreveport

by Randy Tiller Ignatius Press announced the new theatrical release of Ignatius of Loyola, Solider, Sinner, Saint on December 1, 2016. Due to the past relationship our diocese has with Ignatius Press, More »

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The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Addicts

Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This is the second article in a four-piece series on pornography; the first can be found in the January 2017 More »

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Shreveport Mom and Daughter March for Life with Love in D.C.

by Katie Aranda Who would have imagined that my daughter and I would be at the March for Life in Washington D.C. this year?  Not me! My best friend from college, who More »

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Irish Heritage Brought to Life with St. Brigid Feast at St. Mary of the Pines

by Kelly Phelan Powell Kim Long, Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport, is one of those rare and wonderful souls who dream big, then More »

Deacon Bill Roche and Deacon Larry Mills carry in the oil for Chrism Mass.

Vocations View: My Blessings in the Diaconate

by Deacon Bill Roche When I was a youngster, I thought about the priesthood, but being a priest was never a serious consideration after I entered high school. I never expected to More »

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Navigating the Faith: Lenten Fasting Through the Ages

by Dr. Cheryl H. White As we enter the season of Lent, it is helpful to pause and reflect on both its purpose, how it is expressed, and to know we are More »

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Mike’s Meditations: An Experience with God

by Mike Van Vranken Ask most Christians why they participate in the season of Lent, and many will respond with some explanation that they want to get closer to God. A holy More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: What Will You Do When Jesus Knocks?

by Bishop Michael G. Duca “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is one of the exhortations that can be used for the imposition of ashes and it beautifully sums up the More »

Second Collections for March & April

by Fr. Rothell Price

CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES (CRS) COLLECTION
Announcement Dates:  March 12th & 19th
Collection Date:  March 25th & 26th

Support the Catholic Relief Services Collection: HELP JESUS IN DISGUISE.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rev. 3: 20) The Catholic Relief Services Collection, occurring on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, gives us the opportunity to extend our devotion to the Lord Jesus throughout the entire year by coming to the aid of the least of his brothers and sisters in times of natural or human-caused calamity.

The Catholic Relief Services Collection helps six different Catholic agencies to answer the knock of Jesus in disguise around the world.  The USCCB’s Department of Migration and Refugee Services feeds Jesus’ hunger in suffering refugees. Their Catholic Relief Services give water to quench Jesus’ thirst. Their Catholic Legal Immigration Services offer legal assistance to Jesus in struggling immigrants. Their Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church reaches out to comfort Jesus’ loneliness in isolated workers. Their Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development advocates on behalf of Jesus in the poor and marginalized. And their Holy Father’s Relief Fund sends aid to Jesus in the victims of natural disasters. When people ask where is the Church and what is the Church doing to benefit people in need, our response, through Catholic Relief Services is, “here we are.”  Help Jesus in disguise. Give generously to the Catholic Relief Services Collection.

PONTIFICAL GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND
Announcement Dates:  April 2nd & 9th   
Participation Dates:  Good Friday, April 14th

The Pontifical Good Friday Collection supports the people of the Holy Land and the pilgrims who visit. A portion of the funds are directly allocated to educational and ecclesial projects in the Middle East. The rest of the funds support ministries and programs entrusted by the Holy See to the Holy Land Franciscans who have been serving there for 800 years.

Last year’s Pontifical Good Friday Collection:
• Supported 29 parishes, four homes for orphans, three academic institutions
• Helped keep schools open for 10,000 pre-K through grade 12 students
• Supported 120 men preparing to be priests or brothers
• Helped rehabilitate 80 homes for Christian families
• Provided senior care facilities in Bethlehem and Nazareth
• Created 1,500 jobs in the Holy Land for Christians
• Preserved 54 shrines connected with the life of Jesus and the prophets

Please give generously to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection. Our Holy Father, Francis, strongly encourages our participation in this collection. Through it you join with Catholics around the world to stand in solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land.  Your contribution to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection makes you an instrument of peace in a troubled land.  Thank you for your sacrificial offering on Good Friday.

Navigating the Faith: Lenten Fasting Through the Ages

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by Dr. Cheryl H. White

As we enter the season of Lent, it is helpful to pause and reflect on both its purpose, how it is expressed, and to know we are joining a long tradition of Christian observance dating to the early Church. Lent has always been a time of self-examination, penitence and self-denial, and of course one of the most significant ways this has been accomplished is through fasting and other means of mortification of the flesh. Various acts of piety have developed across the centuries of the Faith, but we can trace the deliberate observance of Lenten self-denial to at least the mid-second century, to St. Irenaeus of Lyons. In his writings we find reference to this season of preparation, but he does not make it clear that the period of fasting and discipline lasted more than a few days, or if it was intended only for catechumens preparing to be baptized at Easter.

Later, we find it in the record of the Council of Nicaea (325) that the bishops formalized the familiar 40-day season as we know it. Again, however, it appears that it may have been originally intended only for those undergoing catechesis to receive the sacrament of Baptism. The significance of the 40 days rests with Jesus’ fast in the wilderness. Over time, the Lenten fast became an expectation of all within the Church. Until the late sixth century, the season of Lent always began on a Sunday. Among the liturgical and calendar changes introduced by Pope St. Gregory the Great (pope from 590 – 604), was the moving of the first day of Lent to a Wednesday (Ash Wednesday). This secured the exact number of 40 days in the Lenten season, excluding Sundays, which were feast days. Pope St. Gregory the Great is also credited with the ritual which gives Ash Wednesday its name, with the imposition of ashes as a Biblical symbol of repentance and mortality: “You are dust, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).

When Catholics today undertake a Lenten fast, it probably does not compare to the extreme expectations of the medieval Christian, who ate nothing until after mid-afternoon, and then typically only one small meal. During Holy Week, medieval Christians subsisted on what might have been no more than two or three full meals the entire week. Also, the Lenten fast for most western Christians of the Middle Ages would have involved an absolute ban on meat, as well as dairy products. Since it was the time of the “taking away of flesh” (carne levare), this seems to be the most commonly cited origin of our word “carnival,” describing the celebrations just before the beginning of Lent.

The total exclusion of meat from the diet (not just Fridays as modern Catholics might be accustomed to!) obviously required the Christian to acquire protein from other sources. Historically, fish has been allowed as part of even the strictest Lenten fasts, since in Genesis the fish and birds were created on the fifth day, with creatures of the earth on the sixth day. Social histories of Christian Europe reveal something quite interesting to the modern Church: the Lenten fast was actually shared as a community sacrifice. Entire communities came together to feast when appropriate, and there is remarkable evidence of gathering to support each other through the days of fasting. The world known by the medieval Christian was considerably smaller, therefore communities were more connected, and of course, the Church was the absolute center of society. Sharing the Lenten fast as a community only served to highlight the joy of Easter and make it all the more glorious.

Other Lenten observances have been practiced across the centuries, including more literal and extreme types of flesh mortification. From St. Jerome in the fourth century comes rather descriptive accounts of these practices, including the wearing of a “hair shirt” or the “sackcloth” mentioned in Scripture as a means of performing penance. The historical record reveals that Christians across the centuries were drawn to these practices particularly during Lent and Advent, and there are of course many rather interesting but radical examples of people undertaking such flesh mortification for extended periods of time.

So, as we enter another Lenten season, an awareness of the continuity of our practice unites us to the faithful of the centuries that came before, and this should help strengthen our resolve to place our focus more on the purpose of deprivation and sacrifice. It is to draw us into the mystical suffering of Jesus, and to live in the great mystery of our salvation once again.

From the Pope: Hope Does Not Disappoint

from Vatican Information Services

In the catechesis of this general audience, Pope Francis returned to the theme of hope, this time in the light of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in which he urges them to be proud. But what does this refer to? As the Holy Father remarked, “Since childhood we are taught that it is not good to boast. And it is right, because boasting of what one is or what one has betrays, aside from a certain arrogance, also a lack of respect for others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

What, then, is it right to be proud of? And how is it possible to do this, without offending, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to be proud of “the abundance of grace with which we are pervaded in Jesus Christ, through faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, if we learn to interpret everything with the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace, everything is a gift! Indeed, if we pay attention, we see that – in history, as in our life – we are not alone in acting; there is, above all, God … Who creates every thing as a gift of love, Who weaves the fabric of His plan for salvation and Who fulfills it for us, through His Son Jesus. We are requested to recognize all this, to welcome it with gratitude and to make it become a reason for praise, blessing and great joy. If we do this, we are at peace with God and we experience freedom. And this peace then extends to all environments and all the relationships of our life: we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace in the family, in our community, at work and with the people we meet every day on our journey.”

But Paul also encourages us to be proud even in our troubles, which is more difficult for us and can seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace I have just described.

“Instead it constitutes the most authentic and truest presupposition”, Francis emphasized. “Indeed, the peace that the Lord offers and guarantees to us must not be understood as a lack of worries, disappointments, scarcity, or reasons for suffering. If it were thus, if we succeeded in staying at peace, that moment would soon come to an end and we would inevitably return to dejection. The peace that springs from faith is instead a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and that He is always by our side, and that He never leaves us alone even for a moment of our life. And this, as the Apostle affirms, gives rise to patience, because we know that even in the hardest and most troubling moments, the Lord’s mercy and goodness are greater than any other thing and nothing can tear us from His hands and from communion with Him.”

This, then, is why “Christian hope is solid, and this is why it does not disappoint. It is not based on what we can do or be, or even on what we can believe in. Its foundation, that is the basis of Christian hope, is the most faithful and secure possible; that is, the love that God Himself has for each one of us. It is easy to say: God loves us, we all say this,” commented the Holy Father. “But think a little: every one of us is capable of saying: I am sure that God loves me. It is not so easy to say it, but it is true. It is a good exercise to say to ourselves: God loves me. It is the root of our security, the root of hope. And the Lord has poured His Spirit, which is God’s love, abundantly into our hearts, as creator, as guarantor, precisely so as to nurture faith within us and to keep this hope alive. God loves me. ‘But in this horrible moment? God loves me. I, who have done these bad things? God loves me’. No-one can take this security away from us. And we must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.”

“Now we understand why the Apostle Paul urges us always to be proud of all this. ‘I glory in God’s love, because He loves me’. The hope that is given to us does not separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit them or marginalize them”, the Holy Father explained. “It is instead an extraordinary gift for which we are called to be channels, with humility and simplicity, for everyone. And therefore our greatest pride will be having as a Father a God Who does not have preferences, Who excludes no one, but Who opens His house to all human beings, starting from the last and the most distant, so that as His children we learn to console and support each other. And do not forget: hope never disappoints.”

Domestic Church: Begin Praying for Your Future

by Katie Sciba

We hadn’t met. I hadn’t seen his face or heard his name. We wouldn’t go on a date for another seven years, but I was just 12-years-old when I fell for Andrew.
As a kid, I was perpetually wide-eyed and open-eared to my big sister Jen and I followed her advice to the letter. In the middle of a chat, Jen lit up with an idea, “You should start praying for your future husband, Katie!” My adolescent cheeks burned with embarrassment at the thought of a relationship beyond a distant crush. Seeing me blush, she pressed, “No really – if God calls you to get married, then your husband’s out there somewhere and you could pray for him now.”

It was thrilling to consider. Somewhere, at that exact same minute, he was out there living his life. The idea of praying for him years before even knowing who he was gave me a sense of commitment and hope.  Suddenly I saw my struggles in light of my future vocation. Striving for chaste dating relationships in high school and college had a purpose beyond momentary self-restraint. I wanted to develop spiritually on my own to allow God to work in my soul so I could eventually follow His will to my husband. But just in case God steered me to a different kind of veil, I kept my efforts in mind for a possible future convent, too.
I did my best to make it routine. I prayed for his protection on the way to the movies or football games on the weekends, that whatever he was doing that night he would make good decisions and be kept safe. I prayed for him during Mass. I prayed for us both – that we’d be wise and faithful, hopeful in trials and receptive to God’s grace.

I know this is a cliffhanger.

We met. “I’m Andrew Sciba.” Oh hello.

I knew the day we started dating it was just a matter of time before we’d be married. I knew God had answered years of prayer by protecting and walking with Andrew and that I finally had a face to go with my intentions.

The advice Jen gave me those years years ago was invaluable. Through it I gained a sense of Andrew’s soul plus the understanding that it was possible for me to love him before I knew him. What’s amazing is that Andrew was also praying for me, and all that time I was blessed by prayers of which I was totally unaware.

Think of how marriages would be spiritually armed if we taught our kids to pray for their future spouses years in advance. Think of how our own marriages would be totally different if we kept it up after the wedding. Even outside of a vocational situation, entrusting the future of your work, your family, your life, to God’s care is the way to cultivate a sense of humility. It’s an act that confesses that God’s will and plan are immense and that they absolutely include the loving best for your soul. Whatever you wonder about, whatever you worry about, give it to Jesus.

The Seen and Unseen Shaping Our Lives

by Kim Long

March is an important month in our family. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the “high holy days” for us. We try to put aside our busy schedules and obligations and carve out a weekend to celebrate our Irish-ness. It is also Lent, and that brings its own special rhythm to our home and family. There is one more reason that March is important – it is the month of my oldest son’s birthday. This month he will be 40-years-old. It feels like he was born only yesterday, just cutting his first tooth, talking, walking and all the other milestones we cherish and record in photographs and commit to memory.

We lived in a town bordered by a levee which served to keep our small town safe from the mighty Mississippi River. My little son and I climbed the levee many days, feeling like we had scaled Mt. Everest or Mt. Sinai. It felt like we could see everything in the world. We pointed things out to one another: a bird in flight, a gnarled tree against the sky, a cloud shape shifting before our very eyes, and always the wind, which March is known for, blowing our hair, carrying our laughter with it, taking our kite to a ridiculous height. We stayed up on the levee until thirst or hunger drove us to the narrow winding street below. As we descended there was a real sensation of going from one world to another. Things we felt but could not see – hope, freedom, beauty, the Divine – stayed with us for long stretches of time. And when we could not feel them as strongly, we climbed up the levee again, trusting renewal would come. Sinai indeed.

One of my son’s favorite suppers is chicken and dumplings. This was not a dish I recall Mom serving, rather when I spent the night with my grandmother she would open a can of Sweet Sue Chicken and Dumplings and we would eat it warm from the stove. The first time I tried making them “from scratch,” I ended up with a pot of chicken swimming in thick white gravy. And while it tasted good, it wasn’t the best looking dish I had ever set on a table. I pressed on and with time, effort, advice and much less stirring, I finally achieved a more than passable method and could be counted on to produce a good dish.

This became my son Cliff’s favorite dish. Indeed turkey and dressing were not his preference for Thanksgiving; instead he asked me to make chicken and dumplings. So there it was on our feasting table. Mamaw told me I was spoiling him, but if my baby boy wanted chicken and dumplings, well, he got them.
I have experimented with different kinds of dumplings over the years, floury puffs to some that were almost like noodles, to the kind I use now, flour tortillas. They. Never. Fail.

So as his birthday draws near, I make my shopping list and think of that long ago day when we flew a kite on the levee and when things both seen and unseen shaped our lives.

“So we fix our eyes on not what is seen but what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Kim’s Chicken & Dumplings

Ingredients:
• 1 large bag of chicken thighs
• Salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste
• 2 cans cream of chicken soup
• 2 cans cream of onion soup
• 2 cans chicken broth
•1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
• 1 package of flour tortillas, cut into strips

Directions:
1) Defrost chicken and season with salt and pepper and garlic powder.
2) Place in a heavy skillet with enough oil to cover bottom of pan.
3) Turn flame on low and cook chicken very slowly until tender and beginning to fall apart. You can add chicken broth or a little water to prevent sticking.
4) In a large pot, combine soups, broth and poultry seasoning.
5)  Let this heat and then add your cooked chicken. Stir well and often so it doesn’t stick.
6) Once everything is heated thoroughly, add flour tortillas.
7)  Let simmer on a low heat until dumplings are ready.

In Review: Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly

Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly is a book for helping you, through God, become the very best version of yourself. It explores why people do things to resist happiness: everything from sabotaging our eating habits, to skipping prayers to even allowing ourselves to be bored at Mass are covered in this book.
Kelly uses examples and stories from his own life to illustrate his ideas, pointing out ways to both move past resistance and build a better spiritual life. He gives examples of concrete things we can do each day to improve our relationship with God, with those around us and our own personal happiness.

Each short chapter tackles some aspect of this. For example, there are chapters on “Resisting God,” “Ordinary Things” and “The Power of Habits.” Each chapter ends with a Key Point – usually a challenging thought or question for us to consider in our everyday lives – and Action Steps.

Kelly begins the books by talking about what resistance is and how we let it take over our lives.

“What is resistance?” Kelly muses,  “It’s that sluggish feeling of not wanting to do something that you know is good for you, it’s the inclination to do something that you unabashedly know is not good for you, and it’s everything in between.  It’s the desire and tendency to delay something you should be doing right now.”
Kelly not only poses challenges for us to consider in our own lives, but asks us to consider the messes in other people’s lives. He makes his point by sharing how he was asked to visit nursing homes with his spiritual mentor, John, when he was 16. By stepping out of his comfort zone and listening to others, both the other people and himself grew in their appreciation for life.

He also suggests that a key to moving past resistance and embracing life is to develop a deep love of learning. Keep a pen and paper with you, he suggests, and write things down when you learn them.

The chapters in this book also follow alongside stories of Kelly’s own spiritual journey with his mentor, John. John challenged Kelly in his teenage years not only to become more spiritual, but to find ways to exercise his faith at home and in the world. Kelly uses those lessons to help tie the whole book together. These stories of Kelly’s youth are all good and interesting ones, but there are also stories of his later life and business that come off a little too self-promoting, often dropping his business name and website. But those references are few, and the material is otherwise good.

While most chapters in this book build on one another and support his main idea, some do temporarily wander off topic. His sections on active listening in particular seem to stray from his main topic of resistance, but they still bring up good points and techniques for improving these parts of our lives. Kelly does always get back to the point though.

Some of his most powerful chapters are on how we form habits, what we hunger for, and developing a better life through various kinds of fasting – big and small. He tackles how Catholics resist going to confession, even though we feel so much better afterwards.

As he wraps up the book, Kelly urges us to think about our own talents and how we can use them to serve in ministry.

“The one thing God needs from you in order to launch you into mission is availability,” wrote Kelly. “Make yourself available to God and incredible things will happen.”

He concludes by encouraging gratitude, telling us to move past the critics in our lives and to never get discouraged.

Mike’s Meditations: An Experience with God

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by Mike Van Vranken

Ask most Christians why they participate in the season of Lent, and many will respond with some explanation that they want to get closer to God. A holy endeavor indeed, but how is this accomplished?  I have found that the only way to get closer to the One True God – or better yet – the only way to experience the One True God, is to annihilate all the other gods in our lives.  And this takes work, intentional effort, disciplined struggle.

Those other gods are clingy little rascals. They don’t let go very easily and they are persistent and relentless in their efforts to never leave us. We set aside these 40 days determined to destroy them so we can then be alone with our Creator and Savior, get to know Him better and yes, experience Him even in our busy lives.

Sometimes we view this journey of Lent like we do a summer vacation. We so strongly desire to be at the beach that we totally ignore the journey that gets us there. We numbly and mindlessly go through the motions of packing clothes, driving cars or riding in airplanes until we finally arrive at our destination. We waste those hours or even days of travel and often engage in them as if they are agonizing and painful. Whatever we might have gained in the journey itself is lost forever.

The same can happen as we travel through Lent. We fast, we pray more than normal; we may give generously to the poor, or help someone who is sick or disabled. We try to gossip less and forgive more and we abstain from anything from food to Facebook. And through it all, we hope to arrive at Easter with a stronger relationship with God. Yet within the process, He is begging us to experience His presence, His love and His goodness all along the way.
What are some ways we can experience the one and only God and, at the same time, crucify those imposter gods and travel toward our celebration of the Resurrection?

When you fast this Lent, each time you skip a meal, ask God for the wisdom to recognize where you have been over-indulgent in your life. Maybe it’s with food or drink, maybe clothes or cars. Whatever He shows you, experience His gentle response and ask Him to help you purge those gluttonous tendencies out of your life for good.

If praying more is a resolution, spend time each day listening to God more than talking. Ask Him what you can do for Him today rather than telling him what He can do for you. As He places thoughts and ideas on your heart, take time to feel His love, taste His goodness, see His kindness, hear His mercy and smell the aroma of His presence.

As you give to the poor, look at their many faces of need, then realize, each of these is the face of Jesus. Place yourself in their lives in such a way that whatever you are doing for them, you know you are doing for God Himself.

Gossip is a god we all need to exterminate. As you remind yourself that words can either inspire or destroy, imagine God filling you with His own words, which He has told us are life and health to those who find them (Proverbs 4:22). With the god of gossip eliminated, you have only His intimate words to share with others.

Forgiving those who have harmed you. God’s mercy is the reflection of who He is. When you show mercy, you are not only acting like God; you are experiencing His very nature. How does it feel to do what the almighty Himself does?

Abstinence. What in your life right now is so important that you engage in it even though it slowly pulls you from your communion with God?  Whatever it is, nail it to the cross this Lent. Then use the precious moments it releases back to you to visit with God and bask in His presence, allowing Him to penetrate your entire being.

This year, refrain from focusing on the process as if it is some necessary activity like riding in a car or flying across the country. Discover that it is not the activities of these 40 days that change our lives. Instead it is the experiences with God on the

journey of Lent that bring new meaning to the joy of Easter. Cherish those experiences. Relish them. Hang on to them. Learn from them. And within those experiences, allow Him to change you. Then, find yourself on Easter Sunday walking hand-in-hand down the road to Emmaus with the risen Christ – strolling through life with the Son of the living God.

Bishop’s Reflection: What Will You Do When Jesus Knocks?

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

“Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is one of the exhortations that can be used for the imposition of ashes and it beautifully sums up the meaning and spiritual challenge of the season of Lent.  Each year I try to renew in myself an image of the journey I hope to take during the Lenten season.  I think I have come up with one that is simple and clearly illustrates our spiritual goal during this season.

Imagine during this season of Lent that Jesus is coming to our house for a visit.  Of course the house he is to visit is within our deepest self and the question is, “How welcoming will we be?”

For some, when Jesus knocks at the door they will not even hear the sound of his knocking.  If you are truly in this state of mind then God cannot reach you.  But if we are even thinking that we might have become that callous to spiritual things, then know that you are hearing the knocking. That small concern or awareness is God breaking through and inviting you to seek Him out in prayer, to show you how to open the door to His mercy and love.

Some of us hear the knock and the call to change our lives, but instead of answering the door we turn off the lights and close the drapes telling Jesus no one is home.  This is the man or woman who does not want to change.  They like their sinful or self-centered lives.  We are all in this position at times and if this Lent we find ourselves with no Lenten practice, instead just living as we always do, then this is us. But Jesus is not just any guest who will eventually get tired and go away. No, Jesus will continue to knock, prick our consciences and, as we become empty from our superficial, self-centered lives or unsatisfied by a life of sin, eventually we will give in and give over to God, who is always waiting at the door.

The way most of us will answer the door gives us an excellent image for Lent. Most of us will be expecting Jesus and will have the living room and maybe even the kitchen all clean as we welcome Jesus in.  We will appear to be the most open host, but become a little uneasy when we see Jesus looking down the hall to another room with a closed door.  That is the room that is not clean and where we keep a part of our lives separate, a part of our life not yet reformed or likened to Christ.  Here is our favorite sin or a deep wound that fuels our shame, anger and unforgivness.  This is the room of our insecurities that fuel our vanity, the room of our self-centered pleasures, of our arrogant and judgmental nature.  This is the room of our shame, fear and where we keep the part of our life in the dark, away from the healing and forgiving light of Christ’s love.  Here is where Lent should lead us: to open this door to the eyes of Jesus so that what is in the darkness can come into the light.

Our illusion is that we keep this part secret, but remember the New Testament accounts of Jesus after the resurrection that Jesus passed through locked doors.  Jesus in fact is already there, waiting for us to trust Him.  This Lent take the exhortation of Ash Wednesday to heart and “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Choose a Lenten practice that will begin the deepening of your conversion to Christ.  If it is a serious sin, then seek out the confessional, open the doors to that closed room and let the light of Christ’s forgiving love shine in and dispel the darkness of our lives.  Then, start going more regularly to confession and stay faithful to the daily struggle to fight temptation. If you have stayed away from Church, come home again and discover the joy of being an active member of a parish and of once again receiving the body and blood of Christ into your very self.  If pride is locked in our closed off room, then ask God for humility and choose a Lenten practice of service to the poor or to someone in need in your neighborhood or your own family.   Let go of your arrogant judgment of others and find ways to understand others’ sufferings and struggles so that arrogance and judgment can be replaced with compassion and love.

Let us throw open the doors of our heart to Christ this Lent.  In prayer invite Jesus into your deepest self and ask that he shine the light of his love and mercy into those places of darkness that we keep closed and hidden. Do not be afraid!   Reform your lives and hear the Good News. Open up the room of darkness in your life and let in the LIGHT.

Schools “Change” Lives for Catholic Charities’ Clients

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by Lucy Medvec

Spare change may not seem like a lot of money at first, but when over 1,000 Shreveport Catholic school students work together, their coins can truly “change” lives in the community.

During Catholic Schools Week in January, students from Loyola College Prep, St. John Berchmans School, and St. Joseph School collected over $2,660 for Catholic Charities of North Louisiana through their “Coins for Change” drives that were held at each school.  Classes within each school competed against each other to collect the most change with Loyola’s sophomores, St. John’s 4th graders, and two Pre-K4 classes at St. Joseph School, emerging as coin champions. All funds raised from the coin drives will go towards CCNLA’s Emergency Assistance Program which assists families with the payment of their rent or utility bills in order to avoid eviction or shut-off of utilities.

While Loyola and St. John students participated in straightforward coin collections, St. Joseph School took it up a notch by participating in a school-wide “Penny War.”  The premise was that pennies were worth positive points, while silver coins and paper money were negative points.  The class with the most positive points would be the winner, so students would donate their negative points (money) to the other classes in order to diminish their totals.  According to Greg Beauclair, Development and Marketing Director for St. Joseph School, the Penny War brought out the competitive side of SJS students.

“We had collected a total of $600 through Thursday,” said Beauclair, “but on Friday, the students had doubled that total with their donations. Everyone was waiting until the end to see who would win.”

The Pre-K4 classes at St. Joseph School donated over 7200 pennies alone, with well over 20,000 pennies collected from all three schools during the week.
Lucy Medvec, Director of Development and Communications for Catholic Charities likes the idea of student coin drives because “it shows students that if everyone gives some amount of money, no matter how much, it all goes together to create a greater impact.”

Medvec hopes to make the “Coins for Change” drive an annual part of Catholic Schools Week and to include students from schools throughout the diocese. Local restaurants Raising Cane’s and Rotolo’s Pizzeria donated prizes for the winning classes, but overall the winners of the coin drive will be the clients who benefit from the students’ generosity.

Students of the Year Named at Catholic Schools

The Students of the Year Awards Program is designed to recognize outstanding elementary, middle and high school students. This program, patterned after the Teacher of the Year Awards Program, is an excellent opportunity to recognize from each school system those students who have demonstrated excellent academic achievement, leadership ability and citizenship. The Students of the Year Awards Program is sponsored by the Louisiana State Superintendent through the State Department of Education and the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Congratulations to the following district winners:

5th Grade:  Garret Taylor
Jesus the Good Shepherd School

8th Grade:  Sarah Briery
First Baptist Church School

12th Grade: Carrigan English
Loyola College Prep

Congratulations to our Diocesan Student of the Year winners 2016-2017: