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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 »

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Fr. Kevin Mues Ordination to the Priesthood

A Q& A with the Diocese of Shreveport’s Newest Ordained Priest During your time in seminary, what are some of the moments that have encouraged your vocation? The things that have been More »

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Reflection on Minor Seminary

by Seminarian Kelby Tingle Four years ago I graduated from Loyola College Prep in Shreveport and, feeling a call to discern a vocation to the priesthood, I made the prayerful decision to More »

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CCNLA and SVdP: Side by Side and Hand in Hand

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana At first glance, it may appear that there is a duplication of services in what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) does More »

Pro-Life Oratory Contest Winners Announced

T he Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Committee has announced the local winners of its high school oratory contest. Kaiden Odell, a senior at Word of God Academy in Shreveport, won first place with More »

Vatican Media/CNA

Pope Exhorts Young People to Be Courageous; Encounter Christ on the 56th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops The 56th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations was celebrated by the Catholic Church on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, a More »

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One Last Time: Rinaudo Bids Farewell After More Than a Decade as Connection Editor

by Jessica Rinaudo As I began to work on this, my final issue of The Catholic Connection, I looked back and counted the number of issues I’ve put together over the past More »

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The Beauty of Parish Life

by Kim Long Recently I began to reflect on what God used to get my attention over 30 years ago when “becoming Catholic” began to go from a wild exotic notion to More »

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On the Trail of History: France and the Priest-Martyrs of 1873

by Fr. Peter B. Mangum As many are aware, I have been working on a project over the last two years to explore and raise awareness of the lives of five remarkable More »

Summer Camp Keeps Education Fun

St. Catherine Summer Camp children enjoying an afternoon at Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport with Kechia Carter, Innervisions Summer Camp teacher, who is a Caddo Parish Schools Masters Level Teacher.

St. Catherine Community Center Summer Camp 2012 was a huge success. Such a success that more than half of the participants requested Summer Camp be extended for another week, which was granted.

During our Summer Camp children grades Pre K-4 through  8th spent half of the day concentrating on skill building to retain what they gained in academic skills during the school year while preparing for their next grade level for the upcoming school year.

Summer Camp participants also enjoyed Physical Education classes led by Bossier High School basket ball coach LeAndre Gipson. Additionally, children also participated in a dance class taught by Southern University Shreveport dance instructor Roshonda Spears.

Children also went on field trips, including a visit to two local museums: the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum and Norton Art Gallery.

Summer Camp children, staff and parents conducted and participated in a 4th of July celebration and parade around the Cedar grove Community led by the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Calvary.

On the final day of Summer Camp, teachers and students showcased their various talents in the “End of Summer Camp Program” with a dance program, music performance by the Pre-K through second grade choir conducted by Brenda Richardson, retired educator and a Shreveport church musician. Last but not least, 3rd graders through 8th graders gave poetry readings, jump rope performances, violin performance, and a drum and piano performance.  This led to a barbecue cook out and fun water day on slippery slides, portable swimming pools, water balloons and squirt guns.

by William Livigne, St. Catherine Community Center Coordinator

Year of Faith Speaker Series

Nick Wagner

Workshops for RCIA and Catechists on September 29

Everyone is invited to the first presentation for the Diocese of Shreveport’s  “Year of Faith Speaker Series” on Sept. 29 at 9:00 a.m.

In the morning there will be a presentation by Nick Wagner on The Catechism of the Catholic Church and how it forms Catholics in the faith and prepares them in ministry.

Nick Wagner is the director and founder of TeamRCIA.com. He has more than 25 years experience as a leader and trainer in liturgical and catechetical ministries. He is an active team member with the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.

Following the morning presentation, there will be lunch, included with the $10 registration fee.
Beginning at 1 pm, there will be two afternoon sessions. The first is an RCIA workshop presented by Nick Wagner. This workshop is for RCIA team members.

The second workshop is a Catechist Workshop for all Directors of Religious Education and Catechists. This workshop will be on the YouCat, the youth catechism of the Catholic Church, and presented by Shelly Bole, Director of the Office of Catechesis for the Diocese of Shreveport. Participants in this workshop should pre-order a copy of the YouCat.

Please use the form below to register for lunch and your afternoon session. Or, you can contact the Office of Worship to register at 318-868-4441 or drachal@dioshpt.org.

Seminarians Meet Up

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Pictured: Seminarians John Parker, Duane Trombetta, Jerry Daigle, Jr. and Keith Garvin stand with Fr. Matthew Long outside the Catholic Center.

Building the bonds of brotherhood

The beginning of the academic year for 2012-2013 has been an exciting one for the Vocations Office because we are sending new seminarians to both Notre Dame and St. Joseph Seminaries. In preparation for this year of formation our returning and new seminarians gathered at Fairview House to attend their First Seminarian Convocation. The Convocation was scheduled for August 12 and 13. The purpose of the convocation was to build the bonds of brotherhood between our seminarians and to assist them in forming a stronger connection with the diocese.  In order to accomplish these goals we gathered in the Holy Family Chapel, located at the Catholic Center, for the celebration of the Holy Mass and to pray the Divine Office numerous times. We also invited Randy Tiller, Director of Mission Effectiveness, to give a conference on the History of the Diocese of Shreveport. Tiller’s goal was to show the seminarians that although we are only 25 years old as a diocese, the Catholic Church in our area has a rich tradition dating back to the earliest days of European discovery.  Bishop Duca and Fr. Price also joined the seminarians for meals and prayer when their schedules permitted them to do so.  There was time for the seminarians to get to know each other in less formal settings.  This was accomplished through a game night when the bishop, priests and seminarians matched wits.

One of the reasons that I decided to hold the convocation is because when you look at our record of attracting men to answer the Call of God, it is evident that we are accomplishing the goal. Over the years, however, many of the men we have sent to seminary to be formed have not been ordained. It is my hope that building community and strengthening the bonds our seminarians have with the diocese will help to lower our attrition rate. The way you can help is by sending cards and letters of support to our seminarians.  You can invite them to partake in your parish’s activities and a gift of any kind is always greatly appreciated by them. The journey to priesthood is not an easy one and it is filled with pitfalls because the enemy desires fewer priests, but when you know that you have the support, prayers and love of the people you hope to serve then it is a much easier journey to make. Please join me in assisting the next generation of priests to fulfill their vocation in life.

by Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations

Catholic Charities: Home Cooling and Financial Education

Summer can be brutal and this one is no exception. Out of our concern for low-income families who struggle to pay seasonally high bills, we hosted a Home Cooling Shower where donors can give money to help people stay cool. The mail-in shower is getting great response from donors who understand the need to assist the less fortunate and keep families, especially those with small children and the elderly, as cool as possible during the fierce summer heat. We’re so grateful for the response as we continue to receive donations for this important project.

Our desire to facilitate long-term and permanent changes in the lives of low-income individuals, their families and their communities is the impetus for our newest program, The Money School.

This financial education program is our effort to break the cycle of generational poverty. It is a supportive and preventive program to assist people in recovering from financial crises enabling them to return to financial stability.

Those who come to us for Emergency Assistance will be required to take the classes before we will assist them financially a second time. These classes will provide services based on the premise that all people have the right to basic needs without having to compromise their physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual wellbeing. The Money School program provides information and skills that enable our clients to manage their financial resources wisely.

When clients complete the courses, financial education volunteer coaches will be available as advocates and advisors to help insure clients complete their work and stay on a path toward financial stability. When families achieve these important goals, it is life changing not just for the family, but has an important and long-lasting effect on the community as a whole. If you’d like information about becoming a financial coach please call us at 318-865-0200 and ask for Carl.

We are excited about two events in September!  On September 13 we will host “Miracles in Medicine,” a reception for our local medical community, at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport at 6:30 p.m.  We’re also planning an“Evening in Rome with Bishop Duca,” a fundraising dinner at Ristorante Giuseppe on September 21 at 6:30 p.m.  There will be excellent food and the Shreveport Opera Xpress will entertain. Table or individual reservations are available. Contact Theresa at Catholic Charities at 318-865-0200.

by Theresa Mormino, Catholic Charities of Shreveport

Home visits: The Crux of the Mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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Photo: SVdP members Gale Dean and Cain Nguyen bring food and supplies to a family in need (photo by Jessica Rinaudo).

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

This is a story I thought I knew: the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to serve the poor through food banks, pharmacies and home visits.

Over the course of preparing for this issue and talking to Vincentians, it became clear that the crux of what these volunteers do is visiting those in need at their homes.

Here’s how it works: those in need call a hotline and, depending on where the person lives, the caller is assigned to a SVdP group at a nearby Catholic church. The volunteers then take their assigned case file and go out to the person’s home to meet with them, talk, take care of emergency needs and help them get on the path to help themselves and their families.

To learn more, I wanted to go with some Vincentians on a home visit. I spoke to Gale Dean, head of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans SVdP council. She eagerly agreed that I should go with her.

In my mind, I saw us stopping by houses, saying hello, delivering some food and moving on. But what happened was far more emotional than I could have imagined.

Before we left, the three of us going to visit prayed together to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to assist those in need to the best of our abilities. Then we drove into the heart of a poor area in Shreveport.

When we pulled in the driveway there was a collective intake of breath from the three of us in the car. Outside sat a young mother with four children running through the driveway. She was alone. The house was small and in questionable condition. The mother, *Dana, invited us inside. We entered into a naked room with only a tv on a table and a mattress against the wall. Her kids, ages 5-10, gathered in around us. The five-year-old shyly told me her name and leapt into my arms for a hug. We gave them food and cleaning supplies and Gale asked the mother for her story.

Dana had come from a northern state to Louisiana for the promise of a job. Her friend told her she had one waiting for her in town, but upon arrival she found out the job had fallen through. She took all the savings she had and found her family a place to stay, a place in a bad area of town with no locks, no fridge and no food.

When asked about child support she whispered her boyfriend was “locked up” and she didn’t want him to know where she was living. He had abused her and her children and threatened their lives, finally getting busted for a drug run on which he had taken his two youngest children with him across state lines. I asked her how she had heard of St. Vincent de Paul and she told us her neighbor had referred her to the hotline. The same neighbor who had generously supplied her with a used refrigerator and was voluntarily scrubbing it in her driveway. “You don’t know how hard it is for me to ask for help,” she said in tears, “but I didn’t know what else to do.”
While the five-year-old proudly showed me her room, a small space with two air mattresses against the wall, a small TV and a plastic chair, Gale talked to Dana about enrolling her children in school. This was met with more tears and fears over obtaining school supplies and school uniforms.

I stood by helplessly as Gale counseled her on going to the Louisiana Work Force, places to call for more assistance, how to get access to food stamps and medicare for the children. She assured her we would bring more food next weekend and Dana humbly expressed her thanks.

Our next stop was at a low income housing complex. This time a mother holding a little girl my own daughter’s age opened the door and welcomed us inside. We were quickly greeted by another enthusiastic five-year-old girl, eager to tell us about starting kindergarten and her new school supplies. In this situation, the young, single mother had been laid off her job and her electricity was about to be cut off in the middle of the three-digit August temperatures. Fortunately, she had obtained another job and would be beginning in a week. She had her food and housing situation together as well, and her parents helped with the children. SVdP was able to pay the minimum to keep her power on by way of a pledge system with the electric company. When I asked her about where she heard about the Society, she told me she had been referred by a family member.

That was the second time that day someone in need had heard of the Society of SVdP through someone else who had been helped by them. It immediately brought to mind the scenes from the Gospels where the poor and diseased heard word that Jesus was coming and rushed to see him, knowing they could be helped.

The images of that day’s events have followed me since then. Afterwards I walked into my own home and was overwhelmed by how much I have, immensely thankful to God for all He has blessed my family with. More than ever, I am thankful for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the people who volunteer every day, every weekend on their days off, to meet with people and help them work to help themselves.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has almost no overhead costs. Their work is funded completely by donations and volunteers. Many of the SVdP food pantries are low right now. Please consider giving food, cleaning supplies or monetary donations to your church’s SVdP group by contacting your church office.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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Pictured: Vincentians at the St. Joseph Church Food pantry in Shreveport.

Continually Serving the Poor in the Diocese of Shreveport

by Kelly Phelan Powell

In 1833, French physician, lawyer, author and professor Frédéric Ozanam was moved to establish an organization to help the destitute people living in the slums of Paris. This group of seven men, which Ozanam specified “should neither be a political party, nor a school, nor a brotherhood…but profoundly Catholic at the same time as being secular” aimed to serve the poor in the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul, whom they took as their patron. To Ozanam, it was of the utmost importance that this charity should be carried out with humility, discretion, tact and respect for a person’s dignity, for to him faith without charity had no meaning.

One hundred and seventy-nine years later, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul totals some 900,000 in 131 countries on five continents. In the U.S. alone, membership numbers more than 60,000. In 2010, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the U.S. performed more than 648,000 visits to people in their homes; served more than 14 million people in need; and provided more than $595 million in tangible and in-kind services.

Many of these extraordinary efforts are taking place right here in the Diocese of Shreveport, and that’s one reason Bishop Michael Duca has declared September the Month of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In addition to recognizing the hard work and commitment of Society members (also called “Vincentians”), the month’s activities will raise awareness of the needs of the poor and educate the faithful about the history of the Society as well as its current mission and role in the Church as a lay vocation.

“It’s part of a national effort to raise awareness of what we do…and the needs of the poor right here in our diocese,” said Brian Burgess, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for the Diocese of Shreveport. Burgess has been involved with the Society for about 12 years now, and this year, in addition to his duties as president, he’s in charge of organizing the Friends of the Poor Walk at 9 a.m. on Sept. 29 on Arthur Ray Teague Parkway in Bossier City.

The Friends of the Poor Walk began nationally in 2008 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The money raised by the walk funds a number of different aspects of the Society’s work, such as housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries and dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine. All of the proceeds stay within the conference where the money is raised – in this case, the Diocese of Shreveport. Burgess said 50 to 70 walkers from about six different conferences participated in last year’s walk, which raised approximately $5,000. Those interested in walking can contact Burgess at baburgess@gmail.com or 318-780-7755.

The St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy provides free prescriptions for those in need.

Dotye Sue Stanford, the outgoing diocesan president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said the faithful in this diocese are particularly committed to the Vincentian order. With 23 conferences out of 39 churches, “we have the most conferences, percentage-wise, of any diocese in the United States,” she said. And all the conferences share resources so that collectively, they can make the biggest possible impact.

But having so many conferences within a single diocese means that in this area, the needs of the poor are immense. Every person, no matter what his or her financial circumstances may be, is able to contribute. Asked what the Society’s greatest needs are at this time, Burgess answered, “We need prayers, first of all. We need members and funds. This is a ministry that’s challenging, but it’s very rewarding.”

Burgess said the Society of St. Vincent de Paul focuses on its members’ spiritual growth, and one of the ways they accomplish that is through person-to-person visits with those in need. St. Vincent de Paul himself said, “It is our vocation…to set people’s hearts ablaze, to do what the Son of God did, to set it aflame with his love. It is not enough for me to love God if my neighbor does not love him. I must love my neighbor as the image of God and the object of his love…I must act in such a way that people love their Creator and each other in mutual charity for the love of God who loved them so much that he delivered up his own Son to death for them.”
However, home visits are not the only way to serve in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Burgess said. They need people to answer the hotline and work in the food pantries, as well as other duties. And the activities associated with the Month of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul need volunteers as well.

At 3 p.m. on Sept. 9 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ruston, Msgr. Earl Provenza will celebrate a special Mass on the Feast Day of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

At 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Monroe, there will be a Poor Man’s Supper benefitting the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy, the only free pharmacy north of Alexandria and east of Shreveport. It serves about 3600 patients in 22 parishes. For more information contact JoAnn Crone at 318-381-9670.

At 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 27, St. Joseph Church in Shreveport will celebrate the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul with a Mass and a potluck supper afterward in the Family Life Center.

The Friends of the Poor Walk raises money for local SVdp Counsels.

From 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 29 on Arthur Ray Teague Parkway in Bossier City, the Friends of the Poor Walk will take place. The walk will begin at the main pavilion next to the boat launch, just south of the Shreveport-Barksdale Bridge. For more information about donations, pledges and individual and corporate sponsorships, visit www.svdpfriendsofthepoorwalk.org.

Sept. 30 will be Society of St. Vincent de Paul Sunday at all parishes in the Diocese of Shreveport. Members will be on hand to accept donations, and all the money received will remain in the conference in which it is collected (if a parish does not have a conference, the money will go to the diocesan council).

While the tireless efforts of the Vincentians have achieved a great deal, the poor in our region still need so much. Together, we, the faithful can meet their needs if we continue to contribute generously of our prayers, our time and our resources.

Extraordinary Service in Ordinary Circumstances

Heroism and love begin in the home

(CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)

As a theology major, I earned my degree turning thousands of pages of spiritual reading – reflections of saints, papal documents and biblical analysis. I remember highlighting quotations that struck me, whole paragraphs of intricate wording that spoke right to my soul. It’s important to continue being a student of the Catholic faith, reading the more weighty documents and understanding Church history; but some of the best theology I’ve studied came packed in simple phrases like Christ’s “…whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). This powerful statement was often quoted by Blessed Mother Teresa when compelling the world to help others and pour oneself out in service to them.

Blessed Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity subjected themselves to the most grotesque of visions in their ministry, bathing the maggots off homeless in the streets and feeding those gaunt with starvation. The filthy could not bathe themselves, neither could the hungry feed themselves, so the sisters did for them. Though there is certainly no denying the greatness of her love considering the lowly and poor state of those whom she helped, if you examine the very basic nature of Mother Teresa’s work, she did what we can do; what we all already do.

The heroism that she showed to thousands of people she helped moments before their passing has been shown to me throughout my own life. As a mother of two beautiful kids and a child to two wonderful parents, I constantly re-learn that the small services I offer and was offered in my upbringing require as much self-sacrifice and love. I wonder how many times my parents denied themselves so they could buy clothes and food for their growing children. We couldn’t obtain those things on our own and so they did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Similarly, my 10 month old baby boy still gets hungry in the smallest hours of the morning and I would love to tell him to just grab something from the fridge; but since he can’t do for himself, either Andrew or I crawl out of our warm bed to feed the Hungry for 20 minutes before putting him back down.

And what do you do for your family? The bread winner, the laundry folder, the lunch maker, the money manager, the listener and supporter – often we think that extraordinary service requires extraordinary circumstances, but sainthood is found in the love with which we do what we’re called to do. It is not an extraordinary thing to interact with the same people who lived in your house yesterday and years before, and it might not be as dramatic as the slums of India to serve the family who are so common in your life; but consider that they are Christ – that to serve them is to serve Him. You did it to me. The heroic nature of Mother Teresa’s actions is found where there is common care among the family.

It’s important to note that Blessed Mother Teresa herself said that “love begins at home,” which beautifully complements Blessed Pope John Paul II’s words “So goes the family, so goes the world.” We cannot begin to help the world at large without tending to our own domestic church.

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

Vincentian Aid

Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers assist members of the Cedar Grove area at the St. Catherine Food Pantry.

Our diocesan mission statement proclaims, “We are called to serve as a sign and instrument of Christ’s liberating and healing presence in the world,” and there is no better way to fulfill our call as Catholic Christians than to support the work done in every deanery of our diocese by The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Almost since its inception, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal has assisted the work and ministry of St. Vincent de Paul in numerous locations throughout our diocese, as Vincentians seek to give hope to those people of our area who are suffering.  The promotion of works of justice and charity through assistance with food, clothing and medical supplies are just some of the ways the Society of St. Vincent de Paul helps define who we are as Catholic Christians.

Young and old persons seek to fulfill the mission of St. Vincent de Paul as they strive to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to individuals in need.  It is this personalized involvement that makes the work of the Society effective and unique.  Assistance may take the form of consultation or through direct dollar or in-kind services. Vincentians also strive to preserve the dignity and confidentiality of those who benefit from the helping ministry of St. Vincent de Paul.

Many dedicated and faithful servants of God help their needy brothers and sisters within our diocese performing Vincentian home visitations, volunteering in St. Vincent de Paul pharmacies or facilitating Society food pantries for the financially poor.  Your Appeal generosity helps this ministry to continue and offers our Appeal donors tangible evidence of the Church’s efforts to provide for the marginalized of our communities who are always among us.

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

Making God Smile

by Mike Van Vranken

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“God loves a Cheerful Giver.”  2 Cor 9:7.

The idea of freely sharing our own gifts to build up and support others must be very pleasing to our Father in heaven.  In other words, we are obedient when we give because God commanded it.  But, what the God of love really craves is for His children to give because we desire to.  Being Christlike is not just about compliance.  It’s about having the hunger to love others as much as we love ourselves.  Our yearning to help those in need is where God finds joy.

Someone recently may have asked you if they can borrow money and you know they cannot or will not repay it. Respond out of guilt and you still help that person. Responding with joy however, gives both you and God great joy and helps the borrower as well.

But, as humans, we can’t miss the point.  It is our own desire to give that the Lord loves and that desire must be the catalyst of our giving, not the guilt we may experience if we don’t give.  And, certainly not the hope of getting something in return.

Action Plan for this month:

  • Ask God each day where He wants you to share your gifts.
  • Each time you give, whether it’s time, talent or money, tell God in an audible voice that you are freely giving in a joyful, happy and laughing way.
  • Thank God unceasingly for the many, newly discovered opportunities to give He is providing for you.
  • Finally, meditate on your own picture of God.  Maybe He is sitting on a throne. Maybe He is standing next to you at work.  Whatever that picture, make sure you see Him with a grin on His face from ear-to-ear. And, laugh with Him knowing that He and you both love a cheerful giver.

Mike started a teaching ministry after graduating from the University of Dallas’ School of Ministry in 2006 (www.mikevanvrankenministries.org). He also serves as an adjunct professor for the Diocese of Shreveport’s Greco Institute.

Finding Faith Abroad

Photos from the Irish Road

by Kim Long

^ St. Brendan’s Well, Valencia Island, Kerry I have had a devotion to St. Brendan for many years so much so that my second son’s baptismal saint is Brendan. In Ireland there is a tradition of leaving something at holy wells. I left a paper with names front and back of all those I brought with me across the ocean, tucked between two loose stones. I dipped my hand into the dark water and renewed my baptismal promises marveling at how many people were baptized here in this spot.

 

^ Croagh Patrick, County Mayo My friend Sharon climbed Croagh Patrick which is THE pilgrimage site for locals. It is considered the holiest mountain in all of Ireland. It is known locally as “the Reek” and on the last Sunday in July over 25,000 pilgrims turn out to make the climb to the top where Mass is celebrated. I was intimidated and unprepared so I decided to try things at ground level. I moved to the outdoor chapel to pray, think and climb my interior mountain. Five hours after we arrived Sharon came down from the mountain and we both were exhausted from our own spiritual journeys.

^ Kildare Town, St. Brigid’s City St. Brigid is known as Mary of the Gaels and, along with St. Patrick, is a patron of Ireland. Did I mention she is also my confirmation saint? Walking in Kildare Town the symbols of Brigid are everywhere: the acorn, St. Brigid’s Cross as well as a bowl of flame. There is a well at the end of the walking pilgrimage in Kildare. It was here that we spoke prayer intentions and marked and tied our cloth to an old tree that held many other offerings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^ Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, off the coast of Portmagee, County Kerry Skellig Michael and Little Skellig rise seemingly straight from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a massive testament to the missionary spirit of “the monks.” There are 600 steps leading to the top where in the 6th century St. Fionan founded a monastic settlement on the island, which is 714 feet high and lies eight miles off the coast of Ireland. On top there are the remains of the beehive cells or huts. I had a lesson in progress, not perfection, this day as I realized I don’t really like heights so I sat and had a long talk with God and the monks.