Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, was the leader for the Bishops' Retreat in January. (photo: Catholic News Agency)

Prayer Before Action A Reflection on the Bishops’ Retreat

by Father Peter Mangum, Diocesan Administrator We just celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and have brought the Season of Christmas to a conclusion. May the graces of that More »

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Continuing the Mission: 2019 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal

by John Mark Willcox One might ask these days, “Since our diocese is without a bishop, will we be conducting the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal?” The answer to that question is a More »

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Catholics and Methodists: Working Together to Bring Christ’s Message of Love to the Poor and Vulnerable

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA)has been working together with area Methodist churches to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ’s message of love to More »

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Knights Raise Funds to Purchase Ultrasound Machine

story and photos by Kelly Phelan Powell One of the most encouraging signposts in the recent years of the pro-life movement is the enthusiastic involvement of men. So often shouted down and More »

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Saying Goodbye to Father Richard Lombard

by Lucy Medvec Fr. Lombard is why my family is at St. Joseph. When he baptized our son in 1995, and one year later welcomed me into the Catholic Church, our family More »

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Moving Forward in Sede Vacante

by Jessica Rinaudo Bishop Duca’s appointment to Baton Rouge earlier this year made our diocese, Sede Vacante or a “vacant see:” a diocese without a bishop, overseen by a diocesan administrator, who More »

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Praise Academy: Building Faith, Education and Community in Lakeside

by Jessica Rinaudo Every city has them – areas rampant with crime, populated by the poor, the hungry, those surviving day to day. Shreveport, Louisiana is no exception. I found myself driving More »

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U.S. Bishops Approved “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”

from the USCCB BALTIMORE— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved during its November General Assembly, the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter More »

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LaCaze Lagniappe Gala: Celebrating the Life of Monsignor J. Carson LaCaze

by Randy Tiller Msgr. Carson LaCaze was a force of nature in the Diocese of Shreveport, but in sharp contrast to that dynamic personality, he was also well known to collect various More »

United for Religious Freedom

A Statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered for its March 2012 meeting, is strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day. In our role as Bishops, we approach this question prayerfully and as pastors—concerned not only with the protection of the Church’s own institutions, but with the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.

To address the broader range of religious liberty issues, we look forward to the upcoming publication of “A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. This document reflects on the history of religious liberty in our great Nation; surveys the current range of threats to this foundational principle; and states clearly the resolve of the Bishops to act strongly, in concert with our fellow citizens, in its defense.

One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now- finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

We begin, first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.

Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of

their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community. And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs.” Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2.

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.

A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.

Third, we want to indicate our next steps. We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.

Most importantly of all, we call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Chooses CHRISTUS Sutton Children’s Medial Center

Dr. William Lunn, Administrator of CHRISTUS Sutton Children’s Medical Center, introduces Sr. Rose Marie McDermott during the Children’s Miracle Announcement.

by Kristen Gary

The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has chosen CHRISTUS Sutton Children’s Medical Center as a member of their network of 170 children’s hospitals in the U.S. CHRISTUS Sutton Children’s joins a prestigious list of member hospitals including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Texas Children’s in Houston and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

John Lauck, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals President and CEO, said “Sutton Children’s was chosen as a member hospital due to the excellent quality of care they provide for regional kids. The hospital now has access to a North American network of 170 elite health institutions and fundraising resources to further advance their operations. We look forward to Sutton Children’s continuing improvement as a member hospital.”

Stephen F. Wright, CEO of CHRISTUS Health Louisiana, said “This designation is considered a recognition of excellence among children’s hospitals. This partnership assures our community that the services being delivered to children in Northern Louisiana and Texas by CHRISTUS Sutton Children’s Medical Center are of the highest quality available nationwide.”

While Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a national partnership, 100 percent of donations stays in the local community to be used to pay for the cost of caring for pediatric health needs, to purchase equipment and to fund research and training.

William Lunn, MD, COO of CHRISTUS Health Shreveport–Bossier, discussed how people could help support the children’s hospital. “As you stop by one of the participating Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals corporate partners like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Rite Aid and many others, please consider purchasing a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals ‘Miracle Balloon’. These funds will be used by the hospital where the money is needed most, including new equipment, child life services, uncompensated care and research.” Sutton Children’s joins other CHRISTUS hospitals, including CHRISTUS Cabrini Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Alexandria, CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles and CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in San Antonio as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Sutton Children’s Medical Center is recognized as a preeminent community-based private children’s hospital that includes an inpatient unit, a PICU and a Level III NICU. Child Life specialists are available to help children cope with treatment. The Pediatric Emergency Department provides specialized emergency care just for kids.

Diocesan Wide Youth Rally Coming to Ruston in April

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by John Vining, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry

The Diocese of Shreveport is gearing up for its annual Youth Rally. This year the rally is headed back east and will take place at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. This year’s event is chocked full of great speakers, breakout sessions and music. Here are the basics:

Who is coming?  Steve Angrisano!
Our diocese is extremely privileged to have a talent sof Steve’s caliber to minister to us this April. Passionate about youth, passionate about the message of Christ, passionate about ministry, Steve will bring inspiring messages to North Louisiana.

What will we learn and discuss?
Priests, religious men and women and the lay faithful will present topics on beliefs and practices, the faith community, scripture, pro-life and emotions from a Catholic perspective.

Where is this taking place? Louisiana Tech University
The Student center offers a large meeting space. Registrations take place at Tolliver Hall across from it, but I encourage you to pre-register with the diocese and purchase your t-shirt today! The cost is only $10 a person.

When? Saturday April 14 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Breakfast will be provided during registration from 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Java City will be open if students and adults would like to purchase coffee.

What is the food like? Excellent!
During lunch the student center will open up Burger Studio, Montague’s Deli, and even Chick Fil-A. Prices are very reasonable.

Why go?
Your diocese has a passion for every person in North Louisiana and beyond. We earnestly endeavor to share the love of Christ with everyone we meet because we know Christ changes people! He heals, he provides, he nurtures people’s lives. Not only do we have a spectacular group of breakout session leaders, we also have a group of adults expressing their love for you as they devote their time. You will be encouraged, uplifted, prayed for and have your Catholic faith strengthened.

Please join our speakers, priests and a host of faith-filled youth coming together in Christ’s name the Saturday after Easter in Ruston. We have something wonderful to share: the Love of Christ!

Bishop’s Reflection (April 2012)

Three women bring ointment to Christ’s tomb and discover it open in this artwork attributed to illuminator Cristoforo de Predis. (CNS photo/courtesy of Alinari, Art Resource)

by Bishop Michael Duca

CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

I have always been at a loss for how to greet people at Easter. I suppose the default common greeting is “Happy Easter” but that has always seemed too small for so wondrous a Solemnity of our Faith. It is also a little secular, mundane like “Have a nice day.”  The greeting I believe is big enough is the one above that comes out of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions. This greeting is not a simple desire that the other will have a good time but rather a PROCLAMATION that flows out of and draws us into the center of the mystery of our faith in Christ Risen from the dead for our salvation.  In my greeting/proclamation, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” and then the response of the other, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” we are, in that moment of encounter, together the Church alive, proclaiming and giving witness to our common faith in the Risen Lord.

CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

This past Lent was a hard Lent for me, not in my personal acts of penance or commitments of charity, but in having to face the realities that MAY come our way if the new HHS mandates do not restore our freedom to exclude birth control and other morally objectionable abortafacients and procedures for sterilization from the health insurance we offers our employees.  I have had some ask, “Why are the bishops being so difficult? It is not that big of a deal.” But IT IS A BIG ISSUE. I ask that you take the time to carefully read the statement of the American bishops on the next page that gives a succinct explanation of the issue at hand.  Facing this as a bishop is challenging, but it has been difficult also on a personal level. I have always, from my first moments of awareness, always believed that being a good Catholic and being a good citizen were not only compatible but also mutually beneficial.  I have always been proud of the history of our dioceses and religious communities who brought medical care and hospitals to remote areas in a time when we were still a developing nation. I am proud of how we cared for immigrants and created an education system of Catholic schools and colleges that still excel academically. I have cherished and thankfully prayed for the freedom we enjoy as Catholics to worship God without interference and to administer our Catholic institutions in light of that same faith.  It is personally difficult to consider the possibility of having to decide between being a good citizen and being a good Catholic. This is the possible BIG DEAL that we are confronting as a Church.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Of course all these challenges to the Church bring to us an opportunity to consider the priority of our Catholic faith in our lives. This challenge to the freedom of religion, as big as it is, is nowhere near as big as the hope we proclaim in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, who was raised from the dead to save us from the darkness of sin and to take away the sting of death. In Jesus we have the true hope that gives our lives an eternal meaning, a hope that not even death can destroy. This same Lord comes to us in the celebration of the Mass as Eucharistic food, His true body and blood to strengthen us to become more like Christ each day.  This is the heart of the Church, it is our proclamation, our hope and our witness in the way we live our lives.  This is a freedom no one can take away.  So as difficult as my Lent has been I am not in any way without hope.  If it comes to a choice, I choose Christ.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Maybe the difference in the Easter greetings gives us some insight. Happy Easter is a good greeting but a somewhat generic one that can come off the tongue almost without thinking, and is certainly not expecting a substantial response.  Whereas the greeting “CHRIST IS RISEN!   HE IS RISEN INDEED!” can not easily be said without us being pulled into the mystery of our faith, without giving a public witness of our faith, without considering what I truly believe and how it is reflected in my life.  The greeting expects a response that ties us together in that faith, that unites us in the Church.

CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

The challenges before the Church today are calling us to consider whether our Catholic faith is just a generic title that has little influence in our lives or whether our Catholic faith is something that we embrace with a love that influences our whole lives and that we give witness to in the way we live.  Speak out against this coercive mandate.  Do not be pulled into the media downplay of the issue but continue to speak out against it.  Give witness to your faith in your life.  Do not just hope for a Happy Easter, but rather pray for a faith in Jesus Risen from the dead and in His Church that moves us to proclaim:

“CHRIST IS RISEN!” And to that I gladly respond, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”