Exploring the History of St. Matthew Church

By John Mark Willcox Exiting I-20 in downtown Monroe on Jackson Street you are met with a beautiful sight….the majestic spire of St. Matthew Church which has stood in downtown Monroe for More »

Discerning a Vocation in Elementary and Middle School

by Seminarian Raney Johnson It might seem too early to begin discerning a vocation in elementary and middle school. Yet, whenever I give a talk about vocations to young Catholics, I remind More »

Rite of Candidacy

A Q&A About the Rite of Candidacy with Seminarian Jeb Key Q: What is the Rite of Candidacy?  Candidacy is a rite in the Church that all people aspiring to receive the More »

Fr. Peter B. Mangum Addresses Thoughts on June USCCB Meeting and the Future of the Diocese

By: Fr. Peter B. Mangum   Dear People of Shreveport, I begin this article on Pentecost Sunday, preparing for the gathering of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore. More »

El padre Peter informa sobre la reunión del USCCB en junio y el futuro de la Diócesis

Querida Gente de la Diócesis de Shreveport Comienzo este artículo en Domingo de Pentecostés mientras me preparo para la reunión de la Conferencia Episcopal de los Obispos Católicos de Los Estados Unidos, More »

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Kim Long On the 15th day of August, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Body and Soul into heaven. The feast, which has a long More »

Holistic Catholic Education

By: Mike Van Vranken Almost forty years ago, I heard someone respond to the question “what do Catholics believe” with the confident answer: “We believe it all!”  Over the years, and often More »

The Life of Sister Maria Smith, D.C.

by Patti Underwood On Holy Thursday, we in the Diocese of Shreveport and beyond lost a rare treasure, Sister Maria Smith, D.C.  Sister Maria was Mother Superior of the Daughters of the More »

Faithful Step Up in Wake of Tornado Devastation

by Walter Johnson On April 25, the city of Ruston found itself reeling from an EF3 tornado that blew into the area in the early hours of Thursday morning. The vicious storm More »

Faith in the Footlights: Religion Gets a Curtain Call on Broadway

by Catholic News Service

Kecia Lewis-Evans stars in a scene from the Broadway production of "Leap of Faith" at St. James Theatre in New York. Faith-themed shows such as this have transformed Broadway into a "highway to heaven, " says one theater observer. "Leap of Faith" recently closed on Broadway but producers are considering a national tour of the show. (CNS photo/Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK (CNS) — Can it be? Has Broadway found religion? According to one recent article, a bumper crop of faith-themed shows, like “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Godspell,” “Book of Mormon” and “Sister Act,” has transformed Broadway into a “highway to heaven.” So why the great awakening on the Great White Way? “I think there is a “God moment” breaking out in the entertainment culture that’s partly driven by a quest for profits in difficult economic times, but also by people’s never-ending quest for transcendent meaning,” said Tom Allen of Allied Faith and Family, a marketing agency that is trying to promote shows like “Sister Act” to Christians. The Tony-nominated musical is emblematic of this religious revival: flashy and brash, yet earnestly spiritual. The same can be said for the recently closed “Leap of Faith,” which is contemplating a possible national tour. Both musicals were adapted from 1992 movies and feature music by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken. Both also deal with themes of redemption and salvation. “I think people are tired of hearing about selfish people feeling sorry for themselves,” said Fred Applegate, who plays a pastor in “Sister Act” and who believes the uptick in religious productions underscores a need “for hope.”

At Audience, Pope Says Work Should Help, Not Hinder, Family Life

by Catholic News Service

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –  Work obligations should not harm a person’s family relationships but should provide support, giving couples the resources to have and raise children and spend time together, Pope Benedict XVI said. At the end of his weekly general audience May 16, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose “family and work” as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15. Work should not be an obstacle to the family, he said, “but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life” and interact with society and the Church. Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that Sundays would be respected by employers as “a day of rest and an occasion to reinforce family ties.” In his main audience talk, the pope looked at prayer in the biblical letters of St. Paul. The New Testament letters, he said, include prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession, demonstrating how prayer is appropriate for every occasion in life. “Prayer should not be seen simply as a good work we do for God — something we do — but as a gift, the fruit of the living spirit of the Father and of Jesus Christ within us,” the pope said. Pope Benedict said often “we do not know how to pray in the right way,” but simply opening oneself up and setting aside a bit of time for God, the Holy Spirit will take over. “The absence of words, but the desire to enter into dialogue with God, is a prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but carries to and interprets for God.”

Diocese of Shreveport Welcomes New Director of Catechesis

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

The Diocese of Shreveport is proud to announce the hire of Shelly Bole as the new Director of Catechesis.
Bole is well educated in matters of the Church. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Newman University in Wichita in 1989, and just recently completed her Master’s degree in Theological Studies from the same university this past August.

Her Bachelor’s degree focused on youth ministry, so Bole spent much of her early career working with youth ministry on the parish level and serving as a campus minister to a Catholic high school. She later felt called to minister in adult education.

Bole comes to us from the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas where she served as the Program Coordinator of Religious Education. During her time there she trained catechists and took on a number of projects including writing a confirmation curriculum specific to the Diocese of Wichita over a five year period and managing a resource library for the diocese that served all Catholics, especially catechists.

Shelly will begin work as the Diocese of Shreveport’s Director of Catechesis on June 1, 2012. She is excited about beginning work in north Louisiana, “The thing that struck me about my interview was the profound faith in this sense of place. I was very impressed with that.”

She is also very happy with the Diocese of Shreveport’s vision of lifelong catechesis.

When Bole begins her new position, she’s ready to hit the ground running. “One of my first priorities is to spend time with Bishop to understand his vision,” said Bole.

She added that she wants to meet the clergy and the Directors of Religious Education to garner an understanding of where they’re at now, what’s working for them and what can be improved.

Bole added, “The first goal of catechesis is to foster intimacy with Christ. How can I help [people] do that in their parishes? ”
Shelly is anxious to meet the people of our diocese. Please give her a warm welcome when you see her out in the parishes!

Air in the Tires and Fuel in the Tank: How to Keep Fathers Trucking Along

by Katie Sciba

(Photo by Valeer Vandenbosch, sxc.hu)

Being a father is a 24/7, for-the-rest-of-your-life duty and honor. It can be fairly easy to come by, whether a man is the father in a family, the pastor of a parish, or a father figure to another; but, the significance of this role demands diligence, fortitude and humility. What can be daunting about fatherhood are the essential tasks of teaching sons how to be holy men, showing daughters what devotional love is, and ultimately leading children to heaven; none of which are easily done and all require a life-long effort to establish an eternal effect.

As if fatherhood isn’t challenging enough, those called to it are charged with these tasks whether they understand it or not; it happens naturally. Reflecting on my experience, it’s true that my own father set the bar for my expectations in a husband, and my sister’s as well. Likewise, his confident demeanor and approach are echoed in the life of my brother. What fathers do, their children will do; which is why it’s necessary that they set the example of holiness and responsibility for their children; show affection so children learn how to show it to others; respect their children’s mother whether married to her or not; and through it all, show kids that being their dad is fun and enjoyable.

Contrary to what you may think so far, this isn’t an article written for dads. It’s written for children and mothers. My above list enumerating the aspects of fatherhood is by no means exhaustive – there is much more to it and, as many of you know, parenthood isn’t easy. It can’t be done alone. No matter what our tasks in life, we all need encouragement and opportunities to recharge. Considering the weight of being a father, it is certain that they especially need support. Depending on how the father in your life best receives it, there are countless ways to help him feel affirmed and appreciated. (Please note that all of the following can be adjusted for your parish priest, who like any other father, could use the support!)

My husband is strengthened when I tell him he is my hero, that his hard work and love for our family is noble and admirable. When words aren’t enough, I make sure to give him a break to strike out on his own, which usually includes Bass Pro and local fishing hole or a night out with his buddies. I’ll bake him cookies and try to present a truly peaceful and welcoming home. Most importantly, I pray for him and my dad and tell them that I do so. The gift of prayer is certainly the most powerful, encouraging and the most fruitful.

Being a father, whether of children or a congregation, is no light task. While those called to fatherhood are charged with guiding children to God among other things, those of us who receive their guidance are called to respond to their efforts and remind them of our gratitude.

Another Side of Family

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Church

Altar for St. Mary of the Pines PSR students.

When I speak with couples about choosing a baptismal saint for their child I also ask if they have a family patron saint. Most couples say they don’t but many seem genuinely intrigued. “How can we do that?” they often ask. Choosing a patron saint for your family can be as simple as it was for my family—we are Irish so Saints Patrick and Brigid were natural and obvious choices. Our family celebrates their feast days and we have learned their stories. We have been inspired by their examples of courage and love of God regardless of cost. We invite them into our prayers in times of need, sorrow and joy! They have truly become a part of our family’s expression of faith.

The process need not be narrowed to your ethnic or cultural background but could extend to some saint with whom you regularly turn to for prayerful intercession, the saint whose feast day is celebrated on your wedding anniversary, a saint associated with the family professions like teaching or medicine or motherhood or metal workers or farming; the possibilities are endless!

Did your family have a family altar once upon a time? This is a very spiritual and sweet practice that seem to have been relegated to nostalgia. In the name of modernity, we seem to have abandoned the family altar. I love all things Catholica so when I read about family altars I was immediately on the lookout for an opportunity to create one. I have a couple of old and treasured statues that have traveled with us on every move so they had always had a place of honor but I wanted more!
We moved into a house that boasted an entire wall of built in shelves and cabinets. On this wall was a recessed space that we could tell held at one time a state of the art television and stereo receivers and all its accoutrements. Our television didn’t work in that space and it was too deep for books. I wondered as I tried various objects in the space how could we best utilize it. That’s when our family altar was realized. Our family has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus so I knew that statue had to be the centerpiece.

I had a wonderful time creating this sacred space literally in the midst of our home. Various statues and holy cards and other images came and went but three remained at all times, the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Mother and St. Patrick. Over the months we have added photographs of confirmations, family gatherings, candles and prayers printed on the backs of holy cards; during the Christmas season we placed our Nativity set in this space.

We have since moved from that particular home and into one with totally different configurations. My altar is now on the kitchen counter in a small corner with a votive candle, a small picture of my family and a small statue of the Blessed Mother. My Sacred Heart statue is on top of the bookcase and the Infant of Prague, for whom I have a very special devotion, is in my bedroom on a top shelf of yet another bookcase. Each time I look at these figures, prayerfully arranged, I feel refreshed and in good company.

An altar can be anywhere and very simple; for instance a candle in the center of the dining table with a holy card nearby; in a small corner of your kitchen, on top of a bookcase, or your dressing table. If you aren’t so keen on statues, consider arranging some inspirational pictures or even use the side of the fridge and make room for some heavenly helpers there – holy cards are an inexpensive way to begin living with sacred imagery.

I think family altars and family patron saints are important, so much so that I even surprised our catechists with one in the PSR Office. There are baskets, slips of paper and pens so that they can write prayer requests. During our monthly PSR Masses these requests are carried up at the offertory.

In a world that tends to further its own interests these little sacred spaces in the midst of laundry, report cards, bills, laughter, pancakes and dishes keep me mindful of a few things. The saints were human and had many of the same challenges my family and I face so they understand and have empathy. After all, I can never have enough prayer partners and reminders that God is truly in the midst of all this with us! When I have talked about Catholic practices and sacramentals some people don’t see the need or seem to be somewhat cautious until I tell them that all our symbols, and indeed everything we do as Catholics, are intended to point us to God. Carving out a little sacred space and including a patron saint in my family’s daily life has become as natural as breathing.

These altars for me have functioned as an oasis in an often busy, messy and hectic life, a touchstone in my day to remind me that I am not alone; I have friends in high places that are never too busy to listen and pray with and for me and that I should never be too busy to do the same.

For information on patron saints try The Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints and searching the internet. New Advent and St. Anthony Messenger Press websites are only a couple that provide an index of patron saints. Please be sure to choose a Catholic website if you consult the internet.

Walking Across the U.S. for Pro-Life

by Matt Sciba

In the summer of 2002, I attended a pro-life youth conference in New Orleans.  A group of young adults with “pro-life” printed on their t-shirts attended and spoke about their walk across the United States.  I pledged that I would spend the next summer walking with the Crossroads Pro-Life Walk Across America (http://crossroadswalk.org/).

In May 2003, I bought a one way ticket on a Greyhound bus for a 30 hour trip from Dallas to Arlington, VA. After two days of orientation, our group of walkers drove an RV from Virginia to San Francisco to begin the greatest adventure of our young lives.

The purpose of the Crossroads walk is to offer every step as prayer and mortification for the protection of dignity and sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death. Crossroads also seeks to educate and encourage people to become more actively pro-life.

During my trip, I encountered thousands of people, most of whom were pro-life. We spoke at churches, visited youth groups, recruited young adults along the way, prayed at abortion centers, saved a few babies (that we know of), and formed lifelong friendships.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is that everything happens in God’s time. Various things broke, walkers got sick or injured, and many times we ran out of money and didn’t know from where our next meal would come.  Many times we didn’t know where we would lay our heads.  Every single time it appeared as though we would go without, God sent help at the last minute.

This year, Crossroads will begin their cross-country pilgrimages on May 19 in Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, with all walks concluding in Washington, D.C. on August 11th.  The three month trek will test the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual endurance of 50 or so young adults.

As a walker, my faith soared higher than ever before.  Life was no longer according to my will, but wholly according to God’s.  Living with 20 other people in tight quarters with only a backpack of personal belongings and no ability to set one’s own schedule tested my limits. Oddly enough, I had a difficult two months adjusting to life after Crossroads. My faith was at its peak and my will was aligned with God’s.  Fast-forward to today, and a great many people with whom I walked have become or are in the process of becoming priests or nuns, or are leaders in their communities.

The interesting thing about Crossroads is that it not only invigorates the walkers, but many communities are transformed as well.  I remember staying with a couple who were infertile, and the husband had been very bitter and angry at God because of it. We stayed nearly a week at their home, and by the end, the husband’s anger and bitterness had melted. The day we said goodbye, he gave a tearful speech explaining that our witness of God’s love had relieved him of 25 years of scorn.

Nine years later, Crossroads is still going strong, and has expanded to at least four walks per summer.  This summer, as they do every summer, the walkers will stop in Shreveport for a weekend. My wife and I will play host, listen to their stories, and share our own stories from the walks we completed.

The paths for four Crossroads walks this summer. The walkers will be in Shreveport beginning July 4.

Wherever you live, keep the Crossroads walkers in your prayers. They rely solely on divine providence for everything (food, water, shelter, clothing).  If you live near one of the routes, please consider meeting them as they pass by, and offering even something as small as a word of encouragement.  Not only will you lift the spirits of the walkers, but you too may be enriched by their love for God.

The Crossroads walkers will walk through Shreveport (most likely on Hwy 80) on or around July 4th, and will stay in Shreveport/Bossier on the weekend of July 6-8. A reception will be held for the walkers on July 6. More details will be available in the near future at our website http://truthandcharity.net.

EDIT: For an update on the Crossroads walkers in Shreveport, check out this post at truthandcharity.net.

St. Frederick’s Girls Tennis Wins State

It’s official: St. Frederick High School girls’ tennis team won the LA State Championship in Monroe, LA, on May 3, making this a second consecutive state title for St. Frederick High School tennis. The eight girls contributing to St. Frederick’s outstanding play are Ashely Johnson (not pictured), Abigail Johnson, Emory Miller, Elaine Simon, Blair Breard, Analise Kelly, Regan LaPietra and Lily Ryan. These Lady Warriors finished the year with not only the state title, but also with many individual wins. Geaux Lady Warriors! We are so proud of you!

Jesus Good Shepherd School Celebrates Law Day

Jesus the Good Shepherd School’s second graders toured the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s office and the courthouse as part of a Law Day Celebration. The students began the morning with a K-9 demonstration, then they got to experience the booking process firsthand by getting their fingerprints taken. Finally, the second-graders decided the fate of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in a mock trial at the 4th Judicial District Courthouse.

St. Joseph School Wins First Place at Loyola Academic Rally

Thirteen St. Joseph School students competed against other private schools in the area at the Loyola Academic Rally.  St. Joseph students brought home the 1st place overall trophy.  They also brought home ribbons from each subject area. The Loyola Academic Rally is an area-wide competition between area private schools in the subjects of: Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics. This is a daylong competition comprised of written and oral tests.

St. John Berchmans Wins First in Science Olympiad

St. John Berchmans School in Shreveport took first place at the Science Olympiad State Competition held last month on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA.  The team of 15 students competed against 14 middle school teams from around the state of Louisiana in a variety of subjects including anatomy, forestry, rocks and minerals, meteorology, experimental design and forensics.  This is the fourth consecutive year that St. John Berchmans School has won first place at the state level.

In addition to taking overall first place in the state competition, St. John Berchmans students also received a total of 12 first place medals, two second place medals, and one third place medal. The SJB Science Olympiad team traveled to Orlando, FL, to compete in the Science Olympiad National Tournament on Saturday, May 19, against 59 teams from around the United States.