0518vocations

Preparing for June Ordinations: Q&A with the Candidates

KEVIN MUES What are you most looking forward to about being ordained to the Transitional Diaconate? The transitional diaconate is a period of about a year. A man is ordained to the More »

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Grant Brings Money School to Rural Community

by Lucy Medvec Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) recently took its financial education class, The Money School, on the road to Ringgold and it was all made possible by a grant More »

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St. John Berchmans School Reigns as 10 Time Science Olympiad State Champions!

by Mary Simpson The St. John Berchmans Science Olympiad team won the State Science Olympiad competition held in Hammond, LA in March of this year – in fact, they have won it More »

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St. Joseph Seminary Youth Events

by Kelby Tingle, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian Throughout the course of the academic year, there are many exciting events that take place within the seminary community at St. Joseph Seminary College. The More »

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Navigating the Faith: Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church New Feast Day

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree signed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, on March 3, 2018, announcing that More »

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Domestic Church: Finding the Divine Plan in Grief

by Katie Sciba I lost my dad in the fall of 2013. After dodging more adventurous deaths in his youth, he met his match in cancer. He fought for two-and-a-half years before More »

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Faithful Food: Summer Recipes for Life

by Kim Long Birthdays when I was a child were a Real. Big. Deal. What exactly do I mean when I say that? My birthday, which falls in the later part of More »

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Catholic Charities: North Louisiana’s Good Samaritan

by Lucy Medvec Who will you help today? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called by Jesus to go forth and treat our neighbors with mercy, even those we More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life

by Bishop Michael G. Duca For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the More »

Faith in Action: The Light of Christ

by Donna Frasier

I love the Easter Vigil Mass. It is very beautiful, and like many, one of my favorite Masses of the year. There is so much validated over the course of the evening, but the “light of Christ” has an especially significant meaning.

The service begins in darkness, which represents all darkness, void of light in our lives. A “new” sacred fire is built and serves as an image of the Resurrection; usually outside the sanctuary, from which the Paschal candle is lit first and all other candles from its flame. This candle will be used over the course of the year for every Baptism and special liturgical ceremonies. The Paschal candle is brought into the church. Everyone holds a candle as the light of Christ is passed from person to person. We are reminded throughout the Easter Vigil Mass, as Catechumens are welcomed into the fold and our baptismal vows renewed, how important it is to reject evil and remain focused on the light that brings us together. Imagine what it would be like if only one person had a candle, or just a few people; the light would be dim. I can’t help but think when things were not going well among Jesus’ flock; he gave his disciples what was needed at the Last Supper (the Eucharist) to share and spread his Spirit (at Pentecost) to others.

During Jesus’ Passion when his light seemed the bleakest, as he was denied and abandoned by many of those he loved and was inevitably crucified; through it all he prayed with great fortitude (Luke 22:24), showing mercy and forgiveness to everyone (Luke 23: 34). He kept the light alive through the hardest of times and gave his followers the means needed to allow His light to shine brighter. He knew that in the end, it would mean salvation for all of mankind. He remained steadfast and resilient in carrying out God’s divine plan.

There may be times when we feel that Christ is not with us in the darkness, but he is always there. The beloved Psalm 23 is often noted during times of death and despair; and through Christ’s death and resurrection we are one with all who have lived and died through Him. No matter what we face, by rejoicing together and enabling God’s will to be done, we can be united in the Light of Christ. No amount of hopelessness can extinguish His wondrous love. The love of Christ heals us, and we should never let go of that which brings us together.

Jesus did not turn away from those who abandoned him. He showed his love conquers all. It is as simple, and as complex as that. We are called to show love, forgiveness and mercy in order for his light to shine bright; and in doing so, we are able, through the Church and our God, to be prepared for anything.

However, we are not asked to stand alone, we should be joined in the love and light of our Risen Lord. As Jesus, we too must remain steadfast and resilient in God’s plan for us by living through the Holy Spirit; enabling Him to strengthen, protect and guide us.

Mike’s Meditations: Process of Discernment

by Mike Van Vranken

If you have begun your study of Pope Francis’ new papal teaching on God’s universal invitation calling each of us to be holy, Gaudete et Exsultate, you have certainly noticed the pope’s frequent mention of the process of discernment. Surely, he is referring to the ways God respects our diversity and so calls each of us to respond in a unique and personal manner. Discerning how we must answer the calling becomes a necessary part of our daily prayer life.

Even in a more magnified way, however, Pope Francis reminds us that once we believe we know how God wants us to respond, we must ask ourselves: “How do we know it’s God who has given us this information?” In very clear terms, he reminds us that what we “hear” might be from God, but it could also be something from our own consciousness (ego), or our message may have come from the spirit that is not of God; in other words, the devil, Satan, the enemy – whatever name we use. Francis is teaching us of our obligation to always be discerning to discover the origin of the movements going on within us.

How do we accomplish this discernment? One of the best ways I know is through the help of a trained and experienced Spiritual Director. Your Spiritual Director will assist you in recognizing when you are being internally moved by something or someone, and then point you back to God to determine if those movements are His or are they coming from something or someone else. The Director will help you develop a real and continuous union with God in prayer.

What might this process look like? It could take various forms, but would always include a consistent 20 to 30 minutes each day dialoguing with God about what’s happening within you. I use the word dialogue, because it implies an intense listening by both parties. Yes, we must spend a good portion of our prayer period sitting still, being quiet and listening to God’s communication back to us. This may sound foreign to you, but again, your Spiritual Director will gently and patiently work with you until this becomes part of your daily prayer practice.

St. Ignatius of Loyola left us two different guides for what he called “Discernment of Spirits.” These 22 rules, as he calls them, are extremely helpful ways of identifying where our thoughts and especially our feelings might be coming from. As you may have guessed, your Spiritual Director knows how to help you apply these rules to your specific situation.

Pope Francis reminds us in his new teaching, we must be open and “allow ourselves to be confronted by the freedom of the Spirit, who acts as he wills.” He also wants us to know that “an essential condition for progress in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and His timetable, which are never our own.” In other words, we won’t always get answers as quickly as we would like.

Each day this month, read the following excerpt from our pope’s most recent teaching and pay attention to how God might be moving within you as you prayerfully absorb each word and make it a part of who you are. Then, take whatever you notice within yourself to dialogue with the God of the universe who loves you more than you can think or imagine.

From Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate: “When, in God’s presence, we examine our life’s journey, no areas can be off limits. In all aspects of life we can continue to grow and offer something greater to God, even in those areas we find most difficult. We need, though, to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us and to expel the fear that makes us ban Him from certain parts of our lives. God asks everything of us, yet He also gives everything to us. He does not want to enter our lives to cripple or diminish them, but to bring them to fulfillment. Discernment, then, is not a solipsistic self-analysis or a form of egotistical introspection, but an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which He has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.”

Catholic Charities: North Louisiana’s Good Samaritan

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by Lucy Medvec

Who will you help today?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called by Jesus to go forth and treat our neighbors with mercy, even those we do not know. This simple directive is the guiding principle for the employees and volunteers of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana’s Monroe office as they work hard each day to help those who are most in need.

Since opening its doors in May 2016, the staff and volunteers in Monroe have worked with hundreds of individuals to provide financial education, tangible assistance for rent and utilities, donations of food and clothing, and most importantly, a sense of compassion. Their daily efforts align with CCNLA’s overall vision of working together to invest in people to alleviate poverty, distress and injustice.

Located across the street from Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, the CCNLA office is off the beaten path from businesses and other nonprofit agencies, but in the past year it has made its presence known in the community. In fact, when the Louisiana 2-1-1 call center released its latest report, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana had more referrals than any other agency in the region.

Catholic Charities is one of many organizations in Northeast Louisiana that provides assistance with rent or utility payments, but it is the only nonprofit that requires an education component in order for clients to receive assistance. That important component comes from The Money School, CCNLA’s weekly class that offers financial education on money management, budgeting, expense tracking and more. The class is taught by Program Coordinator Joann Worley, who then meets with each client to thoroughly assess their financial situation. The concept of The Money School was slow to catch on in Monroe; for the first month of operation attendance was sparse.  That quickly changed as class attendance is now at full capacity (15 clients/students each week).

Other programs offered in the Monroe office include Gabriel’s Corner (offering baby necessities and clothing to parents of small children), food pantry and Gentleman’s Rack and Ladies’ Career Clothes (providing adult clothing for job interviews). CCNLA also offers immigration legal services and seminars to Northeast Louisiana through monthly visits from the Shreveport immigration staff. The work of the immigration staff helps reach clients in rural areas who previously had to travel to Jackson or New Orleans for assistance.

All of this work is done with limited resources and time. For as many clients that seek assistance from CCNLA, three times as many are turned away because of limited funds. Currently, the Monroe office is open three days a week with a part-time staff consisting of Worley and two office assistants, Marilyn Landry and Brenda Taylor, splitting one part-time position. Volunteers are also crucial to the operation of this office, which sees in excess of 30 clients each week. Whether a client is coming for rental or utility assistance, clothing, food or other help, the Monroe staff is able to provide aid through CCNLA’s resources or refer them to another local agency.

How can the Monroe community support Catholic Charities in its role as Good Samaritan? The biggest need is financial resources. The current financial assistance budget is $12,000 per year – a small amount considering the number of emergency requests the office receives each week. Volunteers and donations of clothing and food are always appreciated, but in order to take the next step of becoming a full-time social services agency in Northeast Louisiana, support from the community must rise to a level that can meet the need.

As the Monroe office nears its two year anniversary, it reaches a crossroad for its future in Northeast Louisiana. Donations from the community have grown over the past two years, but not in relation to the amount of financial need that is requested. CCNLA’s first major fundraiser, “Bingo on the Delta,” will be held this month in West Monroe. Already a sold-out success its previous two years in Shreveport, the bingo fundraiser is a casual evening of dinner and bingo, with local priests and nuns serving as the bingo callers. Staff members look forward to members of the Eastern Deanery embracing this event and making it successful for years to come.

Since its founding in 2010, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana continues to help those who have been passed by or overlooked in our community. As an important charitable partner of the Diocese of Shreveport, CCNLA will continue to show mercy and be the Good Samaritan of North Louisiana.

Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2Tim. 4:6-8

Do you remember the movie, The Bucket List? The movie is about two terminally ill men who meet in a hospital room and decide to try and empty their “bucket lists” – their lists of all the things they want to do before they die, before they “kick the bucket.” Luckily, one of the men is a millionaire and they set out to do as much as they can before they die.

And while we might all have these kinds of lists and hopes, I am certain that a bucket list is not a big enough goal for us as Christians who believe in and stand in the light of the Resurrection of Christ. Just a few days ago, on the first day of this month (no foolin’), we celebrated Easter Sunday and proclaimed with faith-filled voices, “The Lord is Risen.” With this proclamation, we confessed our faith: that our lives do not end with the death of our physical bodies, but rather are reborn to an eternal life. So if this is our faith, then the motivating principle of our lives should not be “to do as much as we can before we die,” but rather we should say, “I want to do as much as I can to be ready for Eternal Life, to be ready to enter the heavenly kingdom where every tear is wiped away and I will never die again.”

This is actually a more positive and freeing way to look at life. First, we avoid the constant feeling of frustration because of the things we never got to do. We also avoid the constant sadness resulting from death approaching and robbing us of opportunity and freedom. We stop looking at death as this inevitable thief and see it though the eyes of faith as the path to our own Resurrection.

When we are focused on getting ready for our Resurrection, we do not stop living but we may live differently and live, in fact, more intentionally and integrally. Here are two attitudes that may be changed by seeing the ending of this life as the beginning of eternal life.

Sacrificial love takes on a new, positive meaning in our lives. To love sacrificially means that we need to give our limited time, energy, and maybe even treasure, to help someone we love or live up to the demands of our commitments of love. This can be hard to do if we see our time as “running out,” or that we are losing time before we die to do what we want. But if we see our life with an eternal plan, we are able to see that love is the way we get ready for eternal life, that there will be a reward for this act of love maybe in this life (and there often is), but certainly we will be rewarded in the joy of eternal life.

Living more simply, we know, allows us time and energy to be freer to concentrate on relationships of love with family, spouse, children and friends. It allows us to deepen our relationship with God and to make time for those who need our help. If we are preparing for the next life, we will tend to live more simply, choosing to lighten our load as we age instead of accumulating as though we will live forever. We will put our time and effort into the heavenly treasure we can take with us, and this lasting treasure is always gifted to us through love.

I do not want to sound like we should be happy to die, but rather I am suggesting a deeper spiritual orientation. If we are living to only empty our bucket list, then it seems like we are always running from death, even to the point of desperately trying to hold on to our youth, our stuff and our money in order to stave off death and live like we will never die. We should not live our lives as though we are running from the pursuing Death, but rather let us always be running toward Eternal Life. If we run this “good race,” as Saint Paul calls our life of faith, then we know we will pass through death, but that is not our goal and it will not slow us down. This allows us to live not in fear, but rather in HOPE. Death is not the end, but the portal, the gate to our salvation. That is the positive goal that should motivate our lives and be animated by our faith in Jesus Christ, who showed us the way when He arose from the dead. The more we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, the more we are free to live in the freedom and joy that comes from hope in Life Eternal.

Confirmation Retreat

The Confirmation Class from St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport joined students from the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for a retreat at The Pines Camp in preparation for their upcoming Confirmations.

Black History Month Celebration at Sacred Heart in Shreveport

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Shreveport celebrated Black History Month with a special program honoring Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. on Sunday, February 25, at 2:00 p.m. The program included Music from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Crosby Family singers and Shachiri Henderson. Will Parker shared the story of Dr. King along with the “I have a Dream” speech. A special presentation honored Isaac Palmer for his many accomplishments and as the first African American CEO of Christus Health System of North Louisiana.

PSR Prayer Charts at St. Pius X

St. Pius X Parish begins every year in Parish School of Religion (PSR) with a  prayer chart. The chart has all the prayers listed at the top by grade. On the side of the chart it has the children’s names listed by age. Every time a child recites a prayer to their teacher, they get to place a star by their name under that prayer. Every year they have to start over, reciting again all the previous year’s required prayers, too. Once they have all their stars, they receive a certificate and a coupon. This is something our SPX children look forward to and work hard on every year. Congratulations to the first round winners! They received their certificates during Mass !

Taste of St. Paschal

The St. Paschal Junior High Youth recently served drinks to the parishioners during the Taste of St. Paschal. This annual potluck meal features favorite ethnic dishes from the parishioners.

Youth Raise Funds for Pregnancy Center

St. Jude Youth participated in distributing baby bottles to be filled with change in support of The Care Pregnancy Center.

Youth Learn About Seder Meal

On February 25, members of St. John the Baptist Parish attended the Faith, Food and Fun Youth Seder Meal coordinated by Yvonne Busby, Jean Rains and Angelique Mitchell. All enjoyed the experience of the Passover Seder.