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In My Weakness is My Strength: Answering the Call to Prison Ministry

by Jessica Rinaudo God often calls us to serve in unexpected ways. We resist, shrug it off, tell God that it’s too hard, but the Lord can be persistent and surprising. It More »

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The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Spouses

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

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Volunteers Care for Orphans Through Pick It Forward

by Jamie Jett Pick It Forward (PIF) for Orphans is a small nonprofit organization that has accepted the challenge to do what they can for orphaned and foster children on behalf of More »

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Catholic Community Volunteers Resources to Help Flood Victim

by Bonny Van On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the skies opened up on North Louisiana.  “It rained a long time,” says 89-year-old Shreveport resident Lizzie Harris. “And, I heard it in my More »

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Jo Cazes Retires, Leaves Legacy at SJB School

by Kelly Phelan Powell After 44 years spent changing the lives of students, Jo Cazes’ own life will take a happy turn when, at the end of the school year, she retires More »

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Navigating the Faith: The Origin of Palm Sunday

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship They took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!’” (Jn 12:13). The Sixth Sunday of Lent is “Palm Sunday of the More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Who is Life? Jesus.

Seeing Life, Seeing Jesus, in the Incarcerated by Mike Van Vranken Very early in the Bible, God tells us he has set before us life and death, and to choose life (Deuteronomy More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Speak Charitably, Confidently & Joyfully

by Bishop Michael G. 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 More »

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

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

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

Faithful Food: Time to Close My Eyes and Leap

by Kim Long

I recently stumbled upon a young 12-year-old contestant on a talent show singing “Defying Gravity.” Initially she was shy, grasping her hands together as one of the panelists asked if she was nervous. Then she opened her mouth and it was absolutely otherworldly, a transformation.

Let’s face it, Lent is easy: do this, don’t do this, think about not doing this. We have a three-fold guide of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Easter, on the other hand, is harder for me: joy, bliss, rejoicing, trust, transformation. With 50 days of less directed joy, sometimes I find myself counting down the days until we get back to Ordinary Time.

Back to the song. A bit of the lyric is, “Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep… time to close my eyes and leap.”

I realized this is what we do at Easter, we defy spiritual gravity and suddenly, we are free. Peter, Thomas and Judas are no longer directing our steps; we trust, we lean forward and gravity is no longer our province.

Life is a gradation – that’s what this young girl showed me when I heard her sing, when I heard her give me a message from the God who created our voices and music and celebrates when we use them!

Now to the kitchen. Tradition reigns supreme with holiday menus, but lately I have felt restless. The old recipes no longer call my name, I wanted to walk down a new road. So, I have foregone my chocolate cake made only for Easter Sunday. This year I tried a Pavlova.

Meringue has never been my first choice, but I wanted to try this dish which illustrates transformation beautifully: egg whites, sugar and trust. While this is baking, you cannot open the oven door. When cook time is over and you turn off oven, you still cannot open it. Let it cool overnight; close your eyes and walk away, trusting that the recipe will work. It did. When I brought this dish, resplendent on a gold platter and basking in trust and Easter dinner glory, the skepticism plastered on the faces gathered round the table melted when they sank their teeth into the first bite. They were transformed.

Trust has never come easily to me, but now I am beginning to believe. I have leaned forward and am flying this Easter season. I know I will land. I know I cannot stay “up on the mountain of transfiguration,” but for now I am defying spiritual gravity. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.”

Pavlova

Ingredients:
• parchment paper
• 4 extra large egg whites (not a single amount of yolk can filter through)
• pinch of salt
• 1 cup sugar, sifted
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• Your choice of fillings: fresh fruit, whipped cream, pudding

Directions:
1) On a parchment sheet, trace a nine inch circle, turn over and place on a baking sheet (circle is visible but pencil marks not in contact with food).

2) Place egg white and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until firm. SLOWLY add the sugar and beat until peaks are firm and shiny.

3) Remove bowl from mixer and sift cornstarch onto the whites. Add vinegar and extracts and fold in with a rubber spatula.

4) Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper, making a basic disc shape and mound the sides up to form a bowl shape.

5)  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU ARE TEMPTED. Turn oven off after time has elapsed. KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED to allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven an hour minimum or even overnight!

6) The outside will be crisp and even cracked in some spots, but that is the desired consistency. Carefully invert on a platter and gently peel off parchment paper.

7)  Turn over and fill with any of the following: fresh fruit, whipped cream, pudding or your favorite combination! Slice as if you are slicing a pie!

Mike’s Meditations: Who is Life? Jesus.

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Seeing Life, Seeing Jesus, in the Incarcerated

by Mike Van Vranken

Very early in the Bible, God tells us he has set before us life and death, and to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). Our human instincts force us to ask the question: “What is life?”  Consequently, for the last several thousand years, we have argued the answer to that query; in our country even taking it to the Supreme Court for a resolution.

I am convinced after all these millennia of warring over this debate, we’ve been asking the wrong question. It’s not “What is life?”  The proper question is “Who is life?”  Life is not a thing; it’s a being. But, it’s not just any being. Much later in the Bible, Jesus tells us: “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  The question is “Who is life?”, and the answer is “Jesus!”  And if Jesus is life, then life includes all who Jesus is: his compassion, his mercy, his love, his peace, his infinite nature, and his mystery. To choose life is to choose Jesus.

Now, take a deep breath and let’s gaze on one issue where our perspective on life (Jesus) might need a little refocusing. With your eyes closed, imagine the Holy Trinity looking down on the earth, paying particular attention to the United States. As they gaze on us scurrying around in our busyness, they notice that about 2.2 million adults are in American jails or prisons, and another 4.8 million are on probation or parole. That’s about 7 million human lives (Jesus) they see in our correctional system. As they look closer at those incarcerated, they see solitary confinement, hard labor, abuse and even some on “death row.”

Our impulse now is to move on, but let’s sit in this reality for a while. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are surveying how we rehabilitate criminals. How we integrate their lives (Jesus) back into ours. In this meditation, we don’t forget, Jesus is life. Our God is surveying how we treat life (Jesus) in our prison system and how we reconcile life (Jesus) back into our communities.

As I experience this image, I hear God whisper to me: “How does the life (Jesus) in you treat the life (Jesus) in the prisoner?”  I hear Jesus say: “Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do to me.” That passage makes a little more sense to me now that I realize Jesus is the very essence of life.  I continue to think about all who Jesus is.

Jesus (life) is reconciliation. Just how important was reconciliation to Jesus? It was “to die for.”  Am I willing to die a little to reconcile the life (Jesus) of a prisoner back to society?  Am I eager to reach out in some way to help rehabilitate the life (Jesus) of someone who is incarcerated right now? Am I encouraged to share Jesus (life) with a woman or man who is confined to a small cell in a prison right now?

Engaging in this meditation might make us a little uncomfortable. Picturing the Triune God observing how we treat life (Jesus) in jail could cause us to squirm a little. But, if we choose life, we choose Jesus. And, equally true, if we choose Jesus, we choose life.

As we continue our Christian journey of transformation, it would be good to come back to this meditation again and again to see how God might be calling us to transform by showing how we choose life (Jesus) or don’t choose life (Jesus) in our correctional system.

And, as we revisit this image of Jesus as life, he may ask us to contemplate other ways we choose life (Jesus) in our society. Such issues as: war, genocide, euthanasia, physical and mental torture, subhuman living conditions, poverty, immigrants and refugees, prostitution, human trafficking, health care, and many other concerns, including abortion. When we do anything to harm a life – and especially to end life, we are indeed harming Jesus – and even ending Jesus.

So, the next time you say: “I’m pro-life,” remember, God has set before us life and death.  He asks us, in every situation, to choose life, to choose Jesus.

Bishop’s Reflection: Speak Charitably, Confidently & Joyfully

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by Bishop Michael G. 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 Easter greeting is proclaimed as I approach the other and I say, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” and then the response of the other is, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” 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.

CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
This proclamation though can be hard to adopt in our lives since religion is considered a private matter in today’s world.  We may even shy away at times from bringing up a religious reason for disagreeing with a point of view in a group conversation, such as abortion and immigration, for example.  What is the religious reason that I am speaking of? It is a reason GOD has passed on to us, through Jesus Christ, for example, that we are to respect the sacredness of the human person, to welcome the stranger and to clothe the naked.  We believe that God has shown us what is good, right and wrong. Morality is not just a human enterprise, but also an application of the 10 commandments and Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.” We can be considered naïve and behind the times, but we cannot be silent. God is being stripped out of our culture and our social morality. We must speak out, charitably, confidently and joyfully about the truths that find their source in GOD.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Simply saying this Easter proclamation out loud, even to ourselves (out loud is important), will cause us to feel a new energy, a model of the kind of joy and courage we should have to proclaim the Good News. “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.  We cannot proclaim “Christ is risen,” OUT LOUD, without 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.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!
To proclaim this Easter proclamation reminds us that we are called to share our faith and not be ashamed.  We are to be the SALT OF THE EARTH! The message we bring is 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 the witness that we need to bring back into the marketplace, our social lives and into the discussions we find ourselves in every day.  To be salt for the earth is to bring God back into our lives, our choices, our morality and into the policies and laws of our city, state and country.

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.  Give witness to your faith in your life.  Do not just hope for a Happy Easter, but rather pray for a faith that is willing to proclaim Jesus Risen from the dead, OUT LOUD!

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

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator

“One of the contemporary challenges in our society today is to ensure the proper respect and treatment of children.”
       – Bishop William B. Friend, Catholic Connection, August 2003

Before 2002, when a nationwide call was made to create safe environment programs and policies in dioceses around the country, our diocese had already established policies for the protection of children in January 1994. This included a permanent review board and measures to keep children safe on field trips, camps and youth events. With the development of a nationwide charter for the protection of youth designed and established by the USCCB, our diocese amended its policies to be in line with this charter and to train adults and children on safe environment and to background check all employees and those individuals volunteering around children. Today the charter extends to the protection of vulnerable adults and recognition of zero tolerance with child pornography. This is only successful because of the many people who have committed the time and resources to be in compliance with these policies and help keep children and vulnerable adults safe from harm. Thank you to all those who make this possible. •

Flyers Develop Faith Sharing Program

With the addition of the new student-led FAITH ON FIRE organization at Loyola have come some special changes in the school atmosphere.  Along with facilitating events and hosting a dynamic speaker for Catholic School’s Week, FAITH ON FIRE has introduced a unique opportunity for students and teachers to eat lunch and share their faith together. During the Faith Sharing Group sessions, students and teachers watch a short video targeting a specific area of personal growth.  The most recent session featured a video which raised the questions, “What are my gifts, and how can I more freely and effectively use those in God’s plan for me?”  The group then discusses their thoughts on the topic.

St. Joseph Students at Science Fair

Ten St. Joseph School students competed against over 300 students in the Louisiana Region I Science Fair held at Bossier Parish Community College March 3-4. The team won 3rd place overall, and of the 10 projects entered, four earned awards in their categories:

• Jack Vandenbussche: 1st Place, Energy, Chemical
• Annabelle Jones: 1st Place, Engineering Mechanics
• Genevieve Carmody: 1st Place, Biomedical and Health Science
• Emily Horton: 2nd Place, Embedded Systems

Jack, Annabelle and Genevieve will represent St. Joseph School in the State Science Fair.

Additionally, three students received supplemental awards: Emma Tompkins received Sci-Port’s “Spark of Curiosity” Award and Emily Horton and Annabelle Jones received the Broadcom MASTERS award.

JGS Supports Family

Jesus the Good Shepherd School students donated money to the Landry Hope Sipes Fund as a community service project to help the Sipes/Riley families during their time of need. Landry Sipes was born prematurely at 29 weeks, weighing only 2 lbs 11oz. Landry’s mother, Marie, passed away unexpectedly days after delivering Landry. The family are school alumni and longtime members of JGS church.

Celebrating Reading at Our Lady of Fatima

I will read here. I will read there. I will read everywhere. Our Lady of Fatima Kindergarten students read the most from coast to coast for Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

St. Frederick Students Read in Schools

Seniors Graham Sorrel and Charles Walters read to students at Sallie Humble Elementary School.

Little Flower Visits with Muslim Community

On February 23, Little Flower of Jesus Parish in Monroe visited with the Muslim community of Monroe at the Islamic Center of Northeast Louisiana to offer support and encouragement. It also was a good opportunity to learn more about each other’s faith, make personal friendships and share some good food. There were about 100 participants present along with Imam Mahmoud Khalil and Fr. Adrian Fischer, OFM.