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 »

Through Mary’s Heart

By Lisa Cooper

Part of the beauty of Catholicism is that no two of us live our faith in exactly the same way. Rich with varying devotions, our faith offers our souls nourishment in ways that seem uniquely suited to us. One particular devotion that, although centuries old, is gaining new momentum is the Consecration to Mary. When I was first approached to participate in a Consecration to Mary, I was reluctant. While I had developed a very deep devotion to our Blessed

Mother and a reliance upon her intercession, I did not understand the concept of a consecration. What I thought I knew about it left me confused and a little afraid. My misunderstanding led me to believe that in consecrating myself to Mary, I was taking something sacred that belonged to God alone and giving it to someone else. As much as I love our Mother, I was concerned that my devotion to her through a consecration would place her in a position of competition with God.

I was wrong.

What is Marian Consecration?

The act of consecration involves the separation of every aspect of our lives for the sake of something sacred. In the case of a Marian Consecration, we entrust all that we are—our hopes, plans, possessions, and merits—to the care and intercession of Mary. We commend our lives to her Motherly care for us, knowing of her perfect devotion to her Son and her desire only for God’s best for us. When we give our lives to her, we trust that she takes all that we are, wraps it in her prayers and offers it to Jesus. In return, she offers us grace and guidance. Thus, what we are actually doing is consecrating ourselves to Jesus through her Immaculate Heart.


Why do a Marian Consecration?

As Christians, our ultimate goal is cultivating the heart of God in us. We want to grow in holiness. We want our life’s aim to mirror God’s plan for us. We want to receive all the graces we can in order to love others more purely and deeply. There is no better way to that end than through Mary’s powerful intercession. When we contemplate Jesus as an infant, trusting in Mary’s care for him, we can more easily relinquish our fear of entrusting ourselves to her care as well. Marian consecration is separating ourselves for God with Mary’s help. Her entire life was a yes to God’s plan. Through her intercession, she leads us in that same abandonment to God’s will for us.


How do I do a Marian Consecration?

There are several methods of the consecration, but all involve days of prayer and a rosary with a final prayer on the day of consecration, which is traditionally a Marian feast day. To learn more about Marian Consecration and to find the best one for you, check out St. Louis de Montford’s True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary,Fr. Anselm Romb’s Total Consecration to Mary (based on St. Maximillian Kolbe’s consecration) and the most recent book on consecration: Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory.

Parroquias con Ministerio Hispano en la Diócesis de Shreveport

por Rosalba Quiroz

Este artículo es el primero en una serie que nos dará a conocer las parroquias que ofrecen Misas y servicios en español. La parroquia de San Pascual, West Monroe tuvo la primer Misa en español en 1972, en honor a la Virgen de Guadalupe, celebrada por el padre Gasper Mauss. Sin embargo no fue sino hasta 1994 que se comenzó a tener Misa mensual con el Padre Rigoberto Betancourt en la Iglesia de la Virgen de Fátima, después en San Jose, capilla de Cristo Rey en la Universidad, y a partir del 2002 se establecieron en San Pascual; desde 2007, el padre Luis Jost, OSF, celebra la Misa semanal y el padre Frank Coens, OSF es el párroco.

Estos feligreses que peregrinaron para encontrar una parroquia, reconocen 1994 como la fecha en que comenzó su comunidad. El pasado mes de mayo celebraron su 25 aniversario, unido a la Fiesta del Santo Patrono, San Pascual. Coincidió que en 2007 junto con la llegada del P. Luis, Lorena Chaparro comenzó a servir como coordinadora de esta comunidad – 12 años ya de fiel servicio para ambos. Algunos de los coordinadores pasados fueron la Sra. Haydee Sandlin, la Sra. Lili Mann con ayuda de la Sra. María Cueto, y El Sr. Cristóbal Ramos.Cuando se le pregunta a Lorena que piensa sobre la comunidad, ella responde: “somos una comunidad muy unida y muy bendecida, que con el paso de los años  hemos logrado integrarnos mucho a la parroquia gracias al apoyo constante de Padre Luis,  siempre estamos dando la bienvenida a nuevas familias y les invitamos a integrarse”.

Extiende una invitación a seguir juntos creciendo en la fe y ruega que perdure su ministerio muchos años más. Comparte que ahora cuentan con alrededor de 50 servidores en los diferentes ministerios y asisten por lo menos 150 personas cada domingo.

Agradecemos a  Lorena y a la comunidad por mantener y trabajar en acrecentar su fe Católica.

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 resulting in confused looks, I have repeated this response myself many times. But what does “believing it all” really mean?  And, how do we “teach it all” to our children?

For me, “believing it all” means, yes, we believe in the Trinity, the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, prayer, the sacraments, the importance of ritual liturgies, the living word of God in scripture, and the doctrines and traditions of the Church.  But there is more. We also believe that the experience of all of this in everyday life is crucial to being a follower of Jesus. Unless we put legs to the doctrine, to the statements in the creeds, to the ritual of liturgy and sacraments; unless we allow these experiences to change us, to transform us, to cause us to be reborn every day, then we only believe part of the Catholic reality – not all of it.

It is a beautiful and holy moment to experience the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But, unless we then go out and experience Christ’s Real Presence in the people we live with, work with and meet on the street, and these experiences change who we are, we are failing to “believe it all.”  If I can see Christ in the communion bread, but cannot receive new sight to see Christ in the unemployed person who needs my help, then I really don’t “believe it all.” If I can experience God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but am not reborn into a new person and therefore I fail to forgive someone who has wronged me, I have missed the transformation God wanted in me.  Or, as St. Paul put it: “if I have all faith as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:2. For truly, to experience Christ in everyday life can only happen if we are living, changing and evolving into who we are called to be.  We don’t just memorize and know Catholic Social Teaching.  We are personally called by Jesus of Nazareth to live it.

Another aspect of “believing it all” is our personal, intimate conversations with God. Devotional prayers, such as rosaries, novenas, chaplets and more are part of our Catholic faith. They are good, holy and helpful to our life in Christ. Additionally, the spirituality of our Catholic identity also includes opening our deepest emotions, thoughts, memories, understanding, ideas and needs to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus did, we go away and not only talk to God, but listen quietly and patiently for his response. God is not somewhere out in another galaxy.  “He is with us and in us always” Mt. 28:19; John 14:23. To experience him is to fall in love with God so deeply that we take time for personal, sensitive and intimate conversations with him, which sometimes means sitting with him in silence.

Unfortunately, many of us do not learn this experiential following of Jesus, this transformational aspect of our Catholic faith, until we are adults. But what would happen if, in our PSR classes, in our Catholic School curriculum, we taught our young people how to contemplatively sit with God and then share what we experience with him?  Share our blessings, our gifts, our love and our very lives with those in the world around us?

What would happen is, we would change. That’s right. We are not called to change others. We are called to receive God’s grace to change ourselves. Once we are transformed into the new person God has called us to be, our living as Jesus lived will inspire others to be transformed as well. Consequently, this entire world, all of God’s creation and everything in it would be transformed. And, if we read the gospel stories, this is exactly what you and I are called to do.

As this new school year begins, let us allow ourselves to be transformed right in front of our young people; right in front of our school students. Let’s explain that knowing about our faith is important. But Catholics living our experience with Christ is who we are called to be. Let’s model for them lives of deep, intimate and unitive experiences with God.  Then, we can allow God to place the desire in their hearts to also be transformed. This could be the school year when we teach our children to truly be Catholics who “believe it all.”

“Invaluable Collection” Helps to Explain Church Fathers and their legacy.

The Fathers of the Church series, featuring 127 volumes, represents the longest modern publication run of translated works by Church Fathers. Hard-to-find, meticulously translated writings from Cyprian, Jerome, Basil, Ambrose, Peter Chrysologus and many more make up this invaluable collection. This is the definitive resource for anyone interested in learning about the Church Fathers and their legacy. Ideal for RCIA, catechists, clergy, as well as lay Catholics who want to learn more about the great teachers of early Christianity. However, the series is also beneficial for those studying theology, religion, late antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Spanning the first five centuries of Christianity, The Fathers of the Church books deliver essential patristic writings straight from the source. Slattery Library & Resource Center houses this complete collection which has been praised for its unparalleled historical and theological significance.


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 Cross, serving in that position since 2003, last of the line extending from 1641.  Wise and compassionate, firm yet gentle, and steely strong, Sister Maria was in her 66th year of religious life.

As the only child of Earl and Myrtle Rambin Smith of Gloster, Earline Smith grew up on their dairy farm, milking cows, riding horses and listening to St. Louis Cardinals games with her father.  At age five she knew she wanted to be a nun after seeing a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word while visiting her mother at the hospital.  The family prayed the rosary daily, and her Protestant father dropped his girls off at St. Ann’s for Sunday Mass, he would become her first convert. After Mass, they would catch a ride home with the priest, who usually stayed for dinner.  In the tenth grade she entered St. Vincent’s Academy as a boarding student and upon graduating she entered the convent on September 8, 1953.  From 1957 to 1997, she taught at Presentation Academy (Marksville), St. John Berchmans (Shreveport), Jesus the Good Shepherd (Monroe), St. Patrick’s (Lake Providence), and St. Catherine’s (Shreveport), serving as principal at St. Catherine’s for five years and at Jesus the Good Shepherd for 17 years.

While sitting with Sister Maria, you were bound to hear stories from her teaching career, such as the time she financed uniforms for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Presentation by selling construction paper shamrocks downtown for a quarter and the time the Sisters picked up and sold enough pecans in Lake Providence to buy a car.  At St. Catherine’s she was struck by lightning she was unharmed, but the plastic buttons on her coat were melted.

Sister Maria impacted generations at Jesus the Good Shepherd, her tenure spanning from 1960 to 1997. Former teacher Minette Gilbert, mentions “[she had a] jovial heart and a can-do spirit, loved everyone who came through her door, but could get her message across.” Her memory is revered there, attested by the framed photo in the library, the Sister Maria Smith, D. C. Scholarship and the handmade cards she has received from current students, born long after her departure.

In retirement, Sister Maria continued to minister to family and friends, residents and staff through her friendship, cards, letters, prayers and discreet aid with personal problems.

Everyone who came into her circle became one of her children. She had a knack for seeing and bringing out the best in everyone, and she brought many into the Church. A few days before her death, she commented, “I don’t know what they’re worried about. I’m not worried,” as she gazed out the window and strummed her Breviary.

If you are lucky enough to possess one of her notes, hold onto it. You have a relic!


Praying for the Dead: A Merciful Act

Catholics are called by Christ to comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one. A vigil, the funeral liturgy, and the rite of committal are each a part of the process of mourning the loss of a member of the Catholic faithful.

In Corinthians, St. Paul offers a reminder that the body is a temple; what happens to that temple when it is done serving God on earth holds great importance to members of the Catholic Church. The splendor of Catholic funeral rites offers a channel through which grief and remembrance can flow, but the merciful duty of those left to grieve is not complete upon burial. Burying the dead grants the body rest from pain; the flesh respites within sacred ground, cared for by Catholics performing the vital corporal acts of mercy decreed unto them by scripture, creed, and tradition. Though physically separated, those who have passed remain connected spiritually and therefore must be prayed for.

Living members of the Church are reminded, “You may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14

The book of Tobit conveys the idea of courage in burying the dead. Tobit’s courage shown by burying the victims of King Sennacherib has inspired many. However, a different courage is required of Catholics today; the courage to remember, to show strength in the face of pain and grief by continuing to honor and pray for the dead.

Serving to fulfill both a corporal work of mercy by burying the dead, and a spiritual work of mercy by praying for the dead, those who remain in this life doubly honor God with a Mass of remembrance.

Therefore, to honor those who have passed, and are part of the Communion of Saints, a Mass was conducted at St. Joseph Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m.; Msgr. Earl. V. Provenza presided.

For information on caring for the memorials of those interred at St. Joseph Cemetery, please contact the Diocese of Shreveport at (318) 868-4441 or email Kate Rhea at krhea@dioshpt.org or Randy Tiller, Chancellor at rtiller@dioshpt.org. The Diocese of Shreveport is honored to care for family and loved ones resting at St. Joseph Cemetery and offers options for tombstone repair, upkeep, or upgrades in addition to perpetual care. Please see the projects that have been completed and are scheduled for action. Thank you to everyone who has donated funds to assist with giving a face lift to St. Joseph Cemetery.

St. Joseph Cemetery Completed and Working Projects

Due to weather, the reconstruction of the crypts for the Yellow Fever priests has been temporarily delayed. However, as soon as we get a few dry days the crypts will be framed in concrete in order to replace the tops with the new granite registers. Project cost: $7,500.

Through generous donations we have the funding for the new granite tops for the priests who succumbed to the yellow fever epidemic in 1873. Project cost: $15,000

If groups would like to get together to cover costs for putting the same granite ledgers on the crypts of the deceased pastors of Holy Trinity, project cost is approximately $5,000 each.

Additional donations have been received to repair the steps up to the memorial statue at the Calvary Monument. Other necessary renovations for the Calvary Monument will cost $5,000.

We are still in the process of contacting families to request that they cover the cost of the renovations of their family plots. If you would like to make a donation to this cause, please contact the Diocese of Shreveport to inquire about the costs associated with cleaning, repositioning or ground entombments.
Additional information will be forthcoming as we move to the next areas of concern in the cemetery. We are working toward completing as many of the projects as we can over the course of this summer.

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 was part of a severe weather system ultimately responsible for serious storms and tornado patterns all the way from east Texas into northwest Louisiana. National Weather Service warnings were issued in St. Augustine, TX around 11:00 p.m. and continued until 3:00 a.m., as the storm moved into the area. The severe weather traveled up through Lincoln, Bienville and Red River parishes, ultimately making its way past Pleasant Hill and into the northeast corner of the state. Although much of the damage occurred in Ruston around Tech Drive and the Cypress Springs community just south of I-20, there was widespread damage throughout the city.

The National Weather Service confirmed this tornado was considered at least an EF3, with produced winds as high as 165 mph. Of the surveyed damage, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards stated: “the damage is extensive and catastrophic.” Sadly, Kendra Butler, 35, and her son Remington, 14, lost their lives when a tree crashed into their home.

Ruston will be recovering from this event for months to come. In times like these, people fall back upon their family, their community, their faith and their fellow church members in order to make sense of such a disaster.

Several parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston lived through the experience, using their talents, resources and compassion to lend a helping hand to those the tornado left behind. Paul Jackson, who works as an Associate Professor of Plant Science at Louisiana Tech University, remembers how the day of the storm began. The tornado touched down about one mile south of his home in north Ruston. Paul didn’t even realize the storm was occurring until it was almost on top of the city. Paul witnessed the escalating chaos and was prevented from making an attempt to go anywhere in Ruston on the day of the storm. Downed and stripped trees and debris lay everywhere, blocking entry from entire streets and neighborhoods. Portions of a large tree had blown down onto the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish near the school building.

Luckily, Paul was able to use his chainsaw to start the process of splitting apart and removing the tree, clearing a pathway around the St. Thomas buildings. As he moved to other damaged sites, he attempted to check-in with a female colleague, but ultimately could not since city streets had become blocked off. Paul’s own home thankfully suffered no damages, but the post-storm-littered landscape of this formerly quiet college town won’t be soon forgotten.

As the week wore on, Paul continued to provide local support to various homeowners, cutting and removing everything from equipment to uprooted trees from local neighborhoods affected by the winds. Paul worked alongside another St. Thomas Aquinas member, Joshua Adams, an Associate Professor of Forestry at Louisiana Tech – as they helped various neighbors clear out material in or around their homes. Paul answered the call when some older sight-impaired St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners needed assistance in dealing with their own home damages from the high winds.

According to Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish served up huge portions of fresh jambalaya to displaced community members on Wednesday, May 1, free of charge. This tornado experience and the cleanup in the midst of the aftermath shed some spiritual light on this whole experience for Paul. It strengthened his Catholic faith, as he witnessed other members of the community coming together to help – regardless of faith or station. Paul had never been in the midst of such a disaster before, save for years ago working with the government during the aftermath of the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy over East Texas and Northwest Louisiana. As Paul surveyed the damaged neighborhoods, he could only ask one thing: “What do we need to do – right now?”

Joshua Adams experienced what the aftermath of a tornado is like, as well. At 2:00 a.m. on the morning of April 25, Joshua was yanked from sleep by the shrill pitch of his phone’s Weather Alert. Minutes after the message, his friend (with a background in meteorology) was texting Joshua with urgent instructions to “Go and hide!” in his home’s hallway with his young child. Thankfully Joshua’s family home was spared any major damage, but Joshua distinctly recalls the terrible sounds of the tornado as it ripped its way across Ruston’s skies that early morning.

Joshua started working immediately during the night and into the dawn, helping other neighbors even as the local roadways started to be blocked off by city authorities. He remembers walking around the empty, debris-ridden streets, commenting that it “felt surreal,” looking more like a scene from a zombie movie rather than his own hometown.

As a Forestry professor, Joshua collected his chainsaws and started moving from house to house down Ruston’s Robinette Drive, not far away from his daily forestry office on Tech’s South campus, cutting up trees and clearing debris where he found it. The University Hills neighborhood in Ruston was the hardest-hit from the storm. Days after the tornado, Joshua and Paul moved throughout their neighborhoods, helping to cut and clear downed trees and limbs too big or heavy to remove alone.

Despite the damage, Joshua described the scene as “heartwarming” as he witnessed people helping each other after such a drastic event.

On day three, Joshua visited with St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners who manage the Center for the Blind in Ruston. The sight-impaired couples’ home had an entire wall ripped away from a nearby falling tree during the storm. With Joshua’s assistance the couple was able to relocate to the Blind Center’s apartment complex.

Recounting his post-tornado experience, Joshua never anticipated how much room is required to stack up all of the excess wood cleared away by the citywide post-storm clearing efforts. And even though Joshua experienced a tornado so fierce that it spattered wall insulation from one house onto another, across the street he saw the working of his faith in the people and teams around him, summing up that this was “good people, doing good work – all over.”

Both Paul Jackson and Joshua Adams are active members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ruston, LA.

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 most encouraging to me during my seminary experience were often the things that I had the most apprehension about. God has put me in places where I could learn and grow, and that hasn’t always been easy. The mission trips we took to Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as the Spanish language program I took in Mexico were really tough challenges because I had to adapt and experience a language and culture that remain unfamiliar. The love and depth of faith that I experienced from the people in those places was inspiring and made the challenges worthwhile.

I taught CCD at a New Orleans parish for two years and had to think of ways to make the faith interesting and exciting for young high school students. I think the most difficult part was tying the theological language I was taught in seminary with my own experience of God in order to bring the kids I was teaching to a fuller relationship with Christ. The trials that high schoolers face today seem harder than I remember from 11 years ago. I had to re-learn how to navigate the tough questions of youth while still bringing the light and hope of the Gospel to them in a real and accessible way.

My experience of hospital ministry was the most challenging of all the practical experiences I had during my years in seminary. At first, I was afraid to even knock on a door and go into a room. I didn’t want to be one more person who came in and woke up a patient or made the suffering of a hospital stay more taxing. The greatest thing I learned from that ministerial experience is that my fear of making mistakes or being out of place was far less important than the grace I could bring to a moment of suffering if I faced that fear and crossed that threshold. I walked with families during times of real joy and real pain during that experience, and I grew to understand in an intimate way that God could use me with all my own weaknesses and limitations.

What do you look forward to most about being a priest?
What a huge question! I look forward to being able to be a part of the lives and the faith of the parish. A priest is called to serve and I look forward to serving parishioners both spiritually and sacramentally. I can’t wait until I’m able to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to bring the sacraments of healing to people in need, and to begin the ministerial mission of priesthood. My hope is to join couples in matrimony, unite their children to God in baptism, and to watch as their families grow in their faith. I feel blessed to be called to walk with families and to serve them with the grace that I receive through ordination.

Have there been any role models who have helped you in this decision, or encouraged you in your vocation?
I don’t think I would have heard and responded to God’s call if it hadn’t been echoed through the encouragement of the people of Monroe who took the time to ask me, “Have you ever prayed about a vocation to the priesthood?” That invitation by the people I knew and respected at the Catholic Campus Ministry in Monroe, as well as the encouragement and support of Fr. Job Edathinatt Scaria, CMI got me to start asking the questions of God and of the diocese that I needed to ask. Fr. Matthew Long’s encouragement as the vocation director and his continued support throughout my seminary education gave me a good foundational example that has helped me tremendously.

The friendship with the seminarians that I began seminary with that have gone on to become priests has been inspiring. Fr. Keith Garvin, Fr. Jerry Daigle,
Fr. Fidel MondragÓn, and Fr. Duane Trombetta each gave me an example to strive for as I pursued my studies. Equally important was the encouragement I felt from the parishes that I have been assigned to and where I’ve spent time. While I haven’t been to every single parish in our diocese, I have felt the support of the entire diocese during my time in seminary formation. The people of St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield, the people of Christ the King Parish in Bossier City, and the people at St. Jude Parish in Benton, as well as the other parishes where I volunteered for shorter periods of time have given me the lived experience of ministry that can’t be imparted in the classroom. The people from these parishes as well as the friends that I have from the parishes in Monroe have helped to make this diocese my home. I’ve felt more loved than I could have ever asked for during my time in seminary.

What advice would you give a man who is beginning to discern priesthood?
My first thought is that we all need to be discerning! God is calling all of us to holiness and we could all spend more time in prayer seeking to do His will. Oftentimes, I think young men and women who feel a calling to priesthood or religious life expect a theophany, a thunderous voice of God from the clouds to point them in the right vocational direction. Just like for Elijah, God’s voice in our lives is often a whisper that we have to seek in prayer and through our reception of the sacraments. The great thing is that we don’t have to lean in and hear that voice alone. For those who think they may have a calling to the priesthood: Speak up! Discernment is a process you don’t need to do by yourself, and the Office of Vocations in the diocese is always available to give guidance and help.

Fr. Jerry wants to bring happy, holy vocations to the service of our diocese. He will provide the guidance and help you need in order to start your discernment of God’s will. Discernment is a long process and it must be done within and in concert with the local Church or religious community that you are seeking.

 Looking back to when you first entered seminary and then to where you are now, what have been some of the things that have played out as you expected? Some that haven’t?
When I was told that my formation would mean six years in school, I thought that it was going to feel like a lifetime. Looking back, it seems to have flown by. I am so grateful for my two years at St. Joseph’s Abbey and Seminary College and my four years at Notre Dame Seminary. When I first started out, the seminary experience was a scary one. Not having ever been in such a completely Catholic environment, being expected to stick to a rigorous schedule of prayer and classes, and in the midst of all that still trying to discern whether I was even called to the priesthood, was daunting. It was only with the help of my professors and formators, the priests back home, and the support of my family and friends that I was able to give myself over to the process of seminary life and formation.

I couldn’t have imagined the friendship and close fraternity that I already feel to the priests of the Diocese of Shreveport. I can’t wait to be a “coworker in the vineyard” with them.

In college I had professors I respected and cared about, but the formators at both of my seminaries showed me an example of true fatherhood. Their example as priests helped me find my gifts and strengths and see areas where I could grow.

Finally, I never thought that I would have this much love and excitement for the Diocese of Shreveport. Great things are happening in our diocese and now I get to be a part of them again, only this time as a priest.

Who would you like to thank?
If I took the time to thank every person who has helped me along the way, this month’s Catholic Connection would look more like a phone book than a magazine. I am always thankful for the support of my family. Each of them honors the reality of my vocation in a unique way. I have also been very blessed in my close personal friendships – people who have remained a part of my daily life across the miles. The encouragement of Bishop Michael Duca in his time here as our bishop was wonderful. He took the time to get to know his seminarians. He cared about my vocation, giving me the guidance and encouragement I needed to continue.

The priests of our diocese that have helped me throughout this process have given me the example of what it means to be a servant and a leader.
The parish staffs who have let me learn from them as they helped to guide their parishes have been amazing and dynamic. They set the example for the kinds of people I need to look for when I become a pastor one day. The people of the diocese have helped give me courage during all the different challenges we have met together in my time in seminary. I owe a great debt of gratitude for their love and support as well as for the love and support of all the people who faithfully sustained me with generous gifts as I pursued my studies.

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 enter seminary formation. I have studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, LA, which the seminarians fondly refer to as “St. Ben’s.” With amazement at how fast time goes by and gratitude for the experiences that God blessed me with, I reflect on my formation in minor seminary as a graduate.
The structured life of the seminary, which includes time for personal prayer as well as communal prayer, allowed me to grow in a more personal and dedicated relationship with God and His Son. As a seminary community, we gathered three times a day in our chapel for morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer with Mass after morning prayer. I was often impacted by hearing the voices of more than 100 seminarians who had the same intention as me: to grow in discipleship.

In my first year of seminary, my spiritual director emphasized the importance of spending an hour in silent prayer before the Eucharist. While it was at times difficult for me to spend an hour in silent prayer, I realized the importance of my daily conversations with the Lord. It is through spending time asking Him questions and reflecting on my relationship with Him that I have come to understand and cherish more fully the calling He has given me. Spiritual formation is the foundation of all relationships, events and activities of the seminary.

I often consider myself blessed to have been integrated into a community as vibrant as that of St. Ben’s. Throughout my four years of formation, I have formed several remarkable friendships with seminarians from dioceses across the deep South. Throughout the course of the year, there are many times the seminarians gather to spend time with other seminaries. An event at the seminary that was always awaited with great anticipation was the annual Bonfire Flag Football game against Notre Dame Seminary. Apart from the special events the seminary hosts, it was amazing to form relationships with others by walking around the beautiful grounds of the seminary, discussing philosophy or simply sharing stories. I am exceedingly grateful for the relationships that, in many ways, have led me to a closer relationship with Christ.

Because I entered the seminary immediately after completing high school, I attained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and the Liberal Arts. While I remember questioning the relevance of studying philosophy, I have realized the importance of it and grown in admiration for the curriculum. Studying the liberal arts and philosophy has offered me the opportunity for deeper critical thinking. I came to the realization that mankind, including myself, is a people who are always striving to know and understand the truth more fully. Man has a longing to discover who he is and how he relates to the world and to the Divine Creator. In this way, the curriculum has not solely had an intellectual impact on my priestly formation, but it has impacted my prayer life.

When reflecting on my experiences at St. Ben’s, several events that the seminary hosts come to mind. It is through experiencing these events that a love for service has been fostered within me. In the spring semester, the seminary welcomes over 1,000 youth for the Abbey Youth Festival. The seminary also hosts discernment weekends where more than 100 young men visit to see the life of the seminary and discern God’s will in their  own lives. As a part of the formation program, every senior travels to Guatemala for mission immersion. While these events differ in some ways, they all invite me, as an aspiring priest, to give of myself and continuously invite others to live with Christ.

I will remember St. Joseph Seminary College with great fondness and believe that it has thoroughly prepared me to begin the major seminary in the fall.
In July, I will begin attending the Pontifical North American College and studying at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. I greatly look forward to studying Theology, as well as being fully immersed in the Roman culture. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and am excited for the experiences God will bless me with. I trust that these experiences will bring me closer to God and make me a more effective priest for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

For all of those who have offered prayers and support to me throughout my journey in minor seminary, I sincerely thank you. I ask for your continued prayers for me as I continue my discernment and formation.

Feast of Corpus Christi: A Quick Guide

Click to view and download this month’s quick guide about the Feast of Corpus Christi.