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2017 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal: Our Vision, Our Mission

by John Mark Willcox The coming months will see our community of faith again striving to enable the work of Christ within our diocese by supporting our Annual Stewardship Appeal.  A new More »

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Catholic Youth Day Coming March 11!

by Nicky Prevou Middle school and high school youth and their adult leaders are eagerly looking forward to Saturday, March 11. Catholic Youth Day (CYD) 2017 will be held at St. Paschal More »

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God is Calling – Diocese in Search of New Deacon Class

by Deacon Mike Whitehead It has been a little over 11 years since the first Permanent Diaconate formation for the Diocese of Shreveport ordained 18 men in 2005, and three years since More »

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Community Volunteers Give Back to Catholic Charities

by Lucy Medvec As with any non-profit agency, the work and support from volunteers are important to the success of the organization. This is no different with Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. More »

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Bishop Friend’s Book Collection in Slattery Library

by Jessica Rinaudo The Catholic Center’s Slattery Library has recently had a huge boost to its book collection. Upon his passing, Bishop William B. Friend bequeathed his vast collection of literature to More »

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Vocations View: Want to Change a Life? Support Catholic Education

by Lisa Cooper Catholic vocations in all forms, from religious and priestly to living and working faithfully as a layperson all have to start somewhere. Oftentimes that place is in Catholic schools. More »

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Navigating the Faith: St. Blaise & the Blessing of Throats

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship The feast day of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3 with the unique ritual of blessing the throats of those with throat disorders and anyone More »

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Domestic Church: Prayer Turns Burdens to Blessings

by Katie Sciba Andrew has been waking me early every morning. A little nudge and a “Were you going to pray?” I croak “Mm hmm.” He goes to a corner of our More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Who Do You See?

by Mike Van Vranken If the man in this picture came to our country claiming to be a displaced refugee fleeing persecution, would you vote to allow him to stay?  I read More »

Pope Remembers the People of Aleppo and Condemns Recent Terrorist Attacks

from the Vatican Information Services

“Every day I am close, above all in prayer, to the people of Aleppo,” said the Pope after praying the Angelus. “We should not forget that Aleppo is a city where people live: families, children, elderly, sick people … Lamentably, we have grown accustomed to war, to destruction, but we should not forget that Syria is a country full of history, of culture, of faith. We cannot accept that all of this be negated by war, which is an accumulation of abuse and falsehood. I appeal to all to make efforts towards a choice in favour of civilization: no to destruction, yes to peace, yes to the people of Aleppo and of Syria.”

“We also pray for the victims of brutal terrorist attacks that in the last few hours have struck various countries. The places are different but unfortunately the violence that sows death and destruction is one and the same, as is the response: faith in God and unity in human and civil values. I would like to express my special closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II [Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church] and his community; while praying for the dead and the wounded.

Francis went on to mention the beatification today in Vientiane, Laos, of Mario Borzaga, a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Paul Thoj Xyooj, a lay catechist, and fourteen companions, killed in hatred of the faith. “Their heroic fidelity to Christ can be an encouragement and an example for missionaries, and especially for catechists, who in missionary lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work, for which the whole Church is thankful. Let us think of our catechists who work hard, and do such a good job. Being a catechist is a great thing: it means bearing the message of the Lord so that it grows in us.” He invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to applaud catechists.

Finally, he greeted the pilgrims from different countries, emphasizing that his first greeting was reserved for the children and young people of Rome, present in the Square for the traditional blessing of their figurines of the Baby Jesus, organized by parish oratories and Catholic schools. “Dear children, when you pray before the Nativity scene with your parents, ask the Baby Jesus to help all of us to love God and our neighbor. And remember, pray for me too, as I pray for you. Thank you.”

He also greeted the professors of the Catholic University of Sydney, the choir of Mosteiro de Grijo in Portugal, and Italian faithful from Barbianello and Campobasso. He concluded by asking the children in the square to sing a song for him, and wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch.

Cardinal Dolan Welcomes Continued Year of Mercy Provision for Post-Abortion Healing

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from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis’ November 20 apostolic letter “Misericordia et Misera ” (“Mercy and Misery”). In his letter, Pope Francis extended the Year of Mercy provision granting priests worldwide a faculty related to the sin of abortion: “Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.” Cardinal Dolan responded with gratitude in the following statement:

I express heartfelt appreciation for the Holy Father’s continued proclamation of God’s mercy worldwide, clearing the path to reconciliation and healing for all who have been involved in abortion.

Pope Francis wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” (Misericordia et Misera).

The Holy Father reminds us that God, the Father of Mercies, welcomes all those who are repentant, seeking mercy and peace after involvement in abortion — and that an experience of God’s great mercy gives rise to joy.

For many years in the United States, most bishops have granted their priests this faculty. In addition to sacramental confession, the Church offers confidential and compassionate help through diocesan Project Rachel ministries.

Since 1984, dedicated ministries throughout the nation have accompanied those seeking forgiveness, healing, and peace after losing a child to abortion. Wherever a person might be in their healing journey, Project Rachel offers free, confidential help.
To find the nearest diocesan healing ministry, go to the ‘Find Help’ map at www.hopeafterabortion.org or www.esperanzaposaborto.org.

A Statement from the USCCB President on Bombings and Church Collapse

WASHINGTON– Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers condolences, prayers and words of support for those involved in this weekend’s bombings in Cairo, Turkey and Somalia as well as the Church roof collapse in Nigeria.

As we enter the Third Week of Advent, we are reminded that even the shadow of violence and terrorism cannot obscure the light of our coming Savior. St. Mark himself was no stranger to the persecution of Christians. Those who gathered to worship the Lord at his cathedral this morning in Cairo are family to us. We draw near to our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer, sorrow and comfort. And we are confident in the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The lives lost strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere and offer a testament to the great privilege of worshiping God in peace. This weekend has witnessed the darkness of violence that reaches into many places, including Turkey, Somalia and the church building collapse in Nigeria. But the light still shines! Today let us offer a special prayer for all those facing persecution.

Kids’ Connection: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

This month we learn about Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first person born in the United States to be canonized a saint!

Click to download and print this page.

Aging with Joy and Laughter in the New Year

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

The New Year is our time to put the treasure of our wisdom at the disposition of everyone. As the New Year surrounds us, we are swept up in the enthusiasm for resolutions to change. This New Year gives us an opportunity to shape our future through aging with grace, more kindness and patience with ourselves and others. No procrastination or putting things off until tomorrow! Act while you can with gratitude.

Blessed are they who have embraced everything about aging, their hearts beat for others, and they are the joy of the soul; they are the “treasured age.”

In my experience at Azalea Estates nursing home, working with agers in their eighties and nineties, I smile at the priceless “joy-spreaders” I meet twice a week. They simply amaze me with all their wisdom, funny antidotes, smiling faces, bringing a favorite book for me to see and I thank God for those little things that come my way. These are the unexpected joys I hope to continue to see as 2017 comes around the bend. Their purpose in life is remarkable.

“For I know the plans I have for you.” (Jeremiah 29:11.) Another year with the Lord and His extraordinary action is taking place in our hearts right now. Joyful humor is a wonder to possess, because the fullness of JOY is to see God’s face in my aging moments.

Everyone wants to be happy and our source of joy must be found in prayer, charity and thanksgiving. This could be the best year we have ever experienced as we spread joy. Our love for others should make us feel happy.

It’s so much fun growing old with someone who laughs with you, and it all helps me to live in my aging body with peace. Let’s share the JOY of the Lord with others.

Can you imagine going through a whole day without smiling or hearing peals of laughter? Jesus too knew happiness. He enjoyed companionship of friends and children. He was happy to perform his first miracle at a wedding party. Jesus’ presence gave joy to others. Life is too short to be any other way, so keeping connected with others is a must for 2017.

Wear those new red tennis shoes and celebrate your life. “You have turned my mourning into dancing …and clothed me with JOY.” (Psalm 30:11.) Laughter can be a powerful antidote to stress as you age. Instead of letting yourself “be grim and bear it” try to “just grin and share it.” Your humor will keep open your lines of communication with others. People may think you ate “sunshine for breakfast” if you keep smiling. This makes us a blessing for others.

During the New Year, let us appreciate our moments of joy and remember what Victor Borge said: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Be warmed by the smiles of others, count your blessings and thank God for them.

At any age, your attitude, beliefs and values are at the core and essence of your being and define what your heart does as you age. We must prove ourselves worthy of old age. There is a great beauty inside of you to be shared with the world and your aging peers.

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22.)  Your humor should be a tool, never a weapon. Laugh with others – not at them. So in the New Year, we have lots to do. Let your laughter spark creativity, but stay sensitive to people’s feelings. Become a joy-spreader and count your blessings. Be thankful for another year to grace the world with your presence. You can make a difference knowing that today we celebrate again God’s great gift of life.

Everyone can tap their well of laughter and playfulness throughout life. It keeps the lines of communication open and improves your sense of humor. Happy 2017 filled with all God’s blessings!

The Church Welcomes Five Loyola Students Home to the Faith

by Lisa Cooper

At Loyola, we celebrate our students for countless reasons.  We have students who excel academically, some even making perfect scores on their ACT’s.  We have students who serve our community in impactful and sacrificial ways by gathering coats, feeding the hungry and helping the elderly.  We have students who inspire others through their willingness to take the lead and through their integrity.  One of the most significant occasions when we celebrate our students, though, is when they make life-changing decisions.  Recently, five Loyola students made such a decision. They chose to convert to Catholicism. Freshmen Griffen Valiulis, Gray Hodges, Steven Beruvides, Ian McDonald and junior Ryan Lee all received the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation in November.

When asked about the primary influence for their decision to convert, McDonald credits the writings of St. Pius X and podcasts from apologist Tim Staples at Catholic Answers.  Beruvides, on the other hand, credits his friend Carlos Gonzalez, who was not only a witness to the faith through his life and in his friendship with Beruvides, but also was able to answer his questions and even help him overcome some obstacles to his faith.  “I did have many doubts before coming into the Catholic Church,” Beruvides explains.  While taking catechism classes in another faith, he was told that the Catholic Church didn’t ordain women. “I didn’t agree that women shouldn’t be ordained.  What I was not told was that there were very good reasons why [the Catholic Church doesn’t ordain women].  Carlos explained everything to me [in a way that I understood].”

Taking the conversion process and the profession of their faith with great seriousness, these students faced obstacles as they grew in the knowledge of the faith and made their way into the Church.  “The hardest part of my journey,” says Beruvides, “was giving up the bad things that I was doing.”  For McDonald, “admitting that I needed spirituality in my life” was the most difficult challenge.

In addition to the joy of coming into the Church, for one student this journey came with an unexpected special moment as well.  When asked about his family’s being supportive of his decision, Beruvides says, “my family has been very supportive of my becoming Catholic.  My dad was raised Catholic and reverted back into the Church with me.”

Our Loyola family celebrates these students during such an exciting time.  We ask that you join us in offering prayers and support as they continue to be rooted and to grow in our rich and beautiful faith.

The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction

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A New Series for the Catholic Connection
by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

This piece is the beginning of a long sought-after series by the Catholic Connection on the subject of pornography and the influence this industry has upon our society, particularly the foundational unit of the family.  It is a sensitive subject, but those bound to Christ are called to label this sinful practice for what it truly is. Future articles will cover the dynamic of pornographic material to the public at large, the negative effect it has on the family, and recovery opportunities for consumers, spouses and children.

“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties…it perverts the conjugal act. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public)…It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354)

Pornography is perhaps the most subtle, most widely accepted toxin to society. As an industry, it’s a giant, an addiction that brings harm to both brain and heart by altering neurological responses and decreasing a consumer’s satisfaction with reality. It traumatizes children and brings shame to addicts and spouses.

And at last, the world is fighting back.

Armed with the Sacraments, several anti-porn non-profits, neuroscientific evidence and personal accounts, the Church is publicly addressing that which has remained secret.

Despite being mostly free of charge and easily accessible, consumption costs in matters of the heart. Covenant Eyes, an Internet filtering and accountability program, cites that 56% of divorces “involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” and 70% of wives of husbands with sexual addiction could be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from betrayal trauma. Dr. Jill Manning is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) whose research has uncovered the harmful relational problems with pornography. Her reports conclude that the number one effect of porn consumption is “increased marital distress and risk of separation and divorce;” number two is “decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction.”

It’s not just marriages that are in danger. Research reveals that the average age of initial exposure to pornography is eight, which means children even younger are being exposed. Regardless of age, pornography can be traumatic and confusing. Repeat exposure can alter brain chemistry, making it as addictive as narcotics and alcohol in a short period of time.

Despite research, addiction and dangers to the family, society struggles to pinpoint why pornography is wrong. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently responded to this epidemic in the document Create in Me a Clean Heart, which states, “Pornography objectifies people and brings hurt and pain. It is an illusory substitute for real relationships and intimacy, which in the end bring true joy.”

Repeat users give reasons of anxiety, depression, discontent, loneliness and anger for engaging in pornography — which can be audio and literary as well as visual.

Matt, a 28-year-old husband and father in Maryland, shared his story of early exposure, young addiction and eventual freedom with FighttheNewDrug.com. While his tone was heavy, he laughed with relief when he mentioned an unintended break from pornography: “[After] porn…I could think clearer. I was less anxious…I wake up and life is good.” Matt continued saying that sobriety from his addiction helped him enjoy people and regain confidence. He had hope.

So what now? Whether seeking addiction help or looking for healing as the spouse of an addict, you’ll find the greatest aid in a therapist specializing in sexual addiction (CSAT), especially one with training from the Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider Institute (SATP). IITAP.com has a therapist directory in the upper right corner of the site, easily used to find CSATs in our diocese. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) can be of help in areas of marital and parental communication as well as healing. Though there are few Catholic CSATs or LMFTs in the area, many will respect Catholic values, so be sure to inform them of your faith. Look also for a spiritual director and a safe group or trusted confidant to listen and discuss progress in recovery, as this support is invaluable and sometimes more readily available when the need is immediate.

IntegrityRestored.com is a fantastic resource for addicts, spouses, parents and clergy. Wives of addicts can find help at BloomforWomen.org with a monthly subscription to classes and live sessions with therapists. For children, check out Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson and Dr. Gail Poyner for advice on how to address pornography with children. Install software from CovenantEyes.com on all computers and devices, which both filters inappropriate content and sends accountability reports to recipients of the user’s choosing, keeping children safe and adults accountable.

There is hope beyond addiction and, by God’s grace, addicts and loved ones alike can find validation and healing through healthy connections with God and others to bring real healing and satisfaction.

History of Pro-Life Ministry in the Diocese of Shreveport

This is part 3 and the final installment in a series on the history of  pro-life ministry in the Diocese of Shreveport. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

by Susan Flanagan

Faced with the terrible distinction of Shreveport being the abortion capital of Louisiana, people have attempted to help in different ways. As recounted in earlier articles, Flo Alexander and others offered direct help to pregnant women. Rev. Ed Hopkins and members of Alpha Right to Life educated the public with forums, speakers and newspaper articles. There have also been committed individuals through the years who have gone to abortion clinics to pray, protest, sidewalk counsel and participate in Operation Rescue.

If you lived in Shreveport during the late 1980’s and drove past Hope Medical Group on a Saturday, you were bound to see Leslie and Dan Cirulli there. For over five years, every Saturday, rain or shine, they faithfully prayed on the sidewalk and handed out rosaries. Usually their young son Nick was with them, adding to their powerful witness. Nick was their miracle baby –it took five years for them to adopt him. Leslie said, “Praying at the abortion clinic was one of the ways I could thank and honor his birth mother for her incredible sacrifice of giving Nick to us.”  Leslie hoped her family’s presence and prayers at the clinic would encourage other pregnant women to consider giving their babies up for adoption rather than aborting them.
Nick Cirulli noticed through his years at the clinic the pain and helplessness men endured with the loss of their babies.  As a teenager, Nick spoke powerfully about his observations in the Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Contest.

Similarly, Marilyn Pettiette, Johnnie Crafts and Mary Barbour were regulars, praying every Saturday morning. Fr. Pike Thomas would bring carloads of parishioners from Minden to pray and witness for life, hoping to change hearts of participants and passers-by with their loving and peaceful presence.

In more recent history, Janice and Carlos Gonzalez, Roxie Tabor and the Vita Pro-Life group have prayed at Hope Medical on the first Saturday of every month for years. Camille Brocato has prayed and handed out thousands of hand-made rosaries through the years, while Angela Chagnard, Chris Davis, Catherine Gregorio, Susan Flanagan and others have experienced multiple “saves” of babies through their loving counseling efforts on the sidewalk. Catholics have continuously been in the forefront of attempting to help mothers, babies and even clinic employees, most recently through a peaceful prayer and fasting campaign called 40 Days for Life (see www.40daysforlife.com).

Another effort some locals participated in “back in the day” was Operation Rescue. This was a national organization which started in the mid-1980’s as a peaceful attempt to sit at the doorway and block the entrances to abortion clinics. At the time, blocking clinic entrances was a misdemeanor, but many committed Christians were willing to risk arrest in order to help save lives. An Operation Rescue was staged in Shreveport in November 1989.

Many felt called to participate in this large inter-denominational effort and a number of local Catholics were arrested at Hope Medical while peacefully blocking the clinic entrance. The Shreveport Times gave front page coverage to the story.

Abortion clinics struck back by lobbying Congress and filing lawsuits to end Operation Rescue. Consequently, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (F.A.C.E.) was passed by Congress in 1994 and signed into law. This made blocking clinic entrances a federal crime with stiff penalties and jail time. As a result, Operation Rescue was effectively ended.

There are currently many ways in which we can locally make a difference.  Consider getting involved with your parish’s pro-life ministry, or start one if there is not already one in place. The Bishop’s annual Pro-Life Dinner, 40 Days for Life, Mary’s House, the annual March for Life — the list goes on and on of organizations that need your help to be successful!  Be inspired by those spotlighted in these articles and add your efforts to theirs.

The Heart of Love: Berchmans’ Relic at the Cathedral Ignited Diocese

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by Dr. Cheryl White

For 10 glorious days in December, this area witnessed remarkable demonstrations of the ongoing universality of the rich tradition of relic veneration, when the heart of St. John Berchmans came home to Louisiana, where the miracle needed for his canonization occurred in 1866. There is perhaps nothing in the history of Christianity with so clear a lineage to the primitive Faith than the veneration (honoring) of relics. There is probably no practice within the Faith that so positively affirms our Catholic beliefs than the veneration of relics. This is because at the very core of the Church’s teachings is the Incarnation, which holds that it was an act of God to unite Himself to His creation and therefore imbue all created matter with His presence and grace. Indeed, this is the central revealed Truth of the Church. Therefore, relic veneration is an undisputed and well-documented practice, reaching back across nearly 20 centuries to the Apostolic age.

Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition both fully affirm the special honor due to the relics of saints, for by the full holiness still present in their earthly remains, there is a unique conduit to the God who created all. Throughout the pages of Church history are instructions regarding the great honor due the saints, from the testimony of the Fathers and Doctors such as St. Jerome, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, to the great ecumenical Councils of the Church. Furthermore, the social histories of all of Christendom are replete with moving descriptions of individual and community piety involving relics as a way to express belief in the great Communion of Saints. For the historian, something that emerges from such chronicles with great clarity is that the Christian faithful have always sought tangible and material means of connecting to the Divine grace that flows to us. Proof of the relevance of this even today, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans hosted thousands of people from around the country, all drawn to the holiness of a young 22 year-old saint known for his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Jesuit rule.

Besides participating in veneration, pilgrims had the opportunity to share in special liturgies and hear guest speakers on a variety of related topics designed to stimulate intellectual understanding as well as deepen individual faith. Also in Shreveport for the duration of the relic visit was the chasuble worn by Pope Leo XIII at the canonization of St. John Berchmans in Rome in 1888, as well as the Roman Missal that the pope used on that date for that specific purpose. Both of these special historic artifacts were used in several liturgies, and only further focused the mind and heart on the timelessness of the Church, and the beautiful connection we have to all who have gone before us. In addition, the Jesuits in Belgium have made a permanent gift of the original 18th century heart reliquary to the Cathedral!

The saints are always calling to us on God’s behalf, and that call may come in a whisper or a shout, but there can be no question that the soul responds. Just as Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages traveled from their towns and villages to nearby places where one might find the relic of a saint, so their modern counterparts came to the Cathedral in Shreveport to venerate the heart of St. John Berchmans. Having his holy heart relic was an opportunity for all in our area to share in the most ancient of Christian practices. In the span of 10 days, pilgrims who came and crossed the threshold of the Cathedral were actually joining with others across the ages, answering the mysterious and persistent tug on all hearts.

Perhaps most importantly of all, when the “Heart of Love” came home to Louisiana, St. John Berchmans reminded us all of the goodness and truth of our central Catholic teaching – that through the mystery of the Incarnation, God is fully with us. St. John’s witness might be one of reverent silence today, but the remarkable events of December provided numerous opportunities to share the deep and storied treasure of our Catholic faith with complete strangers. Scattered among the faithful pilgrims were curiosity-seekers drawn to simply know more, perhaps responding in their own way to a call they have yet to fully perceive. Without speaking words, the heart of St. John Berchmans pulled us all ever closer to the fullness of the Christian life and hope.

Vocations View: Seminarian Shaped by School and Parish Life

Seminarian Jeb Key is a member of the choir at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary.

by Jeb Key, Seminarian

In the past several months I have been an exceedingly busy seminarian. I finished my junior year at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College and spent two months over the summer at St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport with Fr. Mark Franklin. I have now completed the first half of my final year at St. Joseph Seminary and will graduate in May 2017. Over the course of the year, I have learned so much about what it means to be a priest of Jesus Christ, and I thank God every day for this incredible experience. While it is certainly very challenging at times, I find myself at peace in the feeling that I am doing whatever I can to follow God’s will for my life.

One of the most influential experiences I have had this year was my time at St. Joseph in Shreveport. In my two months there, I saw with my own eyes what it is to be a priest. I served at every Mass. I followed Father into every hospital room and I even got to work with the amazing staff in the office at St. Joseph for several weeks. All of these things helped me to walk a mile in a priest’s shoes and get a feel for the work I believe God might be calling me to do for Him. I was taught many ‘pro-tips’ from the veteran ministers in the parish, and these little pieces of wisdom will be with me for the rest of my life.

All of my reading about the priesthood has taught me a great deal, but throughout my two short months at St. Joseph, I learned that being a priest for Jesus is more than what most people ever know about. It is a commitment of service to God and to His people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

My senior year at St. Joseph Seminary in Covington has been interesting, to say the least. Every year is a little different, and this year is no exception. My classes are a little more challenging, but still incredibly fascinating. I still have a great desire to learn absolutely everything I can about God and His Church and my classes are a great help in this regard. The friendships I formed last year in seminary continue to grow stronger, and the brotherhood that we form helps us all to grow into men of Christ, regardless of whether or not all of us move on to become priests. The community this year is bigger than it has ever been with a record breaking 150 seminarians from across 22 dioceses in the South.

Many people have asked me how the campus looks after the devastating flood back in March. While repairs have been underway in several areas of campus, there is still much to be done. Tentatively, all repairs should be completed by the summer of 2017. All of the seminarians and monks at the Abbey truly appreciate your prayers as the reconstruction continues.

In closing, I would like to thank each and every person in our wonderful diocese for all of the well-wishes and prayers that you send our way every day. I cannot express how much it means to me to know you are all thinking of me and rooting for me. I am so blessed to be a part of this loving and faith-filled diocese. Please know that all of you are in my prayers as well that we all might grow in love for God. Please continue to pray for me, and for all of our seminarians, that we might hear God’s call and answer Him with joy.

Interested in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? Contact Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Vocations, 318-868-4441, or mlong@dioshpt.org.