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Walking with Philippians: Reflecting on Paul’s Words in Our Daily Lives

by Kim Long Okay, I admit it, I was never really a big fan of the “apostle Paul.” Chalk it up to that often quoted verse reminding wives to obey their husbands More »

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Evangelists Remind Us of Our Precious Gift of Faith

by Deacon Mike Whitehead Bunny Austin, Gerald Govin, Bobbie Harlan, John Munger, Terry Byrnes, Josephine Pupillo, Norma Lenard, Joycelyn Majeste, James Tuma, Sam DeFatta, Cambize Schardar, Maria Steele, Judy Landry, Maudie Baranowski, More »

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A Call to Diaconate Service

by Deacon Mike Whitehead It’s not too late to respond to a continuing call of service in the Diocese of Shreveport, but the clock is ticking. Bishop Michael Duca is looking for More »

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Flyers Make Hurricane Relief a Personal Mission

by Lisa Cooper Loyola Flyers strive each year to fulfill the charge to be men and women for others.  One of the most significant efforts toward this end is the hurricane relief More »

CCNLA Employee Carl Piehl volunteers in Houston.

Catholic Charities Employees Share Stories of Assisting in Houston

by Lucy Medvec One month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, over 500 employees and volunteers attended the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Houston. Even though the area was still More »

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St. Francis Medical Center Hosts Memorial Service for Infants Born Before 20 Weeks

by Bonny Van Emotions were high at a special memorial service for infants born before 20 weeks. Parents and family members gathered at St. Matthew Parish Cemetery in downtown Monroe on Saturday, More »

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Bishop’s November Reflection: “The Shepherd Cannot Run”

by Bishop Michael G. Duca On September 23, I attended the Beatification of Father Stanley Rother. I was deeply moved by Fr. Rother and how this Oklahoma farm boy became the first More »

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Embrace Grace: A Pro-LOVE Movement for Single and Pregnant Women

by Kelly Phelan Powell Amy Ford grew up in a happy, loving, church-going, Christian home. She knew abortion was wrong; she had even prayed with other believers outside abortion clinics. But when More »

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Embrace Grace & Mary’s House: Sylvia’s Story

by L’Anne Sciba hen I first met Sylvia* she came to Mary’s House for a free pregnancy test. She’d already been to the abortion clinic and received the abortion pill. Now two More »

Blessing of the Pets at St. Elizabeth’s

Parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gathered together outside the church to have their pets blessed in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Pictured, Deacon Homer Tucker blesses the animals.

Delhi Celebrated St. Therese of Lisieux

Bishop Michael Duca celebrated the feast of St Therese of Lisieux at St. Therese Church in Delhi on October 1. The pastor and the parishioners were honored by his loving presence.

Living Rosary Celebrated in Many

St. John the Baptist Parish in Many held a Living Rosary on October 11 in honor of the Month of the Holy Rosary. There was a Rosary balloon release afterwards.

SJS Alumni Celebrated 40 Year Reunion

The St. Joseph School 8th Grade Class of 1977 gathered together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their graduation. Over half of the graduating class gathered for Mass, then took a tour of the school with current SJS student council members. Alumni then gathered for dinner and a night of reminiscing. If you’re interested in planning a reunion at St. Joseph School, contact Greg Beauclair, at 318-865-3585 or gbeauclair@sjsfalcons.org.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church’s Annual Parish Picnic

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church’s annual picnic was an overwhelming success this year with face painting, horse rides, animal petting zoo, animal adoption center, cake walk, bingo, live band, volleyball, food and a dunking booth. The highlight of the day was watching Fr. Francis in the dunking booth. Father was a great sport and loved it as much as everyone watching the children trying to dunk him.

Embrace Grace: A Pro-LOVE Movement for Single and Pregnant Women

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by Kelly Phelan Powell

Amy Ford grew up in a happy, loving, church-going, Christian home. She knew abortion was wrong; she had even prayed with other believers outside abortion clinics. But when she found herself pregnant and unmarried at the age of 19, it suddenly became a very real and tempting possibility. “I know it was the enemy,” she says now. Too ashamed and afraid to face their families, she and her boyfriend decided the best way out of the trouble they were in was an abortion.

At the abortion facility, a nurse performed a sonogram in which Ford discovered she was farther along in her pregnancy than she thought she was. Having hoped she could simply “take a pill” and “make everything go away,” she was horrified to learn that a surgical abortion would be her only option. Hysterical and hyperventilating, she fainted. When she came to, she was surrounded by nurses. In a miraculous moment, something occurred that any woman who has ever visited an abortion facility will attest is not at all typical: One of the nurses told her she was clearly too distraught to make a decision that day and to go home and reschedule her appointment for an abortion. “She was an angel of a nurse,” Ford says. She and her boyfriend finally worked up the courage to tell their parents, who were understandably disappointed but supportive. The two married and now have four children. The baby who was almost aborted is now a 19-year-old young man, the same age his mother was when she nearly made a deathly tragic mistake. “I really feel like all of our kids are called to an amazing destiny in life,” she says.

Ford certainly is. Her experiences with unplanned pregnancy led her to co-found Embrace Grace, a national program for single and pregnant women. Their mission is “to inspire and equip the church to love on single and pregnant young women and their families.” With Bishop Michael Duca’s permission, Embrace Grace came to the Diocese of Shreveport in 2015. Director L’Anne Sciba explained that Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center at 906 Margaret Place in Shreveport (a block away from the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans) holds the program twice per year. Each program is 12 weeks long, or a “semester,” with the first 10 weeks focusing on basic Christian principles and encouraging the women to share life-giving fellowship through prayer, activities and crafts. In the 11th week, volunteers celebrate the mothers-to-be with a baby shower where they can invite family and friends. Week 12 includes a Special Event Day. Currently, there are three women enrolled in Embrace Grace, which is in its third semester.

This year’s Embrace Grace baby shower is taking place at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans Parish Hall. Like all showers, it hopes to furnish the new mothers with the items they will need to care for a newborn, but more importantly, it demonstrates to the women that the Body of Christ accepts them, loves them and celebrates them and their babies. “We would like as many ladies as possible to attend the shower,” Sciba said. “Gifts are really nice, but when complete strangers show up to attend a shower for your baby, it changes hearts and fills them up with God’s love.” If anyone is interested in bringing a gift or participating in upcoming showers, email L’Anne Sciba at maryshouse.sport@gmail.com or call (318) 220-8009.

Expectant mothers generally learn about Embrace Grace and Mary’s House online or through church members reaching out to women who are single and pregnant. Mary’s House invites every woman who visits to join an Embrace Grace group either there or at one of the other three groups in the Shreveport-Bossier area. In addition to addressing women’s spiritual needs, Mary’s House also offers free and confidential pregnancy testing (including Pregnancy Verification in order to receive medical care and other social services), ultrasounds and counseling services. Ford said, “The most common response from the girls who try Embrace Grace for the first time is, ‘I thought I was coming here to learn about where I screwed up and go over everything I’ve done wrong.’ But the good news is that they quickly find out how wrong they were. They are quickly overcome by the love and grace of Jesus…the pro-life movement saves babies, but the pro-love movement saves the babies and the mommies.”

Saving love can’t come too soon for Shreveport and the world. An abortion facility in Bossier City closed in April, but there is still one operating in Shreveport (in addition to one in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans, for a total of three in the State of Louisiana). Louisiana Right to Life Federation (prolifelouisiana.org) reports, “There were 8,972 abortions performed in Louisiana in 2016, down from 9,362 abortions reported in 2015 and 10,211 abortions reported in 2014. The number of abortions performed in the state had increased steadily from 2008-2014 as population numbers returned to pre-Katrina levels… Even with numbers going down, on average, 25 abortions per day were performed in Louisiana.” The website notes that these statistics are from the Louisiana Department of Health and do not factor in the number of women who sought abortions outside the state. On the positive side, these same statistics indicate that the number of abortions performed fell by 14 percent from 2014-2016, meaning that more than three babies were saved per day last year. Pro-life efforts are clearly making an impact, but they must continue stronger than ever.


“I heard today that Mother Teresa picked up 90,000 poor people herself, one person at a time,” said Sciba. “That doesn’t count her 4,000 Sisters of Charity across the world. Mary’s House and Embrace Grace are impacting North Louisiana one woman and baby – unless it’s twins! – at a time. It makes a big difference to that woman and child!” Anyone who wishes to make a difference through Embrace Grace and Mary’s House should email maryshouse.sport@gmail.com. “[We] always welcome donations of money and time,” Sciba said. Women in the diocese are welcome and encouraged to attend the Oct. 22 baby shower as well.

“We believe that the church should be the first place girls should run to during an unplanned pregnancy instead of the last because of shame and guilt,” said Ford. That’s exactly what Sciba and her fellow volunteers aim to do. She said, “In time, with God’s grace and by His providence, Mary’s House and Embrace Grace will have made a positive impact on North Louisiana.”

Embrace Grace & Mary’s House: Sylvia’s Story

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by L’Anne Sciba

hen I first met Sylvia* she came to Mary’s House for a free pregnancy test. She’d already been to the abortion clinic and received the abortion pill. Now two months later, she realized she still might be pregnant. What if the pill hadn’t worked – she already had young twins at home.  Horrified, with a hurricane of whirling thoughts filling her mind, she thought the peer counselor at Mary’s House might hold a glimmer of hope for the next thing to do… at least she could find out for sure if she was pregnant.  She was.

Medical care is very important and a plan for Medicaid and a doctor’s care was addressed first. At the same visit, Sylvia was invited to join Embrace Grace, a 12 week course, hosted by Mary’s House and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. On the first night of class, Sylvia nervously rang the doorbell hoping for help from complete strangers. Was this a waste of time?
Week after week at class, Sylvia listened to stories of how women in similar circumstances let go of chains of resentment and un-forgiveness; she learned that the lies and wounds she carried around with her could be replaced with God – that made her feel better. As Sylvia prayed to God, He began healing areas in her life that created problems for her.

Little by little, she began to recover her sense of humor, and began to have small hopes and dreams. Then she took baby steps of action. By the time the Baby Shower at St. John’s was held, Sylvia had a new vision of herself, what her future could be with God in her life and her parents were so grateful for the change in their daughter.

It’s been one year since Sylvia came to Mary’s House that first time.  In that year, after having her baby, working at a steady job, talking with her parents, investigating possibilities and adjusting ideas, she has a solid plan for her future and her children.  Her parents are a big support and encourage her as she enrolls in college. Sylvia will be successful because she knows God guides her in His commandments, through family and people in the Church and in daily events. She is never alone because she trusts God who says: “Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you.” The Lord declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.

The vision of Embrace Grace is for every girl in an unplanned pregnancy to have a church to go to for spiritual, emotional and physical support. Its mission is to inspire and equip the church to love single and pregnant girls.

If you have the love of God and determination to  host Embrace Grace at your parish for single and pregnant young women, visit EmbraceGrace.com, or call Mary’s House for more information. Be Pro-Life. Be Pro-Love.

*not her real name

October Kids’ Connection: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on Blessed Fancis Xavier Seelos.

College Student’s Spirit-Filled Encounter with Pope Francis

by Lucia Boyd

The first time I saw Pope Francis he was far away in the back of the spacious hall in Vatican City. Of course, I was filled with exhilaration, but I could not help but wonder at the overbearing atmosphere surrounding the pope. The building was filled to capacity with approximately 12,000 Catholics, each one desiring a limited spot close to the aisle. I was lucky to be there with my mother, but even more fortunate to have squirmed my frame through the crowd adjacent to the aisle.

And then Pope Francis approached me. I froze, oblivious to the massive crowd around me. All of the other “clutter” was shut down. Pope Francis had my full attention. Nevertheless, I felt unworthy. I felt guilty, pondering that some Catholics behind me have prayed more rosaries than I, have never missed Mass, and have not forgotten about meatless Fridays during Lent. I also did not want to be disrespectful to this holy leader. As a result, I was careful to focus on the spiritual experience rather than the superficialness of filming a perfect video to show off on social media.

I did not feel comfortable initiating contact with the pope; I thought it would be shallow and uncivil if I flung myself on him. Therefore, I just stood there in shock, shaking and smiling uncontrollably as I reached my hand to grasp his.

Right after my fingertips brushed against Pope Francis’ arm, I realized he was human. We were breathing the same oxygen and had the same gravity holding us down on the marble floor. It was truly an inspiring moment because it made me realize that my potential is identical to that of the holy man in front of me.

I am an incoming freshman in college, about to embark on the next chapter of my life filled with majestic opportunities. In a wordless milli-second, Pope Francis communicated to me the idea that my faith and future had boundless possibilities. This single interaction with Pope Francis was very similar to multiple encounters I have had with our bishop. Bishop Michael Duca is the representative of Pope Francis who spoke at Loyola College Prep (my alma mater), confirmed me, and even cooked Italian sausage with my family. This experience made me realize how lucky we are in Shreveport to have a genuine bishop who is in touch with his people. In fact, Pope Francis reminded me of Bishop Duca in many ways.

The whole morning surrounding my meeting with Pope Francis was a blur, but the one moment of contact with St. Peter’s successor was as clear as crystal. My mother even commented on how she had never seen me so authentically radiant! I will never forget this pivotal turning point in my faith or the incomparable and pure joy of this experience. Thank you, Pope Francis.

Compassion for Outsiders: Locals Assist Immigrant Harvey Victims

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by Jessica Rinaudo

The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place, or disposable.”
 – Pope Francis, Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014

As Hurricane Harvey moved through Texas and dumped as much as 52 inches of water in some areas, the world watched as cities were swallowed and people were rescued from rooftops. Many lost everything, including access to basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. People piled into emergency shelters, quickly overfilling available buildings. And while the government stepped in to help, there was a group of people inside Texas who could not even accept that assistance.

Immigrants living in Texas without the documentation required by the government to gain assistance, found themselves at the mercy of whoever would take them in. Many found help in local churches, but they were quickly overrun.

A local group of Hispanics in West Monroe heard their pleas and pulled together to help. Maria and Lorenzo, members of St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe, have family members in Houston. As they spoke to one another, their family members told them about the things they were seeing there during the hurricane.

“If there was a shelter, they were telling people to go there,” said Maria, “but when they got to the shelter, they were asking for state ID’s and driver’s licenses. Everyone was afraid to go to a shelter.”

Maria and Lorenzo felt called to aid these people. Her family put her in touch with the churches there that were housing more than 400 people and who were in desperate need of supplies.

“I asked what they needed the most,” said Maria. “I noticed they weren’t worried about clothes for adult people. They were more worried about the little kids and needing canned food and medicine for pain relief. They gave me a list of their biggest needs.”

To help gather the needed supplies, Maria reached out to the local Hispanic community in Monroe through Facebook. She spoke with Sr. Edith Schnell and was granted permission to use the St. Paschal Parish parking lot as a collection point for people to bring their supplies. And the local community came through.

“We gathered Saturday before we left. We got a really good response from the Hispanic community. We got three pallets of water bottles, big boxes of personal care items, another of canned food, and another of cleaning supplies.”

Maria and Lorenzo packed up the supplies and drove them to Houston. They felt that it was their personal responsibility to make sure the items were delivered to the people who truly needed them.

When they arrived, many of the people had been forced out of overflowing shelters, so they created individual supply packages with the items they brought and let people in the neighborhood know the supplies were available.

Although Maria and Lorenzo had seen the news coverage of what was happening, it was still a shock to see the devastation and the faces of the hurricane’s victims in person.

“It was sad,” said Maria. “When we finally got there to the first neighborhood – it was so sad to look into people’s faces. It made me cry. I felt like I was one of them, it felt like it happened to me and to my children.”

Maria and Lorenzo answered God’s call for these people by putting their faith in action, working as the hands of Jesus Christ and loving their neighbors with their words, actions and prayers.