Our Lady of Fatima Plenary Indulgence

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship On Saturday, May 13, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis declared canonized saints, Jacinta and Francesco Marto, two of More »


Reflection on the Four Marks of the Church

by Kim Long The Nicene Creed was written centuries ago to help Christians remember the important beliefs of the faith. In the Nicene Creed we identify the four marks of the Church. More »


U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria

U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria Bishops Echo Call of Pope Francis to Attain Peace in Syria “Through Dialogue and Reconciliation” from the United States Conference of Catholic More »


Shreveport’s Red Mass Celebrates 25 Years

by John Mark Willcox The year was 1992, only six years had passed since the creation of our diocese and several Catholics in the law field, joined by another group of supportive More »


The Harm of Pornography & Hope Beyond Addiction: Arming & Healing Our Children

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


Celebrating 60 Years of Priesthood, Msgr. LaCaze Continues to Serve

by Kelly Phelan Powell “I can’t imagine the number of people this tireless priest and faithful steward of the mysteries of God has touched, inspired and profoundly impacted in his years of More »


Fr. Andre McGrath to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

by Deacon Mike Whitehead From his birth, Fr. Andre McGrath was dedicated to God. The family never wanted to put pressure on Fr. McGrath, but they were pleased when he entered the More »


O’Neill Leaves Legacy of Faith and Joy in Ruston Upon Passing

by Nancy Bergeron Blane O’Neill, the high school English composition teacher, was a tough cookie. If he thought a student’s paper was fluff, he’d stamp it with a picture of a cloud. More »


Mike’s Meditations: Magnify the Living Christ

by Mike Van Vranken How is your Easter going?”  Has anyone asked you that question over the last couple of weeks?  It’s ironic that we hear “How is your Lent going?” quite More »

Pro-Life Banquet Draws Support for Mary’s House

by Jessica Rinaudo

Bishop Michael Duca’s annual Pro-Life Banquet, now in its seventh year, has become an inspirational and well-attended community event.  This year, Bishop Duca was the keynote speaker, outlining his pro-life vision for the Diocese of Shreveport, as well as promoting Mary’s House, the local Catholic pregnancy center and recipient of proceeds from the event.

As with years past, the first speaker of the event was Alexis Pippin, winner of the diocesan pro-life oratory contest. In her moving speech, she spoke about the science of being a living human in the womb, as well as the gift of adoption.

In Bishop Duca’s talk, he spoke about what it means to be truly “pro-life,” asserting that pro-life is both protecting the unborn and supporting the dignity of all human people, including the immigrant and the refugee.

“We have been created in God’s image. We are to see every human being in this way, and desire their happiness, success, just as God wishes those things for us…. This is our starting point, this is our fundamental, basic build on the cornerstone of Jesus,” said Bishop Duca.

He continued, “Ours is not first and foremost a legal fight, but rather a witness to the love of God that wills all life to be protected and treated with love, from the moment of conception, to the moment they go before God, face to face. This witness may take us to a legal fight, to actively supporting and encouraging pregnant women to choose life, to supporting young mothers, but our inspiration, the source of our witness, must flow from the same love that God has for all people.”

“To be ‘pro the dignity of human life’ is to cut across political ideologies. We stand for the rights of the unborn, but we as Catholics also must welcome the immigrant, the stranger, who are always our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to visit the imprisoned, offer the love to our brothers and sisters who are in jail…. As we take our place in common and public discourse, we should be first Catholic, Christian and this should inform our political decisions and our actions. Does pro-life have a priority? Yes, because it is that absolute right that all other rights depend upon.”

Mary’s House representative and volunteer Roxanne Chumley gave a moving talk about the wonderful programs at Mary’s House, including their Embrace Grace initiative that holds baby showers for expecting mothers who don’t have the resources to provide for their baby.

At the end of the night, Bishop Michael Duca presented Janice Gonzales with a plaque in honor of all of her work for pro-life efforts in the community.

The banquet was a great success, raising $20,000 for Mary’s House, from the 700 people who attended, as well as additional donations exceeding $12,000.
Marys House is a pregnancy care center that offers help for women who are in unintended pregnancy situations. Besides offering someone to talk with, they offer free pregnancy tests and follow up with a free ultrasound so the mother can see and bond with her baby.

“We try to help her gain easy and early access to medical care for herself and her baby during pregnancy by discussing insurance, Medicaid or other options for care. Before she leaves, we help her with the first contact with an OB doctors office for an appointment,” said L’Anne Sciba, Founder of Mary’s House.  “And the funds Bishop Duca’s pro-life banquet provides helps make all of this possible.”

The hard work of event coordinators Lisa Britt and Theresa Murphy, as well as Chancellor Christine Rivers, helped make this event a huge success.
Bishop Duca summed up the Catholic pro-life movement perfectly when he said, “We need to be sure we know who we are, what we believe, and then live that message in its entirety, with joy in our hearts. Not as a people burdened by the truth of our faith, but as a people set free by the truth of the Gospel.”

For more on Mary’s House, please visit www.maryshouseofla.org.

Vocations View: It Takes How Many Years to Become a Priest?

Nicholas Duncan (center), serves at the diaconate ordination Mass of Fidel Mondragon.

by Nicholas Duncan, Seminarian

I am the diocese’s newest seminarian and am currently completing my first year of study at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. I applied for entry a year before I entered, while I was living in Amarillo, TX. Over these last two years, when I have told people I’m a seminarian studying to be a Catholic priest, I generally receive one of two reactions.

First a positive response that goes something like, “Wow! Congratulations! Are you doing that here in town?”

The second reaction is a look of shock and awe, followed by a confusing stare. After a period of silence, two questions typically follow: “What kind of priest?” (What they really want to know is, are you talking about the kind that doesn’t get to have kids?). This is eventually followed with, “How long does that take?” When I tell them “I still have six years,” they’re in a greater state of shock than the thought of me not having kids. “Why does it take so long? What could you be studying for all those years?”
With information at the tip of our fingertips, online classes and the ability to become an ordained minister online within minutes, what could the Catholics be studying for six years? A blessing here, a homily there, what else could there be?

For many priests, it’s not just six years of study; that’s only for those studying to be diocesan priests that already have a bachelors’ degree. For many, it can take as many as 10 to12 years before they are ordained, and those six years are not solely for academics. As Fr. Wehner, Rector of Notre Dame, often reiterates to the faculty, “This is not a university! These men are not here to simply earn a master’s degree. If that was the case, we could send them down the road to Loyola. This is a seminary, a center of formation, transforming men into priests for the New Evangelization.”

For comparison, a Protestant seminarian can be anyone taking religious classes, with or without the intention of becoming a minister.

What makes Catholic seminarians different is we have four interconnected dimensions in our formation: Human, Pastoral, Spiritual and Intellectual. Academics is just one aspect of intellectual formation. Everything we do relates to these four components, whether class in session or not; we never take a “vacation” from being seminarians. Notre Dame offers a lay program whose students take many of the same classes we do. They earn a master’s degree in Theology, but those students are not seminarians. Multiple seminarians at Notre Dame already have advanced degrees in Theology, yet they are still participating in all four dimensions of formation because our Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) requires more than just academics.

Before classes started, there was a week of orientation for new seminarians. As I looked around the classroom at my fellow Pre-Theology classmates, all of us at the beginning of our formation, I couldn’t help but ask myself how are we supposed to be priests in just six short years? As the year has gone by and I discover how much I need to learn, the task seems impossible. But then, I observe the men in their third year of theology who are about to be ordained deacons, and I think “Yeah!  I can see them as priests in a year or less,” and just five years before, they were in the same position as my classmates and I are now. Their transformation shows that the Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) is effective for those who commit to it. If you have ever wondered why it takes six years to become a priest, after one year of formation I can say that it is amazing six years is all it takes!

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

Second Collections for May

by Fr. Rothell Price

Bulletin Announcement Dates April 23 & 30
Parish Collection Dates: May 6 & 7

During our Masses this weekend, we will feature a very special second collection conducted in support of the retired priests of our diocese.  Please be as generous as possible and remember that only the retired priests of the Diocese of Shreveport will benefit from any funds raised in this second collection.  We truly want to do our part in providing for our retired priests who have given a lifetime of ministry to our faith community.  We currently have six retired priests on the roster. That number will swell to nine as three more priests retire in the coming weeks.  It is also good to remember that our number of retired priests will continue to grow in the upcoming future. We remain grateful for our senior priests who remain more than willing to minister to us past the age of retirement in dedicated service to the people of God. My prayer is that our faith community will offer a strong response in honor of our retired priests. Use the yellow Retired Clergy Collection envelopes that will be provided in your pews.  Thank you for participating.

Bulletin Announcement Dates: April 30 & May 7
Parish Collection Dates: May 13 & 14

The Bishops of the United States have approved a special one-time second collection to take place in the parishes across the nation on Mother’s Day to support the mosaic ornamentation of the Trinity Dome, the crowning jewel of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  The Basilica is the patronal church of our nation, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. This great Marian shrine exists today because of the generosity of American Catholics and clergy, the prayers of the faithful and the hard work of the artisans and laborers who began building it nearly 100 years ago.

Mary’s Shrine is an authentic reflection of the diversity of the cultures and ethnicities of the United States and the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.  The national collection for the Trinity Dome offers the faithful an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by honoring their Catholic heritage and entrusting themselves and their families to the Mother of God.

Announcement Dates: May 14 & 21  
Parish Collection Dates: May 27 & 28

Memorial Day weekend, May 27 and 28, our second collection is for the Catholic Communication Campaign. This campaign connects people with Christ, here and around the world in developing countries, through the internet, television, radio and print media. Fifty percent of funds collected remain in our diocese to fund local communications efforts.  Your support helps spread the gospel message.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society.” By participating in this collection, you do just that.  Your donation will help the Church spread the Gospel message locally, nationally and even internationally.  With your help, bridges are built, people feel included and society is enriched.  Your support of the Catholic Communication Campaign provided initial funding for websites that support marriage. These websites continue to provide culturally relevant resources for couples in all stages of their journey, from dating and engagement, to marriage and raising a family.  And remember, 50 percent of the funds collected remain in our diocese to support local communications projects.  Let others hear and experience the message of Divine Mercy through your sacrifice.  •

Navigating the Faith: Our Lady of Sorrows


by Fr. Matthew Long

When I began to write this article on the Blessed Mother, it was on the eve of Holy Week.  I wrote it immediately following the Palm/Passion Sunday Mass.  As a result, my thoughts about Mary were colored by the Passion and Death of the Lord.  Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, was on my mind.

My devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has changed and grown over the 17 years I have been Catholic.  Over the last five years I have been blessed to be the Chaplain of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, making me reflect more deeply on the Blessed Mother under that title.  She should not be thought of as a sad woman, but as a woman whose sorrow was filled with joy and tinged with hope. This is what the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows and their foundress, Blessed Elisabetta Renzi, have taught me.  She wrote 150 years ago, “The Alleluia dwells beyond Calvary.”  I firmly believe that to understand Our Lady of Sorrows, we must gaze upon her through these words.

There are traditionally Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Presentation in the Temple; Flight into Egypt; Jesus Lost in Jerusalem; Mary meeting Jesus on His way to Calvary; the Crucifixion; taking down the body of Jesus, and; Jesus laid in the Tomb.

Two weeks ago we as a Church gathered on Good Friday to remember the passion and death of our Lord. It is on that day that the only two people who never knew sin would suffer the greatest because of our sins.  I have often wondered what raced through Mary’s mind as the horrible events of the end of her son’s life unfolded.  As she watched him cruelly treated and unjustly condemned, reviled and despised by her religious leaders and fellow countrymen, I wonder if her mind wandered far away to make that day bearable.

Scripture tells us how Mary pondered everything in her heart. I imagine her remembering a visit by an angel that brought her good news of great joy.  She probably recalled a stable in Bethlehem and her beloved husband, St. Joseph, placing the Child in her arms for the first time, reliving the joy of looking upon his face and kissing his brow.  She recalled the presentation in the Temple when they gave him the name of Jesus and the joy of Anna and Simeon at meeting their longed for Messiah.

But she would recall as well the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart. She remembered the visit of the Magi that overwhelmed both her and Joseph and their hurried flight into Egypt to escape a maniacal king.  She recalled clinging to this Child of hers and promising him that she would protect him no matter what.

She also remembered His first words, which were probably “Mama,” and his first steps as he went trustingly forth. She remembered kissing his scraped knee when he would fall, and caring for him when he was sick. She remembered teaching him about the Scriptures and the Law and laughing and crying with him as he grew into a man.  She remembered the countless meals they shared together as a family and the confidences that only a mother and a son would ever know.  She remembered how strong he was as he sat at the bedside with her as Joseph lay dying and what comfort he brought them both.  She remembered with pride him proclaiming the reading from Isaiah in their home synagogue and how he changed water into wine at Cana, simply because she asked. She remembered the miracles and the healings that brought joy and hope to all he met. She remembered great and small events, his trials and his tribulations. And what she remembered most of all was the love and respect he always showed her.

Now she stands there having seen him scourged and beaten, ridiculed and despised and crowned with thorns.  She probably wondered where all of those were he had helped.  No “Hosannas” rang out, only “Crucify him.”  Where were the blind, the lame and the deaf? Where were those he fed and those who were his dearest friends?  She saw him struggling under the weight of the cross as he bore it to Calvary and oh, how she longed to wipe his brow, kiss his wounds and fulfill the promise she had made so long ago.

Her own pain was unimaginable because of the pain he was suffering. She felt his humiliation and shame as they stripped him of his garments. She flinched when they drove the nails into his sacred hands and holy feet and, more than likely, she looked away as he was lifted upon the wood of the cross.

Then she stood beneath him, making sure he could see her, making sure he knew that even if every one else abandoned him, she would not. She fought back tears, offering all the love and support she could, unable to speak because her throat was closed. But she would not abandon him; she would not leave him. She had been one of the first people he saw when he entered into this life and she was determined that she would be one of the last people he saw as he left it.

Then he looked intently at her and spoke, “Woman, behold thy son.” His gaze shifted to John, the only one of his disciples and friends still there, and said, “Behold, thy mother.”  How that must have made her feel to know that in his last moments he cared enough to think of her welfare. She continued to fight those tears and look resolutely up at him, offering him all of her love and  every ounce of strength, offering him what only a mother can offer to her son.

Then he said, “I thirst” and “It is finished” and he died.  His pain was ended, his agony had come to an end and he no longer needed her strength.  She collapsed to her knees sobbing. Her only son was gone and then another Joseph came to her and placed into her arms, her son.  She was the first to kiss his brow and she would be the last. She clung to his body and allowed her tears to mingle with his blood. She kissed those wounds and wept for everything that her son had been and was still yet to be. She wept for her years of sacrifice and pain, for the years of joy and love.  She wept because the last of her family was gone and the most important chapter of her life had closed. She wept because she suffered and she suffered because she loved.

The Blessed Mother’s sorrow was turned into joy on that Easter morn.  Not only did she believe it, but she saw that “The Alleluia dwells beyond Calvary.” Let all of us follow the example of Our Lady of Sorrows, being people who in the midst of trial find joy, in sadness find hope and in sacrifice find love.

From the Pope: Celebration of Palm Sunday

from Vatican Information Services

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience, in some small measure, what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For 32 years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient,” who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honor and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.  •

Domestic Church: Trust God with Your Challenges

by Katie Sciba

I’ve noticed you make a lot of sunshine pie.”

I peered at my spiritual director from under a furrowed brow, “What’s that mean?” I really had no idea.

“It means when your life is hard, you find the bright spot and take only that to prayer, instead of allowing yourself to tell the Lord you’re hurting or mad.”
“And that’s not ok?”

“You gotta be real with Jesus,” Father said. “Let him in on your struggle. Ask him to show you where he is in the hardest parts of your life.”

As a lifelong optimist, I didn’t see a problem with staying on the sunny side, nor did I see an issue with focusing on gratitude in prayer. If there’s a cloud, there’s a silver lining. And though yes, we’ve had our share of pain and difficulty like everyone else, but there’s always a blessing to outshine the sorrow, right?

More than that, I wanted to avoid any spiritual behavior resembling the Israelites in the desert – saved from bondage, but wandering around ungrateful. They didn’t just lament, they whined, and I didn’t want to whine to the Lord after He had blessed me so much. As one seeking guidance, however, I knew it’d be best to obey my priest’s insight and make a little less “pie.”

I first tried it out in the car. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I opened the gates and told God everything from the deepest hurts, to struggles of the day, to confusion and frustration. It was uncomfortable and I felt a hint of embarrassment for not mentioning any of the joys I experienced. I started to gloss over it all, “But I know you’re so wonderful, Jesus. And thank you for giving us a roof over our heads and I’m grateful that we’re all healthy —“ then I stopped. Yes I’ll be grateful, I thought, but I’ll save that for a different prayer. “Life is hard, Jesus. Show me where you are. Heal me.”

Letting it out became more habitual as I’d turn my face upward saying, “This is hard,” or “I know you’re working on me somehow, Jesus, but I don’t get it.” Gradually I found myself trusting God more as I entrusted him with my challenges. I knew I had moved closer to Jesus.

What I discovered was that “making sunshine pie” was an issue of intimacy with Christ. As a wife, as a mom, as his daughter, I was keeping him at a distance by saying thank you for blessings and moving on; but what I failed to realize was that the pain, sorrow and difficulty the Lord allows in our lives – regardless of how insignificant or overpowering they are – are a means to draw closer to him.

I still say thank you of course, and it’s because I’ve allowed Christ into my challenges that prayers of gratitude are more sincere; and it’s because I’ve invited him in that I see more clearly how he is providing.

“Yes, the Israelites whined, but they cried out lamenting to God and what did he do?” my spiritual director asked. “He fed them. He sustained them, and he guided them to the Promised Land.”

Faithful Food: A Fish Tale

by Kim Long

Let me state for the record that I don’t mind cooking fish, but NEVER have I cooked a whole fish, and I really never desired to. I was happy with my tuna casserole, tuna salad, my Friday night fried fish and my salmon patties – NONE of which suggested or required that I cook an entire fish at one time.

Enter the St. Josephs’ Altar 2017. I thought the Men’s Club was cooking this centerpiece, but someone thought I volunteered. In the end the lack of communication was beyond reason! Here’s what happened.

Thursday: Janice took the day off work. She and I were in her car with a cooler and headed not to a lake, but to a fish market to bring home the redfish. I was still blissfully ignorant when we purchased “Nemo” and put it on ice. We laughed and told one another that this will be the best altar so far. Neither of us mentioned who was cooking the fish.

Friday: Trish, Janice and I realize that no one has asked the Men’s Club to cook Nemo. We all agreed it was too late to ask them, after all we didn’t want them to think we didn’t respect their time. Still I was not bothered. I’m not really Italian, surely I couldn’t be the cook. Irish people were never keen on fish to begin with, so I was safe, right?

Saturday: We were in the midst of much cooking and prep work for the St. Joseph Altar. We put the finishing touches on the altar and said the rosary in Italian after Mass. Who did Trish say was cooking the fish? I can’t recall anyone saying. Janice called me later and said, “You’re cooking the fish right?” Right…

Sunday: “Well how hard can this be?” I thought. After all, I had baked a thousand macaroons before, and this? This was just a fish.

I arrived at the church kitchen at 6:00 a.m. and made the bell pepper dressing. Then, it couldn’t be delayed any longer. I prepared the pan with parchment paper and slathered the olive oil, lemon juice and spice mixture on Nemo. It was at that moment, with preheated oven waiting to receive my offering, that Sam Marsala walked in and casually asked, “You did scale the fish right?” “No I didn’t,” I replied. “You will need a spoon,” he added helpfully.

I picked the fish up by the tail and, with the sink’s sprayer attachment, blasted the marinade from those suddenly glistening and obvious scales. With spoon in hand, I began scraping, and suddenly the fish scales were like a bizarre version of glitter and were sticking to my hair. Undeterred, I reapplied the marinade, put the fish in the oven and Ruby and Trish picked the scales out of my hair. When the timer alarmed, Ruby and I removed Nemo from the oven, and violá! Now all that was left to do was to put him on a platter and garnish for presentation.

All is well that ends well as they say, and not a bite was left.

Monday: I took the day off and realized that I had dreamed of fish. And as I drank my morning coffee, I swore off tuna, et al. for an undetermined period of time.

Marinade for St. Joseph Altar Redfish

• 1 scaled redfish
• ½ cup of good quality olive oil
• ½ cup lemon juice
• 1 to 2 tablespoons of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
• Garnish options for plate: lemons, fennel fronds, radish or carrots

1) Combine all ingredients and slather on a SCALED fish.
2) Cooking time depends on the size of your fish, so consult your fishmonger or a trusted cookbook. For our fish we cooked it one hour at 350 degrees.


In Review: Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love

Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love  by Fr. Sean Davidson
reviewed by Kelly Phelan Powell

When I was confirmed in the Church in 2007, I chose as my patroness St. Mary Magdalene, the woman to whom Christ appeared first after the Resurrection and then sent to announce the Resurrection to the apostles. She’s always been mysterious, in part because there were very few works about her that were written in English. When I learned of a book called Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love by Fr. Sean Davidson, I downloaded it right then, eager to learn more about this inspiring and unconventional holy woman.

The book focuses chiefly on St. Mary Magdalene’s example of adoration of our Lord and how we can learn to “enter more deeply into adoration of Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.” But it does address the central question to the debate about the identity of Mary Magdalene: “Is [she], from whom went forth seven demons and who was witness to the Resurrection, one and the same as the sinful woman who was converted to Christ in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Luke?” Furthermore, is she the sister of Lazarus and Martha described in the Gospel of John?

I especially enjoyed the various traditions, stories and speculations about her life before meeting Jesus. My confirmation didn’t take place until I was 30. I was unmarried – nervously so, childless and had just embarked on a career as a freelance writer. I was terrified I wouldn’t get enough clients and would end up living in a cardboard box or, worse, with my parents. Needless to say, I felt a kinship to this saint who had also experienced life off the beaten path. But as the author points out, “Mary Magdalene is one of those saints who can appeal to all categories of Christians, for she provides an example to us all, regardless of our vocations. At times she is the repentant sinner, at times the perfect contemplative…At times she is an apostle…at times she is simply heartbroken and grieving.”

Truthfully, I also love the subversiveness of it all – while the world believes Holy Mother Church to be hopelessly patriarchal (oh, the irony!), St. Mary Magdalene’s distinction as the “Apostle of the Apostles” flies in the face of that fallacy and reaffirms a truth we already know: that Catholicism “[elevates] women, children, unborn life and motherhood to the pinnacle of human achievement (IG @jenny_uebbing, 2017).” I was moved to tears a number of times by her devotion to our Lord. One of my favorite parts of Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love is when the author describes Jesus first presenting her to his own Mother.

Fascinating though the book is, it’s not an easy read. The information is presented in more of a scholarly manner than a narrative one, so while it’s beautifully written and at times wonderfully emotional, it’s definitely not light reading. But at just 208 pages, I still finished it pretty quickly.

The best thing about the book, and about St. Mary Magdalene herself, is her story inspires us that “the greatest of sinners among us can dare to hope to become the greatest of saints.” She, like many of us, set her heart on something that was far less than what Jesus wanted to give her. But, Fr. Sean writes, “her heart had found that for which it was created and the contentment for which it longed in adoration of the Divine Person of Jesus Christ.” May we all follow her holy example.  •

Mike’s Meditations: Magnify the Living Christ


by Mike Van Vranken

How is your Easter going?”  Has anyone asked you that question over the last couple of weeks?  It’s ironic that we hear “How is your Lent going?” quite often during those 40 days after Ash Wednesday.  Yet, once the stores remove the bunnies from their shelves and we’ve eaten all our Cadbury eggs, Easter is quickly forgotten. We understand its importance in our Christian lives, but because resurrection is difficult to explain, we can easily lose sight of our own role in what it means.  Our authentic desire is never to explain resurrection, but to enter into it and live it.

Experiencing resurrection is not new to us. When we came out of the waters of our baptism, we rose as a new person. Resurrected!  “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But it doesn’t stop there. We continue to be renewed and transformed and live as resurrected “ambassadors for Christ” who have “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21).

During Lent we were determined to examine our lives and crucify those things that distract us or pull us away from God. Then, we celebrated his rising from the dead in his glorified body. But again, it shouldn’t stop there. We rise from Lent different and transformed as a new and living child of God, more joyful and more loving because we got rid of some of those attributes that draw us away from him. We are different. We are changed. And we are to live those changes as resurrected ambassadors for Christ.  This is how we enter into and live resurrection.

The incarnation, God with us, is made manifest and continues in our world because we magnify the risen Christ within us.  Men and women who are in the state of resurrection experience a radical change. It isn’t easy. It can be complex.

But the challenge is: How do I enter the ordinary world as the new person I am? And do I realize that I don’t wait until next Lent to find new ways to deny the worldliness in my life?  Each day I can find some part of me that distracts my focus from God and nail that distraction to the cross.  I continue in resurrection as changed again and again – the transformation continues, so resurrection continues. I literally begin to live it each day.  This is what transformation means.  It is crossing into those areas of our lives where annihilation of the self can begin and we then can move into a new life with God and find joy.

To remain resurrected is to keep our eyes focused on Christ and to continue walking in that resurrected way, even in our everyday lives.

Jesus in the resurrection accounts reveals who he is now – in all his divinity, which is shining through in all of his encounters.  He is filled with peace, love and joy. We live the resurrection by allowing the risen Jesus in us to shine through with this same peace, love and joy in the encounters of our daily lives. This new life of ours becomes a powerful experience for us and for those around us.

Sound scary? In his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus says: “Be not afraid,” and “Peace be with you.”  This is what we all have to learn when we move into new life – don’t be afraid, and trust the peace of God.  We become totally united with the incarnation itself. It is not us who shine with peace, love and joy – it’s Jesus shining through us. And it’s not an illusion. It’s real.

Finally, this entire new life moves us in two ways:

1. It ignites in us a capacity to be there for others in a new and more dynamic reality; a new way of loving, of ministering with compassion, and of sharing in the journeys of our sisters and brothers.

2. It also demands some alone time with God. To be present with Him in prayer. It is God who shows us how to practice being a resurrected people and spending time with Him in prayer and conversation is essential.

We are called to more than just believing in resurrection. We are called to be resurrection in our modern world. So rather than waiting for someone to ask how your Easter is going, just go ahead and ask yourself: “How am I resurrection for the people in my life and the entire world around me?”

Bishop’s May Reflection: Prepare for Pastoral Changes with an Open Heart


by Bishop Michael Duca

Every year brings new challenges to a bishop. This year the challenge is the retirement of three of our priests/pastors:  Father Pike Thomas, Father Phil Michiels and Father James McLelland on June 1, 2017.  I bring this part of Church life to your attention this month because I expect there will be a rather unprecedented number of changes throughout the diocese because of the retirement of these three pastors which will affect several of our larger parishes.  In fact, by the time you receive this issue of The Catholic Connection, you may have heard some of the changes already.

When I assign a priest as your pastor, I choose them first and foremost to love you with a pastor’s love and, as a spiritual father, to nourish your spiritual life (as well as his own) through the sacraments, preaching and in his pastoral leadership of the parish. I want the pastor to build a strong parish family that has, as its mission, to reach out beyond itself in charity and give witness to Christ in the larger community.  Your pastor must also administer the temporal goods of the parish (that’s paying the bills and keeping the air conditioning on in the summer) and reach out to all members of the parish: the young, single, married, divorced, elderly, infirmed, those preparing for marriage, the doubtful, the troubled, even the mean and stubborn. In short, I ask a lot of my pastors and their parochial vicars (these are harder to find today), but I know each of them works hard and faithfully to fulfill the responsibilities I have placed on their shoulders.

Yet a pastor cannot accomplish all the above responsibilities (and more) without his parishioners.  Your place is not only to sit back and grade the pastor; no, more is asked of everyone in the parish.

Have you ever thought that it is your place to love your pastor and to contribute in an active way to make your parish family a witness to the love of God and neighbor?  Every parishioner should actively join with the pastor in building up a vital parish.  Don’t be afraid to give an honest, even differing opinion on some aspect of parish life, but do give it with love and respect.  When I was a parish priest with many pastoral responsibilities, I often needed help and input from the parishioners.  In fact, much of the success attributed to me was accomplished through the willingness of the parishioners to work with me and I with them.  Working together in this transition will be essential to a successful pastoral change.

If your parish has a pastoral change this spring, here are a few helpful tips to make the transition smoother:

Give the new pastor a chance.  Don’t believe negative gossip that you hear about him.  Social media, texting, Facebook and even old fashion gossip has often made the changes for our pastors more difficult as they are judged and either sanctified or condemned before they even arrive at a new assignment.  Most of what you hear on the parish grapevine is vastly exaggerated and social media can make the concerns of a few seem larger and more important than they really are.  Make it clear to other parishioners that criticizing a pastor behind his back is always a mistake.  If there is a legitimate concern about the new pastor, talk to him about it.  Chances are it is some misunderstanding that can be easily fixed. Give a new pastor the time to let his actions and words speak for themselves.

Remember that it takes a while for a new pastor to learn the names of parishioners and to become familiar with parish ministries.  Pastors and parishioners need to be patient with one another, listen to each other and work together for the good of the parish.

Be open to change.  Let your new pastor be himself.  Recognize that he has unique gifts and talents that he will bring to your parish.  Allow him to minister in his own way.  Don’t keep telling the new pastor how the old pastor used to do things.  Be willing to consider that the new pastor has been sent by God’s grace so the parish will be challenged to develop in a new spiritual way.  I do believe that even through all my practical considerations and consultations that the Holy Spirit guides my decisions and is at work in this process.

Of course in all things be charitable.  I pray that the changes this year will bring new life, not only to our parishes, but will also revive and challenge our priests to a deeper commitment to their priesthood and they will be nourished and inspired by the zeal and support of their parishioners.  A parish succeeds when the pastor and parishioners work together.  May Christ remain at the center of these changes in our parishes.