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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 »

Deacon Duane Trombetta’s Internship at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans

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by Jessica Rinaudo

Duane Trombetta was ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 24, 2017. This is one of the last and final steps he will take before being ordained a priest on June 9, 2018, for the Diocese of Shreveport.

As part of his last year before being ordained a priest, Deacon Trombetta has been taking part in a diaconate internship at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport. This is an opportunity for him to get a taste of parish life and develop a better understanding of what his priestly responsibilities will be.

“This is an opportunity to take my ministry experience beyond just the summer, and into the school year when Catholic schools are in session, when the deacons will have the opportunity to work with the school children, if they’re working at a parish with a school, and also see the parish ministry during the school year. That’s when the busiest time of all is,” said Trombetta.

He continued, “I think, ironically, some of the most normal and average days [of my work at the Cathedral] give the best sense of what priesthood is going to be like. For example, just an average day is difficult to plan on a calendar because there are many contingencies that arrive, such as funerals and pop in visits from parishioners in need. But it’s also possible to plan a daily schedule that incorporates prayer, office activities, preparation of homilies, administrative activities, service ministries and other recurring things.”

But his days are certainly not contained to the office. Many days Trombetta makes visits to the homebound, as well as those in nursing homes and hospitals. He also participates in the Cathedral’s daily Masses, serving as a deacon.

Deacon Trombetta’s even gotten in on the day-to-day running of the Cathedral, changing sanctuary candles and counting collections.

One unique project Trombetta has facilitated for the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans is working with Google to do an indoor view of the Cathedral interior and grounds. “There was an indoor, 3D, streetview photoshoot, and I walked them through the Cathedral, the prayer garden, the chapel, which they’ll be putting online, on Google maps, an interior set of three dimensional views of all our properties.”

Trombetta’s internship will be winding down this month, and he will be headed back to school to complete his final year.

“I’m very much looking forward to my last two semesters of school at Notre Dame Seminary,” said Trombetta. “This diaconate internship has given me a taste of what it’s like to serve at Mass and participate in liturgical ministry. And so, therefore, these last two semesters are going to be a little bit of a change in gears as I switch back to academic mode. But after this fall semester and next spring, God willing, I’ll be ordained a priest and begin participating in the ministry of priesthood and ministerial life in the Diocese of Shreveport.”

The prospect of becoming an ordained priest is now very real for Deacon Trombetta. His years of preparation will come to fruition on June 9, 2018. And while those first days and weeks of being a new priest may be both exciting and overwhelming, there is one thing he is really looking forward to.

“Getting to know the people of the parishes is going to be a real blessing for me. I look forward to participating with them in the high points of their lives – baptisms and marriages – and also working with them in the most difficult times of their lives, such as funerals and other struggles,” said Trombetta.

Please continue to pray for Deacon Duane Trombetta over the course of this next year. You can send him letters of encouragement at the seminary.
Deacon Duane Trombetta
Notre Dame Seminary
2901 S. Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70118

Celebrating the100th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun

Crowd looks at "the Miracle of the Sun" during the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions on October 13, 1917.

by Nancy Pierron

Three children, Lucia Ferreira, and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, first saw the vision of a beautiful lady on May 13, 1917. The lady told them to do penance and make sacrifices, to say the rosary every day and this would help save sinners. Mary also asked Lucia to learn to read and write so she could tell the world about Mary and her Immaculate Heart.
The people of the surrounding area, and even Lucia’s mother, were not happy about the stories the children were telling about the lady. They did not believe the children. Lucia was ridiculed and beaten because of her stories about Mary.

In July 1917, the lady revealed three secrets to the children. Lucia revealed two of the secrets in 1938. They concerned Mary asking for reparation, first Saturday devotions and the consecration of Russia. In January of that year, a huge aurora borealis appeared over Europe and a very bright beam of light was seen. The third secret was revealed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. It was a vision of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.

As many as 70,000 people were present for the sixth and last apparition. On October 13, 1917, the sun appeared to rotate and change its coloration, then fall to the earth. This was called the miracle of the sun – a miracle that Lucia had promised would happen on the day of the apparition. At that time, the lady identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
Lucia became a Discalced Carmelite nun in 1949. She returned to Fatima during all four papal pilgrimages. In February 2017, Sr. Lucia was granted the title “servant of God,” the first step toward canonization.

In February 1952, a fundraiser was started to establish Our Lady of Fatima Church in Monroe. Bishop Charles P. Greco donated the property for the church and school. Many came together to raise funds and work to complete the school building and gymnasium. A rectory and convent were prepared from two barracks buildings to house Fr. George Martinez and three Franciscan sisters.

The school began in 1953 with about 60 students in grades one through four. Later, a new wing was added to house fifth through eighth grades. The new church was completed in February 1959. A new rectory and convent were later built. Fr. Martinez and a determined group of parishioners were responsible for the success of the fledgling parish. Now, nearly 60 years later, the parish is still fueled by devoted parishioners.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish invites you to attend the celebration Mass of the 100th anniversary of the sixth and final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. It will be held at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, located at 3205 Concordia Street, Monroe on October 11. There will be a meal following Mass. All are welcome! 

Knights of Columbus Silver Rose Coming to Bossier City

Prayer Service for Our Lady of Guadalupe Silver Rose

Christ the King Parish
October 28
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
between Masses

For 57 years, the Knights of Columbus have honored Our Lady of Guadalupe by carrying silver roses across all of North America. In each location the rose stops, the culture of life is promoted, thus the program is called  “One Life, One Rose.” Every stop along the route of the Silver Rose Pilgrimage is an occasion for prayer and spiritual renewal centered on the rosary. This year, the rose will stop in Bossier City. Knights of Columbus and members of the community will escort the rose to Christ the King Parish for a prayer service on October 28. Please join them for this special occasion.

Shreveport’s Brian Burgess Named Vice President for National Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Brian Burgess with Bishop Michael Duca at his commissioning ceremony as the new SVdP National vice president.

by Bonnie Martinez

Each year in September, hundreds of Vincentians gather for a national assembly to deepen their spirituality, form new relationships with Vincentians from across the country, and learn from their counterparts in order to better serve those in need in our area.

September is the chosen month for every national assembly because Vincentians celebrate the Feast Day of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, their founder, on September 9, and the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul, their patron saint, on September 27. The recent Society of St. Vincent de Paul 2017 National Assembly in Tampa, FL, also celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism.

The entire Diocese of Shreveport, and more specifically the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Diocesan Council of Shreveport, has another reason to celebrate. On September 2, Brian Burgess, former Diocesan Council President, parishioner of St. Jude Parish and a member of St. Jude’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference, was commissioned as the new Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Vice President. Even more remarkable is that Bishop Michael G. Duca  was there to celebrate the Mass and conducted the commissioning ceremony for the new Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Council, including Brian as the National Vice President.

Brian’s focus during the first year of his six-year term as Vice President will be to facilitate the strategic planning process for the national council. This will be quite an undertaking as the national council strives to make the process as inclusive as possible, talking with Vincentians from conferences and councils from around the United States. Preliminary work has begun on developing the plan and how it will be used to help shape the vision for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul over the next six years.

“I am extremely humbled and honored that Ralph Middlecamp asked me to serve as National Vice President,” said Burgess. “Ralph is an outstanding Vincentian servant leader and will be a great President for us. I look forward to serving Vincentians in the Diocese of Shreveport and all around the country as we work to grow in our own spirituality and better serve those in need.”

On behalf of all Vincentians within the Diocese of Shreveport, we congratulate Brian on his national leadership role. Brian, your fellow Vincentians will be praying for you as you journey through your next six years as a servant leader.

St. Vincent de Paul’s Friends of the Poor Walk

• The FOP® Walk/Run began in 2008 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, one of the oldest and most effective charitable organizations in the world.

• Funds raised are applied to a wide range of assistance for the needy and those living in poverty, including: housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine.

• Each community’s Walk is organized and run by its own SVdP Conference or Council.

• Last year, our local Shreveport-Bossier Walk raised over $1,000 which was used to help those in need in Shreveport/Bossier City. Since the Walk began in 2008, more than $17 million has been raised.

• Walkers are encouraged to make a personal monetary donation and collect pledges from supporters.

• The website (www.fopwalk.org) offers more details, including all of the participating Walk locations that are currently registered across the United States.

Date: October 21, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Walk Location: Arthur Ray Teague Parkway (Bossier City) Main pavillion right next to the boat launch, just south of the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge.

Contact Brian Burgess
Phone: 318-746-1299
Mobile: 318-780-7755
E-mail: baburgess@gmail.com

Volunteers Make Gabriel’s Closet a Labor of Love

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by Lucy Medvec

Gabriel’s Closet, one of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana’s most beloved programs, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary in operation. It was founded as a program to support and honor new life, the parents who come to Catholic Charities for help and the family as a whole. Since its opening in September 2012, Gabriel’s Closet has provided education, donations and resources for over 1,000 individuals in North Louisiana. It is housed in the sanctuary of the former St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shreveport.

What makes Gabriel’s Closet so unique is that it is solely run by volunteers with guidance from a Catholic Charities staff member Suhad Salamah. Whether it’s working with new mothers to select baby items, teaching parenting classes or sorting donations, this team of volunteers has one thing in common – the desire to help clients become the very best parents to their children.

Gabriel’s Closet volunteers can be classified into two groups: hands-on volunteers who work directly with clients; and the behind-the-scenes volunteers who sort donations, organize inventory and assist with office operations. We want to highlight and celebrate some of our veteran volunteers!

Angie Goodwin & Sheryl Sweeney
(Thursday morning sorters)

Angie and Sheryl have been volunteers since the doors opened in 2012. Both women attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish and learned about Gabriel’s Closet through their women’s circle group. Sweeney had just retired from teaching and was looking for something to keep her occupied. “I was going crazy and needed something to get me out of the house!,” she said with a laugh.  The sorter groups go through, catalog and organize the many items that are donated to Gabriel’s Closet.

Fran Stroker & Kathy Barberousse
(Tuesday morning sorters)

This mother/daughter team has been involved with Gabriel’s Closet even before the doors were opened. “My ladies’ circle group donated money for flooring in the original classroom so that we could have a place to operate Gabriel’s Closet,” said Barberousse. She and her 91-year-old mother volunteer every Tuesday morning because they enjoy giving back to people who need help. Barberousse is a retired Caddo Parish teacher and principal who uses her experience to teach mothers how to prepare their children for school. “I enjoy teaching the school preparation classes because I get to work directly with young mothers and help them get their children ready for when they start school.”

Betty Mirts
(Head Volunteer)

Betty Mirts is another original volunteer that stepped into the head volunteer role in 2016. She looks forward to working with the young mothers each week and “seeing the light bulb go off” when they have learned something new. She also enjoys working with children – especially as they grow over the years. “When we first started Gabriel’s Closet five years ago, we weren’t sure if it was going to succeed,” said Mirts. “We didn’t know what to expect. But now, we see how many lives we are touching on a weekly basis and it makes it all worthwhile.”
If you would like to volunteer for Gabriel’s Closet, contact Suhad Salamah at ssalamah@ccnla.org, or call 318-865-0200, ext. 108.

Chris Davis and 40 Days for Life

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by Susan Flanagan

Some exciting successes for the local pro-life effort occurred in 2017. Chris Davis, head of the local 40 Days for Life campaign, was thrilled to report that as a result of their efforts over the last few years, sidewalk volunteers outside the two local abortion clinics could now count over 100 babies saved.  Little did he know that soon he would be celebrating the permanent closure of the Bossier abortion clinic!

Chris first became involved in pro-life ministries as a volunteer in 2010. For Chris, it was a personal quest and he delights in telling his story. Back in 1969, he relates, a young couple faced an unplanned pregnancy and fortunately chose life. Chris smiles as he discloses, “That baby was me.”

He joined the Vita Pro-Life group that prayed the Rosary regularly at Hope Medical Group for Women, the abortion clinic in Shreveport. It was there that he learned about 40 Days for Life, which is a national campaign promoting a peaceful and prayerful presence outside abortion clinics. Emily Nickelson and Chris kickstarted the local chapter, but Emily was unable to continue because of her own pregnancy. When Chris mentioned to friends that they were looking for a new director, one friend suggested that “maybe God is calling you.”  After hearing this repeatedly from several sources, Chris began to get the message!  He’s been the local Director of 40 Days for Life ever since.

Chris and others, including the One Life Group from the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, have also brought professional sidewalk counselors to Shreveport. They hold annual training sessions before 40 Days for Life begins each year. Lauren Muzyka from Sidewalk Advocates for Life in Dallas has trained a number of local volunteers on how to approach women in compassionate and helpful ways.

“Our focus is on helping both the mother and the child,” Chris says, “as well as the father and the whole family, for that matter.  Saying yes to life is always the best choice.”
Pro-life volunteers follow up on helping the women in these situations and “put their money where their mouth is.”  When Chris posted on the 40 Days for Life Facebook page that he needed rent money for a couple he had counseled, he got $1,000 overnight.

As far as the Bossier abortion clinic closing, Chris had sensed for some time that there were problems there. Some workers actually came out to confide in Chris when he was on the sidewalk praying, and asked for his help in finding a different line of work.

In late March, Day 32 of the 40 Days for Life spring campaign, one of the workers told a volunteer that the clinic was closing. Hoping this wasn’t going to be an April Fools joke, volunteers cautiously waited day after day to be sure, until finally the clinic website went down, the phones were disconnected, the moving vans came, and the clinic turned back their license to the state.

Chris staged a huge victory celebration and Shawn Carney, the National Director of 40 Days for Life, attended, as well as almost 100 local jubilant volunteers!

Chris attributes all the glory of this closure to God through the power of prayer and he marvels when he thinks back on his own involvement in this miracle. He didn’t think he had time to be the 40 Days for Life Director, but remembered a speech he heard by David Bereit saying, “Do it anyway.” So he did. And now his new motto about closing the local abortion clinics?  “One down, one to go!”

The next 40 Days for Life campaign has just begun! Look at the sidebar for contact information on how to get involved. And with YOUR help, the miracles can continue!

Vocations View: Experiencing Priestly Life Over the Summer

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by Kelby Tingle, Seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport

As I begin my third year of seminary formation, it is a great blessing to have had a summer assignment that allowed me to come to a greater understanding of the priesthood and the Diocese of Shreveport. While the majority of my year is spent at the seminary studying philosophy, the summer is a great opportunity for me to experience the liveliness of a church parish. This past summer I was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield and St. Anne Church in Stonewall for the month of June before moving to St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport with Fr. Matthew Long in July. While these two months went by very fast, the memories and knowledge taken from them will be lasting.

This summer was one of my first experiences living at a church and it allowed me to see the daily life of a priest within a parish. In the morning, I got to do what I have loved doing for years: altar serving. It was great to serve at Mass every day and partake in the liturgy, as well as serve at baptisms and funerals. It was also a great privilege to serve at Fr. Fidel’s and Deacon Duane’s ordinations. Seeing Fr. Fidel at St. Joseph as a newly ordained priest gave me a great sense of happiness and excitement for the future. In each of these moments, I saw the priest as a spiritual father.

During the week, I spent some time working in the church office at St. Joseph in Shreveport, and this reminded me of how much happens behind the scenes. In addition to many meetings, there were many tasks to do such as preparing the Sunday bulletin, mailing invitations to  events, updating the Sacramental records, updating Virtus accounts and organizing Mass intentions.

Throughout the summer, I observed how the Church continuously welcomes the faithful to encounter and learn more about their faith through all stages of their lives. I participated in Vacation Bible School at three different churches and witnessed the catechesis of our youth in the diocese.

In July we had our annual diocesan vocations camp, Mission Possible, that provided an opportunity for teenagers to learn more about vocations and how to develop their spiritual lives. On Wednesday nights at St. Joseph in Shreveport, I attended the Young Adult Group and enjoyed hearing their discussions and thoughts on religious topics. Seeing the ways in which the Church welcomes its people to learn more about their faith reminded me of what a blessing it is for a priest to be so involved with the people of his parish throughout their lives.

I also had the opportunity to visit many different churches in the Diocese of Shreveport over the summer. In particular, I visited the Eastern Deanery and all of the churches in Monroe. I was amazed at the beauty of many of these churches. In addition, I had the privilege of seeing most of the churches in the Southern Deanery and many of the Western deanery, as well. This opportunity inspired me because it not only allowed me to see the beautiful churches that we are blessed with in the Diocese of Shreveport, but it also gave me a chance to meet some of the people that I will hopefully serve as a priest one day.

My experiences this summer were very fruitful and inspiring. It is with great joy and zeal that I return to the seminary to begin another year of discerning the priesthood at St. Ben’s in south Louisiana.

I ask that you continue to pray for the current seminarians of the Diocese of Shreveport and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood.

World Mission Sunday Collection

by Fr. Rothell Price

Collection Dates: October 21 & 22
Announcement Dates: October 8 & 15

Mercy Changes the World / La Misericordia Cambia al Mundo!

This is the chosen theme for World Mission Sunday this year. This theme reminds me of a popular movement and slogan from the 1960’s and early 70’s: “Love makes the world go round.”  World Mission Sunday celebrates the mercy of God as we extend His loving heart to our neighbors half a world away, through our prayers and sacrifices. World Mission Sunday is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of October. As I write this article, we have reached out to our brothers and sisters affected by Hurricane Harvey and will continue to serve them throughout their recovery. We are poised to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the ravaging effects of Hurricane Irma. We are often told, and it’s worth remembering, that God does not put on our shoulders more than we can stand.

Our dear universal pastor, Pope Francis reminds us that “World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, ‘the very first and greatest evangelizer’ (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away.” Our Holy Father invites our participation in this collection.  It is our tangible way of gathering around Jesus and uniting ourselves to His mission. Our offering, our donation, our sacrifice, unites us to the Lord, and through Him to our brothers and sisters in their time of need. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4: 18 & 19)

Pope Francis reminds us that we are continually sent forth to proclaim the Gospel. Our response to God and His children in need is never “once and done.” Jesus tells us, “The poor you will have with you always.” Every day, every week, every month, every year, we will have golden opportunities to minister to the Lord in the least of His brothers and sisters. How good it is to know that whatever we do for people in need, we are in all actuality doing for Jesus. Mercy changes the world. La misericordia cambia al mundo.  His love and mercy changed our world. Our love and mercy, united to His, will do the same and more. That is His assurance to us, His disciples today.

Thank you for supporting this year’s World Mission Sunday Collection. Here is what the Holy Father will do with your donation: grow crops; educate catechists; feed, house and protect children; construct churches, schools, clinics and orphanages; educate children and women; feed the hungry; provide healthcare to the most vulnerable; advance human rights; support vocations to the religious life and priesthood; provide water; empower women; and above all, proclaim Jesus Christ to all the nations. That’s a lot of bang for your dollar, or two, or more. Help our Lord Jesus Christ and his vicar, Pope Francis, change the world with your divinely inspired mercy. Please give generously to the World Mission Sunday Collection.

Navigating the Faith: All Hallows Eve & All Souls Day

by Kim Long

Several years ago I was presented with a challenge. My boss questioned the wisdom of our annual children’s Halloween carnival. Unbeknownst to me, many people seemed to have misgivings. Ahhh… a teachable moment God had dropped into my lap. I went to work researching.

I didn’t realize how prepared I was for this task… the sweet strands of Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Soul Cake” drifting in my mind. I had forgotten the very religious lyrics it contained: “One for Pete, one for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.” Thusly armed, here is what I learned.

Halloween is a time of celebration (and often superstition) which is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain (sow-en), a word meaning “end of summer.” In the shortening daylight, people believed evil spirits grew bolder and they lit bonfires and disguised themselves in costumes in efforts to ward them off.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day, a time to honor all the saints and martyrs. It seems that the holy day incorporated some elements of the older feast. Taking what was familiar to a community and finding a way to use that as a vehicle for understanding Christ was a common practice. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.

With the society’s secularization, this religious holy day and eve have been relegated to a mostly children’s holiday devoid of spirituality. In an effort to give the PSR students a glimpse of spirituality and history, I looked at the practice of “going a-souling.”  In the eleventh century, the Church adapted the Celtic costume tradition to dressing up as saints, angels or demons during this celebration. Later, sometimes poor children and adults dressed up, and went door to door begging for food or money in exchange for songs or prayers, often said on behalf of the dead. This practice came to be called “souling” and its participants, “soulers.” Soulers were often rewarded with a sweet “soul cake.” While the cakes varied, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and raisins were typical.

So at the appointed time and hour, after much research and planning with our catechists and priests, we baked and wrapped soul cakes, then placed them in classroom baskets. The children worked hard to learn the Soul Cake song, and traveled from classroom to classroom. After knocking they were invited in by the “lady of the house.” After the song was sung, soul cakes were passed out and this prayer was said: “May the souls of the faithful departed from this house and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.”

As we assembled in the Parish Hall, the soulers presented the petitions from each “house” to Fr. Francis and Fr. Mike, who led us in a litany of the saints. Then we prayed for the four groups traditionally prayed for on All Souls: family members, friends, clergy and religious, and finally those for whom no one prays for.

As I reflect on lessons learned during this experience, here’s what I took away: that this tail end of October and the month of November is about hope  buoyed by the sure knowledge that we are not alone. Even in death we are surrounded by that cloud of witnesses both in this world and the next. I learned fear doesn’t come from the Lord. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. This is true even when learning about a subject somewhat shrouded in mystery.

While this is not by any stretch of the imagination an exhaustive study of this particular piece of our tradition, it was a great learning experience for all involved. I confess it made me look beyond the decorations, stories and candy, and look toward the fact that it is possible and worthy to find God in all things.