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Shroud of Turin: Shroud Experts & Original STURP Team Members Gather at Shreveport’s Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for Special Panel

by Jessica Rinaudo On the second weekend in October, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host an event that’s drawing international attention. Two members of the original 1978 Shroud of Turin More »

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Bishop Duca Installed in Baton Rouge Shreveport Bids Him Farewell

by Jessica Rinaudo photos by Marie Constantin & Bonny Van August 24 was a bittersweet day for the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, especially members of the clergy, diocesan staff and More »

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Catholic Charities Employee Assists Clients in Sharing the Journey

by Lucy Medvec, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana Since 2012, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) has provided assistance and guidance to immigrants as they seek to become legal residents or naturalized More »

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St. John Berchmans Catholic School Celebrates Landmark Year

by Lisa Cooper This year marks two special occasions for the St. John Berchmans community as they celebrate the 70th anniversary of the school, as well as the 40th anniversary of their More »

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Bidding Farewell to Father Andre McGrath, OFM

by John Mark Willcox Our faith community lost a dear friend on September 8 as Fr. Andre McGrath, OFM, passed into the Lord’s hands at the friary of St. Mary of the More »

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Diocese Welcomes Fr. Mangum as Administrator

by Jessica Rinaudo On Monday, August 27, following the installation of Bishop Michael Duca as the 6th Bishop of Baton Rouge, the Diocese of Shreveport’s College of Consultors, a group of 11 More »

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Domestic Church: Help Us, Lord! We’re Sinking!

by Katie Sciba My friend texted me, “Pleading for prayers for my husband,” she began, “All these scandals in the Church have shaken him up and he’s got one foot out the More »

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Ruston Catholic Received French Legion of Honor

by John Mark Willcox There is always a first time for everything when you work for the Church and I had a first time experience recently when I conducted my first interview More »

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From Atheism to Seminary: Meet the Diocese’s Newest Seminarian

by Jessica Rinaudo When you think of candidates for the Catholic priesthood, the word “atheist” likely never crosses your mind, but the Diocese of Shreveport’s newest seminarian, Francis Genusa, used that term More »

Mike’s Meditations: Pro-Life, Stewardship and the Call to Holiness

by Mike Van Vranken

Sometimes we are taught specific ways to live the Christian life. Other times, we are given general teachings that require us to apply those learnings to different areas of our lives. We hear spiritual words like “pro-life” or “stewardship,” and unless we spend time discerning how they shape and form us as disciples of Christ, we risk reducing them to limited activities and causes which may rob us of experiencing them to their fullest significance. As we seek daily transformation of our lives, let’s look at how the specific teachings of Jesus can lead us to the fullness of being pro-life, good stewards and living a holy lifestyle.

Jesus said: “Stop judging… Stop condemning… Forgive…” (Luke 6:37). What do these commands have to do with pro-life, stewardship and holiness?

In his 1995 letter to the church, The Gospel of Life, St. Pope John Paul II declared: “Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life.” If I am pro-life, it means my sacred respect for one segment of life is the same sacred respect for every other segment of life. For Jesus, and for us, to be pro-life includes our commitment to stop judging, stop condemning and start forgiving.

In his parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus explained that all of God’s valuable creation is to be taken care of, nurtured, allowed to grow and subsequently be shared with others. When we stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive, we not only live a pro-life attitude, we also become good stewards. If it is important to be good stewards of all God’s valuable gifts, what could be more valuable than all human life? The way we treat others is a direct result of our stewardship practices. If I am to be a good steward, it is necessary that I stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive.

Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Many Church leaders have interpreted this as Jesus’ calling us to be holy. The 1964 document, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, discusses the call of all people to holiness. And it’s been repeated by many, including the last four popes. To live holiness would have to include a life that doesn’t judge others, that doesn’t condemn others, and always forgives everyone. This call to holiness is a call to live the gospel of Jesus. If I am to be holy, I will stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive.

Reflection Time: In your next prayer session, begin by reverently standing, if you can, and with eyes closed, imagine God right in front of you looking at you as one of His beloved children. Don’t say anything, but just allow Him to cover you with his unimaginable love and mercy.

Now sit down, if you would like, and ask Him to grant you the grace to show you all of the ways you can be pro-life, including never judging, never condemning and always forgiving. Spend some time here, and allow Him to gently and gracefully open your heart and mind to all the opportunities you have to not judge, not condemn and to forgive.

Next, pray for the grace that He shows you all of the ways you can be a good steward of everything He has given you, including those people He puts in your path each day. Again, just enjoy the silence as He blesses you with the vision of stewardship opportunities honoring and dignifying those around you.

Finally, beg God for the grace to help you recognize how refraining from judging, condemning and offering forgiveness leads to a holiness that is Christ-like and gives God glory. Spend time with God and allow Him to show you all you can be for Him. End your prayer thanking God for anything He has shown or taught you. Promise to come back and ask if there is more about this He wants to share. Find joy in the new ways God has revealed to help you be pro-life, a good steward and a human example of holiness.

As you live each day being non-judgmental, non-condemning and unceasingly forgiving, remember these are not virtues we can pick and choose where to apply in our lives. Instead, they are three distinct characteristics of who we are in Christ Jesus. •

How I Practice My Faith as a Student

by Celeste Lirette Loyola College Prep, Senior

Ever since I was introduced to my eighth-grade confirmation class at St. Joseph School, the journey to find my place as a Catholic in a world full of classrooms, backpacks and social media has been long and truly worthwhile. That eighth grade year when my friends and I made the transition from children to teenagers, we were constantly presented with the “impending doom” of high school that was ahead of us. It was only a matter of time until we were enclosed by the arms of secularism and sin forever. We were told that in the near futures we would face many challenges to our faith and new temptations to sin. While all of these promises were true, we felt almost as if our fate were set in stone—that we would not have the means to choose the life of goodness and of love that we were taught to choose. This, of course, certainly was not true.

Throughout the years, the choice of faithfulness or of apathy evolved into a daily confrontation with the reality that the world we live in is contrary to the faith we consider so dear. However, this reality forces me as a student to discover the tools that both my Catholic school and church offers me to stay strong in my faith. The most important thing I have learned so far in my journey is that without the grace of God, nothing is possible. God will allow us to know Him more deeply and grow in virtue only insomuch as we are open and prepared to receive His grace. This state is achieved through prayer and a regular reception of the Sacraments, which are the tools by which I arm myself to face a secular world.

This is the way that I express myself as a Catholic student—with the beads of the Rosary always in my hand and the grace of the Sacraments of God always in my heart, the fear of the world diminishes, and my courage to defend my faith effectively grows.

St. Frederick Students Attended Summer Programs

by Olga Trejo

While most students were busy relaxing in the sun this summer, several St. Frederick Warriors were busy attending college classes and forums. Rosemary Manning (pictured above), a 9th grade student, attended the Ambassador Leadership Summit at Harvard University Law School. The program, Leadership in Action, was sponsored by the Ambassador Leaders Program based in Spokane, WA.

Hosted on the campus of Harvard Law School, the program brought together more than 200 middle and high school students from around the world. During the eight day program, students attended seminars by well-known motivational speaker, Dr. Sunjay Nath; attended interactive workshops and worked to create a community action plan for the Leed2Feed project.

In addition, students received college advice from Harvard students and earned 20 service-learning hours while working to make a difference through local United Way projects.

“I loved meeting so many people from all over the world with different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs,” said Rosemary Manning. “I now have friends in Hong Kong and South Africa! I definitely gained from this experience. It’s really amazing what great friends you can make in just a week!”

Additionally, Alyssa Dismuke, a 10th-grade student, attended a medical and healthcare summit at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Gabriela Trejo, a senior, attended the National Youth Leadership Forum Medicine at the University of Houston. Zackery Chamberlain, also a senior, attended four weeks of Summer College at Duke University in North Carolina. He studied Political Philosophy and returned with the understanding of the history and live politics of Law.

Back to School at Our Lady of Fatima!

Our Lady of Fatima School is back in session and students are eager to learn!

Safety a Priority at St. John Berchmans

Steps have been taken to provide further safety measures, both throughout the school as well as with faculty and staff development at St. John Berchmans School. In June, principal Jennifer Deason attended training through Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office of Homeland Security focusing on campus emergencies prevention, response and recovery. In August faculty received safety training from Tony LeBlanc, Field Operations Manager for CPSO’s Homeland Security and Eric Tyler, fireman and paramedic with Shreveport Fire Department.  •

Blessing of JGS School

Fr. Keith Garvin and principal, Lisa Patrick carried out the annual blessing of the school. This is a tradition at Jesus the Good Shepherd School, where each room, student and teacher is blessed with a sprinkling of holy water on the first day of school. Fr. Keith greeted parents in the carpool drop-off line, made coffee for all the teachers and faculty, and even had a sing-a-long in the school gymnasium before morning assembly.

St. Joseph School Implements Virtues Program

During this year’s teacher inservice at St. Joseph School, faculty and staff learned about a program designed to teach students how to be disciples of Christ through virtues. The program, “Disciples of Christ: Education in Virtue,” utilizes scripture, the lives of saints and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as it challenges students to identify virtues they already exhibit, as well as the ones they may need help cultivating.

Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God

from Vatican Information Services

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately 70 years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side He stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise He made to our fathers: “He has scattered the proud in their conceit; He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by His disciples, their unworthy reception of His body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces His heart. We can only call to Him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people.”

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to Himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer,” seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them. •

U.S. Bishops Announce Effort to Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with other bishops. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.” •

From the Editor: Thank You, Bishop Duca

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor, The Catholic Connection

There’s a certain rush, at least for me, that comes with good planning. Most issues of The Catholic Connection are planned well in advance, infused with ideas from our writers, editorial board, readers and myself. Riding the excitement of all the new ideas handed to me recently and some shiny new Catholic Press Awards, I was ready to tackle and plan the editorial calendar for the next 12 to 15 months of The Catholic Connection.

As I sat down at my computer Monday morning, June 25, I began laying the groundwork for our August issue – always an annual report on our Catholic schools – when our Communications Director, John Mark Willcox, walked into my office and closed the door. After a moment of staring down at the floor, he looked up and said, “They’re moving Bishop to Baton Rouge. There’s a press conference at 10:00 tomorrow morning down there.”

My heart stuttered. No. This couldn’t be happening. After John Mark reiterated that this news could in no way be shared until after the press conference, I sat at my computer, staring blankly into the white depths of the blank pages of the next issue of our magazine. I had a very short time to process the news before I had to move into action.

I found myself on the phone with my counterpart in Baton Rouge, both of us quietly panicking as we discussed who would cover what events, when stories could be released, how to stream our respective press conferences and what to post on our social media platforms. I wandered in and out of Bishop Duca’s office multiple times that day, ensuring that everyone was on the same page about when the news would be released and how it would be done. Tears flowed from the small group of us who were working together on this, but we tucked them away to uphold the Vatican’s embargo on the news.

I realized this would mean our August issue would change to a special edition of The Catholic Connection, honoring our bishop of the last 10 years. Bishop Duca has always been one of The Catholic Connection’s biggest cheerleaders – from looking over every issue before it goes to press, to committing to writing his reflection each and every month. He has personally reached out and congratulated our writers and me each time we have won Catholic Press Awards, and has even been awarded three himself.

So Bishop Duca, while this issue could have never been planned, especially months in advance, it has come together with the love and support of our publication’s writers, the editorial board, the chancery staff, the churches and faithful of the Diocese of Shreveport, and countless other dioceses across the United States. It is our farewell, our love letter to you, of a kind.

From all of us who work diligently on The Catholic Connection every month: thank you for your support, Bishop Duca. We hope all our readers will treasure this special issue as much as we do.