Administering in a Climate of Transition and Church Crisis

by Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum, Diocesan Administrator I was standing at the corner of Peacock Lane and Southgates in Leicester, UK, having just visited the recently excavated burial site of King More »


O Antiphons

by Kim Long After 18 years of working for the Church, I have deemed Advent the season of quiet desperation. Our Church tells us to be reflective and prepare, while secular society More »


Find Harmony This Holiday Season

by Kelly Phelan Powell Since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of the perfect family Christmas morning. My handsome husband and I would spring, totally refreshed, from bed when our beautiful More »


Fitzgerald Named Outstanding Philanthropist

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana On November 7, 2018, the Association of Fundraising Professionals North Louisiana Chapter hosted their 27th Annual National Philanthropy Day awards luncheon at the Hilton More »


Father Lombard Celebrates 65 Years of Priestly Ministry

by John Mark Willcox There are few Catholics who live in Shreveport or Bossier City that have not had their lives affected in a positive way by Fr. Richard Lombard, who celebrates More »


The Immaculate Conception

by Fr. Matthew Long There are countless images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No Catholic Church, hospital, school or home is complete without at least one. Her role in our redemption and More »


Keep Christ at the Center of Your Celebrations

by Katie Sciba I sauntered through the Christmas section of a department store last year, beaming because my heart equates decorations and ornaments with bliss and glee. Ribbons, tiny pine trees and More »


Shreveport Martyrs and the 1873 Yellow Fever Epidemic

by Fr. Peter Mangum, Ryan Smith and Dr. Cheryl White In the late summer of 1873, Shreveport was besieged by the third worst epidemic of Yellow Fever that is recorded in United More »


St. Joseph Cemetery: Remembering & Revitalizing

by Kate Rhea In November of 1882, less than a decade after arriving in Shreveport, Fr. Joseph Gentille, the second pastor of Holy Trinity Church was contemplating a major decision. North Louisiana’s More »

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 citizens of the United States. The Immigration Integration Services program consists of immigration attorney Briana Bianca, immigration advocate Gilda Rada-Garcia, and volunteer Izabela Carabelli, and serves clients throughout north Louisiana.

Last year, 14 of CCNLA’s clients became United States citizens. It is a long and arduous process, culminating with a special ceremony in a courthouse. In the past, Rada-Garcia has always attended this ceremony to cheer on her clients, but on September 12, surrounded by friends and CCNLA staff members, Rada-Garcia joined two of her clients as they took the oath to become United States citizens.

Rada-Garcia was born in Venezuela and came to the United States in 1986, where she lived and worked. Her oldest son was born in New York before she returned to Venezuela in 1999. In 2012, she returned to the U.S. and came to live in Shreveport with her family through a diversity visa, which was awarded through the lottery system.

It was after Rada-Garcia had lived in the U.S. for five years that she was able to take the first steps toward becoming an American citizen by filing an application in April 2018. She traveled to Fort Smith, AR, in July 2018 to be interviewed and take the citizenship test, a test that surveys show only one in three current Americans can pass. In order to prepare for the test, Rada-Garcia was given a list of 100 questions which could possibly be on the test, covering the subjects of government, history and civics, geography, symbols and holidays. The test consisted of 10 questions, with six correct answers needed to pass. After passing both the interview and test, Rada-Garcia was ready for the final step – taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

Immigration attorney Briana Bianca celebrates with client Julie Esie (Cameroon) and her son, Peter Nche, as Esie became a U.S. citizen on July 11, 2018.

When interviewed prior to the ceremony, Rada-Garcia said that she was looking forward to calling herself an American. “I got to know this country as a resident and have enjoyed working with our immigrant clients,” she explained. “I take my role as an American seriously, as well as all of the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.” When asked if she felt any hesitation about the ceremony, she replied, “I have not lived in my native country for many years and now consider the United States to be my home. I would not be the person that I am without my life as a Venezuelan, but now I am happy to say that I am an American.”

She described the process as “something that is finished, yet something that is just beginning.” Having gone through the citizenship process herself, Rada-Garcia will now be able to use her experience in order to help CCNLA’s immigrant clients go through the steps of citizenship.

The Immigration Integration Services program is funded in part by the Louisiana Bar Foundation and United Way of Northwest Louisiana. To find out more information, contact Catholic Charities at 318-865-0200 or visit www.ccnla.org.

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 annual Monster Mash family night.

What started as a priest’s vision in 1946 has since been the foundation which has supported the education and faith of thousands of Shreveport’s families for 70 years. When Fr. Druhan became pastor of St. John Berchmans, he felt strongly that a Catholic education should become a reality for every child in the parish. Working with his parishioners who were dedicated to the prospect of building a parochial school in Shreveport,

Fr. Druhan purchased the property located next to the church on Jordan Street for a school, and the Ingersol home on Margaret Place was purchased as a convent for the Daughters of the Cross sisters from St. Vincent’s, who would serve at the school as staff and teachers.

In 1949, Sr. John Roberta served as the school’s first principal, and the doors to Shreveport’s first parochial school were opened with six grades. The cost of construction of the first phase of the parochial school was $250,000.

In those 70 years, much has changed for the school, but the tradition upon which it was built has remained its anchor. With a history that traces back to the original SJB School established in 1902, St. John Berchmans School was built upon the solid and constant foundation of faith and the rich heritage of our Catholic traditions.

The longstanding motto of “Kindness is practiced here” remains the bedrock of the culture of SJB, a culture that even families new to the school recognize from the moment they walk through the doors. There is a predictability and continuity of both faith and excellence in education that SJB staff and families count on. This thread of distinction not only holds the community of SJB together, but also provides that sure underpinning essential to allowing students to soar.

Although it remains unwavering in its traditions, SJB also leads the way in innovation. With a host of art and drama offerings and its tenth State Science Olympiad win under its belt, SJB continues to provide its students with a rare education founded in faith, the arts, and STEM. Whether working in the state-of-the-art media and computer lab or rehearsing lines and music for their yearly production, students at SJB are nurtured by a faculty who consistently refine and improve their educational processes to ensure they stay on the cutting edge of meeting the academic needs of each student, while keeping the faith formation of every child at the forefront of every school experience. Keeping with Fr. Druhan’s vision of providing an excellent Catholic education for the children in the parish, SJB continues to ensure every student enjoys unmatched academic opportunities while remaining grounded in the Catholic faith that is essential to their success.

Additionally, SJB will pull out all the stops to celebrate this year’s 40th annual Monster Mash on October 27th. This family festivity has been a haven for parents and students alike as they show up each year to enjoy carnival games, cake walks, costume contests and the annual haunted house. The fun will be multiplied this year, with numerous bounce-houses, carnival games, a strong-man tower and hayride. As a special feature, the school is asking SJB alumni from Monster Mash’s inaugural year to come back and judge the costume contest. All of the SJB community, both past and present, is invited to come out to kick off the Monster Mash celebration.

Current families as well as alumni are invited to join in participating in the school’s anniversary extravaganza, which will be held in May. Alumni are encouraged to enjoy a homecoming all year by coming back to see all of the improvements and innovations at the school. To register as an alumnus of the school and participate in any of the exciting activities planned this year, check the website, sjbcathedralschool.org, or call the office at 318-221-6005.

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 Angels in New Orleans, LA.
Born April 20, 1940, Fr. Andre was blessed with a superior education by a number of learning institutes including Duns Scotus College, Southfield, MI, St. Leonard College, Centerville, OH, the University of Detroit, the University of Tubingen West Germany and Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Ordained as a Franciscan Priest in 1967, Fr. Andre taught at a number of Catholic high schools and colleges in the upper mid-west until his community asked that he travel to Africa to teach at Tangaza Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. It was this experience that would forever change Fr. Andre’s life and the lives of many faithful men of Africa who were inspired by the ministry of Fr. Andre.

Learning Swahili and working in union with his new comrades, Fr. Andre was instrumental in forming the Community of Franciscan Missionaries of Hope. This order is also known as the Lyke Community in memory of the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, who was the first African-American Archbishop of Atlanta, GA, and a big influence on
Fr. Andre’s priesthood.

When Fr. Andre arrived in the Diocese of Shreveport in the late 1990’s to share his immense knowledge of the Church as an instructor in the Greco Institute, he also brought to America some of the initial members of the Lyke Community – men who would later be ordained to the priesthood and serve in our diocese and other areas of the nation. What a blessing these fine priests have been to the faithful of our diocese and it would not have been possible without the steadfast and successful priesthood of Fr. McGrath.

The members of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Shreveport also benefited from Fr. Andre’s time with our diocese as he served as their pastor for many years, and as chaplain of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy elementary school before its closing.

Whether he was teaching, providing formation to seminarians, immersing himself in the vast culture of Africa, or simply pastoring a local parish, Fr. McGrath made a huge difference in the lives of Catholics on two continents. The people of our diocese are forever touched by Fr. Andre’s presence among us and we give thanks to the Franciscan Community for graciously sharing part of his holy priesthood with the Catholics of our region.

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 priests, convened to elect a diocesan administrator. The diocesan administrator is a priest who will oversee diocesan operations until the appointment of a new bishop by the Vatican.

Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum was elected to the position. Fr. Mangum received his seminary education from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas before attending North American College in Rome where he obtained degrees in Sacred Theology and in Canon Law. Ordained in 1990, Fr. Mangum has served as Judicial Vicar and has been pastor of the parishes of St. Paul in Minden, St. Joseph in Shreveport, and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, where he currently serves as Rector.

“I am grateful to my brother priests for their confidence in me to govern the diocese until we get a new bishop,” said Fr. Mangum. “This is an additional opportunity to serve, and I am grateful for the prayerful support of the people of the diocese and of the assistance offered to me by my brother priests and by the Cathedral staff. There is something inspiring about knowing the third Bishop of Shreveport is out there working in the Church, so it makes our prayers very concrete as I strive to maintain and prepare the diocese for him. Join me in praying for him in his pursuit of holiness and for his zeal for and love of the Church as Jesus Christ founded it.”

From Fr. Rothell Price’s article in the August Catholic Connection:

“The diocesan administrator enjoys the power of the diocesan bishop, with the exception of a few things; for example, he cannot ordain a bishop, priest, or deacon because he is not bishop. He can, however, invite a bishop to come to the diocese to preside over an ordination. Likewise, he cannot preside at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Again, he would have to recruit a bishop from outside our diocese to come preside at that Mass.”

He continued, “The diocesan administrator is forbidden to do anything against the rights of the diocese or those of the in-coming bishop. He is prohibited from removing or changing documents of the diocesan curia. During his administration nothing is to be altered or changed in the diocese. These rules are in place to ensure stability and tranquility in the diocese until the new bishop arrives. The diocesan administrator is obliged to live in the diocese and ensure Mass for the people of the diocese. His responsibilities end when the new bishop takes possession of the diocese.”

Fr. Mangum hit the ground running in his new role. With the support of his brother priests, he announced a diocesan prayer vigil for reparation and petition in the face of the Church’s sex abuse crisis that was held on Friday, September 14, at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Fr. Mangum also coordinated the distribution of the letter of Archbishop Gregory Aymond sent to all parishes of the Diocese of Shreveport regarding the same crisis and has drafted and published a prayer for a new bishop for the Diocese of Shreveport.

Vocations View: A Day in the Life of a Seminarian

The Notre Dame Seminary flag football team at their annual game against St. Benedict's. Duncan is pictured back left. (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Seminary).

by Nicholas Duncan, Seminarian

I often encounter people who have no idea what a seminary is or how it functions. People are left to ponder what a typical day is like at a seminary. Are we working and praying all day like Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act? Is it like shipping off to basic training, or is it like going to a trade school where you live in an apartment somewhere and have a job on the side?

The seminary I happen to attend is essentially a boarding school for grown men. Instead of a covenant or monastery like you would see in The Sound of Music, it is more like the X-mansion from the X-men film franchise. But instead of young mutants learning to control their powers so they can protect the world from evil, the men at seminary have heard a calling from God and undergo formation so they can bring Christ to the people of God; thus also protecting the world from evil.

Notre Dame Seminary is the biggest house on Carrollton Avenue in the uptown district of New Orleans. We have about 140 seminarians and 10 priests that live in residence.
I’d like to share what a typical day is like for a seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary. I am writing this during my spring semester, and just like any other day at the seminary it is guided by the community horarium, Latin for “the hours,” which is the schedule of prayer that takes precedence over everything else. After this community prayer is our class schedule, followed by our personal horarium of prayer, work and leisure.

7:30     Morning prayer in the chapel.
7:45     Breakfast in the refectory; otherwise known as a cafeteria, but us Catholics love to give things weird names.
8:00     Most seminarians are off to class, but my group has a professor on sabbatical, so our schedule is a little different. I’m off to the library to work on a presentation for my class on evolution (PH 205) on how science and religion are compatible.
9:45     I move to classroom 7 for PH 203, political philosophy, where we studied the errors in Machiavelli’s The Prince and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.
11:15 After class I head over to classroom 2 to rehearse for the day’s Mass with the schola (ie, the choir).
11:45 Attend Mass.
12:30 Lunch in the refectory.
1:05 I run up to the NDS Store’s storage closet to get 20 pint glasses to give as gifts to the priests who have come as mentors for the diaconate internship orientation that was going on that day. Running the NDS Store is one of my house jobs.
1:30     I’m back in classroom 7, this time for PH 204, my Philosophy/Theology seminar class. I have already given my presentation on John Wycliff, but today three of my classmates are giving hour long presentations on Rene Descartes, Henry VIII/St. Thomas More/Erasmus, and Jean Jacques Roseau.
4:30     Formation Conference: Father J.D. Matherne gives a talk to my class on his first year as a priest.
5:45     Evening Prayer with the entire community in the chapel. I arrived early and prayed daytime prayer as well.
6:00     Dinner in the refectory.
6:45     I go back to the library to work on my Latin homework for the next day’s class.
8:30     I head up to my room straighten it up, sweep the floor, and change into workout clothes.
9:00     I head to the gym on campus to workout.
10:00 I go back to my room, shower and get everything ready that I will need for class the next day.
10:30 I go to the chapel on my floor and pray the Office of Readings and Night Prayer from the Breviary (Catholic for prayer book)
11:30 I return from the chapel and go to bed.

This a pretty typical day at the seminary, Mass is always at the center, as the Eucharist is the source of our faith, and the day is bookended by community prayer in the morning and evening. The class times may differ depending on how far along you are in your studies, and different guys choose to do their personal prayer and exercise at the times that best suit them.

But a typical day is not the norm here. There is always something going on; the relics of St. Padre Pio or St. John Paul II might be here, we could be having visitation services for the New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, or perhaps a fancy dinner with some of our benefactors. We could be staging a play, or hosting a lecture for the community. They keep us very busy, but I love being here and feel blessed to have the opportunity to study for the Diocese of Shreveport.

Prayers: Our Spiritual Roadmaps

by Kim Long

This is a difficult time. In light of the recent clergy abuse allegations, many people have asked me a variety of questions in the past two weeks – questions perhaps you have considered or been called upon to answer. Questions like: How can I stay in the Church? When is the Church going to fix this mess? Ugh, I cannot cope. I’m just going someplace better. Do you think that will work? These questions were not born in a vacuum, they followed a dark tale, so how can I reply appropriately? How should a faithful Catholic respond both in word and practice? “Please, Lord, help me,” I thought.

When the news first began to break, three prayers I had not thought of in many years came to my mind. Without conscious thought, I had gathered my spiritual tools.

Guardian and Protector of the Church
The old prayer to St. Michael is something it took forever for me to learn all the way through. Recognized by the early Church Fathers as a guardian and protector of the Church and as the Prince of all Angels, St. Michael is a heavy hitter and I was glad to know he is praying not only for me, but for the entire Church. Thinking the phrases of the St. Michael prayer, and then speaking them aloud, I felt heartened that St. Michael was on the job. A powerful prayer was what I needed, and this one filled the bill. St. Michael pray for us.

The Kaddish
The Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer from the 5th century BCE, is recited by priests and lay people. Years ago I decided I wanted to learn Hebrew, the language of Jesus, and took a class on the subject. Our instructor laughed when the class voted to begin with this prayer. “It’s Aramaic, the language of Jesus.” I did not know it then, but it was a moment of deep connection, a sense that has remained with me.

At times I find myself praying the familiar, yet foreign words, imagining Jesus forming the words with me. This is a prayer of mourning, and right now we are mourning a loss of trust, a loss that has left a gaping hole in each one of us. The late Debbie Friedman sings a version of this prayer and she introduces it with these words, words which give me a great deal of comfort: “May the One who makes peace in the high places, make peace over us and over all of humanity and let us say Amen.”

As I pray these words, extolling God’s greatness, even in a time when nothing feels great, the connection to Jesus deepens and I feel we are truly praying together. As the prayer comes to a close, I welcome the beginning of healing and comfort.

The Divine Praises
The first time I heard the Divine Praises, I was in early days of my own conversion at an all-night prayer vigil sponsored by St. Mary of the Pines and The Blue Army. It was written in 1797 by Fr. Luigi Felici, a Jesuit priest, to make reparation for blasphemies against the Divine Name; blasphemies which encompassed speech, thought, and action.

Honestly, at the time, they did not resonate with me, but if ever there was a time this is it. Everywhere around me, doubt and confusion are swirling.

“Blessed be God. Blessed be His holy name. Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.” These three statements are part of those praises and they are helping me remember my foundation, remember where I have put my hope, in the Lord.

We stay Catholic for all the best reasons: the Eucharist, Mary, the saints. We stay Catholic because when God called us, we answered. He hasn’t stopped, He hasn’t checked out on us, and these particular prayers, serving as my roadmaps, remind me of those things. Through them, God is assuring me that we will all survive these tough times and, in fact, that we will be revived.

Your roadmaps may be different prayers, mine may change as God offers me what I need, if I am open enough to accept it. Often we say, “All I can do is pray.” Our prayers cannot change the past; it cannot be rewound or undone. Our prayers can change us and help us handle these awful times, as well as whatever personal issues we are all encountering right now. They can assist us when we need strength to go on, when we need permission to mourn, and when we need assurance that God is where our hope lies.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23 •

World Mission Sunday Collection

by Fr. Rothell Price

World Mission Sunday Collection

Collection Dates:  October 20th & 21st

Announcement Dates: October 7th & 14th

Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all.” This is the chosen theme for World Mission Sunday and Collection this year. World Mission Sunday is far more significant and personal than we may realize. Jesus’ great commission to his disciples after his resurrection was, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20. By divine grace, each one of us is that particular disciple commissioned by the Lord to go forth as His personal agent of glad tidings. That is what World Mission Sunday is about. Every one of us, out of love for our crucified and risen Savior, is an evangelizer, a bringer/bearer of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Participation in the World Mission Sunday Collection is a significant way that we fulfill our God-given mandate as a unique and particular disciple, and as a disciple joined in mission to all other disciples of the Lord.

Pope Francis encourages us to bring this Gospel to all people, together with our inspired and inspiring young people. In this time of heart-wrenching news of clergy sexual misconduct and ineffective decisions to correct those horrors, there is good news and good reason for us to keep moving forward. Jesus Christ and his Church is the healing and transformation that all of humanity needs. The World Mission Sunday Collection, along with our other second collections, shows the true face of our Savior and His Church. Our mandate is to heal and transform. To make use of a quote from Pope Francis, “For those who stand by Jesus, evil is an incentive to ever greater love…”

Especially in these troubling times: “Be a voice for mission in Latin America; Be a voice for mission in Europe; Be a voice for mission in Africa; Be a voice for mission in the Pacific Islands; Be a voice for mission in Asia.” And be a voice for the mission of Jesus Christ right here at home. Your steadfast and generous participation in this work of the Church, now, in these times, spreads the authentic Gospel of the Lord’s mercy and compassion. Your unflinching loyalty to Christ and his Church corrects the distorted doings of those who have gone astray. Through your contribution to the World Mission Sunday Collection, be the true face and voice of Jesus Christ, in the Church, in our nation and to the world. Please give generously to the World Mission Sunday Collection.

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 door of the Church.” Unfortunately it wasn’t the only message like this I received. Another friend called upset saying she knew an abuse victim in a diocese out of state; still another said her dear friend and favorite priest was removed from ministry to be investigated.

The present crisis in the Catholic Church is like a cancer; some way or another, it touches all of us in the Body of Christ.

My emotions have run all over the place: anger, disbelief, deep sadness, fear for what will happen to the remaining faithful. At times I’m sure that whatever the future holds, all will be well for the Church that’s been protected for 2,000+ years by the Holy Spirit; however, I have moments when my confidence is more like the disciples’ caught in a storm on the sea, “Help us, Lord! We’re sinking!”

Though the Lord lay sleeping, wasn’t He there with His frightened friends? While the scandals rock the Church at large, Jesus remains; only now the vessel caught in upheaval is the universal Catholic community, and Christ is still, yet present in the Eucharist.

I was in the grocery store when a young man, a stranger to me, approached and invited me to his church’s Bible study. Smiling, I declined saying I was already in one. His friendly expression fell when I told him I was Catholic. He was quick to ask if I had seen the news lately, and he reminded me of the deeply-rooted and widespread scandal in my Church. “You have to be looking for a new church home. How can you stay Catholic?” he asked, almost to himself. “I’m Catholic because of Jesus,” I replied.

God moves and loves us through others – especially through the leaders in our Church; still, though leaders fall or fail, though we may lose faith in people, it’s paramount that we keep our faith in Christ, who is after all, the very reason any of us are Catholic.

And in any moment when we struggle to trust in God’s wisdom, think back. Not only has He upheld the Catholic Church as a whole, He’s upheld us in personally trying circumstances. Psalm 143 says, “I muse on what your hand has wrought” — how has the Lord outstretched His hand and given grace the very minute we need it? How has He supported us each when we’re burdened? A mother of a young abuse victim told me that it was reading scripture, especially the words of Jesus, that kept her and her family in Mass.

The epic drama within the Catholic Church will not likely conclude quickly, but we can allow ourselves to be still and know God, who has forever upheld the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so. We can proceed bravely into the unknown armed with hope and certainty in the Eucharist. Above all we have to pray, offer sacrifices in the day, and penance for victims of abuse, for conversions of abusers, for faithful priests and laity to support the truth with humility and peace.

Faithful Food: Seeking Gifts Where They May Be Found

by Kim Long

Autumn, my favorite time of the year, in Louisiana is more often a state of mind than a meteorological fact, although that never prevents us from pumpkin spicing our way to Mardi Gras.

Each season brings lessons and gifts; autumn does not disappoint, offering the themes of abundance, harvest and the spring’s eventual promise.

August found me in Baton Rouge in a packed Cathedral, seated with the press corp. I was eager to see Bishop Duca take this next step, this transition, and in turn experience my own sense of transition. I was present when 10 years ago, he was ordained a bishop and installed in my adoptive Diocese of Shreveport. Now I was there, witness to the next step, another strand in the fabric of Catholic life which holds us all together.

A loud knock broke the silence. Bishop Duca stood at the threshold, literally and figuratively. We speak of Christian witnesses as they relate to the sacrament of baptism, but this day the assembled company witnessed a liminal moment, and if asked to give testimony to that we could. This is one way our faith is passed to us, by what we see and hear. A way our faith is passed to others is by what we do.

As the installation continued, the assembly seemed divided into those who were losing a bishop and those who were gaining one, merged into one people standing on the brink of what God has for them: harvest, abundance and the promise of spring and new life.

On the bus to the installation, I glanced at the program. Chef John Folse of legend, roux and renown was catering this event. I had to stay long enough to just taste his food!
Saturdays when my children were small found me rushing to make sure that laundry folding coincided with his time slot on the LPB lineup. As I folded towels, he worked his culinary powers on the natural bounty of Louisiana. Chef Folse, like those Saturdays of years past, had been tucked away in memory until June, when one of my sons surprised me on my birthday with a massive cookbook entitled, After the Hunt. I was eager to taste what I had watched him effortlessly prepare.

Arriving at the reception on what proved to be the first bus, I was able to ease into the space. I told myself I would have a couple of bites and then get on the road. In the serving line, I bumped into my seat mate from the ride over to the Cathedral. We greeted one another as though we were old friends. When I read her name tag, which neither of us was wearing when we met on the bus, I asked her if she were related to the family of that name in Natchitoches. She lit up, “Yes those are my cousins” – another strand of connection.
I fell in line to welcome Baton Rouge’s new bishop. Smiling I told him he didn’t need luck, he would be great. Jeanne, my seat mate, offered to snap a photo. I felt as though I had seen something through. I was there when he was ordained a bishop, and now I was among those seeing him move from strength to strength.

I savored the lingering memory of crawfish eutoufee, cheese grits and experiencing the ever widening understanding of being Catholic. In preparation for family dinner, I pulled out After The Hunt and found the recipe I needed. On Sunday nights when enough time has passed after supper, one of us makes the coffee to go with dessert. Tonight it would be Chef Folse’s version of cafe au lait, a perfect companion with apple cranberry pie.

Mike’s Meditations: Stop, Be Still and Breathe


by Mike Van Vranken

In my June article, I explained the difference between reactions and responses. I had no idea how much I would depend on my own words just a couple of months later. Seething with the news of abuse, cover-ups, demands for heads to roll and the like, I became furious that, as a Church, we were not reaching out to victims; asking them to come tell us their stories so we could listen and minister to them. Yes, we began praying for them, and I hope we have communal prayers for them for many years to come. But they are hurting and alone and we were not begging them to come to us so we can say we are sorry; that God loves them; and so do we. We seem to be, like Pilate, washing our hands of any responsibilities here. My training finally kicked in and I took my very deep feelings and emotions to God, rather than to the public. There is a reason why Matthew 11:28 is never translated: “Come to Facebook, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Pharisees asked Jesus about Moses’ law requiring a woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death. Instead of answering, he bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6). I’m confident he stopped, got quiet, and took his feelings and emotions to his Father in heaven. These people were trying to trick him. He was probably mad, offended and even self-righteous. But, he didn’t defend himself or even the woman right away. He stopped, got quiet, and took it all to God. Only when he heard from his Father could he respond. And, not with a “yes” or a “no.” He replied with words that made them examine themselves.

Another time, in a life or death situation, “the high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?’ But he was silent” (Matthew 26:62-63). He could have explained himself, but he waited. He would let his humiliating death and glorious resurrection be his explanation. Again, I’m certain he went to his Father, as he often did, and quietly discussed what was going on within him, and who his Father wanted him to be in this situation. To be a good leader, to be Christ-like, I knew this is also what I needed to do before responding to any of this.

As I took my pain, hurts and brokenness to God, I explained to Him how the Church needed to change so we could minister to the direct victims of this abuse. See, I once knew a priest who victimized young boys; around 25 of them. I am very close to people who were shattered when it was all made public. And their pain is passed on to friends, family, children, grandchildren and more. While I was letting God know what needs to be done, He gently and lovingly spoke to my heart in very specific words: “If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with my help, is yourself.” Ouch! This is not what I wanted to hear. But with His patience, and the grace of openness, my blindness was removed to see that it is true. If I want the Church to change, it begins with me.

We wonder how a change in one person can change the entire Church. He reminded me of the time when a whole lot of people were hungry, he took two fish and some bread and fed thousands (Luke 9:10-17). One other time He taught that if we plant good seed in good ground, the seeds would grow into fruit that was as much as 30, 60 and 100 fold (Mark 4:1-20).

A lot of energy has been used pointing fingers and lashing out. May I suggest that we take a very deep breath, be quiet, sit still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). Like Jesus did, like St. Ignatius Loyola taught, let’s spend time each and every day taking our feelings, hurts, shame, outrage and all we are experiencing to God. Ask Him where these movements within you are coming from. Are they coming from the enemy who wants us to hurt the Church and our relationship with God? Are they coming from our own inner self who loves to focus on others’ deeds rather than our own. Or, finally, are they coming from God who wants to reverently and lovingly help us change into new men and women in Christ; to be born again each day so we can continue to evolve into the saints He made us to be?

Please, spend 20 minutes a day taking all of this to God asking Him who he wants you to become. If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with God’s help, is yourself.