Preparing for June Ordinations: Q&A with the Candidates

KEVIN MUES What are you most looking forward to about being ordained to the Transitional Diaconate? The transitional diaconate is a period of about a year. A man is ordained to the More »


Grant Brings Money School to Rural Community

by Lucy Medvec Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) recently took its financial education class, The Money School, on the road to Ringgold and it was all made possible by a grant More »


St. John Berchmans School Reigns as 10 Time Science Olympiad State Champions!

by Mary Simpson The St. John Berchmans Science Olympiad team won the State Science Olympiad competition held in Hammond, LA in March of this year – in fact, they have won it More »


St. Joseph Seminary Youth Events

by Kelby Tingle, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian Throughout the course of the academic year, there are many exciting events that take place within the seminary community at St. Joseph Seminary College. The More »


Navigating the Faith: Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church New Feast Day

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree signed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, on March 3, 2018, announcing that More »


Domestic Church: Finding the Divine Plan in Grief

by Katie Sciba I lost my dad in the fall of 2013. After dodging more adventurous deaths in his youth, he met his match in cancer. He fought for two-and-a-half years before More »


Faithful Food: Summer Recipes for Life

by Kim Long Birthdays when I was a child were a Real. Big. Deal. What exactly do I mean when I say that? My birthday, which falls in the later part of More »


Catholic Charities: North Louisiana’s Good Samaritan

by Lucy Medvec Who will you help today? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called by Jesus to go forth and treat our neighbors with mercy, even those we More »


Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life

by Bishop Michael G. Duca For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the More »

Divine Mercy Sunday

by Julia Pettiette Doolin

The second Sunday of Easter is the Feast of Divine Mercy. This year, that date falls on April 8. The devotion to the Divine Mercy began spreading throughout the world in the 1930’s and is based upon private revelations to a young Polish nun whom we now know as St. Faustina. The message is a reminder of what the Church has always taught through Scripture and tradition: That God is merciful and forgiving and that we, too, must show mercy and forgiveness. But the message of the Divine Mercy devotion calls people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone.

In a decree dated May 23, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship stated, “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” Taking the declaration of the feast day a step further, the Apostolic Penitentiary announced on August 3, 2002, that in order “to ensure that the faithful would observe Divine Mercy Sunday with intense devotion, the Supreme Pontiff himself established that this Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence…so that the faithful might receive in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”

With the plenary indulgence associated with Divine Mercy Sunday, the usual conditions apply: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff. The faithful are asked to gather in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is detached from the affection for a sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”)

On Sunday, April 8, St. Joseph Church, located at 204 Patton Avenue in Shreveport, will host a holy hour in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday. The holy hour will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m. and will include the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as well as veneration of the Divine Mercy Image. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available immediately following the holy hour.  •

Vocations View: Prayer and Pilgrimage

Duane Trombetta (center) with fellow seminarians in the Holy Land.

by Deacon Duane Trombetta, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

During my fourth and final year at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, my fellow transitional deacons and I were blessed with the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: the biblical land of Israel and historical Palestine. And so, in January, we set out for what would become one of the greatest and most blessed experiences of our lives.

After arriving in Israel’s largest metropolitan city, Tel Aviv, we headed north along the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea. Even from our first day, we encountered sites of great importance in Church history, as documented in the New Testament (such as the site where the Romans held St. Paul prisoner in the earliest days of Christianity) and in the Old Testament (such as Mukhraka on Mt. Carmel, where Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal).

During the first half of our journey, we traced the paths of Christ’s ministry in the region of Galilee. At every stop on our journey, we read biblical passages of the events that occurred on the very ground on which we stood. One of my most spiritually stirring experiences occurred when I read the Sermon on the Mount on the actual Mount of Beatitudes. We also prayed at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves, and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter.

What a blessing it was to see the sites of the Annunciation, the Visitation and Christ’s first miracle of changing water into wine in Cana. Our first-hand encounters of the Jordan River, Jericho and the Dead Sea offered new perspectives on the life of John the Baptist and the temptation of Christ in the desert. This part of our trip afforded a little relaxation too, by way of floating on the Dead Sea – one of the saltiest bodies of waters the world.

We spent the second half of our journey in and around the Holy City of Jerusalem, beginning at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed his last prayer before his arrest. We offered prayers for unity, at the site of the Jewish Temple, where Jesus worshiped and celebrated the religious feasts throughout his life. It was stirring to retrace the steps of Christ along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow). I was privileged to serve as deacon at Mass inside the tomb of Christ, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – the holiest site in all Christendom.

Any visit to the Holy Land is a wonderful blessing. But I feel all the more blessed to have made this pilgrimage as a seminarian with my fellow deacon classmates. By walking with Christian companions, praying and celebrating Mass every day, and experiencing Sacred Scripture “come to life,” we learned what differentiates a pilgrimage from every other type of travel.

I express my sincere gratitude to Bishop Duca and to all the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, for their support and prayers not only during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but throughout my seminary studies and priestly formation. I give my assurance that I included you all in my prayers at the holy sites of Israel. It is because of your witness and generosity that I seek more eagerly now to carrying out the Great Commission set forth by Christ himself. My journey has been challenging but joyful. And now as my final semester at Notre Dame Seminary draws to a close, I look forward with great anticipation to receipt of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to priestly ordination in June, and to serving the faithful people of Christ in our diocese.

Second Collections for April & May

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General

The great event of our Lord’s resurrection from among the dead has arrived! This EVENT, this GIFT, is so enormous that we need the 50 days of the Easter season to worthily celebrate our being freed from sin, ransomed from death, and being clothed with power from on high. I hope you remembered to present your CRS Rice Bowl at Mass on Easter Sunday. It is not too late to do so if you haven’t. Increase your Easter joy. Present the fruits of your Lenten journey to our Risen Lord and His people in need.

Collection Dates: April 28th & 29th

The Catholic Home Missions Appeal is the work of the Bishops of the United States to provide pastoral ministries to more than 40 percent of the United States that has been designated by our bishops as mission territory. Dioceses and parishes in these designated mission territories are struggling to provide pastoral and material care to the Christian faithful. These mission dioceses and parishes are vital to Catholicism in the U.S. because they bring the presence of Jesus Christ and his holy Catholic Church to those areas. Your sacrificial giving to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal makes living and receiving the Catholic faith possible for those in our mission dioceses across the land.

The Diocese of Shreveport, along with the dioceses of Alexandria, Lake Charles, and Houma-Thibodaux, are mission dioceses in the state of Louisiana. We work diligently with our available resources to provide for the pastoral needs of those in our diocese, especially our small, vibrant and vital rural churches and communities. Your contribution makes the Eucharist and other sacraments, religious education, ministry training for clergy, religious and the laity, available where it would otherwise be absent. Your gift makes it possible to have Christ and his Church present where it would not exist without your help. Thank you for Strengthening the Church at Home by giving generously to the Catholic Home Mission Appeal.
Collection Dates: May 5th & 6th

Thank you for your thoughtful and generous support of our Diocesan Retired Priests’ Fund. I am grateful to have this opportunity to express gratitude for your past and on-going support of our retired diocesan priests. With the passing of Fr. Walter Ebarb last All Saints Day, and the retiring of Frs. James McLelland, Phil Michiels and Pike Thomas last year, we now have eight faithful servants of God in their jubilee years. Frs. John Kennedy, Richard Lombard, Joseph Puthuppally, Patrick Scully, and Kenneth Williams are lovingly housed and cared for because of your tender kindness. These men of God and sons of the Church have labored long and fruitfully for the Lord Jesus and his people. Fr. Patrick Madden plans to join that esteemed company of men this summer.

Our Diocesan Retired Priests’ Fund is supported solely by you, the faithful of our diocese. Your gift funds our retirement plan for the exclusive pension benefit of the priests of our diocese. Thank you for helping us take care of our own. Thank you for assuring their peace of mind, joy of heart and transition to a new phase of Christian witness. You are supporting them when they need it the most. Please be generous in giving to our DIOCESAN RETIRED PRIESTS’ FUND.


Praying Through God’s Words

by Kim Long

Words are important. We all know this from conversations we have or don’t have each and every day, but some words can really speak to us. Some of us even have a favorite word that can serve as a touchstone, something that steadies us, which helps us know who or even where we are. The Church has a prayer practice that illustrates this: Lectio Divina, Latin for “Divine Reading.”

Vatican II tells us to immerse ourselves in the scriptures by constant spiritual reading and diligent study. Here is the simple description of this multi-layered process of praying with the Word of God. Essentially, one takes a passage of scripture through four steps for an end result of some degree of illumination. Those four steps are: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. Like with many things in life, something which seems simple is not always easy.

When I become still, I often find it difficult to stay awake. Sadly this happens any time I am quiet for more than 20 minutes. It is a family joke: if you want mom to go to sleep, just pop in a movie. For me, the “formal” way of engaging in this prayer practice can be a challenge, but I felt I was being drawn into it in a bit of an informal way. Here is what I mean: There are times when I say, “God gave me a word,” and what I mean is that there is a word in a scripture passage which just pops into my head, a word that God wants me to see, to really hear and to think about. It can happen at the most unexpected times!

Read: One morning this passage from Jeremiah came into my mind so strongly, “For I know well the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. Later on that same day, I walked into my oldest son’s home and was greeted by these same words emblazoned on a plaque he had hung near the entrance of his house. So if there was any doubt that this passage was something important in my life, I literally left that doubt at the door. When I arrived at home later that day, I made coffee and reached for my Bible looking up the passage and closing my eyes, letting God’s words swirl around me.

PRAY: On February 23 I had to sojourn to Ringgold for the funeral of a young cousin and these were the words I received then, “I lift mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord.” As I gathered with my father’s first cousins and their children, with “the aunts” who were weighted down by sorrow, those words of scripture took me through the next two hours and lingered on the drive home. Once again, I sat and breathed for just a few moments and with each breath asked God that my extended family feel His love and be open to the healing only He can offer.

MEDITATE: Later that same week my niece celebrated her birthday. As I typed in my text message to her, more scripture came into my head and I passed it to her as a gift. “May your year be filled with every good and gracious gift which is from above.” More inspiration brought this passage to me, “for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” And she is that. From her birth and all the days of her life I have watched her grow, been present with her during sorrow and joy, accomplishments, seen her mature and become a wife and a mother. As her day swirled around me, I meditated on the lessons she continues to teach me.

CONTEMPLATE: “What does God want me to do?” is an often-repeated question not only by me, but by people who drop by to talk. Almost without fail, I recall one of my favorite passages from Genesis 12: the call of Abraham. God tells Abraham from the beginning that he will go to a place he does not know, but that God has this one if Abraham will trust Him. I love this story and for about the last 18 years, have defaulted to it when a situation arises and I need to let go and really trust God. He will bless me and be with me always. He will always keep His promises.

This is an informal form of this wonderful practice. We can find so much wisdom in the holy scriptures. There is wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, love, mercy, more love and peace. However, God chooses to send you a word, I encourage you to be open to it, to examine it prayerfully, and to put it into action by sharing it through word and deed. Pray when you cook for someone. Meditate in the still true intimacy that God offers to each of us. Be open to the words God has for you. As the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 105, “Your word O God is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

From the Pope: Eucharistic Liturgy: I. Presentation of Gifts

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word – on which I have reflected in the last catecheses – is followed by the other constitutive part of the Mass, which is the Eucharistic Liturgy. In this, through the holy signs, the Church continuously makes present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross (cf. Vatican Ecumenical Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47). It was the first Christian altar, that of the Cross, and when we approach the altar to celebrate Mass, our memory goes to the altar of the Cross, where the first sacrifice was made. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, carries out what the Lord Himself did and handed over to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, and gave them to the disciples, saying: “Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”

Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures made by him on the eve of his Passion. Thus, in the preparation of the gifts, bread and wine are brought to the altar, that is, the elements that Christ took in his hands. In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks to God for the work of redemption and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is followed by the breaking of the Bread and the Communion, through which we relive the experience of the apostles, who received the Eucharistic gifts from the hands of Christ himself (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 72).

The first gesture of Jesus: “He took the bread and the cup of wine,” therefore corresponds to the preparation of the gifts. It is the first part of the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is good that the faithful present the bread and wine to the priest, because they signify the spiritual offering of the Church gathered there for the Eucharist. It is beautiful that it is the faithful themselves who bring the bread and wine to the altar. Although today “the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance” (ibid., 73). And in this regard it is significant that, in ordaining a new priest, the bishop, when he gives him bread and wine, says:  “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God” (Roman Pontifical – Ordination of bishops, priest and deacons).

The people of God who bring the offering, the bread and the wine, the great offertory for the Mass! Therefore, in the signs of bread and wine, the faithful people place their offering in the hands of the priest, who lays it on the altar or table of the Lord, “which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 73). That is, the center of the Mass is the altar, and the altar is Christ; we must always look at the altar, which is the center of the Mass. In the “fruit of the earth and the work of man,” the faithful therefore offer their commitment to make of themselves, obedient to the divine Word, a “sacrifice pleasing to God the Father Almighty,” “for the good of all His holy Church.” Thus “the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368).

Of course, our offering is small, but Christ needs this little that we give. He asks little of us, the Lord, and he gives us much. He asks little. He asks us, in ordinary life, for good will; he asks us for an open heart; he asks us for the desire to be better, to welcome him, he who offers himself to us in the Eucharist; he asks us for these symbolic offerings that then become his body and his blood. An image of this oblative movement of prayer is represented by the incense which, consumed in the fire, releases a fragrant smoke that rises upwards: incensing the offerings, as is done on feast days, incensing the cross, the altar, the priest and his people visibly manifests the offertory bond that unites all these elements to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 75). And do not forget: there is the altar, which is Christ, but always with reference to the first altar, which is the Cross, and on the altar that is Christ, we bring our small gifts, the bread and the wine, which will then become great: Jesus himself who gives life to us.

And all this is also expressed by the offertory prayer. In it the priest asks God to accept the gifts that the Church offers Him, invoking the fruit of the wonderful exchange between our poverty and His wealth. In the bread and in the wine we present to Him the offering of our life, so that it may be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the sacrifice of Christ and become with Him the single spiritual offering pleasing to the Father. While the preparation of the gifts is concluded, the Eucharistic Prayer is recited (cf. ibid., 77).

The spirituality of the gift of oneself, that this moment of the Mass teaches us, can illuminate our days, our relationships with others, the things we do, and the sufferings we encounter, helping us to build the earthly city in the light of the Gospel.

Domestic Church: Facing Fear and Difficulty


by Katie Sciba

I had over 20 tabs open online, all of them for rentals within a 50 mile radius. We needed a three-bedroom house for the seven of us, that would accept a dog and our single, modest, self-employed income – hardly a desirable situation for any landlord. House after house we were turned down, not because of finances or even our four-legged family member, but because of the number of children we had. “Five kids? Sorry, they’ll tear up the property.” At one point our options were whittled down to neighborhoods that were shady at best, places that fit our income but squashed our need for safety. I had spent three months exhaustively combing local real estate to find a home for our odd-shaped family. After coming up empty over and over, I was tired and afraid. Our clock was ticking and our finances were limited.

It was just months before when, expecting our fifth child, Eamon, I was diagnosed with a rare pregnancy disease that had a strong chance of claiming our son’s life without notice. There was no cure and no treatment; the only option we had was to deliver Eamon by C-section at 37 weeks gestation, and not a moment sooner. The symptoms were difficult enough to cope with, but the real agony was the helplessness we felt waiting for our baby’s birth, praying he would survive in my body until we could get him out.

The circumstances were our own, but how many of us can claim similar feelings of hopelessness and fear? In desperate situations, faith feels like a gamble to see if God will pull through or leave us high and dry. Sometimes it seemed as though Heaven had turned a deaf ear and we were left to fend for ourselves. Panic-stricken, sometimes the only prayer I could offer was a tearful “Do you see us?” I was terrified of what would become of our family and whether my husband’s new business would sustain us. I was afraid of life without our fifth child and the profound pain losing him would bring.

One of my favorite verses for times of fear comes from Psalm 143. “I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that thou hast done; I muse on what thy hands have wrought.” Right there in verse 5 is the hope for our present distress. When we recall past trauma, pain or trials, we can see how God pulled us through it and how He carried us when we had no strength. In the face of difficulty, it’s easier to worry than it is to remember God’s past faithfulness, but the fact is hope comes with knowing He has seen us through every adversity leading up to now. My husband told me hundreds of times in those months, “God has never abandoned us and He’s not going to start now,” his own version of the Psalmist’s sentiment.

We’re almost a year past these events and I’m sitting in the living room of our wonderful home with my healthy baby boy asleep down the hall. The Lord provided as He always has and always will. Life turns out problems and pain that to human eyes would seem impossible, yet to God who knows our fears, they are calls to trust in His mercy. •

Faithful Food: The Easter Spirit

by Kim Long

We often speak  in the terms of someone “getting” in the Christmas spirit or remark when we notice someone “doesn’t have the Christmas spirit.” I have often wondered why we never seem to say anything about catching or getting the Easter spirit – perhaps it is because Easter, like the Jewish Passover, has to “be made.”

We make ready for Easter during Lent. Our souls prepare through this spiritual spring cleaning as we work to “get our minds right.” There are often arduous preparations for the Easter feast, another of those big and lovely holiday meals.

When I was a child, Easter seemed mature and almost off limits for us children, as though it was serious and something only adults could understand. A baby in a manger seemed safer, nearer our level. Oh there were Easter baskets overflowing with treats we only saw once a year, along with egg hunts and holiday lunch at my Grandmother’s house. We ate ham, always ham, decked out in its own version of Easter finery complete with canned pineapple rings and bright red cherries secured with frilly toothpicks.

For all her ardent preparations, the day fell flat somehow. Christmas just seemed to overshadow this day. As I grew older and converted to the Catholic faith, I began to make sense of this underwhelming childhood experience. For one thing, as a Baptist child, I recall that the focus on the glory of the resurrection was a common theme and the suffering of Christ was more lightly touched on as if to stare in the face of those wounds and brokenness was somehow impolite.

As I journeyed through the Lenten season, I truly gave up things – certain foods, television and negative thoughts. And in the emptying, I filled the space with more Masses, more trips to the Blessed Sacrament, more rosaries and just more God. How could I not reach Eastertide totally ready to embrace the 50 days of celebration? I have come to know that the amount of readiness to embrace the celebratory nature of Eastertide is directly related to how observant and devout my Lenten time has been. Some years it was great, almost palpable, and other times I almost missed the boat finding myself lingering in the grocery store and department store aisles, shopping for ham and new shoes.

So perhaps we can say that our Easter joy is “made” rather than caught, and to make something takes work. Jesus certainly didn’t have it easy, so perhaps this making of Easter, this readying of ourselves to celebrate a love we cannot understand but are so grateful for, isn’t effortless for us either. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it was not designed that way. Perhaps after 40 days of intentional and directed effort we are ready to really hear and begin to know anew the words in Matthew’s gospel, “for surely I am with you…even unto the end of the age.” To know that we have that love available to us 24/7 should be a comfort; to know that we are not always available to it means work, means we are “making” our way to the cross, the empty tomb, and the shores of the lake where Jesus waits for us. May this Eastertide find us reveling in God’s great and all-encompassing love.

My mother’s love was often shown to us through seasonal treats such as these cupcakes from my childhood. I made them for my children and now I make them with my grandchildren. They are not exactly a recipe, but a technique.

Easter Basket Cupcakes

• Cupcakes of your choice (box mix or homemade).
• White frosting
• Jelly beans or small Cadbury Eggs with the crispy sugar shell
• Shredded cocount
• Green food coloring
• Pipe cleaners aka chenille stems (these form handles)

1) Bake, cool, and frost cupcakes.

2) Using a jar with a lid, place coconut and green food coloring inside. Shake to color the coconut–this becomes your “grass” for the basket. Pour colored coconut onto plate.

3) “Dip” iced cupcake top into the coconut. It will stick to the icing.

4) Place several jellybeans or Cadbury eggs on top on the grass.

6) Add a handle and now you have Easter baskets in miniature.These are especially nice when used at each place setting.

In Review: The Secret of the Shamrock by Lisa M. Hendey

Reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

My nearly 7-year-old daughter is embracing the joy that comes with learning to read. Suddenly, the world of books is open to her. At any given time, I find her curled up with a library book, occasionally looking up to ask me what a word is, or to ask me to define something.

With this budding curiosity and desire to read, she and I are now faced with finding 1st and 2nd grade reading level books with appropriate and interesting content. A fellow Catholic mom, who also has a bookworm of a daughter, suggested the Chime Travelers series by Lisa M. Hendey to me. Aimed at second to fourth graders, this series features twins – a boy and girl – who are around 3rd grade age. They are part of a Catholic family with an adopted baby sister.

In the first of the series, The Secret of the Shamrock, Patrick (the boy twin), struggles with his faith and being mean to another boy. After he brings a frog (named Francis after our pope), into Mass and it slips into the Baptismal font, Patrick is charged with being on the church cleaning team to make amends. It’s during this cleaning, that he gets swept away by the church bells into the past, where he meets an enslaved shepherd he later learns will one day become a priest, then bishop, then Saint Patrick.

This book tackles a wide variety of Catholic topics, including why Catholics go to a priest for Confession, what to do when we struggle with our faith, and why it’s important to get involved in helping in parish life. There is even a basketball-playing priest who pitches in with church clean up and makes the priesthood feel very accessible.

My daughter absolutely loved the scenes where Patrick meets “Shep” as St. Patrick is referred to in the first part of the story. He leads the two of them by faith and perseverance to safety. Through this book, my daughter became familiar with the saint’s life story (which was especially great as we finished it up just days shy of St. Patrick’s Day).

The back of the book features several age-appropriate discussion questions that help children focus on how aspects of their daily life relate to their faith. My daughter and I took turns reading the book aloud to one another, and when it was finished, she looked at me and said, “Ok, which saint do we get to learn about in the next book?” In case you’re wondering, the next in the series is titled The Sign of the Carved Cross and features Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and we will most definitely be picking it up.

Mike’s Meditations: Good Catholic, Bad Catholic


by Mike Van Vranken

There is an interesting story where an official asked Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18. Jesus peculiarly responds: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” Luke 18:19.

Many times I’ve read that statement and thought, “Yes, Amen, God is good,” and then just moved on. But, I’ve realized Jesus is teaching us here about being human. We can worry too much about being a “good” Catholic/Christian, and forget our goal is to love and serve God. We can fall into idolatry by allowing our desire to “be good” to become our focus – our reason for living. I’ll use the next few verses of this story as an example.

We remember that Jesus lists the 10 commandments to this man as the ways to heaven, and proudly, the man responds that he’s kept them all from his earliest days. In other words, this man is saying: “Hey, I’m a good Jew. I’ve kept all the commandments. I’m saved!” Rather than reviewing how his life has been lived in love and service to God, this man seems only interested in himself; in saving his own soul. Can you see the nuance in this? We are created to praise, love and serve God. In the process, we plan to be in His holy presence for eternity. And surely we want that. But when we make “being good” or keeping the commandments our only purpose, life becomes all about us and not about God. In St. Paul’s words, we become prisoners or slaves to the law.

When we are young, we are sometimes motivated by a reward/punishment system: Clean your room, you get a cookie. Don’t clean your room, no cookie. But when we mature, we realize we clean our room to avoid living in filth – not to get a cookie.

Likewise, when we mature in our faith, we also begin to understand that we keep the commandments, not because they are some rule or law to get us to heaven, but because we praise, love and serve God with our entire being. That’s it. “Being good” does not earn our salvation. God who loves us, who alone is “good,” mercifully grants us our salvation.

Continuing the story may help. Jesus tells the official there is one more thing he can do. Another rule? I don’t think so. Instead, Jesus is saying that when we live a life that is attached to worldly things, we are not free to really love God and our neighbor. The attachment takes all our attention and distracts us from God. Like we can do with the rules themselves, we become prisoners to the worldly attachments. So, Jesus tells the man to give all of his possessions away. Jesus passionately wants this man to experience true freedom. The freedom that results when all of our focus is on loving God and loving everyone else; the freedom to live without the shiny, glittery distractions of all we acquire. Again, I don’t believe Jesus is saying we have to give everything away to “be good.” He’s already told us that God alone is good. In his book: The Good News According to Luke, Fr. Richard Rohr puts it this way: “Live it (the gospel) as best you can and leave the problem of salvation up to God.”

Later on, the apostles ask Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Luke 18:26. He tells them that even for what is impossible for humans, for God all things are possible. A good reminder that our salvation comes from God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And ironically, it’s when we fall madly, passionately and intimately in love with God, that keeping the commandments becomes our lifestyle. Not that we will do it perfectly, because we won’t. We will make mistakes. But, when we love God with our whole hearts, whole being and whole strength, and when we love our neighbor as ourselves, keeping the commandments is not something we do. It’s who we are.

Whenever we think thoughts like “Good Catholic/Bad Catholic,” change your language to “Love God/Love Neighbor.” Be free of the reward/punishment mentality and allow God to be good – all the time.

The Shroud of Turin: Cathedral to Host Nationally Known Shroud Speaker, Replica Display & Shroud of Turin Podcast Series


by Jessica Rinaudo

The Shroud of Turin has long been a source of fascination. The burial shroud of a man who many believe was Jesus Christ has both inspired the faithful around the globe and drawn its fair share of skeptics.

The Shroud remains a historical anomaly, a revered relic of the Christian faith, and two scholars on the subject reside in Shreveport. Fr. Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, and Dr. Cheryl White, history professor at LSU-Shreveport, are both members of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud. Their interest and knowledge on the subject has inspired them to host a unique program at the Cathedral.

Fr. Mangum and Dr. White have launched a podcast on the topic. Entitled “Who is the Man in the Shroud?” Available for download or streaming through www.sjbcathedral.org, or in the Apple podcast store. Every Friday a new episode is posted with Fr. Mangum and Dr. White discussing Shroud related topics such as, “Bloodstains: What Do They Say About the Man of the Shroud?” and “Miraculous Fires: The Shroud Survives 1532 and 1997.” With this podcast, the two plan to share their knowledge and prepare both parishioners of the Cathedral and members of the community for a very special event.

On Saturday, March 17, Barrie Schwortz, the Official Documenting Photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project and now Shroud expert, will be at the Cathedral to give a presentation on his story and experience with the Shroud of Turin.

In 1978, a team of American scientists was granted five days with the Shroud of Turin to photograph it, analyze it and make an attempt to prove or disprove its authenticity. Their work and findings captured the attention of the world. One of the members of that team was Barrie Schwortz, a Jewish photographer from California. Schwortz, though very skeptical and hesitant to be part of the project, did eventually sign on as its documenting photographer.

Don Devan, who had previously worked with Schwortz on another project, was his link in to the Shroud of Turin project. During one of their phone conversations, Devan offered some advice to the skeptical Schwortz.

Schwortz relayed, “I told him, I’m a Jewish guy. Don said to me, ‘Well apparently you’ve forgotten that the man in question was a Jew.’ I said, ‘I don’t know a lot about Jesus, but I certainly knew he was a Jew. He said to me, ‘So you don’t think God would want one of His chosen people on our team?’”

“He then gave me some advice which, now I understand, was probably the best advice I’ve ever been given,” said Schwortz. “He said, ‘Stop complaining. Go to Turin. Do the very best work you can do. God doesn’t tell us in advance what the plan is, but one day you‘ll know.’ And on those words I stayed on the team and – that was 42 years ago. In retrospect looking back at that, I now know that was God speaking to me through his voice, Don’s voice, because I was destined to be on that team.”

But in 1978, Schwortz remained a skeptic. After 17 months of preparations, the team had five days to collect as much information on the Shroud of Turin as they could. When Schwortz at last stood before the Shroud, with nothing between him and the cloth, he pulled out his photographer’s 10x loop and immediately began to examine it.

“I started looking for paint pigment binders, any indication of any artwork,” said Schwortz. “Now I’m not an authority on that subject, but I have good eyes and I had total access to the Shroud, no glass or anything in between. My nose was an inch from that cloth and I was looking at it and looking down in between the fibers because paint pigment binders are going to be visible. They’re not going to disappear and just leave an image.”

He continued, “And so I knew probably within 10 or 15 minutes of the Shroud being unveiled that whatever it was, wasn’t a painting.”

Schwortz photographed the Shroud of Turin over those five days, and his now famous photographs have been published in national publications across the globe.

But even that experience didn’t convince Schwortz of the Shroud’s authenticity. Indeed it was wasn’t until he had a phone conversation with Alan Adler 17 years later, that Schwortz was finally, unflinchingly convinced. Adler was the world-renowned blood chemist on the team in 1978, and like Schwortz, he is also Jewish.

“Al said he had pretty much come to believe this had to be the real thing,” said Schwortz. “And remember, he’s like me. He had no horse in the race, no emotional attachment to it. And I said, ‘Well, I’m still not convinced. He asked what was keeping me from being convinced and it happened to be right up his alley. The blood is still red on the cloth… I know that old blood turns black or brown sometimes in less than an hour. He got made at me and said, ‘Didn’t you read my paper 17 years ago?”

Schwortz continued, “Al said when he did the chemical analysis on the blood samples from the Shroud, he consistently found a very high content of bilirubin…. It’s a compound made in the liver and when somebody is beaten, scourged, tortured and not given any water, they go into hypovolemic shock, the liver starts pumping extra bilirubin into the bloodstream… and he said it turns out that bilirubin is a hemolytic agent and breaks down the red blood cells’ cell walls, releasing hemoglobin that will remain red forever.

“Well when he told me that, coming from a man, who like me had no reason to do anything but be honest, that pretty much gave me the final piece of the puzzle,” said Schwortz.

It was also in 1995 that Schwortz realized the true purpose of his involvement with photographing the Shroud of Turin.

“It began to come clear to me that of all the men on that team, I was the only one with the skill set that could build a website and collect this information without putting any personal spin on it.”

And today Shroud.com remains a go to point for enthusiasts and the curious alike, boasting more than a million visitors a year.

Schwortz relays all of this and much more during his presentations, including the science behind why he believes the Shroud of Turin is authentic.

In addition to Schwortz’s presentation, the Cathedral will have on display a series of of items associated with the crucifixion of Jesus.

“There are a number of replicas of what would have been used on Jesus, like the flagrum, the whip that would have had those little steel balls on the end. One that I find really interesting is a model of Jesus as he would be laying there, and an actual piece of cloth, so right there you can see how the Shroud would have laid upon him,” said Fr. Mangum.

Additionally the Cathedral has a life-sized replica of the Shroud of Turin, printed on cloth and hanging on the wall of the parish hall.  “It’s a duplicate of the image taken by the photographer who will be here in March.”

Fr. Mangum says that there are a few churches who have an exhibit on the Shroud. “They really want to do their best to use the Shroud as an evangelization tool,” said Fr. Mangum. “So we’re not just teaching people about the Shroud – we’re going to have all these different items present. I want to teach people ahead of time about it so that when people arrive they’re not being reminded of what the Shroud is.”

Fr. Mangum continued, “We’re foreseeing that the Shroud replica is going to stay up there after Barrie’s visit.” This will allow people to visit the Cathedral, view the replica and learn more about it. To schedule a visit, call the church office at 318-221-5296.

The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans invites the community to join them on March 17, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to hear Barrie Schwortz’s story – one that took him on a road from disinterest, to disbelief and finally to being well convinced that the Shroud of Turin is indeed the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.