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His Presence & Prayers Saved My Daughter’s Life


by Susan Flanagan

On a hot Saturday this past July, the local abortion clinic’s parking lot was filled with cars, business as usual getting underway there. On average, 60-70 babies are aborted at Hope Medical Group in Shreveport each week. But this day, the clinic sidewalk was the site of a special reunion between a mother, her child and the man whose prayers helped save her baby from being aborted there seven years ago.

Amy Blackwell of east Texas shared her story on Facebook earlier this year, about her “almost abortion.” She was, as she recounted, hopeless, far away from God, and not making good decisions in her life. She drove herself to Hope Medical Group for her initial consultation in April 2011, and she noticed a “little old man standing on the curb, praying the rosary.” Amy said he kept looking at her and she instantly knew that he was praying for her and her baby. She sat in her car a long time, alone and afraid, while he continued praying — they never spoke to each other, but his presence and prayers changed her life.

She finally went into the clinic for her consultation. Looking back now, Amy says she is amazed how Satan can package sin to make it sound so good. The reassuring abortion pamphlets stated that some people are just not ready to have children, financially or emotionally, which sounds plausible – until you stop to realize that their “logical solution” then is to kill those children. The abortionist asked her if she had kids already, which she did have two; he then pronounced that two was enough and he scheduled her abortion. “Someone will need to drive you home afterwards,” he added.

The friend enlisted to drive with her knew Amy was making a big mistake, and spent the better part of the drive from east Texas reminding her that God had a plan for this baby. Finally, as Amy puts it, she “came to her senses” and knew she could not proceed with the abortion. In her Facebook story, she tearfully adds, “I want to say to that little man standing on the curb, thank you because I know you were praying for me. I don’t know who you are, but I know prayers are powerful, and I won’t ever forget you. You are in my head and my heart for the rest of my life.”

Local 40 Days for Life Coordinator Chris Davis saw Amy’s Facebook post and contacted her, saying that he knew who that “little old man with the rosary” was and did Amy want to meet him? Needless to say, she jumped at the chance! Chris then called Mr. Camille Brocato and lined up the July meeting for mother, daughter and prayer warrior on the same abortion clinic sidewalk where their paths crossed seven years earlier.

Brocato has been praying the rosary his entire life, ever since he was around 10 years old. He was never involved in any pro-life activities or groups, but when he was 80 years old, he felt a call to pray the rosary at the abortion clinic with the VITA group on the first Saturday of the month. He later began to go every Saturday, but felt the Blessed Mother wanted more. Finally, he began to show up at the clinic every day, praying the rosary and handing out brochures and his hand-made rosaries to everyone he could. In the course of eight years of daily prayer at the clinic, rain or shine, hot or cold, he has given away over 3,000 rosaries. He would be there still, but finally had to stop because of hip surgery and health issues.

Brocato has a treasure trove of stories of encounters, both good and bad, during those eight years, but few have brought him greater joy than meeting Amy and her 7-year-old daughter, Emma Grace. He gives all the credit for positive outcomes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying that he just puts the rosaries in people’s hands and then “Our Lady works on them!” Over time, several people who had originally heckled him have returned with changed hearts and asked for more rosaries.

And when he finally met Emma Grace in July? He gave her a big hug, a few peppermints, and of course, a bag of rosaries! •

In Review: Loyola Kids Book of Heroes by Amy Welborn

reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes is a collection of lessons and stories about the saints. In each chapter, author Amy Welborn begins by talking about a real life situation or dilemma a child might face. Some examples include, when friendships are tested, or big changes that happen in your life (like moving or parents’ divorce), or even physical injury. She then takes those real life situations and uses the life of a saint to illustrate how similar their lives were to our own, and how they worked to better those situations with the help of God.

Broken into seven sections, Book of Heroes illustrates saints who represent faith, hope, charity, temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice. And for each saint, she explains what virtue they had that made them a hero. Some examples include “heroes love their neighbors no matter what,” and “a hero stays strong in faith.”

Additionally, at the beginning of each section, Welborn has an introduction that tells one of the many stories of Jesus, showing how he is the ultimate hero and explaining how his life continues to be interconnected with our own lives.

“That’s why many of us have crucifixes in our homes and around our necks,” Welborn writes. “The sight of Jesus on the cross is a sign of love and a sign of strength. It doesn’t take any strength to give into evil, does it? In fact, that is the very definition of weakness.”

Book of Heroes is a great tool for children to help them relate and remember the saints. Each chapter is short enough to hold their attention span, but long enough to convey an important lesson and share the saint’s life story and faith. It brings both the saints and history to life, making it enjoyable for both children and parents alike.

Bread or Stones: An Ecumenical Campaign for Children in Louisiana

by Samuel Rottman, Bread or Stones Campaign Coordinator

The faith community has always been an active force in the lives of children in Louisiana. Through our schools, children’s homes, food banks, charities and other social services we have been a moral voice for the life and dignity of all children in our state. Despite these efforts, Louisiana has consistently been ranked as one of the worst states in all measures of child well-being, scoring in the bottom 10% of every index according to the Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count. One such statistic is that 28% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty. The faith community can become a beacon of hope for the state and play a major role in changing this narrative.

Bread or Stones, which gets its name from Matthew 7:9, is an ecumenical initiative of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference that aspires to bring churches of all denominations together to improve outcomes for God’s children. We do this by empowering individual congregations to make practical and achievable steps towards caring for the children in their local area. While one congregation will not be able to solve all of Louisiana’s problems alone, we know that if each church made a difference in their own area our collective impact would be huge. Seventy-two churches from many different denominations and regions of the state have signed on to this mission by becoming Bread or Stones Covenant Congregations. Our goal is for all churches in Louisiana to sign up and through discernment to find ways that the Holy Spirit is guiding them to put children first.

At this point you might be wondering what Bread or Stones Covenant Congregations actually do. We can serve children through our prayer, teaching, feeding, mentoring, adopting, advocating, etc. The sky is the limit, so take time with your congregation to see how God is calling you to serve.

One example can be found in Houma, LA, where a Catholic and an Episcopal church have joined together to adopt a local failing public school of mostly low-income students. This partnership was sparked at a community meeting organized by Bread or Stones in Houma. The two congregations started small by providing some coffee, donuts and a new coffee pot for teacher appreciation week. The relationship between the two churches and the public school has truly blossomed ever since. A year later there is now a tutoring program staffed by retired teachers from the two parishes and many other more involved efforts. This is just one of many initiatives that have reinvigorated all three entities. These are the kinds of results we are beginning to see throughout Louisiana as a result of the Bread or Stones Campaign. With continued blessings from God, it is our hope that the Church can continue to be the voice for change and that together we can make Louisiana a better home for children.

We encourage you and your congregation to join the Bread or Stones Campaign as a Covenant Congregation so that we can be a united voice for children. It’s easy, free of charge, and only commits you to exploring ways that you want to serve. For resources and more information visit •

JGS Partners with Cyber Innovation Center

Jesus the Good Shepherd School has partnered with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, using a curriculum from the NICERC (National Integrated Cyber Research Center), which is a creation of the Cyber Innovation Center. It is an application-based curriculum that allows the teacher to embed the curriculum across multiple disciplines. Students used a seven-step Engineering Design Process to create rollercoasters using nothing more than card stock, tape and glue.

Celebrating Senior Month and Aging Beauty

by Sr. Martinette Rivers

As the world celebrates an “Ode to Elders” during this month dedicated to us, I think this lovely song is a great beginning. In the song, “Get It Together” by India Aire, she says “You’ll never be happy and you’ll never be whole until you find the beauty in growing old.”

Aging is a universal condition. But the way we try to hide it, you would think it was a plague. Everyone knows that we are growing older. I don’t ever remember being afraid of “oldness.”

In a youth-oriented society, we do not see the old as models of success. Rabbi A. Heschel, in his book, The Insecurity of Freedom, calls aging people the true “gold mines of a culture.” Most societies struggle with how they are to treat their elders. What do we do with those declining in years? With age comes maturity and wisdom. As we read in Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old.” As we treat another may we be treated as well.

Researchers find that the effect of a person’s attitude about aging has a lasting impact on how long they live. Attitude can be a problem if we think that we get worse as we become older and that we have less pep and feel less useful. Those oldsters need an attitudinal change before it’s too late. Getting older is not a negative experience for me, but it’s difficult to escape negative stereotypes about aging in our society. The more I read, and even at times experience this as I grow older, I reflect on The Seven Wonders of Aging that I wrote when I was in my sixties. They are still my suggestions for people to age gracefully, with an open mind, heart and spirit. They have helped me to create a stage where I feel comfortable aging with God, as the producer and we as the actors and actresses. It is on that stage that we will learn the mystery, the unseen beauty and the joy in aging. They are the motivating forces for me as I grow older, day by day.

Finding the beauty in growing old not only helps us, but rejuvenates the spirit of others in some way. My plan was and is to help others to savor and enjoy the best of their years. It can be a period of new vision. The blessings we have received we must also share with others. Without a spiritual purpose we can easily slip into ageist attitudes which can rob us of our joy and purpose in life as we age.

There is no one way, right or wrong, to grow older. Why should growing older be such a big deal? “Grey hair, wrinkles and smile lines are beautiful accessories,” according to Naomi Wolf. I tend to agree with her. She reminds us oldsters how futile it is to try to remain ageless and focus all our attention on our exterior looks.

Regardless of our outward appearance as we grow older, we are beautiful at our very core. We can’t stop our inner beauty from glowing forth. Beauty is found in respecting the needs of others, as well as in our response to their needs. Beauty is found in humor, the honor of giving and goodness in compassion. These are found more often than not in nursing homes.
Consider this during the Senior Month of May, an older person you know who is attractive and beautiful because of their age. “Beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder, and therefore beauty comes in many, many forms.” Psychiatrist Gerald May in Additions and Grace.

The moment an aging person begins to delight in beauty, their mind, body and spirit are beginning to see with the heart. As we each spend time reflecting on our age, we might ask ourselves this question: What kind of badges of aging do we have? Wrinkles, thinning grey hair, gnarled knuckles, shaky hands, smiles on our faces, wobbly knees – all genuine tales of our lives, work, joys and struggles which become more beautiful each passing day. What shape and form our future will take on, only God knows. Truly aging is a great art! When will God’s masterpiece of us be finished? Let’s go out dancing, laughing and smiling. In spite of the mystery in our aging, our beauty will live on in the hearts of others.

St. Joseph Wins 2nd Overall at Regional Science Fair

Eleven St. Joseph School students competed at the Regional Science and Engineering Fair on March 2, tying for second place overall in the middle school team division. At the Regional Science Fair, which includes public and private school students from Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto, Red River and Webster parishes, each student competes individually, but also as part of their school team.

After placing individually in their categories at the Regional Science and Engineering Fair, four students from St. Joseph School will compete in the Louisiana State Science and Engineering Fair in Baton Rouge.

Sixth grader Brooke Tuminello won second place in Material Sciences for her project testing whether temperature affects the strength of a magnet. Eve Burcz, seventh grade, examined the effect that both lunging and flat work have on a horse’s heart rate, earning second place in the Animal Sciences category. Tuminello and Burcz will represent SJS in their categories at the State competition.

Seventh graders Colin Lirette and Nico Sangster won first and second place, respectively, in the Plant Science category at the regional competition. Sangster presented the results to his question of whether a plant grows faster if it has earthworms in its soil. Lirette’s project, “Which type of wood makes the hottest fire?,” scored in the top 10% of all participants, qualifying him for Broadcom MASTERS which is the nations most prestigious Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition for middle school students. The Broadcom MASTERS, a program founded and produced by the Society for Science & the Public, seeks to inspire young scientists, engineers and innovators who will solve the grand challenges of the future.

Shreveport-Bossier Pro-Life Oratory Contest

The National Right to Life is sponsoring its annual Pro-Life Oratory Contest. The competition is open to all high school juniors and seniors, who will address the issues of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research in five to seven minute oral presentations.

The Shreveport-Bossier contest, now in its thirtieth year, is sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport and will be held on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. at the Catholic Center, located at 3500 Fairfield Avenue in Shreveport. The contest is open to the public at no charge. The local first place winner will receive a $500 cash prize and will represent Shreveport at the state contest.

The state contest will be held in Baton Rouge on May 5 at the Louisiana Knights of Columbus Convention. The state winner will receive $500 cash, plus expenses paid (up to $1,000) to go to Nationals.

The national contest will be held in Kansas City, KS at the National Right to Life Convention, June 28-30. The national prize is $1,000 cash.
All high school juniors and seniors are eligible, and there may be more than one student entered from each school.

For additional information and entry blanks, please contact Anthony Fabio, 1908 Carol Street, Bossier City, LA 71112,, or call 318-402-6663.

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. •

Daughters of the Cross: Mothers of the Church in North Louisiana

The 10 original Daughts of the Cross sisters, inclusing Mother Hyacinthe

by Patti Underwood

When Fr. Auguste Marie Aloysius Martin was made bishop of the newly created Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853, he faced a daunting challenge. In a mostly rural, mostly Protestant area of 22,212 square miles, there were 25,000 Catholics and just four priests, seven parishes, and one Catholic school. In dire need of priests, Bishop Martin journeyed to his native France in 1854 to recruit priests for his mission.

Bishop Martin’s trip was a success. In addition to finding several priests and seminarians, he netted an offer from an order of nuns to establish schools in Louisiana. The Daughters of the Cross learned of the Louisiana mission from a young seminarian, Jean Pierre (future founder of Holy Trinity in Shreveport), who came to them to request boarding and education for his niece while he was away in America. Mother Marie Hyacinthe le Conniat, the convent’s superior, sent word to Bishop Martin that she would gladly send teaching Sisters for his mission.

Bishop Martin began correspondence to make the arrangements, which took over a year. The Sisters crossed the ocean by steamer, arriving earlier than expected. After a grueling 43-day journey, Mother Hyacinthe arrived in New Orleans with nine Sisters on November 21, 1855, the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was a beautiful moonlit night when they arrived, five days later, at their new home in Cocoville, between Marksville and Mansura. Unfortunately, the property the bishop had proposed for them was sold before he could make the deal, and he had to settle for the former residence of a butcher. Although the local people had started to clean it up, the place was in terrible condition, still littered with evidence of the butcher’s trade; not the lovely place they were expecting to find. But they were determined to make their mission a success, and they rolled up their sleeves and got to work cleaning and repairing the premises (and studying English). Two more buildings were added, and Presentation Academy, named for the day of their arrival in New Orleans, opened on February 2, 1856. By March 13, they had 15 day pupils and four boarders.

Bishop Auguste Marie Aloysius Martin, made first bishop of the Diocese of Natchitoches in 1853.

Under Mother Hyacinthe’s able leadership, the American Foundation survived when others did not; and it not only survived, it prospered. In a letter to her parents dated August 19, 1857, she reported that Presentation Academy* had 30 boarders and 14 day pupils. Furthermore, there were 115 First Communions and Confirmations, mostly parents and other local families of all stations—in addition to the students who had received the sacraments earlier. Bishop Martin was so pleased that he established a second school at Ile Breville that same year. By 1870, the Daughters of the Cross had six schools, extending their range to Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe.

Over the years, the Sisters established 21 schools across North Louisiana, in addition to conducting summer classes in communities where there was no Catholic school. They overcame many difficulties: lack of funds, arduous labors and travels, privation, war, fires, tornadoes, illness and epidemic.

Today, only two Daughters of the Cross remain, Sr. Maria Smith and Sr. Lucy Scallan. With Sr. Maria’s retirement in 1997, the era of the Daughters of the Cross teaching in Louisiana schools came to a close. However, their influence permeates North Louisiana. A 1955 Centennial booklet lists 44 priests/seminarians and 103 sisters who were students of the Daughters of the Cross, and others have followed. Schools they founded which are still in operation include St. Frederick and Jesus the Good Shepherd in Monroe, Sacred Heart in Moreauville, and St. John Berchmans in Shreveport.

Mother Hyacinthe and her Daughters of the Cross are surely the mothers of the Church in north Louisiana, and Bishop Martin is surely the father. Bishop Martin’s tomb is in the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches. Mother Hyacinthe is buried in Treguier, France. Most of the other Daughters of the Cross are interred at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport, although a few are in Monroe, Marksville and France. As the beneficiaries of their labors, we should strive to remember to pray for the repose of their souls, for their intercession in our needs, and for the grace to honor their sacrifices and extend their legacies in our lives.

The Daughters of the Cross:

• Founded in 1640 in Paris, France, by Mother Marie l’Huillier de Villeneuve

• Rule written by St. Francis de Sales

• Advised by St. Jane Frances de Chantal

• Guided through early trials by St. Vincent de Paul

• Came to Cocoville, Louisiana from Treguier, France in 1855

• Motherhouse moved to St. Vincent’s in Shreveport in 1869. •

Pro-Life Reception for Mary’s House with Abby Johnson on March 20


On Tuesday, March 20, at the Bossier Civic Center, Mary’s House will host the Shreveport/Bossier Pro-Life Reception featuring Abby Johnson, former clinic director for Planned Parenthood, now pro-life advocate, as keynote speaker.

Abby Johnson has always had a fierce determination to help women in need. It was this desire that both led Abby to a career with Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, and caused her to flee the organization and become an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement. During her eight years with Planned Parenthood, Abby quickly rose in the organization’s ranks and became a clinic director.

She was increasingly disturbed by what she witnessed. Abortion was a product Planned Parenthood was selling, not an unfortunate necessity that they fought to decrease. Still, Abby loved the women that entered her clinic and her fellow workers. Despite a growing unrest within her, she stayed on and strove to serve women in crisis.

All of that changed on September 26, 2009 when Abby was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. She watched in horror as a 13-week baby fought, and ultimately lost, its life at the hand of the abortionist. At that moment, the full realization of what abortion was and what she had dedicated her life to washed over Abby and a dramatic transformation took place. Desperate and confused, Abby sought help from a local pro-life group. She swore that she would begin to advocate for life in the womb and expose abortion for what it truly is.

Planned Parenthood did not take Abby’s exodus sitting down. They are fully aware that the workers who leave are their greatest threat. Instantly, they took action to silence Abby with a gag order and took her to court. The lawsuit was quickly seen as the sham it was and thrown out of court.

The media was, and continues to be, intensely interested in Abby’s story as well as her continued efforts to advocate for the unborn and help clinic workers escape the abortion industry. She is a frequently requested guest on Fox News and a variety of other shows and the author of the nationally best-selling book, Unplanned, which chronicles both her experiences within Planned Parenthood and her dramatic exit.

Today, Abby travels across the globe sharing her story, educating the public on pro-life issues, advocating for the unborn, and reaching out to abortion clinic staff who still work in the industry. She is the founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry designed to assist abortion clinic workers out of the industry. To date, this ministry has helped over 419 workers leave the abortion industry. Abby lives in Texas with her husband and seven precious children. •


Event Information


General Admission, $50 • VIP Sponsorships $500, $1000, $1500 and $2000. • For more information and Tickets/Sponsorships, visit, or email


5:30 p.m.: Doors Open

5:45 – 6:45 p.m.:  Pre-Reception, hors d’oeuvres* in the Main Hall

5:45 – 6:45 p.m.:  VIP Pre-Reception* in the Bodcau Room for sponsors and their guests

6:45 p.m.: Reception seating in the Main Hall

7:00 p.m.: Reception begins

7:30 p.m.: Keynote address by Abby Johnson

*Hors d’oeuvres by Silver Star

All proceeds benefit Mary’s House.