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As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

 from the Vatican Press Office

Today we complete the catechesis on the fifth question of the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on the expression “as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6: 12). We have seen that it is indeed man who is indebted before God: from Him we have received everything, in terms of nature and of grace. Our life was not only wanted, but was beloved by God. Truly there is no space for presumption when we bring our hands together in prayer. There exists no “self-made man” in the Church. We are all indebted to God and towards many people who have given us favorable conditions of life. Our identity is built on the basis of the good we have received. The first is life.

Those who pray learn to say “thank you”. And many times we forget to say “thank you,” we are selfish. Those who pray learn to say “thank you,” and ask God to be benevolent with him and with her. As much as we may strive, there always remains an uncancellable debt to God, that we can never pay back: He loves us infinitely more than we love Him. And then, as much as we may strive to live according to Christian teachings, in our life there will always be something for which we must ask for forgiveness: let us think of the days spent idly, the moments in which rancor has occupied our hearts and so on. These are the experiences, unfortunately not rare, that make us implore: “Lord, Father, forgive us our trespasses.” Let us ask for God’s forgiveness in this way.

Come to think of it, the invocation could also be limited to this first part: it would be good. Instead Jesus reinforces it with a second expression that combines with the first. The vertical relationship of benevolence on the part of God is refracted and required to be translated into a new relationship that we experience with our brothers: a horizontal relationship. The good God invites us all to be good. The two parts of the invocation are tied together with a merciless conjunction: we ask the Lord to forgive our debts, our sins, “as” we forgive our friends, the people who live with us, our neighbors, the people who have not been good to us.

Every Christian knows that there exists for him the forgiveness of sins, this we all know: God forgives everything, and always forgives. When Jesus describes the fact of God to his disciples, he outlines it with expressions of tender mercy. He says that there is more joy in heaven for a sinner who repents, rather than for a crowd of righteous people who are not in need of conversion (see Lk 15: 7-10). Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced.

But God’s grace, so abundant, is always demanding. Those who have received so much must learn to give so much too, and not to hold back only for themselves what they have received. Those who have received so much must learn to give so much.

It is no coincidence that the Gospel of Matthew, immediately after giving the text of the Lord’s Prayer, among the seven expressions used, emphasizes precisely that of fraternal forgiveness: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt 6: 14-15). This is important! I think: sometimes I have heard people say: “I will never forgive that person! I will never forgive what they did to me!” But if you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. You close the door. Let us think, ourselves, whether we are capable of forgiving, or if we do not forgive. A priest, when I was in the other diocese, told me in anguish that he had gone to give the last sacraments to an old woman who was on the point of death. The poor lady could not speak. And the priest said to her: “Madam, do you repent of your sins?” The lady said yes; she could not confess them but she said yes. It was enough. And then again: “Do you forgive others?” And the lady, on her deathbed said: “No.” The priest was distressed. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. Let us think, we who are here, whether we forgive or are able to forgive. “Father, I can’t do it, because those people did so many things to me.” But if you cannot do it, ask the Lord to give you the strength to do it: Lord, help me to forgive. Here we find the bond between love for God and love of neighbor. Love calls for love, forgiveness calls for forgiveness. Again in Matthew we find a very intense parable dedicated to fraternal forgiveness (see 18: 21-35). Let us listen to it. …

Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice. No. Especially where we must put a barrier to evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start again a story of grace. Evil knows its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.

Jesus replaces the law of retaliation – what you did to me, I will do in turn to you – with the law of love: what God has done to me, I will give back to you! Let us think today… if we are able to forgive. And if we do not feel capable, we must ask the Lord to give us the grace to forgive, because knowing how to forgive is a grace.

God gives every Christian the grace to write a story of good in the lives of his brothers, especially those who have done something unpleasant and wrong. With a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others the most precious thing we have received. What is the precious thing we have received? Forgiveness, which we must be able to give to others. •

Humanitarian Award Presented to Sister Martinette

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by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS, 82, has dedicated her life to serving others around the world. On March 26, she received the first Humanitarian Award from the Sabine Hall of Fame at its 22nd annual banquet in Many.

Seventy years ago she left Zwolle to follow her dream of religious life. She has been a Sister of Our Lady of Sorrows for 66 years.

“I have done many things, but I suppose the highlights of my life’s work would be working in Bangladesh from 1988 to 2002 with Muslims, Hindus and Christians,” she said.

From the seminary, to the poorest villages, Sr. Martinette has lived her life helping the last, the least, the lost and the lowest of all peoples. Rather than see their children die of starvation, Sr. Martinette saw the people of Bangladesh give them up. This meant she brought six of those babies to the United States to be adopted by her friends. Those children have become well educated, adult citizens.

Sr. Martinette also opened a clinic and a school for the poor and begged for money to build them homes after the 1998 flood in Bangladesh. More than 200 homes were built for Muslims, Hindus and Christians from her efforts. In her honor, community members built a school, college and hospital, all which bear her name.

“Poor people don’t care where one studied or what degrees you have, but only how much you love them,” Sr. Martinette said. He motto is living the Gospel message of love and service, spreading His loving concern for others, and loving as Jesus did.

Sr. Martinette met Mother Teresa many times, as well as several popes. Slowing down is not in the picture for her as she continues to remain active in body and spirit. She has lived the seasons of her life very well. In her acceptance speech she said that she hopes to dazzle everyone she meets.

On August 29, 1936, Joan Martinette Rivers was born in Shreveport to Thomas Rivers, descendant of Richard Rivers, and Elizabeth Ebarb. She remembers growing up in Zwolle, riding a wagon to church and pretending to be a religious sister by wearing a towel on her head. She knew at an early age that she wanted to become a sister and go out to help the poor and disadvantaged.

In 1947, her teacher, Mr. Mulkey, told his class to think about how they could make a dent in society. After class, she hurried up to speak to the Sisters at St. Joseph School for information. She was known as a rascal, but they encouraged her to pursue her dream. Her dad left to study at Mississippi College and the family followed, but Sr. Martinette went to San Antonio, TX, to go to high school and later to pursue a vocation to become a Missionary Sister.

After finishing Little Flower High School in 1952, Sr. Martinette entered the convent and continued her education at Incarnate Word University and St. Mary’s University before traveling to Mexico City as an exchange student to study art and architecture. As a young sister, she learned eight languages and ended up at the university in Monterrey, Mexico, studying advanced Spanish and prose and poetry. She later studied at the Gregorian University in Rome, returning to the U.S. to teach for eight years before heading back to Rome to study Bangla and missionary spirituality to prepare for going to Asia. Before she departed, she was garlanded by Saint Pope John Paul II.

In Asia she taught theology at the National Major Seminary in Bangladesh, where she remained for many years. There she helped young women discern their call to sisterhood.

In 2002, Sr. Martinette returned to America from Asia and decided to go back to school at the age of 66, studying gerontology in St. Louis, MO. She finished her studies in 2005 and began working as a gerontologist and geriatric counselor at Azalea Estates Assisted Living, teaching their seniors how to age gracefully with happy hearts.

She is part of a facility where she is loved and respected. She sings, plays the piano, loves to dance, teaches, tells jokes, paints, cooks, does music and grief therapy, or whatever the needs there are at the moment, keeping the residents on their toes and happy. She is teaching one older man to speak Italian and  has arranged violin lessons for another resident.

Sr. Martinette is very involved with the interfaith groups in Shreveport-Bossier. The world religion group is her favorite. She writes for The Catholic Connection, is a religious adviser for Catholic women, a diocesan spiritual director, retreat director, and hopes to finish her own book on “The Delights of Aging” one day. She is a speaker on aging spirituality. “No matter how old one becomes, one can still learn,” she says.  •

Bossier Church Helps Provide Beds to Children

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by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Don Harper is seeing to it that “no kid sleeps on the floor in our town” and Mary, Queen of Peace Parish is helping him achieve that goal.

Harper oversees Sleep In Heavenly Peace, a non-profit that partners with organizations, churches and businesses to hold “Build Days” during which beds are built from scratch. But the cost for a bed, $175, must be in hand first.

Harper spoke to the Mary, Queen of Peace Ladies Guild at the request of member Donna Grimaldi about their organization. As a result, pastor Fr. Nicholas Onyach, FMH, allowed for Ash Wednesday and March 10 collections to benefit this project. More than $1,200 was donated, enough for seven beds. Additionally, the church collected more than 20 sets of new sheets to go with the new beds. One hundred percent of donations go toward Sleep in Heavenly Peace. This organization works with Lowe’s, who gives them a discount on supplies, and Johnson’s Furniture who works with them on mattress prices.

So who can help with beds? Anyone! No woodworking experience is needed. At one build, Harper said he had volunteers from age 10 all the way to age 70. Volunteers are supervised and tools are supplied.

Twenty beds can be built in about three hours, he said. They may be single twin or bunk. Bunk beds have scripture under the top bed for the child on the bottom to read.

The beds are delivered assembled to an appreciative home, complete with a mattress, bedding and pillow.

“Kids will be ready to be tucked in,” Harper said. Some of the deliveries have come with bibles provided by Lifeway Christian Store.

To qualify to receive a bed, a family must be sleeping in one bed with parents or siblings, on the floor, a couch, futon or between two chairs. Applicants for a new bed may apply online at www.SHPbeds.org.

Once an application is received, a selection committee will review it. Selecting a recipient isn’t done on a first-come, first served basis, but based on which children need beds the most, Harper said.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace makes and delivers beds as supplies and donations allow. When they’re out of beds or bedding, they file unselected applications away until they can make more.
Founded in Idaho in 2012, Sleep In Heavenly Peace is the only charity providing handmade bunk beds to children who don’t have their own. There are 140 chapters in 40 states, Bossier’s being the 86th (it serves Caddo Parish, also). The only other one in Louisiana is in Cutoff.

Harper was watching Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor, a reality web television series in which he searches for people giving back, when it featured Sleep in Heavenly Peace. While he was watching the show, he said his “eyes starting leaking a little bit” and he told his wife he wanted to do this project.
In a year, Harper’s chapter has made 52 beds and delivered 38. The remaining beds are waiting to be delivered once mattresses and linens can be secured. There are currently 78 people on a waiting list. •

Escape Routes: A Reflection on the Church Sex Abuse Crisis

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by Kim Long

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

In 2002 when the Boston clergy scandal erupted I had a vague notion of what was going on. Several priests, whom I knew personally, were uncertain of going out in public in their collars, fearful of being grouped with the abusers. It was during this time period that I found myself waiting with an altar server after a holy day Mass. Everyone had gone and we waited together until his brother picked him up. A simple thing.

The next day my pastor and I spoke about the boy waiting alone . He told me he was afraid to offer the boy a ride home with the sexual abuse crisis going on in the Church. I offered prayers for the victims of what seemed a faraway crisis.

When the Pennsylvania abuse scandal broke several months ago, I paid close attention. My previous ignorance seemed to ignite a hunger in me to know the truth, even if it turned out to be painful – and it did.
A coworker, knowing my love of movies, recommended a film called Spotlight. When she told me it was about the 2002 clergy abuse crisis, I knew I had to see it. One of my sons walked in about the time the movie began. Afterward, as the credits rolled, I asked him if this movie shook his faith in the Church. He said, “Mom I grew up knowing about this and nothing can take away the Eucharist, especially the way you explain it.”

Sworn testimony, a condemning document from a nuncio, two heartfelt and very different homilies from two different priests, and one newscaster after another, brought this topic home in a way no movie, even an award winning movie, ever could. The sadness, the brokenness was part of me now.

Following the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, I was in a diocesan meeting where the subject was discussed at great length. One of the results of that meeting was the decision to hold a prayer vigil for reparation and healing. I knew I needed to go to the service, but there was a deep resistance within me – a bit of a hard wiring issue really – that when I have no choice, I tend to resist. Knowing I should go lessened my desire to attend. This character flaw and I are well acquainted.

The prayer vigil fell on a Friday night, the same night as a local festival. My big plan was to pray, drive to the festival, have a meat pie and hear a favorite band from my high school days sing their one great hit, and then I would drive home and hit the hay.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run from God.

Entering the church I made my way into a back pew, chosen for its closeness to the exit. Kneeling, the pressure of my weight on the padded kneeler reminding me of the pain we were all facing, I prayed hard and felt an internal shift. A feeling of belonging seemed to surge within me.

Through scripture, song, litanies and moments of private prayer, I began to connect. All week I had felt at loose ends, not quite grounded in my faith, feeling the winds of change swirl and tug angrily at me. In previous weeks I assured so many people that all was not lost, and that night I was there with other members of the faithful, feeling our way in the dark.

It occurred to me that I found myself knee deep in covenant: an agreement I had made with God at my emergence from the waters of baptism. For even at the tender age of seven years, I knew I would never be alone again. Yet that feeling, one I had banked on all my life, was so far away from me, more intangible than I ever dreamed possible. Covenant had worked for me as I trusted in God’s presence, seeing it everywhere: in nature, people, the Cathedral building itself, the faces of my children. And at that moment it was revealed differently, not just serving to shore me up, but to also encourage my fidelity which had begun to look for an escape route weeks ago. I was filled with hope, faith and yes, love.

Just this past February, anonymity was stripped away as the names of the guilty were revealed. I was in shock as a former pastor from “back home” was listed among the names. I thought I would feel angry, disgusted, but instead I am just very very sad: sad for the victims, for the perpetrators, for God and for the Church.

In John Shea’s piece, “A Down and Out Disciple Meets His Match,” Jesus shows up just as a man is thinking of “divorcing him quietly.” Jesus reminds him, as Shea’s story has reminded me over the past 31 years, that “there will be no walking out of the covenant.”

The disciple in Shea’s story remained, and like that disciple I am going nowhere. At the end of the day, covenant is my foundation.

Sometimes I run. It’s true. Sometimes I run toward God.

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 31st year, is sponsored locally by the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport and will be held on Thursday, April 25, at 6:00 p.m. at the Catholic Center, 3500 Fairfield Ave., Shreveport. The contest is open to the public at no charge. The local first place prize is $500. The winner will represent Shreveport at the state contest.

The state contest will be held in Baton Rouge this year, on May 4 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.
All high school juniors and seniors are eligible, 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, awfabio2@hotmail.com, or 318-402-6663.
Or visit:  www.facebook.com/SBProLifeOratoryCommittee/

Continuing the Mission: 2019 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal

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by John Mark Willcox

One might ask these days, “Since our diocese is without a bishop, will we be conducting the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal?” The answer to that question is a resounding YES! Even though the Diocese of Shreveport is without a chief shepherd, the needs of our Catholic faithful have not dissipated, in fact they remain constant, and some of these needs have even grown larger.

As with our Appeal each year, major funds are allocated to providing for our retired and infirm clergy while subsidizing the education of our seminarians who will become our future priests. Our list of retired priests includes nine holy men who have given a life of service to the people of our diocese and they are certainly worthy of Appeal assistance. Replacing these men with newly ordained priests remains an urgent priority and your Appeal donations support the cost of room and board for educating our seminarians. Our diocese is fortunate to have a strong contingent of seven men in seminary training and we were blessed to ordain Fr. Duane Trombetta to the priesthood in 2018 and look forward to Kevin Mues’ ordination in May of this year!


The charitable endeavors of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana, Campus Ministry still depend on Appeal generosity to actively pursue their missions to make a real difference in thousands of lives within our regional boundaries. Appeal funding this year will help fund efforts to increase the leadership capacity of our diverse and growing Hispanic population. It also sponsors outreach to our youth and young adults through programs like “Theology on Tap,” which serves and supports members among our faithful in their young years of adulthood.

Appeal dollars also support our Office of Catholic Schools, catechesis for our youth in local parishes, and consistent, high quality liturgies through our Office of Worship. Our wonderful Slattery Library is now staffed each weekday and our Appeal supported Safe Environment Program continues to assist our parishes and schools in providing the very best in enriching environments for youth and young adults. Every issue of our monthly diocesan news magazine, The Catholic Connection is also completely funded by your generosity to our Appeal.

“Continuing the Mission” is our Appeal theme for this year and that is exactly what we intend to do,” comments our Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum. “So much of our outreach and ministry as a committed family of Catholic Christians is impacted by our Annual Appeal and that is why we plan to work diligently to keep the success of our Appeal a priority. I ask that every capable member of our united Catholic family choose to support our Appeal this year so that working together, we can see to the many needs of our worship community.”

Appeal Sunday this year falls on February 17th; please take some time until then to consider your 10-month pledge to support our array of Appeal ministries. A pledge card can be found on page 31, and you may use this to facilitate your annual gift to our Appeal. Please take time to join me in prayer for the success of our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.

Knights Raise Funds to Purchase Ultrasound Machine

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story and photos by Kelly Phelan Powell

One of the most encouraging signposts in the recent years of the pro-life movement is the enthusiastic involvement of men. So often shouted down and scolded that abortion is a matter of women’s (and only women’s) “reproductive freedom,” many men, Catholic men in particular, are finally finding their places and voices within this life-or-death issue. The Knights of Columbus (KoC) Ultrasound Initiative is one of the most crucial ways local men are aiding the movement.

Four local councils of the Knights of Columbus raised several thousand dollars through activities such as the baby bottle campaign, in which empty baby bottles are distributed to individuals and families who fill them with money, then return them, and the Knights use the money to support local culture-of-life programs. A church and KoC council in Baton Rouge that closed contributed about $10,000. Together with matching funds from the Supreme (national) Council, all these donations enabled the staff at Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center to purchase a new abdominal ultrasound machine.

At the official presentation of the new machine at Mary’s House on January 4, ultrasound technician Julie Draper told the assembled knights, “This technology literally saves lives.”
Marian Council Grand Knight John Walker agreed. “It brings an awareness to the woman of the condition of herself and the baby. She can see for herself that it’s not just tissue – it’s a living organism. By seven weeks [gestation], you can see the baby’s heartbeat.”

The fight for life is an important issue to every knight. Rooted in the four principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, the Knights of Columbus endeavor to “build a culture of life and a civilization of love” through programs like the March for Life and the Special Olympics, in addition to the Ultrasound Initiative and countless prayers, rosaries and fundraising activities.

Sonographer Julie Draper, Clinic Director, Trisha Johnson, and Mary's House founder L'Anne Sciba.

Walker, a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1986, said a local KoC council is a great place for any man interested in furthering the cause of life. “Every life is precious, no matter the age,” he said. The Supreme Council publicly set a goal in 2017 to save 1 million unborn lives with the help of technology that helps mothers choose life over abortion. Knights of Columbus CEO, Carl Anderson, said they will accomplish this by placing 1,000 ultrasound machines in pregnancy care centers by the time the Ultrasound Initiative reaches its 10th anniversary this year. Machines donated by the Knights are already in use in all 50 states.

The new technology available to pregnant women at Mary’s House will no doubt make it clear to hundreds of mothers just how precious the tiniest lives are. The new ultrasound machine replaces an old machine from the ‘90s – obviously, not the clearest picture or sound available today.

As if to underscore just how vital these machines can be to the cause of life, the very first mother who had a scan by the new machine discovered she was expecting twins. Though there are few studies regarding the effect of ultrasound viewing on women’s abortion decisions, Draper told the Knights of Columbus assembled on January 4 that, in her time at Mary’s House, only one woman has ever made the decision to have an abortion after seeing her child in the womb via ultrasound. That’s a powerful testimony to the impact of this equipment, to say nothing of the women who work at Mary’s House.

Another way to support Mary’s House and the cause of life is by attending the Annual Pro-Life Banquet, the Fête For Life – A Mary’s House Pregnancy Care Center Fundraiser at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, at the Bossier City Civic Center. For tickets and more information, please visit https://maryshouseoflafoundation.org or call 318- 220-8009.

Praise Academy: Building Faith, Education and Community in Lakeside

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by Jessica Rinaudo

Every city has them – areas rampant with crime, populated by the poor, the hungry, those surviving day to day. Shreveport, Louisiana is no exception. I found myself driving into one such area of town late in September, looking past the crumbling houses and overgrown grass on Yale Street. I had been told to keep my doors locked and come straight to the address I had been provided.

When I finally located the street, I made the turn and my eyes grew in wonder at what I beheld there: a row of structurally sound, neatly landscaped, beautiful homes lining the road. And out in the front of one of the houses was a sign that proudly declared that this was the home of Praise Academy.

But the outside was just the beginning. Inside held a much more beautiful treasure: 25 neighborhood children sat with their teachers learning everything from fine motor skills and their letters, to sentence structure and history lessons. This gift, this beautiful sight, was brought to fruition by the People of Praise, and, as they will tell you, was directed by God.

David Zimmel, a missionary for the People of Praise who moved to Shreveport from Oregon, walked out of one of the homes – his home it turned out – and greeted me with a smile. Together with People of Praise member, Julie Bruber, they offered to give me a walking tour while they told me about what they have accomplished, against all odds, in the heart of a depressed community in Shreveport since 2005.

“We heard the Lord calling us to go somewhere and do something, that’s about as specific as it was,” said David of his beginning days as a missionary. “So three of us went out and looked all across the country, specifically the South… And we got lost when we toured Shreveport. We got lost in this neighborhood and just fell in love with it… We felt the Lord was saying ‘This is it.’ Within a month we bought a piece of land. We built one house, and then we started a summer camp. And every year the houses and the summer camp have grown,” said David.

Today their summer camp is a four to six week long program for nearly 150 neighborhood children.

David also gave me a walking tour of the neighborhood. He showed me where the teachers live, because their mission is not just to come, teach and leave, but to truly be a part of the community.

He walked us past the homes of residents, telling me their names and life stories, pointing out projects they had worked together on.

“How did you do it?” I asked. “How did you get to know everyone?”

David laughed, “Going door to door.”

“We wanted to do fix it projects, so we went to every house and said, ‘We will fix your house for free. If you can pay for the materials, we will provide the labor and expertise. And, in fact, if you need help with the materials, we’ll help with the materials, too.’ And nobody called us back,” said David. “And then one lady, Miss Octavia, called us and said, ‘Hey, are you serious about fixing this stuff?’”

She asked if they would come fix her bathroom vanity. The missionaries went in and repaired it for her. David laughed and said, “And the next day we had 35 phone calls. The neighbors were just waiting to see if we were actually going to do it.”

As we continued our walk, we stopped by an unassuming home on a hill. David told me they had purchased the home from a man eager to be rid of it. With home ownership being a near impossibility for most in the area, David intends to make it a rental space for families with children at the school. But, when he walked through the space, he said he would not feel comfortable living there, so he undertook the home improvement project.

When he swung open the front door of this house for me, there stood Paul, bent over a line of fresh cabinet doors, sanding their surfaces, preparing to stain and hang them. Paul stood up, lifted his protective eyewear, and greeted me with a warm smile. It turns out he was a recently graduated engineering major from Notre Dame, and spends much of his time traveling to work on home projects for the People of Praise.

After we left the house, we continued walking back. I listened to more stories of neighbors, including one of a man who they met when the missionaries first moved to Shreveport.

“One of our earliest conversations, we talked to this older man who was 84,” said David. “ We asked him, ‘So what do you think God wants us to do in this neighborhood?’ And he looked at us and said, ‘Well are you serious? … We need a whole new city, new roads, new schools, new everything.’ And that for me was God speaking. You don’t just help and leave.”

When we returned back to the school, the students were lining up for recess. Together they walked with their teachers, singing songs of glory and praise to God, loud and proud.

On the playground, I settled in next to Joan Pingel, the school’s principal and a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. She told me about her faith journey from being raised by parents in the People of Praise, to rebelling against her Catholic faith in her teens, until she eventually “returned home” again when she was in her early 20’s. She reconnected with the People of Praise and felt called to leave Indiana in 2003 and teach in Shreveport, despite not knowing anything about the area.

She was part of the early conversations with neighbors in the area. A recurring topic for people of the community was the need for a neighborhood school. After four years of prayer, research and discussion, they brought the idea of a school to their missionary team. Through prayer and consultation, they agreed to move forward with Praise Academy.

“The first year, maybe a couple of days before school, we had one student who applied. By the end of the first day we had five, and by the end of the second day we had eight… Every year we have grown a little bit bigger,” said Joan.

As she spoke about the school and the students there, sharing their stories, tears formed in her eyes.

“Our first year, one of our students had a temper… I went to talk to the mom to figure out what’s going on. She said, ‘I don’t know how to be a parent. Can you help me?’ She had her when she was 15. So, we’re trying,” said Joan.

During the course of our conversation, I witnessed how the teachers manage conflict and discipline. They work to teach the children to self evaluate without raising their voices. “We give them parameters, but also teach them how to think through how they want to make choices in their life and get their needs met without yelling and violence,” said Joan.

“We want them to know Jesus,” she added. “That’s a big part of what parents said they wanted other than a safe environment and a neighborhood school their kids could walk to… And so we talk to them about Jesus. We have a Bible class. Jacquie Vaughan, who used to work at St. Joseph Catholic School and has retired, she is coming in once a week and working with our kids. We do morning prayer, we teach reconciliation and forgiveness… so that it’s not holding grudges and retaliating, which is in the culture these days,” said Joan.

Joan’s experience with the school has been life changing, both for her and her students.

“Our first year we had a student who was seven-years-old and did not know the alphabet, had never heard the song. He didn’t know what to do with letters, but his goal was that he wanted to write his name, oh he wanted to write his name. I didn’t know what to do with him because I had never started with someone that old before who didn’t know letters or sounds,” said Joan.

“I called people I knew who had worked with kids his age and we figured out a new way to do it. I had a volunteer who worked just with him. Now, this is his fourth year here, he can write his name… and he is reading! We had to figure out what his strengths were and work with what we have. … And I know that this is what the Lord is calling us to do – to hang in there and be with the ones who are usually pushed aside because they can’t keep up. … The Lord keeps giving us words of, ‘I was rejected, too. I was yelled at, but love them anyway because I’m there with you,’” she said.

As we walked into the school and through the classrooms, I was greeted by children’s hugs, smiles and “What’s your name? Is that your camera?” It is clear these children know love and kindness and share both openly with all in those school walls.

“This isn’t just school and that’s the end of our lives,” said Joan. “This is a community we’re building.”

The Praise Academy continues to grow each year. It’s funded through donations and volunteers. When I asked Julie what the school needed most to ensure a bright future, she instantly and emphatically replied, “Volunteers!”

For a full list of ways to help or be involved with the school, visit https://www.praiselakeside.org/ways-to-help/. •

Who are the People of Praise?

“A majority of People of Praise members are Catholic, and yet the People of Praise is not a Catholic group. We aim to be a witness to the unity Jesus desires for all his followers. Our membership includes not only Catholics but Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals and nondenominational Christians. What we share is a common baptism, a commitment to love one another and our teachings, which we hold in common.”

From their website, www.peopleofpraise.org

87 Year Old Loyola Grandmother Loses Home in Devastating Fire

In times of celebration and in times of sorrow, the Loyola family can always count on a rallied community to provide love and support. Word traveled that Marilyn Pettiette, grandmother of 15, including seven Loyola alumni, lost her home and all possessions in a devastating fire in November.

Born in a small town in Minnesota during the Great Depression, this sweet 87-year-old participated in the Rosary Group for 10 years while her grandchildren attended Loyola. Marilyn faithfully prayed for the students and community of Loyola and continues to do so as prayer requests are made known to her. When the Flyers received word of the fire, immediate brainstorming efforts went into place to provide assistance in some way.

Over the past year, the Pettiette family has created a YouTube channel entitled “Three Generations Singing.” The channel features songs which showcase the musical talents of Marilyn, a former music educator with Caddo Parish, and an accomplished pianist and vocalist. Currently, the family has released over 30 videos that feature three generations of musical talent.

Loyola took note of this 87-year-old grandmother’s special presence on YouTube and decided to host a 24-hour video marathon devoted to building views on the family’s channel. Students, faculty, parents and alumni committed to watching several of the videos on December 12. If views should reach a necessary quantity, the channel can be monetized for revenue in an effort to provide assistance for Marilyn.

Please join the Loyola family in building views for “Three Generations Singing.” Simply search for “ThreeGenerationsSinging” with no spaces on YouTube, and watch the delightful musical presentations. •

Mike’s Meditations: One Commandment is Enough

by Mike Van Vranken

Many of us learned as children that there are Ten Commandments of God. He gave them to Moses for all of us to obey. And, while they may be difficult to keep, our humanity likes commandments or rules. They give us boundaries to live in. Of course, we usually ask for exceptions for each commandment, but we like them just the same.

In one of the gospel stories, someone asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This man too was looking to make sure he was following the rules. Jesus began by saying: “You know the commandments…” (Matthew 19:16). Of course, in this particular story, Jesus ends by explaining that it’s who we become, not what we do, that really matters. In this case, it is to be a follower of Jesus; be his disciple; that’s who Jesus commanded the man to be.

If we study Jewish history, we learn that they followed around 613 laws or commandments. Wow! That seems like a burden to keep. But again, the more rules we have, the easier it is to say “we are doing it right!” Our egos absolutely LOVE to do it right. So, how confusing it must have been for those attending Jesus’ last supper when he gave them only one commandment to follow. That’s right, only one. He said it twice, but it is the same commandment. Here’s how John the Evangelist quoted Jesus:

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “This I command you: love one another” (John 15:17).

One God, one Body of Christ, one people, one commandment. We really don’t have to worry if we are following the seventh commandment, or the fourth commandment or the 612th commandment. There is only one that Jesus left us: “Love one another.” Why have we made it so difficult?

You may be thinking: “But what about loving God above all things with our whole heart, mind and strength?” Didn’t he say that too? Yes, and more than once. But, if we think about it, when we love one another, we are loving the God who lives within us. It is such a reality that Jesus could declare that whenever we do something or neglect to do something to anyone, we are doing it or neglecting to do it to him. How we treat another human being, is exactly how we are treating God at the same time. While the other person is not God, because God’s real presence lives in all of us, whatever we do or don’t do to another person, we do or don’t do to God.

Genesis 1:27 declares that God made humans in His image and likeness. Psalms 8:6 teaches that God made mankind a little less than “elohim.” My Jewish study bible translates “elohim” as “divine.” We are made a little less than divine. So, any way we can understand all of this, our conclusion has to be: when we love another person, we are loving God at the same time.

Jesus makes it very easy for us to follow him: “Love one another.” And, to what degree do we love one another? He goes on to say: “as I have loved you.”

Reading all of these scriptures in prayer recently, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, but also conviction. I asked God: “In spite of knowing all of these Bible verses, why is it so hard for me to be conscious of you in every other human being on the face of the earth? God, why don’t I always recognize you in others?” Then I sat in the quiet and allowed Him to enlighten me.

He reminded me of Mother Teresa’s words when she was talking about the poor and helpless: “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” He asked me how I would treat others differently, no matter who, if I realized each one was Jesus in disguise. I began thinking of everyone who is different than I am: race, age, gender, philosophically, spiritually, socio-economically, enemy – everyone. We continued to sit quietly for an extended period of time. I could feel myself changing, but would it continue once I was back in my daily routine? I prayed for the grace to be constantly aware that God is not only in all things, He is especially in all people.

In your personal prayer time this month, take Jesus’ one commandment to contemplation and prayer. Ask God for His perspective about “love one another as I have loved you.” Then, sit still in the quiet and wait for His loving and compassionate response. And whatever that response is, pray for the grace to be able to become whoever He is asking you to be. It will change your heart. It will transform your life. And you only have to remember one commandment. It alone is enough.