Thursday, May 31, 2007

From storefront to national attention

Anita Palmer, of Many, called me today to brag on her pastor, the Rev. Andre Lewis. He leads a small storefront church, Act on Faith Ministries in the Caddo Heights neighborhood.

But they apparently have an awesome choir, Supreme Voices of Faith. The not-quite 20 member group (the church has about 50 members) recently made a trip to Atlanta to appear on a variety show broadcast on several regional TV stations. They were promoting their new CD "Another Chance." Lewis produced the album, and snippets are available from the record label website. It's got a jazzy, soulful, gospel sound that they compare to Kirk Franklin.

Lewis said his goal for the CD is in the title.

"God is a god of another chance," he said. Too often, he hears from people who are waiting to get their lives together before the come back to church.

"People don't come to church because they don't feel worthy," he said. "God has to be the one to reform us."

He said if you walked into his sanctuary on Sunday, you might smell a little Saturday night alcohol or notice someone with bloodshot eyes.

"These are the people we're supposed to be preaching to," he said.

Palmer had nothing but praise for him, and only a little bit had to do with her recent TV appearance with the choir. She said she has learned so much more about the Bible and God than she had at other churches.

"He taught me that God is always with me," she said.

Although she almost had second thoughts about calling, she said she just wanted to give her pastor a little public acknowledgement for what he's been doing for her and the rest of the church. And I'm always thrilled to hear people excited about their faith and their communities, so here it is. Congratulations to Act on Faith!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More nun stories

One more story about the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word appeared in my inbox today, even though the story about their 100th anniversary of working at Schumpert Hospital appeared on Sunday. I have loved reading every one of these stories. They're funny and touching and maybe it will inspire someone else to follow in these nun's footsteps.

Here's the last one from Bette Chiles Davis, a nurse and patient:

I entered the Schumpert School of Nursing in 1937, when I was 17 years old.

I am not Catholic and really did not know what to expect, but the Sisters were all very friendly and kind. They, also. made all of us as comfortable as they could.

The sisters taught us both in the classroom and when we cared for patients in the hospital setting. Their Christian influence was felt by each one of us and could be seen in our patient care.

The sisters are also very human. Being young and mischievous, several of the students decided to play a joke on the night supervisor. This was in the old red brick building. One sat in a wheel chair and pretended to be in labor and rang the night bell. One student ran down and was pushing the wheelchair toward the elevator, when a Sister came off the elevator and helped to get the "expecting patient" on the elevator. We were able to keep the "patient's face" hidden until we were taking her off the elevator. That was when we were exposed but Sister only laughed with us.

During the big snow in the mid-40's, some of us were sliding down the west front driveway on cardboard boxes. Two of the young sisters came out and we were throwing snow balls when they joined us. They wanted to slide down the drive way as well. A couple of us went to a near by store and purchased some boots for them to walk back up the hill where there was several inches of snow. We all were sliding down the hill and having a great time.

In 1940, I delivered my daughter, at Schumpert on the third floor of that same red brick building. As a patient I was priviledged to experience the thoughtful CHRISTIAN compassionate care offered by the sisters, docters, nurses, dietary, housekeeping and all other staff members.

I am now retired from Schumpert, and I can hardly believe that I have been associated with the Sisters off and on for 70 of the 100 years that are being celebrated.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Congratulations Msgr. LaCaze!

Allow me to send a personal congratulations today to my first pastor (at least the first one I remember), Msgr. Carson LaCaze, now the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.

Today, he celebrates the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. It's hard for many of us to imagine doing anything for 50 years, much less enjoying your job so much that you continue after your eligible for retirement. I talked to him a little bit about his career and what this anniversary means to him.

"I'm still pleased with the choice," LaCaze said. "I'd do it over again. I enjoy the work, working with the people of God."

Monsignor was born in 1930 in Natchitoches Parish. He started thinking about the priesthood in sixth grade, and by his junior year of high school he decided that was how he was to spend his life. So at 16 years old he enrolled in seminary at St. Joseph's in Covington. Yes, you read that right, 16.

It took him another 10 years to finish high school, college level philosophy and theology before ordination at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. His ordination class had 22 men, which he said was big even then, and by today's standards is huge. With the priest shortage continuing to worsen he encouraged young men to consider the vocation.

"It's a rewarding life," he said, and ever the pragmatist: "Like most professions, you get what you put into it."

He immediately began ministry in Cottonport. Since then he has served as pastor of Holy Rosary, Christ the King and St. Mary of the Pines. He helped found Mary, Queen of Peace, when it was a mission church.

Administering the sacraments -- baptism, Eucharist, marriage -- have always been the high points of his ministry, he said. His biggest surprise was when he received a letter in 1979 naming him a monsignor, which is a special given by the pope on the recommendation of the local bishop.

"I wasn't working for it and didn't expect it," he said.

I'm quite sure he earned it. I remember Monsignor from his days at St. Mary's when I would get dragged up to church to "help" with whatever my mom was doing. He kind of scared us as kids - he was a little gruff and had very high expectations of his parish. He was also the first priest I ever heard swear (although it was something very minor). As an adult, he always makes me laugh, and I can see why he is my dad's favorite priest, with his practical approach to faith. It's been a joy to be reacquainted with him.

In celebration of his jubilee, Monsignor will celebrate all of the Masses at the Cathedral this weekend, with a covered dish lunch following the 11 a.m. Mass. Then at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday he along with Msgr. Franz Graef and other priests ordained for the Diocese of Alexandria the same year will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral, 939 Jordan St.
May God continue to bless his ministry to the people of Shreveport-Bossier City.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer reading

School's almost out. The humidity is rising. And pool chairs are filling up faster than cash registers at a gas station.

For me, it's time to catch up on all the reading I have wanted to do but haven't while I've been taking my masters classes. I have several spiritual/religious books scattered around my apartment: Philip Yancey's "Prayer," Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis," Pope John Paul II's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," and I need to order Pope Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth."

Is there anything out there you recommend? Religious or even a secular book with some good spiritual themes?

Note about comments

I welcome and encourage your comments to the blog, so I thought I might clarify a few things to encourage the discussion.

* It's easy. You don't have to have your own blog, just click on comments and under "choose your identity" you can register as a guest or anonymous and then leave your thoughts.

* All comments are moderated by me. That means I get an e-mail when someone leaves a comment and then I choose whether or not to post it. So if your comment doesn't show up right away, it probably means I haven't checked my e-mail lately (this is more likely to be the case on the weekends).

* I'll publish just about anything as long as it's not truly vulgar or ridiculous.

* As far as I can tell, I cannot edit the comments, so check your spelling and grammar.

Thanks and comment away!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Notice some better looking homes?

In just a few hours, with enough volunteers a house can go from this:

To this...

to nearly brand new...

Nearly 70 homes have a new paint job this week after Saturday's annual Paint Your Heart Out Shreveport event. I joined my boyfriend's office at Barksdale and a group from Comcast cable to paint the home of an 85-year-old lady in Sunset Acres. She, like the other homeowners, couldn't do it herself and couldn't afford to pay someone, so the city provided the materials and churches, businesses and organizations throughout the city provided the labor (I have to say that BAFB was particularly well represented).

It was a good reminder that volunteer work doesn't have to be hard or even terribly time consuming. It was just a matter of putting on some work clothes and doing what needed to be done. Everyone walks away with a sense of appreciation and pride.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Door to door caution

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was hanging out in my apartment when someone knocked on the door. I wasn't expecting anyone, so I peered through the peephole. A nice-looking young man stood there, without any sort of identification.

My city-girl instincts kicked in and I thought went through the options: He could be an ax murderer. He could just be lost. Maybe he's trying to sell something, at which point I can call security because solicitations are not allowed in the complex. I could ignore him completely.

I decided to open the door just wide enough to say hi. He handed me a flier from his church.
"I'm just spreading the love of Jesus," he said.
"Thanks, have a nice day," I replied.
Door closed.

I fully appreciate people who are willing to go door to door spreading their faith. It shows conviction and guts and faith, since you never know what you're going to find when the door opens. And being a religion reporter, I'm naturally interested in other peoples beliefs.

But in today's world, where the news regularly warns us to lock our doors and be suspicious of who knocks, I was not about to engage this guy in further conversation. My mom is probably out there shaking her head at me for even answering the door.

It left me wondering whether churches have adjusted their witnessing strategies to make up for today's climate. I have a few suggestions. Send out two people -- preferably of the opposite sex. Maybe wear some sort of identifying clothing. Everyone recognizes the Mormons in their white shirts and ties. And don't be surprised if you get lots of terse responses in apartment complexes full of single women.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May God welcome him home

Shreveport has lost a beautiful example of Christian life with the death of Dr. Joe Holoubek Thursday. He was 91.

His contributions to the city's medical community are well documented: the founding of LSU's School of Medicine here and the care he and his late wife, Dr. Alice, gave to countless patients.

It was all done with a deep grounding in his Catholic faith. He constantly studied scripture and the teachings of the church through formal classes and a Bible study that met for 30 years. He and his wife were also known for their presentations on the medical explanation of the crucifixion.

When his book "Letters to Luke," was released in 2004, I visited Dr. Holoubek and was privileged to see the chapel he had added to their Broadmoor Terrace home. He said he spent about an hour a day in prayer there. I must have looked impressed because he added, "one out of 24 isn't bad."

His faith was also instrumental in his marriage. That was probably what impressed me the most about Dr. Holoubek -- his complete devotion to Dr. Alice. Even after more than 60 years together he looked at her as if their love was brand new. They attended daily Mass together for 50 years, and saw each other as full partners in life.

"I'm amazed at what's ordinary to us seems extraordinary to other people," he said. "That's just the way we live. Lots of people do."

May God bless them both and their family.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I'm quite sure that most of you longtime Shreveport residents have some memory of the nuns at Schumpert Hospital. Either they helped you deliver a baby or gave you a hug or made sure the hospital room was spotlessly sanitary.

The first group of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (why do orders have to pick such long names?) arrived in Shreveport 100 years ago. I'm putting together a story about them and I would love to have your stories to go with it. Please e-mail me at with any anecdotes.


Martial arts mixed with God?

Modern spirituality allows God to be combined with all sorts of seemingly ungodly lifestyles: bikers, hip hop, and heavy metal music. In fact, these stories have become a mainstay of my clipfile.

Today's Sports story by Roy Lang took the trend to a new level. He writes about a local youth minister who is also an amateur mixed-martial arts fighter. I don't really know anything about the sport -- although some of my friends from church are fans -- but the subject of the story had a great quote that highlighted the disconnect.

"The Bible says 'love everybody,' said (Joseph) Freid. "It doesn't say you can't beat on them at little."

So what do you think about this trend of mixing God with more secular trends?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yolanda King collapses, dies

Another religious/political figure died unexpectedly yesterday. According to the AP, Yolanda King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest child collapsed and died after making a speech. She was 51.

King spoke at Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church's annual Freedom Awards Banquet in 2004. She was dynamic, funny and obviously committed to her father's work of bringing love, unity and peace to all people.

"Too often we turn on each other instead of turning to each other," King said to the audience of about 400. She encouraged everyone to be active in their community instead of just standing by and watching.

"We need to get beyond our differences which will remain," she said. "We all come from the same source and the same creator."

Photo: King speaking at Greenwood Acres. Times photo/Shane Bevel

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

RIP Jerry Falwell

It's kind of strange to think that Jerry Falwell, noted fundamentlist and political activist has died. Many of us in the religion news world had tried to take his many outlandish statements with large grains of salt, but often he couldn't be ignored. That was probably his genius. He learned how to get his message out to huge numbers of people in hopes of changing the world for the better.

What do y'all think? Why did his ministry become so successful? How will he be remembered?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Living saints

Every time I write about foster parents, I am forced to ask myself: could I do that? I don't know, but I know these people are blessed with extra helpings of patience, compassion and love for children.

The story in today's paper came up more for political reasons. The Department of Social Services is asking the legislature for a monthly raise for its foster parents from $374 to $510 per child. But there's a lot of faith behind the families who are wiling to take these children in, children who have seen and experienced far more horror in their 5 or 10 years than I have in 28.

Foster parent Lori Gates of Bossier City put it well, "They’re taking on children that are not their own and have no connection to and they know the money is not going to cover it."

One thing she's trying to do with the Northwest Louisiana Foster and Adoptive Parent Association is raise money for foster children so they can go to camp this summer. If you want to help her, call 742-2718.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Prayers again

Y'all might remember the story I wrote about baby Ethan Powell a couple of months ago. He was diagnosed with particularly strong leukemia, and his dad launched a website and mobilized thousands of people in prayer. And as people of faith would expect, the leukemia cells disappeared from his body, although they remain at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis waiting for a bone marrow transplant.

Well, yesterday they got some tough news. The leukemia has returned to Ethan's body. While his parents are showing incredible faith, it's obvious from the website that they're in pain. See their website ( for more details, or just pray for them.
Photo: from Ethan's website

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For anyone going to Charlotte...

The Billy Graham Library will open June 5 after a celebrity-studded dedication May 31. A shiny, packed-with-info press kit arrived in the mail the other day touting the opening of the museum, which sounds very impressive:

40,000 square feet
a 40-foot tall glass window/door in the shape of a cross
6 exhibits
350 photographs
60 years of history

My first thought was "isn't this a little excessive?" Then I thought about the preacher, who has reached more than 210 million people, some in countries no one thought possible (the Soviet Union, for example). He also reshaped the way we think about modern multi-media ministry with his radio and TV appearances. And I'm sure he would say its not a monument to his accomplishments but to the work of God.

Sometime in the next couple of years, I hope to get out to North Carolina and then I'll take a detour to see it for myself. But if any of you get there first, I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Postcards from God part 2

We left the desert for another big change: the forests and farmland of California. The majesty of the mountains and trees made me feel so small and the rolling farmland brings a sense of gratitude for what the land can produce.

So here's some shots and scripture from Sequoia National Park and into San Francisco. Again, if you want to make them bigger, click on them.

"(Man) searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light. But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?" (Job 29:11-12)

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Is. 55:9)

"He brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers." (Psalm 78:16)

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

And this is one is a quote from Ben Franklin at one of the Napa wineries, just because it made me laugh...

"Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Postcards from God part 1

The greatest thing about travel is seeing new places that make you think a little harder about how the world works. So I thought I'd share some pictures from my trip with y'all accompanied by some scripture verses. I admit I stole the idea from the Dallas Morning News, who did a really print version once.

These are from Death Valley National Park, which some might call truly God-forsaken, but I don't think so. Oh, and if you click on the pictures, they'll blow up much bigger.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?"
Psalms 121:1

Salt flats in what used to be an ocean.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." (Matt. 5:13)

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture." (Luke 8:5-6)

"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (Deut. 8:2)

Morning prayers

While out for my morning run, I passed a Muslim woman walking a little girl to the bus stop. Along the way she was speaking rapid Arabic, which I assumed were her morning prayers, based on the tone of voice. The little girl smiled, ready for the day.

I wondered how much those prayers helped her be in the right mindset, and how cool it was that her mom(?) set that example of daily morning prayer. How much would that help other children if their parents did the same thing?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Vacation musings

It's good to be home. My weeklong vacation started in Las Vegas and took us on a driving tour through California up to San Francisco. Going from Vegas where the scenery looks like this:

to Death Valley where everything looks more like this:

was quite the shift physically, mentally and emotionally. Vegas is all glitz and glamour and surface level excitement and fun. But the desert makes you think. It looks barren and desolate and almost simple on the surface. Underneath, however, it's constantly moving and changing and evolving.

Being there made it easy to see realize why Jesus and many of the other prophets went into the desert when they wanted to be closer to God. The only way to survive there is by the grace of God.

Hopefully, my time communing with nature will give me the strength to deal with the baggage claim people at the airlines...