The Class of 1954

By Sr. Judith Gomila, MSC

The place someone has in your heartSunday, June 20, 2014: “Not a creature is stirring…” it is almost midnight and I am wide awake. Tonight was my elementary school reunion from St. Mary of the Angels. The total gathering of men and women (some were spouses) was between 75-100 happy-hearted, boisterous, 9th Warders. They came from Texas, Mississippi, and Virginia, Metairie and Chalmette and homes in between. Seems I am the only one close to our old stomping, no-no, jitterbugging grounds!

As years go by I think we begin to realize there are folks we are connected to not necessarily by the bloodline of family but by the blood of Jesus. A precious family spirit permeated Smilie’s in Harahan even though some folks had not seen each other in 50 plus years.

Archbishop Rummel at confirmation at St. Mary of the Angels.

Archbishop Rummel at confirmation at St. Mary of the Angels.

Nostalic discussion starters went something like this:
“Remember we sang the Requiem Mass every morning with out the benefit of a song book. I sometimes miss the old Latin now.”

“Sr. Celestine is legendary. She made sure we knew how to diagram, analyze and parse a sentence. I still do it automatically when composing at the computer.”

“Do you know if SMA still has the novena to St. Anthony? He is still my ‘go to’ saint for lost items.”

“Who could ever forget the colorful Christmas Pageants, May Festival dances, and Carnival Ball Courts that helped raise the money to build the new brick church?”

“Don’t forget skating in the gym on Friday and Saturday nights – then hanging around after to convert the gym into a worship setting for Sunday Mass, sitting on folding chairs.”

“You know it wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized those men in black with the white collars were priests. My image of a priest was dictated by our pastoral, Franciscan Fathers in their brown robes.”

“I heard our principal, Sr. Madeleine, is 102 years old. I still get the urge to march in line, two by two – like we did after the second bell – when I hear Souza’s Stars and Stripes Forever.”

St. Mary of the Angels

St. Mary of the Angels

Glad grads from a number of years in the 1950’s were somber in their memorials for classmates who had passed away. Some whispered in tight little corners sharing accounts of divorce trauma, the ravages of cancer, the blessings of AA, financial woes and agonizing depression following Katrina.

Laughter also abounded! Phone cameras flashed. Swollen with pride in their off-springs’ accomplishments, Facebook linked those at the table to pictures of great grand kids at a baptism or dance review, vacations of a lifetime, tales of interesting retirement hobbies, and those who said, “Why retire? I still love what I do and am grateful to Gawd (Our old lingo came right back to us…IF we had ever lost it!) I have the health to do it.”

This was an evening to be brave and afraid, broken and beautiful, and successful and sad. Many of us had been together from K-8 (no pre-K in the olden days), our very lives and values molded and shaped by our Marianite teachers, lay educators and parish priests. Tonight we knew we were cherished for who we are now and for what we had shared many years ago.

What an encouraging evening…too much to transcribe here. But it is clear to me that wherever we SMA graduates are, we’re still together in the ways that matter most. And the God who connected us is with us too. Faith! Dat’s what I’m talkin’ about!

HS_JudyGomilaSr. Judith Gomila, MSC is a Marianite Sister of Holy Cross. She holds a Masters in Theology and Religious Studies from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. Sr. Judy has served the Church in education/evangelization/mission outreach for 50 years. Currently she coordinates the Public Relations and Communication ministry for the Marianite Congregation and is co-director of the Marianite Associates, an organization for lay women and men who identify with Holy Cross spirituality. For more about this blogger, click here.


God is a gracious host

By Karen Baker

O God, you are my God—

it is you I seek!

For you my body yearns;

for you my soul thirsts,

In a land parched, lifeless,

and without water. (Ps 63:2)

I almost canceled my retreat earlier this month.

After all, I figured, my family was out of town, my house was empty, and so I could really have a retreat in my own back yard, quite literally.

But a little voice made me stick to my plans and head to the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center the weekend of July 11-13. I’m so glad that I listened to that little voice. It was, as always, a beautiful weekend.

Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center

Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center

This is the fourth retreat I’ve made at what used to be – and still is more often than not – called the Cenacle. Although the sisters of the Cenacle have left, the Archdiocese bought the property, renamed it the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center Dedicated to Our Lady of the Cenacle, and continues offering retreats that allow time for prayer, reflection, and resting in God’s embrace.

Our retreat leader for the weekend (Fr. Donald Blanchard from Baton Rouge) was a delight, but what makes this place so special to me is the chance to be quiet and walk with a keen awareness of God’s presence and love. As Fr. Blanchard told us the first night, “Think of God as your host for the weekend.”

God was a gracious host! He provided a gentle breeze for early morning and early evening walks on the levee, and He seemed to be oh so very close to us in this little oasis in the middle of Metairie.

The retreat center is a special place to encounter God. And God, Fr. Blanchard reminded us as we prayed with Pslam 63, is the only way to quench our thirst. So if you are thirsty, try a weekend away in the middle of Metairie!

You can find the schedule of upcoming retreats here.

Don’t miss a unique opportunity to support this wonderful place…. Wine & Dine, An Evening with Chef John Folse to benefit the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center takes place on July 31, 2014 at Schulte Auditorium at Notre Dame Seminary. Cocktails start at 6:30 followed by a gourmet meal prepared by Chef John Folse> The evening includes a silent auction and live actuion where guests have an opportunity to win a Dinner for 12 at John Folse’s White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge. All proceeds will benefit the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center, Dedicated to Our Lady of the Cenacle. Tickets are $150 per person or $1200 for a table of 8.

To purchase tickets, go to or call Susan Halligan at 504-267-9604

karenbakerKaren Baker is a freelance writer with a Masters in Pastoral Studies from the Loyola Institute for Ministry. She works in the Office of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in ministry at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville.


Finding our desert place

By Dana Doyle

I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel. Time and again, it strikes me that Jesus – by words and by His own actions – calls us to find our own “desert place.” Christ shows us the importance of silence – something eagerly sought after, but so hard to obtain in our busy, noisy lives today.  As parents, many of us travel throughout our days with the chatter of children, the noise of television, car radios and the constant “bings and bongs” of ipods and cell phones.  Unless we make the time for silence – a time to talk to God – and even more importantly a time to Listen – we won’t be able to hear Him speak to our hearts.

You might say, “Sure! I’d love that. But there’s no time.” I hear you!  I’ve tried getting up ten minutes early – which for me would be 4:50 a.m. – to read my bible and talk to God.  Occasionally, it does work.  It seems, however, that no matter how quiet I try to be, some little munchkin often hears me, and decides to join me for some snuggling and conversation.

I once asked the mother of five how she managed to stay so spiritual and so calm.  She told me mom-bubble-bath-deher secret – the bathtub!  There is a rule in her house that when mom goes into the bathroom, no one is to disturb her unless there is fire or blood!  I have taken her sage advice, and it’s wonderful!  Now, sometimes, I do have to schedule my bath time – when my husband or my older child is available to watch our youngest.  It’s so worth the wait!

I put on the fan for white noise (so I can’t hear the bedlum that’s taking place in the next room), sink down into the bubbles and pour my heart out to God.  Once I’ve told Him all my troubles, I simply relax and listen. There in the bathtub, He calms my restless spirit. He bolsters my faith and renews my hope. He helps me to step out of the bathtub and into the world of motherhood again, refreshed and recharged!

Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center porch view.

Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center porch view.

Sometimes, we all need a little more than a bath to recharge our spirits. We are blessed to have several retreat houses in our area that might just fit the bill for a weary soul! Please check out the following websites, as retreats are being offered frequently and on a variety of topics/themes.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11: 27-29


Dana Doyle is a teacher and religion coordinator at Lady of the Lake School in Mandeville, a wife, a mother of three, an author and an avid blogger. Visit her blog, “Catholic Working Mom” at Read more about this blogger here.

Making the best of summer travels

Fr. Deogratias Ekisa

travelAn African saying goes: “Only the child who has not traveled from home thinks that his mother’s cooking is the best.” Of course this saying is not meant to disparage the great job mothers do to feed their children, often with dishes children will remember well into their adulthood. The moral of the saying, however, is that there is need to expand one’s horizons beyond what is familial and familiar.

Summer is a great time to do this, to travel especially by going vacation. My summer, which is a combination of work, retreat, study and relaxation, has taken me north of the Mason-Dixon line, Spain and Italy. On my travels this summer I have experienced the same temptation other travelers have to think that mother’s cooking is the best and to disparage new experiences. Besides the usual travel inconveniences of missed airline connections, cancelled hotel reservations and lost baggage, travelers have to face new ways of doing things especially when traveling abroad.

  • Where are my diet soda, ice-tea and just plain ice? Where are my free drink-refills and free ketchup packets?
  • What is the deal with those small hotel beds, the lack of air-conditioning and the lack 24-hour restaurants and stores?
  • Why don’t people walk on the left and stand on the right on escalators and why do they have to invade my private space on elevators and public transport?
  • And as Catholics, when we attend Mass elsewhere, we might ask: “Why don’t they give communion under both the host and the chalice?”

travels 2Without discounting the obvious discomfort caused by some of these differences, let me suggest that perhaps one way to lessen their impact on us is to remember that we are away from home and it is simply a fact of life that different places do things differently. We might even go a step further and try to appreciate why they do things their way and not simply assume that because their way is not our way, there is something wrong with it.

  • Might their different culinary practices simply reflect their traditions and customs?
  • Might their economical ways not be an attempt to be better and more efficient stewards of our limited God-given resources?
  • Might their limited working hours not be an attempt to give employees more quality family and personal time?
  • Might their liturgical practices not be a reflection of diversity and universality of the Catholic Church?

May our summer travels provide us with the opportunity to expand our horizons, meet new people and see the various cultural gifts God has given the world. As we share our own gifts with others, may we appreciate what others have to offer us. As we pack our bags, with all kinds of travel guides and personal effects, let me suggest that we pack a most necessary accessory – a positive attitude towards what is new, which is open to the possibility that there might be other dishes out there that complement mother’s already great cooking.

deogratiaFr. Deogratias O. Ekisa is the Vice Rector, Director of Human Formation, Chair and Professor of Sacramental-Liturgical Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. A priest of the Archdiocese of Tororo – Uganda, Fr. Deo was ordained in 1998 after his seminary studies at Notre Dame Seminary.  He is also the Director of Seminarians for the Tororo seminarians studying at NDS. Fr. Deo hopes to bring to Notre Dame Seminary the experience of the African Church and culture. Read more about this blogger on our Author page.

My World Cup Has Runneth Over

By Cory J. Howat

us-world-cup-soccer-1024x603World Cup fever has officially taken over our home. One only needs to visit our house at any time of the day to hear my three year old enthusiastically chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” My daughter even recommended to my wife that if their outside activities get cancelled due to New Orleans recently catching up on our rain totals, that she can, “just stay on the couch and watch soccer all day.” I can’t necessarily pinpoint their influence, but I do have to say that I am beyond thrilled that the U.S. National Men’s Soccer team moved through the “Group of Death” to advance to the next round.

Before this turns into a soccer blog, let me explain how the World Cup has been a true human experience for our family. My wife and I purchased a globe years back to help expose our young children to the countries and cultures from around the world. It actually sits on our dining room table and we found it to be a nonstop conversation starter (not that we need help.) As the soccer games began just a couple weeks back, we explored everywhere from Brazil (the host country) to Bosnia Herzegovina. As we watched different games, we matched the players to the countries on the globe. We saw the beautiful mix of skin colors, hair styles and accents from players from around the world. We talked as a family about diversity, the wonder of God’s creation and the vastness of people that circle the earth. God’s wonder is never more apparent than a peek at the mass of humanity yet understanding how special each individual is in God’s eyes.

Nelson-Mandela-QuoteNelson Mandela once said that “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” I know this is true because when the U.S. was pulling off a historic 2-1 victory against Ghana, my 5 year old daughter was crying despite our jubilation. She saw the pain in the face of those that lost and she felt bad for them. I kind of had the same feeling during the Argentina vs. Iran game. International policy can demonize Iran as much as it wants, but when you see their players and fans, you see a person, not a perpetrator. Coming face to face with another and their journey is real. One can no longer hide behind pre-conceived notions of hate when you shake hands and walk onto the pitch together. Despite the sole biting incident or the occasional flopping, when you are standing directly next to another person, you can’t help but recognize their dignity, their humanity. You can do all this and still want to score more goals and beat them. It is the beauty of sports. It is the beauty that my family has been able to experience this World Cup.

To further celebrate the joy of the World Cup, I purchased a US soccer jersey but with multiple intentions. My wife and I used the jersey to announce to my family on Father’s Day that we are expecting our fourth child this coming December! We let our family and friends know that we will be filling an extra set of cleats soon. God is good. Inspired from Psalm 23, my title could not be more relevant. My cup had runneth over. And during this special run for the US into the Bracket of 16, I hope that this Tuesday our World Cup runneth over also!

To learn more about the World Cup, go here.


Cory J. Howat is the Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  His love for traveling, culture and adventure provide a unique perspective on life and the universal Church. For more about this blogger, click here.

”Behold the Heart That Has Loved So Much”

By Sr. Judith Gomila, MSC

CSMC 1956, ND

CSMC 1956, ND

Those of my generation (teens in the 40’s-50’s or 60’s), who went to a Catholic High Schools in the Archdiocese – back in the day – may recall the organization called the CSMC (Catholic Students Mission Crusade). This national youth mission club had for its motto: The Sacred Heart for the world; the world for the Sacred Heart. Our beloved city moderator was Fr. Elmo Romogosa. We did creative fund-raisers for the “foreign missions”, collected old white sheets and tore them into strips for bandages for lepers, held special prayer services according to the liturgical seasons and every other year bussed our way to a huge conference (held at Notre Dame, Indiana) featuring faith-in-action workshops that attracted kids from across the U.S.

sacred heartIn those formative adolescent years, my personal spirituality, empathy and community spirit were molded by the devotion to the Sacred Heart. My sense of service was shaped in the variety of “others conscious” activities performed by a multitude of colorful, extra-curricular clubs at Holy Angels Academy.

Holy Angels Sacred Heart Statue

Holy Angels Sacred Heart Statue

Now residing at the convent on the Holy Angels property, I pass the statue of the Sacred Heart as I walk, not nearly as gingerly as I did in the 1950’s, going from the house to the office. I give a nod of recognition to the large, white statue and mumble an ejaculation or hum a few bars of “The Sacred Heart for the world.” And I am reminded daily that wherever two or three are gathered together – in families, schools, parishes and in religious communities – there we will find Jesus in our midst, inspiring us all to be imitations of his Sacred Heart, living witnesses of love’s unifying power.

This year the feast of the Sacred Heart is Friday, June 27. Let us implore our good Savior for a humble heart like his own; a gentle heart which knows how to tread lightly; a loving heart which is compassionate to the sorrows of others and eager to relieve them. May we have a pure and steadfast heart which is obedient to the Gospels and inspirations of grace, faithful to duty always generous in fulfilling its obligations, and gracious in anticipating the needs of our sisters and brothers.

To read more on the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Karl Rahner, a German Jesuit priest and theologian: or read the Catechism of the Catholic Church #478.

stmargaretmary”Behold the Heart That Has Loved So Much” *Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary in a vision




HS_JudyGomilaSr. Judith Gomila, MSC is a Marianite Sister of Holy Cross. She holds a Masters in Theology and Religious Studies from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. Sr. Judy has served the Church in education/evangelization/mission outreach for 50 years. Currently she coordinates the Public Relations and Communication ministry for the Marianite Congregation and is co-director of the Marianite Associates, an organization for lay women and men who identify with Holy Cross spirituality. For more about this blogger, click here.

The Pope Francis Effect: NOLA Welcomes the USCCB Spring Assembly

Photo from the Times Picayune

Photo from the Times Picayune

The Archdiocese of New Orleans was host to over 250 bishops from across the United States for the Spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week, June 11-13, 2015. Noted was the ‘Pope Francis” effect that seemed to be pervasive throughout the Bishop’s meeting – a feeling of open dialogue and a visible effort to understand and reach out to the marginalized. Here with a recap is coverage from our friend Ted Mahne at the Times Picayune/

Leadership of the U.S. Catholic Church gathers in New Orleans to work, pray

New Orleans may have lost out on its bid to host the Super Bowl in 2018, but this week the city welcomes the leadership of the Catholic Church from across the United States, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops convenes its annual Spring General Assembly.

The meeting will draw about 250 bishops, archbishops and cardinals to the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the St. Louis Cathedral from Wednesday through Friday (June 10-12).

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, as the host bishop, acknowledged that he had an easier time drawing his colleagues to New Orleans than persuading NFL owners to bring their championship game back to the city. It required no major public relations bid or politicking, he said.

“The city has all those things that attract anyone to it,” he said. In addition to the traditional lures of the history, food and culture, its Catholic culture and identity also were integral to the appeal….continue reading

 Coverage of first day, vote on “Faithful Citizenship”

Bishops will revise Catholic voting guide to address current issues

While continuing to acknowledge the valued concept of separation of church and state, the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States reaffirmed Wednesday that it is imperative that the faithful not check their consciences outside the voting booth.

Gathering for its annual spring meeting in New Orleans, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Wednesday (June 11) to reissue a revised guide to help Catholics in making voting decisions in accord with their Catholic moral beliefs. Continue Reading…

Coverage of the USCCB Mass, accompanying photo gallery:

usccb - tp

Photo from the Times Picayune

Colorful procession of bishops marks another historic moment in life of St. Louis Cathedral

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond promised his colleagues a warm welcome as they gathered in New Orleans this week for their annual spring convention. And as the 250 members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared for the official opening Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis on Jackson Square, they felt that warmth – not to mention the humidity – as the thermometer crept to the 90-degree mark. Continue Reading…

Coverage of second day, family issues:

American bishops focus on relationship between poverty and stable families

Issues of marriage and family, and the relationship and effects of poverty on them, were the centerpiece of discussions at the final general sessions of the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday (June 12).

The 250 bishops, comprising the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States, are meeting in New Orleans this week for one of their two annual conferences.

With the two key themes of the conference focusing on “Marriage and the Economy” and “The New Evangelization and Poverty,” the bishops appeared to be embracing the approach of Pope Francis in regard to social and moral issues. They are giving a more upfront look to economic justice matters and issues related to helping the poor, which many progressive Catholics believe have gotten short shrift in the past, while also strongly upholding the church teachings on the sanctity of life, and the value of marriage and the family. Continue Reading…

‘Pope Francis effect’ visible at New Orleans meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops

There was a telling moment this week during the New Orleans gathering of the Roman Catholic bishops from across the United States, which hinted at the shift in tone among the leadership of the church.

The 250 bishops, archbishops and cardinals assembled at the Cabildo and on the slate walkway of Jackson Square leading to the St. Louis Cathedral on Wednesday afternoon. They were preparing to celebrate the official opening Mass for the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Also on the plaza was a group of demonstrators, a not-uncommon sight whenever leaders of a faith, government or industry convene, usually amid chants shouted from behind police barricades. Continue Reading…