Beauty from the inside out!

holy tshirt jpBy Karen Baker

A little girl’s T-shirt stopped me in my tracks at Wal-Mart the other day. Right across the front, it read:

“My mom is hot.”

Really? Is that the message we want toddlers carrying around on their clothing? (But yes, I do realize that it’s the middle of August and the child’s mother was probably, literally, HOT! We’re all hot this time of year.)

Still, when I start my children’s clothing line, it will include shirts with sayings such as: “My mom is holy” or “Don’t I look virtuous today?”

I was lecturing my 7-month-old granddaughter on holiness one day in the Olive Garden while waiting for lunch with my mother (who is very holy!). “Emmaline,” I said, “I know that people always tell you what a beautiful baby you are – and you are! – but really, the important thing to remember is that you are made in the image and likeness of God, inside and out. So always take care of your virtues!”

I may be a little over the top talking to a baby that way (at least that’s what the waitress seemed to think), but maybe we should start when they’re young. Maybe then we’ll have a chance to raise our children so they stay on the path to holiness; maybe we’ll help them see that the “good life” is a life centered not so much on designer clothes as it is on Christian virtues.

Maybe we’ll get them to listen to Pope Francis! In his homily on June 9, (,_a_practical_programme_for_holiness/1101553­), Pope Francis spoke of the Beatitudes as a “program for holiness.” When we are meek, when we seek peace, when we show mercy, we are growing closer and closer to God.

And at the end of the day, God will recognize us not by our good looks but by our holy habits. So let’s all go out and try to be saints. If you don’t believe me, read this article ( by Dr. Tom Neal, dean of academics at Notre Dame seminary. It’s a great reminder of who we are called to be.

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.

Back to School Wisdom

By Dana Doyle


Jason Angelette with faculty at Our Lady of Lake in Mandeville.

On August 1, the teachers at Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville were treated to a wonderful morning of reflection to kick off the school year. Jason Angelette, co anchor of Issues in Faith on WLAE and Co-Director of the Faith & Marriage Ministry of the Willwoods Community, inspired the faculty and staff with stories of hope and witness. His presentation focused on the gifts of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Jason encouraged us to receive the sacraments as frequently as possible and to utilize the beautiful 24 hour adoration chapel that we are blessed to have on our campus. He helped the staff brainstorm ways to further increase the faith life of the students and the whole school community. Everyone left feeling refreshed and motivated!

One of the things that Jason stressed was the need for a personal prayer life – a time set aside each day to read the Word of God, to talk to God and to Listen. He reminded us that we cannot give what we do not have – that in order to DO, we must first learn to BE. This is very practical advice for which we can all benefit, no matter what we do for a living!

In a recent post on my blog, Catholic Working Mom– a gospel reflection for the feeding of the 5,000 – I listed 10 ideas for finding quiet time each day for prayer. Here’s the list:

  1.  Get up 15 minutes early and read the readings of the day.  Pray.  Listen.
  2. Pop into the adoration chapel or a nearby church.  Just sit in Jesus’ presence.
  3. Set a timer on your phone a few times a day.  Put a prayer card in your pocket.  When the timer goes off, Pray.  Breathe.  Listen.
  4. Take a walk on your break at work, or after work.  Look at the beauty in nature around you – God’s incredible creation.  Talk to God in your heart.  Thank Him.  Listen.
  5. Download the Laudate App.  Use it periodically throughout the day!  Play a rosary or divine mercy chaplet podcast when you lay down to sleep.  Put your phone on your bedside table.  Listen.
  6. Pray a scriptural rosary.
  7. Take a bath or long shower.  Talk to God.  Thank Him for the clean, warm water.  Listen.
  8. Pull up a beautiful religious picture on your desktop.  Put yourself in the scene.  Meditate.
  9. Light a holy candle.  Sit and watch the dancing of the flame.  Think about how Jesus is the Light of the World – how He entered into the darkness of our world and illuminated it.  Think about how you live your calling to be a light in this world.  What might God be calling you to at this moment?
  10. Pick up a good, inspirational Catholic book – faithful to the Magisterium.  Be inspired.  Think.  Pray.


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.

College bound: staying ahead of the curve and in tuned with your faith

By Ansel Augustine, MPS


It’s that time of year again when parents and students are going crazy preparing for college. Many students are preparing to embark on a new young adult chapter in their lives as college freshman. For those that have the opportunity to go to college, it can be seen as a rite of passage, while others think it is just a period of delayed adolescence.

No matter the perspective, going to college is a big deal for all parties involved. So here are some tips that were in an article for incoming freshmen. The only one that I would add would be to PRAY and connect with a local church or campus ministry to stay grounded in faith. There will be plenty of challenges, obstacles, and temptations; especially if you are going away from home, but remember that you are a child of God and never forget who you are and WHOSE you are, and carry yourself accordingly no matter what your peers are doing around you.

5 things every freshman should know before their first college class, Posted on June 20, 2014 at 6:51 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 20 at 7:08 AM


Typically, before a semester will begin, your professor (get used to calling them “professor” now) will send out an email welcoming you to their section. The email will most likely give some background on what you will be learning in the class and what your professor will expect of you as their student. Also, your professor may include the textbooks needed for the class. Be sure to order them ahead of time; they may start using the book the second or third day of class!


This kind of goes along with the first point. In that welcome email, your professor will state if they expect you to read a book over the summer, or to take notes from a textbook before the first day of class. Keep this in mind, as you most definitely want to stay on your professor’s good side, and not give them the wrong idea about the student you are if you’re constantly missing homework. Start with your best foot forward, try your best to impress your teacher with your excellent time management skills (you never know when you’ll need a recommendation…).


Colleges tend to be an extremely diverse environment. Walking into your first day of classes and realizing you’re not going to see your BFFs from high school may freak you out at first. That’s totally natural and okay, but don’t close yourself off to new people. College is the best time to open up, start fresh and create a new, diverse group of friends. Everyone has a really interesting story to tell; I suggest you listen to as many as possible. You’ll be surprised who will end up being your friends 4 or 5 weeks down the road.


Whether it’s a small class or a lecture, a professor will always be able to point out and recognize those who actively participate and seem engaged. As you’ll soon learn, most classes use 10-15% of the final grade as participation. Do you raise your hand? Do you work well in a group? Do you do your homework? It’s always awkward if a professor asks a question and no one raises their hand. Be that person to speak up, you and your professor will be so glad you did. Never feel intimidated. Just think about all of the people in the room who probably have the same comment or question as you.


This rule also applies in high school as well, but is MUCH more important when you’re in college. Lecture halls sometimes have between 100-300 people in them. If you’re sitting all the way in the back, where your professor can’t see you and you can’t see them, think how much work you’re going to get done… NONE. Be sure to sit in the front of the classroom. Knowing that the teacher can see you will limit your phone usage during class, and will keep you more engaged as the professor may call on you or make eye contact with you since you’re within reach. It’s also easier to take notes when sitting in the front, that way you never miss a word and aren’t distracted by people in the back who may not take the class as seriously.

Ansel Augustine is the Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries. He has also served as the Associate Director/Coordinator of Black Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the CYO Office of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  He is also on the Faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Read more about this blogger here.

Building more than patience

By Cory J. Howat

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiffI have to admit that I drive the fastest on Interstate when we pass an IKEA store on a family trip. I cringe at the thought of putting together another wildly named Scandinavian-influenced BEKKESTUA Bedroom set. Their assembly instructions are as hard to follow as the pronunciation of their pieces. Luckily, New Orleans does not have these patience-absorbing big box furniture stores, yet. I was reminded this past weekend about my IKEA-esque patience challenges while embarking on a DIY (sort of) home outdoor shed project. My wife and I decided that an outdoor shed was needed for our growing family to gain space indoors. We knew the summer was the time to make that shed a reality.

I can handle most of the minor construction stuff but always looked for help from my dad, brothers or friends. I simply enjoy doing projects together and know that detailed and tedious work is a place that I can grow. *Cue the former blog on gardening* So, the shed building started moving along nicely, mainly because I was the 3rd string assistant on the project. As I was shuttling sheets of plywood to the backyard, I began to think about the importance of building and planning in our spiritual lives also. Hang with me here as I know my construction credibility is low…

I knew that I could not build a shed without the proper planning or savings. I needed the vision of what I wanted it to look like. I needed planning to have all the pieces ready for our build day. Then, I needed the patience to build and finish the project. Our spiritual lives mirror the same journey in many ways. I invite you to take some time to reflect and ask yourself:What is your vision for how you can live as a disciple of Jesus Christ? What does that look like to you? Does that mean you are a joyous person? Generous? Prayer-filled? What are the steps you can start working on to achieve this goal? Are you willing to commit to a little more quiet prayer time? Lastly, do you desire the patience needed to let God work on the project that is you? The summer is a prime opportunity to take an inventory of where you are mid-year and where you are going.

I am convinced more each day that God reveals His plan for our life in our everyday activities and work. We just have to be aware and listen. I could have just seen this weekend as just for building a shed in my yard. Instead, I intentionally challenged myself to try and think of what God has planned for me and what He wants to build with my life. I sometimes foolishly fight that plan, but I can rely on God to bring me around if I can only keep open my heart to His will for my life. My prayer is that you take some summer downtime to reflect and pray for God to reveal His plans for your life. I know HIS plan is marvelous and unique for each of us, just as God promised in scripture. Enjoy the last days of summer knowing that God has great plans for you in the days ahead… more glorious,I can promise, than my shed!

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.

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.