Fathers in our Faith Community

By Dr. Ansel Augustine

This has been a very interesting month within the Catholic community, specifically in the Black Catholic community. Two of our “fathers in the community” have transitioned on to their next chapter in life. One has passed into heaven and the other has retired. These men have been very inspiring to me and I am thankful to share more about them with you!

Benedictine Fr. Cyprian Davis (CNS/St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology)

Benedictine Fr. Cyprian Davis (CNS/St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology)

Father Cyprian Davis OSB, the author of many books, specifically THE HISTORY OF BLACK CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES, was very active in helping to tell the story and contributions of Black Catholics. He was also an instructor at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana during the summer over the past 35 years. More about Fr. Cyprian can be found here.


(Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

(Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

Dr. Norman Francis, the longest serving College/University president announced officially stepped into his, well deserved, retirement this month. He helped transformed Xavier University of Louisiana into a world leader for education. Xavier University is ranked #1 in educating and preparing African Americans for medical school. By being the ONLY HBCU (Historically Black College or University) that is Catholic and the only Catholic University founded by a Saint – St. Katharine Drexel – Xavier University is a unique jewel in our New Orleans scene. We thank Dr. Francis for his years of service to help generations of young adults fulfill their potential to make society a better place. More can be found about Dr. Francis here.

Thanks for learning more about these Fathers in our Faith Community! Happy Father’s Day, NOLA Catholics!


Dr. Ansel Augustine is the Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Previously he served as the Associate Director/Coordinator of Black Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the CYO Youth & Young Adult Ministry Office. He is also on the Faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Ansel has served on the board of directors for the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA) and the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).  He began his career in ministry over 16 years ago when he became the youth minister at his home parish of St. Peter Claver in the Treme area of New Orleans, which he helped to rebuild following hurricane Katrina. He has presented workshops and keynotes around the country and has written various pieces related to ministry. Ansel presently serves on the board for the New Orleans Black Indian Alliance (NOBIA) and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Peter Claver, and the Wild Tchoupitoulas (Black Masking) Mardi Gras Indians.

I Will Give You Shepherds: Notes from St. Joseph Seminary College

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At St. Joseph Seminary College, it was exciting to begin the semester with 135 students and   graduate 28 seminarians in May. As we approach the end of our 125th anniversary, what a wonderful gift we received in being confirmed in our ministry of preparing young men for the priesthood.

Speaking at the 2015 graduation ceremonies

Speaking at the 2015 graduation ceremonies

We continue to face the challenge of addressing an aging physical plant in need of upgrades that must accommodate a growing student body.

Thankfully, we do have the support of Archbishop Aymond as Chancellor of the seminary’s board and chief Shepherd of the local Church in helping to raise the funds necessary so that we will continue the ministry of priestly formation for the future.

Currently, we are in the planning stage of constructing a 21st century library, a project which will also free up space on campus to renovate a second dormitory building for seminarians. The new library will be a state-of-the-art facility to meet the current and future needs of seminarians who come to study at St. Joseph Seminary College.

These significant capital improvements are made possible by generous donations to the I Will Give You Shepherds capital campaign. Improving the facilities that house the programs of priestly formation will ensure St. Joseph Seminary College will continue to provide men with an environment that is conducive to discernment, prayer and study.

The monastic community is most grateful for the strong bond that exists between the people of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and this Abbey as we enter into the next 125 years of our history.

May we all find increasing joy and peace in the Father’s care.

FrBoquet-webIn His Sacred Heart,

Rev. Gregory Boquet, O.S.B.


St. Joseph Seminary College

I Will Give You Shepherds: Notes from Notre Dame Seminary

Dear Friends,

Recently, I have been reflecting upon two exciting transformations taking place at Notre Dame Seminary: the renovation of St. Joseph Hall and graduation. As the nearly $10 million refurbishment of St. Joseph Hall gets underway, our seminarians, faculty, staff, and alumni are grateful for the remarkable generosity of donors to the I Will Give You Shepherds capital campaign, without whom we would not be able to undertake this important renovation. This project will result in new rooms for over 40 seminarians, additional offices for faculty, classrooms, conference rooms, and infrastructure upgrades that are greatly needed. The renovation is anticipated to conclude in August 2016.

NDS Graduation 2015

NDS Graduation 2015 was a joyous occasion!

Notre Dame Seminary hosted commencement exercises on May 6, 2015, in Schulte Auditorium. This year, 18 men who graduated with their master’s degree are preparing for priesthood ordination. Thank you for praying for them as they prepare to devote their lives to the service of Christ and His Church.

In the fall, Notre Dame Seminary will welcome over 30 new seminarians. These men will discern their vocation to the priesthood and prepare for pastoral service and evangelization.

Please keep our seminarians in your prayers, as we promise to pray for you. May we all grow in our call to holiness.

HS_wehnerGod Bless!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Rev. James A. Wehner, S.T.D.

Rector-President, Notre Dame Seminary

Fathers facing their children

By Dr. Tom Neal

tomMy children are now between 13 and 18 years old. Time is not on my side. After my marriage, my vocation to fatherhood defines who I am in ways I can’t even articulate. Though I’ve had many fatherly successes, I also have many regrets. At the top of the list is having squandered precious time. A very fatherly priest once told me, when our children were small: “Remember, Tom, children spell love t-i-m-e. So be extravagant in your investment. Spend time on what they’re interested in. Time spent talking with them, not just at them, is gold. Play with them. If they know you love them by your time-investment, your influence grows exponentially.”

Pope Francis made a similar point recently:

The first necessity is in fact this: that the father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything – joys and sorrows, efforts and hopes. And that he be close to the children in their growth: when they play and when they are busy, when they are carefree and when they are anguished, when they express themselves and when they are silent, when they risk and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find the way again. A father that is present, always! But to be present is not the same as controlling. Because fathers who are too controlling override the children, they do not let them grow.

In my experience, it’s very true that dads often claim work as a reason for their distance from home. It can be so subtle. How many times I’ve done this. A colleague of mine in Florida shared with me a comment his wife’s best friend made to her: “Boy your husband is away from home a lot doing his work!” His wife heartily agreed, and added: “Yes! And even when he’s home, he’s away.” He said to me:

I love my work and my family, but she was absolutely right. It stung me to the heart. My work’s much easier to get lost in and feel productive. I’ve used the “I’m supporting my family” line to justify my frequent absences. But I knew deep down I was running from the challenges of family life. The tedium, the conflicts, the cold prickly stuff. A few months ago, after having an argument with my wife, we prayed about it. I asked God to help me die to myself and live for my family first. After that time, when I came home, I was much more “home.” It’s not always easy, but graces come. The other night my daughter said, “I love your face, daddy.” I lost it. If I’d been away, I would’ve missed that.

O God, be their Father through me

Jackie Kennedy said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” How often I say to myself, “Why can’t I get another shot at this? — I’ve finally gained enough wisdom to do it better.” Each night I fall asleep with a Kyrie eleison, and each morning I awaken with fresh hope.


My family

After my 4th child was born, a priest said to me in Confession: “Isn’t it wonderful God has entrusted His children to you for a such brief time?” I thought, “Wonderful? Stressful!” Then he offered some powerful advice:

Your mission is to help them know and love Him … God wants parenting to be a joint venture, which means you have to ask Him all the time what He wants for them. Ask why He created them. What gifts He’s given them. How best to remedy their sins and weaknesses. Teach them how to hear His voice. The best way to do that is to be a good son of the Father. Listen to His voice. Be close to Jesus who shows us the Father. You don’t possess your children. They’re His. The best news you could ever hear on Judgment Day is that, when you children finally see the face of God, they blurt out: “You remind me of my Dad!”

Be close to your children, dads. They need you.

TomNeal-HSDr. Tom Neal is originally from Rhode Island. He has lived over the years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Iowa and is now proud to be a NOLA Catholic! His wife and four children live in Metairie, LA and they love being called to be saints among Saints.  Dr. Tom Neal presently serves as Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana and has a particular passion for exposing the unlimited potential of theology to offer the faithful a deeper sharing in the mind and heart of Jesus

Culture of Festivity

By Fr. Kyle Sanders

“The phenomenon of genuine celebration … is really present only in religious acts in which man, a creature, can grasp the truly ‘other’ and absolutely ‘new’ world of the glory of God.” – Johannes Pinsk

Jazz Festival. Jazz and Hertiage Stage 2014 by Mr. Schultz [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jazz_and_Heritage_Stage_2014.jpg]

Jazz Festival. Jazz and Hertiage Stage 2014 by Mr. Schultz [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jazz_and_Heritage_Stage_2014.jpg]

I’ve noticed that when I’m explaining New Orleans to people from somewhere else one particular phrase ends up coming out of my mouth: “We’re always looking for an excuse to party.” Without a doubt, we always seem to have a festival going on, especially during this time of the year before the weather has turned extra balmy. We just finished up April and May, when music is abundant at French Quarter, Festival, Jazz Fest, and Festivale Internationale.The Strawberry Festival wasn’t too far ago either. In South Louisiana, we seem to find things to celebrate: the Oyster Festival, the Frog Festival, the Pecan Festival, the Crawfish Festival, the Gretna Festival, and the list can go on and on…

Have you ever wondered why it is that we are so eager to celebrate? Why are we NOLA Catholics, at any moment, ready to get together, cook food, toast, dance, sing and drink? I submit it’s because our area is so culturally Catholic. Catholicism has been so inculturated into South Louisiana that we do things Catholic-y without even intending to. It has become an inheritance from previous generations. “That’s what we’ve always done.” I turn here to the quote, from the German theologian Johannes Pinsk, that started us.Genuine celebration is really only present in religious acts that show us, as St. Catherine so simply put it, “He is God and we are not.” In so doing, the dramatic glory of God is revealed. Catholics for nearly four centuries have experienced that profound mystery every Sunday and many, every day. Such an experience begins to shape the way we see the world, whether we were faith filled or not. We form, after years of attending (maybe not even participating) in Sunday mass a sense of celebration, of festivity.

This is where my favorite German philosopher comes in, Josef Pieper. In speaking of festivity, “To celebrate a festival means to do something which is in no way tied to other goals, which has been removed from all ‘so that’ and ‘in order to.’ True festivity cannot be imagined as residing anywhere but in the realm of activity that meaningful in itself.” Festivity, then, is just because. Worship is just because. Worship is done for the sake of the one worshipped and for no other reason.

The Beaune Altarpiece by Rogier va der Weyden

The Beaune Altarpiece by Rogier va der Weyden

The difficulty now is that many people have substituted the fruit of a culture of celebration and cast aside the tree.  So the “that’s what we’ve always done” syndrome, with regards to the celebrating, begins to settle in. No longer are those next generations attending mass that inspired the current culture. When one settles for the fruits and by doing so uproots the tree, eventually the fruit will rot and we will starve for festivity.

So try this… Enter into the whole ecosystem of the celebration of our Catholic faith. Don’t just eat the fruit but settle in the roots of the tree. Dwell within the true celebration and culture of festivity that is Catholicism.

photoFr. Kyle Sanders grew up in Kenner, graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School, and entered the seminary after graduation. He has been active in blogging since 2007 over at reverencedreading.com where he co-writes about seeing God in the mundane. He’s appeared as a guest on several other blogs and podcasts and is a part-time participant in the podcasts Steampunk Chesterton and SportsFathers. He was ordained a priest in 2012. He is the parochial vicar at St. RIta of Cascia in Harahan and is the chaplain at Cabrini High School. He loves to read, play music, write fiction, and collect fountain pens. You can contact him at ksanders@arch-no.org. Check out Fr. Kyle’s other projects at:


Under the Periscope

By Cory J. Howat

“Explore the world through someone else’s eyes”


Periscope App Icon

This is the tagline of a new Periscope app for iphone and android. If Twitter didn’t scratch your technology itch enough, welcome Periscope. This app basically transforms every phone into a webcam. Install the app, press a button, and everything that comes through your phone’s camera lens is broadcast to the world. People walking around with their phones up in the air is no longer someone just taking a picture. Smile for the live camera! To some people this technology can be a scary proposition. To others, like me, this can be an opportunity… to spread the Good News!

The power of sharing a video with millions is astounding. When I first opened this app, I was transported through this interactive video direct to Nepal. I was in wonder, watching live as a Catholic Relief Services worker on the other side of the globe was ministering to those affected by the recent massive earthquake. I was at the scene – heartbreaking, moving, unifying. Just in those moments, I experienced the transformative effect of connectivity that technology can bring. I wondered, what else was possible?

A few days later, I attended Mass at our archdiocesan building with Archbishop Aymond. I decided “to Periscope” (yes, learn that new verb) the start of Mass. I immediately had users jump on from around the world, and the first online comment was, “I have always wanted to attend a Catholic Mass.” Wow. Digital discipleship! That moment was confirming. As Christians, we have to place ourselves in this new mission territory. For many, I know it ca.n be easy to feel overwhelmed by “all that social media stuff.” It can be a little scary and unknown, but I see this as an opportunity to lean in as Catholics.

During this time in our liturgical year, we hear the stories of the disciples going out spreading the gospel with triumphs and trials.Technology is the new Corinth. I am not proposing technology take the place of face to face relationships. Nothing can replace Paul going to be with the people, just the same as now. But as modern-day Christians, embracing technology is like inviting a friend (or a few hundred friends) along for the journey.

How do we use our social media accounts? Does it convey the joy of Jesus Christ? I was explaining Periscope to a friend and he remarked, “This makes us all public figures.” He is right. This does change our accountability. Isn’t that good? As witnesses to Christ, we need to be visible. Many can look at technology as an increasing “big brother” presence or an invasion of our privacy. Social media is changing from a realm where whatever we post becomes public to whatever we do becomes public. I was encouraged when I saw that witnesses to Christ were already out there in this new frontier. I found a Catholic presence on Periscope, like the early followers in a foreign land. Their presence made it a little easier to join. I could tune into the baccalaureate Mass at Archbishop Rummel High School or interact with our Vocations Director, Fr. Kurt Young during one of his social or spiritual gatherings. I could join evening chant live from a chapel outside of Boston or connect to a candlelight vigil at a small parish in Italy. So I encourage you: Go out there with the zeal of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost! Allow someone else to explore the world through your eyes, but let it be the eyes of Jesus Christ. Go now, pick up your things, login, and follow Him!

You can follow me on twitter or on my Periscope journey @cjhowat

Follow Fr. Kurt Young @Father_Kurt

C Howat Headshot 8-12Cory 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.

Growing Lawns… And Growing Faith

By Dana Doyle

danaI take lots of pleasure and pride in my yard and garden. There is something about working the land, sowing, weeding, trimming, pruning, etc. that feels to primal and fulfills my need to nurture. Recently, I used “Weed and Feed” on my lawn… Well 2/3 of my lawn died and turned to mud!  Ugh!

Consequently, I have spent A LOT of time recently in the yard – raking dead patches of grass to get down to the dirt, spreading new Bermuda seed, watering daily, (getting impatient and planting St. Augustine plugs), watering some more…

dana2I got to thinking today how growing relationships is very much like trying to grow a lawn. It takes work, time, trust and most of all perseverance!  Our relationship with God is no exception. We have to take the time to get to know Him – show Him that we truly have a desire to put Him FIRST in our lives. This involves praying and attending mass even when we don’t feel like it.  It involves reading scripture and faith books.  It involves trusting that God will sprout those little seeds of faith in our lives when we “water daily.”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who was struggling with many stresses and losses in her life.  Why would God allow this?  When will all the suffering end?  How much more?  I wanted so much to be able to give her a quick satisfactory answer, but knew that nothing I could say would placate her sadness.

Life has its ups and downs – to be sure! If things are going great – BAD NEWS – this will change!  If things are going terrible – GOOD NEWS – this will change! Everything in life is subject to change – EXCEPT GOD.  He always was, is and will be – unchanging, almighty!  If we give diligent attention to nurturing the gift of faith (like watering the grass seeds) in the good times, then we will have an abiding peace (the peace that He alone can give) when things happen that test our faith.

God has planted the seeds of faith in your heart.  Get out there, water them and FEEL them grow!

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 www.danardoyle.wordpress.com. Read more about this blogger here.