“Human traffickers and criminal networks are taking advantage of technology to reach larger audiences and to do their illicit business more quickly across greater distances,” says Debbie Shinskie, director of the Respect Life Office. She added that because traffickers recruit, advertise and organize their “business” through social communications, while fasting from social media could be a challenge and even a sacrifice for some it is an ideal way to “remember to pray for those who are victims of human trafficking, those who have escaped and those who are working to rebuild their lives.”
We’ve compiled a list of 25 things to do INSTEAD of social media or texting. We hope this list will help you remember that the day is a sacrifice for the victims of human trafficking and in our sacrifice we remember to pray each time we want to check our phone.
To start, it might be wise to temporarily delete all of your social media apps (you can add them back the next day) or put them into a folder on your phone and move that folder to a different page where you can’t see the notifications. This way you aren’t tempted by seeing the apps if you need to be on your phone.
25 things to do instead of social media and texting:
Pray for an end to Human Trafficking.
Write a note to a friend with words of encouragement.
Ask a co-worker or friend how their day is going
Look up, water the plant on your desk or tidy your space
In typical mid-Atlantic weather fashion, the 2016 national March for Life had an extra participant this year — a blizzard. Yet, in spite of ominous early week forecasts before the Friday March, optimistic pro-life advocates set out on their journeys by bus and plane to be a voice for the voiceless, to be a presence that the President, Congress and the Supreme Court need to see. Traveling with Catholic Community Radio’s Wake Up personality, Gaby Smith, and my videographer, Andy, our flight left midday Wednesday, two full days before the March in order to join up with the already-departed #NOLACatholic students at our hotel that evening. This year we were armed with the blessing of technology to keep everyone who would remain in the Archdiocese a part of the pilgrimage with the use of periscope for live posts via Twitter. Upon our landing at Reagan National Airport we were greeted with the news that our airline had posted official travel advisories and that an unexpected snowfall was about to dust Washington. Knowing how winter weather air travel can become tricky, before grabbing our shuttle, we visited the ticket agent (a native of Algiers whose brother owns a coffee shop on Magazine Street!) who suggested rebooking our Saturday return to New Orleans to Monday rather than Sunday as we had hoped. Grateful for his advice about his airport’s handling of winter weather, we did so. This also prompted even more prayer for our bus pilgrims, for their anticipated snowy arrival that evening and for wisdom that their journey would be safely planned in light of the weather’s urgency.
Settling into our hotel that evening involved more than the usual unpacking. There was much to consider with how plans had been made and how the forecast might affect those plans. There were many texts flying back and forth as we prayerfully awaited the waves of bus pilgrims who were now slowed due to the unexpected road conditions. Rumors began to circulate on social media indicating that the March would be cancelled. Emails regarding previously scheduled appointments began rolling into my inbox. Confident that God sees the effort even if the work does not come to fruition, we responded to the texts from the buses with reminders of prayers offered and encouragement to trust in God. We re-tweeted the March for Life’s official announcement that the March would go on no matter what the weather, just as it always has for the last 43 years. We emailed and rescheduled meetings to account for the likely state of emergency that would be declared for Friday.
Finally, almost three hours behind schedule the first of the buses began rolling in. After the standard very long ride, an unexpected flat tire and a treacherous last few miles of terrible road conditions, the students bounded off the buses with such joy! They had made it and were ready to tell the world “Why we march!” There was not one face that was tired. Not one student or chaperone was without a glow of anticipation to be a voice and a presence for the nation, and even the world, to see. Optimism flowed freely, and at their gathering later that evening to prepare for the next morning’s Geaux Forth Rally, the room thundered with hope. This is the pro-life generation!
Day two in Washington found us gathering with pilgrims from Lake Charles Diocese at the Geaux Forth Rally. It was here that the weather really began to make an impact as we found out that Baton Rouge Diocese students were returning to Louisiana that day and that Lafayette and Houma-Thibodeaux students were also not coming. This was also the day that it became hard to ignore the blizzard forecast. Secretly, I’m sure many of us were hoping that the forecast would calm down to another light dusting of snow for the day of the March, but the opposite was true. Government agencies were speaking of things like states of emergency and airport closures and public transit shutdowns. Whether the students at Geaux Forth were fully aware of these plans or not, the spirit of standing up for life won the morning. Louisiana Right to Life Co-Youth Directors, Alex Seghers and Krista Corbello, along with Transform DJs wound up the crowd with words and music. Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser, and Louisiana Attorney General, Jeff Landry, not only gave words of inspiration, but undoubtedly received some of their own from the students’ enthusiastic reception of them. David Scotton, Louisiana State University senior and adoption speaker who survived his birth mother’s visit to an abortion clinic, told his story and shared the trailer plus some clips of the documentary about his life, “I Lived on Parker Avenue”. Not only did they hear David’s amazing experience, but they were told of the chance awaiting them on the bus ride home to preview the entire documentary. Sarah Mary Toce equipped the students with words of wisdom when responding to those who are skeptical of pro-life wisdom.
As Geaux Forth was nearing the end, I left early to join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Mass and reception for pro-life leadership. We were blessed to be able to go to Mass with Cardinal Dolan, the new chairman of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat. His homily captured perfectly what I had witnessed in previous Marches and in the faces of our students the night before — this work we do for life is a work of joy! No doubt, the reason why there is a March for Life is one of the most gruesome reasons imaginable, we go forth in the work we do with joy because we share in Christ’s work upon earth. This knowledge of doing the necessary work of being the presence of Christ for those who most need to see it can only win when it is done in joy and in love. We do the work desiring to see life, life to the fullest, for all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, those who are fearful of the unexpected pregnancy and those who work in the abortion industry. Only the face of love, of joy will show those who need it the most the face of Christ.
Doing Christ’s work, however, is not without unexpected twists and turns. This year’s March for Life was no exception. At the USCCB reception my phone lit up with texts and calls. Those back in Louisiana were wondering, given the gravity of the weather forecast, what would happen? The storm that was being called a blizzard was only one day away from hitting Washington. How would the busses fare? Archbishop Aymond, in consultation with staff and even a meteorologist, shepherded his students to safety, calling them home to Louisiana that afternoon. As one would expect this was difficult for the students, yet what a perfect sacrifice to offer for the sin of abortion and the conversion of hearts to life.
God chose a different way to witness for life this year for many pilgrims. Some of us stayed and sent live broadcasts back, finding shelter in our hotels just as the blizzard roared into the city. Others left two full days early, not even spending a full 24 hours in Washington, making it back to New Orleans in time to send a very tired remnant of students to the Louisiana Life March the very next day in Baton Rouge. Others from parts west of Washington were stranded in their buses for over 24 hours on roadways, offering shelter, food, water, and even the holy sacrifice of Mass on an altar of snow to weary road warriors. Many years it seems as if the March for Life, which brings hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of thousands to Washington DC as a witness for life, is barely a blip on the radar of national news, but not this year. It is hard to ignore the tens (yes, tens!) of thousands of us who stayed in spite of the historic forecast. It is hard to ignore the arduous journeys of the countless who came to Washington from very far on buses and left almost immediately. It is hard to ignore those who were stranded on their returns, and in spite of the great hardships of that, still were the hands and feet and joy of Christ. I must question, would this annual shout for life have been heard so far and wide without the aid of a blizzard? Quite possibly when the blizzard chose to march with us, it was the best thing for our voice.
It’s a celebratory day for Nola as we kick off Mardi Gras season. I would think most people picture beads and king cakes upon hearing the name “New Orleans” and it seems fitting since the tradition of this cake has been around for roughly 300 years! What’s amazing for us as #NOLACatholics is that the King Cake is enriched in Catholic meaning. It’s a wonderful thing that a city gets to celebrate it’s Catholic and cultural traditions together especially when it comes in the form of a delicious pastry and family gatherings.
The name “King Cake” refers to the biblical three kings of the Epiphany. “Epiphany” is the revelation of God the son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The visit of the Magi (Three kings) is emphasized on this day and they are represented in the three colors on top of the cake. Purple symbolizes justice, green symbolizes faith, and gold symbolizes power. The traditional king cake baby symbolizes the infant Jesus. It’s a simple meaning still strong in tradition today.
Many families here begin parties to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth night. Share your Twelfth night traditions with us! Does your family exchange gifts, read scripture or have a special dinner? Let us know how you celebrate your faith via #NOLACatholic!
An extraordinary and hopefully transformative year will begin for the Church on December 8th. With the opening of the Cathedral Holy Year Door, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin, fittingly so on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The model of this spiritual disposition of mercy is the Virgin Mary. She carries in her heart and in her womb the fullness of God’s hope and mercy.
How appropriate as the entire Christian world hears the invitation of Pope Francis to rediscover the common horizon towards which we are all journeying. He stressed this as he met with both evangelical and Muslim leaders in Africa. He stresses it with us too. This horizon is the horizon of hope and mercy!
The liturgical season of Advent restores this horizon of hope and mercy, which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ.
In this year of jubilee having passed through the threshold of the Holy Year Door at The Cathedral of St. Louis King of France, we are reminded, from the scriptures, that Jesus is the way, the gate and the door. To journey through this door is a reminder to all that we too need to be both purveyors and recipients of God’s hope and mercy…hence the Archdiocesan logo: Try-Show-Live God’s Mercy!
May this Jubilee Year of Mercy remind us that the hallmark of Christians should be joy, peace, and mercy even in the midst of difficult times. When we become discouraged by the state of the world, the squabbling in families, economic difficulties, and even scandals in the church and the world may we never stop seeking the the mercy of God and sharing that mercy with others.
It’s that time of year again! How quickly it seems to have come upon us! The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. I think it is the ever-increasing awareness of the flight of time that has given me motivation to count my blessings not just during this month of Thanksgiving, but every day of every month of the year!
In most recent months, my family seems to have been bitten by the “homesteading bug” – a desire to move a bit farther out in order to plant food crops, keep bees and maybe raise some livestock. This is interesting because my husband and I were both raised in the suburbs of New Orleans, and know nothing about farm life – other that what we’ve seen in movies!
Part of the goal of homesteading is to become self-sufficient – less dependent on others for the basic necessities of life. This is not our goal, however. We feel a longing for a more simple life – a life of total dependence on God – a life of added freedom from all the noise and hustle that constantly tries to pull us away from communion with our Creator. Instead of going to the gym for fitness, we’d prefer to work the land.
In driving around looking at property, we’ve traveled to many different kinds of places. Last weekend, when we returned home from our search, we realized how good we already have it. Though our dreams and yearnings led us to think that there is something greener out there for us, what we already do have is pretty incredible. God has provided amazingly for our family every step of the way – even (and especially) when the outlook was most bleak. Trust in Him is never misplaced! His love for all of His children is so great that we can completely abandon ourselves to His care. God is Father, and God is faithful! We still may become farmers someday, but in the meantime, we are appreciating each and every day that the Lord has given us together where we dwell right now, remembering that tomorrow is not promised.
When I get up in the morning, before I even get out of bed, I say, “Thank you God for this day – another opportunity to know, love and serve you better.” That’s what today is for each of us – another opportunity to get it right!
While it is easy to thank God in the most joyous times in our lives – the births, the weddings, the graduations – but a time of trial brings gratitude to a whole new level. Do we thank God for the crosses in our lives that make us sharers in His cross? Do we offer up our sufferings for the salvation of other souls? Are we worried about the souls of others outside of our family circle, or are we just concerned with our own? Do we look upon Jesus’ body on the crucifix with a flood of gratitude for what His death and resurrection mean for us? Are we living focused on the things of this world – all we can do and acquire – or are we keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and eternal life?
I am very grateful for having grown up in and around the city of New Orleans. Here, there are Catholic churches on nearly every corner. Here, we have many wonderful priests who sacrifice their lives to administer the sacraments and lead us to Jesus. Here, we can receive The Blessed Sacrament everyday of the week if we so desire. There are still places in the world where people have to wait months for a priest to come through town in order for them receive Holy Communion. How blessed we truly are to live in a city pervaded with Catholicity! May we never take that for granted!
During this Thanksgiving season, please think of paying a visit to Jesus in one of New Orleans’ beautiful churches or adoration chapels. Sit in the stillness and silence and rest awhile before the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping begins. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) There in the tabernacle Jesus waits for us to approach Him with thankful hearts. There He waits to fill us with His grace and blessing! May God bless you and yours with a happy and holy Thanksgiving!
For a list of adoration chapels in New Orleans, please visit:
“What does it mean to be black and Catholic? It means that I come to my church fully functioning….I bring myself, my black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I’m worth, all I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching
and healing and responsibility as a gift to the church.”
Since November is designated Black Catholic History Month, I thought it appropriate to address a question that I have been asked over the past 15 years of my full-time ministry. “Why ‘Black’ and Catholic?
I began full-time ministry as the youth minister of my home parish, St. Peter Claver – a predominately Black Catholic Parish. Following Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to become the Coordinator of Black Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the CYO Office of the Archdiocese of New Orleans where I serve today. I also teach at Xavier University of Louisiana’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies during the summer. I first encountered these types of questions during speaking engagements or when talking about this ministry with a person of another race. Most of the time they are asked out of respectful curiosity, “Why does something have to be labeled as ‘Black and Catholic’ and not just ‘Catholic?’” I like to describe how it’s similar to when our brothers and sisters of other cultural backgrounds (i.e. Hispanic, Asian, etc) uplift their expression of Catholicism while acknowledging their heritage. A difference in culture assumes that there is a difference in verbal language, but the “language” among Black Catholics, specifically African-American Catholics, also extends to our artwork, dress, history, music, and other forms of expression.
Black Catholics have been around since the foundation of the Church. Many scholars point to stories of black people in biblical times; from the Old Testament tribes, Simon of Cyrene that helped Jesus carry his cross, to the Ethiopian Eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles. Black Catholics were here when the first Catholics set foot, and established cities, in this country in St. Augustine, Florida in 1513 and Los Angeles, California in 1765. Though we have been long standing members of the Church since the beginning, throughout history Black Catholic’s have felt that the Church viewed us as “second-class citizens”. There was a time when we had a designated time to receive communion and sanctioned areas where we had to sit in certain churches. Unfortunately, the Church wasn’t immune to racism in the past and historically, Black Catholic’s expression of faith was not always viewed as “authentically Catholic,” and our historical contributions to the faith have been ignored in the past. Many Black Catholics left the faith because of these factors but fortunately many others chose to stay despite them and put their hope in God that a Church without racism was on the horizon.
Today, this is why positions like mine (Offices of Black Catholics) and organizations like the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver exist; to make sure that we, as Black Catholics (African-American, Caribbean, African, etc.) unite our history, heritage and culture together to share our gifts in communion with the whole Catholic Church. These programs that are labeled “black” are not a way to separate, but an avenue to enrich and educate all Catholics about our rich heritage. Our history, our dedication to the Faith, our contributions to the church remind all of us that the Church is one body, with many unique parts that work together for Christ’s mission.
To truly commemorate this historic month,
ALL ARE INVITED to join us for our annual Black Saints Celebration on 11/14 (flier below)
I would like to share a reflection about a dear soul that spent his time on earth bringing the light of Christ to others. I hope this message may help those grieving a loss cling that much closer to our Lord.
A cloudy Monday morning. The perfect setting for my mind to drift. It doesn’t help that I’m sleep deprived from my youngest son teetering between teething and a cold for a month now. My wife and I could sure use some doctor-ly advice to comfort our weary parent-souls. Here in-lies the challenge, to add to the clouds this Monday, I am missing our pediatrician this morning. Our pediatrician was a man that gave us so much comfort, friendship, love and care, but he is no longer with us on earth.
Many of you may have heard the story by now of this amazing pediatrician that captured the hearts of so many. He captured my wife and I’s heart right before we had our first child. As a highly recommended referral from a friend, we went to go meet him with all the nerves of a new parent. We arrived with suspicions in hand just like many parents expecting their first child. This doctor had a fairly new practice and acted more like my big brother. A firm hand shake and a gentle smile met us at the door. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe behind his desk scattered any semblance of discomfort. His openness to our uneasiness was the peace of Christ. Dr. Collins exuded a warmth and wisdom above his own. Little did we know that his gifts would only be on loan to this world for a brief time, a much shorter time than we signed up for that day.
Dr. Collins was called home to His heavenly Father on the 10th anniversary of Katrina. He passed after a brief battle with a very rare form of cancer. It was so quick; we didn’t even get to say a true goodbye. In truth, only now, with his passing, am I able to fully process. He left behind a wife and a beautiful budding family. The loss felt by all those families and babies that were cared for by Keith combined will never amount to their pain, but it still hurts not having him here. Where is our doctor on this cloudy Monday morning to help bring healing to our kids, our family?
Of all the lessons to learn from Keith, one big lesson sticks with me the best. Keith had a unique way to cut through some serious and intense times, especially around tender topics of your children’s health. He provided each individual including parents and children comfort that touched your soul. He did it with a smile and charm. You never thought for once that Keith was working or charging you. He was present with you. He lived his profession as a vocation. You could tell that part of his calling on earth was to bring healing. He was a godly man, but he didn’t preach a word. You could tell he was a disciple of Jesus Christ simply in the way that he used his medical training to bring healing. He did it with gentle action. His example alone was the greatest gift he could have given me as a father. Keith extended Christ into his work… into his profession… into his vocation… into my family. As the Bible reminds us of these faith-filled words, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Keith truly lived this example.
As a disciple, Keith lived out his profession with its ups and downs, trying to bring Christ to those he helped heal through medicine. We often hear of Christ referred to as the great healer. The greatest compliment I could have ever given Keith is that I would often see Christ in him, Christ the Pediatrician. As Catholics, we use the examples of people that live out their faith as motivation and inspiration. We call them saints, and they live amongst us but we are also called to be the next saints and Keith showed us that daily. Let us all look at how we can be like Christ in our own work, to bring comfort, mercy, healing or whatever it is that we do to those that need us. Those that need us are right in front of us. Let us look up on those cloudy days like today, say a prayer of thanksgiving for his example and the examples of all that we knew, and try to live like Keith! Though I can say with almost certainty that if Keith was sitting across from me in the examination room, he would say it himself, don’t live like Keith, live like Jesus.