Lenten Renewal in the Diocese of Shreveport
Shelly Bole, Director of Catechesis, Diocese of Shreveport, LA
With Bishop Michael Duca’s approval, the Diocese of Shreveport began planning in 2012 to implement Living the Eucharist in Lent 2013. We introduced LTE to the clergy and then, since we are a small diocese, began training the Parish Leadership Teams. We also offered the small group leader training in each Deanery. Initially we had hoped for 5 parishes. The numbers grew with over 70% of our parishes participating, including our Hispanic communities and several teen groups (we are a rural diocese with less than 30 parishes).
During Lent we were hearing from parishes about how enrollment was growing and the need for more small group leaders and materials! During the Easter Season we sponsored “Celebration and Evaluation” gatherings to learn about the parish experience of Living the Eucharist. St. Paschal’s in West Monroe organized Hispanic small groups by neighborhoods. Throughout the Diocese Sunday Mass attendance and participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation increased. One small group participant said, “I’ve been poor in the understanding of the faith but this has touched my heart.” St. Anne in Stonewall, one of our more rural parishes, had a teen group with more non-Catholics than Catholic youth! We heard loud and clear the need for more opportunities like this and a desire to continue praying with the Sunday Scriptures using lectio divina.
The long term effects of Living the Eucharist are continuing to unfold. We are encouraging all parishes to begin using lectio divina before all meetings, during faith formation sessions, and with the RCIA. In July, parishes began calling and asking when they would receive the Lent 2014 materials! As the Director of Catechesis and the primary coordinator for Living the Eucharist, I am humbled, thrilled, and elated by the response of our good people.
Our diocese is sponsoring the Center for Ministry Development certificate program for Lifelong Catechesis. One gentleman shared with the entire group during our “Celebration and Evaluation” gathering how he had been a member of his parish for many years. Since it was a small parish, he thought he knew everyone and everything about everyone. But in his LTE small group he found out some of the burdens a specific family had carried years ago – and how another member of his group was going through a similar situation. This man had known these people for years, but never knew the burdens they were carrying. Through LTE he experienced the profound power of FAITH SHARING and praying as a group. Consequently his LTE experience brought forth a desire to be able to serve his parish in a more deliberate way as a catechist. He is now taking a national certification program in Lifelong Catechesis.
Our Diocese had a total of 99 small groups participating during Lent 2013. Next year, like the good shepherd in Matthew 18:12-14 and with the breath of the Holy Spirit, we will go in search of other parishioners who did not participate and offer them the opportunity to encounter Christ and grow in their faith. As I look back on my experience, I realize that Living the Eucharist is going to be an amazing ride and I just need to hang on to the coat tails of the Holy Spirit!