Category Archives: Scholars

Rest in the Lord, Sister Natalia

Another one of our classmates has left our world to dwell with God. Sister Natalia Zotov of Ruston enrolled in Catholic Biblical School last year with Jim McGill’s class and joined us in August for the first of the combined classes. But shortly thereafter she became ill and missed the rest of our classes. Sister Natalia died last week of cancer. Greco Institute director Father Pat Madden is leading the funeral service today in Hodge. Deacon Terry Walsworth led the vigil tonight. God bless Terry and Alece, our Year 3 classmates, for taking such good care of Sister Natalia.

From Ginger:
“The funeral home has a wonderful page dedicated to her. Just click on her name, Natalia Zotov. There are some wonderful pictures under the memories section.”

From Jim McGill:
“Natalia was a brilliant, insightful and always intriguing person. I will miss her quick wit and gentle spirit. May she rest in the Lord’s peace.”

I met Sr. Natalia only once, last August at our first Year 3 class. Group 4 was blessed to have her at our table. I was immediately intrigued by her life story (from New Zealand to Ruston, with Russia and China in her family background) and eager to learn more about how she found the Lord and the Dominicans. She shall remain a vivid and brilliant memory, a star in the cosmos at rest with the Lord and all her loved ones. Pray for us, Sister Natalia.


November Prayer


In Catholic Biblical School we meet often in group session, sharing our thoughts and insights with the same eight people through the year, growing in love and respect for each other. The groups take turns starting each Saturday class with a morning prayer. Last year, Marcie Rankins and Ginger Broussard were in the group leading the prayer of November, All Souls month. Also in the group: Winona Ward, who died that September.

The prayer they used honored all our departed loved ones. Marcie told Ginger how much she loved the prayer and would use it herself this year if November was her group’s month. Instead it was Ginger’s… and we lost Marcie on November 8 to complications from a brain aneurysm.

Here is the prayer Ginger offered on Saturday, November 12, the day of Marcie’s funeral.

November wraps its dampened shroud
‘round nature’s shoulders hunched:
Our souls know well the chill
Of summer’s passing and winter’s drawing near …
Bare limbs scratch against gray skies,
and snatch a mourner’s veil
From hearts laid bare in shivering loss,
Alone, exposed in grief …
November, Lord: no other month
could better claim the name All Souls
Or set the scene for praying, weeping,
Remembering those before us gone
And marked with signs of faith …
So this November morning, Lord,
I offer my beloved: created from your hand,
Claimed by grace and carried
In the everlasting arms of your embrace …
I especially offer you my prayer today
For family members and friends who have died
I offer you from my heart’s depths
The ones I struggle to let go …
I offer you a prayer of tears
For those whose absence fills my silent hours …
I offer from my hands to yours
The ones whose hands held mine
until you took them home …
I offer from a selfish heart
The ones I bruised and hurt:
I pray you heal the wounds I caused,
And for your mercy beg …
I offer up a prayer
For those with none to pray for them:
Brothers, sisters never met;
Sisters, brothers mine,
For all are one in you …
I offer you my grief, O Lord,
Refresh me in your tender care;
Make deep my faith I’ll see again
All those I’ve lost when,
Gathered in your kingdom’s joy,
Your mercy makes us one again …
Beneath November’s canopy
Walk others, Lord, who know as well as I
The depths of this month’s memories
And all the souls for whom we pray:
Keep us gentle with each other, Lord,
And mindful of what binds us in your love …
Accept my mourning offering, Lord,
On this November day
And through the night until it dies
And wakes again, a new day born,
The day that you have made …

Missing Marcie

Today and tomorrow we bid farewell to our friend and classmate Marcie Rankins; the services are at St. Jude’s in Bossier, which she served so well as Director of Religious Education. Our sadness at her sudden death is lightened by the certainty that she’s welcomed heartily to  the communion of saints. May her family take comfort in God’s loving embrace.

We shall miss Marcie’s wisdom and insights, especially in group discussion. Don’t you know she’s getting some profound questions answered! Send some of your newfound wisdom our way, Marcie, and pray for us …

Our instructors Jim McGill and Gene Giuliano join us in paying tribute.

“We honor Marcie by recalling her steady determination, her wry intelligence and her distinctively gentle way of being a friend, a co-worker and a truly good person. May she rest in peace.”~ Jim McGill

“My prayer is that strength can be found in each other and of course in the One from whom all love and strength comes. I join with you in mourning, in grieving, and in joyful hope and confidence in the happiness that is Marcie’s.”~ Gene Giuliano

Here is a link to her obituary in The Shreveport Times:

Year 3 begins …

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...

Image via Wikipedia

We return to Old Testament for Year 3 of Catholic Biblical School. I’m excited by the addition of several new classmates, hailing from northeast Louisiana and Texarkana, Texas. My group includes two transfers from the Monroe/Ruston program and two locals entirely new to CBS. That should make for lively interaction within the group, which I love.

Our instructor again is Jim McGill, well-known to many in our diocese as he was an instructor at Greco Institute for a number of years. Again, he drives to Shreveport once a month from Dallas to lead our daylong Saturday sessions covering three separate lessons.

Having finished Years 1 and 2, Foundations of Old Testament and Foundations of New Testament, we qualify for University of Dallas certificates in Basic Biblical Studies.

Theme this year is Exile and Restoration. We will cover major and minor prophets, Lamentations, Chronicles, Ruth, Song of Solomon and Psalms. Frankly, I know very little about any of these books in the Bible, and I’m looking forward to making their acquaintance.

Already I’m beginning to sense the formative nature of the exile for Judaism – a powerful parallel to wandering in the wilderness.

Pray for the children …

I stayed in Czech Republic a few days to visit distant cousins. I was pleased to attend Sunday Mass with my third cousin Mary in a village church in the area where my great-great-grandfather lived. Many Czech churches are empty on Sundays. Atheism and agnosticism are quite high after decades of Soviet rule. But this church, dedicated to St. Wenceslaus, was almost full.

Afterward there was a Marian devotion at the side altar, pictured here. You can see only one of the three altar servers. Two were adults. One was a charming youngster who reminded me of the halo-askew “Littlest Angel.” He couldn’t have been more than 7 years old. His chasuble was two sizes too big at the neck and gapped to one side. His shock of light hair was mussed, partly standing straight up. He hadn’t a clue what to do but was enjoying the experience!

Pray for this boy and others like him. Three generations of young Czechs have grown up without a faith tradition. What a great irony that Neumann left the heavily Catholic Bohemia for missionary work in the United States. He’d finished seminary training but wasn’t ordained because there were too many priests in Bohemia. Today, his homeland is in greater need of missionary work than the U.S. … May we never take for granted our precious right to freedom of worship.

A bit of Redemptorist hospitality!

Bohemia is my father’s ancestral homeland. Both sets of his
grandparents left in the 1870s and settled in Nebraska. Here I am with kolaches like my grandmother used to make! The photo was taken at Svata Hora (Holy Mountain), a Marian shrine that has welcomed pilgrims since the 1500s.  It is now run by Redemptorists, the same missionary order St. John  Neumann and Blessed Francis  Seelos joined in the 1840s to serve immigrants in America.  In Munich and Gars am Inn in Germany, in Vienna, and here in Svata Hora, we were invited into the residence for some Redemptorist hospitality. If you’d like to know more about this part of my trip, please see my blog postings (“Where Saints Walked”) on the Redemptorist website. Here’s a link to the first:

(Photo courtesy of Cecilia Woodley)

An end and a beginning …

The Alpha and the Omega, in a portrait of St. John Neumann in his hometown of Prachatice, Bohemia, Czech Republic. I joined a Neumann Bicentennial Year Pilgrimage in May honoring Neumann and another Redemptorist, Blessed Francis Seelos, who died in New Orleans in 1867. We also visited the birthplace of Seelos in Bavaria (southern Germany) and cathedrals, basilicas and Marian shrines in Austria and Czech Republic. The portrait was done after Neumann was named bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia. … Having just studied Revelation with its Alpha and Omega theme, I thought this was a fitting segue to Year 2 of Catholic Biblical School. Two more photos to come.