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“IT” happens “everywhere-but-here”
| July 16, 2016


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Only, now… it HAS happened...HERE...in OUR town...in our little corner of Westport...here at Saint Luke...in the parish where I live and serve as pastor.

I have been here for almost 19 years and have many times raised a prayer of thanksgiving that violence and vandalism have not forced their way into the life and home of our faith communities as it has “elsewhere.”

That is no longer the case. But let’s keep it in perspective:

  • No one was injured by the events that happened here on 13 July.
  • The monetary value of damage to masonry, electrical systems, and statuary – relatively minor – is insignificant in comparison with the loss of human life – and completely covered by insurance that all Catholic institutions are required to have.
  • Various aspects of the way that the damage was done hint at much deeper psychological issues that must be addressed, not only for this individual perpetrator, but for a much wider population.
  • The worst of this event is a sense of being violated somehow in something or someone that we hold sacred and beloved.

Consider the following items that have recently dominated the news:

  • Debates about the regulation of firearms
  • Incidents in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Nice and elsewhere
  • Heightened interracial and immigrational tensions – even while the Westport-Weston-Norwalk religious communities rejoice to welcome and provide for a Syrian refugee family
  • Repeated reports about how people can be bullied and demeaned by various “social” media to the point of desperation
  • Suicides among our people: teens, police officers and any of our neighbors
  • The political climate, especially in a presidential election year
  • Reports about how 80% of people admit to participating in incidents of “road rage” (CBS Newsradio, 14 July 2016)
  • (fill in your own blank about how any one person or group is treating another with contempt or anger for any reason of being “different” or “unworthy”).

I submit for our consideration, dear neighbors, that too much of our energy – collective and individual, national and local, emotional and psychological is – as the Scriptures say – spent on straining at the gnat while swallowing the camel. In other words, we are wasting a HELL of a lot of energy and bringing a HELLISH existence upon ourselves because we are ever trying to swat at the symptoms while avoiding the core disease and question: what are the angers and the frustrations and the sense of helplessness and powerlessness that are boiling up within people driving them to act-out in destructive ways? More importantly: how must each of us bear a share of the responsibility for that? Because every human being does so.

A colleague of mine from many years ago and now in the next life, once spoke in a completely different context to reflect on the image of watching intently the pot of water that his grandmother placed on the stove to cook the pasta for their weekly Sunday Italian dinner. At the very beginning, there was nothing. Then, barely visible currents of warm water could be seen interacting with the colder water. I’ve since learned that those barely visible currents – like plumes of clear heat rising from our chimneys into the cold air of the winter – are called “schlerins.” Then, little by little, tiny bubbles of steam would form on the bottom. One bubble would nudge up against another bubble and combine to make a bigger one...again and again and again. Bubbles would begin to rise to the surface, one by one, until the whole pot would suddenly break into a FURIOUS full-rolling boil.

Beginning as neighbors on our streets and in our schools and workplaces and towns – as families around our dining room tables – we need to become aware of and address the schlerins – what are the subtle unnoticed currents of “hot” and “cold” in our community, silently and invisibly clashing with one another? What are the stresses and the pressures that we place upon ourselves – and one another – that will lead first to small and then ever-growing bubbles of emotional steam to become full rolling boils of anger, hatred, addiction, desperation, and fear?

I’m not wise enough to have a magic “one-size-fits-all” answer, and surely a psychotic episode cannot be put on a par with other ways of acting out and seeking relief. But I firmly believe nonetheless that each of us – however old or young, privileged and advantaged or less so, whatever our cultural background – has it within us to make choices every day to turn down the heat with and for one another –however modestly so.

Can we? Will we?

Monsignor Andy Varga
Pastor, Saint Luke Church, Westport CT


Reaching out to our Young People not in our Pews
| June 24, 2016


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FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK

Our Young Adult Open Gym night, held every Tuesday in St. Joseph School gym from 8-10 p.m., draws many college guys home for the summer, along with the senior high school students and young working guys in their twenties who turn out regularly for the pickup basketball games. Last Tuesday there were 15 young men there, largely ages 16 to 24, most of whom I knew from St. Joseph Parish or School.

argely ages 16 to 24, most of whom I knew from St. Joseph Parish or School. I like to sit and observe the action for a while from the edge of the stage, chatting with the different guys as they rotate in and out. It helps me keep in touch with our young parishioners.

As every study shows, the percentage of Americans claiming no specific religious affiliation is significantly growing, even when they still believe in God and Jesus Christ. And across all faith and denominational lines, the religious practice of the Millennials and Gen-Xers is much less church- and parish-based than for the Boomers and the Great Generation. Any Church community looking to the future, therefore, has to ask itself: are we reaching out to our young people where they are, not where we are?  If that means opening up a gym once a week, we as a parish are all for it!
                           
– Monsignor Chris Walsh


Promote life by protecting, sharing clean water, pope says
| February 24, 2017 • by Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said.

"The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity," the pope said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a "Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.


Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, "I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water."

Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, he said. "Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be protected."

Citing "troubling" statistics from the United Nations, the pope said, "each day -- each day! -- a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water."

While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he said. "Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care -- that may sound poetic, but that is fine because creation is a poem."

Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water "so that others can live," he said.

A lack of clean and safe drinking water "is a source of great suffering in our common home," the pope said. "It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right."

"We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all," he said.

If each person contributes, he said, "we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity."


Statement of the Diocese of Bridgeport regarding Amber Alert
| February 24, 2017


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Related to the Amber Alert for six-year old Aylin Sofia Hernandez, the Diocese of Bridgeport can confirm that she is a First Grade student at St. Raphael Academy in Bridgeport.


School officials have been in contact with the Bridgeport police regarding this matter and are fully cooperating with them in their investigation. They are awaiting confirmation of media reports that the student has been found.

Members of the diocesan Safe Environment Team and Catholic Charities are on hand to work with teachers, staff, and children as they process this trauma.  Counselors will also be available on Monday to help the children and the school community come to terms with the event.

An email letter has been sent to all parents to assure them that this tragedy is a result of a domestic situation and does not pose any safety threats to the children or staff.

The Diocese is grateful to the Bridgeport Police for their handling of the situation and for the fact that Alyn has been safely recovered. We ask prayers for the student and her family as we continue to work with them in the coming days.


Pope’s vision is one of “encounter and openness” says Nuncio to the U.S.
| February 23, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—The vision of Pope Francis for the 21st Century Catholic Church is one of “openness, encounter, and engagement with the world,” Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre said last night at Sacred Heart University, in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.


Photo Credit: Sacred Heart University


More than 300  students and faculty and the general public turned out to hear the Nuncio’s address in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Earlier in the day he received an Honorary Degree. It was his first college campus visit and honorary degree since being appointed Papal Nuncio to the U.S. in 2016.

The Nuncio said the Pope believes that Church “can’t be self-referential and wait for the world to come to it.” Rather it must reach out to people where they are and help them to encounter Christ both in their person life and the community of the Church.

He noted that Pope Francis often uses the images of the Church as a “field hospital, light house, and torch in the night to rescue those in distress” by bringing God’s mercy and love.

“The Church is place for urgent care and a sign of hope in the midst of a present day storm,” he said.

“The Pope believes that we are not so much living in an era of change, but change of era,” he said,  an era requiring “missionary discipleship” and seeing the concrete reality of peoples’ lives and challenges.

Throughout his nearly one-hour address, the Nuncio returned to terms such as solidarity, dialogue, inclusion, and mercy to describe the Pope’s vision.

“Pastoral care is nothing other than exercise of the Church’s motherhood. Without mercy, the Church can’t be part of a world of wounded persons in need of love.”

Throughout his talk, the Nuncio emphasized that being Christian is not simply a matter of accepting ideas or ideology.  “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or lofty ideas,  but the encounter with an event, the person of Christ who gives us life.”

Several times the Nuncio, who has traveled with the Pope, described him as “man of discernment who doesn’t see the world in black and white.”

He drew laughter from the audience when he said they should remember that like other Jesuits, the Pope is “a man of incomplete thoughts” who continues to explore the Church’s response to the modern world.

The Nuncio said that the Pope’s thought is in “continuous development” and that he is not “locked into one rigid plan” to bring the Church’s mercy and teachings to the world.

He said the Holy Father continually challenges the flock to get out of their comfort zone and identify with those who are suffering and vulnerable throughout the world.

“Pope Francis has traveled to areas of conflict and places in the periphery” all over the world to dramatize the plight of those whose lives have been overturned by hunger, political upheaval and religious persecution.

“He brings the mercy of Christ to those at the margins,” the Nuncio said, adding that the Pope sets a personal example as a “witness of peace.”

The Nuncio said that much of the focus of the Francis papacy has been on the Christian challenge to respond to the immense migration of people all over the globe.

“Pope Francis tells us that these are not people in search of a better future—they are  are simply seeking a future in the face of certain death,” if they don’t leave their home countries.  

“To keep others out is an affront to human dignity. Where there is a wall, there is a closed heart. We need to build bridges, not walls,” he said.

After his talk, the Nuncio took questions from audience members who used the microphone in the center aisle.

In response to a question by a student who asked how the Church should respond to the surge in populist and nationalist  governments that are hostile to refugees, the Nuncio said the Church is not political or ideological.

He said that that Pope Francis seeks a “collegial relationship” with governments and that people should not  expect “confrontation between the Pope and world leaders.”  

The Archbishop seemed momentarily taken back when a man asked him if the Church was near schism because some Cardinals have asked for clarity on the Pope’s thoughts concerning divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion as discussed in Amoris Laetitia, the post synod apostolic exhortation of the Pope.

 “You should be careful what you say—you should not dramatize that,” he said. “The Church is not near schism or divided over the challenge. People should read it carefully,” he added, noting that most Bishops have worked within the spirit of the Pope’s teaching and are responding to people in their particular situation.

When asked by a young woman what young people should do who are discerning a vocations, he said, “The major source in discernment is prayer. It helps people to recognize in their own lives what God wants.”

The Nuncio’s talk was co-sponsored by the Diocesan Leadership Institute of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The Nuncio was introduced by Father Anthony Ciorra ,  assistant vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity at Sacred Heart University. “He’s an alumni now. He’s one of ours’,” Fr. Ciorra said. The Sacred Heart University Choir sang, “Lord we pray for unity” to begin the evening’s program.


Youngster’s “Highly Effective” ER Project
| February 23, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—Sarah Maynard of Fairfield, is already incorporating the principles of affecting change into her life at the tender age of 12 as evidenced by the project she came up with to help children who come to St. Vincent’s Emergency Room.


Sarah Maynard (R) gets a very positive reaction as she presents
one of her activity bags to a thrilled Carmen Gonzalez(6) of Bridgeport.


Sarah Maynard (L), 12, of Fairfield presents children’s activity bags
to St. Vincent’s Emergency Department Operations Medical Director
Steven Valassis, MD, and to Clinical Nurse Educator Elizabeth Saska,
RN at the hospital recently.

Remembering a time when she had to visit a local ER and felt bored and worried, the 7th grade student at Fairfield Woods Middle School, came up with a project for her health class that would help occupy children’s minds while they spent those anxious moments waiting to be seen in the Emergency Department.

Sarah collected little toys, coloring, puzzle and other types of books from classmates, friends and family members to create “Activity Bags” to be distributed to children who visit the ER. She even customized the bags for girls and boys and different age groups.

The very creative assignment from health class called for a project based on  Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and based on the reaction of St. Vincent’s staff and the first young patient to receive one of the bags, Sarah has succeeded. Her willingness to share her experience and use her problem-solving skills and initiative to devise a solution that will benefit so many children could be a Covey case study! But Sarah says her motivation also came from a very simple philosophy, “I just want people to be happy.”

Thank you, Sarah, for a very creative idea and a willingness to help others!


"Fairfield at 75" — Rev. Thomas J. Regan Bellarmine Lecture, February 22
| February 22, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—Rev. Thomas J. Regan, S.J., will present his lecture, "Fairfield University 1942-2017: Seventy-Five Years and Counting!" at the annual Fairfield University Bellarmine Lecture in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room on Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm.


The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the University’s Center for Catholic Studies.

Fr. Regan argues that “from its humble beginnings in the early years of World War II, Fairfield University has emerged as one of the remarkable success stories in American higher education. In only 75 years, it has earned its rightful place alongside other institutions whose roots date back to the seventeenth century. The quality of the Jesuit education that Fairfield offers to undergraduates is really second to none.”

A native of Waltham, Mass., Fr. Regan entered the Society of Jesus in 1976, and was ordained a priest in 1987. Prior to ordination, he taught religious studies at Fordham Prep and philosophy at Fairfield University and Boston College. In 1988, he was appointed assistant professor of philosophy at Fairfield University where he subsequently received tenure and was promoted to associate professor. He served as acting chair (1992–1993) and then chair of the Philosophy Department (1993–2000) and co-director of the program in legal studies from 1996–2000. From 2000–2002, he was associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. He served six years as the national president of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Honor Society for all Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, and is a past president of the Jesuit Philosophical Association. In 2003, he was appointed to a six-year term as Provincial of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus. After completing his term as provincial, he taught philosophy as a visiting professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (2010) and at Fordham University in New York (2010–2011). He currently serves as the Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago.

The Bellarmine Lecture is an annual lecture sponsored by Catholic Studies that features a distinguished Jesuit. Past speakers include Rev. James Martin, S.J., Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J., and Rev. John W. Padberg, S.J.

For more information about the lecture or the Center for Catholic Studies, contact Michelle Ross at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Teens to fast to fight hunger
| February 21, 2017


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NORWALK—The St. Philip Youth Group is sponsoring its fourteenth annual 30 Hour Famine the weekend of February 25 and 26 for middle and high school students in Norwalk and the neighboring towns.


"The teens will fast for the 30 hours while performing service in the community and participating in prayer and other activities to bring awareness of the stark reality of hunger around the world while, in fact, there is enough food to provide every person in the world with at least 2,720 calories a day," said Kali Di Marco, the parish's Youth Ministry Coordinator.

"No one needs to starve."

The program is increasingly popular among area teens. It was first held in 2004 with 29 participants who raised $4,000 in donations to World Vision, an international relief organization that serves the world's poorest children, and to Manna House, Norwalk's soup kitchen.

The number of participants and donations has risen each year, and to date has raised in excess of $360,000.  She noted that each $30 will help feed and care for a child for a month.  

The fast begins at 9 am Saturday, February 25. The teens, adult volunteers, parents and members of the community meet at St Jerome Church for "The Walk" to honor the Night Walkers of Uganda. These are 40,000 village children of Northern Uganda who travel on foot  from their homes every night to protected shelters in town to be safe from rebels that abduct children for use as soldiers, porters and sexual slaves. The abductors themselves often are children.

"The Walk sets the tone for the 30 Hour Famine, to raise awareness among our own children and help them understand what is going on in the world," DiMarco said.

A full day's program follows, including a blessing in the church, with school and offsite activities,  keynote speaker, games, service projects, music and prayer, and ends at 11 pm with a vigil in the church. Sunday begins with a group meeting, 10 am Mass and a breaking of the fast with Eucharist, and closes with breakfast in the school hall.

"These teens really want to make a difference, and they need the help of adults in the community," DiMarco said. "We need lots of pledges to support their efforts."


Immaculate High School Artists and CyberPatriots Win State Awards
| February 21, 2017


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DANBURY—In the past two months, Immaculate High School (IHS) students have won prestigious awards in both art and technology competitions. IHS strives to allow students to attain both academic and extracurricular personal success, and these awards reflect that commitment.


CyberPatriots members: (from L-R): Members of the IHS CyberPatriots Team
Colby Bellone, John Palladino, Ben Fletcher and Jack Brooks celebrate their victory.


Scolastic Arts Awardees: (From L-R) Linus Jia, David Mercier, Krystal Zhang,
Veronica Vodola, Colleen McCann.

IHS CyberPatriots Defend State Championship Title

The Immaculate High School CyberPatriot team took first, second and third place in the Connecticut Open Division Gold Tier State Round competition, as well as earning a first-place Silver Tier State Round Award for the CyberPatriot IX challenge. This is Immaculate's second year in a row securing the State championship title. In early February, the team competed again in the regional competition in the Gold and Silver Tier levels; Immaculate took 4th place in the Northeast regional round.

IHS students honored in the Gold Tier inlcude: First Place Gold Tier team: Jack Brooks '18 of Ridgefield, Colby Bellone '19 of Redding, Ben Fletcher '18 of Redding, John Palladino '18 of Danbury and William Wang'19 of New Milford; Second Place Gold Tier team:  Dave Bono '17 of Bethel  and Jake Payton '18 of Danbury; and Third Place Gold Tier team: Luke Cropsey '17 of Ridgefield, Ryan Henn '19 of Danbury, Taylor Li '18 of Danbury, Kevin McCoy '18 of Danbury, Andrew Riotto '20 of Pawling, NY and Dan Wroblewski '19 of Ridgefield.  

First Place Silver Tier winners in the State Round from the IHS CyberPatriot team were James Mok '20 of Sandy Hook, Andrew Doering '20 of Southbury, Greg Gruerio '20 of Brookfield, G. Edward Bell '20 of Danbury and Eric Shields'18 of Stormville, NY. The CyberPatriot team is coached by Dave Cirella, Immaculate High School's Director of IT.  

"This has been another great year working with the students. The field of Cybersecurity is complex and difficult, especially for students just entering the computer science field -- with that being said, I am very proud of my students' commitment and accomplishments for this past CyberPatriot season," said Mr. Cirella.

CyberPatriot is part of the National Youth Cyber Education Program, conceived by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire students toward careers in c​ybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future. At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, which puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.

Scholastic Art Awards for IHS Students

Five Immaculate High School (IHS) students were named winners in the 2017 Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art Awards.  Linus Jia '17 of Danbury, David Mercier '18 of New Milford, Colleen McCann '19 of Danbury, Veronica Vodola '19 of Sandy Hook and Krystal Zhang '20 of Brookfield were noted for their artistic and creative endeavors for IHS art projects, with Mr. Mercier winning a Gold Key award and Mr. Jia winning a Silver Key award. Mr. Jia and Ms. Zhang are part of IHS's International Student Program.

The Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art Awards is the largest juried student art exhibition in the state, established in 1927. The exhibition features select work from 145 participating Connecticut schools in grades 7-12, and winners are chosen from approximately 3,000 total art entries.

The IHS students were honored at the 2017 Scholastic Art Awards Ceremony on Sunday, January 29 at Lincoln Theater at the University of Hartford. Their artwork was included in a statewide art exhibition held at the Hartford Art School from January 29 to February 3. The students were eligible for Gold or Silver Keys and Honorable Mention places in each of 17 media categories; Mr. Mercier won a Gold Key for his design of the IHS production "Hamlet" program book cover and will move on to the National Level Scholastic Art Award competition, where a national jury will choose works for exhibit in the National Show.

Mr. Jia won a Silver Key award for his painting "A Snowy Day in Canada." Ms. McCann and Ms. Vodola were honored for their sculptures "Katniss' and "Singin' in the Rain" respectively  and Ms. Zhang was honored for her painting "Cityscape;" all three won Honorable Mentions. They are all students of IHS art teachers Samantha Kohler and Leslie Quinn.

"We are very proud of the students," said Mrs. Kohler. "They all worked very hard and it is nice to see them receive recognition," she added. She noted that they will find out in April if Mr. Mercier's program book cover will be exhibited in the National Show.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport's parochial school system.


Papal Nuncio to speak at Sacred Heart University on Wednesday
| February 21, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre will receive an honorary degree during Sacred Heart University’s Special Academic Convocation Wednesday, February 22, at 2 pm, in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. A reception will follow the convocation.


This occasion will be Pierre’s first college campus visit and honorary degree since arriving in the United States.

Pierre has been an archbishop since 1995, and Pope Francis recently appointed him apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States. Previously, he served as papal nuncio (ambassador) to Haiti and Mexico.

Later in the evening, Pierre will present a lecture at SHU in collaboration with the Diocese of Bridgeport, entitled “The Vision of Pope Francis for the Church in the 21st Century.” The lecture will take place in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at 7 pm with refreshments to follow.

At the time of his new assignment, Archbishop Pierre was nuncio to Mexico, a position he has held with considerable distinction for the past nine years, since March 22, 2007. He comes to Washington, D.C., as an experienced diplomat, with first-hand knowledge of the dramatic plight of migrants from Central America and Mexico to the United States, and will be able to give voice to Pope Francis’ concern for them.

As nuncio, he will be the Holy See’s point man in relations with the U.S. administration and with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (U.S.C.C.B.). One of his most important roles will be the identification of candidates to be bishops in this country. Pope Francis has already outlined clearly the qualities he wants to see in future bishops, and the new nuncio will ensure this is reflected in the names he presents to Rome.

Archbishop Pierre, 70, is the first Frenchman to be appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. A polyglot, he speaks English and Spanish fluently. He is “a pastor,” known for his “humility and simplicity” and is “excellent on all fronts,” a source who knows him well confided. A fellow nuncio described him as “a thoughtful, hardworking man” and “good listener” with “a great sense of fairness and balanced judgment.”

Pope Francis got to know him well as he prepared for his recent visit to Mexico, and so liked him that he decided to assign him this highly important mission.

Before going to Mexico, Archbishop Pierre had served with distinction as nuncio to Uganda (1999-2007) and Haiti (1995-99). While in Uganda, St. John Paul II sent him to Burundi to oversee the Holy’s See’s diplomatic mission there following the assassination of the papal nuncio to that country, the Irish-born Archbishop Michael Courtney, on December 29, 2004. He celebrated the funeral Mass for the former nuncio at the Regina Mundi Cathedral in Bujumbura on December 30, attended by thousands of people. He remained in the country until the pope appointed Archbishop Paul Gallagher (now Secretary for Relations with States) as the new nuncio there.

Gifted with a good sense of humor and a deep voice, the new nuncio can captivate an audience. According to The Vision, Uganda’s leading daily, he is a man who goes among the people, and is ready to help anyone regardless of status.

Born in Rennes, France on January 30, 1946, he spent the greater part of his childhood and early education in Africa, mainly in Madagascar, with some years in Malawi and Zimbabwe and one in Morocco. He entered the seminary of Saint-Yves in Rennes at the age of 17, but interrupted his studies to do his two-years of military service (1965-66).

Ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Rennes in April 1970, he served as assistant priest in a parish in the diocese of Nanterre for the next three years. He subsequently gained a master’s degree in theology from the Institute Catholique de Paris, and a doctorate in Canon Law in Rome.

He entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1977 after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, where its diplomats are trained. He was subsequently assigned to serve in its diplomatic missions in New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Brazil and as Permanent Observer to the United Nations office in Geneva. He therefore comes to his new post with considerable experience in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.


Diocesan commitment to financial transparency
| February 18, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport, in the continued practice of full transparency, has released its Consolidated Financial Statements as well as The Faith in the Future Fund, Inc. financial statements for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2016.


“One of Bishop Caggiano’s continued priorities is to provide a clear, transparent and comprehensive account of the finances of the diocese each year to ensure we are good stewards of funds entrusted to us, and we issue these audit reports in that spirit of transparency,” said Michael Hanlon, chief financial officer.

The Diocese of Bridgeport’s consolidated financial statements reported operational revenues, support and other changes totaling $75.0 million and total expenses from operations before depreciation of $ 74.4 million, resulting in income from operations before depreciation of approximately $600,000 for the eighteen-month period ended June 30, 2016.

The audit reports total assets of approximately $88.0 million, which includes $38.6 million in property, buildings and equipment, $9.2 million in beneficial interests in third party trusts, $8.2 million in investments and $3.4 million in receivables from related diocesan entities.

Liabilities total approximately $158.0 million, which include $130.6 million in underfunded pension and other retirement benefit obligations and $8.3 million in a note payable to the Knights of Columbus.

Hanlon said the diocesan fiscal policy continues to focus on a strategy of returning the diocese to financial stability and long-term growth and viability. Strategies include the goals of eliminating debt, controlling medical and other benefit costs and developing options related to reducing longterm pension liabilities.

“Last year the diocese initiated many steps to continue our financial turn-around plan and those strategies are starting to reap benefits. Medical insurance benefit cost increases have been controlled and are less than national averages. Certain assets will be sold in the near future to further reduce the Knights of Columbus loan balance and annual interest payments.

Hanlon said strategic school reorganization plans will reduce the medical and insurance burden absorbed by the diocese, while pastoral and strategic planning is on-going within our parishes.

Cemetery operations have been evaluated and a management company has been engaged to provide an executive director and to develop a future strategic vision. And lastly, a committee has been established to formulate options related to the underfunded future pension benefit obligations.

Additionally, many successes have been realized. Initiatives arising from the synod are being implemented and some are partially funded. The $3.5 million expansion project for The Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy residence for retired priests has been completed. The Bishops Scholarship Fund has awarded over $2.1 million in scholarship aid. The St. John Fisher Seminary remodeling project has the necessary funds earmarked for a phase one construction project this summer, Hanlon said.

The growth or establishment of various foundations continues to be a priority for Bishop Caggiano, which include The Faith in the Future Fund, Inc., Foundations in Education, Inc., and the establishment of a foundation for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, all of which will provide much needed support for mission-related activities.

Programs included in the diocesan financial report include the St. John Fisher Seminary, The Queen of Clergy residence, the Newman Center at Western Connecticut State University, Teresian Towers and Carmel Ridge Estates, life use and rental properties for elderly residents, and pastoral care services for residents at nursing homes, formerly owned by diocesan related entities.

Additionally, the diocese directly operates fifteen Catholic cemeteries and publishes the Fairfield County Catholic, a monthly publication available to all Catholics in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

During 2014 the diocesan Finance Council approved a change in the fiscal year from December 31 to June 30 to align with diocesan parishes, schools and many other diocesan related entities. Therefore the diocesan financial statements are reported for an eighteen-month period ended June 30, 2016, Hanlon said.

Faith in the Future Fund, Inc., a related diocesan entity, is a Connecticut nonprofit, non-stock corporation formed in February 1996. Faith in the Future was established by the late Cardinal Edward M. Egan when he was Bishop of Bridgeport, to raise, manage and disburse funds raised by the Faith in the Future Endowment Campaign of the diocese.

“The purposes of the campaign were to create a permanent endowment to support Catholic education, vocation and seminary education, priests’ residence and retirement fund and diocesan ministries and programs,” Hanlon said.

Faith in the Future goals included ensuring the viability of diocesan elementary and secondary schools; continuing to develop priestly vocations and funding seminary education; providing appropriate support and facilities for retired clergy and enhancing the religious education programs in its parishes.

The Faith in the Future financial statements report revenues and support totaling $1.8 million and total expenses of $1.6 million resulting in an increase of net assets of $200,000 for the twelve-month period ended June 30, 2016. During this period, $1,593,000 was distributed for school support, programs and scholarships and other support for vocations, seminary and religious education programs.

Hanlon said some of the biggest challenges the diocese continues to face going forward include funding of care for a growing number of retired priests, assisting schools and parishes to a path to financial stability, and find solutions for longterm pension liabilities.

The Diocese of Bridgeport numbers 420,000 Catholics in 82 parishes throughout Fairfield County. It also educates more than 10,000 children and teens in 34 schools and provides religious education to an additional 36,000 students. Its network of Catholic Charities services sponsor’s 30 programs, including behavioral health services and feeding programs that provide over 1.5 million meals to the poor and elderly. There are also 240 priests, 103 deacons and 343 religious women and men serving in a wide range of ministries.

(The complete audited reports are available online. To learn more, visit the diocesan website: www.bridgeportdiocese.com/financialreports.)

Click for Diocesan Consolidated Financial Statement
Click for Faith in the Future Financial Statement


Malta House in Norwalk to hold Annual Gala Honoring Bishop Caggiano
| February 16, 2017


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NORWALK—Malta House, a residence for homeless pregnant and parenting mothers of all faiths and their children in Norwalk, will hold its Annual Gala on Saturday, April 29, at Woodway Country Club in Darien.


Enjoying the annual picnic at the Bishop’s residence: Bishop Caggiano
surrounded by Malta House mothers and their children, August 2015.

The gala includes 6:30 pm Cocktails, Dinner, Live Auction, and popular “Bubbles & Bling” raffle, to benefit the programs provided at Malta House. This year’s gala honors The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport.

The vision for Malta House came over 20 years ago when a young father learned that there were few services for the many homeless pregnant women in Fairfield County who chose life for their unborn. Vulnerable young mothers often found themselves living on the street or in sub-standard conditions. Once accepted into our residential program—which can accommodate up to 10 families—the young women are supported with programs aimed at self-sufficiency including training in parenting, education, career, and financial security. Unlike a shelter, Malta House provides enriching residential services that also include spiritual direction and personal development. It is the only maternity group home for pregnant women over 18 years—one of a limited number of residential programs for young parenting mothers and their children—in Fairfield County.

The residential program lasts up to 18 months with a “Partnering Success” program that provides follow-up services and outreach to guide the women through the initial stages of life as parents on their own.

Malta House board chair Kim Petrone says, “We are very grateful to Bishop Caggiano for his continuing support of the Malta House mission, and so pleased that he has agreed to be honored as recipient of the annual John Swanhaus Award at our upcoming Gala. Bishop Caggiano has been a true friend of Malta House—he graciously responds to our requests for assistance, such as inviting our residents to his house for a cook-out every summer, and he makes every effort to participate in our events when we celebrate the courage of our young women. We are so blessed to have him as our Bishop.”

Bishop Caggiano values the dreams of those who seek the help of Malta House. He says, “Malta House plays an integral part in the mission of our Diocese as it allows young mothers and their children to have a healthy and holy start to their life. Malta House provides the children an opportunity to grow and be educated, and the young mothers a beginning to a life that holds promise and opportunity.”

For more information about Malta House and details about its upcoming Annual Gala: visit www.maltahouse.org or call 203.857.0088.


Immaculate boys win Class S indoor track title; Mustang girls take second
| February 15, 2017 • by by newstimes.com


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NEW HAVEN—The Immaculate High School boys indoor track and field team won the Class S state championship Tuesday night at the Floyd Little Athletic Center, and the Immaculate girls finished second to perennial powerhouse Bloomfield.


For the Mustang boys, Christian Morris won the 600 meters with a time of 1:24.36, and Sean Fahey won the long jump (21-0.75) and placed third in the 300 (37.08).

Those two joined forces with Dominick Curra and Matt Christe to win the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:34.01. The Immaculate quartet of Connor McNerney, Patrick Cropsey, Sean Connolly and Christe finished second in the 4x800 relay with a time of 8:38.21.

Shepaug Valley’s Sean Parker won the 3,200 meters in 9:43.76.

The Immaculate boys won with 55 team points, followed by Coventry with 34 and Bloomfield and Derby with 33 apiece. The Bloomfield boys had won four straight Class S crowns.

For the girls, Danielle Marcone led Immaculate with medals in all three distance races, placing second in the 3,200 (11:41.63), third in the 1,600 (5:25.09) and fifth in the 1,000 (3:07.10). The Mustang team of Morgan Cartee, Audrey Sedensky, Emma Connolly and Dominque Valentine placed third in the 4x400 relay (4:21.41). The team of Diana Kirkman, Taylor Mascetta, Christina Carboni and Maura Murphy finished third in the 4x800 (10:42.38). And the foursome of Cartee, Sedensky, Valentine and Emma Connolly took second in the sprint medley relay (4:29.81).

The Bloomfield girls won their seventh straight Class S title with 127 points. Immaculate followed with 44 points, edging third-place Old Saybrook by seven points.

CLASS S CHAMPIONSHIPS

Tuesday, Floyd Little Athletic Center, New Haven

Boys

Team scores: 1. Immaculate 55, 2. Coventry 34, 3. (tie) Bloomfield and Derby 33, 5. (tie) Montville and Windham 28, 7. Woodland 25.5, 8. Seymour 24, 9. Northwest Catholic 21, 10. Weaver 20, 11. East Hampton 19, 12. East Catholic 17, 13. Classical Magnet 16, 14. Old Saybrook 15, 15. (tie) Canton and Sacred Heart 14, 17. (tie) Valley Regional and Shepaug Valley 10, 19. (tie) Old Lyme and Coginchaug 9, 21. East Windsor 7, 22. Haddam-Killingworth 5.5, 23. (tie) Capital Prep, Morgan and University 4, 26. (tie) Windsor Locks and MLC 2, 28. Lyman Memorial 1.

Individual results

Winner and regional finishers among top six in each event

55 dash: 1. Mark Doyley (Weaver) 6.42; 300: 1. Mark Doyley (Weaver) 34.92; 3. Sean Fahey (Immaculate) 37.08; 6. Dominick Curra (Immaculate) 37.59; 600: 1. Christian Morris (Immaculate) 1:24.36; 5. Matt Christe (Immaculate) 1:26.10; 1000: 1. Connor Ratte (Coventry) 2:36.28; 3. Ken Little (Derby) 2:41.70; 1600: 1. Alexander Korczynski (Windham) 4:25.35; 5. Connor McNerney (Immaculate) 4:41.49; 6. Steven Stanley (Derby) 4:46.79; 3200: 1. Sean Parker (Shepaug Valley) 9:43.76; 5. Patrick Cropsey (Immaculate) 10:01.09; 55 hurdles: 1. Edward Williams (Sacred Heart) 7.77; 3. Josh Vega (Derby) 7.97; 4. Colin Mattutini (Seymour) 8.36; 4x200 relay: 1. Bloomfield 1:33.93; 5. Seymour (Bobby Melms, Trae Lounsbury, Luis Torres, Charles Richtel) 1:37.61; 4x400 relay: 1. Immaculate (Christian Morris, Dominick Curra, Matt Christe, Sean Fahey) 3:34.01; 5. Derby (Tracey Gallishaw, Josh Vega, Steven Stanley, Ken Little) 3:42.55; 4x800 relay: 1. East Catholic 8:26.88; 2. Immaculate (Connor McNerney, Patrick Cropsey, Sean Connolly, Matt Christe) 8:38.21; 5. Derby (Jhamil Bullock, Evan Sharpe, Steven Stanley, Tracey Gallishaw) 8:45.34; 1600 sprint medley: 1. Coventry 3:46.87; 2. Derby (Alijah Ellis, Alex Perez, Tracey Gallishaw, Ken Little) 3:50.09; high jump: 1. Yafari Boland (Classical Magnet) 6-2; 4. Colin Mattutini (Seymour) 5-6; pole vault: 1. Travis Baldwin (Valley Regional) 12-6; long jump: 1. Sean Fahey (Immaculate) 21-0.75; 2. Bobby Melms (Seymour) 20-11; 4. Dominick Curra (Immaculate) 20-2.75; shot put: 1. Travis Shashok (Windham) 51-2.75; 2. Brian Jalowiec (Derby) 48-8.5; 4. Admin Otajagic (Seymour) 45-1.5; 5. Trevor Hall (Seymour) 45-0.25.

Girls

Team scores: 1. Bloomfield 127, 2. Immaculate 44, 3. Old Saybrook 37, 4. Plainfield 29, 5. Hale Ray 28, 6. Morgan 26, 7. (tie) Canton and Weaver 19, 9. Griswold 16, 10. (tie) Coginchaug and Cromwell 14, 12. Haddam-Killingworth 12, 13. Derby 11, 14. Oxford 10, 15. Stafford 9, 16. Kaynor Tech 8, 17. Seymour 7.5, 18. (tie) Amistad Academy and Northwest Catholic 6, 20. (tie) Grasso Tech and University 4, 22. Old Lyme , 23. Portland 2.5, 24. (tie) Parish Hill, East Hampton, Coventry and Granby Memorial 2, 28. Westbrook 1.

Individual results

Winner and regional finishers among top six in each event

55 dash: 1. Cassidy Palmer (Bloomfield) 7.03 (meet record); 5. Patricia Jurkowski (Seymour) J7.54; 300: 1. Cassidy Palmer (Bloomfield) 41.42; 5. Dominque Valentine (Immaculate) 42.52; 600: 1. Jillian Mars (Bloomfield) 1:40.42; 3. Emma Connolly (Immaculate) 1:40.78; 4. Rachel Fleischer (Derby) 1:43.27; 1000: 1. Alexandra Alsup (Coginchaug) 3:00.44; 3. Kiley Rodriguez (Derby) 3:05.63; 5. Danielle Marcone (Immaculate) 3:07.10; 1600: 1. Emily Sienna (Hale Ray) 5:17.05; 3. Danielle Marcone (Immaculate) 5:25.09; 3200: 1. Emily Sienna (Hale Ray) 11:35.22; 2. Danielle Marcone (Immaculate) 11:41.63; 6. Sabrina Hancock (Derby) 12:03.01; 55 hurdles: 1. Zaidra James (Bloomfield) 8.55; 4x200 relay: 1. Bloomfield 1:44.25 (meet record); 4x400 relay: 1. Bloomfield 4:09.66; 3. Immaculate (Morgan Cartee, Audrey Sedensky, Emma Connolly, Dominque Valentine) 4:21.41; 4x800 relay: 1. Old Saybrook 10:11.77; 3. Immaculate (Diana Kirkman, Taylor Mascetta, Christina Carboni, Maura Murphy) 10:42.38; 1600 sprint medley: 1. Plainfield 4:22.65; 2. Immaculate (Morgan Cartee, Audrey Sedensky, Dominque Valentine, Emma Connolly) 4:29.81; high jump: 1. Kalli’Ana Botelho (Griswold) 5-4; 2. Kelly Ward (Oxford) 5-2; pole vault: 1. Tyra Finkeldey (Old Saybrook) 10-6; 4. Mia Accavallo (Seymour) 8-6; 5. (tie) Shari Minalga (Seymour) 7-6; long jump: 1. Jahleah Harris (Bloomfield) 17-4.25; 5. Kelly Ward (Oxford) 16-0; shot put: 1. Brittany Jones (Bloomfield) 43-0.5 (meet record).

(from newstimes.com)


Personal account enhances Confirmation session
| February 14, 2017


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DARIEN—On February 13, Father John Connaughton, director of vocations for the Diocese of Bridgeport, conducted a Confirmation session for over 220 Confirmation candidates in the eighth and ninth grades at St. Thomas More Parish. Father Connaughton spoke with the confirmandis on the history & origin of the Gifts of the Spirit.


In addition, he discussed Confirmation names and who he chose as his name-saint and why. He told the youngsters how, at their age, he was impressed by what had happened to St. Maximilian Kolbe. He began by telling the confirmadis that, as a young priest, Father Kolbe had a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, Our Lady gave him a choice of which crown he would like: red, which symbolized martyrdom, or a white crown which symbolized heroic virtue. In the vision Father Kolbe replied that he wanted both.

Father Connaughton then went on the tell them about what happened in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, where Father Kolbe was imprisoned during World War II. Someone had escaped from the camp, and the guard’s policy was for 10 people to be executed for every one who escaped. One of the men picked begged for mercy because he had a wife and young children. Father Kolbe volunteered to take that man’s place. The 10 picked for death were to put in a cell to starve. However, with Father Kolbe’s spirit-filled intervention through prayer and song, the victims lasted longer than expected and the Nazis eventually had to use other methods to dispose of the prisoners.

Through his unfailing faith, Father Kolbe did achieve crowns of both martyrdom and heroic virtue—and eventually sainthood. The man who he had replaced survived Auschwitz, as did his family. Members of the family were present at St. Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization.

His own reaction to St. Maximilian’s story was so intense that the confirmandi sat transfixed throughout his account.


State of the Diocese: Synod initiatives coming to fruition
| February 13, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport is moving into an era where “Synod initiatives are coming to fruition,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his State of the Diocese address for the year 2016.

This year’s address was recorded at the Sacred Heart University video production studios in the new Martire Business and Communications Center and is available on the diocesan website.

“This is a time when many blessings continue to flow out of the synod,” said the bishop, referring to the launch of the Diocesan Leadership Institute, the ongoing parish strategic planning process and the formation of parish planning teams to move parishes forward in areas such as catechesis, liturgy and worship, and other areas of need.

This year also saw the expansion and renovation of the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy Residence for retired priests, and the decision to renovate the St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford.

“The Spirit is moving us to renewal. The Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in the charities and other initiatives of the Diocese,” the bishop said. “I am confident our challenges will be resolved if we work together on our way to renewal.”

The bishop organized his report into major topics: spiritual life of the diocese; synod update, pastoral life, works of charity and justice, finance and real estate, and communications.

In the 34-minute video presentation through the use of PowerPoint slides and graphs, the bishop provided overall information on census, finances, new initiatives and ongoing challenges.

He reported census figures of 108,000 registered families representing 303,000 individuals. There are a total of 435,000 people who identify as Catholic in Fairfield County but who do not necessarily practice their faith.

He said he was encouraged by the first increase in years in the numbers for Mass attendance, Baptisms and First Holy Communions, but he was concerned with the overall declining numbers of students in religious education and said the diocese “must work to address and reverse these trends.”

A recently completed survey by the Catechetical Task Force found that 45 percent of parishes reported a decreased enrollment for religious education, while 25 percent noted an increase.

The bishop began his talk by focusing on the spiritual renewal in the diocese, which took shape in many ways, including the “Centers of Mercy” and the consecration of the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which drew more than 1,500 people to St. Augustine Cathedral. It was also streamed live to more than 1,700 viewers.

Likewise, he said he was encouraged by the outreach to young people through the launch of the Catholic Service Corps and the success of the World Youth Day pilgrimage, in which 242 young people and their chaperones travelled to Poland last summer.

“I was never more proud of our youth as I was at World Youth Day,” the bishop said, noting that the pilgrimage helped to form young people in the faith and inspire them for years to come.

The diocese also engaged young people through activities such as the Diocesan Youth Choir, Convivio, the SHU “Journey,” Catholic Underground and CONNected Catholics, he said.

“Unlocking social media” through the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube has been instrumental in communicating with young people. More than 9,100 people “like” the bishop on Facebook and 3,295 are Twitter followers. The diocesan Facebook page also numbers 5,131 “likes.”

In the past year, the diocese also took steps to support priests and new vocations. The diocese began implementing a revised Diaconate Program, established a Council of Religious and announced the new Redemptoris Mater Seminary for missionary priests in association with the Neo-Catechumenate movement.

The bishop said St. John Fisher now numbers nine seminarians discerning a vocation, and an additional nine seminarians studying in major seminaries.

Steps to support diocesan priests include the initiation of workshops for newly appointed pastors, a retreat for the newly ordained, a healing and support team for priests dealing with addiction issues, and a new Spiritual Direction program offered through the Ignatian Spirituality Institute of Fairfield University.

In his section on finances, the bishop reported that “generally speaking, the financial situation of the diocese is improving. We’re close to achieving a balanced budget.” The diocese has made progress in reducing debt including the loan from the Knights of Columbus, which it expects to be cut by 50 percent by the end of the year.

However, the long-term unfunded pension and other post-retirement benefit obligations continue to be a concern and are being addressed, the bishop said. The diocesan Real Estate Office has helped to improve the financial picture by assessing and prioritizing diocesan properties into “Mission and Non-Mission assets” that can be sold or rented.

Last year, the Real Estate office completed sales of diocesan properties in Easton, Shelton and Stamford, and also the sale of an affordable housing facility in Bethel, he said.

The diocesan financial picture was also boosted by the success of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, which went $900,000 over goal and recorded the highest average gift in the country at $500 per contributor. More than 24,000 donated to the appeal. The diocese also moved toward cost savings and greater efficiencies through the work of the Strategic Planning Commission, which made recommendations in areas such as human resources, information technology, communications and data management, and purchasing.

Among the highlights and achievements in 2016, the bishop reported that Catholic Charities served more than 1.3 million meals to the poor, elderly and homeless and provided 15,000 clinical counseling and case management sessions.

The Safe Environment office completed 16,000 Virtus trainings for adults, and the diocese also conducted a special healing service for survivors of priest sexual abuse and for racial healing.

The address is available in its entirety online at: www.bridgeportdiocese.com.

(To watch Bishop Caggiano’s 2016 State of the Diocese address, visit the website at: www.bridgeportdiocese.com. The complete PowerPoint presentation is also available online.)


Parishes begin implementing Pastoral Plans
| February 12, 2017 • by By Patrick Turner


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BRIDGEPORT—As we enter 2017, parishes are moving to implement the goals and action steps articulated in the pastoral plans created over the last year. 


These plans, created as a result of internal discussions by parish planning teams, pastors and staff, and ultimately approved by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, focus on multiple pastoral concerns as well as issues of financial and physical plant vitality and sustainability.Parishes were asked to distribute their pastoral plans to the broader parish community in November by means of pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts and website postings. In addition, many parishes held town hall meetings with a broad range of parish leadership and others interested.

So now what? How do our parishes take what is written on paper and engage in implementing the ideas to affect real change in our faith communities? All of the parish plans submitted to date are currently posted on the Pastoral Planning webpage of the diocesan website: www.bridgeportdiocese. org/strategic-planning. I would encourage all to take a look at the page, click on your town and parish, and offer your support, energy, enthusiasm and skills to your pastor and parish leadership to help implement the plans.

Trends Emerge

Catechesis and Education is the theme articulated by the greatest number of parishes, with 47 of them saying this was a priority in their community over the next two years. This falls in line with what was heard during the synod sessions and the pre-synod listening sessions. There is recognition that many Catholics in our diocese have not been fully formed in their faith and may only have a partial, or incomplete, understanding of the rich history and traditions of the Catholic Church.

On a diocesan level, the newly inaugurated Leadership Institute will help to strengthen the formation opportunities for Catholics. Recommendations from the Catechetical Task Force, which is currently working to identify new models of catechesis, will ultimately help parishes develop new programs and opportunities.

A number of parishes, such as St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield, have proposed ideas to include parents in their children’s faith formation classes by offering regular opportunities to come together (parents and children) for faith lessons. Other parishes, like St. Joseph in Brookfield, are looking at other means of integrating parents and children, including using on-line catechetical education programs, as a supplement to regular classes. A parish such as St. Ladislaus in Norwalk is moving to strengthen catechesis in Spanish to address the needs of many of the community who worship at that parish.

Many of our parishes (42 of them) recognize that the time has come to focus on and upgrade their buildings and facilities by addressing years of deferred maintenance issues, making their worship and office space more energy-efficient and welcoming, and creating additional space for the parish family to gather to strengthen the community.

For example, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Danbury seeks to create a more comfortable space for parish activities and to strengthen the sense of community by providing opportunity to socialize after Sunday Mass in a comfortable space. St. Roch parish in Greenwich is focusing on renovating the church hall so that it can be used for the activities envisioned in the rest of its pastoral plan.

Improving heating and cooling systems and repairing leaky roofs are mentioned in a number of plans. St. Ann in Black Rock, Bridgeport, is upgrading the church heating system and repairing damage to the bell tower. Their plan acknowledges that while “fixing the bell tower and replacing the heating system will not cause an increase in parishioners; poorly maintained facilities may prevent parishioners from attending.”

Over the coming months, articles will focus on some of the other priorities being addressed by our parish communities. Liturgy and Worship, Evangelization, and Family Life were addressed by large numbers of our parishes, while activities related to Leadership Formation, Finances, and Community Life were put forward by fewer parishes.

The Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, in conjunction with other offices within the diocese, will host workshops this spring designed to respond to the needs of the parishes, and offer resources, ideas, and support as parishes move into implementation. YOUR task is to step up in your parish community by offering your energy, support and enthusiasm to bring these goals and ideas to fruition.


Catholic Underground Tonight!
| February 11, 2017


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On Saturday, February 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will lead the participants of Catholic Underground in a Eucharistic Holy Hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, including praise and worship, prayerful silence, and the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


The Holy Hour is the first component of Catholic Underground, a monthly event hosted by the Diocese of Bridgeport’s Connected Catholics ministry. Catholic Underground takes place at 7:30 pm on the second Saturday of every month at St. Ann Parish in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport.

Participants of all ages from throughout Connecticut gather in the candle-lit church to encounter Jesus Christ in a personal way, and to join together in prayer and song.

Catholic Underground began in New York City as a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and quickly spread throughout the United States as well as England. The Diocese of Bridgeport has hosted Catholic Underground since October of 2015, and in addition to the powerful Eucharistic Holy Hour, the second component of Catholic Underground is a cultural event showcasing Catholic artists. Over the past year and a half, nationally recognized artists including Josh Blakesley, Danielle Rose and Sarah Kroger have shared their gifts and talents, providing those in attendance with the opportunity to enjoy art and music that is authentically Catholic.

Catholic Underground’s February event will feature a concert by Dan Ferrari, a talented singer/songwriter from the New York City area who performed for Pope Francis while in Rome. Dan’s original music is catchy and energetic, while conveying his deep Catholic faith.

“Catholic Underground is a great way for young adults to stay connected with our Lord and with each other,” shared John Imbimbo, a recent college graduate and a resident of Newtown. “In a world where being a young Catholic is more and more difficult, we need these opportunities to grow in our faith in community. I’m excited for our Catholic Underground to grow and I would recommend it to all adults (not just Catholics) as an opportunity to encounter Christ.”

Catholic Underground is one of several events hosted by Connected Catholics, an outreach for young adults in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Information about upcoming

Catholic Undergrounds as well as other events can be found at www.conncatholics.com. Contact Evan Psencik at 203.416.1649 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for additional information.


Snow rearranges our “normal” lives
| February 09, 2017


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Bishop Caggiano’s reflection on the storm

TRUMBULL—As I sit here at my desk watching the snow storm intensify, I cannot help but be filled with so many different memories of past snow storms, particularly those that occurred when I was a little boy.


Growing up in Brooklyn, it was part of ordinary life to become accustomed to noise of every variety. Living on the third floor of an apartment building that overlooked a major road, I quickly learned to block out the noise of the cars, buses, sanitation trucks, deliveries and the normal hustle and bustle of people walking by every day under our window.

Such noise was part of the background of every day. However, I remember the times when we were hit by large snowstorms and how quickly the noise ended. The silence of the street below was jarring! The cars and buses stopped, sanitation trucks came by intermittently with snow plows and there was no one walking on the street. As I looked out the living room window upon the city street below,

I can still remember how the silence was both unexpected and welcomed. There was something very calming and peaceful about the silence- a silence that I grew to realize could be mine each time I stopped long enough to sit in God’s presence in prayer. Snow also made the city beautiful and bright. I remember how striking it first appeared when everything was blanketed in white snow, untouched by human hands or feet as the storm passed through. The city lights made the snow glow and lit the street in a beautiful white glow. I remember wondering to myself as a young boy if heaven would glow in the same way, beautiful and bright?

Remembering such sights, even now after so many years, gives me a great sense of peace. For Heaven will undoubtedly glow with a light of unimaginable beauty because it will be the glow of God’s eternal love that will fill us forever!

I know that in a few hours, when this storm passes, we will need to dig out. The snow will certainly make travel difficult, inconvenience many and even cause hazardous conditions for those who do not take care when they drive while the streets are being treated. These are the adult concerns that now occupy your life and mine.

However, for these brief hours, as nature shows her ability to rearrange our normal lives and forces us to slow down and simply watch the snow come down, my heart is filled with memories and gratitude for the beauty of our world and the goodness of our God who offers us peace, silence, beauty and the glow of His grace each day, whether it snows or not.


Happy Birthday Emily!
| February 08, 2017


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STAMFORD—Best Wishes to Emily Symeon as she celebrates her 101st Birthday with her friends at Holy Name Church Senior Circle in Stamford.


Emily is a life long resident of Stamford as well as an active life -ong parishioner of Holy Name of Jesus Church. "She enjoys life, loves playing Bingo and is a real Pinochle player.

She enjoys talking with her friends about the past and current Stamford“ said parishioner Pat Koproski.

Holy Name of Jesus Parish is located in the South End of Stamford, two minutes from Harbor Point and Long Island Sound. Fr. Paweł Hrebenko is serving as pastor.

The parish was founded in 1903 by a group of Polish immigrants seeking spiritual succor for themselves and their children in a language native to them. It is located at 4 Pulaski Street in Stamford. For information call: 203.323.4967 or visit on the web: www.holynamestamford.org


Immaculate High School Honors Scholars at Special Mass, Reflects on Its Success
| February 07, 2017


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DANBURY—On Sunday, February 5, Immaculate High School (IHS) held a special Honors Mass to celebrate students that earned a place on the school's honor roll for the first semester of the 2016-17 school year.


Over 300 students in grades 9-12 earned academic status of either Honors, High Honors or Distinguished Honors. The day began with a Mass at the school led by Reverend Alphonse Arokiam of St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, CT, for students and their family members, followed by a ceremony that acknowledged their accomplishments and a breakfast reception hosted by the Immaculate Parents Association.

"Immaculate High School is very proud of our students who strive to achieve academic and personal success," said Mary Maloney, President and Acting Principal of Immaculate High School. "We are very blessed to have a faculty and staff whose commitment and devotion provide the opportunity for students to excel in our academically rigorous program that encourages being spiritual, moral and responsible leaders."

Immaculate High School consistently has the highest SAT scores of the Diocese of Bridgeport schools, ranking 33 percent above the State average. On average, ninety-nine percent of its students attend college with almost ninety percent receiving merit-based scholarships. The class of 2016 was awarded over $18 million dollars in scholarships, giving families a three-times return on their investments. "Thanks to careful budget oversight and program management, our tuition ranks below the national average and our State Catholic school ranking is in the top fifteen percent," said Mrs. Maloney.

Additionally, IHS athletics has brought home State championships and individual student-athlete awards and the Fine Arts program has students and play productions recognized for regional and State awards. Due to the school's size, eighty percent of its students are able to participate in extracurricular activities. With an annual average of 23,000 hours of community service collectively, approximately 80 students are awarded the Presidential Service Award on an annual basis.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport's parochial school system.

2016-2017 Immaculate High School First Semester Honor Roll

DISTINGUISHED HONORS

Class 2017
Amy Bohling, Lauren Cirone, John Crotty, Sean Decker, Nicole DiMauro, Evan Doering, Colm Doherty, Giovanni Fardella, Martha Haddad, Will Hatcher, Yuchao Jia, Isabel Kent, Diana Kirkman, Joseph Maloney, Kristina Mancini, Danielle Marcone, Stephanie Maurina, Mikhaela Lee McFarlin, Laura Mezzetta, Logan Monaco, Jenna Pannese, Jillian Pruner, Thomas Reese, Maria Ringes, Lijie Wu, Suyang Wu, Jingyu Zhou

Class 2018
Nolan Ames, Kyle Buzzi, Katherine Cassetta, Emma Connolly, Sean Connolly, Ronan Doherty, James Fahey, William Gasparrini, Matt Giorgio, Jack Guiry, Clare Koch, Marina Kolitsas, Ruotong Li, Lin Lin, Ilona Ludanyi, Rongyu Ma, Jacqueline Maker, Kevin McCoy, Adriana Mercaldo, John Palladino, Nicole Palmieri, Derek Ross, Helena Sabo, Audrey Sedensky, Krista Segreti, Joseph Suarez, Albert Vitiello, Madeline Werdann

Class 2019
Rodolph Antonios, Colby Bellone, Aislin Blair, Sarah Bohling, Kristen Cirone, Natalie Dudas, Ryan Fanella, Mackenzy Garden, Yuxuan Hu, Daniel Impellizzeri, Wenqi Lai, Qianer Lu, Colleen McCann, Victoria McFarlin, Maura Murphy, Sophia Pilla, Kayla Rivera, Angela Saidman, Chris Sanchez, Angela Vodola, Veronica Vodola, Zhiwei Wang, Meizhi Zhao

Class 2020
Francesca Coppola, Molly Coyle, Liam Devine, Keelan Doherty, Diego Echavarria, Ian Fitzgerald, Brigid Gage, Gregory Gruerio, Sean Guiry, George Hyland, Olivia Hynes, Hunter Kirkman, Ryan McNerney, James Mok, Mackenzie O'Rourke, Lauren Petta, Ross Relator, Madeline Suarez, Melissa Weiner

HIGH HONORS

Class 2017
Jason Bellone, David Bono, Stephanie Chimbo, Celine Demers, Jiali Duan, Sean Fahey, Douglas Girardot, Rachel Hewitt, Christoph Impellizzeri, Rosanna Lifrieri, Matthew Olencki, Christiana Pitrelli, Brianna Policarpio, Isabela Ricardo, Luis Ricarte, Marissa Steinerd, Ziwen Wang, Amanda Witkowski, Yifan Zhang

Class 2018
Abigail Allen, Caitlin Ansel, Paul Carlsen, Xuran Chen, Isabella Cippolone, Patrick Cropsey, Joseph Crowley, Marcella Daily, Kendra Dascano, Julia Font, Jillian Fredette, Lauren Garvey, Matthew Gerbo, Emily Giampietro, Silke Grootaers, Colleen Hawk, Brittany Hrabcsak, McKinsey Jarboe, Julia Iannucci, Mary Catherine Kallberg, Boya Li, Jiajian Liu, Connor McNerney, Sebastian Ojeda, Tiffany Saviano, Dominique Valentine, Caroline Wax, Feiyan Yue, Ruixuan Zhang

Class 2019
Ellen Apotheker, Eliana Assaf, Joshua Banh, Michael Basile, Christopher Cabrera, Finan Deakin, Paul Demers, Catherine DiMaria, Isabella Echavarria, Stephanie Faria, Shea Foye, Madison Halas, Mary Johnson, Sage Karp, Natalie Kennedy, Elizabeth Lang, Kristen LeFebvre, Yuxuan Li, Timothy Manning, Taylor Mascetta, Parker McKenzie, John Natal, Jamison Nolan, Kasey Peralta, Amy Perna, Logan Plaisted, Anna Richards, Allen Riego De Dios, Nicole Schlichting, Andrew Tureaud, Yinyu Wang, Tong Zeng, Mozhu Zhao, Keleigh Zuckert

Class 2020
Victoria Bono, Helen Bruce, Alissa Brugnatelli, Michelle DeMotte, Tristan DiNatale, Kieran Doolabh, John Doran, Brian Douglas, Elizabeth Flaherty, Douglas Goetz, Quinn Guth, Rachel Iannarelli, Patrick Iannetta, Peter Johnston, Michael Malgieri, Arthur Michaelsen, Drew Mitchell, Emma Mortara, James O'Keefe, Lauren Oskam, Michael Pinero, Joseph Rios, Andrew Riotto, Madison Rooney, Brendan Taylor, Xiaoyu Wang, Xuanbing Zhang

HONORS

Class 2017
Alec Arconti, Caroline Beal, Emma Beers, Thomas Brown, Courtney Campagna, Dominic Coppola, Meghan DiBella, Fionna Henderson, Christopher Kennedy, Kayla Lanza, Justin Maurina, Katie McAdams, Christopher Mok, Christian Morris, James Parris, Zachary Perna, Savannah Plaisted, MacKenzie Rizzo, Ryein Troiano, Bonnie VosWinkel, Donna Ward, Zachary Zuccala

Class 2018
DeNardis, Cedric Dinatale, John Finnegan, Jeremy Fisher, Benjamin Fletcher, Dylan Gallagher, Molly Gleissner, Thomas LeFebvre, David Mercier, Mackenzie Riofrio, Amber Schaffer, Meghan Schlichtig, Noah Schmidt, Timothy Seaman, Arianna Shovak, Ayanna Simmons, John Stevenson, Madeline Tomanelli, Cassandra Varian

Class 2019
Emma Baughman, Morganne Cartee, Gabriella Casturani, Matthew Christe, Xinyue Cui, Celine Diaz, Scott Dobos, Hailey Dubbioso, Bartholomew Flaherty, Erica Guydan, Marissa Halkett, Aidan Henderson, Avery Jarboe, Ayinde Johnson, Anna Johnston, Peter Kent, Angella Kousidis, Bingying Liu, Jin Luo, Daniel Manning, Emily Marcone, Emilia McGuiness Getzinger, Jamilly Mendes, Kayla Mingachos, Connor Mitchell, Ismael Ricardo, Marilia Ricarte, Shelby Riofrio, Melissa Schirmer, Ryan Straiton, Bradley Thayer, Menglin Wang, Shjon Whitehead, Jack Woods, Dan Wroblewski, Ruining Yang

Class 2020
Sarah Almeida, Kate Banks, Caroline Brown, Joseph Camillo, Samantha Cavalea, Gillian Chapleau, Kevin Curry, Abigail Gleissner, Alison Harco, Olivia Heineken, David Kallberg, Olivia Kent, Nicolas Lepore, Elisa Lifrieri, Gia Massoni, Sandra Morquecho, James Nogueira, Erica Penny, Lucas Pereira, Hans Reelick, Analiese Seaman, Shayne Simmons, Camille Vail, Elizabeth Varda, Alexander Werdann, Qijing Yang


John Breunig: Reimagining Catholic schools for today’s working families
| February 06, 2017 • by By John Breunig, Stamford Advocate


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FAIRFIELD—If politics and religion didn’t mix, presidents wouldn’t put a hand on the Bible while being sworn in.


Bishop Frank Caggiano speaks at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield
Wednesday about the Diocese of Bridgeport’s Foundations in Education.
At right are members of the choir at St. Theresa School, which is based
in Trumbull.   Photo by John Breunig/Hearst Connecticut Media

Still, I notice the only overtly political question I pose to Bishop Frank Caggiano is the one that gives him pause.

Caggiano’s name is among 3,500 fellow members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition who objected last week to President Donald Trump’s memorandum restricting refugees from entering the United States.

The head of the Bridgeport diocese does not mention any elected officials during our half-hour conversation at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield Wednesday, which followed the formal launch of Foundations in Education, which is designed to frame and fund a vision of the modern Catholic classroom. Still, his response is the sort you wish would come from a politician.

“There are two goods we need to hold together as a country. We need to always be open to immigrants. Because that’s who we are. But we also are a nation of laws and we need to respect and reform our laws.” Caggiano leans forward and puts his hand to his chin. “I don’t see a lot of leadership on any level having these sort of more nuanced (discussions). It’s just reduced to yelling at each other.”

As immigration inspired a philosophical civil war in America in recent days, it was also at the heart of perhaps the most trying week of Caggiano’s four-year tenure. He announced the closure and consolidation of several Catholic schools. In Stamford, Holy Spirit, Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Cecilia elementary schools will be merged with Trinity Catholic Middle School.

The bishop will witness the Stamford initiative first-hand, as he plans a move to the city in the fall. The move will also enable him to be closer to seminarians at St. John Fisher Seminary Residence on the Trinity Catholic High School campus. In his own way, Caggiano acknowledges that he can seem like a rock star to seminarians (“It will break down the barrier of — ‘Ohh, it’s the bishop,’” he says).

As Caggiano, 57, shepherds the decision to shutter schools that have served generations of students, I ask him to reflect on his own Brooklyn, N.Y., boyhood, where he was taught by Dominican nuns at Saints Simon and Jude School until the fifth grade. He may be a man of rituals, but clearly sees no advantage to letting Catholic schools become vinyl records in a digital world.

“You need to honor the history and the tradition and people’s emotional attachment, and I hope and pray we can do that with dignity, but for the sake of our children we cannot allow nostalgia to become a noose,” he said in a voice that still reveals its Gravesend, Brooklyn, roots.

There was a quick moment at the finale of the Sacred Heart program when Caggiano was slated to lead a prayer before a performance by a chorus of students from St. Theresa School in Trumbull.

“First the children, then the bishop,” Caggiano said with a smile.

“First the children.” It’s the subtext of our conversation, and of speeches he made to anxious parents and educators in different communities last week. He’s not worried about the children integrating, but our species seems to lose the ability to adapt with age.

When Caggiano announced in Danbury that the area’s Catholic schools would be spared consolidation, he was aided by Portuguese and Spanish translators, reflective of evolving neighborhoods.

“The bottom line is the integration of that part of the Danbury community is happening in the schools,” he says. “These young people are growing up side-by-side and the distinctions that we make such a big deal about they don’t.”

The Catholic schools dilemma is a microcosm of the income gap that has a stranglehold on Connecticut, and on our evolving population. Caggiano says he routinely hears from parents who want to send their children to Catholic schools, but lack the resources. The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund last awarded $2,300,000 annually, but Caggiano says the real need for those families is closer to almost $10 million. Fund those students, and empty classroom seats will be filled.

Caggiano says he wants to ensure Catholic education is not a door that’s only open to affluent residents in Fairfield County.

“The middle class and working class are many times in equal need with the poor,” he says. “That’s a whole other political question that’s above my pay grade to answer.”

Ahh, politics again. As I ask Caggiano about poverty, I realize I’m mixing another potent cocktail of politics and religion. I’m also aware he started his days at Yale University as a political science major. He seizes the opportunity to present his theory that America’s most effective anti-poverty program was the Catholic school system.

“It was created for immigrant needs. It has served waves and waves and waves of immigrant families through the generations,” he says with the same enthusiasm in our room of two as if he were trying to sway a crowded classroom or church congregation. “... Four generations escaped poverty because of Catholic education.”

He slices a hand through the air to punctuate the point: “Government hasn’t dreamt of anything of that scale.”

Caggiano isn’t shy about declaring himself an example of how well the program can work.

“You’re looking at the son of immigrants who came from Italy. My father had a third-grade education. My mother had an eighth-grade education. And yet you’re looking at their son who now is the bishop of Bridgeport.”

And he knows he’s looking at a journalist who rode the Catholic school train from Kindergarten through college. My Westchester County elementary school is gone now. So is my high school. They, too, were unable to adapt.

“In the end it’s all about our children,” Caggiano repeats. “It’s not about institutions and it’s not about buildings.”

We’re just a couple of Catholics talking education, real estate and politics, so Caggiano cuts to shorthand to express his faith.

“We are poised for a qualitative leap forward in Catholic education. Like anything else that’s Catholic there’s a dying and a rising.”

John Breunig is editorial page editor of The Advocate and Greenwich Time. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); 203.964.2281; twitter.com/johnbreunig.


Bishop launches new elementary school plan for Shelton
| February 04, 2017


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TRUMBULL—More than 250 parents filled the St. Joseph High School auditorium tonight to hear Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announce plans to create a single, new Catholic elementary school for the Shelton-Monroe area.

The new school will be formed on the present St. Lawrence School campus in Huntington by merging students from St. Lawrence, St. Jude School in Monroe and St. Joseph School in Shelton.

The St. Lawrence facility was chosen because it can accommodate up to 400 students and has room for expansion, the Bishop said.

“I am the spiritual father of every young child in the Diocese—that is my apostolic responsibility” said the Bishop who vowed to pass on the gift of Catholic education to the next generation.

“This is all about our children and we are all partners in passing this great gift on. Our goal is not just that Catholic education survive but that it prospers and is vibrant.”

The Bishop said the quality of Catholic education is spectacular, but what makes the schools unique is that they’re Catholic and “children who come here will know who created them, who calls them to holiness, and who will give them eternal life. We are not private schools, we are Catholic schools.”

During his 90-minute presentation, many of the Bishop’s observations were met with applause, but parents also had a wide range of questions about how the new school would come together. In particular many were concerned with class size when the schools combine and how the transition would affect their children.

The school, which will open in September 2017, will be re-named and a new board will be formed in order to involve representatives from all three parishes.

The Bishop said that classes would not exceed 25 students and that new learning models and other programs would help many students adjust to the new environment.

In a detailed Powerpoint presentation, the Bishop said that declining enrollments and growing deficit prompted the decision.

The total enrollment of all three schools is 377 students, representing a steady decline from a 2012 population of over 600 students. They have also accumulated a combined deficit of more than $500,000 this year.

“For the money we now have to put into deficits, imagine what we could do if we could put that back into our schools and our children,” he said.

The Bishop said that 65 percent of the students attending the three schools reside in Shelton, and that 31 percent of the students attending St. Jude School in Monroe also live in Shelton.

The Bishop’s decision was based on the recommendations of the Shelton area schools’ planning group that assessed facilities, enrollment, finance, and demographic trends in all three schools. The planning groups members were nominated by parishes and schools based on their expertise and commitment to Catholic education.

During the talk the Bishop pointed out that a large number of graduates from all three schools go on to St. Joseph High School. Based on data from the last four graduating classes, the planning student found that 32 percent of St. Joseph students 36 percent of St. Jude students and 53 percent of St. Lawrence graduates have enrolled in St. Joseph High School.

The Bishop began his presentation with a summary of the strategic planning process which began in December 2015, when then Superintendent of Schools Sister Mary Grace Walsh sent a letter to parents informing them of the need to address challenges and plan for the future.

He said that the Education Commission, which he formed in 2014, quickly saw that many schools were experiencing problems beyond their ability to solve on their own due to demographic shifts and other challenges.

The Bishop said under the new governance board model, the Bishop and the diocese serve as primary sponsors or members, while the Board of Directors becomes the new school’s governing body, responsible for concerns such as finance, marketing, enrollment and operations.

Pastors from the three parishes will join the Bishop as members of the sponsoring board in order to better connect all three parishes to the new school and to honor the tradition and history of the original schools.

The new board and school leadership will be announced by March 1, and the combined new faculty will be announced by April 1.

The Diocesan Human Resources Department and the Office of the Superintendent will be holding faculty and staff meetings at each school location to discuss with the employees the process for which they can apply be rehired for the new school or placed on a transfer list for other schools. Every effort will be made to give priority to teachers and staff displaced by the merging of schools as other positions open in the diocesan system, he said.

The Bishop said he hopes that the naming process will unify the new school by inviting students to submit names and parents to vote on nominations online. Based on the results, the Bishop will announce the new name by the end of March.

He said the new school will incorporate the best programs currently offered by the three individual school including high school and university partnerships, STEM, and integrated technology along with extracurricular activities such as robotics, drama, lego, sports and National Junior Honor Society.

The combination of the three schools will also allow for more differentiated instruction and new models of teaching such as blended learning that will make classrooms more innovative and contemporary. Likewise athletic and arts programs will improve with the larger pool of students with varying interests, he said.

He asked parents to consider serving on planning committees for marketing, finance, Catholic identity, development, facilities and academics.

The tuition rates for the 2017-2018 School Year will be $6,000 for one child, $10,700 for two children and $14,200 for 3 Children. children. Three and four-year old PreK tuition will be $3,400 for three full days and $6,000 for five full days. The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which distributed $2.2 million in aid last year, will take into account any adjustment in tuitions that may affect some families.

Dr. Steven Cheeseman said a few events are in the planning stage too help bring the schools together and offer the students the opportunity to meet each other. There will also be Open Houses planned for the new school. There will be a Picnic or BBQ organized so that students and families can meet each other before the start of the new school year.

The Bishop asked parents “to be patient and to be active” by registering their children as soon as possible and serving on the planning committees. He thanked them for their great faith and the sacrifices they make so that their children can attend Catholic Schools

“I’m willing to walk with you on this journey to give birth to the new academy, and I hope you are willing to walk with me,” he said.

There will be priority registration for current families will run until February 15, after which it opens to new students. Application for Bishop’s Scholarship Fund begins February 1 and runs through April 1.

The diocese has set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203.209.2894. Parents can visit online to get more information and a link to registration: www.ournewschool2017.org

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Shelton-Monroe school
Bishop's Powerpoint Presentation


Hover and click the arrows to navigate the slideshow above
or visit the photo gallery

ACA “Roadshow” visits Danbury
| February 03, 2017


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DANBURY—More than 80 parishioners from the greater Danbury area attended the recent Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) reception at Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury.





Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, hosted this Appeal event for the second year in a row.

The reception featured a brief reflection by Bishop Caggiano on the importance of the ACA,  and the premier of the 2017 “Sharing God’s Gift, Transforming Lives” ACA video. He urged all to join in the work of serving the most needy in Fairfield County.

The Bishop discussed many of the Catholic Charities services in the Danbury area that are supported by the ACA, including mental health and homeless outreach, which serves the poorest of the poor in downtown Danbury.

Fr. Michael Jones, Vicar for Development, commented on his first encounter of Pope John Paul in Boston as a college student and the impact  of the event and how it led to his entering the seminary eight years later.

Fr. Jones said his first assignment as a priest was at St. Mary Parish in Danbury and said he is very fond of the area. He commented that Fr. Al Audette, a retired colonel in the Air Force who was assigned at St. Marguerite Bourgouys, kept up his pilot license and would take priests on short flights from Danbury airport.
 
Anne LeClercq, Vicariate 5 chairperson, talked about the value of the Appeal and how it much it  means much to so many of the poor, vulnerable and elderly in Fairfield County..
 
In the question and answer session following the Bishop’s remarks, people inquired about the percentage of younger people donating, and how the funds were allocated. The Bishop said the money raised goes where it is needed throughout the Diocese, which works together as “one family in faith” to serve those in need.

Parishes forming Vicariate 5 include: Bethel: St. Mary Parish; Brookfield: St. Joseph Parish, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish; Danbury: St. Joseph Parish, St. Peter Parish, Sacred Heart, St. Gregory the Great Parish; Newtown: St. Rose of Lima Parish; Ridgefield: St. Elizabeth Seton Parish; and New Fairfield: St. Edward the Confessor Parish.

This year’s ACA goal is $11 million. For more info or to give online, go to www.2017ACA bridgeport.com, or call 203.416.1470.


The Diocese of Bridgeport Stamford Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
| February 02, 2017


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The Diocese of Bridgeport Stamford
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Please check the website often as these FAQ’s will be updated regularly

Which schools are being affected by the changes in Stamford?
        • There are 4 schools that will be affected in this area; Holy Spirit School, Our Lady Star of the Sea School, St. Cecilia School, and Trinity Catholic Middle School.

Our school was fine. Why did it have to be restructured?
        • The plan to restructure and thereby revitalize our schools is not about this year, next year or individual schools—it is about the future of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The plan examined the academic, demographic, financial, and enrollment trends in the region in order to make recommendations on how to best provide quality Catholic education in the entire area for generations to come.

The bishop announced that this would be an 18 month planning process which began in March 2016. Why is the planning being cut so short?
        • The planning process does not end with the announcement.  Over the next few months there will continue to be planning meetings to ensure that the success of the school and the smooth transition of students.  
        • The process actually began in 2015 when the Office of the Bishop began Viability Studies on each Catholic elementary school in the diocese. The study included an extensive analysis of enrollment and school age demographic trends, the financial position of schools and parishes, and a review of the facilities, technology and programs offered. These schools have been monitored over a multi-year period due to declining enrollment trends.
        • Partners in Mission, a national consulting firm focused exclusively on Catholic schools, was commissioned in June 2016 to study Catholic school education in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Partners in Mission are nationally known for their work in Catholic school leadership, advancement, enrollment management and strategic planning. The organization provided detailed research on the demographic and fiscal situation of towns and regions in Fairfield County.  School Planning Groups were asked to work under the consultation of Partners in Mission to formulate a strategic plan for schools. Final decisions had to be suggested to the Bishop by January 2017 in order to give parents adequate time to research options for enrolling their children in a Catholic school.

What criteria were used to determine which schools buildings will be utilized?
        • One of the tasks assigned to the planning group was to complete evaluations of the schools in the area and determine which facility would best allow for Catholic education to not only continue, but grow. Assessments of the buildings and grounds themselves were done to determine which school would have enough space to accommodate the number of students as it is currently configured today, and would also allow for growth. The age and condition of the buildings were noted. Busing and transportation needs of the students were also considered. A zip code analysis was also done to see exactly where our students are residing and where they are choosing to attend school.
 
How were the people on the Planning Committee selected?  
        • Many of the members of the Planning Committee were members of their School Advisory Boards. As the process was put into action, the Pastors of the local parish were asked to submit names of additional individuals who had connections to the school, an area of expertise that would benefit the process and a willingness to become part of the Committee. Each candidate then submitted resumes to the Bishop for his review. Bishop Caggiano then appointed the members to the Planning Committee.

How were parents involved in the process?
        • Parents from each school were given the opportunity to apply to be on the Planning Committee. Also, as the process continued, Parent Listening Sessions for all of the elementary school were held in each location so that the Planning Committee could hear feedback and listen to concerns from the school community.

I signed up to be part of a planning committee and did not hear back. Please explain.
        • Thank you for your willingness to be a part of this process.  If you did not hear back then, you will soon. There are many committees being created by the Board of Directors and they will need your input. Requests for participation on those committees will be announced in the near future.

Can you tell us anything more about the data that was used in making these decisions?
        • Tasked by Bishop Caggiano, the Office of the Superintendent compiled pertinent data on the schools in order to examine their state of viability. Some of the reports and analyses were derived from the following data:
                • US Census Bureau data
                • School Enrollment and Demographic data
                • Public School Enrollment and Demographic data
                • School Academic data
                • School Facilities and Programming data
                • National Catholic Educational Association data
                • School Financial data
                • School Community Engagement efforts
                • Parish Religion Education data
                • Maps of student addresses and their location relevant to schools
        • The planning committee used the data not only to examine the past and current state of the school but to look to the future. The data identified areas of opportunity. The new restructuring will allow schools to plan for the next level of excellence of Catholic education. The plan will build upon the strengths and hallmarks of our schools and will be focused on nurturing faith filled, academically successful students.

Were schools given the opportunity to do greater marketing or to offer new programs?
        • Yes, schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport are always encouraged to expand their marketing approach or start new initiatives. School leaders and selected school representatives throughout the Diocese have received training on various marketing and advancement best practices. The Diocesan Director of Community Engagement  also works closely with each individual school to plan the best strategies, promote current achievements and encourage new students and families to become part of the school community.
 
I heard that closings were because of debt owed to the Diocese. Is this true?
        • The data shows that some of the schools may have owed balances to the Diocese, but this is not the sole reason for the changes. The academic, demographic, financial, and enrollment trends were also examined. After investigating the facts and determining the benchmarks that needed to be reached for future success, it was revealed that no school individually would meet all the criteria necessary to be successful.
 
Will the Diocese benefit financially from the closure of schools?
        • The Diocese of Bridgeport will not benefit financially from the closure of any school. A parish whose school closes will retain ownership of the school building as well as the contents (not funded by government programs) of the building which may be utilized for other parish ministries.
        • Additionally, the Diocese has agreed to assume the debt of each of the schools closing.

For those parents that did not attend the listening sessions, how can they learn more about the plan?
        • We have set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203.209.2894. If you do not reach a person on your first attempt, feel free to leave a message with your name and phone number and someone will call you back as soon as possible.  We have also designed a website for families who want more information. There you can find information about the new school as well as a registration link. The web address is www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

Is there enough capacity at the newly restructured school for all displaced students?
        • Yes. For the 2017-18 school year, Grades PreK-5 will be located at the St. Cecilia campus and Grades 6-8 will still be located at the Trinity Middle campus. There is enough room for everyone.

Will the new school have a designated gym and cafeteria?     
        • At this point the facilities at Trinity Catholic Middle School and St. Cecilia School will remain as they are. However, there are plans for the future renovations and construction that will create a designated gym and cafeteria for the new school.
 
Where will all the technology and educational programs from a restructured school go?    
        • School leaders will come together to determine what is needed from each school to benefit the students and those items/programs will be incorporated into the new school.  

What steps are being taken to facilitate the transition of teachers into other Catholic schools?     
        • The Diocesan Human Resources Department and the Office of the Superintendent will be holding faculty and staff meetings at each school location to discuss with the employees the process for which they can apply and be rehired for the new school or placed on a transfer list for other schools.

What steps are being taken to facilitate the transition of students into other Catholic schools?
        • The Diocese of Bridgeport is committed to making sure each child currently enrolled will be able to continue receiving a Catholic education.
        • Children will be reassured through presence and actions that people care about them and will help them find their place in a new school. Parents are encouraged to speak to their children as they would with any other important matter impacting their child’s life. The principal and all of the teachers will speak to the students and will address the particular concerns of the children in an age-appropriate manner.

Will there be an effort to keep students from their existing schools together in next year’s classes?
        • We are, at this point, anticipating 2 classes of each grade. There will be a blending of the students from the different schools into the new school structure.  

How will this affect class size? What is the maximum number of student in a class?
        • Many parents have expressed their appreciation that class sizes in some schools are very small. However this is not financially sustainable, nor does it guarantee higher academic achievement. So it is planned that the class sizes will grow to a number that is appropriate both educationally as well as financially. The Office of the Superintendent recommends class sizes of about 25 students per class.

With 2020 being 3 years away, why should families choose to stay? What will each year look like?
        • There is a specific plan in place and each year will see new pieces forming. To begin the 2017-18 school year, Grades PK-5 will be located at the St. Cecilia Campus and Grades 6-8 will still be at the Trinity Middle campus. During this time, construction will also be going on at Trinity Catholic High School to reconstruct the lower level of the building into a state-of-the-art Middle School. Phase 2 of the plan will begin in the 2018-19 school year with the 6th-8th Grades moving to the new location within the High School building. The lower grades will remain at the St. Cecilia campus while construction and renovations begin on the Trinity Middle School building. This process may take more time, so the estimated time for completion is September 2020. This building will become the new location for the PreK through 5th Grades and will be a flagship school for the Diocese within the City of Stamford.

How will this affect tuition?
        • The tuition rates will not change for the 2017-2018 School Year. The elementary grades K-5 will remain at $6,580 and the middle school grades 6-8 will remain at $7,200. The one change will be that the Registration Fee will be reduced to $200 and that rate will be per family, not per child.

How will this affect school uniforms?     
        • To ease the financial burden of the transition, the school uniform will be a simple one to start; Khaki pants and skirt with a solid color polo, and can be easily purchased from a local store (like Khols or Target) or from an online uniform company. The selection of an official school uniform will be decided upon by the Board of Directors and school administration for the future.

How will this affect my child’s transportation to/from school?
        • There are no major changes planned. Busing will still be available to students who reside in the City of Stamford.  

How will this affect the before/after school program?
        •  After the official start and end times for the school are established, Before and/or After School programs will be planned to best meet the needs of the families.   

How will the new start/end time of the school day be determined?
        • This will be determined by the Board of Directors in consultation with the Office of the Superintendent. When making their decision, they will take into account the current time schedules of the schools and the distance that students are traveling.

What will the process of creating a new HSA board be like?
        • The process for the creation of a new HSA will be determined by the Board of Directors.

What will happen to funds raised by the HSA for this year?
        • The money raised for the current year will be used to fulfill the commitments of this year. If there are balances remaining, the money will be passed on the new HSA in the new school to be used for the upcoming school year.

Who are the Parent Ambassadors for my school and what does that mean?
        • The Parent Ambassadors are parents in the current schools who are volunteering their time to assist others during the transition process. They will help communicate the process of the implementation of the Stamford Catholic Schools strategic plan. They will also look for ways to create synergy and a sense of community across the Stamford Catholic school community. Parent Ambassadors will also be in contact with the Superintendent of Schools and communicate any common questions/concerns that may come up from parents.

How will safety and security in new school be addressed?
        • Our schools currently have safety and security plans put in place. These would continue with the new school.

How can current parents register for the new school?
        • Registration is open. There were registration forms available at the February 1st meeting and there are also hard-copies available at each of the schools. You can also download a form from the website http://www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

Are there plans to have social events prior to beginning of the school year?
        • Yes. To help bring the schools together and offer the students the opportunity to meet each other, there are at least a few events in the planning stages. One is a Spring Concert in which all of the schools will come together on one occasion to perform. There will also be Open Houses planned at both campuses. As we get closer to the start of the school year, there will be a Picnic or BBQ organized so that students and families can meet each other.

What will happen in school from now until the closing in June?
        • The school year will continue as planned. In a school that is to be restructured, the spiritual, academic and social life of the school will continue as usual. Instruction will continue to be focused and challenging.  It is in the best interest of the students to stay where they are and complete the academic year with their classmates. Studies have shown that students do better completing the school year in their current school and transitioning to a new school at the start of the next academic year.

What is the future for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport?
        • Our goal is sustainable Catholic education for years to come. The Diocese of Bridgeport is committed to strengthening programs to continue to attract new students. Our Catholic schools are known for being faith-filled centers for student development, for 21st century teaching and for producing graduates who are prepared to be leaders in their community and the world.

Is there a place to find more detailed information?
        • Absolutely. We have set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203-209-2894. If you do not reach a person on your first attempt, feel free to leave a message with your name and phone number and someone will call you back as soon as possible.  We have also designed a website for families who want more information. There you can find information about the new school as well as a registration link. The web address is www.catholicschoolsstamford.org


Bishop unveils plans for new PreK-Grade elementary school in Stamford
| February 01, 2017


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STAMFORD—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has introduced “Imagine 2020,” a plan for Catholic elementary education in Stamford that will create a single, new PreK-Grade-8 elementary school in the town.


Last night the Bishop unveiled the three-year plan before more than 200 parents, educators and friends of Catholic Schools who turned out at the Trinity Catholic High School auditorium. The plan includes renovations and new construction to meet future needs.

His intense and highly detailed hour-long presentation was met with applause by many in attendance. In the 45-minnute question and answer session that followed, parents also peppered him with a wide range of questions on the transition, the curriculum and the plan to assist teachers who may not be included in the new faculty.

The Bishop said the new plan puts the children first, but as Shepherd of the entire diocese, he will do everything possible to treat people justly and fairly in the transition process.

The four schools involved in the plan to create a single flagship school are Holy Spirit School, Our Lady Star of the Sea School, St. Cecilia School, and Trinity Catholic Middle School. He said that all of the students currently enrolled in the four schools will have a place in the new school.

The Bishop invited parents and students to join in a “School Naming Process” by submitting nominations, which will be voted on and announced at the end of March. He also asked for parents participation on committees that will explore a new uniforms and other issues.

In his summary of the process, the Bishop walked parents through data on the current schools whose enrollment slipped from 750 students in 2011 to 595 students in 2016. The schools also ran a combined $300,000 deficit this year.

He said creation of a single school will immediately eliminate the deficit and make more financial resources available. It will also hold down tuition costs and reduce current registration fees from $300 per child to $200 for an entire family.

The Bishop also announced plans for a new independent, Diocesan-sponsored governing board. Under this structure, the Bishop will retain full authority over the school, but will delegate decisions about operations, finances, facilities, marketing and other concerns to the board.

The Bishop said he wanted a plan that “honored the past” and the heritage of Catholic education in Stamford, but also created a 21st century approach to learning with the latest technology and curriculum

The plan is the result of a more than 18-month study process guided by a Planning Group with members of the School Advisory Boards, and area individuals with expertise in education, facilities, and planning. The process also involved parents through Listening Sessions and their service on committees.

“It has been a long road and I am deeply grateful for your cooperation and patience,” the Bishop said to parents and planning group members. “I’ve asked a lot of you, and you have walked with me for over a year in this process.”

The Bishop said he was very moved by the “transformation in thinking” during the planning process in which planning group members put aside their love for the individual schools in order to do the best thing for the children.

Under the plan the Holy Spirit School and Our Lady Star of the Seas students will come to St. Cecilia School and Trinity Catholic Middle School beginning in September 2017. Students in PreK-Grade 5 will study on the St. Cecilia campus, and Grades 6-8 will attend classes on the Trinity Middle School campus.

During phase one of the transition, construction will begin at the lower level of Trinity Catholic High School to reconfigure it as a state-of-the-art middle school. The high school will also benefit from the renovation of its unused third floor into a media center and additional classroom space.

Phase 2 of the plan will begin in the 2018-19 school year with the 6th-8th Grades moving to the new location within the Trinity High School building. The lower grades will remain at the St. Cecilia campus while construction and renovations begin on the Trinity Middle School building with an estimated completion date of September 2020.

This current middle school building will become the new location for the PreK through 5th Grades . Long-term plans for the lower school campus also include a designated gym and cafeteria.

Under Phase 3 of the plan, the elementary and early learning center will be relocated from St. Cecilia to renovated and newly built space in the current middle school building. All students PreK-8 will be house on the same 19-acre Trinity campus in the year 2020.

The Bishop said that the planning group undertook complete evaluations of the schools to determine which facility would best allow for Catholic education to not only continue, but grow. Their early findings and recommendations were reported in the November issue of Fairfield County Catholic and shared with parents through a listening session in Stamford.

Assessments of the buildings and grounds themselves were done to determine which school would have enough space to accommodate the number of students as it is currently configured today, and would also allow for growth. The age and condition of the buildings were noted. Busing and transportation needs of the students were also considered. A zip code analysis was also done to see map out where students are residing and where they are choosing to attend school.

Throughout the remainder of the current school year the facilities at Trinity Catholic Middle School and St. Cecilia School will remain as they are.

Based on current enrollment, the diocese is anticipating two classes of each grade with an average of 25 students in each class. Students from the four schools will be blended into the new class structure.

There will be one Head of School for the entire campus and principals for PreK, elementary and middle school divisions.

During the question and answer session, Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of School, said plans also call for social events prior to the new school year to bring the schools together and offer the students the opportunity to meet each other. One is a Spring Concert in which all of the schools will come together on one occasion to perform. There will also be Open Houses planned at both campuses.

“As we get closer to the start of the school year, there will be a Picnic or BBQ organized so that students and families can meet each other,” he said.

Part of the over plan includes steps to facilitate the transition of teachers into other Catholic schools. The Diocesan Human Resources Department and the Office of the Superintendent will be holding faculty and staff meetings at each school location to discuss with the employees the process for which they can apply and be rehired for the new school or placed on a transfer list for other schools.

There were registration forms available at the February 1st meeting and there are also hard-copies available at each of the schools. Parents can download a form from the website www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

The tuition rates will not change for the 2017-2018 School Year. The elementary grades K-5 will remain at $6,580 and the middle school grades 6-8 will remain at $7,200. The one change will be that the Registration Fee will be reduced to $200 and that rate will be per family, not per child.

The Diocese has set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203-209-2894. We have also designed a website for families who want more information. There you can find information about the new school as well as a registration link. The web address is www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

Click for Fact Sheet on the new school plan

Click to view Powerpoint from Bishop's talk


With support of new Foundation in Education Innovation will guide Catholic Education in the Diocese
| February 01, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—Innovation, investment, and transformation of Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport were the focus of the formal launch of Foundations in Education this morning at Sacred Heart University.

More than 75 invited guests and diocesan education leaders turned out for the event in the Forum of the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center.

The new entity formed by the Bishop is a fully independent philanthropic foundation formed by Bishop Caggiano to support Catholic schools in the 21st century.

“This is really the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Catholic education in the diocese and for the community,” said Bishop Caggiano.

During the program, the St. Theresa School Choir performed three songs and student Olivia Lieby impressed with adults with a reflection on her love for the school and its ability to bring students together as a family rooted in Gospel values, acceptance, and love for learning.
 
The Bishop said “the genius of Catholic education” was not only its ability to produce excellent academic results but create lifetime learners who are formed in the faith and bring a strong sense of values to their work in the community.

The Bishop said that the new foundation is part of an overall effort including the formation of the Education Commission “to create  a roadmap for schools going forward” and the overall strategic planning now underway to preserve and enhance Catholic education.

“We need financial resources going forward to allow the gift of Catholic education to be available to every family. The Foundations will be the place where all financial needs can be met,” the Bishop said.

The Bishop added that innovation will be the key to the success of Catholic schools in the future and that the new foundation will support by making grants to teachers and administrators to explore new curriculum and teaching methods.

Steven Cheeseman, Diocesan  Superintendent of Schools, said that system change in the school system will require investment “that will empower students to take control of their learning” through new pedagogical methods and contemporary learning environments.

Daniel J. McCarthy, President and CEO of Frontier Communications and a trustee of the new foundation, served as emcee of the launch program and was joined by other foundation trustees.

McCarthy, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, said that his four boys all attended Catholic schools from elementary through college. He praised “the incredible impact” Catholic schools have had on the lives of children and the larger community, particularly in neighborhoods hard hit by job loss and poverty.

During the program, the Bishop introduced Holly Doherty-Lemoine of New Canaan the first Executive Director of Foundations in Education, Inc.  She said the Foundations will include the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, and funds for innovation and professional development.

For more information on Foundations in Education, contact Holly Doherty-Lemoine  at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call: 203.416.1405.


Hover and click the arrows to navigate the slideshow above
or visit the photo gallery (photos by Amy Mortensen)

Thoughtful reflections from students
| February 01, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—This year, National Catholic Schools week runs from January 29-February 4. Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week has been the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.

Click here for Bishop Caggiano's Statement on seeking creative ways to preserve Catholic Education


Arabella Day, grade one

“I like Catholic school because the teachers are nice. I make
new friends and I learn to read. We also learn about Jesus.”


Cate Bell, grade three

“I love attending Catholic school because I learn about Jesus
and my faith. I receive an excellent education. I love subjects like
math, reading, and writing. The teachers are kind and supportive
and help me get ready to go on the road of life-long learning.”


Avery Simoneau, grade eight

“My Catholic education is one of the most important parts of
my life. It is a way to learn about God, his works and miracles.
I am able to express myself and my faith at my Catholic school,
which I have attended for nine years. When we go to the Adoration
Chapel, I sit in God’s presence and feel relaxed and peaceful.
Every year when I come back after a long summer, unlike many kids,
I do not dread the return, but celebrate it. My relationship with God
has become strong through my Catholic schooling. Next year when
I go to high school, I will be prepared knowing that I have a strong
relationship with God.”


Julia Carrozza, grade seven

“My Catholic school gives me opportunities to grow in faith.
At school we say the Rosary every morning. With a scheduled
time to pray, we can focus on growing closer to God. Since it is
Advent, my class has been going to the Adoration Chapel every
day, where we read a section of our prayer books with a Scripture
passage and instructions to become closer to God through prayer.
In the presence of Jesus, the silence makes it easy to relax and
open our hearts to our forgiving Lord, present in the Eucharist.
On “Gospel Friday” we read and elaborate on the Scripture readings
for Sunday Mass. When the priest reads the Gospel, I can connect
my reflections to the Scripture passage. In my school, we have
support from everyone in our caring community. Our motto, ‘Work
hard, be kind, and smile,’ inspires all of the pupils at my school to
be our best selves, and to work to the best of our abilities.”


Lyla Wolf, grade one

“I like Catholic school because we do religion in school and learn
about God and Jesus, not like public school where you need to go
after school to learn religion.”


Alana Davis, grade four

“Going to a Catholic school means so much to me. I am so lucky
to have the freedom to pray to God. I also love my Catholic school
because the children respect the teachers and the teachers
respect the children. We are a community, like a family. With all the
respect and love, we make my Catholic school . . . AMAZING! We
develop independence and responsibility to have a good foundation
for high school and college. We have fun learning experiences. I had
so much fun making a magnet in my STEM class. I love my Catholic
school.”


Manuel Santos, grade eight  

“Catholic school can provide a safer environment for children,
an awesome learning community with teachers that truly care,
or a fun place for children to learn life and social skills. All of
these factors are why parents send their kids to Catholic school.
The staff cares about their students and takes the job of keeping
them safe seriously. In Catholic school you don’t see people
treating one another badly; you see people getting along and
learning as a community. You also find teachers that don’t see
their work as a job, but as a passion. They want students to learn
and be successful, not just in school but in life. The amazing
teachers want the student to reach and surpass their limits, so that
eventually the student succeeds in college and in life. This wonderful
determination that a teacher has to teach any student is also a
big reason Catholic schools offer an amazing learning environment
and a fun environment for the students, which makes the school
a place the student is excited to come to everyday.”


Angelina Gonzalez, grade seven

“I feel safe, loved, and successful at my Catholic school.
The faculty and students care and help everyone up when they’re
down, make me feel loved and better if I’m having a bad day,
and my amazing friends make me feel included. My school
makes you work hard for good grades. The work can be
challenging at times but my teachers make sure we understand
what we are doing. I feel I will be successful with all of my hard
work, the amazing teachers, and my principal’s leadership.
My school teaches us to be independent and strong individuals.
Thank you to my Catholic school for teaching me to go down
the right path.”


Savannah Salicrup, grade eight

“You may think that Catholic schools aren’t worth the money
or that Catholic schools are just the same as public schools,
but let me tell you, those are not true! I have been in a Catholic
school since kindergarten and I am now in the eighth grade.
I have made some of the best memories and friends at my
Catholic school. I am sad to be leaving but plan to attend
a Catholic high school. My Catholic school has taught me to love
myself, others, and God! We not only have religion class to learn
about God, but we also go to church every Friday to experience
God’s presence. I am thankful that I can express my faith with
my classmates.”


Annie Stook, grade seven

“My Catholic school represents a boat that guides me along
the path of Christ. Without a life of prayer I would be lost.
My school promotes a sturdy foundation of Christ’s forgiveness
that I can carry throughout adulthood and pass along confidently
to others. My school demonstrates how everyone is equal in God’s
eyes and that everyone should be treated with love, respect, and
dignity. I could never picture going to school where faith is not the
first priority. My school helps me recognize the talents God has
given me. I am thankful attend a school where I can become closer
to God. Saint Catherine of Siena once said, ‘’Be who God meant
you to be and you can set the world on fire.’ That quote is truly what
my Catholic school means to me.”


Madison Moore, grade six

“A Catholic school is a safe, holy, and happy place. But my school
is more than that. I want to go to school. I’m lucky that my parents
work and spend the money on Catholic school. My school helps me
improve and encourages me. Not all schools have teachers like mine.
I will remember them even after I graduate. I make more wonderful
memories daily.”


Anna Tutek, grade eight

“For many, school is a place of anguish. But my Catholic school
has given me peace of mind. My faith has blossomed under
careful guidance and my education is at its peak due to the smaller
class size. During difficult times, I find myself flooded with the comfort
of my school and the positivity of teachers and classmates. Indeed
one may find good people anywhere, but where can a whole
community of good people be found? Our faith always binds us.
With Mass, hall prayer, and adoration my faith has soared. The
darkest moments in life are lit up with Jesus’ light. I intend to bring
the love taught to me wherever I go in life.”

The theme for 2017 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members.

Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our Church, our communities and our nation. Catholic schools offer academic excellence and faith-filled education for students nationwide. National test scores, high school graduation rates, college attendance and other data show that Catholic schools frequently outperform schools in both the public and private sectors. While some Catholic schools are challenged by declining enrollments and school closures, the good news is that there is a strong demand and enthusiasm for Catholic schools. Nearly thirty percent of Catholic schools have waiting lists for admission and new schools are opening across the country. 


Catholic Education
| February 01, 2017


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This week is our national celebration of Catholic Schools Week. It is a special time during which we reflect and celebrate the great gift and enduring mission that Catholic education offers to the children and families entrusted to our care.

In addition to providing a superior education, Catholic schools also provide a safe and disciplined environment that teaches our children and young people the human values that are essential to help them mature into upright, productive citizens of our society. More importantly, Catholic education allows our students the loving opportunity to encounter the person of Jesus Christ and to grow in their relationship with Him. On every level, Catholic education is a transformative experience that empowers our students to realize the breath of their human gifts and talents, open their hearts to the enduring values of human life and lead them to a faith-filled spiritual awakening through the power of prayer, study and service.
 
We are all aware of the financial challenges that some of our Catholic schools are facing. These challenges are opportunities for everyone in leadership to seek creative, innovative ways to move our schools forward to greater service of our students and their families. Here in the Diocese of Bridgeport, our local strategic planning processes have yielded some innovative solutions to these problems which I am announcing through a series of parent meetings throughout the balance of this week. These changes are designed to achieve one imperative: to best serve the children and young people entrusted to our care, allowing them the opportunity to share in the gift of Catholic education for years to come.
 
I realize that change is never easy. Allow me to express my personal thanks to everyone who has participated in these planning process over the last 18 months. However, I remain confident and encouraged that the changes to be announced, which will be posted on our diocesan website, will help position our schools to enjoy growth and innovation.


Leah Rondon’s Birthday Bash
| January 31, 2017 • by by Dan Woog


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WESTPORT—In August 2015, Westport mourned the loss of Leah Rondon. She was struck by a car, while playing at a friend's house.


The daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon played soccer, basketball and softball, and was the Ansonia Boys & Girls Club “Girl of the Year.” She loved reading, and proudly listed all her summer titles on the refrigerator.

She was just 6 years old.

Despite this unimaginable tragedy, Colleen's energy and enthusiasm has not wavered. She teaches children with passion and pride.

On February 4, Leah would have been 8 years old. Her mother has created a Birthday Bash. She's determined to make it a day of joy, not mourning.

She's also determined to make Leah's birthday mean something. So she and her husband—an administrator at Bridgeport's Kolbe Cathedral High School—are growing  a scholarship in Leah's name.

The Birthday Bash this coming Saturday features a carnival with games, crafts, face painting, raffles and entertainment. The event takes place at Kolbe Cathedral.

Performers—many of whom are from Westport and Weston—include Jamie Mann (who has performed as Billy Elliot in 60 shows from New Hampshire to Florida), Stephanie Greene, Zoe Lieberman, Claire Vocke, Brody Braunstein, Chloe Manna, Lola Lamensdorf, Cate Steinberg, Leif Edoff (8-year-old pianist), Jasper Burke, Isabelle Katz, Lucas Lieberman, the award-winning Westport Dance Center company and more.

All proceeds benefit the Leah Rondon Memorial Scholarship Fund. It's awarded to a graduating female Kolbe Cathedral student. For more information, click here.

And if you can't make it to Leah's Birthday Bash but want to donate to her fund, click here—then scroll down just below "Events" in the center of the page.


None of Danbury’s Catholic schools will close
| January 31, 2017 • by Rob Ryser, NewsTimes


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By Rob Ryser, NewsTimes

DANBURY—The Bishop of Bridgeport brought news every parent of a parochial school student wanted to hear Monday: None of the city’s struggling Catholic schools will close.


Bishop Frank Caggiano meets with some of the families
at Saint Peter Church in Danbury after announcing that the
three Catholic elementary schools in Danbury will remain open.
Monday, Jan. 30, 2017
Photos by Scott Mullin, for Hearst Connecticut Media


St Joseph, Danbury


St. Peter, Danbury


St. Gregory, Danbury

“If you have come here expecting to hear bad news, I have no bad news to share with you,” Bishop Frank Caggiano told a clapping crowd of 150 Catholic school parents and their children at St. Peter Church in downtown Danbury.

The bishop’s announcement, which comes after 16 months of study and discussion about underenrolled and financially struggling Catholic elementary schools in Fairfield County, was the first of four announcements planned this week.

Caggiano planned to announce the fate of struggling schools to parents in Stamford on Wednesday, in the Shelton and Monroe area on Friday, and in Brookfield on Saturday, a spokesman said.

In other locations, changes could include consolidation of schools into a single academy with multiple campuses.

In Danbury, where the bishop’s news was greeted with cheers, the message was sober: the city’s three Catholic elementary schools have work to do to boost enrollment and improve the bottom line.

“I want you to be my ambassadors to your community, to your neighbors, to your friends,” the bishop said. “I want you to tell them that St. Peter’s is open for their children as well. I want to fill St. Peter’s school until it is completely full.”

Catholic elementary school enrollment in Fairfield County has dropped from 7,700 students in 2009 to 6,400 students today.

The decline is due to competition from quality public schools, an average $6,400 tuition many working families cannot afford and fewer young families participating in church life, the diocese said.

The exception is the diocese’s five Catholic high schools, which have grown since 2009. For example, Danbury’s Immaculate High School has had a 24 percent enrollment increase over the last four years.

Caggiano came to St. Peter Church on Main Street to stress that the diocese supports the mission of Catholic education, even for a school with a $200,000 deficit.

“St. Peter’s School is one of the most ethnically diverse in the diocese — and that is a strength, that we can come from different lands and speak different languages, and come together as one family of faith,” the bishop said.

“This school is also helping bring the larger community of Danbury together because our children when they come together in school love each other,” he said. “And children do not care what language their parents speak ... because they see each other as sisters and brothers.”

The bishop told the crowd an anonymous donor had offered to give St. Peter School $150,000 annually in scholarship money for the next five years.

A diocese spokesman said the bishop was excited to present the anonymous gift to the school.

“So many of the kids in this school are poor and immigrants — the same way that many of us grew up who came to this country as Irish and Italians and Germans,” said diocese spokesman Brian Wallace. “The bishop wants these kids to have the same gift we received.”

Caggiano asked interpreters from the crowd to translate summaries of his message in Spanish and Portuguese, and then took questions through interpreters, drawing applause a half-dozen times.

“We have three wonderful schools in Danbury—St. Joseph, St. Gregory and St. Peter,” he said. “When you leave this church tonight my friends, leave with my gratitude for all your sacrifices, for believing in Catholic education, for loving your children as much as you do, and for giving them to the lord, Jesus.”

Among the crowd of happy parents was Darwin Villa, 30, of Danbury.

“I am really happy because this is a surprise,” said Villa, who has two children in St. Peter School. “There is not a lot of work out there right now, so hearing that we are going to help is going to make it nice not just for me, but for my kids.”


Parishes begin implementing Pastoral Plans
| January 30, 2017 • by Patrick Turner


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BRIDGEPORT—As we enter 2017, parishes are moving to implement the goals and action steps articulated in the pastoral plans created over the last year.


These plans, created as a result of internal discussions by parish planning teams, pastors and staff, and ultimately approved by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, focus on multiple pastoral concerns as well as issues of financial and physical plant vitality and sustainability.

Parishes were asked to distribute their pastoral plans to the broader parish community in November by means of pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts and website postings. In addition, many parishes held town hall meetings with a broad range of parish leadership and others interested.  

So now what? How do our parishes take what is written on paper and engage in implementing the ideas to affect real change in our faith communities? All of the parish plans submitted to date are currently posted on the Pastoral Planning webpage of the diocesan website: www.bridgeportdiocese.org/strategic-planning. I would encourage all to take a look at the page, click on your town and parish, and offer your support, energy, enthusiasm and skills to your pastor and parish leadership to help implement the plans.  

Trends Emerge

Catechesis and Education is the theme articulated by the greatest number of parishes, with 47 of them saying this was a priority in their community over the next two years. This falls in line with what was heard during the synod sessions and the pre-synod listening sessions.  There is recognition that many Catholics in our diocese have not been fully formed in their faith and may only have a partial, or incomplete, understanding of the rich history and traditions of the Catholic Church.

On a diocesan level, the newly inaugurated Leadership Institute will help to strengthen the formation opportunities for Catholics. Recommendations from the Catechetical Task Force, which is currently working to identify new models of catechesis, will ultimately help parishes develop new programs and opportunities.

A number of parishes, such as St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield, have proposed ideas to include parents in their children’s faith formation classes by offering regular opportunities to come together (parents and children) for faith lessons. Other parishes, like St. Joseph in Brookfield, are looking at other means of integrating parents and children, including using on-line catechetical education programs, as a supplement to regular classes. A parish such as St. Ladislaus in Norwalk is moving to strengthen catechesis in Spanish to address the needs of many of the community who worship at that parish.

Many of our parishes (42 of them) recognize that the time has come to focus on and upgrade their buildings and facilities by addressing years of deferred maintenance issues, making their worship and office space more energy-efficient and welcoming, and creating additional space for the parish family to gather to strengthen the community.

For example, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Danbury seeks to create a more comfortable space for parish activities and to strengthen the sense of community by providing opportunity to socialize after Sunday Mass in a comfortable space. St. Roch parish in Greenwich is focusing on renovating the church hall so that it can be used for the activities envisioned in the rest of its pastoral plan.

Improving heating and cooling systems and repairing leaky roofs are mentioned in a number of plans. St. Ann in Black Rock, Bridgeport, is upgrading the church heating system and repairing damage to the bell tower. Their plan acknowledges that while “fixing the bell tower and replacing the heating system will not cause an increase in parishioners; poorly maintained facilities may prevent parishioners from attending.”

Over the coming months, articles will focus on some of the other priorities being addressed by our parish communities. Liturgy and Worship, Evangelization, and Family Life were addressed by large numbers of our parishes, while activities related to Leadership Formation, Finances, and Community Life were put 
forward by fewer parishes.  

The Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, in conjunction with other offices within the diocese, will host workshops this spring designed to respond to the needs of the parishes, and offer resources, ideas, and support as parishes move into implementation. YOUR task is to step up in your parish community by offering your energy, support and enthusiasm to bring these goals and ideas to fruition.


Catholics oppose Trump actions on border wall, sanctuary communities
| January 29, 2017 • by Catholic News Service


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Also read: USCCB Committee On Migration Chair Strongly Opposes Executive Order Because It Harms Vulnerable Refugee And Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON—Catholic organizations expressed distress and unease with President Donald J. Trump's actions related to immigration while pledging to continue serving and supporting migrant people.


The reactions came within hours of Trump's signing of executive memorandums on national security Jan. 25 during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. The memorandums authorized the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and directed John F. Kelly, secretary of homeland security, to look at how federal funding streams can be cut for cities and states that illegally harbor those in the country without legal permission.

Agencies cited the words of Pope Francis in criticizing the president's actions and pledged to support and serve migrants in the United States.

"Pope Francis has urged people not to close the door on migrants and refugees," Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said in a statement. "In concert with the Holy Father, we believe we must move from attitudes of defensiveness and fear to acceptance, compassion and encounter.

"As the U.S. Catholic bishops have said, this is not an either/or situation for us," Sister Donna added. We can protect our citizens and, at the same time, we can welcome newcomers. Our commitment to care for those who are most vulnerable resides at the core of our faith."

Catholic Charities USA also will continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform, Sister Donna said.

The PICO National Network, the largest network of congregations and faith-based groups in the country, including Catholics, challenged the executive memorandum on sanctuary cities.

"Retaliating against local communities because they refuse to follow immoral policies is part of an emerging pattern of President Trump of not only bullying people who dare to disagree with him, but isolating and further marginalizing people who are different than him," said Eddie Carmona, campaign director for PICO National Network's LA RED campaign. "Such behavior is inconsistent with the long-held notion that America was a place of opportunity for all."

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, called the presidential orders "antithetical to our faith."

"When Nuns on the Bus visited the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, we walked along the wall and listened to the stories of communities that have been torn apart for decades. That is the reality experienced by border communities: The wall is there and it affects the daily life and commerce of the people.

"Federal appropriations for border security have grown to $3.8 billion in FY2015, from $263 million in FY1990, and fencing exists for hundreds of miles along our southern border," she said in a statement.

The Washington-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach recalled Pope Francis' words at the close of the Year of Mercy that concluded in November in which he decried a global "epidemic of animosity and violence" toward strangers, immigrants and refugees who often are considered a threat.

Trump's signings "presents false and inhumane responses" to the harsh reality of poverty, violence and conflict that cause people to migrate, the center said in a statement.

"As people of faith, we are called to both address the root causes of migration and seek policies of welcome toward our migrant sisters and brothers. We stand against any policies that seek to build a wall, inhumanely detain women and families, end sanctuary cities, conduct immigration raids, limit migration based on a person's country of origin and further militarize the border," the statement added.

Pax Christi USA sided with "our immigrant brothers and sisters living in fear of deportation and separation from their families."

"No one flees their countries of origin on a whim," a statement from the Catholic peace organization said. "We honor the multiplicity of reasons people migrate to the United States, many of which are poverty, gang violence and terror. People are not the enemy, but that is the myth we are being told by President Trump. Building a wall is the visual symbol of these political lies."

The Franciscan Action Network expressed concern that the country would be turning its back on refugees after Trump's actions.

"The Gospels call us to welcome the stranger, so as people of faith we advocate and support the rights and dignity of all people," Patrick Carolan, the Franciscan network's executive director, said in a statement. "The United States was built by immigrants and we must continue to protect our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers and keep families together."

The U.S. cannot be blinded to the despair of migrants and refugees, including those from Syria and different faith traditions, said Gerry Lee, executive director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

"Pope Francis proclaimed that 'refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes ... the flesh of Christ is in the flesh of the refugees.' The faithful response is not to build a wall or to discriminate against Muslims, but to open our hearts and our homes to refugees of all faiths in recognition of our sacred call to protect and nourish life. If we refuse to welcome refugees in urgent need, we risk becoming like those we claim to deplore," Lee said.

Elsewhere, the Jesuits of Canada and the United States said they were concerned about the administration's actions.

"Increasingly, migrants come to the U.S. fleeing violence and insecurity," the Jesuits said in a statement. "Our faith calls us to see them, to understand their situations and to offer protection."

The religious order said it agrees with its partner agency, the Kino Border Initiative, which accompanies migrants and their families who are denied access to due process and protection, that the president's actions would make them more vulnerable as they seek safety in the U.S.

The Jesuits also agreed with the Kino initiative that the expected rapid increase in border enforcement without sufficient training and accountability for the U.S. Border Patrol agents could harm migrating people.

Also joining the outcry was the chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, who said the actions "greatly challenge and weaken the United States' history and core value of offering refuge to the persecuted."

"As Catholics, we believe that immigration is sometimes necessary for people to care for their families and preserve human dignity," Bishop Vann said in a statement released by the agency. "A just society protects these immigrants, our brothers and sisters.

"Too many of these executive orders veer far from our national ideals, presuming guilt over innocence and risk depriving desperate people of due process rights and human dignity," he said.

Several churches, faith-based advocacy groups and interfaith programs joined the Catholic groups in criticizing the administration's plans. Among them were Alliance of Baptists, American Jewish World Service, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Interfaith Alliance, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, Presbyterian Church (USA), Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.


Bishop visits Ave Maria University
| January 29, 2017


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Below is the Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s reflection on his visit to Ave Maria University, located approximately 25 miles outside of Naples, Florida

FLORIDA—Yesterday I had the great privilege to celebrate Mass at Ave Maria University.


Both the student community and a small group of pilgrims who are traveling the country in honor of Our Lady of Fatima gathered to pray for peace in the world and for the hundreds of thousands of people who marched on Washington DC in the annual March for Life.

I especially remembered in my prayers both the seminarians and young people who traveled to our nation’s capital from the Diocese of Bridgeport. I am very proud and grateful to them, for their devotion and sacrifice on behalf of the protection of all human life, especially unborn life.

Yesterday was also the first time I visited Ave Maria University, It is the Catholic university begun by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza. In its mission statement, the university describes itself as a “Catholic liberal arts institution of higher learning devoted to Mary, the Mother of God, inspired by St. John Paul II and Blessed Theresa of Calcutta and dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service.”

I was deeply impressed and encouraged by the faith, joy and devotion that was evident everywhere at the University. The oratory Church, which seats over 500, was filled to capacity for the weekday Mass. Many who attended were students at the University. A majority of the students remained after Mass for a Holy Hour that included Eucharistic adoration. I also learned that nearly 60% of the students, who number over 1,300, offer a holy hour every day! To say that I am encouraged by such a public witness of Catholic faith would be an understatement.

Many times we can be discouraged by the fact that far too many young people are absent from the life of the Church. While this is true and demands our best efforts to address this phenomenon in any way we can, I am grateful to see that this challenge is being addressed wonderfully at Ave Maria University.


“Sweet Cases” for Foster Children
| January 28, 2017


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NORWALK—The St. Ladislaus Youth Group raised funds raised funds to help “Together We Rise” and is donating 36 “Sweet Cases” for foster children in Norwalk area.

“In November, we learned that children in the foster care system don’t always have something to carry their personal belongings in and are given large black garbage bags. The young people wanted to do something to help,” said Donna Forcier, Director of Religion and Youth Minister at St. Ladislaus.

She got in touch with Together We Rise, which is a non-profit organization that helps facilitate the process of getting duffle bags to local foster children.

“We especially liked the idea that the cases would go to local children and that we would be involved in personalizing the cases and not just donating money,” she said.

The next step was to raise enough funds to purchase the Sweet Cases. Each consisted of a duffle bag, stuffed teddy bear, a blanket, toiletries, a coloring book and crayons.

The Youth Group held a bake sale and thanks to the generosity of the small but enthusiastic parish, they were able to purchase 36 Sweet Cases!

Youth group members assembled this month to decorate all the duffle bags with positive words of encouragement and fun drawings. They will be delivering them to a foster care agency in Norwalk on Friday.

The St. Ladislaus Youth Group was founded in October of 2016 with 4 original members. We now have 35 members. We meet on Wednesdays throughout the year and welcome young people in 8th through 12th grade.

St. Lasilaus Parish is located at 25 Cliff Street in South Norwalk. For more information visit the website at: http://saintladislaus.com



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'Life is winning in America,' vice president tells March for Life rally
| January 27, 2017 • by Catholic News Service


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WASHINGTON—Vice President Mike Pence told pro-life advocates from across the U.S. January 27 that "life is winning in America, and today is a celebration of that progress."


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a rally at the annual
March for Life in Washington January 27. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

Pence addressed the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, making him the highest government official to address the annual event in person. As a member of Congress, he had addressed the March for Life in previous years, including 2002, 2003 and 2007.

"More than 240 years ago, our founders declared these truths to be self-evident—that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he said. "Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence—because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in rallies across this country—life is winning again in America."

Pence said President Donald Trump had asked him to address the March for Life rally. "He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life and your compassion for the women and children of America."

"Our president is a man with broad shoulders, a big heart," Pence said. "His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and I know he will make America great again. From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people. Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we're in the promise-keeping business."

He pointed to Trump's January 23 executive action reinstating what's called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion in other countries. He said the administration would work with Congress to stop taxpayer funding of abortion "and devote those resources to health care services for women across America."

On January 24, the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, making the 41-year-old Hyde Amendment permanent. The amendment, which has had to be approved each year as part of the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits tax dollars from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman's life. The Senate has yet to act on a companion bill, but Trump has said he will sign it into law when the measure reaches his desk.

"I urge you to press on," Pence told the March for Life rally-goers. "Let your gentleness be evident to all. Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment. To heal our land and restore a culture of life, we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and shows the dignity and worth of every person."

Pence's wife, Karen, introduced her husband. She noted this March for Life was not the first for the Pence family; they have attended the event for the past 16 years, "but it is the warmest," she joked. By midday, the temperature in Washington was in the low 40s. Previous marches have taken place in frigid temperatures. Last year's turnout was affected by a blizzard.

Karen Pence said of her husband that she had never met anyone "who has more compassion for women, for children and for the American people. He's one of the kindest people that I know."

Before Pence spoke, Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, took the podium.

"I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America, and yes, I am pro-life," Conway said. "It is such an honor to stand with the vice president of the United States and so many leaders, families and students from places near and far (today)."

"Your courage, your conviction and your faith are impressive and consequential," she told the crowd. "This is a new day, a new dawn for life. Why are we here? What does it mean to stand together to be part of this incredible movement, to face criticism, ridicule, and laws and lawmakers (against life)? It means to protect and promote the most precious gift in the world—the gift of life. It means to stand up stand tall and stand together against the indifference and the indefensible and on behalf of babies in the womb.

"This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life and pro-adoption movement," she continued. "Women who face troubled pregnancies should know they are not alone, that they are not judged, they are protected and cared for and celebrated."

Conway told pro-life supporters: "Allow me to make it very clear—we hear you, we see you, we respect you, and we look forward to working with you, and yes, we march, we walk, we run and endeavor forward with you."

At midday, there was no official crowd count from the March for Life organization. A CNN reporter said there were attendees "as far as the eye could see."

After a lineup of speakers, rally participants planned to march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.


Catholic Academy Luncheon finds “Common Ground”
| January 27, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport held a luncheon at the home of Bishop Frank Caggiano for members of The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport (CCGB) on January 25, in an effort to share information about the Academy.


"In addition to providing information, the luncheon was an opportunity to celebrate the common ground between the Council of Churches and the Catholic Academy as we work to form  students of religious faith, tolerance and conscience," said Sister Joan Magnetti, rscj, Executive Director of the Academy.
 
The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport is one school on four campuses: St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St. Raphael, all located within the city of Bridgeport.
            
Many of the members of the Council of Churches who attended, including CCGB President and CEO Rev. Cass Shaw, were surprised to learn that 40% of Academy students are non-Catholic, 80% are near or below poverty, and 89% are non-Caucasian.
       
Alumni of the Academy were on hand to give firsthand testimony how attending the school was life changing for them, and principals shared examples of how Gospel values were an underlying current running throughout each student experience.    
   
As he was leaving the luncheon, Rev. Georgios Livaditis of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Bridgeport, said he was inspired by the meeting and already had four families from his parish in mind who could benefit by attending the Catholic Academy.
    
The CCGB is a faith-based, non-sectarian social services agency dedicated to meeting the needs of people at risk and breaking the cycle of poverty and crisis in the Greater Bridgeport area, committed to educating children, feeding the hungry, supporting youth in crisis, guiding former offenders and building bridges of understanding between all faiths.  
     
For more information on the Academy, please visit catholicacademybridgeport.org, call 203.362.2990, or attend our open house this Sunday, January 29, from 12-2 pm.


Danbury-are families heading to D.C. to March for Life, buoyed by Trump’s election
| January 27, 2017 • by Dirk Perrefort and Cedar Attanasio, NewsTimes


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DANBURY—A week after at least 500,000 women marched on Washington, D.C., to decry the policies of President Donald Trump, tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists are heading to the nation’s capital to cheer him on.


Kristin and Chris Gawley, of Danbury, and their seven children
plan to take part in the March for Life in Washington on Friday.
Family members are, from left, Kristin, 42; Chris, 45; Jane, 12;
Lulu, 10; Anna, 17; Christopher Jr., 7; Maya, 13; Simon, 4;
and Naomi, 6. Photo: Carol Kaliff / Hearst Connecticut Media

More than 100 people from the area are expected to travel to Washington for the annual March for Life—an anti-abortion rally held every year since 1974.

Local churches including Sacred Heart of Jesus have chartered buses for the trip.

“I believe there is a lot more hope this year with a president who claims to be pro-life and candidates who ran on pro-life platforms who were elected into the House and Senate,” said Danielle Bournos, of New Fairfield, who has attended several marches. “A lot of people have their hearts united behind a cause to protect the sanctity and dignity of life.”

Bournos expects one of the biggest crowds ever for Friday’s march because activists feel empowered by Trump’s message.

“This will probably be the largest march ever, due to the political climate,” she said.

Bournos hopes efforts to pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood will move forward now that Trump is in the White House. She praised Trump’s executive order barring American aid to health providers overseas who discuss abortion as an option for family planning.

Christopher Gawley, 45, a local lawyer and father of seven children ages 4 to 17, is taking his entire family to the March for Life on Saturday.

“We’re a democracy and participation is the lifeblood of this country,” Gawley said. “To have them take part in one of the largest political demonstrations in our nation’s capital is a civics lesson unto itself.

“It’s important for them to know that there are people all over the country that care about this issue,” he said.

Gawley believes that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion. The ruling led to the annual March for Life.

“Life should be protected, and that’s something that we teach at home and something that we’d like to make a public profession to,” he said.

So the Gawleys, including mom, dad, five girls and two boys, will pack themselves into their 12-seat Ford van for the weekend.

“You know when you go to the airport and there’s a shuttle to the airport?” he asked. “That’s what we drive.”

Lynn Taborsak, who took part last week in a women’s march in New York City, said organizers drew some legitimate criticism for their lack of outreach to anti-abortion groups.

“There are lots of things that we agree on as women,” she said. “It’s important for those who are pro-choice to respect the opinions of others and its probably a good idea for that to be a two-way street. I have no problem with people who are opposed to abortion as long as they don’t want to impose their own beliefs on everyone else.”

Bournos said she is not unsympathetic to the women and men who marched in Washington last week for the rights and dignity of women.

“This is the great divide in our country right now,” she said. “But it’s a divide we want to approach with prayer, love and open hearts and minds.”


Charity stripe champs
| January 26, 2017


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FAIRFIELD—On January 21, the Knights of Columbus St. Pius X Council #16347 held the Knights Free Throw Championship at St. Thomas Aquinas Gym in Fairfield.


Competitors pictured: Ryan Cutney, Jake Coerver, Matthew Strada,
Grace Cutney, Kevin Maloney, Colin Kalagher, Isabella Gracia, Luke Cristodero,
Mia Cristodero, Owen Kalagher and Jack Martin. They are joined by
Brother Knights Ralph Burke, Gerry Calahan, Bob Elinskas, Jack Finnegan,
Father Sam Kachuba, Matt Kardos, Jim Maloney, Bob Shea, Art Wolf,
Patrick Kelty, Tom Kelty, Sr., and Tom Kelty, Jr.

The competition was loads of fun for all involved. Congratulations go to Colin Kalagher (age 9), Isabella Gracia (age 9), Luke Cristodero (age 10), Mia Cristodero (age 11), Owen Kalagher (age 12) and Jack Martin (age 13) on winning the Knights of Columbus Foul Shooting Championship. They will now move on to Regionals!


Time to broaden the base of the Annual Catholic Appeal
| January 25, 2017


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GREENWICH—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano thanked donors who attended the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) kickoff reception in Greenwich last night and urged them to ask others to join the Appeal.


More than 120 people turned out last night for the reception hosted by James and Susan Larkin at Indian Harbor Yacht Club. “You are the generous individuals who allow the appeal to be successful. I thank you for your generosity and challenge you to invite others to participate. If we’re one family, than everyone should chip in,” the Bishop said.
    
The Bishop said that only one in four Catholics who attend Mass regularly in the diocese contribute to the Appeal, and that it was important that more people contribute to the campaign, which funds the major programs and ministries of the diocese.
     
“I’m asking people to be sacrificially generous to the campaign,” he said. “There are still many families hurting in Fairfield County through job loss, foreclosures and other problems. The Appeal is not about programs or institutions, it’s about people and about transforming lives.”
          
Jim Larkin welcomed guests who were presented with a copy of “The Name of God is Mercy,” the new book of reflections by Pope Francis on the Year of Mercy.
      
“Pope Francis teaches us that the Church cannot close the door on anyone. It’s very important that we reflect on his message of forgiveness, compassion and mercy,” Larkin said
     
In the invocation for the evening, Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni, Pastor of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford, delivered a reflection on St. Francis de Sales, who he said was tireless in his work of building schools, caring for the sick and evangelizing, when he served as a Bishop.
     
“The motto of St. Francis was “He (the Lord) will never fail us… if you and I live Jesus,’” said Msgr. DiGiovanni. “We can’t fail if Jesus is truly the Lord of our life.”
     
“I support the Annual Catholic Appeal one thousand percent, and I ask you to do the same. We’re not simply funding another worthy charity, but the church of Our Lord that transforms the world,” he said.
    
Elena Schlegel, who along with her husband, Steve, is serving as chair couple of this year’s Appeal, said that visiting charitable sites throughout the diocese has been a moving and rewarding experience for her.
    
She said the Christmas pageant at St. Catherine Academy in Fairfield was a moving experience and a “wonderful Christmas present” and that a visit to the Catholic Charities Homeless Outreach team in Danbury impressed her with the dedication of staff to reach out to those in need.
    
She thanked previous co-chairs Rowan and Julie Taylor for their excellent work and said her goal was to expand the base of the campaign. “We need to attract a lot more people and create more involvement in the Appeal,” she said.  
    
In a question and answer session after the ACA video and presentation, Bishop Caggiano said that through the generosity of donors, the diocese begun to implement Synod initiatives and needs to nurture the seeds it has planted.
    
“Together we’re beginning to move the Church forward and we’ve made progress in so many ways,” he said.
     
This year’s ACA goal is $11 million. For more information or to give online, go to www.2017ACA bridgeport.com, or phone 203.416.1470.


March for Life preview
| January 23, 2017 • by Rebecca Vodola


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WASHINGTON D.C.—The annual March for Life will take place on Friday, January 27, in Washington D.C.


This year’s theme is “The Power of One.” The largest pro-life rally in the world, the March is held on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade.

Although the diocese is not organizing buses to the rally, the diocesan high schools and some parish groups are arranging for transportation. The March opens to music on the grounds of the Washington Monument at 11:45 am, with a rally at 12 noon. Marchers step off at 1 pm and head up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court. There they will hear testimonies from Silent No More and have a chance to visit their Representative or Senator.

Kolbe Cathedral High School
Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport sends 50 students annually to the March for Life, according to Father Augustine Nguyen, Kolbe’s chaplain. This year, they will leave Kolbe at midnight and travel via bus to D.C., where they will attend a youth rally at the Verizon Center followed by the March itself. Students are currently selling candy to raise money for their trip.

St. Joseph High School
St. Joseph High School in Trumbull sends 40 students and adult chaperones by bus to D.C., leaving around midnight, and in the early morning will attend the Youth Rally for Life at the Verizon Center, which will be attended by thousands of young people from around the country. Then the group will participate in the rally on the National Mall before marching to the Supreme Court to speak out for the unborn.

“We are generating interest and excitement in the March for Life and promoting the pro-life cause throughout the year, including conducting a Pro-Life Baby Shower Collection which was held in October and benefitted Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center,” writes Jessica Nayden, St. Joseph campus minister. “We also hosted a pro-life speaker, Megan Almon from the Life Training Institute, who addressed the student body in December, delivering a powerful argument for the pro-life cause.”

Immaculate High School
Immaculate High School in Danbury is sending 40 students with seven chaperones, including IHS chaplain Deacon Jeff Font, to the March. The group will attend the “Life is Very Good” Evening of Prayer and Morning Rally at George Mason University before meeting up with thousands of others for the March. Font said, “The March is a way for the students to know that their voices are being heard, even though they are young adults, and that there are others like them, because many teen organizations and youth groups go. They are not alone in their fight for life.”  

Trinity Catholic High School
Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford will join with the East Side Catholic Youth Group from St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat/St. Mary’s and the youth group from St. John’s in Darien to travel by bus to the March. The group of about 35 will spend a day sightseeing before attending the Verizon Center youth rally prior to the March. Trinity’s Crusaders for Life club held bake sales throughout the year to fundraise for the March. Father Joseph Gill, Trinity’s chaplain, said that the March “raises awareness among the students of the grave threat that abortion is to human life.”  

St. Theresa Parish
St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull will have a Mass at 3:30 am on Friday prior to bus departure at 4 am. The parish’s Rally Bus departs from the St. Theresa Church Parking Lot at 5301 Main Street in Trumbull. Tickets are $75 per person. Registration and ticket purchase are required in advance at rallybus.net/marchforlife/from/trumbull-ct.

St. Mary Parish
St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield is sponsoring a bus to the March. For more information, contact Pat Postiglione: 203.438.7336.
Parishes not mentioned here may be making individual arrangements.                         


ACA chair-couples: ‘we feel blessed’
| January 23, 2017 • by Pat Hennessy


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BRIDGEPORT—“It was a calling,” say Elena and Steve Schlegel, who have accepted the invitation to be lay co-chairs of the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA).


Dedicated to service, the 2017 ACA chair couple (l) Steve and
Elena Schlegel and vice chairs Carol and Conrad Calandra feel
blessed to be asked to assist in this year’s Appeal.   

“When we were vice chairs this past year we learned about so many wonderful ministries supported by the appeal and met so many dedicated people. We feel that we’ve been blessed to be invited—how could we ever say no?”

The Schlegels both grew up in Fairfield County, although they met while they were working in Boston. A subsequent job move brought them back to the Diocese of Bridgeport. They and their children are now members of St. Aloysius Parish, where the couple were married.

Both credit their parents as examples of dedicated, involved Catholics. Steve, who graduated from St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, remembers the involvement of his parents, Lois and Richard, in the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport. Richard was on the Merton Center board for several years.

Elena credits her mother, Vi Peters, as the most giving person she has ever met. She sees that as key to her own involvement in the ACA. “If parents don’t do it, their children will never understand the importance of getting involved.”

Elena and the entire family are intensely involved in their faith. She still teaches fifth grade religious education at St. Aloysius, even though their children are in high school and college. Elena and daughter Katherine are Eucharistic Ministers. Steve is considering that ministry as well, and has gone on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with Katherine, which was an “eye-opening experience.”

Steve and Elena are already dedicated to service to the homeless and the disabled. “There are families in Fairfield County who won’t have food tonight,” Elena says. “I don’t think people realize that.”

As the new year gets underway, they hope to get a chance to visit other ministries supported by the ACA. For their first stop, they hope to visit St. Catherine Center for Special Needs and St. Catherine Academy in Fairfield. This, too, is an interest with family ties. Their older son, Jack, volunteers in community service at Loyola University in Maryland and Matthew, a senior at New Canaan High School, heads up a program for special needs kids as part of the St. Aloysius youth group.

As the year progresses, Elena and Steve will be both learning about and sharing with others the many ways the ACA assists the mission of the Church, from forming new priests to caring for those who have retired, working with youth, caring for the infirm and training leaders for the future.

This year’s vice chair couple, Conrad and Carol Calandra, live in Shelton, where they are members of St. Lawrence Parish. Carol grew up in Shelton and received her sacraments at St. Lawrence. A partner at EY working in Manhattan, she is a parish trustee, on the parish council and the finance council. Conrad hails from Brooklyn. He has retired as a college administrator who worked first at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and then at Southern Connecticut State University.

“I’ve always loved working with and helping people,” says Conrad. “To me the best part of all is giving back. Having my eyes opened to see how we can help is the biggest gift of all.”

“We’re ordinary people, living in Shelton,” adds Carol. “Many people think that, to be of any help, you have to give, give, give. That’s not how it is. I’m a big believer in sharing your time, treasure, and talent. Everyone has something they can share.”

Like the Schlegels, the Calandras credit their families as providing good role models. In Carol’s case, one of the exemplars of lived faith was her uncle, Father Frank Lynch, a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn. “I saw my uncle give all of himself every day of his life. Role models like that made such a difference in my life.”

Because of that example, the formation of new priests and the care of retired priests—including the recent expansion of the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy priests’ retirement residence—are high on their list of initiatives supported by the ACA.

With their son, Chris, just graduated from college, the Calandras are encouraged by the diocesan initiatives to encourage youth in their faith. “World Youth Day we filled a plane—two planes! We want to help and be part of that. It’s about having fun and living your faith,” says Carol.

The Choir for Youth, (C4Y) reminds them of the years when their daughter, Kerry, now a kindergarten teacher, sang in the parish choir. “It brought her such joy and such faith,” says Conrad. “Even now when we hear those songs at church, it brings me back. It brings tears to my eyes.”

Carol adds, “When you see the teens in the C4Y, and the joy it brings to them and to others—how can you not want to help?”

As co-chairs for last year’s Appeal at St. Lawrence, the Calandras found the video put together by the Development Office to be a great way to get more people engaged in the ministries and programs of the diocese. “It helped tell stories of the people involved. It made them more real.”

As they begin their commission as vice chair couple, they hope that their personal witness will also get more people engaged in the ministries and services assisted by the Annual Catholic Appeal.

“It’s too easy for people to think, ‘Somebody else will take care of it,’” Conrad says. “If we show people the way, and blessings that come from sharing, it might inspire them. This can be their way to tie their faith to their community.”                


Catholic Church reacts to declining enrollment in elementary schools
| January 23, 2017 • by Rob Ryser, News-Times


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DANBURY—The Bridgeport Diocese’s 16-month study of under-enrolled and financially struggling Catholic elementary schools is expected to bring changes in as little as two weeks.

Click here to read the CT Post article


Declan Foye, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph School in Danbury,
studies Religion in teacher Deanna George's class Thursday,
January 19, 2017. Photo by Carol Kaliff / Hearst Connecticut Media

In Danbury and neighboring Brookfield, the solution is probably not to shut schools, but to change the way they are managed and to invest in them, Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano said last week.

“Some of these demographic and financial challenges transcend the ability of one school to overcome them, so a number of these schools have to look to work together,” the bishop said.

Caggiano could decide as soon as February what to do about diocesan schools here and in two other regions of Fairfield County—Stamford and the Shelton-Monroe area.

The changes could include consolidating schools into a single academy, perhaps with multiple campuses, following successful models in Greenwich, Norwalk and Bridgeport.

Catholic elementary school enrollment in Fairfield County has dropped from 7,770 students in 2009 to 6,400 students today.

The declining enrollment is a function of competition from public schools, the cost of Catholic school tuition, and a decrease in young families participating in parish life—and it’s taking its toll on diocesan finances. It has cost the diocese $21 million to cover school budget deficits since it took over the management of parochial schools in 2000.

But the diocese has more in mind than saving money.

“However we reshuffle the cards, we are still planning on educating the same number of students,” said diocese spokesman Brian Wallace. “And the systems and resources we put in place will put us in a position to grow.”

The possibility that some Fairfield County Catholic schools might close or consolidate is causing anxiety in some parishes.

“Registration is way down—you can’t deny that,” said Fred Visconti, the chairman of the Parish Council at Saint Peter Church in downtown Danbury and a member of the City Council. “But we would hope that any major decision about the school would be done by the parish itself.”

The bishop responded that everyone involved in studying solutions is on the same side.

“Catholic education needs to be preserved and needs to have the resources to innovate in a changing world,” Caggiano said. “My goal is to get back to full enrollment in all our schools. We have about 3,000 empty seats.”

The diocese has 9,000 students and 1,000 faculty in 31 schools from Bethel to Wilton. But it’s the 25 elementary schools that have been under review.

Danbury and Brookfield together have a total of 890 students in four Catholic elementary schools, all of which are losing money, the diocese said. The average tuition of $6,400 doesn’t cover the $7,300 that it costs to educate each child.

Even so, the diocese’s per-pupil spending is considerably lower than the $12,700 Danbury public schools spend per student, and the $15,400 state average for public schools.

The diocese’s five high schools, on the other hand, give reason for hope, Caggiano said. Catholic high school enrollment in Fairfield County is up by 75 students since 2009.

Danbury’s Immaculate High School, for example, has seen a 24 percent jump in enrollment in the last four years, to 470 students. The school expects to enroll 500 students in the fall.

“The high schools are doing their own strategic planning—and Immaculate is going through a renaissance, which is wonderful,” Caggiano said. “What the high schools are doing, I want to do on the elementary level.”

The bishop plans to speak with parents during a January 30 meeting in Danbury before making his final decision.

“In Danbury, I don’t anticipate significant change, but schools still have issues to deal with,” Caggiano said. “In other regions, there may be more significant change.”

In Stamford, for example, the bishop is weighing a proposal that would create one elementary school out of four schools with a combined enrollment of less than 600.

The future

The challenges facing Catholic schools come at a time of increasing budgetary and demographic pressure on public schools.

Many of Western Connecticut’s public school districts are feeling the effects of decreasing enrollment, and the billion-dollar fiscal crisis in Hartford means less state aid is coming their way.

Cities such as Danbury are the exception to the decreasing enrollment trend, with annual enrollment growth as high as 2.5 percent in some of its public elementary schools.

But steady population growth in Danbury is not translating into parochial school enrollment, the diocese said.

Enrollment numbers at the four Catholic elementary schools being studied in Danbury are:

Saint Gregory the Great School - 209

Saint Joseph School - 255

Saint Peter’s School - 249

Saint Joseph School (Brookfield) - 177

Catholic elementary schools are struggling not only because of competition from quality public schools and the diminished numbers of young adults with active faith lives in Fairfield County.

The model that many Catholic schools were founded on, when they were built by immigrants and staffed by nuns, is outdated, the diocese said. Today’s Catholic schools are staffed by lay teachers with master’s degrees, and can no longer afford to charge parents a nominal tuition.

In response, the diocese has set up working groups in Danbury, Shelton and Stamford to study ways to stabilize and even increase enrollment.

A Danbury parent with three children in Catholic school said she trusts the diocese to do the right thing.

“I do feel that the bishop is going to do what is best for us, and that his desire is for all children who want to have a Catholic education to have one,” said Kate Gibowitz, a homeroom parent coordinator at Saint Joseph School in Danbury. “It absolutely starts with the parents to instill a sense of faith in children, but I do like the fact that the reinforcement comes on a daily basis in a Catholic school environment.”

Once the bishop makes his decision about the shape Catholic schools will take in Danbury, Shelton and Stamford, parents can expect to hear more about an investment initiative launched by Caggiano called the Education Foundation. The foundation’s purpose is to enhance the diocesan scholarship fund, to establish a professional development program for teachers and to update technology and curriculum in classrooms.

“This is what it means to be good stewards of the faith,” Caggiano said. “There is a financial piece to it of course, but we also need to engage in strategic planning so that we can be faithful to our mission and meet the changing needs of our world.”

 

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Changes planned for Shelton-Monroe Catholic schools
| January 23, 2017 • by Michael P. Mayko, CT Post


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SHELTON—Three may become two, or even one.

But just how many, or which of the three Catholic schools will remain in the Shelton-Monroe area rests in the hands of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.


Photo by Carol Kaliff / Hearst Connecticut Media

Caggiano is expected to announce his decision February 3 at 6:30 pm during a meeting with parents, teachers, administrators and interested parties at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull.

At that time, he will discuss his plan to keep Catholic education alive and flourishing.

“We have three schools, each with declining enrollment,” said Brian D. Wallace, spokesman for the diocese. “The enrollment does not support operating three separate schools. ... We’ve been living check to check.”

St. Joseph, built in 1928, has about 127 students with a tuition cost of just under $6,000 per student.

St. Lawrence School, at 530 Shelton Ave., which opened in 1965, is the largest with about 177 students and a tuition of $6,365 per student.

St. Jude’s at 707 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe, which opened in 1962, is the smallest with about 80 students and a $5,590 tuition.

Caggiano’s decision follows a meeting with parents and teachers on Jan. 17. The bishop met with the group at St. Joseph School.

He discussed his concerns and listened to those of the parents. The diocese’s Superintendent of Schools Steven Cheeseman conducted a similar meeting at St. Lawrence School.

Monsignor Thomas Powers, the diocese’s vicar general, did the same at St. Jude School.

“He (the bishop) said there were a lot of factors that will go into his decision,” said a St. Joseph parent who asked not to be identified. “Demographics and space were two of them. He wants his Catholic schools to grow with emerging technology and the best possible teachers.”

The parents left with “a good feeling.”

“The bishop has made it clear that it’s not about retreating, but moving forward,” said Wallace. “We want to get it right. We want it so that if a parent puts their child into kindergarten this September, that same child will graduate eighth grade from the same Catholic school.”

Closing and consolidation

While the bishop has not made a decision, the consensus among many Shelton residents is that St. Joseph, the oldest of the three, is the most likely to close.

“That would be bittersweet,” said John Zaleski, director of the Wakelee Memorial Funeral Home in Ansonia and a 1982 graduate of St. Joseph. “If there’s any kind of upside, its closing would alleviate the financial drain on the parish. But it’s difficult to see something that has been in existence so long close.”

St. Joseph faced serious financial issues last year. But then Robert Scinto, the multimillionaire Shelton developer, stepped in and provided 35 scholarships, each for $2,000, to new students. Students who receive the scholarship are required to update Scinto on their scholastic and personal progress, and maintain a B average.

Still, Wallace said operating on a “pay-as-you-go basis” is not working for the Catholic schools.

“Everything is enrollment-driven,” said Mayor Mark Lauretti, who said Shelton has seen its public school enrollment drop by 900 students in recent years.

In a worst-case scenario, with both St. Joseph and St. Lawrence closing and parents deciding to send those 300 or so students to public schools, Lauretti said the city could handle the influx.

“But remember, not all those students are from Shelton. Some are from the surrounding area,” he said.

As a result, he said, the bishop will announce the creation of Foundations in Education on February 1 at 11 am at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

“This creates a more long-term program with support from business, corporate and institutional leaders and organizations,” Wallace said. “It will be a fully independent philanthropical foundation.”

There are three aspects to it, he said.

The first involves creating an endowment that will fund scholarships and programs. The $2.2 million raised for Catholic education through the bishop’s annual appeal will go to the foundation, Wallace said.

Additionally, there is an innovation aspect, which will allow the remaining schools to “bring in the best technology and most advance curriculum to prepare our students for the future.”

Finally, there will be grants available for professional development
One option would be to use the ‘academy’ model we have in Bridgeport,” Wallace said. “The three schools could consolidate into one with two campuses—or all three into one.

“From day one, the bishop has been concerned with education. He spent a huge amount of time to determine what can be done and how to move forward.”


Fairfield County students take top honors
| January 21, 2017


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Bethel, Norwalk, Danbury kids win State Knights of Columbus vocation poster contest

PUTNAM—It’s natural for children to think about what they’re going to do when they grow up, but they might not think about becoming a Catholic priest or a nun. 

The Knights of Columbus is working to change that. For several years the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus has sponsored an annual vocation poster contest among Catholic elementary and middle school-age children throughout the state.

Entrants were asked to make posters representing one or more life vocations in the Catholic Church, including marriage, the single life or being a priest, nun, deacon or a religious brother.

A special committee, made up of three professed religious sisters and a priest, met recently at the Daughters of the Holy Spirit U. S. A. Provincial House, in Putnam, and selected the state’s four winners for 2016-2017. They are first- and second-grade winner Mirabella Matthews, of Danbury, third- and fourth-grade winner Robert Pattison, of Bethel, fifth- and sixth-grade winner Danielle Erive, of Norwalk, and seventh- and eighth-grade winner Nichole Solano, also of Danbury.

Solano, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader, drew a striking black-and-white poster, featuring a crucifix and a man praying, with the slogan “Jesus proposed…I said yes!”

“I prayed about it and I figured that a vocation is how you should follow God,” she said. “I wanted to show that.”

Taking a cue from Pope Francis, the idea behind the contest is to get children to think about their possible vocation in life, beginning at a young age.

“Becoming a priest or a man or woman religious is not primarily our own decision,” the Pope said in a speech in Rome to seminarians and novices in 2013. “Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love.”

Starting last fall, local K of C councils held competitions in their local Catholic grade schools and parish Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) programs, selecting their own winning posters from among a total of 368 entries received statewide.

Matthews, Pattison and Solano, all students at St. Mary’s School in Bethel, won their respective grade level’s school contest, sponsored by Pavia Council 48, of Bethel. Erive, a member of St. Matthew’s Parish in Norwalk, won her grade level’s parish CCD contest, sponsored by St. Matthew Council 14360, also in Norwalk. The local, winning posters were then forwarded to Putnam for judging in the statewide competition.

Members of the selection committee, all from Putnam, included Sr. Margaret Bareika, M.V.S., of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Sr. Marie Pauline Guillemette, of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, Sr. Jaisy, of the Sisters of St. Martha and Rev. Richard L. Archambault, a former superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Norwich. The committee was put together by Knights from Putnam, at the request of the state council.

“We need vocations. The priests and the nuns are important,” Archambault said. “It’s good to get young people dealing with this.”

State Council Church Activities Director Kevin P. Donovan, of Monroe, is pleased with the results.

“It’s wonderful to see how thoughtful the kids were, particularly about this issue,” Donovan said. “Thanks to this contest, hundreds of children here in Connecticut have really worked hard and thought about what they want to do with their lives. We hope for even more participation next year.”

Each of the winners will receive a $50 gift card from the Connecticut State Council, to be presented at Knights of Columbus state convention, to be held in Farmington in May.


Hover and click the arrows to navigate the slideshow above
or visit the photo gallery to learn more
about the Poster Contest Winners!

ACA comes to New Canaan
| January 20, 2017


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NEW CANAAN—More than 85 guests turned out for the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) kick off reception held at New Canaan Country Club. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and ACA chair couple Steve nod Elena Schlegel greeted the men and women who came by to celebrate the Appeal and learn more about the ministries it supports.


Elena Schlegel told the gathering that serving as a the chair couple has been "an eye opening experience" as she tours many programs, schools, and services that are available throughout Fairfield County as a result of the Appeal. She is scheduled to visit Catholic Charities Behavioral Health and Homeless Outreach programs in Danbury today, and to stop at St. John Fisher Seminary and the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy Residence in Stamford in the coming weeks.
     
Bishop Caggiano, who thanked all those in attendance, began his remarks by telling the story of a little girl who attended last Sunday's reception at the Catholic Center to launch the appeal in the Bridgeport area. "She said she wanted to make a gift to the Appeal and would use her $5 allowance," the Bishop said. He added that one of the most powerful ways to support the appeal is to tell others about the good works that it funds and encourage them to give.
    
Receptions to launch the ACA in Danbury, Trumbull, Darien, and Greenwich are set to begin next week. For more information on the Annual Catholic Appeal or for an invitation or to an ACA reception, visit www.2017ACAbridgeport.com or call 203.416.1470.


Bishop reviews schools viability
| January 19, 2017 • by Brian D. Wallace


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BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport is nearing completion of a 16-month planning process for the future of its elementary schools in Stamford and the greater Danbury and Shelton area.


Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and other diocesan leaders have begun to personally meet with parents to listen to feedback on working group recommendations.

The local planning and working groups were formed as the final stage in the study of schools, which began in 2014, and they are reviewing findings including diocesan and community data on finances, demographics, facilities, trends and other factors.

“The results of this planning process now bring us to an important moment in shaping the future,” said Bishop Caggiano. “More specifically, I expect to make important decisions in the coming weeks regarding those schools that continue to face financial difficulties, in the hope of creating a plan to ensure the long-term viability of Catholic education in every region of the diocese.”

The bishop and Superintendent Dr. Steven Cheeseman will return to the schools in February to announce final plans after consultations with pastors and principals, planning committees, school advisory boards, and listening sessions with parents.

While it is anticipated that some schools may consolidate, the bishop said he remains committed to preserving the long-term viability of Catholic education in every region of the diocese, and ensuring that there is a place for every child who wishes to attend a Catholic school in their area.  

The diocesan and school planning groups are also exploring new governance structures,  financial and administrative models, and school redesign to make the best use of resources and prepare for future changes.

“In order to retool our schools for the 21st century and to create learning enviornments focused on innovation and collaboration, we need a student population small enough to form a cohesive and supportive faith community, but large enough to support innovating programing and facilities,” said Dr. Cheeseman.

Ensuring the viability and vitality of schools is one of a number of major initiatives launched by Bishop Caggiano, who has made Catholic schools one of his priorities as they continue to face challenges of deficits, shrinking enrollment and the need to plan for the future.  

In 2014, the diocese created the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which has made more than $2.2 million a year available for students in elementary schools. The fund was a major breakthrough for families because in addition to serving the poor, it made it possible for middle and upper income families to receive support, particularly when they had more than one child enrolled in Catholic schools.

In 2016, Bishop Caggiano announced the formation of Foundations in Education, an independent philanthropic foundation to support Catholic schools by creating endowments for scholarship aid, professional development and ongoing innovations in curriculum, technology and school design.

The viability studies and planning reviews began with the formation of the Diocese Education Commission in 2014. In June 2015, Sister Mary Grace Walsh, the former Superintendent of Schools, launched a diocesan-wide educational planning process by asking all diocesan elementary schools to complete a viability study for the commission.

The purpose of the study was to identify the areas of challenge that each school faced and to make recommendations that would strengthen their long-term financial viability and educational vitality.

Following that initial study, members of the commission visited each of the 30 diocesan schools for a first-hand understanding of their respective strengths and challenges.  Afterwards, they met with representatives of the leadership team for each school.

According to Dr. Cheeseman, some schools were asked to identify specific benchmarks to help strengthen their long-term financial viability as a result of earlier research and meetings.

“After a great deal of work by local school leaders, some of these schools began the current academic year having made significant progress towards achieving greater financial stability and improvement in their educational programs,” Dr. Cheeseman said.  “A few schools continue to face significant financial challenges.”

He said the strategic planning entered a new phase this past September when every school was asked to complete a comprehensive financial stress test designed to identify any remaining serious challenges to its long-term financial health.

In December, Bishop Caggiano authorized the creation of two local school planning committees based on the results of the stress tests, one in Danbury/Brookfield and the other in Shelton/Monroe, to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their respective schools, the challenges posed by changing demographics, and most importantly, how to ensure the financial stability for schools in their geographical areas.

The committees are composed of three lay leaders chosen by the principal for their professional expertise, including education, financial planning, facilities and marketing. They have met to study the data for each school and have begun working directly with the bishop and superintendent to identify recommendations regarding how best to structure Catholic education going forward. Local pastors and school principals have also been part of the process.

A third school planning group was created earlier last year to study the Catholic schools in Stamford. That planning group has made its recommendation to the bishop who is currently reviewing the options presented.

“I am committed to complete this process with the help of each respective planning committee,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Our collective goal is to allow us to say with confidence that, once planning is completed and recommendations adopted, any child who enrolls in a kindergarten class in any Catholic school will be able to graduate the 8th grade from the same Catholic school.”

The Office of the Superintendent has established a hotline for parents and members of the school community to ask questions or offer observations.


Ministry Formation Day
| January 19, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—“Prophets of a Future Not Our Own will be the theme of a Ministry Formation Day set for Saturday January 28th, 8:30-2:30, Queen of Saint Hall at the Catholic Center, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT.


The day is sponsored by the new Diocesan Leadership Institute, and is open to all those serving in ministry.

“If you serve in youth ministry, religious education, liturgy, or any parish/school ministry, you are invited and encouraged to attend,” said Evan Psencik Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Faith Formation

Psencik said the day will feature “three rounds of presentations styled after TED talks.”

Round One, “Modern Day Prophets”, focuses on the Church as Prophet, Young People as Prophets, and The Prophetic Family.

Round Two, ”Prophetic Praxis,” will explore topics including Praying with Young People, Pastoral Care in Crisis, and Reaching the Margins.

Round Three, “Prophetic Engagement,” will reflect on Engaging Others (en Espanol) Engaging Liturgies, and Engaging Technology.
 

Speakers and Topics

Round One:

Sr. Maureen Sullivan, O.P. – The Church as Prophet
Sr. Maureen Sullivan, O.P. is a Dominican Sister of Hope from New York. She received her M.A. in Theology from Manhattan College in the Bronx and her Ph.D. from Fordham University, also in the Bronx. She is Professor Emerita of Theology at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

Patrick Donovan - Young People as Prophets
Patrick is the director of The Leadership Institute and has more than 25 years of ministry experience.

Chris Padgett – The Prophetic Family
Chris Padgett is a popular speaker, musician, professor, and author who has traveled around the world for nearly two decades giving concerts, talks, keynotes, and retreats to all ages about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. A convert to Catholicism, he also teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville as well as Catholic Distance University. He and his wife, Linda, have nine children and live north of Syracuse in Constantia, NY.

Round Two:

Fr. Sam Kachuba – Praying with Young People
Fr. Sam Kachuba was born and raised in the Diocese of Bridgeport, where he attended Catholic schools in the diocese before entering St. John Fisher Seminary. He earned his undergrad in philosophy at Fordham University and then studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is currently the pastor at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Fairfield.

Dr. Greg Bottaro – Pastoral Care in Crisis
Dr. Gregory Bottaro is a clinical psychologist and founder of the Catholic Psych Institute. He received his Psy.D. (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, a graduate school in Arlington, VA that integrates Catholic philosophy and theology with sound, empirically validated psychology.

Dr. Ansel Augustine – Reaching the Margins
Ansel Augustine is the director for the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Previously, he served as the associate director and coordinator of Black Catholic youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of New Orleans' CYO Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office. Ansel has his Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies and Doctorate in Ministry.

Round Three

Armando Cervantes – Engaging Others (en Español)
Armando M. Cervantes holds a BA in Social Sciences with an emphasis in Public and Community Service, an MA in Pastoral Theology, and just recently received his Executive Master in Business Administration from Chapman University. He is the Director of Youth and Young Adult ministries for the Diocese of Orange, advocating and empowering ministry in various language communities.

Fr. Joseph McQuaide – Engaging Liturgies
Rev. Joseph McQuaide is the Vice Chancellor and Coordinator for the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware. He has a Master’s degree in Sacramental Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm in Rome and is currently pursuing studies in Canon Law at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Evan Psencik - Engaging Technology
Evan is the coordinator of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Bridgeport and brings his winning charm and sunny disposition to all those he meets.

There is a $10/per person charge, which includes continental breakfast and lunch. To learn more and for registration, visit: http://www.formationreimagined.org


Baby Nathan John Touches Hearts and Shows the Beauty of Life
| January 18, 2017 • by Susan Klemond | ncregister.com


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MINNEAPOLIS—With temperatures near zero on the evening of January 4, a baby boy spent one of his first hours in a laundry basket left in a cathedral vestibule, where an astonished custodian discovered him as he locked up the church.


Uncertain about the baby’s health, the rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, baptized the infant while waiting for 911 responders.

Since then, the new little Catholic, christened Nathan John after his rescuers, has captured public attention worldwide and inspired the cathedral’s parishioners and others to consider adopting him.

Sacredness of Life

The rescue of the baby, now safe in the care of Ramsey County Child Protective Services, draws attention to “safe haven” laws in all 50 states that allow for the drop-off of newborn and recently born children in designated hospitals and other facilities.

And during the month of January, especially dedicated to the sanctity of life, the baby’s story underscores the Catholic and pro-life conviction that there are no unwanted children, as well as the call to not only profess pro-life beliefs, but act on them.

Nathan John’s story “speaks to the sacredness of human life and the innate quality in human beings to recognize that,” said Charlie Anderson, the St. Paul police sergeant who supervised the baby’s 911 rescue. “It serves to show how important it is that one little newborn life can bring together people from all spheres, as in how beautiful that little life is and how worthy it is of protection and care.”

The story is also “a reminder that many years ago Catholic convents often were safe havens for babies, and the sisters would find a good home for that child,” said Minneapolis-St. Paul Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who as an associate pastor in 2000 helped start the “Safe Place for Newborns” program, which later became Minnesota’s Safe Haven Law. “Our Church wants to proclaim to the world that no child is unwanted, and it is wonderful to know that a woman thought her baby would find a safe home by bringing him to the cathedral.”

All 50 states have enacted safe-haven legislation. The age of infants that can be dropped off, designated locations and other legal stipulations vary according to state.

According to the U.S. Government’s Child Welfare Information Gateway, four states allow churches to act as safe havens, but the relinquishing parent must first determine that church personnel are present at the time the infant is left. Although the baby’s mother or family may have chosen to leave him at the cathedral because it is a visible landmark, the Minnesota safe-haven law does not include any churches in the state among its designated safe havens for newborns.

Though she maybe didn’t know about the safe-haven law, according to Bishop Cozzens, “I’m sure that this woman knew that the Catholic Church would be a safe place for her child, since our teaching on the dignity of every human life is so well known. Additionally, we have worked hard locally and nationally to restore the reputation of our Church as safe places for vulnerable children. I hope this is what we are called to be and what the Catholic Church has traditionally been.”

Child of God

At about 6 pm on the night of the rescue, Nathan Leonhardt, 26, who has worked in maintenance at the cathedral for two and a half years, was closing up the Cathedral of St. Paul after evening Mass. As he checked the entry, which is used less frequently during the week, the door hit the basket containing the baby.

He considered coming back for the basket later, until he heard a noise and checked the contents. He was shocked to find the baby wrapped in a fleece blanket, still covered with wet blood and mucus from the birth and his cut umbilical cord clipped with a paper binder. Leonhardt said he has sometimes found homeless people trying to stay warm in the massive granite edifice, but never an abandoned baby. He concluded that the baby must have been dropped off before or during Mass.

Leonhardt called on his radio for cathedral rector Father John Ubel, who noticed that the baby was especially quiet. In recounting the events, Sgt. Anderson estimated that the five-pound baby was about six weeks premature and was suffering from heat loss.

“There are so many things that could have happened but didn’t, and the baby is fine,” Father Ubel said.

The rector decided to perform an emergency baptism in the sacristy using holy water from a Mass cruet. He named him Nathan, which means “gift of God,” after Leonhardt, who served as the godfather. Since it was the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Father Ubel said he would have named the child Elizabeth if a girl. But since it was the eve of St. John Neumann’s feast day and his own name is John, he chose John for the baby’s middle name.

Leonhardt, who has a 4-year-old daughter but no other godchildren, said, “Being godfather feels pretty similar to how it is with your own children. I feel like he’s my own child. … I think about finding the baby and the baptism and naming him after me. It was so much that happened at once — I was speechless.”

Father Ubel, who is in his fifth year as rector, said he has baptized premature babies before, but only in hospitals. His emergency baptism omitted parts of the rite that could be performed later during a formal ceremony.

A week after the rescue, Father Ubel dropped off the baby’s baptismal certificate with the county’s Child Protective Services. Though the Church is not involved in determining who will raise the child, Father Ubel said he hopes he will be placed in a Catholic home.

The parish has received many emails from parishioners interested in adopting Nathan John or in donating baby items for him.

“It has awakened in me a realization of the number of parents who are patiently and prayerfully waiting for the possibility of adopting a child,” the priest said. “I think just by the responses we have received, so many people have really fallen in love with this child, whom they’ve never met. It says so much about the precious nature of life — and that life is good and that the choice made to choose life in this case was absolutely the right choice.”

From this experience, Father Ubel said he also recognizes the importance of actively supporting life. “If we are truly pro-life as we say we are and we are, then our response [at the cathedral] was the only possible response,” he said. “Our actions and our response have to flow from our belief in faith.”

After making sure the baby received medical care, Sgt. Anderson and the other officers who responded to the cathedral call stopped to buy clothes, toys and baby items for him on their way to see him at the hospital. “We’re all dads, and one was a new dad,” said Sgt. Anderson, who is Catholic and has three children. Amid other calls involving violence and tragedy that night, this one had a blessed ending.

With Nathan John now in good hands, Leonhardt said he hopes the baby’s mother is also doing well. He also prays he will see his godson again.

Father Ubel said he prays for the baby, too. “I want him to have a beautiful and full life,” he said. “I’m really entrusting him to the intercession of the Blessed Mother as well as the protection of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and all the saints. I’m very convinced this was his first day of life.”


Spirited reception launches ACA in Bridgeport
| January 16, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—A gathering of almost 300 people filled the Queen of Saints Hall at the Catholic Center on Sunday for the kickoff reception for 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal.


The afternoon event for people in the Bridgeport area was prayerful, loaded with questions, and enthusiastic about the Appeal, which supports good works throughout the diocese.

Parishioners from St. Margaret Shrine, St. George, St. Charles Borromeo, the Cathedral Parish, St. Mary, St. Ann, St. Andrew and others made the afternoon both festive and focused on supporting the appeal, which funds the major ministries of the diocese.

Fr. Frank Gomez, Pastor of St. Charles Parish on the East Side of Bridgeport, translated for the many Spanish-speaking Catholics in attendance. Many came as entire families-- grandparents, parents, children, and small babies in carriages.

Bishop Caggiano told the guests that the diocese is truly one family, but he expressed concern that the Church is not “meeting people where they are on their life’s journey.”

Many people responded in agreement when the Bishop asked if they knew others who had turned away from the Church because they were hurt or did not feel welcome. He said many people now identify as “spiritual but not religious,” and that our parish communities must be vibrant to welcome them back.

Fr. Peter Lynch, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Black Rock, introduced the Bishop and spoke in both Spanish and English to those who attended the reception. The 2017 ACA video was screened in English along with a shorter Spanish-languauge version.

During a question and answer session, the Bishop fielded many questions including interest in building a Church at St. Margaret Shrine and the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which he said was open to all children, even if their parents are recent immigrants. itizens.

When asked if there were other ways to give to the appeal in addition to giving money, the bishop responded that people with very little to give can also speak to others about the importance of the Appeal, and the many individual and families that it helps throughout the diocese.

He stressed there are donors who give $250,000 and those who give $10, and that he is equally as grateful because both are giving sacrificially.

After questions and a final prayer, the people enjoyed refreshments and were gifted with a small Lenten reflection book. The Bishop stayed throughout to chat informally and meet family members.

Please call 203.416.1312 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you have questions or need assistance. Give online www.2017ACAbridgeport.com


Hover and click the arrows to navigate the slideshow above
or visit the photo gallery (photos by Amy Mortensen)

USCCB President urges encounters of the heart in message for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
| January 16, 2017


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WASHINGTON—The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Full statement follows:


U.S. Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus interprets
at a meeting at the Vatican between Pope Paul VI
and Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by
his close associate Rev. Ralph Abernathy,
on Sept. 18. 1964. (AP Photo)

A Statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Since the time of the founding fathers, our country has been blessed with citizens who have had the courage to rise above the challenges of their day and call their fellow citizens forward in the unending task of building an ever more just nation. Today, we celebrate such a citizen, Martin Luther King, Jr. His inspiration guides us as we seek to build peace in our communities under the recent strain of division and violence. Recently, USCCB's Task Force for Peace in Our Communities has examined and reported on how the bishops of the United States may improve their own contribution to this ongoing national effort.

While there have been real gains in our country, we must not deny the work before us to heal both old rifts and new wounds, including those created by the evil of racism and related mistrust and violence. Society cannot continue this work if its members are unwilling to engage in encounters of the heart that honestly immerse them in one another's lives. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday provides a wonderful opportunity to examine how well each of us is doing in walking together with others in true encounter and solidarity.

Dr. King reminded us that our obligations to one another "concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify. Such obligations are met by one's commitment to an inner law, written on the heart. Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love." On this national holiday, may we think prayerfully about the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. King who directed his work toward both the structural and personal causes of racism. As he urged the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, "no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream'" (Amos 5:24).


Upcoming synod needs young people's voices, pope says
| January 14, 2017 • by Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis asked young people to tell him, their bishops and pastors about their hopes and struggles and even their criticisms.


In preparation for a meeting of the Synod of Bishops focused on youth, the pope wrote a letter to young people, saying the church wants "to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism."

"Make your voice heard," the pope told young people. "Let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls."

The pope's letter was released Jan. 13 along with the preparatory document for the synod. The document includes a series of questions to be answered by national conferences of bishops and other church bodies. The responses, along with input from young people themselves, will form the basis of the synod's working document.

Pope Francis chose "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" as the theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018.

Young people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by submitting reflections "on their expectations and their lives" through a dedicated website -- www.sinodogiovani.va -- that will be launched March 1, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.

In his letter, Pope Francis referred to God's call to Abraham. The Old Testament patriarch, he said, "received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this 'new land' for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?"

"A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity," Pope Francis told young people. "Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master."

The synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young people in today's world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral activity.

Through the synod, the document said, "the church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today."

The church, it said, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living in a rapidly changing world where globalization, technological dominance, as well as economic and social hardships pose significant challenges to discovering their vocational path.

"From the vantage point of faith, the situation is seen as a sign of our times, requiring greater listening, respect and dialogue," the document said.

A special focus of the synod, it said, will be "on vocational discernment, that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one's state in life."

Specifically for Christians, it said, the question is: "How does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those he encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life?"

One of the major challenges for young people in defining their personal identity and finding their path in life is the countless options available -- particularly when it comes to their careers -- that may impede them from making a definitive life choice.

Many young people today, it said, "refuse to continue on a personal journey of life if it means giving up taking different paths in the future: 'Today I choose this, tomorrow we'll see.'"

Lack of employment and social and economic hardships, it added, also contribute to "their inability to continue in one career. Generally speaking, these obstacles are even more difficult for young women to overcome," it added.

Gender inequality and discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities, which can force people to emigrate, are other detrimental factors that the church is called to address to help young people become "agents of change."

"If society or the Christian community wants to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for new people to take action," the document said.

By accompanying young people in their personal discernment, it said, "the church accepts her call to collaborate in the joy of young people rather than be tempted to take control of their faith."

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists Jan. 13 that the presence of young men and women at the synod will help bishops understand how best to accompany youths who are searching for their vocation and path in life.

As auditors, young people "will not only be able to take part in the meetings of the general assembly, but also the small working groups," he said.

Federica Ceci and Elvis Do Ceu, young members of Rome's St. Thomas More parish, joined the cardinal for the news conference and expressed their gratitude for Pope Francis' attention to the realities facing today's young people.

Ceci, a 24-year-old law student, said the synod was a call for young people to "get their hands dirty."

Do Ceu told reporters, "Pope Francis, in a certain way, helps us understand that that the only way forward is to offer a future—as well as a present—by engaging young people and giving them a leading role."


Immaculate High School Welcomes Accepted Students
| January 14, 2017


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DANBURY—Recently Immaculate High School (IHS) hosted a special Accepted Students Night for the more than 250 accepted students who are eligible to make up the class of 2021.


The final number of students in this class will bringImmaculate High School's overall enrollment to about 500 students, which is a 24 percent increase in the student body in the past four years.

"At Immaculate High School, we encourage our students to find success in academics, athletics, fine arts and extracurricular clubs," said Tom Burns, Director of Admissions. "IHS students come together from area elementary and middle schools to seek academic challenges, discover leadership and use the latest technology, in addition to practicing their faith every day," he added.

The prospective students and their parents were treated to a pasta dinner sponsored by the school's Mustang All Sports Club after informational sessions. Students were paired with existing IHS students to learn more about the unique experiences Immaculate High School offers, while parents met with faculty and staff to further discuss the curriculum, athletics, special programs and scholarship opportunities.

Prior to applying, students take standardized high school entrance exams, visit the school during an Open House and are invited to be a "Mustang for A Day," which involves shadowing current IHS students for a day. A number of prospective parent information sessions are offered during the application process.

Immaculate High School's college acceptance rate is 99 percent with a three-times return on investment (students earned over $18 million in college scholarships in 2016) and there is a 13:1 student-faculty ratio. IHS athletics saw three championship titles last school year, the Fall Drama production "Julius Caesar" was named the Number One School Drama Production in Connecticut and an accumulated average of 23,000 hours of community service are performed by students annually.

Several of this year's accepted students were awarded academic merit awards ranging from $500 to $5,000. Named scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded to qualifying student applicants in March.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport's parochial school system.

For more information on attending Immaculate High School, contact Tom Burns, Director of Admissions, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling 203.744.1510 ext. 148.


Lessons from an Era of Confusion
| January 12, 2017


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NEW YORK—In this "First Things" blog entry, nationally syndicated columnist and Catholic theologian George Weigel reviews "Aggiornamento on the Hill of Janus," the new book by Msgr. Stephen  DiGiovanni, pastor of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford.

Click here to read the review.


Mr. Weigel, who is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and one of America's leading public intellectuals, offers an appreciative and perceptive reflection on this important book about the history of The American College in Rome. "Some imagine that a return to the free-for-all of the 1970s is the evangelical path forward for twenty-first-century Catholicism; others think a return to the 1950s is what's needed. Msgr. DiGiovanni’s important book raises grave questions about both these prescriptions," Mr. Weigel writes.


Development Office Releases 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal Video
| January 11, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT—Here's the first look at "Sharing God's Gift, Transforming Lives," the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) video.


This year's video includes an introduction and closing remarks from Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and interviews with many faithful and fascinating people throughout the diocese. The personal testimonies of faith and good works captured on the video are both moving and inspiring.

"On behalf of the staff of the Development Office, I am pleased to send you the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal video. This is an excellent and inspirational representation of the diocesan ministries that are funded through the ACA and we look forward to your comments," said William McLean, Chief Development Officer. "Special thanks go out to Pam Rittman, Director of Development, whose efforts were instrumental in overseeing the creative team. Once again, she has delivered a video that tells our story faithfully and memorably."
   
The full length video is also offered in Spanish and an additional short Spanish version.


Walking with Purpose
| January 10, 2017 • by BETH LONGWARE DUFF


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BRIDGEPORT—Walking with Purpose is not your grandmother’s Bible study group. Founded in Maryland in 2002 by a young mother and Catholic convert who was looking for material that was relevant to her situation, Walking with Purpose has evolved into a program that strives to reach out to all Christian women regardless of age, background or marital status. As its website notes, Walking with Purpose “understands how it feels when life is stuck on the spin cycle.”


“Walking with Purpose is based on the idea that all people should
be loved towards Christ, not necessarily taught,” says Julie Ricciardi, CEO
and board chair. Fifteen parishes in Fairfield County offer the program for women.

In 2008, Walking with Purpose came to the Diocese of Bridgeport. Today, 15 parishes in Fairfield County offer the program; close to 200 more faith communities across the United States, Europe and Canada are also active.

“Walking with Purpose is based on the idea that all people should be loved towards Christ, not necessarily taught,” says Julie Ricciardi, whose home parish is St. Thomas More in Darien. “And if we lead with love—and if we meet women where they are in their spiritual journey—the Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps and do the work to lead people closer to Christ.”

Ricciardi not only participates in the Walking with Purpose program, she also serves as the organization’s CEO and board chair. In that capacity, she works closely with its founder, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, who spoke recently to a gathering of Catholic women and priests in the diocese. Brenninkmeyer says the woman-centric nature of the program has a great impact. “I would say it’s somewhat revolutionary in the Church today,” she says. “There has not been a lot of a gentle woman’s voice that is in a leadership position. And I would contrast a gentle voice from a strident voice, a gentle voice that is very much wanting the positions and titles that right now are only held by men.”

“This is really a time for strong women who also have a grace in the way that they communicate to step forward,” she elaborates. “That graciousness is something that other women really do engage with because they relate to it. There’s no agenda behind it all. It’s really a belief that where we are right now we have a voice, and if we use it we can have an enormous impact.”

Walking with Purpose is consistent with Church doctrine and uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an additional resource; all course materials have received the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The parish-based program consists of small weekly group meetings plus home study. Classes run for about 90 minutes over a 22-week period, September to April.

Courses have titles like “Opening Your Heart,” “Keeping In Balance” and “Touching the Divine.” The course description for “Discovering Our Dignity” says it provides “modern-day advice from women of the Bible. Ancient wisdom, sage advice, sorrowful failures and woundedness.”
­­­­­­­­
The program also offers monthly gatherings known as Connect Coffee, informal sessions during which women interested in learning more about the program can review course materials and interact with current participants.

Pamela Rittman says she enjoys the upbeat nature of her Thursday night Walking with Purpose meeting at St. Leo Parish in Stamford. “What I really like about the group is the camaraderie of Christian women. We form a sisterhood, in a sense, as we learn more about our faith together.  Along with the teaching we share personal thoughts on spiritual devotions and even challenges we face,” she says. “We each read a page from the chapter and discuss the answers to questions we have prepared before our gathering. It is truly amazing, some of the insights we have learned and how exciting the Bible is.  At the end of the evening, we ask each person for their prayer requests, and then we pray for each other. We’re not trying to impress each other, we just come as we are.”

Walking with Purpose continues on the path to growth and expansion. Coming soon: New courses, a new emphasis on high school and young adult women, and a new program for girls in middle school.

“We’ve been looking at the core issues that women struggle with, and then we’re working our way back to say ‘When did this begin? At what age do women start to struggle with how they define their sense of worth?’” says Brenninkmeyer. “We think a lot of that starts to happen in middle school, and so we want to engage middle school girls before a lot of faulty reasoning has set in. If they’re engaged at that point, many of them will continue to move on to the next level of the program and we won’t lose them.”

(More information about Walking with Purpose is available at www.walkingwithpurpose.com. A locator map is available under the Parish Programs tab on the homepage.) 


Cardinal Tobin looks to bridge chasm between faith, life in anxious world
| January 08, 2017 • by Beth Griffin Catholic News Service


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NEWARK—The chasm between faith and life is the greatest challenge facing the Catholic Church today, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin said at his installation Mass, and he urged the church to be salt for the earth so that the presence of Christ does not become "a comforting, nostalgic memory."


Delivering the homily during the liturgy Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany, Cardinal Tobin said he wanted to head off "a growing trend that seems to isolate us, convincing us to neatly compartmentalize our lives" as people attend Mass on Sunday and then doing "whatever we think we need to do to get by" the rest of the week.

Cardinal Tobin said his appointment reminded him "that stakes are incredibly high" as he assumes leadership of the richly diverse Archdiocese of Newark.

"If we permit the chasm between faith and life to continue to expand, we risk losing Christ, reducing him simply to an interesting idea of a comforting, nostalgic memory. And if we lose Christ, the world has lost the salt, light and leaven that could have transformed it," he said.

He recalled how the church is "the place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world. The church senses a responsibility for the world, not simply as yet another institutional presence or a benevolent NGO, but as a movement of salt, light and leaven for the world's transformation. For this reason, our kindness must be known to all."

The installation took place before more than 2,000 people at Newark's towering Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Tobin concelebrated the Mass with six other cardinals and more than 60 archbishops and bishops. Five hundred priests and deacons also participated.

After a 30-minute processional, Archbishop John J. Myers, retired archbishop of Newark, welcomed participants and took special note of members of Cardinal Tobin's religious community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, his mother, Marie Terese Tobin, and his extended family. Cardinal Tobin, 64, is the eldest of 13 children.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, recalled when St. John Paul visited Newark in 1995, he described the nearby Statue of Liberty as a symbol of "the nation America aspires to be." Archbishop Pierre told Cardinal Tobin, "We are confident that in imitation of the Good Shepherd, your episcopal ministry will be both hospitable and welcoming."

The nuncio read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis to the College of Consultors to authorize Cardinal Tobin as the new archbishop of Newark. The letter noted that Cardinal Tobin carried out his episcopal responsibility to his flock in Indianapolis for four years "with prudence, decision-making and much learning." It also commended him to the protection of St. Patrick and St. Elizabeth, patrons of the archdiocese.

Carrying the unfurled scroll with the mandate raised high in front of him, Cardinal Tobin walked down the main aisle and was greeted with sustained applause.


Safe Environment Training for Parents
| January 08, 2017


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BRIDGEPORT— A Safe Environment Training for parents will be offered by the Diocese of Bridgeport on Thursday January 12th, 2017 at the Catholic Center.


The first session for Elementary School parents (K-8) will be held from 5:00 P.M.-6:00 P.M. The second from 6:15 P.M.-7:15 P.M. is designed for parents of High School students (Grades 9-12). The presentations will be held in Room L14 of the center.

Bernadette Griffen, Safe Environment Program Assistant, will serve as facilitator for the program which includes a short video and question and answer session.

“This is an opportunity to learn more about the Children’s Safe Environment Training, Think First and Stay Safe and the Netsmartz workshop which takes place in the Catholic Schools throughout Fairfield County,” said Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., Director of the Safe Environment Office and Victim Assistance Coordinator of the Diocese of Bridgeport

Topics for the presentation include child safety, sexual abuse prevention, internet dangers, school yard and cyber bullying, abduction prevention, safe use of technology, and the latest popular Apps that are a high risk to children.

Griffen is a professional counselor who conducts Child Abuse Prevention trainings for adults and children across the Diocese of Bridgeport. She has more than four years of clinical experience with adults and children in school settings, substance abuse treatment programs and is currently working with adults who have been convicted of sex crimes and crimes against children in order to promote recovery and reduce recidivism with offenders.

Neil said there are 242 employees and volunteers in Schools, Parishes and Diocesan Organizations who are trained as Local Safe Environment Coordinators and have access to the VIRTUS (a live comprehensive three hour class on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention) database as administrators.

In October the Diocese of Bridgeport was found to be in compliance with all audited articles within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 2015/2016 audit period. The successful audit follows a major effort in 2015 to update diocesan programs, initiative a comprehensive re-certification process and introduce online innovations in the past year.

The Catholic Center is located at 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport. Pre-registration for the training is required to ensure that participants are notified in the event of any changes or cancellations. Please email or call no later than 24-hours prior to the date of the training. Office: (203) 416-1650 Cell Phone: (475) 988-5366 email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

--

The Diocese of Bridgeport has been found compliant with all audited articles within the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 2015/2016 audit period.


Diocese Set to Launch the Diocesan Leadership Institute
| January 06, 2017


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WESTPORT—The Diocese will formally launch its new Diocesan Leadership Institute with Evening Prayer and brief presentation on Encounter, Formation and Discipleship on Wednesday, January 11, 7 pm at Assumption Church in Westport.


Music will be provided by the Assumption Parish music ministry, and Chris Padgett an internationally known ministry leader, will share his powerful story of coming to the faith and the importance of continued formation in his own life.

The institute will offer a combination of online learning, face-to-face workshops and independent study for those serving ministry in parishes and schools and for all Catholics throughout the diocese who wish to learn more about their faith.

“This is an historic moment for our Diocese to come together and grow in our knowledge of our Catholic faith and to celebrate in the presence of the Lord,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano.

The Bishop noted that the formation of a Leadership Institute was a priority for delegates who participated in the Fourth Diocesan Synod.

“During the launch we will pray that the Leadership Institute helps us as a diocese to grow in our knowledge of the things we believe, to grow in our spiritual relationship with the Lord, to learn how to pray more deeply and broadly, and to learn about the ministries of the church and the beautiful family we form,” the Bishop said.  

Patrick Donovan, founding director of the Institute, said it is designed to function as a clearinghouse for resources for those in ministry, while at the same time “serving as a virtual library for anyone who wishes to learn more about the Catholic faith regardless of the role on might choose to play in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

“The institute will offer creative opportunities for ministry personnel to grow in faith and discover new ways to shape the next generation of disciples in Fairfield County,” said Donovan.

For more information on the Diocesan Leadership Institute, visit the website: formationreimagined.org.


St. Theresa Students Honor our Nation’s Veterans
| January 06, 2017


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TRUMBULL—The middle school students of St. Theresa School in Trumbull recently honored some of our nation’s Veterans by creating and sending them Veteran’s Day cards. On November 11th, the students wrote to several veterans from both World War II and the Korean War.





This year marked the second year that the school’s Religion classes dedicated the day to learning about the sacrifices made by so many men and women throughout our nation’s history. They also learned that as Mary brought Jesus into the world at the Nativity, we each bring Christ to the world through service. In this particular activity, the students learned about the importance of service to our nation.

The veterans that the students wrote to this year included former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice-President Walter Mondale, longtime U.S. Senator Bob Dole, and baseball legends Dr. Bobby Brown and Bobby Doerr. Each student was assigned a veteran to write to, and designed their cards specifically to their assigned veteran.

“The Holy Spirit reminds all of us that while many wars took place years before any of these students were born, these veterans still need our love, support, and encouragement,” said John Agostino, the middle school Religion teacher at St. Theresa School. “It’s important for the students to recognize the sacrifices made by each veteran every day of the year, but especially on Veteran’s Day.”

Just days after sending out their cards, the students were thrilled to receive a response from Walter Mondale, who served for two years at Fort Knox during the Korean War. In his letter, he thanked the students for taking the time to write to him. He also stated, “One of the joys of my life was to have been involved in public life in our country.” Mr. Mondale was referring to both his service in the United States Army, his years as United States Senator, and his term as United States Vice President under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

In addition to receiving a letter from Mr. Mondale, the students also received a response from Senator Dole who fought in World War II, and Dr. Brown who fought in the Korean War. In his letter, Dr. Brown stated, “The letters thanking me for my service to our nation represent the highest acclaim. It makes all the efforts I expended worthwhile.”

Dr. Brown is best remembered as the Third baseman for the New York Yankees who postponed his career from 1952 to 1954 in order to serve his nation. Through his example, the students learned how service to his nation was more important to Dr. Brown than any of the four World Series titles he won while a member of the New York Yankees.

Additionally, the students received a response from World War II veteran George H.W. Bush. While in World War II from 1942 to 1945, Bush reached the rank of Lieutenant, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Aside from his service in service in World War II, Bush is best remembered as the nation’s Vice President under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989, and as the nation’s forty-first President from 1989 to 1993.

In his letter, President Bush commented on the quality of the letters sent by the students. He wrote, “They (the letters) are all so well done, and I thank you for remembering me so thoughtfully.”

Similar to Mr. Mondale and Dr. Brown, President Bush also commented on the pleasure he had in serving our nation. He said, “Service to country is a high honor, and I count my years in the Navy and later as Vice President and President as the most rewarding of my life.”

Mr. Agostino and the students of St. Theresa School look forward to writing to more of our nation’s veterans in the future.


New Covenant volunteers is “Hometown Hero”
| January 05, 2017


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STAMFORD—This week’s “Hometown Hero,” profiled on the popular TV News12 Connecticut feature, is Sally Kelman of Stamford, a long-time volunteer at New Covenant Center and a member of Temple Sinai in Stamford.



Once again Sally and members of the Temple served Christmas meals at New Covenant House so that staff and other volunteers could be home with their families. They also are active volunteers throughout the year in the effort of NCC to serve the working poor and vulnerable.

New Covenant Center (NCC) is a program of  Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc., opened in 1978 as a soup kitchen “to help the neediest in greater Stamford meet the most basic need for food in a dignified and respectful environment."

Annually, approximately 800 interfaith volunteers, either singly or as a group from various employers and organizations and places of worship provide invaluable assistance with every aspect of our operations: preparing and serving food, stocking and staffing the food pantry, fundraising, holiday appeals, strategic planning, and community outreach.

In addition to providing 300 hot meals daily through its soup kitchen programs, NCC also provide groceries for 400 families through its Food Pantry, and helps guests build daily living skills with programs including life counseling job skills, and basic medical care.

New Covenant Center is open 365 days a year and recently moved into new and expanded quarters at 174 Richmond Hill Avenue. For information contact John Gutman, Executive Director at 203.964.8228, ext. 401 or Betsy Lopez, assistant director at 203.964.8228, ext. 415. Visit the website: www.ccfairfield.org/programs/new-covenant-center

Click here to see the video on Hometown Hero: Sally Kelman | News 12 Connecticut


Local priest writes the book on his alma mater
| January 02, 2017 • by Nora Naughton from stamfordadvocate.com


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STAMFORD—A trip to Rome isn’t something to be turned down.

That’s what Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni, of Stamford’s Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, said inspired him to write his latest book: “Aggiornamento on the Hill of Janus.”


The historical vignette of his alma mater, the Pontifical North American College in Rome, picks up where another graduate left off. Father Robert McNamara published a 100-year anthology of the college—“The American College in Rome, 1855-1955”—in 1956.

Nearly six decades later, DiGiovanni was asked by the Archbishop of New York to spend a year in Rome and continue McNamara’s work.

DiGiovanni explored the school’s cultural transformation during the Vatican II transition, the Vietnam War and the social revolutions of the 1960s and 70s. “Aggiornamento on the Hill of Janus” is a history of the American seminary from 1955 through 1979, he said.

“The school and the church were both going through some very turbulent changes at the time,” DiGiovanni said. “Some of the book is very wacky and weird. It’s a very interesting cultural and religious balance.”

DiGiovanni, who received his doctoral degree from NAC in 1983, spent two semesters in Rome between 2014 and 2015, gathering research and interviews for the book. It was written to supplement McNamara’s academic work, but it reads more like a narrative.

“The book is academic in that there are a lot of sources and archives and footnotes, but it’s not difficult to read,” he said. “Anyone familiar with the culture of this era — this stuff is there. We have Vietnam, sex, drugs and rock and roll, civil rights—it’s all there.”

This is DiGiovanni’s second book. His first, published in in 2013, also focuses on NAC. “The Second Founder: Bishop Martin J. O'Connor and the Pontifical North American College,” chronicles the re-opening of the American seminary in Rome after World War II.

For this book, DiGiovanni said he was fascinated by the ways in which the events and changes in practice at NAC reverberated into the rest of the world.

“If you’ve ever wondered how today’s American church came to be what we know now—well, here’s part of it,” he said. “What happened (at NAC) was imitated and replicated around the world.”

“Aggiornamento on the Hill of Janus” was published by Midwest Theological Forum earlier this year. Its first run includes 1,500 copies. It is available on Amazon or for a discounted price at the Basilica in downtown Stamford.

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Strength for the Journey
| January 01, 2017


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RIVERSIDE—St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Riverside will launch the first of four monthly talks on “Accompanying the Sick and Dying” (Strength for the Journey) on Sunday, January 8, 2017.

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The four-part symposium will begin with Works of Mercy, Faith Centered Care by Dr. Gregory Bottaro, a Clinical Psychologist (with a private practice in Byram) and Founder and Director of the Catholic Psych Institute. It will be held from 12:30 to 2 pm in the parish auditorium, 4 Riverside Avenue.

“Dr. Bottaro will explore how we can be merciful, loving and charitable caregivers, as well as "take care" of our own emotional and spiritual needs while caregiving. He is a captivating speaker and his talk will be very rewarding,” said Dr. Lisa Rooney, Faith Community Nursing (FCN) minister and one of the coordinators of the Faith Community Nursing Ministry at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Riverside.

Dr. Rooney said each of the speakers in the four-part series “are pillars of care in our local community, with a reputation for approaching those who are in need of care with dignity, love, and charity within their respective vocations.”

“I know so well, through my own profession, personal experience with my own family and my Faith Community Nursing (FCN) Ministry work these past few years, that these topics generate fear, dread, and avoidance,” Dr. Rooney said.

“We are called to be joyful people. How can we remain so, while living with or witnessing the sadness of sickness and dying? And how can we live with loss afterwards?” she said.

She said the symposium is meant to bring knowledge and fortitude, hope and peace as people accompany those who are suffering.

“No one can avoid this journey-if not called upon to personally accompany someone, we will at least be called upon to comfort or advise someone who is suffering or their caregiver,” she said.

She said the lessons and topics of the symposium do not apply to just the elderly or those who care for the aged but for everyone.

“We know that ‘as for that day and hour, nobody knows it...’ (Matthew 24) when someone we love and cherish will need our accompaniment through sickness, tragedy or death. How will we respond?”

The Faith Community Nursing (FCN) ministry at St. Catherine's was started three years ago in response to a need to care for our fellow parishioners' physical, emotional and spiritual well-being through times of sickness, death and other loss, emotional crises, and other hardships. FCN ministry assists the priests and deacons of the parish in ministering to all parishioners in need.  
 
“Our role is to support the work of our dedicated priests and deacons who are also visiting the sick and the dying, bringing them great comfort as well as the Sacraments,” said Dr. Rooney.

“With Christ as our Center, we try and live the Gospel while visiting, assisting and bringing Communion to the sick, dying and homebound and providing referrals and other information for parishioners on issues of daily living,” she said.

The ministry makes bereavement calls, following up on the families of the deceased from the parish, offering comfort and support in addition to offering prayers. And we are a source of prayers, for our parishioners and each other and forming people in ministry to the sick and dying. It has made over 1000 visits in two years.

Those who participate in the program are also invited to attend the 10:30 am Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Church, followed by a light lunch at noon in the school gymnasium. The talk begins at 12:30. All talks will be held in the parish auditorium, 4 Riverside Avenue.


Symposium Dates and Topics:

January 8, 2017
Works Of Mercy — Faith Centered Care
Dr. Gregory Bottaro, Clinical Psychologist; Founder/Director of The Catholic Psych Institute


February 19, 2017
Peace Through Preparation — Talking About End-of-Life Decisions
Dr. Donna Coletti, Founder and Medical Director of Palliative Care at Greenwich Hospital


April 23, 2017
Pastoral Care -Stories from a Life of Service
Msgr. Alan F. Detscher, Pastor; Reverend William F. Platt, Parochial Vicar and Deacon Robert Henrey, St. Catherine of Siena Parish May 7, 2017 Letting Go While Holding On - Living with Loss Dr. Heather Wright, Ordained Minister, PCUSA; Licensed Professional Counselor and Executive Director of the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal

May 7, 2017
Letting Go While Holding On - Living with Loss
Dr. Heather Wright, Ordained Minister, PC
USA; Licensed Professional Counselor and Executive Director of the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal


Vatican says 3.9 million pilgrims visited during Jubilee year
| December 31, 2016 • by Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—More than 3.9 million pilgrims visited and attended papal events, liturgies or prayer services during the Holy Year of Mercy in 2016, the Vatican said.


The Prefecture of the Papal Household, the Vatican office that coordinates the audiences and distributes the free tickets to papal audiences and liturgies, said a total of 3,952,140 people attended a papal event at the Vatican. The Vatican released the statistics December 29.

Although the total was slightly higher from the 3.2 million visitors received by Pope Francis in 2015, for a jubilee year it still fell short of the 5.9 million pilgrims who visited in 2014.

Terrorists attacks in Europe throughout the year are also thought to have discouraged visitors from traveling during what are typically busy tourist seasons in Italy.

During 2016, 762,000 people attended the pope's 43 weekly general audiences while 446,000 attended the 11 jubilee audiences held one Saturday a month.

More than 169,000 people took part in special group audiences; more than 924,000 people participated in papal liturgies in St. Peter's Basilica or St. Peter's Square; and more than 1.6 million people joined the pope for the Angelus or the "Regina Coeli" prayer on Sundays and major feast days in St. Peter's Square.

The statistics released by the Vatican stand in contrast to the numbers published on the Jubilee of Mercy website, which states that over 21 million participated in the Holy Year of Mercy. The number includes pilgrim groups and individuals who crossed through the Holy Door that are not included in the Vatican's statistics.

The papal event statistics do not include papal events in the city of Rome or international visits made by Pope Francis. They also are based on the number of ticket requests and estimates of crowd size.


In Christmas messages, patriarchs call for peace amid Christian persecution
| December 28, 2016 • by Doreen Abi Raad Catholic News Service


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BEIRUT—Lamenting the exodus of Christians from their ancestral homelands, Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East pleaded for peace and security in their annual Christmas messages.


In separate statements, the prelates shared their anguish regarding the persecution and uprooting of Christians from the region.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, appealed to the international community to work to end terrorism "that is killing and displacing families and depriving them of their rights and dignities" He made the comments in his message from Bkerke, the patriarchate north of Beirut.

He also called upon the U.N. Security Council "to work seriously to find political solutions to the wars, aimed at bringing comprehensive and lasting peace and the repatriation of refugees back to their homelands."

In his message, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called attention to "our beloved brothers and sisters of Syria and Iraq ... deprived of the Christmas joy, having endured the horrible consequences of war, violence, and all kind of persecutions." They suffered "all this hardship" because of their Christian faith and their willingness "to persevere in faithfulness to Jesus the Savior," he added.

Patriarch Younan reiterated that Christians were "uprooted from their lands and driven out unjustly from their homes by barbarian terrorists, in Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh, Iraq," referring to the exodus of some 100,000 Christians -- among them more than 60,000 Syriac Catholics -- when the region was overtaken by Islamic State militants in 2014.

"How would they welcome Christmas, but in tears and anxiety for their future!" the patriarch wrote.

Regarding his visit in late November to the recently liberated Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain, Patriarch Younan said "there is still a lot to do" to inspire confidence "to our eradicated and exiled community" to return to their ancestral land.

"We have to keep hoping that the local government and international leaders will expel the terrorists and restore peace and security," he said, emphasizing that this is a basic condition for the return "of our uprooted people."

"We hope the same for all the inhabitants of war-torn Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria, after being liberated and reunified," he added.

Patriarch Younan expressed his appreciation for the "praiseworthy efforts of many Catholic politicians in the West who would disagree with the official policy of their government in dealing with the plight of Christians in the Middle East."

"We need the honest and courageous solidarity of elected people, like Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, to speak up on behalf of Christians and other minorities who have been oppressed, abused and up-rooted by jihadists who kill innocents in the name of their religion, either in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Nigeria."

Before Christmas, Smith, R-New Jersey, visited Irbil, in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq to meet with Christians who had fled Islamic State forces.

The patriarch said it is "quite evident that our people have been persecuted because of religious hatred and forgotten because of the political opportunism of the powerful of this world."

Patriarch Younan, a native of the Syrian province of Hassake, served for 14 years as bishop of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese of the U.S. and Canada, which is based in Newark, New Jersey. He was elected patriarch in January 2009.

Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, in his message, stressed that "today in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian presence is threatened ... by wars that have given rise to this terrifying exodus, especially of Christians."

"This is a prayer for the peace of Christmas to protect our suffering countries, especially Palestine, Iraq and most especially our beloved Syria," the Syrian-born patriarch wrote. "I continue to repeat my motto: give us peace and security, because that is the warranty and condition for Christian resistance, presence, role and witness."

Patriarch Laham urged the region's Christians to stay in their homelands, stressing that "our presence here is of great, global and historical significance! We are not asked to sacrifice our families, though we must struggle to remain here despite dangers, difficulties and hardships."

"If Christians emigrate," Patriarch Laham added, "it is as though Christ were leaving his country and homeland."

From Baghdad, Iraq, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, wrote: "Amidst the concerns and worries of Iraqis, Syrians, and people of the Middle East, in which children and civilians are victims of a harsh war, millions of persons are displaced from their homes, driven out of their lands and are living in tragic conditions, after the destruction of their towns' infrastructure."

He expressed his hope that "this feast may revive our people's hope to return to their homes, ancestral lands, history and memories."


A colorful Christmas at St. Margaret Shrine
| December 26, 2016 • by Linda Conner Lambeck | Published in ctpost.com


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BRIDGEPORT—As the Mass ended for one group of worshippers at St. Margaret Shrine on Christmas morning, another group started slipping in through the side doors for the next service.


The bells pealed. The sun beamed. Some worshippers even wore Santa hats.

Greeted by statues, memorials and monuments, patrons gathered for the sixth Mass celebrated at this 200-seat chapel from 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve until noontime on Christmas Day.

For some, it was a standing-room-only view, but a precious gift just the same.

Soprano cantor Lucia Palmieri, a stirring presence at all six services with her classically trained voice, sang beautifully and deliberately through the final carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

“Christmas brings us gifts of joy, of hope, of peace and of love,” Deacon Donald Foust said during the final sermon. “Some of us come every Sunday to get fueled up by gospel and homily. If you don’t come, it is so easy for the candle to not be lit.”

A popular message, no doubt, from pulpits everywhere on Christmas.

Combined, there were more than 600 worshipers at the six St. Margaret services, Foust said, double the number who attend the shrine on a regular Sunday.

Still, St. Margaret and its Italian-based chapel, which is open year-round, is enjoying a renewal of sorts. Its membership, Foust said, is multicultural and multiracial.

Many worshippers, but not all, are former parishioners of Holy Rosary on East Washington Avenue and St. Raphael on Frank Street. Both churches closed in 2012.

Jerry Ferrande used to attend St. Raphael. When he came to St. Margaret, Ferrande said he brought all of his friends, including Emilio DeAngelis, who now runs the choir.

“It will be six years ago next month we started coming here,” Ferrande said. “I love the Italian church.”

Many members here trace their roots back to Ripi, a small village in Frosinone, Italy, Ferrande said.

Phil Chiodi, 45, had attended St. Raphael since he was a boy. Although Chiodi lives in Shelton, he comes back to Bridgeport to attend St. Margaret with his family.

His 4-year-old son, Franceso Chiodi, dressed in a sharp vest and bow tie on Christmas, enjoys interacting with the deacons. There are three assigned to St. Margaret, including 94-year-old Joe Melita, the senior deacon of the diocese.

As Melita read from the gospel, the sun poured through the stained-glass windows and created a rainbow of colors that danced across the pews and the creche placed on the poinsettia-filled altar.

“This is a place of prayer and peace,” Foust said of the shrine.

It’s also a place for the generations.

Some members of Melita’s family, including his son and grandson, came from California to attend the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Margaret.

Ana Badolato, a former Holy Rosary parishioner who lives down the street from the shrine, said both her daughters were baptized at St. Margaret, which was built in 1942.

St. Margaret has grown in recent years to host shrines honoring Portugal, Vietnam, Cuba, Mexico and Italy, all set into the rocky, eight-acre landscape.

There are shrines dedicated to a number of saints, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Padre Pio and St. Sebastian. There is also a veterans memorial, a newly dedicated memorial to the victims of Sandy Hook and a replica of the town of Bethlehem with a nativity scene that opened last Christmas.

“Already, more than 1,000 people have gone through it,” Foust said of the nativity replica, built into a hollowed-out ledge by Armando Palumbo, a local artist.

Pat D’Ambrosio, the historian for St. Margaret, said three more shrines are in the works, destined to honor Knights of Columbus founder Michael McGivney, St. Francis of Assisi and first responders, including those who worked on 9/11.


St. Mary’s congregation recreates city of Bethlehem
| December 26, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—There was something missing from St. Mary’s on the city’s East Side, something that became more urgent as summer turned to fall and the subject of Christmas decorations came up.


By John Burgeson | Published in ctpost.com

Until a few months ago, St. Mary’s was guided by the Rev. Matthew Bernelli who had been with the church about 12 years. During those years he set up an elaborate Nativity scene in front of the altar. But when he retired, that Nativity scene went with him.

“So without Father Bernelli’s nativity, we were at a loss at first,” the Rev. Rolando Torres said. “Then Martha Bernal, who is from Colombia, along with her husband, Edgar, and a lot of other people here, came to the rescue.”

What the Bernals and their three adult daughters did was to recreate in miniature not just a Nativity scene, but the entire city of Bethlehem.

The new tableau took shape not in the chapel, but in a side chamber known as the “crying room.” This is where mothers take their fussing babies for a bottle and some calming words before rejoining the Mass.

“Everyone brought something — the people go crazy with this,” Bernelli said, eyeing the dozens of lovingly placed figurines. “As you might expect, we got quite a few Marys and Josephs, so most of them had to be reassigned to other duties, like shepherds and other citizens of Bethlehem.”

Bernelli said that he first wanted to keep it simple — a small creche. “But then Martha came to me and said, ‘Let’s do this with a Latin American perspective, like it’s done in Colombia — a Belen.’ ”

”Belen” is Spanish for “Bethlehem,” and as it suggests, it involves a recreation in miniature of the city where Christ was born — with its merchants, shopkeepers, farmers and a host of others.

The tiny city began to take shape in November. Construction foam was used to create the tri-level landscape where houses, a Roman-style bathhouse, the inn and the famous stable soon sprouted. Larger official-looking buildings are on the top level, while humble homes occupy the other two levels.

Electricians wired the city with miniature lightbulbs. A brook with running water flows at the left from the hilltop where Mary and Joseph wait for the arrival of the Christ child under the watchful eye of the angel Gabriel.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first presepio in Greccio, Italy, on Christmas Eve in 1223. That one used a combination of live actors and carved figures. The Nativity scene idea spread quickly throughout Europe and within a few centuries the creche — now with miniature figures, began to appear at Christmastime not only in churches, but in the homes of the faithful, too.

As is the custom with many Roman Catholics, the display in St. Mary’s was missing the baby Jesus when reporters turned out last week to check on the progress of the display. That figurine would have to wait until midnight on Christmas Eve before it’s placed in the manger.

”We had to make everything here, and just about all of it is hand-made,” said Bernal, who arrived in the U.S. from Colombia with her family 12 years ago. ”And next year, it’ll be even be more fantastic, with live fish and maybe moving figures.”

The scene was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano about a week ago.

Opened in 1988, St. Mary’s is one of the newer Roman Catholic churches in the city. The parish is one of the city’s oldest, however; it first came into being in 1857. A new church was opened in 1877. It was badly damaged in a fire in 1927, and reopened in 1928. The old brick church was demolished in 1982 to make way for the present chapel.


Bishop’s Christmas Message
| December 23, 2016


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< Click player to listen

BRIDGEPORT—In this audio message, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano reflects on the meaning of Christmas in troubled times when many people around the globe are suffering from wars, terrorism and other dislocation.

The Bishop says that Christmas gives us “the enduring mystery of the incarnation,” that God is with us and shares our human life with us, the joys and challenges along with our pain and suffering. “The word Emmanuel beautifully describes the gift of Christmas,” says the Bishop as he asks us to pray for our sisters and brothers throughout the world who are vulnerable and suffering.

The Bishop reminds us that the “enduring challenge” of Christmas and what makes us worthy of this great gift is to become “messengers of Emmanuel” is to help bring Christ’s love to the world and to reach out to those who are lonely or in need of hope.

“On this joyous day, let us ask for the special grace to be Emmanuel's messenger. Let us be His hands, feet, and voice, and to bring his love to a waiting world, so that one day all people of good will shall see the place where their hope and salvation was born in the manger of Bethlehem. I pray that our Heavenly Father will abundantly bless you and all those you love this day with every grace. Merry Christmas!"


This Little Light of Mine
| December 23, 2016


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FAIRFIELD—“This little light of mine, I’m going to make it shine,” sang the entire 14-member cast of the St. Catherine Academy Christmas Pageant as they held tiny candles in their hands.


And that light shone in their faces and their voices as they sang in the yearly pageant before Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and an audience of 200 people at St. Catherine Special Needs Center.

“This is the fourth time I’ve been here and it always touches my heart,” said Bishop Caggiano after the cast finished with a joyous version of Feliz Navidad. “I think it’s because we don’t come here just to watch a performance but to join these young people in prayer that is simple and authentic.”

“They remind us what Christmas is all about. God didn’t stand by the advantaged; the stood by the poor and vulnerable to show the world his true face. Today we see the face of God in these young people,” he said in heartfelt remarks.

The young actors processed in through the center aisle and up a ramp strung with white Christmas bulbs as they sang, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The ceilings and walls were highlighted sprays of red and green Christmas lights.

St. Catherine student Anthony Virgile held the production together with his excellent work as narrator, while Lindy Paul played Mary and Anthony Davis played Joseph in the nativity scene.

Throughout the production, audience members joined the cast in singing Christmas favorites including Angels We Have heart on High, Silent Night, and O Come All Ye Faithful.

The young cast members sang a spirited version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and a moving rendition of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”

This year’s play also included the reading of Gospel passages of the early miracles of Jesus reenacted by the students.

The production was written by Sister Eileen Boffa, RSM, and directed by Sister Cheryl Driscoll, RSM.

With dramatic lighting and a bright star provided by the Quick Center of Fairfield University, the cast performed and sang the Christmas story while looking resplendent in full costume.

The yearly production received a boost from the St. Patrick’s Council of the Knights of Columbus, volunteers from the Order of Malta, Hauser Equipment and Welding and members of Holy Cross Parish, where the campus is located.

Helen Burland, Executive Director of St. Catherine’s, welcomed guests and thanked the staff, board and parents for all they do for the school, and said the pageant “has become a tradition at St. Catherine, which helps kickoff the Christmas season.”

Established in 1999 as a fulltime day school for students who benefit from a functional academic, social and life skills curriculum in addition to developing academic skills, St. Catherine Academy educates students ages 5-21 who are motivated to learn but unable to thrive in an inclusive setting.



St. Catherine Academy is located at 760 Tahmore Dr., Fairfield (on the grounds of Holy Cross Parish). For info call 203.540.5381. Online at: www.stcatherineacademy.org


Hover and click the arrows to navigate the slideshow above
or visit the photo gallery (photos by Michelle Babyak)

| December 23, 2016


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MILFORD—While there are countless gestures of helping those less fortunate at the holidays, the young women who attend Lauralton Hall in Milford are dedicated to service throughout the year.


For over 100 years, the mission of the all-girls college-prep school is not only to prepare students for academic success, but to be bearers of mercy to those in need.

“Although our curriculum is always focused on scholastic achievement, our Catholic school’s foundation is the teachings of the Sisters of Mercy,” explained Dr. Toni Iadarola, President and Head of School, Lauralton Hall. “Service to others is the driving force behind all of our activities.”

Lauralton Hall was founded in 1905 under the direction of Mother Mary Augustine Claven. As a nun in the Order of the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Claven took the charge to start a gender revolution in female education that began with Mother Catherine McAuley in Ireland. Mother McAuley dedicated her life to improving the lives of the poor, especially women and children, and fought for women to achieve their God-given potential through education.

Today, Lauralton Hall students are finding new ways to make a difference, particularly at holiday time. As part of their Stocking Stuffer Drive, the school’s National Honor Society chapter assembled more than 40 gift bags filled with personal care items and Stop & Shop gift cards and delivered them on December 15th to the Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport. The students also donated five large boxes filled with replacement items that they had collected during the drive, which totaled more than 500 items.

Another Lauralton group, the Campus Ministry, decorated and donated a tree to the Milford Hospital Festival of Trees with the theme of “The Spirit of Lauralton Hall.”

Throughout the year, Lauralton supports the efforts of the Mercy Learning Center to provide basic literacy and life skills training to low-income women using a holistic approach within a compassionate, supportive environment. Following a highly successful Thanksgiving food drive in November, two students worked with the director of the center to provide women with food from the pantry.

Also in November, Lauralton Hall joined forces with Fairfield Prep to pack food for Thanksgiving as part of a community service day with Father Skip Karcinski, Pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Bridgeport.

Dr. Iadarola points out that since community service is integrated into students’ lives at Lauralton Hall, their good works continue long past the holidays. The McCauley Club, for instance, a long-standing service program at Lauralton, packs bagged lunches and delivers them to the Beth-El Center for the homeless in Milford every other week.

Dr. Iadarola shared the Core Values of a Mercy Education:

  • Compassion and Service
  • Educational Excellence
  • Concern for Women and Women’s Issues
  • Global Vision and Responsibility
  • Spiritual Growth and Development
  • Collaboration


Founded in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy, Lauralton Hall is the first independent Catholic college-prep school for young women in Connecticut. More than 470 students from over 40 Connecticut towns attend. Inspired by the Mercy Tradition, their mission is to empower young women to pursue their highest potential through lifelong learning, compassionate service, and responsible leadership in a global society. For more information, visit www.lauraltonhall.org. Lauralton Hall is located at 200 High Street, Milford.


St Mary's Nativity, a labor of unity and love
| December 22, 2016 • by Fr. Rolando Torres, Pastor of St. Mary Parish


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BRIDGEPORT—Christmas is that special time of the year in which we unite in front of the Baby Jesus and beg Him to bless and protect our families.


This Christmas was very special for us here in St.  Mary’s Parish in Bridgeport, in addition to the fact that the whole community continues to unite and strengthen spiritually, their talents were demonstrated to another level.

Our parishioners demonstrated that everything is possible if we unite in peace and harmony to create something wonderful. Of course I'm talking about the Bethlehem, the Manger or the Nativity this year. The work was done with great talent, hard work, and hours and hours of efforts that at the end we were able to see the fruits in a spectacular scene of the Birth of Our Lord and Master.

I was 6 years old when my mother explained the meaning of the celebration of Christmas and from that moment on I never forgot that Christmas is Christ and Christ is Christmas. During this time in my native country, Puerto Rico, we would go to the Christmas Masses and you could not miss the Nativities and the joy of sharing as a community the birth of the Son of God with prayers, music, Parrandas and typical food was something unforgettable.

Now days, we always try to make everything perfect, the gifts, the dinner, the family, that we don’t forget anything, so that December 25th can be unforgettable. But then we stop and wonder, where is the Child of God in all these celebrations.  Are we forgetting that Christmas helps us to find ourselves in the manger with that Baby Jesus, beautiful, poor, humble and that everything should focus on His birth?A moment is enough to sit in front of the manger and walk, slowly in deep meditation, as did San Francis in 1223 in his first manger in Greccio, a poor small town between Rome and Assisi. Of course, we cannot compare that live Nativity that San Francis  made that year with the one we built at St. Mary’s, but what it does have in common is that we put our hearts into it giving it the true meaning of Christmas, a heart deeply attached to that of the little Jesus that is born to enrich our soul.

For the community of St. Mary’s this is a special moment, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and should always be a time of profound reflection, of festivity and unity, family and sharing, but above all remembering that Christmas is the time in which Jesus tells us, "here I am to be born in your heart, I am at the door calling and asking to enter" open your heart to Christ and let Christmas be Christ and Christ be your Christmas.



Navidad es el tiempo especial del año en el que nos unimos frente al Niño Dios

Navidad es el tiempo especial del año en el que nos unimos frente al Niño Dios y le suplicamos que bendiga y proteja nuestras familias", tenia 6 años de edad cuando mi mama me explico el sentido de la celebración de la navidad y desde ese momento nunca olvido que la Navidad es Cristo y Cristo es la Navidad.  Para esta época en mi país Puerto Rico íbamos a las misas de aguinaldo y no podían faltar los pesebres y la alegría de compartir como pueblo el nacimiento del Hijo de Dios con oraciones, música,  parrandas y comida típica era algo inolvidable.  Hoy en día siempre tratamos de que todo sea perfecto, los regalos, la cena, la familia, que no se nos olvide nada para que el 25 de diciembre sea inolvidable, pero luego pensamos y nos preguntamos donde esta el Niño Dios en toda esta celebración, acaso nos estamos olvidando que la navidad nos ayuda a encontrarnos en el pesebre con ese bebe, hermoso, pobre, humilde y que todo debe centrarse en su nacimiento.  Esta Navidad fue muy especial para nosotros aquí en la Parroquia Santa María en Bridgeport, ademas de que toda la comunidad sigue uniéndose y fortaleciéndose espiritualmente, sus talentos fueron demostrados a otro nivel.  Nuestros parroquianos demostraron que todo es posible si nos unimos en paz y armonía para crear algo maravilloso.  Por supuesto les estoy hablando del Belén, pesebre o nacimiento de este año.  La obra fue echa con mucho talento y mucho esfuerzo, horas y horas que vieron sus frutos en tan espectacular escena del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor y Maestro.  Un momento basta para sentarnos frente a el pesebre y caminar poco a poco en la meditación profunda, así como lo hizo San Francisco en el 1223 en el primer pesebre en Greccio, una pequeña población situada entre Roma y Asís muy pobre.  Por supuesto que no podemos comparar esa obra en vivo que hizo San Francisco ese año con el que construimos aquí, pero si tienen algo en común y que es el verdadero sentido de la navidad le pusimos el corazón, un corazón profundamente unido al del niñito Jesús que nace para enriquecernos el alma.

Para nosotros la comunidad de Santa María este es un momento especial, la navidad es maravillosa y siempre debe ser un momento de reflexión y profundidad, de festividad y unidad, de familia y de compartir, pero ante todo recordemos que la navidad es el momento en el que el Jesús nos dice, "aquí estoy para nacer en tu corazón, estoy a la puerta llamando y pidiendo entrar" ábrele tu corazón a Cristo y deja que la navidad sea de Cristo y Cristo sea tu Navidad.


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School spreads Christmas cheer with the help of some famous friends
| December 22, 2016


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GREENWICH—Greenwich Catholic School hosted its yearly Christmas concert last night with special guests The Alternate Routes and emcee “Coach” Chris Rodriguez of 107.1 The Peak.







An annual tradition, the Christmas show features band, strings, and vocal performances by each grade as well as a Kindergarten Nativity play.

Rodriguez, a 1997 graduate of GCS, welcomed the audience by reminiscing about his time at GCS by saying, “I’m honored to be back here twenty years later. I made life-long friends at this school and had many victories here on this basketball court.” He continued, “Upon hearing I was going to be at GCS for the evening, my parents both said, ‘Sending you to that school was still the best decision we ever made.’”

Following a spirited rendition of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” by GCS 8th graders, Rodriguez introduced Chris Warren and Eric Donnelly, founders of the indie-rock band The Alternate Routes. Connecticut natives, Warren and Donnelly met as students at Fairfield University. The Alternate Routes rose to fame in 2013 following the release of “Nothing More,” a song they composed for the non-profit organization Newtown Kindness whose mission is to celebrate, reward and recognize acts of kindness by children.

The band found their way to GCS via Pete Cosenza, P’16, 18, a senior executive at Columbia Records. Cosenza recalls, “When ‘Nothing More’ was released, my wife, Jenni, played the song for Principal Patrice Kopas, who liked it so much she played it a few times during the GCS morning announcements.”  Inspired by the students’ enthusiasm about the song and its positive message, GCS music teacher Tatyana Novikova added “Nothing More” to the rotation of music sung during all school masses.
 
“After a few conversations with Mrs. Kopas and Mrs. Novikova, we decided to invite The Alternate Routes to perform at the 2016 GCS Christmas Concert,” explained Cosenza.  He went on to say, “Coach Chris has played music from the band on his show. So, Coach heard about them performing at the GCS Christmas show this year, and as a GCS grad himself, he was very excited for them and the school.”

In addition to performing their hit with the 7th Graders, The Alternate Routes played guitar during other songs, and closed out the evening with a whole-school sing-a-long to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

“Having Coach and The Alternate Routes at our Christmas show was something really special,” Principal Kopas said. “It’s always a wonderful night, but having the opportunity to perform with the musicians who wrote ‘Nothing More’ is an experience our kids will never forget. A truly beautiful Christmas gift!”


Christmas crèche on the Green
| December 21, 2016


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MONROE—Braving the rain members of St. John XXIII Council 5987 of the Knights of Columbus Monroe joined by St. Jude parishioners blessed the council’s Creche that was placed on the Monroe town green.

Council Chaplain Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, pastor of St. Jude, performed the blessing. The ceremony also included the singing of Christmas carols led by members of St. Jude’s music ministry and remarks by Monroe’s State Representative JP Sredzenski. The Creche will be on the green until  December 31.


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St. Nicholas Boutique warms the heart
| December 21, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Brightly wrapped toys. Infants’ footsies. Warm coats, blankets, hats and mittens. Everything a parent could want to give their child.


In families being helped by social service agencies like Catholic Charities, games, toys or a warm hat would be out of the question if it weren’t for the St. Nicholas Boutique held by Catholic Charities in the Catholic Center every year. During the day’s “shopping,” social workers drop in with the names, needs and wish lists of the families they serve. Areas within a large room are staged with age-appropriate toys and much-needed additional items like diapers for newborns and toddlers.

The donations have come from a number of school drives and volunteer agencies, most notably Fairfield Prep, Al’s Angels, the Knights of Columbus, and Zumiez clothing store.

“Zumiez donated and delivered three entire pallets of warm clothing,” says Amy Zajak, director of media marketing for Catholic Charities, who takes charge of the boutique each year. “I can’t count the number of trips we took to round up all the items the boys and Prep collected. And a group of volunteers from Notre Dame High School set up the whole room.” When the teenagers were done setting up, the tables of donations reached as high as their shoulders.

After the St. Nicholas Boutique has concluded, any remaining items will be sent to the Department of Children and Families for foster children and newly adoptive families.

The Knights of Columbus will hold another statewide collection for diapers in February, after the January March for Life.


Our Lady of Fatima choir director leads the Bridgeport Diocesan Youth Choir
| December 20, 2016 • by Stephanie Kim from thehour.com


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WILTON—When Mary Higgins directs the Bridgeport Diocesan Youth Choir, one goal takes priority over the others.


It’s not for the choir to deliver a flawless performance, but for all members to carry joy in every note that they sing. “This is not about being perfect. This is not about adjudication,” the Wilton woman said. “This is about the glory of God.”

Higgins was tapped by Bishop Frank Joseph Caggiano to lead the Bridgeport Diocesan Youth Choir, shortly after it was formed in 2015. Caggiano created the choir to give new life to the Catholic Church and to engage younger members of the Bridgeport Diocese, which includes more than 460,000 registered Catholics in Fairfield County and represents 45 percent of the total state population.

And in just a year, the choir has grown to a group of 75 middle and high school diocese members from more than 32 parishes.

“The young choir members are the beginning of the renewal that we’ve been praying for,” Caggiano said. “Mary is an amazing coach and mentor to our young people. She brings a passion for teaching, a deep faith, and a commitment to music as a formative experience in the life of young people.”

“We're very fortunate to have her as our inaugural choir director,” he added.

For Higgins, the director position could not have been “more perfectly designed” for someone like her, given her Catholic background and extensive career as a singer, teacher and conductor.

She attended Our Lady of Fatima School and Church in Wilton throughout her childhood and adolescent years, received a full ride to Northwestern University’s Music Education and Voice programs, won the Kahn Career Entry Award at the end of her two-year master’s of voice and opera program at Boston University, has shared the stage with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra and other renowned performers and symphonies, and has directed the choir at Our Lady of Fatima Church for 17 years.

“Bottom line for me, it combined the three things I love most,” Higgins said, “young people, my faith and music.”

These passions and values were instilled in her by her parents, who lived out their faith in and out of the house, she said.

Her dad, who passed away 10 years ago, taught English in the Bronx, N.Y., for 36 years, and would open the school early in the morning so kids could play basketball and have something to eat. He would open the school at night, too, for kids who didn’t have a home to go to.

Her mother was also an educator and worked at the Old Lady of Fatima School in Wilton for 36 years. She started the first kindergarten class, created an all-school musical and served as the school’s principal for 17 years.

“I’m used to being from a family of people who give a lot and I don’t know how to be any other way,” Higgins said.

In her role as the director of the Bridgeport Diocesan Youth Choir, Higgins said she gives back by making sure that every middle or high school member who wants to join the choir is welcomed.

“I do everything I can to make sure that every kid who wants to be apart of it is a part of it,” she said. “I work around every obstacle that they have, every after-school commitment, their jobs. I teach this six times a week so kids can go to any rehearsal they want all over the diocese.”

Higgins also juggles a few other jobs on the side, as a real estate agent for William Pitt Sotheby’s and the director of the choir the Treblemakers, an all-female vocal ensemble in Wilton, for 17 years.

But none of these positions feel like actual work, she said—especially her job as the director of the Bridgeport Diocesan Youth Choir.

“I say to myself every morning I wake up, how fortunate I am to be one of those people who can honestly say I do what I love to do every day of my life,” she said. “It’s a joy for me and an honor to work with these kids. I get so much out of it. I put my entire heart into it and they don’t let me down.”

Higgins is currently wrapping up preparations for the annual Arise and Shine Christmas Concert.

Last year’s Christmas concert filled the Norwalk Concert Hall and this year’s was at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport on Sunday, with a set of 17 songs and few scriptural readings in four different languages.

“It’s absolutely other worldly. It’s sheer joy for me,” Higgins said. “I think once the kids experience this concert, I think they’re changed forever too.”

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Sacred Heart University acquires GE headquarters
| December 20, 2016


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FAIRFIELD—A Christmas tree lighting became the first “official” ceremony following the agreement of Sacred Heart University to purchase the former 66-acre General Electric global headquarters in Fairfield.



SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY invited area residents to join members of the SHU community at a tree lighting on December 7 on the grounds of the former GE global headquarters and future West Campus of the University. “One of the first things we heard when news broke of the purchase—especially on social media—was that folks hoped we would continue the tradition of the tree,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “We intended to do exactly that—in SHU style, of course.”

The purchase will support the university’s ongoing strategic expansion and development as a leading institution of higher education.

“This is a transformational moment in the history of Sacred Heart University,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “With this property, SHU has a unique opportunity to contribute to education, research, healthcare and the community. It’s a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity for us, and it also reflects our long-standing relationship with GE that includes former GE CEO Jack Welch, for whom our College of Business is named.”

Dr. Petillo noted that the purchase is another step in SHU’s recent and rapid growth.“Our strategic plan calls for thoughtful expansion of our campus footprint when opportunities arise that make solid business sense and strengthen the institution and its future,” he said. “This purchase will support our desire to offer new and innovative programming and expand our graduate offerings. Most importantly, it will serve to further enhance Sacred Heart University’s overall standing and competitiveness among national universities.

SHU plans to use the property as an innovation campus, to expand its new School of Computing, which is focused on computer engineering, computer gaming and cybersecurity, and to develop programs in STEM fields such as health and life sciences, science and technology. The university will also move certain elements of its Jack Welch College of Business to the new campus, including its new hospitality management program that will make use of facilities both at the GE site and SHU’s recently acquired Great River Golf Club in Milford.

The university also plans to move its College of Education art and design program and the university’s business office to the site, eliminating the need to rent space in Trumbull. Future plans could include a performing arts space/recital hall, a swimming pool and running trails and incubator space that would allow students, in conjunction with investors and area businesses, to develop their creative ideas for new products and programs. All plans are contingent on approval by the Town of Fairfield and the ability of the university to raise the funds needed for these projects.

SHU officials are also hoping the purchase will allow the university to develop partnerships with local healthcare providers, providing clinical opportunities for students in its Colleges of Health Professions and Nursing. These partnerships could also mean more healthcare options for area residents.

Michael Kinney, senior vice president for finance and administration at SHU, notes that for $31.5M—the price of an average-sized academic building— SHU will acquire a world-class corporate headquarters, approximately 66 acres, about 550,000 square feet for current and future use, 800 above/underground parking spaces and enough space to meet needs for the foreseeable future. The purchase of this parcel will bring the total acreage of Sacred Heart’s campus to nearly 200 acres, not including the 150-acre Great River Golf Club purchased last year.

The surrounding community will also benefit from this purchase. “The growth we will experience as a result of this purchase will increase consumer spending in the community by Sacred Heart students and parents—a number that already stands at close to $56 million in the state,” said Kinney. “In addition, programs developed by SHU in the next four years could add 450 students and 50-60 new faculty and staff jobs. New direct and indirect spending driven by operational and capital spending by the university, its employees, new students and their families and visitors would be a minimum of $27-33 million annually.” With the purchase by SHU, a nonprofit entity, Fairfield will also receive payments from the state’s PILOT program.

“We are pleased to sell our property to a world-class local university and are happy that the campus will continue to be used for learning and innovation, two hallmarks of both GE and Sacred Heart,” said Harri Singh, GE global properties leader.

“This purchase will benefit future students of Sacred Heart with added programs, new facilities and exciting opportunities,” Petillo said. “It will provide area residents and businesses with new facilities to use, increased consumer spending and additional jobs as well as incubator space that can develop much-needed economic opportunities for the area that are tied to a top-notch educational institution.”


McGivney “Christmas Store” is all about earning and giving
| December 19, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT-- The McGivney Center’s Annual Christmas Store event will be held on Wednesday December 21 from 3:30 – 5:30 at the McGivney Center, 338 Stillman Street, Bridgeport, CT.

>> Download the flyer here <<


“Our Annual Christmas Store is a highly anticipated event that helps children experience the rewards of earning and giving. Each child earns points for good grades, positive conduct, and good citizenship,” said Terry O’Connor, Executive Director

O’Connor said the young people can “spend” their points at the Christmas Store to buy gifts for everyone in their households – including themselves. Last year, over 600 gifts were provided for children and their families.

Among the donated items the young shoppers will find at the Christmas Store are handbags, sunglasses, wallets, watches; gift Certificates to local clothing and grocery stores; winter clothing (sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves, scarves); Sporting Apparel; electronic services; arts & crafts; building sets and blocks; games and puzzles; bikes, scooters, skateboards; picture frames; infant toys;headphones; wrapping paper, clear tape, bows; and Dolls (Action Figures, Barbie’s)

“McGivney is meeting the needs of hundreds of youth, community residents and partnering organizations each month. The need to keep our youth engaged through positive opportunities is as imperative today as it was when we opened twenty three years ago,” he said.

Site Address: 338 Stillman Street, Bridgeport, CT 06608 Mailing Address: P.O. Box 5220, Bridgeport, CT 06610.

If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation at the Christmas Store, please contact us at (203) 333-2789


Suggestions

  • Gift items for dads (cologne, shaving kits)
  • Sports items (Basketballs, jump ropes, footballs, wallets, tool sets, soccer balls, baseball mitts, etc)
  • Gift items for moms (jewelry, perfume
  • Action figures & playsets
  • Gift Certificates to local clothing and grocery stores
  • Winter clothing (sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves, scarves)
  • Sporting Apparel (NFL, NBA, NCAA, etc.)
  • Electronic Devices
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Building sets and blocks
  • Games and puzzles
  • Bikes, scooters, skateboards
  • Picture frames
  • Infant toys
  • Headphones
  • Wrapping paper, clear tape, bows
  • Dolls (Action Figures, Barbies)


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Religion on the Line
| December 19, 2016


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NEW YORK— On Gaudete Sunday, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the guest on "Religion on the Line," the long-running WABC-Radio program hosted by Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

In the conversation the bishop discussed Advent and preparations for the joy of Christmas, and also discussed many initiatives underway in the Diocese of Bridgeport. "Community has to be credible," the bishops says of efforts underway to renew the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Church. "Start with the works of charity and mercy, and show people that we live what we believe." The Bishop also discusses engaging youth and other topics.


Diocesan Youth Choir Inspires in Joyous Christmas Concert
| December 19, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT— At the end of a weekend that went from a snowstorm to dense fog, the 75-member Diocesan Youth Choir lit up the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport with it second annual "Arise and Shine" Christmas Concert.


More than 900 turned out on Sunday evening for a joyous and spirited performance of Christmas songs across cultures and throughout the ages.

A garland of white Christmas lights outlined the length of the stage, while images of large snowflakes where projected on the walls and ceilings. The choir, outfitted in its white robes with blue trim, sang in front of an alpine backdrop of snow and evergreens.

After a nearly ninety minute concert without intermission the choir received a standing ovation with many proud parents calling out the names of choir members, who returned the applause from the stage.

“Each of us was given a great gift tonight by these young women and men,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who was the inspiration behind the choir as a way of engaging young people in the Church and affirming their faith.

“At a time that has become cold and harsh, this is what the world is meant to be,” said the Bishop gesturing to the choir. “You’ve given me great hope and encouragement.”

Beginning with “Arise, Arise and Shine” and concluding with the audience joining in “Dark is the Silent Night,” the choir, under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins of Wilton, held the audience with the beauty of its voices and the richness of the Christmas program.

The choir seemed particularly effective on a “Celtic Christmas Lullaby,” “Believe,” and a contemporary arrangement of “Amen, Tell It on the Mountain,” which inspired the audience.

This year’s program introduced a few surprises including Soloist Ms. Adrienne Reedy, a well-known Gospel recording artist, who, backed by the full choir, brought down the house with her version of “Do You Hear What I Hear? and “Christmas Glory, Halleluiah.”

In between grouping of songs, choir members stepped forward to read passages from the nativity in Vietnamese, Spanish, Ibo (Nigerian) and English, reflecting the diversity of its members.

The choir’s performance was supported by a gifted ensemble of local musicians including Clay Zambo on piano; Jessica Raposo, flute; Dr. Ralph Kirmser, Oboe; Nick Loafman, Trumpet; and percussionist Tom Foote, who energized the choir and the audience with solo drumming that led the traditional Zulu hymn, “Siyahamba.”

Choir director Mary Bozzuti Higgins was presented a bouquet of red and white roses from for her leadership in forming and preparing the choir through the weekly rehearsals held throughout the diocese over the past year. The choir has also sung a diocesan liturgies and special events.

Higgins said she was proud of the entire choir, grateful for the support of parents and for the college freshman who returned from their first semester to join and concert and serve as mentors to the younger members.

Members of the newly formed Catholic Service Corps served as ushers for the evening.

For more information on the Diocesan Youth Choir and the new St. Augustine Guild to support its work, visit the diocesan website: http://www.bridgeportdiocese.org/c4ysings/home/


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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
| December 17, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT— The December 16 "Week in Review" shows the diocese getting ready for Christmas in a joyful, active way.

Social Media Leader John Grosso takes us on tour beginning with the St. Ann School Nativity Pageant.

He also makes stops with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano at the Special Needs Mass held at St. Catherine Center for Special Needs in Fairfield. And what could be better preparation for Christmas than the Diocesan Youth Choir preparing for its annual Christmas Concert this Sunday, 6 pm at the Klein Memorial in Bridgeport. Enjoy!


Operation Christmas Child at St. Aloysius School
| December 16, 2016


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NEW CANAAN-- As part of Operation Christmas Child, St. Aloysius School students, parents and staff gathered together recently in the school gymnasium to fill over 130 Christmas gift boxes to be delivered to children around the world.



Savannah Leone (left) and Caera Cope on the right.

Students, including the youngest children working alongside their Upper School Buddies, selected gift items from tables overflowing with generous family donations.

The items ranged from toys, games, and crafts, to school supplies and basic personal necessities. For many of the gift-box recipients, most of whom are located in some of the hardest-to-reach countries in the world, the goody-filled shoebox will be the first gift they have ever received.

This ministry project is part of the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Organizations, an organization that serves to benefit others around the world in Jesus’ name. St. Aloysius School is pleased to support their mission of faith and community service, a key aspect shared by our school. Additionally, the long-standing Buddy program at St. Aloysius School contributes to that mission as it pairs the youngest students with upper school mentors, further strengthening the spirit of shared service in the school community.

St. Aloysius School serves students in Kindergarten through eighth grade. This Blue Ribbon School of Excellence fosters academic excellence and the spirit of service in a faith-filled environment. The school has a rolling applications process, but is currently accepting Kindergarten applications for the 2017-2018 school year. Call 203-966-0786 for more information.


Attorneys bring warmth for youngsters
| December 15, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—For their winter project, members of the St. Thomas More Society visited the Missionaries of Charity in Bridgeport on December 13. The St. Thomas More Society is an association of Catholic attorneys, judges, legislators and other legal professionals. Their goal is to strengthen the union of Catholics in the legal field and to encourage collaboration and service to the community.


In preparation for their visit, the Sisters had given Attorney Lee DeFusco, a member of Christ the King Parish in Trumbull, a list of school-aged children who needed winter jackets. Each member chose a child by name, and was given his or her age and jacket size.

The Missionaries of Charity serve the “poorest of the poor,” regardless of their faith. In addition to warm jackets, many of the members brought supplies for the Sisters’ food pantry, everything from rice and beans to peanut butter and jelly, along with necessities like soap and diapers.

“The generosity of our members is remarkable” said Attorney DeFusco.


Reception of sacraments highlights Special Needs Mass
| December 15, 2016


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FAIRFIELD—The third Sunday in Advent, known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, was fully experienced by the congregation at the annual Mass to celebrate people with disabilities on December 11. This Mass is hosted at Holy Cross Church by St. Catherine Center for Special Needs in Fairfield.


It has been customary at this Mass to offer the opportunity for individuals to receive one or more Sacraments of Initiation with preparation that has taken place outside the typical faith formation program. Gail Mikolsky, director of parish and community outreach for the center, worked with directors of religious education throughout the diocese to coordinate preparation and participation. This year, the community outreach faith formation worked with 19 young people from 13 different parishes and St. Catherine Center who had prepared to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation or First Holy Communion.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, joined by Msgr. Tom Powers, vicar general for the diocese, celebrated Mass with a church filled with family members of the 19 young people, St. Catherine Center board members and staff, Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and friends of St. Catherine Center.

Bishop Caggiano, in his homily, made the distinction between happiness and joy. “The third Sunday in Advent is about joy and encouragement,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Joy is a lasting feeling that these young people today will have for the rest of their lives. Today we are witness to the healing power of Jesus and the message of joy and hopefulness,” he concluded.

“This annual Mass reminds us that all are welcomed in our Church,” commented Helen Burland, executive director of the center. “Each of us must work to encourage the full participation of all people in the life of our parishes and the diocese.”
A mom of a First Communion recipient shared, “I never expected this to be possible. My whole family is rejoicing together.”

(St. Catherine Center for Special Needs is located at 760 Tahmore Drive, Fairfield. For more information, call 203.540.5381 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)


Pope: ‘Nativity Scene and Tree Form a Message of Hope and Love’
| December 13, 2016 • by Hannah Brockhaus/CNA/EWTN News


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VATICAN CITY—As Christmas approaches, the Nativity scenes found in churches and homes around the world bid us to make room for Jesus, both in our lives and in society, Pope Francis said shortly before the lighting of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square on Friday.


Lighting of the Christmas tree and unveiling of crèche took place
in St. Peter’s Square on December 9.

On December 9, a massive 82-foot tree from the Dolomites was lit in St. Peter’s Square, next to the nearly life-size Nativity scene, donated to the Vatican by the Archdiocese of Malta and designed by local artists.

An artist from the island of Gozo, named Manwel Gretch, created the sketch chosen for the Nativity, which depicts the Maltese countryside. The 17 characters in the Nativity, animals excluded, are dressed in typical Maltese clothing and holding tools and instruments.

The Nativity scenes found “in churches, in homes and in many public places are an invitation to make room in our lives and society for God, hidden in the face of so many people who are in conditions of hardship, poverty and tribulation,” the Pope said during a meeting with the artist of the scene and a delegation from Malta and Trentino.

In his speech, the Pope referred to the presence in the scene of the traditional “Cross of Malta” and typical Maltese archipelago boat, representing not only the island’s tradition, fishing and life, but also the reality faced by thousands of migrants when risking their lives to sail in makeshift boats to Italy.

Their experiences can be compared to that of the Child Jesus, Francis noted, who didn’t have a place to sleep at his birth and soon after had to flee to Egypt with his parents to escape the threat of Herod.

The many people who “will visit this Nativity scene,” he said, “will be invited to rediscover the symbolic value, which is a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity.”

“The Nativity scene and the tree thus form a message of hope and love and help to create a favorable Christmas spirit to live with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer,” the Pope said.

God “came to earth in simplicity and meekness. Let us be drawn, with the intention of children, in front of the manger, because that is where we understand the goodness of God and contemplate his mercy, which was made human flesh in order to soften our gaze.”


Bishop reflects on power of hope at Sandy Hook Memorial
| December 11, 2016


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Watch: Dedication and Blessing of the Sandy Hook Shrine, December 11th, 2016 at ST. Margaret Shrine (36 minutes)

BRIDGEPORT—“Even on the darkest days in our life, there is hope,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said to almost 400 who gathered at St. Margaret Shrine this morning for Mass and the dedication of the Sandy Hook Memorial, just days before the 4th anniversary of the shootings.

“Four years ago we experienced a day of deep darkness. The souls of so many were challenged so deeply. You and I and the whole nation were in shock,” the bishop said of the Sandy Hooking shootings that took the lives of 20 first graders and six teachers in Newtown.

On a bitter cold and bright morning, congregants processed out of the Church to a hillside site on the Shrine grounds where the new memorial was unveiled and blessed by the bishop.

In his homily for the Gaudete Sunday Mass, the bishop said that hope and joy are more reliable than happiness in describing the human condition. He said that while people may enjoy happiness at times, their lives inevitably are touched pain and suffering.

“No matter how deep the pain, there is a gift that no one can take from us: hope is born in the power of the love of God. No matter how profound the loss, his love can pierce through the pain.”

Speaking to those who filled the small wooden chapel and also participated in the Mass through live streaming in the lower level chapel, the bishop said, “We come to remember the Newtown tragedy not as people look at history or even as a community resolved to love one another, but as a people of hope.

Bishop Caggiano described First Responders as “angels of mercy” during human tragedy, and also said that Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, provided extraordinary and compassionate leadership when people most needed hope.

Music was provided by members of the Italian Choir and the Youth Choir of St. Margaret Shine. Deacon Don Foust, Shrine administrator, joined Bishop Caggiano and priests around the altar.

The Mass and dedication ceremony reunited some of those who were there on the day of one of the worst mass shootings in U. S. history and also connected two faith communities within the diocese.

Newtown Police Chief James Viadero, a 23-year resident of the town, and Bridgeport Police Chief A. J. Perez attending the Mass and the dedication.

Msgr. Robert Weiss’s voice waivered as he acknowledged Fr. Luke Suarez and noted that the young parochial vicar has “stood by my side” in the Sandy Hook Firehouse before he had to tell parents that their children had died.

He said that he and the parents were “overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity” they received from people across the nation, and that he was grateful that during the national tragedy his parish was able “to give a powerful face of what faith can be in a tragedy.”

“No one in the firehouse that day asked, ‘Why did god do this,’ he said. “They knew it was evil, but they also believed that God is love and life.” A total of eight children from St. Rose died in the shooting on December 14, 2012 and were buried at St. Rose the following week.

In the dedication ceremony Senator Richard Blumenthal, who traveled to Newtown immediately after learning of the shootings and spent of the day consoling parents and families, said that St. Rose of Lima Parish inspired the entire nation.

Remembering a day of “unspeakable pain, grief and tragedy,” the U.S. Senators said he also experienced the “indescribable warmth and grace within the church.”

“The whole world was watching and they saw something larger than themselves, a tremendous courage, strength and faith and a generosity of spirit,” he said.

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim said that everyone remembers where they were that day and they also remember the courage and faith of the parish. He presented Bishop Caggiano with a “recognition” from the city, that said, “Twenty tiny hearts and six heroes became twenty-six angels.”

Construction for the Sandy Hook Memorial began last November under the leadership of Armando Palumbo who created the painting of Jesus and the children.

The mural is set in a brick and cement surround, which many volunteers helped to construct.

The inscription is taken from the Gospel of Matthew (19:14), “Let the little children come to me. Do not hinder them for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as they.”

The granite engraving at the base of the memorial reads: "In Loving Memory of the 26 Innocent Lives Taken in Newton, CT, December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School."

The memorial was constructed through a gift from the John DiMarco family, owners of Luigi’s Pastry and built b Brown Monument and Ned Steinmetz. The project was also supported by UNICO Bridgeport Chapter, friends and co-workers.

St. Margaret Shrine is a diocesan shrine located in the North End of Bridgeport. It is open to all who wish to visit, pray and enjoy the beautiful outdoor shrines as well as the daily celebration of Mass in the chapel. The outdoors shrine and grottoes are open throughout the year. The grounds also include a St. Anthony Chapel, an All Saints Chapel, and a Veterans Memorial.

Saint Margaret's Shrine is located at 2523 Park Ave. Bridgeport, CT 06604-1402. Phone: (203) 333-9627 Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Website: www.ParishesOnLine.com/StMargaretShrine


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Catholic Service Corps Reaches Out to “Al’s Angels"
| December 11, 2016


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WESTPORT— Members of the newly formed Catholic Service Corps (CSC) were back in action yesterday to help out Al’s Angels with their Holiday Meal Assembly as part of their Christmas food basket preparations.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano stopped by to thank members of the Fairfield Prep and Sacred Heart University CSC Chapters at they helped to fill 1,600 bins for families who will be served over the holidays by Al’s Angels. He thanked the young people for their service to others.

In November, they helped Al’s Angels prepare Thanksgiving baskets for families in the tri-state area who are dealing with the ravages of cancer or are suffering severe financial hardship. “We joined over 500 other volunteers preparing these baskets and getting them ready for delivery throughout our area,” said Michelle Smith, CSC coordinator. Each activity begins in prayer and ends in brief reflection.

The newly formed Catholic Service Corps kicked off in September with over 200 youth volunteers from the twelve newly formed Chapters participating in the Inaugural Day of Service throughout lower Fairfield County. For more information on CSC, visit the Catholic Service Corp on Facebook.


Al’s Angels was founded in 2004 by Al DiGuido, CEO and founder of Zeta Interactive, a full-service interactive marketing companybased in New York City. Al has been long recognized as one of the direct response industry’s premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications. He has more than 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise.

For years Al served as a board member for numerous charities. Having seen the good work that these organizations accomplished, Al decided to dedicate even more of his time to helping children and families in need. He founded Al’s Angels with the mission of providing moments of joy and comfort to families that are challenged by childhood cancer, rare blood diseases, AIDS, domestic violence and financial hardship.

Through hard work, an amazing group of volunteers, and tremendous generosity, today Al’s Angels is able to help thousands of children in the tri-state area. Now thru an intimate partnership with the Catholic Health Association of India; the work of Al’s Angels is providing children in dire need of vital and lifesaving medical treatment with hope and support. As support for Al’s Angels grows, we look for partners to help in expanding our loving reach to children around our country and the world.


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Seminarians sing the season
| December 10, 2016


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STAMFORD—Diocesan seminarians at St. John Fisher Seminary gathered recently with their families and friends of the seminary to host their Annual Christmas Concert, with the assistance of the Serra Club of the Diocese of Bridgeport. 

With the help of Thomas Marino and David Harvey, the seminarians led the congregation of about 150 people through song, preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas in this yearly tradition.

Beginning with “Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending,” the seminarians reminded all present of the Lord’s advent “In the Bleak Midwinter.” In order to honor Our Lady, the Mother of Christ, “Ave Maria” and “Maria Walks Amid the Thorns” were performed as well. A light reception followed the concert, during which the seminarians, their families, and other friends were able to celebrate the Advent season together.

Twenty-five seminarians are preparing for the priesthood in the Diocese of Bridgeport. St. John Fisher Seminary is located on Newfield Avenue in Stamford. For information on discerning a vocation, visit: http://www.bridgeportpriest.org


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Around the Diocese
| December 09, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—This week's Around the Diocese begins in Stamford where young professionals met on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception for the Young Adult Group Mass at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist as part of the Connected Catholics ministry.

From there we move to St. Leo Parish where volunteers collected more than 800 gifts for the poor and needy. Many thanks to them and to all those who are getting in the Christmas spirit around the diocese through prayer, preparation and service to others.


We have Mary's Intercession to help us
| December 09, 2016


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Read Bishop Caggiano's reflection on Our Lady

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We remember the unique grace received by Mary at her birth- to be conceived without original sin- so as to become the new Eve through which the Savior of the world could enter into our world and become our Redeemer and Savior.


By receiving this extraordinary grace, Our Lady was offered in advance a share in the grace offered to creation in the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. This unique offering broke the chain of sin that comes to us from our original parents’ sin and allowed the dawn of the Incarnation into our fallen world. We also celebrate the fact that Our Lady fully cooperated with the grace she received at her birth and remained sinless throughout her entire life.

In light of the uniqueness of this grace (given only to Mary), we may be tempted to ask; what does the Immaculate Conception have to do with me, a fallen sinner? The answer is everything!

For we cannot forget that each of us are temples of the Holy Spirit, in whom dwells the life of God. While it is true that we were born with original sin and still labor under its effects, the grace of Baptism has forgiven original sin in us and gives us the strength to combat its effects in our daily lives. This means that we are capable to live authentic lives of holiness, through the power of the Holy Spirit, even if we sometimes sin. Today’s feast reminds is that we can and must strive to imitate the holiness that Mary lived perfectly, one day at a time, even if we do so imperfectly. Further, we have Mary’s intercession to help us in our moments of struggle and temptation. As such, she serves as our true spiritual mother, guiding and protecting us on our journey one day to be united with her and her beloved Son in heaven.

Today let us pray, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”


St. Leo's Annual "Wish" Tree
| December 09, 2016


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STAMFORD—After many weeks of collecting donations, packaging presents, and volunteering at Mass, the parishioners of St. Leo Parish delivered over 800 Christmas gifts and hundreds of toiletries to eight different organizations throughout the Stamford area. The efforts were part of the parish’s annual Wish Tree initiative, and was a tremendous success this year.


Fr. Grosso, pastor of St. Leo Parish, was very encouraged by the event, sharing that the “Wish Tree” is growing- there were 100 more gifts donated this year, a true testament to the giving spirit of the community and of the hard work of those who volunteered.


Mary shows what good comes from wholehearted 'yes' to God, pope says
| December 09, 2016 • by Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service


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Also: click here to read Bishop Caggiano's reflection on Our Lady
VATICAN CITY-Although she was just a humble young woman from a small town, Mary's total "yes" to God was "the most important 'yes' of history" and overturned Adam and Eve's prideful "no," which unleashed sin into the world, Pope Francis said.


"With generosity and trust like Mary, may each of us say this personal 'yes' to God today," Pope Francis prayed Dec. 8 as he recited the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Even when they do not say "no" to God, human beings can be experts in saying, "yes, but ..." to God, the pope said.

"To avoid saying 'no' outright to God, we say, 'Sorry, but I can't,' 'Not today, but maybe tomorrow,' 'Tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will pray, I'll do good tomorrow,'" he said. But in responding that way, "we close the door to what is good and evil profits."

Nevertheless, Pope Francis said, God keeps trying to reach out and save us. And through the "yes" of Mary, he became human, "exactly like us except for one thing, that 'no,' that sin. This is why he chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate."

In the late afternoon, the pope made his traditional visit to a statue of Mary erected in the center of Rome, near the Spanish Steps, to celebrate the official church recognition that Mary was conceived without sin.

Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded around the statue where people had been laying flowers all day. Early Dec. 8, Rome firefighters with a truck and ladder hung a wreath of white flowers from the outstretched arms of the statue.

Pope Francis composed a prayer to Mary for the occasion and read it, standing under the statue's watchful eyes.

He offered special prayers for children who have been abandoned and are exposed to exploitation, for all families who give life and contribute to society, often in hidden ways, and especially for those who are underemployed or unemployed.

"We need your immaculate gaze," he told Mary, in order to "rediscover the ability to look at people and things with respect and recognition and without selfish interests and hypocrisy."

"We need your immaculate heart to love unconditionally, without any aim besides the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and ploys," he said.

"We need your immaculate hands to caress with tenderness, to touch the flesh of Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are poor, sick, despised, to help up those who have fallen and steady those who waver."

"We need your immaculate feet to set out to meet those who cannot take the first step, to walk along the paths of those who are lost, to go and find those who are alone," he prayed.


Tree Lighting Brings Holiday Joy
| December 06, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Christmas came to St. Vincent’s on November 30 as the 18 foot Christmas tree received its  crowning touch of the Snow White Angel during the 14th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting  held in the lobby.



President/CEO Vince Caponi  welcomed the gathering of employees and visitors and introduced young soloist Kiara Simmons, a senior at Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School in Bridgeport, who sang O Holy Night, and perennial favorites, Trumbull’s Hillcrest Middle School Chorus, led by Margaret Winters, who performed a selection of carols and holiday songs.

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and  Jingles and Jangles the elves (who strongly resembled St. Vincent’s staff members Jose Ramon, Maureen Parmelee, Nicole Ashe and Lindsay Knauf),  made an appearance distributing candy canes, while the Grinch (Lou Moretti) and his “reindeer” Cesar were unsuccessful in stopping the Christmas cheer from spreading to a very large crowd. “Alberta Spruce” the Christmas Tree (Dee Ashe) foiled the Grinch’s efforts by stealing the show as she danced with abandon  to Hillcrest’s rendition of “O Christmas Tree.”

But of course the most magical moment came as Employee of the Year Dolores Miele, a popular 22-year veteran of St. Vincent’s got a “lift” to the top of the tree compliments of Engineering’s Dan Rodriguez to put on the finishing touch, while the light switch was flipped to illuminate it and create a truly beautiful sight. Vince Caponi described Dolores as “a dynamo who has served not only as executive assistant to four presidents but as their colleague and confidant.” She attends St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bridgeport.

Thanks go to Chief Mission Integration Officer Bill Hoey and Mission Services Coordinator Lucinda Ames for coordinating the event with help from Deb Botticelli of Pastoral Care; Kiara Simmons and Hillcrest Choraleers led by Margaret Winters; Dietary & Environmental for preparing refreshments and setting up; Andy Bess  and Steve Radziewicz for setting up and operating the sound system with support from Deb Guerra; “Engineering Elves” including Ray Figlar, Dan Rodriguez, Chris Silva, Izzy Marrero,  Andy Moore and his young assistant Ryan, Robert Macolino & their leader Tim Clarke who all set up tree and decorations; all the  volunteers who assisted, and especially, Jose Roman, Maureen Parmelee, Dee Ashe, Lou Moretti, Nicole Ashe and Lindsay Knauf for spreading holiday cheer.
    
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!


ARISE AND SHINE
| December 05, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—“Arise and Shine,” the annual Christmas Concert by the Diocesan Youth Choir is set for Sunday December 18, 6 pm at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport.


Under the direction of Mary Bozzuti-Higgins of Wilton, the 75-member choir will present a joyous program of Christmas songs and chants from different ages and cultures.
 
The choir will reprise some of last year’s favorites such as the “Arise and Shine,”  “Dark is the Silent Night,” and “Siyahamba,” as well as introduce some new Christmas music.
 
This year, the choir will be accompanied by noted area musicians Clay Zambo on piano; Jessica Raposo, flute; Dr. Ralph Kirmser, Oboe; Nick Loafman, Trumpet; and Tom Foote, Percussion
 
Special guest Ms. Adrienne Reedy, a well-known Gospel singer, will be featured in two selections, “Do You Hear What I Hear? and “Christmas Glory, Halleluiah!”
 
Selected readings will be read by choir members in Vietnamese, Spanish, Igbo and English.
 
The Diocese Youth Choir (C4Y) was formed in 2015 at the request of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and in response to the recent diocesan Synod, which called for engaging and inspiring youth in the faith.  It includes youth from more than 35 parishes throughout Fairfield County. Last year’s Christmas concert inspired more than 1,000 people.
 
Ticket prices are $10, students, $15 adults. Purchase online at www.theklein.org or by calling 800.424.0160.


Around the Diocese in 60 Seconds
| December 03, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT— Social Media Leader John Grosso's "Week in Review" takes us around the Diocese for an eventful week including the 3rd Post-Synod session at St. Catherine of Siena Parish Center in Trumbull, the closing of the Holy Door at St. Augustine Cathedral to formally end the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, a prayer service for racial healing, and a series of youth concerts around the diocese performed by X-factor winner Fr. Rob Galea. It all adds up to a week of great faith, joy and engagement throughout the diocese!


Night in a Box
| December 02, 2016


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NORWALK—On November 19, 36 teens from St Jerome Parish in Norwalk gathered for the parish’s fourth annual NIGHT IN A BOX event. NIGHT IN A BOX is a homeless awareness project in which TOTAL, the St. Jerome youth group, raises money and collects toiletries for the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk.

The day began with a prayer, and then everyone was off to service projects! Most of the teens raked the leaves of several elderly parishioners. Ten of them went to the Open Door Shelter, where they were met by the Executive Director of the shelter who gave the group a tour and helped them better understand the plight of the homeless in Norwalk. They then planted small Christmas trees out front to decorate for the holidays, and helped with a mailing.

After the service projects, everyone met back at the church, ate a simple meal of grilled cheese and soup and heard from Bob Genuario, a member of the board of the Open Door Shelter and a longtime St. Jerome parishioner. After a long day, the teens and adults went outside and began constructing their shelters for the night out of cardboard boxes and duct tape. After more service projects and a beautiful prayer service where they talked about “what home means to me,” teens and chaperones headed to their shelters for the night. The weather had different plans. Even though the shelters were covered with tarps and plastic, the rain that had been coming down for a few hours was too much for them. One by one the shelters collapsed. Luckily, they had the church hall to sleep in. It wasn’t all that comfortable, but the teens could stay safe, dry, warm and together. They took a moment to remember and pray for those who did not have the option of moving inside during the rain storm on this harsh night.

In the morning the youth group concluded their weekend of service with Mass and Ryan Williams, a high school senior, spoke to the congregation. Ryan said, “We went to the shelter and saw these little kids who are homeless. Last night, my little sister asked our speaker if kids in the shelter get Christmas presents. He said, ‘They do because of people like you!’ That struck a chord with me and I thought, ‘IT TAKES PEOPLE LIKE ME’. I can sleep in a box many nights if it helps someone without a home.“

(Donations can be sent to The Open Door Shelter, 4 Merritt St., South Norwalk, CT 06854. You can also visit their website at the link below to see a list of much needed items. www.opendoorshelter.org/donations/)


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International Festival of Foods
| December 02, 2016


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STRATFORD—In a delicious response to the Pastoral Plan, Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Stratford held its first ever International Festival of Foods this fall. Father Andrew Marus, Holy Name’s pastor, led parishioners in grace before the meal. 

This event was the initial response to the parish’s Pastoral Plan goal to recognize and celebrate the diversity of its cultural and ethnic background in both worship and parish functions. Over 140 parishioners attended the evening in the parish hall and shared foods from Slovakia, Poland, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Italy, Haiti, Hungary, Ireland and Vietnam. It was an evening of fellowship and new friendships, with plans for more to come.


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Our Lady of Fatima welcomes new priest
| December 02, 2016 • by Caroline Wilson from wiltonbulletin.com


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WILTON—Faced with two possible career paths—journalism or the priesthood—Father Damian Pielesz chose faith. That path has led the Polish native to Wilton, where he is parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima, assisting Pastor Reggie Norman.


He comes from Jastrzebie Zdroj, a city in the southern part of Poland. After graduating from the local schools and music school he became a newscaster for TVP Katowice, and had his own program on a local television station from 2003 to 2005.

Father Damian says religion has been present throughout his life, and he first considered going into the priesthood at his fifth birthday party, when a priest who was invited told him they were in need of more altar servers.

From that day, he was crazy about Mass. He held his own service in his room every Sunday, with flowers for a microphone and apple juice for wine. His family was always invited.

When he was in music school, he learned to play the piano and trumpet. He still favors the latter, saying, “When I played on the trumpet, music became a source of inspiration and expression.” Father Damian also sees music as a way for people to connect and understand emotion through song.

Going to high school, Father Damian wanted to try something different from the priesthood, something he had been interested in since he was a small child. He was unsure whether he was being called to journalism or faith, and wanted to see how it would go.

Ultimately, God’s calling was stronger, and he says, “I really felt I should be a priest.” For him, there are some clear connections between the priesthood and newscasting. Journalism gave him more confidence to talk to people, which is very important in being a priest. In addition, he said, the work was rewarding, as he started by working the graveyard shift of the late night to early morning and eventually achieved a level of “on-air recognition.”

His career in faith began with readings during Mass and as altar server. The next stop was SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Krakow, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. The seminary is dedicated to preparing foreign-born seminarians, particularly those of Polish descent, to work for the Roman Catholic Church in America. After he had finished his years there, he arrived at Orchard Lake, Mich., to finish up his English studies at a branch of the same seminary.

His final seminary year was completed in spring 2013 at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg. On May 26, 2013, he celebrated his first Mass at Holy Name of Jesus in Stamford, a Polish-American church.

He had said, “I want to be a priest who knows how to listen, to communicate God’s message effectively and to help those in need.” When asked whether or not he had achieved this goal he answered, “The best analogy I have ever heard in answering this question came from Elder David A. Bednar, who spoke about the priesthood as being an umbrella that covers and protects His children. It is the men’s job to hold the umbrella and make sure it covers us all. So I want to be a priest who wants to cover all people for my whole priesthood. I want to do it every day. It is not something I can achieve once.”

Since then, Father Damian has been a priest within the Diocese of Bridgeport. He enjoys knowing that the United States was founded Christian. The culture is also a very open one, and he believes the people here are friendly. Even the littlest things, like weather changes, American diners (and their food portions), and entertainment, from Broadway to the music that plays on the radio, are appreciated by Father Damian.

He believes his first Mass at Our Lady of Fatima was successful, but leaves it up to parishioners to decide.


St Joseph High School Teachers Travel to El Salvador
| December 01, 2016


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TRUMBULL—St Joseph High School located at 2320 Huntington Turnpike in Trumbull, Connecticut announced that two of the faculty members are currently on a U.S. Delegation trip in El Salvador located in Central America.


Dr James Keane, Principal, stated, “As an important part of faculty professional development, St Joseph High School faculty members Mrs. Maureen Anderson and Ms Meghan Piatak participated this week in a U.S. delegation to El Salvador to help commemorate a dark chapter in the history of that country that included a civil war that killed tens of thousands and brutal persecution of the Catholic Church.”

The trip, organized by International Partners in Mission, a Cleveland-based interfaith non-profit organization with a global focus to help the most poor and vulnerable around the world, the trip involved a ceremony to remember the deaths of four American churchwomen: Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan who were brutally killed by Salvadoran security forces thirty-five years ago. The delegation also paused to pray at the chapel where Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated and met with surviving members of the Jesuit community at the University of Central America where, in 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her young daughter were massacred. This summer, IPM will run an immersion trip to Nicaragua for St. Joseph High School students and teachers as part of the new Francis Xavier International Baccalaureate Program that is linking domestic and international experiences of solidarity to classroom coursework.

For additional media information please contact Dana Christos, Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications, at (203) 378-9378 ext. 306 or via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

St Joseph High School strives to be the premier college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut. The school provides a learning environment that embraces the Gospel values of the Roman Catholic faith and promotes a commitment to family and community. The school prepares our young women and men to realize their potential, helps them excel in higher education and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits St. Joseph High School.


Advent ceremony lights the Catholic Center
| November 30, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—“We all know what hunger is. We need nutrients to feed our bodies,” said Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general of the Diocese of Bridgeport, during a blessing of the Advent Wreath at the Catholic Center.  “Just as we need food for our bodies, we all need grace. We’re hungry for God’s grace.”


Advent, the four weeks of preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, can be a time to receive the healing love of God’s grace. The name comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival. It is a time to ponder the great sacrifice that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made for us by coming to earth as an infant.

As the reading from Old Testament prophet Isaiah, read at the ceremony, says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”


Trinity High’s food drive assists Food Bank
| November 29, 2016


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STAMFORD—Student Council moderators Katrina Egan and Rebecca Corso announced that Trinity Catholic High School continued their mission of serving others. Sponsored by the Student Council, the school’s long-standing community service project, the Thanksgiving Food Drive, donated a grand total of over 5,900 lbs of non-perishable food and turkeys to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. 


The freshman class donated 1,143 lbs, the sophomores 1,745 lbs, the juniors 1,200 lbs, and the seniors 1,851 lbs.


Trinity Catholic High School students hail from 16 communities throughout Fairfield County (Danbury, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport and Wilton) and Westchester County (Bedford, Hartsdale, Mahopac, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Valhalla, White Plains and Yonkers).

Founded in 1958, Trinity Catholic High School is a Catholic co-educational college preparatory high school of the Diocese of Bridgeport, with a long tradition of excellence in academics, athletics and community service. Trinity Catholic is committed to educating the whole person within the Roman Catholic tradition. It provides an atmosphere of respect and reverence in which each member is able to develop spiritually, morally, intellectually, socially, and physically in order to live as a positive Christian witness and responsible citizen in the service of God and others. Trinity Catholic High School, located in Stamford, CT, is a coeducational, college preparatory school.


Knights Continue Work for God and Country
| November 28, 2016


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NORWALK—Norwalk's Knights of Columbus St. Matthew Council 14360 has many traditions including helping our Veterans and children in need. First Knights of Columbus Saint Matthew Council 14360 and students at Fox Run, Wolfpit and All Saints Catholic Schools sponsored a donation drive for the veterans at the Homes for The Brave in Bridgeport in honor of Veterans Day.





Homes for The Brave is a facility in Bridgeport that takes care of veterans who are working to get back to regular life after serving in the armed forces.

Fox Run School teachers Mary Janine Lane and Jane Jawlik as well as the Fox Run Student Council organized the drive.  Council 14360 member Joe Giandurco and his wife, Alice, a retired Fox Run teacher, approached the school about organizing a collection for the fourth straight year. When Council 14360 approached All Saints about doing a drive, Principal Linda Dunn, Student Council advisor John Mezzacappa and the All Saints Student Council were immediately responsive and excited about the opportunity to help the home for the second straight year. In addition, Wolfpit School in Norwalk coordinated by teacher Melissa Giandurco joined the other schools for the first time.  The three schools along with Council 14360 held drives and delivered 4 car loads of food and supplies to Homes for the Brave.  

Joe Giandurco Council 14360 member and a former Marine who served in Vietnam.  “Homes for the Brave is a top-notch organization. It is my pleasure and honor to help my fellow veterans in any way I can,” he says.

In addition, Council 14360 and Catholic Daughters of the America's St. Matthew Court 2640 provided and delivered a full Thanksgiving meal for the residents of Homes for the Brave for the fourth consecutive year. "Time after time, we are deeply touched by the dedication the Saint Matthew Knights and Catholic Daughters. Once again, they gave up the time and financial resources that are so precious this time of year to coordinate three supply drives and deliver a traditional turkey dinner to our men and women on Thanksgiving. It means so much to our residents that they were able to take a break from their hard work and enjoy a traditional family-style meal, said Kaitlin Marinelli, Communications and Outreach Specialist at Homes for the Brave. Homes for the Brave CEO/Executive Director, Vince Santilli went on to say, "Our men and women both loved the food and we could NOT be more appreciative. What a blessing St. Matthew Council #14360 and Catholic Daughters Court 2640 have been to us. Your Thanksgiving visit and the meal you delivered was a wonderful blessing."
 
The day after Thanksgiving has of course become known as “Black Friday”, with many shoppers rushing about in search of the best deals on everything from clothing to televisions. This Black Friday, some members Knights of Columbus Council 14360 spent part of their day helping those with limited funds to stay warm and happy this winter along with Brother Knights from Norwalk Council 46 and New Canaan Council 2287.

Brothers handed out coats for children in need at St. Joseph Church in South Norwalk as part of the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids initiative. The coats were purchased by the three K of C Councils with money generated from the council's respective fundraising activities.

The Knights of Columbus launched the coats initiative (designed to keep kids warm in harsh winter climates) in 2009. With many families with young children struggling in tough economic times, there was a clear need to provide warm winter coats to children in their communities. And so, the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program was born.

Since the program’s inception, the Knights of Columbus in the United States and Canada has given away more than 200,000 coats to children in need. Approximately 2,000 local Knights of Columbus councils have participated in their communities around the world. "This is the second year that the 3 local Knights councils hooked up to give away coats.  This year we gave around 100 coats in 90 minutes. It is an honor to help children keep warm this winter," said Council 14360 member and District Deputy George Ribellino.

Finally, KofC St. Matthew Council 14360 sponsored the Third Annual Christmas Tree and Crèche lighting at St. Matthew Church on Sunday 11/27. The council provided refreshments and the St. Matthew Adult and Youth Choirs sang Christmas Carols. On top of that special guest Msgr. Tom Powers, the Vicar General from the Diocese of Bridgeport blessed the crèche and Christmas Tree.  The Christmas tree and crèche lighting was started by Council 14360 as part of the Knights of Columbus Keep Christ in Christmas initiative of the real and true meaning of Christmas.

"This was truly a great way to kick off the Advent season as we prepare for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day," said Grand Knight Scott Criscuolo.