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Synod First General Session: A time for asking tough questions
| September 20, 2014


TRUMBULL (September 20)-- The first General Session of Synod 2014 came to a close this afternoon after seven hours of tightly formatted presentations and discussions about the challenges and opportunities facing the Catholic church in Fairfield County.

Almost 400 delegates, observers, and invited experts filled the St. Catherine of Siena Parish Hall in the Nichols section of Trumbull to absorb study committee reports built around the four major themes of the Synod: empower the young church, build up communities of faith foster evangelical outreach, promote works of charity and justice.

Click here to view a slideshow

Bishop Caggiano set the tone for the day when he told delegates, “This is a day of all questions and no answers. We need to saturate ourselves in the data and suspend judgment about solutions.” In the comments made by many of the delegates who came to the microphone during the four discussion periods, it was clear that the spirit of Pope Francis hovered over the day in the optimism over his Papacy’s ability to inspire Catholics to look at the faith through new eyes.

Many delegates referenced the Holy Father’s emphasis on mercy and inclusion, and said that while they wanted a Church steeped in the truth of Catholic teaching, they also wanted a welcoming Church that does not judge others and reaches out with compassion.

Likewise speakers thanked Bishop Caggiano for calling the Synod and moving forward to renew the diocese.

Several times during the sessions, Bishop Caggiano urged delegates to “dig deeper, ask more questions and get to the root of the problems.”

Many common threads emerged in the statistics and the discussions about the nature of faith in contemporary society. Among the many challenges identified were:

  • The growing number of Catholics who have left the church
  • The early exodus of young people from the Church, which begins in their teens and accelerates in their twenties
  • The sense that many Catholics are “sacramentalized but not evangelized,” and live without the joy or spirit of faith
  • The impact of poverty on Catholic families and the gap between affluent and poor parishes
  • The irony that many parents in the diocese drop off their children for religious education but do not personally participate in the Church or bring their children to Mass
  • The opportunity to use social media to bring the Gospel to the marketplace of ideas
  • The need to let youth speak for themselves
  • The need for continued healing from the sexual abuse crisis while continuing to reach out to victims and assess the impact on the Church
  • The challenge of balancing the beauty and truth of Catholic tradition with new approaches to prayer, worship and catechesis
  • The need to share resources between parishes and break down silos
  • The mandate to bring people to an encounter with Christ in a way that is not intimidating or judgmental

Deacon John DiTaranto, Special Assistant to Bishop Caggiano and a member of the Synod commission, led off the day with a demographic overview.

Building on the statistics presented in Bishop Caggiano’s recent State of the Diocese address, he noted that 470,000 people in Fairfield County (roughly half of the overall population) identify themselves as Catholic, but only 82,460 or 17% attend Mass every week.

At present, there are 420 Masses offered in 16 different languages every weekend in the diocese. Yet there has been a gradual decline in the number of marriages and baptisms. Nationally there has been a 60% decline in Catholic marriages since 1972.

Perhaps most dramatically, one in ten Americans now identifies as a former Catholic, and four times as many people have left the Church as have entered it over the past two decades.

“Why did they leave, Where did they go,” Deacon DiTaranto asked, noting that of the 53% of Americans who leave their childhood faith, only 9% return.

The Deacon said there is room for optimism in the growing number of vocations to the priesthood, the openness of Americans to spiritual experience, and the growing number of foreign-born Catholic.

The Latino population in Fairfield County has seen a 16% increase; now totaling 144,593, with growing populations in Norwalk, Danbury and Bridgeport. Nationally, Hispanics now represent 45% of the Catholics in the US, and 70% of the growth in the Church over the past 50 years.

One of the more striking statistics presented by Deacon DiTaranto was the early exodus of youth from the Church and parish life.

“Catholics who leave, leave early, “ he said, pointing out that 48 % who leave the Church do so by the age of 18. That number jumps to 79% by the age of 23.

Bishop Caggiano, who has made reaching out to youth a priority, responded to the statistics by saying, “One of the first questions I have to ask myself as Bishop is are we causing this? Is the behavior of the institutional Church making this worse? We have to re-establish the credibility of the parish community for young people, because their search for God does not require them to be with us. They do in on their own.”

Delegate Bob Rooney of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Riverside gave the presentation on the “Build up Communities of Faith” theme. He noted that the American family portrayed on “Leave it to Beaver” has morphed into the complexity of the “Modern Family” portrayed in today’s media. He said the changes in the American family are here to stay and the Church “must figure out how to adapt to this new reality.”

Rooney said that three communities of faith, parish, schools and the family unit, “are interconnected” and the Church needs to do more to strengthen them. Quoting Pope Francis, that “one does not become a Christian by himself,” Rooney said the Church build up trust and reach out one person at a time to evangelize.

In his presentation on “Fostering Evangelical Outreach,” said that “Evangelization is not proselytizing,” but drawing people to the joy of faith by love, tenderness and patients, so that “everyone can have a personal encounter with Jesus Chris through the Church.”

Fr. Towsley said as society’s values become more secular and less Christian, We must “bring the Gospel to the streets and bring Jesus Christ to the marketplace.”

Catholic Charities Chief Operating Officer Michael Trintrup delivered the final Study Committee report on “Promoting works of charity and justice.” He said that Catholics throughout Fairfield County are putting “faith in action” through untold social outreach in parishes, schools, Catholic civic groups and other ministries.

He told the gathering that poverty is the root cause of many of the problems in Fairfield County including homelessness and mental illness. At present 8.8% or 90,000 residents in Fairfield County are living below the poverty line.

Tintrup also provided an overview of the impact of Catholic Charities services in Fairfield County including 1.5 million meals served each year to the poor, elderly and homeless, 15,000 counseling sessions to help keep families together and over 200 housing units that shelter those who would otherwise be homeless.

In his brief closing remarks, the Bishop noted that unlike other states, Connecticut does not have regional government and the Church plays a major role in unifying the county.

“There are very few institutions that actually cover the whole country. Are we the one institution can have the dialogue?” he asked.

The Bishop also said that in the next General Session for delegates “the work of discernment will begin” when delegates seek to find solutions to the many questions they have explored in the research and study phase.

The second General Session for delegates is set for Saturday November 15, 8-3 at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull. In between General Sessions, the Synod will also host consultations sessions with youth, deacons, religious, priests and the Hispanic community.

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

350 Synod delegates commissioned at prayer service
| September 19, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—-Bishop Frank J. Caggiano officially commissioned more than 350 delegates to Synod 2014 at a Vespers Service on Friday night at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

“Bless the members of the Synod and give them gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Commission them to go forth and be the new prophets of your divine plan for the Diocese of Bridgeport,” Bishop Caggiano said during the Prayer of Commissioning.

Listen to Bishop Caggiano's Homily Below | Click here to view the slideshow

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The delegates officially begin work on Saturday at 8 am when the first General Session convenes at St. Catherine of Siena Parish Center in the Nichols section of Trumbull.

Almost 700 faithful braved the congested Friday commute in Fairfield County to fill St. Augustine’s for the Vespers service that included hymns, psalms, scripture readings and a homily by Bishop Frank Caggiano.


The Vespers service, which fell on the first anniversary of Bishop Caggiano’s installation as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport, marked the opening ceremony of Synod 2014, which will gather for a year to help discern and plan for the future of the Diocese.

In his homily the Bishop drew laughter when he said that when he finally got his driver’s license after failing earlier attempts, he was quickly designated as the driver on family vacations. He said that his mother was in charge of the food and his father was concerned about directions.

“He needed to know the directions step by step,” the Bishop said, noting that it is important to have a road map when taking a journey. Before asking the delegates to join him in the Profession of the Faith, he said that the Creed is the roadmap for all Catholics.

“The Synod is a gift of the Holy Spirit. You and I in this age and in this time are being called to bring this creed, this road map to a waiting world.,” the Bishop said. “The ancient creeds binds us together, helps us to overcome our differences and become a single family.”

Describing the Synod as a “journey of a lifetime” for the Diocese, the Bishop asked, “Are you ready to begin? Roll up your sleeves with love and let us be on our way.”

The Church was filled with applause after his homily when the Bishop officially signed and sealed the Letter of Decree opening the Synod. The Bishop also received a standing ovation in appreciation for all of the work he has done in his first year of ministry in the diocese.

In the “Examination of Synod Participants,” Bishop Caggiano asked the delegates to stand. “Are you willing to undertake the journey of discernment, which will allow us to determine the will of God for our Diocese” the bishop asked delegates who responded, “I am.”

The Bishop also asked delegates “to promise to pray daily for guidance of the Holy Spirit so we may always fulfill the will of God.”

The intercessions toward the end of the service were read in Spanish, Creole, Vietnamese, Polish, Portuguese and English, reflecting the diversity of many different communities across the diocese.
Music for the Vespers program was conducted by Thomas J. Marino of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, who served as organist and choir director of the celebration. Choir members were drawn from parishes throughout the diocese, while Cidalia Alves was the cantor

In the June 29 Vespers service to launch the Synod, Bishop Caggiano announced the four major themes that came out of the synod listening sessions held last spring throughout the diocese: empowering the young church, building up communities of faith, fostering evangelical outreach and promoting works of justice and charity.

When the Synod delegates convene on Saturday for the first General Session, they will hear four study committee presentations based on the four Synod themes. Each presentation will be followed by 40 minutes of discussion. The study committee as made up of priests, religious, laity and guest speakers.

During the year-long Synod, the study committees will also look at national and diocesan trends and examine best-practice models around the country in order to address challenges and plan for the future.

Bishop Caggiano officially convoked the 4th Diocesan Synod with an announcement in his February 22 letter that issued a challenge to all Catholics to help plan for the future of the diocese.

The second General Session for delegates is set for Saturday November 15, 8-3 at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull. In between General Sessions, the Synod will also host consultations sessions with youth, deacons, religious, priests and the Hispanic community

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Bishop Caggiano meets with his priests
| September 18, 2014 • by By Father Colin McKenna


NORWALK—Bishop Frank Caggiano believes that the best way to facilitate communication is to meet face-to-face. In his first year as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, he has made communication with his priests a priority. To ensure that priests have the opportunity to present issues to him and ask him questions in an open forum, he has instituted semi-annual priests’ meetings wherein he and the presbyterate (the priests of the diocese) can spend several hours together discussing important issues.

Msgr. Peter Cullen and Monsignor William Millea chat before
the meeting.

Bishop Caggiano led the meeting but also requested
and encouraged input from his priests.

The priests enjoyed a buffet luncheon before the meeting began.

Last May, the priests of the diocese met with Bishop Caggiano at St. Mathew’s Parish in Norwalk, and today they returned for their second general meeting of the year. After a buffet luncheon and an opening prayer, they took up an agenda divided into six separate subject areas with twenty sub-topics. The May meeting lasted nearly four hours. Today’s meeting was more than two hours long.

Bishop Caggiano led the meeting but paused frequently to ask for input from his priests. His leadership style is collaborative, and his enthusiasm is inspiring. “This is a great discussion!,” he proclaimed at one point.

Many of the topics were very technical in nature, relating to canonical, liturgical and catechetical processes. But there were at least several topics that were practical in nature and had definite dates attached to them.

Vocation Director Father Sam Kachuba reminded everyone that November 2-9 is “Vocation Awareness Week.” As that week approaches, Father Kachuba encouraged priests to check for pertinent materials. “It would be great to have homilies about vocations on those weekends,” he said.

Bishop Caggiano added that “our five high schools have the potential to generate many vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” And he announced that he is taking concrete steps to strengthen our approach to fostering vocations in the diocese.

Father Peter Lynch, a former vocation director in the diocese, pointed out that “every priest is a promoter of vocations.” Bishop Caggiano said that helping men and women to realize that they may be called by God to a religious vocation is a primary responsibility of priests.

Building on the theme of vocations, Bishop Caggiano announced that Pope Francis has proclaimed a “Year of Consecrated Life,” which actually extends for 16 months, from November 2014 - February 2016. In our diocese, this special year in honor of consecrated religious life begins on Sunday, November 30, with a special Mass and celebration at St. Cecilia Church in Stamford from 2:30-4:30 pm. Although it is a Sunday, Bishop Caggiano encouraged as many as possible to attend.

The bishop also encouraged the priests to preach about consecrated life on the weekend of February 7 & 8, 2015. “It is such an important and beautiful part of the Church,” he said.

Finally, in terms of exciting events to anticipate in the future, the bishop announced that the diocese will hold a youth concert and Mass at Webster Arena in Bridgeport on December 12, 2015. It is called “C4Y15” (Concert for Youth 2015) and the bishop hopes that 5,000 diocesan youth will attend.

If all of that is not enough, the bishop announced that after the conclusion of the synod, he is sponsoring a diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The all-day pilgrimage is scheduled for October 24, 2015, and the bishop wants as many buses as possible heading down I-95 filled with pilgrims from our diocese. He wants the priests to keep that day—a Saturday—as free from parish commitments as possible.

Before concluding the meeting, Bishop Caggiano requested prayers so that he may be guided by the Holy Spirit as he navigates a maze of difficult decisions in the coming weeks and months.

Vicar General Msgr. Bill Scheyd took the microphone before the meeting ended and thanked the bishop for his first year of service to the people and priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport. In a sign of agreement and unity, the presbyterate rose and gave Bishop Caggiano a standing ovation.

Preschool opened in Norwalk
| September 18, 2014


NORWALK—Room to Grow Preschool of Catholic Charities has announced the opening of its second location in Norwalk at 139 West Rocks Road, behind All Saints School. The pre-school program for children from three to five years old officially opened its doors on September 8, 2014.

“We are proud to bring this very successful program to a second location in Norwalk,” said Al Barber, president of Catholic Charities. “This is a proven program that has been a remarkable resource for children and families. We know that quality, affordable and safe early childhood education is one of the most pressing needs a family can face, and this program answers that need.”

Nancy Cook Owens, director of Room to Grow, said there are still some subsidized school readiness slots available to eligible Norwalk residents, along with full-tuition spaces open to all in the greater Norwalk area and neighboring communities.

Cook Owens said the new location can accommodate a total of 46 children. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 5:30.

Room to Grow Preschool is a State licensed and nationally accredited facility that provides high quality care and education for children ages three to five years old. The 208 East Ave. campus of Room to Grow Preschool, located in the back wing of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish Center, serves 83 children.

The subsidized slots are grant funded through a School Readiness grant, which requires that a child be a resident of the City of Norwalk. These spots are available on a sliding fee scale based on family income.

“Our curriculum is based upon the philosophy that young children learn best by doing. Learning requires active thinking and experimenting. During the preschool years, play is one of the most fundamental activities of the developing child, providing the foundation of academic learning. The most important goal of our curriculum is to help children become enthusiastic learners,” said Cook Owens.  

“The program wait-list policy necessitates priority going to the siblings of families already enrolled or returning to Room to Grow. We currently have more than a two year waiting list, so we ask families to please plan accordingly.”

(For more info on enrollment, contact Nancy Cook Owens: 203.831.8200; email  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

“Religious Liberty after Hobby Lobby” is topic of Red Mass Breakfast
| September 17, 2014


FAIRFIELD—The biennial diocesan Red Mass for members of the legal profession will be celebrated on September 28 at 9 am in the Egan Chapel of Fairfield University.

The Mass and the breakfast reception are being hosted by Father Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the principal celebrant and homilist. The public is invited to attend, along with members of the legal profession.

Attorney Noel J. Francisco, Jones Day partner and head of the Government Regulations Practice Group, will be the featured speaker at the breakfast. His topic will be “Religious Liberty after the Hobby Lobby Decision.”

The Red Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities and challenges faced by Catholic legal practitioners.
“Religious liberty is one of the most pressing issues in our country and around the globe. The recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court is of profound interest to all as we struggle with this complex issue,” said Anne McCrory, Chief Legal and Real Estate Officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Francisco represents companies and individuals in civil and criminal litigation involving federal and state governments, including lawsuits against governments, enforcement actions by governments, and congressional investigations. He has been working most recently as a part of the team of litigators at Jones Day who have been providing pro bono support for those entities claiming that the HHS contraceptive mandate presents a violation of the religious freedom.

The National Law Journal recently named Francisco as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.”

Francisco has testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on separation of powers, and administration law reform issues. He also provides commentary to the major media on a wide range of legal issues and has appeared on ABC’s “Nightline,” CNN’s “Larry King Live” and “Paula Zahn Now,” MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and several National Public Radio programs. Noel graduated from the University of Chicago, where he earned a J.D. with high honors 1996.

Paul E. Knag, partner at Murtha Cullina in Stamford, is chairing this year’s Event Committee.

(The cost of the breakfast is $35/person. For reservations, go to  or contact Deb Tietjen by September 21st, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 203.416.1385)

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
St. Margaret Shrine: An Oasis of Peace
| September 16, 2014


When we think of “pilgrimages,” we often think of going someplace far away. To our mind’s eye, pilgrimages involve travel, sometimes difficult travel, and the willingness to partake of a “spiritual camping trip.” By camping trip, I mean that pilgrimages require the need to forgo certain creature comforts, or to at least accept a degree of asceticism.

I am writing this blog to inform everyone – and to remind myself – that pilgrimages do not require any of the features that I have mentioned above. First, as Catholic Christians, we are all pilgrims. Regardless of how comfortable our earthly lives may be, earth is not our true homeland. While we are alive on earth, we are traveling, as pilgrims, toward a personal meeting with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Creation is always in motion. As I type, the earth itself is hurtling through space at many thousands of miles per hour and the earth is spinning rapidly. Just because these movements are imperceptible to me does not mean that they are not occurring. It is similar with our daily pilgrimage. We may not experience it as actual movement, but there is a mechanism that monitors our progress, and that is time.

The Park Avenue entrance to St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport.

Christ the King greets visitors to the shrine and extends his arms
in blessing over the city of Bridgeport.

Our Lady of Fatima and the shepherd children kneeling in prayer.

A dramatic metalwork depiction of the crucifixion.

A lifelike depiction of Golgotha.

A mosaic of St. Margaret of Antioch standing guard above
the Italian town from which many emigrated to Bridgeport.

Deacon Don Foust (L), Administrator of St. Margaret Shrine,
and Nick Mastroianni, who has helped oversee the shrine since
1950, stand beside the fountain from which many believe springs
forth miraculous water.


Whether they are major undertakings or local journeys, pilgrimages are blessed events because they require us to take time out of our daily lives and schedules and commit ourselves to spending time with God and neighbor in prayer and perhaps good works.

If the thought of actually boarding a plane with fellow believers and traveling to Lourdes or Fatima or someplace else is just too daunting, I have recently discovered a destination for pilgrims much closer to home. St. Margaret Shrine is the only shrine in the Diocese of Bridgeport, and it is located in the middle of the city of Bridgeport.

St. Margaret’s is easy to get to from either the Merritt Parkway or I-95 and it has plenty of safe, secure parking available. If you decide to make a pilgrimage to the shrine, your visit may only last an hour or an afternoon, but in my opinion, it is still a real pilgrimage and you will reap many benefits from God for your generosity in taking the time and making the effort.

This idea of the “simple pilgrimage” recalls the principles of St. Therese of Lisieux who wrote about doing little things for God and neighbor in our daily lives.

St. Margaret Shrine was founded by Father Emilio Iasiello at the onset of World War II to be “an oasis of peace” in the midst of a world at war. As the United States now enters its latest war, or begins it anew, a special place to pray for peace in our lives and in the world is needed more than ever. Since 1941, Father Iasiello’s shrine has experienced organic growth within its 7.5 acres. As different individuals with various talents and inspirations come along, different shrines or areas of prayer and worship are incorporated into the landscape.

The most recent shrine within the shrine is a statue and prayer space created to honor Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. One of the first things that our newly installed Bishop Caggiano did last September as Bishop of Bridgeport was to dedicate the Padre Pio statue at the shrine. Bishop Caggiano is extremely fond of the shrine and has made several visits to it already and is looking forward to spending more time there. Two new areas of remembrance are under construction at the shrine and hope to be opened soon. One is for first responders and the second is for the victims of the Newtown massacre.

Although the shrine is dedicated as a place to pray for peace, it is named after St. Margaret of Antioch (Syria) who was martyred in the year 304, only a decade before Christianity was made legal in the Roman Empire. She was martyred because she wanted to preserve her virginity, yet curiously she is known as a patron saint of pregnant women. In addition to expectant mothers, St. Margaret’s shrine would also be a good place to visit for women who long to be biological mothers but may be experiencing difficulties conceiving.

What would a Catholic shrine be without miraculous spring water? People come from miles around to fill containers with spring water from St. Margaret Shrine that is believed by many to have miraculous healing powers. One man claims to have been healed of stomach cancer as a result of drinking the water. The water that supplies the “miraculous” source comes from a spring 1,450 feet below the surface.

Water from that deep within the earth is certainly pure and undoubtedly filled with many healthy minerals. Whether it becomes holy and healing as it rises up and through holy ground is a matter of faith for those who visit the shrine.

The shrine and its three chapels are open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The chapels are open on the weekends at various daytime hours but the grounds remain open until dusk. The shrine is located at 2523 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Office phone: 203-333-9627. Website: www.parishesonline/stmargaretshrine.

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Father Hribsek, former pastor of Holy Cross Parish
| September 16, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Father Aloysius Hribsek, former pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Fairfield, died on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, September 14, in Stamford Hospital. He was 92 years old.

Father Hribsek, who lived at the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy Retired Priests’ Residence since 1996, served as pastor at Holy Cross Parish for twenty-three years.

Born on October 28, 1921 in Yugoslavia, he attended local schools there. His studies for the priesthood were done at the Pontificio Ateneo Salesian in Turin, Italy and Salesian College, Aptos, Calif. His ordination to the priesthood as a Salesian took place at Mary, Help of Christians Church, Watsonville, California, on June 29, 1949. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1959.

His first assignment for the diocese was as a faculty member at the former St. Mary High School in Greenwich, while in residence at Saint Michael Parish, also in Greenwich. Later he was an assistant at Sacred Heart Parish, Byram, and administrator and pastor at Holy Cross Parish. He lived at St. Luke Parish, Westport as well.

Father Hribsek spent part of his early years of retirement in his native Slovenia assisting Salesian Fathers working in that newly formed, independent country. On his return he was appointed administrator of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Shelton and later chaplain at Villa Maria Retreat House in Stamford.

In addition, Father Hribsek served on the Priests’ Council and did advanced studies at Fordham and Columbia Universities, and the Catholic University of America.

Father Hribsek’s body will be received at Holy Cross Church on Wednesday, September 17, at 4 pm where it will lie in state until the Vigil Mass at 7 pm. The celebrant and homilist will be Reverend Alfred Pecaric, the current pastor.

The Mass for Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father Hribsek on Thursday, September 18, at 10:30 am at Holy Cross. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the main celebrant. The homilist will be Msgr. Nicholas Grieco. Burial will follow at Saint Michael Cemetery, Stratford, in the Priests’ Circle.

Bishop says service of First Responders is “victory of love”
| September 14, 2014


DARIEN—At the 13th Annual Blue Mass, which was celebrated this morning on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Bishop Caggiano reminded those in attendance that September 13 is the anniversary of the day a New York construction worker uncovered the cross that would become “a sign of hope and encouragement” to the country after the terrorist act of 9/11.

With bagpipes playing “America the Beautiful,” more than 100 police, fire and emergency services personnel processed in to the tiny Church on the Post Road in Darien for the annual Mass that remembers those lost on 9/11 and honors the service of First Responders.

The chapel-like Church was quickly filled with people standing in the aisles and in the vestibule with the doors wide open, and the stained-glass windows on the tipped up to let the fresh air in on a beautiful morning.

Bishop Caggiano, who celebrated his first Blue Mass in the Diocese at St. John Church in Darien, said the huge steel cross was uncovered in the mist and fog of dust that settled over the World Trade Centers after the terrorist attacks.

He said the workers “found an enormous gift, an act of grace” when they came upon the cross “made of the mangled steel that had been at the very fiber of one of the towers.”

The Bishop said that the lesson in the aftermath of 9/11 is that “Christ is never closer to use then in the moment of our suffering. But God doesn’t just stand in solidarity with us.”

He said that although as Christians, “we must learn to live in the shadow of the cross. The story does not end at the Cross” but goes on to the resurrection and new life.

“Our story ends in the victory of God over violence and all those things that are not of him.” the Bishop said. “There is not a broken heart in this world that does not find a place in the heart of Jesus.”

During this homily, the Bishop turned to the uniformed officers who lined the side walls of the Church, thanked them for their service, which is Christ-like in their mission to protect others from harm, never to abandon them in need and often to suffer with those they try to save.

Noting that their badges as First Responders mark them as persons of “faith and integrity, “ the bishop said, “But the greater badge you carry is the one in your heart because you have been signed by Jesus Christ. May the cross of Christ always be your badge of honor and love.”

At the conclusion of Mass, presented awards to the 2014 Blue Mass Honorees 2014 and recognized their contributions to the community.

Fr. Charles Allen, Special Assistant to the President of Fairfield University, read the following tributes:

Officer Robert Muschett, Stratford Police Department
Officer Robert Muschett exemplifies what law enforcement is today. His selfless, dedication to the community and professionalism exemplify the high standards of the Stratford Police Department.

Officer Muschett has repeatedly proven that even in the most emotional situations, he can defuse the situation with calm professionalism. He treats everyone with respect and dignity. He takes the extra time to ensure victims are aware of their rights and the legal process. The Stratford Police Department has received numerous letters of praise for Officer Muschett’s performance and dedication.

Lieutenant Mathew Deysenroth, City of Bridgeport Fire Department
Lieutenant Mathew Deysenroth's dedication to the Department as a leader and company commander throughout the year is exemplary. He is a key figure in organizing donations to the Bridgeport Fallen Firefighters Foundation as well as organizing the Fill-A-Boot drives for Muscular Dystrophy and the Annual Walter Flyntz Memorial Golf Tournament each fall.

Officer Tiffanie Bennett, Fairfield Police Department
On July 26, 2014 Fairfield Police Department conducted a missing person investigation after family members reported their 50 year old son who suffers from dementia, missing and endangered after he left the house in his Gray Mini Cooper and never returned. Approximately 24 hours had passed when Officer Tiffany Bennett driving off-duty in her personal vehicle noticed the Gray Mini Cooper, spotted the car and followed it until the man was stopped and safely returned to his family.

Officer Bennett has also volunteered to take on the extra responsibility of mentoring College Students wishing to explore a career in Law Enforcement through our internship program.

Officer Christopher Holms, Norwalk Police Department
Officer Christopher Holms has been a Norwalk Police Officer since January 1997. He became the Department DARE officer in 2010 and teaches the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program to fifth grade students in Norwalk School. In 2013 he also piloted a DARE program in one middle school for eight grade students and program has been very well received. He also runs a two week DARE summer camp, which this year had 35 campers.

In 2011, Officer Holms took on the development of the Norwalk Police Explorer Post and has grown that program to approximately 40 weekly participants. Through this program, Officer Holms mentors youth age 14 to 20 while teaching them police related skills as well as life lessons. He works diligently with the youth to instill integrity, ethics, and leadership skills while bolstering their self-confidence. He is always inspiring the Explores to strive for improvement and give back to the community.

Officer Christopher Nugent, Shelton Police Department
Officer Christopher Nugent has demonstrated outstanding to the Shelton Police Department with several arrests and investigation in 2014. This included an arrest of a person responsible for a tremendous amount of graffiti, several burglary suspects, drug suspects and a person who broke into cars sealing GPS units.

Officer Nugent and his K-9 unit have supported many community service projects and fundraising events.

Captain Robert Robinson (Ret) of the Bridgeport Police Department
Captain Robert Robinson is a retired Captain of the Bridgeport Police Department. Even for years after his retirement he continued to lead the Department’s Honor Guard. Bob coordinated all of the honor guard activities of the Blue Mass for over a decade from its inception and helped make it the proper event that it is today. His leadership, commitment and character helped to build the formal attendance of Police, Fire and EMS honor guard units from across the county.

Before the uniformed personnel processed to a thunderous version of the National Anthem, Bishop Caggiano thanked the Fairfield County Councils and Assemblies of the Knights of Columbus for their faithful service on the frontlines of the Church and for sponsoring the annual Blue Mass. He also recognized Msgr. Frank McGrath, who is leaving St. John Parish for a new assignment. He described Msgr. McGrath, who has also served for years as a police and fire chaplain, as “a brother priest who has served generously, a man of great faith, and a preacher of the truth.”

Click here to see a slideshow

“House of Hope” Food Drive to help Veterans and the underserved
| September 12, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—St. Vincent’s Health Services and Aquarion Water Company are launching the 4th Annual “House of Hope” Food Drive, running from September 15 until November 14 to help reduce hunger throughout the Greater Bridgeport area.

A ribbon cutting will be held on Monday, September 15 at 11 am at the House of Hope at the entrance to St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

Visitors to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, employees of the health system and Aquarion, and the public are being asked to drop off donations in the “House of Hope”—a special shed located at the hospital entrance for the duration of the drive.
Items collected will be delivered to area food banks and to a veterans’ group. Last year more than six tons of food were donated and organizers hope to surpass that total this year.
Veterans Organization to Benefit for First Time
This year’s collection will benefit The Spooner House in Shelton, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, The Thomas Merton Center, and the St. Vincent’s Family Health Center all in Bridgeport, and for the first time, the Port Five Naval Veterans organization, also in Bridgeport. All branches of the armed forces belong to the Port Five group, which will redistribute donated food to other veterans’ organizations. Plans call for Port Five to use the turkeys donated to host dinners for veterans in need.
“We are happy to once again partner with Aquarion to help bring food to so many families in our region,” said St. Vincent’s Health Services President Stuart G. Marcus, MD, FACS. “Our employees and the public have displayed great generosity and enthusiasm for this project, which is well aligned with the mission entrusted to us by the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor and vulnerable. We are very pleased this year to expand our reach to area veterans and in this small way thank them for their service.”
“Aquarion is delighted to partner with St. Vincent’s Health Services to offer assistance to individuals and families who require a lift,” said Charles V. Firlotte, President and CEO of Aquarion Water Company. “As the difficult economy continues to negatively impact local families, we hope to make the holiday season a bit brighter for them and for our veterans who have given so much to our country and to the global community.”
What to Donate
The organizers ask that only nutritious, non-perishable, non-expired items be donated. They suggest canned fish, meat, soup, stews, fruits and vegetables as well as pasta, peanut butter, cold cereal and powdered milk.
Serving this year as co-chairpersons are Lucille Bentley, RN, and Kareem Wali of St. Vincent’s and Carolyn Giampe of Aquarion.
Monetary donations are also accepted and are turned into double the amount in food purchases thanks to the generosity of  Big Y in Monroe, which is continuing its  "buy one get one" arrangement. Stew Leonard’s will again be donating turkeys to the House of Hope.
People wishing to make a monetary donation to the House of Hope may do so at the hospital information desk. Gift cards to grocery stores will also be accepted.
For more information, please contact at St. Vincent’s:Lucille Bentley at 203.576.5130 or Kareem Wali at 203-576-5221; at Aquarion: Carolyn Giampe at 203.337.5908.

Blue Mass on Sunday in Darien
| September 12, 2014


DARIEN—The Annual Diocesan Blue Mass honoring fire, police and rescue workers will be held on Sunday September 14, 11:30 am at Saint John Church in Darien. A reception immediately following Mass will be held in the Blanchard Center on parish grounds.

Click here to see a slideshow

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the main celebrant, along with diocesan priests who serve as police and fire chaplains in Fairfield County. Father Charles Allen, S.J., special assistant to the president of Fairfield University, is serving as chairman of the event.

Law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service personnel of all faiths in Fairfield County along with members of the general public are invited to attend the Mass and reception.

Now in its 13th year, the Blue Mass has grown into a moving and memorable commemoration of the courage and commitment of the uniformed personnel who protect our health and safety every day of the year in Fairfield County.    
“In remembering the heroism and loss of 9/11, we also celebrate the courage and commitment of all those who put their lives on the line to protect us,” said Bishop Caggiano.
The Blue Mass takes its name from the blue uniforms worn by police, fire and emergency services personnel. Founded by Bishop William E. Lori, the Blue Mass was initiated to celebrate the life and heroism of those who died during the 9/11 tragedy in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. Each year it also recognizes local first responders.

Chaplains of the Fairfield County fire, police and emergency medical service departments include: Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., Fairfield Town Emergency Services; Rev. Michael A. Boccaccio, Norwalk Police Department; Msgr. Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, Ridgefield Police Department; Msgr. Stephen M. DiGiovanni, Stamford Police Department; Rev. Thomas F. Lynch, Stratford Fire Department; Rev. Joseph J. Malloy, Bridgeport Fire Department (ret.); Msgr. Frank C. McGrath, Westport Fire and Police Departments and Noroton 
Fire Department; Deacon John J. Moranski, Bridgeport Police Department; Deacon William D. Murphy, Germantown Fire Department; Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci, Danbury Police Department; Rev. Robert J. Post, Stamford Fire Rescue Department; Msgr. William J. Scheyd, New Canaan Emergency Services and Norwalk Fire Department; Msgr. Richard J. Shea, Trumbull Police Department; Rev. Thomas P. Thorne, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Rev. Terrence P. Walsh, Stamford Police Department; Rev. Frank A. Winn, Glenville Fire Department.

The Fairfield County councils and assemblies of the Knights of Columbus are sponsoring the Mass again this year.  

(To learn more about this event, contact Father Charles Allen, Blue Mass chair: 203.254.4000, ext. 2316, or the Diocese of Bridgeport: 203.416.1358.)

Retired NYC firefighter remembers 9/11 every day
| September 11, 2014 • by By Roxanne King, National Catholic Register


DENVER—This week the world will remember the 13th anniversary of the events of 9/11, but for Steamboat Springs resident Kevin Nerney, 56, the attacks are “a daily memory.”

On September 11, 2001, Lieutenant Nerney was settling into a new life in Steamboat Springs, having just retired two weeks earlier from the New York City Fire Department. He watched as the Twin Towers crumbled, knowing that his crew would most likely be on the ground.

Click here to read a story on 9/11 from the National Catholic Reporter.

A New York City firefighter looks up at the remains
of the South Tower of the World Trade Center
on September 13, 2001.

He found out later that all the men from his fire station on duty that day died, including his best friend. He took the first available plane back to New York to help with the search and cleanup efforts.

“It was a horror show,” he said recalling the 10 days he spent at Ground Zero.

At one point he called his wife, Kathy, and told her, “Kath, there’s nothing but down here but dust.”

In June, Nerney learned he has a form of brain cancer, stage four glioblastoma, which is among the cancers tied to the toxic ground zero cleanup area. He immediately underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and is getting ready to start another series of chemo. His medical bills have topped $640,000.

Because he worked as a volunteer at ground zero, Nerney was initially told he’s ineligible for financial assistance from the World Trade Center Health Program, which was established as part of the 2010 Zadroga Act to respond to the health crisis involving workers at ground zero.

John Feal, founder of the Feal Good Foundation which was instrumental in getting the Zadroga Act and two related bills passed, said Nerney was wrongly denied but must act quickly to meet an upcoming deadline.

“They need to file before October 12,” he said by phone from his Nesconset, N.Y. office. “He is eligible.”

Some 2,800 people have been diagnosed with 9/11-related cancer, Feal said, adding that the number is expected to grow as cancer can take years to appear. More than 30,000 responders have been certified as having 9/11-related illness or injury, according to the World Trade Center Program.

“Since 9/11, we’ve lost over 16,000 people to a variety of 9/11-related illnesses or injuries,” said Feal, himself a first responder who was injured during the ground zero cleanup.

On September 8, New York lawmakers called on Congress to renew the Zadroga Act and extend it for 25 more years. The medical treatment and compensation components of the act are set to expire in 2015 and 2016.

“We have an uphill battle,” Feal said about the legislation, which is expected to be introduced later this month.

Ground Zero Fallout

Todd O’Brien, 57, is a retired fireman who fought fires with Kevin Nerney and worked alongside him at Ground Zero. O’Brien, who is now cancer free, came down with prostate cancer and his lungs now only work at slightly more than half capacity. Both of his medical issues are tied to 9/11 cleanup efforts. Because he was a working firefighter during the cleanup, he has received compensation for his medical treatment.

“I was there 10 minutes after the second tower went and stayed two months,” O’Brien said by phone from Lindenhurst, N.Y. “It was so much dust down there my lungs are shot. What we’re going to see is more and more men who were there are going to be getting sick and dying.”

Another of Nerney’s fellow firefighters who helped at Ground Zero and is now retired, Bruce DelGiorno, 56, has 9/11-related asthma, sinusitus and was treated for a pre-cancer thyroid tumor.

“I’m doing all right,” he said from his home in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “I’m very lucky.”

Three days before 9/11, DelGiorno and another New York firefighter, Capt. Emilio Longo, were in Steamboat Springs helping Nerney build his retirement home. Longo later died of 9/11-attributed lymphoma.

“It’s a tragedy,” DelGiorno said, adding that on 9/11 he’ll attend a memorial service and later this month he’ll attend a Mass and plaque dedication in Long Island honoring Longo.

Meanwhile, Kathy Nerney, a former teacher who retired to help care for her husband, is working through stacks of paperwork to get Kevin’s medical claim accepted. And his treatment costs continue to mount.

“It’s a lot of hoops you have to jump through,” she said. “There’s a lot of phone calls, a lot of hurry up and wait.” To help Nerney, Holy Name Church, where Kevin and Kathy are parishioners—their two children Joseph and Marykate are grown and have both served in the military—has established the Kevin Nerney Fund.

“People are so compassionate,” Kathy Nerney said, expressing gratitude.

Although her husband’s speech is a bit slurred at times and his thought process can be fuzzy, the cancer hasn’t slowed him down. He is Grand Knight of his parish’s Knights of Columbus Council and a member of the men’s Beer and Bible group.

“I think he’s missed one Knights’ meeting, that’s it,” Kathy Nerney said. “He still goes to Beer and Bible every Tuesday and if he can’t go, they come here. Last week he made chili for them. He keeps truckin’ along.”


Click here to read the original story.

Progress for Trinity Catholic football in 2014
| September 11, 2014 • by By Rich DePreta, Stamford Advocate


STAMFORD—Donny Panapada is proud to be a member of the FCIAC football head coaches fraternity.

Dominick Svrcek carries the ball as he practices
with the Trinity Catholic football at the high school
on Saturday, September 6, 2014. Photo: Lindsay Perry

The Trinity Catholic football team practices at the high school
on Saturday, September 6, 2014. Photo: Lindsay Perry

Randy Polonia practices with the Trinity Catholic football
at the high school on Saturday, September 6, 2014.
Photo: Lindsay Perry

Head Coach Donny Panapada talks to a player during
Trinity Catholic's football practice at the high school
on Saturday, September 6, 2014. Photo: Lindsay Perry

He has nothing but love for his alma mater, Trinity Catholic High School.

He is ready to embrace the challenge of his second season in arguably the state's strongest football conference.

"Things are running a lot smoother. The team knows what I expect. And I think I learned from my mistakes," Panapada said. "I'm doing things a little differently. The team and I talk every day about expectations and goals."

The first expectation will be victory as the Crusaders were 0-11 overall, 0-9 in the FCIAC in 2013.

Here are five questions facing Trinity Catholic on the eve of the 2014 campaign:

1. What is different to give you hope of a better start in 2014?

"We had spring football practice this year. And that gave us momentum into our off-season work this summer," Panapada said. "We had the Bluestreak Sports Training people from Chelsea Piers (in Stamford) work with us for seven weeks before we began our preseason practice. It was three times per week and we had about 40 kids each day at Chelsea Piers this summer.

"I see more speed, more agility. I see kids in better physical condition," Panapada continued. "It has allowed us to spend more time on football in the preseason rather than conditioning. We have a new offensive coordinator this year. Alex Drayson spent the last three seasons at Staples working with QB Jack Massie."

2. What is the situation at quarterback for 2014?

"Junior Anthony Lombardi is a transfer from Mahopac, N.Y. He is 6-foot-3 and around 195 pounds," Panapada said. "He's been a pleasant surprise this preseason. I'm impressed with him physically. But more impressed mentally. He's so intelligent, learning this new offense on the fly. That's why we brought coach Drayson in as offensive coordinator. We want to attract athletes with aspirations of playing college football. That starts with the quarterback. Our new offense will prepare our quarterbacks to play in college football systems."

3. The good news is you have the kids' attention by opening the season once again against Sheehan of Wallingford. The bad news is you're opening (Saturday, September 13 at home at 2 pm) against Sheehan who beat you 63-26 in Game 1 of 2013.

"I remember the bus ride home very clearly. I learned a lot in my first varsity game as a head coach," Panapada said. "It was not a great ride. You question a lot of process. It was quiet reflection. Inner talks with myself. The best part was we improved from week 1 to week 2 (a 14-8 loss to intracity rival Westhill)."

4. Does Lombardi have enough playmakers on offense?

The answer is yes. If they stay healthy. Sophomore Courtlyn Victrum (5-foot-6) is a year wiser about running off the work of his offensive line rather than merely using his speed. Randy Polonia will be more of a wide receiver than taking punishment at running back. Thomas Costigan (who will play at Bryant University in fall 2015) is a hardnosed and underrated tight end.

"Polonia is a phenomenal athlete. The key is to get the ball to kids in space," Panapada said. "Our offensive playmakers could have just as much impact on defense."

5. What are some of the things that have to happen for Trinity Catholic to reach a point where it can fairly compete with the FCIAC's upper echelon?

The first thing is the catholic school's enrollment numbers have to increase significantly. It is hard to build a football program when there are more freshmen girls enrolling than freshman boys. Trinity Catholic and Harding are the last two FCIAC football teams playing on grass fields.

Overall program roster numbers are such that dings from preseason scrimmages create too many minor injuries heading into a season.

The changeover to an artificial turf field begins the day AFTER the 2014 football season concludes. Lights are also part of the plan for Trinity Catholic as the Crusaders can join the world of Friday Night Lights rather than remain playing home games on Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon.

The turf field and lights will attract better athletes. The turf field will help Trinity Catholic practice better throughout the season. Snow and days of mud after a rainstorm won't be obstacles to progress. The turf will also aid the Crusaders' passing offense.

Click here to view the original story from the Stamford Advocate.

The truth about climate change
| September 10, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change …  loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions?”

These aren’t the radical words from the leader of a secular environmental organization, no; these are the radical words from the former leader of the Catholic Church!

In his 2010 World Day of Peace message titled, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that “it would be irresponsible not to take seriously” the signs of a growing environmental crisis.

And the greatest threat to the natural world is climate change, caused principally by human induced global warming. Burning fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal for energy – produces huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere.

The earth indeed is getting hotter. It’s not a liberal hoax.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), last decade was the hottest on record.

And according to NASA, “97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are “very likely due to human activities.”
In a study titled “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” the highly authoritative United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century.

According to new findings by the World Meteorological Organization, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide—the major cause of global warming—increased at their fastest rate in 2013 than in any year since 1984.

And in a study by the non-governmental organization Germanwatch, the U.S. is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

To underscore the critical importance for world leaders to robustly respond to the climate changing dangers already beginning to affect the earth and humanity, the U.N. on September 23 will host “Climate Summit 2014.”

With all of the solid scientific evidence validating climate change and global warming, I was wondering why this summer has felt cooler than normal where I live in Maryland.  
Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, senior climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, explained to me that the continued relatively faster warming of the Arctic region is causing shifts in the jet stream pattern which in turn is leading to more unusual weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

She said that during the first half of this year the same jet stream that has been bringing mostly cooler weather to the eastern U.S. has caused hot drought conditions along the west coast.

As the Arctic and Greenland ice caps continue to melt, ocean levels will dangerously rise—putting large areas of world-wide coastal land under water.

While too much water will plague many, countless others will suffer from not having enough.

According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Hundreds of millions of people face water shortages that will worsen as temperatures rise.”

We need to quickly move toward, and heavily invest in, clean, safe and renewable alternative sources of energy—like wind, solar and geo-thermal.

Pope Benedict writes, “In a word, concern for the environment calls for a broad global vision of the world; a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish  interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples.”

Our wise retired Holy Father is absolutely right!  
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Bishop announces reorganization of diocesan offices to prepare for change and renewal
| September 09, 2014


NORWALK— Bishop Frank J Caggiano told a gathering of more than 500 lay leaders, pastors and synod delegates that it is important to “get the diocesan house in order” as the 350 delegates of Synod 2014 begins their work to help plan for the future of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County.

“As the Bishop, I have an obligation to ensure that the work of the Diocese, its organization, processes and procedures, reflect the best practices that I ask all our parishes and schools to adopt. I believe in leadership by example. So before we ask any other institution to undergo change, the Diocese must go first,” he said during the address.

In his first State of the Diocese at All Saints School auditorium in Norwalk, the Bishop outlined the pastoral, administrative and financial challenges facing the diocese, and said he expects to make a “state of the diocese” address a yearly event under his tenure. At the end of last year, he also released all of the financial statement of the diocese.

His 50-minute talk was interrupted several times by applause. The Bishop also received a standing ovation at the completion of his address.

In addition to announcing a major restructuring of the administrative offices of the Church, the Bishop announced that he is exploring the possibility of moving the Catholic Center out of the existing building in the North End to a new location in downtown Bridgeport. He said the current building is too large and expensive to maintain and does not meet contemporary needs.

The Bishop also announced that the diocese will move St. John Fisher Seminary from its current location in Stamford to the site of the Bishop’s residence in Trumbull in order to prepare for the growing number of vocations to the priesthood.

The diocese will also introduce a new social media app in November for i-phone and androids to assist people seeking Mass times and other information about parishes and diocesan ministries.

Much of his talk focused on the financial challenges which parishes, schools and other ministries face, and the strategic planning process the diocese is about to launch for parishes and schools.

“Most importantly we are also working to ensure long-term financial sustainability of the Diocese. Our two major financial challenges are related operational deficits and accumulation of debt, and for the first time in many years we will end the fiscal year 2014 without a deficit.”

He added that he will lead the way by adopting best practices that will lead to cost savings and greater efficiency in Catholic Center operations.

The Bishop said he is committed to lowering the operational costs for the Catholic Center by at least $500,000 more for the 2015 fiscal year. He also announced plans to increase revenue by leveraging the Diocese’ real estate assets to generate income that will help fund operations.

In praising the 35 Catholic elementary and high schools sponsored by the Diocese for their faith-based education, diversity, outreach to the poor and academic excellence, Bishop Caggiano said they face significant challenges. He noted that enrollment continues to decline as parents struggle with tuition costs and operational deficits strain diocesan finances.

The Bishop said that diocesan schools currently run an operational deficit of over $1 million a year, which the diocese has subsidized to help schools with the cost of healthcare and other ongoing expenses. He added that Catholic schools are more cost effective than public schools and called upon the state to provide aid to help keep them viable.

The Bishop pointed to good news in the growth of the endowments created by Faith in the Future and said the board will soon authorize payment of $925,000 for the 2014 fiscal year.

He began his talk by outlining some of the stark pastoral challenges that face the Church as a result of changes in the secular culture and the sexual abuse crisis within the Church.

Mass attendance has dropped and sacramental observance has also decreased in the form of fewer baptisms, marriages and confirmations. Other barometers are equally challenging; only 20% of all confirmation students remain active in the faith after 5 years from their Confirmation. Likewise, the largest Christian church in the US is the Catholic Church: the second largest are former Catholics,” he said.

He said the Synod, which is about to convene its first General Session, will address these pastoral challenges.

“The Synod, is one of the most important initiatives of my Episcopal service and I ask for prayers for its success, “ he said. “Its purpose is to allow us, with Christ’s grace, to learn from our past but not be paralyzed by it, to face our pastoral challenges at their roots, and to move forward in faith together.”

While the Bishop outlined many serious challenges, he was optimistic that the Diocese has already turned the corner, and he noted that much good work is underway in the many programs and services such as the 1.5 million meals and the 15,000 hours of counseling provided by Catholic Charities each year to the poor and needy.

He said he was also in the process of re-promulgating all of the safe environments policies of the diocese to build on the good work that has already be done and further strengthen protection for children and healing for victims of abuse.

“I am honored, excited and humbled to be a co-worker with you in the life of our Church at this singular moment. None of what I have described frightens me. I am energized by the challenge before us and I hope you are as well,” he added.

The Diocese of Bridgeport includes more than 470,000 registered Catholics in Fairfield County. In addition to its 82 parishes, the diocese sponsors 30 regional elementary schools and five diocesan high schools, educating 10,000 youth, the St. John Fisher Seminary, the Queen of Clergy Residence and a wide range of social services through Catholic Charities and other institutions.

The Bishop said he was not daunted by the challenges and he asked that "every single one of us re-dedicate ourselves to the work of strengthening, revitalizing and healing the Church of Bridgeport."

Noting that Pope Francis has challenged the Church “to look anew at ways by which we can renew our mission,” the Bishop asked everyone in attendance to help build up communities of faith by supporting their parishes and schools.

“When I was installed as your bishop just one year ago, I spoke of building spiritual bridges in our midst, because we all seek healing and reconciliation. Often what we forget that great structure like the Brooklyn Bridge are composed of thousands of stones, and each is essential for the stability of the bridge. Saint Paul reminds us that we are living stones who make up the Church of Christ. Each of us is essential and needed to realize its mission. I am confident we will make the bridge to the future of the Church stronger, one stone at a time as we witness the faith and share our talents in service and love.,” he said.

Bishop Caggiano was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport on September 19, 2013 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, and began almost immediately to take steps to reorganize the diocese.

On February 22, 2014, he formally convoked the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, the first in 32 years, as an opportunity for renewal and pastoral planning for the future of the local Church. After a series of listening sessions with over 4,000 comments by laity, priests and religious across the diocese, the bishop announced the Synod 2014 themes of empowering youth, building up the community of faith, fostering evangelical outreach, and promoting works of charity and justice.


Click here to watch video of this event

Click here to read and article from the National Catholic Reporter.

Ribbon cutting at St. Mark's
| September 09, 2014


STRATFORD—St. Mark School began their 50th anniversary year with much to celebrate on September 4, the school held its playground ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Construction on the new playground had begun on the last day of school and was completed in time for the first day of summer camp. St. Mark School had been named one of the five winning schools in the 2013-2014 Dannon Rally for Recess Contest.

The promotion included participants collecting entry codes found on specially marked Danimals and Danonino yogurt products or mailing in for free codes. The St. Mark School community rallied together to accrue over 22,000 codes, the highest number of codes collected by any school in the contest. Students, parents, grandparents, faculty, friends and neighboring schools all contributed to this successful grassroots effort. One grandmother collected nearly 5,000 codes herself!

St. Mark's pastor, Father Donald Guglielmi, blessed the playground, and Stratford Mayor John Harkins was a special guest Mayor Harkins, an alumnus of St. Mark School, shared with the students his memories of recess back when he was a student. He spoke of days where an entire class of students shared one kickball. News Channel 12 was on hand to cover the ribbon cutting ceremony.

St. Mark School is not only celebrating a new school playground this year, but also it 50th Anniversary.

To see News Channel 12 coverage, go to

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Happy New Year!
| September 09, 2014


On the first Sunday of Advent, I usually begin my homily by proclaiming in a loud voice with arms outstretched, “Happy New Year!”

This usually surprises everyone, so after a moment of silent confusion, the church usually erupts in hearty laughter. Then I explain that it really is a new year, at least in the life of the Church. Whether this exercise has any lasting catechetical effect, I do not know, but it is a pretty good way to start a homily.

If I had to reduce my priestly formation to the two most interesting words I learned in seminary, those words would be “polyvalent” and “ecclesiogenesis.” Both words appeal to me because they sum up the answer to various theological and church-related issues that have presented themselves to me over the years.

One of my ingenious professors at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary (I can’t remember who) was teaching us about the sacraments one day and he explained that the Eucharist is polyvalent, as are all of the sacraments. This means that the Eucharist, the sacraments and the Church itself have multiple meanings. No one meaning can be attached to something that is polyvalent. It is another way of saying that God, the Church and the sacraments are mysteries (meaning that they cannot be fully explained).

Ecclesiogenesis refers to the beginning of the Church, and akin to polyvalence, the Church has had many seminal moments. Before I entered seminary, I frequently heard – especially on Pentecost—that “today is the birthday of the Church!” Pentecost is truly a new beginning—an ecclesiogenesis—in the life of the Church, but where would we be without the Incarnation, the Annunciation, or even the Immaculate Conception? In fact, would we have need for the saving mission of Jesus Christ if it was not for the sin of our first parents (“O happy fault!”)?

If the Church can be said to have had many beginnings and new beginnings, can’t we also be said to have many beginnings and new beginnings in our own lives too?

September marks one of those new beginnings in our lives. In fact, the people first called by God, the people of the “First Testament” celebrate their new year—Rosh Hashana—in September.

In the Northern Hemisphere, September is perfectly suited to new beginnings. The old is on the way out and the new is on the way in, if only in the form of hopes and dreams. We know instinctively that before the rebirth of spring we will have to travel the cold desert highway of winter, alone, but in September, we can still be filled with hope.

In Fairfield County, people have come to see September as quite literally the beginning of a new year. Technically, it is the beginning of the new academic year, but along with that comes participation in sports teams, dancing classes, music lessons, etc. Students enter the school year at a particular grade level and hopefully finish the year ready to advance to the next step.

This newness in September has created some problems for the Church that are relatively recent. Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me the following question at a summer BBQ: “We don’t really have to go to Church in the summer, do we?”

In a very strange way—at least from the perspective of a priest—many Fairfield County Catholics have come to see Church attendance as something requisite during the academic year and optional, or even unnecessary, during the summer months. This is something new in the life of the Church, and I would not call it ecclesiogenesis. The idea of taking the summer off from going to Church is not a Roman Catholic idea at all. It has unfortunately crept into our lives somehow from society at large, and unfortunately, most parishes in our diocese do little if anything to counter the trend. But that is the topic for another blog, another day.

The good thing about September, from a Church perspective, is that parishioners in the Diocese of Bridgeport hear God’s call to return to Church, and they begin anew in their practice of the faith.

Finally, for a long time I have believed that it is unnecessarily restrictive to limit resolutions to New Year’s Day. It is always a good day to make a resolution! September is particularly good for resolutions because we can see in front of us an expanse of nine months or so in which we know we can focus. By June, who knows what we may have accomplished!

September is a time of new beginnings. I encourage you to make resolutions as we all begin this new year, academic or otherwise. Before January arrives, we will also have Advent. So, Happy New Year!

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Bishop to speak on ‘State of the Diocese’
| September 07, 2014 • by By Brian D. Wallace


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will deliver a major “State of the Diocese” address on September 9 at 7:30 pm in the auditorium of All Saints School in Norwalk.

Almost 500 priests, religious, and lay leaders throughout the diocese have been invited to attend the talk, in which the bishop will outline a “turnaround plan” to reorganize the management and administrative functions provided by the Catholic Center and move the diocese forward to a new model of service to parishes and the faithful.

“The talk is meant to give a summary of the state of the diocese today, administratively, pastorally and financially. It will indicate the major initiatives that we will be launching in the coming year to address the immediate challenges and the long-term opportunities that we face in all three areas,” said Bishop Caggiano.

Bishop Caggiano said that the Diocesan Synod, with over 350 delegates throughout the diocese, will address the longer-term pastoral challenges, but that it’s also important for the diocese to move forward with administrative and financial changes to support the major synod directions.

“Given the synod’s task to address our long-term pastoral challenges, work is also underway to address those administrative, financial and pastoral challenges that are more immediate in nature. These more immediate issues must be addressed simultaneously with the synod so that a proper support structure and needed financial resources will be available to implement whatever initiatives and directives will come from the synod,” he said in his invitation to attend the address.

The turnaround plan is a response to findings from the strategic analysis of the Catholic Center by the National Executive Service Corp (NESC), commissioned by the bishop in February. The goal is to create a 21st Century model of organization that takes advantage of exciting opportunities and helps the diocese respond to challenges faced by the Church.

About 100 people work in the Catholic Center in the North End of Bridgeport, which houses the chancery, or diocesan curia, represented by the Bishop’s Office, the vicar general and the chancellor, along with offices for diocesan schools, Pastoral Services, the the Tribunal, Catholic Charities, Development, Finance, Clergy Personnel, Communications, Human Resources, and other ministries and apostolates.

Another 30 Catholic Center employees work off-site at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, Catholic Cemeteries, the Catherine Denis Keefe Queen of Clergy Residence for retired priests in Stamford, and in the pastoral care teams of local convalescent facilities.

NESC is a team of volunteer consultants with a wide range of experience in business and management settings. Its goal is to strengthen the management of non-profit organizations through a high-quality, affordable consulting service.

The Diocese of Bridgeport includes more than 460,000 registered Catholics in Fairfield County. In addition to its 82 parishes, the diocese sponsors 30 regional elementary schools and five diocesan high schools, educating 10,000 youth, the St. John Fisher Seminary, the Queen of Clergy Residence and a wide range of social services through Catholic Charities and other institutions.

Bishop Caggiano was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport on September 19, 2013 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, and began almost immediately to take steps to reorganize the diocese.

On February 22, 2014, he formally convoked the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, the first in 32 years, as an opportunity for renewal and pastoral planning for the future of the local Church. After a series of listening sessions with over 4,000 comments by laity, priests and religious across the diocese, the bishop announced the Synod 2014 themes of empowering youth, building up the community of faith, fostering evangelical outreach, and promoting works of charity and justice.

>>> Click here to view larger version of live stream

Windows to the Soul
| September 04, 2014


ROME—Fr. John B. Giuliani, a major American artist and priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, will be featured next week in an exhibit at the Gallery of Contemporary Sacred Art in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.

Fr. Guiliani, who has won acclaim for contemporary icons of Catholic saints in the image of Native Americans. The exhibit will run from September 13-24 in Rome.

The exhibit at the historically significant church in Rome will include 20 of his works, acrylic-on-gesso panel paintings that depict the Native American People as the original spiritual presence on American soil.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church that stands on the north side of Piazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in Rome. The art in the church includes works by Pinturicchio Bernardino di Betto, (1454-1513) and Caravaggio (1571-1610) often described as the father of modern painting.

Art critics have praised his paintings as “cross cultural works” that marry the spirituality of traditional iconography with the sensuality of the Italian Renaissance in a unique contemporary style.

A native of Greenwich, Father John Battista Giuliani was an artistic child whose parents and teachers encouraged him to pursue his artistic interests, which led him to an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at New York's Pratt Institute. While at the Pratt School of Art in New York City, he went through a conversion experience reading Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, and its spiritual journey toward unity with all that is holy. He decided then to enter St. John Seminary in Brighton, MA, and was ordained in 1960.

After earning M.A. degrees in classical literature and art, theology and American Studies, Fr. Giuliani taught Latin, the Humanities and American Film for fifteen years at Christ the King Preparatory Seminary in Southport and at Fairfield University. He served as Chaplain of Sacred Heart University from 1968 to 1976.

In 1977, with the permission of the Most Rev. Walter, W. Curtis, Second Bishop of Bridgeport, Father Giuliani embarked on a new pursuit, founding the Benedictine Grange, a small monastic community in West Redding, Connecticut.

In 1990 Giuliani once again took up painting and began a year-long study of Orthodox iconography with Russian icon master Vladislav Andreyev at the School of Sacred Art in Greenwich Village. Having absorbed the traditional techniques, he went on to create a stunning series of contemporary icons with images of Native Americans as subjects. They have since been exhibited throughout the United States and the world.

In an interview with Sojourners Magazine, Father Giuliani explained why he was drawn to painting icons of Native Americans.

“Even though I’m not Native American, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the varied indigenous cultures of this land. Their understanding of the world of nature and of God, their emphasis on being caretakers rather than exploiters of the land—all that is wonderfully consonant with the best of Christian thought and tradition. In my work I try to celebrate a union of a common spiritual understanding, to show how a single mystery can be approached through diverse cultures.”

For more information contact The Benedictine Grange, Redding, Connecticut 068996. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

L to R: Navajo Jesus and Children, Joseph's Dream (Guatemalan), Lakota Victory Christ, Jesus Breaking Bread
Click here to view more paintings from Father Giuliani

Cathedral Academy Volunteer is "Hometown Hero"
| September 04, 2014 • by From News 12 Connecticut


BRIDGEPORT—Stephen Mac McLaughlin is better known as Mr. Mac to the students at the St. Augustine upper school campus of Cathedral Academy in Bridgeport.

The retired teacher and super volunteer is this week's "Hometown Hero" as featured in Cablevision's News 12 report.

Working with Principal Larry DiPalma, Mr. Mac, who taught 40 years, has enriched the lives of students and faculty alike.

The Catholic Academies of Bridgeport, formerly known as the Cathedral Education Cluster, are faith-filled learning communities comprised of three elementary schools in the city of Bridgeport, St. Andrew Academy, Cathedral Academy, and St. Ann Academy.

Since the late 1880s, Catholic schools in Bridgeport have educated generations of students filled with gospel values and eager to learn and live responsible disciplined and purposeful lives. All Catholic Academies of Bridgeport schools accredited by the state of CT and NEASC, 100% of our graduating 8th graders attend high school and nearly 100% attend college. The Bridgeport Catholic schools embrace our culturally, spiritually, and economically diverse environment.

For information on the St. Augustine Campus of Cathedral Academy or to make a donation, call 203-366-6500.

Aiming to form amazing parishes
| September 03, 2014 • by By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN NEWS


DENVER—Some 500 Catholic leaders and their pastors from across the United States met recently at the first-ever Amazing Parish conference in Denver to brainstorm and swap ideas about improving parish life.

Father Ken Simpson (far right) brainstorms with parish leadership
at the Amazing Parish conference August 28.

The newly founded Amazing Parish movement seeks to provide resources to pastors and parish leaders so they can create a thriving parish life.

The conference, held August 27-28 at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, featured Catholic speakers and workshops on topics such as parish leadership teams, formation programs and evangelization.

For a movement that is just starting out, interest in the conference was widespread, and the overall response was very positive.

“Would it be wrong to say it has been amazing?” quipped Matt Manion, president of the Catholic Leadership Institute and a speaker at the conference.

“But it has really been an excellent experience of Church, of prayer and of people who are open to new ideas and new ways of serving God through the parish,” he told CNA.

Many of the speakers, like Manion, are Catholics serving in leadership roles for big companies who are adapting tricks of the trade of company leadership to practical ideas for parish leadership.

“The Church is larger than maybe any company that these kind of guys work with, so we have to be strategic,” said Amazing Parish staff member Chris Stefanick. “We have to have the best practices and good team-building skills, and so I think what we’re given is really unique here, and it has been received really well.”

Stefanick is also a social-media evangelist at and helped host the conference, which filled to its 500-person capacity before it was even officially advertised.

“Both that and how it has been received, it just confirms that it’s meeting a very huge need in the Church,” he said.

Wide Range of Experiences

Attendees of the conference represented a wide range of parish experiences, from rural, spread-out areas to parishes containing thousands of registered families and several other Catholic churches within a square mile.

Father Cory Sticha made the trip from St. Mary’s in Malta, Mont., with his parish director of religious education and a member of his parish council. He pastors an area three times the size of Rhode Island but only has around 200 registered families in his parish.

The best part about the Amazing Parish movement, he said, is the resources.

Everyone at the conference received a binder with guiding questions and planning sheets for each of the seven foundational parts needed to create an amazing parish. There are several formation talks and free resources on the website as well, and attendees of the conference also received a free DVD set of formation talks that would normally be priced around $100.

“For us, in a smaller parish, having a lot of resources that are low cost — free or relatively cheap—is a big deal,” Father Sticha told CNA.

“[For] a bigger parish that has 7,000 families, they don’t think about that; that’s not a big deal to them. It is for us.”

For St. Clements in Chicago, the challenges at the parish level look a little different. With about 4,000 registered parishioners, the Lincoln Park neighborhood church also sees a lot of young adults who hop around to the multiple parishes in the area.

“People are bouncing around all over, not just in our parish; so, in a sense, we don’t really know anybody,” said its pastor, Father Ken Simpson.

On the other hand, the parish is very open to new ideas.

“We’re a place that’s pretty open to change. It’s not like, ‘Why are you doing this?’” he said. “It’s, ‘When are you going to do it?’ which is a real advantage.”

During the conference, parish representatives were encouraged to focus on those things that made their parishes unique and how they could work with those characteristics.

Tim Weiske, a parishioner at St. Clements, said he thought a good goal to focus on for their parish was forming their large young-adult population.

“I see our job as preparing these young adults for the next parish they’re going to be a part of,” he said.

Opportunity to Collaborate

Father Simpson also said that the conference brought to light the regional differences in parish life and presented a chance to collaborate.

“There’s a whole different set of resources and experiences west of the Mississippi,” he observed. “It’s very interesting to me how the East and West are developing in different ways, and it’s cool that we’re here together to [experience] this.”

For Stefanick, the biggest hope he had for the parishes in attendance was that they come away with a clarity of vision and practice for their parish.

“The way we do parish ministry gets so convoluted, so bogged down under tasks, that we don’t even know what we’re about anymore,” he said. “And it becomes so complex for us that it just burns people and ministries out. So we need to put a greater simplicity around what we do, so that we can focus and do the few things that we’re able to do with our finite nature well.”

Because of the huge response, Stefanick said the conference is likely to be split up into several regional conferences in the near future. Parishes interested in checking out the movement can visit the website at

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Global Warming Alarmists
| September 03, 2014


In the debate about climate change and whether or not it is occurring due to man-made influences, I have remained relatively neutral. It used to be called “global warming,” but to the best of my knowledge, the earth has not really warmed over the past 15 years or so. Because they do not have scientific results to prove that the earth is warming, global warming “believers” (as opposed to deniers) changed the name of their cause to “climate change” (which is a pet cause of the liberal mainstream media).

In my opinion, the alarm over climate change absent any real proof is probably an example of left-wing environmental extremists trying to wrest more control of the economy from the industrial complex. Left-wing environmentalists are an important part of President Obama’s political base, and keeping them happy is the main reason he has not come close to approving the Keystone Pipeline, which would help America become more energy independent.

Although I doubt most of the claims of climate change proponents, I am always open to being proven wrong. Below is a letter that I wrote to the editor of the University of Vermont alumni magazine. The cover of the summer 2014 edition caught my attention because it proclaimed that UVM scientists were tracking the impact of climate change in Vermont.

When I arrived at UVM in 1982, those who studied environmental science liked tye-dye shirts, listened to the Grateful Dead (ad nauseum) and played hacky-sack. When it came to studying the environment, I knew that no one could be better at environmental science than UVM students and their professors.

Fast forward to 2014 and to my reading about Vermont climate change in the alumni magazine. I was appalled. As you will see in my letter below, I was extremely disappointed with both the content and the presentation of the article portending to reveal evidence of climate change in Vermont.

If you read my letter below, you may think that my tone is a little bit harsh. My response to that criticism is that this is a serious issue and bad science and alarmism do precious little to help. The alumni relations department may believe that we were all a little “crunchy” back in the 1980’s, but we weren’t. Since my college days, I have grown steadily more conservative in my worldview, and I took personal offense to being presented with left-wing political doctrine in the lead story of my alumni magazine.

Finally, in terms of spirituality, my letter speaks to our need as followers of Jesus Christ to give witness in our daily lives to what we believe. If I did not have this blog as an outlet, my efforts as an “activist” regarding this issue may have been known to only a handful of people. As Catholic Christians in the modern day, we must all be willing to be activists in society. Like the “yeast” that Jesus speaks about, only a small amount raises the entire batch.

August 30, 2014

Mr. Thomas Weaver
Editor, Vermont Quarterly
86 South Williams Street
Burlington, VT  05401

Dear Mr. Weaver:

When I received the VQ summer 2014 edition, its cover and headline caught my attention. However, when I read the headline article inside the magazine, I came away annoyed and dumbfounded.

Let me begin by stating that I am a 1986 UVM grad with an English major who taught English, coached swimming and has now been a Roman Catholic priest for 15 years. In the past year, I donated $100 to The Vermont Cynic, in which I was very involved at UVM, and I donated $100 to the general UVM Fund, so I am a contributor. As you will see, I am copying this letter to The Cynic and President Sullivan, because I think your article on climate change in Vermont—presented to alumni and others as “science”—was actually little more than far left alarmist screed.

For full disclosure, I am a political, social, theological and economic conservative. My conservative identity evolved since my years in college. At UVM, I could not have told you whether I was a democrat or republican. Nevertheless, I am not an ideologue, so I am interested in learning information about real events that are occurring.

Your headline, imposed on a picture of the pristine green mountains, led me to believe that you were reporting on real events taking place in Vermont that proved that a warming climate was having a negative impact on the Vermont environment. After reading your article twice, your writer Joshua Brown never once offered proof that climate change is negatively impacting Vermont.

Mr. Brown wrote that Vermont’s “average temperature has risen almost two degrees farenheit since 1970.” A claim like that requires charts, and the only charts I would accept would be from UVM’s own archival data. It has been clearly shown in recent years—although the liberal mainstream media suppresses it—that the “science” of climate change is filled with deception and false data points. Emails from climate scientists have revealed that they fudge data in order to keep the grants coming and they ostracize scientists who refuse to go along with the idea that rising global temperatures are man-made and a given.

It was quite literally embarrassing for me to have to read that one of the biologists at my alma mater would be quoted in the article as saying that Vermont’s climate will change to Virginia’s climate over the next fifty years, as though that reality has already been scientifically determined. If I am still alive in 50 years, and Vermont’s climate is the same as Virginia’s is now, you can make a small crow-shaped Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake for me and I will gladly eat it!

I read through the article looking for evidence of climate change impact, and I could not find any in an article with the following sub-heading: “Exploring the impacts of climate change.”

The main point in the article seems to be that reforestation is causing a problem for some species. Another problem - phosphorous pollution - is a polite way of saying that sewage is causing a problem in Lake Champlain. If they are so concerned, why do Mr. Brown and Professor Helms Cahan remain in Burlington? Every time they flush they are adding to the pollution of the lake. In fact, perhaps President Sullivan should just close down UVM altogether to reduce the number of invasive “ape-men” in Vermont.

A strange example to use in the article was the chestnut tree, which was nearly wiped out by a fungus in the early 20th century (not climate change). Mr. Brown writes that UVM “research shows that chestnut nuts and roots can barely tolerate the coldest temperatures of Vermont winter.” It seems to me that warmer temperatures in Vermont might hasten the resurgence of the Chestnut tree!

What was most disappointing for me about this article is that it did not really provide any information to support its supposed argument. President Sullivan should be happy to know that at 50, I am still interested in learning new information and facts. What was presented in the VQ article, however, was conjecture based on far left ideological supposition.

It would have been so nice to have seen a real examination of the situation. Perhaps UVM scientists could have looked for evidence of impact of climate change and not found any. Then, with courage, and not afraid to buck the PC academic community, UVM might have written that its biologists have not found any evidence of climate change in Vermont and that projected future warming remains simply speculation.

That UVM leads-from-behind on a serious scientific issue like climate change is disappointing. I hoped for more from my alma mater. Perhaps this topic can be revisited, and those who dispute the claims of man-made climate change and inevitable rising temperatures will be given a voice too.


Rev. Colin McKenna ’86   

CC: Mr. Joshua Brown
    Professor Sara Helms Cahan
    President Tom Sullivan, J.D.
    The Vermont Cynic

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K of C Charity: Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts
| September 02, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—This month's Knights of Columbus charity focuses on renewed efforts to help Connecticut residents recover from damages sustained during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

VOTF Mass for Success of Synod
| August 29, 2014


NORWALK—Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) has invited all delegates to the 2014 Synod and the general public to attend a special Mass for the success of the Synod on September 11 at 7:30 pm at Saint Philip Church in Norwalk.

Father Michael Boccaccio, pastor of Saint Philip, will be the celebrant and will offer a special blessing to all Synod delegates in attendance. Light refreshments will follow the liturgy.

“We are hoping that delegates will come to the liturgy and in some way be uplifted by it.  It’s all about intercession because we are asking God’s blessing on the synod to bring us together as people of God and what’s best for the diocese,” said Jamie Dance, VOTF Chairman.  
Dance, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Darien, will be one of four delegates from VOTF who have been invited to participate in the Synod.
“We’re praying for the success of the Synod, and we hope that the Mass and blessing will inspire the delegates as we work on items that will be beneficial to the parishes and people throughout the diocese,” she said.
Dance thanked Bishop Caggiano for his leadership and said the Mass at St. Philip is another step forward in the reconciliation process with Voice of the Faithful. It will be first time in a decade that members meet in a Catholic Church.
“We are grateful for our Bishop’s leadership and courage as he guides us on the path of New Evangelization for the Church in Fairfield County. He has given us yet another opportunity to grow in unity and mutual respect,” she said.
Synod 2014 formally begins on September 19, 7:30 pm at Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport with a Solemn Vespers Service, followed by the convening of the first General Session for delegates on Saturday September 20 at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull.

Readings for the Synod Mass
September 11, 2014

First Reading: Proverbs 2:1-5  (NRSV)

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and you search for it as for hidden treasures- then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Psalm 91“On Eagle’s Wings”

2nd Reading: Colossians 1: 9-14 (New American Bible)  

A reading from a letter of St. Paul to the Colossians –

We have been praying for you unceasingly and asking that you may attain full knowledge of his will through perfect wisdom and spiritual insight.  Then you will lead a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way.  You will multiply good works of every sort and grow in the knowledge of God.  By the might of his glory you will be endowed with the strength needed to stand fast, even to endure joyfully whatever may come, giving thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light.  He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.  Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-16 (NRSV)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came up to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor inspirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Prayer of the Faithful                

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  Trusting in this your promise, we come together in prayer for our Diocesan Synod.

The response to our petitions is: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Send us your Holy Spirit that we may participate in this Synod with passion, imagination and  love.  We ask for the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, courage and – above all – charity.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Help us to grow in unity and mutual respect.  Guide us on the path of the New Evangelization as we plan for the future of the Church in Fairfield County.  Bless our Bishop, Frank Caggiano, Clergy, Religious and Faithful and especially those who have been called to be delegates.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

On this date of 9/11 so prominent in our memory, let us remember those who suffer still through the loss of loved ones on that day.  May our suffering from these attacks awaken in us an awareness of the pain and fear that so many around the world live with each day.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We also remember the suffering and pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind and spirit by those clergy and religious who betrayed the trust placed in them.  We ask that you heal your people’s wounds and transform their brokenness. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our faithful members who are suffering illnesses at this time that your presence be a source of comfort and peace and may the souls of all our faithful departed rest in peace.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace, so that we may act with justice and may all that we do reflect your divine plan.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Life is a Picnic with the Bishop
| August 27, 2014 • by By Father Colin McKenna


TRUMBULL—Bishop Caggiano has publicly expressed that he thinks his Trumbull residence is too big, but sometimes it is good to have lots of room to entertain.

Last Saturday afternoon, August 23, the bishop hosted a luncheon and social at his residence for seven mothers from Malta House in Norwalk and their young children.

Because of the exquisite weather, all were able to dine picnic-style on the deck overlooking his backyard.

Joan Howard, the coordinator of volunteers at Malta, said “the food was delicious and the conversation was very lively and enjoyable.” She also marveled that the children – all three years old or younger – were so well-behaved. She attributed their best behavior to divine intervention!

The day with the bishop was organized by Dr. Karen Shields, Malta’s pastoral services director. In addition to the mothers and their children, several staff members and a member of the board also attended the festivities, including Lucy Freeman, Malta’s executive director.

The motto of Malta House is “providing ‘Hope for Life’ for new and expectant mothers and their babies.” It is an independent 501C3 charitable organization that seeks to protect life in the womb and assist mothers who may be at risk of homelessness or poverty.

“The answers to many of the problems faced by our residents can often be found within themselves,” Freeman said. “Our mothers find answers when given a compassionate ear and an atmosphere that promotes understanding and personal growth.”

Dr. Shields said that In our “disposable” culture, where terminating pregnancies is seen by many as a “good” for both mothers and society, Malta House is willing to assist mothers long-term and to hopefully see them through to a new, successful life. “We have a case manager who helps women keep a budget, access entitlements and set goals for themselves,” Freeman said. Practical goals include earning a high school diploma and entering or re-entering the workforce.

Providing hope for unwed mothers who are at risk of homelessness or dire poverty is not easy work. Quietly, however, since 1998, Malta House has been helping mothers and their families, and has done so completely independently. It is not part of or otherwise controlled by the Order of Malta or any other association.

Malta House truly is the work of Fairfield County Catholics who are willing to support an organization dedicated to protecting life in the womb and helping unwed mothers get a new start in life. Although Malta House is a Catholic organization, it helps women and their families of all faiths or no faith at all.

By inviting unwed mothers and their young children to his home for a good meal and fellowship, Bishop Caggiano gave great witness to how seriously he holds the mission of protecting innocent life in the womb. He also gives witness to the importance of taking real steps in society to promote a culture of life.

When people reach out to assist the mothers at Malta House, it really impacts their lives and the lives of their children. Joan Howard said that the bishop’s invitation “was a nice opportunity for them to see that other people really care about them, which is not something they experience on a daily basis. That the bishop opened his home to them really boosts their self-esteem and self-worth, and that has a positive influence on their children.”

Malta House has an excellent website at for those interested in learning more about their work and mission. Their phone is 203-857-0088 for those who may want more information. Their address is 5 Prowitt Street, Norwalk, CT  06855. Monetary donations are always welcome, but so are gift cards from stores like Wal-Mart and Kohls. Grocery store gift cards are also a big help. Before donating diapers, clothing items, car seats, and strollers, etc., it is best to contact Malta first to ascertain their current needs.


Click here for a slideshow

Challenging the just war theory
| August 27, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

Is there such a thing as a just war? Can the massive death and destruction of armed conflict ever be morally justified by followers of the Prince of Peace?

For the first disciples of Christ the answer was a resounding “No!”

During the first 300 years of Christianity it was unthinkable for followers of the nonviolent Jesus to kill a human being. They took most seriously Jesus’ command: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well. … Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

In his book, “Abortion & the Early Church,” Michael J. Gorman cites an address of the famous church father Clement of Alexandria to wealthy Christians: “Contrary to the rest of men enlist for yourself an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without wrath, without stain – pious old men, orphans dear to God, widows armed with gentleness, men adorned with love.”

Gorman emphasizes that Clement’s statement represents the entire body of Christian literature from the first three centuries by affirming Christian faithfulness to Christ’s paramount teaching of love which completely rejects violence and bloodshed.  

But later St. Augustine in response to armed aggression against the innocent, set the Catholic Church on the road to the “just war” theory – quite likely borrowed from the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero – which would tragically lead most Christians  to almost entirely forget in practice the pacifist foundation laid by Jesus and the early church.  

In his book “Kill? For Peace?” the late peace activist and theologian Jesuit Father Richard McSorley wrote, “The theory [just-war] never worked in practice … there is no record of any nation ever using it. No nation today accepts it as national policy … it has become a theory used to justify every war that comes along … this theory is unrealistic and is today outmoded.”

In their 1983 pastoral letter “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote that due to the destructive capability of modern technological warfare the just war theory principles of discrimination and proportionality have special significance.

Discrimination insists that civilians must be protected from the harmful actions of combatants. However, modern warfare kills, injures and displaces far more innocent civilians than combatants – just take Iraq and Gaza as sad typical examples.

And the principle of proportionality demands that the damage likely to be inflicted, and the costs of war, must be significantly less than the harm being done by the aggressor. Modern wars have consistently caused far more harm than good – again take Iraq and Gaza as current examples.

In the “Challenge of Peace” the U.S. bishops quoted St. Pope John Paul II: “Today, the scale and horror of modern warfare – whether nuclear or not – makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. War should belong to the tragic past, to history; it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.”

The day after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ended, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – prophetically said, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’”

The Holy See’s former permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican attitude for centuries was, “War is inevitable, so let’s put some strict conditions to limit its effects. In these last decades we have adopted a different perspective and we say peace is possible, so let’s work tirelessly for peaceful solutions.”

The questions of pacifism, the just war theory, and war itself are very personal for me. Over 33 years ago, I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector. While firing an M-16 at pop-up targets, I realized as a follower of the nonviolent Jesus I could not aim a weapon at another human being, pull the trigger, and kill him or her.

Within a prayerful, honest and respectful atmosphere, the Catholic Church and all Christian churches desperately need to seriously study, debate, dialogue and reevaluate the just war theory in light of the nonviolent Jesus, the early church’s pacifist stance, the impossibility of satisfying all of the just war theory’s principles, the immeasurable harm caused by war – including the vast resources wasted that should instead be used to help the world’s poor – and the unhealthy nationalism and militarism adhered to by countless Christians.

Now to Pope Francis’ recent quoted remarks –often taken out of context – during an airplane news conference in flight to Rome from his pastoral visit to South Korea.

While the pope said it was “licit’ to stop an unjust aggressor, he qualified that statement by adding “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’”

There are effective nonviolent ways to counter and even sometimes convert an aggressor: international targeted sanctions, a total arms embargo, non-cooperation with an occupying force, civil disobedience, coordinated underground activity, offering emergency asylum to all fleeing refugees, dialogue, negotiations, forgiveness, reconciliation, and of course prayer.

In a June 8, 2014 prayer for peace, Pope Francis prayed “Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!

“We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. … how much blood has been shed … our efforts have been in vain.

“Now, Lord, come to our aid … Give us the courage to say: ‘Never again war’ … Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace.

“Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be ‘brother,’ and our way of life will always be that of : Shalom, Peace, Salaam!”

And to that, let the people of God say Amen!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Comic Relief
| August 27, 2014


Last Sunday, I began my homily with the following quip: “It is beginning to look like one of the effects of global warming will be cooler summers.”


Humor always involves risk, and because I enjoy taking risks (to a degree), I sometimes go too far in my humorous efforts. You might be surprised that as an English major in college, we learned the following tenet from the English poet William Blake: “You never know how much is enough until you know how much is too much.” There is philosophy in that statement!

As a priest, especially when clothed in my clerics or liturgical vestments, I have learned that people are decidedly less tolerant about the leeway they will give me regarding what is and what is not acceptable in terms of humor.

Nevertheless, over the years – five years of seminary and 15 years of priesthood – I have accumulated quite a file of Church-related humor, and humor that can be used in a homily (I think…).

Because this summer, in addition to being unusually cool, has also been filled with sad and distressing local, national and international events, I thought it might be a good idea to share with you some of the humor that I have acquired over the years. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and as you sort through the assorted bits and pieces below, I hope that you have a few good belly-laughs.

Church Bulletin Bloopers (Ecumenical too: includes some from our Protestant brethren):

Next Sunday is the family BBQ. We still need someone to bring hot dogs and guns.

Next Thursday will be this fall’s first choir practice. Please consider joining. They need all the help they can get.

The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be viewed in the church basement Saturday.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things around the house not worth keeping. Don’t forget your husbands.

When the pastor is away, massages can be given to the church secretary.

The parish outreach committee has enlisted 25 volunteers to visit those not afflicted with any church.

The 8th grade confirmation class will present a version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on Friday night. Please try to attend this tragedy.

The pastor unveiled the new tithing slogan for our parish last Sunday: “I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.”

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say “hell” to someone who doesn’t care much about you.

The music director invites anyone who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Bible Study will be held on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Lunch will be served following the B.S.

The recessional hymn will be “Angels We Have Heard Get High.”

Please remember to pray for all who are sick of our community.


Catholicism Deciphered:

A Catholic choir is a group of people whose singing allows the rest of the congregation to lip-sync.

The recessional hymn is the last song at Mass, often sung a little more quietly since most of the people have already left.


Downright Funny (I hope!!):

After Pope Saint John Paul II was elected Pope, a booming voice with an Italian accent was heard by many coming from the heavens: “I said elect someone with polish!”

(If I am still allowed to publish this blog after posting this piece, I may provide more humorous interludes in the future. Stay tuned…).

There have been 356 visit(s) to this blog post.

Know worship and serve
| August 26, 2014 • by By Cathal Barry, The Irish Catholic


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut is no stranger to addressing young people on faith and spirituality.

At World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011, he spoke of being ‘Firm in the Faith’ and in 2009 he travelled to Ireland as the main speaker at the Youth 2000 Summer Festival in Clonmacnois and again at Roscrea last year.

At the International Eucharistic Congress that was held in Dublin in 2012, he challenged the young people present to be courageous witnesses to the Faith.

However, on this his 5th visit to the Emerald Isle, the popular US bishop spoke directly to adults, keen to hear his advice on how they might better engage young people in the Church here.

Bishop Caggiano had been invited on this occasion by the Steering Committee for Adult Studies of the Catechism to address delegates on sharing the Faith with the next generation.

Representatives from several Irish dioceses gathered in Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, to listen and learn from the experience of this world renowned prelate.

It was to be a “conversation” as the bishop put it, but Caggiano’s in-your-face style and enthusiasm for the theme meant he alone commanded the room.

Community of faith

“You and I have been asked by the Lord to empower young people to take their rightful place in the community of faith,” he began boldly.

“We have been called to help them to know the Lord,” he continued. “Not just to know about him, but to know him in heart. To worship and adore him. And to serve him by acts of charity and mercy that make the love of God real.”

Challenging words for challenging times, some might say. Bishop Caggiano would agree.

“There is a universal change going on. Every age in the Church life has had challenges, we are no different,” he said.

“We are experiencing perhaps some unique challenges. The very fabric of human society is changing before our eyes and there is no one alive who can fully and completely expose where those changes are leading us.”

The Brooklyn-born bishop was living up to his blunt reputation. But he had not made the trip across the Atlantic to depress anyone. The Irish faithful are “well enough equipped to do that” themselves, he reckoned.

“I am here to embrace the hope that the lord has given us. I believe we are living in a very hopeful time,” he said.

“My experience is that young people are ready and eager to take their place. They remain generous in spirit and open and hungry for the truth of the faith. It is for us in leadership to help them to find that.”

In his own east-coast diocese, Bishop Caggiano has called a diocesan synod, the first in 34 years. In preparatory meetings with delegates, both young and old, he discovered a “vast disconnect” between what young people want and what adults think they want.

Consulting both groups, Bishop Caggiano recalled that the adults spoke of the need for the Church to engage and reach out, the need for relevant music at Mass and more appropriate language in passing on the Faith.

The youth, on the other hand, voiced their interest in the sacraments, in the celebration of Mass, in adoration and in Sacred Scripture.

But what about the unenlightened ones? The young people who are not yet in communion with the Church and those who have left the Church to one side?


In this case, according to Bishop Caggiano, there is a need to “build bridges”. “The young people who are already engaged in the Church are in fact the bridge to the young people who are not engaged,” he told The Irish Catholic.

“That’s why we need to empower those already engaged in the life of the Church, they get it. And they may not only lead other people of their age to faith, they may help us to grow in faith too.”

Returning to the aforementioned ‘disconnect’, Bishop Caggiano believes adults too often speak out on behalf of the youth. “We have not given our young people a chance to speak for themselves. They will have more answers than we who are older care to admit,” he noted.

Technology, according to the bishop, has been a key factor in widening the gulf that now exists between young and old in the Church.

“There is something qualitatively different in the experience of young people now. Technology is a formative presence,” he said.

To remedy the situation, Bishop Caggiano suggests commissioning ‘digital missionaries’ to spread the Faith online.

“We need to appreciate that which they are experiencing. We need to ask them to put into words, to the extent that it is possible, how is it that they have allowed faith to become an effective part of their life. We need to empower them to become the digital missionaries, to go out and do to others what was done to them.”

But this plan needs structure.

“We need to make it purposeful, we need to make it conscious, we need to make it deliberative,” he said.

At the heart of Bishop Caggiano’s plan for evangelisation are three central elements. To know, worship and serve the Lord.

“Those are the three key elements we need to challenge young people.”

Focusing on the first, Bishop Caggiano highlighted the “profound difference” between knowing the Lord and knowing about the Lord.

“It is never a question of one or the other it is always both. You cannot have one effectively without the other.”

Regarding worship and adoration, the bishop raises concern for what he phrases as a “crisis of community”.

He is confident that the search for God is part of the fabric of human life. However, the bishop insists that the crisis that exists is: What you’re your community have to do with my search? Ensuring the Church’s relevance to young people is an effective antidote here, the bishop said.

Finally, addressing the topic of serving the Lord, Bishop Caggiano noted the “profound example” of Pope Francis. “The Holy Father is calling the Church to make credible, love. In an age where love is almost seen as a theoretical reality and for too many people a myth, the Holy Father is saying make love concrete and you make love credible,” he said.

“Serving the Lord is about giving love real presence in our lives. That is what the lord is asking us to do. This is the age of the witnesses,” he said.


Click here to see the original story:

Generosity starts the school year
| August 26, 2014


REDDING—In August, students from the seventh and eighth grades in St. Patrick Parish religious education program held a school supplies drive.

Pictured (l-r) Matthew Sun, Stephen Zigmond, Hannah and
Sarah Tedawes and Richard Giannicchi.

Students addressed the parishioners from the lectern after each Mass, explaining why they were collecting the supplies and asking for their support. The kids asked parishioners to bring in school supplies to benefit needy families for the Family and Children's Agency of Norwalk, and parishioners were very generous with their donations. The St. Patrick students sorted and delivered the supplies to the agency on August 18, in time for the Norwalk kids to get their new school supplies.

Msgr. Surwilo becomes Fisher’s spiritual director
| August 21, 2014 • by By Father Colin McKenna


STAMFORD—In a seminary, the role of spiritual director is critical and unique. He is given a special trust with respect to the seminarians in his care.

“It’s a special blessing,” says Msgr. Edward Surwilo,
visiting his mother in their family home. Msgr. Surwilo,
formerly pastor of Star of the Sea Parish in Stamford,
has been named spiritual director of St. John Fisher Seminary.

Whatever they confide in him must remain in his heart alone, within a bond as sacred and solemn as the seal of the confessional. In fact, he regularly serves as confessor for the seminarians in addition to providing communal and personal spiritual guidance.

In an invisible but very real wall of separation within the seminary, the spiritual director resides in the realm of the “inner forum.” This makes his role in formation unique. All other formators in the seminary community are in the “outer forum,” which means that they are actively evaluating candidates for the priesthood.

The spiritual director is vital to a healthy and productive seminary, and Bridgeport’s own diocesan seminary residence— St. John Fisher—has just welcomed a new spiritual director to its staff: Msgr. Edward Surwilo.

In his 51 years of service as a priest, Msgr. Surwilo has served 50 within the city of Stamford, so it is only fitting that Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has invited him to continue to serve in Stamford as Fisher’s spiritual director.

“As pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea for 30 years,” Bishop Caggiano said, “Msgr. Surwilo was a mentor for a number of seminarians, helping them to grow in their pastoral skills and love of service. Many of those seminarians are now priests of our diocese, all united in their appreciation of Monsignor’s guidance.”

Father Robert Kinnally, chancellor of the diocese and rector of the Fisher Seminary is looking forward to working with Msgr. Surwilo in the task of forming men for the priesthood. “Monsignor’s prayerfulness and the joyful way in which he serves God’s people have been an inspiration,” Father Kinnally said.

Ideally, the spiritual director in a seminary needs to be readily approachable, and with his calm, gentle, and friendly demeanor, Msgr. Surwilo seems to be perfectly suited for the role. During his journey toward the priesthood, every seminarian will experience doubts and fears at some point, and the spiritual director is someone with whom he can hope to find solace and comfort.

In addition to serving as spiritual director at Fisher, Msgr. Surwilo will remain pastor emeritus at Our Lady Star of the Sea, the church and rectory whose construction he oversaw some 25 years ago.

In recognition of his outstanding service to the diocese, he was named a monsignor in 1991.

At 77 years of age, Msgr. Surwilo said, “I don’t want to retire!” He is “absolutely elated” that Bishop Caggiano has offered him the opportunity to serve as spiritual director at Fisher. In addition to his experience and wisdom, Msgr. Surwilo also brings impressive academic credentials to the seminary community. Throughout his priesthood, he has immersed himself in ongoing academic formation and has earned three advanced degrees: Masters of Divinity; Masters of Systematic Theology; and Masters of Religious Education.

Although his work at Fisher represents a significant change for Msgr. Surwilo, one constant throughout his priesthood for which he is very grateful has been the presence of his mother, Rose Surwilo. At 94, Rose still lives in the family home in Darien where Monsignor grew up. She is a parishioner at St. John’s, the family’s home parish. Good health, strength and longevity run in the family.

Msgr. Surwilo knows that it is unusual for a 77-year-old priest to still be able to visit with his mother in the home where he grew up. For her part, she is proud of all of his success during his long priestly career, and like all mothers, she is probably a little bit anxious about her son beginning a new job, or taking on a new position in the priesthood.

“It’s a special blessing to have her,” Msgr. Surwilo said.

Daniel Colucci attained rank of Eagle Scout
| August 21, 2014


NEWTOWN—Daniel Colucci of Boy Scout Troop 370 of Newtown has attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

Daniel has been involved with Scouting since joining as a Cub Scout in the first grade. Throughout his years in the Boy Scouts he has held a number of leadership positions, most recently as Senior Patrol Leader.

His Eagle Scout service project involved overseeing the remodeling and building of a stone memorial shrine at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown in honor of two young children who died tragically many years ago. The project entailed over 200 man-hours of work.

Daniel is a senior at Fairfield Prep. An Eagle Scout Court of Honor will be held at St. Rose at 1 pm on August 30.

Knights and FCA, Together A Homerun
| August 21, 2014


NORWALK—Through a series of fundraisers, the Knights of Columbus Council #14360 at St. Matthew Parish raised money to sponsor three Bridgeport Bluefish games for the Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) at the ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The games became part of the activities of students in their After School Program, teens in the behavioral health programs and youth in Specialized Foster Care.  

“Family & Children’s Agency is grateful to the Saint Matthew Knights of Columbus Council for their generous efforts to sponsor outings for FCA clients at the Bridgeport Bluefish,” said Robert F. Cashel, president and CEO of FCA. “Many of our clients do not have the opportunity or resources to go to ballgames during the summer, so these field trips are very meaningful for them.”

FCA is a nonprofit, human service organization committed to increasing the social and emotional well-being children and families throughout Fairfield County. St. Matthew Knights have been partnering with and sponsoring events for the FCA since 2009.  

"The FCA does great work in the local community and our council is honored to help a great organization and most importantly help the youth of tomorrow.  Seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces makes it all worth it," said Grand Knight George Ribellino.

St. Matthew Council #14360 has helped local organizations throughout Norwalk, including Malta House, the Foster Care Agency of Connecticut and Homes for the Brave. They are a group of men dedicated to serving the Church and their community and remaining true to the Knights of Columbus’ founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.  

(For more info, go to

Parish Nurses graduate
| August 21, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Five nurses participated in a beautiful commissioning service recently as part of the St. Vincent’s Parish Nurse Graduation ceremonies held at the Medical Center.

L to R: Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing
Officer Dale Danowski, MBA, RN; Parish Nurse Office Coordinator
Mary Beth Kuchma; new graduate Sally Gerard, RN, of Trumbull,
Nichols United Methodist Church; Patricia Sheehan, RN, of Trumbull,
St. Theresa Parish; Susan Collazo, RN, of Stratford, First
Congregational of Stratford; Judy Pyrch, RN, of Trumbull,
of St. Catherine of Siena Parish; Monica Wheeler, RN, of Fairfield,
St, Anthony of Padua Parish; and Parish Nurse Coordinator
Marilyn Faber, RN. Missing: Hermie Balboa, RN, of Holy Family Parish
in Fairfield; Carol Lansing, RN, of Salem Lutheran Church in Bridgeport;
and Patricia Layda, RN, of St. Stephen Parish in Trumbull.

“Parish nurses have the ability to make a huge difference in other’s lives because people trust completely those sitting next to them in the pews of church every week,” keynote speaker Dale Danowski, MBA, RN, told the gathering of more than 50 parish nurses and leaders. “The Parish Nurse Program brings a feeling of safety and a richness to the care that St. Vincent’s extends to the community.”
The ceremony included an opening prayer by Vice President of Mission & Ethics Bill Hoey, MAHCM, LCSW, a musical tribute to nurses and, the presentation of certificates and pins by Parish Nurse Coordinator Marilyn Faber, RN, to the newly commissioned parish nurses. A blessing of the hands highlighted the event.

Young Adult Ministry Makes a “Splash!”
| August 20, 2014 • by By Audrey Cozzarin


STAMFORD—“Summer Splash Meet & Greet at the Beach” with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was held on Sunday, August 17, 2014, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Stamford, CT.

“Summer Splash” group at West Beach on Sunday,
August 17, 2014. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, center.

A kick-off event for the new Diocesan-wide young adults group, 85 strong, it was by all accounts a great success.

“Summer Splash” included a special Mass performed by Bishop Caggiano followed by a party on West Beach located behind the church with DJ, pizza, and refreshments.

At the Malta House gala in May, I approached Bishop Caggiano with a personal offer to help create momentum with our young adult population (ages 21-35) to gather in friendship with their peers in faith. His immediate reaction was positive: “Terrific! E-mail me.”

With my teammates in planning this first-time event, Father Peter Towsley, Vicar for Evangelization and Episcopal Delegate to the Ecclesial Movements of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, and Deacon Steve Pond from St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan–along with the guidance of Damien O’Connor, Senior Director of Pastoral Services, and Julie Rodgers, MCR, Director for Youth Ministry, at the Diocese–“Summer Splash” was born.

According to the CT Dept. of Labor, this age group, 21-35, the so-called “millennial generation, born between 1980-2000, is statistically the age group leaving the state of Connecticut in the largest numbers. Finding it difficult to afford to marry, buy a home, and raise a family, this group leaves our state in search of their fortunes in other states. The mission behind “Summer Splash” is to help galvanize this group, so these young adults will remain rooted right here in our state, in their parishes, knowing they are important members of our community with the support of the church.

The young adults attending “Summer Splash” were thrilled to meet the Bishop who greeted each one before Mass, and were pleased to see so many of their peers. “I feel like I am outgrowing my old friends,” said Victoria LaBella of Stamford, one of the young adults who attended “Summer Splash.” “They don’t understand why I attend church and just want to party. I’m so glad to have this opportunity to meet others my age who share my faith and values.”

Another participant, Colin Williams of Norwalk said, “I am happy and delighted to be a part of the family of God in such a context as this.” Jackie Conigliaro said, “This is so exciting! It's a really good idea!” The Bishop and Father Gomez were ready for the beach with dark sunglasses, in shirtsleeves, and stayed to chat with the young adult crowd in the sun and sand.

We thank the donors to “Summer Splash” for their gifts: Tony Gervasio of  Star Distributors (New Haven), Tony Caraluzzi of Taunton Wine & Liquor (Newtown), Sam Cingari of Grade A ShopRite (Stamford), Ellen Baker (Darien), and O’Rourke family (Stamford).

The $10 suggested donation at the door allowed us to make a gift to Father Piotr Smolik at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church with gratitude for providing such a stunning location for both the Mass and the beauty of nature, the beach right next door. And, we thank Bishop Frank J. Caggiano for his enthusiastic support of our young adults and those of us who roll up our sleeves to show how special this group is to our community.

Next gathering: Friday, September 12, 6:00-7:00 P.M., at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan, creation of a “steering committee” to help out with future events and opportunities for the Young Adult Group of the Diocese. Do the young adults in the Catholic church in Fairfield County want another “Summer Splash”? I think the answer is a strong “yes,” along with a desire for more gatherings of faith.

Click here to listen to an audio of Bishop Caggiano’s homily at Summer Splash

Caroline House keeps summer learning fun
| August 20, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Caroline House keeps summer learning fun through a reading, math, and creative writing camp, where children benefit from one on one tutoring from Fairfield County teens. 

The children served are often behind in school due to language issues. The camp ran weekday mornings from June 30 to July 18.

The children being tutored were grouped by grade and rotated between three classrooms for approximately 45 minutes for each class (math, reading and journaling/creative writing). Teenage volunteers from all over Fairfield county tutored the children, working with them one on one.

Caroline House is a nondenominational education center teaching literacy and life skills to economically disadvantaged immigrant women and children.  Since opening its doors 18 years ago, Caroline House has nurtured and educated hundreds of women and children.  All programs and services are provided free of charge.  Grants, foundations and individual donors provide the financial support for the center.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
At the Zoo
| August 19, 2014


After I graduated from the University of Vermont in 1986, I shared an apartment in New York City with a high school classmate in a newly developed part of Manhattan called Battery Park City. This commercial and residential development was built on landfill created from the construction of the World Trade Center.

Our neighborhood was separated from the rest of Manhattan by West Street, which was a many-laned thoroughfare that ran all the way down the west side of Manhattan to its southern point. The easiest way to cross West Street was to traverse one of the covered pedestrian bridges that were built in the early stages of the Battery Park City development.

Whether coming or going, I usually saw streams of tourists heading for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

How many life-long New Yorkers have never been to the top of the Empire State Building, and how many have never visited the Statue of Liberty?

Living in a neighborhood that was swarming with tourists always reminded me that I needed to take advantage of New York and visit the sites that people travel from all over the world to see. After two years in Manhattan, I had done pretty well regarding visiting the sites. My favorite place was the observation deck of the south tower of the World Trade Center. I literally walked past the buildings daily, so making it to the top of the twin towers many times was not difficult. My only regret is that I never dined in the Windows of the World restaurant. Back in 1986, $100 per person on average for a meal was a lot of money, and I was employed as a public school teacher. In retrospect, I should have splurged, but I didn’t.

My visits to the top of the Empire State Building were less frequent (I only went once). The Statue of Liberty was an effort, but I made it there too. Sadly, I have yet to visit Ellis Island, and it is not really blinking brightly on my radar screen, even though my father’s parents both emigrated from Ireland in the early 20th Century.

Apart from my two years in Manhattan and three years in Vermont during college (and my junior year abroad in Ireland), I have lived in Fairfield County all of my life. My story about visiting the sites in New York is equally applicable to my life in Connecticut. How many things do we Connecticut residents take for granted? How many sites have we neglected to visit here in our own state? How many Fairfield County residents know that there is actually a revolutionary fort in Stamford (after which the town is named) that is a State park open to visitors?

When I turned 50 a few months ago, I began thinking about things that I wanted to do before I died. Thankfully, my list is not very long, but one thing that I definitely want to do is take better advantage of the local sites that Connecticut has to offer; places to visit that often go ignored by the majority of Nutmeggers (how did we get that name anyway?).

One such place that I have been meaning to visit – for many years – is the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. By chance, an ideal opportunity to visit the zoo recently presented itself, and during the visit I also received a personally guided tour of the zoo by an employee.

Monica Harrington is a junior at UCONN in Storrs majoring in animal science. After graduation, she hopes to work in the field of exotic animal care. This summer, she completed an internship at Beardsley Zoo caring primarily for animals from the South American rainforests. She has enjoyed her time at the zoo so much that after her internship was complete, she asked if she could continue on at the zoo for another two weeks before heading back to Storrs. The zoo management happily obliged her request.

“Animals so often have pure intentions,” she said. “It is so peaceful and rewarding to work with them.” One of the animals she cares for is a large female boa constrictor whom Monica called “sweet.” Most people would never know that a creature that crushes its prey to death can be sweet natured.

Monica grew up in Stamford (Stam Fort!) and attended Trinity Catholic High School for two years before her family relocated to Norwalk. At Norwalk High School, she participated extensively in musical theatre, and her talents as a singer caught the attention of her pastor, Father Dave Blanchfield of St. Jerome’s, her home parish. He hired her as a cantor, which has proved to be a great source of income for her when she is home from college.

Monica is a young woman of deep faith who enjoyed participating in the TOTAL youth group at St. Jerome’s and now helps lead its annual Emmaus retreat. She provides a wonderful example to the young people at St. Jerome’s who look up to her. In her life, she gives witness to Jesus Christ.

She proudly wears a noticeable wooden cross around her neck and is very conscientious about her spiritual and secular pursuits. At UCONN, she sings in the choir with Catholic campus ministry, and at St. Jerome’s, she sometimes has to lead the congregation in song with only the accompaniment of one other musician, be it organist or guitarist. Recently, long before Mass was scheduled to begin, Monica was sitting in the choir alone in the nearly empty church. I asked her if she was a particularly punctual person, noting in self-effacement that I can be called “punctually challenged.” I said, “Are you one of those people who thinks you’re late if you are five minutes early?”

She said, “I feel like I am late if I am ten minutes early!”

Although she cannot place all of her hopes on one job after college, Monica does dream that perhaps she might be hired full-time by Beardsley Zoo. That would be a blessing for all involved: for Monica, the zoo employees, the animals and all who visit.

Even though she is now on extra-volunteer internship time, Monica said, “I have forty-minutes to give you a tour,” when I met her at the entrance gate. Thankfully, I was able to keep up with her as we sped from exhibit to exhibit, with me trying my best to take pictures with my iPhone. She was probably more appropriately dressed for our excursion than me. I was wearing a Roman collar and she was dressed in a sporty-safari look.

This is already my longest blog to date, so I will wrap it up here. Assuredly, I will return again to Beardsley Zoo, and I hope you visit there too. It is open year-round…

There have been 318 visit(s) to this blog post.

Delegates prepare for Synod 2014
| August 19, 2014


TRUMBULL—More than 75 delegates to Synod 2014 gathered last weekend at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull for the third Formation Day in preparation for the first General Session to the Synod to be held on September 20.

The formation sessions provided an opportunity for learning, spiritual growth and discernment for the 350 delegates to Synod 2014.

Theological reflections were presented by Dr. Colt Anderson, dean of the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University and a noted church historian and theologian, and Dr. Joan Kelly, an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, and is on the faculty of St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford.

While Dr. Anderson focused on spiritual preparation, Dr. Joan Kelly led the delegates into an exploration of the meaning and history of synods, particularly as they affected this diocese.

“Develop purity of heart, be humble, try to listen,” he told the delegates, defining true piety as “a commitment to following the divine law of love,” Dr. Anderson told the delegates.

“Synod,” explained Dr. Kelly, is the Greek word for “gathering.” Specifically, a synod is a gathering focused on sustaining the viability of the Church.”

During the Formation session, delegates were also briefed on the process of using an online format to examine the current state of the diocese, explore possible solutions and make recommendations to Bishop Caggiano through the Synod process.

The public is invited to attend a Solemn Vespers Services on Friday, September 19, 7:30 at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, will mark the formal convocation of the three general sessions of the year-long synod to plan for the future of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Click here to view a slideshow

Fan the Fire: Made for More
| August 18, 2014


NEWTOWN—More than 400 teens attended this year’s Fan the Fire Youth Rally on the grounds of St. Rose of Lima Parish over the weekend.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano joined with other inspirational speakers and youth ministers to encourage young people in their faith within a welcoming and prayerful environment.

The 9th annual Eucharist Centered youth rally is a day of fun, music, inspiration, intense prayer, and coming together for the Teen Mass celebrated by Bishop Caggiano.

“It’s a one day event designed to help teens deepen their relationship with Christ,” said Julie Rodgers, MCR, Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese, who said the day also featured dynamic speakers and opportunities for Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and recitation of the Rosary.

One of the most dramatic moments of the day was observed when Bishop Caggiano processed the Eucharist through the grounds and into the Hall for adoration. The young people knelt reverently and silently throughout.

Before celebrating the Teen Mass to conclude the Rally, the Bishop also had many opportunities to meet young people and speak with them about their lives and their faith.

Speakers included Fr. Sam Kachuba, Director of Vocations, Paul J. Kim, Julie Rodgers, Scott Anthony and Rodd Blessey, minister from St. Rose of Lima Parish.

Click here for a slideshow

Click here to listen to an audio of Bishop Caggiano’s homily at Fan the Fire

Pope tells Asians to witness to Christ in all aspects of life
| August 18, 2014 • by By Simone Orendain, Catholic News Service


SEOSAN, South Korea—Pope Francis told young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do.

During his homily on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people—including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries—to "reflect God's love." He reminded them it was their "right and duty to take part in the life of (their) societies."

"Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life," the pontiff said. He also urged them to discern "what is incompatible with your Catholic faith ... and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death."

Young people are always choosing their social lives over other things, and this makes it complicated to "grow up in their faith also," said Montira Hokjareon, a youth coordinator in Thailand's Udon Thani Diocese. She said it was especially hard for young Thai Catholics to practice their faith in a predominantly Buddhist country where less than half of 1 percent of the population is Catholic.

Hokjaroen, 34, was one of 20 participants who had lunch with Pope Francis August 15. She told Catholic News Service it was good he nudged the youth leaders to evangelize, "because I think the people will learn (about) Jesus through us."

Rain threatened the August 17 closing Mass for Asian Youth Day, which, unlike the massive international World Youth Day events, focuses more on youth leaders. At one point, the wind whipped off the pope's cap.

Pope Francis emphasized the theme of this year's gathering, "Asian Youth Wake Up, the Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You."

"It's no good when I see young people who sleep," said the pontiff. "No. Wake up! Go! Go!"

Haemi Fortress was where thousands of Catholics were killed during a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s laypeople formed the church based on Catholic writings that they got ahold of from China. The original founders pledged loyalty to God rather than the Korean king, which was socially unacceptable. The government pursued them for carrying out Catholic rites and baptisms, killing 10,000 faithful in the century beginning in 1791.

A day before the closing Mass, Pope Francis beatified 124 of the founders of the Korean Catholic Church, moving them a step closer to sainthood.

Michael Hwang of Seoul said being on these grounds was "exhausting emotionally," because his ancestors were among those executed. But he told CNS he was glad to be a part of Asian Youth Day because it brought him closer to other Catholics from Asia.

"(The pope) said to wake up and a lot of people can come together, and we could be like one nation," said Hwang, a 17-year old high school student.

Hwang said his friends are not Catholic, "but I think Catholicism is a great thing and I can tell to my friends about how (being) Catholic is great, and this event will be a great background to teach or tell other people."

Stephen Borja of Manila, Philippines, told CNS the founding of the church in Korea "is such a unique story, and it really touched me. How passionate they were about receiving the faith, standing up for it, even giving up their lives for it."

Borja, 34, works with the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. He said the pope's words inspired him to show his faith to others, which is still a challenge in his predominantly Catholic country.

The three characteristics the pope identified for the church in Asia are "holier, more missionary and humbler," he said. "Those are words I would carry with me and also with my work in the church."

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at an altar made up of 16 wooden crosses that locked together like wooden blocks and were decorated by the youth. Readings and intercessions were in Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and other languages.

"As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church's present," said the pope.

He told young Asian to build "a church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized."

Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Jeju, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, noted that this was the first Asian Youth Day attended by a pope.

"The young Asians may have experienced an extraordinary moment of grace, and they also may have acquired the seed of courage and hope for their future, because Your Holiness shared a great affection and intimacy with them," he told Pope Francis at the Mass.

Organizers announced Indonesia would host the 2017 Asian Youth Day.

Bishop Caggiano celebrates Mass to dedicate new Chapel of Mary, Mother of God at St. Pius X Parish
| August 15, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Bishop Frank Caggiano visited St. Pius X Parish today to celebrate a Pontifical Mass marking the dedication of The Chapel of Mary Mother of God in the parish’s new Faith Center.

The Bishop also served as the homilist for the Mass on the feast of The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Many parishioners gathered for the 2 p.m. ceremony, which began in the chapel courtyard with the presentation of Chapel Keys by Mrs. Grace Rodriguez, Parish Council President, and the Opening of the Chapel Doors by Fr. Michael Dogali, Pastor of St. Pius X Parish.

“While every year in the life of a parish is special, 2014 is extra special as we celebrate 59 years of Catholic Faith with the opening of our new chapel,” said Fr. Dogali. “The consecration by Bishop Caggiano is a reminder of those who have gone before us, leaving a splendid example of faith, prayer and stewardship.

During the ceremony, the Bishop was presented with the building plans. He also blessed the new building with Holy Water. During the Mass following the prayer of dedication, a relic from St. Pius was sealed in the Altar Stone to signify that the sacrifice of the parishioners has its source in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop blessed the Tabernacle and the Sanctuary Candles were lit.

The new chapel seats 102 faithful. Begi Beginning Monday, August 18, 2014 daily Mass at 8:30 a.m. will be celebrated in our new chapel. Fr. Dogali said the church will be open, but will not be air-conditioned unless of course a weekday funeral or wedding is celebrated. Parishioners are invited to a “coffee and” after all Masses this weekend to celebrate the Feast of St. Pius X, our Patron Saint and to have the opportunity to visit the new chapel.

The project began with renovations to the church and the building of a 14,000 square foot, L-shaped addition, which houses the chapel, office space and a multi-purpose area for social and educational events, along exterior landscaping that transformed the 13-acre campus.

Mr. Denis Sullivan served as Building Committee Chairman and while Kevin Silk served as Finance Committee Chairman. The project was designed by Doyle-Coffin Architecture under the leadership of John Doyle AIA, and built by A.V. Tuchy Builders. For more information and photos of the project, visit the St. Pius X Parish website at


Click to see a slideshow of the dedication

Making bad situations worse in the Middle East
| August 14, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano
The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States’ fault, that is, at least not entirely.

The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their interests after World War I, and that ruthless dictators past and present have often oppressed their people are major reasons why much of the Middle East is broken and bleeding.  
But the U.S. has made several bad situations in the Middle East far worse.
In Egypt, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 1987 the U.S. has given that nation $1.3 billion per year in military aid despite the fact that it was long ruled by the dictator Hosni Mubarak.  
Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, its refusal to allow subjugated Palestinians to form an independent nation, and the strangling blockade and brutal invasion of Gaza would not be possible without the approximate $3 billion in annual American aid and the United States’ refusal to demand that Israel reverse course here.

While it is a sad truth that under the dictator Saddam Hussein many Iraqis suffered, it is an even sadder truth that the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, caused even greater suffering to countless Iraqis.
After nearly nine years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women and men are dead, over 4,480 American troops were killed, and Iraq overall is in a far worse state.
Furthermore, the U.S. war with Iraq unleashed deadly Islamist attacks upon thousands of Iraqi Christians.
In a CBS 60 Minutes segment, Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican priest who has a long history of ministry in Iraq, said the situation there was clearly worse for Christians than under the Saddam Hussein regime.
And according to a Fox News report earlier this year, Fr. White said that in the past five years 1,096 of his own parishioners were killed.
He said that out of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003, only around 200,000 remain.
And now with the Islamic State controlling a large part of Iraq, the remaining Christian population is suffering even worse.
There can be no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made a bad situation far worse.  
Please help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ by giving a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (  
And urge your congressional delegation and President Obama ( to grant emergency asylum to as many as 300,000 Christians fleeing the barbarism of the Islamic State. This is the right thing to do!

Three years ago, the U.S. led an aerial attack against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi leaving that nation awash in weapons which continue to help fuel the warring militias that have since been unleashed.
While U.S. bombing helped end Gaddafi’s brutal reign, it didn’t stop the suffering of the Libyan people.
Bombs kill. They do not address the root-causes of conflict. Rather, they perpetuate the cycle of violence.     Knowing that full well, and in response to President Barack Obama’s threats to bomb Syria last year, Pope Francis called on people of faith to observe Sept. 7, 2013 as a day of prayer and fasting.
On that day the Holy Father said to over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to all of us, “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Prayers of the (Mostly) Faithful
| August 14, 2014 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

I never prayed at bedtime when I was little. I’d see kids doing it in movies and on television, but it just wasn’t a part of our routine. Now I get to make the routine. So, in our house, we pray.

My kids are still very young (most of them). They don’t stay up too late. It’s not that they aren’t willing; they just can’t keep their eyes open. Often, I arrive home from work through the front door as they are heading up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire.

I shuck my shoes and look longingly at dinner. But up we go together, telling stories about our day or humming a tune from Annie. Some nights I’m so hungry I’m tempted to simply tuck them in and make my escape.

But the temptation always passes, and I’m always glad it does. Daddy needs to pray, too.

My soon-to-be six year-old, Paddy, is a good one for saying his prayers. He takes it seriously, even if he does have to be reminded to make the sign of the cross with his right hand, not his left, and to stop jittering.

Having been a boy myself once, I know how hard it is for a fidgety fellow to keep still. I admire Paddy’s devotion, which belies his age.

Magdalena, who shares his room, is less pious. She delights in dropping silly words into our Hail Marys and Glory Bes. “Hail Mary, full of . . . pomegranates,” she’ll say with a giggle. Or, “Glory be to the Father and to the son and to the . . . beans.” We tighten our lips, Paddy and I, and try to ignore.

Is it sacrilege? Perhaps. But people don’t get punished at bedtime in our house. Not while we’re asking forgiveness for our trespasses. Not while we’re forgiving those who trespass against us.

Our petitions to the saints can get complicated. I enjoy asking for the prayers of our namesake saints. “Saint Patrick,” I’ll say. “Pray for us,” the children will reply. “Saint Matthew,” my son will say. “Pray for us,” we’ll say together.

This is Magdalena’s cue: “Saints Kiki and Marina, pray for us.”

I’ll spare you trying to find your copy of Butler’s Lives of the Saints. Kiki and Marina are not obscure holy women canonized by the Church in a bygone era. They are one half—the female half—of the Fresh Beat Band. (If you don’t know what that is, I truly envy you.)

“Magdalena, please take the prayers seriously,” I’ll say, lowering my eyes with rehearsed disapproval, for I know what’s coming.

“Twist and Shout, pray for us,” she says with a full throated laugh. She looks about, thoroughly pleased with herself.

(If you haven’t guessed, Twist and Shout are the noms-de-theatre of the male half of the aforementioned Fresh Beat Band, which is, come to think of it, less a band than it is a television show and less a television show than an instrument of torture for parents, music lovers, and innocents everywhere.)

All you can do with a child who asks for the prayers of a Nickelodeon character is tickle her until she cries for mercy. Then tuck her in, hit the lights, and get busy eating your dinner.

I don’t want to do a disservice to Magdalena’s public reputation. While she occasionally lacks focus at bedtime, she does have moments of extreme clarity. Especially when giving thanks for the many blessings that make an eight-year-old’s life worth living.

“Thank you God for spaghetti and meatballs,” she said in one of her more serious moods. “And for no carrots.”

When Paddy finally downshifts his motor, he, too, is capable of serious reflection. “If I went to heaven,” he mused once, “it wouldn’t be all happy because you guys wouldn’t be there.”

Hmmm. Serious theological question: Is paradise less heavenly for the absence of your still living loved ones? Sometimes there’s not much you can do except shrug your shoulders, mumble something about “mysteries” and say goodnight.

“Sleep tight Fresh Beats. It’s been a great day. Don’t let the pomegranates bite.”

Now what are the chances dinner’s still hot?

(You can follow Matt on Twitter @matthennessey.)                       
Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan.

Good news for the ordinary people
| August 14, 2014 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

As I was making my evening dash for the train, down the elevator and onto the escalator that takes you into Grand Central, I ran into a brigade of cleaning ladies dressed in light blue smocks, who were entering the building for their shift just as the rest of us were racing out.

They were smiling and joking, unlike the escaping corporate hordes who were exhausted after another day in the salt mines. And as I hurried through the foyer of my office building, I noticed that a very senior executive of a very large corporation was also leaving and, for a brief moment, he crossed paths with the cleaning ladies.

He was a prominent figure in the business world with a salary and bonus potential in the millions, and seeing them together, I thought of Pope Francis and his message about the world’s inequitable distribution of wealth—85 of the richest people have as much as 3.5 billion people in the bottom half of the population.

God, however, is never unfair when it comes to “compensation.” He gives grace freely to all and is infinitely just with our eternal reward. I smiled to think the cleaning lady is as important to Christ as the CEO with a multi-million-dollar bonus, or the Oscar-winning actress or the president of a world super-power.

When we go face to face with Jesus for our personal judgment, the women making little more than minimum wage will be judged the same as the rich and powerful, who instead of dusting desks, oversee corporations and countries. In fact, the cleaning lady might have an advantage. After all, it was Jesus who said the first will be last and the last will be first.

Author Anthony J. Paone, S.J., once wrote: “You may feel that your life is too small or unimportant to deserve much appreciation or respect. Little as you may see in yourself worthy of admiration, you are a reflection of the spiritual nature of God. . . . It does not depend on your achievements, limitations or failures. This personal worth was bestowed on you by God’s own creative hand.”

God’s ways are not man’s, and I’m often reminded of the Old Testament story in which the prophet Samuel goes to the house of Jesse to anoint a king for Israel, and as the patriarch brings out his seven sons, God rejects them all.

Samuel is perplexed until God tells him, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Samuel asks Jesse if he has any other sons, and then he meets David, a ruddy youth tending sheep, who hardly seemed like “kingly” material. God, however, had different plans.

Thank goodness God doesn’t judge as the world does because that means all of us low achievers by society’s standards won’t have to worry about not having enough academic honors, community awards, sports trophies, employee of the month citations or stock options when we go before Jesus.

Jesus levels the playing field. In the end, all the world’s praise and the length of our obituaries won’t get us any brownie points with the Eternal Judge. The lowly and humble will be judged the same as the high and the mighty . . . by how much they loved. There will be a lot of surprises and disappointments on that day.

We’ll want something to show in exchange for our eternal reward. If our hands are empty, how disappointing it will be to have wasted a lifetime with nothing to offer God for the gift of our life.

Raising our children to love Christ, enduring suffering and offering it up, showing compassion and sympathy to the despondent—these are the things that have meaning in the end, not elective office or a profitable bottom line or the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Everything we view as important in the world will be turned on its head.

The most wonderful thing is that God judges us fairly because “He looks at the heart” . . . of the rich, the poor, the executive, the janitor, the prime minister and the doorman. Yes, the first will be last and the last will be first. For my part, I’m staying close to the cleaning ladies.  

Joe Pisani has been a writer and editor for 30 years.

The Pattern
| August 14, 2014 • by By Thomas H. Hicks


By Thomas H. Hicks

There are times when I recite Edna St. Vincent Millay’s words, “Oh, world, I cannot hold thee close enough.” I have a sense of the beauty and majesty of things, see life as a great gift, a great good, a joyous thing—the sun and rain, nesting birds, morning light, romance, taking naps, standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in. The world is charged with goodness and love.

However, I cannot agree with Thoreau’s triumphant assertion that “surely joy is the condition of life.”

When I go among people, the pain of so many lays me low. Friend after friend has a sad tale to tell. Typical faces are lined deep with worry. Frankly, pain seems more the rule than the exception. “Nobody lives in Happyland,” as the actor Jon Hamm said in a recent People magazine article.

There are Tennyson’s words: “Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break” (“In Memoriam”).

The first of Buddha’s “four noble truths” is that existence is suffering. Was Buddha right? Of course he was. The suffering he speaks of courses through the world and always has. Everyone is suffering. It seems everyone can say with the Psalmist “they caught me, sorrow and distress” (Psalm 116).

Christianity uses the language of the Cross. The tree of the Cross blossoms eternally, bearing ever new fruit. There is the Carthusian motto: Orbs Revolvitur, Crux Stat (The Cross remains constant while the world turns).

Crucifixion is part of all our stories; we, too, are men and women of sorrow and acquainted with grief. God seems to treat his people so badly.

“Why did she have to suffer? She was such a good person.” How often we’ve heard that, as if goodness were a hedge against suffering. God’s mercy falls on the just and the unjust (Mt.5:45), so does suffering.

I don’t understand why the world should be run by so much torment. Could God not have arranged things better? So many people with terminal cancer, so many handicapped children, all the killers that run from multiple sclerosis to Parkinson disease to Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. There’s all the anguish that we all have to inevitably negotiate. How do we assess a God who invented both breathtaking sunrises and emphysema?

The author Oscar Wilde once said that there is enough suffering in any London lane to show that God’s love is fancy, not fact. How is this enormous tide of evil possible? What is the point of it all?

One cannot help asking—is the God who allows all this still truly Love? It is the ageless question. The answer is as remote as ever. There is no simple convincing answer. We’re put off by those who give pat and glib answers—who demonstrate a faith that doesn’t know how to shut up when the only decent response is silence. How annoying is the shallow optimism of those who tell us “Whatever you do, don’t look sad. Don’t say gloomy things. Don’t refer to suffering and tragedy. We are happy, happy, happy . Come brethren, joy, victory, Halleluiah!”  

Ideas about suffering as a punishment for sin or divine discipline or testing are unsatisfying. What lesson learned or character forged could be worth the anguish? Would you as a loving parent inflict your child with terminal cancer for any reason? Would you make someone sick in order to test their loyalty?

Talk of how suffering and evil are the result of nature acting naturally and human beings acting freely also does not satisfy. We err in attempting to say wise and universal things about suffering.
The famous Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, in his Theological Investigations (Vol.19, 1983) calls suffering a true mystery beyond human intelligence. It is part of the hidden side of God that we are to accept along with God’s manifest goodness. Rahner writes that even in the Beatific Vision, that side of God will remain a mystery.

Why did God create a world so structured as to be productive of so much pain? There is one insight I’ve come across that helps me. It has to do with the idea that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the pattern—the pattern for everything. Everything can be and is transformed, no matter how horrible, how painful. It can experience a resurrection. The mystery of death turning into resurrection is the work of God. That’s part of God’s job description.

It is the Paschal Mystery—through death to life. It is the pattern of reality. It is possibly the mystery of faith. Life consists of a series of dyings followed by a resurrection. We will not stay with the dying. New life comes out of the broken places.

I know a woman whose son has cerebral palsy and has required her constant care, “My son can’t walk or talk or feed himself. But God has been really good to me.”

The same God who can bring Easter out of Good Friday will bring each of us a surprise second act. God does send us roses. Death and resurrection plays out in our lives over and over again. Dying and rising are always going on in our lives. Everywhere Easter emerges from Good Friday. It is the way life is. It is the pattern of the world. We will not stay with the dying; it is the prelude to a resurrection. Chaos resolves into harmony. The night will give way to a crimson-crested east.

And though the last light off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and
With ah! bright wings.

(G.M. Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”)

Thomas Hicks is a member of St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull.

Not left behind
| August 14, 2014 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

Mary was assumed into heaven.

It’s one of the more difficult teachings for converts to grasp. But there are ways to approach the Assumption so that non-Catholics may come to believe.

In 1995, I wrote an article for Protestant newspapers called “Trends in Christian Fiction” that considered the possibility that a Christian fiction book might hit the New York Times Bestseller List. I traveled to key Protestant publishers—Tyndale, Crossway, Moody, Victor and Bethany House—to interview editors. The publishers handed me galleys, and they all believed their books had that crossover appeal. Only one actually did. Left Behind was on the publishing turnpike back then, and it was among the galleys I brought home with me after that Chicago-Minneapolis trip. Tyndale released the book within six months of my visit, and the book (and subsequent series) was a huge success.

Nicholas Cage and Lea Thompson will now star in a screen adaptation of that book. The movie opens October 3, 2014. So the Left Behind craze continues.

I have one question.

And it isn’t about whether or not the idea of “Rapture” is biblical. My question has nothing to do with Christians disappearing when Christ returns. I’m not going to take the time to explain why Catholic teaching on eschatological things is solid and Left Behind theology is Hollywood science fiction.

No. I’m pondering something else.

Why is it so easy for people to believe that Jesus Christ will return and “rapture” those who love him, leaving behind the rest of the world, but those same people find it impossible to believe that Jesus Christ came for his mother and assumed her, body and soul, into heaven?

Why is that harder to believe?

When I ponder the glorious Assumption of Mary into heaven, I have to smile. It fits. It makes sense. A perfect and loving son would do that if he could.  A divine son did do it because he could.

Jesus Christ looked upon his mother, and Love broke through the veil.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, would not let his mother’s body know corruption. Not this mother who was so carefully created—so immaculately formed.

In May, I traveled to the Holy Land. We visited many places, but one place that stands out in my mind is Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.

Let me take you there for just a moment. Step with me into the Tomb of King David. Let’s pray there, together. Let’s think of David’s descendent, the Christ, who was given an eternal throne.

Now, let me lead you just a few steps from the place where David is buried. There, you will find the doors to Dormition Abbey. According to tradition, Mary fell asleep and was assumed into heaven from this spot.

There is a place in Ephesus that also makes this claim, but many Catholic sources say Mount Zion is more likely. And I agree.

It is so fitting that the one who is called “Daughter Zion” and mother of David’s eternal heir should end her earthly life here—and be visited by the Lord who lovingly laid claim to his mother.

Come to me, my beloved mother. Come and see the place I have prepared.

With angelic shouts and trumpet blast, she was raised and crowned Queen. Earth was silent. But heaven erupted with great jubilation.

Why is it so easy to imagine a silly story about Jesus coming to earth and Christians across the world disappearing? Airplanes crashing as pilots disappear into thin air. Cars crashing as drivers disappear. Students leaving behind open books and laptops? Why is that easier to imagine, but Mary’s Assumption seems far-fetched?

I stood in the crypt of Dormition Abbey. I thought of King David’s bones, which were just a few steps away. And yet, in this crypt, there are no bones. Mary’s body is not here. And nobody has claimed to have Mary’s remains. Why? Because there are no remains.

In fact, the disagreement about a possible site for the Assumption exists because there are no bones to settle the matter. The dueling claim underscores the reality of the Assumption. She is not here—or there!

Yes, Jesus Christ will return again. And he will raise the living and the dead. It won’t follow the plotline of a Hollywood thriller. But there is precedent for our rising to meet the Lord. Although Mary’s Assumption is unique, the one who assumed his own mother will return—for us. The dead in Christ will be raised to new life. But the unfaithful won’t be “left behind”—although they probably will wish they had been left. Earth is preferable to eternal separation from God. The Bible tells us we will be divided—the faithful going one way, the unfaithful another.

Leave the Left Behind hoopla in Hollywood.

Turn your eyes to the Holy Land, or Ephesus, or even toward heaven. And celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What Jesus did for Mary—in a unique and special way —gives us hope that one day Christ will return. So let’s model our lives after the Blessed Mother, remaining faithful until the end.                    

Denise Bossert is a convert and a syndicated columnist. Her column has been published in 60 diocesan newspapers.

Emily Fedorko: Sudden Loss and a Path to Healing
| August 14, 2014 • by By Fr. Colin McKenna


GREENWICH—Boats are a part of growing up in Greenwich. The Greenwich coastline stretches from the New York State border to Stamford.

Along the way it is dotted with numerous yacht clubs and marinas. The town has three magnificent public beach areas, and one of them is reachable only by ferry, which operates in the summer months. A ticket on the ferry is only 25 cents so it is likely that nearly every child who grows up in Greenwich has taken that boat ride to Belle Island Beach.

Before World War II, Greenwich harbor was a vital port for local commerce. Farmers, merchants and manufacturers would pay a premium to have their goods shipped to New York City from Greenwich because the transit time was much less than further up the coast. Greenwich has always benefitted from its proximity to New York City. In fact, legend has it that the stone for the Brooklyn Bridge was cut from a quarry in the Byram section of town and floated by barge to the construction site. A baseball field now lies in that abandoned quarry, with a backdrop of sheer cliffs looming over it.

At the southern end of Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich harbor is now home to some enormous yachts that rarely seem to head for the open seas. Perhaps they serve as weekend homes for New York City residents. In any case, they bring another type of commerce to Greenwich.

Greenwich residents see boats whenever they go near the water. With so many boats in town, it would be very normal for a group of young people to want to spend a day on the water in a powerboat. One of Emily Fedorko’s friends had the use of a powerboat that was good for waterskiing and tubing, and she and three others went tubing from the Old Greenwich Yacht Club on August 6, a beautiful summer day.

That day, as we now know, ended in tragedy, with the sudden loss of Emily’s life when she was hit by the boat’s propeller in a devastating accident. Emily’s life is lost, and another girl suffered a serious leg injury, but the lives of the girls on the boat, especially the driver, are also forever changed.

We all suffer regrets, and the older we get, the more regrets we have. When Frank Sinatra sang that he had too few regrets to mention, I always found that notion one of the biggest lies ever uttered in pop culture. Frank Sinatra is a great talent, but no one has too few regrets to mention. The main problem is that few people want to hear our regrets, unless we are paying someone to listen to us, and just because we are paying for it does not mean they want to hear us.

Regrets are real and they are dangerous too. Some people are given to ruminating about their regrets and this can lead to feelings of depression, if one is vulnerable to them. We can only imagine the number and depth of the regrets in the Greenwich community today: If only we had not gone boating; if only we did not have that boat; if only it was raining; if only I could see her one more time; etc. The only remedy for these troubling thoughts is time and prayer, and even then, the pain will not be gone, but hopefully tolerable.

Last night, the Presbyterian Church of Old Greenwich hosted an evening of prayer and fellowship to help those in the community who wanted to come together to express grief and experience some healing after such a sudden loss and tragic death. Charles Caviola, director of youth ministries at the church, and Kevin Chao, a staff member of the Young Life organization, directed the evening for the young people who attended, most of whom attend Greenwich High School.

The young people who were present had played sports with Emily and had acted in theatrical productions with her. They also knew her from attending school with her. Even those who did not know her well expressed shock at her sudden loss. One girl said, “That could have been any of us out there boating.” One girl who played lacrosse with Emily said that the lacrosse team was already talking about incorporating something on their uniforms in her memory.

When the young participants were given the choice to go off on their own, some chose to go to the chapel, where many adults were in prayer, and some chose to go to a room dedicated to silence. The largest group, however, chose to go to a room where they were able to process their emotions through writing on a white board and by writing  personal letters to Emily’s parents and siblings.

The Presbyterian Church of Old Greenwich is to be greatly commended for offering this opportunity to promote healing within the community. Those who attended the evening will probably be among those who help make this coming school year one in which Emily is remembered in special ways, especially on the lacrosse team and in theatrical productions.

Fr. Chip rides in 9/11 motorcycle tribute
| August 14, 2014


BROOKFIELD—Fr. George “Chip” O’Neill, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Brookfield, is among hundreds of riders participating in the Motorcycle Tribute for America’s 9/11 Foundation.

The ride both honors the fallen heroes and raises scholarship funds for the children of active First Responders. Over the past 9 years, the Foundation has awarded over $150,000 dollars in scholarships to over 75 children of Active First Responders." We are now beginning our 13th year.

Fr. O’Neill, an avid cyclist, is uploading videos and picture on his Facebook page. The riders are travelling to the 9/11 Memorial site in Pennsylvania. They will then go to the Pentagon and to thenational memorial site in New York City.

Click here to watch a video introducing purpose of ride and actual footage of what it looks like

Click here to view his Facebook page

Bishop Caggiano's letter to the faithful
| August 14, 2014


Dear Friends in Christ,

During the past month, we have witnessed the terrible events unfolding in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, especially with the ongoing genocide that is being inflicted upon Christians and other minority groups in Iraq.

Pope Francis, our Holy Father, has asked Catholics around the world to pray for tens of thousands of Christians from villages in northeastern Iraq who were forced from their homes in the middle of the night by Islamic State militants. He has also appealed to the international community to take initiatives to put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, to take steps to protect those involved and threatened by violence and to ensure the necessary aid for so many displaced people whose fate depends on the solidarity of others.

In his appeal to the conscience of all people, Pope Francis said, "May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace. Let us pray in silence, asking for peace."

We cannot turn away from the struggles of Christians and others in the Middle East  who have faced the destruction, burning and looting of churches, homes and businesses and have  fled for their lives amidst great violence.

In this spirit of solidarity, I call upon all Catholics in our diocese to pray for peace in every area where there is violence and strife.

More specifically, I have asked every parish to include specific intentions at Mass for an end to all violence, war and retaliation in both the Holy Land and larger Middle East, and the Ukraine to offer holy hours to ask that people fervently pray for peace and justice throughout the region and in our world.
May the Lord continue to bless you and your families.

+ Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Old Age: Shipwreck or Fine Wine?
| August 13, 2014 • by By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.


The month of September begins and ends with a focus on the elderly. Since 1978 the first Sunday after Labor Day has been celebrated as National Grandparents Day; this year’s observance falls on September 7. Later in the month, senior citizens will gather in Rome for a special celebration in their honor at the invitation of Pope Francis. The meeting, entitled “The Blessing of a Long Life,” will take place in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, September 28.

In announcing the event, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, stated, “The day is based on the assumption that old age is not a shipwreck but a vocation.” A shipwreck? I suspect what Archbishop Paglia meant was not that advanced age itself is a disaster, but that society’s response to this stage of life is sadly adrift. He suggested that neither politics, economics, nor culture has developed an adequate approach to the contemporary individual needs of older persons or the growing population of seniors as a whole.

The inadequacy of society’s response to the needs and problems of the elderly is nothing new. In 1982, Saint John Paul II suggested that society needed to be “jerked into awareness” with regard to the elderly in order to foster “a vision of the old which is genuinely human and Christian, a vision of old age as a gift of God to the individual, the family and society.” More than 30 years later, the ship seems to have completely lost direction! Pope Francis has deplored our “throw-away culture” and a “hidden euthanasia” which silences and marginalizes the old. “A nation that does not respect grandparents,” he said, “has no future because it has no memory.”

Pope Francis often evokes the memory of his own paternal grandmother, whom he visited each day as a child and to whom he credits his early spiritual formation. The Pope feels that we live in a time when the elderly do not count. Yet, he asserts, “the elderly pass on history, doctrine, faith and they leave them to us as an inheritance. They are like a fine vintage wine; that is, they have within themselves the power to give us this noble inheritance.”

In a homily about the elderly Eleazar, who accepted death rather than give bad example to the young (Maccabees 6:18-31), our Holy Father related the following story he heard as a young child and never forgot: “There was a father, mother and their many children, and a grandfather lived with them. He was quite old, and when he was at table eating soup, he would get everything dirty: his mouth, the napkin … it was not a pretty sight! One day the father said that given what was happening to the grandfather, from that day on, he would eat alone. So he bought a little table, and placed it in the kitchen. And so the grandfather ate alone in the kitchen while the family ate in the dining room. After some days, the father returned home from work and found one of his children playing with wood. He asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ to which the child replied, ‘I am playing carpenter.’ ‘And what are you building?’ the father asked. ‘A table for you, papa, for when you get old like grandpa.’ ”

Although each of us alone may be powerless to influence policies or economic decisions regarding the elderly, we can change the culture in our own families. To begin, do not let the month of September pass without pausing to reflect and thank God for the precious legacy you have received from grandparents or other significant elders in your life. And then, be sure to set a place at your table for the elderly, regardless of their limitations. Teach your children to reverence the old and one day you will be considered fine vintage wine in the heart of your own family. You will experience the blessing of a long life!

Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Bishop Caggiano urges prayers for peace
| August 13, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Caggiano has urged all Catholics throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport to pray for peace during a time of humanitarian crisis and religious persecution in the Middle East and other sites across the globe.

Click to read Bishop Caggiano's letter to the faithful

A Christian woman who fled from the violence in Mosul, Iraq,
holds her daughter as her baby sleeps June 27 at a shelter. 
(CNS photo/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

In a letter to all pastors, priests and deacons, Bishop Caggiano has asked that parishes include specific intentions at every Mass for an end to all violence, war and retaliation in both the Middle East and the Ukraine.  

“In a spirit of solidarity, I call upon all Catholics in our diocese to pray for peace in every part of the world where there is violence and strife,” the bishop said.  

Additionally he has requested that parishes provide holy hours “where the faithful can come and pray fervently for peace and justice throughout the region and in our world. “

“During the past month, we have witnessed the terrible events unfolding in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, especially the ongoing genocide that is affecting Christians and other minority groups in Iraq,” said Bishop Caggiano.

“Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to pray for the tens of thousands of Christians from villages in northeastern Iraq who were forced from their homes. He has also appealed to the international community to take initiatives to put an end to the senseless violence and take the steps necessary to assist those who have been displaced. Above all, the Holy Father has asked us to pray for peace.”

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, Chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has also asked the U.S. bishops to invite the people of their dioceses to pray for peace in the Middle East. In making the request, he has sent the text of a prayer written by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako. The full text of Patriarch Sako’s prayer for peace follows:

The plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.
Glory be to you forever.

Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Islamic State
| August 12, 2014 • by By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn the "barbarity" and "unspeakable criminal acts" of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying a failure to do so would jeopardize the future of interreligious dialogue.

Children flee violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State
in Sinjar, Iraq, August 10. The Vatican called on all religious groups
August 12 to denounce crimes committed by the Islamic State
in the name of religion. (CNS/Reuters)

"The plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic communities that are numeric minorities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue and everyone of goodwill," said a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released by the Vatican August 12.

"All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and must denounce the invocation of religion to justify them," the statement said. "Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility would remain to the interreligious dialogue patiently pursued in recent years?"

The document noted that the "majority of Muslim religious and political institutions" have opposed the Islamic State's avowed mission of restoring a caliphate, a sovereign Muslim state under Islamic law, to succeed the Ottoman Caliphate abolished after the founding of modern Turkey in 1923.

The Vatican listed some of the "shameful practices" recently committed by the "jihadists" of the Islamic State, which the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist group. Among the practices cited:

— "The execrable practice of beheading, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places."

— "The choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of tribute or exodus."

— "The abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as war booty."

— "The imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation," or female genital mutilation.

"No cause can justify such barbarity and certainly not a religion," the document said.

"Religious leaders also are called on to exercise their influence with the rulers for the cessation of these crimes, the punishment of those who commit them and the restoration of the rule of law throughout the country, ensuring the return home of the deported," the Vatican said. "These same leaders should not fail to emphasize that the support, financing and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible."

Knights of Columbus announces fund to help christians threatened with extinction in Iraq
| August 12, 2014


NEW HAVEN—The Knights of Columbus announced today that is establishing a fund to assist those—particularly Christians as well as other religious minorities—facing a horrific and violent persecution and possible extinction in Iraq and the surrounding regions.

The Knights has pledged an initial $500,000 and will match an additional $500,000 in donations from the public.

"The unprovoked and systematic persecution and violent elimination of Middle East Christians, as well as other minority groups, especially in Iraq, has created an enormous humanitarian crisis," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "Pope Francis has asked the world for prayers and support for those affected by this terrible persecution, and we are asking our members, and all people of good will, to pray for those persecuted and support efforts to assist them by donating to this fund."

Anderson added: "It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia – simply for their faith. It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can."

Those seeking to assist with the relief efforts can donate to K of C Christian Refugee Relief by visiting or by sending checks or money orders to: K of C Christian Refugee Relief, Knights of Columbus Charities, P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966.

Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a charitable organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, and 100 percent of all donations collected by Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., will be used for humanitarian assistance for those Christians – as well as other religious minorities –being persecuted or displaced in Iraq and the surrounding region.

The Knights of Columbus has a long history both of providing humanitarian relief and have done so following Sept. 11, 2001; last year's typhoons in the Philippines; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy; tornadoes nationwide; flooding in Mexico; and tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus has also long supported persecuted Christians. Throughout the 1920s, the Knights provided humanitarian assistance and created international awareness of the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico.

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization with more than 1.8 million members worldwide.

Dedicated to charity, Knights last year provided more than $170 million and more than 70 million hours to charitable causes, assisting substantially with several humanitarian disasters from North America to Asia.

CONTACT: Andrew Walther, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 203.824.5412; Or Joseph Cullen, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 203.415.9314

Emily Fedorko: In Loving Memory
| August 11, 2014 • by By Fr. Colin McKenna


STAMFORD—Between her wake and her funeral Mass, approximately 1,000 people personally paid their respects to Emily Fedorko, 16, who tragically lost her life in a boating accident in Greenwich on August 6.

Her parents, Joseph and Pamela, and her siblings Joey and Kelsey, bravely and warmly welcomed all mourners who attended Emily's wake, including Bishop Frank Caggiano.

At the funeral Mass, held at St. Clement's in Stamford, Emily's immediate and extended family led the packed church in prayer. With every seat taken, people lined the walls of the church from front to back and all standing room in the back of the church was filled. Of the 500 or so mourners in attendance, two-thirds were teenagers, many from Greenwich High School, where Emily was slated to begin her Junior year in a few weeks.

Father Joseph Malloy, pastor of St. Clement's, was the principal celebrant of the Mass. He was joined by three other priest concelebrants. Extended family members did the readings, presented the gifts and served as pall bearers.

Father Malloy gave a moving, heart-felt homily, directed mainly to Emily's parents and siblings. He said to them, "We cannot even imagine what you are experiencing and feeling right now. Your feelings of loss must be so intense that we could not possibly fathom them. And undoubtedly you are asking that question to which we have no answer: Why?"

While no human being can comfort us with a reason why Emily's life was taken so suddenly and tragically, Father Malloy assured the mourners that the answers to our questions belong to faith. He took a moment to explain to the many non-Catholics present about the Church's belief in heaven, the sacraments and in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In faith, Father Malloy stated, "We can believe in hope that Emily is already living in heaven with God." He encouraged everyone present to pray for Emily and to ask for her prayers in return.

Before Communion, Father Malloy invited non-Catholics who would like a blessing to come up for Communion and fold their arms across their chest, which is a posture that indicates the desire for a blessing. During Communion, many people in attendance took advantage of Father Malloy's kind invitation to come up for a blessing from one of the priests.

After Communion, close family friend Gary Dell'Abate gave a eulogy that was stirring, emotional and light-hearted all at once. He related a story about how Emily was unequaled as a cheerleader. She was also a talented athlete who excelled at gymnastics and lacrosse. Her talents extended to the classroom as an high honors student and to the stage where she recently played Glinda—the good witch—in Greenwich High School's production of The Wizard of Oz.

As often happens at funeral Masses, when the casket is moved up the aisle after the final blessing, the sadness becomes overwhelming for many people. Many, many tears were shed for Emily as her body was moved from the church to the hearse for burial at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich.

Emily had received all of her sacraments at St. Clement's and had recently completed a significant number of community service hours for the parish. In her good works, Emily gave witness to Christ. Father Malloy said that Emily helped make everyone's life better by her helpful nature and effusive personality. He challenged everyone in attendance to honor Emily's memory by imitating her and helping to improve the lives of others by making the world itself a better place.

If you would like to leave an expression of sympathy for the family online, you may sign the guestbook or visit the funeral home facebook page at:

Donations can be made in her memory to the: Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation, PO Box 72, Cos Cob, CT 06807.

Warmth and Welcome First Fairfield County “Mob Mass”
| August 11, 2014 • by By Katie Scarlett Calcutt


BRIDGEPORT—The First Mass Mob has come and gone, and I am still riding high. 230 people filled St. Peter Church in Bridgeport. There are towns that size where I come from. Nice work and thanks for coming out!

The lucky ones who were able to attend were rewarded with a beautiful church, and a beautiful liturgy. Wowza. The stained glass windows are their prized treasure, and rightly so. Zettler windows like this are famed the world over, and tucked away on Colorado Ave. is our own set depicting the highlights of Peter’s life and Christ’s. And while the windows are a “can’t miss”, I found myself finding little spots all over the church full of great artistic care.

The Stations of the Cross are mosaics that look like they were set into the wall. Ornate wooden carvings adorn the confessionals. High above sightline rest four stone statues, recessed into the wall. They must be huge, but they were so high up, you had to strain your neck to see them.

I was telling all of this to a third-generation parishioner after Mass, and he said he remembers seeing the ceiling beams up close as a little boy and each one was etched to match the pews below. He said you can’t even tell this craftsmanship exists when you are sitting many feet below. But it is up there. Being beautiful just because. And he wondered how the blue-collar Irishmen who built the church possibly paid for it, with its great attention to detail.

And I thought: that is what love does. It pours itself into the details. And it is a beautiful thought that generations ago, the families that built St. Peter tried to give God back a bit of the love He showers so freely on us. As a child, I remember seeing a microscopic image of a snowflake with its intricate crystal patterns and thinking “I’m glad someone took a picture, so this wasn’t wasted.” But think: everyday millions of snowflakes fall, melt, and no one ever sees them. And we are told each one is different, unique, beautiful. And God does this because Beauty is His nature and His language. So I wonder if those parishioners long ago said: “Let’s give God some beams He can really love. Even if He is the only one to see them. Because, man, That Guy gives us snowflakes.”

If love is in the details, than it was surely in the heart of our gracious host Msgr. Villamide and his parishioners. I hadn’t expected this part of the Mass Mob experience: the warmth, the joy, the hospitality from all at St. Peter. They knew we were coming. And they were ready for us. The choir was big and rehearsed! The incense wafted in clouds! The men in suits: SO MANY MEN IN SUITS! They love their church and they were pumped to share it. And we were all treated to coffee and cookies afterwards. My three year old was really interested in when we were going home, until he saw the cookies. Then he was really interested in who was going to eat all those cookies. Needless to say, we took one (or two or three) for the team.

So a big thanks to St. Peter Church. It was clear you worked hard to make the day a special one. And stay tuned. We’ll unveil our next site soon. And, wherever you are, oh parishioners of Mass Mob 2.0, you’ve got a big act to follow.

Click here to view the slideshow!

Mass Mob of Fairfield County:
Facebook: Mass Mob Fairfield County
email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Iraq: CRS, Caritas Reach Displaced Families
| August 11, 2014 • by By J. Linder at


IRAQ—Escalating violence in northern and central Iraq has caused devastation and mass displacement of 1.2 million people since January.

Fear looms as the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS) has taken control of large swaths of the Ninewa, Salah Al-Din and Diyala provinces.

Religious minorities, including Christians, Shia Muslims and Turkmen, have been singled out for attack. On July 18, ISIS issued threats directly to Christians in Mosul, resulting in the sudden flight of the remaining 500 Christian families to safer areas of Ninewa.

The journey is not without danger: Families are stripped of all possessions at ISIS checkpoints. Many are living in empty houses, schools, clinics, church compounds and abandoned buildings, with living conditions deteriorating.

CRS/Caritas Response
CRS is providing humanitarian relief to 3,500 displaced Iraqi families in Ninewa. CRS works in close partnership with Caritas Iraq and is establishing a new joint office in Erbil, in addition to three locations in northern Iraq.

Impact to Date
In June and July, CRS/Caritas Iraq provided 2,000 displaced families from Mosul with food, bedding and hygiene supplies.

A Call for Collective Action
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families are in peril and in need of meaningful interventions to prevent further catastrophe. CRS is seeking support for humanitarian efforts, which are critical to protecting and saving lives immediately, as well as preparing for the needs ahead.

Pope Francis launched an appeal for unity, calling for “security, peace and a future of reconciliation and justice, where all Iraqis, whatever their religion, could build their nation together, creating a model of coexistence.” Iraqi bishops also issued a statement in July pleading for increased humanitarian assistance and protection of minorities.

CRS and Partner Response Strategy
Over the next 6 months, CRS will provide the following support to 30,000 families, with a commitment of $650,000 in private funds. Based on the evolving needs on the ground and our ability to identify additional resources, CRS and Caritas Iraq will expand these critical efforts to more families and communities in dire need.

Food, Water and Essential Living Supplies
With people on the move and robbed of their belongings, many have no means to purchase the basics. In coordination with the United Nations and peer agencies, CRS and Caritas will provide food, water and living supplies.

Psychological and Social Support, and Trauma Healing
Emotional trauma is high, especially among minorities who were the target of attacks. CRS and Caritas will carry out puppet methodology for trauma healing and the building of peaceful relations. This will involve training of staff and volunteers on skills and practices proven successful in similar backdrops. Activities will engage children as well as their parents.

Education for Internally Displaced Children
The Ministry of Education requested help to ensure that all children are able to take their end-of-year exams in mid-August. Many children have missed months of school. CRS and Caritas will provide children with education and exam preparation, while helping schools with the influx of children.

Preparation for Longer-Term Resettlement
CRS/Caritas is preparing for the long-term reality facing families: resettling in new locations, the onset of winter, safe and dignified shelter, and livelihood options, such as cash- for- work and vocational training.

A great day for the St. Roch Festival
| August 11, 2014


GREENWICH—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was among those in Greenwich yesterday to observe the traditional St. Roch procession, which ended with Mass and the traditional Italian Fest to celebrate the Church’s patron.

After parishioners and other Greenwich residents processed through the streets of Chickahominy yesterday for over two hours, they returned to St. Roch Church in time for the 11:30 Mass, which Bishop Caggiano celebrated with Fr. Matt Mauriello, pastor.

Many of the first parishioners came to Chickahominy from a small village in Southern Italy, where they prayed to San Rocco as their protector.

“The St. Roch procession is an event that is steeped in history and tradition in the town and the parish,” said Bishop Caggiano.

“Known as the patron saint of the sick and the plague-stricken, St. Roch is offers a beautiful and enduring example of caring for the sick and vulnerable that is as relevant in our time as it was in his.”

In a statement before the procession, the Bishop said that at a time when we are inundated with the voices of the here and now, the joyful procession through the neighborhood is a reminder of how tradition nourishes us even across cultures and continents.

“And that the deep roots of faith bring grace and meaning to the experience of living and celebrating our good fortune.”

In addition to celebrating St. Roch, the annual festival is a fund raiser for the parish and includes, food, games, entertainment and more for the whole family.

Click here to view a slideshow from the festival!

Biographies for Sisters of Life Professing Vows, 2014
| August 06, 2014


  1. Sr. Maris Stella, will profess her perpetual vows as a Sister of Life on August 6, 2014. She was raised in Ludlow, MA. Sr. Maris Stella graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2001 and was commissioned as an officer in the Navy. She served for 5 years on ships and in operations and was stationed in San Diego, CA and Naples Italy. Sr. Maris Stella entered the Sisters of Life in September of 2006 and professed her first vows on August 6, 2009. Sr. Maris Stella currently serves in the Visitation Mission in New York City, through which she accompanies women whose pregnancies have created crisis in their lives, seeking to bring them the spiritual, emotional, and temporal support they need to choose life for themselves and their children. She is also collecting stories of the life of Cardinal O’Connor as the groundwork for a biography about the Founder of the Sisters of Life. Her previous missions include serving as assistant to the Postulant Director of the Sisters of Life. She is the daughter of Peter and Elaine Karalekas and the second of four children: Peter (and wife Jennifer), Stephen (and wife Andrea), and Patrick.
  2. Sr. Maria Filumena, 31, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. Sr. Filumena was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Auckland and a master’s degree in social work from Massey University (Palmerston North, New Zealand). Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was a worked as a social worker with the Open Home Foundation and served as the Residential Team Leader at Catholic Discipleship College. Sr. Maria Filumena is the daughter of Paul Geaney and Marilyn Church. She has two sisters: Laura and Rachel.
  3. Sr. Mary Pieta, 29, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. She was raised in Fargo, North Dakota. Sr. Mary Pieta earned a bachelor’s degree in speech, language and hearing science at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she served as a FOCUS missionary, sharing the Catholic faith with college students. Sr. Mary Pieta is the daughter of Patrick and Brenda Breen. She has six siblings: Jim (and wife Laura), Aaron (and wife Sarah), Josie, Sam, Madeline, and Miriam.
  4. Sr. Mary Margaret Hope, 27, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. She was raised in Toronto, Canada. Sr. Mary Margaret Hope studied astrophysics and astronmy in college, earning degrees from Queen’s University (BSC) in Kingston, Ontario and Harvard University (MA) in Cambridge, MA. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was a graduate student in a Ph.D. program at Harvard University. Sr. Mary Margaret Hope is the daughter of Reginald and Mary McLean. She has one brother, Jason (and wife Aidan).
  5. Sr. Josephine Rose, 27, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. She was raised in Milton, VT. Sr. Josephine Rose earned a degree in religious studies and sociology from St. Michael’s College (Colchester, VT). Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was working for the Diocese of Burlington. Sr. Josephine Rose is the daughter of Steve and Lori Daudelin. She has one brother: Christopher (and wife Megan).
  6. Sr. Angelina Marie, 27, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. She was raised in Youngstown, OH. Sr. Angelina Marie earned a degree in Spanish language and literature from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was served as a FOCUS missionary, sharing the Catholic faith with college students. Sr. Angelina Marie is the daughter of Gary and Sherree Zamary. She has three siblings: Frank (and wife Katie), Marisa, and Gary.
  7. Sr. Faith Marie, 26, will profess her first vows as a Sister of the Life on August, 6 2014. She was raised in Glenview, IL. Sr. Faith Marie earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was a grad student in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois. Sr. Faith Marie is the daughter of Ned and Gail Zerwic and one of five children: Ned, Tim, Mary Beth, and Melissa.

Sisters of Life
| August 06, 2014


STAMFORD—On a beautiful Wednesday morning, August 6, at St. John’s Basilica, seven Sisters of Life made their Profession of Vows before hundreds of family, friends, clergy, and sister religious.

The Mass of Consecration was slated to begin at 11:00 a.m., with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano as principal celebrant and homilist, but by 10:00 a.m., the grounds of St. John’s and the sidewalks around the church were already flowing with attendees and participants.

Outdoor face-to-face Confession stations were set up on the lawn areas in front of and beside the church. Lines of penitents were long as the time for Mass drew closer. Those who would rather use traditional confessionals had that option within the church.


There was a great sense of joy, excitement and anticipation in the air as the attendees arrived at the church. Many of the Sisters of Life were circulating in the crowd outside the church and handing out programs at the doors of the church. Joyful reunions abounded as friends, family, invitees and other attendees met each other at the doors of the church and within the vestibule.

A large chorale, composed of different singing groups was practicing in the choir loft along with musicians of various instruments.

The program for the Mass itself was ten-pages in length and included quite a bit of Latin chant. The cover of the program included a picture of a young mother with her child – a modern rendering of the Madonna – and the charism of the Sisters of Life: Consecrated for the Protection and enhancement of the sacredness of human life.

Sisters Of Life

St. John's was filled to capacity for the Mass.

When the Mass began, nearly 70 Sisters of Life joined the seven who were to make their profession of vows in the front pews of the Church. Some 80 priests processed into the sanctuary to concelebrate the Mass along with the bishop. Between the sacred music, the solemn procession and the sheer number of Sisters in solidarity with one another, it was truly a moving liturgical event.


At the end of the Mass, directing his attention to those who had made their profession of vows during the Mass, Bishop Caggiano prayed: “God inspires all holy desires and brings them to fulfillment. May He protect you always by His grace, so that you may fulfill the duties of your vocation with a faithful heart.”

After the Mass of Profession, all were invited to a reception at Villa Maria Guadalupe, the Stamford mission and retreat house of the Sisters of Life. On the back cover of the program for the Mass, the Sisters included a few brief but poignant words: “We thank you for sharing in our joy this day. May God Bless you!”

Contact information and specialized helplines administered by the Sisters of Life include the following:

Vocations: 718.863.2264
Pregnancy Help: 212.737.0221
Healing after abortion: 866.575.0075 (toll free)
Young adult retreats: 203.329.1492

One of the Sisters of Life - an accomplished cellist - practices in the choir loft before Mass.
Listen to Bishop Caggiano's homily at Mass of Profession for Sisters of Life


Desperation of people in Gaza spurs violence, say cardinal, patriarch
| August 05, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The president of Caritas Internationalis suggested Israeli and Hamas leaders pick up a pair of binoculars so they could see that "most of your victims are innocent people."

Sister Gilbert Saliba, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph
of the Apparition, visits Nidal Alawi, 11, of Gaza in the intensive
care unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem July 30. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, president of the Vatican-based umbrella organization for national Catholic charities, said peace is impossible without reconciliation, and reconciliation requires recognizing each other as human beings.

"Israel and Hamas, why do you keep pointing out the speck in the eye of your brother while missing the plank in your own eye?" the cardinal asked in a statement published July 31.

"As Caritas," he said, "we pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for the Palestinian and Israeli families who have lost their children, mothers and fathers, and for those who have been killed. Our prayers are with the children who live in terror and whose mental scars will run deep long after this war is over."

Despite the violence, the cardinal prayed that Palestinians and Israelis "will remain free to believe in a future of justice and peace."

"This is the third war in five years between Israel and militants in Gaza," the cardinal said. "In the intervening years, Palestinians in Gaza have lived a life where water is scarce, much of their food comes from humanitarian organizations and where the dignity of a job is beyond many people's reach."

On Aug. 1, shortly after what was to be a 72-hour cease-fire, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem said temporary halts in fighting obviously are good, but unless Israel changes its policies toward Gaza, the desperation of residents will continue to lead to violence.

"If conditions in Gaza remain that of a desperate land under siege, where the only things that grow are fear and frustration that spur hatred," then a temporary cease-fire will have no lasting impact, he told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

"It almost seems as if the point is to make Gaza a factory for desperate people who are easy to transform into extremists ready for anything," the patriarch said.

The next step, he said, must be lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. "Even the tunnels" dug by Hamas and a primary target of Israel's military action, "are a product of the embargo. If the siege ends, if roads are opened and the free movement of persons and products is permitted, if people are allowed to fish in the sea" along the Gaza coast, then "no one will need to dig tunnels."

The patriarch did not say Hamas militants are innocent. In fact, he seemed to put part of the blame on them for the high percentage of victims who are children and women.

"Just think of the fact that of all the tunnels, Hamas never thought to build underground refuges for the people," he said.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
More Mother Teresa
| August 04, 2014


Mother Teresa on ways to practice humility:

  • Speak as little as possible about yourself
  • Mind your own business
  • Reject the desire to manage other peoples’ affairs
  • Avoid curiosity
  • Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully
  • Pass over the mistakes of others
  • Accept insults and injuries
  • Accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked
  • Do not seek to be specially loved or admired
  • Be kind and gentle even under provocation
  • Yield in discussion even though you may be right.

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| August 04, 2014


DARIEN—Msgr. Frank C. McGrath, pastor of St. John Parish in Darien, has been named Chaplain of Ave Maria Law School in Naples, Florida. 

He was given permission to accept the new assignment by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Msgr. McGrath, 70, has served as pastor of St. John Parish since June 5, 2006. He will begin his new position in Florida on September 24. The Parish was informed at all Masses on the weekend of July 31. Bishop Caggiano said he expects to announce a new pastor by the end of September.

“I have every confidence that Msgr. McGrath will serve the law school well in its pastoral needs with the same great energy, integrity, prayerful dedication and distinction that has characterized his ministry in our diocese,” said Bishop Caggiano.

Msgr. McGrath thanked Bishop Caggiano for giving him permission to accept a new assignment outside of the diocese.

“This has been a difficult decision for me because I love it here at St. John’s—the parish, the town, the people. I’ve been very happy as a priest here, and I was very excited about working together with parishioners on the synod under the great presence of our bishop. However, I felt a deep sense of calling about this new position,” said Msgr. McGrath who also serves as chaplain of police and fire in Westport and Noroton and for Rescue One in New York City.

Msgr. McGrath said he was asked to consider the new position by Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, who supports the law school through his Ave Maria Foundation and serves as the chairman of the board of governors of the school. Msgr. McGrath said that he first met Mr. Monaghan while serving at Christ the King Catholic Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the two became friends.

“It’s nothing I had planned on and my first instinct was to say not, but the more I reflected on the offer, the more I felt the Lord was calling me to this work, and I am willing to do it.”

Ave Maria School of Law has been named the best Catholic Law School in the United States for the devout by PreLaw Magazine. The winter 2014 issue of the magazine ranked AMSL first among 28 Catholic law schools.

The Ave Maria School of Law, founded in 1999, is a fully ABA-accredited Roman Catholic law school, located in Naples, Florida. Almost 400 students enrolled from a variety of states, countries, and undergraduate institutions. Classes commenced in the fall semester of 2000.

Msgr. McGrath said that he looks forward to serving as chaplain and meeting the pastoral care needs of students and faculty.

“Law students are very important. They often end up in politics or other leadership positions that can really serve the Lord well. I go there as a priest to help young people come to know better the Lord and appreciate the richness of the Catholic Church and her traditions.”

A native of Stratford, Msgr. McGrath completed his seminary studies at Saint Mary Seminary in Baltimore, MD, and was ordained by Bishop Walter W. Curtis in Saint Augustine Cathedral in 1970.

He was named Pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Westport in 1993, and also served as temporary administrator of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield in 2002.

Bishop William Lori appointed him Director of Clergy Personnel for the Diocese in 1999, and he held that post until 2006. During that time he also served as temporary administrator of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield in 2002 and as Pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford, where he served until receiving his appointment as Pastor of Saint John's in 2006. He is also Chaplain of the Legatus Chapter of Fairfield County.

In the past he has served as Parochial Vicar of Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport and Saint Cecilia Parish in Stamford, and Chaplain of the Cathedral Girls' High School (now Kolbe Cathedral) in Bridgeport.

His work in international Catholic Charismatic Renewal from 1977 to 1991 led to assignments in Brussels Belgium and Ann Arbor, Michigan before he returned to the diocese of Bridgeport in 1992.

In a phone conversation with Msgr. McGrath following his announcement to parishioners over the weekend, he said he was touched by the response of parishioners and their gratitude for his eight years of service. Many referred to him as the “turnaround guy,” who came to a parish in crisis after the late Fr. Jude Faye was removed as pastor for financial fraud.

“When I came here the job was to encourage parishioners, to preach the faith and to lead the faithful to the Lord,” Msgr. McGrath said, noting the is also proud of the “Alpha” program he brought to the parish of 1,800 families to further evangelization. “The program leads to a deeper life in Christ and relationship with him.” Fr. McGrath also introduced a popular Bible Study program with lay instructors.

"We’ll do our part. God will do the rest"
| July 31, 2014


BRAZIL—Watch this video celebrating the work of Msgr. Joseph Potter and the Diocese of Bridgeport at Remanso, Brazil.

In the spirit of Vatican II, The Most Rev. Walter W. Curtis, second Bishop of Bridgeport opened a diocesan mission in Remanso, a desperately poor area in the Northeast region of Brazil. More than 100,000 people had died there after a prolonged drought in 1959. Msgr. Joseph Potter served at the mission from 1965 to 1982 and returned there at the age of 70 in 1998 after retiring as pastor of St. Charles Parish in Bridgeport.

He continues to serve the poor along with Fr. Whitey McCall in the growing parish, which now includes three schools supported by the generosity of many parishes and individuals across the diocese. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano returned from a trip to Remanso in early July. The September issue of Fairfield County Catholic will profile the Bishop’s visit and offer and update of the missionary work and the great spirit of the Catholic people in Remanso. The video was made possible through the generosity of Tom O'Hara, President of International Marketing Systems in Shelton, CT.

Happy Saint Baldrick’s Day!
| July 30, 2014


BROOKFIELD—Everyone has heard of St. Patrick’s day, but St. Joseph Parish in Brookfield celebrates St. Baldrick’s day!

I used to be a red head.

What am I supposed to do?

Go easy on me.

Msgr. Edward Scull about to be shaved.

Girls selling popcorn.

Sponsored by St. Joseph School and spearheaded by parents Mike and Dianna Sobutka, St. Joseph’s aimed to raise nearly $25,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation that seeks to conquer childhood cancers.

Father Chip O’Neill, pastor of St. Joseph, thanked God for the beautiful weather on June 22, and encouraged those to be shaved and the shavers to do all for the glory of God! Father Chip and Msgr. Edward Scull were among those who volunteered to have their heads shaved to support childhood cancer research.

Those who were to have their heads shaved could raise money beforehand by asking for pledges for their soon-to-be baldness. Others could make a donation at the event before having their heads shaved in solidarity with children fighting cancer. Walk up “shavees” were asked to make a minimum donation of $20 in order to have their hair professionally coiffed. The volunteer shavers were all professional hairstylists.

This is the third year that St. Joseph’s has sponsored the St. Baldrick’s fundraising event. The previous two events yielded a total of $47,000 for childhood cancer research, and it is hoped that this year’s total will approach or surpass $25,000.

The St. Baldrick’s fundraising formulas are proving popular and effective. Shaving heads can also be practical. One woman watched admiringly as both her husband and her son received maintenance-free buzz-cuts for the warm summer weather.

As would be expected, most of those having their heads shaved were males. Girls and women seemed to be reluctant to embrace the shaved-head look. In any case, females who want to donate their hair for a cause (without having their heads shaved) have another outlet in the “Locks of Love” program that helps provide wigs for cancer patients.

(Anyone interested in sponsoring an event, volunteering time, making a donation, or having your head shaved in solidarity with cancer patients can find more information at

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Three Saints A Day
| July 30, 2014


Rome is a place that surpasses expectations. Whenever I have visited the Eternal City I have marveled at the wonderful things I have experienced and the people that I have encountered. My visit to the Holy Land was also spectacular, and its surpassing effects have stayed with me ever since. Ireland is similar in that I have never met anyone who said, “We just came back from Ireland and it was a very dull, uninspiring experience.” In some corners, Ireland itself is referred to as the Holy Land, but not in this blog! No, sir!

After my second year of major seminary I made a pilgrimage to Europe and the Holy Land. The academic year for my seminary concluded in early May and I was soon on a plane to Rome, my first stop. Shortly after I arrived, I experienced something that few people have even imagined: I saw three saints in one day.

It was a beautiful Wednesday in May, and in the morning, I took the Scavi Tour, which is an exploration of the ancient Roman graveyard that lies directly beneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. Around 60 years ago, the Church quietly began excavating these tombs and the network of cobblestone streets that connect them. Directly below the main altar of St. Peter’s, archaeologists discovered an ornate tomb with an inscription referring to Saint Peter. Today, pilgrims like me can see the bones of St. Peter enclosed in a glass case, in essentially the same spot in which he was entombed 2,000 years ago, now located some 60 feet directly below the main altar of the present St. Peter’s Basilica. Saint number one.

Later that afternoon, I had an audience with Pope Saint John Paul II. Well, there were about ten-thousand other people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the audience, but it was still called an audience! Saint number two.

After my audience with the Pope, I headed up to the North American College, which was still in session. Seminarian Tom Powers (now Monsignor Powers assigned to the Vatican) did something for me for which I will be forever grateful. He took me aside and quietly asked me, “Would you like to meet Mother Teresa?” We had to keep it fairly quiet because the whole seminary would probably want to meet her. Tom had some inside info, so I gladly accepted his invitation and traveled with a small group of seminarians to another part of the city where Mother Teresa’s order had a convent.

We had to wait quite some time, but that just made our anticipation build. Reportedly, she was meeting personally with the Pope (he probably penciled her in after my audience with him!). Finally, she arrived and she was very happy to see us. At the time she was about 87 years old, but she had amazing energy. One of her sisters got her a folding chair and we all sat on the floor around her. She spoke to us for about an hour and then she retrieved a handful of Miraculous Medals from somewhere within her garments. Each of us came up to her and she placed several Miraculous Medals in our hand.

When we were leaving, I retraced my steps so that I was the last one leaving and I held out my hand again. She acted like I must not have received any medals, so she gave me some more. What I really wanted to do was to make sure that I touched her hand as she placed the medals in my palm. After she gave me the medals, she looked directly into my eyes and said, “Remember me when you pour the drop of water into the chalice.”

This afternoon, I celebrated Mass in the Catholic Center chapel and I did remember her when I poured the water into the chalice. In fact, in my 15 years as a priest, I have remembered her at Mass many times. Technically, she has not yet been canonized, but at this point it is just a matter of time before she is proclaimed to be living with God in heaven.

When I returned to seminary after my summer pilgrimage, I discovered to my surprise that I was giving away the medals Mother gave me at a pretty fast pace. Usually, I would place one in a zip-lock baggy with a note explaining that the medal had been touched by Mother Teresa. After a few years, I was down to one remaining medal. Eventually, I gave it to someone whom I believed was in need of it more than me.

When Mother Teresa is proclaimed a saint, those Miraculous Medals will become second-class relics, meaning they were touched by the saint.

I don’t know why it was so easy for me to give those medals away. After all, I had rather selfishly made sure that I got more than any of the other seminarians. When it came time to give away the last one that I had in my possession, I had concluded that I had held them long enough and had benefited from them to the degree that God willed.

Perhaps it was easy to give away the relics because my hand did touch Mother Teresa’s hand, and she spoke to me personally and asked me to do something for her. Like a faithful friend, I will continue to remember Mother Teresa in my Masses, and I am confident that she is praying for me too.

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St. Mary Student to compete at U.S. Junior Olympics Track Finals
| July 30, 2014 • by by Sharon Palmer, Bethel News


HOUSTON—The heat index was 105 degrees at Turner Stadium in Houston, TX as athletes warmed up for their events at the US Junior Olympic Track Finals on Sunday, July 27.

Angela Saidman, an 8th grade student at St. Mary School, competed against the top runners in the country in the 13-14 year old 1500M race.

She had already placed 1st in New England for the event, which qualified her for Sunday’s national competition. After a successful qualifying run in the semi-finals, she moved on to the Finals, where she finished 7th in the country.

Senior-Senior Prom shared dances & memories
| July 30, 2014


NORWALK—On June 27, Maplewood Senior Living at Strawberry Hill was alive with the sights and sounds of Prom Night.

Music filled the atrium as the St. Philip Youth Group held a Senior-Senior Prom for the residents. The young men and women wore their prom dresses and suits, and pinned a corsage on each of the Seniors. The Seniors had looked forward to the event, having their hair and nails done during the week.

The younger generation showed the residents some typical dances and then took to the floor as sounds of the Big Bands, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and more played on. Appetizers and drinks were enjoyed and a king and queen were crowned. There was even a portable photo booth where memories could be captured.
One of the most interesting parts of the event was when the students and the residents spent time one-on-one, sharing memories and stories of their own proms, graduations and high school experiences. The students were surprised to find out that this was actually the first prom for many of the residents, as World War II had disrupted their high school years. Many of the gentlemen had left school to enter the military, thus missing their own proms. Others remember their prom being cancelled because of all the tumult of the time. The afternoon was a wonderful and special time for both generations, and all are already talking about the next one!

Area Youth Travel to Youngstown Ohio to Serve Inner City Children
| July 28, 2014


A group from two East Coast dioceses made the trip to the Project Grow Inner City Art Camp

CHICAGO—Youth from Darien, Conn., and Hicksville, N.Y., have just returned from a week long trip to Ohio where they helped serve disadvantaged children at the Project Grow Inner City Art Camp in Youngstown before moving on to a youth conference in Steubenville.


ART CAMP HELPS BUILD THE CHURCH--Katie Arsenault, Haley Deorio, Tom Schneidermeyer, Kayla Burgos (all from St. John Parish in Darien) joined Carla Duran, Samuel Sanchez, Brenda Aguilar and Zulema Duran (All from St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Hicksville, New York).

The trip was made possible by donors from Catholic Extension, a national nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and build the Catholic faith in some of America’s poorest areas, many of which are located in mission dioceses like the Diocese of Youngstown.

A mission diocese is one in which the Catholic Church is emerging, and even thriving, but does not have the financial resources and infrastructure to be self-sustaining. Since its founding, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to poor Catholic dioceses throughout America.

The camp is in its fourth year and came about following a trip by members of the Diocese of Youngstown to New Orleans to help a local church recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. One of the first programs to come back there after the hurricane was an inner city art camp. Father Ed Brienz, Director, Propagation of the Faith and Missions Office for the Diocese of Youngstown, knew he wanted to bring the idea back home.

“Many of the inner city children in Youngstown are from poor families who are in need of a community and a place for their children to thrive,” said Brienz. “By providing this creative outlet of art and music, we can engage the children and their families while bringing them closer to Christ through the church.”
As the camp grew, volunteers were needed to act as “teachers’ helpers”.

The focus of the camp aligned perfectly with the Catholic Extension mission and the desire of a donor to send her daughter to a mission area of the country to do service. Another generous New York-based donor pitched in financially to help fund the trip and then the plans were set for a service/immersion trip.

Kathleen Gunn, Director of Development, Northeast Region for Catholic Extension, was able to work with youth leaders in the Bridgeport and Rockville Centre dioceses to form a group of 10 high school students and chaperons eager to answer the call for help.

“We were thrilled to be able to make this trip a reality and teach the kids about faith in action,” said Brenner LeCompte, youth minister at St. John Church in Darien, who served as a chaperone. “To see firsthand how helping others can build the American Catholic Church through serving others is something these kids will take with them forever.”

While Brenner LeCompte served as the adult Male Chaperone Adult, students on the mission trip included Tom Schneidermeyer; Katie Arsenault, Kayla Burgos, AND Haley Deorio, all of St. John Parish in Darien.

Brienz expressed his gratitude to the group by saying, “We are incredibly thankful to Catholic Extension and to the East Coast kids for their support and service and hope that the program continues to grow for years to come.”
One of the highlights of the Art Camp each year is the day the students make chalk drawings on the sweeping sidewalks in front of the St. Columba Cathedral. There, Bishop Murry, S.J. greets and encourages the students and their volunteer teachers.

The kids also enjoyed a field trip to the local art museum for inspiration. On another day, the group prepared and served a dinner for homeless people at the Dorothy Day House. Some of the high school helpers were from the neighboring communities of Salem and Ashtabula, and some of them spoke limited or no English. The students from Hicksville were able to translate for the Spanish-speaking kids, forming a bond between the students.

The trip for the high school students also incorporated the practice of faith with nightly spiritual reflection on the day and retreat experiences in addition to celebrating mass, Eucharistic adoration, prayer and songs.

About Catholic Extension: Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the Catholic Church in the United States by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses. Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services that invest in people, their ministries and their churches. Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information visit

St. Andrew Young Believers Youth Group July Mission Trip
| July 28, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Twenty teens and four adults from the St Andrew Young Believers Youth Group served at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission during July 13–July 21st. Susan Baldwin, Director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at St. Andrew Parish, says the kids did an awesome job, and the experience was humbling and life changing.

I don’t want to use that word as cliché. Truly the word has taken on new meaning. I thought I knew what it meant to be humble. I realized that I have just begun to learn the true meaning of humility.

Our day began with mass at St. Theresa’s parish in Tuckerton. We then trucked over to Atlantic City where we prepared food, servedfood, prepared food baskets, sorted clothes for men, women and children, shoes, blankets . We worked on the sustainable farm one day, pruning and weeding the plants that will be harvested for meals at the mission.

We worked side by side with clients of the center. We prayed with and for them. We heard their stories. We ate lunch and dinner with the clients .The depth of their circumstances is many, loss of homes from hurricane Sandy, loss of family, job loss, drug and alcohol recovery, mental illness, no education and some with college educations. There are so many displaced people it was a heart awakening experience. Poverty truly isn’t selective .

Jesus tells us specifically when he was teaching the beatitudes “seek peace with a true heart”. I pray that we were able to give some hope and peace to the people we encountered. I pray that our experience will not lose momentum and that we will stay strong in our commitment to love others and be missionaries wherever and whenever the Lord calls for us to do so."

Church Reform from Below: An Interview with Bishop Frank Caggiano
| July 27, 2014 • by by Sean Salai, S.J., America: The National Catholic Review


BRIDGEPORT—The Most Rev. Frank Caggiano is bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. A Brooklyn native, he graduated from Regis High School in 1977 and attended Yale University briefly before deciding to study for the priesthood. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Cathedral College and an M.Div in theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary.

Ordained for the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1987, Bishop Caggiano served as a pastor and director of permanent diaconate formation before being named monsignor in 2003 and auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2006. On September 19, 2013, he was installed as bishop of Bridgeport, where he has convoked a local synod to formulate a new pastoral plan for the future of his diocese. The synod begins its formal work this September and will conclude in September 2015.

On July 24, I interviewed Bishop Caggiano by telephone about the Bridgeport synod and its implications for church reform. The following transcript has been edited for content and length.

What inspired you to call for this synod, which is the first in the Bridgeport diocese in 32 years?

When I first came to the diocese, I felt I needed to spend a significant amount of time listening and learning. Because I have an active personality, it was a conscious decision on my part to be receptive. Soon after I began to visit the different parishes and schools, I realized there was a need to engage the laity in a very significant way—the lay leadership in particular, given the wonderful people we have in the diocese. Many are very professional, they’re very well educated, they want to learn about their faith and they want to take rightful leadership in the church. I thought to myself that the best vehicle we had to engage them in discerning what the challenges really are which exist in the diocese, and prioritizing what we have to address and how to address them, was to call a synod. I made that decision at the beginning of January and it really has been very well-received by the people of the diocese.

How is the Bridgeport diocese a microcosm of the larger church?

Part of this learning process I’ve gone through over these past 10 months as bishop has been coming to recognize the great richness, diversity and variety of the diocese—which, to be honest, I was not aware of as a New Yorker looking at Fairfield County with the stereotype that it is a monolith. It really is not. In many senses, it really is a microcosm of the church. For example, 18 percent of the population of Fairfield County is Hispanic. We have tremendous diversity economically from areas of significant affluence—like Darien, Westport and Greenwich— to places of economic challenge like Danbury and sections of Norwalk, to sections of real economic hardship like Bridgeport. We also have a tremendous ethnic diversity. We have a very large Vietnamese, Brazilian and Haitian population in addition to the Hispanics. So in many ways, Fairfield County is very reflective I think of the American church, and the church of its larger metropolitan areas.

What are the most vibrant areas of Catholic life in your diocese?

There are a number. I am very impressed, for example, with Catholic education and its mission. We have 35 Catholic schools and 18 of them are blue ribbon presidential schools. So we provide an excellent, superior, I think unmatched education in the county that’s also very Catholic. The Catholic identity is extremely strong and my hope is to strengthen it even more. That’s one area that’s vibrant. I think Catholic Charities does a phenomenal job of reaching out to the poor, the disabled, the immigrants. Recently, I myself was surprised to learn that Catholic Charities is the largest provider of social services in Connecticut outside of the state government itself. They do tremendous, effective and I think indispensable outreach to the needy.

Other areas? I mean, our parishes are very different, but overall I’ve been very impressed. There is overall a great attention to liturgy in many of them, an interest in justice and charity. Our priests, by and large, are very dedicated to their work. I think the synod is going to pay special attention to how we can help them, particularly pastors, reimagine their work given the administrative burden they carry. We’re blessed with a great college seminary, St. John Fisher, that has celebrated its 25th anniversary. About 80 of our priests have come out of that program and now serve in the diocese. So there are many aspects that are vibrant. There are also challenges that we face.

What are the biggest challenges right now?

First and foremost, there’s a tremendous need for evangelical outreach. We have perhaps 20-25 percent of our Catholics attending Mass on Sunday, maybe closer to 20 percent, which means four out of every five Catholics are not worshipping regularly. I think that’s the single greatest challenge. That challenge highlights other challenges. For example, those Catholics who no longer feel they are welcomed, those who are disaffected because of the state of life they live—perhaps they’re divorced, perhaps they’re divorced and remarried. Perhaps some disagree with the teachings of the church in social areas or moral areas. But we have too many Catholics not involved in the life of the church. The same is true with the young. The young people I’ve dealt with, and I’ve dealt with hundreds of them in these listening sessions for the synod, are tremendous. But for every one that’s involved in the church, there are perhaps eight or nine who are not involved. What came across clearly in the seven listening sessions—almost 2,000 people made interventions—is that the single greatest challenge that everyone agreed on is this need for outreach to Catholics, to welcome them back to the church, both the young and everyone else.

In dealing with these sorts of pastoral challenges, Pope Francis has encouraged bishops to formulate creative solutions at the local level. Why should church reform start at the bottom rather than at the top?

Two basic reasons. First, all religion and all politics is local. And if that motto is true, then the church has been and always will be most alive at the parish and school level. The diocese is at its best when it’s at service to the parishes and schools and is almost invisible in the life of the church. The more locally we engage discussion, the more creative it is, the more receptive it is, and the more reactive it can be to the real problems. So that’s number one. The second thing is “many hands make light work.” My experience has been—both in Brooklyn and now certainly in Bridgeport—that most people are eager to be of help. But they need to be part of the solution-making process. They need to be asked their thoughts and input and then encouraged to become involved. People don’t just want their opinions asked; they also want to have some possibility of formulating what the program and the response is going to be. So on both levels, I think the Holy Father is absolutely on target, and at times we have not done such a great job of engaging lay leaders in creative and constructive ways. The synod is really meant to be the catalyst to do that.

Part of your synod’s work will involve lay participants attending learning sessions at Fordham University, discussing best practices from other places in the church. What does this sort of discussion contribute to the life of the U.S. church?

There are many benefits. But speaking about the delegates themselves, I’m hoping that—in exchange for all of their hard work, and their time, and their generous commitment to the process that is very significant—they will come out spiritually blessed and enriched. And both personally and theologically, more attuned and educated so that they are ready to do whatever God asks them to do. I want the delegates to be able to come out as more engaged, more knowledgeable, more on fire in faith. I want it to be a personal journey as well as an ecclesial journey. That’s why I asked for the formation sessions, and from what I can gather, the initial reports are that people are very enthusiastic about them precisely because they are coming away with material for them to reflect on personally in their own prayer life apart from what the synod is going to do. You cannot give what you do not have; you cannot give he who you do not know. I’ve mentioned that in my talks many times, and for many of these delegates, the synod is an opportunity for them to grow in faith personally. That is beyond price when it comes to the value to a parish, a school or a diocese. I mean, the Lord picked 12, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit 11 of them converted the world. Can you imagine, if we had 50,000 people, what they would do?

The local churches in Miami and Juneau completed synods last year. Do you think more U.S. bishops should hold local synods?

Two other dioceses have already contacted our office inquiring about the process we’re going to use. I think there is more interest now among bishops to have synods. To be honest, I think there is precious little to lose and far too much to gain when a bishop discerns whether or not to have a synod. I would encourage every diocese to have one because we all face challenges. Some are unique to our areas and some are universal to the church. But to engage all leadership—not just lay leadership but priests, deacons and consecrated men and women—and bring them to a forum where we can really begin to discuss issues in a very frank and transparent way can only strengthen the church.

So I would encourage all bishops to have one. If you were to ask me “what are some concerns bishops may have in calling a synod,” it’s true that I’ve had a number of people say to me: “Well, how do you control the synod?” And my response is it’s not for me to control. There is nothing to be afraid of when people speak their minds honestly and respectfully because the truth is the truth. The truth prevails regardless of circumstance, person, participants or venue. I firmly believe that with all my heart. When we allow people to speak their minds, then that process itself is healing. People sometimes just want to be heard even when they know that what they’re asking cannot be. But that’s a service to that person and to the church if we allow that venue to happen. Growing up in an Italian house, which was for lack of a better word quite a lively experience, I don’t have any fear of the synod being a place where people speak frankly. I encourage it. Even when people disagree, I encourage that too if it’s on people’s minds, provided they do it respectfully.

Reports from the pre-synod listening sessions you held in the spring indicated a wide variety of perspectives, with some people wanting a stronger devotional life and others voicing more progressive concerns. As a bishop, how do you balance people’s pastoral needs in a way that makes everyone feel cared for?

This is at the heart of what a synod is and I think it’s going to be very hard for most people, and at times even myself, to understand that a synod is more a process of discernment than it is of deliberation. And that is where, as Americans, we might be a bit behind the eight ball, because we tend to understand gatherings of individuals assembled to address problems as a deliberative action. That is, we identify what the problem is and we make a decision to address it. That is not what a synod is, though. A synod is a discerning process in which, once the issue has been clarified, we need to sit and listen to the voices who can inform us of what the program or solution needs to be. And I think that’s part of that formational process. We need to suspend our initial reaction that “we’re going to solve this problem by doing X” and take a step back and deliberate—to allow a discernment to occur, to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us about what God is asking us to do. Because it’s not our church, it’s his church first and foremost.

So that’s where I think the challenge is. Now the second piece of the question is “to whom do we listen?” That is where the rubber hits the road. There’s a bias in contemporary society that the only voices we here are the ones who speak to us here and now. You know, I call it the “blog phenomenon.” But in fact, the voices we listen to are the voices of the tradition, starting with the apostles and working our way up to you and me. And that’s where the discernment comes in. And that’s why the synodal process is personally enriching, but it’s also a heck of a lot of work to get all the voices in the mix. It’s the magisterium, it’s sacred scripture, it’s the tradition and all the great teachers from the Fathers of the Church onward who are able to inform us of what the Holy Spirit might be asking us to do. Because the bottom line is this: There is precious little that is new under the sun. We as contemporaries think all of our problems are new, and that we have to come up with new ideas, and new programs, and that’s baloney. There is very little that’s new after 2,000 years that the church has not struggled with in other ages. So why reinvent the wheel? Why not go back to those times and have those voices inform us? I’m not sure, but for the synodal delegates, I think that will be the hardest piece of this process.

As you’ve mentioned, one of the themes for your synod is building bridges to those who have left the church. Do you have any initial thoughts on how to move forward with that issue?

Yeah, I have just one, and it’s a foundational principle that has come to the fore in my own reflection and prayer over the last six or seven years—and it is a radical change from what I used to think. I say “radical” because it really reworks a lot of what I used to consider the hallmarks of success. It’s this: Up to recently, the church has usually turned to creating a pastoral program when facing a pastoral challenge, to address that challenge. Now that will always have a place in the life of the church. But I think the genius of Pope Francis is that he has expressed words of what I was intuiting, when he speaks about missionary discipleship, that we need to reach out one person at a time. That has phenomenal implications for the life of the church. If the methodology is “one person at a time,” then each and every baptized person is called to get involved. That’s the only way we’re going to do it. It also implies that we’re going to have to invest time to sit and listen to the people who we wish to invite back, to allow them to tell us their story, for healing whatever needs to be healed. And it implies that success has to be measured by sowing seeds, even when you don’t see the seed grow initially, because the person who comes after you sees the seed blossom. It demands a spirituality, it demands a discipline in prayer and it demands a pastoral faith reflection which will for many people be a brand new experience. That’s my initial insight going into the synod. It could be leaven for tremendous renewal of people’s lives because there are no more spectators at the synod.

In the minds of many people, Pope Francis has issued his own pastoral game plan for the universal church in his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium." Do you see any particular areas of congruence between what the pope’s doing and what you’re doing in Bridgeport?

It’s this intuition I just mentioned that I’d like to bring to the synod as one of the foundational principles for everything we’re going to do, because I think that’s ultimately what the pope is challenging us to do. The only additional reflection the pope is offering is to emphasize what allowed the primitive church, in our initial history, to grow in such an unparalleled way. Why was there such unparalleled growth? It was missionary growth, one person at a time, and the charism of the early church was joy. As the pope is saying, joy is infectious. I mean, the early Christians went to their crucifixion singing the psalms, expressing a deep-seated joy. The Romans probably looked at them and said “what is the matter with these people? They are going to get crucified, so what is it that they have and we don’t have?” Of course, it’s not a “what” but a “who.” Again, the pope has hit the nail right on the mark, it’s the joy. But joy is not a program. The synod’s not going to say, “O.K. we’re going to be joyful.” It will be the fruit of the work of the synod, if we do it well. In my dealings with young people, if there’s anything in the faith that resonates in the hearts of young people, it’s when they encounter real joy. Then they are hooked, because there’s precious little joy in the secular society of their ordinary experience. There’s plenty of happiness in the “pursuit of happiness,” but there’s precious little joy. Joy is the only other element I hope we’ll bring out of our synodal process.

In terms of reform or renewal, what do you believe the Catholic Church needs most right now?

We need to force the dialogue on every level. That ultimately is the key to discern we need to do going forward into the future. Now most people would suggest that there ecclesiastical structures that have to be changed, that disciplines have to be changed, but in my estimation it is a posture that’s more important than those sorts of changes. It’s a change of attitude towards listening and dialoguing. Too many people feel isolated and alone and unwelcomed, even within the church. And even among clergy and religious, many of them feel their superiors are not really listening to their concerns. So that would be my greatest suggestion, whether it’s really reform or just renewal, that everyone adopt more of a stance of dialogue and listening with the heart. I think that would bring the church a long way towards the renewal that we want.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes for the future, at least for the Diocese of Bridgeport, is that in a few years all of our parishes and schools will be growing, our vocations will be on the rise, we will have an army of lay leaders engaged in the life of the church in every aspect and at every level of our diocese. If we could realize that, I would be absolutely delighted, and that’s my hope.

Any final thoughts?

It’s a lot of work, but I find it very gratifying to be part of this process in Bridgeport, and I owe it really to the work of the Spirit. If you had asked me when I was named the bishop last September if we’d be going through this process, I would not have believed it myself, and yet we’re in it. I’m grateful that we’re in it and I don’t believe it’s my doing. I believe it’s the work of the Holy Spirit that’s moving all of us that way. So my last thought is that I’m grateful to the Lord and I’m looking forward to some great things happening.

Sean Salai, S.J., is a summer editorial intern at America.

Archbishop Chaput says pope will visit Philadelphia in September 2015
| July 25, 2014 • by By Nancy Wiechec, Catholic News Service


FARGO—Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in the U.S. next year, even though the Philadelphia Archdiocese still has not received official confirmation from the Vatican.

Archbishop Chaput made the announcement July 24 before giving his homily during the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo.

"Pope Francis has told me that he is coming," said the archbishop as he invited his fellow Native Americans to the 2015 celebration being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27.

"The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week," he said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 25 Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.

"There has been no official confirmation by the Vatican or the Holy See of Pope Francis' attendance at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia," the archdiocese said in a statement. "We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event."

It said Archbishop Chaput "has frequently shared his confidence in Pope Francis' attendance at the World Meeting and his personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence."

"We are further heartened and excited" by Father Lombardi's comments, it added. "While Archbishop Chaput's comments do not serve as official confirmation, they do serve to bolster our sincere hope that Philadelphia will welcome Pope Francis next September."

Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a September trip to North America also could include stops in Mexico, but Father Lombardi said that at this moment "nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia."

Church Response to Refugees Is Part of the Pro-Life Call, Bishop Says
| July 24, 2014 • by By Katy Senour, CNA/EWTN News From The National Catholic Register


PITTSBURGH—Answering the needs of refugee migrants is one component of a truly pro-life view, said a U.S. bishop, announcing a new initiative to aid children who have fled Central America for the United States.

“The Catholic Church responds to humanitarian crises here at home and all across the world because we are pro-life,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh. “Being pro-life requires we protect and care for vulnerable persons from conception to natural death,” he emphasized in a July 19 statement.

The bishop announced that Holy Family Institute, a ministry of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in Emsworth, Pa., will be offering aid to young children fleeing Central America.

He explained that the diocese respects the law and right of nations to have secure borders and recognizes that “the root causes of why people are fleeing their homelands must be addressed by the international community.”

However, he said, the Church’s pro-life stance has implications for how the faithful are called to respond to the needy children in front of them.

“Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, followers of Jesus are called to protect these children and help them because they are very vulnerable and defenseless against any abuse or misfortune,” Bishop Zubik said.

“You probably recall that Holy Family Institute performed a similar ministry for many Haitian children after the devastating earthquake in that country. This is exactly the same kind of humanitarian response.”

The bishop’s comments come amid heated public debate surrounding the treatment of unaccompanied child migrants to the U.S., whose numbers have doubled in the past year. Public officials disagree on how to respond to the children, many of whom are fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Sister Linda Yankoski, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, heads the Holy Family Institute. She explained to CNA that aiding the migrant children fits in with the sisters’ mission of charity and justice.

“We have agreed to take in the most vulnerable, the very young children under the age of 12 who make up about 20 percent of the migrating children,” she explained. “Many of these children are fleeing violent situations and have endured a long and dangerous journey.”

The children will be provided with temporary food, clothing, housing, counseling, and recreation, Sister Linda said. Eventually, they will be placed in the homes of relatives or sponsors throughout the country.

This aid will be provided for about 30 days, until the children receive a hearing date which will determine if they fit the criteria of refugees fleeing grave danger. In light of the “humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border,” Holy Family Institute seeks to offer a response of “respect, care and compassion,” Sister Linda said.

“It is a painful reality that poverty, greed, and selfishness often lead to injustices in the world that cause some to turn to isolationism,” she said. “Holy Family Institute hopes to humbly be among those looking for ways to build up the kingdom of God on earth.”

Catholic Charities continues to reach out to Super Storm Sandy Victims
| July 23, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Watch this video of how Catholic Charities continues to spearhead the relief effort for those affected by Super Storm Sandy.

For more information about Catholic Charities' Sandy Disaster Relief Services, please click here

Spirit moves Diocesan youth!
| July 22, 2014


RHODE ISLAND—Over the weekend, more than 400 youth from 14 parishes across the Diocese attended Steubenville East, the summer youth conference sponsored by the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

In the photos, young people from St. Joseph Parish of Brookfield, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield experience faith, fun and fellowship at the University of Rhode Island Campus, where Steubenville East was held.

"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song.” Isaiah 12:2 was the theme of this summer’s conference.

As a Eucharist-centered movement within the Roman Catholic Church, Life Teen leads teenagers and their families into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. With the Blessed Virgin Mary as our intercessor and guide, Life Teen seeks to unleash the fullness of the Sacramental power present within the young Church.

This summer, more than 40,000 teens will participate in 18 different youth conferences across North America, discovering the richness of the Catholic Church and encountering the truth of Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament.

Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio is a vibrant Catholic college rooted in the Franciscan tradition and dedicated to proclaiming Jesus Christ as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Franciscan University hosted its first Steubenville Youth Conference in 1976, when 1,000 youth and young adults gathered on our campus in Steubenville, Ohio, for a weekend of prayer, praise, and reflection.

Dribble Drive Basketball Camp inspires achievement
| July 18, 2014


SHELTON—Energy and inspiration filled the gym at St. Lawrence Parish for two weeks in July.

More than 50 young athletes from the parish and surrounding communities the two-week Dribble Drive Basketball Camp run at St. Lawrence by former NCAA Division 1 referee and player Dennis Kelly and former NBA player Wes Matthews, Sr.

Dribble Drive Basketball camps, clinics, and workouts sessions are held throughout Connecticut for boys and girls ages 12 to 18, providing basketball training for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. The camps are dedicated to providing "inspired achievement" in its players. They are  designed to cultivate a high basketball IQ, skill development based on individual ability and competitiveness developed through demanding and entertaining games and contests.

(For more information about Dribble Drive Basketball player development sessions and camps check the web site: or call Dennis Kelly: 203.926.1365.)

They’ll be missed
| July 18, 2014


TRUMBULL—The following seniors attended the annual welcoming and send off ceremony for the High School Apostle's program.

Each year the celebration welcomes the new High School Apostles as well as sends off all those seniors who will be missed greatly!

Click here to view photos from the event.

Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land hostilities
| July 18, 2014 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace.

The morning after Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the pope personally telephoned the two leaders July 18 to express "his very serious concerns about the current situation of conflict."

Phoning Peres at 10 in the morning and Abbas at 11:30 Rome time, the pope told the leaders that the conflict was creating "numerous victims and was giving way to a state of serious humanitarian emergency," the Vatican said in a written communique July 18.

The pope told the two presidents, whom the pope "considers to be men of peace and who want peace," that constant prayer was needed.

He also urged them to "work hard at making sure all interested parties and those who have political responsibilities on the local and international levels dedicate themselves to bring an end to all hostilities, striving to foster a truce, peace and a reconciliation of hearts," the Vatican said.

The pope assured the two leaders of his "constant prayers" as well as the prayers of the whole church "for peace in the Holy Land."

Meanwhile, the pope also assured the parish priest of the Holy Family Church, the only Catholic parish in Gaza, of his prayers.

One of the pope's secretaries sent an email around 7 p.m. July 17 to Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

According to the Vatican, the brief message said, "I accompany you all with my prayers. May the Holy Virgin keep watch over you."

Holy Family Parish had been holding eucharistic adoration and celebrated a special Mass "to implore forgiveness, justice and peace for all," according to Vatican Radio.

The priest has opened the parish school to "numerous families" who fled their homes in bombed neighborhoods, according to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service. The families "didn't sleep a wink all night because of the bombing," a Brazilian nun, identified only as Sister Laudis, told Fides.

"The houses were shaking, the children were crying," said the nun who said she had spoken with Father Hernandez after leaving Gaza July 17 for Beit Jalla, a village near Bethlehem.

St. A's teens help at Missionaries of Charity Day Camp
| July 18, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Teens from St. Aloysius Parish youth group in New Canaan have found an awesome way to enrich their summer vacation.

They worked and played with the youngsters in the Missionaries of Charity Day Camp, helping the children learn about the Ten Commandments and the two greatest commandments.

As Mother Teresa said “Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do, but how much love we put into it.”

“I can attest there was much love put into these days,” says Chris Otis, St. Anoysius’ youth minister. “If anyone wants to go help there, let me know. The Sisters would love to have more teens there over the next few weeks.”

(To join the teens from St. Aloysius, contact Chris Otis at 203.652.1154 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

Click here to view more photos.

Unaccompanied migrant children need our help
| July 17, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined.    

According to Human Rights Watch the US government predicts that 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children will cross the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2014, more than 10 times the number who crossed in 2011. And thousands of other children have crossed with a parent, also an increase from previous years.  
Reportedly, more than 90 percent of these children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where pervasive drug/gang violence and poverty have made their lives dangerous and miserable.
It is said that drugs go north and guns and money go south. Therefore, it is essential in the U.S. that adequate treatment for addiction replace jail time for non-violent drug users, that all loopholes in gun export laws be closed, that serious gun-control laws – such as a total ban on all assault weapons – be passed, and that greatly increased U.S. aid to these Central American nations for schools, job creation through clean industry and agricultural development, infrastructure and fair trade practices become realities.
Injustices resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are contributing factors towards the flow of unaccompanied migrant children.

According to Barbara Briggs, associate director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (, these “free trade” agreements in many cases greatly boost American corporate profits, while undercutting poor workers, domestic industries, and agriculture south of the U.S. border.

Under NAFTA and CAFTA U.S. companies are often building factories where they are permitted to pay the cheapest wages and lowest benefits to poor workers. These U.S. corporate injustices are in many cases contributing factors driving Latin Americans – adults and children – to seek fairer working and living conditions in the U.S., said Briggs.

The “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act” would greatly correct many American corporate injustices abroad. Please ask you congressional delegation to reintroduce this legislation.

While addressing the root-causes of unaccompanied migrant children is essential, we need to also kindly address the immediate needs of these young brothers and sisters.

Instead of viewing these children as criminals who are illegally entering the U.S., a totally humanitarian Christ-like response is needed.

A coalition of immigration and faith-based organizations – including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities – sponsored by Human Rights First recently sent President Barack Obama a letter opposing plans to expedite deportation of migrant children.

They wrote, “The administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety.”

Please urge President Obama and your congressional delegation to insure that these children get all the help they need.

And sign up to receive legislative alerts from the bishops’ campaign for immigrants by going to  .;

Responding to unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the U.S. Pope Francis recently wrote, “This humanitarian emergency requires … these children be welcomed and protected,” and that policies be adopted to “promote development in their countries of origin. …
“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed … moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Saint Michael Prayer with pro-life addition:
| July 15, 2014



Dear St. Michael the Archangel
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares
of the devil.
May God rebuke him,
we humbly pray,
and do thou, Oh Prince
of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan
and his legion of devils
and demons, who prowl
throughout the world
seeking the ruin of souls
and the deaths of babies
in the womb.

For many years now, I have prayed the Saint Michael prayer with the pro-life addition at the end. For a long time, I have wondered how I might promulgate it, and now I have the opportunity! If you like the pro-life addition, please copy this prayer and print it or email it to others. You can also share the link to this blog with others ( To contact me with your thoughts or questions, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Weird animals speak of God’s love
| July 15, 2014


NORWALK—Like brilliant summer flowers, Vacation Bible Schools are springing up in parishes during the summer months. They carry a lively message of faith through song, skits, activities, laughter and friendship.

“Welcome to Weird Animals,” the VBS at St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk, helps kids see that “Jesus’ Love is one of a Kind.”

Click here to see a slideshow.

Even if you think you’re like Shred the Tenrec, a pointy-quilled bug eater (yes, there is such an animal), Jesus will find a way to hug you—quills and all.

During the week at St. Matthew’s, a set of extremely weird animals like Shred become Bible Buddies, teaching kids that: even though you’re left out, even though you’re different, even though you’re naughty, even though you don’t understand, Jesus says “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

The lesson for the day is introduced during morning prayer with Msgr. Walther Orlowski, St. Matthew’s pastor, and brought home through a variety of activities. Campers from about three and a half years old through fifth grade enjoy the activities, guided by counselors in training from sixth grade up, Confirmation candidates, teens and young adults home from college. There are almost as many volunteers as campers, and they have every bit as much fun.

“Jesus will love you no matter what you do,” says fourth-grader Catie Gutowski, describing the purpose of the “Untamed Games.” At one game, the kids had a large bucket of water at one end of the lawn and an equally large, empty bucket at the other. “We had different tools—a sponge, cups, spoons, a beanbag,” Catie explains. “It doesn’t matter what tool you use. All that matters is that you do the best you can with the tools you have.”

In the end, she points out, “Working together, you can fill a whole bucket.”

Other stations throughout the morning include Bible skits, KidVid Cinema time with the day’s weird Bible Buddy, and project time where the kids make bright happy turtles for homebound parishioners and cross necklaces for children in Haiti. A box in the “Jungle,” the imaginatively decorated parish great room, invites donations for the parish’s food pantry.

“We always incorporate social outreach into our themes,” says Joanne Obst, co-coordinator of the VBS along with Janet Mitchell and Concetta Maffei.

In the fascinating Imagination Station, strange scientific objects invite puzzled amazement while opening up a new window on the day’s theme. After a morning spent following the misbehavior of Shred, kids in the Imagination Station try spinning an odd, roughly banana-shaped, piece of plastic. Even when it is spun in the wrong direction, the object will eventually stop, hesitate, and spin properly.

“No matter how much you sin, Jesus can always help you turn out right,” says volunteer and Imagination Coordinator Albert Agular, a junior at Quinnipiac College.

After a morning following the behavior of the naughty Shred, kids take time to think about their own sins and shortcomings and write them on pieces of paper. They stuff their sins (it’s amazing how many these young kids can come up with) into garbage bags and tie them to a cross. At the end of the session, a young volunteer dressed as Jesus carries away the loaded cross. The kids see firsthand that, no matter what they do, Jesus will always take away their sins—but only by bearing the weight of his cross.

“This way, and through the skits, they see the Bible come to life. That’s so important,” says Janet Mitchell. “It stays with them forever.

Catholic Heart Work Camp 2014: A Beautiful Mess
| July 15, 2014 • by by Kelly Walsh


FAIRFIELD—The St. Pius X/St. Thomas Aquinas Youth Groups recently returned from an amazing week at Catholic Heart Work Camp!

It was a blessing to be able to combine with our friends from St. Thomas as we went on a mission trip to the Boston area.

The theme of this year’s Catholic Heart Work Camp was “A Beautiful Mess,” and it was an opportunity to help impoverished families with cleanups, painting and other projects from June 29 to July 4.    

The idea behind the theme is that our world is full of so much pain and injustice, yet also beauty and goodness. Together, we can bring beauty to bad situations through small acts of service.

Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love,” a quote that our Youth Group took to heart as we went on this trip. Through our various acts of service such as painting houses, preparing meals at a soup kitchen, or helping at a Vacation Bible School, we were able to put our faith into action. More importantly, we began to make a beautiful mess in the Boston community as people were pleasantly surprised by the faith and service of young people.

My best experience from the trip was combining with the St. Thomas Youth Group and growing closer to all members of St. Pius X, St. Thomas, and our amazing chaperones! It was great to strengthen these friendships and know that we have people to help us continue our faith and service at home!

It was truly a remarkable trip where we were able to grow in our relationships with each other, with teenagers from other parishes, and with our residents. I also grew in my relationship with God and witnessed other members of our Youth Group truly encounter Christ through Adoration, daily Mass, and confession.

Although we all are sinners with our own “messes,” the theme of CHWC reassured us that we can bring our imperfections to God, and allow him to use us to make a beautiful mess in our everyday lives.

What was your best experience from this trip and why? What did you get out of it or learn? Read the comments of Fairfield youth who participated in the Work Camp:

“My best experience was getting to work with all the little kids in the daycare and becoming so close with my Youth Group.  I learned how lucky I am to have such close Youth Group friends that I can go to for anything.” - Jenny Schneider

“The best experience I had during the trip was Adoration. It was such a calming and reassuring experience and reminded me that God is always with us.”- Annie Silk

“My favorite part was building closer, stronger relationships with so many people through serving our residents and through Christ.” - Thomas Smalley

“Among the many memorable experiences, I believe the most significant moments of the trip were centered around the time spent with my residents, Min and Khoi Dwang. These two amazing individuals were by far the most grateful, caring, and faithful people I have come across thus far in my life. By simply working side by side with them and enjoying a peaceful lunch break, their mere presence inspired me to grow in faith.” - Thomas O’Brien

“My best experience from this trip was Adoration. I have been to Adoration many times and it has never been the way it was on this trip. I felt God’s presence with me for the entire time. There was music, many true Catholics surrounding me, and most importantly the presence of God. This truly helped me pray and thank God for everything He has done for me.”

“Over the course of this week, I learned many life lessons. The most important lesson I learned is that external beauty is not as important as knowing that God's internal beauty is always present with you. One of my residents was blind and was unable to see all the work we had done for her. This woman said, "Even though I am blind and unable to see the garden you made for me, the most important thing is that I know God and your beauty are with me.” - Jen O'Neil

“My best experience was being able to bond with my group members and Youth Group as we all grew closer to God throughout the week. I learned that seeing isn't always believing and to truly feel God’s presence you have to trust Him in your heart.” - Meagan Goddard

“My best experience from this mission trip was helping the elders at their picnic. I loved hearing all their stories about what they did when they were younger. I learned that some people just want someone to listen to them and they want to be heard.”  - Caroline Grosso

“The best experience from my trip was Four Corners. I think it brought our entire Youth Group closer together. It also helped me to learn how forgiving and healing God can be when all you have to do is let Him in.” - Colleen McGuiness

“My team and I got really close in a matter of four days. I felt like I had known them for four years. You look at our faith in a different light and see God in new ways. When we had Adoration the environment was a grass field and a guitar in the background.” - Catherine Regan


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Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s homily at Solemn Vespers for the success of the Fourth Diocesan Synod
| July 15, 2014


June 29, 2014: the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at  St. Augustine Cathedral, Bridgeport

My sisters and brothers in the Lord, each was a formidable figure; perhaps a towering figure. Each was unique in his own gifts, talents, faults and failures, and yet each was chosen by the Lord for a particular task, to bring forth the work of the Gospel and to help found the Church of which you and I are now members.

First there was the fisherman … in whose roughness the Lord discerned a great love; a man who – when fully converted – could be trusted to the end. To him were given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and to him was given the task to be the leader of the Apostles, and a symbol and sign of unity for all believers.

His counterpart was as different from him as night is from day; a well-educated, eloquent Rabbi who was convicted with all of his heart and soul in the covenant given to Moses; a man whom we know from Sacred Scripture devoted his life—at least after the rising of the Lord—to stamp out what he saw as heresy and an abomination of that which his ancestors had passed on to him. He became the apostle to the Gentiles and a fearless disciple of Christ.

My friends, as we gather this evening on the Solemnity of Peter and Paul—the two great Princes of the Church—we are invited to reflect upon a very basic question (each of these saints has more than one feast day on the Church’s annual calendar; each is honored with dignity and respect): why is it then that on this day, the Church asks us to honor them, to ask for their intercession and to be inspired by their examples, side by side? It seems to me—as Mom used to say—the more things change the more they stay the same. Because my friends, these two remarkably different men were literally placed side by side, because the Lord asked them to do in their age what the Lord is asking us to do in our own time. For they were asked to listen carefully to one another and to listen carefully to the discernment of the Holy Spirit that was and is alive in both of their hearts. They were challenged to overcome not only the natural differences that existed between them, but even one could say the theological differences that existed between them as they struggled in the Council of Jerusalem to discern whether the Mosaic Law needed to be applied to the converts to the Faith.

Because they listened carefully; prayed deeply; discerned wholeheartedly; and were open to the power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to build a bridge between the two of them in Christ; a bridge that was not made by their hands or efforts, but a bridge that was constructed by the very life and grace of the Risen Spirit. And because they were servants to the Truth, and servants to the Lord, and not servants to themselves, we honor them as the greatest of the Apostles, and the foundation upon which you and I and generations before us and generations to come will stand on their mighty shoulders. And as they did, you and I must do.

That is why we are here tonight. For we have begun, my friends, an extraordinary journey of faith: listening; prayer; and discernment. I have had the privilege to sit at seven different listening sessions, but my friends, the listening is not over: it is only beginning. I have the privilege to join you and lead you on this extraordinary synodal journey, so that you and I together could listen carefully to each other; begin this great discernment with the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit who is alive in every single one of us; to be able to build more mighty and formidable bridges between ourselves and those we long to join us in worship and prayer, so we might live the Apostolic spirit of Peter and Paul, and we might, in our own age and time, as they did, rise to the challenges before us.

My friends, I am grateful for your honesty. I am grateful for your great love for one another and the Church. I am grateful for your willingness to walk this journey, and I ask that in the months ahead, as the synod unfolds, that you and I together, as sisters and brothers, will have the same humility that Peter and Paul had, and the same commitment to Christ, so we will work not for “my agenda” or “your agenda,” but with humility witness to the Truth who is Jesus Christ the Lord, present in the credible witness of the Church which is here in our midst. For the challenges are many…but every single one of those challenges is an opportunity for growth; it’s an opportunity for conversion; it’s an opportunity for you and I to allow the Holy Spirit to change the face of our diocese, and the face of the world.

I have prayed long and hard over what I have heard, and after much reflection, I am going to ask the synodal delegates to devote themselves to four over-arching themes. A principal goal is to design a pastoral plan that will allow us to strengthen the bridges of faith and charity that exist at the heart of the Catholic community.

The first theme is this: I will ask the synodal delegates to devote their time and study to help empower the young Church. And I use that word “empower” deliberately. For you and I have heard that our young people—who are not just the future of our Church, for they are present in our Church, here and now—that they are eager to take up the challenges of our time and to make a positive difference in the Church and in our world. We saw that they remain idealistic and generous and open to listening to the Truth. They desire to have a challenge in which they can believe and devote themselves to, and give their all in response.

To empower the young Church, my friends, means to give young people the faith in ways that they can understand; to allow catechesis to evolve so that they can hear and act on the salvific message that comes through Jesus Christ. It means to give them an opportunity to discover their gifts and talents and give them the venues by which they can use those gifts and talents not for themselves but for others. It also means, my friends, that we as a community must re-dedicate ourselves to the basic, core commitment that we have made to keep all our young people safe, so that they may grow in holiness, wisdom, and faith.

Young people told us in those listening sessions that too many of their friends do not believe what they believe. Too many do not share their conviction and desire to be members of our community of faith. So I will ask the synodal delegates to dig deep, and hard, and learn from our young people some of the ways by which we may reach out to their fellow sisters and brothers. For the young are not spectators in this process. They are full participants in the synodal process. The young may have the answers that we have been looking for. We must empower the young Church.

The second over-arching theme, my friends, is even broader than the first. You and I in this synodal journey must build up all communities of faith that make up our diocesan Church, and those communities are many. Let us begin with our families, for our families are the first and primary community of faith. They are the domestic Church. We heard in the listening sessions that many families are struggling mightily to be faithful to the Lord, under enormous challenges and difficulties. In this moment of grace, we must commit ourselves in spirit and resource to help mothers and fathers to do what the Lord has asked them to do. We must reach out to all those who are caretakers of the young; and families of all different shapes and sizes. Families must become places where the Spirit is alive and basic human needs are met; and where families know that they are not alone in their struggles. For if families are healthy, the Church will be healthy. We must, my friends, build those communities of faith above all others.

For there are other communities that also look for renewal. We heard that in the communities of faith that are our parishes—places of worship, study and fraternity—many people long for more opportunities for catechesis and faith formation, and to learn how to pray, and to pray with all of our hearts. Many do not solely wish to know about Jesus, but rather they seek to know Jesus, as a living, saving, redeemer.

Many long for parishes where everyone is welcomed, and everyone is known by name. That attitude, my friends, is not solely the work of parish leaders, pastors, deacons and parish staff, it is the work of every single parishioner.  

We must ask a very hard question: how will it be that every baptized member of this diocesan family of faith will help our parishes to realize what the Lord wants them to be: living, vibrant places where the Lord is known, worshipped and served.

We also seek to build up our communities of faith which we call our schools. For our schools are places of academic excellence, and they are extolled for that. They are also lauded because they are Catholic schools, not “private” schools.Many schools long for more children to have the opportunity to receive the great gift of Catholic education. My friends, I will ask the synodal delegates, in collaboration with our school leaders, to seek ways to strengthen our schools so that they retain academic excellence and grow in their Catholic identity. May the day come when every Catholic child who wants to go to a Catholic school will have the opportunity to do so regardless of their economic status.

All communities of faith that we have formed, my friends, that wish to be strengthened, that need to grow, cannot do so without the leaders who serve those communities also being given the opportunity to grow. Many of you are those leaders, and what I heard in our listening sessions is that the people of God are grateful for all that you do, and so am I.

But we must allow all women and men in leadership the time and opportunity to grow in knowledge and faith. They must be given—our priests, deacons, and lay leaders—an opportunity to grow in knowledge of the faith and to grow in love of one another. We must strengthen them in their sacrifice, and help them to become ever more joyful in their ministry. Our leaders need the opportunity to grow in faith and love, and that includes me.

The third synodal theme is to foster evangelical outreach. Too many of our Catholic brothers and sisters no longer feel the need to be part of our worshipping family. They feel unwelcome. They feel as if they do not belong. And they feel that no one misses them. But we do miss them and want them present with us. The synod will be an opportunity for us to find new and creative ways to do an outreach that is evangelical—meaning that it will bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to them. We will find new ways to bring to them the good news that they are welcomed, they are missed, they are invited, and I will challenge the delegates not simply to come up with programs, but to find a way to do what Pope Francis has asked us to do: to become missionary disciples, reaching out to those who are away from the Church one person at a time. Let us pray that the day will come when our churches will be bursting once again with all of the baptized side by side, in worship of the One True God, who is Jesus the Lord.Much good is going on already in our Church, and we need to celebrate all that is being done. Let us build on the good that is already there.

The fourth synodal theme concerns the works of charity that are done so quietly in every corner of our diocese. Let us find new ways to promote works of charity and justice, to allow us to get the good news out of what is already underway; the good works of Catholic Charities and all of the parish-based programs that many of you serve in quietly. The time has come for the world to know the good that happens in the Catholic Church. But more than that, we need to discover new ways to respond to the needs of all peoples. In a county like ours, there should be no one who is homeless; no one who is hungry; no one who is alone. That may be a lifetime of work, but that lifetime will begin in the Synod. Works of charity make the community more credible, and by making the community credible, we will bring many to great faith in God who is love Himself

So there is much to do. I hope you are excited, because I am. The Synod is not going to be the end of the journey, it is only the beginning.

My friends, if Peter and Paul, in the hour of the Church’s greatest need, could overcome whatever differences they had, and were able with the grace of God to build a bridge, a bridge upon which you and I stand two-thousand years later, a bridge that I can assure you will stand firm until the end of time, imagine what we can do (guided by the Holy Spirit) for generations yet to come in this great diocesan Church of Bridgeport.

We have much to do. So my friends, I commend us all to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, who turned to children when she needed her work done. Tonight, Our Lady turns to us—her children—to do her Son’s business. Let us roll up our sleeves. Let us take a deep breath, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us turn to each other for inspiration and encouragement and commit ourselves to do our Father’s business.

To our Lord—to Jesus the Christ—who will guide us in this synod; to Him be glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.

Butch Cassidy and the Weight-Loss Kid
| July 11, 2014 • by By Matthew Hennessey


Summer is great. I love the sun. I love cooking on the grill. I love the ice-cold lemonade. What I don’t love is parading half-naked before friends and neighbors at the town pool.

Oh yes, bathing suit season is here. That means it’s time again to crowbar myself into those five year-old swimming trunks (the ones bought because they were a little bigger and a little baggier than the 10 year-old pair). Time again for this suburban slug to take a hard look at his soft tummy. 

I’m not a vain fellow. If I was, I probably wouldn’t have let myself go like this. At 20, I was a wisp. At 30, I was fit and trim. Now, at 40, I have trouble finding pants that fit.

Let me put it this way: I’m on the edge of having to buy my clothes at the big and tall shop, and I’m not that tall.

What happened? I can pinpoint it. Around 2004—when I became a dad and exercise went AWOL from my life—I got it into my head that I deserved a couple of beers every evening. Just two itty-bitty little beers. You know, as a reward for all the hard work of fatherhood.

It seemed so sensible. As a bachelor, I would hit the town weekly. When I did, I’d have far more than just two beers. So two seemed a reasonable compromise, even if it was every night. I thought it would be a wash—calorically, that is.

A friend of mine once told me that Paul Newman drank two beers every night. Ever seen a Paul Newman movie? That guy was as fit as a fiddle. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be like Butch Cassidy. Two beers never hurt anybody.

Well, 10 years, 7,300 itty-bitty little beers, and 1.2 million unnecessary calories later, I can honestly say that drinking two beers every night is a bad idea. I don’t look like Paul Newman. I look more like Newman from Seinfeld.  

(You may be thinking, “What’s this guy talking about? He looks pretty slim in that picture.” Well, that headshot is at least 10 years-old. I’ve been meaning to replace it—I just didn’t want to face reality. Look for a new one in the next issue of Fairfield County Catholic.)

Appearances are not my only concern. They’re not even my main concern. There is heart disease in my family tree. I don’t want to be the guy who dies of a coronary in his 40s or 50s. I’d rather be the guy who lives long enough to play with his great-grandchildren, and explain who Paul Newman was.

The good news: I’m making progress. Over the last two months I’ve made changes. Sensible stuff. Bread and pasta are out. Instead, lunch is a nice salad and dinner is chicken or a chop. The two-beer days are gone, too. A glass of wine, with dinner, once or twice a week, is all I’ll allow myself now. Desserts are minimized.

I won’t lie—it’s been tough. The hunger is unrelenting. But you probably can’t lose weight and get healthy without being a little hungry once in a while. That’s the price, I suppose.

Luckily, I’m not doing it alone. I couldn’t. Prayer is my crutch.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not praying to lose weight. That hardly seems like God’s problem. But I am praying for the strength to endure the struggle of self-denial. It’s been a challenge. Willpower ain’t my thing. I wasn’t built for abstemiousness.

Then again, I wasn’t built for gluttony either. None of us were. Our bodies are a gift. They should be taken care of. Doing otherwise is an insult to the giver.

So I am recommitting myself to responsible stewardship of my gift. I am recommitting myself to living a healthy life. I hope you will, too.

And if you see me at the pool, I won’t mind at all if you stop and say, “Looking good, Butch.”

(You can follow Matt on Twitter @matthennessey.)  

Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan.

At his name…
| July 11, 2014 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

My mother may have gone overboard. In order to keep our tongues in check, she not only banned us from using Our Lord’s name in vain, but she also prohibited my siblings and me from using gentler cuss words. Not geez. Not gee whiz. Not jeepers. Not gosh or gosh darn.

It was too easy to go from the benign to the profane, she said.

It may have been extreme, but Mom’s high standard kept me from breaking the Second Commandment. I still have a low tolerance for foul language—especially when it misuses the name of Our Lord.

At his name, knees should bow. At his name, there should be no punching of walls, no throwing of dishes, and no stamping of feet.

By his name, all creation should be blessed.

Not cursed.

There are many ways to express anger. Even Our Lord became angry. But he did something rather amazing in that moment. He affirmed the authority of the Father. He elevated the dignity due his Father—and his Father’s house. Yes, he raised his voice. But even in anger, he remained perfectly holy. It is possible for us to model his righteous anger. It is possible to be angry and yet not sin (Ephesians 4:25-26).

This is a frustrating world. We can hardly escape feeling angry at times, but we do not have to defile the tongue in order to express emotion.

The book of James tells it like it is. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (James 1:26).

The old adage has some truth to it: you can lose your religion—or at least render it useless.

When my parish priest was transferred to our little Missouri town, he immediately began visiting the local establishments. He learned names. Made friends. Won our respect. After morning prayers, he stopped by the local watering hole. And when the good ole boys began taking the name of his Lord in vain, he cringed inside, but he waited. He waited until he’d gained their respect. And then, he said it, quietly, friend-to-friend.

“You know, guys, I love starting my day with you. And I hope to keep doing that. But there’s something you have to know about me. When you say Our Lord’s name carelessly, you are using the name of the one I love in order to curse. To vent. That’s hard for me to hear. Just thought you should know.”

Sure, the guys sometimes fall into old habits, but they are more careful now. They see my priest as a friend—and now, they see him as a friend of Christ. That has made a difference.

I don’t suppose we have to go to extremes. We don’t have to purge words like gee and gosh from our vocabulary.

But we must remember that Jesus Christ is worthy of worship and praise. And holy is his name.                   


Denise Bossert is a convert and a syndicated columnist. Her column has been published in 60 diocesan newspapers.

At last, the secret to a happy marriage
| July 11, 2014 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

Three of our daughters got married in ten months, so I consider myself an expert on the topic of holy matrimony—at least on the topic of paying for weddings.

Before I got involved in this business of gowns, receptions and deejays, I did a lot of Internet research and couldn’t believe the father of the bride still has to pick up the tab for his daughter’s wedding in the post-feminist era when women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. There’s no justice. Even worse, when I suggested having a garden wedding or a group ceremony, I was met with hissing and icy stares, so in the end, I kissed my retirement savings goodbye.

Actually, I felt privileged to be father of the brides, which got me thinking about marriage in America. We live in a strange and sad era, when marriage is constantly under attack. The divorce rate is increasing for Baby Boomers, and there’s a growing chorus of evolutionary biologists who suggest that having the same partner for life isn’t realistic. In our consumer society, fidelity has an expiration date.

To add to the craziness, celebrities like Gywneth Paltrow, who divorced her rock star husband in what they called a “conscious uncoupling,” are looked upon as enlightened role models. The uncoupling shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, because the entertainment industry generally condones “open marriage” and adulterous relationships, aka cheating.

Adding to the salacious headlines, actress Tori Spelling and her husband exploited their problems with adultery and addiction by airing them on reality TV with a psychotherapist. And let’s not forget the late legendary Mickey Rooney, who had eight wives, or Elizabeth Taylor, who had seven husbands.

For the average couple struggling to make things work one day at a time, marriage is never easy. I recently read a book by Christian writer Gary Thomas titled, “Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” That’s a radical concept in our narcissistic society, which deceives us into believing “getting” is more important than “giving” and marriage should be a constant source of pleasure.

When the romantic thrill starts to ebb, Thomas says, “Many couples will break up their relationship and try to recreate the passionate romance with someone else. Other couples will descend into a sort of marital guerrilla warfare, a passive-aggressive power play as each partner blames the other for personal dissatisfaction or lack of excitement. Some couples decide to simply ‘get along.’ Still others may opt to pursue a deeper meaning, a spiritual truth hidden in the enforced intimacy of the marital situation.”

And that’s where Christ comes in. The most profound vision of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony I’ve ever seen is the “Exhortation Before Marriage,” which the priest read at my daughters’ ceremonies. It offers the best advice to avoid conscious, and unconscious, uncoupling through the unfamiliar practice of self-sacrifice.

I confess I’m not very good at self-sacrifice. Actually, I don’t have to confess anything because my wife is always reminding me. She’s like that little angel on your shoulder, whispering in your ear. Except she uses a megaphone.

The exhortation tells couples, “You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. These elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death. ...

Then, the important part: “It is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. ...

“May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God.”

Self-sacrifice is an unfamiliar concept in modern America, yet it’s the secret to true love and true happiness. And God is always there to help.    


Joe Pisani has been a writer and editor for 30 years.

Kolbe entrepreneur chosen for national competition
| July 11, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Kolbe Cathedral student Ambar Romero won the Fairfield County competition at a recent Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship event and will travel to Silicon Valley, CA, in the fall to compete nationally.

Ambar Romero (l) and Robin Altman, NFTE Program Director

NFTE (pronounced Nifty), is an international non-profit organization providing entrepreneurship training and education programs to young people from low-income urban communities, helping them build creativity and business skills.

Ambar's business proposal was for an on-line thrift store called "Styles by Ambar," featuring women's clothing and accessories. NFTE sponsors the program at Kolbe and the trip is an all-expenses paid opportunity.

St. Mark School Rallies for Recess
| July 10, 2014


STRATFORD—St. Mark School was recently named one of the five winning schools in the 2013-2014 Dannon "Rally for Recess" contest.

(Photo by Theresa Scallo)

(Photo by Theresa Scallo)

In addition to their yogurt products, Dannon looks for ways to help address larger health concerns. Among these, Dannon believes that playing and exercising at recess is a fun way for kids to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

As one component of that outreach, each year, Dannon gives away a $30,000 playground makeover to five schools nationwide through their "Rally for Recess." The contest includes participants collecting entry codes found on specially marked Danimals and Danonino yogurt products or mailing in for free codes. The St. Mark School community rallied together to accrue over 22,000 codes, the highest number of codes collected by any school in the contest. Students, parents, grandparents, faculty, friends and neighboring schools all contributed to this successful grassroots effort. One grandmother collected nearly 5,000 codes herself!

Ironically, construction on the new playground began on the last day of school and was completed in time for the first day of summer camp. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for September, when all St. Mark students can officially enjoy their new playground as the school kicks-off its 50th anniversary celebration.

Pope says Mass with pedophilia victims
| July 10, 2014


VATICAN CITY—Six adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests on Monday took part in a Mass said by Pope Francis in St. Martha's church.

The survivors, who are from Germany, Ireland and the UK, were set to meet with Francis after Mass, which he celebrates weekday mornings in the small church adjacent to the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

This will be the first time Francis meets with victims of pedophile clergy.

The reformist pope warned while returning from his trip to the Holy Land in May that not even bishops are exempt from investigation, and that three are currently being probed by church authorities on suspicion of child abuse.

Vatican authorities in June defrocked a former papal nuncio or ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Weselowski, prior to putting him on juridical trial for alleged child sexual abuse while in the Caribbean country. As well, Pope Francis' new anti-abuse commission met Sunday for the second time since the pontiff appointed it in March in a move intended to demonstrate resolve about confronting the child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked Catholicism.

The pope tapped three clergy and five lay people from eight countries, with seven from Europe or the United States, including four women.

Among his appointees are Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, one of Francis' key advisers and the archbishop of Boston, where the US pedophile priest scandal erupted in 2002, and Marie Collins, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland and has gone on to become a prominent campaigner for accountability in the church.

Francis faces mounting criticism for a perceived blind spot on the abuse scandals, which have cost Catholic dioceses and religious orders around the world billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

His predecessor Benedict XVI was the first Catholic pope to meet with victims of sexual abuse by priests, in Washington in 2008. He then met with sexual abuse survivors Australia, Germany, Malta and the UK.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
| July 10, 2014 • by By Father Frederick Saviano


This question, taken from the Book of Genesis in the Bible (chapter 4, verse 9), has plagued humanity since its recording. I’m sure that all of us have felt a sense of indignation at Cain’s response before God when questioned about his brother Abel’s murder. It seems so vicious that Cain could shrug off the horrendous crime that he committed.

And yet, somehow, we seem to be blind to the fact that we are all, indeed, our brother’s keepers and hence are responsible for the well-being of all our brothers and sisters in the human family.

The yearly Cooperative Mission Appeal will take place the weekend of July 19-20 in all our parishes. It is a clarion call to be generous in sharing what we have with our less fortunate brothers and sisters, especially in developing countries.

However, it is also a call to remember our commitment to the mission of preaching the Good News of the Gospel to all nations. We cannot dismiss our baptismal obligation as members of a Missionary Church simply by dipping our hands in our pockets or purses to hand funds off to the missionaries who labor in foreign lands to “let them do it,” and then go our merry way, feeling good about what we have done.

Certainly it is necessary for us who have the where-with-all to provide financial assistance to those who do, in fact, labor in foreign missions. Yet it still remains a fact that we are “our brother’s keeper.”

As I write these lines, I am looking at the numerous letters of desperation from missionaries who are laboring among our less fortunate brothers and sisters. As part of our family of faith they are so close to us, and yet they seem so far away. I read about the struggle for human dignity that has been denied to so many of them because of political structure or social customs which keep them subjugated in a life unworthy of children of God. It is poignantly brought to my attention so much suffering by attacks on Catholics from fanatical sects, some of whom claim to be of Christ while causing painful division. Add to this woeful disregard for human life the natural disasters such as floods and fires, drought and famine, and it should be more than evident that we cannot remain indifferent to “our brother’s” suffering and death.

Many of our family of faith have answered the call from God to go to “our brother’s” assistance as priests, Brothers, Sisters and lay missionaries. They announce the Gospel of a Loving God and Father through a healing touch, the caring for practical needs through the building of safe housing or water supplies, while at the same time denouncing the systems that maintain so many of our brothers and sisters in a state of drastic poverty.

For them it is no easy task. Because we are “our brother’s keepers,” I ask you to be very generous with your financial help in the collection for the Co-Op Mission Appeal. Then I ask you to pray fervently for all who are suffering because of the faith we profess. Beyond that, pray—and read and learn, too—so that government leaders will replace unjust structures with ones that assure human dignity and tolerance for all. And pray that we also will be converted to living the love that God expects of his children.

Thank you, and God bless each and every one of you.

(Father Saviano, temporary administrator of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in Shelton, is diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.)

St. Rose students reach Gold Level in math
| July 08, 2014


NEWTOWN—St. Rose of Lima School’s Advanced Math Club was one of only two schools in Connecticut to achieve “Gold Level” status in a year-long challenge administered by MATHCOUNTS Association.

This was the second year in a row that St. Rose achieved gold-level status. The honor brings with it a trophy, a banner and a listing on the website.

St. Rose’s advanced math club is comprised of students in grades six through eight who demonstrate advanced proficiency in math. In order to be eligible for membership in the club, a student’s math total score on Terra Nova tests must have been at least 97 percent. The club meets weekly to work in teams solving challenging, creative math problems covering a range of topics aligned to the CT State Math Core Standards for middle school students.

St. Rose students successfully completed a total of six rigorous math challenges throughout the school year. To attain Gold Level, students created a comprehensive Power Point presentation that had to include 12 math vocabulary definitions, along with photographs illustrating each word.  Students then created a word problem and solution for each vocabulary word.
Participation in the club helps inspire math excellence, which includes confidence, creativity and curiosity.

The math club is led by teacher Elaine Smith. Members include: Emma Boushie, Katy Cassetta, Gabriella Fabrizio, Victoris Gugliotti, Isabella Jiminez, Marina Kolitsas, Elizabeth Maker, Nicole Palmieri, Audrey Sedensky, A J Vitiello, Isabella Wolson, Wyatt Cicarelli, Reece DeLeo, Luke Kirby, Mark Leonardi, Thomas Luciano, Jack McDermott, Caroline Palmer, Molly Villodas, Michael Bachmann, Jack Boushie, Sabrinia Capodicci, Hunter Kirkman, Rebecca McHugh, J. P. Queenan, Erin Sudbey and Colman Tokar.

The MATHCOUNTS Association oversees Math Clubs around the country and internationally, and is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of Math, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Raytheon Company, Texas Instruments and the U.S. Dept. of Justice. More information can be found at

Young writers hold poetry celebration
| July 08, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—For six weeks this spring, Cathedral Academy Upper School and Fairfield University collaborated on a poetry project.

University students spent time in fourth through eighth grade classrooms, sharing ideas and advising young writers. At the end of the project, Cathedral Academy teachers and students and the Fairfield University students and their supervisors held a poetry celebration in conjunction with National Poetry Month.

At the celebration, academy students shared their original poems with the entire school.

The cooperative project began with the academy’s participation in Fairfield University’s annual Poetry for Peace contest. The Fairfield University students participated under the direction of Dr. Beth Boquet and Professor Carol Ann Davis (poet-in-residence). As part of the contest, the university is publishing a book of the poems academy students submitted for consideration. The cover artwork and page art were also done by academy students. Enough books will be published so that each student can receive a copy.

“Because the project has been so successful, Cathedral Academy and Fairfield University are already planning to continue the collaboration next year,” says Ann Marie Donnelley, the Upper School English Language Arts and social studies teacher. “Academy students greatly benefitted from the energy and creativity of the university students and the university students benefitted from working with young writers and their teachers in a classroom setting.”

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Jesus Christ, Divine Gardener
| July 08, 2014


When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” (John 20: 14-16)
Jesus Christ is the Divine Gardener. Even though Mary Magdalene is mistaken when she thinks that Jesus is the cemetery gardener, her mistake is inspired because Jesus is a gardener. The aim of every gardener is to make things grow, and Jesus wants us to grow in holiness day by day, and helps us to grow in the light of His grace. The result of healthy growth over time is a harvest of good fruit. God wants us all to grow in holiness and bear abundant, good fruit.

Cornstalks and wildflowers just sprouting.

Cornstalks and wildflowers five weeks later.

Although Jesus is a carpenter by trade, he does display significant agricultural knowledge. When he and his disciples are hungry, they know to eat grain from the fields. Jesus knows about the growth cycles of various trees, especially fig trees. He uses the image of the vine and the branches to great effect. It is likely that most families at the time of Jesus would try to grow produce for themselves anywhere they could. They may have even had cooperatives where they maintained and farmed grapes and figs with other families who did not have the resources to have their own fruit trees and vineyards.

Mary Magdalene knew that gardeners were employed to maintain the cemetery and perhaps even to reap a harvest from some of the things growing there. Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared first in his glorified body in cultivated gardens. From these facts, we can make the assumption that God loves gardens and also loves to garden. Where did God make a home for our first parents, before the fall? Their original job was to tend to the garden, so God loves gardeners too. Gardening was our original universal vocation.

There is a direct link between gardening and spirituality. All plant life needs water and light to grow. Further, plant life needs nutrients. We are akin to plants in that we all need God’s grace to grow in holiness, and God’s grace can be seen as light. Water can be seen as baptism, the sacraments and the Church, and nourishment can be seen as the Word of God, who is Jesus Himself. By the way, none of what I have just written is exhaustive. The examples I use above are merely metaphorical, meaning they could be expanded greatly.

On the right, I have posted some before and after photos of a planter on my deck that was seeded with wildflowers and corn. In five weeks or so, the growth has been explosive. Day by day, the growth of plant life is not that noticeable, and neither is growth in holiness. It is only when we can hold up a benchmark to the light that we are able to discern how much growth has taken place.

Here, the analogy begins limping, because growth in holiness is never as visible or as quantifiable as the growth of plants. Nevertheless, there is good spirituality to be harvested in gardening, and I recommend it to everyone, whether it is a single houseplant or a more extravagant garden.

Finally, and I have learned this well with my lemon trees, many plants need to be pruned in order to remain healthy and to produce an even greater hoped-for harvest. When it comes to our own spiritual selves, when Jesus prunes us, it does not tickle! In fact, although pruning by God is necessary for us to grow more strongly in holiness and to produce an ever richer harvest, we usually experience it as spiritual pain, if not agony. Then again, it can help us to endure difficult spiritual times if we consider that we may be undergoing spiritual pruning by God.
Oh, I’d better hurry. I’ve got to get some seeds. I’ve got to get some seeds right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground. (Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”)

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Aetna Golf scores for charity
| July 02, 2014


NORWALK—This year’s Catholic Charities/AETNA Golf Classic, held at Shorehaven Golf Club, raised more than $135,000 for the many behavioral health services and throughout the diocese.

Catholic Charities is a leading provider of food, housing, mental health, adoption, immigrations and family support services to people in need in Fairfield County.

“It was an extraordinarily positive event. We have so many people to thank including all our marvelous sponsors, the terrific volunteers from Catholic Charities, AETNA, and other friends of CCFC, all the players and guests who joined us for the post golf activities, all those who bought the terrific auction items, the wonderful staff at Shorehaven, and, I’m sure, many others,” said Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities.

“We were also blessed with a glorious sunny day. I am very pleased to report that AETNA and the terrific co-chairs of the tournament, Bill Tommins and Jon Vaccarella, have committed to leading next year’s event,” Barber said.

(Catholic Charities is celebrating its 96th year of providing services to the poor and vulnerable of Fairfield County. For information on services and giving opportunities, visit

Fairfield Prep celebrates groundbreaking and blessing of Student Life Center
| July 02, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Fairfield Prep celebrated the groundbreaking and blessing of a new Student Life Center on June 18 in Pelletier Quad. Guests included Fairfield University President Fr. Von Arx, S.J., members of Prep’s Board of Governors, administrators and staff, and members of the Fairfield Jesuit Community.

From left: Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J.;
Fairfield Prep President Rev. John Hanwell, S.J.; and Board
Chairman Dr. Bob Russo '65.

Prep President Fr. John Hanwell, S.J., announced, "Today is a great moment in the history of Fairfield Prep. The Prep community breaks ground together for our new Student Life Center as we believe so heartily in our great mission that our students are our future and that their future is our responsibility."

The center will serve as a crossroads for important campus activities. This state-of-the-art, technology-enriched, multi-purpose facility will feature a number of specialized, but functionally related spaces. The center will foster a synergy between the academic and co-curricular lives of the school by providing students the opportunity to meet, to interact, to explore, and to cultivate their interests outside of the classroom. The facility will include an enhanced dining area to accommodate 500 students and other school sponsored functions; an assembly area for formal and informal meetings; and office space to support various student-based programs. The project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2015.

Court: Closely held companies can't be required to cover contraceptives
| July 01, 2014 • by By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON—In a narrowly tailored 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court June 30 said closely held companies may be exempted from a government requirement to include contraceptives in employee health insurance coverage under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Pro-life demonstrators celebrate June 30 outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington as its decision in the Hobby Lobby case is announced. (CNS/Reuters)

The court said that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, the two family-run companies that objected to the government mandate that employees be covered for a range of contraceptives, including drugs considered to be abortifacients, are protected from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act. The opinion essentially held that for-profit companies may hold protected religious views.

But the court also said that government requirements do not necessarily lose if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs.
The ruling is not a slam-dunk for all entities that oppose the contraceptive mandate for religious reasons. The court noted that cases challenging the mandate for nonprofit entities, such as Catholic colleges and faith-based employers, are pending and that the June 30 ruling doesn't consider them. The decision also did not delve into whether the private employers have religiously motivated protection from laws under the First Amendment.

It said the government failed to satisfy the requirement of RFRA, a 1993 law, that the least-restrictive means of accomplishing a government goal be followed to avoid imposing a restriction on religious expression.

The majority opinion said the ruling applies only to the contraceptive mandate and should not be interpreted to hold that all insurance coverage mandates -- such as for blood transfusions or vaccinations -- necessarily fail if they conflict with an employers' religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the primary holding, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion, which agreed with the ruling, but made clear that while the opinion applies to the particular companies involved in this case, it's not a sweeping condemnation of the key elements of the contraceptive mandate itself.

"It is important to confirm that a premise of the court's opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees," wrote Kennedy in his concurrence. He went on to say that the federal government failed to use the least restrictive means of meeting that interest, pointing out that it has granted exemptions from the mandate for employees of nonprofit religious organizations.

"That accommodation equally furthers the government interest, but does not impinge on the plaintiff's religious beliefs," he wrote.

In the 49-page majority opinion, Alito noted that the department of Health and Human Services that administers the ACA has already provided exemptions from some of the coverage requirements for employers in a variety of situations, including some that were grandfathered in without certain provisions and employers of fewer than 50 workers.

He also said that the standard for the government of meeting a general good by the least restrictive means is "exceptionally demanding," and that the contraceptives provision fails to meet it. The federal government could easily, and relatively inexpensively, cover the cost of providing the disputed contraceptives coverage, Alito said.

And he said the federal government already has a system for handling the mandate for nonprofit religious organizations with objections to the mandate.

Under that accommodation, organizations self-certify that their religious objections entitle them to exemption from the mandate. In those cases, third party insurers arrange for the provision to be handled without involvement or cost to the employer.

Alito specified that the opinion does not decide whether the accommodation approach complies with RFRA for all objections. "At a minimum, however, it does not impinge on the plaintiff's religious belief that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue violates their religion, and it serves HHS's stated interests very well."

Alito also noted that the opinion should not be understood to mean any religion-based objection to a requirement of the ACA would be upheld. Different issues would arise, for instance, in the case of objections to vaccinations that protect public health, he said.

In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the court's majority decision one of "startling breadth" allowing commercial enterprises to "opt out of any law" except tax laws that they "judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Ginsburg, joined on the merits of her dissent by Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, said she was "mindful of the havoc" the ruling could produce and noted that the court's emphasis on RFRA failed to take into account the impact the decision would have on "third parties who do not share the corporation owners' religious faith."

"Until today," she wrote, religious exemptions have not been extended to the "commercial profit-making world" because these groups do not exist to foster the interests of those of the same faith, as religious organizations do.

"The court's determination that RFRA extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects," she said, adding that even though the court "attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private."

As a result, she said, "RFRA claims will proliferate."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Carol Zimmermann.

St. Aloysius Youth say "Yes" to Synod 2014
| July 01, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Annie Butler and Grace Wagner represented the teens of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan at the Evening Vespers at St. Augustine Cathedral with Bishop Caggiano on June 29.

During his homily, Bishop Caggiano announced the topics for the synod and stated that the young delegates are not just spectators, they are full members of the synod deliberations.

The synod delegates, who will be charting the future of our diocese through discussion and prayer, will focus on the following four tasks:

1. Help empower the young Church.
2. Build up communities of faith.
3. Foster evangelical outreach
4. Find new ways to promote the works of charity and justice.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
My iPhone and Fisher’s 25th Anniversary Celebration
| July 01, 2014


A few years ago, when I first got an iPhone, I would have been hard pressed to tell you why I “needed” one. Once, I remember explaining to a non-iPhone user why I liked my iPhone. After listing a few reasons why I had purchased one, the non-iPhone user claimed that his phone could do the same things that my more expensive iPhone could do. Admittedly, I felt a bit befuddled, and wondered to myself, why did I “need” an iPhone?

Now that I am assigned to help at the Fairfield County Catholic, which includes writing a weekly blog, I have a better understanding of the differences between an iPhone and a basic cell phone. For example, I now use my iPhone to record homilies that I might like to transcribe. It has worked well for recording Bishop Caggiano a few times, and at the Fisher Seminary anniversary Mass, I recorded Cardinal Egan’s homily (excerpted below). Thus far, my brother priests – who have seen me fumbling with my phone in church – have been patient with me. They seem to know that I am not texting friends during Mass, but they are not quite sure what I am doing. Now they will know.

Recording a homily during Mass is not a perfect system because when I play it back I have to strain to hear certain words. I think it is helping my listening skills, however, as it took me over three hours to transcribe the bishop’s Vespers homily given at the cathedral on the Solemnity of Peter and Paul. If you want to know what he said without reading his homily, I am probably a pretty good person to ask. If you want to know in detail about the four over-arching themes of the synod, ask me.

Then comes taking pictures. As far as a camera goes, the iPhone is fairly limited, but now I am learning how to crop the photos I have taken, which makes them much more presentable and effective. The five photos that accompany this blog are from the June 20 reception at the Inn at Longshore in Westport following the 25th anniversary Mass at Assumption Parish in Westport. For two of the pictures, I even employed standardized special effects available on the iPhone (see if you can tell which ones). Then, when I saw the singer/songwriter Jose’ Feliciano and his lovely wife Susan, who are parishioners at Assumption and very active in the Catholic community, I was tempted to take a selfie with Jose’. Thankfully, Susan came to my rescue and snapped a pretty nice shot. Six months to “Feliz Navidad!”

My goal is to learn how to better use my iPhone in my role as Catholic “cub reporter.” One of the reasons I wanted to post these shots on my blog is that no one would post them anywhere else, and I want them to be seen! This is art here, people!

The photos are listed from top to bottom: 1) Cardinal Egan relaxes at Longshore with Msgr. Bill Scheyd, vicar general and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan. 2) A view of the revelers with Long Island Sound as a backdrop. 3). Bishop Caggiano “listening” to two attendees. 4). The sun is setting, is it time for dinner?? 5) Me and my new best friend Jose’ Feliciano!

On a serious note, Cardinal Egan’s moving homily set the tone of thanksgiving for the entire evening, which in total was a wonderful celebration.
Excerpts from Cardinal Egan’s Homily at the Mass to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of St. John Fisher Seminary (Friday evening, June 20, 2014: Assumption Parish, Westport, Conn.):
That Gospel reading (John 17:11b-19) is the high-priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to his seminarians at the Last Supper. And in that high-priestly prayer and exactly in that passage, you have the program for how to run a seminary.
It opens up with Jesus Christ announcing that he needs the Father in heaven to protect, guard and nurture the calling of his Apostles... Three times he begs the Father in heaven: ‘See to it the young men who are at the table with me will pursue the calling he has given them in holiness and grace’...
Jesus Christ wants the seminary to be a place where the calling is protected, guarded and nurtured by prayer, by study, and by the example of the priests who guide the seminarians just as the Lord was the example for his seminarians, the Apostles. And John Fisher Seminary does this magnificently... and it does it with devotion, exuberance, and with the great style of the Diocese of Bridgeport!
The second thing the Lord tells us about his seminary is that the seminarians need to know the Word of God and be able to teach it, whole and entire, nothing left out, nothing added... and I have never had any doubt that the Gospel is being preached at St. John Fisher!...
The third and final element in this high-priestly prayer is that seminarians are to know that they are to be that they can go out and consecrate and make holy the world...
Those are the three elements of the seminary of Jesus Christ...
There is an element in every seminary that is over and above the three elements I have already mentioned. The seminary has to teach future priests to be men of kindness, compassion and love...
And I believe that in addition to your wonderful faculty at St. John Fisher, you have another addition that you may not be aware of right now, and his name is Pope Francis... and I would like to think that the men who are in seminary now will learn from him; imitate him; be sure that kindness, compassion and love are part of their lives.

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Announcement of Themes for Synod 2014
| June 30, 2014


Watch a video of Bishop Caggiano announcing the Themes for Synod 2014.

From the Vespers Service, June 29, 2014

Faithful cheer Bishop’s call for renewal
| June 29, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank Caggiano called for empowering youth, building bridges to those who have left the church, finding new ways to promote charity and justice within the diocese, and strengthening local faith communities at the Vespers service tonight that formally launched Synod 2014.

The Bishop convoked the synod in February, and announced a series of “listening sessions” to better understand the concerns and hopes of Catholics as the diocese plans for the future.

“The listening has only begun,” he said, noting that the four themes he selected came out of the seven listening sessions that he and the Synod Commission attended during the Spring.

As the evening prayer service began a brilliant shaft of light filled the stained glass window above the sanctuary on a strikingly beautiful summer evening.

More than 650 Catholics throughout the diocese filled the Cathedral for the Vespers prayer service and voiced support for the goals of the synod.

In a moving moment following the singing of psalms and canticles, the intercessions were read in Spanish, Creole, Vietnamese, Polish, Portuguese and English, reflecting the diversity of many different communities across the diocese.

During his 20 minute homily, the bishops challenged the delegates and others present to work with him to renew the diocese.

On the feast of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Apostles, Bishop Caggiano said the two fathers of the Church were “as different as night and day.”

Peter was a stubborn fisherman, while Paul was well-born and educated. Yet they overcame their differences to build the Church. The bishop urged those in attendance to “overcome differences so that we might rise to the challenge before us.”

“Empowering youth” was the first priority mentioned by the bishop. “They are not just our future, but our present and they are eager to lead,” he said.

“We must give them faith in ways they can understand,” he said, calling for delegates to help “evolve a catechesis” that speaks to youth.

“Our young tell us that too many of their friends don’t believe,” the bishop said, asking delegates to “dig deeper” and to understand that youth themelves may have the answers to many of the church’s challenges. “The young are not spectators, they are full participants in the process,” he said.

Building upon the communities of faith that make up the diocese was the second theme announced by Bishop Caggiano. He said the diocese must begin with the family, which he referred to as “the domestic Church.”

Bishop Caggiano said parents and all caretakers of children are “struggling mightily “ to be faithful in changing times and he said the Church must learn to respond to “all of the different sizes, and shapes that families now are.”

Noting that parishes are communities of fraternity and education as well as faith, the bishop said it is not only important for Catholic to know about Jesus, “but to know Jesus.” He said parishes must be places “where everyone is welcome and everyone is known by name.”

Identifying schools as important Catholic communities, Bishop Caggiano said they are appreciated throughout the diocese because they are both place of academic excellence and faith formation.

He also asked delegates to devise programs that support leaders of faith communities whether they be priests, religious or laity, by giving them an opportunity to continue to grow in the faith.

“Too many of our Catholic brothers and sisters feel unwelcome as if they don’t belong and they feel no one misses them, but we do miss them,” said the bishop in calling for Evangelical Outreach as the third theme of the synod.

He said that evangelization in the simplest terms is “sharing the good new of Jesus Christ, that they are welcomed, that they are missed and that they are invited back.”

In the spirit of Pope Francis Bishop Caggiano challenged local Catholics to “be a missionary church reaching out one person a time.” He said the delegates will look at the best programs provided by other dioceses and also create others to bring Catholics back home.

“The time has come for the world to know the good that happens in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Caggiano said in defining the fourth major themes of the synod as finding new ways to promote charity and justice in the diocese.

“Charity makes the community credible . We bring many to faith in the works of love, because God is love.”

Bishop Caggiano said there are many challenges ahead but he challenged the faithful to build bridges to alienated Catholics and to future generations.

“The bridge that Peter and Paul built has stood for 2000 years and will remain firm until the end of time.”

“Imagine what we can do for generations yet to come,” he said, telling those present they can breathe the air of the Holy Spirit to find strength and inspiration.

His homily was greeted by prolonged applause and pledges to help him renew the Church in Fairfield County.

The beautiful music for the Vespers program was provided by Thomas J. Marino of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, who served as organist and choir director of the celebration. Choir members were drawn from parishes throughout the diocese, while Cidalia Alves was the cantor.

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Click to read a full transcript of Bishop Caggiano's homily

Click here to view the slideshow

Serve and Love
| June 26, 2014


When my good friend lay dying of cancer, I didn’t know where to turn. A tragedy of that magnitude has a way of upending daily life as we know it and changing our view of the way things are supposed to be.

This fellow was a young man, and young men seldom think about their mortality, until it’s too late. So I called one of the few people I knew who would know what to say, a man named Frank Wissel, who also happened to be a priest and the pastor at St. Mary Church in Greenwich.

As your life approaches its end, which is an experience we all will share, everything that preoccupied you for 99% of your time on Earth takes on a different meaning. You look at the way you measured success and see it through an entirely different lens. Everything you thought was so important suddenly loses its luster and a lot of things that you never bothered to think about suddenly seem important.

Msgr. Wissel, who died last week, talked to my friend a long time. He gave him last rites and heard his confession, which is a Catholic thing that we usually think about later than we should. When he left, I walked him to the door and thanked him. For once in my life, I’d made the right decision.

A week or so later, my friend passed away, and as it turned out, Msgr. Wissel said the funeral Mass in a packed church. For his sermon, he read a poem about taking the time to live life the way it was meant to be lived, not in the relentless pursuit of prestige, possessions and pleasure.

The poem, he told me, was one he often used during funerals when people are looking for answers. It was about life and falling victim to the rat race. It was about making the most of each moment and being sure that your priorities are true priorities that won’t fail you — or make you regret you lived the way you did.

Life, he said, passes by a lot faster than we expect, until it’s too late and you realize you frittered away valuable time for the wrong reasons. You have to put first things first. It was a lesson I needed to hear. It was a lesson I hope I never forget, and more importantly, it was a lesson Frank Wissel lived by.

Msgr. Wissel lived by the principles he professed. After 17 years as pastor of St. Mary Church, he had recently retired and moved to the Nathaniel Witherell home in Greenwich.

A few weeks ago, he had been honored during a ceremony to dedicate a hand-carved marble statue of Our Lady of Grace made in Italy and given anonymously to the church in recognition of his service and in appreciation for St. Mary’s intercession in curing cancer patients.

Born in Brooklyn, Wissel, 76, attended Long Island University, where he received master’s degrees in science and professional studies. He later earned a doctorate in psychotheology and ministry. Before he entered the seminary, he was a psychologist for the New York City Board of Education and taught for 17 years in the Brooklyn Catholic schools.

In 1977, he was ordained by Bishop Walter W. Curtis and served in parishes in the Bridgeport Diocese. He later became principal of Kolbe Cathedral High School and was the director of the St. Maximilian Kolbe House of Studies, which has helped students from Africa, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia and Peru earn college degrees. I had heard about his work with the immigrant community and knew some of the people he helped along the way.

Looking back on his years of service, he said his goal had been a simple one but not always an easy one. It was, “Serve and love the people. Try and absorb all their pains and suffering. And let them know you really do love and care about them.”

And the people who knew him will tell you that was a goal he accomplished, right to the end when he was confined to a wheelchair because of health issues. He set the example for the lessons and virtues he spoke of.

Joe Pisani may be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Vespers Service to open Synod 2014
| June 25, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—The  Synod 2014 Vespers prayer service , which for the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul will be held on Sunday, June 29, 7 pm at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

All are invited to attend the evening prayer service will include hymns, psalms, scripture readings and a homily by Bishop Frank Caggiano.

After his homily the Bishop will also announce the major topics for the Synod based on the hundreds of comments and suggestions made at the listening sessions held throughout the diocese during the spring. Comments have also been submitted online through the diocesan website.

“It is fitting that we begin the Synod with prayer on the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the two great Apostles who represent the very foundations of the Church,” said Bishop Caggiano. “They are the solid rock on which the Church is built, and they remain our protectors.”
The Vespers service will bring together more than 300 Synod delegates for the first time along with pastors, clergy and religious throughout the diocese to pray for the success of the Synod.
During the listening sessions, Catholics throughout the diocese have offered suggestions on a wide range of issues including the need to welcome Catholics back to Church, to reach out to youth and young adults, to increase collaboration between parishes, and to offer new opportunities for lay spiritual formation.
The Synod will formally open on Saturday September 20 when delegates convene for the 1st General Session at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. The year-long process will conclude with a Closing Session in September 2015.
Bishop Caggiano officially convoked the 4th Diocesan Synod with an announcement in his February 22 letter that issued a challenge to all Catholics to help plan for the future of the diocese.
“Each generation and every age has faced its own difficulties; yet the gift of faith that has been placed into our heart by God always remains and must be passed into future generations,” he wrote.
For reports on the listening sessions and other information, visit the synod website: