Sound thinking
and Spirituality

A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna


Recycling: An act of prayer for the environment

Silence can be a Lenten offering

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

Unity in Diversity: Part II

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Come Celebrate the Fraternas!
| March 04, 2015


TRUMBULL—On March 25, the Fraternas (Marian Community of Reconciliation) will mark the 24th anniversary of their founding with a Thanksgiving Mass. All are invited to attend this special Mass, to be held at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull at 7 pm. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the principal celebrant.

The Fraternas focus on evangelizing the youth of Fairfield County.

MCR is a Society of Apostolic Life for women, founded on March 25, 1991, in the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru. The order was blessed with immediate growth and was able to send members to serve in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The first Fraternas arrived in this diocese on November 11, 2005, in response to an invitation from Bishop William E. Lori. Their mission was to evangelize and catechize, focusing on an apostolate to the youth of Fairfield County.

Fraternas live in community and are fully committed to their apostolate of evangelization. Each member of the order totally consecrates her life to God, following the example of Our Blessed Mother.

As lay women—living in the world—the MCR mission requires its members to discover creative ways to transmit the faith to others. Fraternas help the laity to recognize their own call to evangelize, forming “apostles of apostles” who can announce the Gospel to others.

The fire that “fuels” the MCR apostolate is the deep and personal encounter of each member with Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ alone, the Fraternas find their inspiration. With the help of God’s grace, they respond to Christ’s call to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News.”

Think you may have a calling to join the Fraternas? Please visit or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Deacon Timothy Sullivan, 66, courageous and cheerful
| March 03, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Deacon Timothy Sullivan died on March 1 in St. Vincent’s Medical Center after a courageous fight with the sufferings and pains of a long illness.

Close friends are remembering him as a man with an elfin presence and of profound faith, whose deep commitment to social justice and fairness was balanced by an equally ingrained sense of humor and acceptance.

Timothy Sullivan was born in Bridgeport on April 1, 1948. He went area schools and the former Christ the King High School in Southport. He later pursued degrees at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and Fairfield University, where he earned an MA in both counseling and theology.

For five years Deacon Tim was in formation as a brother for the Maryknoll Fathers. He had hopes of becoming a missionary priest but the progression of a debilitating condition stood in the way of fulfilling his dream. Fluent in Spanish and a member of the National Board of Certified Counselors, he became a counselor for Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center in Stamford.

He was ordained to the diaconate at Saint Augustine Cathedral on June 11, 1994 by the Bishop Edward M. Egan. He served first as deacon at Saint Augustine, his home parish, then at Saint Stephen Parish, Trumbull, where he also served as director of religious education (DRE).

Deacon Tim also served on the faculty of Notre Dame High School in Fairfield. He became diocesan director of the Propagation of the Faith from 2005-07. His last assignment was as assistant chaplain at St. Joseph Manor in Trumbull.

Tim was often the first deacon to arrive at continuing education events. He liked to keep up his connections with his ordained brethren. He was cheerful and uncomplaining as his physical health deteriorated. He was devoted to the residents at Saint Joseph Manor, where he also resided. Tim gave witness toChrist’s passion in his own afflicted body to all who knew him.

The wake for Deacon Tim will be at Saint Augustine Cathedral on Saturday, March 7 at 9 am. The Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 10 am. Msgr. William Scheyd, vicar general for the Diocese of Bridgeport, will be the celebrant. Deacon Tim’s close friend, Deacon Donald Ross, will be the homilist. Burial will follow at St. James Cemetery in Naugatuck.

Deacon Sullivan is survived by his brother, Patrick Sullivan, of New Britain and sister, Mary Piretti, of Collinsville, CT. His cousin, Father Edward McAuley, is pastor of St. Bridget of Ireland Parish in Stamford.

St. John’s Flock: A Group for Young Professionals
| March 03, 2015


STAMFORD—On a cold winter evening at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, a group of young adults gathered together for an evening of prayer and pizza.

On this night, and every first Monday of the month, the members of St. John’s Flock meet for an hour of contemplative prayer and Eucharistic adoration, followed by a delicious group dinner at a local restaurant. It’s this unique combination, a mix of faith and fellowship that attracts members to the group.

This particular evening, as the group gathered around a table preparing to enjoy dinner, members discussed everything from the Bishop’s return to social media to salsa dancing. The warm, inviting atmosphere was undeniable, as leader Mary Thierry introduced newcomers with a smile and welcome.

It is under the leadership of Mary that The Flock has seen resurgence, and just in time. One of the major initiatives of Bishop Caggiano has been to emphasize to young adults that there is a place prepared for them in the church. That is the goal of The Flock, brining together Catholics from all across the Diocese to pray and worship, but also to discuss life over a slice of pizza.

The group meets at St. John the Evangelist in Stamford the first Monday of every month from 7-9, and the third Sunday of every month at 5:00pm. All are welcome!

For more info contact: Mary Thierry, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Walking the Cross: A Lenten Journey
| March 03, 2015


NORWALK—On Sunday, March 15th, parishioners of the seven Catholic Parishes in Norwalk will host a “Walking the Cross” experience. A large wooden cross will be carried from one church to another, linking all seven churches in a special way during the season of Lent.

Each Norwalk parish is responsible for carrying the cross to the next parish and handing it off. As noted on the accompanying map, there is an approximate timing and distance for each part of the Walk. Each parish will do this any way that they see fit—from just a few people carrying it themselves, to youth group participants or other ministries serving as cross bearers.

The Walk will begin after the 9:00 am Mass at St. Matthew and end before the 6:00 pm Mass at St. Jerome. All are welcome to attend either or both Masses. The walk with the cross will be performed in many ways: in silence, in prayer, saying the Rosary, and in song.

9:00am Mass at St Matthew for anyone who wants to attend (start of the walk)
A    10:30am     St Matthew to St Ladislaus     2.0 miles
B    Noon          St Ladislaus to St. Joseph       0.8 miles
C    1:00 pm      St. Joseph to St. Thomas       1.3 miles
D    2:00 pm      St Thomas to St Mary             1.4 miles
E    3:00 pm      St Mary to St Philip                 1 mile
F    4:00 pm      St Philip to St Jerome              2.5 miles (hand off half way)
6:00 pm Mass at St Jerome for anyone who wants to attend (end of the walk)

For information, contact: Kali DiMarco 203.434.8407 or Mike Pappa 203.858.2609, of St. Philip Church, Norwalk, CT.

Beating swords into plowshares
| March 03, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference       
By Tony Magliano

“In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills,” writes the prophet Isaiah.

“Many peoples shall come and say: Come, let us go up to the Lord’s mountain … that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. …

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”
This prophesy will certainly be fulfilled when Christ comes again and his kingdom is totally established. There’s no stopping it. But it could happen even before then. If only we would go up to the Lord’s mountain and allow him to instruct us in his ways, and wholeheartedly walk in his paths.
But instead it seems like so much of the world, and so many people in power, are committed to going down into the dark valley of violence and war, ignoring the Prince of Peace’s way.
As I write, the U.S. Congress is poised to grant President Obama’s request to use expanded military force – including boots-on-the-ground – to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State.  
In his request known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” Obama is asking Congress to approve the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq for “enduring offensive ground combat operations” for at least three years.
Didn’t the nearly nine years of war in Iraq teach us anything?
Military action against the Islamic State is playing into their hands. They want to draw the U.S. into a ground war, so they can trumpet the message that “Christian crusaders” have launched an invasion upon Islam. Such a scenario would flood their ranks with radical Islamists from around the world.

After the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. John Paul wrote, "No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war."
It can be strongly argued that the devastation caused by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq largely set the stage for the birth of the Islamic State and several other Jihadist groups.

Instead of fueling more war and terrorism, we need to pressure our government to provide far more humanitarian assistance to our fellow Christians, and all others, who are suffering from the barbarism of the Islamic State.

Also, we need to kindly consider making a generous donation to Catholic Relief Service’s emergency fund for the Middle East (
In his famous 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Rev. Martin Luther King said, “Our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”

And the same is true with terrorism today. If we will muster up the faith and courage to redirect the vast resources dedicated to war, and instead put them at the service of removing “those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are fertile soil” in which the seed of terrorism grows and develops, we will have then finally beat our swords into plowshares.

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

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Recycling: An act of prayer for the environment
| March 02, 2015


If a Catholic priest is ordained between the ages of 25-30, he will be separated from priests aged 75-80 by approximately three generations of priestly formation; generations which are approximately 15-18 years in length.

The Turkey Vultures at the Wilton Transfer Station are natural-born recyclers.

As time goes by, keen observers can determine the formative strengths and weaknesses of different generations of priests. Shortly after Vatican II, Catholic seminarians were instructed that priestly work itself could be considered prayer. In other words, if a priest kept very busy throughout each day with ministerial tasks, he could consider all of his priestly work that day to be prayer.

Within 30 years, adept seminary faculties were advising seminarians that the “work is prayer” notion is not sufficient for the spiritual needs of a priest. Priests needed to devote themselves to the liturgy of the hours, devotions, and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in addition to performing ministerial work.

The balance between work and prayer has always been a tricky one for a parish priest. In the fifth century, St. Benedict founded a monastic order with its rule centered on “Ora et Labora” (prayer and work). But parish priests are not monks. In fact, until recently, parish priests were often referred to as “secular” priests, meaning that they necessarily dealt with the world on a daily basis.

For clergy, religious and laypeople, it is important to note that prayer can be work, and work can be prayer. Ideally, however, a healthy spiritual life – for individuals and communities—requires a balance between performing religious “acts” and spending time in prayerful contemplation, striving to develop a personal relationship with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In my own prayer life, I try to achieve a balance between “works” and contemplation, and I would like to use my recycling efforts as a way to illustrate that sometimes, we can convert mundane tasks into acts of prayer, with intentions attached.

When I prepare to bring my recycling to the recycling center, I offer my “work” to God with an intention for the salvation of the world and for the protection/health of the world’s environment.

Although I am not really a believer in man-made global warming (sorry, er, I mean “climate change”), my “carbon footprint” is probably a lot smaller than many who participate in climate change activism. Hollywood stars, for example, who decry the evils of fossil fuels, think nothing of flying in their private jets from Los Angeles to New York for a weekend out. President Obama, who just vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline because it would transport “evil” fossil fuels, has probably traveled more miles in Air Force One than any preceding president. By the way, 747’s burn a lot of fuel.

Ironically, over time, I have noticed that many who claim to be concerned about climate change can be disinterested in basic recycling efforts.

As I have written before in this blog, I am a proud conservative, and I am a consummate recycler! As the mainstream liberal media would have us believe, conservatives want “dirty air and dirty water,” but I buck that trend.

In the photos that accompany this blog, you can follow the trajectory of my recycling efforts when I finally load up my vehicle and head to the Wilton Transfer Station (when I was a kid, we used to call it the “dump!”). The condominiums where I live do not offer curbside recycling pick-up or single-stream recycling. We do have a few community recycling bins near our dumpster, but I suspect that sometimes our recycling material gets tossed into the garbage truck. Others have told me that they sometimes see waste-management contractors combine recycling materials and garbage together. It all depends on how conscientious the waste-management contractor/employee is on a given day.

If I am going to go to the trouble of recycling – to the point of obsessiveness—I want to be certain that my recycling material finds its way to legitimate recycling points. To the best of my ability, my recyclables are cleaned (without using excessive water), and everything is neatly sorted: cardboard (corrugated and flat); mixed paper; plastic and metal containers; and occasional pieces of scrap metal.

It pains me when I go to the dumpster and discover large, corrugated cardboard boxes within. Not all of my neighbors care about recycling as much as I do! Don’t worry, I am not so obsessive that I go dumpster-diving to retrieve recyclables!

The work that I do to bring my recyclables to the recycling center can truly be considered prayerful. It involves a level of sacrifice, which I offer to God for my intentions. Like most people, I would prefer to be lazy and not do uncompensated work, but I do it because I believe in faith that my recycling efforts are accepted as prayer, and that is compensation enough!

As you will see from the photos, many Wilton residents are concerned about recycling, and the truck-sized bins fill up quickly. One of the staff members at the Transfer Station told me that the mixed-paper bins fill up very fast. In fact, most of that paper finds its way to China, which places a high value on reusable paper pulp.

When it comes to business/mixed paper items, I do my best to remove my address from my recyclables. In this age of identity theft, cutting out or shredding my contact info is an added burden in the process, but I feel better about throwing personal correspondence in the recycling bin when I know I have done my best to remove contact information from the documents.

One of the reasons I posted this blog was to encourage others to take recycling seriously, as an important environmental effort, and as a form of prayer.

As I was leaving the Transfer Station the other day, I stopped to take a photo of the resident Turkey Vultures who were looking for a snack. There is no question that they, too, are serious recyclers.

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St. Mark School surprises principal
| March 02, 2015


STRATFORD—An ordinary day at St. Mark School was turned into an extraordinary day for principal, Donna Wuhrer.

Through creative and heart-warming activities, the faculty and students at St. Mark School paid a special, surprise tribute to their principal. At morning assembly, the faculty presented her with a tiara and declared the day as “We Love Mrs. Wuhrer Day.”

In an effort to show their principal just how much they appreciate her, they decorated her office with balloons and streamers and lined the walls with displays of posters and heart-shaped love notes from every St. Mark student. Each student from Pre-K to Grade 8 personally expressed the special qualities that they treasure most about their principal. Throughout the day, Mrs. Wuhrer was invited to visit with each grade level so they could present to her their own unique salute: ranging from presentations of rehearsed songs and dances, creative writings, choral readings, artwork and poetry. At lunch, she was escorted into the faculty room to find a perfect table setting of fine china and a pink rose adorning a gourmet hot lunch, compliments of the Home School Association. Lunch was a special treat, as this was her first opportunity all school year to sit and eat with fellow faculty members. She usually covers lunch duty with the students but on this special day she enjoyed eating lunch with the first shift of teachers and dessert with the second shift.

Wuhrer told the students, “This is one of the best days of my life!” Overwhelmed with joy, she said to the faculty, “Someone once told me that I would have many children but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have 230!” Fourth grade teacher, Janet Rodriguez, then reminded her “Don’t forget your adult children too,” implying that the faculty and staff also regard her as a maternal figure. 

Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion
| March 02, 2015


TRUMBULL—On the first Sunday of Lent, February 22, parishes across the world celebrate the Rite of Sending for those in the RCIA Process.

Photos by Mike Donnarummo

This shows our universality of our Catholic Church. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. At the parish, the desire for full communion in the Catholic Church is celebrated and recognized.

It is at this parish celebration that the local community has the opportunity to express its approval of the catechumens and candidates and sends them forth to the celebration of election and assures them of their parish’s care, support, and prayers.  

The Rite of Election (for the catechumens) and the Call to Continuing Conversion (for candidates) was celebrated in the afternoon of February 22 at Saint Theresa Church, Trumbull. Twenty-seven parishes participated in this rite, with one-hundred catechumens and over 130 candidates. Msgr. William Scheyd, Vicar General for the Diocese of Bridgeport, presided over this ceremony held within the Liturgy of the Word.  

Michelle Ballard, an Elect from Saint Joseph Parish, Brookfield, said that “Sunday's ceremony was a life changing experience in my journey within the Catholic faith; I have been learning and embracing the Word and principles of God.”  Her RCIA instructor has been supportive, which has allowed her to embrace, grow, and become the Elect that she is.  Her godmother has also been a model and is most grateful for her in her life.  

It is an honor and privilege for Michelle O’Mara to be a godparent for Matthew Ceperly from Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, Norwalk. As godparent, Michelle promises to pray for him, encourage, support, and teach him God’s loving mercy and goodness. She also promises to be a good and true Catholic witness. Michelle hopes to guide him on this pilgrimage so that he can take his place within the Church sharing his gifts and talents as an intentional disciple of Christ.

For more information regarding RCIA and adult formation within the Diocese, contact Gina Donnarummo at 230.416.1446 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Marching to end hunger in Norwalk
| March 02, 2015 • by By Leslie  Lake, Hour Staff Writer


NORWALK—Saturday morning's 18 degree temperatures did little to cool the enthusiasm of 200 young people who took part in the 12th annual 30 Hour Famine.

The group stood on the steps of the First Congregational Church on the Green to kickoff 30 hours of not only raising awareness of hunger but also of experiencing it.

Organized by St. Philip Roman Catholic Church, in support of World Vision an international Christian organization that works to feed the hungry in more than 100 countries, young people from seven towns, 34 schools, and 17 churches prepared to fast for 30 hours and participated in a program of events related to alleviating hunger both worldwide and locally.

"This is the fourth year I've participated and from the first time I was really inspired," said Norwalk High School senior Catherine Robinson. "My eyes have really been opened to what's happening in terms of the problem of hunger."

As Kali Dimarco, director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at St. Philip Church led the participants in chants of "30 days, 30 hours, 30 people," the contingent of young people prepared for the next 30 hours of fasting, group activities, service projects around town, musical programs and prayer. Students will attend a 10 a.m. mass on Sunday morning to break the fast, followed by a breakfast in the St. Philip school hall.

"For 30 hours we fast, we tell 30 people what we are doing, and we fundraise for 30 days leading up to this," said Julia Jennings from Stamford's Holy Spirit School.

Carrying signs with messages that read: "80 Percent of humanity lives on $10 a day," the contingent famine participants marched down East Wall Street to Main Street to North Avenue on their way to St. Philip Church on Saturday morning in a walk to honor the Night Walkers of Uganda-children who travel on foot from their villages.

"We walk for people who cannot be heard," said Dimarco.

"I think it's amazing to see young people taking a stand against hunger," said Mayor Harry Rilling who was at the church to lend his support to the Famine Participants. "It's wonderful that they are increasing awareness of not only the problem of hunger throughout the world, but also making people aware that there are hungry kids right in their own communities."

Dimarco said that they have come a long way from the first 30 Hour Famine in 2004. It was titled, "Fed-Up," and consisted of 29 participants, raised $3,000 for World Vision, $1,000 for Manna House and saved eight children. The 2014 event, "Tell Everyone" consisted of 128 high school participants, and 38 younger students, raising $32,741 for World Vision, $7,962 for Manna House, $5,000 for Catholic Relief Services and $2,550 for Hope for Ariang, totaling $48,253 and saving 134 children.

"There are 2,288 groups around the country who are doing this today, and so far we are the top fundraiser," said Kali Dimarco. "Our pledges so far have topped $24,000 and our goal this year is to raise $48,000."

At a key service project, more than 80 of the Famine participants sporting hair nets and gloves, gathered at St. Thomas Parish Hall to pack 20,000 rice and soy meals to be sent to the West African country of Burkina Faso in support of a partnership between Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now.

"One in eight people in the world are starving," Marc Vermouth of Catholic Relief Services told the assembled students. "These meals will be going to orphanages, medical clinics, and women's shelters. Last year you all packed 10,000 meals for them-give yourselves a hand for doubling that this year."

In addition to raising awareness for the problem of hunger, Dale Williams, the Founder and Director of Midnight Run, an organization dedicated to providing relief to New York City's homeless population was the keynote speaker on Saturday morning at St. Philip Church. Midnight Run is a volunteer organization dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless. In over 1,000 relief missions per year, Midnight Run volunteers from churches, synagogues, schools and other civic groups distribute food, clothing, blankets and personal care items to the homeless poor on the streets of New York City.

Danielle Miller, a student at J.M. Wright Technical School was joining some friends on Saturday as a first time participant.

"I love to spread goodness in any way I can," Miller said. "I'm doing this with my friends and what better way to do something to help people than doing it with your friends?"

The St. Philip Famine team urge adults in the community to donate to the campaign. To make a donation, send a check payable to either "World Vision" or "Manna House" addressed to "Famine" at St. Philip Church, Fr. Conlon Place, Norwalk CT, 06851. More information and online donations can be found at

During Lent, pope offers handy tips for preparing for confession
| March 01, 2015 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

Pope Francis gives ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis puts ashes on a cardinal's head as he leads the Ash Wednesday mass at the Santa Sabina Basilica, in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. The Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn period of 40 days of prayer and self-denial leading up to Easter. Photo: Gabriel Bouys, AP

After a brief explanation of why people should go to confession—"because we are all sinners"—the pope listed 30 key questions to reflect on as part of making an examination of conscience and being able to "confess well."

The guide is part of a 28-page booklet in Italian released by the Vatican publishing house. Pope Francis had 50,000 free copies distributed to people attending his Angelus address Feb. 22, the first Sunday of Lent.

Titled "Safeguard your heart," the booklet is meant to help the faithful become "courageous" and prepared to battle against evil and choose the good.

The booklet contains quick introductions to Catholic basics: it has the text of the Creed, a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. It explains the seven sacraments and includes Pope Francis' explanation of "lectio divina," a prayerful way of reading Scripture in order to better hear "what the Lord wants to tell us in his word and to let us be transformed by his Spirit."

The booklet's title is based on a line from one of the pope's morning Mass homilies in which he said Christians need to guard and protect their hearts, "just as you protect your home -- with a lock."

"How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?" he asked. "Who opened the door? How did those things get in?"

The Oct. 10, 2014, homily, which is excerpted in the booklet, said the best way to guard one's heart is with the daily practice of an "examination of conscience," in which one quietly reviews what bad things one has done and what good things one has failed to do for God, one's neighbor and oneself.

The questions include:

  • Do I only turn to God when I'm in need?
  • Do I take attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation?
  • Do I begin and end the day with prayer?
  • Am I embarrassed to show that I am a Christian?
  • Do I rebel against God's plan?
  • Am I envious, hot-tempered, biased?
  • Am I honest and fair with everyone or do I fuel the "throwaway culture?"
  • In my marital and family relations, do I uphold morality as taught in the Gospels?
  • Do I honor and respect my parents?
  • Have I refused newly conceived life? Have I snuffed out the gift of life? Have I helped do so?
  • Do I respect the environment?
  • Am I part worldly and part believer?
  • Do I overdo it with eating, drinking, smoking and amusements?
  • Am I overly concerned about my physical well-being, my possessions?
  • How do I use my time? Am I lazy?
  • Do I want to be served?
  • Do I dream of revenge, hold grudges?
  • Am I meek, humble and a builder of peace?

Catholics should go to confession, the pope said, because everyone needs forgiveness for their sins, for the ways "we think and act contrary to the Gospel."

"Whoever says he is without sin is a liar or is blind," he wrote.

Confession is meant to be a sincere moment of conversion, an occasion to demonstrate trust in God's willingness to forgive his children and to help them back on the path of following Jesus, Pope Francis wrote.

Appeal co-chairs live their faith
| February 27, 2015 • by By Pat Hennessy


NEW CANAAN—When she first became interested in the annual appeal of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Julie Taylor was most drawn to the diocesan Respect Life ministry.

“As a mother, it was totally the support of life,” says Julie, this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal co-chair with her husband, Rowan. The couple are the parents of four daughters, now ages 20, 16, 15 and 4 years old, and are members of St. Aloysius Parish.

As their children grew older, in addition to the Respect Life ministry the Taylors found their interest growing in the inner-city schools of Bridgeport, now known as the Cathedral Academies. “We live in New Canaan, where good schools are a given,” Rowan points out. “The Cathedral Academies provide excellent educational opportunities in an area where the average family lives below the poverty line.”

In keeping with her pro-life commitment, Julie began volunteering for Malta House, a home for women in crisis pregnancy. That led to an invitation to join the Order of Malta and a deepening of faith, devotion and a realization of the many works supported by the diocese. “Now it’s hard for me to single one thing out,” Julie says.

Rowan and Julie met on the first day of freshman year at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. They quickly discovered a surprising coincidence: they were born on the same day. “I was born earlier in the day, which is why I’m so mature,” says Rowan with his trademark grin.

“I married an older man,” Julie is quick to counter.

Although they had the same class advisor and knew each other from day one, they didn’t immediately start dating. It may have been because, in many ways, they were so different. Rowan was from Portland, Oregon; Julie grew up in Fairfield County. He was an economics major; she took a double major in European history and French. Rowan, who has over 25 years of private equity experience, is the founding partner of Liberty Hall Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in New York City.

For whatever differences, they didn’t start dating for months—not until after they came back from the Christmas break their freshman year. “The third Sunday in January, January 18, was the 29th anniversary of our first date,” Rowan says, flashing another grin.

Their relaxed enjoyment in each other’s company contradicts their strikingly different backgrounds. The most important: Julie came from a devout Catholic family. “My parents were among the most devout, faith-filled people I ever knew. My parents met at a church bazaar. Two of my mother’s brothers were priests.”

Rowan had no religion at all. “Religion was not part of my life,” he says. “It wasn’t important to my parents.”

Although Julie’s religious practice had been “on and off, like most kids,” in her early college years, by the time she graduated it was “mostly on.” She doesn’t know why her faith deepened even while she was dating a “heathen;” that’s just how it happened.

They were married at St. Patrick’s, the Catholic Church near Washington and Lee in Virginia. From that time on, Julie was in church every single Sunday. Rowan respected her devotion, but was not part of it.

“I can remember the moment when the light came on,” he says. They were in Italy with Julie’s parents, traveling down from Florence to Rome, and stopped in Assisi.

It was Good Friday.

Following a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, or even earlier, the Taylors joined the crowd of the faithful watching the emotional Processione del Cristo Morto, as the image of the crucified Christ was carried through the streets, along with one of his sorrowing mother.

“The sun begins to set in this Roman town, the lights go out, and the narrow streets are lit by hundreds of torches. They carry out the statue of Christ, and another of Mary, followed by about 40 people in robes, walking barefoot, carrying crosses, with their faces covered to emphasize that in God there is no difference between the mayor of the city and someone who cleans the streets. I heard people praying the Hail Mary in half a dozen languages.”

Rowan describes himself as a “0-1 person in all phases of my life. You do a thing well or you don’t do it.” He came back from that vacation, enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Aloysius, and was baptized, confirmed and received First Holy Communion during the Easter Vigil the following year.

Over the years, particularly after they both joined the Order of Malta, their faith deepened. Julie was on the parish council and taught religious education; Rowan was on the finance committee. More than that, they moved beyond the “little cocoon of our parish.” In addition to their other activities, Julie is a delegate to Synod 2014.

As parents, they are particularly interested in the first synod theme: Empower the Young Church. “Studies show that 53 percent of people will leave their childhood faith by adulthood,” Julie says, clearly upset by the statistic.

When Bishop Caggiano met the Taylors, he recognized immediately that they would make an ideal lay chair couple for the Annual Catholic Appeal. Among their other activities, they hope to spend time learning more about parish ministries across the diocese, talking to priests about clergy formation, and visiting schools and Catholic Charities sites like the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport.

“It’s time, it’s treasures, it’s talent—that’s how we’ve ingrained Christ’s faith into our lives,” says Rowan. “This is what we have to do. We want to keep the faith growing and strong for ourselves, for our children, for everyone.”

(For more info about the 2015 Annual Catholic Appeal, contact the Development Office: 203/416/1470 or

The hidden curriculum
| February 25, 2015 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

It is the key to unleashing the New Evangelization. It is essential to carrying out the Gospel mission.  What is the key? It is the confessional.

You might have expected me to say the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. That is true.

But I would posit that priests already carry out this part of their ministry with great faithfulness and devotion. My own parish has four Sunday Masses, daily Mass Monday through Saturday, and numerous other special Masses throughout the year.

And they come. People show up at every Mass.

But we are sinners. As much as we do not wish to do it, we fall back into sin—often. And so the net result is that many people are approaching the Eucharist while carrying the baggage of sin, perhaps even mortal sin.

That is a problem. Receiving Our Lord while in a state of serious sin only adds mortal sin on top of mortal sin. One cannot advance in holiness this way. Without holiness, we cannot be a people on mission.

In his papal address on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in March of 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made it clear that, “The New Evangelization draws its lifeblood from the holiness of the children of the Church, from the daily journey of personal and community conversion in order to be ever more closely conformed to Christ.”

Because personal holiness depends upon the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Pope Benedict XVI went on to say that the new evangelization begins in the confessional.

While most parishes are incredibly accommodating in providing opportunities for Mass attendance, many are abysmal—tragically so—when it comes to providing opportunities for the Sacrament of Confession.

Some may say that nobody shows up for the scheduled opportunity—those fleeting fifteen minutes before Sunday Mass.
But this is what the one with venial sin thinks: I don’t want to bother my priest before Mass because it’s just a venial sin, and he’s so busy right before Mass, and I would guess there are others far more sinful who need these few minutes more than I do.

This is what the one with mortal sin thinks: If I go to Confession right now, then my parents (wife, children, husband, friends) will know that I have mortal sin that I need to deal with. Who wants to open that can of worms? I’ll just go another time.

But there is no other time.

That’s it. Sunday before Mass—if you can find the priest.

And expect a whirlwind Confession because the priest is bound to have his mind on Mass and his eye on his watch.

Every parish should have one night a week set aside for confessions. The parishioners need to know that their shepherd is there, waiting. The people need to be reminded (often) that a merciful Lord is waiting for them. During Advent and Lent, the opportunities for Confession should be even more generous, highlighted by every means of communication.

Here is what will happen in the parish:

People will become holy. People will be on mission. The New Evangelization will come to your parish. The faithful will begin to discern vocations to religious life.

Here is what will happen in individuals:

They will be healed of mortal sin and lose their attachment to it. Then they will begin to address chronic sin. Jealousy. Gossip. Gluttony. Bitterness and unforgiving spirits. Laziness. Then they will become stronger, more accustomed to walking in grace.

When I was a teacher, we used to talk about the hidden curriculum. By hidden curriculum, we meant those things students learned that we did not set out to teach. Youngsters figure out what is important and what isn’t important. They learn which corners can be cut and what the teacher really cares about. Sometimes, to our dismay, we realize that the students jettisoned things that are really important because we inadvertently fostered problems and created issues we never meant to foster or create.

That is the situation right now. When the scheduled confessions are right before Sunday Mass or at a time when most people are unavailable, we are teaching our parishioners that Confession is a last-minute sacrament, a kind of triage-only sacrament, a rarely-needed sacrament, a practically-unnecessary sacrament.

While we do not believe any of these things, it is the hidden curriculum—the catechesis we did not intend to teach.

Reality check.

Some of the holiest people have availed themselves of the Sacrament of Confession weekly. If even two people in every parish decided they wanted to emulate that kind of holiness, the current confessional schedule would not be sufficient.

If evangelization depends on holiness, we need to throw open the doors on every confessional. We need to say, “Come soon; come often.” Let them know that Jesus Christ is waiting just for them.

Holiness and Gospel mission. The first opens the door for the second.    

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

Fifty Years a Priest
| February 25, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

Twelve year-old Billy Scheyd of St. Ann Parish in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport got polio. It was 1952, and the country was in the middle of the worst outbreak in its history. Nearly 58,000 people fell ill. More than 3,000 died.

That summer, Jonas Salk administered the first experimental polio vaccine to 30 children in his lab at the University of Pittsburgh. But it would be several years before the vaccine went mainstream. In 1952, all Billy’s family could do was wait to see how bad his case would be, and pray for a speedy recovery.

Billy’s father fretted. As a personnel manager at the Stanley Works factory, Mr. Scheyd did okay. But doctors were expensive, and polio had the potential to cripple a child for life. Father Walter McCarthy was the pastor of St. Ann’s. He told Billy’s father to find the best care available. Father McCarthy would pay for everything.

Billy got better, but he never forgot the priest’s generosity. “He was a good man,” Scheyd says now. “In those days, the parish priests did a lot of good for people. That was always my impression of them. They were good men.”

Billy’s parents were Catholic, but not “religious fanatics,” he says. They were just decent, ordinary folks. Billy’s mother was a nurse. Mr. Scheyd worked nights at the post office during the war. They were always helping out at St. Ann’s in one way or another.

“Dinners, dances, basketball games—the parish was the center of our life,” he says. “The Church was at the heart of our community.”

High school for Billy was Fairfield Prep. One day a Jesuit there asked if Billy had ever thought of becoming a priest. Billy said that he had, but he didn’t think he’d make a good Jesuit. “I’m not a real academic guy,” he says. “Once in a while I read a whole book.”

Teenage Billy didn’t really know what he was aiming for. He thought about becoming a policeman, a lawyer, maybe going into business of some kind. He applied and was accepted at Fairfield U. and Boston College.

But during senior year, the principal came on the P.A. and announced that the vocations director of the diocese was in the office and that any boys thinking of becoming priests should come talk to him.

Billy surprised himself by getting up out of his seat. “The Holy Spirit must have been working on me,” he says. First stop was minor seminary at St. Thomas in Hartford. Next stop, major seminary at St. John’s in Boston.

He was in Boston for six years. And they were intense years. The Second Vatican Council was happening. The old ways were rapidly changing.

Father Scheyd was ordained by Bishop Walter Curtis on February 10, 1965, and went to work as an associate pastor at St. Mary’s in Norwalk, just around the corner from the hospital. With proximity came responsibility. “It’s one of the few jobs where you’re asked to just about everything on the first day,” he says. The young priest went right in at the deep end—anointing the sick, comforting the bereaved, praying for lost souls.

As the years rolled on, Father Scheyd realized that his ministry was for people. He loved fellowship. Talking with people, hearing their problems, celebrating their blessings—these were his strengths. “As a priest, you see people at their best, and you see them at their worst. I offer my help, but I try to be humble enough to know that I don’t know everything,” he says.

On July 2, 1982—30 years to the day after Jonas Salk found his polio vaccine—Father Scheyd returned to Bridgeport as pastor of St. Augustine Cathedral. A decade at the cathedral was followed by a decade as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Norwalk. For the last 13 years, he’s shepherded the flock at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan.

This month, Msgr. William Scheyd celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest. He has held every position of high responsibility in the diocese you can think of. “He has been vicar general since Columbus arrived,” quipped former Bridgeport bishop, Edward Cardinal Egan.

Yet Msgr. Scheyd has never lost his affinity for people. “I’ve always tried to create an atmosphere where all are welcome,” he says. “And I’ve been lucky to have had the support of wonderful people in wonderful parishes.”

The Bridgeport that Billy Scheyd grew up in is largely gone. Thanks to Jonas Salk, so is the polio virus that killed and crippled so many people in the summer of 1952. But Monsignor William Scheyd of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, isn’t gone. He’s still here and still a priest.

That is to say, he’s a good man. He does a lot of good for a lot of people.                             

Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan.

Let go and let God—easier said than done
| February 25, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani
After decades of boozing, my father finally found Alcoholics Anonymous and spent the last 25 years of his life sober. And he would never let a day pass without sharing some of his AA wisdom with us, like “Let go and let God.” Easier said than done.

Actually, it got a little annoying listening to him, probably because I preferred to complain about my problems and let them fester rather than turn them over to my “Higher Power.”

He had dozens of sayings and aphorisms he learned in AA about the importance of accepting God’s will. “Get out of the driver’s seat,” he’d advise me when my life seemed to be careening off the cliff because I was driving with my eyes closed and refused to let go of the steering wheel.

Then, he gave me a prayer card that said, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I, however, could say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” a hundred times a day, but at the end of the day, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You see, I trust Jesus if his will is a close approximation of mine.

I recently realized yet again how miserable I am with “trust” when I had to have a biopsy. I’m ashamed to admit I failed—I didn’t fail the biopsy; I failed the “trust” test.

All my family members, friends and coworkers were praying for me, and several hundred times a day, my personal prayer went something like this, “Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.” Which eventually turned into “My will be done.”  

Then, a month later, I had to go to the emergency room when I was stricken with a debilitating pain in my back, which fortunately, or unfortunately, turned out to be a kidney stone.

That night as I was leafing through my prayer book for inspiration, I stumbled upon the “Prayer to Accept Suffering,” along with another one appropriately titled, “Prayer to Suffer in Silence.”

That kidney stone certainly didn’t inspire silence. It inspired loud yelling and, I confess, a bit of cursing. I’d love to have the grace to find acceptance during suffering and sickness, but usually I get into one-sided arguments with God, where I do all the talking, which is pretty predictable and goes something like this:

“Lord, I don’t think this is fair. I didn’t deserve this.”

“Lord, a lot of people depend on me. I can’t get sick.”

“Lord, HEAL ME!”

I told my story to a woman at the rectory when I went to have Masses offered for friends who were sick, and she reached into her purse and pulled out some prayer cards for me. One was titled,“The Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and Dying.” When she gave it to me, she discreetly recommended that I “ignore the ‘dying’ part.”

Another was “A Prayer of the Sick to Our Lady of Lourdes,” who certainly knows a thing or two about miraculous healings. It said, in part, “Lord, help me to see that my illness has an important part to play in bringing me to the fullness of the person you have destined me to be. . . . Though I do not quite understand your way of directing me right now, I wish to let go of any possessiveness over my life. I surrender all the details of my present situation into your loving care.”

That just about summed up everything my father ever said to me about the importance of “surrendering.” Another favorite saying in his vast AA repertoire was “You have to surrender to win.”

The woman also gave me a prayer from Padre Pio’s spiritual adviser, which said, “O, Jesus, I surrender myself to you; take care of everything!” This priest, I thought, must have been in the same AA group as my father. Whoever surrendered his worries, difficulties and problems to Jesus would receive special care, the priest said.

I later learned that the woman who gave me the prayers was suffering from a debilitating illness. You would have never known because she suffered in silence and picked up the cross Christ had given her without complaining.

The amazing thing is that she reminded me of my mother and my father, who both had cancer in their later years and never complained. I’m convinced they were given special graces and a supernatural strength because they knew enough to get out of the driver’s seat and let go and let God.  

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

Isaiah and Willy Loman
| February 25, 2015 • by By Thomas H. Hicks


By Thomas H. Hicks

Isaiah prophesied during the eighth century B.C. He is said to be the prophet who brings out the eloquence in God (“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you” (Isa.54:10)).

A general theme of Isaiah is trust in God instead of in human beings. There are a series of judgments against human perversity and failure. Isaiah consistently counsels king and people to live by faith in God, rather than relying in any ultimate way on human beings or political alliances. The message Isaiah tries to get his compatriots to hear is that God is faithful and humans are not. Humans will fail you, so if you are putting your trust in them, prepare to be disappointed. There is the fickleness of human promises. Isaiah keeps reiterating the message: “Stop trusting in man” (Isa.2:22).

This idea is echoed in other parts of Scripture, for example: Psalm 118:6-8: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?. . . It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

There is the disturbing declaration concerning Jesus in John 2:23-25: “While Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in him as they saw the miracles he performed. But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew what men were really like. There was no need for anyone to tell him about them.”

Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. The play is generally interpreted as a depressing but truthful reflection of our society, a criticism of the American Dream where personal success and self-worth are measured by one’s financial prosperity. Many view it as a harsh criticism of American capitalism and its view that it is the career that makes a person successful.

Death of a Salesman is about many things. I wonder if the play could also be about what Isaiah says about not trusting human resources.

Death of a Salesman is full of betrayal. We learn that the father, Willy, was abandoned by his own father when Willy was still a baby (“I never had a chance to talk to him”). Willy betrays his wife’s love by an affair with another woman.

Willy understands his son Biff’s failure in business and inability to hold a job as a betrayal and rejection of himself. Willy’s other son, Happy, has a decent job and apparently endless women at his disposal, but he is lonely.
Willy perceives his philandering and lack of great success as an act of betrayal.

There are three very poignant scenes in the play. One is when Willy decides to ask his boss, Howard, to give him a local office job at the New York headquarters. Willy thinks that getting the new job is a sure thing.  He is certain that Howard likes him and feels happy and confident as he meets with his boss. But rather than giving Willy a transfer to the New York office, Howard fires him (“I don’t want you to represent us. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now.”) Willy literally begs Howard for a job. He recalls how he held Howard in his arms when Howard was a newborn. He begs to be allowed to keep his traveling job, offering himself on lower and lower pay rates. Howard refuses and walks out on Willy.

Another poignant scene is when the son, Biff, decides to ask the man he once worked for, Bill Oliver, for a business loan. Biff thinks he made a good impression and is hopeful Oliver will give him a loan. He recalls Oliver as saying, “Biff, if you ever need anything come to me.” Later Biff tells his brother what happened with Oliver. “I waited six hours for him. Finally, he came out. Had no idea who I was. I saw him for one minute. He walked away.”

The third scene is when Willy and his two sons meet to have dinner together. Willy has looked forward to it all day. He is still shattered  by his experience with Howard, and then hears about Biff and Oliver. He becomes delusional and starts talking to himself.

When he goes to the bathroom, his sons leave him babbling in the toilet and ditch him for two girls they pick up.

One might even say that Willy’s death involves a final betrayal. Willy expects his funeral to be “massive.” “They’ll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire. All the old-timers; I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey—I am known!” Willy’s actual funeral is sparsely attended, and his wife, Linda, wonders “why didn’t anybody come? Where are all the people he knew?”

I know Isaiah is, and I wonder if Arthur Miller is, telling us not to put ultimate trust in humanity. Don’t put too much trust in other people and their institutions. Human beings are not sufficient for themselves, nor sufficient for others. No one is sufficient to be “THE trusted one.” Don’t trust humanity for what only God can give.

“But those who hope in Yahweh shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and never tire” (Isaiah 40:31).    

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

Love is . . . new socks when it’s sub zero!
| February 25, 2015


STAMFORD—Students at Turn of the River Middle School understand that cold feet and hole-y socks are a problem for those struggling to feed their families. Last week, they collected and donated 500 pairs of new socks to New Covenant House.

(l-r) John Gutman (NCH); Mason Perkins; Hannah Nekritz;
and Betsy Lopez (NCH). (Photo by Frank MacEachem)

Eighth-grader Mason Perkins, the driving force behind the sock collection, is the local representative for Sox Warm Hearts, a national community outreach program that aims to give socks to those in need. Mason first spearheaded the drive in 2014, delivering 650 pairs of brand-new socks for NCH guests.

Student vs. faculty basketball
| February 25, 2015


BETHEL—What a fun (and entertaining!) evening for mid-February at St. Mary School.

The eighth-grade students and some recent grads took on the the "old folks:" faculty, parents—even a couple of priests!

In the end, the young ones had their victory, in spite of the clock-keeper's attempts to "even-up" the score.

A feel-good night all around. Just one more reason to love this great school!

Presidents and First Ladies grace St. Joseph School with their presence
| February 25, 2015


BROOKFIELD—Recently, first and second graders at St. Joseph School celebrated Presidents Day in a very real way.

Instead of filling out piles of worksheets about the various U.S. Presidents and First Ladies, first and second graders at St. Joseph School each chose a President or First Lady to research. With the guidance of first grade teacher Jeanne Vitetta and second grade teacher Diane Thompson, the young students, together with their “buddies” from the upper grades, researched facts and fun stories about and made life-size figures of their historical figure of choice.
To culminate the unit, first and second graders came to school dressed up as the President or First Lady that they hadstudied, and were interviewed by their buddies. Presidents in attendance at SJS included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. First Ladies who visited included Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Nancy Reagan.

Vietnamese New Year honors family
| February 24, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Children, parents, grandparents, extended family and friends filled St. Augustine Cathedral on February 15 as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano joined the Vietnamese community in welcoming the Vietnamese New Year.

“This is the most important holiday of the year for our culture,” says Father Augustine Nguyen, episcopal vicar for Vietnamese in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“It’s a family-oriented celebration, a time to remember our ancestors and also a time for children to honor the sacrifices their parents have made for their well-being.”

The Vietnamese New Year, in common with similar celebrations in China and in other Asian cultures, is based on the lunar/solar calendar. Officially named Tết Nguyên Đán "Feast of the First Morning of the First Day," the celebration usually continues for the better part of the week.
The Mass and reception at the Cathedral was held a few days before the actual start of the Lunar New Year, which fell on February 18, Ash Wednesday, this year.

Preparation for the New Year may include energetically cleaning the house, preparing special holiday foods, buying new clothes for the children and giving them “lucky money.”

Visiting relatives and close family friends is the most important aspect of the feast. “This is a time to honor parents and family and those who have gone before us,” said Bishop Caggiano in his homily. “We pray for them, and they are certainly praying for us.”

The bishop spoke of the devotion and strong faith of Vietnamese Catholics. He reminded the congregation of the dedication of parents who had brought their children into the faith. “So now we gather before this altar, part of a wider family in God our father.”

Last year, Father Nguyen spent the New Year holiday with his parents in Vietnam. “I was surrounded by flowers of every color, pink and red and yellow—everything you can think of. Today,” he waved his hand toward the huge snowbanks outside, “we are surrounded by white ‘flowers.’”

With a smile, he invited the bishop to observe next year’s festival in Vietnam, where it celebrates the beginning of spring rather than the deep midwinter. The flower-filled altar, along with the lively pastels and deep hues of the women’s “ao dai,” the elegant traditional Vietnamese dress, recall the rich colors of the beginning of the spring season.

The reception following the Mass was enlivened by energetic dragons, special seasonal food, and award-winning young dancers. The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth group, over 100 youngsters, teens and young adults, were fresh from a competition including the entire Northeast, from Buffalo to New York City and east to Maine. Every group performed a dance with a Lunar New Year theme in a combination of traditional and modern music.

The group from St. Augustine had received four out of the five first-place trophies for their dance: people choice, best costume design, best choreography, and first place overall. Their energy and enthusiasm warmed the winter day, replacing the deep winter outside with the promise of springtime to come.

Happy Valentine’s Day! With Love, St. Mark School
| February 24, 2015


STRATFORD—The first and fourth grade students at St. Mark School worked together to make "bags of love" for the elderly at Lord Chamberlain Nursing Home in Stratford.

Photo (l-r) Top row: Anthony Scioscia, Skyler Johansen,
Dimitrios Arfanis, John Pastorok. Bottom row:Robert Rosati,
Shilah Bivins

The students filled each bag with candy and sweets and included in each a Scripture reading about love. The bags were distributed to nursing home residents in time for Valentine's Day.  

Lenten Fish Fry
| February 24, 2015


SHELTON—On the first Friday in Lent, many braved the frigid temperatures to attend the first of the Annual Lenten Fish Fry Fridays at St. Joseph’s Parish in Shelton.

Every Friday until March 27, all are invited to come  enjoy the delectable fresh fish between 5-8 pm. Guests are welcome to bring their own drinks, although soda, water, juice & coffee is available to purchase.

There are many new items on the menu, and many old favorites have returned. All of the food is available to dine in or take out. One of the healthy new items, baked fish, was a favorite the first week.
Thanks go to chair Darien Besescheck for his hard work and special thanks to all of the parents, teachers, staff, students and parishioners who are helping to create this weekly gathering. It’s a great time for delicious food, and good company!
(All are welcome on Fridays during Lent. Join us at the newly remodeled St. Joseph’s Church Basement, 50 Fairmont Place, Shelton. Please check our webpage for a full menu:, and check out our Facebook page for more photos:

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Silence can be a Lenten offering
| February 24, 2015


One thing that indicated I may have a priestly vocation was my love of silence.

I don’t recall when I first became aware of my comfort with the absence of “noise,” but my ability to enjoy silence in seminary was a sign to me that I may perhaps have a calling to the priesthood.

The love of silence is likely a gift from God, and therefore we can pray for it if we do not think we possess it. Some gifts are given to us without our having to request them. That is (I believe) what happened to me with regard to silence. There are many, many things that I have prayed for and continue to pray for, but I do not ever recall praying for the gift of the love of silence.

Some people (even priests) are uncomfortable with silence. At seminary, each class made an annual retreat, and I remember feeling dismay that some of my classmates refused to observe silence during meals and at other prescribed times. My thinking went something like this: “Can’t you just shut up for a little bit?!” Thankfully, I never uttered those words, but I do remain puzzled that some people are nearly militant about disrupting silence.

An interesting aspect of silence is that we never experience it absolutely. Even in the quietest of moments, our ears may be ringing, we can hear our breathing, and sometimes our heartbeat seems audible. A love of silence does not involve the absence of sound; rather, silence is the absence of unnecessary noise.

This blog entry would be too long if I tried to differentiate necessary from unnecessary noise, but I will focus on a few types of sounds to illustrate how we can practice “fasting” from noise. Lent is already underway, but that does not mean we should avoid new opportunities to perform little penances!

One penance that I like to practice during Lent is to drive with my radio off. Before I begin my journey—be it long or short—I offer to God in prayer the silence that I will endure, and I ask God to fill the void with his presence.

This principle applies to things like taking a walk too. Jesus loved to walk along the Sea of Galilee, and in imitation of him, when I have the opportunity, I like to walk along Long Island Sound. It astounds me how many people run or walk on the beach while listening to music or something else. What music can be as beautiful as the sound of the waves on the shore, combined with the sound of gulls? These “necessary” sounds comprise the silence, which is by nature spiritual.

Several years ago, I gave up having a television in my home. I live alone, so it was a unilateral decision. While not everyone can go without a TV, Lent is certainly a good time to turn it off for significant periods of time. Individuals and families can practice fasting from the sound of the television that runs nearly non-stop in many households.

Finally (and now I feel like Uncle Sam pointing his finger), when is the last time that you made an appointment to meet Jesus in an empty church for some serious prayer time? Most churches are open during business hours. Perhaps you have a day off or know that you will be free from work for some reason. You can schedule a time to visit a church and sit (likely) alone in the pews, in silence. To raise it to another level, you can practice “listening prayer,” which involves asking God to speak to you while you remain silent: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9).

The primary reason many people are uncomfortable with silence is that experiencing it can force us to look inside ourselves, perhaps into areas that we would rather keep “covered-over.” Noise can be comforting, even addicting. It can help us to avoid facing ourselves, and it can help us to avoid hearing the voice of God calling us.

As with most things in life—even if we believe ourselves “untalented”—we can grow more comfortable with silence through practice. Driving without the radio is a good start. Turning off the TV at home may even be better!

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New governance model for Cathedral Academies
| February 24, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has introduced a new governance model for Bridgeport Catholic schools that will lead to greater participation and involvement of the laity in the mission and planning for the four schools.

Sister Mary Grace Walsh, superintendent of schools, consults with parents at a January 29 meeting with the bishop to discuss a new governance model for Bridgeport Catholic schools.

On January 29, the bishop spoke with teachers, board members and parents in three separate meetings held at St. Raphael Parish to explain the new plan, which is “all about further strengthening the schools and helping them continue to grow in the future.”

The bishop said that Catholic schools are first and foremost a ministry to form children in the faith within a framework that encourages academic excellence.

“Education is the pathway to success in life,” the bishop told teachers and parents as he announced plans for the new governing board, “and we want to share the gift of Catholic education with as many children as we can.”

Each Bridgeport Catholic school presently has a school advisory board to advise individual principals. In this new model, a single board of directors will oversee all three Bridgeport Catholic schools. The board will provide professional expertise in governance, strategic planning, marketing, facilities, and financial needs enabling principals to focus on their role as educators and spiritual leaders in their respective schools.

“This is good news. The measures we are taking will help us to spread an excellence in education to many more students,” said the bishop. The board will plan for the long-term growth and vitality of schools, which are expected to increase enrollment. Currently, the enrollment in all four campuses totals 950 students and represents one of the most diverse student bodies in Fairfield County.

Under the new plan all four campuses will legally become one school, sharing the same board of directors and a large number of committees to support its major initiatives. However, this change will not alter the everyday experience of the children who attend the academies.

Bishop Caggiano said that while the board will have much greater responsibility, the schools will remain under diocesan auspices. He and Sister Mary Grace Walsh, ASCJ, PhD, superintendent of schools, and Msgr. William Scheyd, vicar general, will serve as a three person “Member Board” whose function will be to oversee the board of directors.

When introducing the plan to more than 50 faculty members and administrators, Bishop Caggiano said that transition to the board of directors model will be largely seamless in terms of present operations and leadership. However, he expects the board will bring great expertise to the schools and increase resources in the long term.

The new board of directors will consist of some of those who presently serve on the individual advisory boards, along with new members who will be identified based on their interest and talents in key areas such as finance, building and academics.

“We don’t want to lose a single advisory board member,” the bishop said. “We really need to put everybody to work,” he added, noting that advisory board members will be asked to serve on key committees that will create plans and recommendations for the schools.

During the hour-long meetings, the bishop also distributed the application form for the new Bishop’s Scholarship Fund 2015-2016. The fund will make $1.45 million available in scholarships to families with children attending a diocesan-sponsored Catholic school throughout the diocese.

The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is designed to help families afford a Catholic education. “Through the generosity of donors who believe in the mission and impact of Catholic education, this new fund will bring a Catholic education within their reach,” says Sister Mary Grace, ASCJ, PhD, diocesan superintendent of schools.

This is particularly important for families who enroll multiple children in a Catholic school.

Scholarships will be renewable each year for as long as the student attends a diocesan elementary or high school and remains in good standing. The fund will disburse its scholarship grants beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

The first year of the fund will be reserved for PreK-grade 8 elementary school students. After that, high school students will also be able to apply for scholarship aid. The bishop said he hopes to see the total scholarship amount grow to $3.5 million in three years.

As part of the application process, families will have to fill out a FACTS Grant & Aid Assessment as well as an application form.

Children who enroll in Bridgeport Catholic schools also benefit from the existing scholarship program set up by the advisory board. This year, a total of $1.8 million in scholarship aid was given to 600 students who would not otherwise have been able to afford the cost of enrollment.

Bishop Caggiano fielded questions following the meetings and also encouraged teachers and parents to promote the Catholic schools they love so much. He told parents that they must become the “bishop’s ambassadors”—active collaborators in Catholic education. “I want all parents to become ambassadors of Catholic education to the community at large and to share the great treasure that our schools represent.”

The bishop also urged teachers and principals to “share the news of the scholarship fund,” and to let people know that the diocese is doing everything it can to make Catholic education an affordable choice for families.

(For more info, contact your local school or visit The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund application form is available at

The Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball team is at it again
| February 23, 2015 • by by Joe Morelli, GameTime CT


FAIRFIELD—The Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball team is at it again.

Photo by: Pete Paguaga/GameTimeCT.  Colin Burke (No. 22) and Jake Heaton (11) from Notre Dame-Fairfield attempt to block a shot against Sacred Heart last month.

The Lancers are riding a nine-game winning streak heading into their regular-season finale tonight at New Fairfield. That’s nothing new for Notre Dame (14-5): the Lancers won 13 straight regular-season games last season and in the 2011-12 season, closed the season with 11 straight wins, then won the first two games in the South-West Conference tournament.

“I’ve been blessed with good kids who don’t stop working,” Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski said. “When we lost to Newtown (44-43 on Jan. 20), we didn’t come ready to play mentally and that was my fault, too. We talked (after the game) about what we needed the second half of the season. I looked at the four returning starters and said ‘Guys, you’ve been through this.’”

Among those nine wins was beating Bunnell, the two-time defending league champion, on Feb. 16 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. That was the second straight season Notre Dame beat Bunnell on that court.

Laczkoski is not only blessed with good kids who work hard, but kids who can score. His four returning starters all average in double figures, led by senior guards C.J. Davidson and Jake Heaton both averaging 15.7 ppg., followed by junior point guard Jordan Pettway (14.0) and junior swingman Jesse McIntosh (12.1). Laczkoski also noted Pettway’s 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“These kids have bought into the next play, the next game, who we have in front of us,” Laczkoski said.

A different approach to reaching the players has also helped. Laczkoski was impressed enough by the book “Toughness,” written by ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke University player Jay Bilas, to use excerpts from it to get his point across.

“It talks about how to face adversity head on and how to have extreme persistence and perseverance,” Laczkoski said. “To take it from a guy on ESPN they all know, it resonates more, even if he says the same things that you do.”

A tough non-conference schedule, that included top-ranked Sacred Heart and third-ranked Fairfield Prep, prepared the Lancers for this run.

“You don’t want to get into a false sense of security early in the year by beating teams you are supposed to beat,” Laczkoski said. “It’s a chance to evaluate yourselves and find out what you have to work on and get better.”

Win or lose tonight, Notre Dame likely will be the No. 2 seed and host a SWC tournament quarterfinal Friday night. The Lancers will also play two home games in the Class M state tournament as the team tries to win the first state championship in school history.

"Don't Jump" Campaign Challenges Physician-Assisted Suicide
| February 23, 2015


HARTFORD—“Don’t Jump” is the rallying cry of a new media campaign that is being launched today to challenge the proposed legislation that would make it legal for a doctor to prescribe medication to end someone’s life in Connecticut. The campaign’s message aims to urge state legislators and residents against rushing to a decision about physician-assisted suicide without knowing all the facts and weighing the options.

The campaign includes print, radio and digital advertising, as well as transit posters, and is sponsored by the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference. “Don’t Jump” is also supported by many healthcare and disability organizations, including the Connecticut State Medical Society, Connecticut Hospice, Second Thoughts, Not Dead Yet, and Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disability.

“Don’t Jump” also features a new website called, which provides the latest facts and figures about physician-assisted suicide, and addresses the benefits of palliative care for people with serious illnesses. In addition, the site offers expert video testimony by medical professionals such as Dr. Joseph Andrews, Chief Medical Officer of The Connecticut Hospice, and allows visitors to sign an online petition opposing physician-assisted suicide or send emails directly to their elected officials.

“We want people to get all the facts before making a rash decision on physician-assisted suicide,” said Michael Culhane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference. “We are compassionate and care deeply for the needs of patients and their families. We’re telling them that we want them to live out their final days in comfort – and with true compassion and dignity. We urge everyone, especially overwhelmed legislators, to approach this issue very carefully. Or, better yet, decide not to even pursue debate until more is understood about palliative care.”

Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a doctor writes a prescription for a patient who has a terminal illness and is told they have only six months or less to live. The patient then must have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy and self-administer the drug. A physician or health care professional cannot administer the drug, and patients must consume the medication themselves.

Currently, three states, Oregon (1994), Washington (2008) and Vermont (2013), have statutes providing for physician-assisted suicide.

The goal of the “Don’t Jump” campaign is to educate the public about the viable alternatives, including the ever-advancing practice of palliative care, which is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. Many people don’t fully understand that physician-assisted suicide is an irrational, often hastily made decision. With viable alternatives, such as palliative care, people have options when confronted with a serious illness. Palliative care focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, as well as improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

“Palliative care is a team approach to meeting the needs of a patient,” said Dr. Joseph Andrews, Chief Medical Officer of The Connecticut Hospice. “The public should be assured that they can avoid suffering with palliative care. The ethics of it is that we will medicate to relieve your suffering and your pain; our aim here is to relieve discomfort and not to kill. We need to move for wider acceptance of palliative care because that is the answer. Good laws tend to encourage decent behavior. Physician-assisted suicide seems to go in the opposite direction.”

In 2013, Governor Dannel P. Malloy appointed Dr. Andrews to the Connecticut Palliative Care Advisory Council. This Council was established by law (Public Act 13-55) to analyze the current state of palliative care in Connecticut; and advise the Connecticut Department of Public Health on matters relating to the improvement of palliative care and the quality of life for persons with serious or chronic illnesses. The Council will provide findings and recommendations concerning these matters to the Commissioner of Public Health and committees of the legislature in 2015.

CONTACT: Saverio Mancini
Cashman + Katz
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An app for Catholics? The Bridgeport Diocese has you covered in Connecticut
| February 20, 2015 • by New Haven Register


BRIDGEPORT—Looking for a Catholic church in Fairfield County?

You can find one on your smartphone or tablet with the Diocese of Bridgeport’s new app. You can also hear sermons and speeches by Bishop Frank Caggiano at your leisure, or find a support group sponsored by the diocese or a parish. Naturally, it has a section for youth, but it’s meant for all Fairfield Catholics.

“People throughout the diocese have told us that they want to see the church on social media, which is the new marketplace of communication in our culture,” Caggiano said in a release. “Our youth along with many adults have urged us to use social media to engage, inform and inspire people of faith.”

The app is the responsibility of the diocese’s newly named social media leader, John Grosso. It includes opportunities for giving service, information about the diocesan synod and videos about the Catholic faith.

“Reflecting a renewed push by the bishop to engage the youth as an integral part of our church, there is an entire section of the app where young people can find opportunities to engage in their parish and the diocese, from information on youth groups, to mission trips, and a section titled, ‘Ask the Bishop,’” Gross said.

But more broadly, “Our hope is that the app will serve as a tool for evangelization and enrichment in our lives as Catholic Christians in today’s culture,” he said. The app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

Neither the Archdiocese of Hartford nor the Diocese of Norwich has an app yet, although Norwich spokesman Michael Strammiello said, “We’ve discussed it. … It’s on our imagination board. … It’s likely we will be far along in 2015. This is the year we want to do it.”

An important message regarding the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill from Bishop Caggiano
| February 20, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—A bill in support of Physician Assisted Suicide has now been introduced in the Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly of the State Legislature.

So I am joining with Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford and Bishop Michael Cote of the Diocese of Norwich to ask all of the Catholic faithful throughout the state to make your voices heard.

The time has come once again for a mobilization of consciences as we address the moral, medical and social issues that are at stake in this proposed legislation.

While we must vigorously oppose so-called “right to die” legislation and its potential abuses, we must also do all we can to promote compassionate palliative care, which is increasingly recognized as a medically sound, morally appropriate and effective way of dealing with end-of-life-situations.

In the coming weeks, you will hear more about this issue on our website and in our social media efforts, and you will be given the opportunity to sign an online and print petition circulated by the Connecticut Catholic Conference during the last two weeks of this month.

It is also timely to note that we recently observed the annual “World Day of the Sick.” In his message for the occasion Pope Francis says this: “How great a lie…lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of ‘quality of life’ that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!”

I ask your active involvement and prayerful solidarity in this effort, and I urge you to read the Q&A below, which provides an excellent overview of the issue and the reason both for our opposition to assisted suicide and for the Church’s support of improved palliative care as people struggle with devastating illness.

Let us pray for all those who are ill and embrace them within the faith that represents true compassion, loving care, family support and redemption of their suffering through the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport



Frequently asked questions about Assisted Suicide

What is physician-assisted suicide?
Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a doctor writes a prescription for a patient who has a terminal illness and is told they have only six months to live. The patient then must have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy and self-administer the drug, which in most cases occurs at home.

The physician is almost never present at the patient’s suicide. The physician or another health care professional cannot administer the drug. The patient must consume the medication, which may number around 100 pills, by oneself. The physician’s role basically ends once the prescription is provided to the patient. Physician-assisted suicide is not related to the withdrawal of feeding tubes, intravenous fluids, breathing tubes, etc. The withdrawal of these devices is already allowed under law and under Catholic medical directives.

Is there a difference between “aid in dying,” “death with dignity” and physician-assisted suicide?
No. “Aid in dying” or “death with dignity” are more socially tolerable terms for physician-assisted suicide. These terms are used by advocates of physician-assisted suicide in order to avoid the use of the word “suicide,” which most people find objectionable. Assisted Suicide means nothing more than having a physician provide lethal medication to a patient who wishes to take his or her own life.  

How prevalent are physician-assisted suicide laws?
Currently, only three states, Oregon (1994), Washington (2008) and Vermont (2013), have statutes providing for physician-assisted suicide. The most recent attempt through a referendum to legalize physician-assisted suicide was in Massachusetts and this effort was defeated on November 6, 2012. The New Hampshire legislature overwhelming rejected physician-assisted suicide in March, 2014. Over 100 legislative proposals in various states—and numerous referendums—have consistently failed to enact physician-assisted suicide laws. Two states, Montana and New Mexico, allow physician-assisted suicide through court decisions.  

Is uncontrollable pain the biggest concern of patients who participate in physician-assisted suicide?
Again the answer is “no.” Actual pain, combined with concern about possible pain in the future, is only a motivating factor in the minority of cases. Although advocates for physician-assisted suicide would like one to believe that uncontrollable pain is the primary reason that individuals seek to end their lives; this is simply not supported by the facts.

In the words of the Oregon Public Health Division concerning physician-assisted suicides in 2013, “As in previous years, the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (93%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (88.7%), and loss of dignity (73.2%).” Fear of being a burden on family and friends was a concern in 49.3% of the cases, while fear of pain was a concern in only 28.2%.

Does opposition to physician-assisted suicide laws come primarily from religious groups?
No. Supporters of physician-assisted suicide argue that religious groups are its strongest opponents. This also is not true. Although religious groups, such as the Catholic Church and other denominations, strongly oppose this type of legislation and have been known to actively fund efforts to defeat it, many other groups have spoken out loudly against physician-assisted suicide in state after state. Organizations representing the medical, hospice, disability and elderly communities are all strong opponents of this type of legislation. Physician-assisted suicide legislation is also strongly opposed by the American Medical Association. Any effort to call this a religious issue is clearly an attempt to detract from the serious problems relating to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

Is physician-assisted suicide good public policy?
Many proponents of physician-assisted suicide believe that this procedure is a private personal matter and the state should allow individuals to end their lives if they so desire. The only problem with this thought process is that once a legislature enacts a physician-assisted suicide law, it impacts everyone. It now places the option of suicide on the “table of options” to be considered when a person is facing a serious illness. It presents opportunities for the ill, the elderly and the disabled to be manipulated by those around them who would benefit from their death. The right to die may soon become the responsibility to die for the sick, the elderly and the disabled.

What is the solution to difficult end-of-life situations?
Most people facing a devastating illness are usually seeking true compassion, loving care, family support and quality pain control. Instead of enacting a law that opens up a Pandora’s Box of possible abuses, we as a society should work on refining the existing system of medical care to reflect the 1993 statement of the American Medical Association when it took a position against physician-assisted suicide:

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks. Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. Patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that cure is impossible. Multidisciplinary interventions should be sought, including specialty consultation, hospice care, pastoral support, family counseling and other modalities. Patients near the end of life must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy and good communication.”

(For more updates on the current legislation, visit the Connecticut Catholic Conference:  


Physician-Assisted Suicide
Let’s learn more before we leap to a decision.
There's growing conversation in the Connecticut Legislature about making it legal for a doctor to prescribe drugs to end a patient’s life. Take a minute to learn more about this critical issue and use this site to urge your representatives to do the same.

Lent points us toward what really matters
| February 18, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—“Don’t begin Lent without making a conscious choice toward conversion,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said to about 75 Catholic Center staff and guests who gathered for Ash Wednesday Mass in Queen of Saints Hall.

In his Ash Wednesday homily, the Bishop said the Church asks three things of Catholics during Lent, “ to spend our days in prayer, to perform acts of mortification and penance, and to do works of charity,” in particular to serve those who are struggling in our midst.

“Love them in their struggles. Help them to remember they are not forgotten, and that they are lovable and they are loved,” the Bishop said of all those who are poor, afflicted and suffering in our own communities.

Noting that ashes “are the byproducts of the burning of palms,” the Bishop said that ashes are reminders that no matter how much money, power, or glory that people accumulate, “it all ends up a pile of ashes.”

“During Lent we are asked to remember that what really matters is what really lasts—and that is the love and redemptive power of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, because it has eternal value.”

The Bishop said that we wear ashes as a sign of our own failures because we often “put something else into the center of our lives other than Christ’s redeeming love.”

Describing Lent as a “40-day journey, the Church asks us to walk,’ the Bishop said it is a hopeful one because “Ashes lead to the empty tomb and the victory of love.”

Prior to the Mass, Fr. Charles Allen, S.J. ,Special Assistant to the President of Fairfield University,  provided a Lenten reflection, “Rejoicing that we are a sinful people now saved by Christ.”

Referencing the statement of Pope Francis on the  “the globalization of indifference” Fr. Allen said that ashes remind us that we’re all sinners, and better able to reach out to those who are wounded and lost because of our own human frailties.

The Employee Retreat was planned by the Faith Formation Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Whose Life Is It Anyway: Thoughts on Physician Assisted Suicide
| February 18, 2015 • by By Sr. Constance Veit, l.s.p.


In college I wrote a medical ethics paper on a play entitled Whose Life Is It Anyway? That old paper came to mind recently when I learned that the campaign for physician assisted suicide has been gaining momentum. The renewed push to legalize “aid in dying,” or “death with dignity,” as various groups euphemistically call it, is the result of positive media coverage in the wake of a young terminally ill woman’s decision to end her life on her own terms and at the precise moment of her choosing.

Whose life is it anyway? I can’t get this question out of my mind as I come to grips with the fact that assisted suicide legislation is currently being introduced in a dozen states and the District of Columbia. While some persons faced with serious illness consider taking their lives because they fear they will be a burden to others or have no one to care for them, for others this choice is a declaration of personal autonomy. To the question, “Whose life is it anyway?” they answer, “It is mine to do with what I want.”

The claim that each of us is master of our own life, with the power to do with it whatever we choose, just doesn’t make sense. After all, which of us chose the date, time or conditions of our birth? Who of us ultimately gets to choose the path that will lead to our death—will it be an accident, a random act of violence, a sudden heart attack or a prolonged illness? Human logic would tell us that we are never completely in control of our lives. God’s word should convince us of this as well.

Sacred Scripture reminds us that we are God’s creatures—made in his image and likeness—and that our lives are in his hands at every moment. From the psalmist’s confession that “every one of my days was decreed before one of them came into being” (Ps 139:16), to Saint Paul’s proclamation that  “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), it is clear that God is the author of our existence. Each of us is a steward—not the master—of our own life.

But God is a loving master, and that makes all the difference. In his landmark encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Saint John Paul II wrote, “If it is true that human life is in the hands of God, it is no less true that these are loving hands, like those of a mother who accepts, nurtures and takes care of her child.” Pope Francis shared similar sentiments in his 2015 Lenten message: God “is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him.”

In our sophisticated, materialistic society we easily turn away from God, denying him and his providence over us. Modern man, Saint John Paul II wrote, has “lost the sense of God,” and with it, the sense of the human person and his dignity as “mysteriously different” from the rest of creation. In this context we can easily succumb to the temptation to manipulate and dominate our lives rather than cherishing them as a gift. Suffering is seen as a useless burden to be eliminated at all cost, even if this means suppressing life itself.

There is another path, however. Even as the media focused their attention on a dying woman from California late last year, a similarly ill college freshman in Ohio vowed never to give up. Despite the seeming hopelessness of her situation, she professed her belief that God has the last say. This young woman has found a purpose in her suffering and insists that she still loves life. She keeps on giving of herself and is an inspiration to many.

I pray for this young woman and for all the elderly, disabled and those with terminal illnesses, that they may find peace and courage in the conviction that God knows them by name and holds them close to his heart. Strengthened by the sacraments and assisted by Our Lady and all the angels and saints, may they serenely abandon their lives into his hands.

Whose life is it anyway? God has given us this life as a gift and he expects us to cherish it as his good stewards.

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

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Repent and Believe in the Gospel
| February 17, 2015


Ash Wednesday is one of the liveliest days in the life of an American Catholic parish. Before the Internet and voicemail, parish telephones would start ringing a few days before Ash Wednesday and often ring right through Ash Wednesday itself. These days—maybe because of technology—it seems that parish telephones ring a little less around Ash Wednesday. However, it is still likely that someone seeking ashes will frantically call a parish around 10:00 pm on Ash Wednesday night to see if ashes are still being distributed!

When a priest is reached before or on Ash Wednesday, conversations have sometimes gone like this:

Caller: When are you giving out ashes?
Priest: We had a Mass already this morning and we will have another Mass this evening at 5:00 pm.
Caller: I don’t want Mass. Just the ashes!

It is possible that the pagan lurking in us all really emerges from the shadows on Ash Wednesday. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? No, just give me some of that “magic dust!”

As a seminarian, I cannot recall ever having an instruction concerning the actual meaning of the ashes that are distributed on Ash Wednesday. As with much in the life of the Church, it was likely assumed that we already “knew” what the ashes meant. Or, we had heard enough Ash Wednesday homilies to have absorbed the theology concerning the distribution of ashes.

Preaching about ashes is similar to preaching about Sacred Scripture. Both are mysteries, meaning that said preaching topics are inexhaustible. Just as with Sacred Scripture, there can always be a new and interesting insight concerning the distribution of ashes.

Before my first Ash Wednesday as a priest, my pastor counseled me to be cautious when I was pronouncing the alliterative prayer of blessing over the ashes: “God bless these ashes.” He said that many a priest had suffered a lazy tongue during the blessing and had pronounced the “ss” sound rather than the “sh” sound, much to the bemusement of the previously somber congregants. In truth, despite being forewarned, I came close a few times to slipping up myself over the years! Call it an occupational hazard.

What a priest says about ashes on Ash Wednesday is probably very closely linked to his own theology of salvation. For the first 15 years of my priesthood, I liked to speak of the ashes within the context of our own mortality, and hence our judgment before the Lord.

At Ash Wednesday services tomorrow, priests, deacons and other ministers of the ashes are given an option regarding the exhortation or admonition they pronounce as they apply the ashes:

Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Ash Wednesday, 2015, will mark the first time in my priesthood that I have chosen the “Repent” exhortation over the “Remember” admonition.

Maybe my personal theology is evolving like fine wine—the older I get the better!

The main reason I am changing my preferred Ash Wednesday exhortation/admonition is that “Repent and believe in the Gospel” is a direct quote from Sacred Scripture.

A large majority of New Testament scholars hold that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written, somewhere around 60 A.D. Personally, I agree with them; I believe that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written down, copied and promulgated.

If Mark’s Gospel is in fact the first Gospel to be written and distributed throughout the Christian world, then the first words of Jesus Christ (a direct quote) in the first Gospel written are, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” are among the first words in Sacred Scripture directly attributable to Jesus Christ. That is good enough for me.

Reminding Ash Wednesday congregants of their mortality is helpful, but it may be better to use the words of Jesus Christ himself.

The meaning of the ashes? This is the beginning of Lent. This is the time to change your life and turn back to God. Pray for the gift of faith.

Repent and believe in the Gospel.

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Notre Dame grads head to Winter Deaflympics in Russia
| February 17, 2015


SHELTON—Brothers Peter and Garrett Gintoli of Shelton, both graduates of Notre Dame High School in Fairfield, will participate in the 18th Winter Deaflympics to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia March 28-April 5.

The competition will include teams from Canada, Finland, Russia, and USA.

Peter and Garrett were selected after attending the U.S. Deaflympic Ice Hockey team tryouts, hosted by the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA). Tryouts were held in Buffalo, N.Y., this past August. The brothers are Notre Dame graduates, Peter (2010) and Garrett (2014). Peter went on to play for the Bay State Breakers Junior Teams in Rockland, Mass., in the Eastern Junior Hockey league. He is currently a junior on the Salve Regina University Men’s Team (NCAA DIII). Garrett is currently with the South Shore Kings U18 Tier 1 team in Foxboro, Mass., in the USPHL.

The brothers have been involved with AHIHA since 2003. Peter was selected to the 2011 (High Tatras, Slovakia) U.S. Deaflympic team as well as the 2009 (Winnipeg, CA) and 2013 (Vantaa, Finland) U.S. World Championship teams. Garrett made his first appearance at the 2013 World Championships.  

Both boys were born with Melnick-Fraser syndrome, which has caused a progressive moderate to severe hearing loss for which they wear bilateral hearing aids. To qualify for the games, an athlete must have a hearing loss of at least 55 dB in the “better ear.” Assistive devices, including hearing aids and cochlear implants are not allowed in competition, in order to assure that athletes are on an even playing field.

Player funding for the Deaflympics is provided by the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association through private donations and support form the USA Hockey Foundation. Players are also asked to raise a significant portion of their expenses. Donations on a player’s behalf are being accepted. To help support a player, use the link below or send donations to the address below.

Online Donations:
AHIHA Mailing Address:

The American Hearing impaired Hockey Association
4214 W. 77th Place
Chicago, IL  60652

For information on the 18th Winter Deaflympics:

God is calling each person and every nation to repent
| February 17, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”    
With these two compelling sentences—as recorded in the Gospel of Mark—Jesus inaugurates his ministry and sums up what his mission is about: to break the shackles of sin that enslave humanity, to put us on the path of liberation from all oppression, and to teach us how to unconditionally love one another.

But what does it mean to repent?

Striving to avoid sin and living virtuously is certainly part of what it means. But there’s more.

In the Gospels the biblical word used for repentance is the Greek word “metanoia”—a radical change of mind, heart, soul and action. It happens when one changes course and turns around to walk in the right direction. Metanoia means a life-changing conversion. That’s what Jesus is calling us to when he says “repent.”  

Think of some of the great saints who deeply repented, who truly experienced a metanoia.

St. Paul did a complete about face. He went from persecuting the followers of Christ, to championing their cause and suffering with them.

St. Augustine of Hippo turned from fleeting unmarried sexual pleasure and unsatisfying philosophical pursuits to a totally fulfilling surrender to the will of God. In his famous autobiographical “Confessions” he sums it all up so well: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  

When we allow our heart to rest in God, we become a new creation, fully dedicated to advancing his kingdom. But this takes humility, honesty, much prayer and hard work. Not for the faint-hearted.

The respected English writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
And making it even more difficult, a life dedicated to listening to the Holy Spirit concerns itself not only with personal repentance/metanoia, but also with the conversion of the nation.
Sharing the good news that God desires to save all people from sin and all other forms of oppression, necessarily includes striving to dismantle what St. Pope John Paul called the “structures of sin.”
And sadly, “structures of sin” abound in every nation.

From the murder of unborn babies through legalized abortion, to the killing of the sick through assisted suicide, to the woefully inadequate response to poverty and hunger suffered by brothers and sisters throughout the world, to the insanity of war, to the state-sanctioned murder of the death penalty and to environmental degradation nations need to repent, change course, and begin walking in the right direction.    
Lent is that solemn time of the year when the church invites us to examine our conscience and honestly admit where we have sinned individually and as a nation.
Since Jesus has assured us that with God all things are possible, let us confidently take our petitions to him trusting that a far better world can be built with loving hearts and hands.

Let us pray:
•    God of life, inspire us to protect all human life from its beginning at conception to its earthly end at natural death.
•    God of justice, inspire us to fairly share with all people the resources necessary to adequately sustain life with dignity.
•    God of creation, inspire us to be good stewards of your wonderful world.
•    God of peace, inspire us to finally put an end to war. Amen.

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

Bishop Caggiano interviewed for PBS “Italian Americans”
| February 17, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Among those interviewed, for the new PBS series “The Italian Americans” is new Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, a native of Brooklyn and lifelong resident until  his installation as leader of the Church in Fairfield County in 2013.

Born in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn on Easter Sunday March 29, 1959, the son of a longshoreman and the second of two children.

His parents, Arnaldo and Gennarina Caggiano, came to this country in 1958 from the town of Caggiano in the province of Salerno, Italy. He grew up in Saints Simon and Jude Church and attended the parish’s grammar school. The Bishop’s education continued at Regis High School in Manhattan, conducted by the Jesuits, where he was a member of the class of 1977. After a stint at Yale, he entered the seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in May 1987. The Bishop has struck and instant and admiring rapport with Catholics in Fairfield County, which has a large Italian-American population. Among the people interviewed are along with Bishop Caggiano Mario Cuomo, Bill deBlasio, Sen. Al Damato, Maria Bartiromo and others.

The airing schedule for The Italian American is:
Tuesday February 17th and 24th at 8 pm on PBS Channel 13 (NY)
Sunday, February 15th and 22nd at 9 pm on PBS Channel 21 (LI)
Thursday, February 26th and March 2nd on NJTV.

Bishop speaks at 118th Lincoln Day Banquet in Norwalk
| February 17, 2015


NORWALK—The Norwalk Catholic Club held its One Hundred and Eighteenth annual Lincoln Day Banquet on February 12, 2015 at the Continental Manor in Norwalk.

Richard Bonenfant, Photographer

The guest speakers were the Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, and renowned author and Abraham Lincoln scholar Mr. Harold Holzer.

The event was attended by approximately 300 men including members of the Norwalk Catholic Club and their invited guests.

“Bishop Caggiano spoke about the Holy Father and his desire that we who love the Church must also be men of community, and that that we are to live our life with Truth, Commitment and Courage,” said Daniel O’Connor of Norwalk, Dinner Chairman.

Harold Holzer spoke about his most recent book “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: the War for Public Opinion.” He talked about the President using the press to speak to the people and shaping the national debate. He also addressed the very human side of Abraham Lincoln.   

Shown in the attached photo (l to r) are Rev. Michael A. Boccaccio (St. Philip); Rev. Msgr. William J. Scheyd (St. Aloysius); James D. Newman, club 1st Vice President; Harold Holzer, Sr. V.P., Metropolitan Museum of Art and banquet guest speaker; Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese Bishop, guest speaker; Peter M. Nolin, Esq., Toastmaster; Daniel F. O’Conner, Dinner Chairman; and Glen W. LeBlanc, Norwalk Catholic Club President.

Diocese releases Mobile App
| February 15, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport has launched its new mobile phone app, which will allow smart phone users in Fairfield County and anywhere in the world to download information and the latest diocesan news.

It is available free of charge on the App Store for the iPhone and on the Google Play Store for Android use.

The app will allow users to search for parishes based on their GPS location, access diocesan news and events, and view a daily devotional. It will also allow them to search for parish and school directions and information, and connect to diocesan social media accounts.

“People throughout the diocese have told us that they want to see the Church on social media, which is the new marketplace of communication in our culture,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Our youth along with many adults have urged us to use social media to engage, inform and inspire people of faith.”

The Bishop said the new Diocesan App is designed to foster communication between the parishes and throughout the diocese. Its major purpose is to provide a central location where events, news, and information can be shared on a modern and widely used medium.

“The goal is to bring people throughout our diocese together and to help build communities of faith,” said the Bishop.

Newly named Social Media Leader of the diocese, John Grosso, said that app has specific features that allow parishioners, both young and old, to connect to service opportunities, prayer and formation groups, and community service opportunities.

“Reflecting a renewed push by the Bishop to engage the young church, there is an entire section of the app, entitled “Youth.” In this section, youth can find a variety of opportunities to engage into their local parish and the diocese as a whole, from information on youth groups, to mission trips, and a section where they can “Ask the Bishop,” Grosso said.

There are features that also allow users to keep up with the progress of the Synod, or to stay in touch with the ministry of Bishop Caggiano through his homilies and videos. Finally, a section on Catholic Life allows users to view regularly updated videos on the Catholic faith.

“Though a large leap in terms of technology for the Diocese, the major hope is that the app will serve as a tool for evangelization and enrichment in our lives as Catholic Christians in today’s culture,” Grosso said.

The new mobile app was designed and produced by Deacon Patrick Toole of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield. The unique design includes the development of a secure private website or “hub” designed by Deacon Toole, which enables parishes to upload and update key information on a regular basis. Other dioceses have already expressed interest in adopting the App and hub design.

The app will include “Find a Parish” and “Find a School” information that will quickly link visitors to online application forms, event registrations, directions and other information. Users can also find daily prayers and reflections, spiritual videos and links to other Church resources.

Bishop Caggiano had first announced the development of the diocesan App last Fall during his “State of the Diocese” address and mentioned that it had been developed in response to requests by people who attended the synod listening sessions.

During the synod listening sessions, people throughout the diocese said they would like to see more sharing between parishes and more timely information. The app directly addresses these concerns through social media, where people are most likely to search.

“I am most grateful to Deacon Toole for not only funding the project but also for providing the leadership and vision needed to build the app, which offers much promise for our diocese,” said the bishop.

The App was pre-released to synod delegates and parish representatives on January 15, 2015. Diocesan employees and youth members of the synod have also field-testing the App. Parish representatives and diocesan employees have also participated in training sessions to learn how to upload the material to the new hub.

“It’s not easy to capture the breadth of the diocese on a small mobile phone,” Deacon Toole said, “but the use of social media has enormous possibilities to invite people into the sacramental life of the Church.”

Bishop inspires at ACA reception
| February 12, 2015


GREENWICH—“Baptism is not a spectator sport. The Church needs to find new ways to reach out, and I need your help doing that,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said last night at the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) reception held at Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich.

The gathering was part of a series of receptions for Annual Catholic Appeals leaders and major donors to help launch this year’s effort. The evening, hosted by Jim and Susan Larkin of Greenwich, brought out more than 100 men and women.

In a personal, candid and inspiring talk, the bishop discussed the challenges facing the Church, thanked donors for their past support, and asked them to give generously this year to support some major diocesan initiatives.

The bishop said three of his priorities for this year are building support for The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, raising funds to bring 300 young people from the diocese to World Youth Day, Poland, 2016, and finding resources to implement the short-term needs and future plans identified by the Synod.

“The Synod is one of the most remarkable experience of my priestly life. We have 400 synodal pilgrims working to move us forward,” he said.

Noting that many donors have generously given to create scholarships for Bridgeport youth, the bishop said there is a need throughout the diocese to help families, particularly those with more than one child in a Catholic school.

“We’ve done a remarkable job in Bridgeport, but there are poor elsewhere in the diocese, even in Greenwich. My dreams is that no children will be denied Catholic schooling because of financial constraints,” he said.

In his introduction of the Bishop, Jim Larkin noted that the two largest denominations in the U.S. are now Catholic and those who describe themselves as former Catholics. He praised Bishop Caggiano for meeting with Voice of the Faithful members almost a year ago “to bring them home.”

“He’s a listener, he’s a healer, He’s a reconciler, and above all else, he’s an evangelizer,’ said Larkin.

During the evening, the bishop welcomed the new ACA chair-couple, Julie and Rowan Taylor of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, the parents of our daughters.

“Our faith is very important to us,” said Julie Taylor who praised her late mother and father for their love of the Church. “They didn’t talk about their faith, they lived it,” she said, noting that young people today face many challenges to growing in the faith.

Rowan Taylor said the appeal is important because it helps the sick and the needy, educates children in the faith, and builds up communities of faith throughout the diocese. He noted that if a donor puts aside just $10.00 a week for the Annual Appeal, the gift can help to feed an individual at one of the diocesan soup kitchens for a year.

During a question and answer session following his talk, the bishop was forthright about the challenges facing the Church but said he remains hopeful.

Mentioning that some of his lifelong friends fall into the category of those who have left the church, the bishop said that when he sits across the table from them, he’s not Bishop Frank, but the Frank Caggiano they grew up with and they level with him.

“They have a thousand reasons and I don’t know what it will take to bring them home,” said the bishop, but he remains hopeful. “The Church is a sleeping giant and it’s time to wake. We have the truth, the faith and the Lord. We will find the path to welcome them home. The best days of the Church are yet to come. Together we ill work for the renewal of the Church we love so deeply, and for new life as a diocese.

Msgr. Alan Detscher, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Riverside, started off the evening by saying he was a lifelong Greenwich resident. He said that every parish in the diocese benefits from the Annual Appeal also helps to educate priests.

For more information about the 2015 Annual Catholic Appeal, contact the Development Office: 203-416-1470 or

St. Catherine’s Players presents Seussical—The Musical!
| February 11, 2015


RIVERSIDE—“Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’s best-loved characters collide and cavort in an unforgettable musical caper!

Greg Suss and Lynn Carbino as Mr. & Mrs. Mayer of Whoville

Seussical is a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza that brings to life all of our favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including The Cat in the Hat played by Bonnie Kelley-Young, Horton the Elephant played by Tony Morello, JoJo, a child with a big imagination played by Alexis Killeen, Gertrude McFuzz played by Samantha Holomakoff, Mayzie LaBird played by Christina Kompar.

The colorful characters transport us from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos. Seussical is fun for the whole family!

Joe Guttadauro directs, Rita Lapcevic provides musical direction, Zachary Kampler conducts the orchestra and Lauren Sherwood and Matthew Blank choreograph. Wendy Blumenthal and Jody Breakell are the producers of St. Catherine’s Players.For further information about St. Catherine’s Players and Seussical, please visit

Performances are held at St. Catherine of Siena Lucey Parish Hall, 4 Riverside Ave., Riverside, CT on Fridays, March 6 and March 13 at 8 pm; Saturdays, March 7 and March 14 at 7:30 pm; Sundays, March 8 and Sunday, March 15 at 2 pm. For theater goers at the March 6 performance, enjoy the complimentary opening night reception to meet and greet the cast, crew and production staff of Seussical.

Tickets may be purchased online at, in person by visiting St. Catherine of Siena’s rectory office, or by calling 203.637.3661 x327 and providing your name, telephone number, email address, preferred performance date and number of tickets desired. Advanced ticket purchases and reservations are $20 each. Tickets purchased at the door are $21 each. Cash, check or credit cards are accepted. For further ticket information, contact Cindy Busani at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 203.637.3661 x327.

St. Ann Corner Bookstore
| February 10, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—St. Ann Black Rock's Corner Store is now open for business!

The Corner Store is packed with great Catholic treasures and gifts. A variety of crucifixes, books, cds, prayer aids, statues, jewelry, art, candles, medals and more fill every corner of our little store. Open for 30 minutes after each of the weekend Masses (Vigil and Sunday), the store is located in its own designated room inside the church.

Located in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, the St. Ann Corner Store is filling a need for a Catholic bookstore in Southern Fairfield County. Come visit us or browse pictures at and click the link for the Corner Store.

Store Hours: Saturday 5:00-5:30pm / Sunday 9:30-10:00am / Sunday 11:30am-12:30pm

50 Years of Thanksgiving
| February 09, 2015 • by By Father Colin McKenna


NEW CANAAN—February 10, 1965, was a cold, rainy, snowy and sleeting day.

Deacon Bill Scheyd was worried that he might not make it to his ordination Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport. His car was slipping and sliding as he made his way to become a priest, but he made it, and the diocese has been greatly blessed ever since.

On Sunday, February 8, at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan, Msgr. Bill Scheyd celebrated his 50th anniversary Mass as a priest, to the great joy of hundreds of people in attendance, including clergy, religious, family, friends and parishioners.

The church was packed for the regularly scheduled 11:30 am Mass that served as the anniversary liturgy, but this was no ordinary Sunday parish Mass. In attendance were 13 concelebrating priests; 3 choirs; 6 altar-servers; 2 deacons; 1 Cardinal; 1 Bishop; a harpist, a percussionist and a horn section. This was grand liturgy!

In his remarks before the final blessing, Cardinal Egan said, "In Msgr. Scheyd we have all been blessed with a great priest." In response, the entire congregation stood and gave Msgr. Scheyd a lengthy standing ovation.

Bishop Caggiano explained to the congregation that when he first arrived in the diocese, Msgr. Scheyd gently took him aside and said, "Bishop, whatever you need, I¹m here to help you." This was an assurance that gave the newly minted Bishop of Bridgeport great comfort.

Msgr. William Joseph Scheyd, born and raised in Bridgeport, has been Vicar General for four successive bishops in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan mused that such a feat must be some kind of record.

When he was thirteen years old, Bill Scheyd was among the throngs of Catholic school-children who greeted the first Bishop of Bridgeport, Lawrence J. Shehan, at the Bridgeport train station. This was 1953, when the Diocese of Bridgeport was formed from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Msgr. Scheyd¹s 50 years as a priest have nearly spanned the life of the diocese. Cardinal Egan quipped that we should all mark our calendars now for Msgr.'s 75th anniversary celebration, to be held in 2040. Msgr. Scheyd replied that he would be delighted to have the Cardinal attend his 75th!

During his homily, Msgr. Scheyd partly attributed his lengthy career and perseverance to genetics. "My father worked in the same company for 46 years,² he said. In truth, Msgr. stated, ³Without Jesus Christ we can do nothing." He explained that this Mass was an act of thanksgiving to God.

"I am grateful to God," Msgr. said, adding that he is also grateful to all who have helped him serve 50 years as a priest, many of whom were present.

"Trying to imitate Jesus Christ is a great challenge," he said. "You all have been for me the strength and support which has brought me to this day." He also thanked his special and powerful patron, St. Joseph (from whom he received his middle name).

After the Mass, all were invited to a reception in the church hall where a beautiful cake was inscribed with a message that summed up the day: "50 and counting! Thank you!"

What return can I make to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will raise up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. (Psalm 116: 12-14)

Synod pivots toward solutions
| February 07, 2015


TRUMBULL—Nearly 350 delegates to Synod 2014 turned to solutions at the Third General Session today when they voted to approve the final pastoral and temporal challenges in the ongoing renewal of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County.

The adoption of the five global challenges followed months of study by Synod delegates, consultative meetings held throughout the diocese and listening sessions with the laity that began last spring. In all, the Diocese received nearly 4000 comments, ideas and suggestions to help the Church make changes and plan for the future.

Describing the discernment as “divine chaos,” Bishop Caggiano thanked delegates for their humility and willingness to compromise as they reached consensus on the major challenges facing the church.

“The process was a bit messy, but when we approach things in a way that is too neat, clean and organized, we cut out the divine chaos which is the power of grace,” he said.

The Bishop asked the delegates to think of the final challenges as the prism by which they can see the many themes of the Synod. “It is an idea of where we should begin, but we’re not leaving anything behind,” he said.

While challenges on Catholic Social Teaching, Stewardship, and Building Faith Communities did not make the final cut, the Bishop assured delegates who worked on the issues that they would be incorporated into the five challenges.

Using a digital voting system, the delegates approved the following global challenges for action:

  • Every Catholic is called to “fully conscious, and active participation” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14) in the worship life of the Church.
  • There is a need to strengthen and support family life and empower and assist parents to be the primary teachers of the Catholic Faith. (Family Life)
  • We must create concrete plans for evangelization in, with and through our parishes, schools, ecclesial movements, and communities. 
  • There is a need to continually call, form, and support clergy, religious, and laity in active leadership roles in the life of the Church. (Leadership)
  • We must renew the ministry of faith formation throughout our Diocese, leading each person to a deepening relationship with the Lord Jesus in and through His Church. (Catechesis and Education)

The Bishop empowered delegates to now begin researching solutions and best practices to address the many problems such as reaching out to alienated Catholic, inspiring youth, and becoming more welcoming communities of faith.

During the afternoon session, Michael Gecan, National Co-director of Industrial Areas Foundation/CONECT (Connecticut Affiliate), said the Church would benefit from using “organizing “ principles as it seeks renewal.

Noting there is an inherent tension between “bureaucratic and relational” models of institutions, he urged the Church to experiment and take risks in order to revitalize its outreach to people.

“There has to be some disorganizing if you’re going g to effectively reorganize,” he said. “We’re all for re-organizing but disorganizing can be painful, “ because institutions tend to do things the same way, whether they work or not.

He said one reason that parishes end up with a few leaders doing all the work is because, “We do things any way, even if people don’t want to do it. We don’t listen.”

Gecan said vibrant organizations are characterized by strong relationships, a learning environment, and the ability to act effectively on commonly held values.

Mary Ellen O’Driscoll, Regional Director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corp, said Catholics are called to “act on the common good and to see god’s presence in the midst of the poor and suffering.

“We should be asking, who is vulnerable here in this diocese, who is on the margin, and who are the people we are not attending to.”

When a delegate noted that many Catholics often are uncomfortable with the Church’s social teachings, O’Driscoll joked that she learned during national elections was not the best time to get agreement.

“If we start with political filters then we’ll leave Jesus behind. People will always feel challenged by certain issues. We have to constantly ask, what did Jesus tell us to do and where did he say he would be.”

In a humorous and insightful presentation Msgr. James P. Lang, Episcopal Vicar for Parishes, Diocese of Syracuse, spoke about parish planning, visioning and excellence.

“If it’s not working, stop doing it,’ he said, noting, “We need to see things in a new way. “

Msgr. Lang said that as the Church seeks to change, it’s important “not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Engage your tradition and be true to yourself and don’t forget the core values that have guided the Church for over 2,000 years.”

Like other speakers, he said the Church needs to be more attentive to small communities, and he said the answers might be found in the most basic things like “banning perfunctory prayer and rediscovering the importance of the Sabbath.”

“We’re human beings, not human doings,” he said, “Life isn’t just about picking up speed like a gerbil on a treadmill. We’re all doing too much, “ he said, noting that many pastors are burned out from working 80 to 100 hours a week. He suggested that one of the biggest challenges for the Synod may be reconciling “historic Catholics” with the emerging new Church of immigrants, youth, and other who were not raised in a Catholic culture, and he called for “reimagining pastoral collaboration.”

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

House Speaker Boehner announces Pope Francis will address Congress
| February 05, 2015 • by By Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON—House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced February 5 that Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress September 24.

The pontiff's "historic visit" would make him the "first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress," Boehner said in a statement, adding that he was "truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation."

Boehner noted that "in a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father's message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another."

"We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people," he added.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Washington called it "a great honor and tremendous joy to welcome our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the Archdiocese of Washington during his proposed pastoral visit to the United States in September."

The statement said the announced visit "will be a time of grace for all of us." It also said the archdiocese looks forward "to the official announcement of more details of the visit."

On Jan. 19 when the pope was on the plane returning to Rome from his visit to the Philippines, he told reporters that his September trip to the U.S. would take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington—where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra.

The pope also confirmed he would visit the United Nations in New York. He had already announced his participation September 26 and 27 in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families there.

Pope Francis joining Google Hangout this week
| February 04, 2015 • by Brett Molina, USA TODAY


VATICAN—Want to hang out with Pope Francis? 

Pope Francis hosted first Hangout on Google last September.
(Photo: Alessandra Tarantino, AP)

The Vatican is offering the opportunity, at least in a digital setting.

The pope will host his second Google Hangout this Thursday, the tech giant confirmed. Google says Pope Francis will talk with kids across the globe, including the U.S.

Pope Francis will host the Hangout live from The Vatican on Thursday at 10 am ET (4 pm Central European Time) from the Google+ page of educational group Scholas Occurrentes.

Third General Session of Synod set for Saturday in Trumbull
| February 04, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—More than 350 delegates will work toward final approval of challenges at the Third General Session of Synod 2014, which convenes this Saturday, February 7, in the Family Center of St. Catherine Parish in Trumbull.

Saturday’s meeting marks the midpoint of the Synod process, when delegates will be asked to ratify the final challenges and pivot toward finding solutions that will move the diocese forward in the coming years.
“The General Delegates are being asked to affirm that the Global Challenges presented reflect the discernment of the Delegates and incorporate the scope of the strategic areas and themes previously identified,” said Deputy Synod Director Patrick Turner.
Turner said the delegates will be asked to prioritize nine challenges that Synod Commission and Study Committee members identified after reviewing the overall 60 areas of pastoral concern that were outlined  by delegates in the first two general sessions.
The day will begin at 7:15 am with Morning Mass celebrated by Fr. Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine Church. Mass will be followed by coffee and pastries.  Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will lead the morning session and final review of challenges. Three speakers have also been invited to make presentations during the afternoon session.
Turner said that since the November 15 General Session, the Synod Commission and Study Committee members, along with Bishop Caggiano, have met a number of times to refine, revise and synthesize the original 60 challenges into nine general groupings.
“As we begin to move from identifying the challenges to discerning solutions, we have asked several guests to join us to discuss their field work and experiences during Saturday’s afternoon session,” said Patrick Turner.
Michael Gecan, Industrial Areas Foundation/CONECT (Connecticut Affiliate), will speak about Faith Based Community Organizing. Mary Ellen O’Driscoll, Regional Director, Ignatian Volunteer Corp, will speak about Catholic Social Teachings, and   Msgr. James P. Lang,  Episcopal Vicar for Parishes, Diocese of Syracuse, will speak about parish planning, visioning and excellence.
In preparation for the General Session, Bishop Caggiano has challenged all General Delegates to pray over scripture and come prepared on Saturday with one line of scripture that helps identify the spiritual path on which the Synod body should journey.
On June 29, Bishop Caggiano announced the four major themes of the Synod: Empower the Young Church, Build Up Communities of Faith, Foster Evangelical Outreach, and Promote Works of Charity and Justice.
The Diocese received nearly 4000 comments, ideas and suggestions during the community listening sessions and through on-line submissions in the Spring and early Summer 2014. Based on those comments, ten strategic areas were identified by Synod delegates: Catechesis and Education, Clergy and Religious, Stewardship, Parish Life, Evangelization, Communications, Liturgy and Worship, Justice and Charity, Youth and Young Adults, and Leadership.
The 4th General Session will be held on March 21, and the 5th General Session is set for May 9. The Synod will conclude with a Mass and celebration to be held at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Saturday September 19 at 10 am.  For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Unity in Diversity: Part II
| February 03, 2015


When I told a friend of mine what I was going to write about in this blog post, she thanked me for telling her ahead of time, because if she had read it without having talked to me first, she may have wondered if an impostor had taken my place. Her exact words went something like, “I would have phoned you and said, ‘Where is Fr. Colin and what have you done with him?’”

The topic that amazed her is liturgical dance, and that I am a proponent.

In seminary, one of our formators was a religious sister who required that we journal about our “feelings.” In the nearly all-male environment of seminary, we often ridiculed the idea of writing about our feelings. In truth, and in retrospect, she was right to require us to write about our feelings because, as she knew, men can find it difficult to express their feelings in speech and in the written word. Now, nearly 20 years later, I would approach that journaling assignment much differently.

The all-male environment of a seminary can be inclined to ridicule lots of ideas and notions, including something like liturgical dance. One story circulated about a bishop who was greeted at his diocesan installation with liturgical dancers. Those who recounted the story emphasized that “he put an end to any and all liturgical dancing from that point forward!”

Since my ordination, nearly 16 years ago, I have witnessed liturgical dance in various settings, usually at ecumenical events or at Masses with the Haitian community. The Haitian dancing is usually reserved to the presentation of the Eucharistic gifts.

At the ecumenical worship service at Bridgeport’s St. John’s Episcopal Church, held January 25, I was exposed to some fairly unrestrained liturgical dance, and I liked it very much. Admittedly, one reason why I was more open to it was that it occurred during a prayer service rather than a Mass. But since that ecumenical service, I have been wondering why we, as Catholic clergy, either outlaw liturgical dance altogether or do not really take it seriously.

By the grace of God, my eyes were opened to many things about worship when I attended and participated in (by praying and singing) the worship service in honor of the annual “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.”

One personally moving moment for me was hearing the Word of God proclaimed from the King James Bible. As Catholics, we are limited to hearing Church-approved translations of Scripture at Mass, but hearing an elegant translation of the Bible with “thees” and “thous” sparked my spiritual attention. It was like I could feel neurons firing in my brain and in my spirit. There was something very “true” about the older English version of Scripture contained in the King James Bible. Conservative Catholics often speak about the beauty of Latin, but old English can be very beautiful too.

The liturgical dancers were part of a “Musical and Dance Offering” presented by the Praise Team of the Bethel AME Church. A song-leader, a drummer and choir members gathered near the altar to provide song and music, and four young woman danced up the center aisle and then danced in the space in front of the sanctuary, twirling and leaping with grace and athleticism to the beat of the music.

From the perspective of a Catholic priest, the liturgical dance was very tasteful, as the young women wore full-length gowns. A major concern about liturgical dance in a Catholic Church is the idea of seeing a lot of “skin” during liturgy. The young dancers from Bethel AME were fully clothed. They each wore a different-colored sash on their white gowns, which enhanced their individual and communal movements and made for a delightful display.

As they moved back and forth in space—praising God with their artistic movements—the congregants clapped to the music and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. The drummer, the singers and the dancers were all very joyful, and joy can be contagious. I discovered that my foot was tapping and that I was moving a bit to the music too!

If we are serious about the success of our synod, then we as clergy, religious and laypeople need to be truly open to ways in which the Holy Spirit may be moving us as a diocese and as the Church. One of the four pillars of the synod is “Empowering the Young Church.” At listening sessions, young people voiced their concerns that the liturgical music they hear at Church does not move them. Many young Catholic would likely find livelier—more popular—music at Church much more appealing and spiritually meaningful than what they experience in most Catholic churches at present.

In part three of this blog on the ecumenical worship service, I will focus a little more on what I learned about liturgical music at the prayer service, but let me conclude with some thoughts, suggestions, and even challenges about incorporating liturgical dance into Catholic liturgies.

Dance is very popular with young girls and teenage young women. Because many young Catholic girls and women have participated in organized dance, they may be very interested in being allowed to bring their talents and skills as dancers and choreographers into the liturgy. As a Catholic priest, I encourage my fellow clergy to consider the idea of incorporating liturgical dance into parish liturgies.

Many teenage boys have formed their own “rock” bands, and might be very happy to provide the lively music (including drums!) that could accompany a team of liturgical dancers.

Envisioning a popular music band with drums and electric guitars in church, accompanying liturgical dancers, is probably difficult for most Catholic pastors in the Diocese of Bridgeport. If we, as clergy, are to give real life to the ideas of the synod, then we need to be open to the possibility of “real change” in how we do things.

How can clergy, religious and adult laypeople give real life to the young Church? One way is to invite young people to participate in the life of the Church in ways that they find enjoyable. Popular music and expressive dance is appealing to our youth. Formed into “praise teams,” musicians and dancers may breathe new life into parishes and into the larger Church.

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St. Jerome Youth group raises awareness, donations for the homeless population
| February 03, 2015 • by By Leslie  Lake, Hour Staff Writer


NORWALK—It may appear as though there is an epidemic of lost scarves locally as the colorful neckwear is springing up throughout many Norwalk locations, but instead the scarves, which are tied to trees and poles throughout the city, are a reminder from the St. Jerome Youth group to think of the homeless population this winter.

Allie Hall and the St. Jerome Church Youth Group tied over
55 scarves around trees and poles around Norwalk with a note
asking people to donate winter clothes to the open door shelter
as part of their community service project Saturday morning.
The group hoped to raise awareness about the increased needs
of the homeless that come with the freezing temperatures.
Hour photos/Erik Trautmann

Twenty members of the 60-member youth group TOTAL which consists of high-school age students, spent Saturday morning tying donated scarves to trees and poles throughout Norwalk with the following note attached:

"I'm not lost. If you're stuck in the cold keep this. If you don't need it, please donate hats, coats, gloves, or scarves to the Open Door Shelter."

The reminder to the community to think about the homeless population in frigid weather, is part of the group's larger initiative to support homeless people locally according to St. Jerome Youth minister Joe O'Callaghan.

"We saw on Facebook that somebody had come up with this idea and it fit in perfectly with the youth group initiative to draw attention to, and to help, the homeless population," O'Callaghan said. "We took that idea and tied scarves on trees and poles at the Green, in South Norwalk, on Main Avenue, Washington Street and in front of City Hall to ask for the community to donate much-needed items to the Open Door Shelter."

Items on the shelter wish list are: Hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and new socks.

"Our group has been taking on the issue of supporting the homeless population in Norwalk and in this cold weather, it's important to remember people who don't have the basic items to keep warm," he said. "In the fall we had Night In a Box, in which we slept in boxes in the church parking lot to have the kids get a sense of what the experience might be like."

In a plea to parishioners at St. Jerome, the following appeared in the weekly church bulletin:

"As part of 'Keep Jesus Warm', TOTAL is collecting hats, scarves, gloves, jackets and NEW socks that will be donated to the Open Door Shelter. Scarves have been tied to trees around Norwalk by the TOTAL teens to raise awareness for the homeless plight as part of the ongoing Night in a Box project. Items can be dropped off in the blue bin in the hallway. Please encourage family and friends to make a donation to the shelter."

O'Callaghan stressed the importance of involvement by the entire community to make donations to the homeless shelter.

"We have started to ramp up the drive for donations at the church, but with the scarves around town we want to remind the whole community to become involved," he said. "Donations can be made directly to the shelter or people may bring their donations to St. Jerome and we will deliver them."

St. Jerome Church is located at 23 Half Mile Road, Norwalk.

Click here to view the News 12 video.

Bishop places Fr. Stephen DeLuca on Administrative Leave
| January 31, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has placed Fr. Stephen DeLuca, a retired priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, on administrative leave and has removed his faculties to exercise any and all forms of public ministry as a priest.

The decision was made after the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board ruled that there is credible evidence of an incident of child abuse on the part of Fr. Deluca more than 30 years ago.

A letter to the parishes where Fr. Deluca was assigned as a priest will be read at all Masses this weekend. An abbreviated announcement will also be made in parishes where Fr. DeLuca was in residence during his nearly 50 years as a priest.

“During this difficult time, we first and foremost ask your prayers for the victim and the victim's family—and for all victims of sexual abuse--that they may find healing. In the spirit of reconciliation, we also ask that you pray for Fr. DeLuca and for our Church that we may move forward in our sacred obligation to protect the children, youth and vulnerable adults in our community,” said Bishop Caggiano.

Click to read full text of Bishop Caggiano’s letter


Diocesan-wide Youth Ministers Meeting
| January 30, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—We are at an exciting time for our Youth here in the Diocese of Bridgeport!

We will be talking about: Steubenville East Youth Conference, Nat'l Catholic Youth Conference, Synod updates, new Diocese of Bridgeport phone App, Convivio, Fan the Fire, World Youth Day and more!

We have many people who bring zeal and wisdom to our Diocese—together we grow in unity, perspective, support and share new ideas. Click here to RSVP. For info email Julie Rodgers, Director of Youth Ministry at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

CHOICE OF DATES: February 4 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown at 7pm, February 5 at St. Philips Parish in Norwalk at 7pm, February 6 at Catholic Center, 238 Jewett Ave., Bridgeport at 10am.

The forgotten plight of Native Americans
| January 29, 2015


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

When it comes to the harsh difficulties many Native Americans face every day, the saying “out of sight, out mind” hits home.
Many people have only a vague sense of the serious past and present injustices suffered by Native Americans.

From the very beginning, starting with Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the Bahamas, we get a sad introduction of how Europeans, Americans and Canadians, would steal from, enslave and kill Native Americans largely for their land and natural resources.
Columbus in his quest for gold and power, according to the late famous social justice historian Howard Zinn, enslaved and decimated the peaceful native Arawaks – who greeted him and his crew with food, water, and various gifts when he first landed in the Bahamas.
Later on in the United States, the federal government would do much the same. In fact, within the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers in a series of grievances against King George III of Great Britain, included a “grievance” that would haunt Native Americans throughout much of U.S. history. The king, they wrote, “has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
With an attitude that Native Americans were sub-human “merciless Indian savages” the federal government, U.S. army, and many white settlers forced countless Native Americans off their lands, away from ancient hunting grounds, and unto reservations.
The most infamous removal of Native Americans took place in 1838 when the Cherokee nation was strongly pressured to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma.

The Cherokee people called this militarily forced journey the "Trail of Tears" because of its devastating effects. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Historians estimated that well over 4,000 out of 15,000 Cherokees died.

Another tragic example of U.S. injustices toward Native Americans came on Dec. 29, 1890 when the U.S. 7th Cavalry surrounded a Lakota Sioux camp near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and massacred between 150 to 300 men, women and children.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission in a report titled “A Quiet Crisis,” states that “in exchange for land and in compensation for forced removal from their original homelands, the government promised through laws, treaties, and pledges to support and protect Native Americans. However, funding for programs associated with those promises has fallen short, and Native peoples continue to suffer the consequences of a discriminatory history. …
“Native Americans still suffer higher rates of poverty, substandard housing, and higher rates of disease and illness. Native Americans continue to rank at or near the bottom of nearly every social, health, and economic indicator. …

“Native Americans living on tribal lands do not have access to the same services and programs available to other Americans, even though the government has a binding trust obligation to provide them.”

Please contact your congressional delegation urging them to finally fulfill this binding trust obligation.

Chief Joseph, leader of the Nez Perce tribal nation eloquently said, “Treat all men alike. Give them the same laws. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.”

Now that’s the Gospel truth!

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

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Unity in Diversity: Part I
| January 28, 2015


One of the best things about being a staff writer for the Fairfield County Catholic, both in print and online (, is that I go to many events that I otherwise may not attend. On Sunday afternoon, January 25, I went to an ecumenical prayer service at Bridgeport's St. John's Episcopal Church, sponsored by the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport.

When I arrived at the 4:00 pm service, the church’s small parking lot was already filled, so I circled the block and carved a parking space out of ice and snow on a nearby street. I entered the church just as the procession was beginning.

Bishop Caggiano was the only Catholic cleric among 11 other Christian clergy representatives for the event. When he made his way forward and into the sanctuary, I was a bit concerned because he was assigned a seat in the far, rear corner of the sanctuary and was barely visible to the 200 or so participants and congregants in the body of the church.

An usher handed me a lengthy program, and when I sat down, I was happy to discover that Bishop Caggiano was listed as the homilist. Although his assigned seat was not very prominent, he would have time front and center at the podium for a reflection on the Word of God.

If I was not asked to cover the event and to take photos, it is likely that I would not have been there.

After being Bishop of Bridgeport for nearly one and a half years, Bishop Caggiano is likely still discovering the strengths and weaknesses of our diocese. The light Catholic participation at a prayer service in honor of the annual "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" may have come as a surprise to him. Then again, he may already be well-aware that, for a variety of reasons, ecumenical efforts are a low priority for most Catholic clergy and lay people in the diocese.

In defense of the Catholic clergy, most parishes offer many more services on a weekly basis than the average non-Catholic Christian church. By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, most Catholic clergy are fairly worn out, and the idea of attending another, "non-essential" prayer service is likely not very appealing to most.

Bishop Caggiano brought energy and vibrancy to his opportunity at the ambo, and received many hearty "Amens!" and a nice round of applause at the conclusion of his homily. He began his turn as preacher with humor but then settled into a serious, even somber tone, about relations between the various Christian churches. "We come here today divided as brothers and sisters," he said, adding that "the division that exists among us is a scandal to the larger world."

He emphasized, however, that Christians share a common baptism, and expressed hope that one day, all Christians will worship in one Church, professing one faith. "Jesus Christ is the Lord of us all," he said. "We must fix our eyes on Jesus Christ."

Single-handedly, Bishop Caggiano fittingly represented the diocese at the prayer service marking the conclusion in our area for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Following the lead of our bishop, perhaps Catholic clergy and laypeople can engage ecumenism with renewed energy. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an annual event, occurring around the third week of January each year.

This will be the first blog that I have written that has multiple parts. The ecumenical prayer service was nearly two-hours long, which is a little longer than I expected, but as a Catholic priest, I learned a lot about how other Christians worship and praise God, and in one or two more blog posts on the subject I would like to share some of the insights that I gleaned from the prayer service that can definitely be instructive for us as Catholics going forward.

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Bishop’s homily greeted enthusiastically at ecumenical gathering
| January 27, 2015 • by By Father Colin McKenna


BRIDGEPORT—“Amens” and applause greeted Bishop Caggiano’s reflection at last Sunday’s “Unity in Diversity” service at St. John Episcopal Church in downtown Bridgeport.

The “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” celebrated this year from January 18-25, concluded in the Bridgeport area on Sunday afternoon, January 25, with a joyous two-hour worship service in which the Bishop and other religious leaders participated.

Nearly 100 members of choirs and praise teams from Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox congregations participated in the ecumenical prayer service, and another 100 people attended the service as congregants.

Clergy from the Diocese of Bridgeport and ten Protestant and Orthodox churches and organizations officiated at the ceremony. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the main homilist.

The prayer service itself centered around the theme of the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus, and to whom Jesus said, “Give me to drink.” Another major theme of the service, related to the woman at the well, revolved around baptismal waters, and how baptism into Jesus Christ unites us all as Christian brothers and sisters.

Building on the theme of one common baptism, Bishop Caggiano proclaimed at the outset of his homily that “we gather here as the larger Church of Christ as the baptized.”

He then captivated his listeners by stating that “we come here today divided as brothers and sisters,” and that “the division that exists among us is a scandal to the larger world.”

Despite the challenging tone of his homily, Bishop Caggiano expressed hope that one day, all Christians will worship in one Church, professing one faith. “Jesus Christ is the Lord of us all,” he said. “We must fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.”

He concluded by emphasizing that in order to find true unity in our diversity, we need to pray for the grace of humility in order to be healed. His homily received many heartfelt “Amens!” from the congregation, consisting largely of non-Catholics, and a round of enthusiastic applause.

Three separate red-robed choirs from different churches brought joyous, soulful singing to the event, and two other musical groups and some liturgical dancers made the entire service entertaining and spiritually uplifting.

One of the intercessory prayers summed up the purpose and spirit of the worship service and the weeklong celebration: “God of eternal compassion... grant us wisdom to listen to your voice that calls us to unity in our diversity.”

At the conclusion of the event, participants had an opportunity to share fellowship with one another at a reception. The afternoon’s worship service and festivities were sponsored by the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport.

After the prayers of sending forth, at the conclusion of the ceremony, participants were dancing in the church to the rhythms of the Latin Band from Bridgeport’s St. Charles Borromeo Church. Many were hugging each other joyfully and praising God.

For most Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held each January, can come and go with barely a notice. In the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic laypeople and clergy approached ecumenical dialogue and prayer with enthusiasm, but since then, ecumenical activities for many Catholics have fallen to a low level of priority.

Despite serious differences with other Christian churches, Catholics do have a responsibility to try to find “common ground” with their fellow Christians.

84% of Americans would ban abortion after three months of pregnancy
| January 26, 2015


NEW HAVEN—The vast majority of Americans are still very uncomfortable with abortion, according to a new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll.

The survey finds support for abortion restrictions among both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” supporters.

Eighty-four percent of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion, and would limit it to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. This includes almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) who identify themselves as “pro-choice.”
The same percentage (84 percent) also says that laws can protect both the well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn.

In addition, by more than 20 points (60 percent to 38 percent), Americans say abortion is morally wrong.

“Four decades after Roe v. Wade, the American people remain unhappy with its legacy,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “The survey makes clear that the American people understand that abortion is far too common, and causes great harm. And even those who consider themselves ‘pro-choice’ want it reduced significantly. It is time that our lawmakers respond to this public consensus with appropriate legislation.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 64 percent say the nation’s abortion rate is higher than it should be. Only 7 percent thinks it is too low.
  • 78 percent support parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion.
  • 68 percent oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, while only 28 percent support it.
  • By nearly three to one, Americans see abortion as doing a woman more harm than good in the long run (59 percent to 22 percent).
  • By 20 points (57 percent to 37 percent), Americans support proposed legislation that would permit medical professionals and organizations to refuse to provide abortions or refer patients for abortions.

In light of the ongoing controversy over the HHS contraception, sterilization and abortifacient mandate, it is notable that 70 percent of Americans also support religious liberty rights when religious values conflict with the law.

The survey of 2,079 adults was conducted Jan. 7 through Jan. 13, 2015, by the Marist Poll and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental United States were interviewed by telephone using live interviewers. Results are statistically significant within ±2.1 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.

For more details about the survey results and methodology visit

The Knights of Columbus has worked with the Marist Poll to survey Americans on moral issues since 2008.

Andrew Walther, 203-824-5412, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Joseph Cullen, 203-425-9314, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Knight of Columbus News Release

Celebrating the life of a “kind and gentle” priest
| January 24, 2015


STRATFORD—Msgr. George D. Birge was laid to rest this morning after the season’s first snowstorm, but the warmth inside St. James Church was unmistakable as family, friends, and brother priests turned out to remember the man many of them knew simply as “Fr Bo.”

“We gather as a community of mourners as well as a community of believers,” said long-time friend Msgr. John Hossan in his homily. “He will be sorely missed by each and everyone here. In his several assignments as teacher and pastor, he was always a gentle and kind man.”

Msgr. Hossan said he first met George Birge in 1953 when he was a young priest assigned to St. James and Fr. Birge was a seminarian.

“We have lost a brother, father, uncle, friend, and teacher, but gained an intercession but he has left us with this legacy of kindness,” said Msgr. Hossan of Fr. Birge.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the main celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial for Msgr. Birge who served as a priest for more than 58 years.

“He was an extraordinary man, and no one knows that better than yourselves,” the Bishop said. ”We come here to honor one of Christ’s priests. We celebrate the fact that he entered into the great mystery of ordination and understood and lived it with joy very day of his life.”

In a poetic and moving eulogy Susan Birge, niece of Msgr. Birge, recalled a man who loved life, was a source of joy for his large family, and had a genuine affection for the people he encountered.

She said he was voted class president and “Most Popular” boy, and captain of the basketball team at Stratford High School. At age 18, he followed his older brothers and enlisted to serve in World War II. She said he grew up alongside St. James Church, where he was an altar boy, but that his vocation was formed during World War II when he served on a tank landing ship that was transporting Chinese refugees to Shanghai. It was there he met the Jesuits and they “solidified” his vocation. After the war he became a member of the first graduating class of Fairfield University and went on St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, CT

Noting that he was an avid reader who studied Eastern religions as well as taking retreats in Trappist monasteries, she said that Msgr. Birge was also a “great listener who listened without judging.”

“He was always present to others, and always on the verge of laughter,” she said. “There was always a twinkle in his eye and he loved having fun.”

At the end of her eulogy the entire Church stood to give “Fr. Bo” a standing ovation. Bells tolled as the mourners recessed out, while behind the Church children played in the wet and new fallen snow, not far from the house where Fr. Birge lived as a boy. He was buried at St. Lawrence Cemetery in West Haven.

It's up to young people to 'end the scourge of abortion,' says speaker
| January 23, 2015 • by By Nate Madden, Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON—On a chilly and cloudy morning on the National Mall in Washington, crowds gathered January 22 for the annual March for Life, this year marking the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand.

March for Life participants carry their banner past the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 22. (CNS/Reuters)

Tens of thousands gathered first to hear a lineup of speakers, before marching from the Mall up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.  Early in the day, Pope Francis showed his support of the pro-life gathering by tweeting the theme: "Every Life is a Gift" with the hashtag #marchforlife.

By late morning, the temperature had reached about 40 degrees, warmer than many a previous march, and a music group opened the rally with the songs "To Be Loved" and "You're Not Alone." The music was upbeat with lively mandolin licks and the powerful voice of the lead singer.

Several members of Congress were in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, who told Catholic News Service, "I am here to make my colleagues listen." Huelskamp said life is a core issue in the public debate, and that Kansas was already at the forefront of human rights issues. "They were at the forefront of the slavery issue," he said, and are now at the forefront of the life issue.

Levi Fox, a volunteer and a graduate of Liberty University, said, "Half of our generation is missing. Sixty million have been killed since Roe v. Wade, which is why I am dedicating my time to the March for Life."

After the musical opening, Patrick Kelly, the chairman of the March for Life board, told the crowd they were attending "the largest and most important human rights rally in the world," and noted the march is becoming "bigger and younger every year."

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference, opened the rally with prayer alongside priests, bishops and patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox, Orthodox American, Antiochean Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox churches, in a show of what the archbishop called "a sign of Christian unity."

The archbishop called the marchers to not only "be joyful witnesses to the gospel of life," but also to be "loving and welcoming" to those in dire circumstances."

Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, director of the March for Life, addressed the marchers, congratulating them for making a "pilgrimage" before focusing on this year's theme.

"Every Life Is a Gift" emphasized that every life is a gift, regardless of a person's difficulty or disability, and also was meant to emphasize that everyone has a call and a mission—and a role to play creating a culture of life.

A large congressional delegation in attendance emphasized the importance of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act before yielding the floor to a passionate and energetic address by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who said the defense of life was "the responsibility of every single person in America." The conscience bill would implement a broad religious exemption and conscience protections for private employers who oppose the federal contraceptive mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who followed Scott, told the crowd, "There have never been more pro-life lawmakers in Congress than we have today."

In discussing the Knights of Columbus' ultrasound initiative, which has just donated its 500th ultrasound machine, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said, "Women have a right to know the truth."

In what may have been the most inspiring address of the day, Julia Johnson, a senior at Shanley Catholic High School in Fargo, North Dakota, said it was up to the youth of America to "end the scourge of abortion."

As a member of "the pro-life generation," she said she was proud to have come alongside "400 pro-life warriors," referring to the school bringing its entire student body on the 1,300-mile journey to the march.

"Our generation has seen through the smokescreen of lies and secrets," she added.

The president of Students for Life, Kristan Hawkins, discussed the gift of her son's life despite a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. Hawkins said, "I have personally witnessed the push in our culture to create 'perfect' babies." she said.

The remarks echoed those of the other speakers and marchers in declaring that "we are the pro-life generation."

Msgr. George Birge, 87, educator and pastor
| January 21, 2015


STRATFORD—Msgr. George D. Birge died on January 20 at Golden Hill Health Center in Milford. 

He had recently been under hospice care.

A Stratford native, he was born on March 22, 1927, the fourth of seven children. He was baptized in St. James Church, and served as an altar boy there throughout his youth.

He graduated from Stratford High School, where he was class president, captain of the basketball team, and voted “Most Popular” by his classmates.

His mother accepted his diploma at graduation because he enlisted in the Navy during his senior year during World War II.  He served in the South Pacific, and in later years told stories about his time in China navigating the Yangtze River on the LST #636 transport boat. While in China, he also consulted with Jesuits he met in Shanghai about becoming a priest.

Upon returning to the States, he attended Fairfield University and graduated in 1951 as a member of the first graduating class, and was the university’s first alumnus to be ordained a priest.  He attended St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and completed his studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Md. He was ordained by Bishop (later Cardinal) Lawrence Shehan in St. Augustine Cathedral on May 10, 1956.

Msgr. Birge’s first assignment was as a parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield. In 1958 he was appointed to teach at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield and in 1959 he became a full-time faculty member and dean of discipline at Stamford Catholic High School (now Trinity Catholic). In 1962 he became spiritual director of the former Christ the King Seminary in Southport.

He was chaplain of Villa Maria Retreat House in Stamford, and was a member of the priests’ personnel committee for a five-year term starting in January, 1969.
In addition to St. Thomas, Msgr. Birge was a parochial vicar at St. Augustine Cathedral Parish, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport, St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull, St. Clement Parish in Stamford and St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield. In 1971 he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Georgetown and at the same time took the responsibility as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Redding.

During that time to took a sabbatical to study at Yale Divinity School in New Haven. He also attained a certification from the Westchester Institute for Training in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Continuing his lifetime love of teaching, in 1977 he joined the faculty of Central Catholic High School (now All Saints School) in Norwalk, and was resident chaplain at the Notre Dame Provincial House in Ridgefield. He was also a member of the diocesan Matrimonial Tribunal during those years. He served as weekend assistant and resident priest at Assumption Parish in Westport, St. Elizabeth Seton, Parish in Ridgefield, St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull, and St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bridgeport.

He was temporary administrator of Christ the King Parish in Trumbull before becoming pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown on August 1, 1986. He was appointed Prelate of Honor to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, on December 19, 1996.

During Msgr. Birge’s tenure, St. Rose grew to include more than 2,500 families. He was instrumental in the purchase of additional property on Church Hill Rd. as the first step in a long range expansion and renovation program. That program was completed by his successor, Msgr. Robert Weiss.

In 1999, Msgr. Birge was appointed pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Sherman. The appointment was effective July 1 of that year. He remained at Holy Trinity for more than 10 years, until his retirement on August 10, 2002.

He is survived in this diocese by his brother James and sisters Marie Minahan, Nancy Goodrich and Ellen Stadmueller, all of Stratford; Jane Greenwood of Trumbull; and their spouses and children.

Msgr. Birge had continued to concelebrate Mass at St. James, his home parish, during his retirement. He will be received into St. James Church on Friday, January 23, at 4 pm. A parish vigil Mass will be celebrated that evening at 7:30. Father Thomas Lynch, St. James’ pastor, will be the celebrant and homilist. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, January 24, at 10:30 am. His good friend Msgr. John Hossan will give the homily.

Burial with full military honors will follow on Monday at St. Lawrence Cemetery, West Haven.

Protecting the unborn in a ‘throwaway culture’
| January 21, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

What a sight!

Over 25 times from the top of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., I have seen a sea of people marching to proclaim the dignity of unborn human life, and how death-dealing abortion sends the unholy message that some human beings are disposable.

And as I write, I plan to march with and view that sea of people once again, during the 42nd annual “March for Life” on January 22. It’s always a moral and spiritual shot-in-the-arm for me.
But good as they are, the Washington “March for Life” and the “Walk for Life West Coast” in San Francisco (on January 24), as well as dozens of similar events at state capitols throughout the U.S., are simply not enough.

While significant progress has been made to lessen the number of abortions, nonetheless, according to the National Right to Life Committee approximately 1 million unborn brothers and sisters are brutally dismembered by abortion each year.  
And globally, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, over 40 million unborn babies are killed annually by abortion.
Throughout the entire year believers in the God of life need to pray, educate, peacefully protest, donate and lobby on behalf of the unborn. They can’t do it for themselves.
Therefore, please email and call your two U.S. senators (Capitol switchboard: 202.224.3121) urging them to cosponsor and actively support the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of unborn life.

There is solid medical evidence that unborn babies feel pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization ( And abortion is brutally painful.

According to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the abortion technique known as “dilation and evacuation,” used to abort unborn children up to 24 weeks, uses forceps with sharp metal jaws to grasp parts of the developing baby, which are then twisted and torn away.

Another abortion technique after 16 weeks of pregnancy known as “saline amniocentesis,” inserts a needle through the mother’s abdomen and withdraws a cup of amniotic fluid and replaces it with a powerful salt solution.

According to the NRLC, the baby swallows the salt solution and is poisoned. Additionally, the chemical solution causes painful burning and deterioration of the baby’s skin (
In a September 20, 2013 address to a gathering of Catholic gynecologists, Pope Francis affirmed the sacredness of unborn human life, and connected it to the work of social justice.
He said, “In all its phases and at every age, human life is always sacred and always of quality.”
The Holy Father said abortion is a product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which today enslaves the hearts and intelligences of so many.”
This mindset he added “requires eliminating human beings, especially if physically or socially weaker. Our answer to this mentality is a decisive and unhesitant ‘yes’ to life.”
Taking a consistent ethic of life position, the pope linked together unborn babies, the aged and the poor as among the most vulnerable human beings whom Christians are called to especially love.

“Things have a price and are saleable, but persons have a dignity, they are worth more than things and they have no price. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become in recent times a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church, particularly for life which is largely defenseless, namely, that of the disabled, the sick, the unborn, children, the elderly. …
“They cannot be discarded”!
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

St. Joseph’s student leaders attend award program at the Center for Family Justice
| January 21, 2015


TRUMBULL—St Joseph High School seniors had the opportunity to meet Senator Richard Blumenthal; Cathy Molloy, Connecticut’s First Lady; Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch; as well as several other local and state officials.

Pictured l-r: Debra Greenwood, president/CEO of the Center
for Family Justice; Alexandra Quatrella of Trumbull; Jaqueline Marconi
of Monroe; Senator Richard Blumenthal; Konrad Piszczatowski of Stratford;
and Andrew Walsh of Fairfield.

The students were invited by Debra Greenwood, president and CEO of the Center for Family Justice, to witness Senator Blumenthal’s receipt of a recognition award for multiple pieces of legislation he has spearheaded to support victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Nancy Lessard, a faculty member in St Joseph’s Social Studies Department and a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Family Justice will be working with these and other students as members of the Center’s newly formed Youth Advisory Board.

St. Joseph’s students have been involved in numerous initiatives raising money for the Center including “Movie Night at the Bijou,” “Mr. Student Body Competitions” and most recently, creating a monumental Gingerbread House donated as part of a corporate raffle resulting in a $7,000 contribution to the Center. Lessard’s goal is to champion a partnership between the St Joe’s community and the Center and heighten awareness and education of the Center’s mission.

St. Joseph High School provides a learning environment that embraces Gospel values of and promotes a commitment to family and community. The school prepares young women and men to realize their potential, helps them excel in higher education and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives.

Children to present award-winning poetry to families, faculty and the public
| January 21, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Fairfield University will invite dozens of budding young poets to read from their award-winning poetry at the sixth annual Poetry for Peace Contest Winners' Celebration on Friday, January 31.

The evening begins with a 5:30 pm reception before the awards ceremony and readings at 6 pm in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The public and the media are welcome to attend this special event.

More than 1,000 Bridgeport and Fairfield students entered the competition, which is sponsored by Fairfield University's Writing Center, the English Department, the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield, and the MLK Coordinating Committee. This event is held in conjunction with the MLK Holiday Observation Week, a weeklong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work and legacy.
Among the recipients will be nine students from the upper school Cathedral Academy on the St. Augustine campus in Bridgeport: Rachel Elizondo, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,“ Grade 5/Mrs. Altieri; Leilany Delgado, “Peace for Everyone,” Grade 5/Mrs. Altieri; Erica Estrella, “Why Won’t You Let Me In?” Grade 6/Mrs. Dorsey; Steven Ngo, “Awkward Moments,” Grade 7/Mrs. Rubano; Cristina Joyner, “Rest in Peace,“ Grade 8/Mrs. Donnelly; Stacy Davis,  “Ballislife,” Grade 8/Mrs. Donnelly; Gabriel DaSilva, “Home,“  Grade 8/Mrs. Donnelly; Jailyn A. Mclean, “The Rectangular Praise,“ Grade 8/ Mrs. Donnelly; and Darius D. Daniel, “Limited Peace,” Grade 8/Mrs. Donnelly.
“What an accomplishment for our children and teachers, for Cathedral Academy and all the student winners throughout the area,” said Mr. Larry DiPalma, Principal of Cathedral Academy upper school campus.”
Students will read their poems at the Quick Center and the winning poems will also be published in a book, which will be distributed to the children and their families at the event.
The contest is designed to encourage discussion of how the imaginative and original language of poetry relates to the creation of peace. It gives young writers a chance to express their own concepts of peace through the creative act of writing.
“I am so pleased this has become an annual event at Fairfield,” said Robbin Crabtree, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It enriches our campus to have students, parents, and teachers from the surrounding area interact with Fairfield faculty and students. The poetry is creative and moving; it is a wonderful tribute to Dr. King and his legacy.”
Entries were submitted in November and judged by a committee of faculty, staff and students from the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and undergraduates majoring in English, Modern Languages and Education. Elizabeth Boquet, Ph.D, professor of English, and Peter Bayers, Ph.D., associate professor of English, chaired the committee. Carol Ann Davis, assistant professor of English and a poet herself, coordinated the judging.
The children's entries were placed into three divisions, Kindergarten-2nd grade, 3rd-5th grade, and 6th-8th grade. First, second, and third place winners and honorable mentions were selected, as well as some 'judges' favorites' for each category.

"The beach, the birds, a warm embrace, even a well-chosen candy bar plucked from a trick-or-treat bag—the writers bring out the poetry that is present at each moment in the world around us," Dr. Boquet said.

Everything worth doing is hard
| January 21, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

Clara is studying the flute. She practices at home in the evenings. She gets in 15 or 20 minutes of work, on average, every day. There are days when she’s not into it. She gets frustrated.

“Remember,” I say by way of encouragement. “Anything worth doing is going to be hard sometimes.” Clara sighs and slumps her shoulders—the way ten year-olds do when Dad is giving one of his pep talks. Then she takes a deep breath and plunges back in.

These buckle-down moments make me combustible with pride. She’d rather be doing anything else besides slogging through elementary flute compositions that are, by cruel design, just above her skill level. Her persistence is inspiring.

If only I could remember to take my own advice: everything worth doing is hard.

Paddy is six. He’s shown a remarkable ability to master new skills. In fact, he learned to ride a bike in a single day. One morning he just decided he wanted to do it. He got the bike of out of the garage, strapped on his helmet, and got down to business.

I was glad it happened that way. Teaching someone to ride a bike isn’t easy. The first few times Clara tried were such failures that she almost turned against the idea. “I don’t care if I ever learn,” she said when I asked if she wanted to give it another shot.

After some falling, some crying, and some “Everything Worth Doing Is Hard” pep talks from Dad, Clara eventually got the hang of it. But with Paddy, there were no bumps, no bruises, no tears, no frustration, he just jumped on that bike and started riding.

Some things come easy for people. It’s a fact. My older sister can learn languages the way I can eat a pizza—rapidly. I know a guy who is so coordinated that within minutes of learning a new sport he can dominate even long-time players.

But here’s another fact: we all have our challenges. Having things come too easy can itself be a challenge. Often those who are first out of the blocks find it hard to keep up the pace. Then they get down on themselves. Success requires discipline. When things come too easy, discipline doesn’t develop.

Worse, when things come too easy, we may not appreciate how hard they can be for others.

Magdalena has Down syndrome. She struggles with a whole host of cognitive and motor delays that mark her as different from her peers and classmates—even from her siblings. She’s two years older than Paddy, but still needs training wheels on her bike. It would take far more than 15 or 20 minutes of nightly practice for Magdalena to learn to play the flute.

We’ve often spoken with Clara and Paddy about how to deal with reactions to Magdalena. We know they will meet people—especially curious, uninhibited children—who don’t have much experience with Down syndrome. Lots of people don’t know what it is or aren’t sure how to address it directly.

We’ve told them that a good place to start is by saying that it takes Magdalena a little longer to learn how to do certain things. What comes easy for you and me can be a challenge for Magdalena.

And we all have our challenges.

In part to honor how hard kids like Magdalena work, I’m going to the March for Life this year in Washington, D.C. I’ve always wanted to go, but found it hard to fit into my schedule. Something always got in the way. Last year it was the weather. The year before it was work. The year before . . . who knows?

This year, though, I’m going. I know it’ll be hard to get up early and get on that cold bus. But everything worth doing is hard.

(Follow Matt on Twitter @matthennessey.)

Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan.

Family comes first
| January 21, 2015 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

Our unmarried daughter met us for dinner and announced that she was pregnant with her third child. I tossed and turned that night as I thought about this third grandson who would be born into my daughter’s single-parent family.

Less than twenty-four hours later, my son called to say that his baby girl had arrived, but was being taken by life-flight to Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. They didn’t know if the baby would survive. The neurological team said she would have brain damage if she managed to make it through her first day of life.

In the moment my daughter told me she was pregnant again, I immediately began doing damage control. Instantly, I knew that I would not sign a teaching contract for the following year. Maybe my daughter could move back in with us. Maybe we could babysit, and she could work. Maybe these grandchildren would have some concept of family through grandparents and extended family.

When my son called with the news about his baby girl less than a day later, I couldn’t think at all. I wasn’t planning. There was no strategy in my head. It was too big, the news too unexpected, too awful to analyze and process and mitigate. We took each day as it came. The first family crisis sent me into damage-control mode. The second family crisis left me adrift. No mother could wrap her arms around this.

I took the overnight shift at the hospital. My daughter-in-law could barely walk in the days that followed the traumatic birth. She and my son seemed to be in post-traumatic stress. That’s how it is when a baby is born without life signs, when you are told she may not survive, when you watch her have two seizures in her first 24 hours of life, and the experts say that she will have brain damage.

Instinctively, I activated a social teaching of the Church that isn’t talked about very much. The Compendium on Social Doctrine of the Church says that there is to be a “social priority of the family” (252). It goes on to say there must be “the recognition on the part of civil society and the State of the priority of the family over every other community” (254).

In short, family comes first.

That night, my husband and I talked it over, I talked to my parish priest, I prayed a lot, and then I submitted a letter of resignation. We both knew what I had to do. It was time to be a mother and grandmother before anything else.

I believe God honored our desire to put family first. Within months, my daughter and her three sons converted and entered the Catholic Church. The very next day, an MRI showed that my granddaughter had been miraculously spared brain damage. She has had two surgeries since her birth to address other complications stemming from the traumatic birth, and my son and his family stay with us often to be close to physical therapy sessions in St. Louis. But the two-year old that was supposed to have brain damage has met or exceeded all mental development milestones. And the physical therapy is helping in the areas affected by the nerve damage.

The eyes of the Church are on the World Meeting on Families in September 2015. It is an important time in the life of our Church. Now, more than ever, we are being called to put family above all earthly things, and that includes our employment.

Family comes first.

We must help to meet their temporal needs, but we must also meet their spiritual needs. Corporal works of mercy and spiritual works of mercy begin at home. Our number one job is to get our family members to heaven. Just as the Church helps us along our personal pilgrimage to heaven, the domestic church is a vehicle for the salvation of the family.

Rarely is one called upon to set aside work for family. Typically, work is necessary for the financial viability of the family. But we must never get our priorities out of whack. The family has priority over every other community on earth. Solidarity begins in the home.           

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

BFF sent to us by God
| January 21, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

One night during my college-carousing days, I’d had too much Boone’s Farm wine while I was out with my buddies, feasting on chili dogs and cheese fries. On our way home, I stumbled, fell and nearly hit my head against a ledge.

“Wow, that was a close call,” my friends said. “You’re one lucky dude.” This was during the “dudism” era.

“That WAS close!” I said. “No more chili dogs for me.”

When I told my mother the story, she had an entirely different interpretation. After lecturing me about my immature behavior and hanging out with the wrong crowd, she said, “Your guardian angel was watching over you.”

My guardian angel? What an interesting concept—one that I laughed off because at the time I didn’t have enough spiritual maturity. “Mom, it was pure luck,” I responded.

A few years later when I was in Paris, walking down a dark alley after a dinner of frog legs and French wine, two muggers tried to accost me. I was about to be mugged—I should have been mugged—and I don’t know why I wasn’t mugged, but I got away.

When I told Mom, she said, “You better say a prayer of thanksgiving to your guardian angel.”

As children, she taught us the wonderful prayer, “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.”

Years later, I’ve left behind the Boone’s Farm and the frog legs, and I have a different view of guardian angels. Mom was right, I realize after a lifetime of experiences that were just too coincidental to be coincidence, along with too many perilous situations where I had to conclude someone was watching over me.

I’m not alone in this belief. A poll by the Associated Press said 8 in 10 Americans believe in the existence of angels. The research found that 88 percent of Christians, 95 percent of Evangelicals and 94 percent of those who attend religious services of any faith are believers.

In addition, a majority of non-Christians, along with 4 people in 10 of those who don’t attend religious services, say angels exist. Other polls have shown that only 34 percent believe in UFOs and ghosts while 92 percent believe in God, so there’s some sanity left in America after all.

My sons-in-law scoff at the idea because they only believe in what they can touch, see, taste and drink, which means to say frog legs are more real than angels in their opinion.

But everyone with an open mind and heart, even the positivists among us, eventually comes around when they realize the accumulation of coincidences is too great to be denied. I’ve met people who’ve had personal encounters with angels—supernatural beings sent by God to help them when they needed help. Usually, they’re hesitant to share their experiences because they’re afraid of sounding foolish. I’ve also heard stories of people on their death bed being visited by angels to help them cross over to the other side.

Theologians from Thomas Aquinas right down the line say there are angels all around us, waiting for us to ask for assistance, offering advice and defending us from evil influences. All we have to do is seek their help in prayer, and it will come. That’s a simple thing to do and something we should encourage our children and grandchildren to do throughout the day. All you have to do is ask … and the help will be there.

When I was in an antique shop recently, I found a book published in 1870 titled, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel. Now, that’s something you’ll never see on the Amazon best-seller list.

In his preface, the author wrote, “An angel tells what his duties and his impressions were from the moment a soul was entrusted to him, to that moment when she took her place at his side in glory.”

In the memoir, the angel talked about the many occasions when he guided his charge away from temptation, Satan, calamity and the mishaps and misfortunes we all encounter in daily life.

Upon the woman’s death, the angel said, “What consolation for me to introduce her into eternal repose with those she had loved, a soul I had so long guided through the temptations and dangers of life. After having made it my delight to share in her tears, how sweet it was to take part in her joy!”

Only when we meet our guardian angels face to face in heaven will we realize the full extent of their solicitous, loving and vigilant care for us – and wish we had said “thank you” more often to these tireless friends, these supernatural beings of love that God gave to each of us.

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

Meeting Oneself
| January 21, 2015 • by By Thomas H. Hicks


By Thomas H. Hicks

“You have to live your life forward, but you can only understand it backward.”       (Soren Kierkegaard)

I have now my full share of years and am perhaps close to port. Sometimes I think about my life as just another fleck of life, a speck amid the billions of history, who has his own small importance as an individual for a brief span of time. Sometimes I wonder if it can be true of me what the Scriptures say about Paul, Jeremiah, Isaiah, that I was known by God “from the foundation of the world,” as Paul says, or as Jeremiah has God say, “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”? Was I really someone God thought of from all eternity, before time was?

I’m at a time now when I have an urge to look back at my past and wonder— wonder what it might be telling me about myself. I try to listen to my life and attempt some sort of assessment.

There’s a First Communion photo of me. In it is a lad of seven dressed in preposterous navy-blue knickers with a navy-blue jacket, white shirt, large white bow tie, with navy-blue shoes and long navy-blue socks. Clutched in his hands is a white covered prayer book and a white rosary intertwined through his fingers. He’s a handsome enough boy, but that boy looking out at me from the photo has sad, frightened eyes.   

Sometimes I think of writing a letter to the boy I once was. I sort of liked that kid.

How they live on in me, those giants of my childhood—the people who loved me and whom I loved, the people who taught me things. I wish I could have known my father when he was nineteen. I wish I could have been his friend.

When it comes to adolescence, a couple of scraps of memory keep rising up: shopping at Kresge’s, taking dates to ice cream parlors. I vividly remember the time when my bare knee touched the knee of a teenage girl on the Canarsie pier.

During those formative years when we, generally speaking, become lifelong readers or not, a kind of heaven opened for me. Reading became one of the greatest graces of my life. Books are my narcotic.

In adulthood, the world made a niche for me, and I found a place in the scheme of things. I was more a plugger than slugger, indefatigably tenacious. Early on I saw I lacked the smooth self-oblivion required for a public career. I had little talent for administration, and I knew it. I was called to fight inward battles instead. Alone, working among my books, was where I felt most at ease. I was never bored. I was self-entertaining.

I have been afraid of too many things. I was never not afraid, my mind turning to illness, the dwindling of the days, the inevitability of the fading, the dying of the brightness. I cannot remember a time when I was not dreading something. My nature was always to expect the worst, generally ready to receive bad news. I yearn to be more at ease in life, but I continue to worry my worries.

Reflecting on my past, I think of all the happiness behind me, the many waltzes that have ended, the brightness and beauty that could not last. There’s a sorrow for chances missed. There are things I regret and would like to undo, tears I would like to dry. Remorse bites at me. I’m aware of some weaknesses that seem to be inescapable and ineradicable. Looking back, I see some of the roads not taken, and long for all I have not known, for all I have missed. There are things I did not do when I could and should have, and they come back to shame.

But there were times when, now and then, I displayed a little courage, was at my best and bravest. Some things were done in wisdom and love.

I came to know certain sorrows, certain estrangements, my mother’s early death. The central wound in my history was the death of my wife. How I loved her, and how I lost her. I often wonder over her attraction for me.

I have developed a lively awareness that we do not have a lasting city here (Hebrews 13:14). I recognize that we ourselves are our primary problem.

When I look back at the way my life has unfolded, I have a conviction that my life was not haphazard. I even begin to think of my life as a sacred journey. We have a history, He and I. I think I can be aware of myself as a person who is known and loved by God. I even think I’ve been close to God a few times. Right now I have no doubt that I am in the place where Providence wished me to be.

However, I’m just not that interested in myself anymore.  But the voyage continues and I must continue to put up with me.   

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

New Annual Catholic Appeal Video Released
| January 20, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—“Building Communities of Faith,” the 2015 Annual Catholic Appeal video has been released throughout the diocese.

This year’s video focuses on Catholic schools, charities and other programs that help to build faith communities. It features poignant personal testimony by those who benefit from the appeal in ways that helped them through personal crisis while also deepening their faith.

The video includes an interview with last year’s co-chairperson Cece Donoghue, who personally visited many of the programs and services funded by the diocese and offers a compelling reason to give. Fr. Reginald Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton and co-chair of the Pastors Advisory Committee (PAC) also appears in the video.

In his introduction, Bishop Frank Caggiano, says that this year’s Appeal is “an opportunity for us to recall the basic mission which Christ has given us…to feed the hungry, help the homeless, reach out to those who are suffering and to make concrete God’s presence wherever we go.”

The bishop also notes as the diocese moves forward with Synod 2014, the Annual Catholic Appeal gives the Church the resources “to reach out to those who are alienated and no longer worship with us.”

The nine-minute video, available online and as a DVD, was taped last Fall in various settings throughout the diocese and include interesting aerial footage shot from drones. It was produced by John Heaney of MediaStream in Albany, New York, and organized by William McLean, Chief Development Officer and Pamela Rittman, Director of the Annual Catholic Appeal.

The video has also been previewed at recent donor receptions held throughout the diocese and will be shown at the Mass and reception for parish leaders and pastors this Saturday 11 at St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk. It will also be widely played in parishes on the weekend of February 21-22 during the formal launch of this year’s campaign.

More than 25,000 people contributed to last year’s appeal, which funds all of the major programs and services of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Pam Rittman said The Annual Catholic Appeal (formerly Annual Bishop’s Appeal) has been renamed to reflect the work of Synod 2014, particularly its theme of “building communities of faith” throughout the Diocese.

“As Cece Donoghue says in her interview, when people give to the Appeal, they are giving to build up the Catholic communities in our diocese. When we provide services such as nutrition, counseling, education and formation, the focus is on building up our parish and larger communities.”

Fairfield Fire Prevention Contest Winner
| January 20, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Assumption Catholic School is proud to offer congratulations to Jeanette Ahutal.

A student in the fourth grade, Jeanette was selected as the first place winner by the Fairfield Fire Department for her drawing for the Fire Prevention Poster Contest. She is shown here with Assumption’s principal, Gerrie Desio.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
March for Life 2015
| January 20, 2015


To all of those who are already on your way to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life, and to all who are preparing to go, God bless you!

Although our nation’s capital is below the Mason Dixon Line, it can still get very cold in January. It is a sacrifice to attend the March, even for those who are fervent pro-life advocates.

A few years ago, I took a different route to the March. I decided that – to make it as painless as possible—I would take the Acela Express from Stamford to D.C. The journey was supposed to take less than four hours each way. Going down the trip took about five hours because of ice and snow. The journey home was closer to nine hours. Trains, I discovered, are temperamental about ice, snow and freezing temperatures.

Union Station is very near the March route, but I still was uncomfortably cold all the time that I was outside, walking to and from the March and during the March itself. In 6th grade, I played pond-hockey too long on a freezing day and developed frostbite on my cheeks. Those areas of skin are particularly vulnerable to freezing again, so I marched with a scarf covering my face, surprised that many people still could see my collar beneath the layers. It was a thoroughly discomfiting experience, and I did not even get much of a feeling of “reward” after attending the event.

This year, I was arguing with myself whether or not to go, but then a legitimate excuse developed. I am scheduled for my first root-canal on January 22, at 1:00, just when the March is scheduled to begin! I asked the doctor if it would be painful, and he assured me that it would not be, although he strongly suggested that I take two days of rest after the procedure. If I suffer any pain during or after the procedure, I will offer it for the protection of life in the womb—for the Right to Life!

As though the Lord is assuring me that it was wise not to go this year, I developed a serious pain in my left foot the other day, and I am literally the walking wounded! As I was getting in my car during Sunday’s ice-storm, I slipped and nearly fell. Maybe I strained something in my foot in that moment. It did not hurt then but later that evening and since, it feels like someone took a sledge-hammer to the soft part of the bottom of my foot. And I thought 50 was the new 30!

My need for dental work and my sudden injury to my foot does raise a pertinent question: Do pro-life advocates really need to travel to Washington, D.C., in January in order to march for life?

When I was at seminary in the Boston area, the pro-life office of the Archdiocese of Boston held a large pro-life rally and march in the center of Boston on “Respect Life Sunday,” the first Sunday of October. Why do we need to travel to D.C. in order to participate in an effective pro-life rally and march?

A famous Boston politician, Tip O’Neill, famously said that “all politics is local.” It can also be said that, by and large, most religion is local too. In Canon Law, dioceses are actually referred to as the “local” Church. The vast majority of Catholics experience their religion primarily at the parish level, from which comes the pejorative adjective “parochial,” which refers to the small-mindedness that can take root at that level.

In my opinion, October (Respect Life Month) is a much better time of the year than January for an outdoor pro-life rally and march. Last year, our diocese canceled all of our buses at the last minute because we were in the midst of a blizzard. A lot of time, effort and money was expended on a journey that never happened, because of unforeseen but definitely possible circumstances (snowstorms in January are to be expected).

It would be nice to see our diocese hold our own pro-life rally and march this coming October, which will follow on the Pope’s planned visit to America (Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York).

Another positive aspect of a pro-life rally and march in October is that it occurs very close to election day. In January, new politicians and presidents are just being sworn into office. In October, thousands of marchers may help tilt the scales for pro-life candidates.

The protection of life in the womb does involve the three branches of government, so it is foolish to pretend that pro-life advocates are not conscious of the political dimension of their activities. The current March for Life is held on January 22 each year to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which essentially legalized abortion in the United States.

The March for Life begins on the mall outside the White House (the Executive Branch) and marches past the Capitol building (the Legislative Branch) before concluding at the steps of the Supreme Court (the Judicial Branch).

The March is not purely political, because most pro-life advocates are people of faith who believe that God reigns supreme over human institutions, and that life itself is a gift from God and therefore a God-given right. Marchers maintain that our government institutions have inserted themselves in a very un-holy way into an area of governance that belongs to God alone. Just because government can make abortion “legal” does not mean that abortion is right in God’s eyes.

Then again, those who support abortion rights usually have taken God completely out of the equation. For those who consider themselves people of faith but still support abortion rights, here is a question to consider: “Is abortion ever pleasing to God?”

The Catholic faith still boldly proclaims that abortion is never pleasing to God, which is the core of the dedication, commitment and devotion of pro-life advocates.

Please contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you would like to see our diocese organize a rally and march for Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October, 2015.

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National march to take place on January 22 in D.C.
| January 20, 2015


WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Every Life is a Gift” will be the theme of the 2015 March for Life this January 22.

The March for Life began as a small demonstration and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world.

The peaceful demonstration that has marked this somber anniversary every year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, abortion.

The event begins with a 12 noon rally on the National Mall. The March itself, leading past the Supreme Court building, will start at 1 pm.

This year, the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport has made contact with an independent service called Rally Bus to assist with bus transportation to Washington, D.C. Participants are asked to go to, select a stop, and reserve a seat. Two stops are already planned, one at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull and one from the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury. If enough people are interested and there isn’t a stop nearby, Rally Bus can add one at a convenient location.

A number of parishes are planning to send delegations to the March. St. Mary Parish in Norwalk and St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan have each chartered a bus; the St. Mary’s bus already has a waiting list. Another bus company will make a stop at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown.

Catholic schools will add their presence to the observance. Representatives from all five high schools, Trinity Catholic in Stamford, Immaculate in Danbury, Kolbe Cathedral in Bridgeport, St. Joseph in Trumbull, and Notre Dame in Fairfield will be attending the march.

The Respect Life Ministry invites all those who want to join an observance closer to home to a Pro-Life Holy Hour on January 22 from 7-8 pm hosted by St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. The hour will include Eucharistic Adoration, prayers for an end to abortion and for an increased respect for the gift of human life and a Pro-Life Rosary, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. 

Check with your local parish for similar prayer opportunities.

(Payment for the trip to Washington, D.C., is made directly to Rally Bus. To register, go to Buses are for adults only. For the bus from St. Rose, contact John Waite: 203.509.3506 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For additional questions, contact the Respect Life Ministry: 203.416.1445 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

Bishop announces new scholarship fund
| January 19, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano introduced plans for launching the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund that will substantially create a new financial model for diocesan assistance to schools before a gathering of almost 200 Catholic school principals, pastors and administrative staff at the Catholic Center on November 19.

“This is a significant, perhaps historic moment in the life of our schools,” he said, as he rolled out the plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of Catholic education in the diocese. “This is a time to look at structural reform to move forward.”

The diocese educates more than 9,000 students in its 35 (five high schools, 29 elementary schools, and one center for early childhood excellence) Catholic schools in grades Pre-K-12 throughout Fairfield County.

The centerpiece of the bishop’s proposal to change school funding is the new scholarship fund, which is expected to raise $1.45 million in new scholarship aid that will be available to all families across the diocese.

The funds will be used to attract new admissions and to retain existing students, especially in families that are financially challenged or have more than one child in school.

Bishop Caggiano said the new Bishop’s Scholarship Fund will be a permanent fund designed to provide tuition assistance on an annual basis for students to attend our diocesan-sponsored schools.

“We’re beginning to price the middle class out of our schools. We need to create a vehicle that provides scholarship for poor, working and middle classes,” he said.

“Even in the affluent suburbs, people are struggling to meet the cost of tuition, particularly if they have more than one child in our schools. We want these and all families to know that regardless of income, they can benefit from scholarship aid,” he said.

He said the fund will award scholarships of varying amounts to as many students as possible who otherwise could not attend or remain enrolled in the diocesan-sponsored Catholic school of their choice because of financial need.

Scholarships will be renewable each year for as long as the student attends a diocesan elementary or high school and remains in good standing. The fund will disburse its scholarship grants beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

The first year of the fund will be reserved for elementary school students. After that, high school students will also be able to apply for scholarship aid.

The Bishop’s Scholarships will be funded each year through a proposed new Scholarship Fund Dinner and an annual Christmas Concert for Youth, along with revenue from the Annual Catholic Appeal, the Faith in the Future Fund, and a redistribution of existing parish educational contributions.

During the meeting, Patricia Zaccone, director of school finance, unveiled a new budgeting process and Bishop Caggiano asked all schools to host registration tours for students in February 23-27, in addition to the priority registration for current students during National Catholic Schools’ Week (January 25-31).

The bishop said the scholarship fund and new financial policies are meant to reverse declining enrollment in many of the diocesan elementary schools, and to address the current operating deficits of $2 million they owe to the diocese and negative effect of long-term debts.

He said that enrollment in diocesan schools has decreased by 9.6 percent over the past five years, and 3.8 percent since last year. Most of the decline is in elementary school enrollment.

A recent study of demographic trends projected a decrease in overall school age population in Fairfield County in the future. In addition to the smaller pool of students, Catholic schools will compete with charter and pre-K public school offerings.

Acknowledging that many Catholic schools face significant challenges, the bishop said the goal of the scholarship fund and revised policies is to create a “critical mass of resources” that will help schools achieve full enrollment. “If we get full enrollment, our schools will prosper,” he said.

The bishop explained that each parish outside of Bridgeport is now assessed 8 percent of its offertory collection to support Catholic Schools, whether or not a school is located on parish grounds. The Bridgeport parishes are assessed varying amounts and also receive financial support through an endowment created by the Catholic Academies Advisory Board.

Total diocesan aid to schools provided by parish assessments is over $3 million and is a growing burden on many parishes.

The bishop said that many dioceses do not fund education through parish offertory collections and that the new funding plan should enable him to lower the assessment to 7.5 percent.

On December 16, the diocesan College of Consultors (priest leaders) gave final approval for the creation of the fund.

The bishop also announced the formation of a new Education Commission of the Diocese of Bridgeport to study the viability and vitality of schools, and to assist in developing a strategic plan for the schools and a comprehensive diocesan strategic plan for education.

The 10-member board, currently being formed, will include members of the general community with expertise in marketing, mission, admissions, finance and planning.

Yankees’ Teixeira to Speak at Shehan Center/McGivney Center Fundraiser
| January 16, 2015 • by By Don Harrison


BRIDGEPORT—With the notable exception of Don Mattingly, Mark Teixeira has been the most productive New York Yankees first baseman since the legendary Lou Gehrig. As a fielder, he may have no peers.

Teixeira will bring his star power to Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Arts on Tuesday, Feburary 10 for a benefit, “”An Evening With Mark Teixeira.”

All proceeds will support the after-school programs at the Cardinal Shehan Center and the McGivney Community Center.

“We’ve been working with (Fairfield County clothier) Bill Mitchell to make this happen, and we’ve finally been successful,” said Terry O’Connor, executive director of both the Cardinal Shehan Center and the McGivney Center.

“The funds we raise,” he continued, “will help with our after-school programs at both places. Buy supplies. Homework help. Arts and crafts. The pool at the Shehan Center. Part-time employees and so much more.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Teixeira at a private reception, from 5:30-6:45 p.m., and then listen to the Yankee star at a lecture, beginning at 7 pm. The fee for both the reception and lecture is $150; this includes an autographed baseball signed by Teixeira. The cost for the lecture only is $75 for adults and $35 for children 12 and under.

The switch-hitting Teixeira will enter his seventh season with the Yankees and 13th overall with 363 career home runs, 1,175 runs batted in and a .273 average. At his peak, he put together eight straight seasons of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs. In 2009, his first year in New York, Teixeira topped the American League with 39 homers and 122 RBIs while leading the Yankees to the pennant and world championship. He was the runner-up to the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer for Most Valuable Player.

However, a succession of injuries put a damper on Teixeira’s 2014 season (22 homers, 62 RBIs, .216) and a broken right wrist limited him to just 15 games the previous year. Teixeira resides in Greenwich with his wife, Leigh, and their three children.

For ticket information, call the Cardinal Shehan Center at 203.336.4468 or the McGivney Community Center at 203.333.2789.

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Notre Dame HS student wins Gold in figure skating
| January 14, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Congratulations to Notre Dame High School’s Marisa Panuczak, class of '18, who competed in the ISI Lake Placid Championships for figure skating in early January.

She won gold medals in each solo program she skated. Her artistic program earned her an entry into the final round competition where she earned a silver.

Her coach (right) is Michelle Marella, ND class of '93. Marisa has been figure skating for over 10 years and working with Michelle for the past two.

Great job Marisa!

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
| January 13, 2015


Now that we are nearing the end of the first two weeks of the New Year, it is likely that most of our New Year’s resolutions have begun to fizzle. Then again, if you are still going strong, God bless you!

One year, I really made a significant change in my life as the result of a New Year’s resolution, so I certainly do not discount the potential significance of “turning over a new leaf.” However, after experiencing so many New Year’s failures, I eventually came to realize that every day is a good day for making a resolution. Why wait until one time each year to make positive changes in our lives that may or may not actually take hold?

Making resolutions is similar to practicing the Catholic faith. We resolve. We fall. We resolve. We fall.

Practicing the faith requires persistence, because each time we fall, with the help of God’s grace we need to get up again and begin anew.

Good resolutions can come out of our daily examination of conscience. Practicing the faith also requires a certain level of comfort with repetition. In our daily prayer life, we may find ourselves making the same resolutions over and over again.

Making resolutions, and failing at them, is good for our humility. A wise man was once asked by his disciple, “Master, what is humility?” The wise man replied, “I don’t know. I don’t have any.”

In my experience, humility seems to grow out of humiliations. In our repeated failures to amend our lives, we can experience personal humiliation. This can lead us to realize that we really can do nothing without God’s grace, which is a crucial realization in the spiritual life.

When we recognize our need for God’s grace in order to grow in holiness, we may also develop a heightened spiritual appreciation for the gift of the sacraments.

When we make a spiritual resolution and then find ourselves failing, we always have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession.

When we make a good Confession, we are putting humility into practice. It has always been my belief that face-to-face Confession is better for our humility, especially if it is less comfortable. When, in faith, we place ourselves before a priest to confess our sins, we need to recognize that we are indeed placing our sins humbly before Jesus.

Much more than the strength of our resolve, the grace that we receive in the sacrament through absolution can truly super-charge our spirit. If it is pleasing to God, through Confession, our resolve receives supernatural help in the form of invisible but palpable grace.

Resolutions are good to make, and should be made frequently (if not daily). As Catholics, we need to realize that only with God’s grace (supernatural help) can we overcome human weaknesses that serve as obstacles in our relationship with God and neighbor.

In my opinion, going to Confession once or twice a year is not enough. The average Catholic can greatly benefit from making a good Confession every three months or so.

When I say “good Confession,” I mean that we need to prepare prayerfully for the sacrament for some weeks in advance. We need to ask God to help us make a good Confession, and we need to ask the Holy Spirit for enlightenment so that we know what to confess.

Some Catholics go to Confession weekly. In my opinion, such frequent Confession presents spiritual risks.  Do we really believe in dynamic grace if we need to return so frequently to the sacrament? Or has our cycle of sin and repentance become mechanical? Does scrupulosity make us afraid to approach the altar?

If we go to Confession every three or four months, we may find ourselves in serious sin in the meantime.

As Catholics, we believe that absolution is “guaranteed” through the sacrament, but that does not mean that we cannot express our sins and our sorrow for them directly to Jesus in our daily prayer.

If we are in mortal sin, and we have not gone to Confession, it is proper to refrain from receiving Communion. This too, can be very good for our humility.

In an age when nearly “everyone” receives Communion at Mass, even though only a small percent have recently gone to Confession, it can be humbling to refrain from joining the Communion line.

If someone asks us why we did not receive Communion, we can say, “That is between me and my God.”

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Spanish-speaking Catholics urge Diocese To help strengthen their parishes
| January 11, 2015


NORWALK—"If we don't serve them, we're going to lose them," said a catechist from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport of the growing number of Spanish speaking Catholics in cities and towns throughout the Diocese.

Almost 200 men and women turned out for the second consultation session with the Hispanic community held Sunday afternoon at St. Mary Parish Hall in Norwalk.

In an intense, heartfelt and informative session, many of the speakers who came to the microphone asked for more help from the Church as they faced struggles in their own lives, a feeling that many Catholic parishes and schools don't welcome them or make them feel like they belong.

The session was held in English and Spanish with Fr. Gustavo Falla, Vicar for Spanish Speaking Catholics in the diocese, providing excellent translations in both languages following speakers comments.

Many of those in attendance also noted that parents are failing to educate their children in the faith and that Hispanic youth, like other young people in Fairfield County, are uncomfortable practicing their faith in the face of pressure from secular values.

Speakers also asked for more catechetical training for adults and for the Church's help to protect youth and learn and live in the faith.

Bishop Frank Caggiano and members of the Synod Commission listened to the more than ten speakers of all ages who came forward during the session. Many of the speakers red prepared remarks and eagerly awaited the Bishop's responses.

"I thank you for your heartfelt input," said Bishop Caggiano as the two-hour consultation was drawing to a close. "You've shared your difficulties and the suffering you are going through. I want to make sure that your needs, and the needs of all families through the Diocese, will be addressed when we come out of the Synod."

"We don't feel protected by the church," said a woman from St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk, who said the Church can reach out to many who are suffering by helping with education, and making Masses more available in Spanish.

Some speakers asked why Masses in Spanish are not available in Churches in more affluent communities surrounding their inner-city parishes.

"I understand it's not simply a matter of having more Masses in Spanish but also having a greater understanding of the culture of Spanish ­speaking Catholics," Bishop Caggiano said.

In response to the Bishop's question about what evangelical churches do well, one speaker said they were less hierarchical in their approach, more welcoming, and that lay people were more involved.

A teenager from St. Mary Parish in Norwalk said many youth feel as if they're being criticized by the Church with a "bunch of don'ts" rather than experiencing "God's forgiveness and love." Carmen Torres of St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport said the diocese had has some positive plans for reaching out to Hispanic Catholics in the past but has not implemented them. She said the local Church missed many opportunities to serve people who have since turned to other denominations.

The last speaker of the evening was a young boy from St. Mary Parish in Bridgeport who said it was important for men to get more involved in their parishes. "Women do everything, he said." "If people want healing, they should go to the Blessed Sacrament and feel the healing presence of God."

"You are a remarkable young man of faith," said Bishop Caggiano who thanked all those who came forward.

For more information and visit the Synod 2014 website at

Click here to view slideshow

Parish Reps embrace new diocesan Mobile App
| January 10, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Excitement and interest filled the Queen of Saints Hall at the Catholic Center today when almost 50 parish representatives turned out for training in the use of the new diocesan mobile App that will be launched in February.

“Apps” are computer software applications designed to make information, photos and videos more readily available and accessible on Smart Phones, Tablets, and other mobile devices, where people now increasing turn for information.

The mobile App will feature Mass times, news, calendar events, video and photos, and parish information, represents a new era of communications in the diocese. It was designed by Deacon Patrick Toole of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield and will work on all smart phones and tablets.

“Everyone turns to an IPad or smart phone to get information today,” said Karen Barton of St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull. “When people have access to information quickly there more apt to follow through. The new App should make the process easier for people to learn about the parish.”

Deacon John DiTaranto, Special Assistant to Bishop Caggiano, began the meeting with a prayer and reminded those in attendance that “the purpose of the App is to bring people closer to the Lord. “

The Deacon said that the mobile App will support the major Synod initiatives, particularly the call for improved communications and outreach to youth. “One of The Synod themes of the Synod is to focus on the young Church. And that means we need information that is fresh, timely and up to date.”

In the two-hour session, the parish representatives asked a wide range of questions and brought considerable knowledge of social media and information technology to the training. They will play a key role in uploading information from their parish to the new App.

Each parish representative will be given a password to enter a secure website, where they can upload information.

“It’s great,” said Jonathan Torres, a member of St. George Parish in Bridgeport. “You have to use every avenue available to communicate. People are on their phones all the time, and social media a tool we need to use to reach them.”

The diocesan website has an average of 20,000 visitors a month, but people increasingly are visiting the website by mobile phone as opposed to desktop computers. . The App translates the voluminous information on the website into a format that makes information easier and quicker to find on the small screen of a smart phone.

Janet Gardella, office manager of Assumption Parish in Westport, welcomed the new App and the ability it gives each parish to post its own information. “I think the Church should embrace social media. The App really offers another connection with parishioners because people want information at their fingertips.”

“Anything that can get the word out is a good thing,” added Kate Fitzgerald of St. Mary Parish in Bethel. “Our parish is on Facebook and Twitter. The new App will provide even more access to information.”

“I work with youth all the time and they’re constantly using social media. This is great,” said Andrew Sheldon, a professional web developer who also serves as Webmaster for St. Margaret Mary Parish in Shelton.

The training was conducted by Mark Murphy, a digital communications consultant to the diocese and to many parishes. “The App is all about improving the user experience, making it better and making information more accessible on a mobile device,” he said.

Murphy walked representatives through the content management system and the new diocesan portal that provides users with the tools for entering and editing information. It is accessible through all web browsers.

He fielded the frequent questions throughout the training and also responded to the many helpful suggestions to improve the App.

Jill Monroe, who serves as social media coordinator for the Office of Communications, also was on hand to answer questions about the new App and diocesan website.

“The new App is about faith and building community,” she said to the representatives. “It about making your parish a welcoming home and family where people want to be.”

Busy weekend set for Diocese of Bridgeport
| January 09, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Two Synod consultation sessions, a training session for the new diocesan mobile app, and a reflection on the “Lord’s Prayer” are all on tap for this weekend.

Tonight, 7:30 pm at St. Luke Parish in Westport, Bishop Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will offer a reflection on the Lord's Prayer at St. Luke Church in Westport. The Bishop’s talk will be preceded by a wine-and-cheese reception at 7 pm in the community room of the parish.

The program is free and all are welcome. St. Luke Church is at 49 Turkey Hill Road North in Westport. For more information, call 203.227.7245.

On Saturday morning (January 10), more than fifty parish representative appointed by their pastor will meet at the Catholic Center at 9 am to 11 am to be introduced to the new diocesan mobile app and learn how to upload parish information into the system. The new app, designed by Deacon Patrick Toole, is an exciting developmental in social media and digital communications for the diocese.
Saturday afternoon (January 10) will see the convening of a Youth Synod Consultation Session with Bishop Caggiano from 2-4 pm at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. All persons must have a ticket to enter at the door! This is a youth session, only adults who are chaperoning may attend.
The next Synod consultation session with the Spanish language community in the Diocese will take place on Sunday, January 11, from 3:00—5:00 pm at St. Mary Parish Hall in Norwalk. Bishop Caggiano and the Synod Commission will meet in the to listen to, and consult with, the Hispanic Community regarding the challenges facing our Diocese. Special thanks to Mr. John Rodriguez of the Synod Commission for helping to coordinate the session.

March for Life takes place January 22
| January 07, 2015


WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Every Life is a Gift” will be the theme of the 2015 March for Life this January 22.

The March for Life began as a small demonstration and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world.

The peaceful demonstration that has marked this somber anniversary every year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, abortion.

The 2015 March begins with a 12 noon rally on the National Mall. The march itself, leading past the Supreme Court building, will start at 1 pm.

This year, the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport has made contact with an independent service called Rally Bus to assist with bus transportation to Washington, D.C. Participants are asked to go to, select a stop, and reserve a seat. Two stops are already planned, one at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull and one from the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury. If enough people are interested and there isn’t a stop nearby, Rally Bus can add one at a convenient location.

A number of parishes are planning to send delegations to the march. St. Mary Parish in Norwalk and St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan have each chartered a bus; the St. Mary’s bus already has a waiting list. Another bus company will make a stop at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown.

For those who want to join Respect Life observance closer to home, the Respect Life Ministry is sponsoring a Pro-Life Holy Hour on January 22 from 7-8 pm hosted by St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. The hour will include Eucharistic Adoration, prayers for an end to abortion and for an increased respect for human life and a Pro-Life Rosary, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. 

Check with your local parish for similar prayer opportunities.

Payment for the trip to Washington, D.C., is made directly to Rally Bus. To register, go to Buses are for adults only. For the bus from St. Rose, contact John Waite: 203.509.3506 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For additional questions, contact the Respect Life Ministry: 203.416.1445 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Mass Mob Hits Fairfield County
| January 06, 2015 • by By Diana Blass


STAMFORD—Church goers are on the move, mobbing parishes all throughout the county and making quite a statement.

"Mass Mob is sort of like a flash mob for Mass."

Its trend spreading throughout the country. A service in a particular city gets posted online and the goal is to get as many faithful in the area to attend.

It first took root just over a year ago over in Buffalo, and today it’s in Philadelphia, Detroit, NYC and more recently—Connecticut.

"We're just trying to really raise awareness of these beautiful churches in these great vibrant communities. We just want to expand your palette."
Nineteen-year-old Andre Escaliera is one of the organizers behind Mass Mob in Fairifled County. He was first approached about the idea from a lay couple in the area.

From there, he organized a Facebook page.

"So we launched a bishop photo contest so people can send in their favorite photos. And that really helped."

Come August, the time came to put those promotional efforts to the test. The first Mass Mob was held at St. Peter Church in Bridgetport.

"I just said you know what god if this is what you want for the County and if this is where you're leading us then it's in your hands. And, he really delivered. There were about 230 people."

A coupe of months later, a second mass mob was at Holy Name in Stamford, drawing an even bigger crowd and attracting so much attention—parishes started requesting to host future events.

"It's great to hear so many parishes are interested."
Pope Francis is famous for urging young catholic to make a “mess” in their dioceses and to break out of the mold. Well, according to Andre, that’s exactly what Mass Mob is all about.

"Generally youth are on fire for their faith and they really want to do something with that faith they have."

The next Mass Mob will be Feb. 22 at 10:30am at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Danbury. For more information you can visit the Mass Mob Facebook page.

Long-time friends of NCH make major gift to capital campaign
| January 06, 2015


STAMFORD—The New Covenant House of Hospitality Capital Campaign recently received a hefty boost when Board President Paul Harinstein was presented with a generous donation of $100,000 from Bruce and Linda Koe of Stamford, Connecticut.

The goal of the New Covenant House Capital Campaign is to raise $1.7 million. To date, the campaign has raised nearly $1.2 million; 70% of its goal.

“We’re very grateful for the generosity of Bruce and Linda Koe,” said Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities. “No one understands or can appreciate the need for this new facility better than Bruce and Linda Koe.”

“Their commitment to serving the poor and hungry, and their long-term service to New Covenant House has been both a blessing and inspiration.

New Covenant House of Hospitality is one of two soup kitchens sponsored and managed by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. It is Stamford’s one and only soup kitchen whose mission is to provide a nutritious meal to all those who are hungry.

“By creating a safe, warm and compassionate environment, we are taking the first steps toward empowering men, women, and children to reach their full potential and regain their dignity and self-respect,” said Barber.

Bruce and Linda have been longtime supporters of New Covenant House with Linda being instrumental in her work as a former Advisory Board Member and Co-Chair of The Harvest Table, one of New Covenant House’s annual fundraising events. Along with participating in many New Covenant House events with his wife, Bruce Koe is also on the Board of Neighbor’s Link in Stamford.

Bruce and Linda Koe are active parishioners of Trinity Church in Greenwich. Their Loaves and Fishes group frequently serves at New Covenant House.

Recently, Catholic Charities announced the appointment of John R. Gutman as Executive Director of New Covenant House. John, a longtime volunteer at New Covenant House, brings a wide range of experience from the corporate world. John will be responsible for leading New Covenant House through the balance of the Capital Campaign.

The campaign is funding the move to a new facility across from its present location this spring. The “new” New Covenant House will encompass 8,000 square feet of space at 174 Richmond Hill, a major expansion from its current 2,000 square foot location.

New Covenant House of Hospitality serves the greater Stamford area, which includes Stamford, New Canaan, Greenwich and Darien. It is located at 90 Fairfield Avenue in Stamford. For information call 203.964.8228 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  

Contributions to the capital campaign can be made at:, or send a check to: New Covenant House Capital Campaign, PO Box 10883, Stamford, CT 06904.

The Christmas we need
| January 06, 2015 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I’ve been to the mall once. I’ve landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock—and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I’ve seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.

Advent is the only antidote.

But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who have to hurry. It will never be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.

Advent waits to be invited to your December. It will not show up on its own. It is a polite guest. It will not crash your party. Christmas-without-Advent is a fake. An imposter. We all know it.

The Christmas we all need, the one we long for, the one we can imagine so clearly . . . it only comes to those who walk alongside Mary. In the quiet. Away from the crowds. Where Sacred Scripture comes alive and holiness is real.

It’s no mirage, this Advent journey. It’s not an optional side excursion on the way to Christmas. It’s necessary. It’s the way to Christmas. The only road to Bethlehem.

I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land twice in 2014. In fact, I am writing to you now from Bethlehem. I stood there today, at Shepherds Field, and the idea of the crowded mall seemed so silly, so completely out of step with Advent. I knelt to pray where Christ was born, and the idea of jacking up the credit card to buy a few more presents seemed almost unholy, almost contradictory.

The two don’t go together. Not when you are here. Not when you are removed from the bright lights and staged windows of Main Street America.

Today, I imagined a pregnant young woman and her beloved husband as they journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, over the rugged terrain that I have walked with my own feet, in my own Timberland boots, as my filled water bottle sloshed against my backpack, and I lifted my camera to capture the real Nazareth, the real Ein Kerem (Zechariah & Elizabeth’s home), the real Bethlehem. And I cannot think of anything but the plan of salvation that brought God into our world. The part of me that can be so easily abducted and thrown into the chaos of commercialized Christmas is gone.

But this kind of contemplation does not require an international pilgrimage—although it certainly gave me a new perspective. One can find this path—from Nazareth to Bethlehem—by doing some deliberate things.

This pilgrimage begins with receiving God, your very own personal Annunciation-moment. Christ coming to you in the Eucharist and you being sent to go forth once you have received Him. The pilgrimage is a journey with Mary from Nazareth. It happens when we take Christ with us, and we share him with family and friends, as Mary did at Ein Kerem in the hills of Judea at the Visitation. The Lord grows within us as we feed and nourish our life in the Spirit. We do this by reading, by praying, by remembering the poor, by listening to Advent songs (and waiting for Christmas songs), by eating as a family around the table with the Advent Wreath as a centerpiece, by saying a prayer for those who send us cards rather than tossing the cards mindlessly in a basket.

This pilgrimage does not require money, or imitation snow, or double-sided wrapping paper. It only requires an undivided heart. We journey with Israel to the coming Messiah. When we set our eyes on Mary and run ahead to take hold of her mantle, we remember. That is the journey that leads to Christ.

Yes, you can make this pilgrimage through the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. But if you are able to do it, go to the Holy Land. Some day. Some way. Go.

And kneel there, where you can imagine it all, where the real Advent cannot be usurped.

Nazareth. Ein Kerem. Bethlehem. These are real places. And the Franciscans are here, waiting for you to come and experience it all for yourself. Pilgrimage. It’s part of our faith tradition, whether it is a quiet pilgrimage of the heart or a pilgrimage that takes us to the other side of the world.

We are a pilgrimage people. And we are on a mission to discover Jesus Christ and to share him with everyone we meet.

Blessed & holy Advent to you and your family, from Bethlehem of Judea.

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

Seeing Christ where others don’t
| January 06, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

All year long, Linda looked for Christ in her daily life, but she did so especially at Christmas. During Mass, she’d say a simple prayer, “Lord, please show yourself to me.”

She knew he was there, but she wanted a special glimpse, one that would dispel the gloom from too much holiday glitz, one that would replace the seasonal sadness with the same kind of pure wonder and joy the shepherds must have felt, one that would reassure her that despite the daily headlines about murder and mayhem, things were going to be all right because ... the Prince of Peace was coming.

It’s easy to be disappointed at Christmas. Instead of holiday cheer, there’s a lot of holiday gloom that comes when your center of attention shifts from Christ to spending and partying, not to mention the regular assaults on Christianity that occur when a politically correct teacher wants to secularize “Silent Night” by changing the words or the ACLU files a lawsuit against a small town over a nativity scene, and a national organization of unbelievers sponsors billboards attacking the existence of God.

You often find yourself looking to the skies, waiting and watching and wondering the same way people of good will watched and waited two millennia ago for a Savior and a King who would make things right that had gone so terribly wrong.

At a time of year that belongs to Christ, so many people try to push him out of the picture. When I went to the store to buy Christmas cards, there were dozens on sale, but I could find only one box with Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the modern world, there’s clearly no room for them at the inn.

But the more the world tries to push Christ out of Christmas, the more our hearts long to see him. And there’s some wonderful news that’s 2000 years old—“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Yes, The Light shines despite consumerism, commercialism and hostility.

Linda went through the usual holiday motions. She bought gifts for her grandchildren at the dollar store; she decorated her home; she wrote Christmas cards; but when she said her Rosary at night, lying in the darkness, she asked Jesus to please reveal himself to her in some small way.

I often wonder whether I would have recognized Jesus lying in the manger on that first Christmas night—or even now. It’s a gift to see him in others, a special gift.

I’m reminded of the story of St. Martin of Tours, who as a young soldier stationed in Gaul in the Fourth Century rode into Amiens on a cold winter day and saw a beggar, shivering at the gate and asking for alms.

Everyone ignored him, except Martin. Moved to pity, he unsheathed his sword and cut his cloak in half and gave it to the man. That night in a dream, he saw Jesus, surrounded by angels, and he was wearing the cloak that Martin had given him.

Christ has many faces. Many of them are shunned by the world and many others the world wouldn’t even recognize.

Linda had a St. Martin experience when she visited a small town in northern New Hampshire that seemed protected from all the spiritual afflictions that corrode our society. It was a town where the stores on Main Street played traditional Christmas carols that hadn’t been sanitized or censored, and where people proclaimed the name of Jesus freely without fear of offending someone. They said “Merry Christmas,” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

On Sunday morning, the miracle happened when Linda went to Mass at a small church nestled in the mountains. As the gifts were brought to the altar, a little boy with Down Syndrome, no more than seven years old, came forward to carry up the collection basket. It was his proudest moment when the usher handed it to him.

Light seemed to radiate from his smile as he eagerly grasped the basket and followed the others. He was so happy that he was skipping barefoot up the aisle and looking from side to side as if to share his pride with the congregation.

An effusive warmth filled Linda. She was looking for Christ, and here he was in this little boy, performing this simple act with such love. The Kingdom belongs to such as these. Didn’t Jesus say that? In those few moments, Linda looked at the world as Jesus does, with compassion and love. A little boy taught her that lesson. Her prayer had been answered.

Merry Christmas.  

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

Snap Out of It, Scrooge
| January 06, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

Some people get depressed at Christmastime. My father-in-law, Bill Reel, was one such guy. He never could get into the spirit of the season. Couldn’t wait for January to come. “Christmas music is supposed to cheer us up, but it makes me sad,” he once wrote.

Mr. Reel had a column in a New York City newspaper for thirty-plus years. In a very direct way, I owe whatever success I’ve had as a writer to him. He encouraged me to set pen to paper—set me off on this path. And he always gave good advice.

“Omit needless words.” He borrowed that from E.B. White.

“One day at a time.” He borrowed that from Bill W.

“Never worry about money. Enjoy your family. The money will take care of itself.” I’m pretty sure that was original to him. Such good advice. I wish I was better at taking it.

Sadly, my father-in-law passed away a few years back. I still miss him terribly. Think about him all the time. I try my best to write as well—and as honestly—as he did. In the spirit of honesty, I have to say I’m having a hard time feeling jolly this Christmas. I’ve got a bad case of the Bah Humbugs.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the constant stream of bad news. The tragedies. The protests. The violence. Maybe it’s the political bickering and fevered one-upmanship I see on my social media feeds. How many old friendships have been fractured by Facebook? How many happy families have turned sour thanks to Twitter? What a waste. So unnecessary.

But that couldn’t possibly be the source of my seasonal slump. Partisanship goes on all year long. It must be something else.

“Christmas is just a day like any other day,” says my friend George. “What’s to get so excited about?”

Well, I used to get plenty excited about it. I used to float through December like a seagull on an ocean breeze. It was an Advent updraft. As a teenager, I’d even get pumped up for Midnight Mass, which was often the only time we’d go to church all year.

Why then, this year, do I feel December 25th will come and go, just a day like any other day?

Whatever’s causing my holiday heartsick, I find myself looking deeper into the spiritual side of the season. I always heard the message to look past the commercialism of Christmas, but I don’t think I ever really listened. For maybe the first time, I don’t care if I receive a gift this year. I already have everything that matters anyway. No trinket or toy could come close to giving me the joy that I get from my family.

I hear folks say that Advent is a season of waiting. Maybe that’s my problem—I’ve grown so spoiled I don’t want to wait anymore. I get everything on demand. I can get an electric pineapple peeler shipped directly to my house—overnight. I have the world at my fingertips. Why should I have to wait?

It could be, too, that the unrelenting pressure of keeping my young family fed, clothed, and educated is starting to get to me. I confess that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the price of things this year than I have in years past. But whatever problems old Scrooge Hennessey has, the Holy Family surely had it worse. Homeless. Pregnant. Confused. Herod on their trail. They got through the First Noel on faith alone. Maybe I can too.

Here’s what I’m going to do. Instead of waiting for the spirit of the season to turn my lump of coal into a gingerbread cookie, I’m going to take the initiative. I’m going to turn off the Internet. I’m going to put on a Bing Crosby song. And I’m going to light the Advent wreath. Then I’m going to gather the kids and read them the Nativity story.

That oughta put some peppermint in my step. That oughta get me in the mood for mistletoe. Then, when I’m properly cheerful, I’ll offer up a prayer of gratitude for my dear departed father-in-law, who never let me down even when he was feeling down.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine. See you at Midnight Mass.

Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan.

Reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 World Day of Peace Message
| January 06, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

“Tragically, the growing scourge of man’s exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice and love,” writes Pope Francis in his January 1 World Day of Peace Message.

But as the message’s title—“No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters”—indicates, the pope is reminding us of the Good News that Jesus has freed us from the slavery of personal sin and the structures of societal sin, and invites us to accept this divine freedom, to live it out in our lives, and to share it with all people.  

However, instead of offering freedom and fraternity, the exploitation of countless human beings by many who hold power, “leads to contempt for the fundamental rights of others and to the suppression of their freedom and dignity,” laments the pope.  

He writes that millions of people today—children, women and men of all ages—are forced to live in slave-like conditions.

“I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry.”

The 2010 West Virginia Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, which killed 29 Massey Energy miners, is a clear example of what Pope Francis is talking about here.

According to National Public Radio, the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel charged that "Massey exhibited a corporate mentality that placed the drive to produce coal above worker safety.”

Expressing his deep sympathy for the hardships faced by migrants Francis writes, “In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a grueling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions.”

Consider how the pope’s words accurately apply to the thousands of unaccompanied children who have taken the dangerous journey to the U.S. to escape drug and gang violence in parts of Central America. Many of these children are detained for weeks in large cage-like conditions, while they face the threat of being deported back to the dangerous conditions they fled.

Pope Francis adds, “States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore and the sale of items produced by slave labor.”

Many corporations like Wal-Mart reap huge financial benefits from merchandise made for them by desperately poor people laboring long hours, in unhealthy work conditions, for pennies an hour.

There is an excellent remedy for this use of what the pope calls “slave labor.”

Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202.224.3121) your two U.S. senators and House representative urging them to reintroduce and actively support the "Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act," which according to the highly reputable “Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights” (, would provide transparent corporate disclosure—enabling labor rights organizations to inspect factories producing products for wealthy retailers.

If reintroduced and passed by Congress, this bill would also prohibit the import, export or sale of products that violate the International Labor Organization’s standards—which prohibit child labor, and guarantee workers’ rights to safe working conditions, to collective bargaining and protection against forced labor.
Pope Francis pulls much of his message together in this one powerful sentence: “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral—and not simply an economic—act.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

No one should be hungry during the Christmas season
| January 06, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


In early December, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) stopped feeding 1.7 million Syrian refugees.

For two weeks these poor, battered fellow human beings who had fled the misery of civil war, and the barbarism of the “Islamic State,” were told there is no money available for food—children, women and men went hungry
The WFP has been providing food assistance for 1.85 million Syrian refugees living in the host countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.    

However, on December 1 the WFP reported that it had run out of money to fund its electronic voucher program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees because many donor nation commitments were not being fulfilled.

But 10 days later the WFP announced that following an unprecedented social media campaign, government donors had given over $80 million, thus allowing reinstatement of food assistance to the 1.7 million Syrian refugees for the rest of December. And this funding will also allow the WFP to meet some of the refugee needs in January.

But then what?

According to the WFP, Syrian refugees in camps throughout the region are ill prepared for the harsh winter, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, where many children are bare foot and without proper clothing. Many tents are drenched in mud, and hygiene conditions are worsening.

The CBS news program 60 Minutes produced a highly informative and compelling segment on this crisis titled War and Hunger (60 Minutes segment).  

In addition to the Syrian region, the WFP and other international aid agencies like Catholic Relief Services, are desperately trying to respond to four other simultaneous level-3 emergencies—the U.N.’s most serious crisis designation—in Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the African nations plagued by the Ebola outbreak.

According Eric Mitchell, director of government of relations for Bread for the World—an anti-poverty Christian lobbying organization (—the U.S. government needs to fully fund the Food for Peace program. He said Congress has authorized $2.5 billion, but that the budget for fiscal year 2015 actually only funds the program at $1.4 billion.

Mitchell added that Congress should allot significantly more money for food vouchers that can be immediately used in local markets, as compared to the more expensive and time consuming transfer of food on cargo ships.

He said excellent long-term programs like Feed the Future, which help to sustain long-term agriculture development and security, need to also receive increased funding from Congress.

As a Christmas gift to desperately hungry people, please email and phone your congressional delegation (Capitol switchboard: 202.224.3121) urging them to work for the improvements listed above.

And kindly consider making a Christmas donation to the World Food Program ( or Catholic Relief Services (

As part of the Christmas season celebration, many of us will partake in the blessings of bountiful meals. And as we enjoy the good food set before us, may we have the special gift of knowing that we helped make it possible for some of our hungry brothers and sisters to eat during the Christmas season.
But what about after the Christmas season? What will happen to the 805 million hungry brothers and sisters of ours then?
Will they be forgotten until World Food Day or next Christmas? Will they even be alive?
What we do, or fail to do, to help answer these life and death questions, will significantly determine how seriously, how faithfully, we take the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel, “God with us.”

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

All Saints Students help “Keep Christ in Christmas” with annual Knights’ poster contest
| January 06, 2015


NORWALK—In a celebration of the true meaning of the Christmas season, nearly 500 students from All Saints Catholic School recently submitted entries in the Knights of Columbus’ annual Keep Christ in Christmas poster contest.

According to the rules of the contest, posters were required to be the original work of the student and to somehow reflect the theme of Keep Christ in Christmas.

“It was extremely difficult for us to single out individual students for their work,” commented Council 14360’s Grand Knight George Ribellino, Jr. “All of the students put so much thought and creativity into their posters, and we thoroughly enjoyed judging them.” After much debate, the following students (one per grade level) were honored for their posters by the judging committee:

K- Caitlin Neville
1- Amir Sarith
2- Gadrielle Garrido
3- Veronica Bosco
4- Kristina Petzold
5- Millie Uquillas
6- Erin Bateman
7- Calixta Uquillas
8- Matthew Guzman

Each winner received a special certificate, a hand-painted K of C Nativity ornament, and a coupon for a free frozen yogurt courtesy of Peachwave of Norwalk. The winning entries will also be forwarded for judging at the District level of the contest.

“We would like to thank Mrs. Linda Dunn, All Saints’ principal, and all of the students who submitted entries in this year’s contest,” Ribellino added. “Once again, they reminded us of what Christmas is truly about.”

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
It’s still Christmas!
| January 05, 2015


According to the Ordo, it is still Christmas: “The Christmas season extends from Evening Prayer I of Christmas through the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, 11 January 2015.”

A few years ago, I happened to visit a nearby mall just prior to Halloween, and I was quite surprised that work crews were already putting up Christmas decorations. As a Christian, let alone a Catholic priest, I found the Christmas décor intrusive and offensive. Soon, malls and other merchants will probably have the Christmas decorations up by Labor Day. Their Justification? “Australia celebrates Christmas in warm weather!” Point. Set. Match.

Although I am offended by the steady consumerist push to make the Christmas season arrive earlier and earlier, until now, I have not really done much about it. This past weekend, however, I preached about the situation, and my message was well-received. One woman even said that she wished I could write it out for her son. When I get such encouragement, I usually take that as a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

This blog entry will not be a recreation of my homily, but I will focus on the idea of Christmas and how American culture celebrates it.

For most Americans in the 21st Century (including a large percentage of Catholics), the Christmas season officially begins on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving. Even if people are accustomed to frequenting the mall, and have seen Christmas trees and snowy window-shopping scenes since late October, they “know” that Christmas really does not begin until Black Friday.

Black Friday refers to the ledgers that merchants keep. In the BC era (before computers), shopkeepers used black ink to record profits and red ink to record losses. It was believed that a good start to the Christmas season could put them well into the “black” for the calendar year. Some accounting computer software still uses red and black font colors for profits and losses, but the majority of people under 40 years of age would not really know to what the “black” in Black Friday refers, especially since “black” days on the calendar usually refer to days of disaster. For example, in NFL circles, the Monday after the last day of the regular season is called “Black Monday” because so many coaches, general managers and staffs from losing teams will be fired. Any number of “black” days refer to stock market crashes. At present, in stock market lore, there is a black Monday, Tuesday and Friday. In time, Wednesday and Thursday will likely join their ranks.

It may be an American national characteristic that by and large, we are not terribly inquisitive. How many people would actually care enough about the origins of Black Friday to research it? Perhaps the prevalent “it is what it is” philosophy really should rule the day!

Part of me has just wanted to admit that the battle for the Christmas season is over, and that in America, Christianity has lost. Then I remembered that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and as insignificant as my voice may be out here in the blogosphere, with the help of God’s grace, what I write may prove valuable and even important to some.

As the Ordo states above, the Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve. The beginning of Christmas has no real relation to the American feast of Thanksgiving, which was proclaimed by George Washington and then reproclamated by Abraham Lincoln. In fact, in 2014, the First Sunday of Advent—the Church’s four-week preparation for Christmas—did not take place until three days after Thanksgiving.

As Catholic Christians it is important for us to realize that American culture has actually tried (rather successfully) to commandeer the Christmas season. Some popular music radio stations play “all Christmas music all the time” from Black Friday through Christmas Day and then the Christmas music stops. Christmas is over, right? Actually, Christmas has just begun.

It is plausible to argue that American culture is now technically “post-Christian.” With this in mind, Catholic Christians— some 60 million strong in the United States—need to be consciously counter-cultural regarding the celebration of Christmas. Becoming less consumeristic and not participating in Black Friday sales is a good starting point. Lately, I have been imagining how different Christmas might be if we, as Catholics, tried to limit our gift-giving to one gift per person. Little did we realize that encouraging children to write to Santa with a “list” of presents they want would later produce adults who may stampede on Black Friday!

If anyone wants to start a “just one present” movement, I will be right behind you. If I knew how to write computer code, I might try to start the movement myself!

Not long ago, I went for a walk on an unusually warm December 26th at a coastal town park in Fairfield County. One of the parking lots at the beach area had been designated as the Christmas tree recycling drop-off point. With a good dose of hyperbole, I was nearly run down by a constant parade of speeding SUV’s. The drivers would race to the drop-off point and pull the tree off the roof or out of the back, unceremoniously toss it on the growing pile, and then speed off again, nearly running me over again for good measure. And I was not even wearing clerics!

Most of these drivers and tree-throwers were men, and they had probably been directed by their wives to the drop-off point. Sadly, many were also likely Catholics. And as far as they were concerned, Christmas was over. To make a sweeping generalization (which I am wont to do), I would imagine that many of these men were “Type A” personalities and naturally task-oriented. The trees had likely been in their homes for about a month, and Christmas was over. The quicker they took down and disposed of the decorations, the more quickly they could get onto the next task, which might include relaxing.

In my first assignment as a priest, one of my Communion calls was to an elderly woman who loved Christmas so much that she kept her apartment in full Christmas display throughout the year. Taking a cue from her, I also keep up a few Christmas decorations year-round. It makes decorating for Christmas easier, and I never need to be too scrupulous about when Christmas is actually over.

As Catholics, it is important for us to realize that Christmas (the Christmas season) really begins on Christmas Eve, and continues this year until January 11, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. How can we become true Christmas activists? My ideas are not exhaustive, and I hope you come up with and implement your own, but we can call or write to radio stations and let them know that we want Christmas music throughout the Christmas season, the real one. We can contact retail and mall managers and let them know that we find Christmas in October offensive. We can try our best to live fully the entire Christmas season. And most importantly, we can try our very best to keep Jesus Christ in Christmas!

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2014 Synod Youth Consultation Session January 10
| January 04, 2015


STAMFORD—Youth are not only the future—they are the vibrant present. 

“Now is the time to come together to discuss the future of the Church in Fairfield County and to plan accordingly,” said the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport, after formally convoking the 4th Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The second Youth Consultation session will be held on January 10 from 2-4pm at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. This is a youth session, only adults who are chaperoning will have clearance.

All persons must have a ticket to enter at the door. All adult chaperones must be virtus trained and background checked and registered; no adults will be accepted at the door who are not pre-cleared chaperones. All youth and adults who have attended a previous session, will have their records at the door. For info or questions, email Julie Rodgers, Director of Youth Ministry at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or go to:, then click on "Youth Synod".

Bishop Caggiano to reflect on "Our Father"
| January 03, 2015


WESTPORT—The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will offer a reflection on the Lord¹s Prayer at St. Luke Church in Westport on Friday, January 9, at 7:30 pm.

Bishop Caggiano's talk will be preceded by a wine-and-cheese reception at 7 pm in the community room of the parish. The program is free and all are welcome. St. Luke Church is at 49 Turkey Hill Road North in Westport. For more information, call 203.227.7245.

Bishop Caggiano was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull. In his installation homily, he spoke of the needs to build bridges to youth, to all those who are troubled, who are neglected and to Catholics who no longer participate in the life of the Church.

On February 22, 2014, he formally convoked the 4th 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.

In an historic move of reconciliation, Bishop Caggiano met with the membership of Voice of the Faithful in March 2014 to discuss issues that have divided the local Church for decades. He also reconstituted the Review Board of the Diocese to oversee implementation of diocesan Safe Environments policy, and announced the formation of a new Ministerial Advisory Board to review cases in which the Bishop must consider action regarding the assignment of a priest or deacon accused of adult misconduct. In the November 2014, the bishop initiated a major reorganization of diocesan offices into a Secretariat structure in order to improve planning and the level of service and communication with parishes.

A noted catechist, Bishop Caggiano was invited by Pope Benedict XVI to deliver World Youth Day talks in Sydney in 2008, Madrid in 2011, and by Pope Francis to serve as a catechist at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, 2013. He also preached at the Youth 2000 Summer Festival in Tipperary, Ireland. He is a member of the sub-committee on the catechism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. In November, 2013, he was appointed to a three-year term as episcopal advisor of The National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry.

Bishop Caggiano presently serves on four committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis; Subcommittee on the Catechism; Orthodox Union Catholic Dialogue; Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

New Year's Eve is time for examination of conscience, pope says
| January 02, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is the perfect occasion to reflect on how well people have used the time and gifts God has given them—especially how well people have helped the poor, Pope Francis said.

While God is eternal, time is important even to him, Pope Francis said during a prayer service New Year's Eve in St. Peter's Basilica. "He wanted to reveal himself and save us in history," becoming human to demonstrate "his concrete love."

As a strong winter wind blew outside, Pope Francis ended 2014 celebrating evening prayer with eucharistic adoration and Benediction, and the solemn singing of the "Te Deum," a hymn of praise for God's blessings.

At the end of a year, like at the end of life, he said, the church teaches its members to make an examination of conscience, "remembering all that happened, thanking the Lord for all the good we received and were able to do and, at the same time, remembering where we were lacking and our sins. Give thanks and ask forgiveness."

Speaking specifically as bishop of Rome to others who have the honor of living in the city and the responsibility of participating in its civic life, Pope Francis said Christians must have "the courage to proclaim in our city that the poor must be defended and that we do not need to defend ourselves from the poor, that the weak must be served and not used."

Pope Francis made specific mention of the Rome corruption scandal that became public in early December; investigators claim millions of dollars' worth of public contracts were awarded for waste management, housing immigrants and other programs, but the services were never provided or were not at the levels called for by the contracts.

"The serious incidents of corruption that recently emerged require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral renewal," the pope said, "as well as for a renewed commitment to building a city marked by justice and solidarity where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the center of our concern and our daily action."

While God created humanity to be his children, he said, original sin and its remnants continue to distance people from God, often making them slaves who follow "the voice of the Evil One."

God sent Jesus to ransom sinners from their slavery, the pope said, which gives rise to an essential question in one's examination of conscience: "Do we live as children (of God) or as slaves?"

"Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, ransomed and free?" he asked. "Or do we live according to worldly logic: corrupt, doing what the devil wants us to believe is in our best interest?"

Pope Francis told those gathered in the basilica that all people, even Christians, have "a tendency to resist freedom; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we prefer slavery" although often people are not aware that that is what they are doing.

"Freedom frightens us because it places time before us and, with it, the responsibility to live it well," he said. "A nostalgia for slavery nests in our hearts because it appears more reassuring than freedom, which is much riskier."

Slavery focuses just on the moment, he said, making people forget their past, but also robbing them of hope for the future.

"Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly or hope," the pope said.

The end of a year, he said, is a reminder that there will be a "final hour" and all people will be judged, particularly on how they used their freedom and how they cared for the poor.

When the poor and weak are cared for and helped to claim a place in society, they are "a treasure for the church and society," he said. "But when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalizes them" or forces them into a life of crime, "that society impoverishes itself" and "ceases to be Christian."

After the prayer service, despite the cold, Pope Francis went into St. Peter's Square to pray before and view up close the Nativity scene. With hundreds of people huddled behind barricades, he spent about 20 minutes greeting the crowd, as well as offering a personal "Happy New Year" and handshake to the Italian police officers on duty.

Pope Francis’ World Day of the Sick Message Reflects ‘Wisdom of the Heart’
| December 31, 2014


From the National Catholic Register

VATICAN CITY—The theme of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, which the Church commemorates February 11, “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame,” taken from the Old Testament.

Following is the English translation, provided by, edited for style:

“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” — (Job 29:15).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by St. John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.

This year’s theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of sapientia cordis (the wisdom of the heart).

1. This “wisdom” is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as St. James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). This sapientia cordis, which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.

2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job’s words: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”, point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).

Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are “eyes to the blind” and “feet to the lame”! They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.

3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus himself said: “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). With lively faith, let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of “quality of life” that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

4. Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40). For this reason, I would like once again to stress “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift” (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” (ibid).

5. Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13). Yet Job’s friends harbored a judgment against him: they thought that Job’s misfortune was a punishment from God for his sins. True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others; it is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.

Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy. This response of love to the drama of human pain, especially innocent suffering, remains forever impressed on the body of the risen Christ; his glorious wounds are a scandal for faith but also the proof of faith (Homily for the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, April 27, 2014).

Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis. We come to understand how Job, at the end of his experience, could say to God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). People immersed in the mystery of suffering and pain, when they accept these in faith, can themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.

6. I entrust this World Day of the Sick to the maternal protection of Mary, who conceived and gave birth to Wisdom incarnate: Jesus Christ, our Lord.

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care for them! Grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbors, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart!

With this prayer for all of you, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Read more:

Embrace, be amazed by God's great gift of children, pope says
| December 30, 2014 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Becoming a mother or father is a gift from God, but women and men have a duty to embrace that gift and be astonished by its beauty, Pope Francis said.

When people recognize that every child is unique and wanted by God, they will be "amazed by what a great miracle a child is," he said December 28, the feast of the Holy Family.

During an audience with an Italian association for large families, the pope said, "Dear parents, I am grateful for the example of your love of life that you safeguard from conception to its natural end, even with all of life's difficulties and burdens, which unfortunately the government doesn't always help you bear."

The pope greeted the multiple generations present at the audience, who came from all over Italy, as well as other parts of Europe, and asked them how early they had to get up that morning to get to the Vatican.

"Six o'clock? Five o'clock? Aren't you tired? Well, I'll put you to sleep with my speech!" he joked.

Holding the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph up as a model for all the world's families, the pope said, "maternity and paternity are a gift from God, but welcoming that gift, being astonished by its beauty and making it shine in society, that is your task."

"Each one of your children is a unique creature who will never be repeated in the history of humanity," he said.

"A child is a miracle" that changes the lives of his or her parents, he added.

While each family is "a cell" that together builds the body of society, large families are "a hope for society," he said, they are "richer, more alive," and governments should recognize the importance of "investing in" large families.

He asked that Italy, with its low birthrate, pay greater attention to creating and carrying out policies that offer real support for families.

The pope, who is one of five children, said having lots of siblings "is good for you" and better equips new generations with what it takes to share and be united, which is especially needed "in a world often marked by selfishness."

Just a bit later in the day, the pope again highlighted the family, especially the role grandparents play, before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Close loving relationships between the younger and older generations are "crucial" for both society and the church, he said.

The Holy Family is a simple but powerful model as it radiates "a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, the light of truth for every human being, for the human family and for individual families," he said.

That light "encourages us to offer human warmth" to those families that, for whatever reason, are struggling with "a lack of peace, harmony and forgiveness," he said.

When parents and children live out their faith together, "they possess an energy that allows them to face even difficult trials, as the Holy Family's experience demonstrates," for example, in their flight to Egypt, he said.

People should be reaching out with concrete support to families, "who are living through more difficult situations because of illness, lack of work, discrimination, the need to emigrate," the pope said. He then led those gathered in the square for a moment of silence and prayer for all families who are facing hardship.

On Christmas, pope urges people to hear the cry of suffering children
| December 27, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The crying of Baby Jesus is not the only cry people should hear on Christmas; many children around the world are crying because of war, maltreatment and abuse, Pope Francis said.

Before giving his solemn Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world), Pope Francis addressed an estimated 80,000 people in St. Peter's Square, urging them to pray for peace in Ukraine, in the Middle East, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo.

With thousands of children looking at the Vatican's Nativity scene and receiving the pope's blessing with their parents Christmas morning, Pope Francis' strongest words were about less-fortunate children.

"May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking or forced to become soldiers," he said. He added special prayers for the families of the dozens of children killed Dec. 16 by a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"There are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the infant Jesus," he said. Children are dying "under bombardment, even there where the son of God was born. Today their silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods," those who kill children just as Herod did in Jesus' time.

The pope prayed that Christ's "divine power, by its meekness," would "take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness."

In the dark of the night Dec. 24, in a St. Peter's Basilica filled to capacity, 10 children led Pope Francis toward the altar of the church. Together they stood waiting while a lector read the solemn "Christmas proclamation," recounting the timing of the birth of Christ in human history.

As the children from the Philippines, South Korea, Belgium, Italy, Lebanon and Syria looked on, Pope Francis removed the cloth that had been covering a statue of Baby Jesus. He bent over and kissed it gently.

In this homily, the pope said Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, "announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds."

The birth of the Son of God in a lowly manger is the sign of "the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations."

Ever since sin entered the world, humanity was yearning for light and for peace, the pope said. The birth of Jesus revealed that "the message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness." "On this holy night, while we contemplate the infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect," he said. "How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close?"

Put more simply, he said, the key question is: "Do I allow God to love me?"

In the face of difficulties and problems, the pope said, "the Christian response cannot be different from God's response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness."

"When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us," the pope said, "we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: 'Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.'"

As the "Gloria" was intoned at the Mass, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed; those inside the church heard a slightly muffled version, but the thousands of people watching on video screens in St. Peter's Square got the full effect. Later, during Communion, priests came out of the church to distribute the Eucharist to those unable to get inside.

Another musical note came in the midst of the Gregorian chant of the Creed. After the line, "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven," an orchestra, conducted by Manfred Honeck of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, began playing. Chen Reiss, an Israeli soprano, sang Mozart's "Et Incarnatus Est," which the Vatican said was a special request of Pope Francis.

The pope and the congregation knelt as Reiss sang that Jesus, "by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

Shortly before the Mass, taking advantage of the satellite link of a crew from the Italian bishops' TV2000, Pope Francis made a telephone call to Christian refugees gathered for Mass in a camp in Ainkawa, Iraq.

"You are like Jesus on Christmas night," he told them. "There was no room for him either, and he had to flee to Egypt later to save himself."

"You are like Jesus in this situation, and that makes me pray even more for you," he said. "Dear brothers and sisters, I am close to you, very close this evening. With all my heart, I am near you, and I ask Jesus to caress you with his tenderness and I ask his mother to give you much love."

Christ our Savior is born!
| December 23, 2014


A special message from Bishop Frank Caggiano

BRIDGEPORT—Since I was a little boy, I have always enjoyed singing Silent Night at Christmas.

Each time I sing this venerable hymn, I am struck by the end of the second verse: “Christ our Savior is born”. These few words summarize the central mystery we celebrate every Christmas, namely, the saving birth of the Son of God into our world.

In our secular world, many ask: How is Christ the savior of the world? What is the salvation that He offers to all people? In the world in which we live, we must be ready to answer such questions, for our sakes and those of our children.

Not all religions share the same view of salvation as do Christians. For example, Hindus believe that each person is trapped in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Salvation is achieved when one is released from this cycle of reincarnations. It comes only to the one who realizes that everything, including oneself, is an illusion. Buddhism goes even further and states that the human soul does not exist. Those who believe in the existence of a soul are doomed to suffer. Salvation for the Buddhist is the realization of nirvana, or absolute liberation from any sense of self, through enlightenment and the conquest of all emotions.

The Christian understanding of salvation is very different from the one presented by these religions. Salvation in Christ is the transformation and healing of the earthly life we now live by grace. The suffering, pain and hurts of this life will give way to a life of endless love, joy and peace. This new life has already begun in the power of the Holy Spirit whom we receive through faith and baptism. It is constantly nourished by the power of Sacred Scripture and the sacraments that we celebrate in the Church, especially the Eucharist. We will undergo the full transformation of our earthly life in a personal way when we die. All creation will also be transformed when Christ returns at the end of time to judge the living and dead. When that day comes, all who are saved will share fully the resurrected life of Christ.

Three characteristics mark the Christian view of salvation. First, salvation is a gift that comes from Christ. We believe that Christ is the only definitive savior of all creation. This is so because salvation can only come from God and Jesus Christ is God who became man in his birth from the Virgin Mary. Christ has saved the whole world because He conquered sin and death once and for all time through His life, death and Resurrection. Since the Lord gives to His followers a share in His very life, countless men and women have worked as missionaries to spread the Gospel of salvation to all. In other words, salvation comes to all people only through Christ. No one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14: 6).

Second, Christ’s offer of salvation transforms the entire person. Salvation does not mean the eternal destruction of our body. It is not solely the transformation of our souls. Rather, Christian salvation is the healing each of us will receive in Christ, encompassing body, soul and spirit. It is for this reason that every Sunday we reaffirm our faith in the resurrection of the body in the Creed. Eternal life in heaven, which will be fully revealed at the end of time, will not make us less than who we are now. Rather, it will transform us into the image of the Resurrected Christ.

Third, Christian salvation is the process by which we are saved from what weakens us for the sake of obtaining something far greater. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are saved from the slavery of sin and all its destructive effects, including death. Such freedom allows us to be united by grace with our loving God in this life and to live eternally in His love in heaven.

Such is the gift of salvation that Christ has given to the world. It is no wonder that the heavenly angels sang out with great joy: “Christ our Savior is born!”

May our Savior born in Bethlehem bless you and your families this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Let There Be Peace On Earth
| December 23, 2014


FAIRFIELD—When the cast of this year’s Saint Catherine Academy Christmas pageant brought down the curtain with their rendition of “Let there be peace on earth,” they were treated to a standing ovation.

Almost 200 filled the tiny St. Catherine Academy auditorium for the performance of “The First Christmas” by students of the academy, which serves young people impacted by autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The annual production has become one of the great Christmas moments in the Diocese.

“Just seeing Jesus filled them with hope,” said the narrator during the production, which was also filled with hope and joy.

The audience responded to the 40-minute production with frequent applause and by joining in a wide range of Christmas standards from Silent Night to We Three Kings, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, and the Gloria.

For an encore, the students treated the audience to a performance of “Feliz Navidad.”

“You gave us Christmas two days early,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano after congratulating the performers and parents. “These young people gave us a very great gift today because they helps us to experience what Christmas is all about—it’s about love.”

“It’s an old saying that every time a person loves someone, Christmas is re-lived,” said the Bishop, who posed for photos with the cast and faculty of St. Catherine Academy after the performance.

The Bishop thanked parents for entrusting their children to the academy, “Where they are cared for, they are loved, and they help us to remember what really matters, Jesus the Lord.”

Academy students Kelly Martinez and Jonathan Teixeira narrated the pageant and read Nativity accounts from the Gospel of Luke.  Natalie Massaro won applause for her spirited portrayal of Angel Gabriel, and Elijah Barer played the role of Caesar.

The play was written and directed by Sr. Cheryl Driscoll, RSM with faculty members serving as backstage assistants.

Helen Burland, President of Saint Catherine Academy and Executive Director of the Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs, told the audience “This has been a labor of love for us and a gift to you. The students give us joy on a daily basis.”

With dramatic lighting and a bright star provided by the Quick Center of Fairfield University, the cast of 24 students narrated and sang the Christmas story while looking resplendent in full costume.

In March of this year, the Diocese of Bridgeport has announced for the new St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, which officially opened in Fairfield on July 1, 2014.

The center brings together services provided by the Ministry for People with Disabilities of the Office of Pastoral Services, a new Inclusive Support program for Catholic schools, and St. Catherine’s Academy, the Special Education School of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Established in 1999 as a fulltime day school for students who benefit from a functional academic, social and life skills curriculum in addition to developing academic skills, St. Catherine Academy educates students ages 5-21 who are motivated to learn but unable to thrive in an inclusive setting.

It also is planning to launch a Day Service Program for adults in 2015. It is located at 760 Tahmore Dr., Fairfield (on the grounds of Holy Cross Parish). For info call (203) 540-5381. Online at:

Click for a slideshow 

Meaning of Christmas: A Loving God is here to stay!
| December 23, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—“Never tire in your witness. A loving God is here to stay,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said at the Annual Christmas Mass for employees at the Catholic Center on Tuesday.

“The miracle of Christ’s love is that he is with us everywhere, even in the poverty of the mange. He is present in the messiness of life and to the poorest of the poor.”

More than 150 employees and guests turned out for the annual Mass and luncheon that followed. The Bishop concelebrated the Mass surrounded by priests and deacons in Queen of Saints Hall.

In his homily the Bishop reflected on the Gospel of Luke (1:57-66) and account of Mary and Zachariah when the Angel Gabriel appeared to them.

“There is a significant comparison in their response,” the Bishop said. “Both are visited by the Angel and one sings praise to God, while the other is struck mute with doubt.”

The Bishop said that Mary never doubted that God could do anything, while Zachariah initially hesitated. “Don’t underestimate God’s love or doubt he can do. There is not a shadow on earth where the love of god does not reign. He brings peace.”

He said that many of us hesitate when faced with the challenge between doubt and the faith that God can do anything in our lives.

“We’re mute like Zachariah. We do not want to go forward because it is comfortable to be mute. But faith is not stuck in the past but offers us a new beginning,” he said.

“A child is born and is reborn every time we dare to love. That’s the meaning of Christmas. Sing praise of God because there is noting we can’t do together,” the Bishop concluded.

The Knights of Columbus formed an Honor Guard for the Mass and surprised Bishop Caggiano with the presentation of a ceremonial 4th Degree sword and Emblem of Order, which the Bishop briefly brandished and said, “It is a symbol of the courage we need to be faithful,” as he thanked the Knights.

Order of Malta invests Bishop Caggiano as chaplain
| December 22, 2014


NEW YORK—On Friday, November 14, the Order of Malta held their annual investiture at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York. Bishop Frank Caggiano was invested as a Conventual Chaplain in the order, and Father Ian Jeremiah and Father Bill Platt were invested as deputy chaplains.

Pictured (l-r) Lisa Marie Arnold, Mary Beth Fessler (area chair, St. Aloysius Parish, New Canaan); Carrie Sindelar (St. Aloysius); Delores O'Callahan (St. Aloysius); Callie Dunn (St. Mary Parish, Greenwich); Valerie Vincent (Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Stamford); Father Ian Jeremiah (Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Fairfield); Bishop Caggiano, Richard Gross (St. Mary Parish, Ridgefield); Gene O'Callahan (St. Aloysius); Bill Fessler (area chair, St. Aloysius); Joe Sindelar (St. Aloysius); Father Bill Platt (St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Riverside); and Ray Dunn (St. Marys, Greenwich).

The Order of Malta is a lay religious organization with a history reaching back more than 900 years. Its charism is service to the sick and the poor and defense of our Catholic Faith.

Pope responds to St. Joseph's third graders
| December 22, 2014


SHELTON—Back in October, St. Joseph School third graders hand-created sets of Rosary beads, using their imagination, inspiration, prayer--and a good portion of hard work. After the Rosaries were blessed, the students packed them up and sent them to the Vatican.

They included a personal note to His Holiness Pope Francis, letting him know that they prayed for him and were sending their Rosaries to him in the spirit of Christ’s love of children.

This week the pope responded, noting the young students hard work and creativity, and especially thanking them for their promise of prayers.  Click here to view response from Pope Francis.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
| December 22, 2014


As Christmas arrives and the new year follows closely on its heels, I would like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

Writing my blog has been enjoyable, and I want to thank all of you who have stopped by to read my posts. I also want to thank all of those in the Communications Office at the diocese who help with the production of my blog, from editors, to computer personnel, to support staff, etc.

A big “thank you” also goes out to Magtype Computer Resources ( in Stratford, who provide our overall internet support and software and who regularly help me publish my blog posts.

Let’s all keep praying for one another! – Fr. Colin McKenna

There have been 402 visit(s) to this blog post.

Pope: May church be life-giving mother, not power-hungry 'business'
| December 22, 2014 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—A church concerned with power and self-interest ends up looking like a business rather than what it is called to be: a generous mother open to the surprise and life-giving miracle of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis said.

"The church is mother and it becomes a mother only when she is open to the newness of God, to the power of the Spirit," he said December 19 at his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope's homily focused on the day's readings from the Book of Judges (13:2-7, 24-25) and the Gospel of St. Luke (1:5-25), which talk about God's role in conceiving new life in the womb of two women believed to be barren: the mother of Samson, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

Pope Francis said these biblical accounts of sterility and fertility symbolize how humanity is "unable to take the next step" alone and must open itself up to God.

"The answer is 'Let us open ourselves up to the Spirit of God.' We, by ourselves, can't do it. He is the one who can do things" and bring about new life, the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

"When humanity is exhausted, it can go on no longer, grace comes and the Son and salvation," he said.

The biblical symbol of sterility can be seen today, he said, when Christians focus on themselves and power, "when the church believes it can do everything, taking over the conscience of the people, taking the path of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the path of hypocrisy, right? The church is sterile."

The church is "sterile" when it puts its hope of salvation only in following the Commandments, when "it believes it can give birth" by itself without the grace of God.

He said the church can only generate new life when it realizes it has exhausted its own strength, when it says, "'I'm done, I can't go on any more.' Then the Spirit comes."

But "many times I think that in some places the church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother," he said.

The pope asked people to join him praying that "this Christmas our church be open to the gift of God, that it let itself be surprised by the Holy Spirit and that it be a church that generates children, a mother church. A mother."

Christmas is about "the newness of God," the only one who can make all things new, he said

Catholic Speaker Bryan Mercier coming to St. Theresa
| December 22, 2014


TRUMBULL—ATTENTION Young Adults Married & Single—Catholic Speaker and Retreat Leader Bryan Mercier is coming to St. Theresa Church, Main St., Trumbull on Thursday, January 8 at 6:15 pm to discuss The Pathway to Love: How to find and keep Happily ever After.

This talk will encompass dating, marriage, and sexuality in the Catholic Church. Open to all! Refreshments served. For info email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Check out our YOUNG ADULTS PAGE: for events, news and list of groups in Fairfield County.

Bryan Mercier is a national Catholic speaker and retreat leader who has been delivering dynamic and life-changing retreats for over 15 years.  Bryan is an expert in presenting the Catholic faith in a way that reaches souls and changes lives! He has delivered countless talks and retreats to both adults and teens on a wide variety of topics. He has also given many keynote talks, workshops, seminars, Catholic school retreats, Parish Missions, and spoken at colleges, Catholic camps, Theology on Taps, the Catholic Leadership Institute, and local, regional and national conferences, including Men’s Conference’s. You may have heard Bryan speak, or present a multi-part series, on one of the state-level or national radio and television broadcasts he’s been featured on. He is a regular contributor for EWTN radio and for Catholicmatch.

Celebrating Christmas
| December 22, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—The concert featured performances by Italian Tenor Luciano Lamonarca, pop singer Daniela Fiorentino, guitarist; The Cathedral Parish Chris Remediani, the duo of Balint/Mikhailoff, and an intermission by comedian Regina DeCicco.

Internationally-acclaimed singer, music producer, musician and actor Lee Curreri, star of the motion picture and television series "Fame," who had the part of Bruno Martelli, flew in from Los Angeles to make an appearance.Guest of honor for the evening was Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who is also a member of the Religious Advisory Board of the Saint Pio.

View photos from last night's "White Christmas" Concert at St. Augustine Cathedral.

A Tuneful, Off-Beat Christmas Music List
| December 20, 2014 • by Published in


“In spite of all that can be said against our age, what a moment to be alive in!” So said Australian poet and Catholic convert James McAuley in 1957. 

McAuley had primarily in mind magazine-publishing—his own periodical Quadrant, then a quarterly, had just been launched—but his sentence applies as much, if not more, to the bewildering range of music recordings (many gratis) which the Internet has made available for us, almost sixty years later.

A fine book will one day be written about this whole trend: not principally in terms of commerce—already several million words have been expended on, for instance, Taylor Swift’s boycotting of Spotify—but in terms of repertoire. Such a cornucopia, one suspects (and hopes), can hardly fail to kill off those gate-keeping petty academic tyrants of old, who often enough sought to conceal their musical ignorance under the mantle of “progressive” connoisseurship.

Any Australian music undergraduates in the 1970s or 1980s who admitted in an essay to cherishing, for example, Respighi—or Rachmaninoff, or Puccini, or Sibelius, or Richard Strauss, or some other such Demon King of progressivism’s default narrative—could well have faced literal expulsion. They would not face it now. These days the campus janitor, if he be so minded, can acquire familiarity (either online or through bargain-priced CD labels like Naxos) with more Respighi compositions than collegiate gate-keepers two generations ago knew even by name. And similarly with the other composers then so thoroughly demonized.

(We must not now overlook the pseudo-moral factor which this demonizing involved. The typical antipodean collegiate gate-keeper confronted, circa 1980, with The Pines of Rome or some other such “fascist” construct would have expressed the same totally subjective, indeed visceral, aversion voiced by Zhdanov when he called Anna Akhmatova “half whore, half nun.”)

There being no immediate prospect of the Internet being disinvented, the role of any conscientious musicologist in our time must be very different from what it was during most of the twentieth century: less prone to Zhdanovshchina-style browbeating, and, one trusts, more genuinely humble. The late, great Sinologist Pierre Ryckmans had it about right when it came to literature. Somewhere—at the very height, among modish Australians, of French postmodernist prattle about the Death of the Author—Ryckmans described the good literary critic’s function as that of the cinema usherette: one who shows audience members to their seats, and assists their discernment, rather than treating them to her own unsolicited Foucaultian or Barthesian adjudications about the ethical shortcomings of what appears on-screen.

Herewith, and supplied in an usherette’s unobtrusive spirit, a purely capricious selection of seven worthwhile Christmas works off-beat enough, one suspects, to have escaped many readers hitherto. All are short (no Bach or Heinrich Schütz Yuletide epics here, however musically superb) and not one is monophonic (no plainchant either).They are cited out of chronological sequence, but within a kind of emotional sequence, according to which the loudest bit can be found in the second-last item, before the hushed finale.

(1) “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”, by John Byrom and John Wainright. Why do certain Nativity carols vanish from collective consciousness when certain other, and often far less musically significant, Nativity carols become as inescapable as taxes and Kardashians?

Consider the case of Christians Awake. In rural New South Wales during the 1970s, every single Yuletide churchgoer knew this grand, striding, Handelian melody by heart; and their great-grandfathers had probably sung it in the real-life equivalents of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Now, hardly any churchgoer seems to be aware of it, and few hymnals can be bothered with it. Seeking an adequate online performance took some labor. The one included here appears to be uncredited (can any listener identify its origins?) but gives a fine idea of the hymn.

Composer John Wainright is otherwise obscure. Lyricist John Byrom, who devised a workable system of shorthand a century before Isaac Pitman’s, further deserves our gratitude on the strength of his magnificent political bet-hedging when it came to post-1688 England, above all when it came to the Jacobite challenge:

God bless the King – I mean, the Faith’s Defender –
God bless (no harm in blessing) the Pretender –
But which Pretender is, and which the King,
God bless us all! That’s quite another thing.

(2) “Riu Riu Chiu”, attributed in most modern sources to a Spaniard, Mateo Flecha the Elder, who died in around 1553. This shamelessly anthropomorphic carol (“[With the kingfisher’s cry of] ‘Riu riu chiu’, God kept the wolf from the Lamb”) dates from the early sixteenth century; and, while it might or might not be of narrowly Catalan provenance, it emerged four hundred years later from a music collection which made its way to Sweden. Hence the collection’s unexpected name, Cancionero de Up[p]sala.

Any Internet trawl will disclose at least a dozen recordings of this carol, many redolent of the worst Anglo-Saxon tea-and-crumpets effeminacy. Here, at last, is a performance that includes a vigorous instrumental ensemble and manages to sound recognizably, you know, Iberian. It involves a group entitled Capella de Ministrers under the direction of one Carles Magraner. Better yet, this video offers, as a bonus, the sheet-music.

3) Extracts from Harmonia Caelestis, by Pal Esterhazy. In retrospect, one of the Cold War’s most extraordinary aspects was the failure of godless communism, at least when Moscow-directed, to extirpate a taste for sacred music entirely (when compared with, for example, the far greater success of current Western nihilism at unchurching the populace). On some not immediately observable pretext – national pride? residual aesthetic decency? – the Budapest-based, state-controlled Hungaroton label issued in 1969 a handsome three-LP set, Harmonia Caelestis. This comprised short, mostly single-voice, motets by Prince Pal Esterhazy (1635-1713), grandfather of Haydn’s patrons. For those fortunate enough to have snapped up that pioneering, limited-edition box (which, like so much beguiling LP material, has eluded CD reissue), the performances and engineering there will represent the gold standard.

Still, not all the later attempts at rendering Harmonia Caelestis are amateurish, though – as YouTube will confirm – many are. Here is a bracket of Esterhazy’s Christmas-related motets in comparatively recent and indubitably refined, if less than ideally robust, recordings from a different Hungarian ensemble. Notwithstanding Esterhazy’s aristocratic lineage, his composing idiom retained a folk-like character, manifest in his preference for short, blunt phrase-lengths. He did not need Hairspray to tell him: “Get back to your roots!”.

(4) “O Magnum Mysterium”, by Francis Poulenc. Those who have read this far could well have heard Tomas Luis de Victoria’s motet of the same title, but how about Poulenc’s? It comes from Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, begun in 1951 and finished the following year. Somehow, despite the more or less complete moral mess which Poulenc made of his private life, he retained enough of a religious spirit to have responded intermittently to Chesterton’s “twitch upon the thread.”

After one has heard this, it comes as no surprise that Poulenc would soon knuckle down to the best and most powerful thing he ever did: Dialogues of the Carmelites.The inimitable Robert Shaw (R.I.P.) conducts.

(5) “Variations sur un Vieux Noël”, by Marcel Dupré. From Poulenc to his compatriot Dupré, 13 years his senior, is a logical if unconventional step. Along with many another musician before and after, Dupré found himself haunted by the French carol theme known as Nouvel Nouvelet, which forsakes the conventional minor-key scale in favor of the Phrygian mode. Unlike lesser mortals, Dupré had the executant and creative wherewithal to transform this theme into ten minutes of systematic, glittering organ brilliance. The 1922 outcome: his Variations, one of sadly few Dupré creations to have attained some popularity among thousands who never darken a church door.

England’s Dame Gillian Weir delivers it, at a Stockholm venue, with her customary panache.

(6) “Puer Natus in Bethlehem”, by Germany’s Michael Praetorius, who died, apparently on his fiftieth birthday, in 1621. Printed in 1619, when there seemed every indication that the Thirty Years’ War would (like certain subsequent conflagrations) “be over by Christmas”, this masterpiece bespeaks a button-holing optimism which Central European composers would seldom show again in their liturgical work over the next few decades. The words here are macaronic: partly in Latin, but switching periodically to German for the passages conceived with congregational rendition in mind.

Do not be deceived by the quiet, genteel start to this slow-burning performance (captured in Roskilde Cathedral, Denmark). Being thus lulled into inattention will completely fail to prepare anybody for the climax, with the tempestuous organ solo followed by the explosive massed singing of the original tune, already old in Praetorius’s day.

(7) Geistliches Wiegenlied, Op. 91 No. 2, by Brahms. To abet the needful calming-down process after Praetorius’s high-jinks, who better than Brahms, master of the autumnal valediction? It sometimes seems as if everything Brahms published, however outwardly joyous, could bear the subtitle “Songs of Farewell.” Few concert-goers appreciate the extent of Brahms’s antiquarian enthusiasm. He was, paradoxically, a musicologist before the term “musicology” (a noun, like Brahms himself, of Teutonic birth) had been invented.

At the same time, like any other great composer, he had strict limits to his chameleonic functions. So when he came to arrange for soprano, viola, and piano the ancient tune known variously as Josef Lieber Josef Mein and Resonet in Laudibus, the outcome clearly derived from the same brain as his Intermezzo in A for piano (Op. 118 No. 2) and his Clarinet Quintet. Here Jessye Norman joins with Wolfram Christ and with none other than Daniel Barenboim to redefine the word Gemütlichkeit:

Have yourselves a shlock-free little Christmas!

Newtown remembered at Cathedral Academy
| December 18, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—“Violence is overcome day by day, choice by choice, person by person,” declared the opening of the prayer service at the Cathedral Academy Upper School. 

The school community had gathered on December 16 to remember the 26 victims of Newtown Elementary School.

The prayer service was the centerpiece of 26 Acts of Kindness taking place at the school during December and early January. “We followed the lead of Notre Dame High School’s observance, modifying it for younger students,” explains Principal Larry DiPalma, who had been on the staff of Notre Dame at the time of the shootings.

During the month, students had a day to say “Thank You” to their parents, said prayers for police, firefighters and first responders, and took time to “Be Kind to Yourself.” For this prayer service, eight Notre Dame students who had graduated from the Academy were on hand to pray with their younger contemporaries.
Elijah Trotman, now in eighth grade, led some of the intercessory prayers for nonviolence. He was in sixth grade at the time of the shootings. “At that moment, I felt less safe in school because now I knew something like that could happen anywhere.

He has reflected on those events over the past two years, and approaches them with more maturity. “As a school, it brings me comfort to know that we can come together and remember. I feel that it’s a privilege to remember the lost souls.”

Elijah includes all the lost souls. “I try to understand the viewpoint of other people, and I try not to react with violence first. React with love, not hatred. I take it seriously, and a lot of my friends do, too. They have become more forgiving and patient.”

One of the prayers he read requests that the students “allow God to disarm our hearts of the violence within us, that we might be nonviolent to ourselves and to every person we meet.”

Matteo Canu, now in the fourth grade, was the same age as the Sandy Hook children. “I felt very sad for their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers,” he remembers.

Principal DiPalma had been named the National Distinguished Teacher for Connecticut in 2011, receiving a striking hand-held school bell during the ceremony. At that time he was principal of Prendergast School in Ansonia, now the location of the Catherine Hubbard playground, one of the 26 playgrounds built in memory of the Sandy Hook victims. During the prayer service, he rang the bell 26 times as the name of each child and adult was read aloud.

“When we make a circle and pray together, a community prayer, I feel emotional,” says young Matteo. “I think of everyone. I feel part of my family and my school, and I feel part of those kids.”

View slideshow of prayer service

Read a transcript of the prayer

Forming Intentional Disciples
| December 17, 2014 • by By Pat Hennessy


TRUMBULL—“We can’t get to the Lord without the Church, but the Church and Sacred Scripture only makes sense if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” says Father Peter Towsley, vicar for evangelization of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

To enrich that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and empower parishes to be vibrant places of liturgical worship and fellowship, form missionary disciples, and enable schools to be places where administration, staff and students are living witnesses of Christ’s lay faithful, the Diocese of Bridgeport is sponsoring a “Forming Intentional Disciples!” workshop.

The practical workshop is designed to help Church leaders, parish staff, principals, religious education and RCIA directors and all Catholic faithful to transform their parish and schools into places of encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. It will be held Tuesday, January 13 at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull.

Sherry Weddell, co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, a ministry of the Western Dominican Province, will head the workshop. Weddell, author of one of the top-selling Catholic books and founder of the workshop by the same title, has developed formational resources that are used around the world to equip parishes and school for the apostolic formation of lay Catholics.

When you don’t emphasize the personal relationship to Jesus, Weddell says, you end up with an institutional faith. That’s what the majority of Catholics have now, an impersonal, mechanical, institutional faith. It lacks life. She calls Catholics to “break the silence” and be name-droppers—the name of Jesus, that is. Catholics need to know that a personal relationship with him is possible. “That is the beautiful gift of the Resurrection—Jesus was dead but is now alive. If he’s alive, then you can know him not merely as a historical figure, but as a person. And if he’s a person and alive, you can have a relationship with him.”

“This has to begin with the Catholics who are in the pews every Sunday,” says Father Towsley. “They’re the Church, the People of God. From them it spreads to the Christmas-Easter Catholics, and then to those who have not been coming at all, and to those who know little or nothing about the faith.”

Weddell says that when ordinary Catholics make the conscious choice to follow Jesus as his disciples they transform parish life, and ultimately the life of the whole Church.

(The workshop is open to all interested Catholics. For more info and for registration, go to and search for Forming Intentional Disciples.)