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White Christmas Concert hosted by St. Pio Foundation
| December 20, 2014



BRIDGEPORT—The Saint Pio Foundation is proud to announce a “White Christmas” benefit concert, to be held in St. Augustine Cathedral tonight, Saturday, December 20, at 7 pm.

The Saint Pio Foundation is a national charity which supports educational, social and cultural projects that enhance the awareness of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, one of the most venerated contemporary saints of the Church. The funds raised by the foundation are used to establish Catholic medical facilities in the U.S.; a percentage of its donations support the hospital “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, founded by St. Pio and currently owned by the Holy See.

The not-to-be-missed event is the first organized by the Saint Pio Foundation in Connecticut. Organized with the support of the Diocese of Bridgeport and the St. Padre Pio Society at St. Margaret Shrine, it will feature performances by Italian Tenor Luciano Lamonarca, pop singer Daniela Fiorentino, guitarist The Cathedral Parish Chris Remediani, the duo Balint/Mikhailoff, and an intermission by comedian Regina DeCicco.

A special performing guest, directly from Los Angeles, will be the 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.

Guest of honor for the evening will be Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who is also a member of the Religious Advisory Board of the Saint Pio Foundation.

(Suggested donation $20. For info and reservations, call 203.400.5828, or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more info about the Saint Pio Foundation, visit, or call 636.220.6550)

A Tuneful, Off-Beat Christmas Music List
| December 20, 2014


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.

View slideshow of prayer service

Read a transcript of the prayer

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.”

Forming Intentional Disciples
| December 17, 2014



“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.)

Night in a box
| December 17, 2014 • by By JOE O’CALLAGHAN, Youth Minister at St. Jerome Parish in Norwalk


NORWALK—On November 22, 25 teens from St. Jerome Parish participated in a homelessness awareness project called Night in a Box. All fall the teens of TOTAL, St. Jerome’s Youth group, have been talking about the importance of community and the Christian message that we are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Students in their 'box home' for the night

Asking the question: “Who is my neighbor?” led us to want to reach out to those in Norwalk who are in need. 

On the afternoon of November 22, everyone arrived in the church hall with a box and their sleeping bags. We participated in service projects, including going to the open door shelter in Norwalk where several of our teens helps prepare dinner for the guests of the shelter.  We then returned to the church and after a dinner of soup and grilled cheese we heard a talk from Michael Ross, who was homeless 30 years ago and turned his life around. Michael now works with people with mental illness helping them get off the streets.

After Michael spoke everyone went outside. It was about 40 degrees. We built shelters for the night out of our cardboard boxes. We then talked a lot about what it must be like to be homeless and what we can do to help support those who suffer in our community. We ended the night with prayer in the church and then went back to the boxes where we slept for the night. In the morning we got up in 35 degree weather and finished our project at the 9:15 Mass. All of the teens and adults who participated experienced a great sense of gratitude about what they do have, and they are determined to make a difference in the lives of the homeless, needy and poor in Norwalk.


Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
| December 16, 2014


“This is a story ‘bout a man named Jed…”

Recently, someone told me an amusing anecdote about singing the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song to a group of children, and how none of them joined along. They neither knew the words nor from whence the song came.

I have a little story to tell too, and like the children in the above example, some may not know what I am talking about, but the topic is still worthy of a blog entry.

WSHU is a public radio station broadcasting from the Sacred Heart University campus in Fairfield, Connecticut (hence the “SHU”). Its primary frequency is 91.1 FM, but it also broadcasts on numerous other FM and AM frequencies in the area, which can be found on its website, It became an NPR member station in 1984 and has experienced significant growth ever since.

In its own words (from its website), WSHU explains that in 1984, “We were broadcasting at 1,000 watts on a single frequency: 91.1 FM. Today, the WSHU Public Radio Group comprises seven licensed stations… with online streaming… Our flagship production, ‘Sunday Baroque,’ is syndicated on 175 NPR stations and reaches as far as Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific Ocean.”

My mother, who is a senior citizen, has probably been a listener and a donor since its founding, and conversely, for many years, I was not really a fan of the station. Until recently, I would have to say that my favorite music was classic rock, but how many times can you hear the Rolling Stones sing “Satisfaction”?

The Beatles are another story. I don’t think that I will ever grow tired of hearing their music or the music that each member produced individually after the band broke up. It always strikes me as somewhat dumbfounding, but I do meet contemporaries occasionally who disdain the Beatles. Some things in life remain mysteries.

Maybe it is because I recently turned 50 years of age, but WSHU is growing on me. Their late-morning/midday personality, Kate Remington, plays a “Midday Mozart” medley at noon, and I am always pleased if I know some of the tunes. It makes me feel “educated.”

I told you that there was a story here, and now I will get down to the real reason why I have lately become a fan of WSHU. For my fiftieth birthday, back in June, I bought myself two parakeets, and their names are Snowball and Amber. They are both males (Amber is short for Ambrose).


Not long after I got them, I set up a radio near their cage, and I put WSHU on for them. They loved it! Ever since, I put WSHU on for them before I leave the house, and when I come back, they are still listening to it (they don’t really have a choice!). At 4:00 pm during the week, WSHU switches to talk-radio news programs until 8:00 pm. My birds don’t like the talk programs as much as the music, but some parakeets can learn to mimic human speech, so listening to human voices may help them eventually voice some words.

On Sunday evenings, WSHU has a new-age music program called “Echoes.” I came home one evening after my birds had been listening to that program for awhile, and they both had confused looks on their faces, as though they were not quite sure what they had been hearing. Personally, I like the new-age music, but I can understand why my birds might not care for it too much.

A big surprise concerning WSHU is how much my birds like Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion,” which is broadcast on Saturday evenings from 6:00-8:00. They particularly love the “acappella” human voice, and I believe they prefer the female voice to the male voice. Then again, they really seem to like Pavarotti!

Prairie Home Companion has folk-music, story-telling, beautiful singing voices and charming instrumentals. Garrison Keillor’s voice is also very soothing, which I think my birds like very much.

Since I began listening to WSHU with my birds, I have learned a lot about classical music, Pavarotti, Prairie Home Companion, and various other shows that the station plays.

But before I conclude my affirmations about WSHU, I do need to point out a few things that I find annoying. First, its reception where I live in Wilton is not that great. Some days, the station comes in clearly. Other days, it is filled with static.

My other criticism concerns its mendicant nature. WSHU is worse than the Church when it comes to asking for money. Some people complain that the Church is “always” asking for money. After regularly listening to WSHU for about 6 months now, it seems as though they really are always asking for money. Their “membership” drives have names like the “December Drive,” but it leaves listeners wondering, “Didn’t we just do this in November?”

Although I do plan to make a donation for Christmas, part of me is fearful that once they know where I live, unsavory characters may appear at my doorway shaking me down for more money if my payments are not “regular enough.” The Church asks for money, and many believe the Church is rich. WSHU asks for money, constantly, and they keep claiming to be poor. What is wrong with this picture?

Finally, and this is where I will really heap on glorious praise, WSHU has enhanced my preparation for the Christmas Season. I could be technical and claim that Christmas begins on Christmas Eve and ends with the Baptism of the Lord, but American society celebrates Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day.

Nevertheless, WSHU has been filling its airwaves with the most exquisite Christmas music: hymns, carols, instrumentals, classical renditions, etc. It is not an “All Christmas All the Time” station, but it really covers the spectrum of the best traditions of Christmas music, and on many occasions, it has really lifted my spirits (and has me singing along too, much to the delight of my parakeets!).

It will be interesting to see if WSHU keeps the Christmas music going throughout the Christmas Season, or brings it to a screeching halt on December 26th.

It is important to remember that the name of Jesus is contained in its call-letters. The “Sacred Heart” is a direct reference to Jesus Christ.

Since becoming a fan of WSHU, I can honestly say that the beautiful music it plays enhances my spirituality and my appreciation for the art of music, which is infused with the mystery of God. If you are not currently a WSHU listener, I highly recommend it, especially at this time of year, when they do an amazing job with their playlists and explanations about some of the best Christmas music ever produced.

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New pope, new leadership changed tone of visitation of U.S. religious
| December 16, 2014


By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During the process of the apostolic visitation of communities of U.S. religious women, a shift in tone took place.

The Vatican's final report on the visitation, released Dec. 16, made observations, not accusations. Instead of giving the women instructions, it made suggestions -- mostly encouraging them to continue discernment about their identity, vocations promotion and formation, fidelity to Christ and the church, community life and cooperation with the wider church, including local bishops.

The tone change was partially the result of the dialogue style those conducting onsite visits were instructed to take, and partially because the sisters decided to share their own decades of discernment and struggle with the visitors.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican, told Dec. 16 the biggest change she saw was in the public perception of the visitation.

"The surprise announcement (of the visitation) caught people off guard and made them guarded," she said.

But a change in the leadership of the Vatican congregation overseeing the visitation also contributed to the new tone. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, who was named prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2011 -- two years after the visitation began -- told reporters Dec. 16 that he and his leadership team have decided their main approach to religious orders will be to spend time with them, visiting them -- not conducting visitations, except for very serious reasons.

"We are putting more of an accent on going to them, not to identify mistakes or judge situations, but to listen to the sufferings, see the difficulties, listen to what they are going through," the cardinal said. The congregation wants "more of the climate of a family -- I'm not saying this didn't exist before -- but we are emphasizing it more."

However, the biggest change since the visitation began in 2009 was the election of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis greets representatives of the International Union of Superiors General at the Vatican last year. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

As a Jesuit and former Jesuit provincial, one who admits he made mistakes by being authoritarian as a young superior, Pope Francis knows the world of consecrated religious life from the inside. Throughout his pontificate he has used that experience to instruct, encourage and exhort religious to be courageous, joyful and prophetic, to "wake up the world."

Although he will sometimes apologize for giving "publicity" to St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, time and again Pope Francis looks to his order's founder for inspiration and instruction, just as women religious look to their founders. His meditations on the meaning of poverty, chastity and obedience lead to very concrete and nuanced observations; he, too, made those vows as a way of following Jesus as completely as humanly possible.

And then there are his observations about community life, which his comments highlight as an essential -- and perhaps most challenging -- part of consecrated life.

Meeting in early November with the superiors of men's communities in Italy, the pope said, "Please, don't let the terrorism of gossip exist among you. ... If you have something against your brother, tell him to his face. Sometimes it might end in fisticuffs," he said, causing the superiors to laugh. "That's not a problem. It's always better than the terrorism of gossip."

While tough on gossip, Pope Francis is even tougher on people breaking with the church's tradition, creating scandal or division or acting as if the Holy Spirit could lead them to ignore the hierarchy.

Responding to God's call to enter religious life means feeling, thinking and acting in communion with the church, which "generated us through baptism," he told the women's International Union of Superiors General in May 2013. Christians do not do good because of a "personal inspiration, but in union with mission of the church and in its name."

Religious superiors, Pope Francis told the women, need to ensure their members are educated in the doctrine of the church, "in love for the church and in an ecclesial spirit."

Quoting Pope Paul VI, he said, "It's an absurd dichotomy to think one can live with Jesus, but without the church, to follow Jesus outside the church, to love Jesus and not the church."

A month later, meeting with members of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Men and Women Religious, or CLAR, he urged religious to put greater effort into dialogue with their bishops and to courageously minister to the poor without worrying they might receive a questioning letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

If the letter comes, "don't worry. Explain what you have to explain, but keep going," he told them, according to a leaked report from one of the participants.

"You are going to make mistakes; you are going to put your foot in it. That happens," he said. "I prefer a church that makes mistakes because it is doing something to one that sickens because it stays shut in."

As both a former Jesuit superior and former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis recognizes how much effort and good will is needed to respect both religious orders' discernment of what ministries to engage in as well as a bishop's responsibilities as shepherd, teacher and leader of the local church.

In November 2013, meeting with the international men's Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis announced that he had asked the congregation for religious to revise "Mutuae Relationes," a set of directives issued jointly with the Congregation for Bishops in 1978. The document said that religious orders are part of the local church, though with their own internal organization, and that their "right to autonomy" should never be considered as independence from the local church.

"That document was useful at the time but is now outdated," the pope told the superiors. "The charisms of the various institutes need to be respected and fostered because they are needed in dioceses," and consecrated men and women cannot be seen simply as employees.

The point is not to allow religious to set up parallel structures or have free rein in a diocese, but to allow them to offer their unique gifts to the church and the world. After all, Pope Francis insists, the church exists to bring God's love to the world and the Holy Spirit has a variety of ways to do that.

Meeting with members of the Vatican congregation for religious in late November, Pope Francis said he knows not all the news about religious life is good and the church should not "hide the areas of weakness," including "the diminished ability to attract new members, the not irrelevant number of those who leave -- this really worries me!"

At the same time, "consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy," he wrote in a letter for the 2014-15 Year of Consecrated Life. Consecrated life is not about efficiency, he said, but about "the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full."

Mariachis and flowers honor Our Lady of Guadalupe
| December 16, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—In a tradition stretching back nearly 30 years, St. Mary Parish in Bridgeport honored the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a Vigil Mass on December 11. One of the best mariachi bands in the tri-state area serenaded the congregation for a full hour before Mass began, and then led the colorful opening procession. Parishioners brought baskets and armfuls of flowers and placed them in profusion before the image of Our Lady to the right of the altar. Click here for photos

Although observance of the feast was originally limited to Mexico, it has now spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, so much so that St. John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe “The Queen of the Americas.” That title proved to be particularly accurate at St. Mary’s, where people from virtually every country in this hemisphere took their place among the worshippers.
The entire church had been decorated with arches of bright balloons for the occasion. The extensive and intricate Nativity scene surrounding the main altar is renowned throughout the area. A direct relative of the Neapolitan presepio like those on display at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, it shows the village life of bakers, milkmaids and workmen—all of them oblivious to the miraculous birth of Jesus in their midst.

The Nativity scene is a labor of love for Msgr. Matthew Bernelli, pastor of St. Mary’s. For the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he personally greeted each person who came through the door. During his homily, Msgr. Bernelli invited those who come only for the festival to return again every Sunday. He explained that the pregnant Virgin asks people to come learn more about her son, Jesus, their savior. Every year, some in the congregation hear his words.

The mariachi band led the congregation in familiar Mexican hymns throughout the Mass, ending at the stroke of midnight with “Las Mañanitas” the traditional song of praise to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The feast that followed in the church hall continued into the early morning hours.

Prep helps bring Christmas to children in need
| December 15, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Fairfield Prep sponsors an annual Christmas Toy Drive in support of the Diocese of Bridgeport Office of Social Concerns. Again this year, the school collected new, unwrapped toys for families in the Bridgeport area. Hundreds of toys plus packages of much-needed diapers filled Arrupe Hall. Members of the Prep Squires Club helped load the toys into vehicles for delivery. Shown from left: sophomores Sean Carroll, Alex Capozziello, Frank Fortunati, Matthew Denny and Charles Pollner.

Ignatian Center to train lay spiritual directors
| December 15, 2014


By Brian D. Wallace

“We are co-workers in the vineyard,” said Father James Bowler, S.J., at the launch of the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Fairfield University on November 23. The new program aims to further invest lay men and women in the charism of the Jesuits. Father Bowler, director of Ignatian Spirituality programs at Fairfield University, said that the Jesuits have always formed partnerships to testify that "in Christ we have received greater internal freedom."

More than 200 attended the launch ceremony in the Regina Quick Center on campus. In addition to training lay spiritual directors and supervisors, the Ignatian center will offer retreats and parish programs in cooperation with the Diocese of Bridgeport.

One of the major themes presented by the speakers was the need to respond to the growingnumber of people who struggle to find meaning in their lives, even as they pull away from the traditional faith experience.

“Each of us has a deep and abiding hunger, a deep restlessness of heart,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “We seek the face of God and wish to encounter him, to walk in his presence. Each of us hungers for a path where God is present.” He added that the new Ignatian Spirituality Center will help to bring “great grace” into people’s lives.

“We are blessed to have the center begin its work here and now as we go forward in the pilgrimage of faith,” said the bishop, referring to the Fourth Diocesan Synod, now underway in the diocese.

Father Jeffrey Von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University, said the new Ignatian Center will help to answer the questions, “What are needs in the life of the Church and in our world? Where are we needed most and how can we serve best?”

“Every generation has to re-create the faith. If we lose that, we lose the spirit,” said Father Von Arx, who thanked all those present for giving witness to the Jesuit charism.

Author and businessman Christopher Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership, a work on Jesuit spirituality, spoke on “meeting Ignatius for the first time.” He said the 16th-century saint is more relevant than ever in light of the teachings of Pope Francis and the spiritual alienation felt by many people.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, he noted that 71 percent of those who left the Church say they left because their spiritual needs were not being met. He also said that 33 percent of adults under the age of 30 are religiously unaffiliated.

Lowney said many people are stressed out and searching for the meaning of life. “We’re floating along in a river of email, text and iPads, present to everything except what’s most important in our lives,” he said noting that the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have spoken to generations of spiritual seekers by offering a path to wholeness.

Dr. Donna Andrade, academic dean of Fairfield Prep, who recently returned from an international conference in Spain, said that it is important to look at the “intersection between Ignatian spirituality and the world” at a time of “disruptive innovation” in technology.

She said that Ignatian spirituality can move a student from information to formation and eventually to transformation.

“We don’t teach subjects, we teach people,” she added. Deacon Patrick Toole, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield, is serving as chair of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality Advisory Board. He received a blessing from Very Rev. John Cecero, S.J., provincial of the U.S.A. North East, who said spiritual directors “faciitate the encounter of so many with the living God.”

St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield has been selected to participate in a pilot program for the center. The goal of the program is to introduce the parish to prayer in the Ignatian tradition. The parish will also learn how to apply Ignatian spirituality to the decision-making process in the parish.

As part of the program, the center will establish an annual symposium to explore the application of Ignatian spirituality to contemporary culture (e.g., science, business). The symposium will be held on the campus of Fairfield University and broadcast digitally. Ignatian spirituality and the current environmental crisis will be offered in the spring of 2015.

(For more info, visit the Center for Ignatian Spirituality of Fairfield University online at:, or phone Father James Bowler: 203.254.4000)

Pope praises Our Lady of Guadalupe as great missionary of 'our America'
| December 13, 2014


By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Preceded by a procession of flags from the nations of the Americas and the recitation of the rosary in Spanish, Pope Francis and thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican.

The Argentina-born pope celebrated the Dec. 12 Mass to the sounds and rhythms of many of South America's indigenous peoples; the principal sung parts of the Mass were from the "Misa Criolla," composed 50 years ago by the late Ariel Ramirez. His son, Facundo Ramirez, conducted the choir that featured Patricia Sosa, a famous Argentine singer, as well as guitars and traditional instruments from the continent.

With St. Juan Diego's vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, the pope said, Mary "became the great missionary who brought the Gospel to our America."

In his homily, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would "continue to accompany, assist and protect our peoples" and that she would "lead all the children who are pilgrims on this earth by the hand to an encounter with her son Jesus Christ."

"Imploring God's forgiveness and trusting in his mercy," the pope prayed that God would help the people of Latin America forge a future of hope, development and opportunity for the poor and suffering, "for the humble, for those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the compassionate, the pure of heart, peacemakers and those persecuted for the sake of Christ's name."

Mary's "Magnificat," her hymn of praise to God, he said, proclaims that God "overturns ideologies and worldly hierarchies. He raises up the humble, comes to the aid of the poor and the small, and fills with good things, blessings and hope those who trust in his mercy."

Pope Francis said the day's reading from Psalm 66, with its "plea for forgiveness and the blessing of the peoples and nations and, at the same time, its joyful praise, expresses the spiritual sense of this Eucharistic celebration" in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, "for whom devotion extends from Alaska to Patagonia."

The dark-skinned image of Our Lady of Guadalupe traditionally believed to have been miraculously impressed on Juan Diego's cloak, the pope said, proclaimed to the indigenous peoples of the Americas "the good news that all its inhabitants shared the dignity of children of God. No more would anyone be a servant, but we are all children of the same Father and brothers and sisters to each other."

Mary did not just want to visit the Americas, the pope said, the image on the cloak or "tilma" is a sign that "she wanted to remain with them."

"Through her intercession, the Christian faith began to become the greatest treasure" of the American peoples, Pope Francis said, a treasure "transmitted and demonstrated even today in the baptism of multitudes of people, in the faith, hope and charity of many, in their precious popular piety and in that ethos of the people who show that they know the dignity of the human person, in their passion for justice, in solidarity with the poor and suffering."

St. Thomas Aquinas School and Caroline House Partner to Help Each Others Language Studies
| December 11, 2014


St. Thomas 2nd graders and Caroline House students exchange letters in each other’s language

Bridgeport, CT – On December 2nd, Caroline House students took a break from their regular studies to respond to their first set of letters from their young penpals at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Fairfield, CT.

Through the penpal program, students from the 2nd grade class wrote to the women of Caroline House using their growing Spanish language skills. The women in the upper classes of Caroline House likewise responded, practicing their growing English writing skills. In addition to the excitement over exchanging letters, the women at Caroline House were pleased to see the young students were learning Spanish. Many sprinkled a few Spanish words into their letters to encourage the 2nd graders in their language studies!

St. Thomas Spanish Teacher, Dominique Johnson, said “The students and staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School are dedicated to serving others in the community. It is part of our mission which we do our best to live each day. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have been able to partner with Caroline House and Mrs. Pierson’s 2nd grade class to assist in the important work of educating women and children towards a future of hope and opportunity. Our second graders learned about people that are different than themselves while appreciating how hard it is to learn a new language. We look forward to doing more of this type of project in the future.” About Caroline House:

Caroline House is a nondenominational education center teaching literacy and life skills to economically disadvantaged immigrant women and children. Since opening its doors 19 years ago, Caroline House has nurtured and educated hundreds of women and children. All programs and services are provided free of charge. Grants, foundations and individual donors provide the financial support for our center.


Christine Matthews Paine
Development Director
Caroline House Development Director
(203) 334-0640

Knights build parish crèche
| December 11, 2014


TRUMBULL--The members of the Knights of Columbus 2961 hand built a new crèche and donated it to Christ the King Parish in appreciation for the support parish has given their council. The crèche is intricately crafted so that all its component pieces can be disassembled and the entire set rolled away for storage.

On Saturday, December 6, the Feast of St Nicholas, Father Larry Carew, pastor, led a prayer service and blessed the crèche. The blessing was followed by the singing of Christmas carols. Following the ceremony and carols, the Knights hosted refreshments in the Church.The Knights of Columbus Council 2961 will be erecting the crèche in this location every year to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Knights, who meet the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 pm at Christ the King, have also been busy this season collecting warm coats, mittens and scarves for needy children in Bridgeport.

Pope calls for more 'integration' of divorced Catholics, gays
| December 09, 2014


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church must consider various ways to integrate the divorced and civilly remarried in the life of the church -- not merely allowing them to receive Communion, but letting them serve as eucharistic ministers and godparents -- and to make it easier for Catholic families to accept their homosexual members.

The pope also said he would travel to three Latin American countries and several African countries in 2015, and that major reforms of the Vatican bureaucracy, including the possible appointment of a married couple to head a new office, will not be ready before 2016.

Pope Francis made his remarks in an interview published Dec. 7 in the Argentine newspaper "La Nacion." The interview, with journalist Elisabetta Pique, was conducted Dec. 4 in the pope's suite at the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives.

The pope answered several questions about the October 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, which considered a controversial proposal to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriages. By church law, such Catholics may not receive Communion unless they abstain from sexual relations, living as "brother and sister" with their new partners.

Regarding such Catholics, "we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can be opened for them?" Pope Francis said. "Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration."

The pope noted several currently prohibited activities, including teaching Sunday school and distributing Communion, that he said amounted to the de facto excommunication of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

"Let us open the doors a bit more. Why can't they be godfathers and godmothers?" Pope Francis said, dismissing the objection that they would set a poor example for the baptized.

Divorced and civilly remarried godparents offer their godchild the "testimony of a man and a woman saying, 'My dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe the Lord loves me, I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on.' Is anything more Christian than that?"

Such godparents are more worthy of their role than "political crooks" who happen to be properly wedded, the pope said.

"We must go back and change things a bit, in terms of standards," he said.

Referring to the synod's controversial midterm report, which used remarkably favorable language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions, Pope Francis said, "nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod, it did not cross our minds."

"The synod addressed the family and homosexual persons in relation to their families," the pope said. "We have to find a way to help that father or that mother stand by their (homosexual) son or daughter. That's what the synod addressed. That's why someone mentioned positive factors (of same-sex unions) in the first draft. But that was just a draft."

Asked about his decision to dismiss U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from his post as the head of the Vatican's highest court, the pope confirmed widely circulated reports that he had decided on the move prior to the synod; hence the cardinal's positions at the synod, where he was a leading conservative voice, were not the reason for his reassignment to a largely honorary job with a chivalric religious order.

The pope cited unspecified "legal restructuring" in the Vatican as reason for Cardinal Burke's reassignment, noting also that the Order of Malta needed a "smart American who would know how to get around."

Pope Francis said his ongoing reform of the Vatican bureaucracy is a "slow process" that will not be ready before 2016. He said it was possible that a new office, the product of a merger of the current pontifical councils for the Laity, the Family and Justice and Peace, could be headed by a woman or even a married couple.

The pope also announced that he would travel in 2015 to "some African countries" and three Latin American countries, not including his native Argentina, which will have to wait until 2016.

By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
| December 09, 2014


The weather lately has been very good for seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). For developing it, that is, if you are not already a sufferer!  

Of all mental health issues, it seems that S.A.D. is one of the most acceptable to openly discuss. This may be because it is so common, and because its impermanent and perhaps brief character makes it seem more like a common cold than anything more serious.

Most people believe that S.A.D. sets in only during the dark and dreary days of late fall and early winter, but experts point out that some people experience S.A.D. in the late spring and early summer. One of the prescribed treatments for the disorder is light therapy, so it seems that its onset has something to do with decreasing or increasing daylight.

Last week, someone who works in an office went outside in the afternoon and was surprised that it was already dark. He looked at his watch and it was only 2:15 pm! As I am writing now, we are experiencing a Nor’easter with heavy rain and wind, and it seems as though the sun never bothered rising today. In fact, in recent weeks, there have been many days that have been unusually dark and dank.

As a lifelong Connecticut Yankee, I know that this time of year can be bereft of daylight, but the lack of bright sunshine has been unusually severe since about Thanksgiving.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I do not think that I suffer from S.A.D. I have other problems!

Seriously, if I do suffer from a daylight disorder, I am one of those who develops it more in the summer than in the fall. We may think that the shortening of days after June 21 each year is imperceptible, but I believe that my unconscious mind perceives clearly that the days are getting shorter and this puts me in a bit of a malaise. Like the S.A.D. of winter, my summer funk usually only lasts a month or so.

One of the reasons why S.A.D. at this time of year can be so distressing is that we believe that we should be joyful as we move toward the Christmas Season. All around us, it seems as though everyone is happy and excited. Internally, we may feel just the opposite.

If you or yours may be experiencing S.A.D. now or at some other time of the year, it is helpful to openly acknowledge it. If feelings of depression are making it difficult to function on a daily basis, that is a good indication that the problem needs to be addressed.

Whenever we look at a list of the symptoms for a malady, it is easy to convince ourselves that we have it. Keeping this risk in mind, I will list a few symptoms of S.A.D. that can help you determine the degree to which you may be experience this condition, if you think you suffer from it.

S.A.D. Symptoms

- Lack of energy; chronic fatigue; difficulty sleeping; difficulty getting out of bed
- irritability, feeling overwhelmed; difficulty accomplishing daily tasks at home and/or at work
- feeling sad for extended periods; lacking enjoyment in previously pleasurable activities

If you have read this far, you are probably now convinced that you have S.A.D.!

It is probably more true to say that “most” people in our climate feel a little down during the colder, darker, dreary months of the year. If, however, you believe that you or a loved one experiences more than a “normal” range of sadness and negative feelings at particular times of the year, then it is wise to begin thinking about the next step.

For Catholics, the first step to address a mental health issue is always prayer. Many of the saints suffered from various mental health issues, so suffering a mental health issues does not make one less “holy” than a person who does not suffer from mental health issues. Bringing our suffering to Jesus and His Blessed Mother in prayer is always a good first step because Jesus is the Divine Physician and His mother is our mother too!

Asking your parish priest to administer the Sacrament of the Sick for you is also helpful. Anointing with holy oils is intended to bring healing of body, mind and soul and was never intended to be reserved only for the dying.

Finally, seeking professional help is also a good option. Mental health professionals range from psychiatrists to psychologists to nurse-practitioners. For those on a tighter budget, nurse-practitioners can be a good route. They tend to be generous with their time and not extravagant in the fees they charge. Most nurse-practitioners are also women, which may be helpful for some.

Talk therapy, in and of itself, can often work wonders. Without a need for medication, many people who are suffering the stress of a mental health issue respond wonderfully to simply talking openly about their issues with a medical professional.

When it comes to mental health concerns, only a medical professional can really provide the guidance needed to lead someone through the problem to a hoped-for resolution.

One final tip: when it comes to mental health care providers, sometimes “hit or miss” is necessary. That is, not every mental health professional is going to work for every client. If you do take the step to seek out professional assistance for yourself or a loved one, realize that it is normal and acceptable to need to visit more than one professional before the right fit is found.

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"Behold Your Mother!": Meeting the Virgin Mary in D.C.
| December 08, 2014 • by Br. Gabriel Torretta, O.P. From the Catholic World Report


WASHINGTON—A new exhibit at The National Museum of Women in the Arts draws together a stunning collection of Renaissance and Baroque artwork. What do you suppose is the one verse of the Bible that has generated the most Christian art?

Certainly John 1:14—“and the Word became flesh”—is a compelling option, as the reality that God became man is the fertile soil from which all artistic praise of God springs. But is there one seed that has fallen into that soil and borne the most fruit? For that honor, I’d suggest a different verse from John, this time towards the end of the Gospel: “Behold your mother!” (Jn 19:27).

Behold your mother! What a tremendous harvest of art, culture, and beauty has sprung up from these three simple words! Almost from the first days when Christians began making representational art, Mary has been a constant presence, the perfect witness through whose eyes the mystery of Christ is revealed in its loving splendor. By the late fourth century, for example, Mary begins to appear next to the Christ-child in Nativity scenes, poised in humble adoration, and what may be the earliest extant crucifixion scene, an ivory carving from around 420, features a stalwart Virgin poignantly framed between Judas the Suicide and John the Beloved Disciple at the side of the Cross.

To tell the story of how Christians have beheld their mother in art through paintings, sculpture, literature, music, and architecture is almost coterminous with telling the story of Western art tout court.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. has spared no expense or effort to capture the depth and radiance of this artistic tradition with its new exhibit, entitled Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea, running from December 5, 2014, to April 12, 2015. This exhibit of more than sixty paintings, sculptures, and liturgical vestments from the Renaissance and Baroque periods is curated by Msgr. Timothy Verdon, director of the cathedral museum (Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence, whose vast artistic erudition and deep Marian devotion is abundantly evident in every detail of this landmark project.

Picturing Mary moves through six distinct exhibit spaces, each concentrating on a specific way of considering the Virgin artistically and theologically: the Madonna and Child, Woman and Mother, Mother of the Crucified, Mary’s Singular Life, Mary as Idea, and Mary in the Life of Believers. This sensitive arrangement allows the viewer to appreciate the variety and continuity within Marian art, without the visual weariness that can arise when a museum simply jumbles together an endless series of nearly identical Madonna-and-Child images to fill out its medieval section.

The result is a narrative of contemplation, joy, and love, revealing the manifold ways that the seed of Marian devotion bore fruit in Western art. Picturing Mary lets us see that artists’ attention to Mary was not merely a formalistic adherence to social and visual norms, but a source of life, creativity, and perpetual freshness.

The exhibit draws together a truly stunning collection of works of nearly unflagging quality, from the vibrant dynamism of Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child, to the dense symbolism of Andrea Mantegna’s Madonna of the Quarry, to the understated pathos of Rembrandt’s Death of the Virgin, rising to a climax in Botticelli’s Madonna of the Book and Caravaggio’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Each of these works is carefully and sensitively placed, so that the viewer can experience each piece in the context of the others, but without distraction from them—a fellow-museum-goer even mentioned that the presentation of Caravaggio’s magnificent painting here far surpasses its setting in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome, where this treasure can get lost in its surroundings.

The Caravaggio work alone, I have to say, would make the exhibit worth the price of admission (a mere $10 in any case): bracketed on either side by humbler works from Caravaggio’s artistic “father” (Simone Peterzano) and “grandfather” (Titian), the large 4½-by-6-foot canvas blurs the line between religious painting and religious experience, inviting the beholder to become a genuine actor in the drama of the Holy Family’s flight.

But perhaps still more impressive than the mere fact of the famous names and paintings gathered here is the tenor of the whole exhibit. Through a carefully chosen selection of texts set tastefully against the rich-toned walls of the exhibit space, including the Book of Revelation’s passage about the mysterious woman clothed with the sun, the Alma Redemptoris Mater and the Stabat Mater—two great medieval hymns that sprang as naturally to the lips of our Christian ancestors as the Hail Mary does to ours—and Dante’s praise of the Virgin from the end of the Paradiso, Picturing Mary offers museum-goers a rare opportunity to behold the Virgin not merely as a woman, a mother, or an idea, but as the Mother of God. The museum’s great achievement has been to present these works of art in harmony with the culture of devotion from which they sprang, enabling the beholder to experience first-hand the love of our Christian ancestors for the humble Virgin from Nazareth.

At the risk of straining the reader’s credulity by endlessly sounding notes of praise, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the label placards accompanying each work—often the worst part of an exhibit, giving either far too many irrelevant details or forcing the viewer’s interpretation in some way—are unusually restrained and informative.

The label for Tiepolo’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, for instance, mentions not only that the goldfinch in the Christ-child’s hand is a symbol of the passion, but also explains why (because the birds were thought to live on thorny thistles and because a legend held that a goldfinch plucked a thorn from Christ’s brow, thereby gaining its distinctive red mask). Here the quality is not perfectly uniform, but they remain generally valuable.

For many of our contemporaries—even fellow Christians and Catholics—the world of Marian piety can feel distant or, at worst, foreign. We may be tempted to think of Marian art as a boring medieval phase that we have to walk through in a museum before we finally get to the Impressionists. But Picturing Mary has given a remarkable gift to us by showing forth the radiant splendor of Marian devotion and the art that grew organically from it, helping contemporary viewers of all faiths to see that the gaze that looks lovingly on Mary is by that fact brought to gaze lovingly on her Son.

I can think of no better way to conclude these brief comments on this rare exhibit of Western Christianity’s artistic praise of Mary than with the words of Fr. Ambroise-Marie Carré, in his 1966 Lenten conferences at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, in which he beautifully expresses the religious dynamic on display in all great works of Marian art: “Think about the masterpiece that is our cathedral in Paris. It was built for the glory of God and as the temple of the Eucharist.

But we call it not ‘The Glory of God’ nor ‘The House of Bread,’ but ‘Our Lady’ (Notre-Dame), because it sprang from the hearts and hands of a people that prayed to Jesus in praying to Mary, and that knew that without Mary we would not have Jesus.” Behold your mother; behold her Son.

A Christmas gift for suffering South Sudan
| December 10, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


The world’s newest nation is in big trouble.
After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.

But the situation on the ground soon looked like South Sudan had not been born, but instead was still suffering intense labor pains.
The many years of war brought not only much death, but also drained South Sudan of valuable resources leaving it an extremely poor nation.
According to South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, 73 percent are illiterate and 45 percent do not have access to improved sources of drinking water.
But if conditions weren’t bad enough, last year – 10 days before Christmas – civil war broke out in South Sudan amid a struggle for power between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar who was dismissed months earlier by Kiir.
According to the International Crisis Group the civil war has claimed over 10,000 lives, and more than 1 million have been displaced. And it warns that the current humanitarian crisis threatens many more.
According to “The Sudd Institute: Research for a peaceful, just and prosperous South Sudan,” 4 million people are facing a serious risk of famine and starvation.  And that approximately 100,000 people are already experiencing desperate, humiliating circumstances in U.N. camps.  
The United Nations Children’s Fund warns that without greatly increased emergency international assistance, over 50,000 children under the age of five will soon die of starvation.
But long-term development aid is also indispensible.
John Ashworth, who serves as an advisor to the Catholic bishops of South Sudan, wrote in an emailed to me that many international donors are reducing their development aid to South Sudan due to a lack of progress in the peace talks among the warring parties.

Ashworth said that seven of the ten states in South Sudan are not directly affected by the conflict, and it is both unfair and counter-productive to deny development aid to those people.

The heroic Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban often says that development is peace, and there is thus a fear that reducing development aid will create the conditions for insecurity to spread.

A U.S. State Department official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told me how important it is for us to contact our congressional delegation urging them to increase funding for both emergency and development assistance – that would support critical programs aimed at justice and reconciliation, education, infrastructure and food security.

Ashworth said, “I would highly recommend making a donation to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which is very active in South Sudan. I work closely with them.”

To send a Christmas donation to suffering South Sudan please go to Give to CRS South Sudan or call 877-435-7277.

During this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior, Christ the Lord, let us also remember the birth and infancy of the world’s youngest nation.

As the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, let us bring Christmas gifts of prayer, money and advocacy to suffering South Sudan.

And let’s not forget, that by giving gifts to the South Sudanese, we are ultimately giving Christmas gifts to Jesus who said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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

Walking with purpose…
| December 08, 2014 • by By Laura Phelps


NEWTOWN—Nearly 200 women gathered at the Holy Innocents Faith Formation Center on December 3, at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, Connecticut for an inspiring talk by Lisa Brenninkmeyer, the founder of Walking with Purpose, a women’s Catholic Bible study program.

Click here to view a slideshow

Ms. Brenninkmeyer’s talk, Restoring Simplicity, focused on the message of St. Therese of Lisieux, the little flower, and her rediscovery of the heart of the Gospel message. A genuine and engaging speaker, Ms. Brenninkmeyer shared some ups and downs of her own spiritual journey and touched hearts of attendees with laughter and tears, encouraging them to grow in faith by connecting with other women; to come as they are and to leave their masks at the door.

The mission of Walking with Purpose is to bring women to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ by offering personal study and small group discussion that link our everyday challenges and struggles with the solutions given to us through the teachings of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.

To learn more about the Walking with Purpose Bible study at St. Rose of Lima please visit, and click on the Walking with Purpose logo. To learn more about Walking with Purpose, nationally and internationally, visit

K of C Museum highlights Neapolitan crèches
| December 04, 2014


NEW HAVEN—Neapolitan crèche-making, a distinct and widely known artistic tradition, is closely associated with Naples, the Italian city from which it takes its name. Each figure in these elaborate nativity scenes is a finely crafted work of art, employing techniques and customs dating back centuries to the Baroque era.

The Neapolitan crèche is perhaps the world’s most popular
nativity style. These intricate and elaborate scenes, on display
from now through February 1 at the Knights of Columbus Museum
in New Haven, place the Holy Family among merchants, musicians
and commoners going about their daily lives; literally at the center
of the life of the community.

The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven is showcasing this unique art form in its tenth annual Christmas crèche exhibition, which is on view through February 1, 2015. “Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy” features two dozen Italian inspired nativity scenes. The highlight of the show is a 120-square-foot Neapolitan diorama, with more than 100 human figures.

Crèches have been a popular part of Western Christianity for more than 800 years. Introduced in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi, they serve as a way for everyday people to reflect on Jesus’ modest birth. Through the centuries, crèches have developed into large and ornate displays in public as well as within the home.

The Neapolitan crèche is perhaps the world’s most recognizable and popular nativity style. It places the Holy Family in the heart of 16th-century Naples, rather than a stable in Bethlehem. These elegant and elaborate scenes feature the Child Jesus in the midst not only of adoring angels and shepherds, but also among merchants, musicians and commoners; literally at the center of the life of the community.

The centerpiece and seven other nativity scenes are from Bottega D’Arte Presepiale Cantone & Costabile, in Naples, all designed exclusively for the K of C Museum exhibition.

Cantone & Costabile was selected last year by Pope Francis for creation of the Vatican nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. One of the scenes on display at the K of C museum was inspired by the crèche chosen by the Pope.

Artist Antonio Cantone, who installed his work at the museum in New Haven, proudly said that his crèche was the first of Neapolitan design to grace the piazza outside St. Peter’s Basilica. “Pope Francis liked how all the people were positioned in awe around the Baby Jesus,” he said.

Italian-born Father Giandomenico Flora, rector of St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport, visited the museum and saw the artists from his native country at work installing their creations.

“The Italian tradition of the Christmas crèche is to reproduce not only the Nativity scene but also the whole town with all of its inhabitants,” said Father Flora. “The artists’ intention is to underline the humility of the Holy Family and, in particular, of Jesus who decided to come into the world in a stable without the majority of people realizing it.”

In addition to the exhibition, the museum will feature its Christmas Tree Festival, with 24 trees trimmed and decorated with handmade ornaments by Catholic school children from across Connecticut. The festival’s opening celebration is scheduled for Saturday, December 6, from 1-4 pm, with the Yuletide Carolers, children’s crafts and a visit from St. Nicholas. The museum will also host a Christmastime Family Day on Sunday, December 28, from 12-3 p.m., with live music, family activities and an opportunity to enjoy the Christmas trees and crèches with extended family and friends.

(The Knights of Columbus Museum is located at 1 State Street in New Haven and is open 10 am- 5 pm daily with free admission and parking. For information, call 203.865.0400 or visit

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Unsung heroes: Sister Nancy Strillacci, ASCJ
| December 02, 2014


When it comes to producing a weekly blog, I am always looking for ways to make my life a little easier. That is, I am looking for a ready source of ideas that people will find interesting and appealing.

This past week, it occurred to me that I can do an ongoing series about “unsung heroes” here in our own diocese, and perhaps beyond! The focus on unsung heroes will not be the only topic I write about going forward, but it can be a recurring topic or theme when the time, occasion and particular subjects are rightly aligned.

Here, the English major in me has to make a note. Traditionally, the feminine for “hero” in the English language is “heroine,” but because popular usage has made the word “hero” a more or less unisex term, we are going to embrace modernity in this blog and apply the words “hero” and “heroes” to both boys and girls and men and women.

The “unsung heroes” theme actually began with my blog about Brian D. Wallace, our creative art director in the Office of Communications, written a few weeks back (you can find it in my blog archives, beneath my four latest blog posts).

My next subject in this series, about whom I will now expound, is Sister Nancy Strillacci, a Consecrated Religious member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus order. Sr. Nancy, as she is known, is the delegate for Religious in the Office of Clergy and Religious for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

She is one of over 300 women Religious who serve in the Diocese of Bridgeport, and her position as delegate for Religious has given her a prominent role in fostering communication between Religious men and women, and their various orders, and the clergy and staff of the diocese.

As a trusted liaison between the women and men Religious who serve the diocese and himself, Bishop Caggiano has appointed Sr. Nancy to chair a specially formed committee which will help the diocese worthily celebrate this “2015 Year of Consecrated Life,” which began on the first Sunday of Advent.

The opening liturgy for the Year of Consecrated Life was celebrated on November 30 at St Cecilia Church in Stamford. Bishop Caggiano was the principal celebrant and homilist.

Earlier that day, I celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s in Redding, and then enjoyed a delicious brunch at the newly restored Spinning Wheel Inn, just down Route 58 from St. Patrick’s.

After brunch, I decided to make my way to Stamford a little early, with the hopes of getting in some quiet prayer time. When I pulled into the parking lot at St. Cecilia, the only other car there was Sr. Nancy’s, and she was in the process of lugging material into the church to prepare for the Mass and the reception.

“You’re here early,” she said to me. Thankfully, I presumed that the Holy Spirit had whisked me down from Redding to be of assistance to Sr. Nancy. Sometimes, prayer is action! After helping Sr. Nancy with some of the preparations, including unfurling a large poster of the Pope that she had ordered for the occasion, I did get some quiet time to pray in the back of the church before Mass began.

I think it was then that it occurred to me to write this blog about Sr. Nancy.

She was surprised that I had arrived so early for the liturgy, but no one would have noticed that she herself arrived more than an hour before the liturgy, to make sure that the programs for the Mass, special prayer cards and the reserved seating signs were all in place before the bishop, concelebrants and congregants arrived.

Her office, like her ministry, is somewhat hidden from view. When walking past her door, perhaps a glimpse of her habit is visible through a narrow opening that indicates she is at her desk.

She works quietly, and tirelessly, largely hidden from view.

But her ministry is of immense importance to the diocese. It includes a vast range of areas, yet remains personal.

Although she is the delegate for Religious men and women in the diocese, Sr. Nancy’s largest responsibilities pertain to the priests of the diocese. She plays an important role in the ongoing formation of priests, including the organizing of clergy days and the recently concluded Convocation 2014.

Sr. Nancy Strillacci, ASCJ, is truly an unsung hero of our diocese, and this blog post is just a token of the recognition she richly deserves.

There have been 254 visit(s) to this blog post.

Wake up the World!
| December 02, 2014


STAMFORD—Pope Francis has proclaimed the liturgical year 2015 to be a year in honor of Consecrated Life.

This special year of grace began on November 30, 2014—the first Sunday of Advent—and will extend through 2015 until February 2, 2016.

In this new year of grace, the Diocese of Bridgeport was quick to honor the hundreds of religious women and men who serve in the diocese. At a special Mass in honor of consecrated life on November 30 at St. Cecilia Church in Stamford, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the principal celebrant and homilist at a liturgy attended by many of the women and men religious who currently serve in the diocese.
The theme of this year of consecrated life is “Wake up the world!” In his homily (excerpted below), Bishop Caggiano reflected on the many ways that Religious men and women “awaken” us to the presence of Jesus in our midst. “It is your witness that calls us back to the tried and true paths that will lead us to recognize Jesus Christ in the ordinary moments of daily life,” he said.
After the liturgy, all in attendance were invited to a reception where food and fellowship were enjoyed in abundance.
Bishop Caggiano aptly summarized the feelings of many when he spoke personally during his homily to the gathering of Religious women and men. He said, “Allow me to begin this Year of Consecrated Life by saying to each and every one of you—on behalf of all of those whom you have served and continue to serve, and whom you have touched by your presence—thank you for your fidelity to Jesus Christ, your Shepherd of Love.”
In addition to a program for the Mass, attendees were given a special prayer card with a prayer for this year of grace. Catholics are encouraged to pray daily the following prayer:
Prayer for the year of Consecrated Life
O God, throughout the ages you have called
Women and men to pursue lives of perfect
charity through the evangelical counsels of
poverty, chastity and obedience. During this
Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks
for these courageous witness of Faith and
models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy
lives teaches us to make a more perfect
offering of ourselves to you. Continue to
enrich your Church by calling forth sons and
daughters who, having found the pearl of great
price, treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above
all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.

Condensed excerpts from Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s Homily
At Mass in Honor of Consecrated Life
St. Cecilia Church, Stamford, Conn.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, when the Holy Father called all of us, the Church, to celebrate this unique time, when we will reflect on the beauty of consecrated life and celebrate your ministry and presence in our midst, I think it was an inspired act of grace that he chose this Sunday to begin the celebrations that will extend through 2015 and beyond.
Of all of the liturgical seasons of the year, Advent—this great celebration of the Kingdom of God—seems one of perhaps many ways that you and I can spend together exploring the beauty, the uniqueness of the vocation God has called each of you to live in our midst.
It seems to me that it is the very Kingdom of God which is at the foundation of not only discipleship, but consecrated life, in all of its forms. For in this great season of Advent, you and I recall the multiple comings of Christ.
We recall His coming in Bethlehem, into history, the Eternal Son of the Father, taking human flesh in order to redeem all of humanity, freeing us from sin and death and giving us the promise of eternal life.
We believe that the King born in Bethlehem will come a second time, not in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, but in power and majesty, calling the living and the dead to judgment, and bringing healing and peace to all of creation.
Between His first and second coming, Jesus comes to us in countless ways, in acts of charity, mercy and forgiveness, and sheer presence in the faith which you and I share with one another.
This season is one way for us to break open the beauty of your vocation to the whole Church.
When Jesus Christ first came into the world, He chose to come in poverty, as the Shepherd of Love; love like a fire that burns. It is that Shepherd of Love to whom you have consecrated your life.
Jesus Christ is the Divine Person to whom you have given everything. And by what you do, but more importantly, by who you are, you lead all people to Jesus, born in Bethlehem, the true King of the World.
By the witness you give on a daily basis to Jesus Christ, you remind us all of the call to justice and righteousness in our world. The Kingdom of God demands that we change, and convert our lives, and seek Jesus Christ more and more each day in all that we do, because the Kingdom will come at a time we do not know, and it is for us to be faithful, to the end, until He comes in glory.
We live in a world that is forgetful of God’s presence. Many of us are looking for God in the wrong places—even people of faith! And it is your witness that calls us back to the tried and true paths that will lead us to recognize Jesus Christ in the ordinary moments of daily life.
You stand in our midst, having vowed poverty—detachment from the things of this world—in order to better serve Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In a world that forgets chastity, purity and integrity of life, your witness calls us back to the center. In obedience to God’s will in your lives, you draw us back to the King of Love.
At this, the first of this year’s many celebrations of the beauty and richness of the lives that you live in our midst—the unique and irreplaceable vocation of consecrated women and men—allow me to begin this Year of Consecrated Life by saying to each and every one of you—on behalf of all of those whom you have served and continue to serve, and whom you have touched by your presence—thank you for your fidelity to Jesus Christ, your Shepherd of Love.
All of us pray that the Lord will continue to grant you health, joy and peace in your current ministries and in the years ahead. For in a world that is forgetful of God’s presence in our midst, it seems to me that consecrated life, in all of its forms, is needed now more than ever. You stand in our midst, leading us to Jesus Christ. May we always have the grace and wisdom to follow your lead.

St. Catherine’s helps children have a Christmas
| December 01, 2014


RIVERSIDE—This is the 10th year parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Parish have collected boxes for children in less fortunate countries.

Through a project called Samaritans Purse, they collected over 300 hundred boxes this year. Samaritan's Purse first began collecting shoe box gifts in 1993. Since then 113,705,780 shoebox gifts have been distributed. These boxes get delivered all over the world to less fortunate children from ages 2-14. Each child gets a Bible Study booklet in their own language telling them about Jesus.

The parish youth, under the leadership of Janet Wrabel, director of Youth Ministry, folded 400 boxes and stored them in an unused confessional, ready for the distribution after all Masses the first weekend in November. The filled boxes were collected on November 17 and brought by van to a collection point where an 18 wheeler was waiting.  The boxes were brought down to South Carolina where they are readied for distribution to children in war-torn countries who have very little. These shoeboxes will bring these youngsters the spirit of Christmas. Helping with the distribution were Carol Weigold, Chris Garafolo and Claudette Benvenuto.

Everyone deserves a home
| December 01, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Just imagine for a moment that you have no home.

What will you do for meals today? Where will you shower? Where will you sleep? If you have children, how will you provide for them?

And how will you cope with being homeless tomorrow, next week, next month?

Such imaginations are distressing. Aren’t they?

Last winter I took imagining what it would be like to be homeless one step further. I lived one day in Baltimore as a homeless man trying to stay warm and fed. From street, to soup kitchen, to shelter I ventured.
I learned a lot that day about how rough it is to have no place to call your own. But later that night my experience as a homeless person ended. I got in my vehicle and headed for home.
But for 100 million people throughout the world, not having a home to go to each night is a hard, sad reality (61st session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights).
And in the U.S., according to the National Coalition for the Homeless (, 3.5 million people – 39 percent of which are children – have no place to call home.
Recently I spoke with Ken Leslie, a former homeless alcoholic and drug addict, who is now a leading advocate for people who have no home. Based in Toledo, Ohio, Leslie founded 1Matters (, an organization inviting each of us to “Be 1 that matters to 1 that matters.”
As their motto indicates, 1-on-1 relationships help break down homeless stereotypes and build community.

One major stereotype is the word “homeless” itself. Because the word “homeless” often conjures up negative images of people – which in most cases are completely untrue – Leslie prefers using the word “unhoused.”
A model project of 1Matters is “Tent City.” Every year on the last weekend of October, Tent City brings together doctors, nurses, medical students, social workers and over 500 other caring souls to serve the unhoused.
Recently—October 24-26, 2014—Tent City celebrated its 25th anniversary. On Toledo’s Civic Center Mall, under several tents, approximately 1,000 unhoused and marginally housed fellow human beings received medical treatment, prescriptions, job and housing assistance, I.D. acquisition, haircuts, food, clothing, commitment to follow-up care and lots of love.
To watch an inspiring video on Tent City go to And then kindly consider how a Tent City could be started in your town or city. You can contact Ken Leslie for assistance at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Another outstanding program of 1Matters is “Veterans Matter.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs there are over 49,000 homeless veterans on the streets of America. And while many of them qualify for government rental assistance, they lack the upfront deposit needed to get an apartment.

Veterans Matter has provided deposits for approximately 500 veterans to date in several states. You can help an unhoused veteran get off the street and into decent housing by making a donation at
Everyone deserves a home. And National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week—November 15-23—is an ideal time to get started in helping to make a difference in the lives of unhoused people.  
The social doctrine of the Catholic Church clearly teaches that safe, decent housing is a basic human right. And that individuals, governments and society in general have a moral obligation to help end homelessness.

In the spirit of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who help the unhoused, for they shall find a home in heaven.”     
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists
| December 01, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking.

On the evening of November 11, at historic St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Baltimore, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis and Bishop John Michael Botean, head of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of St. George in Canton, Ohio, broke bread with about 20 Catholic peace activists including myself, and dialogued with us about how the Catholic Church could shift from a “just war” to a “just peace” doctrine and spirituality.

Eli McCarthy, director of justice and peace for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, started the dialogue off with a presentation on the theological developments of the concept of “just peace.”

He explained that by supporting cooperative conflict resolution, fostering just and sustainable economic development, advancing human rights and interdependence, significantly reducing weapons and the arms trade, education in nonviolent peacemaking and resistance, and nonviolent civilian-based defense we can help advance a peace founded on social justice and nonviolence.

He said, “War continues to create habits of war.” As we quickly move from one armed conflict to the next, this observation is beyond dispute.

Archbishop Tobin said, “War dehumanizes us.” To powerfully illustrate his point he said that during World War II, U.S. General Curtis LeMay, who planned and executed a massive bombing campaign against cities in Japan, said that Japanese make good kindling tinder.

LeMay also said, “Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.”

Bishop Botean said during the Chinese invasion of Tibet no one would have expected the Dalai Lama to tell his followers to take up arms to fight the Chinese. No one would have expected him to espouse violence. But in contrast, the general population does not expect Catholics to refuse the taking up of arms. In light of the nonviolent Jesus, there’s something wrong with this picture.

Bishop Botean also mentioned that he personally has given every U.S. Catholic bishop a copy of the prophetic book “Christian Just War Theory: The Logic of Deceit.” It’s definitely worth reading.

McCarthy reminded us that Jesus is the preeminent model of “just peace” in his “caring for the outcasts, loving and forgiving enemies, challenging the religious, political, economic and military powers, along with risking and offering his life on the cross to expose and transcend both injustice and violence.”

He added that Jesus’ new commandment to “love as I have loved you,” is a command to nonviolently love neighbors, strangers and even enemies.

A key question to ask ourselves according to McCarthy is “What kinds of people are we becoming?”

Are we becoming more understanding, forgiving, just, generous, compassionate, gracious, and peaceful? Do we love everyone unconditionally as God does? Are there sides to us as individuals and as a society that harbor selfishness, greed, anger, vengeance, violence, and indifference?

It was encouraging to hear two bishops and 20 lay people struggling with their consciences to discern how best to challenge the church and themselves to relinquish all ties to war and war preparation.

It would be well for all Christians to undertake a similar discernment, and honestly ask ourselves what the nonviolent Jesus is calling us to do.    
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Bishop re-promulgates Safe Environment policies
| November 29, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano issued a formal decree today, November 30, the First Sunday in Advent, re-promulgating the diocesan Safe Environments policies and practices for the protection of children and young people.

The policies and procedures, in accordance with The USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, have been brought together in the Safe Environment Handbook, 2015. The handbook is now available online.

More than 20,000 copies of the handbook will also be printed and distributed to Catholic Center and school employees, parish staff, priests and religious and volunteers throughout the diocese during the month of December.

“It has been ten years since the diocese rolled out its initial policies, and much has happened since then not only in our understanding of how to protect children but also in the development of social media outlets that put them at great risk. Building on our successful policies and continuously updating them is consistent with the USCCB Charter and it’s the right thing to do,” said Bishop Caggiano.

“If anything, Safe Environment efforts are even more integral to our work and mission as an organization,” said the bishop. “Our new policies improve on the good work done over the past decade by refocusing everything we’ve learned about the protection of children and incorporating best practices from across the country,” said the bishop.

The new policies, developed after months of planning, review and research, include detailed information on topics including the complaint procedure for the investigation and reporting of incidents, actions to address incidents, pastoral care for victims, the role of the Sexual Misconduct Review Board, compliance with civil laws, and outreach to affected parishes.

The booklet also contains the diocesan Code of Conduct, Sexual Harassment Policy, Background Check Policy and extensive guidelines for the supervision and protection of children related to all parishes, schools and other activities sponsored by the diocese.

Erin Neil, director of the diocesan Safe Environment Office, said that the new handbook answers many questions that are frequently asked by people across the diocese when they are sponsoring or participating in activities involving children, whether it be a parish retreat or a school trip.

“Our goal is to reinforce the Diocese of Bridgeport’s efforts to ensure the safest possible environment for children and young people through comprehensive policies, so that adults and minors have important information on how to identify warning signs of abuse and how to properly report suspected abuse to the diocese and to civil authorities,” said Neil, who will now report directly to Bishop Caggiano as part of the recent diocesan restructuring.

To report suspected abuse involving a minor, recently or in the past, contact: Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., diocesan director of Safe Environments: 203.650.3265; or Michael Tintrup, L.C.S.W., victim assistance counselor: 203.241.0987. Mandated reporters must also directly report any incident of sexual abuse of a minor to the State of Connecticut Child Abuse and Neglect care line: 800.842.2288.

(To register to attend VIRTUS, Protecting God’s Children for Adults, visit Select “Registration” and select “Bridgeport Diocese.”)

Read Bishop Caggiano’s Decree re-promulgating Safe Environment policies

Read Bishop Caggiano’s November 30, Letter to the Faithful concerning Safe Environment initiatives

Click for a copy of the Safe Environment Handbook

Holiday food distribution links sister parishes
| November 27, 2014 • by By Frank Juliano,


BRIDGEPORT—An hour after the doors opened Wednesday morning, volunteers at Blessed Sacrament Church had distributed more than 500 grocery bags—each with enough food to feed a family of four for a week.

Vassos Vassiliou, a volunteer from St. Michael's Church in Greenwich, carries turkeys to the waiting needy during the Thanksgiving food distribution at Blessed Sacrament Church at 275 Union Avenue in Bridgeport, Conn. on Wednesday, November 26, 2014. Photo: Brian A. Pounds

But at least 1,000 more food bags were lined up in front of the room-length radiator in the parish hall, and the distribution was set to continue into the early afternoon.

Once outside, recipients could exchange a blue ticket for one of the frozen turkeys that the Rev. Joseph "Skip" Karcsinski, the pastor, and other volunteers were passing out from the back of a refrigerated truck.

"This is how we'll eat tomorrow," one woman said on her way out of the hall.

She opened the bag for a reporter to see inside. There were cans of green beans and corn, a box of stuffing and another of mashed potatoes, coffee, apple cider, a packet of gravy mix, popcorn, raisins and breakfast cereal.

Another woman asked to be admitted even though her drivers' license did not have an address in the East End. The church's immediate neighborhood gets priority. As each hour went by, another Bridgeport ZIP code was included.

"I live on Connecticut Avenue with my mother," the woman told Ann LeStrange, director of the church's food pantry. "I don't have any mail with that address on it."

The situation was resolved and the woman, who also asked not to be identified, got her food.

The holiday food distribution has gone on for nearly 30 years at Blessed Sacrament, and the program gets bigger every year, said Jackie Soares, one of the coordinators.

"We're connected to St. Michael (the Archangel) Church, in Greenwich, as sister parishes, and they help us a lot," Soares said.

The Blessed Sacrament gospel choir also performs at Masses in other parishes, in exchange for donated food items to stock its pantry shelves, she said.

Chris Cosenza, 12, helped carry in bags and boxes of donated food, "because I like to help people," he said.

"There are a lot of poor people in this area that can use the help," the Stamford resident said.

About a dozen St. Michael's parishioners also brought two U-Haul trucks filled with donated food to the Bridgeport church hall on Tuesday night, coordinator Ted Conforti said.

"Our overall effort included about 75 people and provided about half the food that's being distributed," he said. "Some of the volunteers are members of the Confirmation class who are earning community service hours by participating."

Bishop Caggiano celebrates Mass at Trinity Catholic High School for blessing of food donations
| November 26, 2014


STAMFORD—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano joined the Trinity Catholic High School community for our annual Thanksgiving Mass on November 25. 

Our students collected over 6000 lbs of food for those in need, showing the love of Christ to all. Thank you students!

Check out what our Catholic Youth are doing in our community, as well as upcoming events and  to find a Youth Group in your area by going to

Check out World Youth Day 2016 Information session and Youth Mass with Bishop Caggiano on December 12. WYD info session presented by Dube Travel on travel details, scholarships and more will be held at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport from 5-7pm, followed by a Youth Mass at 7pm at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.  If you are currently in middle school and will be 16 years old by 2016—this means you! For more info email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Click here for photos.

Students experience the power of prayer
| November 25, 2014


DARIEN—On October 20, middle school students at St. Thomas More Parish celebrated a Living Rosary. 

Each student recited a prayer of the Rosary aloud and lit a candle to symbolize the power of prayer, participating in the Joyful and the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. For information on St. Thomas More go to:

Thanksgiving Message from Bishop Caggiano
| November 25, 2014


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At a time when we as a nation express our gratitude for our good fortune and the many blessings we have in our lives, I want to take this opportunity to thank the many donors, volunteers and others who have given so generously throughout the year.

 With your prayerful support we have been able to reach out with compassion to people in need throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport:

  • 1.5 million meals served at Catholic Charities soup kitchens, food pantries and senior nutrition sites
  • 15,000 clinical counseling sessions provided to individuals and families at risk
  • A diocesan network of senior housing through Bishop Curtis Homes, as well as transitional housing serving 200 people who would otherwise be homeless
  • Over 9,000 children of all faiths in Catholics elementary and high schools
  • 38,000 young people in religious education in parishes
  • Mass is said in 16 languages in 420 liturgies every week
  • Thousands of volunteers working in our soup kitchens and feeding programs, and hundreds more who serve on parish and diocesan boards

Thanksgiving reminds us that we should always be grateful to God for our lives and talents. As Catholics, at every Mass, we pray, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” Let us be happy that Christ has shared his life with us, and in our gratitude, let us continue to put or faith in action through service to others.

On behalf of the entire Diocesan family, I offer my prayers and best wishes to you and your family as we observe this national holiday of Thanksgiving.


Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport

From the Pastor’s Desk
| November 25, 2014 • by By Monsignor Chris Walsh


A Thanksgiving Spiritual Reflection

By Monsignor Chris Walsh

What would we have seen if we were there with the Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day? A group of huddled men, women and children, poorly clothed, weakened, heads bowed over a simple meal, eyes shut in fervent prayer. They had arrived in New England late the previous year. During that first terrible winter, and the lean months awaiting their first harvest, half their number died through hunger and disease. They were absolutely alone: no way to communicate with England, no certainty of their fate at the hands of these strange, primitive natives or the brutal New England winter, huddling in hastily built cabins where the cold wind whistled through gaps in the rough-hewn planks.

Yet they gathered to give thanks. Thanks to God, who they believed had called them to this new land where they could live their Christian faith in peace. All they possessed with certainty was this strong faith in God and their deeply held love for each other, “the assembly of Christ’s Elect.” And still they believed in the depths of their hearts, as the motto of the State of Connecticut so eloquently professes (the motto we, their modern heirs, have so completely forgotten), “Qui transtulit sustinet”: “He [the God] who brought us here will sustain us.”

Last Sunday I received an emergency call to rush to the Bridgeport Hospital E.R. Kim, age 30, a life-long parishioner, had just suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in the afternoon while watching television at home with her husband Joel, age 33. That evening, before she was taken by helicopter to Yale Medical Center, I anointed her, praying for her complete healing through the intercession of Father Michael McGivney. Kim, a Bridgeport schoolteacher, has been since March the chief organizer of our parish’s new, vibrant Young Adult Group. She and Joel spent two recent summers working as lay missionaries in Ethiopia, described in the Fairfield County Catholic. And they had just begun the week before excitedly telling friends, including myself, that they were expecting their first child.

I invited Joel and the family members into a private room in the Bridgeport E.R. Holding hands, we prayed: Psalm 91, John chapter 14, the Litany of the Saints, an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. At such moments all you have is your faith and your love. And then you learn that those first Pilgrims, Christian Puritans, got it right: especially when surrounded by grave dangers and fears, that is when we need to rely totally, solely on faith in God and his love. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118: 29). Have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

Monsignor Chris


Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Happy Eucharistein!
| November 24, 2014


I had to do some research for this blog. Although research can be tedious, it is usually rewarded with the gift of increased knowledge. Again, I have to give the Internet a big “thumbs up” for allowing me to do some significant research in a rapid manner. Despite the pitfalls of our online culture, in my opinion, the Internet is and can be a huge boon for all who are seeking to increase their knowledge about God and the Catholic faith.

First, our English word, Eucharist, is taken from the Greek verb, Eucharistein. At first, I thought that Eucharist was taken from the Greek word, Eucharistia, but Eucharistia is a noun. It took a little digging, but I finally found what I was looking for -- the verb form of Eucharist, which is Eucharistein.

After finding the word, Eucharistein, I wondered if it was correct, because it sounds more German than Greek to me. Then again, languages (other than English), have never been my strong suit. To paraphrase John Belushi in “Animal House”: “Seven years of French down the drain!” (I bet you never thought I could mention “Animal House” and the Eucharist in the same blog post! ).

What I determined through online research is that our Eucharist is primarily a verb rather than a noun. Eucharist, from the Greek, means “to give thanksgiving.” Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are giving thanksgiving to God, in the most perfect way possible. This is what Vatican II speaks about when it encourages us to have a “conscious” participation in the liturgy.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be taken as a liturgical unity that comprises the highest, most perfect prayer of thanksgiving that we can offer to God. It is Catholic doctrine that no prayer is more pleasing to God than one’s participation in the Mass.

Each time we celebrate Mass, we are giving perfect praise and thanksgiving to God, in prayer and action taught to us by Jesus himself, culminating in the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper.

When we sit down this year to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal, it is important to remember that this American celebration was never intended to be purely secular. As with many traditions in American society, militant atheists and an over-reaching relativism has rendered many Christian traditions merely “popular,” in the sense that they are for the people, regardless of religious beliefs or non-beliefs.

As Catholics, it is good to participate in our national holiday of Thanksgiving, but it is also important to remember its Christian roots. In terms of apologetics, it is good for Catholics to be secure in their knowledge of Christian American history, because there are many who claim today that America was never founded “as a Christian country.”

While it is good for Catholics to celebrate Thanksgiving Day as an American national holiday, it is more important for Catholics to remember that we “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day” each Sunday by celebrating the Holy Eucharist. The Catholic life requires that we be a people who give thanksgiving to God!

To support my claim that we were indeed founded as a Christian country, and that we risk ruin as a nation by trying to “cleanse” ourselves of our Christian identity, I have pasted below respectively the Thanksgiving proclamations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It is hard for me to believe that I was born only 100 years or so after Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation. Oh, how things have changed in America!

It might be a good tradition to print these proclamations out and have a good reader proclaim them to any and all gathered at your table on Thanksgiving Day! It is always good for us as Americans to remember the historical foundations of our traditions, but it is also important to remember the important role that thanksgiving to God has played in our public, civic and personal lives as Americans.


Thanksgiving Proclamation


Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go. Washington


Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."

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The Friendsgiving Potluck dinner at St. Theresa's was a success
| November 24, 2014


TRUMBULL—The First Annual Young Adult Friendsgiving Potluck dinner took place Friday, November 21 at St. Theresa's Parish in Trumbull.

St. Theresa's Parish, (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) who teamed up with St. John the Evangelist Parish from Stamford (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) to host the event.

With this annual event, we are starting a presence in the Diocese of Bridgeport to share events and fellowship with other Young Adults in Fairfield County.

For news and events on Catholic Young Adults (ages 21-35): Next up: Social at Two Roads Brewery in Stratford (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) on December 6 and DJ Ice Skate December 5 in Danbury (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))!

Catholic Young Adults are meeting in groups all around Fairfield County and the Diocese of Bridgeport. 

St. Thomas More Youth Group faith in action
| November 24, 2014


DARIEN—The St. Thomas More Youth Group had 26 teens raked 11 homes of elderly and homebound seniors in Darien on November 8. 

St. Thomas More Youth Group making pies for New Covenant House.

The group also gathered in the Parish Hall to make over 40 pies for the New Covenant House in Stamford. The teens worked hard to share the spirit of Thanksgiving to their community. To find a youth group in Fairfield County CT For more info on Catholic Youth in the Diocese of Bridgeport email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

"We owe you a tremendous debt" - Bishop tells retired Priests
| November 21, 2014


STAMFORD—More than 50 retired priests, donors and invited guests gathered today for groundbreaking of the $3.5 million expansion of the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy Retired Priests’ Residence.

Describing the new project as an “exciting and historic moment,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said the groundbreaking was another step forward for the diocese. He thanked the staff for their dedicated service to the priests and donors for their generosity in making the expansion possible.

Directly addressing the many retired priests who were present for the groundbreaking ceremony, Bishop Caggiano said “While it’s exciting to build, what is at the heart of our celebration here today is that my brother priests in residence here represents 1,000 years of faithful services to the Diocese together. We owe you a tremendous debt.”

The Bishop said that the expansion ceremony for the 16 new suites was also a time “to pause for a moment and remember that we can do nothing without the grace of God. In the end, the Holy Spirit guides us in everything we do.”

He then added, “ Let his be a house of grace, health and peace for all who live here.”

Msgr. William Scheyd , Vicar General of the Diocese, welcomed the guests and said the expansion will serve priests for many years to come.

“It does a lot for priests morale to know that we’re appreciated at this time in our lives,” Msgr. Scheyd said, noting that 12 priests will be waiting to move into the new wing when it is finished in late 2015.

Msgr. Scheyd said that plans for the residence began in 1998 when Cardinal Edward Egan and he toured other facilities. Prior to that time, retired priests, along with Bishop Walter Curtis, lived in a wing of the former St. Joseph Medical Center.

Msgr. Louis A. DeProfio, Director of the retired priests’ residence said that it has become a true home for priests where they can share friendship “and the common bond of brotherly love.” He said it was also a place that brought them together in prayer and enabled them to live independently.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held in the community room of the 22,000 square foot facility with a warm fire blazing in the stone hearth at the center of the room. The Bishop and others then walked out into a blistering cold afternoon for the ceremonial photos with golden shovels and hardhats.

The diocese has launched a $3.5 million capital campaign to fund the construction of the new wing, which will include 16 suites for retired priests. The residence currently houses 19 men between the ages of 75 and over 90 years old.

“With the groundbreaking, we begin the public phase of the campaign,” said William McLean, Chief Financial Officer of the Diocese. “To date, through the generosity of 60 donors, more than $2.3 million has been raised.”

By 2015, there will be 80 priests in the Diocese of Bridgeport over the age of 75. Many of the men continue to serve in parishes and enrich the sacramental life of the diocese. They deserve our support and commitment,” McLean said.

Construction of the first 10 suites will be completed and ready for occupation by Fall 2015. The remaining six units will be built as the funds become available.

Each retired priest will have a sitting room, bedroom, bath and small kitchenette. All residents will have access to a chapel, community room, library, exercise room and dining area.

The age of priest retirement in the Diocese of Bridgeport is 75 years old, and most remain active by helping out in parishes on weekends, visiting hospitals and other assignments. In addition to those residing at the residence, many retired priests continue to live in parishes or on their own.

The Queen of Clergy Retired Priests Residence is an independent living facility located on the campus of St. Bridget of Ireland Parish in Stamford on Strawberry Hill Avenue. It opened it doors on January 28, 2000.

To make a gift, call Pam Rittman, 203.416.1479 or make an online contribution by visiting the Diocesan website at:

Click here to view slideshow

Diocese to break ground for Queen of Clergy Expansion
| November 21, 2014


STAMFORD— A groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the Catherine Dennis Keefe, Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests’ Residence will be held on Friday, November 21, 4pm at 274 Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will lead the groundbreaking and prayer ceremony for donors and invited guests. A reception will immediately follow.

The diocese has launched a $3.5 million capital campaign to fund the construction of the new wing, which will include 16 suites for retired priests. The residence currently houses 19 men between the ages of 75 and over 90 years old.

“With the groundbreaking, we begin the public phase of the campaign,” said William McLean, Chief Financial Officer of the Diocese. “To date, through the generosity of 60 donors, more than $2.3 million has been raised.” By 2015, there will be 80 priests in the Diocese of Bridgeport over the age of 75. Many of the men continue to serve in parishes and enrich the sacramental life of the diocese. They deserve our support and commitment,” McLean said. Construction of the first 10 suites will be completed and ready for occupation by Fall 2015. The remaining six units will be built as the funds become available.

Each retired priest will have a sitting room, bedroom, bath and small kitchenette. All residents will have access to a chapel, community room, library, exercise room and dining area.

The age of priest retirement in the Diocese of Bridgeport is 75 years old, and most remain active by helping out in parishes on weekends, visiting hospitals and other assignments. In addition to those residing at the residence, many retired priests continue to live in parishes or on their own.

The Queen of Clergy Retired Priests Residence is an independent living facility located on the campus of St. Bridget of Ireland Parish in Stamford on Strawberry Hill Avenue. It opened it doors on January 28, 2000.

To make a gift, call Pam Rittman, 203-416-1479 or make an online contribution by visiting the Diocesan website at:

"It's a wonderful life" at Trinity Catholic High School
| November 21, 2014


STAMFORD—"It's a Wonderful Life" by Trinity Catholic High School players held in the Trinity Catholic Auditorium, 926 Newfield Ave., Stamford December 11, 12 and 13 at 7pm.

Terrific for all ages! Purchase tickets online at or call 203.322.3401 (8:30am-3:30pm).  Advance ticket purchases will be held for pickup at the door prior to the performance.

Click here for poster.

Deacon Domingo Reverón
| November 21, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Deacon Domingo Reverón, Sr., a deacon at St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, died on November 9 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. He was 78 years old.

Deacon Reverón was born in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, and had come Bridgeport as a young man. He had attended seminary for four years in Puerto Rico; after coming to this area he helped to introduce the Cursillo movement to the Diocese of Bridgeport, starting first at the former St. Anthony Parish in Bridgeport and then at St. Peter's. Cursillo is now widespread, holding monthly ultreya meetings throughout the diocese.

He was ordained as a permanent deacon in 1979, becoming the first Hispanic to be ordained deacon in the Diocese of Bridgeport. During his years of service as deacon he was involved in the Marriage Encounter program, assisting in the counseling of many married couples.

He was employed as a chef for over 38 years at the United Methodist Homes, and served as a City Council member during the administration of Bridgeport Mayor Nick Panuzio. He was predeceased by his wife, Milagros, who died in 2012. The couple were married for more than 55 years.

Among other relatives in this diocese, he is survived by three sons: John, Domingo, Jr., and Geraldo; his daughter Gladys; two grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Deacon Reverón was received into St. Peter Church for a vigil on November 12. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the principal celebrant at Mass of Christian Burial for Deacon Reverón the following morning. Msgr. Aniceto Villamide, pastor of St. Peter’s, delivered the homily. Interment followed in St. Michael Cemetery in Bridgeport.

Trumbull OKs conversion of bishop’s residence into seminary
| November 20, 2014 • by by the CT Post


TRUMBULL—The Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport is asking the Trumbull Planning and Zoning for permission to convert the bishop's residence on Daniels Farm Road in Trumbull into a seminary in an effort to downsize.

Photo by: Autumn Driscoll

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano could be getting some company at his Daniels Farm Road home. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport on Wednesday received approval for a text change to the town's zoning regulations that opens the door for the conversion of the bishop's residence into a seminary.

The diocese's application before the Planning and Zoning Commission asked the town to include seminaries—colleges that prepare individuals to become priests, ministers or rabbis—as a permitted use in a residential zone. Diocesan officials will now apply to add a 10,000-square-foot wing to the back of the existing two-story structure.

The request is part of Caggiano's plans to reorganize and cut costs across the diocese.

To view article online at CT Post click here

Send joy around the world
| November 20, 2014


BROOKFIELD—St. Joseph School first and seventh graders recently completed a service project as they participated in Operation Christmas Child; a program run by the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.

At St. Joseph's the seventh graders are "buddies" to the first graders. With the help of their teachers, Jeanne Vitetta in the first grade and Kathi Benzing in the seventh, students worked together to pack shoeboxes filled with a variety of items for children ages 5-9.

Each first grader has a seventh grade buddy and each buddy pair filled, wrapped and made wrapping paper for a shoebox. Shoeboxes were filled with school supplies, small toys, hygiene items, and accessories. The students wrote personal notes to include in the boxes and made wrapping paper to cover the boxes.

The shoeboxes are sent to children in need throughout the world. The first and seventh graders, along with their teachers, felt the true Christmas spirit as they were able to spread joy through giving.

Fairfield Prep’s Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive collects food for needy families
| November 20, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Prep's annual Thanksgiving Food Drive successfully collected hundreds of bags of much-needed food for Bridgeport area families, filling Arrupe Hall!

Pictured are student government representatives—
front row from left: Kevin Gallagher, James Ruddy,
Ryan McMullin, Vito Ciambriello, James Mangan,
Matt Pompa. Back row from left: Aidan Coyle,
Jack Thornton, George Crist, Ryan Matera, AJ Mansolillo,
Jemuel Saint Jean and Bobby Haskins.

Students filled two large transport vans with bags of food for Action for Bridgeport Community Development, Inc., which works to provide Thanksgiving dinner for over 2,000 families.

Kolbe Cathedral High School Student wins 2014 National Youth Network Entrepreneurship Challenge
| November 19, 2014 • by by David McCumber, CT POST


WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama greets the winners of the 2014 National Youth Network Entrepreneurship Challenge, in the Oval Office of the White House, November 18, 2014.

The President greets from left: runner up Jesse Horine, 19,
from Fort Mill, S.C.; first place winner Lily DeBell, 13,
from Baltimore, Md., and Runner up Ambar Romero, 16,
from Bridgeport, Conn. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As a business owner, Ambar Romero knows the value of networking. And Tuesday, the 16-year-old entrepreneur from Bridgeport made a very important business connection. That would be President Barack Obama.

Romero, a senior at Kolbe Cathedral High School, was honored at the White House as one of the three national finalists in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Her business is Styles by Ambar, an online thrift shop that collects and resells quality "preloved" clothing, shipping to customers worldwide. The business started in March and is going very well, Romero said Tuesday.

Meeting the president in the Oval Office was "an absolutely amazing experience," she said. "It's definitely something I will never forget. He was so calm and so welcoming."

Romero stressed that her business is "committed to helping the community and the environment." She says she donates a portion of her profits to organizations that help women in areas of health, education and careers.

Romero credited her entrepreneurship class teacher, Laura Grover, and her then-principal, JoAnne Jakab, who is now the school's president, with encouraging her to become involved in the Young Entrepreneurship Challenge, which drew 50,000 entrants nationwide. Romero was runnerup to national winner Lily DeBell, 13, of Baltimore.

She credited the Networks for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which provides classes on entrepreneurship in lower-income communities, for giving her the tools she needed to open her business.

Next is college. Romero says she's planning on attending "a four-year university and then getting my Masters." And she's vowing to run her business throughout.

"I'm talking with advisers now about how to make the business run with less of my time during college," she said, because she's determined to keep it going.

And after her Oval Office networking, she's sure that nothing is out of her reach.

Pope condemns attack on Jerusalem synagogue, urges end to violence
| November 19, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis condemned the "unacceptable episodes of violence" in Jerusalem, episodes that "do not spare even places of worship," after an attack in a synagogue left four worshippers, a policeman and the two attackers dead.

At the end of his general audience November 19, the day after the attack on the synagogue, Pope Francis said he was following "with concern the alarming increase of tensions in Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land."

The pope offered prayers for the victims of the attack carried out by two Palestinian cousins from East Jerusalem and for all those suffering the consequences of the attack.

"From the depths of my heart," he said, "I appeal to those involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and make courageous decisions in favor of reconciliation and peace."

"Making peace is difficult," he said, "but living without peace is a torment."

Shortly after the early morning synagogue attack, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem called for an end to all violence in the Holy Land.

"We are praying and waiting. We are sad," said Patriarch Twal. "We must, all people of responsibility, politicians and religious leaders, do our best in our positions to condemn this violence and avoid as much as possible the causes which lead other people to violence."

The attack occurred in the Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem, which is popular with the Anglo-Orthodox Jewish community. Three of the dead worshippers had dual Israeli-American citizenship; one had Israeli-British citizenship.

The two perpetrators of the attacks were killed at the scene by Israeli police.

"Violence leads to more violence," Patriarch Twal told Catholic News Service. He said he sent condolences to the families of all the victims of the recent wave of violence that has rocked Jerusalem as Israel moves toward expanding Jewish settlements in the area and Palestinians fear a Jewish presence on the shared holy site of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem's Old City.

According to a tenuous and contested status quo agreement, Jews are allowed to visit the site where, according to Jewish tradition, the Biblical Jewish temple stood and, but they are not allowed to pray there. According to Muslim tradition, it is the site where Muhammad ascended into heaven.

A day prior to the synagogue attack, a Palestinian bus driver who worked for an Israeli cooperative was found hanged in his bus at the terminal. Israeli police called the death a suicide after a medical investigation, but the man's family and the Palestinian media maintain that it was a lynching. Some have said the synagogue killings were in retaliation for his death.

"You can't occupy and then think people (will be quiet)," Patriarch Twal said, referring to Israel occupation of Palestinian lands. "We are against any kind of violence either from a state group or private groups."

"We are in a very bad situation and condemn the violence and assure the families who have lost loved ones of our prayers," he added. "It is very sad."

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land expressed "shock and horror" at the attack, calling it "horrendous."

"Such murderous deeds, especially in a house of worship, are the ultimate abuse of religion," said a statement from the council, which represents Israel's chief rabbinate, the Palestinian Authority Shariah courts, and local Christian leaders. "We call on all religious political and civic leaders to do their utmost to prevent the local political conflict from being turned into a religious war, the consequences of which will be disastrous for all."

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches general secretary, expressed concern and sadness over the attack.

"There is a particular horror in any such attack which takes place at a place of worship. I condemn this violence unequivocally, as I do all violence between the peoples and communities of this region which has seen so much bloodshed in the name of religion," he said. "Violence, collective punishments and communal attacks can only further damage the prospects of peace and justice for all."

Israelis were shocked by the attack on the worshippers, killed as they took part in the daily morning prayers at the popular neighborhood synagogue.

In past weeks, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has been sight of bloody confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians, and synagogues and mosques have been vandalized.

Over recent weeks, several Palestinians have been killed and injured in demonstrations in East Jerusalem, and several Israelis been killed and injured in attacks by Palestinians in the Jerusalem area and Tel Aviv.

Patriarch Twal said Jerusalem is a city of peace, not violence.

He said the recent attacks have shown that the walls built as a security barrier to separate the West Bank do not protect anyone from violence as long as there is occupation and injustice.

"There is no protection with walls. Only dignity and justice for all (will bring security,)" he said. "All this violence took place within the walls. We need more justice and comprehension."

Patriarch Twal noted that Christians in the Holy Land were preparing to celebrate Christmas and expressed concern that pilgrims would be afraid to come because of the violence.

"We hope that by Christmastime there will be no more revenge and no more killings," he said. He asked for prayers for the peace of Jerusalem, the Holy Land and all its inhabitants, so Jerusalem could return to its vocation as the city of peace.

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
“Nothing and no one is junk”
| November 18, 2014


Anne McCrory is the former chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport and is currently its chief legal and real estate officer (she is wearing the white jacket in accompanying photos).

Recently, she and her husband purchased a home, and a friend of theirs, Gina Barber, made them a housewarming gift. Gina is an artist, and she combined theology, spirituality and raw, physical materials to produce a work of art and devotion that will proudly hang in the McCrory home.

Each time Anne and her husband, and their family, friends and visitors look upon Gina’s gift, they will remember Gina’s kindness and thoughtfulness for creating such a powerful work of art, which is also a primary symbol of Jesus Christ. Gina’s gift is not only for house-warming, it is also a house-blessing!

Along with the gift, Gina attached a card with the following words:

This crucifix is made of scrap metal found along the paths I have traveled. Each piece is a representation of the elderly, poor, homeless and handicapped people who have been discarded, abandoned and forgotten in this world. Resurrecting these pieces into a symbol of ultimate Love and Salvation, is for me, a reminder that nothing and no one is junk. The greatest expression of faith, hope and love is to remember the castoffs and outcasts.

Caring for the poor and down-trodden is a focus of the Barber family. Gina’s husband, Al Barber, is the longtime director of Catholic Charities for the diocese. As they say, behind every great man, there is a great woman!

Behind the scenes, Gina scours the paths she traverses for castaways, and helps bring deep spiritual reflection to the work that she and her husband do for the needy in our diocese and beyond.


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Trinity Catholic girls soccer wins Sportsmanship Award
| November 18, 2014


STAMFORD—The Trinity Catholic High School Varsity Girls Soccer team was awarded the prestigious Brian Kelly Award for sportsmanship by the Southern Connecticut Soccer Officials Association. At a recent banquet the team was applauded for its conduct and character on the field of play.

After each game during the season officials give a sportsmanship score for each school and submits it to Larry Stowe, chairman of the SCSOA sportsmanship award committee. The Lady Crusaders were also congratulated for amassing the highest average score by unanimous vote of the 80 voting officials in the history of the award. On hand to receive this award for Trinity Catholic were head coach Mike Calle, Lady Crusader tri-captains, Anne Peltier, Laura Green and Christina Bellacicco along with assistant coach, Jennifer Calle.

St. Joseph High School Awarded State School Security Grant Funds
| November 17, 2014


TRUMBULL—St. Joseph High School in Trumbull has been awarded a $92,857 School Security Grant by Gov. Daniel P. Malloy.

The matching grant commits $185,750 for increased security measures at the school. Governor Malloy stated, "We want our schools—both private and public— to make their institutions as safe as possible."

William J Fitzgerald, PhD, President of St Joseph High School, said, "Safety is a top concern at St Joes. When students are comfortable and relaxed, academic achievement increases. When parents are less anxious, academic achievement increases. So safety is a priority. It’s great to know the Governor feels the same way. The grant not merely doubles our resources, it means we can make these enhancements immediately.”

The grant will strengthen security measures on campus by adding a computerized entry system, additional surveillance cameras, protective classroom enhancements, and will allow the school to increase surveillance at access points.

Ms. Jessica Morales, Admissions Director, stated that, “Safety and security is an important part of the conversation throughout the admissions process. Both students and parents seek a high school community that is comfortable and safe. We are committed to ensuring that safe atmosphere. The support from the State of Connecticut will only help us fulfill the promise.”

St Joseph High School is one of the 445 public and private schools to be included in the School Security Grant Program. 380 public schools and 65 private and religious schools will receive funds. A total of $22 million in state funding will be used to reimburse municipalities for a portion of the costs associated with security infrastructure improvements at 445 schools.

St Joseph High School is a co-ed, Catholic college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut, and provides a safe learning environment for 810 students.

For additional information please contact Dana Christos, Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications, at 203.378.9378 ext. 306 or via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

St Joseph High School, 2320 Huntington Tpke., Trumbull, CT 06611

A Toast to the Roast
| November 16, 2014


TRUMBULL—Larry Cafero is the former minority leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and he currently practices law in Norwalk. In his college days, he tried his hand at stand-up comedy, and if he never made it as a politician or a lawyer, he very well may have been another Seinfeld.

A longtime parishioner of St. Matthew’s Parish in Norwalk, Cafero was given the honor, or the burden, to be the master of ceremonies at a roast of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, held Sunday, November 16, at St. Catherine of Sienna Parish in Trumbull.

Click here to view a slideshow from the roast

The roast was a fundraiser for St. Margaret’s Shrine, located on Park Avenue in Bridgeport. It was the second annual roast for the shrine, and several months ago, Bishop Caggiano bravely accepted the invitation to be roasted.

In addition to roasting the bishop, the nearly 300 attendees participated in an auction for various prizes and then a raffle for other assorted prizes.

The festivities began with hors d'oeuvres and then moved on to a delicious hot italian buffet which included rigatoni a’ la vodka sauce, roast pork, and breaded chicken cutlets in a lemon white-wine sauce. At the conclusion of the event, Italian pastries were available for those who had room for dessert!

Before he started roasting Bishop Caggiano, Cafero asked an indulgence of the bishop. He said, “Bless me Father, for I am about to sin.” This brought the Catholic house down.

If Bishop Caggiano is known for anything thus far in the Diocese of Bridgeport, it is for the synod, a word which many Catholics do not know how to pronounce. Cafero kept referring to it as the “syn-ate,” which sounded a lot like “senate,” which may be a byproduct of all of his years in the halls of the capitol.

Cafero said that to him, a synod “sounds like a collection of little sins.”

Al Barber, the director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, also got in on the act. He presented Bishop Caggiano with a bobble-head doll of Pope Francis. Whenever Barber needed the Pope’s assent to keep pestering the bishop, he simply set the Pope’s head nodding.

Bishop Caggiano’s driving habits were a focus of Barber’s ribbing, as was the bishop’s somewhat difficult adjustment to life in Connecticut. In his Trumbull residence, the bishop has claimed that the night’s are so quiet that he finds it difficult to sleep. To make sure the bishop sleeps soundly, Barber said that he has tape-recorded some elevated trains, which should make the bishop feel like he is back home in Brooklyn.

Joshua St. Onge, a religion teacher at Notre Dame High School, singed the bishop with a musical interlude. St. Onge is also a cantor at several parishes, so he wrote lyrics set to a few broadway tunes, and roasted the bishop in song.

After St. Onge finished his musical parody, Cafero asked him if he had written the lyrics. St. Onge said that he had, and Cafero said, “You should be ashamed of yourself, making fun of the bishop like that!”

When the roasting was complete, Bishop Caggiano received a standing ovation for being such a good sport. With Thanksgiving coming, he said, “I have a new appreciation for the turkey as it slowly roasts in the oven.”

On a serious note, the bishop concluded the successful fundraiser by thanking everyone who helped put the event together and all of the staff and parishioners of St. Margaret Shrine. “We are all family,” Bishop Caggiano said. “The shrine is a place of prayer and rest, where we come to meet Jesus, Our Lady, and all of the angels and saints.”

Serving others is the heart of Catholic Social Teaching
| November 16, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Bishop Caggiano set the tone for the Eighth Annual CAPP Communion in his homily at the Egan Chapel of Fairfield University Breakfast, when he told the gathering of business leaders that the Gospel is an “antidote” to the current fallacy “that my life is all about me.”

Business leader and philanthropist Al DiGuido of Westport (left), recipient of the CAPP Business Leadership Award, is congratulated by Michael O'Rourke of Stamford at the Communion Breakfast held at Fairfield University

The breakfast was sponsored by Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) of Fairfield County and by the Center for Faith & Public Life of Fairfield University.

Click here to view a slideshow from the breakfast

Click here to watch the video

With over 200 men and women gathered in the Egan Chapel for Mass, Bishop Caggiano said that an egocentric notion of the self has only managed to “create loneliness, betrayal and hurt” in the people who espouse it.

He drew laughter from the congregation when he quoted financiaciar Peter Lynch who said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

The Bishop said that Church teaches that the path of holiness is through a loving community. “We can’t see the face of God without loving or making others the center of our lives.”

The Bishop told business leaders and other professionals “to live for others one person at a time” and that the desire to serve others is at the heart of Catholic social teaching.

‘My life is all about you, which may seem strange to the world but it is the way to every lastlsting life and my brothers and sisters, let’s take that walk together.”

At the breakfast that followed in the Oak Room of the Barone Campus Center, marketing entrepreneur and philanthropist Al DiGuido of Westport was presented the CAPP Business Leadership Award for his work as founder and CEO of Al’s Angels, which supports children affected by financial hardships and those struggling with cancer.

In accepting the honor presented by CAPP Member Bob Rooney, DiGuido reminded the gathering that like the Bishop, he is a Brooklyn native.

DiGuido, a member of St. Mathew parish in Norwalk, said that in true leadership isn’t created when someone is given a title but by “walking the walk and leading when no one is watching”.

He said that he founded Al’ Angels after a Tomomorw’s Children Fund event when he listened to the stories of parents whose children were afflicted with cancer. Most were bankrupt.

He remembered driving away from the event in a heavy rain thinking about his own three young children.” I thought, what is it were my children? What if it were me begging for money?”

He said he named the group Al’s Angels because he believes the volunteers are truly send by God to serve those who are lonely and afflicted.

Visiting young children suffering from cancer is “like touching the face of God,” he told the gathering, emphasizing the importance of faith.

“I’ve seen miracles happen. If you don’t think Christ is holding your hand, I’m here to tell you that he is.”

DiGuido finished his talk by challenging business leaders to build social conscience into the DNA of their organizations.

“Business leaders have a repsnsilbity to build a legacy of caring organizations. It’s not just about the bottom line, but motivating and incentive people to do good. The world needs faith-filled leaders. Our responbility is to the human family and no one else is coming forward to help the kids and families we serve.”

In her keynote address Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, articulated the same theme.

Describing the church as the “largest humanitarian network in the world,” Robinson said that Church fosters an ethic that is “other-centered, not self-centered, ” and that the challenge of the laity is “living vocationally” in service of the Church and the world.

A member of the Raskob family, she said her works grew out of the commitment of her great-grandfather who built the Empire State Building during the Depression, sold it, and dedicated all of his funds to Catholic philanthropy.

She said the Church has played a role in the breaking the cycle of poverty and bigotry around the world, and that Catholic volunteers and service workers exhibit a sense of joy that comes out of their faith, even when dealing with the worst conditions.

Robinson said the Roundtable fosters collaboration between lay and ordained for a well run church. Created in 2003, it grew out of her work as director of the Catholic Center at Yale University and in response to the sexual abuse crisis.

Noting that “nothing was more damaging to the Church” than the abuse crisis, she quickly added that she has “never been more hopeful about the Church than I am today.” She added that the laity has helped to heal the church and move it forward by assisting priests and bishop with management and financial challenges.

She said the Roundtable has been successful because though very diverse in membership, it never “weights in on doctrinal matters” and that all of its projects are vetted by through Canon Law.

Recently back from a ten day visit to the Vatican, Robinson said she was cheered by the leadership of Pope Francis, his emphasis on “being a poor Church for the poor,” and his interest in reform management and stewardship.

“You can see how serious he is about positive management reform as a legacy of his pontificate. The laity is going to do the work and that is evangelization.”

Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) is a lay-led, Vatican-based organization founded by Pope John Paul II in 1993. Their mission is to implement Catholic social teaching—the Church’s social doctrine—through lay Catholic business, academic and professional leaders. Its board is made up of business leaders throughout Fairfield County. For more information, visit

Listen to audio of Bishop Caggiano at this event:


Synod wrestles with challenges While moving toward consensus
| November 15, 2014


TRUMBULL—Delegates largely reached consensus on a wide range of issues affecting the local Church during today’s Second General Session of Synod 2014, but wrestled with ways to approach youth and disaffected Catholics.

Almost 400 delegates, observers, and invited guests gathered at the Parish Center of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Nichols to review 60 challenges related to the four major themes of the Synod: empowering the young Church; building up communities of faith; promoting works of charity and justice; and fostering evangelical outreach.

The Bishop told delegates that the next step will be for the Synod leadership and the study committees to reduce all of the challenges to 12 or fewer goals, so that the Synod can begin to make final suggestions for addressing the issues.

Throughout the day, he interjected his thoughts and summaries, challenging people to think outside the box and to understand the many Catholics who were not in the room.

“We are all believers, but we must also give voice to those who aren’t here,” he said referring to the many Catholics who no longer participate in the life of the Church.

The Bishop also announced to delegates that the Diocese is exploring the possibility of commissioning a Marist Poll to survey those who have stopped attending Church in Fairfield County.

The daylong session was crammed with presentations of the study committees, voting on presented materials, and comments from delegates about the many challenges and opportunities facing the Church.

The discussion addressing the needs of young people and teens drew the most difference of opinion with 62% of delegates voting to add to or amend the challenges as presented.

The Study Committee on Empowering the Young Church found many challenges that prevent teens from a deeper faith life including peer pressure, secular role models in conflict with Church teachings, indifferent parents who don’t attend Mass, and liturgies that are often centered on adults but don’t reach out to kids.

Michael Favo from St. Philip Parish in Norwalk said that teens did not relate to the music played at liturgies.

“We’re singing songs written in the 70’s,” he said, drawing laughter from the older delegates. “Why can’t we incorporate new music?”

But Colin Lomnitzer from St. Catherine of Siena Parish, a freshman at Catholic University, quickly countered him by saying “Contemporary music by itself is not bad, and can be used at Mass and be appropriate. The temptation, however that comes from using contemporary music is to contemporize the Mass. This leads to a de-reverence of the Mass, which should never, ever happen. So we need to help people and ourselves better understand what Mass is, and the beauty of the Mass so every aspect of it will and can be treated with this beauty in mind.”

Annie Butler from St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan said the Teen Mass was a very powerful experience with all teens asked to come to the altar during the consecration. “We kneel side by side at the altar with our parents and families behind us. It’s a powerful moment.”

The Bishop said that the Synod should not make any final decisions about what youth want until he meets with them and discusses their challenges in an upcoming consultation session.

“I will defer to what the young people say for themselves,” he said, drawing applause from the gathering.

Strengthening the Catholic identity of diocesan schools was discussed under the “Building up Communities of Faith” theme. A couple of delegates said the schools were academically excellent but not sufficiently passing on the faith.

Jackie Greenfield, a teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield, countered that the students at St. Thomas School “receive a very strong foundation in the faith and are wonderfully prepared to receive the sacraments.”

Much of the afternoon discussion focused on “challenges to those at risk of leaving the Church or already gone” and a more effective use of social and secular media to bring the joy of the Gospel to the marketplace of ideas.

Mark Azzara of St. Joseph Parish in Danbury said that Catholics must be prepared to personally and powerfully testify to their faith in the same way that many non-Catholics proclaim Jesus Christ.

“We have to bring them back in the same way they left—one at a time,” he said.

Sister Mary Karen Toomy of Stamford said that we should know “when to use social media and when not to use it. St. Francis of Assisi said, ‘Preach the Gospel, sometimes use words.”

Fr. Michael Boccaccio, Pastor of St. Philip Church, said he believed that Church “must address liturgical practices” as they draw people to the sacraments.

Anne Pollack, a member of Voice of the Faithful, said the Synod had more work to do in including women in leadership role and decisions about the local Church.

After the discussion on the use of social media in the diocese, Deacon Patrick Toole of Westport, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield, introduced the new diocesan mobile APP that will be launched in February. Deacon Toole said that delegates will be invited to field test the APP before it is released to the general public, and that all parishes will be enlisted in providing material to keep it updated.

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

With a large image of the new APP on the screen, the Deacon walked delegates through its many functions, which will include Mass times throughout the diocese and content that invites people to deepen their understanding of the “sacramental, prayer life and community service of the Church.”

“This has been quite an experience for all of us and a great deal of work reviewing the 60 challenges, but I think we all have much greater clarity in leaving then when we started the day,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his wrap-up remarks.

The Bishop said that regardless of differences of opinion, all delegates come together in their belief that the renewal of the local Church should begin with the need to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through a credible community of love and faith. He added that many of the challenges presented at the Synod call for improved leadership and the need to find new ways to “celebrate the beauty of the Catholic faith.”

The third General Session for delegates is set for Saturday February 7, 2015 at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull. In between, the Synod will also host consultations sessions with youth, deacons, religious, priests and the Hispanic community

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Click to view slideshow

Second General Session set for Saturday in Trumbull
| November 14, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—The Second General Session of Synod 2014 is set to meet tomorrow, Saturday November 15, at St. Catherine Parish in Trumbull.

Almost 400 delegates and invited guests will meet to continue their efforts to discern the pastoral challenges of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Deputy Synod Director Patrick Turner said the theme of the Second General Session is "Testing for Consensus." The day will focus on "Presentation of Challenges" based on the demographic and pastoral situation outlined in the first General Session held in September.

The session will begin at 7:15am with Morning Mass followed by coffee and pastries. The first presentation will begin at 9:30 after Dr. Joan Marie Kelly delivers a reflection, "The Catholic Church, One , Holy, Catholic, Apostolic,"

"This is a singular opportunity for us, as a diocese, to ask very deep, honest, and probing questions, so that we can transform the challenges we face into opportunities for growth and renewal. But perhaps most importantly, this is a graced time for you and me to accept the invitation of the Lord, in a very personal way, to grow in faith and holiness," said Bishop Frank Caggiano."

"This is an essential moment for the synod, for we need to distinguish between the challenges that are obvious from those that are far more fundamental and serve as the underlying cause to many of the difficulties we are experiencing in our daily lives of faith."

During the session, delegates will receive update and reports from each of the four major study committees: Empower the Young Church, Build up Communities of Faith, Foster Evangelical Outreach, and Promote Works of Charity and Justice.

Since the first General Session held on September 20, the Synod study committees have been meeting to discuss and discern the feedback from the first session by listening carefully to what was presented by the delegates and by utilizing their insights, understanding and experience.

"At this Second General Session, the general delegates will have the opportunity to respond to these proposed challenges; to accept them, to request to modify them, or to reject them," Turner said.

In the first General Session, delegates discussed a wide range of issues including the growing number of Catholics who have left the church; the early exodus of young people from the Church, which begins in their teens and accelerates in their twenties; the sense that many Catholics are "sacramentalized but not evangelized," and live without the joy or spirit of faith; and The challenge of balancing the beauty and truth of Catholic tradition with new approaches to prayer, worship and catechesis

In his column in the November issue of Fairfield County Catholic, Bishop Caggiano describes the Synod as "a sacred journeying together of God’s people to discern God’s will."

"As bishop, I convoke the synod, but I do not animate the synod. The Holy Spirit is the animator of the synod. If the synod is to achieve its work, it is important that we make the important distinction between discernment and decision-making," he said.

The Bishop said that discernment seeks to understand the experience and challenges of our lives through the prism of faith, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Discernment is an essential prerequisite to ensure that the decisions to be made will be for the good of the Church.

The Bishop calls for a spirit of collaboration and humility on the part of all those who participate in the Synod. He notes that collaboration is founded upon the communion and unity that we share as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ."

In addition, a spirit of humility is possible in those who are not afraid to face the truth of their own lives and our common life in Christ. It requires each and every one of us to take a step back, let go of those things that we may be clinging to, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and inform us. Only humility will allow us to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit with courage and confidence."

The day will include breaks for prayer and voting on three resolutions related to Synod deliberations. During the afternoon session, Deacon Patrick Toole of St. Thomas Parish in Fairfield will also discuss the development of a new diocesan mobile APP and the role parishes will play in uploading information.


1st Diocesan-wide Catholic Young Adults (21-39) "Friendsgiving" Potluck
| November 14, 2014


TRUMBULL—Our first ever "Friendsgiving" Potluck for Catholic Young Adults (couples & singles, ages 21-39) for the Diocese of Bridgeport will be held at  St. Theresa Church, Main St., Trumbull on Friday, November 21 from 6-8:30pm. Bring yourself, invite friends, relatives, co-workers—make a table! Open to all! Meet new people of same age in Fairfield County, and enjoy terrific, home-cooked food at the same time!  

Bring a Thanksgiving meal item or a dessert in a disposable container. Dinner to be held in newly renovated Parish Center. Also, we are participating in food drive by Sisters of Mother Theresa, so bring a non-perishable food item to bless our neighbors in our community.  For info email Theresa Raytar at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For a list of Catholic Young Adult groups and events in Fairfield County go to

St. Aloysius Teens Lead Conf Prep Students in Project 1,000
| November 13, 2014


NEW CANAAN—Thanks to St. Aloysius high school teens who came to help out last night in the Level 2 Confirmation Prep Project 1,000 project.

1,000 stockings were filled with care by our 7th graders under the direction of our high school teens—were picked up this morning by our shipping donor, Kaster Moving and are on their way to 1,000 impoverished children in Appalachia!

To view photos click here

Vatican public restrooms to include showers for the homeless
| November 13, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis has announced that the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square will include showers where the homeless can wash. 

The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told Catholic News Service November 13.

"We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too."

Pope Francis blesses a sculpture "Jesus the Homeless" at the Vatican last November. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Several people living on the streets of Rome or in tents say it is not difficult to find a parish or charity that will give them something to eat, but finding a place to wash is much more difficult.

Barbara, a Polish woman who lives in a tent with her teenage son and a companion, said showers in the Vatican's public restrooms "would be good. We'd thank them if it works."

Her companion, who calls himself Stefano, said: "I'm a mason without work. I'll help them build it. No problem."

The news site Vatican Insider first reported the news that Archbishop Krajewski had asked the office governing Vatican City State to include showers in an already-approved project to remodel the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square.

The remodeling work and installation of the showers was scheduled to begin Nov. 17. The archbishop said the three shower stalls would be located in the public restrooms a few steps north of Bernini's Colonnade, just behind the Vatican post office.

The archbishop told Vatican Insider that in early October he was talking to a homeless man near the Vatican and discovered it was the man's 50th birthday. He invited the man to a restaurant for dinner, but the man declined, saying a restaurant would not let him in because of his odor.

Sitting on the steps of the Vatican press office November 13, Barbara and Stefano were discussing the plans with a small group of Polish friends -- and expressing some doubts about it to reporters.

The Rome diocesan Caritas, the Community of Sant'Egidio and other organizations offer shower facilities to the homeless in Rome, Barbara said, "but there are so many things you have to do. You have to get there at 4 in the morning to sign in. Then only 15 people get in each day."

In addition, she said, because the number of homeless men is so much greater than the number of homeless women, many of the shower facilities are only for men or are open to women only a half day each week.

Archbishop Krajewski told Vatican Insider that he is visiting parishes in areas where homeless people gather and is encouraging them to install public showers if they have not already. His office will help fund the building, he said.

"It is not simple," he said. "It is easier to prepare sandwiches than to run a shower service—you need volunteers, towels, clean underwear."

Assembly honors veterans
| November 12, 2014


SHELTON—Close to 20 veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Afghanistan were treated to a breakfast hosted by St. Joseph’s School Home School Association.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts started the assembly by carrying the flag and leading everyone into the Pledge of Allegiance.

Msgr. Chris Walsh, St. Joseph’s pastor, said a blessing and the students, led by music teacher, Mrs. Salustri, on the piano sang patriotic songs.

The guests took time and visited the classrooms to talk about their experiences with the students.

(Photo by Vicki Fitzsimmons)

St. Thomas Schools Remembers our Veterans
| November 10, 2014


FAIRFIELD—I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Our country’s Pledge of Allegiance.

What better way to begin a Veterans Day assembly with students and honored guest reciting these words together, with hands over their hearts.

On Monday, November 10, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School held their annual Veterans Day assembly. Each year the assembly is held in the school gymnasium and veterans from various armed forces are invited to participate. Principal Patricia Brady opened the ceremony by reminding the students that we are all free to practice our faith here at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School because of those who have fought for country’s freedoms. Poems were recited by students and patriotic songs were sung by the school choir.

USCCB president emphasizes bishops' role of serving family of church
| November 10, 2014 • by By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service


BALTIMORE—Acknowledging that families come with complications, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reminded his fellow bishops November 10 that their role is to accompany their family of the church through their fears and concerns.

"Evangelizing means witnessing to our hope in Jesus," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, in opening the USCCB's annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. It was his first address as conference president.

"As pastors, we accompany so many families who face their own fears and concerns and who yearn to experience the love of Jesus in and through his loving family—the church," he said. "Together, brothers, we seek to walk with these families and to build their confidence in faith."

Archbishop Kurtz framed his remarks around a conversation he had recently with Italian journalist Paolo Rodari, who has a brother with Down syndrome. Archbishop Kurtz for many years was responsible for the care of his late brother, who also had Down syndrome.

The two discussed how they learned to communicate with their brothers through the things that were important to their siblings—film and books—and that they otherwise could be difficult to understand.

"Paolo has learned to understand Giovanni, because they're family," Archbishop Kurtz said, continuing the metaphor as an example of what the bishops are called to do—"walk with our brothers and sisters, helping them grow closer to Jesus through his mercy."

He noted that Pope Francis has said the church is "a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel."

Archbishop Kurtz spoke about the recently concluded extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, saying it resulted in positive steps to "witness to the beauty of church teachings on marriage," to "deepen the way we accompany those struggling with the many challenges families face today," and encourage married couples to "have confidence in their ability to faithfully live the Gospel of the family."

He said the bishops "must especially seek out those who suffer under the weight of the difficulties of seeking to come closer to Christ," quoting Pope Francis' call to approach the coming year before the synod work continues as "joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel."

The archbishop commented about some of his experiences over the last year as USCCB president—such as visiting the Philippines with Catholic Relief Services to see the relief work after Typhoon Haiyan, and the conference's work on issues such as religious freedom and respect for life.

"We all strive to be faithful pastors, so we know what this looks like," he said. "Think of the home visits we've all done in parishes. When I'd come to someone's home, I wouldn't start by telling them how I'd rearrange their furniture. In the same way, I wouldn't begin by giving them a list of rules to follow.

"Instead, I'd first spend time with them, trying to appreciate the good that I saw in their hearts. I'd acknowledge that, like them, I was in the process of conversion toward greater holiness," the archbishop said. "I would then invite them to follow Christ and I'd offer to accompany them as we, together, follow the Gospel invitation to turn from sin and journey along the way. Such an approach isn't in opposition to church teachings; it's an affirmation of them."

Catholic Roundtable executive to speak at CAPP business breakfast, Al DiGuido to be honored
| November 06, 2014


FAIRFIELD—Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, will be the featured speaker at the eighth annual CAPP Communion Breakfast for Business Leaders on November 16 at Fairfield University.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and Father Rick Ryscavage, S.J., director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University, will concelebrate Mass in Egan Chapel at 9 am The breakfast and Robinson’s talk will follow in the Oak Room of the Barone Campus Center.

CAPP’s Business Leadership Award will be presented to digital marketing industry innovator and philanthropist Al DiGuido of Westport, founder of Al’s Angels, which supports children affected by financial hardships and those struggling with cancer. He is a member of St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk.

The breakfast is sponsored by Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) of Fairfield County and by the Center for Faith & Public Life of Fairfield University.
“As the diocese moves forward with its own reorganization plan and with Synod 2014 to plan for the future, we welcome the thoughts of Kerry Robinson on best practices and the most efficient use of resources. Her work directly addresses the Catholic social teaching principles of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management is an organization of laity, religious, and clergy working together to promote excellence and best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of theCatholic Church in the U.S. through the greater incorporation of the expertise of the laity.

Robinson is a writer and speaker on philanthropy, development and faith. In addition to her work with the National LeadershipRoundtable, she is a trustee of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities in Wilmington, Del., and FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) in Washington.

Founding editor of The Catholic Funding Guide: A Directory of Resources for Catholic Activities, first published by FADICA in 1998 and soon to be in its eighth edition, she has been an advisor to grant-making foundations, charitable nonprofits and family philanthropies since 1990.

Robinson served as the director of development for St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University and led a successful $75 million fundraising drive to expand and endow the chapel's intellectual and spiritual ministry and to construct a Catholic student center on Yale’s campus.

She has served as a trustee on the national boards of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps; Education for Parish Service Foundation; the Gregorian University Foundation; the National Catholic AIDS Network; the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College; the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA); the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University; Busted Halo: Paulist Young Adult Ministries; America Magazine; and the National Pastoral Life Center.

From 1995 to 2010 Robinson served on the national committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development. She currently serves on the Core Group of the Initiative of Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and is a trustee of Yale’s St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center.
She received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1988 and a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School, concentrating on ethics, in 1994.

She and her husband, Dr. Michael Cappello, professor of medicine and director of the World Fellows Program at Yale, have two children.

Al DiGuido, former CEO of Zeta Interactive, has long been recognized as one of the digital marketing industry’s premier innovators and a pioneer in email communications. He has over 20 years of marketing sales, management and operations expertise. He has also served as CEO of Epsilon Interactive and Bigfoot Interactive, a leading email marketing firm. He is a thought leader in interactive advertising and marketing.
A frequent guest on Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNN, he has been quoted in US News & World Report, the New York Times and Business Week as a leading voice on marketplace changes as a result of new technology.

In addition to his business success, DiGuido raises millions of dollars for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund in Hackensack, N.J., to help children fighting cancer and rare blood diseases. Locally, he is known as the founder of Al’s Angels. This year the organization will provide holiday meals and gifts to over 2,500 families and 6,000 children in the tri-state area.

Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) is a lay-led, Vatican-based organization founded by Pope John Paul II in 1993. Their mission is to implement Catholic social teaching—the Church’s social doctrine—through lay Catholic business, academic and professional leaders. William J. Fox of Stamford is serving asCAPP president. Its board is made up of business leaders throughout Fairfield County. For more information, visit

(For more information on the event, contact Fairfield University: 203.254.4000, ext. 3415.)

Bishop at Fairfield University: Synod offers “singular moment of grace”
| November 05, 2014


FAIRFIELD—“You and I are living a singular moment of grace, in this unique and particular time in the life of our diocese.

It is a moment of grace as we walk this synodal journey together,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano before a gathering of more than 250 in the Quick Center of Fairfield University last night.

“First and foremost, this is a journey that allows all of us in leadership – lay, religious and clergy—shoulder-to-shoulder, in prayer and reflection, to strengthen the mortar that holds us together as the living Temple of Christ,” he said during his 45-minute talk On Calling a Diocesan Synod: Hopes and Dreams. The bishop’s address, followed by a question and answer session, was delivered as the 21st Annual Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Lecture in Theology, Religion & Society. He was introduced by Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, President of Fairfield University. Dr. Paul Lakeland, director of the University’s Center for Catholic Studies, moderated the evening.

The Bishop explained that Synods are consultative in nature, they are not legislative. “They do not pass laws. They seek to discern what God is asking of the Church. A diocesan synod is a sacred gathering of Church leaders to discern God’s will. He also made the distinction between discernment and decision-making. “The synod will make decisions that I hope to ratify, but to make correct decisions we need first to discern. Discerning is deeper and more profound than decision-making. Discernment is an essential prerequisite to ensure that decisions that are made are for the good of the Church,” he said. The Brooklyn native said he worked on the Diocese of Brooklyn Synod in 1996 with Bishop Daley and found it to be a transformative experience for the Diocese. “The Diocese of Brooklyn is the most ethnically diverse diocese in the country. On any given Sunday, Mass can be celebrated there in 35 languages. Geographically, it is the smallest diocese in the nation, and in 1996, it was facing severe financial distress. Bishop Caggiano said the Brooklyn synod achieved far-reaching changes to the diocese’s ecclesial life by creating an innovative lay leadership program that trained thousands of men and women to “take on the tasks of ministry, fully formed, fully prepared.”

The synod also created a program of ongoing formation for clergy to help them in their pastoral ministry, and “to provide the spiritual and theological support they needed to be pastors and shepherds of their people,” he said.

“My friends, I saw then that a synod can lead to miraculous renewal, and I stand before you as your shepherd to tell you that the exact same thing and more is in store for you and me in the Diocese of Bridgeport!” The bishop said that the Holy Spirit will inspire the Synod 2014 delegates because “Jesus has promised to be in our midst when we gather in His name. We are always more than just an assembly of human beings when we gather in Christ’s name, for we form a mysterious unity that has a human and a divine dimension. We humans are members of a divine community that is greater than the sum total of its parts.”

The Bishop concluded his address with a prayer that the diocese becoming a welcoming Church that changes lives. “What is it that the Lord wants for us and from us?” he said. “On a personal note, I pray for a Church that will find new ways to effectively invite all the baptized to fall in love with Jesus Christ in a deeply personal way. I long and pray for a welcoming Church that will never be afraid to teach and preach the truth, who is Jesus Christ himself in our midst.

The director of the Center for Catholic Studies is Paul Lakeland, Ph.D., the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Chair in Catholic Studies. For more information about the Center and the event, call 203.254.4000, ext. 3415, or visit

Listen to the entire program including the introduction by Fr. von Arx:

Recycling with a purpose
| November 05, 2014


WILTON—“Recycling Saturdays" a program started by Our Lady of Fatima parents Joseph and Karin Beggan does double duty.

It not only raises money for new playground equipment for the kids, but allows the students of Our Lady of Fatima school to come together with the religious education students and work toward a common cause while helping the community.

Every second Saturday of the month, the parish and school have "Recycling Saturday." The volunteers from both the school and the religious education program meet at 9 am to set up. Parents and parishioners drop off all the recycling to the front door of the school. The volunteers work together to separate the bottles and cans and bag them, then, at 1 pm, they are loaded into a truck and taken to the recycling center. The children learn the importance of staying green, recycling, and teamwork.
A portion of the proceeds go to Stop Hunger Cross Catholic Outreach Program and the remainder are donated to Our Lady of Fatima School. Last year, the school was able to purchase new swings, outdoor equipment boxes, and decoy dogs to protect the playground from the geese.
Our Lady of Fatima has received press attention from the local press, and the Wilton Town Conservation Commissioner Dan Berg (second from right) came to visit the recycling volunteers on the second Saturday in October. 

Raleigh Seminarian with terminal brain cancer responds to Brittany Maynard
| November 04, 2014 • by By Philip G. Johnson


Philip Johnson, a 30-year-old Catholic seminarian from the Diocese of Raleigh who has terminal brain cancer, has written an article responding to Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman who has publicly stated her plan to commit suicide due to the fact that she has a terminal brain cancer. Johnson is vocal about his disagreement that suicide would preserve one’s dignity in the face of a debilitating illness. His article is below:

Dear Brittany: Our Lives Are Worth Living, Even With Brain Cancer

Last week I came across the heartbreaking story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer one year after her wedding. When doctors suggested that she might only have six months to live, she and her family moved from California to Oregon in order to obtain the prescriptions necessary for doctor-assisted euthanasia. She is devoting her last days to fundraising and lobbying for an organization dedicated to expanding the legality of assisted suicide to other States.

Brittany’s story really hit home, as I was diagnosed with a very similar incurable brain cancer in 2008 at the age of twenty-four. After years of terrible headaches and misdiagnosis, my Grade III brain cancer (Anaplastic Astrocytoma) proved to be inoperable due to its location. Most studies state that the median survival time for this type of cancer is eighteen months, even with aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. I was beginning an exciting career as a naval officer with my entire life ahead of me. I had so many hopes and dreams, and in an instant they all seemed to be crushed. As Brittany said in her online video, “being told you have that kind of timeline still feels like you’re going to die tomorrow.”

I was diagnosed during my second Navy deployment to the Northern Arabian Gulf. After many seizures, the ship’s doctor sent me to the naval hospital on the Persian Gulf island nation of Bahrain, where my brain tumor was discovered. I remember the moment I saw the computer images of the brain scans—I went to the Catholic chapel on base and fell to the floor in tears.  I asked God, “why me?” The next day, I flew home to the United States to begin urgent treatment. A few months after radiation and chemotherapy, I was discharged from the Navy and began formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood, a vocation to which I have felt called since I was nineteen years old. Despite all of the hardships and delays in my training and formation over the past six years, I hope to be ordained to the transitional diaconate this Spring and to the priesthood one year later.

I have lived through six years of constant turmoil, seizures, and headaches.  I often changed hospitals and doctors every few months, seeking some morsel of hope for survival. Like Brittany, I do not want to die, nor do I want to suffer the likely outcome of this disease. I do not think anyone wants to die in this way. Brittany states relief that she does not have to die the way that it has been explained that she would—she can die “on her own terms.” I have also consulted with my doctors to learn how my illness is likely to proceed. I will gradually lose control of my bodily functions at a young age, from paralysis to incontinence, and it is very likely that my mental faculties will also disappear and lead to confusion and hallucinations before my death. This terrifies me, but it does not make me any less of a person.  My life means something to me, to God, and to my family and friends, and barring a miraculous recovery, it will continue to mean something long after I am paralyzed in a hospice bed. My family and friends love me for who I am, not just for the personality traits that will slowly slip away if this tumor progresses and takes my life.

Obviously, I have lived much longer than originally expected, and I attribute this to the support and prayers of others who have helped me to keep a positive outlook. I will never claim that I have dealt with my illness heroically or with great courage, no matter what others might observe or believe from my reserved disposition. I am shy and introverted, so I have not let many people become aware of the depth of my suffering. There have been times over the past six years that I wanted the cancer to grow and take my life swiftly so that it would all be over. Other times, I have sought forms of escape through sin and denial just to take my mind off of the suffering and sadness, even if only for a few moments. However, deep in my heart I know that this approach is futile. My illness has become a part of me, and while it does not define me as a person, it has shaped who I am and who I will become.

In Brittany’s video, her mother mentions that her immediate hope was for a miracle. My response to my diagnosis was the same—I hoped for a miraculous recovery so that I would not have to deal with the suffering and pain that was likely to come. However, I now realize that a “miracle” does not necessarily mean an instant cure. If it did, would we not die from something else later in our lives? Is there any reason that we deserve fifteen, twenty, or thirty or more years of life?  Every day of life is a gift, and gifts can be taken away in an instant. Anyone who suffers from a terminal illness or has lost someone close to them knows this very well.

I have outlived my dismal prognosis, which I believe to be a miracle, but more importantly, I have experienced countless miracles in places where I never expected to find them. Throughout my preparation for the priesthood I have been able to empathize with the sick and suffering in hospitals and nursing homes. I have traveled to Lourdes, France, the site of a Marian apparition and a place of physical and spiritual healing that is visited by millions of pilgrims each year. I have had the great opportunity to serve the infirm there who trust in God with their whole hearts to make sense of their suffering. Through my interaction with these people, I received much more than I gave. I learned that the suffering and heartache that is part of the human condition does not have to be wasted and cut short out of fear or seeking control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation. Perhaps this is the most important miracle that God intends for me to experience.

Suffering is not worthless, and our lives are not our own to take. As humans we are relational—we relate to one another and the actions of one person affects others. Sadly, the concept of “redemptive suffering”—that human suffering united to the suffering of Jesus on the Cross for our salvation can benefit others—has often been ignored or lost in modern times. It is perfectly understandable that medication should be made available to give comfort and limit suffering as much as possible during the dying process, especially during a terminal illness, but it is impossible to avoid suffering altogether. We do not seek pain for its own sake, but our suffering can have great meaning if we try to join it to the Passion of Christ and offer it for the conversion or intentions of others. While often terrifying, the suffering and pain that we will all experience in our lives can be turned into something positive. This has been a very difficult task for me, but it is possible to achieve.

There is a card on Brittany’s website asking for signatures “to support her bravery in this very tough time.” I agree that her time is tough, but her decision is anything but brave. I do feel for her and understand her difficult situation, but no diagnosis warrants suicide. A diagnosis of terminal cancer uproots one’s whole life, and the decision to pursue physician-assisted suicide seeks to grasp at an ounce of control in the midst of turmoil. It is an understandable temptation to take this course of action, but that is all that it is—a temptation to avoid an important reality of life. By dying on one’s “own terms,” death seems more comfortable in our culture that is sanitized and tends to avoid any mention of the suffering and death that will eventually come to us all.

Brittany comments, “I hope to pass in peace. The reason to consider life and what’s of value is to make sure you’re not missing out, seize the day, what’s important to you, what do you care about—what matters—pursue that, forget the rest.”  Sadly, Brittany will be missing out on the most intimate moments of her life—her loved ones comforting her through her suffering, her last and most personal moments with her family, and the great mystery of death—in exchange for a quicker and more “painless” option that focuses more on herself than anyone else. In our culture, which seeks to avoid pain at any cost, it is not difficult to understand why this response is so common among those who suffer.  

I have experienced so much sadness due to my illness, but there have also been times of great joy. The support I have received from others encourages me to keep pushing on. I want to be a priest, I want to see my three young nephews grow up, and these goals give me the hope to wake up each day and live my life with trust.

I will continue to pray for Brittany as she deals with her illness, as I know exactly what she is going through. I still get sad. I still cry. I still beg God to show me His will through all of this suffering and to allow me to be His priest if it be His will, but I know that I am not alone in my suffering.  I have my family, my friends, and the support of the entire universal Church.  I have walked in Brittany’s shoes, but I have never had to walk alone. Such is the beauty of the Church, our families, and the prayerful support that we give to one another.

May Brittany come to understand the love that we all have for her before she takes her own life, and that if she chooses instead to fight this disease, her life and witness would be an incredible example and inspiration to countless others in her situation. She would certainly be an inspiration to me as I continue my own fight against cancer.

This letter was originally posted on the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh website – 10/22/14

Mass Mob–a new way of looking at prayer
| November 04, 2014


STAMFORD—As reported in the New York Times, flash mobs are proliferating throughout the world—Catholic youth in Fairfield County are taking the idea one step further by joining the ‘Mass Mob’ movement already popular in major cities like Buffalo, Detroit, New York City and Philadelphia.

Intrigued? We hope so, and we hope you’ll join the group at 5 pm, Saturday, November 8 at Holy Name of Jesus Church, 325 Washington Boulevard, Bridgeport CT. Everyone is welcome to join in the second Mass Mob in Fairfield County.  The first one drew 230 faithful from all over Fairfield County and Mass Mob plans on growing from there.

Mass Mob will help its participants see other parishes and how they celebrate the liturgy, to support other parishes and to improve their own prayer lives. Mass Mob will encourage people to go to Mass in a different place they normally wouldn’t go. The hope is to connect the diocese—people will meet other people from across the diocese, see new churches, meet new priests and support other churches—just by getting more people to go to Mass.

“Just by showing up to a church at a particular time, you’re helping to build bridges all across the diocese; you’re helping other parishes; you’re meeting new people; you’re experiencing different ways to give thanks to God. You get to do all of this simply by showing up to Mass and praying!”, said Katie-Scarlett Calcutt, spokesperson for Mass Mob Fairfield County. “Pope Francis has encouraged young people to ‘make a mess in their dioceses’, and Bishop Caggiano, of the Diocese of Bridgeport has urged us all to cultivate a welcoming spirit—this is a new way of doing just that.”

WHAT:      Mass Mob Fairfield County

WHERE:   Holy Name of Jesus Church, 325 Washington Boulevard, Stamford CT

WHEN:     Saturday, November 8 at 5 p.m.

WHY:        Mass Mob Fairfield County hopes to support other parishes, celebrate the liturgy and improve the prayer lives of participants by taking a new approach to going to church.

Click here to link to a blog post that also explains what a Mass Mob is

Mass Mob Committee
Fairfield County, CT
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Facebook: Mass Mob Fairfield County
Twitter: @MassMobFfldCo

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Vocation Awareness
| November 04, 2014


National Vocation Awareness Week is November 2-9, 2014.  The focus of the week is especially on vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.  

Bishop Caggiano has asked his priests and deacons to preach about vocations, especially at Sunday Masses during this time of heightened vocation awareness. Additionally, the bishop has asked that parishes include prayers for vocations in their Prayers of the Faithful.

National Vocation Awareness Week is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.

A portrait of Pope Saint John XXIII that hangs in the seminary.
It was a gift to the seminary by Blessed Pope Paul VI.

Richard Cardinal Cushing

Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.

A Vocation Story:

I was born in June, 1964. Two months later, Pope John XXIII National Seminary was dedicated. In August, 1995, I entered PJXXIII Seminary and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bridgeport in May, 1999.

PJXXIII Seminary is now called Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary. It is located in Weston, Mass., about 15 miles west of Boston proper.

Its founder is the legendary Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, a man of great Irish wit, initiative and spirituality who was a whirlwind of grace-filled activity in the glory days of the American Church and who also attended Vatican II, although some claim he was a bit mystified by the process. At one point in Rome, it is claimed that he quipped, “If they really want a college, I will just write them a check.” He was referring to the discussions about the need for renewed collegiality in the Church.

Despite his apparent confusion about the need for Vatican II, he was a visionary, especially concerning vocations to the priesthood. At a time when American seminaries were bursting at the seams with aspirants to the priesthood, he believed that the nation needed another seminary, this time for later vocations.

Since its founding in 1964, the notion of “later” vocations in America has been changing. In 1964, most priests would have been ordained at 25, but today, the average age of ordination is 35 and growing higher all the time.

PSJXXIII was founded for seminarians who enter at 30 years of age and older, but since its founding, its average seminarian is about 50 years old. When I entered, I was 31, and I was the youngest by far in my class of ’99. Our eldest seminarians were in their early 70s. Those who were near 70 had probably worked out a deal with their bishop whereby it was understood that they may only work in the field for 5-10 years before retiring.

Recently, I attended my 15th Class Reunion, which coincided with the seminary’s 50th anniversary. Cardinal Sean O’Malley was the principal celebrant at the anniversary Mass, and in his homily he joked that Cardinal Cushing must have been a very busy man. “All I do, it seems,” he said, “is travel around this vast archdiocese celebrating 50th anniversaries! Celebrating these anniversaries could essentially be a full-time job!” Everyone found these comments amusing because if anything, Cardinal Cushing was known to be a man of ceaseless action.

Two members of the Class of 1968 – the seminary’s first – were present for the celebration. Five of the 17 members of my graduating class were present for the festivities and we sat together at dinner.

Some men have a dislike for their former seminary for various reasons, but I find it hard to fathom why anyone could complain about PSJXXIII. The food is good, the rooms are comfortable and the academics are not excessive. In all, the formation to be a priest is “top shelf” as one of our beloved chefs used to say about certain cuts of meat that he would serve us!

Many priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport have attended PSJXXIII, and we now have two seminarians there in formation.

I am very happy that I made the effort to attend my reunion and the seminary’s 50th anniversary. It made feel connected, or reconnected, to a long line of men who have entered that seminary to be ordained priests. It is good, and healthy, to experience a sense of belonging, and I am happy to belong to Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary.

If you think you may have a “later” vocation that is trying to spring forth, please go to and/or Thanks and God Bless ~ Fr. Colin

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Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace
| November 03, 2014 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on October 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: “No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.”

Unfortunately, in 1965 the world did not heed Blessed Paul VI’s prophetic words. And sadly, it has not heeded them since.
From Mexico to South Sudan, from Syria to Ukraine, from Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons threatening each other to the endless “war on terrorism,” today more than ever the world needs to heed Blessed Paul’s plea: “No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.”
Since Pope Paul had tremendous respect for all human life—starting at conception—it is providential that the miracle granted by God through his prayerful intercession involved the healing of an unborn child.
According to Vatican Insider, in California an unborn child in 2001 was diagnosed with ascites (liquid in the abdomen) and anhydramnios (absence of fluid in the amniotic sac). When every corrective attempt failed, the doctors said the baby would die before birth or be born with dangerous renal impairment.
When abortion was offered as an option, the mother refused. Instead, she prayed for a miracle asking Pope Paul’s intercession to God. Ten weeks later tests results revealed that the unborn child had significantly improved, and was born by Caesarean section.   
The boy is now a healthy adolescent considered completely healed. The Vatican’s medical consultation team headed by Professor Patrizio Polisca, confirmed that it was impossible to explain the healing scientifically.
Over 40 years ago Blessed Paul VI foresaw the impending environmental disaster facing humanity today. In his apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens  (“A Call to Action”) he warned: “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation.”
In his day, and even more so today, in a world where great economic inequality exists—where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer—Blessed Paul VI in his prophetic encyclical letter Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”) clearly challenged this grave injustice.

He wrote, “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all. …

“Extreme disparity between nations in economic, social and educational levels provokes jealousy and discord, often putting peace in jeopardy."

Instead of largely ignoring the reasonable and just demands of countless oppressed people, and then going to war against them when they rise up, we should tirelessly work for social justice for all people.

For as Blessed Paul VI continued to teach in his encyclical Populorum Progressio, “When we fight poverty and oppose the unfair conditions of the present, we are not just promoting human well-being; we are also furthering man's spiritual and moral development, and hence we are benefiting the whole human race. For peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.”

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

The Bishop will speak at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts to share his hopes for the Diocese
| November 03, 2014


FAIRFIELD—On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at 8 pm, Fairfield University will welcome the Bishop of Bridgeport, the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, who will share his perspectives and hopes for the future of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Free and open to the public, the event will take place in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

It is sponsored by Fairfield University’s Center for Catholic Studies. Complimentary tickets need to be reserved through the Quick Center Box Office: 203.254.4010, or toll-free 1.877.ARTS.396. (1.877.278.7396).

Bishop Caggiano will deliver the 21st Annual Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Lecture in Theology, Religion & Society, entitled, “On Calling a Diocesan Synod: Hopes and Dreams.” In his talk, he will discuss how the Diocese has begun its fourth diocesan synod, in the hope that it will be a catalyst for pastoral discernment and renewal.

“Throughout its history, the Church has effectively used the work of synods to clarify the pastoral challenges that confronted believers in a given age, to listen attentively to the voice of the Spirit who sought to guide them in such times and to discern effective responses to those challenges,” Bishop Caggiano said of his upcoming talk. “In the Diocese of Bridgeport, we have begun our fourth diocesan synod, in the hope that it will be a catalyst for pastoral discernment and renewal. Against the larger backdrop of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, my remarks will provide both a personal and theological assessment of the synod and its work. ”
On September 19, 2013, the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano was formally installed as the fifth Bishop of Bridgeport at an Installation Mass held at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull. In his homily, the Brooklyn, New York born and raised priest spoke of “Building Bridges of Faith” in Fairfield County and the Diocese of Bridgeport. He was appointed Bishop of Bridgeport by His Holiness Pope Francis. Bishop Caggiano comes to Bridgeport from Brooklyn, where he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and Titular Bishop of Inis Cathaig by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Bishop Caggiano is an outstanding teacher, as is evidenced by the Holy See selecting him twice to offer catechesis to the young people at World Youth Days, in Madrid 2011 and just recently in Rio de Janeiro. Following World Youth Day, he travelled to Ireland where he had been selected by the Catholic Bishops to help lead the “Youth 2000” Summer Retreat.

He was born in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn on Easter Sunday March 29, 1959, the second of two children of Arnaldo and Gennarina Caggiano, both of whom came to this country in 1958 from the town of Caggiano in the province of Salerno, Italy.

The director of the Center for Catholic Studies is Paul Lakeland, Ph.D., the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Chair in Catholic Studies. For more information about the Center and the event, call 203.254.4000, ext. 3415, or visit
The 21st Annual Christopher F. Mooney, S.J.  Lecture in Theology, Religion & Society - “On Calling a Diocesan Synod: Hopes and Dreams”
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport
Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 8 pm
Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts.

Children teach about saints
| October 31, 2014


NEW  CANAAN—Celebrating the Feast of All Saints, fourth graders from St. Aloysius Religious Education attended the 10 am Mass on October 26 dressed as the saints they had studied in class. 

Pictured here with Msgr. Scheyd, St. Aloysius’ pastor, the students shared the information they learned during the homily.

For parents, the Catholic Parents Connect ministry will be offering a very special talk by Matthew Hennessey on November 20 at 7:30 pm.

Catholic Parents Connect invites parents and grandparents of children of all ages to come together to network and listen to speakers who help them nurture and strengthen our Catholic identity and faith in our families. For more info, contact Chris Otis, director of St. Aloysius Youth & Family Ministry: 203.652.1154 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Ernie Anastos: Positive on Faith and Community
| October 30, 2014


DANBURY—“Whatever you enjoy doing every day will be the avenue to your success,” WNYW Fox 5 News Anchor Ernie Anastos said this morning at the Annual Catholic Charities of Danbury Celebrity Breakfast.

Click here to see a slideshow

Noting that most people want “more, better or different,” Anastos said that a life in pursuit of success can leave people feeling empty if they live without a higher purpose. “Don’t just strive for success, strive for significance.”

The event, with its Greek themed breakfast in honor of Anastos, raised $60,000 to support the work of Catholic Charities in the greater Danbury area. It was recorded and some of it will be used on the 6 pm broadcast of “Positively Ernie” on WNYW-TV.

The Emmy Award winning news anchor said the advice came from his grammar school teacher and he often shares it with young people as he encourages them to “follow their passion” in life.

Speaking to a gathering of more than 300 friends of Catholic Charities of Danbury in the Amber Room, the Hall of Fame broadcaster said that his Greek Orthodox faith has always been an important part of his life.

“The number one in my life is God. I can’t imagine living a life without faith,” said Anastos in a talk that mixed humor and wisdom. He was introduced by Danbury Mark Boughton, who proclaimed October 30 as “Positively Ernie Anastos Day” in the city.

Anastos has ties to Danbury through his late grandfather who was a priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on Clapboard Ridge Road in the city.

Mayor Boughton also praised the work of Catholic Charities for helping to serve “the 580,000 people who live in the ten towns of the greater Danbury region.

Anastos, who grew up in Nashua New Hampshire, fell in love with radio as a boy and practiced being an announcer in a pretend studio. He got his first break hosting a Saturday show for teens on WOTW, a station that he later bought.

His first real job was at WRKO, Boston’s biggest radio station, where he was asked to change his name to Ernie Andrews. “Anastos” was a bit too ethnic, so Ernie reluctantly changed his on-air name with his father’s blessing. But when he landed his big break in TV on Channel 12 in Providence, he restored his real name, which has since become a household word in the northeast.

Anastos clearly enjoyed working the audience and asking questions of those in attendance.

“I love being with live people,” he quipped, noting that millions watch Fox News or get it through digital sites but he never really knows who’s watching. “I focus on my Aunt Eva who lives on Park Avenue in Bridgeport, because I know she’s watching every night.”

Anastos said he was excited about the opportunity to design and host “Positively Ernie,” an upbeat newscast that focuses on positive stories. He urged those in attendance not to be overwhelmed by all the negative news but to try to make a difference in their own communities.

Bishop Frank Caggiano delivered the invocation and Fr. Samuel V. Scott, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Danbury offered the welcome. The Reverend Peter Karloutsos of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church gave the final blessing.

Amber room Chef Chris Hatzsis paid tribute to Anastos with a Greek themed breakfast including miniature parfaits of Greek yogurt, Galaktoboureki (Green pastry filled with cream) and a toasted baguette with grilled tomato, feta cheese and a Loukaniko (sausage) garnish.

The Fall Celebrity Breakfast was co-chaired by Catholic Charities Advisory Board members Lisa Donovan, Saint Edward the Confessor Parish, New Fairfield, Claudia Menezes and Sally Savoia, both of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield.

Catholic Charities programs in the greater Danbury area include the Behavioral Health Clinic, Family Loan, Morning Glory Breakfast (at Dorothy Day House), Homeless Outreach Team, Community Support and Recovery Pathways, and New Heights for those struggling with mental illness.

Catholic Charities Danbury has served people of all faiths in the greater Danbury area since 1939. The main office is located at 405 Main Street, Danbury.

Pink for one of their own
| October 29, 2014


STAMFORD—On Friday, October 24, Trinity Catholic High School held an especially meaningful Go Pink Day for breast cancer.

The school held an assembly in the gym where speakers read statistics and facts about breast cancer.

Then students listened with intent silence while Assistant Principal Diane Warzoha, who is currently undergoing treatment for the disease, spoke about her personal experience and expressed her gratitude for the school's support. At the end of the day Trinity’s students made a human angel in support of the cause. The day’s observance raised over $1,000 for the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital.

Pope urges prayer, international action to fight Ebola virus
| October 29, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis pleaded for the international community to take stronger, coordinated steps to "annihilate" the Ebola virus and help the millions of people impacted by the disease.

"As the Ebola virus epidemic worsens, I want to express my deep concern for this relentless illness that is spreading particularly on the African continent and especially among populations that are already disadvantaged," the pope said Oct. 29 at the end of his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis offered his prayers and solidarity with the sick, as well as with the doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious orders and humanitarian agencies working "heroically to help our sick brothers and sisters."

"I ask you to pray for them and for all who have lost their lives," the pope said.

The day before the pope's appeal, Caritas Internationalis—the umbrella organization for Catholic charities around the world -- announced it would hold a special meeting in Rome Nov. 4 to coordinate ways to increase the work Catholic charities are doing in response to the epidemic, especially in West Africa.

"At this point, it's not only about preventing Ebola. We're also called to care for the thousands of healthy people who were already poor, who have no access to healthcare for other illnesses and whose lives have been turned upside down by this crisis," said U.S. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, the Caritas health adviser.

"This is a shattering emergency. We need to strengthen the response of Caritas and our collaboration with other Catholic Church organizations as quickly as possible. Our brothers and sisters cannot wait," Msgr. Vitillo said.

The priest also said the organizations would discuss ways to "respond to the global reactions of panic and of stigmatizing that are directed at West Africans, migrants from the region, and even at returning health care volunteers."

The World Health Organization reported Oct. 25 that "10,141 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported" in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States, as well as previously in Nigeria and Senegal, where the disease reportedly has been contained. As of Oct. 23, the report said, 4,922 of those infected had died.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas aid agency and a member of Caritas Internationalis, announced in late September that it has committed more than $1.5 million to anti-Ebola efforts in West Africa.

Remembering the diocese after we are gone
| October 28, 2014 • by Father Colin McKenna


On Thursday evening, October 16, I was feted along with a small number of other clergy and lay people at the bishop’s residence in Trumbull. After a moving, personal Mass with Bishop Caggiano as principal celebrant and homilist, I along with the other attendees was inducted into the Saint Augustine Legacy Society.

The bishop presented me with a membership lapel pin and a certificate of induction worthy of papal honors. When he tried to attach the pin to my lapel, he drew blood (just kidding!). Finally, we were led into the dining room where we were treated to home-made pizza, sandwiches, various salads, and scrumptious home-made desserts.

Never have so many honors and privileges been showered upon me for having done so little!

Now for a little background. A few weeks ago, Bill McLean, chief development officer for the diocese, stopped by my office in the Catholic Center and placed an invitation in front of me. He asked me if I had received the invitation, and I admitted that I had received it but I had failed to RSVP that I would not be attending. I apologized, thinking that determining whether or not I was coming to the Mass and induction ceremony and reception was the primary purpose of his visit. But he continued.

He asked me if I had checked off a little box on the form when I had made a contribution to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal. The box indicated that I had remembered the diocese in my estate. Now I had to go further and explain that I had considered the invitation but that I was not interested in becoming a member – even an inaugural member – of the St. Augustine Legacy Society.

When you are dealing with someone in development, it is best to remember that fundraising professionals can be persuasive. The next thing I knew, I had agreed to become an inaugural member of the St. Augustine Legacy Society. This is the stuff of which fine obituaries are made!

For whatever reason, I have always been quite responsible about having a will. I think I had my first one when I was about thirty years-old. Now that I am fifty, I need to bring my will back to my lawyer for a tune-up.

It has always been a given that I would remember the Diocese of Bridgeport in my estate, and whatever I leave to the diocese will be an unrestricted gift. Since entering seminary twenty years ago, and after fifteen years as a priest, the diocese has been unwavering in its support of me. There are instances where I could claim that I was treated unfairly here and there, or that I was not shown proper respect (excuse me!), but by and large, the Diocese of Bridgeport has shown me unconditional love and nurturance. In that sense, the diocese has been like a parent to me, imperfect but loving.

My hope is that when it is my time to meet Jesus face to face, I may be able to leave more to the diocese in dollar terms than I received in salary and benefits during my time as a priest. That is a lofty goal, but God-willing, I will leave something to the diocese in my estate that can help the bishop at that time with his fundraising goals and objectives.

Remembering the diocese in my estate is an act of thanksgiving to God for having called me to serve as a priest in Fairfield County, where I was born and raised. Contributing the Annual Bishop’s Appeal is easy to do, thank God. And it was even easier to check off that little box, indicating that I have remembered the diocese in my estate.

Little did I know when I checked off that box that I would become an inaugural member of the St. Augustine Legacy Society. If you, too, think that you have what it takes to be inducted into the St. Augustine Legacy Society, please contact the development office at 203.416.1479.

They say that you cannot buy heaven, but…

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Brian A. Wallace Deserves a Medal
| October 28, 2014


The communications office in the Catholic Center houses the offices of the Fairfield County Catholic, which produces a monthly newspaper mailed directly to over 100,000 households in Fairfield County. On a daily basis, the communications office is also one of the livelier offices in the chancery because clergy and staff from other offices often stop by to ask for assistance with projects involving printed material and online efforts, including social media outreach.

The communications office staff consists of fewer than ten people, but two of them have the same name: Brian Wallace. This can lead to some confusion, but surprisingly, things run fairly smoothly, even when someone comes in and asks for “Brian.”


Brian D. Wallace is the director of communications, which includes being executive editor of the Fairfield County Catholic (print and online) and being diocesan spokesperson.

Brian A. Wallace works in the communications office as the creative art director. Presently, he is working on a new safe environments manual that will be 80 pages long. It is expected that 30,000 copies of the manual will be printed and distributed to parish staff and volunteers throughout the diocese.

Someone suggested a helpful mnemonic for me when trying to remember which Brian has the middle initial “A” and which one has “D.” The trick is to remember that Brian A. Wallace has the “A” for “art”!

Whenever a large diocesan Mass is to be celebrated that requires a program, Brian A. is called upon to produce something as attractive and detailed as required. He recently produced a one volume program for the priests at their convocation which included texts, music and prayers for all of their liturgies.

His most recent work of art, for which he is to be lauded, is the new St. Augustine Medal, given each year to outstanding parishioners and staff who serve the Church above and beyond the call of duty. The medals were awarded this past weekend, and undoubtedly, many marveled at the beauty of their award.

Not one to take all of the credit himself, Brian wanted to make sure that the contributions of last summer’s intern were also recognized. Over the summer, intern Anna Lynette Speight drew an image of St. Augustine from another image and then used her computer skills to create a stylized graphic art image of St. Augustine that was used to create the new medals.

In the pictures that accompany this post, Brian can be seen tucked away at his desk in the Catholic Center. He is truly one of the unsung heroes of our diocese!

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5K run, walk draws 250 in Newtown
| October 28, 2014 • by Danbury News Times


NEWTOWN—"The spirit of St. Rose" was everywhere Sunday as 250 participated in St. Rose of Lima School's 5K run and walkathon at the Fairfield Hills campus.

The fifth annual event was sponsored by the Catholic school's parent-teacher organization. Rob and Amy Griffin have organized each 5K run and walkathon, attracting the Newtown community each year.

"We've had a fabulous response from the beginning," Amy Griffin said. "It brings the entire family of St. Rose together." The event reached its $20,000 fundraising goal as of Friday. Raffle prizes were donated by school families, while silent auction items were donated by Newtown and Bethel businesses.

For link to story in Danbury News Times click here

Recipients honored as “missionaries of hope” at St. Augustine Medal Service
| October 25, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—After praising more than 130 St. Augustine Medal recipients for their “generous and loving service to the Church,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano also issued a challenge to them during today’s St. Augustine Medal of Service ceremony.

“I commission you to go out to be my missionaries of hope to the rest of our Church, and to invite them to follow in your footsteps,” the Bishop said in a brief homily. “And in this year of the Synod, let us pray that they rise to the challenge because we need every single one of them.”

More than 700 friends and family members filled St. Augustine Cathedral in downtown Bridgeport to offer prayer and praise for the recipients.

In the early afternoon ceremony on a day sparkling with sunshine, the Bishop began his remarks by thanking medal recipients for their long-time service to parishes and the diocese.

“I am very grateful for your service, your generosity, your witness and your faith,” he said. “Today is a celebration of that service as love made concrete in your witness. Often in your silent way, you become the presence and face of God to those who need it the most.”

During the prayer service and program, one by one the honorees came forward with their pastors to receive their medals from the Bishop. Many couples were also among the recipients.

Speaking to almost 900 people who filled St. Augustine Cathedral in downtown Bridgeport, Bishop Caggiano said it was fitting that the medals of service are named for St. Augustine because “he wrote one of the most beautiful sermons ever written in generosity.”

The names of the medal winners were read from the altar by Sister Mary Grace Walsh, Superintendent of School, and Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities. William McLean, Chief Development Officer of the Diocese, presented the medals to the Bishop for distribution.


At the end of the service, recipients were given a standing ovation and invited to a reception at Kolbe Cathedral High School.

After the prayer service, which included a the singing of Psalms and a reading from the Jeremiah (More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? The Lord alone…”), the Bishop blessed the bronze medals with an engraving of St. Augustine on the front and the seal of the Diocese of Bridgeport on the reverse side.

“Wear your medal often,” the Bishop urged the men and women, “so people asked what is it? And you can invite them to receive it as well by following your example of generous and loving service. May the medal you wear outside always reflect the goodness of your heart on the inside.”

The November 15 issue of Fairfield County Catholic will include photos of all recipients. They will also be posted on line as soon as they are available.

2014 St. Augustine Medal Nominees (Download PDF)

Click to view a slideshow of the ceremony

To view photos of recipients go to

The Big Day of Serving
| October 24, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—What a great day! Teens from St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan joined over 400 other volunteers from the tri-state area who spent the day in Bridgeport working to help in 24 service projects.

The St. A teens were assigned to the Burroughs Community Garden. They weeded and weeded for hours and then mulched and prepped the soil for next spring, all so next summer those in need in Bridgeport can have fresh food on their table.

They were guided by Laura, a Jesuit Volunteer who led them for the day, and Edie Cassidy who formerly worked for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

After their day on the job, the teens were invited to the Bluefish Stadium for a BBQ the city hosted for volunteers, and had the chance to meet Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch! For the record, the mayor shared that with the man hours that were put in by volunteers—that work would have cost the city $40,000 to complete if they had to pay people to do it! Way to go teens! Thank you for giving up your Saturday to help revitalize Bridgeport at the Big Day of Serving!

The best part of this great day is that St. A’s teens want to go back in the spring and replace the wood partitions around the gardens! “Anyone want to join us???” asks St. Aloysius Youth Minister Chris Otis.

Save the date: next October 17, 2015, the Big Day of Serving returns to Bridgeport. “St. A's will be there!” says Otis. “We challenge every other Catholic Parish in the diocese to join us and invite Bishop Caggiano to come serve with us too!”
Click the link to see the before and after pics of the great job done by St. A’s team

Amazing Parish Conference re-energizes parish life
| October 24, 2014


DENVER—Five parishes from the Diocese of Bridgeport were among the 140 parishes from around the U.S.A. and Canada who gathered in Denver on August 27-28 for the Amazing Parish Conference.

Led by Father Peter Towsley, vicar for evangelization and episcopal delegate to the ecclesial movements of the Diocese of Bridgeport, the parishes represented at the conference included St. Joseph in Shelton; St. Joseph in Brookfield; Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton; St. Aloysius in New Canaan; and St. John in Darien. Pastors, parochial vicars, directors of religious education (DREs), deacons and other lay parishioners were invited to participate.
The conference was put on by the Amazing Parish Movement, a group of committed Catholics from around the United States who want to help parishes by connecting them to great resources.

“The conference was a wonderful instrument in examining, evaluating and renewing the many aspects of parish life,” said Father Cyrus Bartolome, a participant from St. Aloysius. “It is a way to look within the very fabric of parish ministry—what are the things that need to stop, to start and rebuild, to refocus our vision in order to build up the body of Christ, our Holy Mother Church.”

The Amazing Parish website explains: “A parish is probably the most important organization in society—it is where most people come to know Christ and his Church. That is why every parish must strive to be amazing.”

(To learn more, visit the Amazing Parish website:

Tap Dancing Priests Rising to Internet Fame
| October 24, 2014


ROME—A pair of priests from the U.S. are captivating audiences at their seminary in Rome with a tap dance routine that is now garnering hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.

Click here to view a recent YouTube video.

Click here to view a video from 2012.

St. Catherine of Siena women help to feed the poor
| October 21, 2014


RIVERSIDE—The Women's Guild of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Riverside had a "soup-making" day to raise money to support the work of the Greenwich World Hunger Association.

Twelve women got together to make 100 quarts of lentil soup which was sold after all of the weekend Masses.

It raised enough money after expenses to be able to send a check for $800 to GWHA to help promote its mission: to eradicate hunger one project at a time all over the world.

GWHA currently has projects in India, Guatemala, Peru, Haiti, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique and the Philippines. The objective is to fund small projects to ease hunger and enable small communities to develop self-sustaining agricultural projects, water accessibility and purification, prenatal health, educational opportunities, and small business projects to advance the economic well-being of the local populations.

It is lifting people out of poverty one village at a time. And this tiny group in Greenwich has been doing so since 1976. For more info: or visit it on Facebook.Twelve.

Immaculate teens introduce youngsters to XC
| October 21, 2014


DANBURY—A new and exciting sport was introduced to the parochial schools in the Danbury area this fall.

In the first week of September, forty students from five different schools in the area met at Tarrywile Park and were introduced to the sport of Cross Country by members from the Immaculate High School Cross Country team.

The athletes met three times a week over the course of five weeks.

On October 8, the runners met for the Parochial School XC Championship. The race took place over a 1.91 mile hilly course, which proved to be very exciting for both runners and spectators alike with many close finishes. Each runner was greeted by a cheering crowd of fans and a Popsicle at the finish line. Medals were awarded to the top 12 runners and a trophy to the team champions: St. Joseph School in Danbury. Congratulations goes out to all the runners, parents and Immaculate students who made this program a quick success. Much thanks to our very own XC coach, Brian Hayes for leading the effort!

Kindergartners test hypothesis
| October 21, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—Predicting buoyancy, kindergarteners at St. Andrew Academy conducted a experiment under the guidance of S.T.E.M. teacher Marilyn Mlynek.

Experimenting with different sized pumpkins, the youngsters first looked at their size and felt their weight,  then made estimates on whether they would sink or float. The most fun came when they tested their theories real-time in a tub of water.

“The first step in the scientific method is the hypothesis,” said St. Andrew Principal Maria O’Neil. The fun-filled activity helps build an attitude of exploration necessary for 21st Century learning.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Indian Summer
| October 21, 2014


Saturday, October 18 (the Feast of St. Luke), may have been the last warm day that we will have for awhile. The pictures of the waterfront that accompany this post were taken near sunset at Compo Beach in Westport, and the temperature was in the 70s. It was warm enough to be comfortable in shirtsleeves despite the brisk ocean breeze.

One of the reasons I wanted to post these pictures is to highlight the effects produced by the different editing filters on my iPhone 5s. For full-diclosure, I do not own shares in Apple (but I am considering buying some!).

I have written about the use of my iPhone in this blog before, and I am happy to report that it is becoming even more indispensable to me as a creative tool.

Someone asked me yesterday if I already have a blog written for Thanksgiving. Somewhat surprised by both the question and the concept, I explained that I much prefer to write my blogs each week, to keep them relevant and fresh. One of the joys of writing a blog is that I usually do not know what I am going to write about until I sit down to write it. Sometimes, I can experience writer’s block and really wonder if I can come up with something. Other times an idea presents itself immediately and I am eager to write about it.

This blog actually began with the pictures of the waterfront, which reveal both the limitations of my iPhone camera and its capabilities. The true beauty of the moment was not really captured by the camera, but the different filters allowed me to present the moment artistically. They are three separate pictures taken in time and from different vantage points. You will notice that the boat has moved in each frame.

After I took the pictures, I wondered how I could build a blog post around them, and then it occurred to me: refer to them in the context of Indian Summer.

Indian Summer is a term that is used rather loosely in the Northeast. Some refer to it as any warm weather after September 21, or the onset of fall. Others are very technical about its definition. The Farmer’s Almanac defines it as a period of unusually warm, hazy weather (in a high pressure system) between November 11 and November 20 after at least one freezing spell or “killing frost.”

For the purposes of this blog, we will maintain a rather loose definition of Indian Summer, but we will keep the criteria of a spell of unusually warm weather after a frost.

Because this blog is written for our diocese in particular, I will assume that our northernmost parish—Holy Trinity in Sherman—has already had at least one hard frost. Sherman is about 40 miles north of Long Island Sound and about 800 feet above sea level. For all I know, it may have already snowed up there! Would someone from Sherman please send me a note by carrier pigeon and let me know if you already have snow?

It was in the 30s along the coast in the wee hours of October 20, so I can safely assume that someplace in Fairfield County (the Diocese of Bridgeport) got frost.

The next step for Indian Summer is the return of unusually warm weather, which at this point would be in the 70s.

After my lovely walk on the beach on Saturday afternoon, I had to take my lemon trees inside from the deck on Sunday afternoon because of the coming cold temperatures. After some arranging and rearranging, I think I have my trees set up just right for their time indoors. They seem happy enough, and my parakeets are delighted to have them inside, placed beside their cage.

Oh, my parakeets! I have not written about them yet. They were a present to myself for my 50th birthday back in June. They were about three months old when I got them and they have been with me now for about four months. Their names are Snowball and Amber.

I did not know if they were male or female when I got them, but I now know that they are both boys. The names I gave them were sort of “unisex” so that I would not have to change them after I learned their sex. My explanation for a boy named “Amber” is that it is short for Ambrose. Hopefully, he won’t suffer any sexual identity issues because of his feminine-sounding name. More on my parakeets later…

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Women of Faith: Conference will focus on vocation of women
| October 20, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—“We as women need to take time for ourselves,” says Gina Donnarummo, diocesan director of adult formation. 

“We need time to come together in a prayerful and spiritual way to explore our dignity and vocation as women.”

The Office for Pastoral Services, with the encouragement of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, has put together a day-long women’s conference with the theme, “Handmaids of the Lord."

It will be held on October 25 at the Trumbull Marriott. The day will include both breakfast and lunch. Through speakers, Adoration, Confession, veneration of a relic of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Mass with Bishop Caggiano, women will be looking at how they can respond to what the Lord is asking of them.

Three speakers will present aspects of that call and response during the conference:

Genevieve Kineke converted to the Catholic faith as a young adult. She was immediately drawn to the question of how women image God. In 2008, she was asked to address the participants of a Vatican congress honoring the 20th anniversary of “On the Dignity of Women”, an encyclical of Pope John Paul II. She will bring her perspective to the conference.

Dr. Dianne Traflet earned a licentiate and a doctorate in Sacred Theology from St. Thomas Aquinas University in Rome, focusing on the life of St. Edith Stein. She will draw on that expertise, at the conference, giving a talk titled: “To Unveil Christ in the Heart of Another: Edith Stein’s Understanding of the Vocation of Women”

Dr. Traflet is associate dean and assistant professor of pastoral theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. The founder and co-director of the seminary’s new Institute for Christian Spirituality, she currently serves on the Theological Commission of the Diocese of Paterson and the Newark Archdiocesan Advisory Committee for Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.

Sister Clare Matthiass, CFR, entered the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, a community committed to following in the footsteps of Saint Francis by living the Gospel and serving the poor, in 1998. She has served as the vocations director and as postulant director, and is currently the community vicar. Sister Clare’s topic for this conference will be, “Dignity and Vocation as Women.”

The conference is sold out with 408 registrations, which include a cross section of the diocese in age, professional background, and geographical distribution across Fairfield County.

“We are pulled in so many different directions today, whether we are at the beginning of our careers, raising children or being caregivers to aging parents,” says Maureen Ciardiello, diocesan Respect Life director. “It is important for us to set time aside to ground ourselves in our Catholic faith to help us navigate the challenges of life.”

Pope beatifies Blessed Paul VI, the 'great helmsman' of Vatican II
| October 20, 2014 • by By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Beatifying Blessed Paul VI at the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis praised the late pope as the "great helmsman" of the Second Vatican Council and founder of the synod, as well as a "humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church."

The pope spoke during a homily in St. Peter's Square at a Mass for more than 30,000 people, under a sunny sky on an unseasonably warm October 19.

"When we look to this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks," the pope said, drawing applause from the congregation, which included retired Pope Benedict, whom Blessed Paul made a cardinal in 1977.

"Facing the advent of a secularized and hostile society, (Blessed Paul) could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom—and at times alone—to the helm of the barque of Peter," Pope Francis said, in a possible allusion to "Humanae Vitae," the late pope's 1968 encyclical, which affirmed Catholic teaching against contraception amid widespread dissent.

The pope pronounced the rite of beatification at the start of the Mass. Then Sister Giacomina Pedrini, a member of the Sisters of Holy Child Mary, carried up a relic: a bloodstained vest Blessed Paul was wearing during a 1970 assassination attempt in the Philippines. Sister Pedrini is the last surviving nun who attended to Blessed Paul.

In his homily, Pope Francis did not explicitly mention "Humanae Vitae," the single achievement for which Blessed Paul is best known today. Instead, the pope highlighted his predecessor's work presiding over most of Vatican II and establishing the synod.

The pope quoted Blessed Paul's statement that he intended the synod to survey the "signs of the times" in order to adapt to the "growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society."

Looking back on the two-week family synod, Pope Francis called it a "great experience," whose members had "felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the church."

The pope said the family synod demonstrated that "Christians look to the future, God's future ... and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way."

The synod, dedicated to "pastoral challenges of the family," touched on sensitive questions of sexual and medical ethics and how to reach out to people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and those in same-sex unions.

"God is not afraid of new things," Pope Francis said. "That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us; he constantly makes us new."

Convocation 2014: Study, Prayer and Fraternity
| October 18, 2014


NEWPORT—On Sunday afternoon, October 12, I-95 was filled with Catholic priests from the Diocese of Bridgeport as they made their way by bus and car to Rhode Island.

More than 160 priests from the diocese attended Convocation 2014. The last one was held in 2010 in the same Newport location, a large hotel/convention center with a chapel adjoining the grounds.

When they arrived on Sunday evening, the priests were treated to an opening dinner and then invited to pray together with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Vespers, a Holy Hour and Benediction.

Monday was the first full day of the Convocation, and it began, fittingly, after breakfast with Mass and morning prayer.

The first presenter of the conference was Robert Wicks, Psy. D., who is on the faculty at Loyola University Maryland. He has authored over 50 books, and his presentation was entitled, “Remaining Calm within the Storm ~ Strengthening the inner life of Priests.” By discussing psychological and classical spiritual approaches to maintaining a healthy perspective and inner strength, Dr. Hicks offered insights into how priests can maintain their equilibrium under stress. In his lively, engaging style, he encouraged the priests to “have an attitude of gratitude!” He concluded that maintaining a healthy perspective can allow priests to find peace in their ministry, a peace and warmth that they can then share with others.

The second presenter was Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem., who focused on the recent exhortation by Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel.” Father McBride is an expert in catechesis, and in addition to writing many books during his priesthood, he has also worked in seminary formation, most notably at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary near Boston, where a number of Bridgeport priests enjoyed his work as a professor.

Father McBride began his presentation by stating that “we all need wisdom,” especially priests who minister in these turbulent times. He encouraged priests to be evangelists not so much by what they say but rather by their witness to Jesus. He encouraged them to focus especially on evangelizing the family.

In addition to the presentations by Father McBride and Dr. Wicks, the priests also participated in a lengthy synod discussion facilitated by Bishop Caggiano, who said, “This is the first of a number of synod sessions we will have together.”

Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, director of the synod, encouraged the priests to "bring the synod to your parishes.” And deputy synod director, Patrick Turner, hoped that the priests would “engage synod delegates with their fellow parishioners.”

On Wednesday evening, the final evening of the session, the priests gathered in clerical attire for a festive dinner. Casual dress was the order of the day except for the final festive dinner.

In the photos that accompany this article, the priests can be seen at conference, during liturgy and at the festive dinner.

Click to see additional photos from the Convocation

Anglican, Lutheran delegates say synod's concerns are theirs, too
| October 16, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Upholding the Christian ideal of marriage and family life while also reaching out to those whose lives do not reflect that ideal is a pastoral challenge faced by all Christian communities, said the Anglican representative to the Synod of Bishops.

Anglican Bishop Paul Butler of Durham, England, and "fraternal delegates" from seven other Christian communities addressed the synod Oct. 10. Bishop Butler also spoke to Vatican Radio Oct. 15 as synod members worked in small groups to amend the assembly's midterm report.

He told members of the synod that he and his wife have been married 32 years and have four grown children. Although Anglicans have married bishops and clergy, "like you," he told them, Anglicans "are wrestling with how best to respond" to the challenges facing family life around the world.

"As part of this response," he said, "we want to speak more of the promise of and hope from the family than focus on the threats," while also making it clear that "marriage is between a man and a woman and is intended to be for life."

Still, he told the synod, "families of all types" exist in society and within the church. "We have to minister to and with cohabiting, single-parent and same-sex families. This demands listening, understanding, compassion and care rather than condemnation."

In the Vatican Radio interview, he said that participating in a synod working group and making suggestions, he was looking first of all at "the tone" the synod report would take. "It's about being as positive as we possibly can to families of all make ups, recognizing that within the Catholic confession marriage is a sacrament, but how can the church be as welcoming as it is possible to be to those whose family life is not the ideal."

Being welcoming, he said, "is a way of offering hope to people and introducing them to the Christian doctrine. If we are seen as completely negative, then people won't come near us and they will just dismiss the Christian Gospel."

Lutheran Bishop Ndanganeni Phaswana of South Africa, representing the Lutheran World Federation, also told the synod that his community has been having "lively discussions" about how to respond to "new forms of family and marital relationships." The process, he said, has "created tensions" within the federation.

On behalf of the federation, he thanked the Catholic Church for inviting him to observe the synod's "discernment process and to learn from your discussions on this subject."

St. Rose student wins Parochial League Cross Country Championship
| October 15, 2014


DANBURY—On Wednesday, October 8, the inaugural Parochial League Cross Country Championship meet was held at Tarrywile Park in Danbury.

The cross country trail run was 1.9 miles that challenged runners with rolling hills. St. Rose of Lima School fielded 12 runners at the meet. Fifth Grader, Kayla Ondy was the overall winner with a time of 13:27, under seven minutes a mile, and St. Rose School placed third overall, with 74 points. Five area parochial schools participated, with more than 40 students running.

First Young Adults dance held in Trumbull
| October 15, 2014


TRUMBULL—The first dance by the Catholic Young Adults Group out of St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull was held on Saturday, October 11.

A great night of dancing, food and meeting new friends from all around the Diocese of Bridgeport. We even had visitors from the Diocese of Hartford “Catholic Young Adults of Connecticut”! For information on the Young Adults Group (ages 20s and 30s) at St. Theresa Parish, Main St., Trumbull, email Theresa: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For a list of other Catholic Young Adult Groups in Fairfield County, and events around the area go to


Click here to view a slideshow.

Eagle Scout Service Project concludes with Solemn Blessing Ceremony
| October 14, 2014 • by By Matthew A. Penza, Life Scout


NEW FAIRFIELD—On Sunday, October 12, a public blessing ceremony of urns was held during the 11 am Mass at St. Edward the Confessor Church as part of Lone Boy Scout Matthew A. Penza’s Eagle Scout Service Project.

The Knights of Columbus from St. Edward Council No. 12968 lent dignity to the ceremony, as did the Knights from the Rev. John D. Kennedy Assembly No. 99, Greater Danbury, who attended with a colorful six-Knight honor guard. Connecticut State Senator Michael McLachlan was also in attendance as an honored guest.

While researching potential projects, Penza found the website of Garden of Innocence, a charity that provides burials to abandoned or unidentified children and stillborns, and assists families unable to provide a proper burial for their young children, saving them from the indignity of being buried unacknowledged in their local Potter’s Field.  

On their website, Penza viewed a video highlighting an event honoring infant Leo Riggs, who had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and whose family had received assistance from the Garden. This video deeply moved him to give serious consideration to selecting Garden of Innocence as his project beneficiary, a decision firmly solidified shortly thereafter when he read several unrelated news articles spotlighting the use of fetal remains as biofuel in both the United Kingdom and Oregon.

The project consisted of coordinating the planning, building, and finishing of thirty-three wooden urns, as well as their public blessing at a Sunday Mass. The blessing took place immediately after the Liturgy of the Eucharist, with Penza delivering brief remarks and receiving an unexpected standing ovation from the congregation before Father Nick Cirillo, pastor of Saint Edward’s, administered the blessing while the Knights stood guard.  

Carol Matlick accepted the urns at the conclusion of the Mass on behalf of Garden of Innocence National, whose founder, Elissa Davey, later remarked, “These are probably the loveliest urns I have ever seen. The craftsmanship looks remarkable, plus you can tell that this project received a lot of love going into it.  Thank you so much for helping us spread the word… and for being an excellent example of what a true Eagle Scout should be.”

The successful completion of this service project involved coordinating a team of volunteer woodworkers, clergy and staff from St. Edward the Confessor Parish, the Knights of Columbus, Garden of Innocence National, BSA Connecticut Yankee Council, multiple local businesses, various media outlets, and local dignitaries, to all of whom Penza extends his sincerest gratitude for their generous contributions.

Later this month, Penza will go before an official Boy Scouts of America Eagle Board of Review, which will determine whether the rank of Eagle Scout will be officially granted to him.

A transcript of Penza’s remarks as delivered before the blessing follows: 

Matthew Alexander Wm Penza
Life Scout
Lone Boy Scout
Connecticut Yankee Council, BSA

Remarks at Mass Before the Blessing of the Urns
Saint Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church
Eagle Scout Service Project for Garden of Innocence National
Transcribed as Delivered October 12, 2014

Good afternoon. My name is Matthew Penza. I am a Lone Boy Scout working towards the rank of Eagle. As my Eagle Scout Service Project, I chose to lead a team of volunteers in planning, building, and finishing thirty-three wooden urns, which today I will be turning over to Garden of Innocence National.  The Garden provides dignified burials to abandoned or unidentified children and stillborns, as well as assisting families who are unable to provide a proper burial for their young children, saving them from the indignity of being buried nameless, unmarked, and forever unknown and unacknowledged in mass graves in their local Potter's Field. Very often, the local Knights of Columbus attend the burial services with an honor guard, and they have been kind enough to attend today.

Several factors led me to choose this as my project. As I was researching potential projects, I found the Garden of Innocence website, and saw an extremely moving video about an event they had in honor of an infant named Leo Riggs, who had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and whose family had been assisted by the Garden. At that point, the Garden was on my short list, but I had not made any final decisions. Very soon after, I was horrified to read in the news that fetal remains were being used in British hospitals as biofuel—that they were being mixed in with other medical waste and being burned to heat the hospitals. Only a few days later, I learned that fetal remains were receiving similar treatment very close to home in Oregon. Though not directly related, hearing this news led me to definitively choose Garden of Innocence as my project beneficiary.

St. John Paul the Great noted that the culture of death seems to reign supreme, when he described the growing glamorization and acceptance of abortion, euthanasia, and other needless waste of life in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, in which he called us to be, quote, “fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’” He went on to say, “We find ourselves not only ‘faced with’ but necessarily ‘in the midst of’ this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

Two weeks ago today, during remarks before a Mass for the elderly, Pope Francis reminded us that, quote, “The culture of discarding human beings hurts our world… We are all called to counter this culture of poisonous waste! … We need a society which measures its success on how the weak are cared for.”

I see my project as my contribution to reversing the culture of death and restoring a culture of respect for and protection of life, including and especially for the weakest and youngest among us, by helping to properly bury these innocent children, which is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. In addition to answering the call of the Church, this project honors the first point of the Scout Oath—Duty to God—and the twelfth point of the Scout Law—A Scout is Reverent.

Before formally turning over the urns to the Garden, I felt that they ought to be blessed at Holy Mass, given the profound role they will play in the end of their recipients’ lives on Earth, and in comforting their families. May God bless the souls of all deceased infants and children, especially those for whom these urns were made. In the words of librettist and Orthodox nun Mother Thekla: “Alleluia! Alleluia! May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Thank you.

Respecting life outside our comfort zone
| October 14, 2014


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

True respect for life requires us to get out of our comfort zone.
Oh, we might say, “I respect life, I vote for ‘pro-life’ politicians who claim they will work to end abortion.” However, in a democracy voting is usually easy and comfortable.

But are we willing to regularly stand outside of an abortion mill on a freezing winter morning or hot summer afternoon praying and witnessing to the humanity of our unborn brothers and sisters? That’s harder and somewhat uncomfortable.
Now for those who are willing to get uncomfortable in support of the Catholic Church’s efforts to protect unborn human life, try to move into an even more uncomfortable zone: acknowledge the truth that war does much to disrespect life. War kills life–mostly innocent life.

Blessed Mother Teresa insightfully said, “The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, which is war against the child. … Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

But Mother Teresa’s quote can logically and honestly be turned around to say that war also is the greatest destroyer of love and peace. Like abortion, war is also against the child. And that any country that accepts war is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The truth is that it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God. It is an instrument of the Antichrist. Violence never serves man, but dehumanizes him.”
Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps you say, “I respect life, I vote for politicians who say they will work to end war, war preparation and the military-industrial-complex.” Again, in a democracy voting is generally easy and comfortable.  
But are we willing to peacefully, prayerfully and publicly witness to the evil of war and war preparation? And are we regularly contacting our legislators?
Now for those who are willing to get out of their comfort zone in support of the Catholic Church’s teaching against violence and war, try to move into an even more uncomfortable respect life zone: acknowledge the truth that abortion disrespects life.
Admit the truth that abortion is as Mother Teresa said, “war against the child.” Acknowledge that abortion is extremely violent–against the unborn baby and against the mother.
Over the years I have talked with many “prolife” advocates for unborn babies who don’t think twice about bombing their enemies–often not knowing or caring that many of the victims are innocent, vulnerable born babies and children.
And I have come across numerous advocates for peace who are committed to ending war and war preparation, and yet who argue for the so-called right to choose an abortion—the violent dismembering of an unborn baby.
There is a very serious moral disconnect here. And this moral disconnect also sadly happens with all of the other grave social justice issues facing humanity—like poverty, hunger, sweatshops, immigration and refugee reform, climate change, the death penalty, euthanasia and  embryonic stem cell research.
As followers of the God of life, justice and peace we need to connect all of the moral dots and do whatever we can to make a difference.
For as Saint Pope John Paul II said, “We are all really responsible for all.”

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

Construction Kickoff!
| October 14, 2014


STAMFORD—Renovations started yesterday on the new home New Covenant House of Hospitality, the inner city soup kitchen that feeds the poor and hungry of the greater Stamford area.

The Kickoff ceremony put the focus on the $1.5 million “Funding the Future” capital campaign to raise funds for relocation to a new facility and to plan for future program needs.

The house of hospitality, which has served the poor of the greater Stamford area for almost 40 years, officially signed a lease for 8,200 square feet located at 174 Richmond Hill on September 1.

The Columbus Day festivities drew many dignitaries including Congressman Jim Himes, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Stamford Board of Representative Gloria DePino, Honorary Capital Campaign Chair, Rob Simmelkjaer of NBC Sports; and Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County;

Also joining the kickoff celebration were Matthew Reyher, President ARI of Connecticut and Gerard Gasparino, ARI Development and Recreation Manager, and construction partners, Randy Salvatore, principal of RMS Construction and Jay Inzitari of RMS Construction.  

The capital campaign was announced by Paul Harinstein, Chairman of the Advisory Board of New Convent House of Hospitality, and Al Barber, Chief Executive Office of Catholic Charities, which sponsors and manages NCH.

NCH, which benefits from the commitment of hundreds of interfaith volunteers, will continue to serve three meals a day at its current location at Yerwood Center, until the new site is ready.  
Barber said the NCH Food Pantry, which provides groceries to poor families, will be the first to move to the new site, hopefully some time early next year.

To date the campaign has raised $425,000 with unanimous board participation. Harinstein, a member of Temple Sinai inStamford, is hoping the public phase will expand awareness of historic roleplayed by NCH in feeding the working poor, homeless and hungry of the region.  
Capital Campaign Committee members include Laure Aubuchon of New York City; Paul Harinstein of Stamford; Michael A. Boyd of Greenwich; Moira Colangelo of Stamford; Bob Dorf of Stamford and Linda Koe of Stamford.
“We getting word out to businesses, philanthropic givers and the religious community and we have a new brochure outlining ourstory,” said Harinstein who is in his third year as chairman of NCH. “Over the last six year, the numbers of meals we serve has nearly tripled to over 700,000 a year. Our current facility is not sufficient to meet the needs and we want to be in a better position to serve the community.”
Harinstein said he was encouraged by the support of NBC Sports, which recently moved into Stamford. On a recent Saturday more than 50 employees and their family members prepared and served a meal to guests. NBC Sports made a $25,000 donation to the soup kitchen. Rob Simmelkjaer of Westport, Senior Vice President, NBC Sport Ventures has agreed to serve as Honorary Chair of the Campaign.  
Harinstein said NCH was fortunate to find a site diagonally across from its current home in the Yerwood Center. The larger space will provide room for expansion andalso for a number of programs that will help guests to live independently.
“Feeding the hungry remains the core of our programs, but we don’t want  to just feed someone, send them home and nothing changes. Our goal is to get at the rootcauses of poverty.”   
Plans for the new facility include creating a bistro style dining area, and spacious foodpantry that will enable guests to shop and select a wide range of healthy food. The center will also house immigration services, English as a Second Language courses, a clothing closet, shower facility, and classroom space for job training and other skill building courses.
Guests are the poor and disadvantaged including the homeless, working poor, elderly, mentally ill, HIV/AIDS clients, the disabled and immigrants, both with and without citizenship documentation.
Many guests are at risk due to numerous socio-economic factors including poverty; disadvantage; addiction; lack of resources; complicated health issues and/or other disabilities.
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 email or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Phone 203.964.8228

Note: For additional coverage please visit the Stamford Adocate

Respecting Life is Joyful
| October 13, 2014


STRATFORD—Bishop Caggiano was the principal celebrant and homilist at the annual diocesan “Mass for Life,” held October 12 at St. Mark’s Parish.

The 10:30 am Mass featured a full choir (in white gowns) and a full church of parishioners and visitors. Many of the parishioners who attended were anxious to see the bishop in person.

After Mass, the bishop waited outside the church in the beautiful fall weather to greet anyone and everyone who wanted to meet him.

The theme for Respect Life Ministry this year is derived from a quote from Pope Francis: “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation.” The Mass is held in a different parish each year and is sponsored by the Respect Life Ministry office in the diocese.

After the Mass, a light reception was held in the parish center, where parishioners and visitors of all ages enjoyed baked goods and assorted beverages.

From beginning to end it was a festive day, which was in keeping with the bishop’s message about respecting life. Bishop Caggiano said that exhorting people to respect life is “not always a popular message in our society.” In order to make the message more attractive, those who encourage others to respect life must themselves lead by example, and being joyful in prayer is always an important component of successful evangelization. The bishop encouraged all gathered to be “people who live life fully and who respect life fully.”

The parishioners and visitors who attended the Respect Life Mass were certainly joyful. The St. Mark Parish Youth Group wore their distinctive bright blue t-shirts to show solidarity with the bishop and his pro-life message. Wearing a garment that signified belonging to a religious group fit in nicely with the Gospel in which an unfortunate fellow found himself without a “wedding garment.” Keeping with the theme of sacred garments, the bishop said that “life is a seamless garment, from the moment of conception until natural death.”

In his discussion about the need to respect life, the bishop was careful to include not only the unborn but also anyone who is in need. He encouraged everyone gathered to “concretize” the message by reaching out to anyone whom they may know who is in need of support, assistance or encouragement, including the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the dying.

Finally, the bishop encouraged everyone to pray daily for the “conversion of hearts” of those who do not respect life. He asked for special prayers for Christians in Middle Eastern countries who are now undergoing severe persecutions at the hands of lawless bands who are trying to make forced conversions to Islam. Those who refuse to convert to Islam are often victims of unspeakable violence, even against children.

Before the final blessing, the bishop extended a special thanks to Maureen Ciardiello, director of Respect Life Ministry for the diocese, who helped to organize this special Mass. The bishop also thanked Father Don Guglielmi, pastor of St. Mark’s, for his gracious hospitality.

Click here to view a slideshow of photos by Michelle Babyak.

Catholic Young Adults Group Adventure
| October 12, 2014


DANBURY—Catholic Young Adults of Greater Danbury at St. Marguerite, Brookfield, braved the rain on October 11 for a hike at Tarrywile Park in Danbury; they were joined by 3 others from other area Young Adult groups.

Aaron, Carl, Mary, Ambria, Sean, and Ruwan, enjoyed the morning getting to know each other. The group meets First and Third Friday of the month at St. Marguerite's, Brookfield, from 7-9pm. Come join us. For info call Maria Mullen at 203.798.6923 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For events and a list of Young Adult Groups in Fairfield County CT and NY area go to:

First Hand-written Illuminated Bible in 500 Years
| October 10, 2014 • by By Joseph Pronechen


NEW HAVEN—For several centuries, monks spent countless hours diligently making copy after copy of the Bible by hand in beautiful script and adding colorful illustrations of some passage or parable along with highly ornate, illuminated lettering.

But once Gutenberg came along and printed the first Bible with moveable type around 1455 in Germany, the medieval Benedictine monks stopped all their hand-copying of the Bible. There was no need any more since now Bibles could be made in many copies in short time.

It was not until the time of this new millennium that monks once again looked toward a hand-produced Bible when the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned the first hand-written and illustrated Bible in 500 years. The result is the St. John’s Bible, a monumental work completed in May 2011 when calligraphic artist Donald Jackson finished copying in beautiful script the last word — “Amen”.

The story of this project and its results is now on exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum in downtown New Haven. Called “Illuminating the Word of God: The Saint John’s Bible,” it fills four galleries and includes 68 of the 1,178 original pages in addition to numerous items connected to making this unique Bible.

This is no pocket-sized Bible. Surprisingly, the pages are two feet high and nearly a foot-and-a-half wide. They will be bound into seven volumes, but for now the sections are being exhibited in various locations for some time yet so that many people around the country can see the incredible results.

The script all done by hand is striking. It looks straight from the Middle Ages, as if monks labored years over the whole work. Yet at the same time, there is something slightly different about it.

That new-old difference might be because this graceful script was created by the person who headed the project and had the idea in the first place: Donald Jackson. Appropriately, it is called the Jacksonian script.

Jackson happens to be one of the best calligraphers in the world and is the Senior Scribe to the Queen of England. He has stated that it was his dream since childhood of one day completing a handwritten Bible after the ancient practice.

To do that, the St. John’s Illuminated Bible project enlisted Jackson and five more scribes working with him in his scriptorium in Wales. A number of aides joined them.

While a computer was used to plot out the pages showing where every line should be placed, and the same for the illustrations, the rest of the work was basically carried out in the centuries-old manner that the medieval monks would recognize and use.

The pages are the same time-tested and time-honored vellum, which is from calfskin which was prepared in the traditional centuries-old manner.

The black ink for the script itself was prepared from rare 19th century Chinese ink sticks. The red ink dates to the 19th century and the vivid blue from lapis lazuli.

Just as did the monks of old, Jackson and his scribes began each chapter with a fancy capital letter. Only in this case, they are not quite as ornate as the medieval monks made them, at least in the major examples existing from centuries ago.

As quite a surprise, and yet no real surprise considering the project’s goals, all the script was done in the same manner as from well over a thousand years ago. Jackson and scribbles used quills they prepared by hand from turkey, swan and geese feathers. Not only are examples of these tools on display, but their use is demonstrated by way of a video.

The illustrations themselves are often quite colorful and even dazzling because of the abundance of sparkling and gleaming gold leaf in several of them. But here they differ in most part from the medieval sources. Most on display in this exhibit and presumably in the rest of the Bible are modernistic in their appearance, symbolism and metaphors. Sometimes they even lean to being somewhat abstract. They were intended to tilt toward being ecumenical.

While there are a couple of Byzantine icon-like illustrations from John Chapter 8, an illustration of the Sower and the Seed parable has a modern look with the sower working blue jeans and sweatshirt.

In the Book of Revelation, the illustration of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is likely meant to reflect chaos with its mostly abstract images that do include identifiable elements like the tanks of modern warfare.

But there is abstraction in the beautiful swallowtail butterflies that sometimes grace the pages.

For this handwritten and illustrated Saint John’s Bible, the committee in charge used the New Revised Standard Version (not the New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition).

Considering the historical foundation and the work and talent that went into this project that took over a decade, The Saint John’s Bible is an epic work. It indirectly pays tribute to all those nameless monks who toiled with such patience for God and his Church.

This major exhibit runs through November 2 at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.

Click to view high resolution samples: Vision of Isaiah | Sower and the Seed | Valley of the Dry Bones

Bishops examined the link between the crisis of faith and the crisis of the family
| October 09, 2014 • by By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register


VATICAN CITY—The general discussion of the Synod of Bishops on the Family continued Wednesday by focusing on various proposals under way regarding the pastoral program for the family unit.

Bishops participate in one of the conferences of the October 5-19 Synod on the Family. – Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

According to the Holy See Press Office, the link between the crisis of faith and the crisis of the family was discussed, with the first generating the second.

This led to the suggestion of a vademecum (handbook) being devised, dedicated to the catechesis of the family.

The weakness of the knowledge of the Catholic faith of many baptized person was emphasized, saying this leads to couples getting married without being fully aware of what they are undertaking. “A dictatorship of unitary thought”—that is, counter-values that distort the vision of marriage as between a man and a woman—was also discussed. The crisis of values, atheist secularism, hedonism and ambition “destroy families today,” the synod heard. “It is therefore important to recover in the faithful the awareness of belonging to the Church, as the Church grows by attraction and the families of the Church attract other families,” the Vatican said in its summary.

Humanity must be reawakened so it senses belonging to the family unit, and the Church, being an expert in humanity, must underline this. The link between priest and families and their mutual help was also discussed, as was the family being the “cradle of vocations.”

A further link underlined was that between baptism and marriage: Without a serious and in-depth Christian initiation, a participant said, the meaning of the sacrament of marriage is diminished. There was talk of light that the Church brings to the world—the light that is given to mankind, which is not so much in terms of “fixed beacon” anchored to the land of origin, but a torch that accompanies the journey of each person step by step.

Confidence in God’s Grace
Many interventions have dealt with the need to have confidence in the grace of God, the Vatican said, adding that God’s grace is essential for our actions and our decisions. The director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, said there have been some “very beautiful” interventions on the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation, especially with regard to traditional African culture.

The interventions Wednesday largely drew attention to the situation in Africa: Discussed were polygamy, levirate marriage (whereas the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother), sects, war, poverty, the painful crisis of migration, and international pressure for birth control. At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, said the participants “came out very clearly” with the view that “life is sacred, marriage is sacred and family has dignity.”

He criticized international organizations that “like to entice us to deviate from our cultural practices, traditions and even our religious beliefs.” He said this is because they “believe their views should be our views” but “we say ‘No, we have come of age.’” Most African countries, he pointed out, became independent 50, 60 or 100 years ago. “We should be able to think for ourselves, define for ourselves what is marriage, what makes a family and when life begins,” he said.

He deplored the current practice of African nations being “wooed” by economic enticements. “We’re told if you limit population growth, we will give you so much,” he said. But he reminded the synod that many children die in infant mortality, or through diseases and wars.“And yet you [the West] come to tell us about ‘reproductive rights’ and you give us condoms and artificial contraception?” he said. “Those are not things we want,” he continued. “We want food, education, roads, regular light, good health care. We’re being offered wrong things, and expected to accept them because we’re poor.”

But he said poverty is not merely about money and there are other kinds. “We’re not poor in every sense, so we say ‘no’,” he said. The time has passed, he added, when Africans accept things “without asking questions.”

Conjugal Bond
The focus then returned to discussion on marriage. With regard to the indissolubility of the sacrament, it was highlighted in the synod that the conjugal bond and its stability is inscribed within the person, and therefore it is not a question of setting the law and the person in opposition to each other, but rather of understanding how to help the person not to betray his or her own truth.

In the fifth general congregation, which took place Wednesday morning, the debate focused on the Church in the Middle East and in North Africa. It was said that the laws impede “reunification of families” due to difficult political, economic and religious situations.It was also said that poverty leads to migration, and explained how “religious fundamentalism” means Christians do not enjoy equal rights with Muslims, especially when it comes to families of mixed (interreligious) marriages. Children of “mixed” marriages must be offered suitable catechesis, couples must “not be neglected” and the Church must care for them.

Later in the general congregation, it was said that the Holy See’s voice must be heard defending families “at all levels”—international and local—and the Church “must combat the educational and religious silence in families.”

The synod also highlighted the “indispensable contribution” of the lay faithful in proclaiming the Gospel of the family, especially the lay ecclesial movements. “Listening to the laity” and believing in them was “essential” as it is through them the Church “may find the answers to the problems of the family.”

Often, there was an emphasis on “greater preparation for marriage” with “special attention” paid to “emotional and sexual education.”

Father Thomas Rosica, press secretary to the Holy See, told reporters there was “no sense of doom” or “handwringing despair” among the participants. Instead, they have disclosed the “best practices,” considering, for example, how to appeal more to Scripture and adapting the language of “natural law” to suit the world of today.

He spoke of the need to use irregular elements of civil marriage as a “springboard” towards introducing them to sacramental marriage, and emphasized the “medicine” of mercy rather than placing “burdens on people’s shoulders.”

Financial Pressures
Also discussed were the effects of finances on the family. The precariousness of work, unemployment and poverty, and the distress they cause, can prevent families from having a home. “Furthermore, a lack of money often leads to it becoming “deified” and to families being sacrificed on the altar of profit,” it was said. “It is necessary to re-emphasize that money must serve rather than govern.”

And again, greater preparation for marriage was stressed, with special attention paid to “emotional and sexual education, encouraging a true mystical and familiar approach to sexuality.”  The contribution of grandparents to families, namely in the transmission of faith, was also emphasized, as was care for the elderly. “The same care must be reserved to the sick, to overcome the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis frequently warns against,” it was said.

From the Pastor’s Desk
| October 09, 2014 • by By Monsignor Chris Walsh


In last week’s bulletin we talked about the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops summoned by Pope Francis that is taking place right now in Rome. Its theme is sharply focused: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the context of Evangelization."

Its participants are largely key bishops from around the world. But the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, which was officially convened last month by Bishop Caggiano, is a different sort of Church assembly.

Our Diocesan Synod (pronounced “SIN-id”) is a gathering of several hundred representatives of the clergy, religious and laity of the Church of Bridgeport. It meets under the leadership of our bishop, the chief shepherd and pastor for the Catholics of Fairfield County, who has asked the synod representatives to study, discuss and recommend proposals to him on a wide range of pastoral issues: e.g., re-evangelization of non-practicing Catholics, challenges to family life, ministry to youth, support of Catholic education, welcoming Latinos and other new Catholic immigrant groups, addressing key social issues, strengthening our parish life, etc. The Bridgeport Synod plans to hold five general sessions over the course of this coming year, with smaller study groups meeting in between. It is expected that the bishop will issue a final report of the Synod’s conclusions upon its completion.

In short, a local synod is not a deliberative or legislative body. Its purpose is to study issues, express views, and make proposals to the bishop who, as a successor to the Apostles, has the full, ordinary authority to teach, sanctify and govern the local Church. Nevertheless, synods have played a central role through the Church’s history in articulating the “sensus fidei” (or “sense of the faith”), which as Vatican II reminded us belongs to the entire Body of Christ, and in guiding the actions of bishops in a certain diocese, city or region.

In this Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, we can see the hand of the Holy Spirit leading us along the path that the Holy Father has pointed out for the Church as a whole. As the pope summed it up so well in his “Prayer to Mary, Star of the New Evangelization,” which we have been praying regularly at Sunday Masses at St. Joseph’s:

"Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman. . . .

Pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom."

- (Pope Francis, "Evangelii Gaudium")

Diocesan Financial Statements
| October 08, 2014


BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport has released its Combined Statements of Financial Position for December 31, 2013 and 2012.

“One of my first priorities is to provide a clear, transparent and comprehensive account of the finances of the Diocese,” said the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano last year when he announced his plan to publish financials on a yearly basis.

Click to view the full audited report

Assumption School Teams up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for a Clothing Drive
| October 08, 2014


FAIRFIELD—On Sunday, October 12 from 10 am-1 pm, the Service Club at Assumption Catholic School will be collecting clothes, shoes, linens and pocketbooks to donate to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southwestern CT.

"We would love it if everyone can come and donate clothes they do not wear anymore and bring them on down for adults and children that need clothing." said Dylan Smith, an eighth grade student in the Service Club.
The students will be collecting the items in the school parking lot and working collaboratively with Big Brothers and Big Sisters towards a goal of 200 bags of clothing. For more details or questions, please call Karen Guastelle: 203.814.4894.

Assumption Catholic School Introduces New Technology
| October 08, 2014


FAIRFIELD—This September marks the 60th anniversary of Assumption Catholic School in Fairfield, and marks a pivotal point in their history with the introduction of Learn Pad tablets for the upper-middle school.

"Each teacher has been trained on the Learn Pads to use them to their optimal capacity in the classroom—really bringing learning to the 21st century" says Principal Gerrie Desio.

The introduction of this one-on-one computing is a fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning at Assumption Catholic School. All of the students currently take computer science as one of their classes and utilize technology in many ways throughout their day, however, this is now taking it to the next level. The students will use the Learn Pads in each of their classes where it will be integrated into the curriculum.
This use of one-on-one computing will enhance their already strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum. Assumption Catholic School was recognized as model school  by the state of CT Invention Convention for our inventing/STEM program and a recipient of a School of Distinction plaque and has always had students get to the finals and win awards in the CT State Science Fair. The Learn Pads will also be used in the school’s math partnership with Sacred Heart University.
This is the first step in the school's plan to transform the entire school to one-on-one computing. "The introduction of these tablets was the natural next step for us in giving our students the tools and knowledge that they will need to be prepared for high school and college. As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, this is a perfect way to begin!" Principal Desio noted.  

Blessings on pets and owners
| October 08, 2014


NORWALK—Kittens, puppies and an assortment of pets joined the second graders at All Saints Catholic School for the Blessing of the Animals on October 6.

Father Sudir D’Souza, parochial vicar at St. Philip Parish, did the honors, blessing both the pets and their owners.

A time-honored Catholic observance, the Blessing of the Animals is held around the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4, a Saturday this year). St. Francis, known for his love of animals, is famous for establishing the traditional Nativity scene, which he brought to Assisi using live animals around the Christ Child’s manger.

Museum visit enriches studies
| October 08, 2014


NEW HAVEN—Kolbe Cathedral sophomores visited the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven and had an opportunity for a guided tour of the elaborately illustrated St. John's Bible manuscript.

The calligraphy and images chosen to accompany the text enhanced the students' study of Old Testament. Father Augsutine Nguyen and the religion department teachers attended with the students.

On sexual and medical ethics, synod fathers speak of 'graduality'
| October 07, 2014 • by By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service


VATICAN—In their discussions of sexual and medical ethics, participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family are giving emphasis to the concept of "graduality," as a way of thinking about morality that allows for human imperfection without compromising ideals.

In an address to the assembly on its first working day, October 6, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, said that "Humanae Vitae," the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church's prohibition of artificial birth control, "needs to be considered in light of the law of graduality."

He suggested that it was unrealistic to expect immediate acceptance of the widely flouted teaching.

The cardinal quoted "Familiaris Consortio," a 1981 apostolic exhortation by St. John Paul II on the role of the Christian family in the world that was inspired by the last synod on the family in 1980. According to St. John Paul, each person is a historical being who "knows, loves and accomplishes moral good in stages of growth."

Several bishops referred to graduality in their remarks during an afternoon session dedicated to the theme of "God's plan for marriage and the family."

"Despite serious flaws that we always identify in Western culture, we also have to discern and to declare what the steppingstones are for Christian wisdom," one bishop said, according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, an assistant to the Holy See Press Office, who did not identify the bishop in accordance with synod rules.

Discussing the church's attitude toward "irregular" relationships, such as those of civilly married or cohabitating Catholic couples, another bishop drew an analogy with the Catholic understanding of other Christian churches. While the church is said to subsist fully only in the Catholic Church, other Christian communities are believed to possess important elements for sanctification.

By the same token, "there is a full and ideal vision of the Christian family, but there are absolutely valid and important elements even of sanctification and of true love that may be present even when one does not fully realize this ideal," the bishop said, as paraphrased by the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who also spoke at the October 6 session, told reporters the next day that the "law of graduality" is a "law of pastoral moral theology which permits people, all of us, to take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives."

The cardinal, who attended the 1980 synod as a priest assisting a participating bishop, recalled that St. John Paul II had made an important point on the subject at the conclusion of the synod.

"He said, yes, there is a law of graduality, but it should not be confused with a graduality of the law," Cardinal Nichols said. "He was saying the vision, the teaching of the church is consistent and is offered to everybody. So it's not as if there's one law at this time in your life and another law later in your life, but there is a pathway on which we'll walk."

Another synod father, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, told reporters October 6 that the idea of graduality could help the church develop a new way of speaking about sexuality.

"We cannot have always 100 percent, and I would say good and bad, that's not so easy to make the difference," the cardinal said in English. "There is a development, a way, in the biography or in a relationship and so on."

Cardinal Marx, chairman of the German bishops' conference, also said that the "great majority" of German bishops support German Cardinal Walter Kasper's controversial proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, even if they have not obtained annulments of their first, sacramental marriages.

"I think it is very important to see that we have ways or that there is a graduality also in the way to the sacrament," Cardinal Marx said.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Deck Garden Harvest
| October 07, 2014


The nights have been getting pretty chilly lately.

In Wilton, where I reside, the temperatures have come close to freezing a few times, so it is time to begin winding down my deck garden and begin preparing for winter.

The first order of business are my three lemon trees. One is about 6 feet tall while the other two are each only about two feet tall. The two smaller ones underwent a couple of prunings this summer while I let the larger tree grow relatively unabated.

I grew my lemon trees from ordinary lemon seeds taken from a lemon, but after five years or so, none of them have produced any fruit. Even without flowers or fruit, they are interesting and attractive to look at, so even if they never produce lemons I plan to keep tending them.

Lemon trees do not respond well to freezing temperatures, so I will soon need to move them indoors. They prefer the warmer weather and direct light, but thus far they have been able to survive the winters positioned near my sliding glass doors. The exposure is north-easterly, so they could use more light in the winter months, but they usually make it to the spring in stable condition. One of the keys to their indoor health, I have found, is to keep them lightly watered. If their soil is a little dry during the winter months, that seems to suit them well.

The other things that I focused on growing this past summer were wildflowers and corn. If you are interested in seeing the progress of my garden from early spring through mid-summer to now, you can reference two of my earlier blog posts: “Deck Garden” (5/28/14) and “Divine Gardener” (7/8/2014).

The things that grew best of all this summer were my wildflowers. Until a few days ago, I thought that my four corn plants had been duds. Then I noticed that two of the corn stalks had grown one ear apiece. This morning, I harvested the two ears of corn and photographed them. Later, as small as they are, I plan to boil them and eat them (I’ll let you know how they taste!).

The wildflowers turned out to be gifts that just keep giving. As you will see from the pictures I took today, some flowers are in bloom and more buds seem set to burst forth.

Next summer, I plan to focus on my lemon trees and more wildflowers. As for the corn, I will buy what I need from the store.

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A reassessment of Pius XII
| October 07, 2014 • by By DEACON TOM DAVIS



“Pope Pius XII was the greatest hero of World War II. He saved more Jews than Roosevelt, Churchill and all the rest of them combined.”

That is the assessment of Gary Krupp, founder and president of Pave the Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to inter-religious dialogue, harmony, and tolerance Krupp will present the ground breaking research of Pave the Way Foundation at the 2014 Pope John Paul II Bioethics Lecture on November 13 at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT.

“Believe me” says Krupp, “I never dreamed I would be defending a man who, when I was growing up, we believed he was a Nazi sympathizer.”

The controversy surrounding the war time record of Pius XII is one of the great injustices of the 20th Century. The controversy was advanced in the 1963 play “The Deputy” by Rolf Hochhuth, which portrayed Pope Pius XII as having failed to take action or speak out against the Holocaust.

Krupp is uniquely qualified to address the issue. His organization has done much to further affectionate relations between Jews and Catholics, people who share faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who increasingly do share the bonds of friendship.

Through those and other efforts Krupp and Pave the Way Foundation have raised new awareness of the heroic efforts of the great Pope Pacelli in the face of Hitler and Mussolini’s racially psychopathic Fascism.

In September, 2013 Krupp was interviewed by First Things, the renowned journal of religion, culture and politics. He described the current the state of the historical datum concerning Pius XII: “The debate is over. Those who attack Pius XII still do not have a shred of documented evidence to support their claims. ... Every charge against Pius XII can be proven wrong. ... I once showed a simple PowerPoint presentation of the documents we discovered to seventy students at Yeshiva University. All of the attendees said there was no question that Pope Pius XII was a hero of the Jewish people, when many of the other religious and political leaders of the time did literally nothing.”

But what accounts for the enduring, if unjust, negative assessment of some concerning Pius? Krupp points out the incongruity between such judgments and the near universal praise from Jews after the war, including Albert Einstein, Israeli Prime Minster Golda Meir, and the World Jewish Congress.

He identifies Hochhuth’s play as a turning point. The play and its wide promotion distorted public opinion and drove an unjust narrative that lingers to this day—one that amounts to the greatest character assignation of the 20th Century.

As examples of Pius’ actions on behalf of Jews, Krupp points to a secret “underground railroad,” directly ordered by the Pope, sending more than 10,000 Jews to the U.S. via the Dominican Republic. Since many countries would not accept Jews, Pius directed that they were to be given false baptismal papers to travel as Catholics. Pius also successfully stopped the deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews and ordered the lifting of cloister for men and women to enter monasteries, convents and churches to hide 7,000 Jews of Rome in a single day, all with German rifles posted 200 yards beneath his windows.

The focus on Pope Pius XII for the annual bioethics lecture at Holy Apostles College & Seminary grows out of several allocutions delivered by Pius in the 1950s on medical-moral topics and which stand as the modern foundation of Catholic bioethical teaching. His effort on behalf of persecuted European Jewry during the dark night of Nazi atrocities witnessed to the highest priority Christian bioethics— the defense of human life.

In addition to the presentation by Krupp, the 2014 Bioethics Lecture will feature a concert performance by Asteria, (Sylvia Rhyne, soprano, and Eric Redlinger, tenor and lute), which brings to life the exquisite love songs of medieval Burgundy through intimate interpretations based on extensive archival research in to original sources in Paris, The Hague, and Basel, Switzerland.

The concert and lecture/presentation is free of charge and open to the public. Asteria’s performance will begin at 6 pm followed by Gary Krupp’s presentation at 7 pm. A reception will follow.

(Deacon Tom Davis is associate director of the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center. For more info on the 2014 Pope St. John Paul Bioethics Lecture and Concert, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)