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Ash Wednesday
| February 10, 2016 • by By Bishop Frank Caggiano


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BRIDGEPORT—Today we celebrate the beginning of Lent- a penitential time for each of us to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery- His Suffering, Death and Resurrection.


For the next 40 days, we will walk together, examine our conscience, face our faults and sins, turn to the Lord for His grace, seek conversion of mind and heart and be renewed in spirit. It is a privileged time that we should not squander or take for granted. This is the time for us to follow the Lenten disciplines of the Church so that we can grow in faith, hope and love.

Sometime today, either at Mass or during a celebration of the Word, we will gather to have ashes imposed upon us. The ashes come from burnt palms that we used last year to welcome the Lord Jesus into the City of David commemorated on Palm Sunday. It was a welcome that by the end of the same week led Christ to the Cross, as his freely gave his life for our salvation. Such a welcome with palms was reserved for the emperor and his delegate as a sign of their power and might. In the case of Jesus, the palms ushered in the victory of love, not the victory of military might. For us today, we receive ashes to remind us that every act of might, tyranny, power, selfishness and callous disregard of the poor will be consumed by the fire of God’s life. So too will our earthly possessions, opinions, honors, accomplishments, ego and even our very bodies will eventually turn to dust. And what will remain? Only the cross of Jesus Christ, through which you and I will be saved.

Let us reflect on the words that we will hear today: “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” How great is the love of Christ that can make our ashes into something of eternal value.


Pope on Ash Wednesday: Mercy Involves Generosity
| February 10, 2016 • by By CNA/EWTN NEWS


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VATICAN CITY—For Pope Francis, mercy is something that ought to be expressed in concrete acts of service and in sharing one’s goods with the poor, which was a key tradition during jubilee years throughout Scripture.

Click to read Bishop Caggiano's reflection
on the start of Lent


Referring to the current Year of Mercy, the Pope explained that the jubilee is time “for conversion, so that our hearts can become bigger, more generous, more like a child of God, with more love.”

“But I tell you that if the jubilee doesn’t arrive to the pockets, it’s not a true jubilee,” he said, adding: “This is in the Bible; it’s not the Pope who invented this.”

Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Ash Wednesday, beginning the Church’s Lenten season.

In his continued catechesis on mercy as seen in Scripture, the Pope noted how the jubilee year is an “ancient institution.”

He took his cue from the biblical passage in the Book of Leviticus, in which the “jubilee” concept was instituted among the Jews. According to the rules of the jubilee, the year served as a “kind of general amnesty” in which a person who had been forced to sell goods or property could regain possession of them, he noted.

In that time, “requirements such as the jubilee were used to combat poverty and inequality, guaranteeing a life of dignity for all and an equal distribution of the land on which to live and from which to draw sustenance,” the Pope observed.

Because the land originally belonged to God, who then entrusted it to man, no one can claim exclusive possession of it or use ownership to create situations of inequality, he said.

“With the jubilee, whoever had become poor returned to have what was necessary in order to live, and whoever had become rich restored to the poor what they had taken from them.”

The result “was a society based on equality and solidarity, where freedom, land and money would become again a good for everyone,” Francis explained.

In off-the-cuff- remarks, he noted that roughly 80% of the world’s wealth rests in the hands of around 20% of the people, and he encouraged the faithful to be generous with what they have both during Lent and the jubilee.

“Each person can think in their hearts: If I have too many things, why not leave 10%, 50% to those who have nothing?” he asked, assuring those present that if they take the matter to prayer, the Holy Spirit will inspire them about what is reasonable for them to do.

Francis then turned to the biblical law that required the payment of tithes, which would be used to assist the poor, people without land, orphans and widows.

He said that tithes such as this arrive daily to the Office of the Papal Almoner, which oversees the Pope’s charity funds.

When the letters come in, they frequently contain “a little bit of money: something small or not so small, which is part of a person’s salary, to help others,” the Pope said, explaining that “it’s beautiful” to help others, whether it be people, charitable institutions, hospitals, retirement homes or foreigners.

Pope Francis then issued a sharp condemnation of the practice of usury and lamented how many families have been forced to live on the streets due to the corruption of those who want to line their own pockets.

“Usury is a grave sin before God,” he said, and he noted that, many times, people in desperation “end up committing suicide because they can’t do it, and they don’t have hope.”

These people “don’t have an outstretched hand to help them, only the hand that makes them pay for personal interests,” he said, and he prayed that the Lord would use the Jubilee of Mercy as a time to remove the desire of usury from all hearts, making them bigger and more generous.

Francis pointed to God’s promise to bring blessings to those who lend a hand and who give generously, adding that when we are generous, the Lord “will give you double ... maybe not in money, but the Lord always gives double.”

He closed his address by encouraging those present to have the courage to share what they have with others. This, he said, “is called mercy, and if we want the mercy of God, let’s begin to do it ourselves.”


Immaculate Sophomores thank Religious Women
| February 09, 2016


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DANBURY—On Tuesday, February 2, the Catholic Church closed the “Year of Consecrated Life.” The students in Miss Gina Donnarummo’s religion classes watched the documentary “For Love Alone” which describes the life of various religious communities of women sharing what it means to be a bride of Christ.


The sophomores in Miss Donnarummo”s classes made cards to thank local religious women for their vocation, love, and dedication to the Church. Here are some of the students displaying their cards. The cards will go to: Franciscan Sisters of Renewal, Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Marian Community of Reconciliation, and School Sisters of Notre Dame.


Paul Chu Interviews Danielle Rose
| February 06, 2016


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In this interview Paul Chu of the Sacred Beauty Project, who helped bring Catholic Underground to the Diocese of Bridgeport, speaks with Catholic singer/songwriter Danielle Rose about her music ministry, her commitment to women and children across the globe, and her own spiritual journey.


Danielle, for years I’ve admired your music and your ministry. Tell me – how did all of this begin?

Well, I started singing in the bathtub with my parents…. No, actually, I started playing classical violin, growing up. I saw Itzhak Perlman, and I was so inspired, I started begging my parents to let me learn violin. Now my parents were counting every penny – my father was studying to be an eye doctor at the time, fourteen years – and they didn’t know how they could afford for me to study. But after a couple of years of my begging, they started to wonder if God had put this in my heart. So they prayed about it, and it turned out that the concert master of the San Francisco Symphony lived right where we used to go on our walks; we got to know her, and she was willing to teach me.

When I was fourteen, my dad taught me guitar; from there, I started writing music almost right away. I was in an alternative rock band in high school; my dad would come with us to do the sound at every concert! Of course, I was still doing classical music as well, and at that point it could have gone a lot of different ways…

The summer that I was seventeen, I had a life-changing experience; I’m grateful to God forever, for that. I was able to spend a month in Delhi, India, volunteering for a month with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity; this was just a month or two before Mother Teresa died. This profoundly affected me; I was able to understand that true joy came not from things, but from God. I began to have a burning desire to dedicate myself to serving the poorest of the poor, as Mother Teresa and her sisters did, but I didn’t know how that was to take shape in my own life.

Over time, after her death, I felt like Mother Teresa was telling me in my heart that my work was to alleviate spiritual poverty. Mother Teresa often spoke of the poverty of materially rich people whose hearts were closed to God; I had been so struck by the material poverty of the slums in India – and yet she said that we in America were poorer than they, because we didn’t know God. This was where I first discovered the desire to give my music to God.

My faith life and sacramental life deepened as I went through college. I studied music and theology in college, and people would say, What are you going to do with that?, and I would say, I’m going to sing for God! I didn’t know how I was going to do that; there was no marketing plan – I’ve never been good with things like that. But doors started opening toward me becoming a music missionary – toward serving others as a missionary like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, but through my music.

You speak of material poverty and spiritual poverty – I can’t help thinking of your work in China. How did this ministry develop in your own life?

From my college years, all the way through my twenties, I was struggling, searching for my vocation. I really deeply wanted to serve God with my whole life; I had dreamed of being a Missionary of Charity in Kolkata. It took… really, thirteen years, for me to know that God wasn’t calling me to do that.

Still, I had this intimate relationship with Jesus – really, I was in love with Him, and I had to ask if He was calling me to be His spouse, in religious life. I went to a contemplative Franciscan community in Texas; that was a time of total surrender, five hours of prayer each day, then work in silence. I felt that God was asking me to put my music in His hands; I didn’t really think I’d ever do music ministry again. But during that time, missionaries who had been in China visited the community, and it was burning in my heart, almost like a life mission, to pray for China, especially given the one-child policy and the state of orphanages there.

After about two and a half years in formation & discernment, it became clear to me and to the community that God wasn’t calling me to make vows there, but to go back into the world. At that point, I saw that I should be using my music, my voice, to speak on behalf of the little ones in China who couldn’t speak for themselves – orphans, sick and handicapped children, dying children, mothers, even mothers who were trying to protect their children from forced abortion at the hands of state authorities. A voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So God returned to me the gift of music mission, but starting anew, with a specific call to China. And through the missionaries I had met, I started going to China, and got connected to an orphanage called China Little Flower. From that point, all my music ministry in the U.S. was dedicated to raising material and spiritual support for the people of China, especially China Little Flower.

It’s incredible to me: China has a fifth of the world’s population, and most of these people have never heard the name of Jesus. Growing up in a Western culture, where Christian beliefs and values form a background, whatever people themselves believe, it’s amazing to think of all these people the Gospel has never reached. It set up this burning in my heart, for all of these people to get to know Jesus. And it was so inspiring, to see the Christians of China stand up for their faith, even in the face of all the political opposition, and that the faith was growing more rapidly in China than anywhere else in the world. I really feel it won’t be too long, before they are the ones coming to evangelize us.

Tell us a little about your experiences there, in China.

The one-child policy has had profound effects on Chinese culture. The national tragedy of four hundred million children who have lost their lives to abortion – more than the entire population of the United States. The forced abortions, the suffering of the people – you hear about these things through media, but when you begin to meet the people, to meet the mothers, to see the tears, to hear the stories… it’s something that shakes to the bone, to pray for an end to this. And we see that our prayers have been answered, at least a little – the laws have been slightly altered, to allow for two children, but there’s still a long way to go.

We need to grasp – and this is not just China, but the whole world – the gift of each life made in God’s image, and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. It’s the conversion of the heart that changes the laws. The time I spent in China shows more clearly what is happening worldwide. People’s eyes and hearts need to be opened to the reality of the suffering and injustice of abortion. I find it so hard to understand how anyone who claims to believe in the dignity of the human person can support this – yet I’ve found that the experience of China, with forced abortions, forced population control, the one-child policy, the two-child policy, can help people who claim to be pro-choice to see. This is a meeting ground, a place we can all understand: It’s not a woman’s choice to have an abortion forced upon her, to have her child’s life taken from her; by reflecting and pondering on this suffering, some may come to realize what abortion really is.

What I really learned from these beautiful people in China was that we don’t have to be afraid of what is happening with the government, or with the laws. The Gospel is stronger than death. The faithful in China have been willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel – whether as confessors or as martyrs, everyone there has suffered for Christ. We should not be afraid to do the same. I can’t look at them and let myself become afraid or intimidated because of the changing laws and values in our country, not when I’ve seen how the Church there has thrived under persecution, just as the early Church did. Some of my friends there have told me that they’ve prayed for the Church in the West to suffer persecution, as they have, if only to learn thereby the joy and strength of the Gospel more fully. And I feel like it’s coming – even in this generation, things we’ve never seen before in this country.

Even now, when I’m no longer traveling to China the way I did before I married, even at home in my “mom-astery” with my little girl, I continue to experience the connection to the whole Church through these beautiful, faithful people. I love the people in China so much. They’re so amazing; they’re so brave.

In concert, you tend to sing a lot of participatory, sing-along, folk songs – which is an enduring social justice tradition.

Musicians have a profound responsibility to speak the truth. Music carries words deep into the human heart; it forms minds, draws people closer to Christ or further away from Him – and I’m afraid the devil knows that as well as anybody.

I believe life is a social justice issue – for the child, of course, but also for the mother who through material need or social pressure is coerced to make a “choice” she doesn’t really want. One reason why so many people find the prospect of putting an end to abortion so daunting, is that there will have to be so much social change, to create a culture which supports human dignity and respect and care. This will require the whole community, or almost the whole community, to speak a deeper “yes” to life.

As for singing along, I write music to carry the word to people’s hearts. Long after the concert is over, I pray that these words will be like seeds to help people continue to grow closer to Jesus, and to share His love with each person that they meet.


Danielle Rose to Perform at Catholic Underground
| February 06, 2016


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Also: Click here to read Paul Chu's interview with Danielle Rose

Listen to Danielle's song "Pursue Me"

BRIDGEPORT—Catholic recording artist Danielle Rose will perform at the next CATHOLIC UNDERGROUND evening set for Saturday, Feb. 13, 7:30 pm at Saint Ann Parish, Bridgeport.


The evening will begin at 7:30 pm with Eucharistic Adoration, prayer, praise and worship music and the availability of Confession followed by her performance, which is prayerful, meditative and profoundly moving. It is open to all.

In a lyrical and transformative voice Danielle Rose she reaches deep into the soul to reflect the depth of the search for God and holiness. Her original songs also offer a passionate and affirmative defense of life and of women and children who are victims of violence around the globe.

In 2004, Danielle received the personal blessing of Pope John Paul II when she presented him with her second album, Mysteries, a collection of meditations upon the twenty mysteries of the rosary. She received a Unity Award from the United Catholic Music and Video Association (UCMVA) as Female Vocalist of the Year in 2005. One year later she recorded her third album, I Thirst, a musical tribute to the life and work of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Danielle Rose is a 2002 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she received undergraduate degrees in music and theology. At the age of 17, she traveled to Delhi, India to volunteer with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. This experience gave her a desire to serve the poorest of the poor by offering her gift of music as a means of alleviating the spiritual poverty of America. Her debut album, Defining Beauty, was released in 2001 by World Library Publications.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Danielle Rose began traveling the globe as a music missionary in order to spread the Gospel through a joyful witness of story and song. Whether she was ministering to one million people at World Youth Day in Toronto, or twenty teenagers in her hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, Danielle encouraged and challenged every soul to form a relationship with the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus through the heart of Mary.

Most recently she has used her voice and music ministry to support the China Little Flower Orphanage and reach out to women who are victims of forced abortions.

All are encouraged to attend. For more info, contact Evan Psencik, coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Formation: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Uplift the World
| February 05, 2016


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CONVIVIO, a worldwide high school congress, was introduced to the U.S. in 2010 by the Diocese of Bridgeport.


This year the Convivio weekend, held at Sacred Heart University Friday-Sunday, March 4-6, will take its theme from the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. “Uplift the World” will be an opportunity for teens to explore and experience the Lord’s Mercy in a new and life-changing way.

The goal of CONVIVIO is to help youth become more aware of the problems of today’s world and to seek responses. Over the weekend they can reflect together, youth with youth, about the participation that they should all have in this society and in the world where they live. The goal is to give them the skills and tools to begin building a better world—now—not in the distant future.

The weekend includes Mass, Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as talks, discussion groups, games and community activities. It is led by teens and is open to any high school student. No matter where a young person is in their faith, CONVIVIO encourages students to ask hard questions in order to find real answers and return to their families, parishes, youth groups, and schools to share their new-found or reaffirmed belief. It also helps students to realize that they are a part of something greater, that they are not alone in their journey of faith, and that there are concrete ways to change their local communities and the world.

(For more info, contact Maria Cerdena, coordinator of High School Apostles and Convivio: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). org or 203.416.1454.)


Teens to Fast 30 Hours to Fight Hunger
| February 04, 2016


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NORWALK—St. Philip Parish will again be participating in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine during the weekend of February 27-28.


Over the past 13 years, more than 1,200 middle and high school students have raised in excess of $298,000 to fight hunger both globally and locally.

The Famine welcomes youth from multiple local schools and many different religious communities around Fairfield County. In the hope of bringing an end to world hunger, the theme for this year’s Famine is “Hunger Free.” Participating teens will fast for 30 Hours while raising money and awareness for the thousands of people who die every day from hunger and hunger related illnesses. 



These participants need your support in their fund-raising efforts. Among the many opportunities to contribute include a “Light the Night” luminaria event on Saturday night (February 27) The effort will benefit World Vision, an international relief organization that serves the world's poorest children, and Manna House, Norwalk’s soup kitchen. Parishioners and the public at large are also asked to donate canned and packaged food for distribution locally.



The fast begins at 9 am on Saturday, February 27. The teens, adult volunteers, parents and members of the community meet at St. Jerome Church in Norwalk for a “Hunger Walk.” St. Philip’s is excited to welcome Dr. Sohi Ashraf, who will be the keynote speaker on Saturday at 10 am at St. Philip Church. Dr. Ashraf is a Norwalk Hospital Resident who went on a humanitarian medical mission to Uganda. He will be speaking about his trip in Uganda and how his experiences as a child formed his desire to one day become a doctor and help those in the world’s most destitute places. Dr. Ashraf was so moved by his time in Uganda he is working on a new and inexpensive way to test the blood sugar of a patient—he found a way to make a difference in a place where it felt as if nothing would help.


A full day’s program follows, including a blessing in the church, offsite activities, games, service projects (including Stop Hunger Now meal packing and Sole Hope shoe making), music and prayer, and ends at 9:30 pm with a vigil in the church. Sunday begins with a group meeting, 10 am Mass and a breaking of the fast with Eucharist, and closes with breakfast in the mansion. Msgr. Thomas Powers, Vicar General of the Diocese Bridgeport will celebrate the closing Mass and be with the teens as they break their fast.



(The St. Philip Famine team urges adults in the community to donate to the campaign. To make a donation, send a check payable to either “World Vision” or “Manna House” addressed to “Famine” at St. Philip Parish, Fr. Conlon Place, Norwalk CT 06851. For more information, contact Kali DiMarco: 203.434.8407 or Claudette Quadrini 203.847.4286, or visit www.stphilipnorwalk.weebly.com.)


Christian Music Pioneer and TV Host John Michael Talbot coming to Monroe
| February 04, 2016


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MONROE—Christian music legend, best-selling author and host of The Church Channel’s popular TV show “All Things Are Possible”, John Michael Talbot, is coming to St. Jude Church for three special evenings, April 25, 26 & 27, 2016.


The church is located at 707 Monroe Turnpike (Rt. 111), Monroe, CT. Each evening begins at 7 pm and includes an inspiring message and sacred music. For more information please contact the parish office at 203.261.6404. Tickets are not required. A Love Offering will be received each evening to support the ministries of John Michael Talbot and the Brothers and Sisters of Charity.

Talbot’s ministry began over 35 years ago with a vision. “God gave me a vision of itinerant ministry walking on foot from parish to parish in a time of great need in our culture. I believe that our current ministry is fulfilling that vision. We are rebuilding the church one parish at a time, and renewing hearts one life at a time!”

The path our Lord has guided John Michael on throughout his life has uniquely prepared him for this time in the Church. After responding to the Lord’s call, God used John Michael to bless millions of lives through his unique and multi-faceted ministry.

John Michael Talbot is one of the pioneering artists of what has become known as Contemporary Christian Music. He is recognized as Catholic music's most popular artist with platinum sales and compositions published in hymnals throughout the world. A respected (and prolific) author, John Michael’s 28th book, “MONK DYNASTY” was published February, 2016.

John Michael Talbot is seen weekly as host of The Church Channel’s popular TV series “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE” and is a frequent guest on faith and Diocesan networks around the world.

John Michael leads his very active ministry from the Little Portion Hermitage in Arkansas and St. Clare Monastery in Texas where he is the founder and Minister General of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. His artistic and humanitarian efforts have been recognized with awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Gospel Music Association, Mercy Corps and the Mother Teresa award.

Today, John Michael Talbot is one of the most active evangelists traveling throughout the world inspiring and renewing the faith of Christians of all denominations through sacred music, inspired teaching and motivational speaking. John Michael, like a modern St. Francis, is rebuilding God’s Church “one parish at a time, and renewing hearts one life at a time.”

For more information please visit his website, facebook, and youtube.


St Joseph High School Students Sign National Letters of Intent
| February 03, 2016


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TRUMBULL—St Joseph High School located at 2320 Huntington Tpke. Trumbull, Connecticut is pleased to announce senior student athletes who signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at a press conference.


Nicole Williams-Softball-Manhattan College, Div I
Nick Zannis-X-country-Merrimack College, Div II
Mike Sudora-Lacrosse-Le Moyne College, Div II
Cameron Ryan-Football-Cornell University, Div I
Marissa Grasso-Soccer-Bryant University, Div I
Leah Lewis-Soccer-Colgate University, Div I
Jenna Bike-Soccer-Boston College, Div I

The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a document used to indicate a student athlete’s commitment to participating National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) colleges and universities in the United States. There are designated dates for different sports, and these dates are commonly referred to as "Signing Day". The National Letter of Intent is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NLI member institution.

Prospective student-athletes agree to attend the institution full-time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters). The institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).

St Joseph High School strives to be the premier college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut. The school provides a safe learning environment to 810 students that embrace the Gospel values of the Roman Catholic faith and promotes a commitment to family and community. The school prepares our young women and men to realize their potential, helps them excel in higher education and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits St. Joseph High School.

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).


National Catholic Schools Week!
| February 03, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2016 is January 31-February 6.

Read Bishop Frank on Catholic Education

To help celebrate Catholic Schools Week in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the Social Media office encouraged schools to send in videos showing  “what they love about Catholic schools.” It’s clear that the students are proud of their teachers and schools!

The theme for the National Catholic Schools Week 2016 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.

 

Click for St. Aloysius School video

Click for Saint Joseph High School video

Click for Holy Spirit School video

Click of an info graphic on Catholic Schools


Abortion: out of sight, out of mind
| February 02, 2016 • by By Tony Magliano


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Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

Due to the blizzard that hit the mid-Atlantic, my bus never made it to the 43rd March for Life in Washington, D.C. But thousands of others were able to brave the snow and wind to witness to the dignity of unborn human life, and to protest the gravely immoral practice of legal abortion in the United States.

The following day, January 23, thousands of people from western states participated in the 12th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.
    
And throughout the U.S. various other events to protest abortion and defend preborn life were held on, or shortly after, January 22—the infamous anniversary of the January 22, 1973 Supreme Court dual decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton which effectively legalized abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy.
    
As reported by National Right to Life (http://bit.ly/1DqDLKz), “surgical abortions” kill over 1 million unborn babies in the U.S. every year according to the Guttmacher Institute—a former affiliate of the abortion chain Planned Parenthood.

And when the widespread use of birth control pills is considered, the number of estimated abortions increases tremendously. This is because birth control pills not only act to keep sperm and egg from uniting, but when that mechanism fails, they also have an abortive capability which produces a “hostile endometrium, which presumably prevents or disrupts implantation of the developing baby,” according Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. William F. Colliton, Jr., M.D. (see http://bit.ly/1ZTRqPA).

The American Life League states, “Using formulas based on the way the birth control pill works, pharmacy experts project that about 14 million chemical abortions occur in the United States each year (http://www.all.org/learn/abortion/abortion-statistics).

And worldwide, approximately 1.4 billion abortions have occurred since 1980 (see http://www.numberofabortions.com).

I am convinced the intentional killing of any human being is not part of God’s plan. Killing runs contrary to the Gospel portrayals of the nonviolent Jesus, as well as the nonviolent witness of the early church during the first 300 years of Christianity.

And the intentional killing of innocent human life—which direct abortion does—is especially evil. Brutally dismembering unborn babies during suction abortions, and fatally burning these smallest members of the human family during saline solution abortions, is nothing short of barbaric.

No matter how difficult a pregnancy may indeed be, abortion is never the answer. There are many caring people ready to help both mother and unborn child (e.g. Crisis Pregnancy Centers http://www.care-net.org/find-a-pregnancy-center).

And for those who regret their involvement in abortion, Silent No More (www.silentnomoreawareness.org) and Project Rachel (http://hopeafterabortion.com) can help.

Years ago, while attending a pro-life conference sponsored by Americans United for Life (http://www.aul.org), I asked the late world-renowned French geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune when human life begins. He instantly replied, “At conception of course.”
    
I then asked him if any of his colleagues disagreed with him. He said, “No, we all know when life begins. Where we disagree, is at what stage life should be protected.”
    
For Dr. Lejeune conception—when life begins—was logically and morally where full protection should begin (see http://bit.ly/1JGuPUN).
    
Because for most people the evil of abortion is not something they regularly encounter, it is a classic case of “Out of sight, out of mind.” But a very effective organization to help us keep the dignity of the unborn and the horrors of abortion within eyesight is the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (http://www.abortionno.org).   
    
What is the God of life calling you to do?
     
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.


Crossing the Jordan River
| February 02, 2016 • by By Becky Garrison


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“This is it?”

I’m in Israel touring Qasr el Yahud, a baptism site for Christian pilgrims situated near Jericho and the Dead Sea on the Israeli side of the Jordan River. Christian-themed tour buses in the parking lot signify the importance of Qasr el Yahud as a must-see spot for pilgrims seeking to retrace Jesus' footsteps.

But where’s this majestic Jordan River I’ve heard proclaimed with gusto by countless Gospel singers? Nothing mighty could flow through this stagnant, fly-infested water. It looks more like a fishing hole than the spot where, according to scripture and tradition, John anointed Jesus as the ultimate fisher of men.

“Excuse me.”

As I walk down the marble steps toward the river, pilgrims toting water bottles and clutching Rosaries scurry by me to the river’s edge, each one seemingly searching for their own salvation. Some adopt the somber visage of an ascetic monk. Others smile with the unbridled joy commonly found in children on Christmas Day. A few look dazed and from either jet lag or too much touristy travel.

A plethora of languages intermingle Babel-like. While I can’t decipher most conversations, their actions depict rituals that can be understood by all Christians. Almost everyone possesses a camera or a Smartphone so they can post ontological proof of their presence.

They touch the water. Capture a few drops for future spiritual prosperity. A few lost souls take the plunge into the river—though the water only comes up to their calves. With a priest’s blessing, they emerge with a cleansed soul reborn as a new member of the Christian family.

The ruins of ancient Byzantine and Crusader churches coupled with the development of new churches tell me I must be on holy ground. People have been coming here for centuries to connect in a very personal and visceral way with their Lord and Savior.

During my visits to Jordan, I paid homage to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the name given to the seemingly identical site situated on the Jordanian side of the river. The rituals performed there parallel the actions performed on the Israeli side. Walk to the river’s edge passing by another set of ancient church ruins and newly designed models. Touch the water. Capture a few drops. The baptisms seemed to be transpiring only on the Israeli side. Otherwise the journey remained the same.

Yet, when I bend down to collect a few samples of water for some spiritual friends, I feel nothing. Nada.  

My eyes move from the pilgrims performing their rituals at both sides of the river to a soldier on the Jordanian side toting an automatic machine gun. I can feel the presence of Israeli soldiers though they remain hidden from my view. Like the others who journey to the Jordan, I want to experience this peace that passes all understanding. These soldiers remind me how elusive this vision remains.

The song “Jordan River” may tell me “Jesus will be waiting, He’s gonna help me to cross.”

However, no one can actually venture across the river at this juncture.

So I sit at the bank of the Jordan, wondering if the day will ever come when we can truly cross this earthly divide that prevents us from becoming one in our shared humanity.


The Law of Life
| February 02, 2016 • by By Thomas H. Hicks


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Potpourri
By Thomas H. Hicks

Life as we know it is inextricable from change. Nothing stays still. Everything that has its beginning on earth must someday come to an end; all flesh is grass. As we all come to know, no happiness lasts. There is the problem of “beauty that must die” (G.M. Hopkins, “The Leaden Echo”).There is no uninterrupted joy. Life goes on, closing over happiness as readily as it moves to ease sorrow. As Robert Frost said, “I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” To accept life is to accept change and loss.

Change comes in many ways, some of them small or slight—a mere feather-touch, a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn—yet it can change one’s whole being. Other times the switch has noticeably been tripped, and we know that our arrangement with life has been changed. The world changes complexion. There’s a resetting of the compass, the birth of a new era.

Underlying all change there are things that do not change. Some things seem essential, everlastingly fixed and unchanging. It’s true what the old song says: “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” The story begins all over again, the beat of the rhythm of life renews itself.

There will always be what Dickens called “the world’s rain of tears” (Great Expectations).

There will always be the dark sea we all have to cross. The Imitation of Christ asserts that “You will never be free from solicitude; for in everything there will be found some defect, and in very place there will be someone who will cross you” (Bk.III, ch.27).

No one escapes some wounding early.

It’s mistaken to fasten solely upon the negative realities. Beauty, goodness, and truth belong to our experience of life. To be human is also to rejoice and live in wonder.

Things usually balance out, if you give them enough time. “Man was made for joy and woe. Joy and woe are woven fine... as through the world we go.” (William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”). The world is full of beauty, majesty, and terror.

My long, practical struggle with life has taught me that among the changeless things is the “law of the echo,” which holds that the world is arranged so that whatever you send out, e.g., honesty or dishonesty, kindness or cruelty, ultimately comes back to you. In the long run a person does indeed reap what he sows. It’s a way of saying we make our own punishments in life, which I honestly believe is true. And life has phases. There is a season for everything.

The greatest change that comes in life is, of course, the one that comes at the end of life. I’ve come to the conclusion that mortality is not simply an evil; perhaps it is even a blessing. In so many situations, death is a release. Sometimes, it’s time; time to be shaken from the tree. Enough already. Our play should have an end, and up come the lights.

I think a lot about the human life span. An interesting question is: Assuming that it were up to you to set the human life span, where would you set the limit and why? Who would not want to avoid senility, crippling arthritis, the need for hearing aids and dentures, the humiliating dependence of old age? How much length of life is a blessing?

An unlimited amount of more of the same will not satisfy our deepest aspirations. Mere continuation will probably not bring fulfillment or more personal happiness.

I’ve heard many people state that they thought the human span was too long. One lady said to me: “Really, I’ve finished my life. I finished it when the girls got grown and my husband passed away. But here I am, just hanging around, marking time, waiting for things to wind down. I’ve outlived myself.”

Anna Quindlen stated: “If the human body had a warranty, mine would have run out ages ago” (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, p.92).

I think the rate of the aging process and the human life span has been well chosen by God.

Does one want to indefinitely take part in activities on this plane?

There’s a Jewish Midrash statement concerning the death of old men. The owner of the fig tree knows when the fruit is ripe for plucking, and he plucks it. When the fig is gathered at the proper time, it is good—good for the fig and good for the tree.

Old people who have lived a long and full life rarely put up much of a fuss. They begin to let go long before dying. So many things do not seem as important as they once did. There is a sense that we are not rooted, fixed in this world, this is not our home, and death gently ushers them out the door.

Virtue it is that puts a house at rest.
How well repaid that tenant is, how blest
who, when the call is heard,
is free to take his kindled heart and go.
(Jessica Powers) 

 

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


The splinter in your brother’s eye
| February 02, 2016 • by By Joe Pisani


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Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

Without intending to, Pope Francis dashed my hopes of becoming the next Mother Teresa when he said a real sign that you’re headed for sainthood is you never speak ill of anyone.

In modern America, is there anyone who has never criticized someone, who doesn’t backbite or gossip? I’m not that person, and none of the people I hang out with can claim that distinction, which means to say, I foresee a long time of purification in purgatory before I make it to the Big Time.

We’re addicted to the water cooler culture, where criticism is a way of life.  And what about Donald Trump and the rest of the presidential contenders? The Donald is always casting aspersions, along with every talk radio host and newspaper columnist. Bad-mouthing is an American tradition, and one of our most popular pastimes is grumbling about the splinter in your brother’s eye without noticing the log in your own.

During his homily at a recent Mass, Pope Francis started talking about the sinful practice of maligning other people and said that despite the long and complicated process for determining if someone is a saint, “If you find a person who never, never, never spoke ill of another, you could canonize him or her immediately.”

I confess that it’s one of my worst character defects, and I’m having a hard time controlling it. I’ve probably been like this all my life but never really thought it was serious because it’s so socially acceptable.

My mother must have known I was headed down this path because she used to admonish me with those time-honored words, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.” And my father, who was in Alcoholics Anonymous for the last 25 years of his life and had an abundance of spiritual advice, would regularly tell me to “Take your own inventory.”

Jesus certainly had a lot to say about the topic, and he told his disciples in no uncertain terms, “Judge not and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned.”

Pope Francis also said: “The first step is to accuse yourself,” which means give yourself an honest self-assessment and then ask Christ’s forgiveness and praise his mercy. “The man and woman who don’t learn to acknowledge their own failings become hypocrites. Everyone, eh? Everyone starting from the pope on down,” he said.

The ability to recognize your own faults, which is actually a gift from the Holy Spirit, is the beginning of “this beautiful work of reconciliation, peace, tenderness, goodness, forgiveness, magnanimity and mercy that Jesus Christ brought.”

It’s so easy to criticize other people for what they do or don’t do, especially when we’re blind to our own faults. So much of what we think is acceptable behavior, because everyone else is doing it, is actually sinful behavior.

About a month ago, I began to pray to the Holy Spirit to show me my hidden faults, and he didn’t waste any time. Almost immediately, I had illuminating insights into my behavior and became aware of flaws and shortcomings I never knew existed. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I figure it was better to learn about them now than at my personal judgment before Christ.

Since then, I’ve started to do an end-of-the-day examination of conscience as a part of my spiritual self-improvement program, and I try to remember my day moment-by-moment and ask the Holy Spirit to show everything to me in all its disturbing detail.

Inevitably, I recall occasions when I criticized coworkers or gossiped or took someone else’s inventory: Who wasn’t doing his work, who was a blow-hard and who was a self-promoter. The crazy thing is that I share most of the traits that upset me in others.

As my father, ever the folk philosopher, often told me: “Live and let live.” Or more appropriately, “You can’t see the picture if you’re in the frame.”

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


The Hennesseys make Confession
| February 02, 2016 • by By Matthew Hennessey


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A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

We made a family confession. I know that sounds like we subjected ourselves to some bizarre public humiliation ritual. We didn’t.

The director of religious education at our parish graciously arranged for interested families to come for the sacrament together on a Saturday morning. Our priests graciously gave their time. The Hennesseys graciously dragged their carcasses out of bed.

For Patrick and Magdalena it was their first time. Both did great, sitting face-to-face with the priest, though I can’t imagine what they might have had to confess to. I’m not saying that they’re innocent of all wrongdoing. I have a file on both of them. But they are well below the age of culpability.

I always prep my kids by saying, “You’re too young to have done anything too terrible, but this is a good habit to get into. When you’re my age you’ll have plenty to confess.” In other words, tell God what you did, but don’t sweat it too much. It’s a fine line with kids.  

My wife worked with Magdalena for months—learning the act of contrition, rehearsing what would happen when she entered the confessional, coming up with a few minor misdemeanors she might want to cop to.

I wish I could say I helped out. My sole contribution was
my usual contribution: blind
optimism.

“Everything will be all right in the end.” That’s my mantra. Luckily I married a woman who has the good sense to know when things might go horribly wrong. She was right about 9/11 (it was as bad as it seemed); I was right about Superstorm Sandy (that tree by the driveway did not fall on the house). We make a good team.

Magdalena has Down syndrome. I don’t know about everyone with Down syndrome, but Magdalena doesn’t appreciate “surprises.” She’s best when she can learn a script and deliver her lines.

If that seems contrary to the spirit of the sacrament of reconciliation, believe me when I say that the alternative is worse. We’ve bailed on more than our share of birthday parties and doctor’s visits when some slight change in the atmosphere threatened to derail our plans.

In short—Magdalena likes to know what’s coming. Who can blame her? The world can be an unreliable place. We did our best to make sure that things went according to the script she had learned. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.

In the end, the coaching paid off. Magdalena emerged from the confessional with a smile as big as any I’ve seen in all her nine years. “I did it!” she announced to a chapel full of penitent fellow Catholics. Punch has never been so pleased. Hallelujah, amen, and thanks be to God.

Paddy went next—a home run. Our Clara, an old pro, went next. Then me. Then it was my wife’s turn.

Ursula has some old-school habits that she finds hard to break. The face-to-face booth isn’t for her. She says she can’t concentrate on contrition unless she’s in the kneeling position.

Holing up in the “anonymous booth” also allows her to sneak peeks at the notes she’s written on her hands. I like the metaphor—write the sins on your hands, go to Confession, wash your hands, watch your sins slide down the drain.

Boom! You are forgiven.

We all left the chapel with the peace and refreshment that comes from knowing in your heart that you are a little bit closer to God than you were five minutes ago. It’s tonic for the soul and it’s 100 percent free. I recommend it.

Confession is hard for most people. It’s hard for me, too. I don’t go nearly as often as I should. But as our pastor, Monsignor Scheyd, is fond of saying, we shouldn’t think of Confession as punishment.

Nor should we think of it as a gloomy occasion for guilt and shame and all those other bad things that people imagine Catholics wallow in. Rather, we should think of Confession as a source of strength.

So be strong. Get strong. Go to Confession. Just do it.

(Follow Matthew on Twitter (@matthennessey)


CAPP holds educators breakfast in March
| February 01, 2016


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FAIRFIELD—Thomas W. Burnford will be the keynote speaker at Sacred Heart University’s Eighth Annual Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) Educators’ Communion Breakfast on Sunday, March 13. His talk is titled “Why I Send My Kids to Catholic School.”


Burnford, secretary for education for the Archdiocese of Washington, currently serves as the interim president for the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Burnford has extensive knowledge and experience working with the NCEA, having served on its board for the 2014-15 academic school year and as a member for over a decade. His speech is expected to be enlightening and inspirational.

As secretary for education, Burnford manages the superintendent of Catholic Schools, director for catechesis and 22 professional staff members. He is responsible for the oversight of Catholic education, including executive leadership of a system of 94 Catholic schools and 139 parish religious education programs serving over 50,000 students and 30,000 adults.

His experience and expertise spans all levels of education and administration, from classroom to boardroom. Some of the highlights of Burnford’s two-decade career in the archdiocese include developing and implementing new policies for Catholic schools that involve strengthening Catholic identity, establishing regional school agreements and designing protocols for school viability planning. He’s worked with Cardinal Donald Wuerl to increase tuition assistance to $5.8 million (from $800,000 in 2007) for students, lobbies and advocates for initiatives at the local, state and national levels and, most recently, was involved in planning and celebrating the visit of Pope Francis in Washington, D.C.

Before the CAPP breakfast, which will take place in University Commons, a tour of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit will take place, followed by Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the celebrant for the 9 am Mass. He has spoken of the need to build bridges to youth, to all those who are troubled or feel neglected and to Catholics who no longer participate in the life of the church.

CAPP was founded in 1993 to encourage business people, academics and other professionals to study and promote Catholic social teaching. It is named for Pope John Paul’s encyclical of the same name that marked the 100th anniversary of the landmark papal document on social responsibility, Rerum Novarum. The Diocese of Bridgeport is one of three pioneering dioceses in the United States to establish a chapter.

(Tickets for the event are $35 each or $300 for a table of 10. For more info or for tickets, visit www.sacredheart.edu/CAPP2016 for more information or to register.)


Catholic Art in the Style of Norman Rockwell
| February 01, 2016 • by By JOSEPH PRONECHEN


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NEW HAVEN—Whether you’ve seen many or just a few of his scores of paintings and illustrations primarily for the cover of Saturday Event Post, you’ll easily remember and identify Norman Rockwell’s work.


He found the humor, lovable eccentricity, the sentiment and sentimentality in often idealized scenes from everyday life. Maybe it wasn’t the way life really was, but the way we pictured it to be.

Was there a Catholic art like Rockwell’s?

Surely there was. The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn., proves it with one current main exhibit called “The Art of Illustration: Columbia's Cover Story.”

Published by the Knights, Columbia is the largest circulation Catholic publication in North America, a Catholic Saturday Evening Post. From the 1930s to the 1980s, magazine’s covers presented a continuous steam of stories and vignettes in paintings in the same popular Saturday Evening Post style, whether by Rockwell and other artists, some of whom did a number of Columbia covers too. Often these wonderful scenes had a Catholic or religious perspective.

Whether they did or not, anyone could enjoy them, such as the scene with two Vincentian nuns in habits complete with those unforgettable huge white-winged veils casually strolling past a shop where a disappointed florist is placing a sign in his window for Easter corsages.

Or one of the many with Rockwell-like humor, such as Tall Tale Fish Story from 1970. A fisherman opens his hands to show his parish priest the size of fish he caught, but the priest is somewhat skeptical because behind the man, his truthful young son shows the priest the quite different-sized small fish his father actually caught.

Both of these were done by William Luberoff, one of the best and most productive of illustrators. He illustrated over 60 Columbia covers.

The oldest cover in the show is by Luberoff and dates to 1939. For Catholic Press Month he pictured a sterling Knight who represented Catholicism. He wields the sword of truth to strike and kill the dragons of ignorance and error.

In the bicentennial year of 1976 Luberoff also did a serious George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge, seen countless times over the years.

In 1975, another combination of religion and patriotism appears in an illustration of the Immaculate Conception surrounded by images of the Liberty Bell, a traditional fife and drummer, and angels. It reminds us Our Lady is the patroness of our country

Humor

Humorous scenes abound in the show. Sand for Sale tickles us as two enterprising children find a snowstorm the ideal time to sell sand to a hapless neighbor trying to get to work but whose car is stuck in the snow.

Plowed In gets us thinking when the Christian response should be as a family with three youngsters have finished shoveling out their home only to see the town plow pack them in again.

Policeman and the Golfers shows us an obviously upset policeman exercising patience as he looks at some sheepish, and obviously sorry golfers looking back at him. One of them just made a hole-in-window on his police cruiser.  Rockwell humor all over again.

Duty, self-preservation, or invention — which will it be in Postman vs. Sprinkler. It pictures the postman’s dilemma as he ponders the situation: two sprinklers water the lawn on either side of the house’s sidewalk, and overlap the walkway too.

The humor can subtle and not have to blare out to make us chuckle.

Such a Rockwell-like scene appears in Winter Day Dream. With snow falling outside, a husband at the breakfast table looks over a magazine advertising “Fun in the Sun.” His wife is distracted by the magazine herself as she pours their coffee. As we follow the stream, we see it’s ending on the table, not in the cup.

Jimmy’s Locksmith Shop by Donald Winslow takes a little while to notice what’s going on because of its very subtle humor. Thinking of Jimmy’s job, studying his reaction, then taking good notice of his pockets should unlock the humor.

Winslow has other works in this show. Notably, in 1950 he studied for a time with Rockwell and even posed for some of his covers. Not only is Winslow’s work reminiscent of his teacher while at the same time being original, but Rockwell repaid the compliment by posing as a fisherman for Winslow's April 1962 Columbia cover. (Th cover is not in this show.)

Prayer

Winslow’s Bedtime Prayers (see it here) captures a father teaching his young son to kneel and say his prayers. It’s one of those tremendously heartwarming glimpses into family life that should bring back memories of what was or what should have been, and maybe inspire some dads to repeat this scene in their own families.

Speaking of sons and fathers, Luberoff’s illustration of Joseph and young Jesus working together in the Carpenter Shop is a beautiful illustration for meditation. Their remarkable faces reflect a host of thoughts and emotions as Jesus is getting a lesson in woodworking from Joseph.

This beautiful religious scene is one of literally one of the hundreds, into the thousands mark, Luberoff did in his lifetime for various uses for other places.

Some illustrations are indirect in their message. Trumpet Practice from 1967 is a wonderful Rockwell-like scene as a mother stands on a wide front porch, broom in hand, listening intently to her son’s friends on the sidewalk. Her son with trumpet in hand stands “at attention” next to her, his eyes searching for an answer as his three football-clad buddies try to convince her to let him join them for a backyard game. Will she or won’t she let him? Either way, we can tell this boy will keep the 4th Commandment and obey his mother.

Family

Family plays a big role in the illustrations. In the 1959 Off to College, at the railroad station a serious-looking young man in striped jacket and bow tie hands car keys to his dad while his mom quietly cries and the collie in their car carefully watches the scene unfolding. His master is off to St. Polycarp, declares the big sticker on his suitcase.

Fathers as well as mothers play an important and equal part in these illustrations. The Wild Sled Ride has a close-up of a father with his thrilled and wide-eyed young son belly-flopping on a hair-raising ride down the slope in a Rockwell look-a-like scene.

In Leaf-Raking, dad rakes while six youngsters jump, and romp, and play in the piles. Mom takes it all in, looking at the scene with an “Oh my goodness!” expression!

The Spirit of Thanksgiving from 1955 captures another affecting scene in which a family of five stands in prayer around the table. The food is meager food. The room is dark. But the picture of the Last Supper on one side of the window and the crucifix on the other side tell us where their hearts are, poor family as they are.

Heartwarming

To add to the uplifting illustrations Luberoff’s Thanksgiving Dinner Prayer touches our hearts as we look at an elderly husband and wife, their family grown and gone, who are now alone at the dinner table. Over a small turkey, their heads are bowed reverently in prayer. It’s a very poignant scene.

In a different way, so is Luberoff’s Holly for Jesus. Who can remain indifferent seeing this illustration of a little child bundled in red hood trimmed in white fur and reaching toward a statue of Mary holding her Christ Child? In her white and red mittens she carefully holds a spring of holly, giving it as a gift to the baby Jesus.

One more illustration gives us not only another Rockwell scene but sums up much about the show. In Photo Album Memories, and older husband and wife, he with his arm around her, sit looking over a photo album. We see them surrounded by photos of past family good times they’re reminiscing over.

Their faces beam with these pleasant memories. Ours should, too, for all the scenes which can easily move our sensibilities and hearts.

The show presents nearly 70 rarely-seen examples from the 200-plus originals for Columbia covers in the museum’s collection. The exhibit includes finished covers, studies and even a few pencil sketches, arranged according to the four seasons. The exhibit runs to mid-September, 2016.


Bishop Reflects on Jubilee of Mercy
| January 29, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—In this video Bishop Caggiano reflects on the celebration of the  Jubilee Year of Mercy in the diocese and the importance of responding to the call of Pope Francis to welcome God’s mercy into our own lives.


The Diocese of Bridgeport launched its Jubilee Year of Mercy Observance on December 8 with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Augustine Cathedral. The Jubilee Year of Mercy will conclude at the end of November.

In his remarks the Bishop says the centerpiece of the diocesan observance will be found in the increased availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“My friends, as you know, this year, we are observing an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. What a better way to observe this year, than the sacrament of confession!

I know at times, particularly if we have not been to confession for a long period of time, it may be difficult. You may wonder what to say, or what the Priest will think or that its embarrassing. But you know what, my friends, before the loving Father that we have in God, all of that doesn't matter, because he already knows it. He is just waiting for you and me to go to Him and to embrace and allow him to heal us.

Beginning in Lent, some parishes will be designated as “Centers of Mercy” and will offer Confession every Tuesday and Thursday evening in addition to their regular hours.

Stay tuned for much more on the diocesan celebration of the Year of Mercy.


Sweet Somethings
| January 28, 2016


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STRATFORD—St. Mark School recently conducted a school-wide collection of “goodies” for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces in Kuwait.




The outreach project, Operation Valentine, was sponsored by the St. Mark Student Service Club: 65 students in grades 4-8. Candy and coffee were collected, personally wrapped into individual goody bags and packed with hand-made Valentine cards filled with special thanks and well wishes. The care package should arrive just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Appeal provides funding to implement Synod Renewal
| January 28, 2016


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GREENWICH—Serving the needy and reaching out to evangelize the young and those who have left the Church were very much on the mind of speakers who gathered last night at the reception to launch the Annual Catholic Appeal in the Greenwich area.



More than 100 major donors turned out for the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) reception held at Indian Harbor Yacht Club.  

The theme of the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal is Renewed in Faith, Hope and Charity. The diocese has set an $11 goal to fund its major ministries, programs and service agencies.

“The Synod journey we walked together offered a new path and gave us the opportunity to write a new chapter in the diocese. We know what we need to do and I need your help now more than ever,” said the Bishop.

“We want to evangelize one person at a time and that also means reaching out to Catholics who have left the Church. They are family and we want them back,” he said.

The Bishop said that a contribution to the Annual Catholic Appeal enables the diocese to fund Synod initiatives that reach out to families, form people in the faith, and serve the neediest in Fairfield County.

The Bishop said that he travels around Fairfield County he is often stopped by people who wish to personally thank him for a program or service funded by the Appeal, such as the Diocesan Youth Choir and the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund.

“They thank me, but on behalf of those people who you will never meet, I have a need to thank you, our donors. You have been incredibly generous and are remarkable for your faith, dedication and sacrificial giving.”

Jim Larkin of Greenwich, who hosted the evening with his wife Susan, said he was concerned about the number of Catholics who no longer practice the faith and he believes the Appeal is way to get their attention because of the good work it supports.  

“We need to bring former Catholics home,” he said referring to the call of Pope Francis for mercy and forgiveness, and for bringing healing to those who are suffering.

In his introduction to the Bishop, Larkin noted that “He is a man who lives among the faithful and listen to the voices of his people.”  He added that the Synod began with listening sessions and the Bishop was there when “people said what was on their minds.”

Julie Taylor of New Canaan, who is co-chairing the appeal for the second year with her husband Rowan, said that as the parents of four children, they are grateful for the Bishop’s commitment “to the young Church” and for his mission of  inspiring youth to grow in their faith.

She said that Synod gave people a chance to ask “where the church is going for our children and grandchildren,” and that the Appeal offers answers by funding Synod and other programs that educate the young in the faith and serve the poor of Fairfield County.

Taylor urged those in attendance “to become ambassadors for the Appeal so that we can do the work of the Synod.”

Fr. Ian Jeremiah, Pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenwich, one of the many Greenwich pastors who attended the event, said that he could never have been ordained a priest eight years ago without the support that the ACA provides to St. John Fisher Seminary and the seminarians.

“We have a home because of you,” said the newly retired Msgr. Peter Cullen, who resides at the Catherine Denis Keefe Queen of Clergy Residence in Stamford. He told donors, "You can be proud that your gifts have helped our elderly priests to really feel at home there.”

The Bishop asked people to give generously and also asked for their prayers. “The purpose of the Appeal is to lead each of us to greater faith, hope and charity, and we have an opportunity now to do that in a way that renews the diocese.”

For more information or to give online, go to www.2016ACAbridgeport.com or call: 203.416.1470.


A Brush and A Smile: St. Matthew Norwalk Knights of Columbus Paint Rooms at Malta House
| January 27, 2016


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NORWALK—In a continuing relationship that has blossomed over the years, Knights of Columbus Council #14360 at St. Matthew Parish has helped out Malta House since 2010, mostly with fix-it and painting projects.



On January 16, the Catholic men put on their painting hats and once again helped out, painting two more bedrooms and a bathroom. In the past the council has remodeled the nursery, laid tile and painted bedrooms, the common room and even the kitchen!

“It is always rewarding to help out Malta House when we can,” said Grand Knight George Ribellino. “Seeing the little kids’ faces smiling while we are full of paint makes it all worthwhile.” Deputy Grand Knight Scott Criscuolo had paint all over his face when we talked to him. “I am not an easy guy to wake up in the morning, particularly on weekends. However it is fully rewarding when the work is done and those at Malta House are excited when the rooms look brand new,” Criscuolo said.

Malta House Executive Director Lucy Freeman was excited to have the Knights start painting projects for the new year. “It’s great to have such a dedicated group of guys determined to keep Malta House beautiful for our families. The ladies love their freshly painted rooms!”

The vision for Malta House began in 1995 when Michael O’Rourke learned that there was “no room at the inn” for many homeless pregnant women and their newborns. These vulnerable young families often found themselves on the street or living in sub-standard conditions. Malta House was conceived not only to offer food and shelter, but also to give hope for the future.

It promotes the dignity of God-given life by providing a nurturing home environment, support services and independent living skills to pregnant and parenting mothers of all faiths and their children.

The goals of the Knights of Columbus Council at Saint Matthew’s is to perform acts of charity, providing those in need with a range of support from financial to tactical help in dealing with a wide variety of challenges. Their goal is to identify specific needs and help to alleviate these challenges. For more info, go to saintmatthewknights.com. For more info on Malta House, go to Maltahouse.org


Sacred Heart junior named finalist in National Chase the Race 2016 Competition
| January 27, 2016


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HAMDEN—The Academy is proud to announce that Abigail Kelly ’17 has been selected as one of twelve in the nation as an Envision Chase the Race 2016 finalist.


Envision created the Chase the Race 2016 to give students the opportunity to play an active role in the U.S. Presidential election process and to empower them to use their voice to make a positive impact on the world.

The twelve reporters will be on site at key events to capture milestone experiences leading up to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. As a Presidential Election “Super Tuesday” reporter, Abby will travel to Arlington, Virginia on March 1 to interview the candidates and cover various election related events.

Since the age of five, Abby has been enthralled with news anchors and is now editor-in-chief of Alethea, the Academy’s student newspaper. She is an alumna of the Envision National Young Leaders State Conference, a requirement for all Chase the Race 2016 applicants. “I am so excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity…I have a strong interest in history and English and am considering a career in journalism, writing, and communications,” offered Abby.

Abby is the daughter of Shawn and Tina Kelly of Huntington, her sisters—Amanda and Olivia—are graduates of Sacred Heart Academy. Both entered Brown University after graduating from Sacred Heart; Amanda graduating in 2015 and Olivia currently matriculating there.
 
Founded in 1946 by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart successfully prepares young women in grades 9-12 for learning, service, and achievement in a global society. Sacred Heart Academy welcomes 500 students from more than 80 schools and 60 towns in Connecticut. The Academy is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Visit www.sacredhearthamden.org to learn more.


‘Angel of Dachau’ Declared Martyr by Pope Francis
| January 27, 2016 • by BY CNA/EWTN NEWS


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VATICAN CITY—Father Engelmar Unzeitig, a young priest with Czech roots serving in Germany and Austria, was arrested by the Nazis on April 21, 1941.

Read Bishop Caggiano’s reflection
on the Holocaust and the mystery of evil


Venerable Engelmar Unzeitig, CMM, whom Pope Francis
declared a martyr last week. Credit: © Archiv Redaktion
Mariannhill, Reimlingen via engelmarunzeitig.de.

His crime? Preaching against the Third Reich from his pulpit, particularly against their treatment of the Jewish people. He encouraged his congregation to be faithful to God and to resist the lies of the Nazi regime.

As punishment, Father Unzeitig was sent to what has been called the “largest monastery in the world”: Dachau concentration camp, which became renowned for the number of ministers and priests within its walls.

The camp housed some 2,700 clergy, roughly 95 percent of whom were Catholic priests from Poland, making it one of the largest residences for priests in the history of the Church, hence the name.

Father Unzeitig was just 30 years old, and two years ordained, when he was sent to Dachau. Born in Greifendorf, in what is now the Czech Republic, in 1911, Father Unzeitig joined the seminary at the age of 18 and became a priest for the Mariannhill Mission Society, whose motto is: “If no one else will go: I will go!”

While imprisoned at the camp, Father Unzeitig studied Russian in order to be able to help the influx of prisoners from Eastern Europe and had a reputation at the camp as a holy man.

Treatment of the priests and ministers at Dachau was unpredictable: Sometimes they were allowed to worship; at others they were severely treated. On one particular Good Friday, dozens of priests were selected for torture to mark the occasion.

For several years, Father Unzeitig was able to remain in relatively stable health, despite the poor treatment he received. However, when a wave of the often-fatal typhoid fever swept through the camp in 1945, he and 19 other priests volunteered to do what no one else wanted to: care for the sick and dying in the typhoid barracks, an almost-certain death sentence in and of itself. He and his companions spent their days bathing and caring for the sick, praying with them and offering last rites.

Despite his bleak circumstances, Father Unzeitig found his hope and joy in his faith, as evidenced in letters to his sister from the camp:

“Whatever we do, whatever we want, is surely simply the grace that carries us and guides us. God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles. … Love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realize what God has in store for those who love him!” he wrote.

In another letter he wrote:

"Even behind the hardest sacrifices and worst suffering stands God with his fatherly love, who is satisfied with the goodwill of his children and gives them and others happiness."

Eventually, on March 2, 1945, Father Unzeitig succumbed to typhoid fever himself, along with all but two of the other priest volunteers. Dachau was liberated by American soldiers just a few weeks later, on April 29.

In recognition of his heroic virtue, Father Engelmar Unzeitig was declared venerable by Benedict XVI on July 3, 2009.

On January 21, Pope Francis officially acknowledged Father Unzeitig as a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith, which opens the path for his beatification, the next step in becoming a canonized saint.


Marriage Prep responds to synod directives
| January 26, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Now that new Faith Formation coordinators are in place, the current diocesan Marriage Preparation classes are being evaluated to better suit the needs of the couples planning a marriage.


More specifically, the Diocesan Synod called for a reappraisal of the current offering for Marriage Preparation and the development of a new and updated program.

In response to this mandate, Kim Quatela, coordinator of Family Formation who is overseeing the Marriage Preparation program, has identified three goals for the revised program:

First, the presentation material, training and resources will be standardized both for the English and Spanish Marriage Preparation programs. This will happen through a new Marriage Preparation curriculum called “Unveiled,” developed originally in the Diocese of Richmond, which will be used in both languages. “There may be a delay in the introduction of the Spanish version due to the need to translate materials,” Quatela noted.

The program will also standardize fees, materials, location (the Catholic Center) and stipends for speakers.

Next, a plan is underway to recruit faithful, joyful couples, including newly married couples, young families and seasoned married couples who are interested in sharing the gift of their experience and faith by becoming facilitating couples. Quatela has been recruiting couples throughout the month of January and asking pastors to identify couples who they think would like to serve the Church in this role.
 
“I am seeking couples who want to help others grow closer to Our Lord through Christ and his Church,” she said, defining the role of facilitators. “They should be willing to speak about their Catholic faith and the role it has played in their life and marriage.”

In addition to having a valid Catholic marriage and a commitment to Christ and the Church, she is looking for “a marriage where it is clear the couple enjoys each other and enjoys being together.”

The final goal of the revised program will be a re-branding of the Marriage Preparation Class into a “Marriage Conference” with a welcoming feel. “What we’re providing them is a complete, enriching, and engaging day, showcasing the beauty of marriage and their Catholic faith, including multi-media presentations and the opportunity to dialogue with their future spouse,” explained Quatela.

(Pastors are invited to pass contact information to Kim Quatela at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Couples interested in having a part in the program can also contact her at that email address.)


Appeal chair couple welcomes two vice chairs
| January 23, 2016 • by By Pat Hennessy


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BRIDGEPORT—“By giving together as one, great, diocesan family, we will be bonded as a team for the future of our faith and our Church,” say Rowan and Julie Taylor, who have agreed to serve again as lay chair couple of the Annual Catholic Appeal.



ROWAN AND JULIE TAYLOR, (center) have agreed to serve again as lay chair couple of the Annual Catholic Appeal. They are enthusiastic about the expanded lay committee, which now includes vice chair couples (l) Steve and Elena Schlegel and (r) Maureen and Mike Considine. (Photo by Amy Mortensen)

“Rowan and I are excited to be a part of the new structure of the expanded lay committee,” says Julie. “We are particularly enthusiastic about working with Maureen and Mike Considine and Elena and Steve Schlegel, who join us in our commitment to sustain our faith and empower the young Church.”

“People need to know that the work of the diocese goes on in every community,” says Maureen, explaining one of the reasons she and Mike were happy to sign on as a chair couple. “There’s a lot the Church does behind the scenes that people don’t know about.”

Maureen and Mike and their five children are parishioners of St. Cecilia Parish in Stamford. Though they have lived in other cities, in one of the unexpected twists of life, they ended up back at the parish where Maureen was baptized and grew up. (Mike is originally from the Bronx.) Maureen graduated from Georgetown University and obtained masters degrees in international affairs and public health from Columbia University. She worked with Catholic Relief Services in Thailand after she graduated Georgetown, an experience that profoundly affected her faith.

“I was working in a camp about an hour from Bangkok. We had Cambodians fleeing for their lives and Vietnamese seeking a better life. So many were unaccompanied minors. It gives me an insight into the refugee crisis we’re experiencing now.” She is a Dame of Malta, and she and Mike have accompanied the sick and infirm on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

Mike is a graduate of Boston College. After graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center, he became a federal prosecutor in New York. “Maureen and I missed each other by a year at Georgetown,” he says. They met instead at an alumni gathering in Manhattan. They were married at St. Cecilia’s, where Maureen now teaches religious education in the parish where she received all her own sacraments. She also volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister at Stamford Hospital.

Mike, a partner and co-head of the Government Investigations Practice Group at the Seward and Kissel law firm in NYC, is proud of the solid Jesuit foundation he received in college. He serves on the board of Fordham Prep in the Bronx and the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Fairfield University.

“We have to provide opportunities for people to renew their faith,” says Mike, holding up the collaboration between the diocese and Ignatian Center as an example. “One of the things I raised when I met the bishop was the importance of adult education and adult formation. People have a hunger for spiritual formation, and this lines up perfectly with one of the aims of the Diocesan Synod.”

Mike volunteers at St. Camillus Residence in Stamford on Saturdays, spending several hours each week bringing the Eucharist and visiting the residents.

The second vice chair couple, Elena and Steve Schlegel, both grew up in Fairfield County, she in New Canaan and Steve in Trumbull, where he graduated from St. Joseph High School. Steve earned his undergraduate degree from Boston College and his MBA from Harvard University. Elena went to the University of New Hampshire where she earned her undergraduate degree in communications.

“We met through a friend while we were both living in Boston,” Elena recalls. At the time, Steve was working at State Street Bank as an investment banker and Elena was the director of Human Resources for MFS Financial. “Our friend knew how important it was for Steve to meet a practicing Catholic girl. One day she learned that I went to Mass every Sunday. That was it!”

They found they had another common interest. Both liked to run: Elena had been in a few races, and Steve ran in a marathon or two. With faith and energy bonding them, they were married in 1992 at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan. They relocated to Connecticut when Steve became the chief operating officer of NYC/Tri-State region for JLL (real estate) in New York City.

Elena gave up her professional career so they could start their family. Again, coming back to their roots as the Considines had done, they and their three children are members of St. Aloysius Parish where Elena grew up. Even though their children have graduated from the parish religious education program, Elena still teaches the fourth-grade students.

Elena and their daughter, Katherine, recently became Eucharistic Ministers. “We served at Midnight Mass together this Christmas,” says Elena, her voice rich with awe recalling this faith-filled moment.

Steve has coached town rec baseball for many years. He went with Katherine on a mission trip to Puerto Rico last year, an eye-opening experience for him.

“When Julie asked us to be part of the appeal, we didn’t fully understand what it was all about,” Elena says. “When we saw the appeal video, we couldn’t believe how much the Church is doing. Anything we can do to strengthen it is important. If our friends see us getting involved, maybe it will make them become connected and see why this means so much.”

Julie and Rowan have felt the same experience, and hope that they and their vice chair couples will be able to spread the message throughout the diocese.

“Working with Bishop Frank and the Development Office allowed us to deepen our faith by further discovering the amazing works and ministries of our diocese. This year, we fervently hope that all will see that every donation, no matter how small or how large, makes a difference.”


Human Life is Not Disposable
| January 22, 2016


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Bishop Caggiano reflects on the impact of abortion

BRIDGEPORT—Today we join all people of faith and good will to observe with great sadness the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision, Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion on demand throughout the United States.


It is a ruling that is a direct affront to the Catholic faith, the dictates of reason and basic human values.

The consequences of the ruling have been devastating in many respects. First and foremost, over 50,000,000 unborn lives have been lost in our country- lives that were created by God, had a right to be born into the world and to be cared for by their families and the larger community. The ruling also has contributed to a growing attitude that diminishes respect for human life in all its other stages- a diminishment that has detrimentally affected the welfare and care of the terminally ill, disabled and even the poor. Finally, the law gives license to behavior that is contrary to the law of God and the teachings of Christ.
 

At the heart of the Catholic objection to abortion lies one basic spiritual insight. In the act of the Incarnation, when the Son of God took on human flesh, a spiritual solidarity was created between God and every human person. More specifically, by taking on humanity, Christ blessed every human life. To put it bluntly, human life is not disposable, cheap or simply a “choice” because God would not take on something that is cheap, disposable or a “choice”. As Christ’s humanity has infinite value, so every human being born in God’s image and likeness has priceless value in Christ.

When we look upon the face of Christ, believers see the face of God. Today reminds us that when we look into the face of every infant, we are invited to recognize the face of God in that infant who was created, blessed and redeemed in Christ.


Catholic Charities Centennial featured at Fairfield Museum
| January 21, 2016


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FAIRFIELD—The Fairfield Museum and History Center will present an exhibit on Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. 

The exhibit opens this Sunday, January 21, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon.

“Catholic Charities: Celebrating a Centennial of Faith in Action” will illustrate the history of the organization, which was founded in 1916 by a cross-section of dedicated lay people and clergy from Bridgeport.
       
The exhibit features photos, documents and newspaper stories that follow the agency from its origins in 1916 in Bridgeport as it reached out to the many immigrants seeking work in the booming industrial city. Much of the material comes from the archives of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The exhibit was designed and assembled by Diocesan Creative Arts Director Brian A. Wallace, and it was researched and written by Rowena C, Daly and Ellen McGinness.
     
“Our history reflects the growth, faith, and challenges of the people of Fairfield County, and there is much to be proud of," said Al Barber, President/COO.  "Without Catholic Charities, many people in Fairfield County would be in very difficult straits,” said Al Barber, president/COO. “We’re here to catch those people that the state system and other charities can’t provide for.”
     
A visit to the museum offers the opportunity to learn more about the wide spectrum of social services that Catholic Charities of Fairfield County has provided over the last century and the ways it has made a positive and lasting impact on the community.
     
“Catholic Charities: A Centennial of Faith in Action” runs from January 21 - February 6. The museum, located at 370 Beach Rd. in Fairfield, is open Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm and Saturday-Sunday, 10 am-12 noon.
       
The regular museum entry fee is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children. Members free. For more info, call 203.259.5098.


Holy Hour and Rosary for Life planned in place of March
| January 21, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Because of the impending snow storm with high winds expected to hit the Washington D.C. area on Friday, the diocese has cancelled its trip to the March for Life.

However, members of the delegation who had planned to attend the March and others throughout the diocese have been invited to attend a Holy Hour and Rosary for Life at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, 220 Shelton Road in Trumbull from 7-8 pm on Friday, January 22.

"Bishop Caggiano is first and foremost concerned for the safety of our youth and other pilgrims who had planned to join the March," said Maureen Ciardiello, Director of the Respect Life Ministry of the Diocese of Bridgeport. "We realize this is a great disappointment, but there is much opportunity for prayer and solidarity."

Ciardiello said that more than 150 young people signed up to attend the March for Life by taking Rally Buses sponsored by the diocese.   Some groups and parishes may have made other arrangements.
   
The March for Life typically draws crowds in the hundreds of thousands, but in the face of predictions of a major snow storm with high winds and blizzard conditions, many large groups to cancel their pilgrimages to Washington, D.C. Dioceses across the country have begun to cancel their trips, and several schools have canceled theirs as well, much to the disappointment of young pro-lifers.
      
The Holy Hour and Rosary for Life is open to all throughout the Diocese.


Charities 100th Anniversary Mass canceled for Saturday
| January 19, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Due to predictions of a snow storm expected to hit the Fairfield County area this Saturday, the Mass to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Catholic Charities at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk has been postponed.


The 100th Anniversary Mass  has been rescheduled for Saturday May 7, 5:30 pm at St. Matthew Church. A reception will follow in the Great Room of St. Matthew’s.

Other Catholic Charities 100th Anniversary events includes an exhibit at the Fairfield Museum and History Center (opening January 21) and a gala in the fall, the Aetna Golf Outing, a Half Marathon and other activities.

Catholic Charities works to alleviate hunger, support the elderly, offer counseling to those with overwhelming challenges, assist immigrants, provide state-of-the-art childcare, and make permanent housing available to the marginalized and less fortunate of all faith in Fairfield County.

In 2014, it served early 3,000 meals daily to the poor, needy and elderly totaling more than 1 million meals annually from their soup kitchens, meal programs and food 

(For more info on Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, visit www.ccfairfield.org)

Also see: More information on the CCFC 100th Anniversary Celebration and 2016 Calendar of Events


Pope Francis at Rome Synagogue: Jews and Christians Are United in Their God
| January 19, 2016 • by BY CNA/EWTN NEWS


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ROME—Speaking Sunday at the major synagogue of Rome, Pope Francis called on Jews and Christians to counter the conflict, war, violence and injustice that open deep wounds in humanity.


Pope Francis visits Rome’s major synagogue on January 17.  By Daniel Ibanez/CNA

These call us “to strengthen our commitment for peace and justice,” he said January 17.

“The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions.”

“The past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future,” he said, recalling the tragedy of the Shoah (Holocaust).

Pope Francis began his speech thanking those who had greeted him and stating: “During my first visit to this synagogue as Bishop of Rome, I wish to express to you, and to the whole Jewish community, the fraternal greetings of peace of this Church and of the entire Catholic Church.”

He noted his personal connection with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, which he visited frequently. This created “a spiritual bond, which has favored the birth of an authentic rapport of friendship and has inspired a common commitment.”

“In interreligious dialogue, it is fundamental that we encounter each other as brothers and sisters before our Creator and that we praise him; and that we respect and appreciate each other and try to collaborate.”

He remarked that in Jewish-Christian dialogue there is “a unique and particular bond, in virtue of the Jewish roots of Christianity: Jews and Christians must, therefore, considers themselves brothers, united in their God and a rich common spiritual patrimony, on which to build on and to continue building the future.”

Pope Francis recalled that his visit to Rome’s great synagogue follows those of his immediate predecessors: St. John Paul II in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010. He referred to St. John Paul II’s reference to the Jewish people as the “elder brothers” of Christians and said that “we all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us as his people. Together, as Jews and as Catholics, we are called to assume our responsibility for this city, making our contribution, first of all spiritual, and favoring the resolution of our diverse problems. I hope that the closeness, mutual understanding and respect between our two communities of faith always continue to increase.”

The Pope then noted that the Church has just observed the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. That document, he said, “made possible systematic dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism” and “defined theologically for the first time, in an explicit manner, the relation of the Catholic Church to Judaism.”

Nostra Aetate provided an important stimulus for further necessary reflection, he noted. He added that “the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue merits a greater profundity, and I wish to encourage all those involved in this dialogue to continue in this direction.”

The “inseparable bond which unites Christians and Jews” is theologically clear, he added. “Christians, to understand themselves, cannot fail to refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Old Covenant and the constant and faithful love of God for Israel.”

Turning from questions of theology to the challenges facing the world today, Pope Francis spoke first of the importance of integral ecology and the importance of both religions sharing the Bible’s vision for stewardship of creation.

The Pope then discussed war, which “calls us to strengthen our commitment for peace and justice.”

“The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions.”

Pope Francis said, “Life is sacred, a gift from God. The Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue says, ‘Do not kill.’ God is the God of life and always seeks to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are required to do the same.”

“Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, independent of his origin or religious practice,” he said, recalling that God “extends his merciful hand to all, independent of their faith and their origin,” and “cares for those who need him the most: the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the defenseless.”

“We must pray to him insistently so that he helps us to practice in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in every other part of the world, the logic of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and life.”

He recalled with sorrow the Jewish experience of the Shoah, in which 6 million people “were victims of the most inhuman barbarities, perpetuated in the name of an ideology that wanted to substitute God with man.”

Pope Francis remembered in a particular way the thousands of Roman Jews who were deported to Auschwitz in October 1943, saying, “Their sufferings, their anguish, their tears must never be forgotten.”

“And the past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future. The Shoah teaches us to always have the highest vigilance, in order to be able to intervene forcefully in defense of human dignity and peace.”

He concluded, addressing the assembly as elder brothers in thanksgiving for the advances in Jewish-Catholic relations in the past 50 years: “We pray together to the Lord, so that he directs our path toward a good, better future.”

“God has a project of salvation for us, as he tells the prophet Jeremiah [29:11]: ‘I know the plans I have for you: plans of peace and not destruction, so that you enjoy a future full of hope.’ May the Lord bless us and protect us. May he make his shine on us, and may he give us his grace. Shalom aleichem!”


Mass and reception kick off 2016 Appeal
| January 16, 2016


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NORWALK—The diocese formally launched the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) today at St. Matthew's Parish in Norwalk when Bishop Frank Caggiano joined by pastors throughout the diocese celebrated Mass to ask for blessings on the campaign and the work of the Church in Fairfield County.


About 100 pastors, parish chair people, and other campaign leaders turned out for the Mass and reception that followed in the Great Room of St. Matthew’s.

The theme of the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal is Renewed in Faith, Hope and Charity. The diocese has set an $11 goal to fund its major ministries, programs and service agencies.

“Gathering in prayer for the success of our work together is a wonderful way to begin the 2016 Appeal and I am grateful to our pastors, Appeal lay co-chairs and all those who are stepping forward to lead the appeal this year,” said Bill McLean, Chief Development Officer.

Pam Rittman, Director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, said that the ACA Education Weekend is set for January 30 and 31 in all parishes.

“On this weekend the Annual Catholic Appeal formally begins in all parishes,” said Rittman who added that the new Appeal brochure and video are also available.

“The powerful new video shows some of the faces behind the Appeal across the diocese, both those who are served and those who give generously to support the Church’s mission,” he said.

Among those interviewed in this year’s video are Fr. Samuel Scott, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Danbury; Fr. Andy Vill, Parochial Vicar at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, Stamford; Dr. Brian Jenkins, Executive Director at New Covenant House, Stamford; the Appeal lay co-chair couple, Julie and Rowan Taylor; and major benefactor Sarita Hanley.

She said the 2016 Appeal video is one of the best ways to make parishioners aware of the many uses of the funds raised in the Appeal and I ask that you make every attempt to play the video or my audio message at all Masses. For more information or to give online, go to www.2016ACAbridgeport.com.

Click to view photos
 


March for Life Holy Hour
| January 15, 2016


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STAMFORD—Sunday, January 17, 2016—Come to a Holy Hour for the March for Life on Sunday, January 17, 2016 from 4-5 pm with Mass to follow at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, 279 Atlantic St., Stamford. Any questions contact Maureen Ciardiello, Director of Respect Life Ministry at 203.416.1445 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).



There’s still time to join the March for Life
| January 14, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—March for Life: Friday, January 22. Parishes across the diocese are organizing buses for the day through Rally Bus. To find a Rally Bus location, go to rallybus.net/bridgeportmarch/.


If you are interested in requesting a location, contact Rally Bus representative Tyler Lomnitzer: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 203.414.6734. March for Life Rally info can be found at marchforlife.org/mfl-2016/rally-march-info. For local info, contact Maureen Ciardiello: 203.416.1445 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

March for Life Holy Hour—Sunday, January 17, 2016—Come to a Holy Hour for the March for Life on Sunday, January 17, 2016 from 4-5 pm with Mass to follow at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, 279 Atlantic St., Stamford. Any questions contact Maureen Ciardiello, Director of Respect Life Ministry at 203.416.1445 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Click here to sign up for the Rally Bus


St. Vincent's Reenacts Three Kings Day
| January 13, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—St. Vincent's Medical Center celebrated Three Kings Day with a ceremony including a reenactment, readings, a musical performance, and refreshments. Each year, St. Vincent's staff volunteer for the reenactment, with the participants kept secret until the ceremony.


(l-r) Ray Figlar of the Engineering Department; Lilian Acosta,
a clinical support associate, and her daughter Lilyana; Marlon Meggie
of the Security Department; and Steven Valassis, MD, of the Emergency
Department portray the Three Wise Men during a Three Kings Day
reenactment held at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport. Acosta
and her daughter,who are of Puerto Rican descent, explained the
significance of the holiday and long-held traditions.

Also known as the Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Día de los Reyes, is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the Three Kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child. A religious holiday widely recognized in the Hispanic community in the United States, it is celebrated twelve days after Christmas on January 6.


Sacred Heart Academy sophomores selected to attend Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar
| January 11, 2016


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HAMDEN—Each year, one sophomore is chosen by the Social Studies Department to represent Sacred Heart at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) Seminar and one sophomore is chosen as alternate. Selection is based on essays on leadership.


The Social Studies Department has announced this year’s selection is Roselynn Thattil ’18, daughter of Mr. Denny A. Thattil and Mrs. Erin Chandanathil of Monroe and Gabriela Kozoil ’18, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mieczyslaw Kozoil of Oxford, serving as alternate.

Founded in 1958, HOBY’s mission is to inspire and develop our global community of youth to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation. HOBY seminars are conducted annually throughout the United States, serving local and international high school students. These seminars allow select students to participate in unique leadership training, service-learning, and motivation-building experiences. The HOBY Seminar is the only program exclusively designed for high school sophomores.
 
Social Studies courses at Sacred Heart provide a broad knowledge of the past, a sense of historical context and skills in the critical process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting historical information. Elective courses include AP Psychology, AP US Government, Economics, and AP US History.

Founded in 1946 by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart successfully prepares young women in grades 9–12 for learning, service, and achievement in a global society. Sacred Heart Academy welcomes 500 students from more than 80 schools and 60 towns in Connecticut. The Academy is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Visit www.sacredhearthamden.org to learn more.


Bishop cooks for the kids
| January 08, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Caggiano cooked one of his mother’s favorite recipes for 10 children at the McGivney Center this afternoon and fearlessly awaited the verdict as he put the food on the table at the center of the tiny kitchen.


“Amazing,” said one little boy, and the others repeated the word as they scarfed down the pasta and vegetable dinner he prepared.

On the menu: Farfalle, Yellow and Green Squash, cooked in virgin olive oil and fresh garlic, and garnished with halved grape tomatoes and cubes of fresh mozzarella.

The bishop was cooking for some tough and fussy customers—seven and eight year old boys and girls who participate in the after-school programs at the youth and community center located in the East Side of Bridgeport, a densely populated neighborhood with many working poor and immigrant families.

His turn in the kitchen was part of McGivney’s “Celebrity Chef” series in which community leaders stop to prepare an early supper for the kids, share a little bit of their lives, and face the reviews.

“Where the sauce?” one little boy asked when he noticed there was no red sauce on the noodles as the bishop first put the large bowl on the table. “It’s good,” said another boy who eagerly dug in and led the way for the others.

In between the cutting, peeling, chopping and cooking, the bishop took the time to combine a teaching moment, showing the kids the squash and tomatoes and giving them each a dry bowtie noodle to hold in their hands.

“Do you know what the bishop does?” he asked to the sounds of basketballs thumping on the newly restored court on the other side of the kitchen door.

The young boys and girls initially greeted his question with a blank stare until one little girl said much to the bishop’s delight, “You’re in charge!”

“Tweet that out” said bishop with gleam in his eye to diocesan social media leader John Grosso who was recording the event for social media..

Just before dinner was served, the bishop asked the children, “What do we do before we eat?”

“We pray,” they said almost in unison, and bowed their heads as the bishop led a simple grace.

After the prayer, he went around table and asked children what they’re thankful for. “My Mom and Dad,” said one girl, “my family,” said another “the food,” said a boy, and “basketball,” mumbled a shy boy on one end of the table.

“I’m proud of you,” the Bishop said as Executive Director Terry O’Connor (who also leads the Cardinal Shehan Center) and board president Paul Gleason of Fairfield looked on, “You’re good sports and good people.”

The kids made short work of their plate and some asked for seconds. Overall the bishop seemed pleased with his culinary triumph and felt he had done his mother proud on the 5th anniversary of her passing.

After helping McGivney staffer Anna Orsini to clear the table, he looked over at the new dishwasher and broke into a smile.

“That’s great. I don’t have to do the dishes,” he said as he ran out the door to attend at Shabbat supper at Temple Sholom in Greenwich.

The McGivney Community Center is sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport. It was founded in 1992 to provide youth with an educational "safe haven from the dangers of the streets by providing them with After-School and Evening Programs, as well as Summer Camp. It is located at 338 Stillman Street in Bridgeport.


People “walk in” to speak with a priest
| January 08, 2016


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NORWALK—On Wednesday, January 6th, St. Matthew Church in Norwalk opened its doors to all those who wanted to see a priest.


Msgr. Walter Orlowski, Pastor of St. Matthew, and Fr. Sunil Pereira hosted “Walk in Wednesday” a new parish initiative where anyone who wishes to speak to a Priest about any issue could walk in.

The gesture touched a chord with many people in the Diocese of Bridgeport who are working to implement the recommendations of the recent Synod, particularly the need  to reach out to others and make the Church more welcoming.

Many people of all ages and from all walks of life took him up on the invitation. No appointments were necessary, all discussion was kept confidential, and all were welcome.
 
“There is a great need for people to have the opportunity to talk with a priest, “ said Msgr. Orlowski in a Facebook reflection on Thursday, “People are looking to better their lives, and their relationship with the Lord and the Church.”
 
The motivation behind the day came from the Diocesan Synod, where delegates and faithful alike cited the need for the church to be an open and inclusive environment. With this goal in mind, St. Matthew Church was opened at specific time slots throughout the day, and each time slot was filled by people of all ages.
 
“An absolutely positive response. Teenagers…adults…seniors. Whole families came to talk. People just trying their best to better their lives, with topics running the gamut,” cited Msgr. Orlowski in a Facebook post.
 
John Grosso, Social Media Leader for the Diocese of Bridgeport, set the original Facebook story went viral on Diocesan Social Media, with many voicing that they would like to see the practice expanded to other parishes.
 
For now though, one thing is clear: St. Matthew Church will be doing this again, and soon.
 
“We’ve got to do this regularly,” Msgr. Orlowski concluded. “So we will definitely do this again. But my thought is to make it the entire day – from 8 am-8 pm. No time-slot restrictions. To just have a priest here all day, available for people to walk in and talk to.”

The “Walk in Wednesday” also resonates with those who are inspired by the Jubilee of Mercy was formally declared by Pope Francis on April 11, 2015, to emphasize the importance of mercy and to keep alive a sense of encounter and openness in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope has urged dioceses across the world to create a Holy Door, “to become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”


Bishop issues “generational challenge” to support Catholic schools
| January 07, 2016


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NORWALK—Sustaining and revitalizing Catholic schools is a “generational challenge,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on January 6 in a special “State of Diocesan Education” address delivered at All Saints School in Norwalk.


Speaking to almost 300 principals, school administrators, pastors and school advisory board members throughout the diocese, the bishop issued “a call to action” to ensure that Catholic schools will be there for future generations.
    
Noting that Catholic education is still at the “heart of the diocese,” and at the center of forming Catholic identify, the bishop said, “Now it is up to us to re-imagine our schools. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, celebrate the good work of Catholic education and bring our schools to the next generation.”
    
He said strategic planning now underway in each school and on the part of the diocese will enable schools to face major challenges and critical issues.
    
The bishop added that he will personally attend meetings when schools present their strategic plans to the diocese. Work is already underway as schools review viability templates and key barometers for long-term stability.
     
He also announced the formation of Tuition Assistance Committees in each school to assist with the distribution of scholarship funds and financial aid.
        
During his hour-long presentation with PowerPoint slides, the bishop painted a picture of the historic achievements of Catholic education  but was also candid about the significant challenge that some schools face.
     
“Enrollment is the major problem,” the bishop said, noting that enrollment in the 20 elementary schools throughout the diocese has been gradually declining, including a 3% drop this year that that is having an impact on the finances of some of the schools.
    
The bishop thanked the newly formed Education Commission of the diocese for leading the Strategic Plan effort, and said the commission is studying issues related to retention rate  (those who leave during the year) and non-registration (students who don’t sign up for next year).  
    
During the past year, the elementary schools have accrued more than $1 million in debt related to decreased enrollment. In contrast, the five diocesan high schools have shown a trend toward growth with enrollment gradually increasing.
          
At present, the total enrollment of diocesan elementary and middle schools is 6,400, while 2,474 students are enrolled in diocesan high schools.  
     
The total student population of 8,874 is almost equally divided between boys and girls, and includes 216 international students from 20 different countries.
     
In his financial overview, the bishop said that more than 80% of revenue both for elementary and high schools comes from tuitions. Only 3% is realized through fund raising, and 14% is provided by the diocese.
      
One of the biggest successes over the past year has been the creation of the Bishop Scholarship Fund, which doubled aid to elementary school families. It distributed over $2.2 million to over 1,500 students, including 300 new students in the elementary schools.
 
The largest source of support for the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA). Through the generosity of donors, more than $1.8 million of the $11 million raised by the appeal went to the scholarship fund. All monies were reserved for scholarships and were not were not used for school operations.  
    
The bishop said that the total need for financial assistance, as registered in FACTS applications completed by elementary school parents, was $6.4 million and the diocese was able to meet 65% of that need by providing a total of $4.2 in financial aid
   
He said that the education of every student, including those who pay full tuition, is subsidized. The average elementary school tuition is $6,435 vs. 7,263 per pupil cost, while average high school tuition is $12,162 as opposed to the $12,724 actual cost to educate each student.
    
The bishop said that schools are central to the diocesan mission and to forming a new generation of Catholic leaders, but that the diocese can’t continue to absorb growing school debt, which puts other diocesan ministries at risk. He said he believed that the strategic planning process will help schools face their challenges, reach balance budgets and invest in the future.
    
The bishop began his address with statistical good news about Catholic schools and their impact on society.
   
Academically, Catholic schools test 2.8 grade levels higher than their current grades in reading, 3.2 grade levels higher in language and 1.3 grade levels higher in math based on the 2015 Terra Nova Grade Equivalent Reports, national achievement tests that measures mastery in core subjects.
    
He said 98 % of eighth graders are admitted to the high school of their choice and 99% of all Catholic high school seniors are college bound.
    
Collectively the schools can boast of 348 different clubs and activities and 193 sports teams; they contribute 130,167 hours of service to parishes, schools and larger communities.
    
In the question and answer session following the presentation, the bishop said that Catholic schools across the nation provide education at one third the cost of  public schools, and that New York state provides far more in pupil assistance to Catholic schools than does the state of Connecticut.
    
The bishop said there are 118, 757 active alumni of Catholic schools in Fairfield County and that they had the benefit of attending Catholic schools that were built over the past 125 years “through the love, sacrifice and faith of those who came before us.”
    
“Now it’s our turn to rise to the challenge,” he said, “and I believe with every fiber in me that we will be up to it.”

Click to read Bishop's power point presentation

Click to view photos from last night


Finding “untapped” vocations to the diaconate
| January 06, 2016


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Click here for photos

NORWALK—Noting that “there are many untapped vocations” to the diaconate throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport, Bishop Frank J. Caggaiono asked Deacons to encourage other men to consider the diaconate ministry.


Speaking to almost 80 deacons and their wives in the Great Room of St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk, the bishop told deacons that no one is closer to the diaconate ministry than they are.

“You know it best. So keep your eyes and your heart open for vocations,” the Bishop said, urging deacons to identify men who may be interested in preparing for ordination to the diaconate ministry.

During the hour and a half long meeting, the Bishop reviewed the new Diaconate Personnel Manual, which he promulgated for use in the Diocese of Bridgeport effective January 6, 2016.

Referring to the diaconate as a “sacred and noble vocation,” the Bishop said that the service of the deacons to the Church is unique because there are fully immersed in the secular world, while also being ordained to serve the people of God in communion with the Bishop and priests.

The Bishop began the meeting by thanking the Deacons and wives for their service to the Church. He said the hallmark of good ministry is that it is done quietly and often anonymously.

“By doing so, you allow Christ’s love to shine through and you do it in a selfless way that is pleasing to the Lord, and also makes me very proud,” he said.

The Bishop also thanked Deacon Louis Howe and all the members of the Diaconal Council who have worked over the past year to complete the Personnel Manual. A new Priest Personnel Manual will follow next Fall.

The Bishop said the new manual is important because “it sets clarity of expectations” between pastors and deacons concerning parish assignments and responsibilities.

He said a new template in the manual includes “terms of assignment” and a ministerial agreement that each deacon will work out with pastors and finalize by February 5.

The first class of permanent deacons of the Diocese of Bridgeport was ordained by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, second Bishop of Bridgeport on February 25, 1978. At present, there are 81 active deacons and 33 retired deacons in the diocese.

In September of 2015, Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D was named Director of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Bridgeport by Bishop Caggiano. Since that time he has worked with a diaconate committee to produce the new personnel manual and to transform the Diaconate Formation Program.

The next Diaconate Formation Class, reflecting the new diaconate program in the diocese, is set to begin in September 2017. For further information on the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Diocese of Bridgeport, contact Deacon Anthony Cassaneto, 238 Jewett Avenue Bridgeport, CT 06606. Phone: 203-416-1451. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Deacons to meet with Bishop tonight
| January 05, 2016


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NORWALK—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will meet with deacons throughout the diocese this evening at St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk to review the new Diaconate Personnel Manual, which the Bishop has promulgated for use in the Diocese of Bridgeport effective January 6, 2016.


In addition to review of Diaconate Personnel Manual, the Bishop and Deacons will discuss the new Diaconal Formation Program. A question and answer session will follow.

Since the Deacon program was founded in the Diocese of Bridgeport, more than 120 men have been ordained for diaconate ministry. The first class of permanent deacons of the Diocese of Bridgeport was ordained by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, second Bishop of Bridgeport on February 25, 1978.

In September of 2015, Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D was named Director of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Bridgeport by Bishop Caggiano. Since that time he has worked with a diaconate committee to produce the new personnel manual and to transform the Diaconate Formation Program.

Current Church law requires a man to be 35 years of age at the time of his ordination as Deacon. Candidates in the diocese must be between the ages of 31 and 60 years of age at the time they enter the program.

For further information on the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Diocese of Bridgeport, contact Deacon Anthony Cassaneto, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606. Phone: 203.416.1451. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Redemptoris Mater Seminary to open
| January 05, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—“Tonight is an historic occasion,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on December 8. After Holy Communion the bishop singed the canonical form establishing a Redemptoris Mater Seminary in the Diocese of Bridgeport.


An historic moment for the diocese, Bishop Caggiano and Father
Robert Kinally, diocesan chancellor and rector of St. John Fisher
Seminary, sign the canonical forms to establish a Redemptoris
Mater Seminary in this diocese.     (Photo by Amy Mortensen)

“After a long period of reflection, prayer and discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are founding a new missionary seminary in this diocese,” the bishop said.

“Priests from this diocesan missionary seminary, under the auspices of the Neocatechumenate Way, will go out in mission as far away as China or the Philippines to bring the word of God wherever it is needed—including our own diocese.”

Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) international seminaries prepare clergy to be sent anywhere that there is a need. Inspired by St. John Paul II, the first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was opened in the Diocese of Rome in 1987. As of 2013, the number of Redemptoris Mater seminaries worldwide rose to 100, on five continents, with more added since.

Over 2,000 men formed in these seminaries have already been ordained to the priesthood. There are eight Redemptoris Mater seminaries in the United States and its territories. The one in the Diocese of Bridgeport, to be opened in January 2016, will be the ninth in this country.

“In regard to their studies, they will be taking the same classes as the seminarians at St. John Fisher Seminary, studying at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and a Dunwoodie Seminary in Yonkers,” says Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, who has been named rector of Redemptoris Mater. “The difference is that they are being trained as missionary priests. Part of their formation is to spend two years after ordination in service to any diocese in the world.

Like all Redemptoris Mater seminaries, this will be a diocesan seminary, erected according to canon law by the diocesan bishop, and the students who undergo formation at these seminaries are ordained to the secular clergy of the diocese.”

The Redemptoris Mater seminarians have a specifically international character, coming from different nations. The seminary’s connection to the Neocatechumenal Way, with its emphasis on fostering an adult faith, means that many of the young men will had thorough preparation both in education and experience before entering the missionary seminary. After ordination, the bishop may appoint them to a parish or may end them to other dioceses of the world where bishops have asked for help.

Father Giandomenico Flora, rector of St. Margaret’s Shrine in Bridgeport, will be the spiritual director of the seminary. The first class of seminarians are currently finalizing their paperwork. While they will study with their diocesan counterparts, they will live in community, some at Sacred Heart with Father Picone and others at St. Margaret’s with Father Flora.   

“These seminaries are the fruit of the Second Vatican Council, and initiative of St. John Paul II,” says Father Picone. “It is a beautiful miracle to begin this seminary with the Diocese of Bridgeport.”


Pastor of St. Clement, Stamford, dies at 71
| January 04, 2016


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STAMFORD—Father Joseph J. Malloy, 71, pastor of St. Clement of Rome Parish in Stamford, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family and close friends on January 2, 2016 at Stamford Hospital.


He was born in Stamford on February 21, 1944 to the late Joseph and Helen Malloy.

Father Malloy attended Holy Name of Jesus School and St. Basil's Prep before attending St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, in 1964 and St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY, graduating in 1966 with an A.A. degree and a B.A. degree in philosophy.

While attending Holy Name Elementary School he belonged to the Boy Scouts of America for nine years, attaining Life Rank, and later worked as a Counselor at Camp Toquam in Goshen, CT.

He was ordained on May 9, 1970 at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, by the Bishop Walter W. Curtis. Father Malloy's appointments started at St. James Parish in Stratford as parochial vicar, then at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. He was named pastor of St. Ann Parish in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport in 1987, and became pastor of St. Clement’s in February 1, 2002.

Father Malloy also served as chaplain in the U.S, Army Reserves, having completed the basic course at Fort Hamilton, NY, and he was appointed chaplain of the Stratford Eagles Squadron Civil Air Patrol on November 24, 1970. He was a member and chaplain of the Nichols Fire Dept. of Trumbull and served as chaplain with the Bridgeport Fire Dept.. He was a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, St. Augustine Council #41.

He is survived by his sister Dale Malloy, his brother Donald Malloy, his sister-in-law Priscilla Malloy, all of Stamford. Father Malloy was predeceased by his brother Deacon Wayne Malloy.

Family and friends may call at St. Clement’s on Tuesday, January 5, from 4-pm with a Parish Vigil Mass celebrated at 7:30 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Clement’s on Wednesday, January 6, at 11am. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the principal celebrant. Interment will follow at St. John’s Cemetery, Darien.


Catholic Charities 2016 Calendar
| January 02, 2016


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Catholic Charities has many events planned for the upcoming year, including a mass and reception to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Please see below for more information on this and other 2016 events.


Catholic Charities 100th Anniversary Celebration

Please Join The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano and the Board of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County for the 100th Anniversary Mass & Reception Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

Where:
St. Matthew Church 216 Scribner Avenue Norwalk, Connecticut
Reception immediately following Mass

Contact:
RSVP: 203.416.1333 or
online at www.100thanniversarymass.eventbrite.com
 

2016 EVENTS CALENDAR

Month

Event
January 23 Opening Mass & Reception – St. Matthew, Norwalk
Jan. 21 - Feb. 7 100 Years of CCFC Exhibit – Fairfield Museum
February 5 Souper Bowl game – Webster Arena
February 27 Evening of Chance – Morning Glory
February Irish in 1916 Lecture
March County–wide food drive
April 2 Spring Gala – Northern Fairfield County
April 19 Celebrity Breakfast – New Covenant Center
May Celebrity Breakfast – Thomas Merton Center

Month

Event
May Celebration of Hope – New Heights Center
June Aetna 100th Golf Outing
September Half Marathon
September 24 100th Gala Celebration – Stamford Marriott
October Celebrity Breakfast – Northern Fairfield County
October Walk-a-thon for the Homeless – Morning Glory
November Harvest Table – New Covenant Center
December Celebrity Breakfast – Norwalk programs
December 100th Closing Event/Christmas Concert


Catholic Charities prepares for 100th anniversary
| January 02, 2016


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BRIDGEPORT—In January of 1916, long before there were safety nets of federal agencies or government programs, a group of dedicated laity, religious and clergy met in Bridgeport to help the needy and vulnerable.


PREPARING FOR 100TH—Al Barber, president of Catholic Charities meets with the chairs of the 100th Anniversary Planning Committee at the Catholic Center (l-r: Al Barber, Marilyn Hart, Nancy Murphy and Jim McPartlan. Charities will launch the observance with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Caggiano and host a year of events and activities throughout Fairfield County.

They founded the Catholic Charitable Bureau, known today as Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. They founded the Catholic Charitable Bureau, known today as Catholic Charities of Fairfield CountCatholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) will celebrate its 100th anniversary throughout 2016 with a series of events, beginning with a Mass on January 23 at 5:30 pm at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Serving as chairs for the 100th Anniversary Planning Committee are three Catholic Charities board members: Marilyn Hart, Jim McPartlan and Nancy Murphy.

Hart is a sales professional at Tiffany in Greenwich. She and her family are parishioners at St. Thomas More in Darien. Jim McPartlan, a retired investment banker, is also a member of St. Thomas More and a resident of Rowayton. Nancy Murphy, a parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, also serves on the board of Catholic Charities of Northern Fairfield County.

“Our team is proud of how Catholic Charities treats all people with dignity and respect, and we are eager to proclaim the accomplishments of the organization to all of Connecticut,” said McPartlan, who has served on the Catholic Charities board since 2014 and received the St. Augustine Medal of Service this year from Bishop Caggiano.

Before the end of its first year of existence, the fledgling organization that would become Catholic Charities had formed child care for the women working in the Remington munitions factory and assisted with housing, recreational and educational programs and health care.

That concern has continued throughout the years. Today, CCFC serves 10,000 individuals annually and is the largest private family service agency in Fairfield County. They alleviate hunger, support the elderly, offer counseling to those with overwhelming challenges, assist immigrants, provide state-of-the-art childcare, and make permanent housing available to the marginalized and less fortunate. In 2014, CCFC served nearly 3,000 meals daily to the poor, needy and elderly totaling more than 1 million meals annually from their soup kitchens, meal programs and food pantries.

“We don’t do what we do for Catholics,” said Al Barber, CCFC president. “We do what we do for all people because we are Catholics. Just as in the past, we will continue to serve the needs of the times, whatever they are.”

The 100th Anniversary events, including the celebratory Mass, an exhibit at the Fairfield Museum and History Center (opening January 21) and a gala in the fall, are markers of a hundred years of service. These and a myriad of other activities will highlight the breadth and depth of the organization’s work.

Even as they do so, the programs of CCFC are already engaged in serving all people for the next 100 years.

(For more info on Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, visit www.ccfairfield.org)

Also see: More information on the CCFC 100th Anniversary Celebration and 2016 Calendar of Events
 


A New Year's Message from Bishop Caggiano
| December 31, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—I hope that Christmas Day was a Blessed and Joyful celebration for everyone! It is good to be back.


It is hard to believe that we have arrived at the threshold of another New Year! The older I get, the more I wonder where does the time go? My father used to say that time seems to go by faster as you grow older. When I was younger, I did not believe him.

Now that I am approaching 57 years of age, I think I know what he means.

Perhaps it is because life becomes more routine as we grow older? Perhaps the demands of life (work, deadlines, etc) cause us to constantly focus on the future when these “demands” will be completed? Whatever the reason may be, time seems to go by a lot faster than it used to.

On a day such as this, as we take stock of the past year with all its joys and challenges, there is a deeper lesson to learn from our experience of time that can help you and me to live the New Year in a more spiritually fruitful way. More specifically, the challenge is to learn to live in the present moment, for it is in the present moment that God comes to us with His love and grace.

While it is important to remember, honor and reconcile ourselves with our past, nonetheless the past is over. As Christians, we can approach the past with a spirit of gratitude for our past blessings and asking forgiveness for our sins and those of others.

The future, while important, is not yet here. While much of what we do has as its aim the desire to secure a happy and joyful future for ourselves and those whom we love and serve, the future is a gift that is out of our control. God is in charge of our future and despite our best efforts to mold it, we must be open to whatever may happen, trusting that God’s love will never fail us.

In the end, the only reality we have is the present moment. The only time when we can stop to acknowledge the beauty of the world and the blessings of our lives, make the effort to be present to the people around us, have the opportunity to effectively show love and mercy and sit in God’s presence in prayer is the present moment. And if we become too busy, too distracted, too tired, too bitter about the past, too self-absorbed, too worried about the future to enjoy each present moment, then our life is slipping by- a life that God wants us to live to the full!


FCC interview with Erin Neil
| December 30, 2015


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For the twelfth consecutive year, the Diocese of Bridgeport has passed the audit required by the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and Erin Neil, LCSW, is proud to have led the diocesan Safe Environments effort from the start. She believes that the diocese has responded to the trauma of child abuse by becoming one of the safest places for children anywhere and by helping other institutions to understand the issue and initiate their own child protection programs. FCC spoke with her shortly after the diocese received news of its successful audit.


What should people take away from the auditor’s report?

The audit confirms that we’re still actively taking every step possible to protect children and prevent abuse. We’ve been in full compliance with the Charter for 12 years. And we’re continuing to change to respond to new risks related to technology issues such as cell phone related problems.

We’ve come a long way in our recognition and response to the problem.

I would say there’s an increased awareness that it’s a national, societal problem that exists in families, other institutions both public and private, and that it is not unique to the Catholic Church. Within the Church, there is a general recognition that we’re doing everything possible on the prevention side— because so many people have been involved in the trainings and background checks.

There have been some criticisms that the Safe Environments programs are almost too intrusive and get in the way of teaching and ministering to children.

For those who feel it’s too much or over the top, I would say that they may not have met people whose lives have been touched by child abuse. Our job is to do all we can to prevent it. That requires an ongoing conversation about some of the ways predators gain access to children. People have to understand the risk even though they haven’t had a problem. I think we’re at a point where people feel a sense of safety but we can never become complacent.

Has all the heightened awareness led to more accusations?

We receive an average of ten calls weekly related to a concern that someone may have and want to discuss. People may simply be planning a trip with children and want to make sure they’re complying with policy. Many calls regard questions about situations in the home environment or boundary issues such as touching or inappropriate language. People may sense something isn’t right or that they need more training to determine if it’s a problem. It’s good that people are reporting these concerns early because increased awareness does create a higher wall for the predators. It’s better to anticipate a situation that can be misinterpreted than to put a child at risk by not being aware.

Of all the steps you’ve taken, which has had the greatest impact on protecting children from abuse?

The policy of having two or more adults present in all activities involving youth! This standard in itself makes it more difficult for anyone to be alone with a minor. That was one of most important things we could have put in place.


Safe Environment audit caps year of renewal
| December 29, 2015 • by By BRIAN D. WALLACE


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BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport has been found compliant with all audited articles within the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 2014/2015 audit period.


The announcement was made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano after receiving notice from StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, N.Y., a national financial auditing firm specially trained to review diocesan compliance to the USCCB charter.

The year’s comprehensive audit included an onsite visit from the StoneBridge audit team in early November and also phone interviews conducted with pastors, directors of Religious education (DREs) and others.

“The children of the diocese and the adults who work with them are safer because of the efforts of our Safe Environments office, our schools, parishes and other institutions,” said Bishop Caggiano. “As a diocese we are working together to prevent abuse, and I’m grateful to all those who are at work every day to protect our children.” The diocesan audit response was led by Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., director of Safe Environments & Victim Assistance coordinator, and Anne McCrory, chief legal officer for overseeing the effort to renew programs.

“The auditors were impressed that we train everyone in our safe environment program, including those not typically in direct contact with children,” said Neil. “We also implemented online re-certification and for the first time, parents can log in to ensure that someone has been background checked.”

The successful audit was also a reflection of a major effort on the part of the diocese to update programs, initiate a comprehensive re-certification process and introduce online innovations in the past year.

Bishop Caggiano began the effort by reconstituting the diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board, expanding their role and mandating quarterly meetings to ensure that policies and procedures related to Safe Environments are reviewed regularly. He also re-promulgated all Safe Environments policies:

  • Between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, the diocese completed 12,137 criminal background checks
  • 20,000 Safe Environment Handbooks were printed and distributed across the diocese, and approximately 10,000 were accessed electronically. Executive Summaries are now signed by all diocesan personnel
  • VIRTUS re-certification online and background checks are now renewed every five or 10 years based on a person’s level of scheduled contact with children.
  • During the first 6 months of 2015, 6,037 people completed the online VIRTUS re-certification. This step required a massive diocesan-wide effort to update local VIRTUS databases.
  • In 2015 VIRTUS launched an update to their program and Bridgeport was the first diocese in the country to use the new online training module.
  • All Safe Environments policies were updated to guidelines on cell phone and technology safety, and reporting protocol for suspected child pornography.

Neil said the auditors also reviewed the diocesan outreach to victims to ensure that there is a prompt response consistent with state law and USCCB charter provisions to any allegations.

Among the suggestions made by StoneBridge for program improvement are increased training to Catholic students in public schools and religious education programs by offering parents supplemental materials; development of an audit process for parish programs; and completion of the recertification effort.

Neil said that in 2016, the Office of Safe Environments will offer continuing education opportunities which expand upon the VIRTUS child sexual abuse prevention course, mandated reporting, bullying awareness and prevention, sexual harassment and other safety issues which impact children and the adults who work with them.

(The VIRTUS videos have been updated to include translations and subtitles so that the course material will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Vietnamese and Korean. For more info, go to bridgeportdiocese.com/safeenvironments.)

See also: FCC interview with Erin Neil


Christ's birth can bring peace, hope to suffering world, pope says
| December 26, 2015 • by By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—Christmas is a reminder that through the birth of Christ, hope and peace are possible and that only through his grace can humanity find peaceful solutions to the world's most difficult problems, Pope Francis said.


"Only God's mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst," the pope said Dec. 25. "Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war."

Heightened security around St. Peter's Square did little to dampen the spirits of an estimated 50,000 people attending the pope's solemn Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world). Many in the crowd dressed festively and applauded the music of the Vatican's marching band.

However, police and anti-terrorism task forces were a visible sign of a world shaken by violence and extremism; conflicts that have not even spared the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The pope prayed that Israelis and Palestinians would reach a peaceful agreement that would end the "conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region."

The pope also prayed that recently approved agreements would bring a quick end to the wars afflicting Syria and Libya, two countries ravaged by war for several years. He also prayed that the international community would find ways to end atrocities in Iraq, Yemen, Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Ukraine.

Victims of terrorism were also in the pope's thoughts and prayers as he remembered the victims of the Russian airliner bombed in Egyptian airspace and terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris; Bamako, Mali and Tunis, Tunisia.

Christians persecuted for their faith were remembered as the pope prayed that "the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength" to those suffering.

Recalling the thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing poverty and war, Pope Francis compared the lack of respect for their dignity to the situation of Christ who was born into the world suffering "cold, poverty and rejection."

"May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade," he said.

As the church celebrates the Holy Year of Mercy, the pope said mercy is the "most precious gift which God gives us" and that Christians "are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us."

The bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed at midday, just as they did late Dec. 24 when thousands packed the church for Christmas Mass. Hundreds of people who could not find room in the basilica braved the cold weather and watched on giant screens from St. Peter's Square.

With his voice noticeably hoarse from a bout of flu, the pope said in his homily that the prophetic words of Isaiah are those of a fulfilled promise of joy and gladness that are "a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God."

Doubt and indifference, he stressed, should be left to skeptics who "by looking to reason alone, never find the truth."

"There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something," he said. "All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart."

The birth of Jesus, he continued, is a call for all Christians to "put away all fear and dread" and to follow the path that leads to Christ "who has been 'born to us,' he was 'given to us' as the prophet Isaiah proclaims."

The coming of Christ into the world, the pope said, shows what is truly essential in life. Despite his birth into the "nothingness" of poverty, Jesus shows men and women who are simple of heart the true path of "authentic liberation and perennial redemption" while giving them strength to reject "godless ways and the richness of the world."

"In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is a essential," he said.

Christians, the pope said, are called to cultivate a sense of justice, discernment and doing God's will in a world that is often "merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin."

As a choral rendition of "Silent Night" echoed through the basilica during the distribution of Communion, many attending the Mass were visibly moved. A nun looking reverently toward the main altar shed a single tear while smiling; gazing with the eyes that Pope Francis said in his homily all Christians are called to look upon the Baby Jesus.

"Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: 'Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation,'" the pope said.


Bishop Caggiano visits St. Catherine Academy for the annual Christmas Pageant
| December 24, 2015


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FAIRFIELD—It’s not officially Christmas in the Diocese of Bridgeport until Bishop Caggiano visits St. Catherine Academy for the annual Christmas Pageant performed by the students for parents and friends.


The Bishop thanked Helen Burland, President of Saint Catherine Academy and Executive Director of the Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs, and all of the students for their beautiful singing and performance of the Nativity.

Established in 1999 as a fulltime day school for students who benefit from a functional academic, social and life skills curriculum in addition to developing academic skills, St. Catherine Academy educates students ages 5-21 who are motivated to learn but unable to thrive in an inclusive setting. It is located at 760 Tahmore Dr., Fairfield (on the grounds of Holy Cross Parish). For info call 203.540.5381. Online at: www.stcatherineacademy.org

Click here for photos from the Pageant
(Photos: Michelle Babyak)


God's Grace Answers Sandy's Anger
| December 23, 2015


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CONEY ISLAND—There are many different celebrations of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, but one of the rarest, and one that few may see in their lifetime, is the rededication of a church.


On Sunday, December 20, 4th Degree members of Knights of Columbus St. Matthew Norwalk Council 14360 visited the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace Parish in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY, to help celebrate the completion of a three-year journey. With Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DeMarzio as the celebrant, the church was re-dedicated in front of a packed church of parishioners who have helped see the process through.
 
In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy raged across the East Coast destroying everything in its path. Our Lady of Solace was not spared. The floor was destroyed, the pews all warped from water damage and the rectory had a foot and a half of water throughout, destroying the floor and all the computers. Many helped to get the process started of rebuilding, including Knights from K of C Council 14360 and parishioners at St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk, who went down the Belt Parkway multiple times to help deliver supplies and toys. Over the next few years the parish raised funds while inviting Council 14360 down for special Masses. However on this day it was more special as it was the church's re-dedication and the re-consecration of the altar, an event not often seen in a Catholic’s lifetime.
 
The Mass included the spreading of holy chrism across the five crosses on the altar, meant to represent Jesus' five wounds while on the cross, as well as other prayers officially consecrating the altar and statues. St. Matthew Council 14360 presented the parish with a new chalice and a letter of best wishes from Bishop Frank J. Caggiano (former Auxillary Bishop from the Diocese of Brooklyn) to honor the occasion.
 
The council was honored to have two special guests dress in Knights regalia on this day: CT District Master Charles Sullivan and his Chief of Staff Joe Duplessie.
 
"I am so proud of the parish and the faith their parishioners have, led first by Father Armando and now by Father Shiju. Their dedication to their faith forged this journey for them and it was an honor for our council to help them on this journey.  The parishioners are so warm and make us feel like family every time we visit.  This parish led by Father Shiju has worked so hard to bring the church back to its former glory," said Council 14360 Grand Knight George Ribellino.
 
Our Lady of Solace church building was moved to this current location in 1923 and was a cornerstone of the Coney Island neighborhood, but like all the amusements and restaurants along the boardwalk a few blocks away, the church was decimated by Sandy's powerful rain and winds.
 
To cap December’s festivities, the former parachute needle on the boardwalk was lit up with the words "OLS 2015" in honor of the special occasion, and the new chapter of OLS' mission.
 
(To learn more about Knight of Columbus Council 14360, visit Saintmatthewknights.com.)


Bishop to Celebrate Christmas Vigil at St Augustine
| December 23, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Christmas Vigil Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral, this Thursday, December 24, 4 pm at St. Augustine Cathedral, 399 Washington Avenue in Bridgeport.


The Vigil Mass is open to the public and draws people throughout Fairfield County.

On December 24, the Cathedral Parish will also offer a 6 pm Mass in Spanish at St. Patrick’s Church; and 8 pm Mass in Vietnamese at St. Augustine; and the traditional 12:00 Midnight Mass.

The Cathedral Parish includes St. Patrick Church along with the St. Augustine Cathedral. St. Augustine Parish was established in 1842, the oldest Church in the diocese, followed by St. Patrick Parish, 851 North Avenue in 1889. They became one parish in 2011.


Msgr. Caldas, founding pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, dies in Portugal
| December 23, 2015


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PORTUGAL—Msgr. Constantine Ribeiro Caldas, founding pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Portuguese Parish in Bridgeport, died on December 21, 2015 in Portugal where he had retired.


Msgr. Caldas was born on January 13, 1926, in Lara Moncao, Portugal. He was prepared for the priesthood at Seminario de Braga, Portugal. His ordination to the priesthood took place in the Archdiocese of Braga on July 8, 1951.

He first ministered as a diocesan priest and pastor in the Diocese of Viano do Castelo. In April 1956 he came to Bridgeport to serve the Portuguese Catholics in this diocese at St. Augustine Parish. He was the founding administrator and pastor at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Bridgeport, from 1961 until 1996 when he retired.

On November 26, 1984,  Msgr. Caldas was incardinated into Diocese of Bridgeport. He was made Honorary Prelate of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II on July 14, 1988. Msgr. Caldas was the chaplain of the Building and Construction Anchor Club. He was also the diocesan advisor for the Portuguese Language Cursillo of Fairfield County

Much of his retirement was spent at Saint Joseph Manor, Trumbull. On July 30, 2015, he moved to Portugal to be near family.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on December 22 according to the wishes of family members in Portugal.  Msgr. Caldas was buried in the family gravesite. A memorial Mass will be celebrated for him at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Saturday, December 26, at 10:30 am.

Monsignor is mourned by his extended family and his many former parishioners in the Bridgeport Portuguese community. He will be remembered for his pastoral care for immigrants.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Msgr. Caldas and for the consolation of those who mourn his loss.


Christmas greetings from the students of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport
| December 23, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—This brief “Christmas Card” video from the children of Catholic Academy of Bridgeport will put you in the Christmas spirit.


The young people delighted their teachers and parents in Christmas pageants that featured their faith and talents in a way that inspired and also affirmed the value of Catholic education.

The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, a faith-filled learning community, is comprised of four campuses in the city of Bridgeport: St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St Raphael’s. Nearly 1000 students benefit from our mission to provide a Christ-centered, academically rigorous learning environment where cultural diversity is welcomed and celebrated. Students are nurtured, encouraged and challenged in preparation for a successful life of leadership and service.  The only way to get to know us is to come visit us and find out why parents and students love our schools.  

Since the 1880’s the schools have educated generations of students filled with Gospel values, eager to learn and live responsible, disciplined and purposeful lives. The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport is fully accredited by the state of CT and NEASC. 100% of our graduating 8th graders attend high school and nearly 100% attend college. There is generous tuition assistance available to students who qualify.    

For more information, email us at i.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Click here to watch the video


Bishop Caggiano on the Interfaith Prayer Vigil
| December 22, 2015


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This morning I had the opportunity to join religious leaders of various faiths in the city of Bridgeport to come together for a prayer vigil to pray for peace, to an end to all violent, to alert people to the sin of discrimination and to stand in solidarity with those who are in need. Recent events throughout the world have made us keenly aware of a growing menace of terrorism and violence. Unfortunately there are few in the name of God perpetrating terrible acts of evil. Today at our rally we gather together as Christians, Jews and Muslims to proclaim that we are united in our rejection of such terror and violence and that we stand together united to search for peace, understanding and a spirit of tolerance.


We recognize that those who are fanatics do not represent their religion, and we ask that all people, especially those in Bridgeport, rededicated themselves to find a way to build spiritual bridges amongst each other. While respecting our religious differences, let us always seek to unify one another in the things we hold common: the pursuit of peace and the respect and dignity of every human person. Let us come together to face the challenges that our city must face: helping the poor, fostering employment for those looking for work, ending the violence on our streets, curbing the terrible addiction of drugs, and pursuing quality education for all our children. Let us work together to give birth to a new sense of hope in our city, our country, and to all people of good will.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have joined today’s prayer service. I ask that you pray with me, that the ideas that we espoused in today’s service will one day become a reality, so that we will all be able as God’s children to serve him and to do His holy will.


Religious leaders call for tolerance at Interfaith Prayer Vigil
| December 22, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—In a steadily gaining downpour, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano joined other Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders who spoke, prayed and sang for peace and tolerance in front of the Morton Government Center in downtown Bridgeport.


With more than 100 men and women huddled under a sea of umbrellas, Bridgeport area religious leaders struck the same note in standing in solidarity with Muslims and calling for unity.

“Christian, Jews and Muslims stand in solidarity here today giving witness to the unity the Lord has asked of us,” said the Bishop.

Speakers said that terrorists and those who commit acts of violence do not represent the Muslim faith just as those who are intolerant or unconcerned about human suffering do not reflect the teachings of the Christian and Jewish traditions.

With rain pouring off the small tent that sheltered the speakers, the Bishop said, “In the Christian tradition water is a sign of life and purity. Let us take advantage of this deluge to wash our hearts clear of bigotry and build bridge of goodwill so that this is the beginning of a moment of peace.”

During the hour-long service Imam Musa Abdul-Ali-Aziz of the Islamic Center delivered a prayer for peace and justice in Arabic, and Aziz Seyal chanted verses from the Quran. Fanel Merville of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport read a prayer in Creole.

Dr. Ahmed Ebrahim of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center said that the local Muslim community was every grateful for the “show of friendship,” and that U.S. was founded by those who sought freedom of religion.

Rev. Cass Shaw, President of the Council of Churches which sponsored the service, led the prayer vigil by requesting a moment of silence “for those killed in San Bernardino and all victims of hate crimes, prejudice, and bigotry.”

She said the vigil was a reminder that “we are all neighbors” and that the Council called the vigil “to support our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Rabbi James Prosnit of Congregational B’nai Israel, said it was time to “change expressions of distrust and fear into words and love and hope”

The Rabbi noted that last night was beginning of winter solstice when the year takes a step away from its darkest day into the beginning of new light.

The Rabbi said he didn’t want to live in a country where Muslins are mistreated. He added that the Jewish people have suffered much and were also subject to hatred and “being rejected at borders.”

Rev. Anthony Bennett of Mt. Aery Baptist Church quoted Martin Luther King who said the greatest tragedy of social transition was not the invective of the bad, but “the silence of good people,” who do not speak up against hatred.

Rabbi Amy Levin of Rodeph Sholom, Bridgeport said that December 22 has evolved into a “Remembrance Ray” of the Holocaust in the Jewish Calendar and also of prayer for all victims of oppression.

“We Jews, Christians and Muslims turn to the same God,” she said urging mutual respect.

In between the brief speeches, there were songs and readings. Anna De Veau-Jalbert sang “Imagine,” and Rabbi Evan Schultz of B’nai Israel also led the group in song. Soprano Heidi Vanderwal led the gathering in singing , “We Shall Overcome.”

Rev. Sara D. Smith, of United Congregational Church and University of Bridgeport Chaplain, said that ”Christians are at the crossroads,” and must challenge themselves to live up to the faith.


Also read: Bishop Caggino on the Interfaith Prayer Vigil


Bishop blesses Trumbull nativity
| December 22, 2015


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TRUMBULL—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano blessed the Nativity in front of Trumbull Town Hall. This was the 21st Annual Blessing of Trumbull’s Nativity, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council #2961 from Christ the King Parish. In 1995 the Knights won permission in a U.S. Supreme Court decision to place the Nativity on town property.


Deputy Grand Knight Don Creatore, who was present at this year’s blessing, led the long struggle to get legal recognition. It became a landmark case, recognizing that Nativity scenes, like other religious and cultural symbols, have the right to be displayed on public land.

(l-r) Senator Richard Blumenthal, Probate Judge T. R. Rowe, Bishop Caggiano, Knights of Columbus Joe Cincotta, Paul Rizzo, George Ostrowski, Grand Knight Anthony Mancini and Deputy Grand Knight Don Creatore.


Christmas Across the Diocese
| December 22, 2015


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St. Gregory Prayer Service • Handy Dandy Handyman Ministries • Lauralton Hall's Christmas Stocking Drive • Fairfield Prep's toys for families

BRIDGEPORT—These are just a few of many amazing activities happening around the Diocese this Christmas season. Click below to learn more!



HDHM singers performed for Seniors on December 11

Volunteers from the Handy Dandy Handyman Ministries, led by Peter Brady, brought their Christmas Senior-Sing-Along to Glen Crest Senior Living facilities and The Gardens in Danbury.  For the 12th year, the group entertained an appreciative audience by singing holiday favorites, passing out gifts and visiting residents.




Younger grades lead prayer service at St. Gregory

DANBURY--With the exception of Thompson Hyland, the eighth-grader filling in as Santa, grades K, 2, 3, & 4 led the prayer service at St. Gregory the Great School led the prayer service and represented all the saints (Santa is a saint, too, don't forget: St. Nicholas).

Next to Santa in the photo is a second grader, Maggie Sommer, and little St. Nick is in Kindergarten. Each grade focused on a particular saint and taught about their lives: Kindergarten (St. Nicholas), Grade 2 (St. Lucia), Grade 3 (Mary Immaculate), Grade 4 (Our Lady of Guadalupe Juan Diego) and the bishop who came to believe in Our Lady's message.




Fairfield Prep helps bring Christmas to children in need

In support of the Diocese of Bridgeport Office of Social Concerns, Prep 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. (l-r) Alex Capozziello, Patrick Guere, Thomas Hurst and John Kenny.




Lauralton sponsored Christmas stocking drive for Mercy Learning Center

MILFORD—Lauralton Hall and the National Honor Society sponsored the Christmas Stocking Drive for the Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport. Throughout December, the homerooms have been coordinating the donations to make this a school-wide event. Stockings were stuffed for mothers and children and they will be delivered to the center, along with Christmas cards containing gift cards to Stop and Shop. Also donated were large boxes of Candy Books (lifesaver books, gummy books, etc) and filled plastic Candy Canes were given to supplement the Christmas events at the Center. In the end, a total of 48 stockings, 40 Christmas bags, 25 gift cards, candy books and filled candy canes were collected! A special thank you goes out to all who helped make this charitable donation such a success.

Lauralton Hall National Honor Society members (back-l to r) Grace Cogguillo '16 of Milford, Olivia D'Andrea '17 of Milford, Tara Boyd '16 of Bridgeport and (middle) Julia Spillane '16 of Trumbull.


The shameful secret cost of many Christmas toys
| December 21, 2015


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Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

Seeing Christmas toys under the tree, unwrapping them with excitement, and playing with them for many days to come, is a delightful experience for many children throughout the world!

But seldom do we think of where the toys came from, who made them, and under what conditions were they made.

Thankfully, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (IGLHR) has painstakingly asked, and answered, many of these questions.

In its investigative report “Dirty Toys Made in China” (http://bit.ly/1QppDGA), IGLHR reports that the Dongguan Zhenyang Wanju Limited toy factory in China employees over 1,800 workers – many of whom are just 16-year-old – in near freezing conditions, for wages as small as $1.36 an hour.

The workers mainly produce Christmas toys, dolls and baby toys for Disney, Hasbro, Mattel and others companies in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Workers at the Zhenyang toy factory are forbidden to move from their work areas, and can’t even stop to take a drink of water. And because noise levels are extremely high in some departments, longtime employees have suffer hearing loss.

Researchers for IGLHR report that Zhenyang’s production departments are in constant fast motion. Quota pressures are tremendous. Workers said that “both hands must be moving constantly.”

The quota for a team of 36 workers making toy cars is 11,000 pieces per day. This means in essence each worker must make 306 toys per shift. One worker told IGLHR she had to produce 2,400 Disney doll legs in a day. She said, “You can’t take your eyes off it for a second.”

In the paint and printing work rooms, which are filled with chemical fumes including industrial alcohol, phenylenediamine, and sodium peroxide, workers are denied air filter masks causing some to feel nauseous and dizzy.

And after toiling at least 12 hours a day in these inhumane conditions, workers must sleep on narrow bare wooden bunk beds in crowded dorms.

According to IGLHR, contacts on the ground report an upsurge of labor activists being rounded up and jailed. While some have “disappeared.”

Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (IGLHR) director Charles Kernaghan said, “Powerhouses like Disney, Hasbro and Mattel surely have the leverage to negotiate modest improvements for the 1,800 workers at Zhenyang. It is long overdue that Disney, Hasbro and Mattel take real steps to improve conditions for their Chinese workers. This is not too much to ask!”

Please go to this IGLHR link http://bit.ly/1O5yXPL and click each of the seven toy companies listed, to send a pre-written letter to each company expressing your concern regarding the terrible injustices experienced by workers laboring to make their Christmas toys. It takes less than five minutes to send a message to all seven companies.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the [Catholic] Church insists that “Labor has an intrinsic priority over capital.” People are more important than money.

The compendium further states, “There is an urgent need to create economic systems in which the opposition between capital and labor is overcome.”

But sadly to the contrary, “Scientific and technological progress and the globalization of markets, of themselves a source of development and progress, expose workers to the risk of being exploited by the mechanisms of the economy and by the unrestrained quest for productivity.”

An excellent way to begin to stop this worker exploitation is to hold companies like Disney, Hasbro and Mattel accountable for these abuses -- which place astronomical profit above basic human rights.

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


Bishop to join Interfaith Prayer Vigil on Tuesday in Bridgeport
| December 20, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will join other religious and spiritual leaders for an interfaith Prayer Vigil on Tuesday, December 22, 11 am at the Margaret Morton Government Center, 999 Broad Street in downtown Bridgeport.


“Standing on the Side of Love” is the theme of the vigil to pray for tolerance and an end to hate speech.

The Prayer Vigil is being sponsored by the Council of Church of Greater Bridgeport and Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut.

Rev. Cass L. Shaw, President of The Council of Churches, will introduce speakers and lead a Moment of silence for those killed in San Bernardino and all victims of hate crimes, prejudice, bigotry, profiling

Other religious leaders who will participate in the vigil are Rabbi Evan Schultz, B’nai Israel; Imam Nasif Muhammad; Rev. Anthony Bennett, Mt. Aery Baptist Church; Rev. Sara D. Smith, Esq., UCC and University of Bridgeport Chaplain, Rev. Aaron Best, St. Matthew’s Church.

Prayer will be said in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish, Creole, Latin by local pastors and religious leaders.

Area political leaders will also join in the prayer vigil though none are scheduled to speak.

The prayer vigil is open to the public. Free Parking is available on Level 3 (and above) of the Housatonic Community College garage at 900 Lafayette Ave.

Click for an updated agenda for the Interface Prayer Vigil


Christmas Concert soars with spirit of joy
| December 19, 2015


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NORWALK—For the more than 1,100 people who turned out tonight for the first Christmas Concert by the new Diocesan Youth Choir, it was a moment of pure joy that radiated through Norwalk Concert Hall and in the closing remarks of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.


From the first note of “Arise and Shine” to the final song, “Dark is the Silent Night,” the young choir performed a challenging program of Christmas songs and chants from different ages and cultures.

The evening managed to be both song-filled and prayerful with scripture readings that set off each of the concert’s sections.

The 90-minute performance was a remarkable achievement for the 82- member youth choir that was formed just over six months ago.

The choir’s voice soared in a memorable way in the “Celtic Christmas Lullabye,” accompanied by flutist Jessica Raposa, and on “Gaudete, “ sung to a 16th Century text.

Under the direction of Mary Bozzuti-Higgins the choir sang new arrangements of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Petit Enfant and Mary, and Ave Maria by Caccini.

The audience broke into an exuberant roar at the end of “Siyahama,” a traditional Zulu Christmas hymn. Led by the stunning percussion work of Tom Foote, the choir swayed in their white robes trimmed in blue, bringing the gathering to its feet.

Composer and musician Clay Zambo served as the accompanist for the evening, while Oboist Dr. Ralph Kirmser led the final arrangement, a sing-along with the audience joining in a moving version of Silent Night.

The concert ended with a prolonged standing ovation for the beaming young choir and its director who rehearsed daily in the weeks leading up to the performance.

“There’s only one word to describe what we just experienced,” said a visibly elated Bishop Caggiano, “Wow!”

“This magical night is just the beginning. You have given new life to the Church,” the Bishop said to the choir. “You are the beginning of the renewal that we’ve been praying for. We live in a troubled, uncertain world, but I’m certain the Church is going forward and the young Church is leading the way.”

“None of this would have been possible without the Lord giving us a remarkable woman of faith to lead the choir,” said the Bishop as he presented Mary Bozzuti-Higgins with a bouquet of roses.

In April of this year the Bishop named Bozzuti-Higgins of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Wilton Director of the new choir. A former professional opera soprano, she is highly regarded for her work in conducting large music ensembles for schools and civic groups. She immediately held auditions throughout the diocese and began rehearsing the new choir.

The choir’s first performance was before more than 8.000 people who filled the Webster Bank Arena on September 19 for the Closing Celebration Mass of Synod 2014.

Special thanks go to Concert Sponsors and lead donors: Tom and Kathy Arrix, Conrad and Carol Calandra, Sheila Clancy, J Galt Design Backdrops, Larry and Megan Foley, the O’Herron Family Foundation, John and Jennifer Mitchell.



All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and Catholic Charities youth programs in the Diocese of Bridgeport. For more information on the Diocesan Youth Choir and the new St. Augustine Guild to support its work, visit the diocesan website: http://www.bridgeportdiocese.org/c4ysings/home/

Click the video to watch the concert.  For full coverage of the event (articles, pictures, and more), please visit the Choir for Youth (C4Y) page. 


Few pilgrims, no sales: Mideast situation dampens Bethlehem Christmas
| December 18, 2015 • by By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service


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BETHLEHEM—Though the Christmas tree was lit in Nativity Square in the traditional ceremony, and some traditional pre-Christmas parades have taken place, the Christmas spirit this year in Bethlehem has been dampened by the political situation which, since October, has taken the lives of almost 100 Palestinians and 22 Israelis.


Few pilgrims are visiting the holy sites -- or the souvenir shops that line Manger Square -- and there is none of the customary festive caroling at the square in the evenings leading up to Christmas Eve. Hawkers who come from Hebron to sell Santa Claus hats and Christmas-themed headbands sit dejectedly on stone pillars, half-heartedly trying to sell their wares to locals who continue walking past them. It takes them more money for the taxi ride to Bethlehem than what they make during the day, said Jasan Zided, 38, who has six children to support.

One souvenir seller noted that while some pilgrim groups from Nigeria and East Asia are still visiting Bethlehem, the big spenders like the Russian groups are no longer coming, mainly because of their involvement in Syria and the November attack on the Russian airplane in Egypt. Among the few pilgrims was Monica Reina, 47, from Madrid, who was on a group pilgrimage.

"We have come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We are not afraid, we always feel protected by God," she said. "But there are very few people here, which is sad. If we as Christians stop coming here, then the Holy Land will cease to exist as the Holy Land."

"It is very sad," said Veronica Alhihi, 22, a Catholic teacher at the Ephpheta Paul VI Pontifical Institute for the deaf, who was on an outing to see the Christmas tree with the school's first and second graders. "It is hard to be happy when there is death. Even though we Christians all around the world feel the joy of Jesus' birth, there is a deep sadness inside of us."

Palestinians have been frustrated by an increase in the number of Israeli settlements on their territory and continued restrictions on movement, which Israel says are necessary for security. The most recent violence that has limited the tourists followed attempts by extremist Jews to visit and pray at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, which is holy to both Jews and Muslim. Riots have broken out in the West Bank, and Palestinians have stabbed Israeli civilians as well as Israeli police and soldiers, both within the Green Line and in the West Bank.

In solidarity with the difficult situation, the celebrations will be modest this year, said Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun. Rather than shooting off fireworks after the lighting of the Christmas tree, Bethlehem officials asked churches to ring their bells, she said.

"Bethlehem is all about peace. It is a city of peace, but it is a walled city," said Baboun. "The situation here is very contradictory. Every year is becoming worse. We lit the Christmas tree, but with sadness. A word like sadness should not even be expressed in Bethlehem. We have the right to celebrate the blessing of Our Lord, and our children deserve to live that joy despite the sadness."

Bethlehem has a 27 percent unemployment rate and a 22 percent poverty rate and not enough budget to help all the needy, she said. Many Christian organizations try to fill in some of the gaps, she said.

Bethlehem depends on the tourism industry, which has been hard hit for the past two months. Hotels are reporting dismal occupancy rates and no new reservations for the coming months, noted Manhal Assaf, director of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism Information Office in Bethlehem. Big dance parties and public celebrations, which local young people and Israeli Christian Arabs liked to attend, will not be held this year, though smaller indoor private events will be take place, said Assaf.

"Last year, we had full occupancy on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25," she said. "It is very quiet now."

Adnan Tarrabin, 45, said on a good day he would get some 200-300 customers at his coffee shop. Now he just spends the time lounging out in the winter sun in front of the shop. By midday, he had only had 15 customers, he said.

"Even last year after the Gaza war was better than this year," he said. "Here in Bethlehem, it is quiet. The problem is in the whole Middle East, and tourists are afraid to come here because of Syria, but here it is safe. The Israeli people are our cousins, we are all human beings and we want peace. This circle of violence is not good for anyone, not for young people, not for anybody. The two sides need to sit down together and make peace. When we have a good economy we don't have any problems."

Small family-owned handicraft workshops that depend on the Christmas visitors to sell their wares have perhaps been the hardest hit. Most are owned by Christian families. Several owners were going from store to store with bags of olive wood carvings and crosses, hoping to sell a few items to store owners. One shop owner bought a few smoothened and shined olive wood Jerusalem crosses from one man, but said he doubted they would be sold.

"I don't know how we will celebrate Christmas this year," said the handicraft workshop owner, who declined to give his name, as he left the store with several plastic bags of his merchandise.


Redemptoris Mater Seminary to open
| December 17, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—“Tonight is an historic occasion,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on December 8. After Holy Communion the bishop signed the canonical form establishing a Redemptoris Mater Seminary in the Diocese of Bridgeport.


“After a long period of reflection, prayer and discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are founding a new missionary seminary in this diocese,” the bishop said. “Priests from this diocesan missionary seminary, under the auspices of the Neocatechumenate Way, will go out in mission as far away as China or the Philippines to bring the word of God wherever it is needed—including our own diocese.”

Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) international seminaries prepare clergy to be sent anywhere that there is a need. Inspired by St. John Paul II, the first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was opened in the Diocese of Rome in 1987. As of 2013, the number of Redemptoris Mater seminaries worldwide rose to 100, on five continents, with more added since.

Over 2,000 men formed in these seminaries have already been ordained to the priesthood. There are eight Redemptoris Mater seminaries in the United States and its territories. The one in the Diocese of Bridgeport, to be opened in January 2016, will be the ninth in this country.

“In regard to their studies, they will be taking the same classes as the seminarians at St. John Fisher Seminary, studying at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and a Dunwoodie Seminary in Yonkers,” says Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, who has been named rector of Redemptoris Mater. “The difference is that they are being trained as missionary priests. Part of their formation is to spend two years after ordination in service to any diocese in the world.

Like all Redemptoris Mater seminaries, this will be a diocesan seminary, erected according to canon law by the diocesan bishop, and the students who undergo formation at these seminaries are ordained to the secular clergy of the diocese.”

The Redemptoris Mater seminarians have a specifically international character, coming from different nations. The seminary’s connection to the Neocatechumenal Way, with its emphasis on fostering an adult faith, means that many of the young men will had thorough preparation both in education and experience before entering the missionary seminary. After ordination, the bishop may appoint them to a parish or may end them to other dioceses of the world where bishops have asked for help.

Father Giandomenico Flora, rector of St. Margaret’s Shrine in Bridgeport, will be the spiritual director of the seminary. The first class of seminarians are currently finalizing their paperwork. While they will study with their diocesan counterparts, they will live in community, some at Sacred Heart with Father Picone and others at St. Margaret’s with Father Flora.

“These seminaries are the fruit of the Second Vatican Council, and initiative of St. John Paul II,” says Father Picone. “It is a beautiful miracle to begin this seminary with the Diocese of Bridgeport.”


"Are You the One?" The challenge of Advent
| December 17, 2015 • by By Carlene Joan Demiany


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FAIRFIELD—In 1963, when the Second Vatican Council was underway and when civil unrest and fear permeated American society, Trappist Monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968), writer, mystic and social reformer, wrote an essay reflecting on Advent.


It was this relatively unknown essay entitled “Advent: Hope or Delusion” that Father Daniel Horan, OFM, brought to his audience, when he delivered his lecture, “Thomas Merton and the ‘Advent’ of Christ in our Lives.”

The lecture, given on December 12 for an audience of over one hundred gathered at Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business, drew upon the essay to consider Advent in Merton’s spiritual thought. A free event sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport Year of Consecrated Life Committee, the lecture celebrated both the end of this year as well as Merton’s one- hundredth-birth year.

It was, indeed, a celebration of Merton’s enduring thought for our age as the young and passionate Franciscan, Father Dan, drew upon the essay to consider the spiritual meaning of Advent in the midst of our changing and violent world. Using Merton’s own words in “Advent: Hope or Delusion,” Father Dan presented Merton’s call to embrace the present tense of Advent.

Sometimes when in the midst of Advent, we set our eyes on the future—to the celebration of Christmas, to the second coming of Christ, to the days when God’s kingdom will reign on earth.

Merton’s Advent challenge is to embrace the hope that Christ is present in the world without denying the world’s present tragedies. He writes, “Our task is to seek and find Christ in the world as it is, and not as it might be.” Merton warns against an Advent faith that slips into cheerful hope as a way to ignore the sufferings of our time. As Father Dan explained, Advent becomes a delusion for Merton when we look around at injustices, simply turn on the radio, and sing (to the turn of “Deck the Halls”), “I’mgonna- go-and-do-more shoppingfa- la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.”

The spiritual task of Advent is to hold in tension the hope of Christ’s active presence in the world without denying that for many the world is a hopeless place. It was Father Dan’s focus on Merton’s sense of Advent as a present instead of future time that resonated with audience member Griffin Oleynick, a recent graduate of Yale’s PhD program. “He is getting us to think of Advent as a present time,” said Oleynick. “We live in a violent world, our own lives our messy, but it is in that messiness that we are asked to find Christ.”

During Advent, Merton challenges us not only to find Christ present in the world, but to find Christ present within. According to Father Dan, “Transformation in Christ, for Merton, takes the form of a lifetime of conversions.” Merton saw Advent as a time of hope in conversion. It is a time to hear, personally, the question John the Baptist wants Jesus to answer when he is in prison awaiting execution. John sends his messengers to Jesus, and they ask him, “Are you the one? Or is there another?”

“Are you the one?” is the question Merton says the world asks all followers of Christ. In the face of violence, the world wants to know, are you the one following the Prince of Peace? Are you a Christian? The present of Advent demands a responsibility to be the kingdom now. Advent calls for a time of conversion, time to be present to Christ now, and a time to grow in deeper relationship with him.

The connection Father Dan highlighted between Thomas Merton and John the Baptist resonated with Sister Nancy Strillacci, ASCJ. “Thomas Merton had this prophetic voice and we think of John the Baptist having that prophet’s voice,” she says. “He tells us to prepare the way of the Lord. Merton also tells us to prepare the way of the Lord by forsaking the trappings of our culture. By doing so, we are more receptive to God.”

The enthusiasm and challenge of Father Dan’s lecture was a fitting way to honor Merton’s one-hundredth birthday and the continued legacy he holds within the hearts of American Catholics.


To obtain peace, we have to fight indifference with mercy, Pope says
| December 15, 2015 • by by Elise Harris


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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis’ message for 2016’s World Day of Peace is packed with bold pastoral and practical advice for both the Church as well as international leaders.


Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square
on June 17, 2015.     Photo Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA

In it, he focused on the need to work for peace by overcoming the attitude of indifference and fostering a greater sense of solidarity, mercy and compassion.

He advocated for concrete acts of mercy on the part of families, individuals and political leaders, such as the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses.

Also encouraged by the Pope was a review of legislation in terms of migrants, a greater attention toward women, particularly in terms of equality in the workplace, and debt forgiveness.

“God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us!” was the opening line of Francis’ message for the 2016 World Day of Peace, published December 15.

Instituted by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January.

The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year.

Titled “Overcome Indifference and win Peace,” the Pope’s message for 2016 is a reiteration of what he has frequently advocated for since the beginning of his pontificate: taking one’s eyes off oneself, and focusing on the needs of others.

In a world afflicted by “a real third world war fought piecemeal,” the Pope expressed his desire to encourage people “not to lose hope in our human ability to conquer evil and to combat resignation and indifference.”


He pointed to several initiatives over the past year which have brought world leaders together in an effort to overcome self-interest and apathy, such as the recently concluded COP21 summit on climate change in Paris, the Addis Ababa Summit on funding global sustainable development and the adoption of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Also highlighted by the Pope were landmark anniversaries for the Church, such as the 50th anniversary of Second Vatican Council documents “Nostra Aetate” on dialogue with non-Christian religions, and the constitution “Gaudium et Spes” on the Church in the modern world.

Francis also pointed to the Jubilee of Mercy, which runs from December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016, expressing his hope that it will encourage people to “refuse to fall into a humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine which prevents us from discovering what is new!”

He spoke of the importance of fostering fraternity, saying we are responsible for those around us. Without solidarity, he said, “we would be less human.”

Calling indifference “a menace to the human family,” Francis noted that the attitude takes three forms: indifference to God, to our neighbor and to creation.

Indifference toward God, he noted, “transcends the purely private sphere and affects the public and social sphere.”

“Disregard and the denial of God, which lead man to acknowledge no norm above himself and himself alone, have produced untold cruelty and violence,” he said, while indifference toward one’s neighbor is expressed in a general disinterest and a lack of engagement.

On an institutional level, indifference to the dignity, rights and freedom of others is part of a culture formed by “the pursuit of profit and hedonism,” and can foster and even justify actions and policies which threaten peace, Pope Francis said.

Rather than ensuring that the basic rights and needs of others are preserved, economic and political projects frequently pursue power instead, he observed.

When people see their basic rights, such as food, water, health care and employment denied, “they are tempted to obtain them by force.”

Francis stressed that indifference is ultimately overcome by personal conversion, and pointed to the example of Jesus, who took on flesh and showed solidarity with humanity.

Jesus shows us how to be invested in others, no matter how busy we may be, he said, cautioning that the attitude of indifference often seeks to excuse itself with tasks to complete or by “hiding behind hostilities and prejudices which keep us apart.”

“Mercy is the heart of God,” he said, explaining that how we love and care for others is “the yardstick” by which God will judge our lives.

He emphasized the importance of the Church in being a witness to God’s mercy in both her language and her gestures, so that people would be inspired to return to God.

To build solidarity, the Pope said, is the responsibility of everyone, beginning with families and teachers. He also said those involved in the field of communication have a special role to play, adding that their role must “serve the truth, and not particular interests.”

Communicators, particularly the media, must also “be mindful that the way in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and morally admissible,” he said.

The statement is a likely reference to the current trial underway for the “Vatileaks 2” scandal, in which two journalists have been accused of exerting “pressure” on former members of a Vatican commission to obtain confidential documents on Vatican finances, and then publish books on the information.

Francis concluded his message by acknowledging the many individuals and organizations, journalists and photographers included, who are committed caring for the poor, injured and sick, despite often dangerous conditions.

In particular, he offered thanks to all individuals, families, parishes, religious communities and monasteries who responded to his September 6 appeal to welcome a family of refugees.

In the spirit of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis called on civil society to make “courageous gestures of concern” for the most vulnerable, particularly prisoners, migrants, the sick and the unemployed.

He specifically asked that the living conditions for prisoners be improved, and urged leaders to keep in mind that “penal sanctions have the aim of rehabilitation,” whereas national laws “should consider the possibility of other establishing penalties than incarceration.”

On this point, he urged government authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still practiced, and “to consider the possibility of an amnesty.”

The Pope asked that legislation for migrants “be reviewed” in order to reflect “a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration” into society.

He also said special emphasis should be given to the conditions for the legal residency of migrants, “since having to live clandestinely can lead to criminal behavior.”

Francis then asked that greater efforts be made in order to end unemployment, and for special attention be given to women, “who unfortunately still encounter discrimination in the workplace.”

He closed his message with a threefold appeal to national leaders, beginning with a request for them “to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts or wars,” which only lead to destruction.

The Pope then asked that leaders either forgive or find a way to sustainably manage the debt of poorer nations, and to “adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of local populations and…not prove detrimental to the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.”


Notre Dame Students practice "Acts of Kindness" in memory of those lost at Sandy Hook
| December 14, 2015


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FAIRFIELD— Notre Dame Catholic High School students inspired the nation last night when NBC Nightly News aired a video of their “26 Acts of Kindness” campaign to remember the 20 children and six adults who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook School shootings three years ago today.



In the report, NBC News correspondent Harry Smith speaks with teacher Mary Callahan and several Notre Dame students who have taken on a number of projects to remember the dead and also to thank First Responders, teachers, and others who do so much on a daily basis to protect and serve their communities. Through many acts of kindness including feeding the poor and reaching out to those in need, the students want to make the world a better place and to make “kindness” a part of the curriculum, particularly in the Christmas Season. Watch this video and be inspired by their good work.


Proposals to restrict religion raise 'alarms,' says U.S. bishop
| December 13, 2015 • by By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service


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ROME—The threat of terrorism must be confronted sensibly and not by restrictions based on religion, which ultimately threaten religious freedom and incite more violence, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.


(CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

"As citizens and as believers, Christians and Catholics in the United States cannot possibly countenance" denying people entry into the country due solely to religious affiliation, he told Catholic News Service December 10.

Archbishop Lori was in Rome for a December 10-12 international conference on Christian persecution in the world, held at the Pontifical Urbanian University.

While the continuing threat of terrorist acts in the West by Islamic State has caused security concerns, restricting religious liberty in countries like the United States, he said, could lead to policies that make matters worse.

The archbishop was asked about the increasing climate of fear in the wake of terrorist attacks, as reflected, for example, in recent remarks by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called "for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" and better understand possible threats. Such proposals, the archbishop said, have raised "great religious freedom alarms."

Archbishop Lori told CNS that while there are growing security concerns and a fear of terrorism, denying entry into a country based solely on religious affiliation may only worsen the situation.

"I think those things have to be addressed in sensible ways," he said. To address growing security threats, the archbishop stressed that governments must do so in "ways that do not in fact make this situation worse by inciting more violence."

 — A video to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/fLn7jkr0LXc


The Advent of Christ in Our lives
| December 11, 2015


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FAIRFIELD—Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, a Franciscan Friar and author, will give a Advent Lecture on Saturday, December 12 at 1 pm at the Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University.

Click here to see flyer


The topic will be Thomas Merton and the ‘Advent’ of Christ in our Lives.

“Fr. Dan is a dynamic young theologian and I encourage you to attend and to bring others, especially youth and young adults,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.  
    
Pope Francis spurred a renewal of interest in Thomas Merton earlier this year in his speech to a Joint Session of Congress. 


‘Jubilee begins with the opening of your heart to God’s mercy’
| December 10, 2015 • by By BRIAN D. WALLACE


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BRIDGEPORT—Hundreds turned out last night at St. Augustine Cathedral  for the opening Mass of the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.


“Every locked door has a key. And that key is not something, it is someone. It is the Lord Jesus Himself!” said  Bishop Frank J. Caggiano during a memorable liturgy that drew a standing room only gathering of the faithful to the cathedral.

“Jesus, the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer of the world, has come as the door of mercy… “The door of every human heart will be opened by his love and his mercy,” he said.
    
The evening began with a procession including priests, seminarians and Knights and Dames of Malta, through the Holy Door, which had been sealed earlier this year in preparation for the observance.  
     
During the service on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the bishop blessed the permanent shrine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the left side of the main altar.
     
The Mass was also an historic evening because the bishop signed the canonical forms to establish a Redemptoris Mater missionary seminary of the Neocatecumenate Movement in this diocese. The new missionary seminary rector will be Father Alfonso Picone, and the spiritual director will be Father Giondominico Flora.
      
“This has been a remarkable moment of grace,” said the bishop in thanking all those who made the evening possible.  May the Jubilee of Mercy bring us all closer to God’s goodness and love!”


Night in a Box at St. Jerome Norwalk
| December 09, 2015


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NORWALK—Twenty-nine teens from St. Jerome Youth Group in Norwalk gathered recently for the third annual “Night in a Box,” to join in prayerful solidarity with the homeless and witness their hardships.




Night in a Box is a national program to bring teens together to raise awareness and money to fight homelessness in the U.S.

“TOTAL”, St. Jerome’s youth group, decided several years ago that homelessness in Norwalk should be the focus of our service. The teens and adults try and walk a little while in the shoes of a homeless person and Night in a Box is an opportunity to do just that,” says, St. Jerome Youth Minister Daniela O’Callaghan.

The teens gathered at 2 in the afternoon, participated in service projects such as raking elderly parishioners leaves and visiting the local homeless shelter. They ate a simple dinner, heard from a representative of the local homeless shelter, prayed together, and finally built shelters out of cardboard boxes in the church parking lot where, they spent the night!

Each teen brought a box and were instructed to build a shelter where they would spend the night, says O’Callaghan.
 
“The kids finally got to their makeshift beds around 1 am. About 2:30, the first of 3 rain showers came through. Most everyone stayed put during the first downpour but by the 3rd many kids came inside the youth room. Everyone woke up, stiff, cold, a little wet and really tired. We cleaned up our boxes and ended our journey with Mass.” she says.
 
Christina Ronzitti, one of our seniors told St. Jerome Parishioners about the experience and ended by reminding everyone to be grateful for all our blessing and to never forget the homeless right here in our the community.


Holy Year is a reminder to put mercy before judgment, Pope says
| December 08, 2015 • by By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—On a cloudy, damp morning, Pope Francis' voice echoed in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica: "Open the gates of justice." With five strong thrusts, the pope pushed open the Holy Door, a symbol of God's justice, which he said will always be exercised "in the light of his mercy."


The rite of the opening of the Holy Door was preceded by a Mass with 70,000 pilgrims packed in St. Peter's Square Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the beginning of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

As the sun broke through the clouds, heralding the start of the jubilee year, the pope bowed his head and remained still for several minutes in silent prayer. Amid a crowd of dignitaries and pilgrims, a familiar face was also present at the historic event: retired Pope Benedict XVI, who followed Pope Francis through the Holy Door into St. Peter's Basilica.

During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the "simple, yet highly symbolic" act of opening the Holy Door, which "highlights the primacy of grace;" the same grace that made Mary "worthy of becoming the mother of Christ."

"The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history," he said. The feast of the Immaculate Conception, he continued, serves as a reminder of the grandeur of God's love in allowing Mary to "avert the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world."

"This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves," he said. "Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ's love enfolds everything in the Father's mercy."

The Year of Mercy, the pope stressed, is a gift of grace that allows Christians to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of grace and rediscovering God's infinite mercy toward sinners.

"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy," he said. "We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God's judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love."

Fifty years ago, he said, the church celebrated the "opening of another door," with the Second Vatican Council urging the church to come out from self-enclosure and "set out once again with enthusiasm on her missionary journey." The council closed Dec. 8, 1965.

Pope Francis, the first pope to be ordained to the priesthood after the council, said the council documents "testify to a great advance in faith," but the council's importance lies particularly in calling the Catholic Church to return to the spirit of the early Christians by undertaking "a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm."

Shortly after the Mass, as thousands of people waited in St. Peter's Square for a chance to walk through the Holy Door, Pope Francis led the midday Angelus prayer. The feast of the Immaculate Conception has a special connection to the start of the Year of Mercy, he said, because "it reminds us that everything in our lives is a gift, everything is mercy."

Like Mary, the pope continued, Christians are called to "become bearers of Christ" and to "let ourselves be embraced by the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything. Nothing is sweeter than his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God. The Lord is so good and he forgives everything."


Bishop invites all to attend “Arise and Shine” Christmas Concert
| December 07, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued a Facebook video invitation to area residents, asking them to join him at—“Arise and Shine,” a Christmas Concert featuring the new 82-member Diocesan Youth Choir (C4Y), set for Friday, December 18, 7:30 pm, Norwalk Concert Hall, 125 East Avenue.

Due to the generosity of major donors and sponsors, tickets are just $10 a seat and all proceeds will benefit the Bishop Scholarship’s Fund and other youth programs throughout the diocese.

“We hope people will come out and join us to celebrate the sound and spirit of Christmas,” said Bishop Caggiano, “Our youth have worked for months to prepare for this concert and it is the exciting beginning of a new Christmas tradition in the diocese.”

The concert will perform under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins of Wilton, an opera singer and choral director who also serves as music director of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. The program will feature traditional Christmas music, an audience sing-along, brief scripture readings in Portuguese, French, Spanish and Vietnamese, and a candlelight recessional to “Silent Night.”

Higgins said that other selections planned for the evening are Caccini’s stunning Ave Mara, Arise and Shrine by contemporary sacred music composer Mary McDonald, and new arrangements of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Petit Enfant and Mary.

Get your tickets online now: c4ychristmasconcert.eventbrite.com or call 203.416.1333.


All invited to Mass and opening of Holy Door TONIGHT
| December 06, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Hundreds are expected to process into St. Augustine Cathedral through the Holy Door this Tuesday, December 8, as the Diocese of Bridgeport begins its observance of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy year proclaimed by Pope Francis.


The Opening Mass, held on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, will begin at 7:30 pm with readings and a short procession from the St. Monica Hall of Kolbe Cathedral High School (on the Cathedral Grounds) to the front door of St. Augustine’s.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has invited all Catholics in the area to gather for the procession and formally enter through the Holy Door of the Cathedral to launch the Jubilee year.

The Bishop said that Pope Francis has urged dioceses across the world to create a Holy Door, “to become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”

The bishop formally dedicated a Holy Door in the diocese on September 19, the morning of the Synod Celebration, when he led a Holy Hour for diocesan youth at St. Augustine Cathedral and then processed to Webster Bank Arena. In anticipation of the Jubilee of Mercy year, the Holy Door was officially sealed at the ceremony. During that celebration attended by 8,000 faithful, the bishop also prayed before a new statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

After his homily on Tuesday, the statue, donated by the Knights and Dames of Malta, will be blessed on its new pedestal inside the Cathedral. “Following the blessing, all present will be invited to re-commit ourselves to the guidance and protection of Our Lady, as we first did at the conclusion of the Synod Mass,” said Bishop Caggiano.

In Church tradition, Holy Doors are normally sealed shut from the outside and opened during Jubilee years when pilgrims enter to seek reconciliation and gain indulgence related to the Jubilee. Throughout year, area Catholics will be encouraged to visit the cathedral for prayer and also to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Father Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Nichols, is chairing the Jubilee of Mercy committee for the diocese.

Father Marcello said that the diocese is in the process of identifying parishes around Fairfield County that will serve as “Centers of Mercy" by offering expanded opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The chosen parishes will offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation each Tuesday evening from 7-8:30 pm.

“The goal of all of this is to provide the Sacrament of the Lord’s mercy more abundantly around the whole diocese, so that no one will need to go more than two or three days without regularly-scheduled Confession times at a parish in their area,” Father Marcello said.

As part of the year-long observance, the diocese will also increase opportunities for corporal and spiritual works of mercy by working with Catholic Charities and the newly-established Catholic Service Corps to create service opportunities grounded in prayer.

Those who are interested in joining the procession into the Church through the Holy Door are encouraged to arrive by 7:15.


Bishop Calls for “Co-Responsibility” to renew diocese
| December 05, 2015


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TRUMBULL—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano issued a call for “co-responsibility” as the diocese moves forward to implement initiatives approved in the recently completed Synod.


Speaking to almost 200 delegates in the first post-Synod session held at St. Catherine of Siena Family Center, the bishop said “We are all in this together and we’re not going to do it alone.

There are lots of potential leaders in our parishes. It’s time to challenge them to give more of their time and talents to help the Church evangelize.”

He announced that each parish will be encouraged to host a Discernment Day in the Fall to engage parishioners and ask them to use talents in service of the church.

“God has blessed them as individuals with many talents and we will ask them to give one back for the good of the Church.” The Bishop said that while he believes Synod initiatives will work to renew the diocese, they all depend on the “one on-one” person evangelization efforts of Catholics throughout Fairfield County.

Noting that a decrease in Mass attendance and sacramental practice is a trend across the country, the Bishop said that “co-responsibility is the recipe for the new evangelization,” and that it must “take place in a thousand forms and a thousand places” throughout Fairfield County.

“No program in and of itself will reverse these trends. The only way is if we raise an army of individuals who will evangelize one person at a time--that’s the vision of Pope Francis and my vision as well.”

The Bishop said that the spirit of Synod implementation should be the “Theology of Accompaniment” defined by Pope Francis.

“When we start knocking on doors, listening to broken hearts and inviting them in compassion to find what they’re looking for, these trends will be reversed. Programs are great but they won’t start the conversation,” he said.

Speaking to men and women delegates of all ages who had met in the same hall for almost a year to discern the renewal of the diocese, the Bishop said he called for post-synod session not only to inform delegates of the progress on many issues, but also to give them the opportunity to hold the diocese accountable and weigh in on programs moving forward.

In an informative question and answer session, delegates explored a wide range of issues from diocesan finance to the make up of parish councils.

Patrick Turner, Director of Strategic and Pastoral Planning for the Diocese, gave an overview of the Strategic Planning process now underway throughout the diocese.

He said that as part of the planning process each parish will be given a statistical “snapshot” by the diocese based on data that they have submitted. He said each parish will be free to respond to synod challenges in their own way and that the process will lead to 82 individual plans that will come to the Bishop for approval.

“A parish may find that they do a good job with liturgy and worship, and have a great welcoming ministry, but the Faith Formation numbers are trending down. So that needs to become a priority in their planning.”

He said that while many parishes are participating in the DiscipleMaker Index program provided by the Catholic Leadership Institute, others are forming focus groups to better understand the attitudes and concerns of parishioners.

Turner also gave progress report on the Catholic Service Corps, the Diocesan Leadership Institute, the Liturgical Commission, the Catechetical Taskforce and other initiatives underway.

During the session the Bishop also offered an overview of finances and measures the diocese has taken to eliminate debt and improve overall viability. He told delegates that most dioceses have four sources of funding, but the Diocese of Bridgeport currently has only two major sources, the Cathedraticum, or 15 percent tax on parish revenue, and the Annual Catholic Appeal. He said he would like to add income from foundations that support education and other diocesan missions, and also expand income from related or affiliated organizations such as Catholic Cemeteries.

To close the session, Msgr. Dariusz Zeilonka, newly named Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Tribunal, gave delegates an overview of the revised annulment process. He discussed changes made to the “ordinary” process as well as the introduction of the new “short process.”

He said that although there are many misconceptions about the changes initiated by Pope Francis, they do represent an attempt to make the process “more pastoral and responsive.” He added that changes underway in the diocesan Tribunal will lead to a more streamlined process for petitioners.

The Bishop concluded the formal session by blessing Synod medallions that were presented to all delegates.

“ I ask that the Lord bless these medallions that are a reminder of what you have done for us and the hopeful future that lies ahead in his love for each of us,” the Bishop said.

Click here for photos


Synod Delegates to Reconvene Saturday
| December 04, 2015


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TRUMBULL—Synod delegates will reconvene this Saturday, December 5, 2015, at St. Catherine of Siena Family Center for the first Post-Synod General Session.


The day will begin with Mass at 7:15 am in the Church, and the formal session will start at 8:15. A 12:10 lunch of appreciation will conclude the session.

Almost 200 delegates are expected to return for an update on Synod Initiatives. The morning will also include a Blessing of Synod Medallions as a thank you to delegates for their service during the Synod.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will present delegates with an overall “snapshot of the diocese” as of December 2015, with an update on Synod initiatives and proposals including the Strategic and Pastoral Planning Process, the Schools Strategic Planning Process, the recent Diocese Summit on Finance and Real Estate, a Debt Reduction Plan, the new office of Faith Formation, and changes in Information Technology.

Patrick Turner, Director of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, will walk delegates through the next steps for Synod Initiatives and discuss progress on the on the five Global Initiatives outlined by the recent Synod: Liturgy and Worship, Family Life, Evangelization, Leadership, and Catechesis and Education.

In addition, Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, J.C.D., newly named Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Tribunal,  will speak about the new Annulment process announced by Pope Francis in September, and the changes to the Tribunal office in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Since the closing of the Synod, a new Strategic and Pastoral Planning process is  underway in the diocese with each parish forming planning taskforces. The diocese has also moved ahead with plans for the Catholic Service Corps, a new Strategic Plan for Vocations, and a Catechetical Taskforce.

On Friday, September 19, 2014, Bishop Frank Caggiano signed the official decree opening the Fourth Diocesan Synod at the Vespers Service held at Saint Augustine Cathedral.  The next morning, starting at 8 AM, the First General Session of the Synod was opened.  During the Spring and Summer months of 2014, Bishop Caggiano and the Synod Commission members organized listening sessions in each vicariate of the Diocese.  Additional sessions were organized for the youth and various ethnic groups to listen to their concerns, comments, current needs and suggestions. These listening sessions, along with online forms, allowed us to collect over four thousand individual remarks.  

The final, Sixth and final General Session of the Synod took place on May 30, 2015. Delegates voted on the final Synod recommendations for action, reaching unanimous agreement on most of the major initiatives. For a full recap, visit the Synod website at www.2014synod.org.


Notre Dame H.S. coaching great passes away
| December 03, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Legendary Notre Dame Girls High School Basketball Coach Stephen Nemergut, 71, of West Haven passed away on November 30, at St. Vincent’s Medical Center after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.


He is being remembered by many former students, players and colleagues as a kind and gentle man, a Hall of Fame coach and first and foremost a great teacher who never gave up on a student or player.

He is survived by his loving wife, Mary Ann Braun Nemergut and his older brother, Fr. Bob Nemergut of Bloomfield, Indiana, along with other family members in the area.  He was the son of the late Sephen and Helen Miron Nemergut who predeceased him.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held this Friday, December 3, 10:30 am at Assumption Church in Fairfield. Burial will be in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull. Friends are also invited to greet family tonight at Larson Funderal Home, 2496 North Avenue in Bridgeport.

Steve Nemergut was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and was also a member of the Notre Dame High School Athletic Hall of Fame.  It was a great moment for the man many remembered as  a shy and skinny kid who could not play organized school sports because of health challenges.

During his thirteen years of coaching (1977 – 1989), his Notre Dame teams compiled an overall record of 227-44 and nine league championships. The Lancers qualified for the state tournament each year Steve coached and advanced to the State Tournament finals in 1987, 1988, and 1989.

A graduate of Notre Dame High School, he went on to graduated from Fairfield University in 1967 and began teaching science at Saint Andrew’s in Bridgeport where he was also head coach of the boys’ basketball and baseball teams. Steve ultimately realized that teaching and coaching were “one and the same.”

In 1977, he began coaching girls’ basketball, at Notre Dame Catholic High School (now in Fairfield). His team won the regular season and first MBIAC playoff tournament and Steve was named the first MBIAC Coach of the year.

In 1978, he  began teaching biology and geometry at Notre Dame. In 1984, Steve married Mary Ann Braun, who became his assistant coach. In 1988, he was selected as the Connecticut Post Coach of the Year as his team again won the league championship and advanced to the CIAC State Finals.

He was always quick to credit his players for his many victories and he was proud that thirteen of his players received college scholarships.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donation be sent to Notre Dame High School, Fairfield, Scholarship Fund. Contact Fr. Bill Sangiovanni at  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Bishop and Pastors Meet to Discuss Pastoral Planning
| December 01, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank Caggiano met with 71 pastors at the Catholic Center yesterday to discuss the Pastoral Planning process and other issues related to the renewal of the diocese.


Each parish has been asked to create Parish Planning Taskforce made up of six to ten individuals who will work throughout the year to submit a plan by September 30, 2016.
     
The Bishop said the plan will be a “roadmap for the future” of each parish and also lay the groundwork for response to the five Global Initiatives outlined by the recent Synod:  Liturgy and Worship, Family Life, Evangelization, Leadership, and Catechesis and Education.   
     
“This process is going to plant the seed for a generational shift that those who come after us will see and experience if it bears fruit,” the Bishop said. “I believe it will work, and if parts of it don’t, we’ll try something else.”
    
The Bishop told pastors that each parish will have flexibility in designing and implementing a plan that incorporates Synod goals and also addresses vitality indicators for creating more vital and welcoming parishes.
    
“The plans should be simple, be reasonable and prioritize,” said the Bishop, “and they should also have an element of surprise as parishioners re-imagine their relationship with the Church.”
      
He said the Diocesan Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning will serve as a resource to parishes as the move forward.
     
Fr. Michael Dogali,  Vicar for Pastoral Planning, told pastors he will be scheduling one-one-one meetings with them throughout the year. His goal is to visit each parish as part of the planning process that will begin with each parish assessing its strengths and weaknesses.
     
Patrick Turner, Director of Strategic and Pastoral Planning for the Diocese said that each pastor will receive a statistic analysis to share with its planning taskforce.
     
He said the template will includes “a statistic snapshot” of each parish based on data submitted by parishes through the ParishSoft program as well as figures on Mass attendance, sacramental activity, finances and other benchmarks.
    
Twenty nine parishes will also be participating in the “Disciplemaker Index” program developed by the Catholic Leadership Institute of Pennsylvania. Through a series of interviews and other approaches, the index gives pastors a qualitative view of the concerns and attitudes of parishioners.
   
At the gathering the priests agreed to take Mass counts three or four times a year to get a more accurate gauge of participation. At present, they are taken once a year in October.
   
After the presentation which included information of the strategic planning process for schools now underway in the diocese, the bishop fielded questions from pastors about the process and the challenges ahead.
   
Pastors expressed their concerns about a drop in Mass attendance, the number of Religious Education students whose parents do not attend Mass, and the need to have consistent policies from parish to parish across the diocese.


Diocese to begin Jubilee of Mercy observance
| December 01, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport will begin its observance of the Jubilee of Mercy with the opening Mass and blessing of a Jubilee Holy Door for use by diocesan pilgrims at St. Augustine Cathedral, on Tuesday, December 8, at 7:30 pm.


The observance is the response to a declaration by Pope Francis for an extraordinary Holy Year called the Jubilee of Mercy, beginning on December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and concluding on November 20, 2016, on the Feast of Christ the King.

“Our Holy Father has asked each diocese to sponsor events on the local level including a pilgrimage. It is fitting that we begin the observance on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

The bishop said that the diocesan observance will culminate in a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2016. “On that day I will consecrate the Diocese of Bridgeport to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, complementing and completing our consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which I carried out at the Closing Mass of the Synod on September 19,” said the bishop.

Pope Francis formally declared the Jubilee of Mercy on April 11, 2015, to emphasize the importance of mercy and to keep alive a sense of encounter and openness in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope has urged dioceses across the world to create a Holy Door, “to become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”

The bishop formally dedicated a Holy Door in the diocese on September 19, the morning of the Synod Celebration, when he led a Holy Hour for diocesan youth at St. Augustine Cathedral and then processed to Webster Bank Arena. In anticipation of the Jubilee of Mercy year, the Holy Door was officially sealed at the ceremony.

In Church tradition, Holy Doors are normally sealed shut from the outside and opened during Jubilee years when pilgrims enter to seek reconciliation and gain indulgence related to the Jubilee. Throughout year, area Catholics will be encouraged to visit the cathedral for prayer and also to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Father Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Nichols, is chairing the Jubilee of Mercy committee for the diocese.

Father Marcello said that the diocese is in the process of identifying parishes around Fairfield County that will serve as “Centers of Mercy" by offering expanded opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The chosen parishes will offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation each Tuesday evening from 7-8:30 pm.

Another five parishes, one in each Vicariate, will offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation each Thursday evening from 7-8:30 pm.

“The goal of all of this is to provide the Sacrament of the Lord’s mercy more abundantly around the whole diocese, so that no one will need to go more than two or three days without regularly-scheduled Confession times at a parish in their area,” Father Marcello said.

As part of the year-long observance, the diocese will also increase opportunities for corporal and spiritual works of mercy by working with Catholic Charities and the newly-established Catholic Service Corps to create service opportunities grounded in prayer.

“Our goal is to build upon existing opportunities for extending the Lord’s mercy through feeding the sick, reaching out to the homeless, the imprisoned, and those with pressing physical needs. Similarly, we will expand spiritual formation opportunities, with particular emphasis on those who have drifted from the practice of the faith, those who are searching, and for young people,” said Father Marcello.

Serving on the Jubilee of Mercy Committee are John Grosso, diocesan social media leader; Father Krsztyzof Kuczynski, parochial vicar of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown; Deacon Jerry Lambert, deacon of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield; Sister Deborah Lopez, ASCJ, principal of St. Raphael Academy in Bridgeport; Msgr. Kevin Royal, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford; Michael Tintrup, LCSW, COO/chief operating officer and vice president of quality and compliance for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County; Tom Vita, state deputy of the Knights of Columbus in the State of Connecticut.


Bishop Caggiano's reflection Advent
| November 30, 2015


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As we begin the holy season of Advent, we also begin a new liturgical year of grace. For as the Church’s calendar follows the birth, ministry, life, death, resurrection and glorification of Christ the Lord, the season of Advent, designed in part to prepare us to celebrate the birth of the Lord into the world, begins this sacred cycle of worship.


So today is New Year’s Day for all Catholics, at least in a liturgical sense.

Advent is also the season when we recall that Christ will return in glory, to complete the inauguration of the Kingdom of God that He ushered into creation during his ministry. Unlike His first coming into the poverty of the manger, when Christ returns in glory, as judge of the living and the dead, He will return in divine power and majesty. In the weeks ahead, we will explore together the manifold meaning of this fundamental belief that we share.

However, for today, in light of the fact that we are beginning a new liturgical year of grace, it seems to me that it is most appropriate to spend this day reflecting upon the spiritual goals that we have for this new year. More specifically, what spiritual resolutions are you and I ready to make and keep that will help us to grow in whatever way we need to be more faithful disciples of Christ?

While it is true that many of us make resolutions on January 1st and often fail to keep them. As we begin this new liturgical year of grace, let us make reasonable spiritual resolutions that we can keep, for our own good and to the glory of Christ the Lord.


Diocesan Youth Choir to Perform in Christmas Concert
| November 30, 2015


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NORWALK—“Arise and Shine,” a Christmas Concert featuring the new 82-member Diocesan Youth Choir (C4Y), on Friday, December 18, 7:30 pm, Norwalk Concert Hall, 125 East Avenue.


Proceeds will benefit the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and youth programs throughout Fairfield County.

“We hope people will come out and join us to celebrate the sound and spirit of Christmas,” said Bishop Caggiano,” “Our youth have worked for months to prepare for this concert. We hope that this is the beginning of a new Christmas tradition in the diocese.”

The concert will perform under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins of Wilton, an opera singer and choral director who also serves as music director of Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

The program will feature traditional Christmas music, an audience sing-along, brief scripture readings in Portuguese, French, Spanish and Vietnamese, and a candlelight recessional to “Silent Night.”

Higgins said that other selections planned for the evening are Caccini’s stunning Ave Mara, Arise and Shrine by contemporary sacred music composer Mary McDonald, and new arrangements of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Petit Enfant and Mary.

Youth from 43 of the diocese’s 82 parishes will be performing. Higgins said she hopes that in the coming year, the newly formed choir will include youth representatives from every parish.

The choir, formed last March, performed along with other choral groups throughout the diocese at the recent Synod Celebration Mass, which drew more than 8,000 people to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

All proceeds benefit youth programs in the Diocese of Bridgeport. For tickets: c4ychristmasconcert.eventbrite.com


Advent begins today!
| November 29, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Beginning the Church's liturgical year, Advent (from "ad-venire" in Latin or "to come to") is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.


The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).

Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. Our Advent calendar above can help you fully enter in to the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.

- Click here for a day-by-day guide to Advent from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
- Click to read Bishop Caggiano's reflection on Advent


Jesse Tree Ornaments Offer Opportunity for Advent Family Prayer Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/jesse-tree-ornaments-offer-opportunity-for-advent-family-prayer/#ixzz3st8w5F14
| November 28, 2015 • by By Susan Klemond, Register Correspondent


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ROSEVILLE—When Jane Lagerquist came to Angie O’Connell’s home in West St. Paul, Minnesota, during Advent seven years ago, the friends looked at O’Connell’s paper-laminated Jesse Tree ornaments and talked about how hard it was to find quality materials to celebrate and teach children about the Church seasons.


Two years later, Lagerquist, who has an art background and lives in the nearby Minneapolis suburb of Roseville, returned to O’Connell’s home with images she’d painted for a set of Jesse Tree ornaments. The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition in which Old and New Testament images related to salvation history are hung on a tree in anticipation of Christmas.

The Minnesota moms mounted the images on wood pieces for their families and then advertised a few extra sets online. The ornaments sold within half an hour, O’Connell said.

The Jesse Tree ornaments, which come in sets of 28 to 60, are round wooden pieces and have a painted image corresponding to a Scripture passage; the ornaments are durable and washable. O’Connell and Lagerquist researched Jesse Tree devotions to come up with the images, O’Connell said. They also collaborated with Twin Cities author Megan Dunsmore on a book that features text and images that correspond with their original Jesse Tree set.

Since they formally introduced their Jesse Tree ornaments in 2010, O’Connell and Lagerquist, who now work through their business, Jesse Tree Treasures (JesseTreeTreasures.com), have seen growing demand. They offer a variety of Jesse Tree items, along with materials for Church seasons, including Christmas, Lent and Easter, which help families celebrate and pray together.

“We wanted it to be something that is really tangible, especially for kids, to learn the Old Testament and their faith and how it relates to Jesus’ birth and salvation,” O’Connell said.

An alternative to hand-making ornaments, the Jesse Tree sets and other products help children think about Scripture in each season, while enjoying a fun activity, according to the crafty moms. The items also help families — Catholics and those of other Christian denominations — form the habit of praying together.

For Jessica Gordon, focusing on Advent can be a challenge, and the Jesse Tree set her family uses offers one way to stay in tune with the faith before Christmas. The ornaments are “a great way to teach children to read the Bible together and travel through history to the time of Christ’s birth each Advent,” she said. “It definitely has helped them focus on the reason for the season and prepare for Christmas.”

Gordon, who has seven children and lives in Oregon, said she likes the quality, artwork and simplicity of the set. Gordon has two popular Catholic blogs called Shower of Roses and Catholic Cuisine.

Other products include an ornament set for Lent and Easter called the Jesus Tree; Stations of the Cross; ornaments with images of the O Antiphons, from a monastic tradition of prayer with readings for Dec. 17-23; a set of small Montessori-inspired wooden items used to teach about Jesus’ parables; ornaments based on the Christmas carol The 12 Days of Christmas; and a set used to explain the sacraments.

During the Christmas season, Gordon uses the “12 Days of CHRISTmas” ornaments to teach her children about the faith and to remind them that Christmas continues after Dec. 25. Gordon uses the ornaments as decorations for the 12-days-of-Christmas party she has for her children.

“Simplifying and focusing on our faith, prayer and Scripture is a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas and celebrate Christmas once Christmas really arrives,” she said.

O’Connell said she hopes the faith-filled products will encourage families to pray together throughout the year.

“I think people want to share their faith with their children, and, oftentimes, they don’t know how to begin a family prayer,” she said. “This is a really neat way to start in a season when you have the Bible passages right there, or even the book that we offer with it that is in an easy-to-understand format for children.”

O’Connell and Lagerquist are considering new items based on the rosary, the Blessed Mother and a Mass kit. As their products have blessed her own five children, O’Connell hopes they will encourage more children to pray and enter into Church seasons.

“My goal is to have them grow up and have their prayer life in place and understand the seasons and how to celebrate them and not be able to imagine the season without them.”


A time to be grateful for the “hidden blessings” in our lives
| November 27, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—As we pause to count our blessings this Thanksgiving Day, many of the blessings in our lives are easy to name and do not require much thought to bring to mind.


However, as I have matured over the years, I have also come to realize that we all have “hidden blessings” that are not as easy to recognize and for which we also need to be thankful.

What do I mean by “hidden blessings”? They are precisely those events or challenges in our lives that at first glance do not look like a blessing when they happen but from which, after the passage of time, great grace may flow. Such “blessings” only become evident from the fruits that they create in our lives.

For example, the death of my mother was anything but a blessing when it occurred in January 2011. At the time, it created a deep wound in my family and in my own heart that was long in healing. At times, I have wondered why mom died when she did and what would life have been like if she were still alive and able to meet all the wonderful people that I have met in the Diocese and participate in all the exciting new initiatives and events over the past two years.

However, now that nearly five years have passed, I can say with great peace that my mother’s death was a blessing in disguise. For her sake, if she had to struggle with the growing debilitation of the lung cancer much longer than she did, she would have suffered deeply. Her presence would have been a comfort to me and my family but at what price? I believe that she is now at peace and living a life of great joy with the Lord. And I and my family have been blessed by the prayers that she has offered for us all, until we see each other again in the glory of heaven. So what I once thought was a great tragedy has become a “hidden blessing” for which I can give thanks to the Lord, because He has taken care of my mother, my family and me every day since mom died in the peace of Christ.

So this Thanksgiving Day, let us not be afraid to ask: What are the “hidden blessings” that you and I now recognize in our life?

Let us look long and hard at our life, especially recalling those events that were challenging and sorrowful but have borne great grace over time. Let us be prepared to be surprised by the Lord’s love even in those moments. For if we realize such a “hidden blessing” in your life and mine, the only response we can give is one of thanks to our gentle and loving Lord.”

My best wishes for a Blessed Thanksgiving to you and your entire family.

God bless,
Bishop Frank Caggiano

 

Also read:

- Bishop Caggiano's op-ed in the CT Post
- A special 'thank you' to all donors and contributors to the Annual Catholic Appeal and the ministries it serves.


Connecticut Knights of Columbus to Distribute Coats for Kids on ‘Black Friday’
| November 24, 2015


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Children in six cities throughout state to be remembered with gift of warmth

NEW HAVEN—As many head out to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, hundreds of area children will receive a free and much-needed gift as the Knights of Columbus distribute new winter coats to children in need at six sites throughout Connecticut on Black Friday, November 27.


The K of C Coats for Kids distributions will be held at sites in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Taftville and Waterbury. The statewide initiative builds on a program that started in Bridgeport during Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.

More than 2,000 coats were distributed statewide last Black Friday by the Knights.

“While society pushes us to buy things on Black Friday, the Knights of Columbus wants to remember those who don’t have basic necessities that most of us take for granted,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Our members are making sure that children have something essential, a coat, to help them stay warm during winter — which, as we were reminded last year, can be especially cold in Connecticut.”

Coats will be distributed Friday, November 27, from 9 am to noon at:

Bridgeport: McGivney Community Center, 338 Stillman St.
Hartford: Sacred Heart Church, 49 Winthrop St.
New Haven: St. Mary’s Church Hall, 5 Hillhouse Ave.
Stamford: Knights of Columbus Council 41, 507 Shippan Ave.
Taftville: Knights of Columbus Council 34, 47 S. Second Ave.

Coats will also be distributed on Friday in Waterbury from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.at the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, 515 S. Main St. Knights will also distribute coats on Black Friday in several other states from coast to coast.

Since the program was launched in 2009, more than 300,000 new coats have been distributed to children by Knights of Columbus.

Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members worldwide. It is also one of the most active charitable organizations in the United States. The Knights also set a new record for charitable giving in 2014 with donations of more than $173.5 million and 71.5 million hours of service to charitable causes, much of it raised and donated by its more than 15,000 councils. For more information, visit www.kofc.org or follow the Knights of Columbus on Facebook and Twitter at @kofc.


Mass celebrates people with special needs
| November 24, 2015


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FAIRFIELD—The sun shone through the stain-glass windows of Holy Cross Church as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed all to the annual Mass hosted by St. Catherine Center for Special Needs.


During Mass, students from St. Catherine Academy and two parishioners, one from St. Joseph Parish in Shelton and one from St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield, received Sacraments of Initiation witnessed by over 150 family and friends in attendance.

“Today we gather as a faith community to witness the loving presence of Jesus in these young people and adults,” said Helen Burland, executive director of St. Catherine Center for Special Needs. “All seven participants have prepared for their sacraments working with their teachers at St. Catherine Academy or within their parishes,” she continued. “These teachers are carrying out the mission of the center and we are very grateful.”

St. Catherine Academy students, Vanessa Gomez, Patrick Nolan, Joanne Lindsy Paul, Jonathan Teixeira , Ellen Skoronski from St. Joseph’s and Francesco Cipollone from St. Edward’s were confirmed. Heriberto Moya, a St. Catherine Academy student, received his First Holy Communion and Anthony Virgile, also a student at St. Catherine’s, was baptized and received his First Holy Communion.

Father Robert Kinnally, chancellor of the diocese and rector of St. John Fisher Seminary, concelebrated and Peter DeMarco and Sharon Christie led the congregation in song.

Following Mass, everyone proceeded out of church and headed behind the academy building for the dedication of the new, wheelchair-accessible garden. The garden was made possible through the efforts of Andrew Aoyama, whose Eagle Scout project created the raised beds, and the generosity of donors, especially the CT Area Association of the Order of Malta.

“We gather today to bless this garden and remember Kay and Jerry Luff,” Burland said at the beginning of the dedication ceremony. “Their vision and dedication to the mission of St. Catherine Academy set an example for all of us. The children and young adults here are living examples of Jesus in our midst. This garden will serve as both an area for quiet reflection and active learning.”

In attendance were Kelly Luff Weldon, a member of the Board of Directors of St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, Jennifer Luff Mitchell, Brad Luff and their families.

Bishop Caggiano proceeded to bless the garden and the crowd. Following the dedication, the crowd filtered through the academy building and headed to the gym for refreshments and photographs. It was a wonderful day of celebration filled with hope and joy.

Click here for photos


Families must forgive and not 'end the day in war,' pope says
| November 23, 2015 • by By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—The secret to healing wounds among family members is to "not end the day in war" and to forgive one another, Pope Francis said.


"One cannot live without forgiving, or at least one cannot live well, especially in the family," the pope said November 4 at his weekly general audience.

Recalling the recent Synod of Bishops on the family, the pope said that he wanted the final report to be published so that all may take part in the work of the past two years. However, he said, his general audience talk would not examine the conclusions but rather reflect on the great gift that marriage and the family are for society, especially in a world that "at times becomes barren of life and love."

The pope told the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter's Square that families are like "a great gym where one trains in giving and in mutual forgiveness." Using the Gospel account of Jesus teaching the 'Our Father,' the pope stressed that forgiveness heals the wounds often caused "by our weaknesses and our selfishness."

"There is a simple secret in order to heal wounds and dissolve accusations: Do not end the day without asking forgiveness from one another, without making peace between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, daughters-in law and mothers-in law," he said.

By immediately asking for forgiveness and forgiving others, the pope continued, the family becomes stronger and creates a solid foundation that can withstand any difficulties that may come.

In order to forgive, Pope Francis told the crowd, "you don't need to make a great speech; a caress is sufficient and it's all over. But, do not end the day in war. Understood?"

The pope also stressed that the synod emphasized the role that forgiveness plays in the vocation and mission of the family and that it not only saves families from divisions but helps society "become less evil and less cruel" as well.

The church, he assured, "is always near to help you build your house upon the rock of which Jesus spoke." Christian families, the pope said, can do much for society and the church and the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy can be an occasion for families "to rediscover the treasure of mutual forgiveness."

"Let us pray so that families may always be more capable of living and building concrete paths of reconciliation, where no one feels abandoned by the weight of their trespasses," the pope said.

A related video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/Y2m7hmonR_o.


Fr. Hoffmann to honor 102-year old parishioner this Sunday
| November 20, 2015


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DARIEN—Fr. Frank Hoffmann, Pastor of St. John’s Parish, Darien will be presenting a Certificate of Commendation to 102 year old Knight, Dante Chicatell of Noroton in honor of his birthday on Sunday, November 22 at the end of the 7:30 Mass.


Mr. Chicatell has been a faithful and active member of the Knights of Columbus for the past 57 years.

“Dante is an amazing person and still very active. He drives himself, volunteers twice a week as the official “greeter” at the New Canaan Y and attends Sunday Mass at 7:30 am,” says David Supple, Knights of Columbus, Financial Secretary-Council #4460.

Dante, a Charter Member of our Knights Council (#4460), joined the Knights in August of 1957.

Born November 24, 1913, he was married for more than 50 years to his late wife Madeline Frate. They have two daughters, Patricia and Sandra, who will be on hand to provide any personal stories of interest. He has lived in Darien since 1941.


To Coffee or not to Coffee…
| November 20, 2015


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NEW YORK—If you’ve paid any attention to the flare-up over the red Starbucks holiday coffee cups, you may want to watch this short video of Father Rob Ketcham, the chaplain of Saint John the Baptist Diocesan High School in New York.


In this engaging video Fr. Rob goes beyond the red cup controversy and leads us to think about almost everything we do, say, and live as Catholics. He tells us that ultimately, it’s not about what we are against, or what we condemn. The one question that we will be asked at the end of our lives by God is: "Did you love me?"

CLICK HERE TO WATCH: https://vimeo.com/145450214


Pope Francis House brings "spirit of Pope" to Bridgeport
| November 19, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Work is progressing on  the Pope Francis house at 51 George Street in Bridgeport being built in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, and leaders are asking for additional parish support to complete the project.

Bishop Frank Caggiano gave his blessing to the project last May and encouraged parishes to participate with volunteer help and contributions. A family from St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport is waiting to move into the home.
 
“Thanksgiving is a holiday that finds most of us heading home to be with families and loved ones.  It’s also a time to think of those who are homeless or in need of affordable housing,” said Bishop Caggiano, who encouraged parishes to help complete the project.  
 
The diocese adopted the Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County house project in recognition of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September and his call to serve the poor and homeless.
 
Donna Spigarolo, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield  and a longtime Habitat volunteer, is serving as coordinator of the effort.
 
Spigarolo said the home project was started with a $60,000 contribution from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.  Notre Dame High Schools students collected $220.23 in their cafeteria toward the project, and St. James Parish in Stratford donated over $1000.

Both Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University are participating and St. Anthony's Parish has a work day scheduled for Dec. 2nd and that will include a monetary donation as well, Spigarolo said.

Teachers from Roger Ludlow Middle School and Tomlinson Middle School were the latest to help out when they got together to help out with day of volunteering.
 
The work was done in memory of educator Ed Brennan, who served as a principal in both the Fairfield and diocesan school systems.  “Ed was a committed Christian and a wonderful human being.   We were honored to work in his memory on this important project,” said Donna Spigarolo, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield  and a longtime Habitat volunteer.
 
 Marlon and Magaly Zepeda and their children, along with Magaly’s mother, Milagros, who is a severe asthmatic, will live in the home when it’s completed.  In addition to working as volunteers during the project, the couple will purchase the four-bedroom home, which is just down the street from St. Augustine Cathedral where they are parishioners.

Groundbreaking was held last May with completion scheduled for February 2016.  Work on the house is progressing with floors up and the roof on, but it will require an additional $70,000 to purchase materials and complete the work.

“We’re hoping that area parishes will step forward to adopt the project in the spirit of Pope Francis, and we’re very grateful for all those who have participated,” she said.
 
For more info, call Donna Spigarolo at 203/556-4728, or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Francis cries out for welcoming church: ‘House of God refuge, not prison’
| November 18, 2015 • by By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter


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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has again forcefully repeated his call that the Catholic church globally should open its doors to everyone, without exception, saying the church sometimes even keeps Jesus “prisoner” in its own institutions and does not let him out into the world.


The pontiff has also said the church must not give into a growing trend in society where “bulletproof doors have become normal” but must instead keep in mind the Holy Family, which “knows well what an open or closed door means … for whoever does not have refuge, for whoever must escape danger.”

In his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Francis focused on the upcoming opening of the Jubilee year of mercy to give an impassioned, mostly off-the-cuff reflection on the need for the church to be open to all and to not try and become master even over Jesus himself.

“The house of God is a refuge, not a prison!” the pope cried out at one point. “And if the door is closed, we say: ‘Lord, open the door!’ Jesus is the door that lets us enter and exit.”

“If the watchman listens to the voice of the shepherd, then he opens and gives entry to all the sheep that the Lord brings—all—including those lost in the wood that the shepherd has gone to find,” said Francis.

“The sheep are not chosen by the watchman, the sheep are not chosen by the parish secretary,” he continued. “The sheep are all invited, are chosen by the good shepherd.”

“The watchman—even him—obeys the voice of the shepherd,” said the pope. “Here, we can say well that we must be like that watchman.”

“The church is the doorman of the house of the Lord, the church is the doorman—it is not the master of the house of the Lord!” he cried out.

Francis was speaking about his special Jubilee year, which is to open December 8 and continue through Nov. 20, 2016. He told those in the Square Wednesday that “the great door of the mercy of God” is being opened to all.

“Every one of us has inside of ourselves things that weigh on us—everyone, no?” said the pontiff. “We are all sinners! Let’s profit from this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God that never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us. God looks to us and is always next to us. Courage! Let’s go in this door!”

The pope then spoke of October’s worldwide meeting of Catholic prelates, known as a Synod of Bishops.

“From the Synod of Bishops ... all families and the whole church have received a great encouragement to put itself on the threshold of this open door,” said Francis. “The church was encouraged to open its doors, to go out with the Lord to meet its sons and daughters on the path, sometimes uncertain, sometimes lost in these difficult times.”

“And if the door of the mercy of God is always open, the doors of our churches, of the love of our communities, of our parishes, of our institutions, of our dioceses must always be open so that all of us can go out to bring this mercy of God,” he continued.

“The Jubilee signifies the great door of the mercy of God, but also the small doors of our churches [being] open to let the Lord enter or, many times, let out the ‘prisoner’ Lord of our structures, of our selfishness,” he said.

Then, speaking of a growing trend towards hypersensitive security in the world, Francis said: “There are many places where bulletproof doors have become normal.”

“We must not surrender ourselves to the idea of having to apply this system … to all our lives, to the life of the family, of the city, of society,” said the pontiff. “And much less to the life of the church. It would be terrible—an inhospitable church, like a pent-up family, demeaning the Gospel and drying up the world!”

“No bulletproof doors in the church!” he exhorted. “All open!”

Francis also said that while doors must be guarded, the guards should also open the doors to see who is outside.

“Open the door frequently, to see if outside there is someone who is waiting and maybe doesn’t have the courage, or maybe even the strength, to knock,” advised the pope.

“How many people have lost the confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches?” he asked. “And they are there, they do not have the courage, we have robbed them of trust.”

The pontiff then said that the true guard of God’s door is Jesus. “We must walk through the door and listen to the voice of Jesus,” said Francis. “If we hear his tone of voice, we are sure, we are saved. We may enter without fear and leave without danger.”

Ending the audience with a reflection on the Holy Family, the pope said the family from Nazareth “knows well what an open or closed door means for whoever is expecting a child, for whoever does not have refuge, for whoever must escape danger.”

“May Christian families make the thresholds of their homes a ‘small great’ sign of the door of mercy and welcoming of God,” Francis asked.

“It is truly this way that the church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth, like the watchperson of a God that knocks, like the welcoming of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse of not being home,” he said.

(Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.)


Bishop Joins Little Workers at First Annual Stamford Benefit
| November 18, 2015


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STAMFORD—On Saturday, November 7, 2015, a fundraiser was held to benefit the work of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, a congregation of religious Sisters who operate preschools within the Diocese of Bridgeport.


The event was held at Columbus Park Trattoria in Stamford and sponsored by John Paul and Angela Marchetti, the Marchetti Family, and Mary Lou Rinaldi. Other committee members were Grace Melton, Catherine Joseph and Kerri Gencarelli.

As the keynote speaker, Bishop Caggiano spoke at length about the Year of Consecrated Life and the Sisters’ critical impact on the lives of the children and young adolescents in their care. He praised their commitment and dedication as teachers and catechists to generations of Catholics in lower Fairfield County, thanking them for their constancy in the diocese for over 65 years.

The event held particular significance as the Sisters used the opportunity to announce the Vatican’s beatification of their founder—the last step before canonization. Sister Gesuina Gencarelli, U.S. Delegate for the congregation, asked the attendees to pray to the founder and to pray for vocations so their congregation could continue their mission in the U.S. and around the world.

Blessed Monsignor Francesco Maria Greco was the pastor of a poor parish in Acri (Cosenza), Italy. In 1892, he petitioned several religious orders to send Sisters to provide secular and religious education to the children of his town. When every religious community refused his request, Monsignor Greco approached a devout 17-year old catechist named Raffaella DeVincenti and asked her assistance in starting a new religious congregation dedicated to educating and caring for the poor. Together in 1894, Monsignor Greco and “Sister Maria Teresa” founded Le Piccole Operaie dei Sacri Cuori—The Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. As their name denotes, they would hereafter dedicate themselves as “little workers”—humble servants living a life of service.

In October 1948, nine Sisters left Calabria to begin an apostolic mission in the United States. They were the first pioneers charged with transporting the charism of their founders. Sent by their superiors to a strange country, the Sisters quickly learned English and worked hard to acclimate to their new surroundings in Stamford, Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

True to their charism, the Sisters pledged they would bring their message of education to the children of working parents in America.  Declaring their intention to establish preschools, the Sisters were welcomed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in which they settled.  However, because they are not affiliated with any particular parish and operated their own private schools, they do not receive any financial assistance. The Sisters support themselves through the well-below-market tuition paid by parents.

Bishop Caggiano closed his remarks by asking the attendees to ”dig deeper and to financially support these Sisters as they continue their exemplary work in God’s service”.

“The Little Workers are unsung heroes”, he said, “and they embody Pope Francis’ call to be expressions of great joy in the world".  The Bishop noted that the Sisters have many projects they have undertaken such as the construction of a new gymnasium for the children and an installation of a convent elevator for the elderly Sisters.

To learn more about the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, watch a video of Bishop Caggiano’s keynote address, or to make a financial contribution, please visit: http://littleworkers.wix.com/benefit-for-sisters.


Father Connaughton named director of vocations
| November 17, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Father John Connaughton, a native of Trumbull, has been named director of vocations of the Diocese of Bridgeport. His appointment, made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, will be effective January 1, 2016.


He succeeds Father Sam Kachuba, who has held the post since 2013. Father Kachuba is pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield.

Father Connaughton will be responsible for overseeing the entire process of recruitment and formation of seminarians. He will also continue to serve as parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Darien.
The bishop said that the diocese has recently completed a new strategic plan for vocations that defines the work within the framework of accompaniment as understood in Evangelii Gaudium, the first Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis.

“Our Holy Father speaks of evangelization as first and foremost a personal accompaniment, and there is no better role for a priest than to walk alongside of those who seek the Lord,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Father Connaughton brings the spirit of accompaniment to his new role as director of vocations. He will encourage men to respond generously to the Lord’s call to become priests, laborers for the harvest with the help of others.

“As Father Connaughton prepares to begin his new assignment, I ask the faithful across the diocese to please pray for the vocations and seminary team and our seminarians. In addition, pray that the Lord of the harvest will continue to send us many good laborers for the vineyard,” said the bishop.

Father Robert Kinnally, rector of St. John Fisher Seminary and director of Seminarian Formation, welcomed Father Connaughton’s leadership and said the new strategic plan offers a framework for nurturing and increasing vocations in the diocese with the support of pastors and priests.

“While our diocese enjoys a good number of priests who remain active in ministry, there is a great need to have more men in formation to meet the needs of the diocese in the years ahead,” Father Kinnally said. “The number of retirements far outweighs the number of entering seminarians, and an ever-changing demographic requires particular gifts in catechesis, language, and cultural sensitivity.”

Father Connaughton will report directly to the bishop and work with the vicar general. In addition to recruitment and formation of vocations, he will also develop a plan for each seminarian and be responsible for overall communications. He will work with assistant directors of vocations and others including spiritual directors, lay volunteers, Serra Club members, Knights of Columbus, chaplains and others in the position to encourage vocations.

Father Connaughton was born in Manhasset, NY, and grew up in Trumbull where he attended St. Theresa elementary school. His parents, John and Anne Connaughton, continue to be parishioners at St. Theresa Parish.

After graduating from St. Joseph High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas in Irving, TX. He worked several years for Alliance-Forest Products. Later, while attending the University of Connecticut Law School, he worked for the State of Connecticut Judiciary.

In 2008, shortly after having received his law degree, Father Connaughton entered St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford. He completed his priestly formation at the North American College while studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. During formation, he worked in the diocesan Communications Office and assisted in media relations for the North American College.

He was ordained on May 26, 2013 and celebrated his first Mass at St. Theresa’s.

As he assumes his new post, the diocese is also moving ahead with plans for the relocation and expansion of St. John Fisher Seminary, currently located in Stamford, to Daniel Farm Road in Trumbull, the site of the bishop’s residence. It has launched a $2.875 million capital campaign in honor of Edward Cardinal Egan, who founded St. John Fisher Seminary in 1989 while serving as the third Bishop of Bridgeport. The new 11,500 square foot facility, where the bishop will maintain an apartment, will contain 22 single bedrooms and suites that will accommodate up to 35 students.


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gather for their annual Fall General Assembly
| November 17, 2015


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WASHINGTON—The 2015 Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is taking place in Baltimore. CLICK HERE to watch the live stream of the public sessions. Live stream will run Tuesday, November 17, 9 am-5 pm Eastern.


News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be posted to this page.


Financial Summit lays out challenges and opportunities
| November 16, 2015


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TRUMBULL—Thirty parish and diocesan leaders convened at the Bishop’s Residence last weekend for the Financial and Real Estate Summit to begin work on an overall strategic plan for diocesan financial stability.


“The people of the diocese are ready to move forward with plans for renewal and growth, and we have to bring the crisis mode of finance to an end,” the bishop told members of the diocesan Financial Council, the Strategic Plan Commission, and the Real Estate Committee.  

They met in the large downstairs room of the residence on Daniels Farm Road, which is slated to become the new location of St. John Fisher Seminary.

The bishop said that diocese has done much hard work in the past two years to reduce operational costs and bring expenses in line, but it is still struggling with ongoing debt related to paying off loans, covering school losses related to healthcare costs, and addressing long-term pension obligations.

During the two-hour meeting the Bishop and other diocesan leaders walked participants through a slide presentation and workbook that included a list of diocesan properties that could be sold or leased to help pay down debts and create new sources of revenue.

Anne McCrory, Chief Legal and Real Estate Officer, said the diocesan inventory of properties includes many parcels that are “mission essential” and would never be sold, and others that could be leveraged for rental income.

She said the disposition of properties is complicated by a number of factors including cost of upkeep, taxes, legal provisions and possible future use for the land or site.

“Vacant Church property is taxable,” she explained, noting that if a former school or Church building is not currently being used, the diocese must pay tax on it along with upkeep for heating and maintenance.

McCrory said the diocese doesn’t want to sell properties for short-term gain that may be needed for future mission-related projects. Likewise some properties targeted for sale have little market value because they’re small parcels in neighborhoods where values are depressed.

Michael Hanlon, Chief Financial Officer of the Diocese, answered questions about the operating budget, and diocesan debt.

He said the diocese has been paying $400,000 a year on the Knights of Columbus loan of $15 million and has recently paid that down to $7.9 million. Schools have accumulated another $1.8 million in debt this year largely related to healthcare costs.  

Current sources of diocesan revenue include the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), the 15% “Cathedraticum” or tax the diocese assesses each parish, revenue from subsidiary operations such as Catholic Cemeteries, income from property, and other gifts and bequests.

The bishop said he would like to reduce the Cathedraticum to take some of the burden off parishes as they seek to revitalize their own finances and to slightly decrease the ACA goal by further reducing operations expenses, which are already “lean” due to reorganization of the Catholic Center.  

In order to do so, the diocese would need to expand foundation support for major mission initiatives such as schools and services in perpetuity and also seek to maximize income from its property holdings.  

Summit members will meet again in February 2016 to move forward in creating a strategic plan.

The bishop provided a complete financial overview at his recent “State of the Diocese” address on October 29 at All Saints Middle School. At that time he indicated that he had called a summit to explore issues including new foundations, review of potential of income producing properties and a strategy. to help schools recovery. (The complete video and reports are available online at: www.bridgeportdiocese.com.)


Nothing can justify terrorist attacks, pope says
| November 15, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—"This is not human," Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.


As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks November 13 on at least six different sites—inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants—Pope Francis spoke briefly November 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops' conference.

"I am shaken and pained," the pope said. "I don't understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying."

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a "third world war being fought in pieces." "This is a piece," the pope responded. "There are no justifications for these things."

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no "religious or human" excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. "This is not human."

French authorities reported November 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims November 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.

"May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred," the cardinal said. "Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice."

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was "shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way."

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope's name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois calling the attacks "horrific" and relaying the pope's prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

"He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families," Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also "vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all." Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin December 8.

"These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror," Father Lombardi responded in a statement. "If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective."

"It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible," he said, but "we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust." "I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary," Father Lombardi said. Preaching God's love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It "is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust."

See also: Statement from Bishop Caggiano


St. Thomas students put themselves in “shoes” of the poor
| November 13, 2015


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FARIFIELD—St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Fairfield was recently named the "Kindest School in the USA” by Brian Williams, founder of the Think Kindness program.


“Congratulations to the students and faculty, we are so proud of all of you,” said Principal Pat Brady of the 15 day service project.

St. Thomas School participated in a community service project sponsored by Think Kindness, a non-profit organization that inspires measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.

Each year this organization travels coast to coast challenging over 60,000 students to “15 Days of Kindness.” St. Thomas School was challenged to collect 1,921 pairs of gently used shoes within 15 days that would be sent to children and families around the globe (1921 representing the year the school was founded).

The goal of 1,921 pairs of shoes was set because Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School was founded in the year 1921, and Middle School Student Peer Counselors in our Kindness Club thought it would be a good idea..  

“In 15 days, they not only collected 4,099 pairs of shoes but also documented 5,767 acts of kindness!” said Mrs. Brady.  

Think Kindness a non-profit organization that inspires measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.  Each year this organization travels coast to coast challenging over 60,000 students to “15 Days of Kindness.

Brian Williams, youth motivational speaker as well as founder and president of Think Kindness, met with students for a fun, exciting, and motivational assembly to kick things off.  

“During the assembly students danced, told jokes, but more importantly, they were inspired to make a difference through simple, intentional acts of kindness,” said Mrs. Brady.

At the end of the assembly Brian presented the official challenge to the students of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He called it the 15 Day Challenge and it consists of two parts:

The entire school community was challenged to carry out daily, measurable acts of kindness within the classroom, school and at home. Each day students received  receive kindness ideas and examples. Mrs. Liz Riggs, Mrs. Susan Fitzgerald, Mrs. Jill Ward and Mrs. Laurie Stefanowicz served as  adult facilitators for the school’s Kindness Club along with the middle school students who are members of our Kindness Club.

During the assembly students heard stories, saw pictures and viewed some video clips of kids their own age in central Kenya. They learned that in this area of Kenya and in many other areas of our world, children cannot go to school unless they wear a pair of shoes. Without owning a pair of shoes an education is not possible for them!  

“We were challenged as a school community to collect 1,921 pairs of gently shoes within 15 days that will be sent to children and families around the globe. These shoes collected were gently used spanning from flip-flops, work boots, to running shoes. Adult and children sizes are both welcome.

The shoe challenge ran for 15 school days and ended on Friday, November 6th.  St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School is located at 1719 Post Road, Fairfield, CT  06824. Phone: 203.255.0556 • Fax: 203.255.0596 • http://www.stasonline.net

Please click HERE and watch the video using the password, STAKINDNESS. You'll be glad you did!
 


CHD Collection set for November 21-22
| November 12, 2015


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WASHINGTON, DC—The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), held the weekend before Thanksgiving, November 21-22 this year, is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by funding community programs that encourage independence. You are essential to its success.


For over 46.5 million Americans, there is a thin line: between eviction and home, between hunger and health, between unemployment and work, between anxiety and stability.

Fully 25% of each CCHD collection’s proceeds stay in the local diocese to fight poverty and defend the dignity of our neighbors. That is particularly important in Fairfield County, an area with large income disparity.

Projects supported by CCHD work to build healthy, sustainable futures for communities. Your generous donations will give those in poverty the support they need to make lasting changes. Together, we can make a difference in families and communities across the United States.


Spotlight
| November 10, 2015 • by By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service


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NEW YORK—The clergy abuse-themed drama “Spotlight” (Open Road) is a movie no Catholic will want to see. Whether it’s a film many mature Catholics ought to see is a different question entirely.


This hard-hitting journalism procedural—which inescapably invites comparison with 1976’s “All the President's Men”—recounts the real-life events that led up to the public disclosure, in early 2002, of a shocking pattern of priestly misconduct within the Archdiocese of Boston.

In the process, the equally disturbing concealment of such wrongdoing on the part of high ranking church officials also was laid bare.

One of the picture’s themes is the way in which Beantown’s inward-looking, small-town mentality contributed to the long-standing cover-up. For the supposed good of the community, locals suppressed the knowledge of what was happening, subconsciously choosing not to see what was transpiring just behind the scenes.

So it’s appropriate that the whitewash begins to peel away with the arrival of a stranger to the Hub, the newly imported editor of the Boston Globe, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Marty’s outsider status isn’t just based on his geographical origins; he’s also Jewish.

Perplexed that his paper has devoted so little attention to the earliest cases in what would become, over time, an avalanche of legal actions against clerics, Marty commissions the investigative unit of the title, which specializes in in-depth investigations of local stories, to dig deeper.

Led by even-keeled Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), the Spotlight team—which also includes tightly wound Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), intrepid Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and relentless research whiz Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James)—uncovers a widespread and sickening scandal involving scores of clergymen and hundreds of young victims.

Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy maintains a taut rhythm as he focuses primarily on the dogged professionalism required to breach the walls of secrecy surrounding a respected, and therefore protected, institution. And his script, penned with Josh Singer, apportions blame across a broad spectrum that includes the Globe itself—John Slattery plays veteran editor Ben Bradlee Jr., whose semi-willful blindness to the problem typifies the attitude discussed above.

Like most of his colleagues, Slattery is a former Catholic, distanced from, but not—initially at least—embittered toward, the faith in which he were raised. Witnessing the further fraying of the reporters’ already fragile ties to the church adds to the overwhelming sense of grief Catholic viewers will feel throughout “Spotlight.” Yet this generally accurate chronicle can provide them with a valuable insight into one of the darkest chapters in ecclesiastical history.

The movie is open to a few criticisms, large and small, however. The portrayal of Boston’s then-archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou), is predictably negative. But it also includes details that are subject to interpretation.

Thus Cardinal Law’s gift to Marty of a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” is treated as a both a religious and social snub. Yet Cardinal Law played an important role in translating that landmark text into English, so his gift may have been motivated more by a sense of pride in one of the most significant accomplishments of his career than by a desire to cut the newcomer down to size.

Much more significantly, the screenplay’s uncritical adoption of the results of research conducted by ex-priest A.W. Richard Sipe (a figure heard but not seen) opens its analysis to legitimate questioning.

The thesis that the scandal was the inevitable outcome of the Latin church’s tradition of priestly celibacy—a discipline Sipe maintains is routinely violated by fully half the clergy, thus creating a culture of secrecy among them—is ill-founded, to say the least. To dispute that theory, however, is not at all to downplay the horrifying nature of what unfolds under this otherwise painfully illuminating “Spotlight.”

The film contains mature themes, multiple, sometimes coarse, references to perverse sexual acts, several uses of profanity as well as a few rough and numerous crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Pope calls for end to economic exploitation, power-hungry church
| November 10, 2015 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


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FLORENCE, Italy—Meeting workers and addressing a major gathering of the Catholic Church in Italy, Pope Francis demanded an end to economic exploitation, to clerics “obsessed” with power, to apathy among youth and to a cold, fearful church that forgets Christ is always by its side.


“These times of ours demand that we experience problems as challenges and not like obstacles: The Lord is active and at work in the world," he said Nov. 10 inside Florence's Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the third-largest church in Europe.

In a trip that covered a normal 8 am-to-5 pm workday, the pope rallied workers, young people and hundreds of church leaders representing the entire Italian peninsula; he met with the sick, kissed babies, admired Renaissance artwork and venerated an ancient relic. He ate lunch with the poor and homeless and celebrated Mass in a city soccer stadium.

Much of the city seemed empty of residents, yet filled with people who came to see the pope and tourists curious about the beefed-up security and roadblocks.

Speaking to hundreds of Italian cardinals, bishops and laypeople attending a national congress held only every 10 years, the pope gave a lengthy, yet clear indication of where their discussions and pastoral mission should be heading.

“We must not tame the power of the face of Jesus,” who takes on the face of the humiliated, the enslaved and “the emptied,” he said.

A divine Christ reflects a very human gaze of humility and selflessness, and he insists his disciples follow the beatitudes like he did, the pope said.

“We must not be obsessed with power,” the pope said, even if it is a useful or seemingly innocuous way of getting things done. Otherwise the church “loses its way, loses its meaning.”

Standing at a lectern beneath a stunning painted dome ceiling representing the Last Judgment, the pope said the beatitudes indicate whether the church is following its mission or is only thinking of protecting its own interests. Measuring oneself against the beatitudes “is a mirror that never lies,” he said.

Reading animatedly from his written remarks, the pope also found moments to offer a bit of humor, like when warning church leaders against various temptations.

“I’ll present at least two’ temptations, but not a huge list of 15 like he spelled out in a memorable pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia in 2014, he said to applause and laughter in the pews.

Do not feel superior and place complete trust in structures and perfect plans, he said. This focus on the abstract and on security “often leads us to take on a style of control, harshness, regulation.”

When “facing evils or problems in the church,” he said, “it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of outdated conduct and forms" that are no longer culturally relevant or meaningful.

Christian doctrine, in fact, isn’t a closed system void of questions or doubts, but is alive, restless, animated. Its face “isn’t rigid, its body moves and develops, it has tender flesh. Its name is Jesus Christ.”

The same spirit that drove Italian explorers to seek new worlds, unafraid of storms and open seas, can drive the church in Italy, Pope Francis said, if it lets itself be driven by the breath of the Holy Spirit, “free and open to challenges of the present, never in defense out of fear of losing something.”

He also told priests and bishops to be shepherds, “nothing more. Shepherds.” To illustrate what that looked like, the pope told a story of a bishop who was riding the subway during rush hour.

It was so packed, there was nothing to hold onto, and “pushed right and left” by the swaying car, the bishop leaned on the people around him so as not to fall. A bishop will find support, he said, by leaning on his people and through prayer, he said.

Underlining the importance of caring for the poor—who know well the suffering and face of Christ, the pope asked God to protect the church in Italy from all forms of power, facades and money.

He recalled an old practice in Italy when mothers, who were unable to care for their newborns, left behind a small medallion, snapped in half, with the babies they gave up for adoption at a Catholic hospital. The birth mothers would keep the other half, he said, in the hopes that one day, when times had improved, they would be able to find their children.

“We have that other half. The mother church has the other half of everyone’s medallion and it recognizes all of its abandoned, oppressed and tired children,” he said. “The Lord shed his blood for everyone, not a select few.”

“I like a restless church in Italy, ever close to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect,” the pope said.

“I want a happy church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies, caresses. Dream for this church, too, believe in this, innovate with freedom,” he told the bishops, pastors and lay leaders.

The pope flew by helicopter from Rome early in the morning to land first in the industrial town of Prato on the outskirts of Florence. He apologized for his brief 90-minute visit there, saying he had come as “a pilgrim, a pilgrim in passing.”

In the town’s cathedral, he venerated the Holy Belt of Our Lady—an ancient band of wool traditionally believed to have belonged to Mary and used to wrap her flowing robes around her waist.

From the cathedral balcony, he greeted thousands of people who had woken very early for the 8 am encounter or slept there overnight in sleeping bags.

Addressing young people and workers, especially foreign workers, the pope criticized the “cancer” of corruption and exploitation, calling it the “venom” of a culture built on operating outside the law.

He recalled the seven Chinese textile workers who were killed two years ago when the pre-fab warehouse they worked and slept in caught fire and caused the roof to collapse.

The pope said the deaths of those men and women, who slept in a tiny alcove jerry-rigged out of cardboard and drywall, “is a tragedy of exploitation and inhumane living conditions."

To people’s cheers and applause, he urged young people and workers to fight to the very roots of the problem of “the cancer of corruption” and “the cancer of human and worker exploitation.”


Emphasis on reform and transparency at CAPP breakfast
| November 08, 2015


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FAIRFIELD—“The reforms are working,” said Joseph F. X. Zahra, Vice Coordinator of the newly established Council for the Economy of The Holy See, said at the 9th Annual Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) Communion Breakfast held at Fairfield University.


Speaking to a gathering of 150 Fairfield County Business leaders in the university’s Oak Room, the highest ranking lay member of Pope Francis’ ad-hoc cabinet, said that the Vatican has adopted new standards of transparency and accountability backed by the increasing involvement of lay experts from around the world.

Zahra, often described as the “architect of Vatican transparency," said a February 24, 2014 Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis established three new reform structures “that are in place today,” the Council for the Economy, Secretariat for the Economy and a new Auditor General.

He described the creation of the Auditor General as an “earth shaking” appointment because it is an “autonomous and independent” position led by a layman with the powers to investigate.

“Today these there structures are operating efficiently and effectively with an underlying professionalism and transparency,” he said. “It’s a journey but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Communion Breakfast began with Mass in the Egan Chapel celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and presided over the Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C., who described Dr. Zahra as “the highest ranking layman in the Church.”

During his homily Bishop Caggiano said the Gospel story of the widow who gives all she has to charity not only challenges us “to give sacrificially to help the poor and needy, but also to go deeper. Can you name one reality you can’t live without? The Lord says it’s time for you and me to give it away.”

In particular, the Bishop said that “in this time of turmoil,” we should be willing to give up “our own opinion of how things should be and how the world should be run, even if we’re right, because the it’s the Lord who will guide us.”

During the breakfast Brian Moran, a parishioner of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, was recognized with the CAPP Business Leader Award for his philanthropic work and for serving as writer of the “The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream” (Significance Press). The book was a project of the Malta Justice Initiative.

Moran, an attorney and member of CAPP, said he accepted the award on behalf of the Malta initiative, and that he was inspired by Pope Francis and his teaching that “everyone matters and is entitled to a dignified life.”

Moran said that in the U.S. inmates and ex-offenders “need a path toward redemption,” because they are often treated like the “modern equivalent of lepers, and are the least-served segment of our society”

He said that many prisoners are locked away for a long time for minor offenses and totally unprepared to be re-integrated into their communities. He added that he was proud that the book and the Malta initiative played an important role in the passage of the Second Chance Act earlier this year in Connecticut.

The event was sponsored by The Fairfield University Center for Faith and Public Life under the direction of Fr. Richard Ryscavage, S.J.

Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) is a lay-led, Vatican based organization founded by Blessed John Paul II in 1993 whose mission is to implement Catholic Social Teaching —the Church’s social doctrine—through lay Catholic business, academic and professional leaders. Robert Nalewajek, of Greenwich, Conn., is serving as CAPP President. Its board is made up of business leaders throughout Fairfield County. For more information, visit www.capp-usa.com.

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Time to Address Synod Challenges
| November 07, 2015


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NORWALK—More than 400 trustees, finance and parish council members and their pastors filled the great room of St. Matthew Parish for a day of training preparation and prayer to begin the implementation phase of the Fourth Diocesan Synod.


“Between this meeting and the first day held at St. Pius X in Fairfield, we have gathered about 800 pastoral leaders in the diocese,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “The spirit is at work and we’re going to get this done. We are ready together to bring spiritual renewal to the diocese. The Lord Jesus is alive in our midst.”

Reverend Michael F. Dogali, Episcopal Vicar for Strategic Planning Diocese of Bridgeport, welcomed the overflow gathering and coordinated the program. During the day the men and women in attendance were asked to focus on the five global challenges identified by the recently completed Synod-- Liturgical Worship, Family Life, Evangelization, Leadership and Catechetical Education.

Bishop Caggiano and pastors throughout the diocese concelebrated Mass to formally launch the effort that will help each parish to address Synod challenges. Reflecting on the often-quoted Gospel passage that it is not possible to serve both God and Mammon, the bishop said it can also be understood as describing the mysteries and conflicts of the human heart.

“We all know how easily a heart can be broken and how difficult it is to heal,” he said, noting that we all have divided hearts when we cling to possessions, status or even those we love, rather than being ready to give them back to Him” in love and service that unifies the heart.

The Bishop said the reason to implement Synod initiatives is to become “a living vibrant community of sisters and brothers who worship and serve him and give the good news to the world that he is alive here.”

He added that “those who are called to leadership in the Church” must see their role as stewards of God’s gifts and be prepared to share them. He also said the Synod must be a living expression of faith. “I don’t want this to be just another program but we must make it a spiritual journey so our divided hearts will heal and all we do will be to the honor and glory of the Lord,” he urged those in attendance.

The day included presentations by leaders of the Catholic Leadership Institute of Philadelphia, which provides bishops and dioceses with pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their competence in ministry and create more vibrant faith communities.

Patrick Turner, Director of Strategic Pastoral Planning for the Diocese, noted that the Synod began with listening sessions and also identified “best practices” in its six General Sessions held over the past year . “Now it’s time to implement the solutions,” he said.

Turner said that by September 30 of next year all 82 parishes are expected to submit a strategic plan for response to synod initiatives and create a road map of its future growth of the parish.

Each parish is putting together a pastoral planning task force to respond to the challenges.

Turner said that while parishes develop their own strategic plans, the diocese is moving forward with a strategic plan of its own to reform the Catholic Center and Curial function to improve their effectiveness.

Turner said the Synod implementation is also moving forward on many fronts. This month the diocese announced three new leaders of the Faith Formation Office and expects to appoint a director for the new Catholic leadership Institute. The bishop also formed new Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils and a Liturgical Commission along with a task force to study Faith Formation in the diocese.

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