Sound thinking
and Spirituality

A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna


“Successful” Youth Ministry: Walking the Cross in Norwalk

Bishop Caggiano: Pastor and teacher to his priests

Edward Cardinal Egan’s Signature Achievement

Recycling: An act of prayer for the environment

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Standing up for God in a secular society
By Joe Pisani

‘To God who gives joy to my youth’
By Thomas H. Hicks

Forgiveness and Heroism during Lent
By Matthew Hennessey

Kiros moments
By Denise Bossert

The way of the cross
By Tony Magliano

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Diocesan Retreatants "visit"with St. Paul
| March 30, 2015


Snow and freezing rain did not hold back over 100 people who gathered at Our Lady of Peace Parish, Stratford on March 28 for the Diocesan Lent retreat which focused on the life of Saint Paul.  The retreat began with morning Mass celebrated by the pastor Father Nicholas Pavia. His homily focused on Saint Paul which set the stage for the retreat. 

Glenn Smith travelled to Connecticut for a live, one-man performance, where he acted out Saint Paul’s captivity.  He captivated the audience and after the 90-minute performance, there was time for reflection questions.  Then the retreatants were led in a Lectio Divina on the conversion of Saint Paul from Acts chapter 9.  All were given the opportunity to share reflections from the retreat and Glenn was available for Q&A. 

The responses were very positive from the retreatants.  Some included: “It was a beautiful and very inspiring half-day Lenten retreat.  St. Paul will be with me in such a different way now.”   “It was by far one of the best retreats I have ever been to.”  “What a great, great retreat! Loved, loved, loved the play!”  This retreat was organized through the Office of Adult Formation.  For upcoming events contact Gina Donnarummo at 203-416-1446 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  More information regarding Glenn Smith and his ministry can be found at:

St Joseph High School Students Take the Penguin Plunge for Connecticut Special Olympics
| March 26, 2015


WESTPORT—More than sixty St. Joseph High School students and faculty members braved the stormy weather, cold waters and low tide of Long Island Sound on March 14  at Compo Beach in Westport for the annual penguin plunge to benefit the Connecticut Special Olympics.

St. Joseph High School Penguin Plunge Team Photo.

St. Joseph High School Students brave the Long Island Sound on Saturday, March 14, 2015 during the Penguin Plunge to Benefit the Connecticut Special Olympics.

The St. Joseph student team has collected well over $15,000 for the cause. Nancy Dennin, moderator for the Special Olympic Club and chair of the math department, said, “I couldn’t be more proud of our students’ enthusiasm, dedication and spirit. They are an amazing bunch of people. I go home crying after this event, their compassion for the organization and our athletes never ends.”  The Connecticut Special Olympics is very dear to Dennin, as her son David, who is thirty-nine and born with Down’s Syndrome, has participated in the last 16 plunges and over time raised close to $90,000 on his own for the Special Olympics.

Teens gather for Praise and Pizza
| March 26, 2015


BETHEL—Praise and Pizza was a hit once again!

For the third time in the past few months, teens from St. Mary (Bethel), St Rose (Newtown), St. Joseph (Danbury) and more gathered for fellowship and adoration.  About over 300 teens and adults have attended this event since its inception; the group offers pizza, Adoration, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation every other month.

This event is hosted by St. Rose and St. Mary parishes, and is open to all high school youth. If you or your youth group is interested in attending the next Praise and Pizza event, please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Chess masters celebrate win
| March 26, 2015


NEWTOWN—Members of the St. Rose of Lima School Chess Team participated in the CT Association of Schools Chess Tournament in March at CH Booth Library in Newtown.

(l-r) Torin Kearney, Evan Johnson, Cayman Chacchia and Logan McAloon

Students played against 49 other players from the area. Third grader Evan Johnson (Newtown) tied for third place in the 3-4th grade section, Torin Kearney (Newtown) in fifth grade finished second in the 5-6th grade section, Cayman Chacchia (Woodbury) also in fifth grade tied for third place in the 5-6th grade section and sixth grader Logan McAloon (Sandy Hook) just missed receiving a trophy in the 5-6th grade section. chess club(l-r) Torin Kearney, Evan Johnson, Cayman Chacchia and Logan McAloon.

Standing up for God in a secular society
| March 26, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


The commuter train out of Grand Central Terminal was short two cars, so people were packed in the seats, shoulder-to-shoulder. It was the perfect end to another perfect day in Manhattan. Nevertheless, everyone was relieved to be on board and going home, so they could put their heads on the pillow and get up and do it all over again.

In the silence before the train started to pull out of the station, someone sneezed and then sneezed again. A fellow who was reading his Kindle, instinctively said, “God bless you ...” But then, his voice trailed off, as if he suddenly realized he’d done something socially questionable by mentioning God in unfamiliar company—by mentioning God in a fiercely secular society where religion is routinely attacked on editorial pages and in university classrooms. There was no “thank you.”

Times have changed. In the past, mentioning God was perfectly natural for men and women of faith. Now, you never know what’ll happen. Crazy as it seems, the only people who enjoy so-called “freedom of expression” are the ones who insult religion.

This fellow realized he had committed … a politically incorrect faux pas by “God blessing” someone, which could have led to an altercation if the person sneezing was an atheist.

Like most of us, he’d probably been raised in a family where you were taught to say, “God bless you” to someone who sneezed, but we live in strange times when it’s more socially acceptable to use four-letter words than to say the name of God or Jesus reverently.

And there’s certainly no shortage of people who use God’s name irreverently. Remember the Second Commandment, which we learned in catechism, “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”? It was number two out of ten, so that must say something about its importance.

However, in the entertainment industry, on city streets, in the workplace and in casual conversation, the only time people utter the name of God and the name of Jesus freely and forcefully is when they’re cursing. How tragic is that?

St. Paul had a different view. He told the Philippians that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What has changed so much in a few decades? For one thing, atheists have become more aggressive, and they resent any public reference to God in social gatherings, in the classroom, at Christmas, in speeches, in the Pledge of Allegiance, in political gatherings and on playing fields. But our hesitation to say “Jesus” and “God” in public is more than just catering to the whims and demands of a misguided few.

We feel uncomfortable in mixed company because God has become controversial in our secular society. Professors are disciplined if they profess orthodox Christian beliefs, students in public schools have their Bibles confiscated, and the athletes who invoke God are ridiculed or treated as embarrassments. Look at the field day the media had with Tim Tebow and his professions of faith.

Boston College professor and author Peter Kreeft claims that the name of Jesus in particular makes people uncomfortable. He says, “Test it in any secular company. The name Jesus will fall with a thud, and produce sudden silences and embarrassment. You not only hear the embarrassment, you can feel it. The temperature drops. Or rises. It never stays the same.”

Nowadays, there’s a lot of anger against organized religion, especially against Catholics, because our beliefs conflict with the prevailing social agenda, which supports abortion, assisted suicide, pornography, the hooking up culture and every other form of acceptable vice.

But it’s time to bring our faith back into the public square in big ways and in small, whether it’s one “God bless you” on a crowded train or in a crowded doctor’s office—or defending our faith when it’s belittled at social gatherings.

If you can do only one small thing every day, say, “God bless you” when someone sneezes. Say “God bless you” when someone is troubled and needs encouragement. Say “God bless you,” if for no other reason than to share God’s love and give him glory.

And never forget what Jesus said: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

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

‘To God who gives joy to my youth’
| March 26, 2015 • by By Thomas H. Hicks


By Thomas H. Hicks

As an altar boy, I memorized and rehearsed the Latin responses from that white card with red and black print and stiff lamination. The first dialogue between priest and server was:

Priest: (in Latin) “Introibo ad altare Dei” (“I will go onto the altar of God”).

Server: “Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam” (“To God who gives joy to my youth”).

My childhood was immersed in Catholicism, and it did bring joy to my youth. Those were the years of novenas, May and October devotions, benedictions, sodalities, Holy Name Societies, keeping nine First Fridays—which guaranteed a holy death.

My life was circumscribed by Catholic culture. It was the very soil in which I was planted. I grew up in a world of scapulars, first-and-second class relics, plenary and partial indulgences (I collected indulgences like autographs), votive candles, the Angelus. It was a world of statues and religious medals, holy water and holy cards—all that Catholic paraphernalia. My father took me to Holy Name breakfasts and rallies. I played sports on CYO teams.  

Masses were in Latin where we knelt at a marble altar railing and, lest the Blessed Host fall onto our unconsecrated hands, hid them under the draping of a railing-long linen cloth. Each Sunday Mass had its quota of what we altar servers called “the sharpshooters”—men on one knee in back, waiting for the sermon to signal them to sneak out for a smoke. We altar boys set special value on priests who could gallop through a Latin weekday Mass in twelve minutes flat.

When I got to Catholic school, I didn’t experience any of the horror stories that some people tell. I had wonderful Sisters. They were funny, smart, kind. I cleaned chalkboards, dusted the erasers, carried out the wastebasket for them.

To a great extent, it is the sounds I remember: the ring of church bells in the spring twilight; the whisper of First Communion dresses; the dialogue between two sets of hand-held bells during processions; the lilting cadence of the Litany of the Saints; the wailful sweetness of the

Pange Lingua; the peculiar charm of the Tantum Ergo; the turbulent, insistent, almost defiant “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”

It was a time when convents and seminaries teemed with life. In the early 1960s, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Astoria, Queens, there were seven resident priests, nineteen hundred children in the parish school, a reputed twenty-five thousand parishioners, more than a dozen nuns teaching in the school, and fifteen Masses on Sunday morning in three different locations.

I cherish my Catholic upbringing, the Catholicism of my youth. It was mainly a devotional Catholicism. But these devotions remain something I associate with the joy of smooth youth and good health, with the time I glowed with future promise and dreams were bright and only beginning, the time of uncomplicated faith.

But the devotional world I grew up in, by and large, has disappeared. The Church of my youth is gone. Some try to restore that Church, make a determined effort to go backward. But an historical epoch has come to an end. There are leftovers from this vanished era, but there is a new era and a new spirit, for the better.

I do not believe in the same way I believed as a youth. But I continue to have a Catholic sense of reality, a distinctive Catholic vision. My life remains grounded in Catholicism.

The faith gives me a bigger life to live, a larger world. It opened for me a world of great depth and beauty, a world of intellectual vigor.  

Alec Guiness, speaking of the Catholic Church, said, “We collect more bizarre followers of Christ than many.” True. But I enjoy being with Catholic people. When I am with them, I have the sense that this is my country. I speak its language. I’m at home. I’m happy to be there. I enjoy being among other Catholics. They generally have a sense of humor about themselves. There is a Catholic zest for life.

It is not difficult to find people who describe themselves as “recovering Catholics.” Friends from Catholic high school slipped out of their Catholicism like an old, unwanted sweater. The attrition has been enormous. But the faith has been my anchor in life. It has brought me an equanimity and confidence. I have received so much comfort from my faith throughout my life. And the Catholic faith is a good religion to die in.

P.S. Speaking of things Catholic, a recent experience assured me that, although the Sisters left, St. Vincent’s Medical Center maintains its Catholic atmosphere. I had a medical procedure performed by Dr. Lawrence Muldoon and his team. Dr. Muldoon is a doctor of assured competence who combines with an unfailing gentle kindness and humor. His co-workers and nurses also reflect those traits. They were all unfailingly kind, wonderfully considerate, and effortlessly forbearing and obliging. This extended to the older gentleman volunteer. St. Vincent’s hospital is a most hospitable place.

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

Forgiveness and Heroism during Lent
| March 26, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

Lent is a time for preparation. I’ve always been bad at that. Waiting ain’t my thing.

Lent is a time for sacrifice. I’m bad at that, too. Self-denial ain’t my thing either.

But I read many writers who say, “No, self-denial isn’t the point. Lent’s a time for coming closer to God.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a closer relationship with God. The challenge for me is execution. Almsgiving, fasting, prayer—for me it feels like work. I can do it, but I need a little inspiration. This year I’m finding it in unlikely places.

The kids are learning about the Black Death—the plague pandemic that killed as many as 200 million Europeans from 1346-53. It’s not a pleasant topic. One fact jumps out: priests were especially hard-hit. The mortality rate for the general population during the Black Death was 30 percent. For priests, it was closer to 45 percent.

It’s not hard to see why. Priests heard deathbed confessions. They did a lot of anointing. Close contact with the sick almost always led to infection. Infection usually meant death. One plus one equals two.

Here in the twenty-first century, we can do the math. But in the Middle Ages, no one knew about the germ theory of disease. They presumed the plague was God’s punishment. They thought that if you got sick you’d probably done something to deserve it. The multitudes of priests getting sick and dying pointed to one conclusion—the Church was corrupt and her priests were sinful. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?

It was a bum rap. The priests of the Black Death were brave and selfless, going where no one wanted to go, doing what no one wanted to do. And dying for it.

That’s a small but useful bit of inspiration, via my kids’ history books. Keeping our Lenten promises may seem hard, but not nearly as hard as ministering to the doomed.

Most of the original apostles died as martyrs. I find that inspiring. It’s also the best evidence I can think of that Jesus was—and is—what he claimed to be. The apostles knew him. They experienced his ministry. They witnessed the passion and resurrection.

You wouldn’t give up your life for a maybe, would you? I wouldn’t.

The apostles weren’t the only ones to lay down their lives for Christ. St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury was murdered for refusing to play nice with political authorities. We could use some of that spirit today.

St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take a condemned man’s place at Auschwitz. That kind of selflessness only comes from one place—a relationship with God so close it transcends everything.  

But, you say, World War II was 70 years ago. The Black Death was almost 700 years ago. It’s not so easy to find examples of Christian heroism these days.

Not true. Open the newspaper. The world hasn’t changed much. Christians all across the Middle East are being slaughtered for their faith.

“What’s ISIS?” my daughter, Clara, asked my wife, Ursula, the other day. The best questions come out of the blue. Luckily, I married well. Ursula steered the conversation away from the death merchants of ISIS to the bigger picture.

All around the world, many thousands of people refuse, daily, to deny Christ even when doing so might help them avoid torture and death. Clara finds that inspiring. I pray she never faces that test. The fact is: We won’t all be martyrs. That’s not God’s plan. As St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians, however, we are called to be holy.

Most of us fall short on that as well. It’s okay. Even St. Peter denied Christ a time or three. Jesus forgave him nonetheless. Just like he forgives you and me when we struggle to live up to our Lenten promises.

Lent is a time for preparation. Prepare to be forgiven.   

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

Kiros moments
| March 26, 2015 • by By Denise Bossert


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

The Greek words chronos and kairos always remind me of Frank Kermode’s book The Sense of an Ending—required reading for my M.A. comprehensive exams at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Not that I wrote anything profound that awful day. I received a B on my comprehensive exams though I had trended toward A’s throughout graduate school. I choose to blame my performance on the migraine that rendered the experience a blur.

I remember three writers from the long list of required reading for comprehensive exams. Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. The Writing Life and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. And Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending.

I might have known that I was headed for a massive conversion—for I have forgotten most of the other things I read in the months of preparation for comps, but those were the things that remained and took up residency in my long-term memory.  If you took them all and ground them up with a mortar and pestle, you might end up with words like Catholic and mystery and contemplative and writer.

It is where I was headed—though I didn’t see it coming.

But there is something special for me about the notion of kairos. A time for each thing. A season. A changing-over and rendering-up. Dropping nets to follow. Or abandoning the now for the unexpected call. The sense of an ending. And of a beginning.

When you talk about such things, others stare. They don’t get it. They don’t sense the crook of God’s finger. The hook of the Shepherd’s staff. They see no mandate to go. To follow. To pick up a pen. Or a cross. Or both.

There is something beautiful—and painful—in accepting the call one receives in these kairos moments.

You try to get others to understand, but there is no way they truly can, not being in your skin. Not being in your head as the thoughts bounce around and stir the soul.

The most one can hope for is for one’s spiritual director to affirm the call. It’s enough. A nod from him and a nod from grace—that’ll do.

Kairos. The changing time. A blank page. Who needs January 1st to set new things in motion? God just needs today. A deep breath. A teeny tiny fiat.

It’s not that the miraculous is about to happen, just his holy will for you. And maybe that is miraculous, in the ways that healing and wholeness and deliverance and restoration are miraculous. Somehow, you know it. You begin to perceive it.

The words on the blank page are written in invisible ink—the kind of ink that fills God’s pen. And your spirit is the secret decoder that unlocks the hidden script. You see the words. And you begin to realize—so that’s what I’ve been called to do. That’s where I am called to go. It’s been that all along.

“Okay, let’s do it. So be it, amen,” you say.

You drop your nets and walk away from what was to embrace what is to come.

It is the moment you are ready for God’s plan for you.


Not tick-tock clock time. Not the hour of a particular day of a specific month of the year. Not chronos. This is Kairos.

A season. The season for changing. And now is the acceptable Kairos.

It’s Lent. Repent and believe the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ground everything down with your own mortar and pestle. And offer that to Our Lord.

Yes, now is an acceptable time.

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

Unholy political positions in the Holy Land
| March 26, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land.

Throughout much of history, in the land where the world’s savior taught human beings to love one another as he loved us, instead of experiencing love, Palestinians have often experienced the great suffering of injustice, war and foreign occupation.
And today the story is sadly much the same.
In the Occupied Territories of the West Bank in Palestine, Israeli government and military oppression is very real, and yet under reported by corporate owned U.S. media sources.
According to B’Tselem ( – an Israeli human rights organization comprised of academics, attorneys and members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) – tens of thousands of hectares of the West Bank including farmland, has been seized from Palestinians by Israel, so that hundreds of thousands of Israelis could populate more than 200 Jewish settlements established in the Palestinian West Bank.
The International Court of Justice ruled that these Israeli settlements are illegal. It also decreed that the Israeli separation barrier of walls, barbed wire and trenches in the West Bank is also illegal.

This barrier – built overwhelmingly in occupied territory – effectively takes more land away from the Palestinians, and prevents many Palestinians from normal access to their vineyards, olive groves and fields.  

A friend of mine, Dusty Tyukody, participated in an educational trip to the West Bank sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America ( – an ecumenical Christian peace organization. She emailed me a photo she took showing Palestinians herded like cattle into a narrow passageway where they stood for a long period while waiting to pass through an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Another injustice according to B’Tselem is that Israelis living in the West Bank enjoy an unlimited supply of running water all year round, while Palestinians are allotted a small fixed amount, resulting in constant water shortages.

In many ways the situation in Gaza is even worse. With an Israeli land and naval blockade in place, Gaza is known as the world’s largest outdoor prison.  

And last year’s Israeli military offensive against the militant group Hamas in Gaza resulted in the deaths of 1,462 civilians, including 495 children according to the United Nations. This offensive also leveled much of Gaza, leaving many with little to no water, food, or habitable shelter.

The U.S. annually gives Israel approximately $3 billion – mostly in military aid – with virtually no conditions. Instead, the U.S. should demand Israel end all injustices towards the Palestinians, and commit to a timetable towards the finalization of a viable independent Palestinian nation and a secure Israel.

Please go to the “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” ( and sign the petition.

And visit and click “join the campaign.”

Also, kindly consider making a donation to help our suffering Palestinian brothers and sister by going to Catholic Near East Welfare Association ( and under “ways to give” click “Palestine.”

At the conclusion of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009, he said “Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.”

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

The way of the cross
| March 26, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

Writing a column on social justice and peace offers me plenty of timely issues to choose from. And I always truly sense from God the exact issue he desires that I write on.

I’m not claiming here any special revelation. God’s active, guiding presence is available to everyone. All we need to do is deeply trust, quietly listen and patiently wait.

Now in my case, God knows I’m on a deadline. And almost always his Spirit graciously gives me plenty of lead time. But regarding this particular column, the Spirit seemed to be silent, that is, until I visited a parishioner at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s home for the elderly in Baltimore.
On their grounds, amidst a lovely wooded area, stand 14 Stations of the Cross depicting Jesus’ grueling walk to Calvary. At each station stands a rough, life-size wooden cross with a stone craving revealing a different scene along the Lord’s painful route to his crucifixion.

On that day several inches of snow covered the path along the stations. But I decided that a little snow down my shoes was a small price to pay for the deep spiritual reward that awaited me.       

And so I made my way to the first station of the cross: “Jesus is condemned to death.”

There I meditated on the stone carving depicting our innocent Lord standing humbly before Pontius Pilate. Washing his hands as though that empty gesture could clean him of guilt, Pilate cowardly turned Jesus over to those who would kill him.

How often do we in our lack courage, in our comfortableness, in our self-centeredness, in our silence, wash our hands of our responsibility to do the right thing—for peace, for the war-torn, for the unborn, for the poor and hungry, for the sick, for the homeless, for the undocumented, for the prisoner, for the earth?  

Next stop, the second station: “Jesus takes up his cross.”

He, who was without sin, took on all the ugly sins of the world, nonviolently purified them, and gave them back to us as unconditional love.

Here we are starkly reminded of Jesus’ words: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

When all else has failed, our suffering, our cross, can lead us out of selfishness to selfless love – the essential virtue needed to experience the salvation won by Christ.

Therefore, carry our cross we must! There’s no way around it.

The late, highly esteemed theologian Father Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, “It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.”

Authentic discipleship also demands that we earnestly help carry the cross of our suffering brothers and sisters near and far; knowing that in the process we are also mystically helping to carry our Lord’s cross.
Next, I prayed at the third station, the fourth station, and onward until I reached the 12th station: “Jesus dies on the cross.” Looking back I saw the path my steps in the snow had made, and deeply felt that to a certain degree I had made the way of the cross with Christ.

And, more fully, I realized that his journey did not end in death, but of course in the awesome joy of the resurrection!

But also, I understood more deeply that in our Christian journey toward the resurrection, the cross must always come first.

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

New Diocesan Youth Choir announced
| March 25, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced plans for the formation of a Diocesan Youth Choir that will sing in large diocesan liturgies with the bishop and at prayer services and other select performances.

The choir will draw students from grades 8-12 throughout the diocese. Auditions are expected to begin this spring.

“The Youth Choir will energize the entire diocese,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Not only will it involve youth in a formative activity but also celebrate their faith, their energy and the excitement they bring to the Church.  Their voices will be a great gift to us and help to revitalize our liturgies as so many people have requested in our synod process.”

Deacon John DiTaranto, special assistant to the bishop, said plans call for the new choir to be previewed at the Closing Celebration Mass of the Synod on Saturday, September 19, at the Webster Bank Arena of Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Pending execution of the venue contract, the full choir is scheduled to perform at a youth Christmas concert set for next December at the Norwalk Concert Hall.

The diocese is in the process of hiring a choir director who will be responsible for the musical programs and overall administration of the choir, he added.

“The Diocesan Youth Choir will foster awareness of music as an integral part of worship, and help to build self-esteem through successful group singing and instrumental accompaniment,” said Deacon DiTaranto, who noted that young singers will learn music and performance skills as they rehearse and sing for select liturgies.

“We hope that young people from all of our parishes and schools are represented in the new choir,” he said.

Auditions and open houses for the new choir will be held throughout the diocese in the Spring and Summer.

While the choir will be introduced at the Closing Celebration of the Synod, the first public performance of the full choir is set for the special Christmas concert in Norwalk. This concert has been named C4Y (Concert For Youth), as funds generated from it will be used to support diocesan youth programs including the new Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. It is expected that C4Y will become an annual showcase of the Diocesan Youth Choir. Rick Ryan of Black Rock is serving as overall management and marketing coordinator of the concert.

(For more info on the youth choir, or if you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Rick Ryan: 203.331.6858.)  

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
“Successful” Youth Ministry: Walking the Cross in Norwalk
| March 24, 2015


The first theme of Synod 2014 is “Empower the young Church.” Fostering the full, conscious and active participation of young people in parish life is a primary goal of the synod and it is also a primary concern for many clergy, religious, youth ministers and lay volunteers.

Father Boccaccio blesses the cross at St. Philip's Church.

St. Jerome's Parish takes the cross from St. Philip's.

St. Jerome's walks the cross.

Father Blanchfield leads the cross home.

Out of the more than 80 parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport, only 20% (roughly) have “successful” youth ministries. The word “successful” is subjective, but a successful Catholic youth ministry in the Diocese of Bridgeport would include some or all of the following elements:

1.    The youth ministry (i.e. youth group) meets regularly and is under the direction of qualified, experienced Catholic youth leaders.
2.    The youth ministry has a substantial number of regular participants.
3.    The youth ministry is strongly supported by the parents and families of the participants.
4.    The youth ministry is sustainable, and ideally, has been sustained for a number of years.
5.    The clergy and religious of the parish support the youth ministry and are actively involved in its success.
6.    The youth ministry has “alumni” who return to be of assistance and who even assume adult leadership roles in the ministry.
7.    The youth ministry has several annual Catholic “events” to rally around.
8.    The youth ministry is something that younger parishioners look forward to joining.
9.    The youth ministry has a strong identity that transcends parish boundaries.
10.   The youth ministry has a strong and responsible presence online and in social media.

Parishes take different approaches to youth ministry. In too many cases, outside of religious education, parishes have no program targeted specifically to fostering the faith formation of young people. The reasons for this are often financial. Other reasons include a lack of initial interest among the youth of the parish; a lack of dedicated, qualified adults to lead the group; the inability of interested parishioners to foster the level of sustained support needed to have a successful youth ministry; and sadly, clergy who are not interested in being directly involved in youth ministry.

Parishes that enjoy successful youth ministries are usually very committed to their youth activities and programs. Because larger parishes have a ready pool of participants who may be eager to participate in youth activities, it is usually easier for large parishes to enjoy success with youth ministry. Larger parishes are also more likely to have the financial resources needed to fully support youth ministry.

Larger and wealthier parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport are often able to hire full-time, professional youth ministers to administer their youth programs. If the program flounders, pastors are able to replace youth ministers who are not achieving “success.” This approach works in some parishes, but in other parishes it can lead to an endless rotation of youth ministers. One of the keys to a successful youth group is stable adult leadership. The most successful youth ministries have often been under the direction of the same leadership team for many years.

In larger and wealthier parishes, it is easy to imagine how a pastor might place his hopes on “professional” youth ministers to do the job, but youth ministry rarely thrives without direct clergy involvement. A Catholic priest cannot simply “outsource” the youth ministry of his parish and expect it to be a success. There is no simple answer to clergy involvement in youth ministry as more parishes have only one full-time priest assigned, and as the average age of the clergy keeps climbing. Priests in their 60s and 70s may naturally be less inclined to be actively involved in youth ministry and in activities for youth.

Another route that some parishes take is the dedicated lay-leader who may be paid or volunteer. Even parishes with limited financial resources should consider paying their youth ministry leaders, as the commitment needed to have a successful and sustainable youth ministry can be intense. Between Virtus and other paperwork and certifications needed to protect participants and the Church, leading youth ministry is certainly a “job.”

Parishes that rely only on volunteer youth ministry leaders may have difficulty finding adults who are willing to be involved in youth leadership for sustained periods of time. In short, as the need for more effective youth ministry is increasing, the difficulty of achieving success in youth ministry is also increasing.

Examples of Success

Two successful youth ministries in the Diocese of Bridgeport can be found in Norwalk, at St. Jerome Parish and at St. Philip Parish. Clergy, religious and interested lay-leaders should reach out to the longtime pastors of these parishes (Father David Blanchfield and Father Michael Boccaccio respectively), who may be able to reveal some of the secrets of their success. At the very least, Fathers Blanchfield and Boccaccio can discuss how their youth programs are structured (i.e. paid or volunteer ministers, etc.).

Successful youth ministries focus on activities that young people will find fulfilling. Recently, St. Philip Parish hosted a “30-Hour Famine” that yielded great results. Many young people from parishes in the greater-Norwalk area participated, and all participants received special T-shirts to wear during and after the event.

As with many ministries in the life of a parish, most parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport try to remain islands. That is, collaboration between neighboring parishes is usually minimal. Sadly, most pastors view neighboring parishes as “competitors” for collection and ACA dollars. More enlightened pastors seek out opportunities for collaboration, and few ministries are as ripe for collaboration as youth ministry.

Smaller and less affluent parishes can easily “piggyback” on successful youth ministries offered by nearby parishes. Neither St. Jerome’s nor St Philip’s in Norwalk is particularly large or affluent, but their pastors and parishioners are fully committed to supporting youth ministry. In other words, youth ministry in each parish is a major priority.

Youth ministry in Norwalk is actually a microcosm for ways to “Empower the young Church” throughout the diocese. Among the Catholic parishes of Norwalk, youth ministry is increasingly collaborative and inclusive. Smaller, less affluent parishes that may not have established youth ministries have been invited by St. Jerome’s and St. Philip’s to participate in common efforts, like the famine, and most recently, a Lenten journey called “Walking the Cross.”

On Sunday, March 15, parishioners of the seven Catholic parishes in Norwalk were invited to help carry a large wooden cross from one church to another, linking the parishes in a special way during Lent. Each parish was responsible for carrying the cross from one parish to the next and then handing it off. This was the first year for the “Walk”, and Father Boccaccio remarked that the event offered a very visible “display of unity among the seven parishes of Norwalk.”

Obviously, this was an activity that was very appealing to the Catholic youth of these parishes, and the participation of young people in this effort was very substantial. The actually walking with the cross was performed in silent prayer, with the Rosary and singing too!

Participants were able to give visible and viable Christian witness to the world through their actions, and young people usually embrace the opportunity to give Christian witness. Such experiences imprint their minds and spirit and help them better live their faith. In fact, from my experience, Catholic youth usually love giving Christian witness and participating in Christian activism.

The Walk began with 9:00 am Mass at St. Matthew’s and ended with 6:00 pm Mass at St. Jerome’s (which is a scheduled youth Mass, complete with drums and electric guitar). In total, the cross traveled nine miles by the time it reached St. Jerome’s. The seven participating parishes are as follows: St. Matthew; St. Ladislaus; St. Joseph; St. Thomas; St. Mary; St. Philip; St. Jerome.

At the conclusion of the event, Father Gilbert D’Souza, pastor of St. Joseph, thanked “St. Philip’s for conceiving the idea, and planning and organizing the ‘Walk.’ The best part of it was its simplicity. I would be happy to see it become a fixture.”

Simplicity may be a key to successful youth ministry. The “Walk” cost very little in terms of money, but it had all of the ingredients of a successful youth activity. By beginning and ending with regularly scheduled parish Masses, parishioners were also able to feel involved in the effort even if they themselves did not or could not do the walking. Involving the larger communities also allowed participants to be recognized by and give witness to their parish communities and to the world at large.

Finally, as evidenced by the accompanying photos, the “Walk” was fun. Young people love to laugh and enjoy themselves, and when they can join laughter and joy with Christian witness, everyone comes out a winner. Empower the young Church!

(More photos can be found on the Facebook pages of St. Jerome and St. Philip).

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Catholic School Standouts
| March 23, 2015 • by By: Brian D. Wallace


BRIDGEPORT—While the country immerses itself in March Madness, local sports fans have much to be proud of here in Fairfield County. St. Joseph High School cheerleading team on the national title and Fairfield Prep pulled off a stunning victory over Westhill High School of Stamford to win the state LL hoop title. Meanwhile, Notre Dame High School of Fairfield recorded a great season, while other Catholic schools produced championship teams. Congratulations to all of the scholar-athletes in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Please click the links below to learn more about these exciting stories:




Mother Dolores Hart says “love” animates contemplative life
| March 22, 2015


FAIRFIELD—“Kick the devil” in the backside and begin loving those who are close to you and the many more you meet in everyday life, Mother Dolores Hart told more than 200 in attendance at the 7th annual Educators Communion Breakfast at Sacred Heart University.

Click here to view photos.

“One thing that life has taught me is that as a contemplative, my search for God finds resonance in the person sitting next to me, the person who just spoke, the person who asks me something. By loving we discover ourselves.”

Dressed in her trademark beret over her nun’s habit, she was every bit the Hollywood actress and cloistered nun as she held the gathering spellbound with stories about legendary movie stars and her own sudden decision to enter the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut at the height of her fame in 1963.

She said that she didn’t leave Hollywood behind because she continues to pray for everyone she met in Hollywood and they are a part of her life.

“Looking for the light in the other person’s eyes and heart,” she said, speaking in a soft and clear voice. “What do they see that I can’t see? It’s a shock to learn that each human being is totally unique and original in a way that only God understands.”

The former Dolores Hart still seemed amazed by her vocation and said that her job now is to “learn to pray better.” Noting that she prays seven times a day “and in the middle of the night.,” she said it is an act that also unites her with all those “who carry something through the night.”

The woman who starred alongside Elvis and Anthony Quinn said that she was 17 and Elvis only 20 years old and wildly famous when they met on the set. In between scenes he invited her to his room, where he read the bible to her. “I was dumbfounded by the simplicity of this man. He had already been on the Ed Sullivan Show, and I never expected to be in a room with him and have him read the bible to me. He was very accepting and open,” she said.

She said that she tells many people who don’t know what to do with their lives to follow their inner voice. “Hold the truth, hold the love, no matter how lousy it gets,” she said, adding that the best way to follow God’s will is often to fathom your own and to choose to love.

Prior to her talk Fr. William Sangiovanni, President of Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, was presented the CAPP Educator of the Year Award.

His brief and heartfelt acceptance remarks were followed by a standing ovation for his service as a priest and educator.

Telling the gathering that he just celebrated his 38th anniversary as a priest, Fr. Bill said he was filled with gratitude and “thank God for the gift of life.” He said his mother played an important role in his life along with “two amazing women,” his Grandmother Muldoon and his Grandmother Sangiovanni.

He said that the trust that students placed in him has been one of the great honors of his life.

The morning started out when Bishop Frank J. Caggiano celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on the Sacred Heart University campus. Referring to Catholic educators as “ambassadors of God’s love to the world,” the bishop said told them “that your mission and mine has everything to do with the cross.”

He said that Catholic schools welcome everyone “because we are all loved by the Father now and forever.”

The Annual Educators Communion Breakfast is sponsored by CAPP (Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice), a lay group that promotes Catholic Social Teaching, and Sacred Heart University. For information contact

Bishop outlines “principles” for implementing Synod initiatives
| March 21, 2015


View slideshow from the Synod session

TRUMBULL—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano called for a commitment to “substantial and lasting change” as he outlined seven guiding principles for implementing Synod recommendations in parishes and ministries throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Speaking to 320 delegates and observers who braved the remnants of a snowstorm on the first day of spring, the Bishop said the 2014 Synod was an invitation to “create roadmaps to vital and vibrant communities.”

His talk on the spirit and methodology of renewal of the local Church galvanized the delegates and was greeted by a standing ovation at the 4th General Session of the Synod held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull.

While the delegates reviewed best practice models and other initiatives for parishes, the bishop said he didn’t want a strategic plan that “will be shelved in 90 days,” but an ongoing “conversion of individuals and the entire diocesan family” to the “city of everlasting life.”

The bishop said he is not interested in imposing programs from the top down but in giving individual parishes the flexibility to design their own programs, while maintaining the larger “communion” and unit of the diocese. He said his goal was for the diocese to become invisible while parishes become more visible, and that it will require accountability from all involved.

“No one parish can do everything on its own, and some things can only be done by the diocese,” he told delegates, noting that the work of the Synod reflects the “theology of accompaniment” outlined by Pope Francis.

“The journey of faith of individuals must be respected one person at a time,” he said, adding that the real work of the Synod begins after the closing of the conclave when the implementation process begins.

He said the Synod will lead to the development “of a new body of leadership in every parish,” and that he will ask all parishes as well as diocesan programs to set measurable benchmarks for change.

Noting that there is inherent tension as the Church seeks to preserve what it does best, while also undergoing change, the bishop called for a spirit of collaboration that does not simply mean compromising on individual goals, but “allowing Christ to take the lead.”

The bishop’s talk followed morning presentations on best practices and models of ministry by guest speakers.

“When we encounter Jesus Christ, our lives change,” said Eric Gallagher Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD, Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry.

He told delegates that youth programs must “cultivate an atmosphere of discipleship” and meet young people based on where they are.

Gallagher said that many of our youth are now “experiencing Christ outside of the Church,” at other Christian music events or youth festivals.

Referring to such activity as “pre-evangelization,” Gallaher said he sometimes takes youth from his own parish to Christian events because they can help young people grow and share the faith. He added that the Church should also be confident in its own outreach to youth because it has “Christ in the Eucharist. ”

“The new Evangelization calls on us to do something different,” he said. “Young people will go where they are fed.”

Jim Lundholm-Eades of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, said that he has spoken to eight synods across the country and that the challenges faced by the Diocese of Bridgeport are very much in line with other dioceses.

He said that change comes out of a “discernment process that’s not about the will of the people but the will of God.”

Lundholm-Eades said context of leadership in parishes and the Church has been affected by “constant change” over the past decade with “Catholics now going to parishes where they are fed not where they live.”

He said parish leaders must be gifted at gathering people, creating dialogue, and even dealing with “dissonance and disintegration” in the face of change and uncertainty.

“We are people of the Resurrection. If we remain faithful, there is light at the end of the dark night,” he said.

Husband and wife team Pete and Claudia Roux of St. John Church in Darien gave an upbeat presentation Changing Evangelization models identified in the “Amazing Parish Conference” and Forming Intentional Disciples.

They also described ways from the personal to the social that Catholics can invite others to renew their faith.

“We must meet them where they are and support them in their journey,” said Pete Roux. He added that Easter is a great time to reach out to Catholics who may only come to Church once a year, and he recommended that parishes work on strategies to make them feel welcome.

In the closing presentation of the 4th General Session, Deputy Synod Director Patrick Turner urged delegates to talk up the Synod in their own parishes.

“Many Catholics are still unaware that the Synod is taking place,” in spite of efforts by many pastors and delegates to inform parishioners, he said. He expects interest to build as the Synod begins to identify solutions and initiatives for renewal.

The 5th General Session is set for Saturday May 9 in Trumbull. The 2014 Synod will conclude with a Mass of Thanksgiving and celebration to be held at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on Saturday September 19 at 10 am. For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Health Fair informs employees
| March 20, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—A Benefits and Health Fair was held on March 19 at the Catholic Center for all diocesan employees.

“We tried to include representatives covering all aspects of life, from biometric screening for Aetna members to health, nutrition and insurance information for everyone, young or old,” said Barbara Grassey, benefits manager for the Catholic Center.

From tea samples to exercise, breast cancer awareness to grief counseling, along with special benefits to diocesan employees, the Health Fair covered a multitude of topics. Employees and visitors moved from table to table, asking questions and discussing possibilities with the representatives. “I was interested in the several nutrition choices, and I spent a lot of time talking to the American Heart Association and St. Vincent’s Medical Center,” said Deacon Bill Bissenden, diocesan archivist.

“I think people pay less attention to their health than they need to,” said Michael Tintrup, vice president of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. “A reminder presented in such a positive way can help counteract that neglect.”

Bishop forms new Vicariate for Bridgeport
| March 19, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced the creation of a sixth vicariate in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Click here to read the bishop's letter.

The new vicariate, Vicariate VI, will encompass all 13 parishes in the City of Bridgeport.

In a formal letter published today, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, the bishop has named Fr. Peter Lynch, pastor of St. Ann Church in Black Rock, as Vicar for the newly formed vicariate.

The decision was made after consultations with the episcopal vicars, territorial vicars and the Presbyteral Council.

“The intention of this new structure is to facilitate a closer working relationship among the parishes in the City of Bridgeport,” said Bishop Caggiano.  “I am most grateful to our priest vicars for their leadership and support on this new configuration.”

Under Canon Law, dioceses are typically organized into territories or “vicariates” that correspond with a given region or area of the local Church.   

Fr. Robert Kinnally, Chancellor of the Diocese, said the reconfiguration “will institute a territorial structure that is more practical and which will enable us to respond more readily and pastorally to the needs that are identified in our Diocesan Synod and in the strategic planning process.”

The creation of the new vicariate will necessitate a reorganization of Vicariates III and IV, which formerly had included parishes in from the city of Bridgeport in their territories.  There will be no changes in structure or leadership in Vicariates I, II,  and V.

The Bishop has appointed Fr. Peter Cipriani to replace Peter Lynch as Vicar of Vicariate III.

With the creation of Vicariate VI, the composition of Vicariates III and IV will continue to operate minus the Bridgeport parishes.

The parishes in the new Vicariate VI include The Cathedral Parish, Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Andrew/Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel, St. Ann, St. Charles Borromeo, SS. Cyril and Methodius, St. George, St. Margaret Shrine, St. Mary, St. Michael the Archangel, and St. Peter.

Vicariates, also known “forane” are a means to subsidiarity and allow a greater sensitivity to the extraordinary diversity of pastoral situations in a diocese.  They render the coordination of pastoral action easier, encourage unity in a region, improve the efficiency of organized pastoral initiatives, and better provide for the needs of a particular community,  said Fr. Kinnally.

4th Synod General Session set for Saturday
| March 19, 2015


TRUMBULL—“Best Practices and Models of Ministry” will be the focus of The 4th General Session of 2014 Synod set for this Saturday, March 21, at St. Catherine of Siena Parish Center in Trumbull

More than 360 delegates and invited guests will gather for the session as the Synod seeks to find solutions to the challenges outlined in its research and discussion phase.  
In particular, delegates will hear presentation on changing models of youth ministry, leadership and parish structure, and evangelization efforts.  
Guest speakers include Eric Gallagher Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD, who will discuss Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry; Jim Lundholm-Eades of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management will offer a presentation on Patterns of Dynamic Catholic Leadership; Pete and Claudia Roux – Synod Delegate and Synod Observer, will present on Changing Evangelization models found identified in the “Amazing Parish Conference” and Forming Intentional Disciples.
“Our speakers will provide an opportunity for engagement and discussion with the delegates and observers as they put forward different models of youth ministry, church leadership, and evangelization,” said Patrick Turner, Deputy Synod Director.
Turner said speakers will focus on models of ministry/best practices with which they are familiar that may be of benefit to us in Fairfield County.
Bishop Frank Caggiano will lead the delegates in prayer and also present a talk on “Where do we go from here? Methodology for Implementation of Synod Recommendations.”
Delegates will also discuss ways to better communicate Synod goals and recommendations to the larger Church community in Fairfield County.
At the 3rd General Session held on February 7, delegates formally approved a series of five global challenges of Liturgy and Worship, Family Life, Evangelization, Leadership, Catechesis and Education.
Turner said that the five topics will be the primary focus for the coming months.   
“The adoption of these challenges followed months of study and revisions by the Delegates, Study Committees and Synod Commission, working in collaboration with Bishop Caggiano,” Turner said. “These are not the only issues that will be addressed in revitalizing our Diocese, but will be our most immediate Priority Challenges.”
The Diocese received nearly 4000 comments, ideas and suggestions during the community listening sessions and through on-line submissions in the spring and early Summer 2014. Based on those comments, ten strategic areas were identified by Synod delegates: Catechesis and Education, Clergy and Religious, Stewardship, Parish Life, Evangelization, Communications, Liturgy and Worship, Justice and Charity, Youth and Young Adults, and Leadership.
Saturday’s session will begin at 7:15 Mass celebrated by Fr. Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church.  It will be followed by breakfast and 8:20 AM. Welcome and Morning Prayer—led by Fr. David Blanchfield, Pastor of St. Jerome Parish in Norwalk and Msgr. Andy Varga, Pastor of St. Luke Parish in Westport.  
On June 29, Bishop Caggiano announced the four major themes of the Synod: Empower the Young Church, Build Up Communities of Faith, Foster Evangelical Outreach, and Promote Works of Charity and Justice.
The 2014 Synod will conclude with a Mass of Thanksgiving and celebration to be held at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Saturday September 19 at 10 am.  For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Bishop Caggiano: Pastor and teacher to his priests
| March 19, 2015


Employees in the public and private sectors are familiar with the concept of professional development. In the priesthood, professional development is commonly referred to as “ongoing formation.” The idea, of course, is that priests, like all the baptized, are never fully “formed” during this life, and that formation is only complete at the Resurrection.

The Diocese of Bridgeport takes seriously the ongoing formation of its priests, and in its simplest form, ongoing formation consists of priests gathering together to both listen to a presenter and share some fellowship. On Wednesday afternoon, March 18, at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, the priests of the diocese were invited to hear a Lenten presentation by a very well-known speaker, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

In his role as spiritual leader, Bishop Caggiano is also pastor and teacher, and at the Wilton event for his priests he shepherded and taught them about the impact and effects of the ongoing “New Evangelization” in the Diocese of Bridgeport and in the universal Church.

The term “New Evangelization” - popularized by Pope St. John Paul II - was first used at a conference of Mexican bishops in 1979. Nearly 40 years after the term was first employed, the new evangelization remains a focus of the present Pope and is central to the efforts of the synod now underway in the Diocese of Bridgeport. It can even be said that the new evangelization encapsulates the meaning and good fruits of the Second Vatican Council.

As a conceptual term, the new evangelization is abstract, but for his priests, Bishop Caggiano tried to make it a concrete reality. “We as priests must evangelize one person at a time,” he said. “The Pope’s challenge to us is to ‘evangelize’!” He explained that “priests need to accompany people on their journey and lead them to encounter Jesus Christ in a deep, personal and profound way.”

The afternoon of ongoing formation was divided into three parts: two presentations by the bishop, with questions and answers, and a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, with an opportunity for priests to go to Confession.

During his presentations, Bishop Caggiano made full use of the beautiful stained-glass crucifix above the altar in the church. He turned to it and said that Jesus asks his priests “to willingly hang on the cross for the people of God,” and that “the cross is the washing clean of creation.” Followers of Jesus in the early Church, he explained, were “willing to literally be crucified.”

The new evangelization, Bishop Caggiano said, is a journey in which “we have been ordained as priests to help sanctify the people of God so that the people of God can go out and sanctify the whole world.” As spiritual leaders, he added, “We need to be comfortable with—or acclimate ourselves—to the messiness and brokenness of life.”
In this present age, clergy and religious need to help re-establish the credibility of the Catholic community at the parish and universal level. “We need to raise up an army of believers,” Bishop Caggiano said. “The laity need to be co-workers with us in the works of mercy and charity.”

Before they moved to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Caggiano exhorted his priests to be men of prayer. “Prayer is the most important activity in the life of a priest,” he said.

Finally, he reminded his priests that “we have a great advocate in the Mother of God.” This was fitting assurance in a church named in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, the patroness of the synod, on the eve of the feast day of her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph.

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Kolbe achievers take home award
| March 18, 2015


FAIRFIELD—On March 13, four students from Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport competed in the Fifth Annual JA Business Challenge at Fairfield University.

(l-r) Casey McNally, Elijah Stephenson, Anjali Pillai, Caroline Spenser.

They competed against 14 other schools in a business simulation game called Titan. After finishing third in Round One, the team of Caroline Spencer, Anjali Pillai, Elijah Stephenson, and Casey McNally, advanced to the winner’s bracket for Round Two. After an intense 12-quarter round, they finished in second place. They will each receive a $500 scholarship.

In addition to the main competition, four students (two girls and two boys) were awarded a best dressed award. Elijah Stephenson received one these awards.

St. Mark Students Top Winners at Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair
| March 18, 2015


STRATFORD—Five St. Mark School Students participated in the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair held at Quinnipiac University last week, and captured both the First and Second place trophies in 8th Grade Physical Science.

Emily Fedor was awarded first place in 8th Grade Physical Science for her project, "Using Induced Wind Force to Increase the Efficiency of an Electric Vehicle Battery". She received five awards for her project, earning over $1400 in cash and prizes. Kristen Robertson received second place in 8th Grade Physical Science for her project, "Energy Scavenging—Proving the Seebeck Effect with a Homemade Thermoelectric Generator: A Source of Free, Sustainable, Low-Voltage Power,” she received four awards and over $500 in cash and prizes.

Sophie Kirn received Second Honors for her project, "How Substances Affect Tonic Water Glow", Natalie Sciallo received Second Honors for her project, "A Photosynthesis Lab: The Effect of Light Intensity, Water Temperature, Colored Lights, and Contaminated Water on the Rate of Photosynthesis of the Aquatic Plant, Elodea Densa", and Kelly DeRosa received Third Honors for her project, "Relinquishing Rust".

This year, more than 500 projects were entered in the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair, with over 600 students participating. The fair awarded almost $300,000 in cash and prizes.

Mass Mob Fairfield County
| March 18, 2015


DANBURY—Mass Mob III broke the record for the largest Mass Mob in Fairfield County!

The Mass Mob on March 15 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish topped the list. How awesome is that?

A big thanks to Father Peter Towsley, the pastor of Sacred Heart, for his kind welcome and his great homily!

Our heartfelt thanks to Jaimee Keogler, the DRE of Sacred Heart, for all of her help too. And of course, thank you to all of the parishioners of Sacred Heart who were more than kind, gracious, and welcoming!!

Now, about that next Mass Mob... In case you weren't able to join us in Danbury, we're letting you know right here, right now: Mass Mob IV will be at St. Patrick Church in Bridgeport on April 19 at 12:30 pm. We hope to see you there!

Click here to view photos

Bridgeport goes green for St. Patrick’s Day
| March 18, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—The St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Bridgeport began on March 17 with Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral at 8 am. Msgr. Chris Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelton and chaplain of this year’s observance in Bridgeport, celebrated the Mass, as he does every year.

“For me, a big part of my Irish heritage is the heritage of faith passed on to me by my parents,” he said.“

With the “Luck o’ the Irish,” the parade itself stepped off from Harbor Yard at noon to brightening skies after the morning rain. Ted Lovely, a member of Christ the King Parish in Trumbull, was Grand Marshal.

Grand Marshals are chosen not only for their Irish background but for their involvement in the Irish community in the Bridgeport area. Lovely and his wife, Nancy, have been members of the Greater Bridgeport St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee for 10 years. He has marched with the Hibernians in Bridgeport’s Parade every year. This year he rode, wearing a green derby hat, his Grand Marshal’s sash and a wide Irish smile.

Click here to view photos of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Joseph High School Hosts 4th Annual Ladies’ Luncheon with guest Natalie Green Hammond
| March 18, 2015 • by By: Dana Christos


FAIRFIELD—St. Joseph High School hosted its 4th Annual Past, Present and Future Ladies’ Luncheon on Sunday, March 15, 2015 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Current St Joseph High School Parents shopped the afternoon away at the annual Ladies’ Luncheon at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut.

More than 200 women gathered on Sunday for the Ladies’ Luncheon. Twenty vendors provided a magnificent shopping experience for the attendees, which created a unique boutique feel, setting the stage for the day.

Former Sandy Hook Elementary Vice Principal and Lead Teacher, Natalie Green Hammond (pictured with William J. Fitzgerald, M.Div., M.Ed., Ph.D., President St. Joseph High School), an alumnus of St. Joseph High School class of 1990 and current parent of a St. Joseph High School Freshman, gave an inspirational program during the luncheon about the recurring theme of “Past, Present and Future.”

Natalie was born into St. Joe's life, as both her parents were former teachers at St. Joes and spent lots of time visiting the school as a youngster. She also reminisced on her four years as a St. Joes Cadet, where she participated in sports and addressed her life in present as a current parent of a St. Joes student.

In conclusion, Natalie spoke about on how her life was “spared” during the Sandy Hook shootings on December 14, 2012 and how she reached a turning point to realize her purpose. Not only did she recently become a certified school administrator, she and her husband started the 26 Angels Foundation, which provides activities including, fishing and golf tournaments and various events for the Sandy Hook Community.

This year’s luncheon was chaired by Tracey Ivanovich Picarazzi ’82 of Trumbull, Connecticut, Parent ’15 and Trish Trefz, of Trumbull, Connecticut, Parent ‘13, ’15, ’16, ’16. Monies from the event benefit St. Joseph High School.

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

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).

| March 17, 2015 • by By: Paul Silverfarb


TRUMBULL—The chase is over for the St. Joseph High School girls basketball team.

Head coach Chris Lindwall and the rest of the St. Joseph High School
girls basketball team can’t hide his emotions after winning the CIAC
class M semfinals over Enfield.   (Photo by Paul Silverfarb)

After a dominating performance in the semifinals against No. 10 seeded Enfield High School, the No. 11 seeded Cadets will be running to the Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend for the CIAC class M championship after beating the Raiders 61-39.

“It was very emotional,” SJHS head coach Chris Lindwall said. “It’s for these kids because they’ve worked so hard. It’s about them and the program. It’s the program’s first trip since 1979 and we’ve been building and building. It’s my fourth year here, so it’s all about getting these guys through the system and what we want to do and how we want to do it.”

With the victory, the Cadets will play for the championship game for the first time since the 1979 season and will compete against No. 4 seeded Cromwell.

In a game where the Cadets didn’t make a two-point shot in the first half and finished the game with 15 three-pointers, nobody had a better day than St. Joseph’s Shannon O’Meara.

Playing with a very heavy heart, the SJHS senior finished with nine three-pointers and had 27 points.

O’Meara, who seemed like she couldn’t miss on the day, dedicated the game to her grandfather, John Lyons, who passed away two days ago after struggling with Parkinson’s Disease.

“It’s a great feeling,” O’Meara said. “Having a hard past couple of days, it was great and outstanding to have these feelings right now. This game was for him. He was watching me tonight, that’s for sure. Words can’t even describe it right now. It’s an amazing feeling. I just felt the rhythm and my teammates were supporting me all the way.”

“Shannon had to leave practice and she played for him tonight,” Lindwall said. “Nine three’s in one game is amazing. It was an incredible night of shooting. She was in the zone.”

O’Meara wasn’t the only person hitting the long ball. Bridget Sharnick finished with 19 points on the night and five of her shots were from downtown. Maite Gritsko added six points and Caitlin Sharnick pitched in with four.

For the Raiders, Mary Baskerville led the team with 14 points, while Morgan Baskerville finished with six. Olivia Carmona added five points and Danielle Delano pitched in with seven points. Taylor Poletti netted four for Enfield.

The story of the first half was the deep ball, as St. Joseph’s dominated from beyond the three-point line.

After the Raiders took a 6-0 lead, O’Meara got the Cadets on the board with a three-pointer with 4:31 left in the quarter. Just over 15 seconds later, O’Meara struck again to knot the score at 6-6.

After Enfield’s Taylor Poletti hit the layup to regain the lead for the Raiders, St. Joe’s exploded for a 13-0 run, with four of the shots coming from three-point land.

Off a break, O’Meara hit the three-pointer and. After Gritsko went 1-from-2 from the line, O’Meara ended the quarter when the team grabbed the offensive rebound, kicked it out to O’Meara and hit the three to make the score 15-8 after one.

Keeping the good times rolling, Bridget Sharnick started the second with a baseline three with 6:00 left in the half and O’Meara backed that up with a three-pointer 30 seconds later to extend the lead to 21-8.

“That’s not really our game,” Lindwall said. “That’s the funny thing. We are a decent three-point shooting team and we do rely on it, but [Enfield] played a very good 1-3-1 that took away the middle. Jackie [Jozefick] and Bridget are our strength over the past two weeks. They took it away and we had to take whatever they gave us.”

The Raiders tried to stop the bleeding when Delano went 1-for-2 from the line and Morgan Baskerville grabbed the offensive rebound and putback to bring the score within 10. However, the Cadets came storming back when Bridget Sharnick and Gritsko sank back-to-back three-pointers and drove the lead back up to 16 with 2:15 left in the half.

“I had to believe that we could do this,” O’Meara said. “I am a senior and we wanted it. We wanted it since last year. It was a fantastic feeling seeing the time wind down. We were all excited and there’s no words for it.”

In addition to the hot shooting, the Cadets were outstanding on defense. After building the 6-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first, the Raiders were unable to get comfortable offensively.

They didn’t score a field goal again until 2:35 left in the quarter. From there, Enfield was unable to get a bucket until midway through the second quarter.

“Our press has been good and very beneficial to us,” Lindwall said. “We needed to score to get into that press, but we changed some things over the past three days with what we were doing in the press. It took away the middle of what they wanted to do.”

County Kilkenny, Ireland native awarded full scholarship to Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business
| March 17, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Bags packed, new college degree in hand, Sean Donovan was about to start a job that his heart wasn’t into.

But then a letter arrived from Fairfield University that changed everything.

It conveyed that Donovan had been awarded the Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship to attend the Dolan School of Business, worth about $55,000. It is given annually to a graduate student from Ireland to help their career prospects, and it covers all tuition, housing and medical insurance expenses for the time it takes to earn a master’s degree. The scholarship is named for the late Fr. Conlisk, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who served the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“It was amazing,” said Donovan, of Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland. “I read it again, and then a third time. I thought, ‘I’ve got to show this to people.’ ”

For Donovan, the full scholarship means an opportunity to obtain a global business education from an American, Jesuit business school.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Ireland’s unemployment rate has been stubbornly high, and hovers now at 10.60 percent. That has led many young Irish people to emigrate for work. Many of Donovan’s friends moved to the United Kingdom to become teachers, while some are working as engineers in Australia.

The Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship at Fairfield was founded more than two decades ago when the Irish economy was struggling. A group of Irish Americans led by Fairfield University trustee Kevin M. Conlisk '66 believed a scholarship would give an Irish student an opportunity to make business contacts and enhance his or her options. The scholarship is named for Mr. Conlisk’s late brother. Many of the founding scholarship committee members are first or second generation Irish Americans, and established it to help a deserving young Irishman.

Donovan recently had the chance to meet his benefactors. “I thought there would be maybe 10 of them,” he recalled. “There were around 40 people. I told them how grateful I am.”

Donovan, 22, is a 2014 graduate of the University of Limerick, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business studies and majored in accounting and finance.

“I know I’m really lucky to be here,” said Donovan, who is pursuing an MBA, with a concentration in accounting.

Since starting Fairfield in fall of 2014, he has taken courses in accounting with Dr. Dawn Massey, law and ethics with Dr. David Schmidt, marketing with Dr. Mousumi Bose Godbole, and finance with Dr. Tom E. Conine, Jr. “ A lot of my classes are with working adults and they bring an American worker’s point of view into discussions,” said Donovan, who is complementing his classroom studies with an internship at KPMG in Stamford, Connecticut. “I also like it when other [international] students bring their points of view into class. And I’m learning a lot of new perspectives from my roommate who is from Asia.”

The next 12 months at Fairfield will give Donovan plenty of time to explore his options. “I just want to breathe and test the waters here,” he said.

Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship has helped Irish students for more than two decades. Opportunity to broaden career prospects and gain global business education. 

For more information about the Dolan School, visit  

Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business is a leader in Jesuit business education, creating a strong learning community, enlivened by a rigorous liberal arts and business core, that develops career ready students’ potential to be ethical business leaders for a global future. The School is ranked among the best undergraduate and graduate business programs in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, and Princeton Review. LinkedIn named it one of the best schools for accounting professionals. Its degree programs have been accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) since 1997.

Walking the Cross: A Lenten Journey
| March 16, 2015


NORWALK—It was an afternoon in which people “Walked the Cross” with prayer, in silence, saying the Rosary, and in song.

"Walk the Cross" Map of seven churches in Norwalk

On Sunday, March 15, parishioners of the seven Catholic Parishes in Norwalk participated in a “Walking the Cross.” A large wooden cross was carried from one church to another by people of all ages, linking all seven churches in a special way during the season of Lent.

Each Norwalk parish was represented by a group of faithful who carried the cross  from their parish and handing it off to the next.  (See the map for the route).

The Walk began after the 9 am Mass at St. Matthew and end before the 6 pm Mass at St. Jerome. All Norwalk parishes participated including St Matthew, St Ladislaus, St. Joseph, St. Thomas, St. Mary, St. Philip, and St. Jerome.

The walk was organized by Kali DiMarco and  Mike Pappa of St. Philip Church in Norwalk. 

Click Here
for photos

Pope announces Holy Year of Mercy
| March 16, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church's “mission to be a witness of mercy.”  “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis is pictured during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish
on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“I frequently have thought about how the church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy,” he said during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016.

The biblical theme of the year, he said, will be “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” an admonition that applies “especially to confessors,” the pope said with a smile.

(click here for video)

Traditionally, every 25 years the popes proclaim a holy year, which features special celebrations and pilgrimages, strong calls for conversion and repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God's grace through the sacraments, especially confession. Extraordinary holy years, like the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent, but offer the same opportunities for spiritual growth.

The doors of the church “are wide open so that all those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness,” Pope Francis said at the penance service, which featured individual confessions. It was part of a worldwide celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord,” in which Catholic churches were staying open for prayer, eucharistic adoration and confession.

At each of the dozens of confessionals in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as in simple chairs scattered along the walls, priests welcomed people to the sacrament. The pope removed his liturgical vestments and went to confession before putting on a purple stole and hearing the confessions of others.

“God never ceases to demonstrate the richness of his mercy over the course of centuries,” the pope said in his homily, which preceded the confessions. God touches people’s hearts with his grace, filling them with repentance and a desire to “experience his love.”

“Being touched by the tenderness of his hand,” people should not be afraid to approach a priest and confess their sins, he said. In the confessional, one has “the certainty of being welcomed in the name of God and understood, despite our misery.”

“The greater the sin, the greater the love, which the church must express toward those who convert,” Pope Francis said.

The Gospel reading at the penance service was the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Every time one goes to confession, the pope said, “we feel the same compassionate gaze of Jesus” that she did.

Jesus’ love, he said, allowed her to draw near, to demonstrate her repentance and to show her love for him. “Every gesture of this woman speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakable certainty in her life, that of having been forgiven.”

“Love and forgiveness are simultaneous” in the story of each person, just as in the story of the sinful woman, he said. “God forgave her for much—for everything—because he loved her much.”

Through Jesus, the pope said, God took the woman's sins and “threw them over his shoulder, he no longer remembers them.”

Jesus’ encounter with the woman took place in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Unlike the woman, the pope said, Simon “isn't able to find the path of love. He remains stopped at the threshold of formality. He is not able to take the next step to encounter Jesus, who brings salvation.”

The Pharisee is concerned only with following God's law, with justice, which is a mistake, the pope said. “His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth and prevents him from understanding who his guest is.”

Jesus scolds Simon, pointing out how the “sinful woman” has shown nothing but love and repentance, the pope said. “’Jesus’ rebuke pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when dealing with a person. We are called to look deeper, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity the person is capable of.”

Pope Francis said he asked the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to coordinate preparations for the Holy Year so that it would be “a new stage in the church’s journey in fulfilling its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person.”

VOTF presents Compassion Awards
| March 16, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Bob Wilkins of Trumbull, Chair of the Voice of the Faithful Compassion Fund, presented awards totaling $7,450 at the VOTF Annual Conference held on March 14 at Fairfield University.

Recipients included T.J. Boyrer, participant in the St. Philip Parish 30-hour Famine Campaign and Mike Falbo, participant in the St. Philip Parish 30-hour Famine Campaign (donations to Manna House); Linda Casey, Bridgeport Rescue Mission; Anne McCrory, Chief Legal Officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport (donation to Safe Environments program); Rai’jona Crear, Open Door Shelter (Norwalk).

Three organizations that received awards from the VOTF Voice of Compassion Fund were unable to send representatives to the Conference. They were the Daughters of Charity (Bridgeport), the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP-CT), and the Center for Youth Leadership at Brien McMahon High School (Norwalk).

The power of one day - Convivio High School Congress 2015
| March 13, 2015 • by By Will Mercier


FAIRFIELD—With the synod underway, 2015 is a landmark year in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Contributing to the uniqueness of this year, Convivio, the annual Catholic youth conference, was held on one day this year, rather than the three days it has been in the past.

Will Mercier, a member of St. Jude Parish
in Monroe, attends St. Joseph High School

Convivio took place on March 7 at Sacred Heart University. This year’s theme was “The Power of One Day.” As an extraordinary benefit, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was present with us for most of the day! For those unfamiliar with Convivio, the day consists of many activities which aim to increase our relationship with the Lord. Inspirational talks are given throughout the day, which serves to reinforce the theme that one day can make a drastic difference. There are also sacramental opportunities such as Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, and Mass with Bishop Caggiano.

The theme of Convivio especially resonates this year, for it reiterates the importance of what just one day can do. We are shown many times in the Bible, especially with the Apostles, that one day can make a major difference in a person’s life. Jesus called people away from their daily lives and told them to follow him. Because of this one day, their lives were completely changed. Convivio offers such a potential to change you. At Convivio, you encounter Christ many times throughout the day, perhaps most palpably during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Each encounter you have deepens your relationship with him.

Speaking from personal experience, I can greatly assure you that these encounters are lasting and they change you for the better. I have learned much from each of the two Convivios I have attended, and at each one I have encountered Christ in a unique way. I experienced this again.

Convivio is only the beginning of opportunities you can partake in to expand your relationship with the Lord. There are extensions of Convivio such as the “Christmas Extravaganza,” a party for special needs children in our diocese. We were also introduced to the High School Apostles program. This leadership program allows youths to continue their service to the Lord by leading Confirmation Retreats throughout the diocese and meeting once a month to discuss and reflect on the faith.

As we are all aware, an incredible amount can happen in one day; one day can completely change your life. We allowed Convivio to be that day, and we all felt a deeper relationship with God by the time the day is over.

Convivio is a fun opportunity that allows Catholic youth to connect, make friends, and grow closer to Jesus. A person’s life can change in a matter of seconds; imagine all the opportunities for change this one day offered.

(Will Mercier, a member of St. Jude Parish in Monroe, attends St. Joseph High School.)

White Mass speaker to focus on ethics of genetics
| March 13, 2015 • by Brian D. Wallace, Editor


DANBURY—The  22nd annual White Mass and breakfast honoring health care professionals will be held on Sunday, April 12, 8:30 am at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan.

The Mass, open to the general public, will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. Breakfast will follow at Woodway Country Club in Darien. Father Kevin Fitzgerald, S.J., associate professor of bioethics at Georgetown University's School of Medicine and an expert in ethical issues related to cloning and genetic testing, will be the featured speaker.

Father Kevin FitzGerald is a research associate professor in the division of biochemistry and pharmacology of the Department of Oncology and the Dr. David P. Lauler chair for Catholic Health Care Ethics. He is also a member of the Center for Clinical Bioethics, the Advisory Board for the Center for Infectious Disease (CID), and the Angiogenesis, Invasion, Metastasis Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His research interests have included the investigation of abnormal gene regulation in cancer and ethical issues in human genetics, including the ethical and social ramifications of molecular genetics research. He is also a Jesuit priest and an expert on ethical issues in personalized medicine, pharmacogenomics, human cloning research, stem cell research, and genetic testing.

He earned a second PhD in bioethics in 1999 at Georgetown University, after also achieving a doctorate in from  Georgetown in 1996 in molecular biology. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University (1977) in biology. He was awarded his masters in divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in 1988.

At the breakfast, two area healthcare professionals will be presented the Father Rufin Compassionate Care Award. The recipients are traditionally drawn from the ranks of physicians, nurses, dentists, healthcare workers or healthcare volunteers in Fairfield County who exemplify the compassionate and loving care for the sick for which the late Father Rufin Kuveikis, a Capuchin Franciscan, was known as chaplain at Norwalk Hospital for 18 years. He died in 2008 at age 86.

This is the seventh year that the Father Rufin Compassionate Care Award will be presented at the White Mass breakfast.

(All healthcare workers and their guests are invited to attend the White Mass. Brunch tickets: $35. For more info and tickets, contact Debbie Charles: 203.416.1352 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Edward Cardinal Egan’s Signature Achievement
| March 11, 2015


Edward Cardinal Egan’s signature achievement for vocations to the priesthood is St. John Fisher Seminary. Since its founding in 1989, nearly 100 men have been ordained who spent some time at Fisher during their priestly formation.

Giving the homily at the 25th Anniversary Mass.

25th Anniversary Dinner at the Inn at Longshore.

Cardinal Egan is recognized at the anniversary dinner.

Cardinal Egan's last official turn at the ambo in the Diocese
of Bridgeport, on February 8, 2015, at St. Aloysius Church
in New Canaan.

On June 20, 2014, Cardinal Egan was the homilist at the Mass celebrating Fisher’s 25th anniversary. Excerpts from the homily that he gave that evening are contained below. It was one of his last official visits to the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The homily below was first published in my blog, “My iPhone and Fisher’s 25th Anniversary Celebration,” which can be found in my blog archives, dated July 1, 2014 (archived blogs can be found by clicking on the heading below my four latest posts).

Excerpts from Cardinal Egan’s homily at the Mass to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of St. John Fisher Seminary (Friday evening, June 20, 2014: Assumption Parish, Westport, Conn.):
That Gospel reading (John 17:11b-19) is the high-priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to his seminarians at the Last Supper. And in that high-priestly prayer and exactly in that passage, you have the program for how to run a seminary.
It opens up with Jesus Christ announcing that he needs the Father in heaven to protect, guard and nurture the calling of his Apostles... Three times he begs the Father in heaven: ‘See to it the young men who are at the table with me will pursue the calling he has given them in holiness and grace’...
Jesus Christ wants the seminary to be a place where the calling is protected, guarded and nurtured by prayer, by study, and by the example of the priests who guide the seminarians just as the Lord was the example for his seminarians, the Apostles. And John Fisher Seminary does this magnificently... and it does it with devotion, exuberance, and with the great style of the Diocese of Bridgeport!
The second thing the Lord tells us about his seminary is that the seminarians need to know the Word of God and be able to teach it, whole and entire, nothing left out, nothing added... and I have never had any doubt that the Gospel is being preached at St. John Fisher!...
The third and final element in this high-priestly prayer is that seminarians are to know that they are to be that they can go out and consecrate and make holy the world...
Those are the three elements of the seminary of Jesus Christ...
There is an element in every seminary that is over and above the three elements I have already mentioned. The seminary has to teach future priests to be men of kindness, compassion and love...
And I believe that in addition to your wonderful faculty at St. John Fisher, you have another addition that you may not be aware of right now, and his name is Pope Francis... and I would like to think that the men who are in seminary now will learn from him; imitate him; be sure that kindness, compassion and love are part of their lives.


(The following article originally appeared in the June, 2014 edition of the Fairfield County Catholic).

St. John Fisher and the Church Triumphant
By Father Colin McKenna

(This was one of Cardinal Egan’s last official visits to the Diocese of Bridgeport)

On Friday evening, June 20 (2014), the sanctuary in Assumption Church in Westport was awash with brilliant shades of red. The Cardinal Emeritus of New York, Edward Egan, was looking splendid in his cardinal’s attire and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was also resplendent in red vestments for the occasion, flanked by two newly ordained deacons who wore red vestments that matched the bishop. To top it off, the pastor of Assumption, Father Tom Thorne, had arranged two enormous bouquets of red roses for the celebration, one in front of the altar and one in front of the ambo. In total, there were over one-hundred fresh red roses helping to illuminate the sacred space.

Liturgical red was the color of the occasion because those gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of St. John Fisher Seminary gathered first to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with the liturgical prayers for the feast day of St. John Fisher, an English bishop who was martyred by King Henry VIII. The color red in the Church honors the martyrs but it is also the color of victory, and the tone set during the Mass was certainly triumphant. With over 50 priest concelebrants—many of whom had attended Fisher—and many more religious and laity in attendance, both Cardinal Egan and Bishop Caggiano spoke to the tremendous success that has been St. John Fisher Seminary. And Cardinal Egan even joked about looking forward to attending its 50th anniversary!

After the Mass, the celebration moved to the Inn at Longshore on Long Island Sound where many more were able to join the festivities. In total, about 400 people enjoyed a cocktail hour in perfect weather on the outdoor patio overlooking the water before moving inside to enjoy a three-course banquet. In addition to thanking Cardinal Egan for spearheading the Fisher Seminary, other honorees who have been pivotal to the success of Fisher included Phil and Judy DeFelice, David Harvey, Dr. James Long and Drs. John and Liane Pioli.

Father Robert Kinnally, the current rector of Fisher, served as master of ceremonies for the evening, where it was announced that in addition to his current duties as rector and director of formation, he has been named the new chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Bishop Caggiano joked that Father Kinnally is going to be “a very busy man!”

In a spirit of triumph, Father Kinnally acknowledged the hard work of vocation director Father Sam Kachuba. As it now stands, ten men are scheduled to enter formation at Fisher this coming September. To make his point even more dramatic, Father Kinnally asked all of the seminarians in attendance to stand up, and the twenty or so men who did so received a rousing round of applause.

One note of humorous controversy that has been circulating concerns the exact number of men who have attended Fisher and have gone on to be ordained priests for Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan poked fun at Bishop Caggiano, who once said the number was around 80 men. By Cardinal Egan’s accounting, the number is 95, including our most recently ordained. As if to settle the matter, Father Kinnally said at one point during the festivities that “more than one-million men have come through Fisher and have been ordained priests for Bridgeport!”

Whatever the exact number, soon more than one hundred men will have attended Fisher and will have been ordained priests for the Diocese of Bridgeport. In this day and age, when Catholics and others frequently wonder where future Catholic priests will come from, the Diocese of Bridgeport has found the answer: St. John Fisher Seminary.

(Cardinal Egan’s last official visit to the Diocese of Bridgeport was on February 8, 2015, to celebrate Msgr. Bill Scheyd’s 50th anniversary as a priest. The following article appeared online at

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

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

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

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

The church was packed for the regularly scheduled 11:30 am Mass that served as the anniversary liturgy, but this was no ordinary Sunday parish Mass. In attendance were 13 concelebrating priests; 3 choirs; 6 altar-servers; 2 deacons; 1 Cardinal; 1 Bishop; a harpist, a percussionist and a horn section. This was grand liturgy!
In his remarks before the final blessing, Cardinal Egan said, “In Msgr. Scheyd we have all been blessed with a great priest.” In response, the entire congregation stood and gave Msgr. Scheyd a lengthy standing ovation.

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

Msgr. William Joseph Scheyd, born and raised in Bridgeport, has been Vicar General for four successive bishops in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan mused that such a feat must be some kind of record.
When he was thirteen years old, Bill Scheyd was among the throngs of Catholic school-children who greeted the first Bishop of Bridgeport, Lawrence J. Shehan, at the Bridgeport train station. This was 1953, when the Diocese of Bridgeport was formed from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

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

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

“I am grateful to God,” Msgr. said, adding that he is also grateful to all who have helped him serve 50 years as a priest, many of whom were present.
“Trying to imitate Jesus Christ is a great challenge,” he said. “You all have been for me the strength and support which has brought me to this day.” He also thanked his special and powerful patron, St. Joseph (from whom he received his middle name).

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

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

May Edward Cardinal Egan Rest in Peace.

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Diocesan Lenten Retreat
| March 11, 2015


STRATFORD—All are invited to the Diocesan Lent retreat on Saturday, March 28 at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford beginning with 8 am Mass and concluding at 12:30 pm.

Light breakfast will be served after Mass. There will be a live performance by Glenn Smith on the life of Saint Paul. After the performance there will be time for reflection, prayer, and conversation.

To register, mail check for $15pp, made payable to: “Office of Faith Formation,” Attn: Gina Donnarummo, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606. Please include email address and/or phone number.

Click here for the attached flyer. For more information or contact Gina Donnarummo at 203.416.1446 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Cardinal Dolan: The church thanks God for Cardinal Egan
| March 10, 2015 • by By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press


NEW YORK—Cardinal Edward Egan was God's servant and worked tirelessly for parishes, charities, health care and education, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Tuesday at a funeral Mass for one of the most powerful prelates in the global Roman Catholic Church.

Dolan told the 2,500 people packing St. Patrick's Cathedral that Egan "was uncomfortable with eulogies" but Dolan went on to praise him nonetheless. He said Catholics from fellow cardinals to "God's good people" could tell of "consolation given on and after 9/11, prayers offered, sick visited, prisoners encouraged, children taught, immigrants welcomed, and parishes strengthened."

"Now this Church thanks God for him and commends his noble, priestly soul to the everlasting mercy of Jesus," Dolan said.

Egan died Thursday after a heart attack. A Vatican theological force, he led the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York for almost a decade, including on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center and more than 2,700 died. In the days and weeks that followed, Egan performed many funerals.

Tuesday's music-filled service got off to a noisy start with drummers and bagpipers from New York City's police and fire departments accompanying a funeral procession along the blocked-off streets around the cathedral in midtown Manhattan.

In the packed cathedral, amid construction scaffolding, solemn church music took over as several hundred Catholic clergy, including almost a dozen cardinals and archbishops and about 30 bishops, walked slowly down the center aisle toward Egan's casket, draped in white and gold at the foot of the altar.

Several of Egan's relatives took part in the Mass.

In the pews were Gov. Andrew Cuomo and four New York mayors: incumbent Bill De Blasio and former mayors Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins.

International opera stars Renee Fleming and Matthew Polenzani sang Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus" and Fleming sang Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria." Fleming was a friend who sang at Egan's installation in 2000.

Outside, police barriers held back crowds. Metal detectors were placed at the cathedral's entrances.

After the Mass, the casket was lowered into a crypt below the altar, where archbishops and other notable Catholics have been entombed.

At a viewing attended by thousands Monday and Tuesday, Egan lay in the vast stone cathedral where his rich, booming voice once rang out — his hands folded across his chest, a rosary interlaced in his fingers.

With the title of archbishop emeritus, Egan retired in 2009 after nine years of leading the archdiocese, which serves more than 2.6 million Catholics in about 400 parishes in parts of the city and its northern suburbs.

The cardinal, born in Oak Park, Illinois, was an authority on church law and fluent in Latin — one of just a few experts tapped by Pope John Paul II to help with the herculean job of revising the Code of Canon Law for the global church, while deftly navigating the maze of Vatican politics.

He later oversaw an unpopular, thorny overhaul of New York church finances, eliminating a multimillion-dollar debt.

| March 09, 2015


NEWTOWN—St. Rose of Lima School’s Varsity Boys Basketball team defeated St. Joseph’s School from Brookfield 63-59 this past Saturday to win the Parochial League Tournament Championships.

(L to R) front row: Charlie Asetta, Stephen Sedensky,
Ryan McNerny, Aidan Moulder, Joey Rios &
Patrick Grover. Second row: Coach Joe DeMaida,
Aaron Kirby, Gavin Connors, Griffin Cross, Mark Leonardi,
Christopher Beal, Luke Kirby and Assistant Coach John Moulder.

Bishop Caggiano announces Diocesan Memorial Mass for Cardinal Egan Funeral arrangement set at St .Patrick’s
| March 07, 2015


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great sadness that I write to you about the death yesterday of His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of New York. 

As you know, Cardinal Egan was the third bishop of Bridgeport serving in that capacity from 1988 to 2000. His Eminence was a good friend and mentor to me and our priests including the many who were ordained by him.

Cardinal Egan’s years of pastoral care for our diocese extended well beyond his time as Bishop of Bridgeport. It was only a few weeks ago that Archbishop Egan was present at Monsignor William Scheyd’s 50th Ordination Anniversary Mass, and just this past summer the Cardinal joined us in celebrating that day 25 years ago when he founded St. John Fisher Seminary.

Next month the Cardinal was to join us to help launch our new initiatives in Catholic Education and conclude our fundraising for the new St. John Fisher Seminary. Now instead we pray for the repose of his soul and give thanks for what God has done for the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Church universal through the ministry of Cardinal Egan.

Below you will find the funeral arrangements for Cardinal Egan as well as the announcement of a Memorial Mass to be held in the Diocese of Bridgeport. I am hopeful you will take a moment to read his biography (below); it describes a man of great faith whose 58 years of priestly ministry were marked by generous and significant leadership in service to the Church.

In the meantime, may I have asked our pastors to remember Edward Cardinal Egan in their prayers and at Mass, and to include a prayer for him in this weekend’s parish Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful).

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Bishop Frank


Monday, March 9

  • The Cardinal’s body will be received at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 10:00 AM. Thereafter a private family visitation will take place until noon.
  • From 12:00 PM until 6:00 PM, public visitation will take place at St. Patrick’s.
  • A Vigil Mass will be offered at 6:00 PM and visitation will continue after the Mass until 9:00 PM.

Tuesday, March 10

  • Public visitation will take place from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM.
  • The funeral Mass will begin at 2:00 PM (Procession begins at 1:30 PM).
  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the celebrant and homilist.
  • Entombment in the crypt beneath the High Altar will immediately follow the Mass.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund or The Restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


  • On Saturday, May 16, 2015, a Memorial Mass will be held at 1:00 PM at St. Augustine Cathedral.

Statement of the Diocese of Bridgeport on the passing of Edward Cardinal Egan, who passed away suddenly and peacefully on, March 5, 2015, at his home in New York City.
| March 05, 2015


NEW YORK—We are shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Edward Cardinal Egan, who served as Third Bishop of Bridgeport from 1988 until 2000.

He will be remembered fondly and with great esteem by the people of the Diocese of Bridgeport. On his occasional visits back to Fairfield County, he was always greeted with great affection and appreciation by those grateful for his leadership. Even after being elevated to Cardinal, he continued to reach out to the diocese, to affirm the ministry of its priests and help in any way possible to serve the people. His most recent visit was on February 8, 2015 , to St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Msgr. William Scheyd.

Those who were close to him remember a man of great loyalty, friendship, and affection, who treated everyone with utmost respect and courtesy. A man of great talent and considerable gifts, he lived with personal simplicity and saw himself first and foremost as a priest.

Achievements in the Diocese of Bridgeport

Among Bishop Egan's first directives in the Diocese of Bridgeport was increasing vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. He established his own seminary in Trumbull, the Saint John Fisher Pre-Seminary Residence, which opened its doors in June 1989, six months after his arrival in Bridgeport. Within four years of its founding, the Trumbull facility proved too small, and Bishop Egan decided to move it to its present location in Stamford.

The Fisher Residence continues its fine program for discernment and formation of priestly vocations, and has provided our diocese with dozens of young priests.

Bishop Egan's next works were the reorganizing of diocesan finances and endowments through the $40 million Faith In The Future campaign, as well as the regionalization of parish schools. By creating a system of school regions, by which the local parish schools would be supported and funded by all the region's parishes, Bishop Egan saved and improved the Catholic school system in Fairfield County. He established the only private school for children with special needs in Connecticut, Saint Catherine Academy, as well as initiating many other educational projects.


He also reorganized and expanded Catholic Charities, as well as many of its outreach programs such as soup kitchens and free clinics. He established scattered housing for AIDS patients throughout the County; increased the number of facilities for the elderly with the Bishop Curtis Homes; opened a home for the assistance and support of pregnant mothers in the Malta House; and improved the funding for both Catholic Charities and Catholic schools by the establishment of the Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education.

Besides providing for new priests, Bishop Egan's work for the priests of the diocese included the completion of the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests' Residence in Stamford. Indeed, so important is the priesthood in Bishop Egan's estimation that Bridgeport became one of a handful of American dioceses that cared for its priests from the very beginning of their training until their final days of ministry.

On May 11, 2000, Pope John Paul II announced that Bishop Egan would succeed the late John Cardinal O'Connor as the Archbishop of New York. Archbishop Egan was installed on January 19, 2000, and was elevated to the College of Cardinals on February 21, 2001.


Bishop Egan's last visit to the Diocese on February 8, 2015
Note: Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is in Rome on a visit to the Vatican and could not be reached for comment. His personal tribute will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

Come Celebrate the Fraternas!
| March 04, 2015


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

The Fraternas focus on evangelizing the youth of Fairfield County.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NORWALK—On Sunday, March 15th, parishioners of the seven Catholic Parishes in Norwalk will host a “Walking the Cross” experience.

A large wooden cross will be carried from one church to another, linking all seven churches in a special way during the season of Lent.

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

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

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

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

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


Making a Difference       
By Tony Magliano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There have been 301 visit(s) to this blog post.

St. Mark School surprises principal
| March 02, 2015


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

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

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

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

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


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

Photos by Mike Donnarummo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions include:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was Good Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

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

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

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

And they come. People show up at every Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is no other time.

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

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

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

Here is what will happen in the parish:

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

Here is what will happen in individuals:

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

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

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

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

Reality check.

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

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

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

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

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


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lord, HEAL ME!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Thomas H. Hicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Student vs. faculty basketball
| February 25, 2015


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Vietnamese New Year honors family
| February 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Lenten Fish Fry
| February 24, 2015


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New governance model for Cathedral Academies
| February 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BRIDGEPORT—Looking for a Catholic church in Fairfield County?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport



Frequently asked questions about Assisted Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repent and believe in the Gospel.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Online Donations:
AHIHA Mailing Address:

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

For information on the 18th Winter Deaflympics:

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


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

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

But what does it mean to repent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Richard Bonenfant, Photographer

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

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

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

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

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

Diocese releases Mobile App
| February 15, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop inspires at ACA reception
| February 12, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Ann Corner Bookstore
| February 10, 2015


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synod pivots toward solutions
| February 07, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VATICAN—Want to hang out with Pope Francis? 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the News 12 video.

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


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

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

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

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

Click to read full text of Bishop Caggiano’s letter


Diocesan-wide Youth Ministers Meeting
| January 30, 2015


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

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

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

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

The forgotten plight of Native Americans
| January 29, 2015


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s the Gospel truth!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Other key findings of the survey include:

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

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

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

For more details about the survey results and methodology visit

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

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

Knight of Columbus News Release

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

He had recently been under hospice care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

What a sight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we all have our challenges.

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

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

(Follow Matt on Twitter @matthennessey.)

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

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


Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, family comes first.

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

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

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

Family comes first.

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

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

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.

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


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Thomas H. Hicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Annual Catholic Appeal Video Released
| January 20, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairfield Fire Prevention Contest Winner
| January 20, 2015


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

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