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The forgotten plight of Native Americans
| January 29, 2015


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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


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One of the best things about being a staff writer for the Fairfield County Catholic, both in print and online (www.bridgeportdiocese.com/fcc), 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.

There have been 58 visit(s) to this blog post.

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


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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


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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 www.kofc.org/polls

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


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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


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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


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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


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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 (www.nrlc.org/abortion/fetalpain). 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 (www.nrlc.org/abortion/medicalfacts/techniques).
    
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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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Potpourri
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


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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


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




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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check with your local parish for similar prayer opportunities.

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


Bishop announces new scholarship fund
| January 19, 2015


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

Great job Marisa!

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


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




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

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

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

Good resolutions can come out of our daily examination of conscience. Practicing the faith also requires a certain level of comfort with repetition. In our daily prayer life, we may find ourselves making the same resolutions over and over again.

Making resolutions, and failing at them, is good for our humility. A wise man was once asked by his disciple, “Master, what is humility?” The wise man replied, “I don’t know. I don’t have any.”

In my experience, humility seems to grow out of humiliations. In our repeated failures to amend our lives, we can experience personal humiliation. This can lead us to realize that we really can do nothing without God’s grace, which is a crucial realization in the spiritual life.

When we recognize our need for God’s grace in order to grow in holiness, we may also develop a heightened spiritual appreciation for the gift of the sacraments.

When we make a spiritual resolution and then find ourselves failing, we always have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession.

When we make a good Confession, we are putting humility into practice. It has always been my belief that face-to-face Confession is better for our humility, especially if it is less comfortable. When, in faith, we place ourselves before a priest to confess our sins, we need to recognize that we are indeed placing our sins humbly before Jesus.

Much more than the strength of our resolve, the grace that we receive in the sacrament through absolution can truly super-charge our spirit. If it is pleasing to God, through Confession, our resolve receives supernatural help in the form of invisible but palpable grace.

Resolutions are good to make, and should be made frequently (if not daily). As Catholics, we need to realize that only with God’s grace (supernatural help) can we overcome human weaknesses that serve as obstacles in our relationship with God and neighbor.

In my opinion, going to Confession once or twice a year is not enough. The average Catholic can greatly benefit from making a good Confession every three months or so.

When I say “good Confession,” I mean that we need to prepare prayerfully for the sacrament for some weeks in advance. We need to ask God to help us make a good Confession, and we need to ask the Holy Spirit for enlightenment so that we know what to confess.

Some Catholics go to Confession weekly. In my opinion, such frequent Confession presents spiritual risks.  Do we really believe in dynamic grace if we need to return so frequently to the sacrament? Or has our cycle of sin and repentance become mechanical? Does scrupulosity make us afraid to approach the altar?

If we go to Confession every three or four months, we may find ourselves in serious sin in the meantime.

As Catholics, we believe that absolution is “guaranteed” through the sacrament, but that does not mean that we cannot express our sins and our sorrow for them directly to Jesus in our daily prayer.

If we are in mortal sin, and we have not gone to Confession, it is proper to refrain from receiving Communion. This too, can be very good for our humility.

In an age when nearly “everyone” receives Communion at Mass, even though only a small percent have recently gone to Confession, it can be humbling to refrain from joining the Communion line.

If someone asks us why we did not receive Communion, we can say, “That is between me and my God.”

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Spanish-speaking Catholics urge Diocese To help strengthen their parishes
| January 11, 2015


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NORWALK—"If we don't serve them, we're going to lose them," said a catechist from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport of the growing number of Spanish speaking Catholics in cities and towns throughout the Diocese.




Almost 200 men and women turned out for the second consultation session with the Hispanic community held Sunday afternoon at St. Mary Parish Hall in Norwalk.

In an intense, heartfelt and informative session, many of the speakers who came to the microphone asked for more help from the Church as they faced struggles in their own lives, a feeling that many Catholic parishes and schools don't welcome them or make them feel like they belong.

The session was held in English and Spanish with Fr. Gustavo Falla, Vicar for Spanish Speaking Catholics in the diocese, providing excellent translations in both languages following speakers comments.

Many of those in attendance also noted that parents are failing to educate their children in the faith and that Hispanic youth, like other young people in Fairfield County, are uncomfortable practicing their faith in the face of pressure from secular values.

Speakers also asked for more catechetical training for adults and for the Church's help to protect youth and learn and live in the faith.

Bishop Frank Caggiano and members of the Synod Commission listened to the more than ten speakers of all ages who came forward during the session. Many of the speakers red prepared remarks and eagerly awaited the Bishop's responses.

"I thank you for your heartfelt input," said Bishop Caggiano as the two-hour consultation was drawing to a close. "You've shared your difficulties and the suffering you are going through. I want to make sure that your needs, and the needs of all families through the Diocese, will be addressed when we come out of the Synod."

"We don't feel protected by the church," said a woman from St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk, who said the Church can reach out to many who are suffering by helping with education, and making Masses more available in Spanish.

Some speakers asked why Masses in Spanish are not available in Churches in more affluent communities surrounding their inner-city parishes.

"I understand it's not simply a matter of having more Masses in Spanish but also having a greater understanding of the culture of Spanish ­speaking Catholics," Bishop Caggiano said.

In response to the Bishop's question about what evangelical churches do well, one speaker said they were less hierarchical in their approach, more welcoming, and that lay people were more involved.

A teenager from St. Mary Parish in Norwalk said many youth feel as if they're being criticized by the Church with a "bunch of don'ts" rather than experiencing "God's forgiveness and love." Carmen Torres of St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport said the diocese had has some positive plans for reaching out to Hispanic Catholics in the past but has not implemented them. She said the local Church missed many opportunities to serve people who have since turned to other denominations.

The last speaker of the evening was a young boy from St. Mary Parish in Bridgeport who said it was important for men to get more involved in their parishes. "Women do everything, he said." "If people want healing, they should go to the Blessed Sacrament and feel the healing presence of God."

"You are a remarkable young man of faith," said Bishop Caggiano who thanked all those who came forward.

For more information and visit the Synod 2014 website at http://www.synod2014.org

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Parish Reps embrace new diocesan Mobile App
| January 10, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Excitement and interest filled the Queen of Saints Hall at the Catholic Center today when almost 50 parish representatives turned out for training in the use of the new diocesan mobile App that will be launched in February.




“Apps” are computer software applications designed to make information, photos and videos more readily available and accessible on Smart Phones, Tablets, and other mobile devices, where people now increasing turn for information.

The mobile App will feature Mass times, news, calendar events, video and photos, and parish information, represents a new era of communications in the diocese. It was designed by Deacon Patrick Toole of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield and will work on all smart phones and tablets.

“Everyone turns to an IPad or smart phone to get information today,” said Karen Barton of St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull. “When people have access to information quickly there more apt to follow through. The new App should make the process easier for people to learn about the parish.”

Deacon John DiTaranto, Special Assistant to Bishop Caggiano, began the meeting with a prayer and reminded those in attendance that “the purpose of the App is to bring people closer to the Lord. “

The Deacon said that the mobile App will support the major Synod initiatives, particularly the call for improved communications and outreach to youth. “One of The Synod themes of the Synod is to focus on the young Church. And that means we need information that is fresh, timely and up to date.”

In the two-hour session, the parish representatives asked a wide range of questions and brought considerable knowledge of social media and information technology to the training. They will play a key role in uploading information from their parish to the new App.

Each parish representative will be given a password to enter a secure website, where they can upload information.

“It’s great,” said Jonathan Torres, a member of St. George Parish in Bridgeport. “You have to use every avenue available to communicate. People are on their phones all the time, and social media a tool we need to use to reach them.”

The diocesan website has an average of 20,000 visitors a month, but people increasingly are visiting the website by mobile phone as opposed to desktop computers. . The App translates the voluminous information on the website into a format that makes information easier and quicker to find on the small screen of a smart phone.

Janet Gardella, office manager of Assumption Parish in Westport, welcomed the new App and the ability it gives each parish to post its own information. “I think the Church should embrace social media. The App really offers another connection with parishioners because people want information at their fingertips.”

“Anything that can get the word out is a good thing,” added Kate Fitzgerald of St. Mary Parish in Bethel. “Our parish is on Facebook and Twitter. The new App will provide even more access to information.”

“I work with youth all the time and they’re constantly using social media. This is great,” said Andrew Sheldon, a professional web developer who also serves as Webmaster for St. Margaret Mary Parish in Shelton.

The training was conducted by Mark Murphy, a digital communications consultant to the diocese and to many parishes. “The App is all about improving the user experience, making it better and making information more accessible on a mobile device,” he said.

Murphy walked representatives through the content management system and the new diocesan portal that provides users with the tools for entering and editing information. It is accessible through all web browsers.

He fielded the frequent questions throughout the training and also responded to the many helpful suggestions to improve the App.

Jill Monroe, who serves as social media coordinator for the Office of Communications, also was on hand to answer questions about the new App and diocesan website.

“The new App is about faith and building community,” she said to the representatives. “It about making your parish a welcoming home and family where people want to be.”


Busy weekend set for Diocese of Bridgeport
| January 09, 2015


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BRIDGEPORT—Two Synod consultation sessions, a training session for the new diocesan mobile app, and a reflection on the “Lord’s Prayer” are all on tap for this weekend.




Tonight, 7:30 pm at St. Luke Parish in Westport, Bishop Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will offer a reflection on the Lord's Prayer at St. Luke Church in Westport. The Bishop’s talk will be preceded by a wine-and-cheese reception at 7 pm in the community room of the parish.

The program is free and all are welcome. St. Luke Church is at 49 Turkey Hill Road North in Westport. For more information, call 203.227.7245.

On Saturday morning (January 10), more than fifty parish representative appointed by their pastor will meet at the Catholic Center at 9 am to 11 am to be introduced to the new diocesan mobile app and learn how to upload parish information into the system. The new app, designed by Deacon Patrick Toole, is an exciting developmental in social media and digital communications for the diocese.
     
Saturday afternoon (January 10) will see the convening of a Youth Synod Consultation Session with Bishop Caggiano from 2-4 pm at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. All persons must have a ticket to enter at the door! This is a youth session, only adults who are chaperoning may attend.
 
The next Synod consultation session with the Spanish language community in the Diocese will take place on Sunday, January 11, from 3:00—5:00 pm at St. Mary Parish Hall in Norwalk. Bishop Caggiano and the Synod Commission will meet in the to listen to, and consult with, the Hispanic Community regarding the challenges facing our Diocese. Special thanks to Mr. John Rodriguez of the Synod Commission for helping to coordinate the session.


March for Life takes place January 22
| January 07, 2015


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




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

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

The 2015 March begins with a 12 noon rally on the National Mall. The march itself, leading past the Supreme Court building, will start at 1 pm.

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

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

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

Check with your local parish for similar prayer opportunities.

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


Mass Mob Hits Fairfield County
| January 06, 2015 • by By Diana Blass


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STAMFORD—Church goers are on the move, mobbing parishes all throughout the county and making quite a statement.

"Mass Mob is sort of like a flash mob for Mass."

Its trend spreading throughout the country. A service in a particular city gets posted online and the goal is to get as many faithful in the area to attend.

It first took root just over a year ago over in Buffalo, and today it’s in Philadelphia, Detroit, NYC and more recently—Connecticut.

"We're just trying to really raise awareness of these beautiful churches in these great vibrant communities. We just want to expand your palette."
 
Nineteen-year-old Andre Escaliera is one of the organizers behind Mass Mob in Fairifled County. He was first approached about the idea from a lay couple in the area.

From there, he organized a Facebook page.

"So we launched a bishop photo contest so people can send in their favorite photos. And that really helped."

Come August, the time came to put those promotional efforts to the test. The first Mass Mob was held at St. Peter Church in Bridgetport.

"I just said you know what god if this is what you want for the County and if this is where you're leading us then it's in your hands. And, he really delivered. There were about 230 people."

A coupe of months later, a second mass mob was at Holy Name in Stamford, drawing an even bigger crowd and attracting so much attention—parishes started requesting to host future events.

"It's great to hear so many parishes are interested."
 
Pope Francis is famous for urging young catholic to make a “mess” in their dioceses and to break out of the mold. Well, according to Andre, that’s exactly what Mass Mob is all about.

"Generally youth are on fire for their faith and they really want to do something with that faith they have."

The next Mass Mob will be Feb. 22 at 10:30am at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Danbury. For more information you can visit the Mass Mob Facebook page.


Long-time friends of NCH make major gift to capital campaign
| January 06, 2015


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STAMFORD—The New Covenant House of Hospitality Capital Campaign recently received a hefty boost when Board President Paul Harinstein was presented with a generous donation of $100,000 from Bruce and Linda Koe of Stamford, Connecticut.




The goal of the New Covenant House Capital Campaign is to raise $1.7 million. To date, the campaign has raised nearly $1.2 million; 70% of its goal.

“We’re very grateful for the generosity of Bruce and Linda Koe,” said Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities. “No one understands or can appreciate the need for this new facility better than Bruce and Linda Koe.”

“Their commitment to serving the poor and hungry, and their long-term service to New Covenant House has been both a blessing and inspiration.

New Covenant House of Hospitality is one of two soup kitchens sponsored and managed by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. It is Stamford’s one and only soup kitchen whose mission is to provide a nutritious meal to all those who are hungry.

“By creating a safe, warm and compassionate environment, we are taking the first steps toward empowering men, women, and children to reach their full potential and regain their dignity and self-respect,” said Barber.

Bruce and Linda have been longtime supporters of New Covenant House with Linda being instrumental in her work as a former Advisory Board Member and Co-Chair of The Harvest Table, one of New Covenant House’s annual fundraising events. Along with participating in many New Covenant House events with his wife, Bruce Koe is also on the Board of Neighbor’s Link in Stamford.

Bruce and Linda Koe are active parishioners of Trinity Church in Greenwich. Their Loaves and Fishes group frequently serves at New Covenant House.

Recently, Catholic Charities announced the appointment of John R. Gutman as Executive Director of New Covenant House. John, a longtime volunteer at New Covenant House, brings a wide range of experience from the corporate world. John will be responsible for leading New Covenant House through the balance of the Capital Campaign.

The campaign is funding the move to a new facility across from its present location this spring. The “new” New Covenant House will encompass 8,000 square feet of space at 174 Richmond Hill, a major expansion from its current 2,000 square foot location.

New Covenant House of Hospitality serves the greater Stamford area, which includes Stamford, New Canaan, Greenwich and Darien. It is located at 90 Fairfield Avenue in Stamford. For information call 203.964.8228 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  

Contributions to the capital campaign can be made at: nchstamford.org/capital-campaign, or send a check to: New Covenant House Capital Campaign, PO Box 10883, Stamford, CT 06904.


The Christmas we need
| January 06, 2015 • by By Denise Bossert


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Catholic by Grace
By Denise Bossert

I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I’ve been to the mall once. I’ve landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock—and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I’ve seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.

Advent is the only antidote.

But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who have to hurry. It will never be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.

Advent waits to be invited to your December. It will not show up on its own. It is a polite guest. It will not crash your party. Christmas-without-Advent is a fake. An imposter. We all know it.

The Christmas we all need, the one we long for, the one we can imagine so clearly . . . it only comes to those who walk alongside Mary. In the quiet. Away from the crowds. Where Sacred Scripture comes alive and holiness is real.

It’s no mirage, this Advent journey. It’s not an optional side excursion on the way to Christmas. It’s necessary. It’s the way to Christmas. The only road to Bethlehem.

I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land twice in 2014. In fact, I am writing to you now from Bethlehem. I stood there today, at Shepherds Field, and the idea of the crowded mall seemed so silly, so completely out of step with Advent. I knelt to pray where Christ was born, and the idea of jacking up the credit card to buy a few more presents seemed almost unholy, almost contradictory.

The two don’t go together. Not when you are here. Not when you are removed from the bright lights and staged windows of Main Street America.

Today, I imagined a pregnant young woman and her beloved husband as they journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, over the rugged terrain that I have walked with my own feet, in my own Timberland boots, as my filled water bottle sloshed against my backpack, and I lifted my camera to capture the real Nazareth, the real Ein Kerem (Zechariah & Elizabeth’s home), the real Bethlehem. And I cannot think of anything but the plan of salvation that brought God into our world. The part of me that can be so easily abducted and thrown into the chaos of commercialized Christmas is gone.

But this kind of contemplation does not require an international pilgrimage—although it certainly gave me a new perspective. One can find this path—from Nazareth to Bethlehem—by doing some deliberate things.

This pilgrimage begins with receiving God, your very own personal Annunciation-moment. Christ coming to you in the Eucharist and you being sent to go forth once you have received Him. The pilgrimage is a journey with Mary from Nazareth. It happens when we take Christ with us, and we share him with family and friends, as Mary did at Ein Kerem in the hills of Judea at the Visitation. The Lord grows within us as we feed and nourish our life in the Spirit. We do this by reading, by praying, by remembering the poor, by listening to Advent songs (and waiting for Christmas songs), by eating as a family around the table with the Advent Wreath as a centerpiece, by saying a prayer for those who send us cards rather than tossing the cards mindlessly in a basket.

This pilgrimage does not require money, or imitation snow, or double-sided wrapping paper. It only requires an undivided heart. We journey with Israel to the coming Messiah. When we set our eyes on Mary and run ahead to take hold of her mantle, we remember. That is the journey that leads to Christ.

Yes, you can make this pilgrimage through the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. But if you are able to do it, go to the Holy Land. Some day. Some way. Go.

And kneel there, where you can imagine it all, where the real Advent cannot be usurped.

Nazareth. Ein Kerem. Bethlehem. These are real places. And the Franciscans are here, waiting for you to come and experience it all for yourself. Pilgrimage. It’s part of our faith tradition, whether it is a quiet pilgrimage of the heart or a pilgrimage that takes us to the other side of the world.

We are a pilgrimage people. And we are on a mission to discover Jesus Christ and to share him with everyone we meet.

Blessed & holy Advent to you and your family, from Bethlehem of Judea.

Denise Bossert is a national Catholic writer and columnist.


Seeing Christ where others don’t
| January 06, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


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Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

All year long, Linda looked for Christ in her daily life, but she did so especially at Christmas. During Mass, she’d say a simple prayer, “Lord, please show yourself to me.”

She knew he was there, but she wanted a special glimpse, one that would dispel the gloom from too much holiday glitz, one that would replace the seasonal sadness with the same kind of pure wonder and joy the shepherds must have felt, one that would reassure her that despite the daily headlines about murder and mayhem, things were going to be all right because ... the Prince of Peace was coming.

It’s easy to be disappointed at Christmas. Instead of holiday cheer, there’s a lot of holiday gloom that comes when your center of attention shifts from Christ to spending and partying, not to mention the regular assaults on Christianity that occur when a politically correct teacher wants to secularize “Silent Night” by changing the words or the ACLU files a lawsuit against a small town over a nativity scene, and a national organization of unbelievers sponsors billboards attacking the existence of God.

You often find yourself looking to the skies, waiting and watching and wondering the same way people of good will watched and waited two millennia ago for a Savior and a King who would make things right that had gone so terribly wrong.

At a time of year that belongs to Christ, so many people try to push him out of the picture. When I went to the store to buy Christmas cards, there were dozens on sale, but I could find only one box with Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the modern world, there’s clearly no room for them at the inn.

But the more the world tries to push Christ out of Christmas, the more our hearts long to see him. And there’s some wonderful news that’s 2000 years old—“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Yes, The Light shines despite consumerism, commercialism and hostility.

Linda went through the usual holiday motions. She bought gifts for her grandchildren at the dollar store; she decorated her home; she wrote Christmas cards; but when she said her Rosary at night, lying in the darkness, she asked Jesus to please reveal himself to her in some small way.

I often wonder whether I would have recognized Jesus lying in the manger on that first Christmas night—or even now. It’s a gift to see him in others, a special gift.

I’m reminded of the story of St. Martin of Tours, who as a young soldier stationed in Gaul in the Fourth Century rode into Amiens on a cold winter day and saw a beggar, shivering at the gate and asking for alms.

Everyone ignored him, except Martin. Moved to pity, he unsheathed his sword and cut his cloak in half and gave it to the man. That night in a dream, he saw Jesus, surrounded by angels, and he was wearing the cloak that Martin had given him.

Christ has many faces. Many of them are shunned by the world and many others the world wouldn’t even recognize.

Linda had a St. Martin experience when she visited a small town in northern New Hampshire that seemed protected from all the spiritual afflictions that corrode our society. It was a town where the stores on Main Street played traditional Christmas carols that hadn’t been sanitized or censored, and where people proclaimed the name of Jesus freely without fear of offending someone. They said “Merry Christmas,” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

On Sunday morning, the miracle happened when Linda went to Mass at a small church nestled in the mountains. As the gifts were brought to the altar, a little boy with Down Syndrome, no more than seven years old, came forward to carry up the collection basket. It was his proudest moment when the usher handed it to him.

Light seemed to radiate from his smile as he eagerly grasped the basket and followed the others. He was so happy that he was skipping barefoot up the aisle and looking from side to side as if to share his pride with the congregation.

An effusive warmth filled Linda. She was looking for Christ, and here he was in this little boy, performing this simple act with such love. The Kingdom belongs to such as these. Didn’t Jesus say that? In those few moments, Linda looked at the world as Jesus does, with compassion and love. A little boy taught her that lesson. Her prayer had been answered.

Merry Christmas.  

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


Snap Out of It, Scrooge
| January 06, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


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A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

Some people get depressed at Christmastime. My father-in-law, Bill Reel, was one such guy. He never could get into the spirit of the season. Couldn’t wait for January to come. “Christmas music is supposed to cheer us up, but it makes me sad,” he once wrote.

Mr. Reel had a column in a New York City newspaper for thirty-plus years. In a very direct way, I owe whatever success I’ve had as a writer to him. He encouraged me to set pen to paper—set me off on this path. And he always gave good advice.

“Omit needless words.” He borrowed that from E.B. White.

“One day at a time.” He borrowed that from Bill W.

“Never worry about money. Enjoy your family. The money will take care of itself.” I’m pretty sure that was original to him. Such good advice. I wish I was better at taking it.

Sadly, my father-in-law passed away a few years back. I still miss him terribly. Think about him all the time. I try my best to write as well—and as honestly—as he did. In the spirit of honesty, I have to say I’m having a hard time feeling jolly this Christmas. I’ve got a bad case of the Bah Humbugs.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the constant stream of bad news. The tragedies. The protests. The violence. Maybe it’s the political bickering and fevered one-upmanship I see on my social media feeds. How many old friendships have been fractured by Facebook? How many happy families have turned sour thanks to Twitter? What a waste. So unnecessary.

But that couldn’t possibly be the source of my seasonal slump. Partisanship goes on all year long. It must be something else.

“Christmas is just a day like any other day,” says my friend George. “What’s to get so excited about?”

Well, I used to get plenty excited about it. I used to float through December like a seagull on an ocean breeze. It was an Advent updraft. As a teenager, I’d even get pumped up for Midnight Mass, which was often the only time we’d go to church all year.

Why then, this year, do I feel December 25th will come and go, just a day like any other day?

Whatever’s causing my holiday heartsick, I find myself looking deeper into the spiritual side of the season. I always heard the message to look past the commercialism of Christmas, but I don’t think I ever really listened. For maybe the first time, I don’t care if I receive a gift this year. I already have everything that matters anyway. No trinket or toy could come close to giving me the joy that I get from my family.

I hear folks say that Advent is a season of waiting. Maybe that’s my problem—I’ve grown so spoiled I don’t want to wait anymore. I get everything on demand. I can get an electric pineapple peeler shipped directly to my house—overnight. I have the world at my fingertips. Why should I have to wait?

It could be, too, that the unrelenting pressure of keeping my young family fed, clothed, and educated is starting to get to me. I confess that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the price of things this year than I have in years past. But whatever problems old Scrooge Hennessey has, the Holy Family surely had it worse. Homeless. Pregnant. Confused. Herod on their trail. They got through the First Noel on faith alone. Maybe I can too.

Here’s what I’m going to do. Instead of waiting for the spirit of the season to turn my lump of coal into a gingerbread cookie, I’m going to take the initiative. I’m going to turn off the Internet. I’m going to put on a Bing Crosby song. And I’m going to light the Advent wreath. Then I’m going to gather the kids and read them the Nativity story.

That oughta put some peppermint in my step. That oughta get me in the mood for mistletoe. Then, when I’m properly cheerful, I’ll offer up a prayer of gratitude for my dear departed father-in-law, who never let me down even when he was feeling down.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine. See you at Midnight Mass.

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


Reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 World Day of Peace Message
| January 06, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


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Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

“Tragically, the growing scourge of man’s exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice and love,” writes Pope Francis in his January 1 World Day of Peace Message.

But as the message’s title—“No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters”—indicates, the pope is reminding us of the Good News that Jesus has freed us from the slavery of personal sin and the structures of societal sin, and invites us to accept this divine freedom, to live it out in our lives, and to share it with all people.  

However, instead of offering freedom and fraternity, the exploitation of countless human beings by many who hold power, “leads to contempt for the fundamental rights of others and to the suppression of their freedom and dignity,” laments the pope.  

He writes that millions of people today—children, women and men of all ages—are forced to live in slave-like conditions.

“I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry.”

The 2010 West Virginia Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, which killed 29 Massey Energy miners, is a clear example of what Pope Francis is talking about here.

According to National Public Radio, the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel charged that "Massey exhibited a corporate mentality that placed the drive to produce coal above worker safety.”

Expressing his deep sympathy for the hardships faced by migrants Francis writes, “In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a grueling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions.”

Consider how the pope’s words accurately apply to the thousands of unaccompanied children who have taken the dangerous journey to the U.S. to escape drug and gang violence in parts of Central America. Many of these children are detained for weeks in large cage-like conditions, while they face the threat of being deported back to the dangerous conditions they fled.

Pope Francis adds, “States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore and the sale of items produced by slave labor.”

Many corporations like Wal-Mart reap huge financial benefits from merchandise made for them by desperately poor people laboring long hours, in unhealthy work conditions, for pennies an hour.

There is an excellent remedy for this use of what the pope calls “slave labor.”

Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202.224.3121) your two U.S. senators and House representative urging them to reintroduce and actively support the "Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act," which according to the highly reputable “Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights” (http://www.globallabourrights.org/), would provide transparent corporate disclosure—enabling labor rights organizations to inspect factories producing products for wealthy retailers.

If reintroduced and passed by Congress, this bill would also prohibit the import, export or sale of products that violate the International Labor Organization’s standards—which prohibit child labor, and guarantee workers’ rights to safe working conditions, to collective bargaining and protection against forced labor.
 
Pope Francis pulls much of his message together in this one powerful sentence: “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral—and not simply an economic—act.”
   
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.


No one should be hungry during the Christmas season
| January 06, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


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In early December, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) stopped feeding 1.7 million Syrian refugees.

For two weeks these poor, battered fellow human beings who had fled the misery of civil war, and the barbarism of the “Islamic State,” were told there is no money available for food—children, women and men went hungry
 
The WFP has been providing food assistance for 1.85 million Syrian refugees living in the host countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.    

However, on December 1 the WFP reported that it had run out of money to fund its electronic voucher program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees because many donor nation commitments were not being fulfilled.

But 10 days later the WFP announced that following an unprecedented social media campaign, government donors had given over $80 million, thus allowing reinstatement of food assistance to the 1.7 million Syrian refugees for the rest of December. And this funding will also allow the WFP to meet some of the refugee needs in January.

But then what?

According to the WFP, Syrian refugees in camps throughout the region are ill prepared for the harsh winter, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, where many children are bare foot and without proper clothing. Many tents are drenched in mud, and hygiene conditions are worsening.

The CBS news program 60 Minutes produced a highly informative and compelling segment on this crisis titled War and Hunger (60 Minutes segment).  

In addition to the Syrian region, the WFP and other international aid agencies like Catholic Relief Services, are desperately trying to respond to four other simultaneous level-3 emergencies—the U.N.’s most serious crisis designation—in Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the African nations plagued by the Ebola outbreak.

According Eric Mitchell, director of government of relations for Bread for the World—an anti-poverty Christian lobbying organization (www.bread.org)—the U.S. government needs to fully fund the Food for Peace program. He said Congress has authorized $2.5 billion, but that the budget for fiscal year 2015 actually only funds the program at $1.4 billion.

Mitchell added that Congress should allot significantly more money for food vouchers that can be immediately used in local markets, as compared to the more expensive and time consuming transfer of food on cargo ships.

He said excellent long-term programs like Feed the Future, which help to sustain long-term agriculture development and security, need to also receive increased funding from Congress.

As a Christmas gift to desperately hungry people, please email and phone your congressional delegation (Capitol switchboard: 202.224.3121) urging them to work for the improvements listed above.

And kindly consider making a Christmas donation to the World Food Program (www.wfp.org) or Catholic Relief Services (www.crs.org).

As part of the Christmas season celebration, many of us will partake in the blessings of bountiful meals. And as we enjoy the good food set before us, may we have the special gift of knowing that we helped make it possible for some of our hungry brothers and sisters to eat during the Christmas season.
    
But what about after the Christmas season? What will happen to the 805 million hungry brothers and sisters of ours then?
    
Will they be forgotten until World Food Day or next Christmas? Will they even be alive?
    
What we do, or fail to do, to help answer these life and death questions, will significantly determine how seriously, how faithfully, we take the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel, “God with us.”

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


All Saints Students help “Keep Christ in Christmas” with annual Knights’ poster contest
| January 06, 2015


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NORWALK—In a celebration of the true meaning of the Christmas season, nearly 500 students from All Saints Catholic School recently submitted entries in the Knights of Columbus’ annual Keep Christ in Christmas poster contest.












According to the rules of the contest, posters were required to be the original work of the student and to somehow reflect the theme of Keep Christ in Christmas.

“It was extremely difficult for us to single out individual students for their work,” commented Council 14360’s Grand Knight George Ribellino, Jr. “All of the students put so much thought and creativity into their posters, and we thoroughly enjoyed judging them.” After much debate, the following students (one per grade level) were honored for their posters by the judging committee:

K- Caitlin Neville
1- Amir Sarith
2- Gadrielle Garrido
3- Veronica Bosco
4- Kristina Petzold
5- Millie Uquillas
6- Erin Bateman
7- Calixta Uquillas
8- Matthew Guzman

Each winner received a special certificate, a hand-painted K of C Nativity ornament, and a coupon for a free frozen yogurt courtesy of Peachwave of Norwalk. The winning entries will also be forwarded for judging at the District level of the contest.

“We would like to thank Mrs. Linda Dunn, All Saints’ principal, and all of the students who submitted entries in this year’s contest,” Ribellino added. “Once again, they reminded us of what Christmas is truly about.”

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
It’s still Christmas!
| January 05, 2015


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According to the Ordo, it is still Christmas: “The Christmas season extends from Evening Prayer I of Christmas through the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, 11 January 2015.”

A few years ago, I happened to visit a nearby mall just prior to Halloween, and I was quite surprised that work crews were already putting up Christmas decorations. As a Christian, let alone a Catholic priest, I found the Christmas décor intrusive and offensive. Soon, malls and other merchants will probably have the Christmas decorations up by Labor Day. Their Justification? “Australia celebrates Christmas in warm weather!” Point. Set. Match.




Although I am offended by the steady consumerist push to make the Christmas season arrive earlier and earlier, until now, I have not really done much about it. This past weekend, however, I preached about the situation, and my message was well-received. One woman even said that she wished I could write it out for her son. When I get such encouragement, I usually take that as a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

This blog entry will not be a recreation of my homily, but I will focus on the idea of Christmas and how American culture celebrates it.

For most Americans in the 21st Century (including a large percentage of Catholics), the Christmas season officially begins on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving. Even if people are accustomed to frequenting the mall, and have seen Christmas trees and snowy window-shopping scenes since late October, they “know” that Christmas really does not begin until Black Friday.

Black Friday refers to the ledgers that merchants keep. In the BC era (before computers), shopkeepers used black ink to record profits and red ink to record losses. It was believed that a good start to the Christmas season could put them well into the “black” for the calendar year. Some accounting computer software still uses red and black font colors for profits and losses, but the majority of people under 40 years of age would not really know to what the “black” in Black Friday refers, especially since “black” days on the calendar usually refer to days of disaster. For example, in NFL circles, the Monday after the last day of the regular season is called “Black Monday” because so many coaches, general managers and staffs from losing teams will be fired. Any number of “black” days refer to stock market crashes. At present, in stock market lore, there is a black Monday, Tuesday and Friday. In time, Wednesday and Thursday will likely join their ranks.

It may be an American national characteristic that by and large, we are not terribly inquisitive. How many people would actually care enough about the origins of Black Friday to research it? Perhaps the prevalent “it is what it is” philosophy really should rule the day!

Part of me has just wanted to admit that the battle for the Christmas season is over, and that in America, Christianity has lost. Then I remembered that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and as insignificant as my voice may be out here in the blogosphere, with the help of God’s grace, what I write may prove valuable and even important to some.

As the Ordo states above, the Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve. The beginning of Christmas has no real relation to the American feast of Thanksgiving, which was proclaimed by George Washington and then reproclamated by Abraham Lincoln. In fact, in 2014, the First Sunday of Advent—the Church’s four-week preparation for Christmas—did not take place until three days after Thanksgiving.

As Catholic Christians it is important for us to realize that American culture has actually tried (rather successfully) to commandeer the Christmas season. Some popular music radio stations play “all Christmas music all the time” from Black Friday through Christmas Day and then the Christmas music stops. Christmas is over, right? Actually, Christmas has just begun.

It is plausible to argue that American culture is now technically “post-Christian.” With this in mind, Catholic Christians— some 60 million strong in the United States—need to be consciously counter-cultural regarding the celebration of Christmas. Becoming less consumeristic and not participating in Black Friday sales is a good starting point. Lately, I have been imagining how different Christmas might be if we, as Catholics, tried to limit our gift-giving to one gift per person. Little did we realize that encouraging children to write to Santa with a “list” of presents they want would later produce adults who may stampede on Black Friday!

If anyone wants to start a “just one present” movement, I will be right behind you. If I knew how to write computer code, I might try to start the movement myself!

Not long ago, I went for a walk on an unusually warm December 26th at a coastal town park in Fairfield County. One of the parking lots at the beach area had been designated as the Christmas tree recycling drop-off point. With a good dose of hyperbole, I was nearly run down by a constant parade of speeding SUV’s. The drivers would race to the drop-off point and pull the tree off the roof or out of the back, unceremoniously toss it on the growing pile, and then speed off again, nearly running me over again for good measure. And I was not even wearing clerics!

Most of these drivers and tree-throwers were men, and they had probably been directed by their wives to the drop-off point. Sadly, many were also likely Catholics. And as far as they were concerned, Christmas was over. To make a sweeping generalization (which I am wont to do), I would imagine that many of these men were “Type A” personalities and naturally task-oriented. The trees had likely been in their homes for about a month, and Christmas was over. The quicker they took down and disposed of the decorations, the more quickly they could get onto the next task, which might include relaxing.

In my first assignment as a priest, one of my Communion calls was to an elderly woman who loved Christmas so much that she kept her apartment in full Christmas display throughout the year. Taking a cue from her, I also keep up a few Christmas decorations year-round. It makes decorating for Christmas easier, and I never need to be too scrupulous about when Christmas is actually over.

As Catholics, it is important for us to realize that Christmas (the Christmas season) really begins on Christmas Eve, and continues this year until January 11, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. How can we become true Christmas activists? My ideas are not exhaustive, and I hope you come up with and implement your own, but we can call or write to radio stations and let them know that we want Christmas music throughout the Christmas season, the real one. We can contact retail and mall managers and let them know that we find Christmas in October offensive. We can try our best to live fully the entire Christmas season. And most importantly, we can try our very best to keep Jesus Christ in Christmas!

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2014 Synod Youth Consultation Session January 10
| January 04, 2015


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STAMFORD—Youth are not only the future—they are the vibrant present. 




“Now is the time to come together to discuss the future of the Church in Fairfield County and to plan accordingly,” said the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport, after formally convoking the 4th Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The second Youth Consultation session will be held on January 10 from 2-4pm at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. This is a youth session, only adults who are chaperoning will have clearance.

All persons must have a ticket to enter at the door. All adult chaperones must be virtus trained and background checked and registered; no adults will be accepted at the door who are not pre-cleared chaperones. All youth and adults who have attended a previous session, will have their records at the door. For info or questions, email Julie Rodgers, Director of Youth Ministry at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or go to: www.dob-youth.com, then click on "Youth Synod".


Bishop Caggiano to reflect on "Our Father"
| January 03, 2015


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WESTPORT—The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will offer a reflection on the Lord¹s Prayer at St. Luke Church in Westport on Friday, January 9, at 7:30 pm.




Bishop Caggiano's talk will be preceded by a wine-and-cheese reception at 7 pm in the community room of the parish. The program is free and all are welcome. St. Luke Church is at 49 Turkey Hill Road North in Westport. For more information, call 203.227.7245.

Bishop Caggiano was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull. In his installation homily, he spoke of the needs to build bridges to youth, to all those who are troubled, who are neglected and to Catholics who no longer participate in the life of the Church.

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

In an historic move of reconciliation, Bishop Caggiano met with the membership of Voice of the Faithful in March 2014 to discuss issues that have divided the local Church for decades. He also reconstituted the Review Board of the Diocese to oversee implementation of diocesan Safe Environments policy, and announced the formation of a new Ministerial Advisory Board to review cases in which the Bishop must consider action regarding the assignment of a priest or deacon accused of adult misconduct. In the November 2014, the bishop initiated a major reorganization of diocesan offices into a Secretariat structure in order to improve planning and the level of service and communication with parishes.

A noted catechist, Bishop Caggiano was invited by Pope Benedict XVI to deliver World Youth Day talks in Sydney in 2008, Madrid in 2011, and by Pope Francis to serve as a catechist at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, 2013. He also preached at the Youth 2000 Summer Festival in Tipperary, Ireland. He is a member of the sub-committee on the catechism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. In November, 2013, he was appointed to a three-year term as episcopal advisor of The National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry.

Bishop Caggiano presently serves on four committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis; Subcommittee on the Catechism; Orthodox Union Catholic Dialogue; Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.


New Year's Eve is time for examination of conscience, pope says
| January 02, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—The end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is the perfect occasion to reflect on how well people have used the time and gifts God has given them—especially how well people have helped the poor, Pope Francis said.




While God is eternal, time is important even to him, Pope Francis said during a prayer service New Year's Eve in St. Peter's Basilica. "He wanted to reveal himself and save us in history," becoming human to demonstrate "his concrete love."

As a strong winter wind blew outside, Pope Francis ended 2014 celebrating evening prayer with eucharistic adoration and Benediction, and the solemn singing of the "Te Deum," a hymn of praise for God's blessings.

At the end of a year, like at the end of life, he said, the church teaches its members to make an examination of conscience, "remembering all that happened, thanking the Lord for all the good we received and were able to do and, at the same time, remembering where we were lacking and our sins. Give thanks and ask forgiveness."

Speaking specifically as bishop of Rome to others who have the honor of living in the city and the responsibility of participating in its civic life, Pope Francis said Christians must have "the courage to proclaim in our city that the poor must be defended and that we do not need to defend ourselves from the poor, that the weak must be served and not used."

Pope Francis made specific mention of the Rome corruption scandal that became public in early December; investigators claim millions of dollars' worth of public contracts were awarded for waste management, housing immigrants and other programs, but the services were never provided or were not at the levels called for by the contracts.

"The serious incidents of corruption that recently emerged require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral renewal," the pope said, "as well as for a renewed commitment to building a city marked by justice and solidarity where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the center of our concern and our daily action."

While God created humanity to be his children, he said, original sin and its remnants continue to distance people from God, often making them slaves who follow "the voice of the Evil One."

God sent Jesus to ransom sinners from their slavery, the pope said, which gives rise to an essential question in one's examination of conscience: "Do we live as children (of God) or as slaves?"

"Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, ransomed and free?" he asked. "Or do we live according to worldly logic: corrupt, doing what the devil wants us to believe is in our best interest?"

Pope Francis told those gathered in the basilica that all people, even Christians, have "a tendency to resist freedom; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we prefer slavery" although often people are not aware that that is what they are doing.

"Freedom frightens us because it places time before us and, with it, the responsibility to live it well," he said. "A nostalgia for slavery nests in our hearts because it appears more reassuring than freedom, which is much riskier."

Slavery focuses just on the moment, he said, making people forget their past, but also robbing them of hope for the future.

"Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly or hope," the pope said.

The end of a year, he said, is a reminder that there will be a "final hour" and all people will be judged, particularly on how they used their freedom and how they cared for the poor.

When the poor and weak are cared for and helped to claim a place in society, they are "a treasure for the church and society," he said. "But when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalizes them" or forces them into a life of crime, "that society impoverishes itself" and "ceases to be Christian."

After the prayer service, despite the cold, Pope Francis went into St. Peter's Square to pray before and view up close the Nativity scene. With hundreds of people huddled behind barricades, he spent about 20 minutes greeting the crowd, as well as offering a personal "Happy New Year" and handshake to the Italian police officers on duty.


Pope Francis’ World Day of the Sick Message Reflects ‘Wisdom of the Heart’
| December 31, 2014


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From the National Catholic Register

VATICAN CITY—The theme of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, which the Church commemorates February 11, “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame,” taken from the Old Testament.




Following is the English translation, provided by Vatican.va, edited for style:

“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” — (Job 29:15).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by St. John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.

This year’s theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of sapientia cordis (the wisdom of the heart).

1. This “wisdom” is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as St. James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). This sapientia cordis, which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.

2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job’s words: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”, point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).

Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are “eyes to the blind” and “feet to the lame”! They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.

3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus himself said: “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). With lively faith, let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of “quality of life” that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

4. Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40). For this reason, I would like once again to stress “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift” (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” (ibid).

5. Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13). Yet Job’s friends harbored a judgment against him: they thought that Job’s misfortune was a punishment from God for his sins. True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others; it is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.

Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy. This response of love to the drama of human pain, especially innocent suffering, remains forever impressed on the body of the risen Christ; his glorious wounds are a scandal for faith but also the proof of faith (Homily for the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, April 27, 2014).

Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis. We come to understand how Job, at the end of his experience, could say to God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). People immersed in the mystery of suffering and pain, when they accept these in faith, can themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.

6. I entrust this World Day of the Sick to the maternal protection of Mary, who conceived and gave birth to Wisdom incarnate: Jesus Christ, our Lord.

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care for them! Grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbors, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart!

With this prayer for all of you, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-world-day-of-the-sick-message-reflects-wisdom-of-the-heart#ixzz3NUXidVFM


Embrace, be amazed by God's great gift of children, pope says
| December 30, 2014 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—Becoming a mother or father is a gift from God, but women and men have a duty to embrace that gift and be astonished by its beauty, Pope Francis said.




When people recognize that every child is unique and wanted by God, they will be "amazed by what a great miracle a child is," he said December 28, the feast of the Holy Family.

During an audience with an Italian association for large families, the pope said, "Dear parents, I am grateful for the example of your love of life that you safeguard from conception to its natural end, even with all of life's difficulties and burdens, which unfortunately the government doesn't always help you bear."

The pope greeted the multiple generations present at the audience, who came from all over Italy, as well as other parts of Europe, and asked them how early they had to get up that morning to get to the Vatican.

"Six o'clock? Five o'clock? Aren't you tired? Well, I'll put you to sleep with my speech!" he joked.

Holding the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph up as a model for all the world's families, the pope said, "maternity and paternity are a gift from God, but welcoming that gift, being astonished by its beauty and making it shine in society, that is your task."

"Each one of your children is a unique creature who will never be repeated in the history of humanity," he said.

"A child is a miracle" that changes the lives of his or her parents, he added.

While each family is "a cell" that together builds the body of society, large families are "a hope for society," he said, they are "richer, more alive," and governments should recognize the importance of "investing in" large families.

He asked that Italy, with its low birthrate, pay greater attention to creating and carrying out policies that offer real support for families.

The pope, who is one of five children, said having lots of siblings "is good for you" and better equips new generations with what it takes to share and be united, which is especially needed "in a world often marked by selfishness."

Just a bit later in the day, the pope again highlighted the family, especially the role grandparents play, before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Close loving relationships between the younger and older generations are "crucial" for both society and the church, he said.

The Holy Family is a simple but powerful model as it radiates "a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, the light of truth for every human being, for the human family and for individual families," he said.

That light "encourages us to offer human warmth" to those families that, for whatever reason, are struggling with "a lack of peace, harmony and forgiveness," he said.

When parents and children live out their faith together, "they possess an energy that allows them to face even difficult trials, as the Holy Family's experience demonstrates," for example, in their flight to Egypt, he said.

People should be reaching out with concrete support to families, "who are living through more difficult situations because of illness, lack of work, discrimination, the need to emigrate," the pope said. He then led those gathered in the square for a moment of silence and prayer for all families who are facing hardship.


On Christmas, pope urges people to hear the cry of suffering children
| December 27, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—The crying of Baby Jesus is not the only cry people should hear on Christmas; many children around the world are crying because of war, maltreatment and abuse, Pope Francis said.




Before giving his solemn Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world), Pope Francis addressed an estimated 80,000 people in St. Peter's Square, urging them to pray for peace in Ukraine, in the Middle East, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo.

With thousands of children looking at the Vatican's Nativity scene and receiving the pope's blessing with their parents Christmas morning, Pope Francis' strongest words were about less-fortunate children.

"May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking or forced to become soldiers," he said. He added special prayers for the families of the dozens of children killed Dec. 16 by a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"There are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the infant Jesus," he said. Children are dying "under bombardment, even there where the son of God was born. Today their silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods," those who kill children just as Herod did in Jesus' time.

The pope prayed that Christ's "divine power, by its meekness," would "take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness."

In the dark of the night Dec. 24, in a St. Peter's Basilica filled to capacity, 10 children led Pope Francis toward the altar of the church. Together they stood waiting while a lector read the solemn "Christmas proclamation," recounting the timing of the birth of Christ in human history.

As the children from the Philippines, South Korea, Belgium, Italy, Lebanon and Syria looked on, Pope Francis removed the cloth that had been covering a statue of Baby Jesus. He bent over and kissed it gently.

In this homily, the pope said Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, "announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds."

The birth of the Son of God in a lowly manger is the sign of "the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations."

Ever since sin entered the world, humanity was yearning for light and for peace, the pope said. The birth of Jesus revealed that "the message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness." "On this holy night, while we contemplate the infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect," he said. "How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close?"

Put more simply, he said, the key question is: "Do I allow God to love me?"

In the face of difficulties and problems, the pope said, "the Christian response cannot be different from God's response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness."

"When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us," the pope said, "we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: 'Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.'"

As the "Gloria" was intoned at the Mass, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed; those inside the church heard a slightly muffled version, but the thousands of people watching on video screens in St. Peter's Square got the full effect. Later, during Communion, priests came out of the church to distribute the Eucharist to those unable to get inside.

Another musical note came in the midst of the Gregorian chant of the Creed. After the line, "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven," an orchestra, conducted by Manfred Honeck of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, began playing. Chen Reiss, an Israeli soprano, sang Mozart's "Et Incarnatus Est," which the Vatican said was a special request of Pope Francis.

The pope and the congregation knelt as Reiss sang that Jesus, "by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

Shortly before the Mass, taking advantage of the satellite link of a crew from the Italian bishops' TV2000, Pope Francis made a telephone call to Christian refugees gathered for Mass in a camp in Ainkawa, Iraq.

"You are like Jesus on Christmas night," he told them. "There was no room for him either, and he had to flee to Egypt later to save himself."

"You are like Jesus in this situation, and that makes me pray even more for you," he said. "Dear brothers and sisters, I am close to you, very close this evening. With all my heart, I am near you, and I ask Jesus to caress you with his tenderness and I ask his mother to give you much love."


Christ our Savior is born!
| December 23, 2014


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A special message from Bishop Frank Caggiano

BRIDGEPORT—Since I was a little boy, I have always enjoyed singing Silent Night at Christmas.




Each time I sing this venerable hymn, I am struck by the end of the second verse: “Christ our Savior is born”. These few words summarize the central mystery we celebrate every Christmas, namely, the saving birth of the Son of God into our world.

In our secular world, many ask: How is Christ the savior of the world? What is the salvation that He offers to all people? In the world in which we live, we must be ready to answer such questions, for our sakes and those of our children.

Not all religions share the same view of salvation as do Christians. For example, Hindus believe that each person is trapped in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Salvation is achieved when one is released from this cycle of reincarnations. It comes only to the one who realizes that everything, including oneself, is an illusion. Buddhism goes even further and states that the human soul does not exist. Those who believe in the existence of a soul are doomed to suffer. Salvation for the Buddhist is the realization of nirvana, or absolute liberation from any sense of self, through enlightenment and the conquest of all emotions.

The Christian understanding of salvation is very different from the one presented by these religions. Salvation in Christ is the transformation and healing of the earthly life we now live by grace. The suffering, pain and hurts of this life will give way to a life of endless love, joy and peace. This new life has already begun in the power of the Holy Spirit whom we receive through faith and baptism. It is constantly nourished by the power of Sacred Scripture and the sacraments that we celebrate in the Church, especially the Eucharist. We will undergo the full transformation of our earthly life in a personal way when we die. All creation will also be transformed when Christ returns at the end of time to judge the living and dead. When that day comes, all who are saved will share fully the resurrected life of Christ.

Three characteristics mark the Christian view of salvation. First, salvation is a gift that comes from Christ. We believe that Christ is the only definitive savior of all creation. This is so because salvation can only come from God and Jesus Christ is God who became man in his birth from the Virgin Mary. Christ has saved the whole world because He conquered sin and death once and for all time through His life, death and Resurrection. Since the Lord gives to His followers a share in His very life, countless men and women have worked as missionaries to spread the Gospel of salvation to all. In other words, salvation comes to all people only through Christ. No one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14: 6).

Second, Christ’s offer of salvation transforms the entire person. Salvation does not mean the eternal destruction of our body. It is not solely the transformation of our souls. Rather, Christian salvation is the healing each of us will receive in Christ, encompassing body, soul and spirit. It is for this reason that every Sunday we reaffirm our faith in the resurrection of the body in the Creed. Eternal life in heaven, which will be fully revealed at the end of time, will not make us less than who we are now. Rather, it will transform us into the image of the Resurrected Christ.

Third, Christian salvation is the process by which we are saved from what weakens us for the sake of obtaining something far greater. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are saved from the slavery of sin and all its destructive effects, including death. Such freedom allows us to be united by grace with our loving God in this life and to live eternally in His love in heaven.

Such is the gift of salvation that Christ has given to the world. It is no wonder that the heavenly angels sang out with great joy: “Christ our Savior is born!”

May our Savior born in Bethlehem bless you and your families this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport


Let There Be Peace On Earth
| December 23, 2014


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FAIRFIELD—When the cast of this year’s Saint Catherine Academy Christmas pageant brought down the curtain with their rendition of “Let there be peace on earth,” they were treated to a standing ovation.




Almost 200 filled the tiny St. Catherine Academy auditorium for the performance of “The First Christmas” by students of the academy, which serves young people impacted by autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The annual production has become one of the great Christmas moments in the Diocese.

“Just seeing Jesus filled them with hope,” said the narrator during the production, which was also filled with hope and joy.

The audience responded to the 40-minute production with frequent applause and by joining in a wide range of Christmas standards from Silent Night to We Three Kings, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, and the Gloria.

For an encore, the students treated the audience to a performance of “Feliz Navidad.”

“You gave us Christmas two days early,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano after congratulating the performers and parents. “These young people gave us a very great gift today because they helps us to experience what Christmas is all about—it’s about love.”

“It’s an old saying that every time a person loves someone, Christmas is re-lived,” said the Bishop, who posed for photos with the cast and faculty of St. Catherine Academy after the performance.

The Bishop thanked parents for entrusting their children to the academy, “Where they are cared for, they are loved, and they help us to remember what really matters, Jesus the Lord.”

Academy students Kelly Martinez and Jonathan Teixeira narrated the pageant and read Nativity accounts from the Gospel of Luke.  Natalie Massaro won applause for her spirited portrayal of Angel Gabriel, and Elijah Barer played the role of Caesar.

The play was written and directed by Sr. Cheryl Driscoll, RSM with faculty members serving as backstage assistants.

Helen Burland, President of Saint Catherine Academy and Executive Director of the Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs, told the audience “This has been a labor of love for us and a gift to you. The students give us joy on a daily basis.”

With dramatic lighting and a bright star provided by the Quick Center of Fairfield University, the cast of 24 students narrated and sang the Christmas story while looking resplendent in full costume.

In March of this year, the Diocese of Bridgeport has announced for the new St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, which officially opened in Fairfield on July 1, 2014.

The center brings together services provided by the Ministry for People with Disabilities of the Office of Pastoral Services, a new Inclusive Support program for Catholic schools, and St. Catherine’s Academy, the Special Education School of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Established in 1999 as a fulltime day school for students who benefit from a functional academic, social and life skills curriculum in addition to developing academic skills, St. Catherine Academy educates students ages 5-21 who are motivated to learn but unable to thrive in an inclusive setting.

It also is planning to launch a Day Service Program for adults in 2015. It is located at 760 Tahmore Dr., Fairfield (on the grounds of Holy Cross Parish). For info call (203) 540-5381. Online at: www.stcatherineacademy.org

Click for a slideshow 


Meaning of Christmas: A Loving God is here to stay!
| December 23, 2014


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BRIDGEPORT—“Never tire in your witness. A loving God is here to stay,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said at the Annual Christmas Mass for employees at the Catholic Center on Tuesday.




“The miracle of Christ’s love is that he is with us everywhere, even in the poverty of the mange. He is present in the messiness of life and to the poorest of the poor.”

More than 150 employees and guests turned out for the annual Mass and luncheon that followed. The Bishop concelebrated the Mass surrounded by priests and deacons in Queen of Saints Hall.

In his homily the Bishop reflected on the Gospel of Luke (1:57-66) and account of Mary and Zachariah when the Angel Gabriel appeared to them.

“There is a significant comparison in their response,” the Bishop said. “Both are visited by the Angel and one sings praise to God, while the other is struck mute with doubt.”

The Bishop said that Mary never doubted that God could do anything, while Zachariah initially hesitated. “Don’t underestimate God’s love or doubt he can do. There is not a shadow on earth where the love of god does not reign. He brings peace.”

He said that many of us hesitate when faced with the challenge between doubt and the faith that God can do anything in our lives.

“We’re mute like Zachariah. We do not want to go forward because it is comfortable to be mute. But faith is not stuck in the past but offers us a new beginning,” he said.

“A child is born and is reborn every time we dare to love. That’s the meaning of Christmas. Sing praise of God because there is noting we can’t do together,” the Bishop concluded.

The Knights of Columbus formed an Honor Guard for the Mass and surprised Bishop Caggiano with the presentation of a ceremonial 4th Degree sword and Emblem of Order, which the Bishop briefly brandished and said, “It is a symbol of the courage we need to be faithful,” as he thanked the Knights.


Order of Malta invests Bishop Caggiano as chaplain
| December 22, 2014


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NEW YORK—On Friday, November 14, the Order of Malta held their annual investiture at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York. Bishop Frank Caggiano was invested as a Conventual Chaplain in the order, and Father Ian Jeremiah and Father Bill Platt were invested as deputy chaplains.



Pictured (l-r) Lisa Marie Arnold, Mary Beth Fessler (area chair, St. Aloysius Parish, New Canaan); Carrie Sindelar (St. Aloysius); Delores O'Callahan (St. Aloysius); Callie Dunn (St. Mary Parish, Greenwich); Valerie Vincent (Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Stamford); Father Ian Jeremiah (Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Fairfield); Bishop Caggiano, Richard Gross (St. Mary Parish, Ridgefield); Gene O'Callahan (St. Aloysius); Bill Fessler (area chair, St. Aloysius); Joe Sindelar (St. Aloysius); Father Bill Platt (St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Riverside); and Ray Dunn (St. Marys, Greenwich).


The Order of Malta is a lay religious organization with a history reaching back more than 900 years. Its charism is service to the sick and the poor and defense of our Catholic Faith.


Pope responds to St. Joseph's third graders
| December 22, 2014


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SHELTON—Back in October, St. Joseph School third graders hand-created sets of Rosary beads, using their imagination, inspiration, prayer--and a good portion of hard work. After the Rosaries were blessed, the students packed them up and sent them to the Vatican.




They included a personal note to His Holiness Pope Francis, letting him know that they prayed for him and were sending their Rosaries to him in the spirit of Christ’s love of children.

This week the pope responded, noting the young students hard work and creativity, and especially thanking them for their promise of prayers.  Click here to view response from Pope Francis.

Currabawn: Sound thinking and Spirituality
A blog by Fr. Colin McKenna
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
| December 22, 2014


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As Christmas arrives and the new year follows closely on its heels, I would like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

Writing my blog has been enjoyable, and I want to thank all of you who have stopped by to read my posts. I also want to thank all of those in the Communications Office at the diocese who help with the production of my blog, from editors, to computer personnel, to support staff, etc.

A big “thank you” also goes out to Magtype Computer Resources (magtypecr.com) in Stratford, who provide our overall internet support and software and who regularly help me publish my blog posts.

Let’s all keep praying for one another! – Fr. Colin McKenna

There have been 341 visit(s) to this blog post.

Pope: May church be life-giving mother, not power-hungry 'business'
| December 22, 2014 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—A church concerned with power and self-interest ends up looking like a business rather than what it is called to be: a generous mother open to the surprise and life-giving miracle of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis said.




"The church is mother and it becomes a mother only when she is open to the newness of God, to the power of the Spirit," he said December 19 at his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope's homily focused on the day's readings from the Book of Judges (13:2-7, 24-25) and the Gospel of St. Luke (1:5-25), which talk about God's role in conceiving new life in the womb of two women believed to be barren: the mother of Samson, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

Pope Francis said these biblical accounts of sterility and fertility symbolize how humanity is "unable to take the next step" alone and must open itself up to God.

"The answer is 'Let us open ourselves up to the Spirit of God.' We, by ourselves, can't do it. He is the one who can do things" and bring about new life, the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

"When humanity is exhausted, it can go on no longer, grace comes and the Son and salvation," he said.

The biblical symbol of sterility can be seen today, he said, when Christians focus on themselves and power, "when the church believes it can do everything, taking over the conscience of the people, taking the path of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the path of hypocrisy, right? The church is sterile."

The church is "sterile" when it puts its hope of salvation only in following the Commandments, when "it believes it can give birth" by itself without the grace of God.

He said the church can only generate new life when it realizes it has exhausted its own strength, when it says, "'I'm done, I can't go on any more.' Then the Spirit comes."

But "many times I think that in some places the church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother," he said.

The pope asked people to join him praying that "this Christmas our church be open to the gift of God, that it let itself be surprised by the Holy Spirit and that it be a church that generates children, a mother church. A mother."

Christmas is about "the newness of God," the only one who can make all things new, he said


Catholic Speaker Bryan Mercier coming to St. Theresa
| December 22, 2014


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TRUMBULL—ATTENTION Young Adults Married & Single—Catholic Speaker and Retreat Leader Bryan Mercier is coming to St. Theresa Church, Main St., Trumbull on Thursday, January 8 at 6:15 pm to discuss The Pathway to Love: How to find and keep Happily ever After.




This talk will encompass dating, marriage, and sexuality in the Catholic Church. Open to all! Refreshments served. For info email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Check out our YOUNG ADULTS PAGE: www.dob-ya.com for events, news and list of groups in Fairfield County.

Bryan Mercier is a national Catholic speaker and retreat leader who has been delivering dynamic and life-changing retreats for over 15 years.  Bryan is an expert in presenting the Catholic faith in a way that reaches souls and changes lives! He has delivered countless talks and retreats to both adults and teens on a wide variety of topics. He has also given many keynote talks, workshops, seminars, Catholic school retreats, Parish Missions, and spoken at colleges, Catholic camps, Theology on Taps, the Catholic Leadership Institute, and local, regional and national conferences, including Men’s Conference’s. You may have heard Bryan speak, or present a multi-part series, on one of the state-level or national radio and television broadcasts he’s been featured on. He is a regular contributor for EWTN radio and for Catholicmatch.


Celebrating Christmas
| December 22, 2014


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BRIDGEPORT—The concert featured performances by Italian Tenor Luciano Lamonarca, pop singer Daniela Fiorentino, guitarist; The Cathedral Parish Chris Remediani, the duo of Balint/Mikhailoff, and an intermission by comedian Regina DeCicco.




Internationally-acclaimed singer, music producer, musician and actor Lee Curreri, star of the motion picture and television series "Fame," who had the part of Bruno Martelli, flew in from Los Angeles to make an appearance.Guest of honor for the evening was Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who is also a member of the Religious Advisory Board of the Saint Pio.

View photos from last night's "White Christmas" Concert at St. Augustine Cathedral.


A Tuneful, Off-Beat Christmas Music List
| December 20, 2014 • by Published in catholicworldreport.com


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“In spite of all that can be said against our age, what a moment to be alive in!” So said Australian poet and Catholic convert James McAuley in 1957. 




McAuley had primarily in mind magazine-publishing—his own periodical Quadrant, then a quarterly, had just been launched—but his sentence applies as much, if not more, to the bewildering range of music recordings (many gratis) which the Internet has made available for us, almost sixty years later.

A fine book will one day be written about this whole trend: not principally in terms of commerce—already several million words have been expended on, for instance, Taylor Swift’s boycotting of Spotify—but in terms of repertoire. Such a cornucopia, one suspects (and hopes), can hardly fail to kill off those gate-keeping petty academic tyrants of old, who often enough sought to conceal their musical ignorance under the mantle of “progressive” connoisseurship.

Any Australian music undergraduates in the 1970s or 1980s who admitted in an essay to cherishing, for example, Respighi—or Rachmaninoff, or Puccini, or Sibelius, or Richard Strauss, or some other such Demon King of progressivism’s default narrative—could well have faced literal expulsion. They would not face it now. These days the campus janitor, if he be so minded, can acquire familiarity (either online or through bargain-priced CD labels like Naxos) with more Respighi compositions than collegiate gate-keepers two generations ago knew even by name. And similarly with the other composers then so thoroughly demonized.

(We must not now overlook the pseudo-moral factor which this demonizing involved. The typical antipodean collegiate gate-keeper confronted, circa 1980, with The Pines of Rome or some other such “fascist” construct would have expressed the same totally subjective, indeed visceral, aversion voiced by Zhdanov when he called Anna Akhmatova “half whore, half nun.”)

There being no immediate prospect of the Internet being disinvented, the role of any conscientious musicologist in our time must be very different from what it was during most of the twentieth century: less prone to Zhdanovshchina-style browbeating, and, one trusts, more genuinely humble. The late, great Sinologist Pierre Ryckmans had it about right when it came to literature. Somewhere—at the very height, among modish Australians, of French postmodernist prattle about the Death of the Author—Ryckmans described the good literary critic’s function as that of the cinema usherette: one who shows audience members to their seats, and assists their discernment, rather than treating them to her own unsolicited Foucaultian or Barthesian adjudications about the ethical shortcomings of what appears on-screen.

Herewith, and supplied in an usherette’s unobtrusive spirit, a purely capricious selection of seven worthwhile Christmas works off-beat enough, one suspects, to have escaped many readers hitherto. All are short (no Bach or Heinrich Schütz Yuletide epics here, however musically superb) and not one is monophonic (no plainchant either).They are cited out of chronological sequence, but within a kind of emotional sequence, according to which the loudest bit can be found in the second-last item, before the hushed finale.

(1) “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”, by John Byrom and John Wainright. Why do certain Nativity carols vanish from collective consciousness when certain other, and often far less musically significant, Nativity carols become as inescapable as taxes and Kardashians?

Consider the case of Christians Awake. In rural New South Wales during the 1970s, every single Yuletide churchgoer knew this grand, striding, Handelian melody by heart; and their great-grandfathers had probably sung it in the real-life equivalents of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Now, hardly any churchgoer seems to be aware of it, and few hymnals can be bothered with it. Seeking an adequate online performance took some labor. The one included here appears to be uncredited (can any listener identify its origins?) but gives a fine idea of the hymn.



Composer John Wainright is otherwise obscure. Lyricist John Byrom, who devised a workable system of shorthand a century before Isaac Pitman’s, further deserves our gratitude on the strength of his magnificent political bet-hedging when it came to post-1688 England, above all when it came to the Jacobite challenge:

God bless the King – I mean, the Faith’s Defender –
God bless (no harm in blessing) the Pretender –
But which Pretender is, and which the King,
God bless us all! That’s quite another thing.


(2) “Riu Riu Chiu”, attributed in most modern sources to a Spaniard, Mateo Flecha the Elder, who died in around 1553. This shamelessly anthropomorphic carol (“[With the kingfisher’s cry of] ‘Riu riu chiu’, God kept the wolf from the Lamb”) dates from the early sixteenth century; and, while it might or might not be of narrowly Catalan provenance, it emerged four hundred years later from a music collection which made its way to Sweden. Hence the collection’s unexpected name, Cancionero de Up[p]sala.

Any Internet trawl will disclose at least a dozen recordings of this carol, many redolent of the worst Anglo-Saxon tea-and-crumpets effeminacy. Here, at last, is a performance that includes a vigorous instrumental ensemble and manages to sound recognizably, you know, Iberian. It involves a group entitled Capella de Ministrers under the direction of one Carles Magraner. Better yet, this video offers, as a bonus, the sheet-music.



3) Extracts from Harmonia Caelestis, by Pal Esterhazy. In retrospect, one of the Cold War’s most extraordinary aspects was the failure of godless communism, at least when Moscow-directed, to extirpate a taste for sacred music entirely (when compared with, for example, the far greater success of current Western nihilism at unchurching the populace). On some not immediately observable pretext – national pride? residual aesthetic decency? – the Budapest-based, state-controlled Hungaroton label issued in 1969 a handsome three-LP set, Harmonia Caelestis. This comprised short, mostly single-voice, motets by Prince Pal Esterhazy (1635-1713), grandfather of Haydn’s patrons. For those fortunate enough to have snapped up that pioneering, limited-edition box (which, like so much beguiling LP material, has eluded CD reissue), the performances and engineering there will represent the gold standard.

Still, not all the later attempts at rendering Harmonia Caelestis are amateurish, though – as YouTube will confirm – many are. Here is a bracket of Esterhazy’s Christmas-related motets in comparatively recent and indubitably refined, if less than ideally robust, recordings from a different Hungarian ensemble. Notwithstanding Esterhazy’s aristocratic lineage, his composing idiom retained a folk-like character, manifest in his preference for short, blunt phrase-lengths. He did not need Hairspray to tell him: “Get back to your roots!”.



(4) “O Magnum Mysterium”, by Francis Poulenc. Those who have read this far could well have heard Tomas Luis de Victoria’s motet of the same title, but how about Poulenc’s? It comes from Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, begun in 1951 and finished the following year. Somehow, despite the more or less complete moral mess which Poulenc made of his private life, he retained enough of a religious spirit to have responded intermittently to Chesterton’s “twitch upon the thread.”

After one has heard this, it comes as no surprise that Poulenc would soon knuckle down to the best and most powerful thing he ever did: Dialogues of the Carmelites.The inimitable Robert Shaw (R.I.P.) conducts.



(5) “Variations sur un Vieux Noël”, by Marcel Dupré. From Poulenc to his compatriot Dupré, 13 years his senior, is a logical if unconventional step. Along with many another musician before and after, Dupré found himself haunted by the French carol theme known as Nouvel Nouvelet, which forsakes the conventional minor-key scale in favor of the Phrygian mode. Unlike lesser mortals, Dupré had the executant and creative wherewithal to transform this theme into ten minutes of systematic, glittering organ brilliance. The 1922 outcome: his Variations, one of sadly few Dupré creations to have attained some popularity among thousands who never darken a church door.

England’s Dame Gillian Weir delivers it, at a Stockholm venue, with her customary panache.

(6) “Puer Natus in Bethlehem”, by Germany’s Michael Praetorius, who died, apparently on his fiftieth birthday, in 1621. Printed in 1619, when there seemed every indication that the Thirty Years’ War would (like certain subsequent conflagrations) “be over by Christmas”, this masterpiece bespeaks a button-holing optimism which Central European composers would seldom show again in their liturgical work over the next few decades. The words here are macaronic: partly in Latin, but switching periodically to German for the passages conceived with congregational rendition in mind.

Do not be deceived by the quiet, genteel start to this slow-burning performance (captured in Roskilde Cathedral, Denmark). Being thus lulled into inattention will completely fail to prepare anybody for the climax, with the tempestuous organ solo followed by the explosive massed singing of the original tune, already old in Praetorius’s day.



(7) Geistliches Wiegenlied, Op. 91 No. 2, by Brahms. To abet the needful calming-down process after Praetorius’s high-jinks, who better than Brahms, master of the autumnal valediction? It sometimes seems as if everything Brahms published, however outwardly joyous, could bear the subtitle “Songs of Farewell.” Few concert-goers appreciate the extent of Brahms’s antiquarian enthusiasm. He was, paradoxically, a musicologist before the term “musicology” (a noun, like Brahms himself, of Teutonic birth) had been invented.

At the same time, like any other great composer, he had strict limits to his chameleonic functions. So when he came to arrange for soprano, viola, and piano the ancient tune known variously as Josef Lieber Josef Mein and Resonet in Laudibus, the outcome clearly derived from the same brain as his Intermezzo in A for piano (Op. 118 No. 2) and his Clarinet Quintet. Here Jessye Norman joins with Wolfram Christ and with none other than Daniel Barenboim to redefine the word Gemütlichkeit:



Have yourselves a shlock-free little Christmas!


Newtown remembered at Cathedral Academy
| December 18, 2014


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BRIDGEPORT—“Violence is overcome day by day, choice by choice, person by person,” declared the opening of the prayer service at the Cathedral Academy Upper School. 




The school community had gathered on December 16 to remember the 26 victims of Newtown Elementary School.

The prayer service was the centerpiece of 26 Acts of Kindness taking place at the school during December and early January. “We followed the lead of Notre Dame High School’s observance, modifying it for younger students,” explains Principal Larry DiPalma, who had been on the staff of Notre Dame at the time of the shootings.

During the month, students had a day to say “Thank You” to their parents, said prayers for police, firefighters and first responders, and took time to “Be Kind to Yourself.” For this prayer service, eight Notre Dame students who had graduated from the Academy were on hand to pray with their younger contemporaries.
Elijah Trotman, now in eighth grade, led some of the intercessory prayers for nonviolence. He was in sixth grade at the time of the shootings. “At that moment, I felt less safe in school because now I knew something like that could happen anywhere.

He has reflected on those events over the past two years, and approaches them with more maturity. “As a school, it brings me comfort to know that we can come together and remember. I feel that it’s a privilege to remember the lost souls.”

Elijah includes all the lost souls. “I try to understand the viewpoint of other people, and I try not to react with violence first. React with love, not hatred. I take it seriously, and a lot of my friends do, too. They have become more forgiving and patient.”

One of the prayers he read requests that the students “allow God to disarm our hearts of the violence within us, that we might be nonviolent to ourselves and to every person we meet.”

Matteo Canu, now in the fourth grade, was the same age as the Sandy Hook children. “I felt very sad for their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers,” he remembers.

Principal DiPalma had been named the National Distinguished Teacher for Connecticut in 2011, receiving a striking hand-held school bell during the ceremony. At that time he was principal of Prendergast School in Ansonia, now the location of the Catherine Hubbard playground, one of the 26 playgrounds built in memory of the Sandy Hook victims. During the prayer service, he rang the bell 26 times as the name of each child and adult was read aloud.

“When we make a circle and pray together, a community prayer, I feel emotional,” says young Matteo. “I think of everyone. I feel part of my family and my school, and I feel part of those kids.”


View slideshow of prayer service

Read a transcript of the prayer


Forming Intentional Disciples
| December 17, 2014 • by By Pat Hennessy


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TRUMBULL—“We can’t get to the Lord without the Church, but the Church and Sacred Scripture only makes sense if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” says Father Peter Towsley, vicar for evangelization of the Diocese of Bridgeport.




To enrich that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and empower parishes to be vibrant places of liturgical worship and fellowship, form missionary disciples, and enable schools to be places where administration, staff and students are living witnesses of Christ’s lay faithful, the Diocese of Bridgeport is sponsoring a “Forming Intentional Disciples!” workshop.

The practical workshop is designed to help Church leaders, parish staff, principals, religious education and RCIA directors and all Catholic faithful to transform their parish and schools into places of encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. It will be held Tuesday, January 13 at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull.

Sherry Weddell, co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, a ministry of the Western Dominican Province, will head the workshop. Weddell, author of one of the top-selling Catholic books and founder of the workshop by the same title, has developed formational resources that are used around the world to equip parishes and school for the apostolic formation of lay Catholics.

When you don’t emphasize the personal relationship to Jesus, Weddell says, you end up with an institutional faith. That’s what the majority of Catholics have now, an impersonal, mechanical, institutional faith. It lacks life. She calls Catholics to “break the silence” and be name-droppers—the name of Jesus, that is. Catholics need to know that a personal relationship with him is possible. “That is the beautiful gift of the Resurrection—Jesus was dead but is now alive. If he’s alive, then you can know him not merely as a historical figure, but as a person. And if he’s a person and alive, you can have a relationship with him.”

“This has to begin with the Catholics who are in the pews every Sunday,” says Father Towsley. “They’re the Church, the People of God. From them it spreads to the Christmas-Easter Catholics, and then to those who have not been coming at all, and to those who know little or nothing about the faith.”

Weddell says that when ordinary Catholics make the conscious choice to follow Jesus as his disciples they transform parish life, and ultimately the life of the whole Church.

(The workshop is open to all interested Catholics. For more info and for registration, go to www.Eventbrite.com and search for Forming Intentional Disciples.)


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


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NORWALK—On November 22, 25 teens from St. Jerome Parish participated in a homelessness awareness project called Night in a Box.



Students in their 'box home' for the night


All fall the teens of TOTAL, St. Jerome’s Youth group, have been talking about the importance of community and the Christian message that we are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

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

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

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

  

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


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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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New pope, new leadership changed tone of visitation of U.S. religious
| December 16, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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BRIDGEPORT—In a tradition stretching back nearly 30 years, St. Mary Parish in Bridgeport honored the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a Vigil Mass on December 11. 




One of the best mariachi bands in the tri-state area serenaded the congregation for a full hour before Mass began, and then led the colorful opening procession. Parishioners brought baskets and armfuls of flowers and placed them in profusion before the image of Our Lady to the right of the altar. Click here for photos

Although observance of the feast was originally limited to Mexico, it has now spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, so much so that St. John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe “The Queen of the Americas.” That title proved to be particularly accurate at St. Mary’s, where people from virtually every country in this hemisphere took their place among the worshippers.

The entire church had been decorated with arches of bright balloons for the occasion. The extensive and intricate Nativity scene surrounding the main altar is renowned throughout the area. A direct relative of the Neapolitan presepio like those on display at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, it shows the village life of bakers, milkmaids and workmen—all of them oblivious to the miraculous birth of Jesus in their midst.

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

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

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


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


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FAIRFIELD—Fairfield Prep sponsors an annual Christmas Toy Drive in support of the Diocese of Bridgeport Office of Social Concerns.




Again this year, the school collected new, unwrapped toys for families in the Bridgeport area. Hundreds of toys plus packages of much-needed diapers filled Arrupe Hall. Members of the Prep Squires Club helped load the toys into vehicles for delivery. Shown from left: sophomores Sean Carroll, Alex Capozziello, Frank Fortunati, Matthew Denny and Charles Pollner.


Ignatian Center to train lay spiritual directors
| December 15, 2014 • by By Brian D. Wallace


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FAIRFIELD—“We are co-workers in the vineyard,” said Father James Bowler, S.J., at the launch of the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Fairfield University on November 23.




The new program aims to further invest lay men and women in the charism of the Jesuits. Father Bowler, director of Ignatian Spirituality programs at Fairfield University, said that the Jesuits have always formed partnerships to testify that "in Christ we have received greater internal freedom."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pope praises Our Lady of Guadalupe as great missionary of 'our America'
| December 13, 2014 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


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VATICAN CITY—Preceded by a procession of flags from the nations of the Americas and the recitation of the rosary in Spanish, Pope Francis and thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

Contact:

Christine Matthews Paine
Development Director
Caroline House Development Director
(203) 334-0640
www.thecarolinehouse.org

 

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


Knights build parish crèche
| December 11, 2014


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TRUMBULL—The members of the Knights of Columbus 2961 hand built a new crèche and donated it to Christ the King Parish in appreciation for the support parish has given their council.




The crèche is intricately crafted so that all its component pieces can be disassembled and the entire set rolled away for storage.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

S.A.D. Symptoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Click here to view a slideshow




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

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

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


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


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



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










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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wake up the World!
| December 02, 2014


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








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

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

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


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


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





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

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


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


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Just imagine for a moment that you have no home.

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

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

Such imaginations are distressing. Aren’t they?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for a copy of the Safe Environment Handbook


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

Click here for photos.


Students experience the power of prayer
| November 25, 2014


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




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


Thanksgiving Message from Bishop Caggiano
| November 25, 2014


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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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




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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport


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


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A Thanksgiving Spiritual Reflection

By Monsignor Chris Walsh

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

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

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

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

Monsignor Chris


 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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


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


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



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


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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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



To make a gift, call Pam Rittman, 203.416.1479 or make an online contribution by visiting the Diocesan website at: https://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/QueenofClergy


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

To make a gift, call Pam Rittman, 203-416-1479 or make an online contribution by visiting the Diocesan website at: https://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/QueenofClergy


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


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




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

Click here for poster.


Deacon Domingo Reverón
| November 21, 2014


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




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

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

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

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

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


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


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



Photo by: Autumn Driscoll


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

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

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

To view article online at CT Post click here


Send joy around the world
| November 20, 2014


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




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

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

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


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


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



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


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


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


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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

There have been 463 visit(s) to this blog post.

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


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




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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Toast to the Roast
| November 16, 2014


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




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

Click here to view a slideshow from the roast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

Click here to view a slideshow from the breakfast

Click here to watch the video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to audio of Bishop Caggiano at this event:

 


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at www.synod2014.org

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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


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




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


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


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




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

To view photos click here