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Connecticut Knights of Columbus to Distribute Coats for Kids on ‘Black Friday’
| November 24, 2015


Children in six cities throughout state to be remembered with gift of warmth

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — As many head out to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, hundreds of area children will receive a free and much-needed gift as the Knights of Columbus distribute new winter coats to children in need at six sites throughout Connecticut on Black Friday, Nov. 27.

The K of C Coats for Kids distributions will be held at sites in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Taftville and Waterbury. The statewide initiative builds on a program that started in Bridgeport during Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.

More than 2,000 coats were distributed statewide last Black Friday by the Knights.

“While society pushes us to buy things on Black Friday, the Knights of Columbus wants to remember those who don’t have basic necessities that most of us take for granted,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Our members are making sure that children have something essential, a coat, to help them stay warm during winter — which, as we were reminded last year, can be especially cold in Connecticut.”

Coats will be distributed Friday, Nov. 27, from 9 a.m. to noon at:

Bridgeport: McGivney Community Center, 338 Stillman St.
Hartford: Sacred Heart Church, 49 Winthrop St.
New Haven: St. Mary’s Church Hall, 5 Hillhouse Ave.
Stamford: Knights of Columbus Council 41, 507 Shippan Ave.
Taftville: Knights of Columbus Council 34, 47 S. Second Ave.

Coats will also be distributed on Friday in Waterbury from 1:30 to 4:30 the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, 515 S. Main St. Knights will also distribute coats on Black Friday in several other states from coast to coast.

Since the program was launched in 2009, more than 300,000 new coats have been distributed to children by Knights of Columbus.

Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members worldwide. It is also one of the most active charitable organizations in the United States. The Knights also set a new record for charitable giving in 2014 with donations of more than $173.5 million and 71.5 million hours of service to charitable causes, much of it raised and donated by its more than 15,000 councils. For more information, visit or follow the Knights of Columbus on Facebook and Twitter at @kofc.

Mass celebrates people with special needs
| November 24, 2015


FAIRFIELD—The sun shone through the stain-glass windows of Holy Cross Church as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed all to the annual Mass hosted by St. Catherine Center for Special Needs.

Click here for photos

During Mass, students from St. Catherine Academy and two parishioners, one from St. Joseph Parish in Shelton and one from St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield, received Sacraments of Initiation witnessed by over 150 family and friends in attendance.

“Today we gather as a faith community to witness the loving presence of Jesus in these young people and adults,” said Helen Burland, executive director of St. Catherine Center for Special Needs. “All seven participants have prepared for their sacraments working with their teachers at St. Catherine Academy or within their parishes,” she continued. “These teachers are carrying out the mission of the center and we are very grateful.”

St. Catherine Academy students, Vanessa Gomez, Patrick Nolan, Joanne Lindsy Paul, Jonathan Teixeira , Ellen Skoronski from St. Joseph’s and Francesco Cipollone from St. Edward’s were confirmed. Heriberto Moya, a St. Catherine Academy student, received his First Holy Communion and Anthony Virgile, also a student at St. Catherine’s, was baptized and received his First Holy Communion.

Father Robert Kinnally, chancellor of the diocese and rector of St. John Fisher Seminary, concelebrated and Peter DeMarco and Sharon Christie led the congregation in song.

Following Mass, everyone proceeded out of church and headed behind the academy building for the dedication of the new, wheelchair-accessible garden. The garden was made possible through the efforts of Andrew Aoyama, whose Eagle Scout project created the raised beds, and the generosity of donors, especially the CT Area Association of the Order of Malta.

“We gather today to bless this garden and remember Kay and Jerry Luff,” Burland said at the beginning of the dedication ceremony. “Their vision and dedication to the mission of St. Catherine Academy set an example for all of us. The children and young adults here are living examples of Jesus in our midst. This garden will serve as both an area for quiet reflection and active learning.”

In attendance were Kelly Luff Weldon, a member of the Board of Directors of St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, Jennifer Luff Mitchell, Brad Luff and their families.

Bishop Caggiano proceeded to bless the garden and the crowd. Following the dedication, the crowd filtered through the academy building and headed to the gym for refreshments and photographs. It was a wonderful day of celebration filled with hope and joy.

Families must forgive and not 'end the day in war,' pope says
| November 23, 2015


By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The secret to healing wounds among family members is to "not end the day in war" and to forgive one another, Pope Francis said.

"One cannot live without forgiving, or at least one cannot live well, especially in the family," the pope said Nov. 4 at his weekly general audience.

Recalling the recent Synod of Bishops on the family, the pope said that he wanted the final report to be published so that all may take part in the work of the past two years. However, he said, his general audience talk would not examine the conclusions but rather reflect on the great gift that marriage and the family are for society, especially in a world that "at times becomes barren of life and love."

The pope told the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter's Square that families are like "a great gym where one trains in giving and in mutual forgiveness." Using the Gospel account of Jesus teaching the 'Our Father,' the pope stressed that forgiveness heals the wounds often caused "by our weaknesses and our selfishness."

"There is a simple secret in order to heal wounds and dissolve accusations: Do not end the day without asking forgiveness from one another, without making peace between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, daughters-in law and mothers-in law," he said.

By immediately asking for forgiveness and forgiving others, the pope continued, the family becomes stronger and creates a solid foundation that can withstand any difficulties that may come.

In order to forgive, Pope Francis told the crowd, "you don't need to make a great speech; a caress is sufficient and it's all over. But, do not end the day in war. Understood?"

The pope also stressed that the synod emphasized the role that forgiveness plays in the vocation and mission of the family and that it not only saves families from divisions but helps society "become less evil and less cruel" as well.

The church, he assured, "is always near to help you build your house upon the rock of which Jesus spoke." Christian families, the pope said, can do much for society and the church and the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy can be an occasion for families "to rediscover the treasure of mutual forgiveness."

"Let us pray so that families may always be more capable of living and building concrete paths of reconciliation, where no one feels abandoned by the weight of their trespasses," the pope said.

A related video can be viewed at

Fr. Hoffmann to honor 102-year old parishioner this Sunday
| November 20, 2015


DARIEN—Fr. Frank Hoffmann, Pastor of St. John’s Parish, Darien will be presenting a Certificate of Commendation to 102 year old Knight, Dante Chicatell of Noroton in honor of his birthday on Sunday November 22 at the end of the 7:30 Mass.

Mr. Chicatell has been a faithful and active member of the Knights of Columbus for the past 57 years.

“Dante is an amazing person and still very active. He drives himself, volunteers twice a week as the official “greeter” at the New Canaan Y and attends Sunday Mass at 7:30AM,” says David Supple, Knights of Columbus, Financial Secretary-Council #4460.

Dante, a Charter Member of our Knights Council (#4460), joined the Knights in August of 1957.

Born November 24, 1913, he was married for more than 50 years to his late wife Madeline Frate. They have two daughters, Patricia and Sandra, who will be on hand to provide any personal stories of interest. He has lived in Darien since 1941.

To Coffee or not to Coffee…
| November 20, 2015


NEW YORK—If you’ve paid any attention to the flare-up over the red Starbucks holiday coffee cups, you may want to watch this short video of Father Rob Ketcham, the chaplain of Saint John the Baptist Diocesan High School in New York.

In this engaging video Fr. Rob goes beyond the red cup controversy and leads us to think about almost everything we do, say, and live as Catholics. He tells us that ultimately, it’s not about what we are against, or what we condemn. The one question that we will be asked at the end of our lives by God is: "Did you love me?"


Pope Francis House brings "spirit of Pope" to Bridgeport
| November 19, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Work is progressing on  the Pope Francis house at 51 George Street in Bridgeport being built in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, and leaders are asking for additional parish support to complete the project.

Bishop Frank Caggiano gave his blessing to the project last May and encouraged parishes to participate with volunteer help and contributions. A family from St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport is waiting to move into the home.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday that finds most of us heading home to be with families and loved ones.  It’s also a time to think of those who are homeless or in need of affordable housing,” said Bishop Caggiano, who encouraged parishes to help complete the project.  
The diocese adopted the Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County house project in recognition of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September and his call to serve the poor and homeless.
Donna Spigarolo, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield  and a longtime Habitat volunteer, is serving as coordinator of the effort.
Spigarolo said the home project was started with a $60,000 contribution from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.  Notre Dame High Schools students collected $220.23 in their cafeteria toward the project, and St. James Parish in Stratford donated over $1000.

Both Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University are participating and St. Anthony's Parish has a work day scheduled for Dec. 2nd and that will include a monetary donation as well, Spigarolo said.

Teachers from Roger Ludlow Middle School and Tomlinson Middle School were the latest to help out when they got together to help out with day of volunteering.
The work was done in memory of educator Ed Brennan, who served as a principal in both the Fairfield and diocesan school systems.  “Ed was a committed Christian and a wonderful human being.   We were honored to work in his memory on this important project,” said Donna Spigarolo, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield  and a longtime Habitat volunteer.
 Marlon and Magaly Zepeda and their children, along with Magaly’s mother, Milagros, who is a severe asthmatic, will live in the home when it’s completed.  In addition to working as volunteers during the project, the couple will purchase the four-bedroom home, which is just down the street from St. Augustine Cathedral where they are parishioners.

Groundbreaking was held last May with completion scheduled for February 2016.  Work on the house is progressing with floors up and the roof on, but it will require an additional $70,000 to purchase materials and complete the work.

“We’re hoping that area parishes will step forward to adopt the project in the spirit of Pope Francis, and we’re very grateful for all those who have participated,” she said.
For more info, call Donna Spigarolo at 203/556-4728, or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Francis cries out for welcoming church: ‘House of God refuge, not prison’
| November 18, 2015 • by By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter


VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has again forcefully repeated his call that the Catholic church globally should open its doors to everyone, without exception, saying the church sometimes even keeps Jesus “prisoner” in its own institutions and does not let him out into the world.

The pontiff has also said the church must not give into a growing trend in society where “bulletproof doors have become normal” but must instead keep in mind the Holy Family, which “knows well what an open or closed door means … for whoever does not have refuge, for whoever must escape danger.”

In his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Francis focused on the upcoming opening of the Jubilee year of mercy to give an impassioned, mostly off-the-cuff reflection on the need for the church to be open to all and to not try and become master even over Jesus himself.

“The house of God is a refuge, not a prison!” the pope cried out at one point. “And if the door is closed, we say: ‘Lord, open the door!’ Jesus is the door that lets us enter and exit.”

“If the watchman listens to the voice of the shepherd, then he opens and gives entry to all the sheep that the Lord brings—all—including those lost in the wood that the shepherd has gone to find,” said Francis.

“The sheep are not chosen by the watchman, the sheep are not chosen by the parish secretary,” he continued. “The sheep are all invited, are chosen by the good shepherd.”

“The watchman—even him—obeys the voice of the shepherd,” said the pope. “Here, we can say well that we must be like that watchman.”

“The church is the doorman of the house of the Lord, the church is the doorman—it is not the master of the house of the Lord!” he cried out.

Francis was speaking about his special Jubilee year, which is to open December 8 and continue through Nov. 20, 2016. He told those in the Square Wednesday that “the great door of the mercy of God” is being opened to all.

“Every one of us has inside of ourselves things that weigh on us—everyone, no?” said the pontiff. “We are all sinners! Let’s profit from this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God that never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us. God looks to us and is always next to us. Courage! Let’s go in this door!”

The pope then spoke of October’s worldwide meeting of Catholic prelates, known as a Synod of Bishops.

“From the Synod of Bishops ... all families and the whole church have received a great encouragement to put itself on the threshold of this open door,” said Francis. “The church was encouraged to open its doors, to go out with the Lord to meet its sons and daughters on the path, sometimes uncertain, sometimes lost in these difficult times.”

“And if the door of the mercy of God is always open, the doors of our churches, of the love of our communities, of our parishes, of our institutions, of our dioceses must always be open so that all of us can go out to bring this mercy of God,” he continued.

“The Jubilee signifies the great door of the mercy of God, but also the small doors of our churches [being] open to let the Lord enter or, many times, let out the ‘prisoner’ Lord of our structures, of our selfishness,” he said.

Then, speaking of a growing trend towards hypersensitive security in the world, Francis said: “There are many places where bulletproof doors have become normal.”

“We must not surrender ourselves to the idea of having to apply this system … to all our lives, to the life of the family, of the city, of society,” said the pontiff. “And much less to the life of the church. It would be terrible—an inhospitable church, like a pent-up family, demeaning the Gospel and drying up the world!”

“No bulletproof doors in the church!” he exhorted. “All open!”

Francis also said that while doors must be guarded, the guards should also open the doors to see who is outside.

“Open the door frequently, to see if outside there is someone who is waiting and maybe doesn’t have the courage, or maybe even the strength, to knock,” advised the pope.

“How many people have lost the confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches?” he asked. “And they are there, they do not have the courage, we have robbed them of trust.”

The pontiff then said that the true guard of God’s door is Jesus. “We must walk through the door and listen to the voice of Jesus,” said Francis. “If we hear his tone of voice, we are sure, we are saved. We may enter without fear and leave without danger.”

Ending the audience with a reflection on the Holy Family, the pope said the family from Nazareth “knows well what an open or closed door means for whoever is expecting a child, for whoever does not have refuge, for whoever must escape danger.”

“May Christian families make the thresholds of their homes a ‘small great’ sign of the door of mercy and welcoming of God,” Francis asked.

“It is truly this way that the church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth, like the watchperson of a God that knocks, like the welcoming of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse of not being home,” he said.

(Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.)

Bishop Joins Little Workers at First Annual Stamford Benefit
| November 18, 2015


STAMFORD—On Saturday, November 7, 2015, a fundraiser was held to benefit the work of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, a congregation of religious Sisters who operate preschools within the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The event was held at Columbus Park Trattoria in Stamford and sponsored by John Paul and Angela Marchetti, the Marchetti Family, and Mary Lou Rinaldi. Other committee members were Grace Melton, Catherine Joseph and Kerri Gencarelli.

As the keynote speaker, Bishop Caggiano spoke at length about the Year of Consecrated Life and the Sisters’ critical impact on the lives of the children and young adolescents in their care. He praised their commitment and dedication as teachers and catechists to generations of Catholics in lower Fairfield County, thanking them for their constancy in the diocese for over 65 years.

The event held particular significance as the Sisters used the opportunity to announce the Vatican’s beatification of their founder—the last step before canonization. Sister Gesuina Gencarelli, U.S. Delegate for the congregation, asked the attendees to pray to the founder and to pray for vocations so their congregation could continue their mission in the U.S. and around the world.

Blessed Monsignor Francesco Maria Greco was the pastor of a poor parish in Acri (Cosenza), Italy. In 1892, he petitioned several religious orders to send Sisters to provide secular and religious education to the children of his town. When every religious community refused his request, Monsignor Greco approached a devout 17-year old catechist named Raffaella DeVincenti and asked her assistance in starting a new religious congregation dedicated to educating and caring for the poor. Together in 1894, Monsignor Greco and “Sister Maria Teresa” founded Le Piccole Operaie dei Sacri Cuori—The Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. As their name denotes, they would hereafter dedicate themselves as “little workers”—humble servants living a life of service.

In October 1948, nine Sisters left Calabria to begin an apostolic mission in the United States. They were the first pioneers charged with transporting the charism of their founders. Sent by their superiors to a strange country, the Sisters quickly learned English and worked hard to acclimate to their new surroundings in Stamford, Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

True to their charism, the Sisters pledged they would bring their message of education to the children of working parents in America.  Declaring their intention to establish preschools, the Sisters were welcomed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in which they settled.  However, because they are not affiliated with any particular parish and operated their own private schools, they do not receive any financial assistance. The Sisters support themselves through the well-below-market tuition paid by parents.

Bishop Caggiano closed his remarks by asking the attendees to ”dig deeper and to financially support these Sisters as they continue their exemplary work in God’s service”.

“The Little Workers are unsung heroes”, he said, “and they embody Pope Francis’ call to be expressions of great joy in the world".  The Bishop noted that the Sisters have many projects they have undertaken such as the construction of a new gymnasium for the children and an installation of a convent elevator for the elderly Sisters.

To learn more about the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, watch a video of Bishop Caggiano’s keynote address, or to make a financial contribution, please visit:

Father Connaughton named director of vocations
| November 17, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Father John Connaughton, a native of Trumbull, has been named director of vocations of the Diocese of Bridgeport. His appointment, made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, will be effective January 1, 2016.

He succeeds Father Sam Kachuba, who has held the post since 2013. Father Kachuba is pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield.

Father Connaughton will be responsible for overseeing the entire process of recruitment and formation of seminarians. He will also continue to serve as parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Darien.
The bishop said that the diocese has recently completed a new strategic plan for vocations that defines the work within the framework of accompaniment as understood in Evangelii Gaudium, the first Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis.

“Our Holy Father speaks of evangelization as first and foremost a personal accompaniment, and there is no better role for a priest than to walk alongside of those who seek the Lord,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Father Connaughton brings the spirit of accompaniment to his new role as director of vocations. He will encourage men to respond generously to the Lord’s call to become priests, laborers for the harvest with the help of others.

“As Father Connaughton prepares to begin his new assignment, I ask the faithful across the diocese to please pray for the vocations and seminary team and our seminarians. In addition, pray that the Lord of the harvest will continue to send us many good laborers for the vineyard,” said the bishop.

Father Robert Kinnally, rector of St. John Fisher Seminary and director of Seminarian Formation, welcomed Father Connaughton’s leadership and said the new strategic plan offers a framework for nurturing and increasing vocations in the diocese with the support of pastors and priests.

“While our diocese enjoys a good number of priests who remain active in ministry, there is a great need to have more men in formation to meet the needs of the diocese in the years ahead,” Father Kinnally said. “The number of retirements far outweighs the number of entering seminarians, and an ever-changing demographic requires particular gifts in catechesis, language, and cultural sensitivity.”

Father Connaughton will report directly to the bishop and work with the vicar general. In addition to recruitment and formation of vocations, he will also develop a plan for each seminarian and be responsible for overall communications. He will work with assistant directors of vocations and others including spiritual directors, lay volunteers, Serra Club members, Knights of Columbus, chaplains and others in the position to encourage vocations.

Father Connaughton was born in Manhasset, NY, and grew up in Trumbull where he attended St. Theresa elementary school. His parents, John and Anne Connaughton, continue to be parishioners at St. Theresa Parish.

After graduating from St. Joseph High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas in Irving, TX. He worked several years for Alliance-Forest Products. Later, while attending the University of Connecticut Law School, he worked for the State of Connecticut Judiciary.

In 2008, shortly after having received his law degree, Father Connaughton entered St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford. He completed his priestly formation at the North American College while studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. During formation, he worked in the diocesan Communications Office and assisted in media relations for the North American College.

He was ordained on May 26, 2013 and celebrated his first Mass at St. Theresa’s.

As he assumes his new post, the diocese is also moving ahead with plans for the relocation and expansion of St. John Fisher Seminary, currently located in Stamford, to Daniel Farm Road in Trumbull, the site of the bishop’s residence. It has launched a $2.875 million capital campaign in honor of Edward Cardinal Egan, who founded St. John Fisher Seminary in 1989 while serving as the third Bishop of Bridgeport. The new 11,500 square foot facility, where the bishop will maintain an apartment, will contain 22 single bedrooms and suites that will accommodate up to 35 students.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gather for their annual Fall General Assembly
| November 17, 2015


WASHINGTON—The 2015 Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is taking place in Baltimore. CLICK HERE to watch the live stream of the public sessions. Live stream will run Tuesday, November 17, 9 am-5 pm Eastern.

News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be posted to this page.

Financial Summit lays out challenges and opportunities
| November 16, 2015


TRUMBULL—Thirty parish and diocesan leaders convened at the Bishop’s Residence last weekend for the Financial and Real Estate Summit to begin work on an overall strategic plan for diocesan financial stability.

“The people of the diocese are ready to move forward with plans for renewal and growth, and we have to bring the crisis mode of finance to an end,” the bishop told members of the diocesan Financial Council, the Strategic Plan Commission, and the Real Estate Committee.  

They met in the large downstairs room of the residence on Daniels Farm Road, which is slated to become the new location of St. John Fisher Seminary.

The bishop said that diocese has done much hard work in the past two years to reduce operational costs and bring expenses in line, but it is still struggling with ongoing debt related to paying off loans, covering school losses related to healthcare costs, and addressing long-term pension obligations.

During the two-hour meeting the Bishop and other diocesan leaders walked participants through a slide presentation and workbook that included a list of diocesan properties that could be sold or leased to help pay down debts and create new sources of revenue.

Anne McCrory, Chief Legal and Real Estate Officer, said the diocesan inventory of properties includes many parcels that are “mission essential” and would never be sold, and others that could be leveraged for rental income.

She said the disposition of properties is complicated by a number of factors including cost of upkeep, taxes, legal provisions and possible future use for the land or site.

“Vacant Church property is taxable,” she explained, noting that if a former school or Church building is not currently being used, the diocese must pay tax on it along with upkeep for heating and maintenance.

McCrory said the diocese doesn’t want to sell properties for short-term gain that may be needed for future mission-related projects. Likewise some properties targeted for sale have little market value because they’re small parcels in neighborhoods where values are depressed.

Michael Hanlon, Chief Financial Officer of the Diocese, answered questions about the operating budget, and diocesan debt.

He said the diocese has been paying $400,000 a year on the Knights of Columbus loan of $15 million and has recently paid that down to $7.9 million. Schools have accumulated another $1.8 million in debt this year largely related to healthcare costs.  

Current sources of diocesan revenue include the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), the 15% “Cathedraticum” or tax the diocese assesses each parish, revenue from subsidiary operations such as Catholic Cemeteries, income from property, and other gifts and bequests.

The bishop said he would like to reduce the Cathedraticum to take some of the burden off parishes as they seek to revitalize their own finances and to slightly decrease the ACA goal by further reducing operations expenses, which are already “lean” due to reorganization of the Catholic Center.  

In order to do so, the diocese would need to expand foundation support for major mission initiatives such as schools and services in perpetuity and also seek to maximize income from its property holdings.  

Summit members will meet again in February 2016 to move forward in creating a strategic plan.

The bishop provided a complete financial overview at his recent “State of the Diocese” address on October 29 at All Saints Middle School. At that time he indicated that he had called a summit to explore issues including new foundations, review of potential of income producing properties and a strategy. to help schools recovery. (The complete video and reports are available online at:

Nothing can justify terrorist attacks, pope says
| November 15, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—"This is not human," Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.

As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks November 13 on at least six different sites—inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants—Pope Francis spoke briefly November 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops' conference.

"I am shaken and pained," the pope said. "I don't understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying."

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a "third world war being fought in pieces." "This is a piece," the pope responded. "There are no justifications for these things."

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no "religious or human" excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. "This is not human."

French authorities reported November 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims November 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.

"May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred," the cardinal said. "Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice."

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was "shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way."

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope's name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois calling the attacks "horrific" and relaying the pope's prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

"He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families," Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also "vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all." Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin December 8.

"These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror," Father Lombardi responded in a statement. "If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective."

"It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible," he said, but "we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust." "I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary," Father Lombardi said. Preaching God's love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It "is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust."

See also: Statement from Bishop Caggiano

St. Thomas students put themselves in “shoes” of the poor
| November 13, 2015


FARIFIELD—St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Fairfield was recently named the "Kindest School in the USA” by Brian Williams, founder of the Think Kindness program.

“Congratulations to the students and faculty, we are so proud of all of you,” said Principal Pat Brady of the 15 day service project.

St. Thomas School participated in a community service project sponsored by Think Kindness, a non-profit organization that inspires measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.

Each year this organization travels coast to coast challenging over 60,000 students to “15 Days of Kindness.” St. Thomas School was challenged to collect 1,921 pairs of gently used shoes within 15 days that would be sent to children and families around the globe (1921 representing the year the school was founded).

The goal of 1,921 pairs of shoes was set because Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School was founded in the year 1921, and Middle School Student Peer Counselors in our Kindness Club thought it would be a good idea..  

“In 15 days, they not only collected 4,099 pairs of shoes but also documented 5,767 acts of kindness!” said Mrs. Brady.  

Think Kindness a non-profit organization that inspires measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.  Each year this organization travels coast to coast challenging over 60,000 students to “15 Days of Kindness.

Brian Williams, youth motivational speaker as well as founder and president of Think Kindness, met with students for a fun, exciting, and motivational assembly to kick things off.  

“During the assembly students danced, told jokes, but more importantly, they were inspired to make a difference through simple, intentional acts of kindness,” said Mrs. Brady.

At the end of the assembly Brian presented the official challenge to the students of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He called it the 15 Day Challenge and it consists of two parts:

The entire school community was challenged to carry out daily, measurable acts of kindness within the classroom, school and at home. Each day students received  receive kindness ideas and examples. Mrs. Liz Riggs, Mrs. Susan Fitzgerald, Mrs. Jill Ward and Mrs. Laurie Stefanowicz served as  adult facilitators for the school’s Kindness Club along with the middle school students who are members of our Kindness Club.

During the assembly students heard stories, saw pictures and viewed some video clips of kids their own age in central Kenya. They learned that in this area of Kenya and in many other areas of our world, children cannot go to school unless they wear a pair of shoes. Without owning a pair of shoes an education is not possible for them!  

“We were challenged as a school community to collect 1,921 pairs of gently shoes within 15 days that will be sent to children and families around the globe. These shoes collected were gently used spanning from flip-flops, work boots, to running shoes. Adult and children sizes are both welcome.

The shoe challenge ran for 15 school days and ended on Friday, November 6th.  St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School is located at 1719 Post Road, Fairfield, CT  06824. Phone: 203.255.0556 • Fax: 203.255.0596 •

Please click HERE and watch the video using the password, STAKINDNESS. You'll be glad you did!

CHD Collection set for November 21-22
| November 12, 2015


WASHINGTON, DC—The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), held the weekend before Thanksgiving, November 21-22 this year, is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by funding community programs that encourage independence. You are essential to its success.

For over 46.5 million Americans, there is a thin line: between eviction and home, between hunger and health, between unemployment and work, between anxiety and stability.

Fully 25% of each CCHD collection’s proceeds stay in the local diocese to fight poverty and defend the dignity of our neighbors. That is particularly important in Fairfield County, an area with large income disparity.

Projects supported by CCHD work to build healthy, sustainable futures for communities. Your generous donations will give those in poverty the support they need to make lasting changes. Together, we can make a difference in families and communities across the United States.

| November 10, 2015 • by By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service


NEW YORK—The clergy abuse-themed drama “Spotlight” (Open Road) is a movie no Catholic will want to see. Whether it’s a film many mature Catholics ought to see is a different question entirely.

This hard-hitting journalism procedural—which inescapably invites comparison with 1976’s “All the President's Men”—recounts the real-life events that led up to the public disclosure, in early 2002, of a shocking pattern of priestly misconduct within the Archdiocese of Boston.

In the process, the equally disturbing concealment of such wrongdoing on the part of high ranking church officials also was laid bare.

One of the picture’s themes is the way in which Beantown’s inward-looking, small-town mentality contributed to the long-standing cover-up. For the supposed good of the community, locals suppressed the knowledge of what was happening, subconsciously choosing not to see what was transpiring just behind the scenes.

So it’s appropriate that the whitewash begins to peel away with the arrival of a stranger to the Hub, the newly imported editor of the Boston Globe, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Marty’s outsider status isn’t just based on his geographical origins; he’s also Jewish.

Perplexed that his paper has devoted so little attention to the earliest cases in what would become, over time, an avalanche of legal actions against clerics, Marty commissions the investigative unit of the title, which specializes in in-depth investigations of local stories, to dig deeper.

Led by even-keeled Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), the Spotlight team—which also includes tightly wound Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), intrepid Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and relentless research whiz Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James)—uncovers a widespread and sickening scandal involving scores of clergymen and hundreds of young victims.

Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy maintains a taut rhythm as he focuses primarily on the dogged professionalism required to breach the walls of secrecy surrounding a respected, and therefore protected, institution. And his script, penned with Josh Singer, apportions blame across a broad spectrum that includes the Globe itself—John Slattery plays veteran editor Ben Bradlee Jr., whose semi-willful blindness to the problem typifies the attitude discussed above.

Like most of his colleagues, Slattery is a former Catholic, distanced from, but not—initially at least—embittered toward, the faith in which he were raised. Witnessing the further fraying of the reporters’ already fragile ties to the church adds to the overwhelming sense of grief Catholic viewers will feel throughout “Spotlight.” Yet this generally accurate chronicle can provide them with a valuable insight into one of the darkest chapters in ecclesiastical history.

The movie is open to a few criticisms, large and small, however. The portrayal of Boston’s then-archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou), is predictably negative. But it also includes details that are subject to interpretation.

Thus Cardinal Law’s gift to Marty of a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” is treated as a both a religious and social snub. Yet Cardinal Law played an important role in translating that landmark text into English, so his gift may have been motivated more by a sense of pride in one of the most significant accomplishments of his career than by a desire to cut the newcomer down to size.

Much more significantly, the screenplay’s uncritical adoption of the results of research conducted by ex-priest A.W. Richard Sipe (a figure heard but not seen) opens its analysis to legitimate questioning.

The thesis that the scandal was the inevitable outcome of the Latin church’s tradition of priestly celibacy—a discipline Sipe maintains is routinely violated by fully half the clergy, thus creating a culture of secrecy among them—is ill-founded, to say the least. To dispute that theory, however, is not at all to downplay the horrifying nature of what unfolds under this otherwise painfully illuminating “Spotlight.”

The film contains mature themes, multiple, sometimes coarse, references to perverse sexual acts, several uses of profanity as well as a few rough and numerous crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Pope calls for end to economic exploitation, power-hungry church
| November 10, 2015 • by By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service


FLORENCE, Italy—Meeting workers and addressing a major gathering of the Catholic Church in Italy, Pope Francis demanded an end to economic exploitation, to clerics “obsessed” with power, to apathy among youth and to a cold, fearful church that forgets Christ is always by its side.

“These times of ours demand that we experience problems as challenges and not like obstacles: The Lord is active and at work in the world," he said Nov. 10 inside Florence's Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the third-largest church in Europe.

In a trip that covered a normal 8 am-to-5 pm workday, the pope rallied workers, young people and hundreds of church leaders representing the entire Italian peninsula; he met with the sick, kissed babies, admired Renaissance artwork and venerated an ancient relic. He ate lunch with the poor and homeless and celebrated Mass in a city soccer stadium.

Much of the city seemed empty of residents, yet filled with people who came to see the pope and tourists curious about the beefed-up security and roadblocks.

Speaking to hundreds of Italian cardinals, bishops and laypeople attending a national congress held only every 10 years, the pope gave a lengthy, yet clear indication of where their discussions and pastoral mission should be heading.

“We must not tame the power of the face of Jesus,” who takes on the face of the humiliated, the enslaved and “the emptied,” he said.

A divine Christ reflects a very human gaze of humility and selflessness, and he insists his disciples follow the beatitudes like he did, the pope said.

“We must not be obsessed with power,” the pope said, even if it is a useful or seemingly innocuous way of getting things done. Otherwise the church “loses its way, loses its meaning.”

Standing at a lectern beneath a stunning painted dome ceiling representing the Last Judgment, the pope said the beatitudes indicate whether the church is following its mission or is only thinking of protecting its own interests. Measuring oneself against the beatitudes “is a mirror that never lies,” he said.

Reading animatedly from his written remarks, the pope also found moments to offer a bit of humor, like when warning church leaders against various temptations.

“I’ll present at least two’ temptations, but not a huge list of 15 like he spelled out in a memorable pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia in 2014, he said to applause and laughter in the pews.

Do not feel superior and place complete trust in structures and perfect plans, he said. This focus on the abstract and on security “often leads us to take on a style of control, harshness, regulation.”

When “facing evils or problems in the church,” he said, “it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of outdated conduct and forms" that are no longer culturally relevant or meaningful.

Christian doctrine, in fact, isn’t a closed system void of questions or doubts, but is alive, restless, animated. Its face “isn’t rigid, its body moves and develops, it has tender flesh. Its name is Jesus Christ.”

The same spirit that drove Italian explorers to seek new worlds, unafraid of storms and open seas, can drive the church in Italy, Pope Francis said, if it lets itself be driven by the breath of the Holy Spirit, “free and open to challenges of the present, never in defense out of fear of losing something.”

He also told priests and bishops to be shepherds, “nothing more. Shepherds.” To illustrate what that looked like, the pope told a story of a bishop who was riding the subway during rush hour.

It was so packed, there was nothing to hold onto, and “pushed right and left” by the swaying car, the bishop leaned on the people around him so as not to fall. A bishop will find support, he said, by leaning on his people and through prayer, he said.

Underlining the importance of caring for the poor—who know well the suffering and face of Christ, the pope asked God to protect the church in Italy from all forms of power, facades and money.

He recalled an old practice in Italy when mothers, who were unable to care for their newborns, left behind a small medallion, snapped in half, with the babies they gave up for adoption at a Catholic hospital. The birth mothers would keep the other half, he said, in the hopes that one day, when times had improved, they would be able to find their children.

“We have that other half. The mother church has the other half of everyone’s medallion and it recognizes all of its abandoned, oppressed and tired children,” he said. “The Lord shed his blood for everyone, not a select few.”

“I like a restless church in Italy, ever close to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect,” the pope said.

“I want a happy church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies, caresses. Dream for this church, too, believe in this, innovate with freedom,” he told the bishops, pastors and lay leaders.

The pope flew by helicopter from Rome early in the morning to land first in the industrial town of Prato on the outskirts of Florence. He apologized for his brief 90-minute visit there, saying he had come as “a pilgrim, a pilgrim in passing.”

In the town’s cathedral, he venerated the Holy Belt of Our Lady—an ancient band of wool traditionally believed to have belonged to Mary and used to wrap her flowing robes around her waist.

From the cathedral balcony, he greeted thousands of people who had woken very early for the 8 am encounter or slept there overnight in sleeping bags.

Addressing young people and workers, especially foreign workers, the pope criticized the “cancer” of corruption and exploitation, calling it the “venom” of a culture built on operating outside the law.

He recalled the seven Chinese textile workers who were killed two years ago when the pre-fab warehouse they worked and slept in caught fire and caused the roof to collapse.

The pope said the deaths of those men and women, who slept in a tiny alcove jerry-rigged out of cardboard and drywall, “is a tragedy of exploitation and inhumane living conditions."

To people’s cheers and applause, he urged young people and workers to fight to the very roots of the problem of “the cancer of corruption” and “the cancer of human and worker exploitation.”

Emphasis on reform and transparency at CAPP breakfast
| November 08, 2015


FAIRFIELD—“The reforms are working,” said Joseph F. X. Zahra, Vice Coordinator of the newly established Council for the Economy of The Holy See, said at the 9th Annual Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) Communion Breakfast held at Fairfield University.

Speaking to a gathering of 150 Fairfield County Business leaders in the university’s Oak Room, the highest ranking lay member of Pope Francis’ ad-hoc cabinet, said that the Vatican has adopted new standards of transparency and accountability backed by the increasing involvement of lay experts from around the world.

Zahra, often described as the “architect of Vatican transparency," said a February 24, 2014 Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis established three new reform structures “that are in place today,” the Council for the Economy, Secretariat for the Economy and a new Auditor General.

He described the creation of the Auditor General as an “earth shaking” appointment because it is an “autonomous and independent” position led by a layman with the powers to investigate.

“Today these there structures are operating efficiently and effectively with an underlying professionalism and transparency,” he said. “It’s a journey but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Communion Breakfast began with Mass in the Egan Chapel celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and presided over the Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C., who described Dr. Zahra as “the highest ranking layman in the Church.”

During his homily Bishop Caggiano said the Gospel story of the widow who gives all she has to charity not only challenges us “to give sacrificially to help the poor and needy, but also to go deeper. Can you name one reality you can’t live without? The Lord says it’s time for you and me to give it away.”

In particular, the Bishop said that “in this time of turmoil,” we should be willing to give up “our own opinion of how things should be and how the world should be run, even if we’re right, because the it’s the Lord who will guide us.”

During the breakfast Brian Moran, a parishioner of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, was recognized with the CAPP Business Leader Award for his philanthropic work and for serving as writer of the “The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream” (Significance Press). The book was a project of the Malta Justice Initiative.

Moran, an attorney and member of CAPP, said he accepted the award on behalf of the Malta initiative, and that he was inspired by Pope Francis and his teaching that “everyone matters and is entitled to a dignified life.”

Moran said that in the U.S. inmates and ex-offenders “need a path toward redemption,” because they are often treated like the “modern equivalent of lepers, and are the least-served segment of our society”

He said that many prisoners are locked away for a long time for minor offenses and totally unprepared to be re-integrated into their communities. He added that he was proud that the book and the Malta initiative played an important role in the passage of the Second Chance Act earlier this year in Connecticut.

The event was sponsored by The Fairfield University Center for Faith and Public Life under the direction of Fr. Richard Ryscavage, S.J.

Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) is a lay-led, Vatican based organization founded by Blessed John Paul II in 1993 whose mission is to implement Catholic Social Teaching —the Church’s social doctrine—through lay Catholic business, academic and professional leaders. Robert Nalewajek, of Greenwich, Conn., is serving as CAPP President. Its board is made up of business leaders throughout Fairfield County. For more information, visit

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Time to Address Synod Challenges
| November 07, 2015


NORWALK—More than 400 trustees, finance and parish council members and their pastors filled the great room of St. Matthew Parish for a day of training preparation and prayer to begin the implementation phase of the Fourth Diocesan Synod.

“Between this meeting and the first day held at St. Pius X in Fairfield, we have gathered about 800 pastoral leaders in the diocese,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “The spirit is at work and we’re going to get this done. We are ready together to bring spiritual renewal to the diocese. The Lord Jesus is alive in our midst.”

Reverend Michael F. Dogali, Episcopal Vicar for Strategic Planning Diocese of Bridgeport, welcomed the overflow gathering and coordinated the program. During the day the men and women in attendance were asked to focus on the five global challenges identified by the recently completed Synod-- Liturgical Worship, Family Life, Evangelization, Leadership and Catechetical Education.

Bishop Caggiano and pastors throughout the diocese concelebrated Mass to formally launch the effort that will help each parish to address Synod challenges. Reflecting on the often-quoted Gospel passage that it is not possible to serve both God and Mammon, the bishop said it can also be understood as describing the mysteries and conflicts of the human heart.

“We all know how easily a heart can be broken and how difficult it is to heal,” he said, noting that we all have divided hearts when we cling to possessions, status or even those we love, rather than being ready to give them back to Him” in love and service that unifies the heart.

The Bishop said the reason to implement Synod initiatives is to become “a living vibrant community of sisters and brothers who worship and serve him and give the good news to the world that he is alive here.”

He added that “those who are called to leadership in the Church” must see their role as stewards of God’s gifts and be prepared to share them. He also said the Synod must be a living expression of faith. “I don’t want this to be just another program but we must make it a spiritual journey so our divided hearts will heal and all we do will be to the honor and glory of the Lord,” he urged those in attendance.

The day included presentations by leaders of the Catholic Leadership Institute of Philadelphia, which provides bishops and dioceses with pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their competence in ministry and create more vibrant faith communities.

Patrick Turner, Director of Strategic Pastoral Planning for the Diocese, noted that the Synod began with listening sessions and also identified “best practices” in its six General Sessions held over the past year . “Now it’s time to implement the solutions,” he said.

Turner said that by September 30 of next year all 82 parishes are expected to submit a strategic plan for response to synod initiatives and create a road map of its future growth of the parish.

Each parish is putting together a pastoral planning task force to respond to the challenges.

Turner said that while parishes develop their own strategic plans, the diocese is moving forward with a strategic plan of its own to reform the Catholic Center and Curial function to improve their effectiveness.

Turner said the Synod implementation is also moving forward on many fronts. This month the diocese announced three new leaders of the Faith Formation Office and expects to appoint a director for the new Catholic leadership Institute. The bishop also formed new Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils and a Liturgical Commission along with a task force to study Faith Formation in the diocese.

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St. Joseph High School principal elected to Yale Divinity School Alumni Board
| November 06, 2015


TRUMBULL—James P. Keane, MDiv, MEd, PhD., Principal of St Joseph High School, was recently elected to the Yale Divinity School Alumni Board.

Holding a 1991 Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, Dr. Keane is an academic systematic theologian specializing in post-conciliar theology and ethics.

His doctoral dissertation from Marquette University in 2000 centered on explaining Gustavo Gutiérrez’s notion of “solidarity” through the writings of Karl Rahner, S.J.

Dr. Keane is also a seasoned school administrator with over twenty-five years of school teaching and management experience. The first Roman Catholic entered Yale Divinity School in 1965, and it was not until the mid-1970s that a Roman Catholic joined the teaching faculty. Currently, Roman Catholics comprise the second largest denomination at Yale Divinity School. Dr. Keane will represent that constituency.

Dr. Keane was appointed Principal at St Joseph High School by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and began his tenure in July 2015.

CT’s largest volunteer day goes over the top
| November 05, 2015


BROOKFIELD—“I am over the top pleased to report that when our last groups of volunteers signed up at 11:55 pm on November 3, they gave us a grand total of 1,062 rakers, not including the team working in the gym on the lunch program,” says Peter Brady, “Boss Man’ of the Handy Dandy Handy Man (HDHM) ministry.

For their 16th annual Rake n Bake program on November 14, volunteers will be raking 70 homes in the greater Danbury area. While you may be in awe about how Brady does it all, his quick answer is “I DON’T.”

When it first started, his program had 10 volunteers and two clients. Brady wants, front and center, to thank the awesome committee members who has been supporting the Boss Man for many of the 16 years in operation”

Bob Elston—Manages the cooking of 1,000 hot dogs and ordering the many salads. He also prints name tags.
Randi Convertito—Manages the ordering of food items and paper goods, and manages the check-in table.
Cathy Westervelt—Manager of Public Relations, he also deals with stores for delicious deserts.
Sheila Kuhn—Coordinator who sits at the computer all day long on many days, inputting all 1,000+ names on a spreadsheet.
Jason Rothstein—From his office in Andover, Mass., he converts all volunteer names into the alpha list and name tags.
Tom Morlock—Professional Photographer who is providing the large group photo this year.

Although he puts himself last on the list, as Boss Man Brady is the Process Manager: he qualifies clients, makes team selections, and handles all complaints. This year, he was awarded the St. Augustine Medal of Service, nominated by Father Chip O’Neil, his pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Brookfield.

Brady also offered special thanks to generous donors who provided help with the cost of the massive lunch for volunteers and clients:

Chris Stack—Darien
Scott Henderson—Formally from Brookfield, now India many miles away
Union Savings Bank—New Milford
Peoples United Bank—Bridgeport
Other donors who have asked to remain anonymous

“To all those involved in this, the largest single one day volunteer program each year in the state of CT (according to a State Gov't Official in Hartford), my heartfelt thanks for making all of this possible,” says Brady. “God is good.”

‘Saintly’ tradition
| November 05, 2015


STRATFORD—It is a tradition at St. Mark School for students in the second grade to research a saint of their choosing.

On All Saints Day (or this year the Monday after) they dress up as their saint and give a presentation to their classmates on that saint. St. Mark is a Blue Ribbon School that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National School of Academic Excellence.

Its academic program encompasses Pre-Kindergarten through Grade Eight. The expectations and challenges of our curriculum prepare our students for the moral, intellectual, social, technological and physical demands of today’s society. It’s located at 500 Wigwam Lane in Stratford. For enrollment information call: 203.375.4833.

Interview with Sammy Blaze
| November 03, 2015


Tell me a little about yourself.

I grew up in Abilene, Texas—real Bible Belt—as a cradle Catholic, which was kind of interesting. But I also grew up loving hip-hop; I’d listen to my older brother’s albums, and kind of live vicariously through the music.

My family participated in the life of the church, but it never deeply reached me until Confirmation, when I got a chance to really own my faith. I had a real reversion experience, my junior year of high school, so finishing high school and going into college, my faith life really started to take off.

At the same time, I started sharing my writing: putting things onto message boards, with other guys—giving each other advice, challenging each other… kind of like a freestyle battle, but online? And I’d do some performing, with youth and around the parish.

So your creative life and your faith life grew at the same time?

It wasn’t a coincidence. I’d written hip-hop before, when I was younger—trust me, it was lamer than lame. What I found out, in retrospect, was that having some skill at rhyming isn’t enough; you need something you’re passionate about, if you’re going to write anything good.

The next step—I’d known about Christian hip-hop, and I just wondered, one day when I was in college, in 2003: Is there Catholic hip-hop? So I put it into Google and found this site called—a Catholic ministry and online community centered right in Texas, near Dallas, which produced hip-hop music. So I made contact there, and by 2004 I was performing and recording with them.

But it wasn’t just that. Becoming part of phatmass gave me an opportunity to be mentored by seasoned performers who were knowledgeable about apologetics, about the sacraments; phatmass really was so much of my faith formation through college.

So hip-hop changed your life in many ways.

I’d always seen myself as a caregiver—medicine, psychology, therapy. But God let me into youth ministry, into campus ministry and my master’s in Dallas, and ultimately to a diocesan office (ed. Sammy works in the Office of Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Dallas) through the open door of hip-hop.

This is something I regularly share, especially with young people: God gave you your gifts, your talents, your quirks, your desires for a reason—the things you are passionate about can be used to glorify God. There’s a place in the Church for that; infuse that truth into things that are already wonderful and life-giving, and they become life-giving in a much more profound and eternal way.

What are your artistic influences?

It was interesting, growing up in Texas and loving hip-hop—I couldn’t help loving Texas hip-hop, dirty-South. I grew up listening to No Limit—Master P and those guys. You had Swishahouse down in Houston, Ludacris in Atlanta—big names, making good music, with that Southern flair to it.

But I’ve always appreciated East Coast rap – not just for the content, but for the craftsmanship, the writing, the ability to play on words, the way in which it was delivered and constructed. I think of folks like Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep, Mos Def, Notorious B.I.G. or even more recently guys like NAS and Jay-Z – all that got me thinking, I want to write with that kind of care for what I write, in that vein, that tradition. I mean, I appreciate freestyling; it’s fun to work on your creativity, your quick wit. But oftentimes I just sit, and write and rewrite, and record and re-record – this hunger for capturing that particular verse, that particular sense, and I really do prefer that.

One thing I’ve found, when it comes to writing: By nature, I’m an introvert. A lot of the music I write is very reflective, autobiographical—most of my songs have a basis in the real, raw experience that I have. I feel like that’s a real artistic contribution of hip-hop culture: I love art, all kinds of art; I love a beautiful, medieval-style liturgy – in fact, sometimes I prefer it. But there’s a certain immediacy about rap, about the spoken word; music has its own power, but the spoken word, both in how you inflect the voice and in how you construct the song, and in how you’re constrained, but also freed, by a beat—I love, love, love that process. So I try to write, and to perform, like I was getting the opportunity to do only one song; I try to make every word count.

There’s a lot of theology in your songs. What about spiritual influences?—favorite saints? Favorite writers?

I’ll always been drawn to Catholic social teaching, so great examples of action for justice like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Dorothy Day come to mind. But I also love the great teachers—St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Augustine. St. Ignatius of Loyola—although my own spirituality is more Augustinian, I always connected with the Jesuit thing.

I appreciate the writings of Thomas Merton – very spiritual, very down to earth. I’ve also grown over the last year, to appreciate the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva—very practical, very disciplined, daily spirituality. Pope St. John Paul II—when I was coming into the faith, he was our pope! The people’s pope, the pope of the young Church – and I also drew so much inspiration from the end of his life, the way that he died.
And I also always hang out with my boy St. Joseph – we always have some special time after every Mass; every day I entrust my spiritual journey to him, my family, my growth in maturity as a man of faith.

Any last thoughts?

I appreciate the artist’s vocation. I always love meeting, getting to know fervent Catholics, in love with God, on fire for their faith, who are artists – whether sculptors, painters, whatever… but also artists inculturated in daily life and modern means of expression. It’s all about promoting creativity – and creativity is all about using everything we have to proclaim the Gospel.

Catholic Hip Hop artist to appear at next Catholic Underground
| November 03, 2015


DANBURY—Sammy Blaze, a Hispanic rapper and Christian Hip Hop artist born in Texas, will perform at the next Catholic Underground on Saturday, November 14, 7:30 pm at Sacred Heart Church in Danbury.

The guest artist joining Sammy Blaze (Argumaniz) will be DJ dU$t, Dustin Seiber, also webmaster of

More than 200 people attended the first Catholic Underground in the Diocese held in October at St. Ann Parish in Black Rock, Bridgeport.

Catholic Underground offers a reverent evening beginning with a Holy Hour, of Adoration, Evening Prayer and Confession, and concluding with a Catholic culture experience of art and music.

The Catholic Underground movement, a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, got its name from its origins in the basement of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on East 90th Street in Manhattan and it has earned the respect of many for its faith filled and vibrant approach to communal prayer.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano invited Catholic Underground volunteers Valerie Tarantino, Paul Chu and Julian Revie to bring the Catholic Underground experience to the diocese. It formed as a response St. John Paul II’s teaching that the Gospel lives in conversation with culture.

Catholic Underground meets monthly. For more information, call the participating parishes or visit:

Click to read this interview with Sammy Blaze conducted by Catholic journalist and Catholic Underground coordinator Paul Chu

Diocese to restructure the Tribunal
| October 30, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced plans for the restructuring the Diocesan Tribunal, which will result in the closing of the office on December 1, 2015, and reopening on February 1, 2016.

The changes are a response to the September 8, 2015, Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis entitled Mitis iudex dominus Iesus (MI), regarding the restructuring of the Tribunal’s (diocesan court) process pertaining to marriage annulment cases. The new law will take effect on December 8, 2015.

The bishop has asked Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, a canon lawyer, to serve as adjutant judicial vicar for the month of December. On January 1, 2016, Msgr. Zielonka will officially assume the role of judicial vicar in the diocese. In this new role, he will serve both as a judge in the Tribunal, and as director of the Tribunal responsible for canonical affairs of the diocese. Msgr. Zielonka will also continue to serve as pastor of St. Jude Parish in Monroe.

“I have every confidence in Msgr. Zielonka, who led us so well through the recent synod general session process. His training as a canon lawyer, organizational skills and embrace of new technology will begin a new era for the Tribunal consistent with directives of our Holy Father,” the bishop said.

The bishop also announced that the diocese would no longer charge fees related to the annulment process.

The Tribunal is the forum in which the judicial authority of the bishop is exercised. It is responsible for investigating and adjudicating matters that need to be resolved according to the norms and procedures established by Church law. Most of the work of the Tribunal is devoted to processing marriage nullity cases.

The bishop said that the diocese has already begun preparing for the implementation of the new canon law because the changes are extensive and will involve new procedures.

In making the announcement, the bishop praised Msgr. Jerald A., Doyle, judicial vicar, and Monsignor James Cuneo, Adjutant Judicial Vicar, who have guided the work of the tribunal for four decades.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation for their many years of faithful service in the Tribunal. They have processed hundreds of marriage nullity cases during their ministry in the diocese. Both of them will retire as of December 31, 2015, with our gratitude for their deeply faithful and valued service,” the bishop said.

“As the people of our diocese know, in addition to serving as judicial vicar, Msgr. Doyle very ably and faithfully served as diocesan administrator after Bishop William E. Lori’s departure. For his leadership and all his service we owe him a great deal of gratitude. Likewise, Msgr. Cuneo has brought great perspective, learning and wisdom in his service as judge and was recognized for his spiritual guidance of the St. Thomas More Society at the recent Red Mass for legal professionals,” said the bishop.

The bishop added that both men will be available to serve as resources to the diocese in matters of canon law.

Msgr. Zielonka said the temporary closing of the Tribunal offices would allow for the many important changes that have to be made in order to make the Diocesan Tribunal ready for the transition. He added that the planning phase now underway has allowed the diocese to study the differences in processes and research proper canonical, human resources and technological solutions.

The restructuring over the next two months will involve re-indexing of the current files and setting priorities; implementation of the new technologies (hardware and software) to manage court cases and canonical procedures; training of the Tribunal staff and the diocesan clergy; and development of new forms and literature for Petitioners, Responders, Advocates, and the clergy Msgr. Zielonka said there is much interest and some misinformation because of extensive media coverage that surrounded the Pope’s comments on the annulment process.

“The media’s coverage of the new procedural law issued by Pope Francis was quite extensive. Unfortunately, their interpretation of the new law was not always accurate and sometimes even misleading. I invite you to read about the new procedures on the diocesan website,” said Msgr. Zielonka, who prepared an analysis of the law and practical points about it.

Those who have already submitted their cases will be assigned priority status in the new Tribunal, and he expects that all will be processed faster with new procedures.

“Likewise, under the new norms, any sentences issued by the new Tribunal will not be required to go for approval of the Second Instance Tribunal in Hartford. The Petitioner, Respondent or Defender of the Bond might choose to appeal the decision to the Second Instance, but if not, Bridgeport Tribunal’s decision will become executable within 15 days of the sentence,” he said.

An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding marriage consent. The party who petitions the Tribunal is called the “Petitioner” and the other party is called the “Respondent.”

Msgr. Dariusz J. Zielonka

Msgr. Dariusz J. Zielonka, was named director of 2014 Diocesan Synod by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in March 2014, and pastor of St. Jude Parish in June 2014. He served as priest secretary to Bishop William E. Lori and vice chancellor of the diocese from 2002 to 2009. In 2008, he was named Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor, receiving Papal Honors from Pope Benedict XVI. In March 2013, he was appointed a judge to the Marriage Tribunal after completing his graduate studies at Catholic University of America, where he earned a doctorate in canon law, Juris Canonici Doctor; J.C.D.

Msgr. Zielonka, 47, was born in Piotrków Tryb, Poland. He entered the archdiocesan seminary in Łódź, Poland, and completed his theological studies at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA.

He was ordained at Saint Augustine Cathedral in 1995 by late Edward Cardinal Egan, then Bishop of Bridgeport. Msgr. Zielonka served as parochial vicar at St. James Parish in Stratford and St.Aloysius Parish in New Canaan prior to becoming priest secretary. He is also a secretary of the Diocesan College of Consultors.

As part of its restructuring, the Tribunal will introduce a new website outlining the new process and including online forms. Please check the Tribunal section of the diocesan website at

Read more about the Short Process and The New Tribunal Law and Procedures pertaining to the Marriage Nullity Cases

Sacred Heart University to purchase 150 acres of land in Milford
| October 30, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University has entered into an agreement to purchase 150 acres of land on the Housatonic River in Milford.

The purchase includes the 18-hole Great River Golf Course and a 32,000-square-foot clubhouse. The purchase price is $6 million, and the land is located only 15 minutes away from SHU’s main campus. We expect the sale to be completed in December.

“With this purchase of land, we have an unprecedented opportunity to more than double the University’s acreage,” said Michael Kinney, senior vice president for Finance & Administration at SHU. “I want to emphasize that no tuition dollars will be used to make this purchase. Rather it is a strategic decision for the long-term benefit of the University and, as a purchase from our investment portfolio, will allow for further diversification. In addition, the cost per acre makes this one of the most value-added purchases the University has made to date.”

“This investment is not only an investment in a golf course, but an investment in our core business. Ownership of the course will allow us to develop new academic programs in the areas of golf management and hospitality management and will complement our current programs in exercise science, sports communications and sports management,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “A golf management program—for which we will seek PGA approval, would be the only one in metropolitan New York and New England—one of the most saturated areas on earth for golf courses. We also expect it will provide opportunities for vital hands-on work experience and internships for students, and we hope to host national golf camps and regional and national NCAA championships there.”

With this purchase, SHU will join more than 80 other colleges that own golf courses. “We believe this will help us sustain what has already become an elite golf program that has been number one in New England and has won three conference championships and participated in three Division I NCAA tournaments since 2007. It will also help us to recruit and retain the best student-athletes,” said Bobby Valentine, SHU’s executive director of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Just 11 miles away in Milford-Orange, Great River is a signature PGA facility that has been ranked fourth-best in Connecticut by

Members of Great River can expect, at a minimum, the same excellent services and amenities on the course, in the clubhouse and at the restaurant that they have always received. “We believe this will only be the starting point for many enhancements that are to come. There is no doubt that Great River will continue to thrive through a stable partnership with a major University, and our mutual values of excellence, service and high quality will remain a top priority,” Kinney noted.

“This is a game-changing opportunity for us that we strongly believe will better the university and improve its long-term viability and opportunity for growth and prosperity,” Petillo said.

Bishop’s State of the Diocese: Synod provided roadmap for change
| October 30, 2015


NORWALK—At his second annual “State of the Diocese” speech last night Bishop Frank J Caggiano painted a picture of a diocese that has made significant gains and  in the past year but continues to face financial challenges as it seeks to renew its ministries and services.

“If anything I stand before you even more confident today than last year. The Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in our lives. If we’re ready to roll up our sleeves, when we come back next year, we’ll have even better news to celebrate,” he said.

Speaking to a gather of more than 200 at All Saints School auditorium in Norwalk, he said the recently completed synod, attended by more than 8,000 at Webster Bank Arena, energized  the diocese, and “created a roadmap” that will guide the diocese into the future.

He said that for most Catholics, “the lived experience of their faith is in our parishes,” and that Synod plans to revitalize parishes are now underway through the Pastoral Planning process begun in October.

In a 90-minute talk including a question and answer session, Bishop Caggiano said the diocese had produced its first balanced budget in years, reduced its short-term debt, updated its Safe Environments programs and created a new Education Commission to guide the schools.

He said the real forward motion of the diocese will be seen as it implements new Synod initiatives including the Catholic Service Corps, the Diocesan Leadership Institute and  other initiatives to renew the diocese at every level.

In response to financial challenges, The bishop announced plans for a Financial Summit on Saturday November 14, which will bring together the Diocesan Finance Council,  Real Estate Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee “to focus on a master plan to create a path of stabilize  our financial position, free up investment capital and a create a new strategy help schools recover.

In his statistical overview of the diocese, the bishop reported that a total of 435,000 people identify as Catholics in Fairfield County. That number includes 113,000 registered families and 278,000 registered individuals.    
However, Mass attendance has been declining with  an average of 65,061 weekly (down from 85,000 in 2009), with 420 Masses offered each weekend in a total of 14 languages.
Last year, the 82 parishes throughout the diocese recorded a total of 3,267 baptisms, 4131 confirmations, and 623 marriages, representing a slight decrease from the previous year and a downward trend since 2014. The diocese also finalized 50 annulments.

Referring the decline in the number of Baptisms as a “disturbing statistic,” the bishop said the Church must do a better job of evangelizing young adults who are raising children, and he mentioned that Synod recommendations for outreach to divorced Catholics, improving Liturgy and Worship, and strengthening family life should make a difference.

“If we tackle the global challenges outlined by the Synod, those numbers will rise,” said the bishop, who added that Synod initiatives have given the diocese the tools to address its financial and pastoral challenges.
School enrollment stabilized at about 9,000 students, but many of its 32 elementary and high schools continue to face enrollment and financial challenges. Total school debt, including closed schools, is $23 million, which is owed to the diocese. Much of the debt is related to the school’s inability to pay healthcare costs.
“We can’t continue this way,” the bishop said. “We have to change the narrative. Our next step will be to create a strategic plan for every school,” he said, noting that much of the debt is in the elementary schools that are struggling with decreasing enrollment.
The diocese also moved forward on special building projects including the relocation of St. John Fisher Seminary from Stamford to Trumbull and the expansion of Queen of Clergy retired priest residence in Stamford. Fundraising for both projects is underway and they are expected to break ground in the coming year.

Other achievements include the launch of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund,  which delivered financial aid to 1,500 students, and plans to take 303 young people to Krakow for World Youth Day in 2016, making Bridgeport the largest diocesan delegation in the U.S. to attend the event.

Catholic Charities served over 1 million meals to the poor, homeless and elderly and provided 15,000 counseling session in addition to it many other programs. It will also be involved in the implementation of the new Catholic Service Corps and the Jubilee of Mercy year proclaimed by Pope Francis.

“Catholic Charities is at the arch of mercy and charity,” the bishop said. “Their programs show the world that charity is not just something we say we believe in, but we do it every day.”

The Bishop praised Fairfield County Catholic, which now goes directly into 104,000 homes across the diocese and he said the news diocesan Social Media programs is both “informing and forming” young Catholics and has been recognized around the country. He said his ultimate goal for the program is “to create digital missionaries to proclaim the Gospel in the new continent” of information.


Click to view powerpoint slide from Bishop’s State of the Diocese

Click here to see photos.

Bishop to deliver State of the Diocese tonight in Norwalk
| October 29, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will deliver a major “State of the Diocese” address tonight, at 7:30 pm in the auditorium of All Saints School in Norwalk.

The talk is meant to give a summary of the state of the diocese administratively, pastorally and financially. The bishop will discuss all of the major initiatives that have come out of the recently completed synod, and also the programs put in place to address ongoing pastoral and financial challenges.

More than 500 lay leaders, priests and religious attended the inaugural event last year when the bishop laid out plans to reorganize the Catholic Center, launch the first General Session of Synod 2014, address financial challenges, relocate St. John Fisher Seminary from Stamford to Trumbull, and take other measures to renew the diocese.

The bishop is expected to discuss many of the achievements of the past year including the response to the recent Synod Closing Mass Celebration that drew 8,000 people to Webster Bank Arena, the launch of the Bishop’s Scholarship fund to support Catholic education for all families, the creation of a Diocesan Youth Choir, the delegation of 300 that will attend World Youth Day and the production of a balanced budget for the diocese.

The bishop will also outline plans for the new initiatives proposed by the synod including a Diocesan Youth Services Corps, Leadership Institute, Liturgical Commission, outreach to families and divorced Catholics and longterm pastoral and strategic plans to move the diocese forward.

In his talk last year, the bishop said that while the synod’s purpose was to address long-term pastoral challenges, work has also been underway to address those administrative, financial and pastoral challenges that are more immediate in nature in order to create a support structure and needed financial resources to implement synod initiatives and directives.

The Diocese of Bridgeport includes more than 460,000 registered Catholics in Fairfield County, representing 45 percent of the total population. Geographically, it encompasses all of Fairfield County and includes 82 parishes, the St. John Fisher Seminary, the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy residence for retired priests.

The diocese sponsors 25 elementary schools, 5 diocesan high schools and one school for special education, educating more than 9,000 young people.

It is also a leading sponsor of senior housing (Bishop Curtis Homes); mental health, nutrition and charitable service (Catholic Charities); and youth services (Cardinal Shehan Center).

Bishop Caggiano was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport on September 19, 2013 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull and began almost immediately to take steps to reorganize the diocese. On February 22, 2014, he formally convoked the Fourth 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.

To attend the State of the Diocese address, people are encouraged to visit www. to obtain a paper or electronic ticket on or before October 27, 2015.

Shehan breakfast raises $50,000 for youth
| October 28, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Money and the new media have changed college football dramatically over the past 20 years, but the game is still played with great passion, said ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel at the 28th Annual Cardinal Shehan Celebrity Breakfast.

Click here to see photos

“The pressure of the money has increased and the pressure of the media has increased,” said the award winning sports journalist and host of a regular podcast, creating more turnover of coaches and making recruitment difficult for colleges that do not have new arenas and indoor practice facilities.

More than 400 friends of the downtown youth center turned out at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn for the breakfast, which raised $50,000 for after-school, mentoring and recreation programs it provides young people of all faiths. The breakfast was sponsored by Webster Bank.

The breakfast attracted many business and political leaders, including outgoing Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch who was given a standing ovation for his leadership and work on behalf of the young people of Bridgeport. “A man never stands as tall as when he stoops to help children,” said Shehan executive director Terry O’Connor in recognizing the mayor. Noting that six college coaches have already lost their jobs in the new season, Maisel said their “six and seven figure salaries have ratcheted up expectations” and also shortened the patience of many alumni who take to chat boards and social media.

He mentioned that the great Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer had six losing seasons before going on to becoming the active coach with the most wins (276).

He said the best college coaches are “instinctively teachers and its great to see them working with the kids.”

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano delivered the invocation and thanked the men and women for supporting the work of the Shehan Center.

Referring to Pope Francis and his often-repeated theme of accompaniment, the bishop said “we need a Church that accompanies people on their journey and walks alongside them,” and he thanked those in attendance for making it possible for the Shehan Center to accompany youth as they grow and learn.

Shehan Center youth speaker Milanis Mejia, a seventh grade student at the Catholic Academy, St. Augustine Campus, said the Shehan Center changed her life in a positive way by building her confidence and helping her to meet new friends. “Both of my parents read and speak only in Spanish and I was having trouble with reading,” she said. Her grades immediately rose when she was referred to the after-school program at the Shehan Center. She also joined a volunteer effort to help the elderly and enrolled in the Sailing Program.

“I learned how to use the rudder and to duck as the boom comes around,” she said, drawing laughter and applause. “The Shehan Center is the perfect place to make friends and enjoy things.”

Alexandra Currie was recognized as the Cardinal Shehan Center Volunteer of the Year for leading the arts and crafts workshop and a new sewing class as part of the Shehan after-school program. She was also honored for refurbishing the Arts and Crafts room with new painting, cabinets and supplies.

The proprietor of "A Little Square" arts and crafts shop in Fairfield said she got involved because children need more creative outlets in their lives. “I come from a long line of volunteers,” said the mother of three children, “and I’m a breast cancer survivor. I do this because you must give back.”

(Founded in 1962, the Cardinal Shehan Center is located at 1494 Main St, in Bridgeport. For more info, call 203.336.4468 or visit

Remembering Cardinal Egan and his love for St. John Fisher Seminary
| October 28, 2015


NEW YORK—It was a party that was planned almost a year ago, and when the host could no longer make it, the guests arrived anyway and turned it into an affectionate tribute.

Click here to view photos.

More than 80 friends of the late Edward Cardinal Egan and St. John Fisher Seminary, which he founded, turned out for a special evening of remembrance at the Yale Club alongside of Grand Central Station on October 26.

The cardinal had begun planning the evening after attending the 25th anniversary of St. John Fisher Seminary in the summer of 2014. It was one of his last visits to the Diocese of Bridgeport, which he led from 1988 to 2000.

Father Michael Jones, vicar of diocesan development, and former priest secretary to Bishop Egan when he served as Third Bishop of Bridgeport, told the gathering that Cardinal Egan was working on the guest list for the reception on the day he died.

“The list was on his table and your names were on it,” he said. “We’re all here because he invited us,” said Father Jones, who helped to coordinate the evening.

At the reception and dinner, held in the Yale Club’s “Trumbull” Room, Cardinal Egan was remembered as a great friend, a man who never turned his back on Bridgeport even after being elevated to lead the nation’s largest archdiocese, and a bishop who took great joy in ordaining priests.

The evening was hosted by Mollie and John Callagy of St. Thomas More Parish in Darien. It featured a video of seminary and slide presentation on Cardinal Egan. Several speakers shared their memories during the dinner.

“He was a remarkable man and a mentor to me,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “When I was named bishop, he invited me to his home here in New York City three times, and I came away from those visits with a sense of the great affection he had for our diocese.”

Bishop Caggiano thanked guests for their generosity in supporting the seminary over the years and asked them to support the Campaign for the Expansion of the Seminary and its relocation from Stamford to Trumbull, the present site of the bishop’s residence on Daniels Farm Road.

“My prayer is that a year from now, those of us who are gathered in this room reassemble for the groundbreaking and dedication of the seminary,” said the bishop. “We will dedicate this new building to Cardinal Egan as a lasting permanent legacy to honor his name.”

The bishop said that under the expansion plan, the seminary will be “coming back home” to Trumbull, where it first opened its doors in a former convent.

Father Jones drew an affectionate portrait of the Cardinal as a man who loved New York City and who believed “his most important work was ordaining men to the priesthood.”

“It was his first project as Bishop of Bridgeport and he believed his most important legacy,” Father Jones said.

Father Jones had the privilege of being in Rome in another capacity when Cardinal Egan was first installed as a bishop, and the bishop later returned the favor when he ordained Father Jones to the priesthood in Bridgeport.

Father Jones said the 6 foot 4 inch fellow Chicagoan drove through the streets of Rome in a tiny Fiat, and had the distinction of “being the tallest man I ever saw in the smallest car.”   

Likewise, when Bishop Egan first came to the diocese his residence was a cramped bungalow in Stratford that made it tough for more than a couple of people to sit around the kitchen table.  

In a personal reflection, noted financial commentator, CNBC-TV Senior contributor and economist Larry Kudlow remembered Cardinal Egan as a priest and a friend who changed his life.

Kudlow said that he experienced one of the most moving moments in his life on Holy Thursday when he was selected for the Washing of Feet by Cardinal Egan in St. Patrick Cathedral.  “A wave of goodness and faith washed over me during the ceremony and I had tears of joy,” Kudlow. “I felt as if the Cardinal were looking after me. He welcomed me to the Church and kept track of me for all those years I new him. I’m very grateful.”

Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni, first rector of the seminary and pastor of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, delivered closing remarks and the final prayer of the evening. He said that he and Bishop Egan wrangled over which saint the seminary would be named for and finally chose St. John Fisher, “because he was loyal to Holy Father to the point of martyrdom, had a devotion and love for the priesthood, and he was a diocesan priest. “

“He was the best priest I’ve ever who known,” said Msgr. DiGiovanni, who noted that 100 men in the diocese have been ordained to the priesthood out of St. John Fisher Seminary.

(To make a gift to the St. John Fisher Seminary Campaign, call the diocesan development Office at 203.416.1473)

Bishop Caggiano speaks on “Being Catholic Today”
| October 27, 2015


GREENWICH—In an event that is open to the public, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of the Bridgeport Catholic Diocese will speak on “Being Catholic in Today’s World” on Friday, November 6, at 9 am at Convent of the Sacred Heart, 1177 King St., Greenwich.

Before the celebration of Mass Bishop Frank J. Caggiano
was welcomed by students, left; Lizzie Davies, first grade;
Brooke Howell, fourth grade; Mary Jane Tranfo, eighth grade,
and Regina Ferrara, 12th grade, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart,
in Greenwich, Conn., Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013.
Photo: Helen Neafsey, Greenwich Time

Sacred Heart Greenwich is an independent, college-preparatory day school dedicated to providing girls and young women from kindergarten through twelfth grade with a rigorous education in which to develop strong intellectual and moral lives. The school’s Barat Center for Early Childhood Education is coed.

The community is invited to attend this talk by Bishop Caggiano and any portion of the morning session, which will be held in the main campus building, Salisbury Hall.

The schedule is as follows:
8:30 am – Coffee and conversation in McLaughlin Art Gallery.
9:00 am – Bishop Caggiano will speak on “Being Catholic in Today’s World.”
10:30 am – The bishop will celebrate Mass in the school chapel.

For information, please contact Lori Wilson, director of campus ministry at Sacred Heart, at 203.531.6500.

Changing the world
| October 26, 2015


FAIRFIELD—St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School has been Challenged! Think Kindness is a non-profit organization that inspires students to do measurable acts of kindness that impacts locally and globally.

To make an impact locally, students are encouraged to do acts of kindness for 15 consecutive days at school, home or anywhere where they can lighten someone’s load or put a smile on someone’s face. The purpose of the challenge is to allow the student to feel the joy of helping others or to see how a simple word can brighten someone’s day. Actions and words are more powerful than one would ever believe.

In central Kenya and other areas of the world there are hundreds of children that do not own a pair of shoes and, because of this, they are unable to attend school. Without an education their futures remain hopeless and bleak. We hold the power to have a global impact by just going into our closets and donating a pair of gently used shoes. By donating a pair of gently used shoes you change someone’s life and give them greater ability to control their destiny. The students of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School all agreed that they are up for the challenge and have already collected over 350 pairs of shoes. Their goal is 1,921 pairs of shoes, because 1921 is the year the school was founded. The students are on fire with energy and excitement to personally helping change someone’s life.

Recognizing Everyday Miracles
| October 26, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


“Cracks in the Sidewalk” by Tony Magliano
Eastern Christian Publications (Fairfax, Va., 2015). 28 pp., $9.95.
By Loretta Nemeth

Tony Magliano, best known as an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist, enters the children’s book genre with “Cracks in the Sidewalk.” In it, Magliano stays true to his vocation by instilling the seeds of social justice, “sharing, fairness and love for life,” into the minds and hearts of young readers, inviting them to “deepen their awareness of the many wonders that surround them.” Magliano says the book will “help young children better appreciate the goodness of God, who showers us with wonderful blessings everyday!” The book leads the child from recognizing the work of God in nature to recognizing it in the caring people in the child’s life. A great gift book, when shared between adult and child, “Cracks in the Sidewalk” can be a reminder to the adult to stop and see God’s everyday miracles around us, too.

The delightful childlike crayon illustrations by Lynn Armstrong give young readers a sense of familiarity and comfort.

The book can be ordered under the New tab, or the Children category, of the online catalog of Eastern Christian Publications,; 703.691.8862 for $9.95 plus $5 shipping and handling.

Loretta Nemeth is director of communications for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of Parma and editor of Horizons, the eparchy’s newspaper.

Synod had difficult moments as it tried to proclaim truth, pope says
| October 26, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY—The first task of the Catholic Church “is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim the mercy of God,” Pope Francis told members of the Synod of Bishops on the family.

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary
of the Synod of Bishops, as he leaves a session of the synod at the
Vatican October 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the end of the synod’s final working session October 24, Pope Francis was honest about the differences of opinion present among synod participants and about the tone of their discussions sometimes exceeding the bounds of charity. But he framed all those differences as an opportunity for learning.

“In the course of this synod, the different opinions that were expressed freely—and, unfortunately, sometimes with methods that were not completely charitable—certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue,” the pope said.

The synod, he said, was a time of trying “to broaden horizons in order to overcome every hermeneutic of conspiracy or closed-mindedness so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God (and) to transmit the beauty of Christian newness, which sometimes is covered by the rust of a language that is archaic or simply incomprehensible.”

“For the church,” he said, “concluding the synod means to go back to really ‘walking together’ to bring to every part of the world—every diocese, every community and every situation—the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the church and the support of the mercy of God.”

The synod sessions, the pope said, were designed to have people speak openly about the needs of families and to face them “without fear and without hiding our heads in the sand.”

The gathering, he said, was a time “to witness to all that the Gospel remains for the church the living source of eternal newness against those who want to ‘indoctrinate’ it into dead stones to hurl at each other.”

Without mentioning specific differences, such as deeply varied cultural approaches to homosexuality, Pope Francis said synod members learned that “what seems normal for a bishop on one continent can seem strange—almost a scandal—to a bishop from another.”

The synod tried to find better ways to convince the world of the importance of the family based on the lifelong marriage of one man and one woman, he said, knowing that it should not be afraid to shake “anesthetized consciences or to dirty its hands animatedly and frankly discussing the family.”

“The experience of the synod,” the pope said, “has made us understand better that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who defend its letter, but its spirit; not ideas, but people; not formulas, but the free gift of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulas, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works, but solely according to the boundless generosity of his mercy.”

Clearly, he said, the three-week synod did not resolve every problem facing families or even every question of how the church can best minister to them. But it did try "to enlighten them with the light of the Gospel and the 2,000-year tradition and history of the church" formulated in ways people today can understand.

Without acting as if every form of modern family life was equally valid, but also without “demonizing others,” he said, the synod wanted “to embrace fully and courageously the goodness and mercy of God who surpasses our human calculations and wants nothing other than that ‘all would be saved.’”

St Joseph High School hosts Bridgeport’s Cesar A. Betalla third graders for Literacy Fun and Annual Field Day
| October 26, 2015


TRUMBULL—On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, St Joseph High School in Trumbull, Connecticut hosted Cesar Betalla School’s 3rd Grade students at their Annual Field Day. 

Jonathan Anderson, Sophomore reading to a Cesar Batalla 3rd Grader.

Dr James Keane, Principal, St Joseph High School, visits
with Cesar Batalla 3rd grader guest and his buddy for the day,
Jake Cartiglia, while classmates Seniors Miles Gee, Jake Hopkins look on.

Walkthon and Field Day have been timeless traditions at St Joes.
This year, thanks to St Joes students and Mrs Nancy Lessard’s relationship with The Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, the high school was able to provide a partnership with inner city elementary students and a fun experience that incorporated literacy.Not only will the students enjoy the games and activities that St Joes provides for Field Day, the Cesar Batalla students will make a new friend and leave with a new “reading buddy”. Thanks to St Joes and The Center for Family Justice the students were gifted more than 200 books for their school library.
Dr James Keane, Principal of St Joes remarked, “Service is deeply ingrained within the Catholic tradition of St. Joseph High School and in a very special way, our geography—and the relative proximity of Bridgeport—makes claims upon us. Transforming our school Field Day into an opportunity to also reach-out and support younger students from inner-city backgrounds is an inspired move strongly supported by our students, teachers, administrators, and parents. It is also just one more example of how giving and caring this school community really is.” 
“We’re thrilled to have been part of this wonderful tradition at St Joseph High School and their students and are especially happy that this year’s event benefits our vital programs and services,” said Debra A. Greenwood, President/CEO of The Center for Family Justice.  “We’re grateful to the St Joes students and faculty, especially our devoted board member Nancy Lessard, who is also an alumna and faculty member at St Joes, for making us such an integral and important part of this year’s field day festivities.” 
As the beneficiary of the days proceeds, the students of St Joes will help support The Center’s mission of breaking of the cycle of abuse and violence—of a domestic and sexual nature—by providing services that create hope, restore lives and drive social change through education and community collaboration.
Mrs Greenwood noted St Joe’s is fostering the kind of community collaboration The Center supports, by including the children of Bridgeport’s Cesar A. Betalla School in this year’s event. Since part of the The Center’s mission involves encouraging teens to be responsible, considerate role models, the relationship between the suburban and inner-city school stands to encourage that kind of healthy, positive relationship between teens and younger children. “It’s one reason why we are so honored to be both an official sponsor and beneficiary of the event.”
About The Center for Family Justice
The Center for Family Justice Inc. (formerly The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County Inc.), brings all domestic, sexual and child abuse services—crisis intervention, police, prosecutors, civil/legal providers, counseling—under one roof, in our headquarters in Bridgeport, CT. Together, we work to break the cycle of violence by helping those in crisis restore their lives. Although our name has changed, we continue with the work we have provided for 12 decades, providing free, confidential, bilingual crisis services in Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull. It is the comprehensive services our partners are providing that are streamlining the road to healing and self-sufficiency. 
Within the past year, The Center answered more than 950 calls on a 24-hour crisis hotline; assisted with the civil and criminal court processes for more than 2,500 survivors of domestic violence; responded to more than 500 survivors of sexual assault and their families; provided a safe home for more than 100 women and children fleeing domestic abuse; coordinated the investigations of more than 170 cases of child sexual and severe physical abuse, developing service plans for the young survivors and their families; and provided psycho-educational support to more than 1,200 survivors of domestic violence, planning for their safety and promoting self-sufficiency.
As part of our mission, The Center educates approximately 4,000 members of the community about the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse to prevent future violence and spread the word that about the services we offer at The Center for Family Justice. Annually, we teach more than 2,000 children and teens about building healthy relationships, bullying prevention and dating violence.
For more information, visit
About St Joseph High School
St Joseph High School strives to be the premier college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut. The school provides a learning environment that embraces the Gospel values of the Roman Catholic faith and promotes a commitment to family and community. The school prepares our young women and men to realize their potential, helps them excel in higher education and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits St. Joseph High School. For more information visit

Preparation for World Youth Day begins with Mass
| October 23, 2015


TRUMBULL—The Diocesan Pilgrimage to World Youth Day was officially launched yesterday evening with a Kickoff Mass and Meeting.

Pilgrims, chaperones, and their families gathered at St. Catherine of Sienna in Trumbull on Thursday night to celebrate Mass in honor of St. John Paul II, founder of World Youth Day. Bishop Caggiano celebrated the Mass and offered a beautiful homily, where he challenged the pilgrims to open the hearts to the mercy and grace of the upcoming pilgrimage.

“Please God, we will return from Poland rejuvenated, transformed, and on fire for the Lord!” Bishop Caggiano expressed during the homily.

Bishop Caggiano ended the Mass by thanking Fr. Marcello, for allowing the Diocese to use the facilities at St. Catherine, the pilgrims and their families for their attendance, and the WYD Committee: John Grosso, Sister Mary Grace Walsh, Janet Davis, and Siobhan Lidington.

Immediately following the Mass, a kickoff meeting for the pilgrimage was held at the Family Center across the parking lot. After a brief introduction, Sister Mary Grace Walsh opened up the floor to John Grosso, World Youth Day Coordinator, and Chris Dube, head of Dube Travel, to discuss the details of the pilgrimage. After a discussion on contracts, questions, and communications from Grosso, Dube discussed the itinerary in detail.

The trip will take pilgrims on a 12-day journey through Poland, including stops in Warsaw, Auschwitz, and Czestochowa with the majority of the trip centered in Krakow. Attendees were thrilled to hear the details of the trip, which includes Mass and Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis himself.

Catholic Academy Dinner Far Surpasses Fundraising Goal
| October 23, 2015 • by By Susan Cecere


GREENWICH—More than 55 people from Fairfield and Westchester counties turned out for an intimate fund raising dinner at Polpo Restaurant in Greenwich this week,  and they donated more than $224,000 to the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport

With its four campuses of St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St. Raphael, the Catholic Academy educates 940 students, most from inner-city Bridgeport.

“We are completely thrilled and overwhelmed,” said Executive Director Sr. Joan Magnetti. “Our faithful supporters turned out tonight, as well as so many new donors who really believe in our mission and our students. This will further our commitment to raise over $2 million annually for scholarship awards.”

Guest speaker Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett, an alum of St. Augustine’s, put it best when he said, “The Catholic Academy offers three things: faith, hope and love. Some of these students feel helpless in their surroundings and wonder about their future. Our schools offer them a safe alternative, caring staff, and faith they won’t find anywhere else.”
One of the highlights of the evening was a personal testimony by Dennis Boyd, a former Catholic Academy Board member who sponsors a student through the Academy’s Leaders of Tomorrow program, which allows an individual or group of individuals to contribute $4,000 per school year toward a child’s tuition.

“For the past 3 years I’ve gotten to know my student, Maria, through handwritten cards, artwork and report cards that I receive throughout the year. I even had the opportunity to meet her, along with her principal, at her school recently. It was priceless,” Boyd said.

“Sometimes my own daughters will call me from college asking for money and I tell them, ‘Maria needs it more.’ She’s really a part of our family and even my own kids look forward to her letters,” Boyd quipped.
Ron Rosa, Polpo’s owner, graciously hosted and underwrote the food for the entire event for the second year in a row. The menu included chopped salad with ricotta salata and granny smith apples, orecchiette alla Barese, Branzino al Forno, Chicken Martini, Veal Carciofi and a sampling of Polpo’s beloved desserts – tiramisu, napoleon, cannoli, cheesecake and apple pie.
The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport will host its next fundraiser, a Ladies Luncheon, at Woodway Country Club in Darien on March 2. For more information, please contact Susan Cecere at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 203.362.2990.

Sister Mary Grace Walsh Accepts New Position in the Archdiocese of Hartford
| October 22, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Sister Mary Grace Walsh, ASCJ, Ph.D. will leave her post as Superintendent of Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport on December 31, 2015 to accept the newly-created position of Provost for Education, Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Hartford. Her new position will be effective January 1, 2016.

The announcement was made today by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford, and Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Archbishop Blair said the position of Provost has grown out of the Pastoral Planning process of the Archdiocese and its overall effort to strengthen and expand the organizational effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness to the changing needs of the parishes, schools, clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Hartford; especially to develop a continuum of faith development and formation.

“I am very happy to welcome Sister Mary Grace to her new position with the Archdiocese of Hartford,” said Archbishop Blair. “Her many personal gifts, talents, and wealth of experience will enable her to bring vision and leadership to the newly-formed Department of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis. As a Religious of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she will also bring the dimension of consecrated life to the exercise of her responsibilities for the good of our local Church.”

As Provost, she will have responsibility for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate Education, Office of Catholic Schools, Office of Religious Education, and the Office of Faith Development and Evangelization. She will work closely with a broad coalition of Archdiocesan leadership, staff and parishes to develop a detailed plan or academic vision for addressing the educational and developmental needs of school children, teenagers, adults and the consecrated.

“Although we are at a transforming moment in the life of the Diocese of Bridgeport where Sister Mary Grace’s exceptional leadership would be essential, I must respect the movement of the Holy Spirit in all of this. The promptings of the Spirit essentially point to this simple fact: it is very clear that the Archdiocese needs Sister Mary Grace right now to accomplish what needs to get done there. I said that with conviction but also with tremendous sadness because I have the greatest respect and admiration for Sister, and I will miss her terribly,” said Bishop Caggiano."

He noted that Sister Mary Grace will be returning to the diocese where she was born and raised, and that her new assignment is both a significant new challenge and a homecoming.

“Sister Mary Grace is a strong and gifted leader whose faith, wisdom, creativity, vision, and commitment to spreading the Gospel have brought education and pastoral formation in our diocese to new heights of excellence. I am grateful to Sister for her tireless work on behalf of thousands of young people and adults, and we will never forget how hard she worked to keep Christ at the center of our lives.”

The Bishop said that in her long and accomplished career in the work of Catholic education, Sister Mary Grace has demonstrated a true love for its mission along with an outstanding professional competency to lead our schools effectively into the future. He praised her “unwavering commitment to strengthen the Catholic identity of our schools that has created a foundation for further growth and vitality.”

Sister Mary Grace was named Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport by Bishop Caggiano in October 2013, almost immediately after his installation. She was responsible for more than 9,000 students and 1,000 faculty members in the 31 elementary and high schools sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport.

As part of the diocesan reorganization undertaken by the Bishop in October 2014, she was also named Secretary for Catholic Education and Faith Formation.

Among her many achievements working with the bishop to reorganize Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport, was the development of the new Education Commission in 2014 and the initiation of a strategic plan for education to insure the viability and vitality of Catholic schools in the diocese. Consistent with the mandates of the recently-completed diocesan Synod, Sister Mary Grace also played a role in the integration of the Faith Formation Office into the new secretariat that included schools.

Sister Mary Grace said she spent much time in prayer and reflection when the new position was created.

“I am grateful to Bishop Caggiano for the many opportunities he gave me and for the honor of serving as both Superintendent and Secretary,” said Sister Mary Grace. “I also look forward to the new assignment in the Archdiocese where I was educated and formed in the faith.”

“In my 10 years of service in the diocese, I have witnessed our schools flourish with the assistance of parents who, as the primary educators of their children, choose to entrust their children to our schools—often at great sacrifice. I want to express my gratitude to all those who worked to make our schools faith filled communities—the parents, faculty, clergy, school advisory boards and generous donors who embrace the mission of Catholic education,” she said.

About Sr. Mary Grace Walsh: Sister Mary Grace Walsh, ASCJ, Ph.D. is a member of the religious congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has its U.S. provincialate in Hamden, Conn.

She served as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport, from July 2006 until she was named acting Superintendent in February 2013, after Dr. Margaret Dames accepted a leadership position in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. During that time she also functioned as Interim Principal, St. Thomas Aquinas School, Fairfield from August 2007-July 2008.

In the past, she has served as Principal in the Archdiocese of New York and the dioceses of Metuchen, NJ and Providence, RI, and as a Teacher K-12 in the Archdioceses of New York, St. Louis and the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Born and raised in New Haven and as a parishioner of St. Aedan’s parish, Sister Mary Grace Walsh earned her Ph.D. Educational Administration and Supervision/church Leadership from Fordham University, New York, and an M.A. in Education Administration and Supervision from Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO. She is also a graduate of Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, Conn., where she earned a B.A. in English.

She served as a member of the Archdiocesan School Board, Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn. until June 15 and as co-chair of the Professional Development Committee of the New England CACE (Chief Administrators of Catholic Education), Professional Development Co-chair. Her areas of interest and research include Catholic School Governance, Mission Effectiveness, Institutional Leadership, Catholic Identity, School Change, Strategic Planning, Administrator and Teacher Formation, Curriculum Design.

The Diocese of Bridgeport will begin a national search for a new Superintendent of Schools immediately. (For more information about Catholic schools in Fairfield County, visit the website of the Diocese of Bridgeport at, or phone 203.416.1380.)

Architect of Vatican’s New Financial Transparency Policy to Speak at Communion Breakfast for Business Leaders at Fairfield University
| October 22, 2015


9 am Mass in Egan Chapel, followed by breakfast, featuring talk by highest ranking lay member of Pope Francis’ ad-hoc cabinet and Leadership Awards Ceremony.

FAIRFIELD—Joseph F. X. Zahra, Vice Coordinator of the newly established Council for the Economy of The Holy See and the highest ranking lay member of Pope Francis’ ad-hoc cabinet, will be the featured speaker at the Ninth Annual Communion Breakfast for Business Leaders on Sunday, November 8, 2015, at Fairfield University.

The annual breakfast is sponsored by Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) of Fairfield County and Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life.

The morning will begin at 9 a.m. at the University’s Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola with the con-celebration of Mass by the Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, and Rev. Rick Ryscavage, S.J., Founding Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University. The breakfast and Joseph Zahra’s talk will be held in the nearby Oak Room of the Barone Campus Center immediately following the Mass.

This year’s CAPP Business Leadership Award will be presented to Brian E. Moran Esq. of New Canaan, Conn., for his philanthropic work as founder of the Success Foundation Inc., and his efforts on behalf of the Malta Justice Initiative, which advocates for criminal justice reform. He is a member of St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan.

Joseph F. X. Zahra, whose talk is entitled “Inside the Financial and Administrative Changes at the Vatican: What Pope Francis Wants and Why He is Doing It,” is the former head of Bank of Valletta and a renowned economist who sits on numerous major corporate boards and regularly lectures around the world.

The Council for the Economy of The Holy See, charged with financial oversight of all Vatican-related entities — including the Roman Curia — is the most powerful of three new bodies created by Pope Francis to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of the Vatican’s financial affairs. As the most senior lay person in the Curia, Zahra has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ reform initiatives from the beginning and is uniquely positioned to tell this story.

Noting that the Vatican’s financial reforms are also meant to provide dioceses around the world with a model they can themselves adopt, Zahra said that “what lies at the heart of Pope Francis’ financial and administrative reorganization of the Vatican is his wish to ensure transparency, simplicity and the efficient use of resources.”

These reforms, Zahra added, “are not an end in themselves, but are designed to free up assets to finance the Church’s mission of evangelization—particularly programs that help the poor and the marginalized” with both pastoral and practical care.

Brian E. Moran, Esq., who is being recognized with the CAPP Business Leader Award for his philanthropic work,foundedthe Success Foundation Inc. in 2003. For five years, SUCCESS (Students Undertaking College-Career Enhancing Study Skills) ran an intensive three-week summer study program at Sacred Heart University for low-income ninth graders with college potential, serving more than 360 students. The program was awarded a Gold CQIA Innovation Prize by the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnership Inc. in 2006.

More recently, Moran has worked on behalf of the Malta Justice Initiative, which advocates for criminal justice reform to “right-size” prisons and help ex-offenders successfully re-integrate into their communities. In 2014, Mr. Moran wrote The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream (Significance Press). The book recently received the Bridgeport Re-Entry Collaborative’s Urdang–Torres Community Impact Award and an Honorable Mention in Top Ten Black Books of 2014.

Moran, who is a partner and business litigator in the Stamford law office of Robinson & Cole LLP, is a member of the Board of the Inner City Foundation, former Chairman of the United Way of New Canaan, and former board member of the New Canaan Community Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond School of Law. Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) is a lay-led, Vatican based organization founded by Blessed John Paul II in 1993 whose mission is to implement Catholic Social Teaching —the Church’s social doctrine—through lay Catholic business, academic and professional leaders. Robert Nalewajek, of Greenwich, Conn., is serving as CAPP President. Its board is made up of business leaders throughout Fairfield County. For more information, visit

Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life, anchored in Jesuit tradition and Catholic Social Teaching, is committed to advancing the Common Good by improving the social conditions to allow for the full flourishing of individuals and society. Through multi-disciplinary academic research, engaged teaching, events, publications, and other initiatives the Center seeks to: prepare students to be global citizens, generate research-based solutions for current social problems - local, national, and global, and provide a public forum for engaging issues where faith and public life intersect.

Seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact Michelle Ross at 203-254-4000, ext. 3415, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or visit:

Ninth Annual CAPP Breakfast for Business Leaders
| October 22, 2015


FAIRFIELD—The Ninth Annual Mass and Communion Breakfast for Business Leaders will be held on Sunday, November 8, 2015, starting with 9 am Holy Mass in the Egan Chapel at Fairfield University, immediately followed by Breakfast and Program in the John A. Barone Campus Center Oak Room.

Click here for flyer

Co-sponsored by CAPP-USA and Fairfield University Center For Faith and Public Life.

Housing Program helps those at risk
| October 21, 2015 • by By Rowena Daly


BRIDGEPORT—Poor judgment, addiction and a lack of guidance put Serena A.’s life on a downward trajectory that culminated in a series of arrests and prison time.

Assisting with housing and re-entry into the community,
Catholic Charities Director of Housing Deborah L. Smith
(second from right), meets with her team of CCR case workers
(l-r) Kelly McGee; Vilma Vega, senior case manager; and Samuella Marlow.

In June 2014, she walked out of York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, and vowed never to return again. “I was tired, said Serena. “I needed to get my life on track.”

While incarcerated, she was screened for participation in Catholic Charities of Fairfield County’s Connecticut Collaborative on Re-Entry (CCR) program to tackle overwhelming challenges such as obtaining a job, re-establishing family ties, making new and positive friendships and, most importantly, finding a suitable place to live.

Catholic Charities’ CCR Housing program offers intensive case management and permanent housing for up to 25 individuals who have a history of chronic homelessness due to repetitive incarcerations. Serena fit the criteria. Housing case managers Kelly McGee and Samuella Marlow assisted her in procuring furniture for her new apartment, linking her to appropriate community resources for treatment, social support, and providing constant reassurance.

Serena celebrated a series of accomplishments, including the pinnacle victory of earning a position as a licensed plumber on a local construction site.

“She did the work, and we were there to make sure she had support,” said Marlow. Serena stayed focused and felt supported by the Catholic Charities case managers.

In just one year, Serena became financially secure and she felt ready leave the program. She earns a good salary, pays her own rent and lives a productive life.

“Having her own housing provided the stability that she needed in order to have a better quality of life,” said Deborah Smith, MSW, who has overseen the Catholic Charities Housing programs for the past two years. “Without this assistance, Serena and individuals like her would most likely re-offend.”

Assisting individuals with housing, employment, behavioral health, and medical treatment has proven to help reduce the rates of criminal recidivism, added Smith, who has decades of experience in working with the Department of Corrections and as an advocate for homelessness prevention.

Prior to joining Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Smith retired from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections after 21 years of service. For the past decade she has worked as an administrator for Connecticut’s Homelessness Prevention Programs, including the last two years with Catholic Charities.  

In August, based on the exemplary work of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, the State’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will present the Housing Program with an additional 20 units of housing for CCR clients in Danbury, Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport. Over the past six years, 40 individuals have successfully moved through the Connecticut Collaborative on Re-entry program with Catholic Charities.

The Connecticut Collaborative on Re-entry program, formerly known as F.U.S.E. (Frequent Users of Support Enhancements), is operated through collaboration with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS), the Department of Correction, the Judicial Branch of Court Support Services Division and the CT Coalition to End Homelessness.

Other program criteria include client history of substance abuse, mental health, and/or co-occurring disorders. There is no application process through Catholic Charities; qualifying applicants are pre-selected by DMHAS.

(For more info on the re-entry program, contact Vilma Vega: 203.416.1612.)

Peanut butter and jelly drive
| October 20, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Each year, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School’s Student Council organizes a school wide peanut butter and jelly drive to benefit the Daughters of Charity and Rescue Mission’s Nursery School in Bridgeport.

The mission’s director, Sister Theresa Tremblay, is always delighted to receive donations of any kind and welcomes them with open arms. St. Thomas Catholic School’s Student Council was able to collect four large boxes of peanut butter and jelly, which will take a little strain off Sister Theresa’s food pantry. What a wonderful way to advance our mission to help those that are in need! (l-r) Katie Cimmino, Maeva Foley, Eloise Essig, Matt McCauley, and Michael Lynch.

First American Heritage Troop in Fairfield County
| October 20, 2015


RIDGEFIELD—St. Mary School is proud to host the first American Heritage Girl Troop in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

First AHG troop meeting flag ceremony at St. Mary School.

American Heritage Girls is a Christ-centered, faith-based scouting program.  It is similar to other scouting programs but with a faith-filled focus and a community troop structure based on grade groupings to allow older girls to mentor younger girls.  The American Heritage Girls’ goal is to build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.

Jennifer Mitchell, AHG coordinator of CT6877 worked with the AHG board to officially charter their troop in September of this year.  Their AHG board includes Principal Anna O’Rourke, troop charter representative; St. Mary Parish DRE Mary Grenchas,  troop shepherd ; Jenn Kerr,  troop treasurer; and Nicole Richenbach, vice troop coordinator.
Mitchell states, “In the ever growing secular society, we need now more than ever to teach our girls how to be women of faith and integrity.”

She goes on to explain, “American Heritage Girls is a wonderful Christian program that with the strategic partnership with the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the girls can enrich their faith and earn Catholic faith badges and medals in addition to the very rich AHG badge and awards program.”
AHG Oath
I promise to love God,
cherish my family,
honor my country,
and serve in my community.

AHG Creed
As an American Heritage Girl, I promise to be:  Compassionate, Helpful, Honest, Loyal, Perseverant, Pure, Resourceful, Respectful, Responsible, and Reverent

(For more info, visit or contact Jennifer Mitchell: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

St. Mark "Turns Up the Pink" for Breast Cancer Awareness
| October 20, 2015


STRATFORD—St. Mark School recently hosted a school-wide Breast Cancer Awareness Cut-A-Thon.

Students and faculty dressed in pink and rallied together in the fight against cancer. Hair stylists from Jade Salon in Stratford were invited to set up a mini hair salon in the school gym.

Four girls, two mothers, and a teacher cut and donated their hair to make wigs for women and children with medical hair loss. Eleven boys shaved their heads. Collectively, over eight feet of hair was shed to promote cancer awareness. Additionally, sixty girls purchased pink synthetic hair extensions. Together, Jade Salon and St. Mark School raised $2,681 for the SWIM Across the Sound Cancer Care Center at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport. SWIM Executive Director, Lyn Mccarthy, arrived to personally thank the students for their bravery and generosity year after year.

This year marks the school's sixth annual Cut-A-Thon. In 2009, St. Mark School earned the National Blue Ribbon of Excellence Award. Every year since then, the school turns their blue ribbons pink in October, in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Trinity Catholic HS hosts Walkathon
| October 20, 2015


STAMFORD—Trinity Catholic High School hosted a Walkathon on October 18 on the TCHS football field.

The event begins at 10:30 with registration and an 11 am Mass at St. Gabriel Parish. The walk itself went from 12:30-2:30 pm. Participating schools included Our Lady Star of the Sea, Holy Spirit, St. Cecilia, Trinity Catholic Middle School and Trinity Catholic High School. Food trucks, bounce houses and face painting will be offered throughout the event.

Rake n’ Bake volunteer deadline approaches
| October 20, 2015


BROOKFIELD—With 16 days remaining to register all volunteers by Tuesday November 3, midnight, there is much planning to do behind the scenes before the actual Rake n Bake on  Saturday, November 14.

Click here to view flyer

We estimate about 10 rakers per house, however larger properties will take many volunteers. We will also be offering a coat and blanket drive and have plans for a truck to be at the Brookfield High School gym on November 14 from 7 am to 12 noon to accept clean coats for all ages as well as blankets for any size bed so plan accordingly. The local homeless shelters are in great need of such items.

In 2013 we had 81 clients served by 1,021 HDHM volunteers. High School athletic teams, youth groups, church groups, neighborhood groups, scout troops, teen groups from our high schools, families, are all welcomed. Volunteer now!

Bishop says 2015 St. Augustine Medalists are “living stones of the Church”
| October 17, 2015


Click for a list of 2015 St. Augustine Medal Recipients

BRIDGEPORT—Referring to the 120 recipients of the 2015 St. Augustine Medal of Service as the “living stones of the Church,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said that they have created a vibrant Church through their love of God and love of neighbor.

More than 600 friends and family members filled the Cathedral for what has become one of the happiest events of the year for the diocese as men and women throughout Fairfield County are recognized for their faithful service.

Among this year’s honorees were Synod delegates and men and women who have given a lifetime of service to their parishes and the diocese. Many serve on parish councils and boards, lead prayer groups, reach out to the poor, visit the sick, and also find time to serve as Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers and help out with many parish social activities.

Describing the medals as a “small, heartfelt and tangible token of our thanks,” the Bishop told recipients that they have built up the Church “through the witness of your own life and by living what you believe.”

Pastors and priests throughout the diocese who had nominated the recipients accompanied them as they came forward to receive their medals.

The service began with Midday Prayer and the singing of Psalms 45 and 119. After a reading from Roman (15:5-7), the Bishop blessed the medals and sprinkled them with Holy Water.

As people came forward to receive their medals and have their pictures taken, the Bishop could be heard exchanging joyful pleasantries with them, many of whom he personally knew through his frequent visits to parishes.

During his homily the Bishop referred to St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) Bishop and Doctor of the Church after whom the Bridgeport Cathedral is named. He said that St. Augustine taught that all Church buildings and temples will eventually fall, but that the “living temple” of faith and love is everlasting.

He noted that when St. Augustine’s parishioners told him they were concerned that some people might abandon the parish and move to a new Church being built nearby, St. Augustine told them, “’When we gather at Church, sing twice as loud,’ and it worked!” the Bishop said, drawing laughter.

The Bishop then told honorees that “by the singing your lives you have given great Glory to God and have brought many to the faith and kept them here by your faithful witness.” He also praised medal recipients, many of whom work in soup kitchens and food pantries for “standing next to poor and marginalized people the world would like to forget. “ “Keep singing because we have a world to bring to Jesus Christ,” he exhorted those in attendance as the end of his talk.

Al Barber, President/CEO of Catholic Charities read the name of recipients from the pulpit, while William McLean, Chief Development Officer and Debbie Charles, Executive Administrative Assistant to the Bishop assisted with the presentation of medals. Music was provided under the direction of diocesan music consultant Thomas Marino.

A reception followed immediately in the Kolbe Cathedral High School Auditorium, which shares the St. Augustine campus in downtown Bridgeport.

The St. Augustine Medal Services was instituted in 2005 to recognize the 'unsung heroes' who unselfishly give of their time and talents to build up parish communities.
 On one side of the medal is an image of Saint Augustine of Hippo, patron saint of the diocese. The reverse features feature the coat of arms of the diocese.

A complete list of 2015 recipients along with their photos and a brief description of their contributions will be published in the November 14 issue of Fairfield County Catholic.

Click for photos: Photo Set 1 | Photo Set 2

Respecting life the Gospel way
| October 16, 2015 • by By Tony Magliano


Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano

For the sake of our salvation, we need to pay serious attention, and act with purpose, to what Jesus teaches here in Matthew’s Gospel: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.

“And he will separate them … as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

“‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'

“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ”

And for those on his left, Christ will say “ ‘Depart from me … For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. …’ ”  

Reaching out to every person we can – especially those who suffer the most – with active compassion  generosity, social justice, and peacemaking is such a fundamental requirement to faithful discipleship, that to a great degree our very salvation is at stake.

While God knows you and I can’t help everyone. It is also true that most of us can do much more. After all, look at the saints.

We can place the poor and vulnerable at the center of our prayer life. We can sacrificially give money, time and skills to assist those in desperate need.

We can sign up to receive action alerts from groups that advocate for the unborn, poor, hungry, homeless, refugees, elderly, war-torn and the environment.

Connecting with groups like Bread for the World, Pax Christi, Priests for Life, Catholic Climate Covenant, Network, Churches for Middle East Peace, Catholic Relief Services, Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, and your state Catholic conference can help you make a difference.
Pope Francis urged the world’s priests to bring the healing power of the Lord’s grace to every person, and to stay close to the marginalized. He famously said priests should be close to people like “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
But within the larger context of his teaching, Francis is also calling the laity to bring God’s healing love to all – especially those living on the edge of society.

The laity must also be “living with the smell of the sheep.” So that “When the Son of Man comes in his glory,” smelling the scent of sheep on us, he will place us on his right and say: “ ‘Inherit the kingdom prepared for you … For I was hungry and you gave me food.’ ” I was thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison and you cared for me!
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

‘Cry with my people’
| October 16, 2015 • by By Msgr. J. Peter Cullen


Guest Columnist
By Msgr. J. Peter Cullen

In August, as state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, I attended the Knights convention in Philadelphia. The speakers, the archbishops of Iraq and Syria, made us painfully aware of the violence in their homeland and the danger of Christian presence and the celebration of the Eucharist coming to an end in the Middle East.

So come with me to Iraq and Syria. But before we begin that little journey, let me call to your mind the five weeks of Gospels proclaimed during this summer on the Bread of Life and Jesus’ words, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood,” will live forever

The Word of Life and the Eucharist nourish us as often as we want. This Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus began in the Middle East—Jerusalem first, then in Syria and Iraq. This is the land of our Christian heritage. Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, that ancient town in Iraq. The story of Jonah and the whale is about God’s call to Jonah to preach in Nineveh, near the modern city of Mosul. St. Paul was on his way to Syria when he was thrown down and converted. St. Peter was the first Bishop of Antioch, Syria, before going to Rome.

Come with me to the lands of our heritage. Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, C.Ss.R., and Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, came to our assembly to give witness to the faith and sacrifice and suffering of Christians in their Archdioceses and the Middle East.

Erbil is north of Bagdad and close to Mosul. Archbishop Warda told us that St. Thomas the Apostle brought the Christian faith to Mosul 2,000 years ago. Christians have called Mosul home for 2,000 years. Today not one Christian is left. Many have had their throats slit, been beheaded or buried alive and thousands have fled. Those who fled have need of food, shelter, and medical care. In Iraq, the Christian population has fallen from 1.5 million to less than 400,000.

Archbishop Jeanbart quoted Pope Francis calling the violence and martyrdom of Christians “genocide.” What is their only crime? It is to believe in the One who 2,000 years ago taught us to love our neighbor and who gives us the Bread of Life—his Body and Blood. In Syria 10 percent of the population was Christian. Violence against Christians has caused a refugee crisis. Recently the New York Times ran an article: “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?”

“What is the West waiting for before it intervenes? What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities?” asks Archbishop Jeanbart. “Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. May all who believe in the Good and Merciful God, and with compassion for the innocent, raise their voice with us and call on civilized countries to take action to bring about peace before it is too late and more innocent victims added to this gruesome spectacle.”

The archbishops of Erbil and Aleppo are desperate for understanding and help. On the verge of tears, they repeated over and over again that the world remains largely silent. The cries from the Archbishops and the refugees remain largely unheard.

There is muted reaction from the White House. On one occasion when ISIS targeted Egyptian Christians and beheaded a dozen or more of them precisely because they were Christians, the response from our government spokespeople was how sad that those Egyptian “citizens” were killed. Yes, they were citizens, but they were martyred because they were Christians. In the face of the danger that could end Christianity in the Middle East and the destruction of the ancient patrimony of our faith the lack of international response is shocking.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said “the blood of these martyrs cries out to heaven for justice. And the blood of these martyrs cries out to you and me for help.” The Knights will redouble their efforts to bring aid to the victims and begin an education campaign to expose these crimes against humanity.

I had a brief opportunity to meet Archbishop Jeanbart of Aleppo at the convention. I took his hand and promised him that I would keep him in my daily prayers. He prayed over me in his language and traced the sign of the cross on my forehead with his thumb. I cannot give a label to my emotion but I know it was a grace from God. I can almost feel the suffering and desperation of my brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

We believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate each Sunday, we receive the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, drawing us to himself. Let’s renew our faith and joyful response to Christ who taught us love of neighbor and gave us the Bread of Life. Let us pray for the grace and strength God gives us to follow him as true disciples. Let us make an effort to learn about the events in the Middle East. Read and study all you can. Be educated, be generous and let the cries of Middle East Christians be heard in your hearts and in your parishes.

(To learn more about the crisis in the Middle East, or to donate to the Knights of Columbus relief efforts, go to or #ChristiansAtRisk.)

Msgr. Cullen is the retired pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Greenwich.                     

‘A new Catholic’s glimpse of Pope Francis’
| October 16, 2015 • by By Carlene Joan Demiany


Guest Columnist
By Carlene Joan Demiany

“How far are we from the cookie shop?” I ask my friend as my two thumbs find the pounding pressure points in my lower back. The crowd is so dense that I can barely bend my elbows to hit the points.

“Not far,” my friend replies. Her torso bends just enough so that she can stretch it without hitting the person directly in front of her.

“Those cookies were so good,” I mumble. I can taste the warm double chocolate chip cookie washed down with a cold carton of milk. I can smell the chocolate baking in the shop.

“Do you want to stay in this line?” my friend asks as she stands on her tiptoes. She searches for the end of the line but sees no horizon in this endless sea of people.

I pause and stand on my own tiptoes. My calves cry. I no longer smell cookies but sunscreen mixed with sweat. We are entering our third hour of standing in line to enter Central Park. I weigh the thought of seeing the Holy Father against the taste of my favorite cookie. I take a step forward—the first in five minutes—and close my eyes.

“Let’s give it another half hour and see if we make it to the park.” I open my eyes, and my shaky hands find my purse. I search for my one water bottle. Paramedics have already removed some light-headed pilgrims. I take a sip of the now lukewarm water and feel the press of a person falling onto my back.

“Sorry,” she mutters before I can even turn around.

“I can see the check points for the park!” someone screams.

Bomb-sniffing dogs greet us like unwanted houseguests as we clear security. The spacious park is welcoming, and we cherish walking at our own pace. But the crowds have already congealed around the road where Pope Francis will ride his motorcade. Twenty rows of the faithful circle tightly like a boa constrictor around both sides of the narrow road.

Knowing we cannot immediately endure that crowd, my friend and I sit down against the trunk of a tree. Its bark brings relief to back muscles knotted like fishing line. I snooze until a text message wakes me up.

“He has left Harlem,” the message from my mom reads. She has been reporting to me the Pope’s every move. All of those seated in the park pop up like gophers. I am not the only one receiving updates.

My friend and I run with the others to take our place amongst the crowd. I push against the person in front of me and someone bumps me from behind. No one complains. All attempts at saying sorry are now silenced by screams of “Viva il Papa.” Flags from around the world wave like short kites in the wind. Beads of sweat fall from individuals wearing traditional dress.

“He’s rolling,” says a message from my mom.

“He’s coming,” people yell right as I read my text. Screams erupt as children sitting on shoulders and elderly leaning on canes bear the same giddy grins. Rosaries swing wildly and an impromptu recitation of the Lord’s Prayer begins. I hear it in three languages. The euphoric crowd presses in as 80,000 wait for a glimpse of the Holy Father.

And then he comes—a humble man dressed in white. He stands in an elevated car and waves. His presence radiates a peace and joy that permeates throughout the thickness of stacked bodies. He turns, and I glimpse his face. It is the face of Christ.

For a moment, my crowd becomes the one gathered on the first Palm Sunday. We all want only a glimpse of the one who rides and graciously refuses the gift of power so generously given by the adoring crowd. But my crowd displays their affection by waving camera phones instead of palm fronds. My crowd sees a man riding in a motorcade instead of on a donkey. But in my mind, the face of the one in the middle of it all is the same.

The procession ends, and the crowds disperse. I walk from the moment grateful that I fought the urge to leave the line and get a cookie. My fingers again find the pressure points in my back. I smile. I would stand in line for hours again just to get a glimpse of that face.                                

Carlene Joan Demiany is a parishioner at St. Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University.

Caring for the elderly, the old-fashioned way
| October 16, 2015 • by By Joe Pisani


Swimming Upstream
By Joe Pisani

On the Feast of the Holy Family, when they read from the Book of Sirach at Mass, I always urge my four daughters to listen carefully—and take notes.

The author, Ben Sira, could have been president of AARP or an activist for elder rights. He was a Jewish sage from Jerusalem whose moral teachings are still timely 2200 years later.

“God sets a father in honor over his children,” he wrote. “Whoever honors his father atones for sins and preserves himself from them. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

“My son (or daughter, I would add), take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten.”

That’s a message for all ages, but it is especially relevant in the 21st century, when Alzheimer’s is expected to become a global epidemic.

Care of the elderly will be a monumental concern as the 76 million Baby Boomers enter their senior years. We live in an era of increased longevity when the average life span approaches 80. Most people born today will live 40 years longer than someone born in 1900. There are almost six million Americans over 85 and society hasn’t begun to address the so-called “Age Wave.”

I thought of Ben Sira’s teachings recently when I attended a presentation about caring for the elderly. One approach that is gaining attention involves … robots.

A model that sells for $500 is advertised as the ideal home companion for lonely old people. This family robot, which resembles a small waste paper basket with a large eye like a Cyclops, has the kind of digitized voice you hear in Pixar movies, and it can give consoling good-night messages. The device whirls and twirls, takes pictures and does family chores.

He was so amusing I considered buying him for my wife and dog, so we could play robot games together. My wife loves Scrabble and the dog loves fetch. But the robot doesn’t have arms, so I’m not sure he can throw the tennis ball. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion the dog would be less tolerant and might try to bite his little robot head.

Another demonstration featured a doctor “avatar” on a computer monitor that was talking to an elderly man about the importance of taking his medication. The fellow had no problem carrying on a conversation with a digitized character that looked like Aunt Bea from the “Andy Griffith Show.”

I can’t imagine what my father would have done if we planted a iPad by his bed and had some cartoon character pop up to nag him about taking his pills. I had to wonder whether this is what Ben Sira had in mind when he said, “Take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives.”

In an era obsessed with artificial intelligence and technological gadgets, we’ll do anything to avoid our true responsibilities as people, who are called to love and care for one another. Despite what the slick marketing and promotional campaigns suggest, robots can’t really love. They don’t feel genuine compassion, and even though they can mimic human behavior, love comes from God, not computer programmers. And love and compassion are what the elderly need most in a society where there’s widespread lack of respect for human life at its beginning and at its end.

Pope Francis has been particularly vocal in criticizing those who neglect their responsibility to the elderly and who advance euthanasia as a solution for dealing with the infirm and terminally ill.     

He said, “The human person is always precious, even if marked by age and sickness. The human person, in fact, in whatever circumstance, is good in and of himself and for others, and is loved by God. For this reason, when life becomes very fragile and the end of earthly existence approaches, we feel the responsibility to assist and accompany the person in the best way.

“The biblical commandment that requires us to honor our parents reminds us of the honor we must show to all elderly people. The Bible reserves a severe warning for those who neglect or mistreat their parents. The same judgment applies today when parents, having become older and less useful, are marginalized to the point of abandonment.”

Ben Sira would surely have agreed.

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

Everyone needs a friend like Joe Boots
| October 16, 2015 • by By Matthew Hennessey


A Dad’s View
By Matthew Hennessey

I know a guy. I can’t tell you his real name. Let’s call him Joe Boots. He’s a great fellow. One of the best.

Joe Boots works hard. He’s up early every day. Sometimes he’s at his desk by sunrise. He gets the job done—and done right—with a smile on his face.

That’s not me. I take the late train. I like a cup of coffee in the break room before things get going. I’m known to be a scowler. I’m quite fond of lunch.

Joe Boots comes home every night to his beautiful family. He never stays late to have a beer with the guys. Go ahead: Invite me out for a beer. If I turn you down, ask me again. I may have misheard you.

When Joe Boots does go out, it’s to volunteer at his parish. Maybe it’s the first Monday of the month and the Knights of Columbus are meeting. When the boys need someone to do a thankless job, Joe Boots always raises his hand.

Me? I’m the kind of guy who slinks down a little lower in his chair when the call for volunteers goes out. Invisible is my middle name. Too Busy to Help is on my business card.

Joe Boots is not a complainer. When he has a bad back, you have to pry the information out of him. When I have a bad back, you will hear about it. Everyone will hear about it. I will not leave you alone about it.

Joe Boots knows stuff that a man should know: when to change your tires; how to grill ribs; whether Matt Harvey will be a difference-maker in the playoffs for the Mets.

I aspire to this level of masculine competency. Most of what I know I’ve learned from Wikipedia. That includes the name of campylobacter jejuni, the most common cause of bacterial food borne illness in the United States and what you will probably get if you eat meat from my grill.

Joe Boots goes regularly to Confession, though I don’t know why. I’ve never heard him take the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve never heard him curse. In fact, I’ve never heard him utter a cross word toward anyone. He is modesty incarnate.

If anyone belongs in the confessional, it’s me. I make snap judgments about strangers. I break commandments like CNN breaks news. I’ve got a bigger mouth than the Mississippi. Modesty will never be my strong suit.

Joe Boots is not on social media. You can follow me on Twitter @matthennessey.

Maybe you think I’m exaggerating? Maybe you think I owe a debt to Joe Boots and our agreement is that I will pay it off by making him out to be a saint in this column? Maybe you think that making Joe Boots look good requires making myself out to be a bum?

Dead wrong. Joe Boots wants none of this. He needs these words of praise like he needs poison ivy on the back of his knees. He’ll ask why I felt the need to do it.

The answer is: Because I should be more like Joe Boots. I should go to Confession more often. I should be happy with what I’ve got. I should stop complaining so much.

Luckily, Joe Boots is a friend of mine. I can always take inspiration from his good example. Look around—there’s probably a Joe Boots in your life too.

Now, buy me a beer and I’ll tell you about my bad back.      

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

St. Augustine Medal of Service
| October 16, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—The St. Augustine Medal of Service prayer service and awards ceremony will be held at St. Augustine Cathedral on Saturday, October 17, beginning at 1:30 pm. A reception will follow at Kolbe-Cathedral High School on the grounds of the Cathedral campus.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will lead the prayer service and present medals to more than 130 recipients from parishes and ministries across the diocese.

“True generosity comes from those who are grateful for their lives and who faithfully use the gifts God has given them,” said Bishop Caggiano. “We will celebrate the St. Augustine medalists as mentors, guides and prophets in their love and service. I look forward to meeting them and their families and recognizing their great commitment to others through the Church.”

Last year, more than 700 friends and family of the recipients turned out for the Medal of Service ceremony.

Pastors, priests and deacons throughout the diocese accompany the recipients as they come forward to be presented with the medal by Bishop Caggiano.

The St. Augustine Medal of Service was instituted in 2005 to recognize the “unsung heroes” who unselfishly give of their time and talents to build up parish communities. On one side of the medal is an image of St. Augustine of Hippo, patron saint of the diocese. The reverse features the coat of arms of the diocese.

(For more info, contact Kimberly McKeown: 203.416.1641 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

Ignatian Spirituality for the Corporate World
| October 15, 2015



"Business as a Vocation: Ignatian Spirituality for the Corporate World" will be the topic of the First Annual Symposium on Ignatian Spirituality on Saturday, November 21, 8:30 am- 12:30 pm at the Fairfield University Charles F. Dolan School of Business Dining Room.

The event is a program of Center for Ignatian Spirituality of Fairfield University
in partnership with the 
Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership: 
Practices from a 450 Year-Old Company that Changed the World, former managing partner at J.P. Morgan & Co. and current chairman of the Board of Catholic Health Industries will be the featured speaker.

Panel members who will respond to Lowney talk include Joseph E. Berardino, Former Fairfield University Trustee; American businessman, CPA, and Managing Director at Alvarez and Marsal; formerly Managing Partner and CEO of Arthur Andersen, and Chairman and CEOP of Profectus Bioscience.

Sheila Kearney Davidson, Fairfield University Trustee is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel of New York Life Insurance Company where, in addition to leading the company’s legal operations, she also oversees its compliance, governance and public relations functions.

John Dionne, former Board Chair, University of Scranton is Senior Advisor of Blackstone and Field Fellow with Harvard Business School; formerly Senior Managing Director and Global Head of the Private Equity and Investor Relations and Business Development Groups.

The Center for Ignatian Spirituality was launched by Fairfield University in November 2014. Fr. James Bowler, S.J is serving as director.

In announcing the new program further invest lay men and women in the charism of the Jesuits. Fr. 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.”

The Ignatian Center invests laymen and women in the charism of the Jesuits. In addition to training lay spiritual directors and supervisors, the Ignatian center offers retreats, and a parish programs in cooperation with Diocese of Bridgeport. 

St. Mary Parish of Ridgefield has been participating in a pilot program for the Center. The goal of the pilot is to introduce the parishes to prayer in the Ignatian tradition. The program also helps participants 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.

Breakfast will be served. Seating is limited. Please register by November 10.

Immaculate High School Celebrates 50 Years!
| October 15, 2015


DANBURY—In celebration of 50 years of pride, tradition and excellence, Immaculate High School held a series of events over Columbus Day Weekend, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class.

Immaculate High School, the premiere college prep school in Western CT, kicked off the celebration with a Friday evening football game featuring a special halftime ceremony emceed by former longtime principal Robert Gerwien. A sold-out alumni tailgate event and fireworks display added to the evening’s festivities. Saturday morning included a run at Tarrywile Park, family festival in Mustang Valley, pancake breakfast and school tours.

Saturday night featured a 50th Anniversary reunion event, in which over 300 alumni came “home” to celebrate 50 years of excellence. A beautiful Jubilee Mass, celebrated by the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport was held on Sunday morning. The Immaculate gymnasium was filled with students, families, alumni, and current and former faculty and staff. A breakfast was served following the Mass, as hundreds said farewell to a weekend filled with Mustang spirit and pride.

Director of Alumni Relations and IHS alumna, Denise (Henry) Suarez commented, “This is a true milestone in the life of the school, and we were excited to welcome back alumni from all decades to join us in celebrating Immaculate’s great history. Our over 6,000 alumni are proud of Immaculate’s past and excited about the future. They have graciously given back of their time, talents and treasure in helping us to prepare for this anniversary year.”

To learn about additional celebratory events being held throughout the school year, or to view pictures of the Columbus Day Weekend festivities, please visit

Immaculate High School, a Catholic college preparatory school located in Danbury, is leading the way in 21st Century education and learning. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, IHS serves more than 26 towns in the greater Danbury area, including Putnam and Duchess Counties in eastern New York. Students at Immaculate live the motto “Respect, Responsibility and Reverence” not only in the classrooms, but also on the athletic fields, the stage, and in their daily lives.

Contact: Denise Suarez, Director of Alumni Relations - Immaculate High School (203) 744-1510 x158 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

SHU holds blessing of the hands ceremony for nursing upperclassmen
| October 14, 2015


FAIRFIELD—On October 2, a “Blessing of the Hands” ceremony took place in Sacred Heart University's the Chapel of the Holy Spirit to celebrate junior and senior nursing majors entering upper division clinical practice.

Sacred Heart University Director of Nursing Simulation & Clinical Laboratories Beth Boyd, center,
blesses the hands of nursing student Jenna Greco, right, at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit
on October 2. Also participating, at left, is Anne Marie Adiletta. (Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek)

Father David Buckles presided over the ceremony, which has been held annually at SHU since 2012.

“By this time in the undergraduate nursing curriculum, students are expected to approach patient care holistically, including incorporating spirituality into their nursing practice,” says Kim Foito, clinical assistant professor in SHU’s College of Nursing. “In the ceremony, we focus on the student’s development of their spirituality because students need to recognize their own spiritual beliefs and needs before they can recognize these aspects in their patients and provide humanistic care.”

In the ceremony, seniors wear a traditional undergraduate first professional degree uniform and lab coat, while juniors enter with a lab coat draped over their forearm. Each junior is “coated” by a senior, has his or her hands blessed and is presented with a laminated pocket-size prayer card to use during exams and clinical practice. By the end of the ceremony, all students and faculty are wearing a lab coat to signify congruence among all levels of nursing.

Sacred Heart was one of 60 universities selected to receive grant funding from The Arnold P. Gold Foundation (APGF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to host this year’s ceremony.

“As the health-care provider who spends the most time with patients, nurses must embrace the need to provide compassionate care as an essential element of their professional practice,” said AACN President Eileen T. Breslin. “With health care becoming more patient-centered and team-driven, nurses, physicians and other providers must embed humanism in their practice as a way to elevate the patient care experience and improve care outcomes.”

The College of Nursing at Sacred Heart University consists of undergraduate, graduate, online and certificate programs leading to a bachelor’s of science in nursing, master’s of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice degree, as well as RN to BSN, RN-BSN-MSN and FNP programs. The programs are designed to advance nursing careers to best meet the health care needs of the community.

Deacon Cassaneto named director of deacons
| October 14, 2015 • by By BRIAN D. WALLACE


BRIDGEPORT—Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D., has been named Director of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Bridgeport, effective October 1. The appointment was made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Deacon Cassaneto’s appointment follows the deliberations of a search committee that the bishop convened to interview applicants following the retirement of Deacon Tony Detje of Brookfield after 29 years of service as director of the program.

“I believe that Deacon Cassaneto has the gifts, talents, and energy to lead a comprehensive program of formation that includes the human, theological, spiritual and pastoral dimensions. He and his team will accomplish this from the moment he begins his new assignment, which will serve men who feel called by the Lord to ordination day and beyond. Please keep Deacon Cassaneto in your prayers as he begins this important work,” Bishop Caggiano said.

The bishop said that Deacon Cassaneto is already working with members of the diaconal council to organize various committees and ensure the thoughtful and thorough implementation of a new program of diaconal formation.

According to Deacon John DiTaranto, special assistant to the bishop, who has been serving as temporary director of deacons, there are 100 ordained deacons in the diocese, 71 of whom are active and 29 who have recently retired. There are currently six men who are Candidates in the Diaconate Formation Program and there are ten men who are Aspirants in the formation program, which will undergo changes under the direction of Deacon Cassaneto.

The deacon’s role in liturgical ceremonies includes administering Baptism, witnessing and blessing marriages, officiating at wakes, funerals and burial services, administering sacramentals and presiding at prayer services. Deacons also distribute Holy Communion, proclaim the Gospel, preach the homily and assist at Mass. They also share in the pastoral duties of the parish, and help in the work of sanctifying the people, as well as other more practical ministries, such as tending to the poor and teaching the faith.

A native of Bronx, New York, Deacon Cassaneto and his wife, Gabriela, are residents of Beacon Falls, where they assist with the care of Gabriela’s mother.

Deacon Cassaneto was ordained on May 24, 1986, and was assigned to St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Parish in the Bronx, where he served until 2015. From 1993 to 2012 he was director of formation and director of ministry and life for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of New York.

Deacon Cassaneto received his bachelor’s degree from Hunter College of the City of New York, a master’s degree from Manhattan College, a Ph.D. degree in education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and a second doctorate in religion and religious education from Fordham University.

While working for many years in Catholic elementary and secondary education, Deacon Cassaneto also served in a number of capacities in the Archdiocese of New York including parochial advocate for the Marriage Tribunal, memberships on the Diaconate Evaluation Team, Admissions Board, Synod Committee, Deacon Advisory Board, the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph’s Seminary, and the Board of Directors for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He has held leadership positions with the National Association of Diaconate Directors serving as president-elect (2001), president (2002), and past-president (2003).

Since his arrival in the Diocese of Bridgeport earlier this year, Deacon Cassaneto has been assigned to St. Lawrence Parish in Shelton, where he will remain active in ministry. “I’ve been very blessed in my appointment at St. Lawrence,” he said. “I was appointed here on May 24, on the 29th anniversary of my ordination date. I took that as a ‘sign’ from the Lord, and I’m enjoying it very much here.”

Members of the search committee describe him as a listener, a collaborator, possessing wisdom and clear vision.

“I’ve found that if people learn that you’re there for them, that you’re ready to serve them—they respond,” he said. “We’re all people of faith, invited to service. We’ll go on from there.”

The first deacon class was ordained by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, Second Bishop of Bridgeport, on February 25, 1978, who created the program in response to the changes and reforms of Vatican II. Current Church law requires a man to be 35 years of age at the time of his ordination as deacon. Candidates in the diocese must be between the ages of 31 and 60 years of age at the time they enter the program.

(For more info on the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Diocese of Bridgeport, contact Deacon Cassaneto: 203.416.1451 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)          

Patrick Turner named director of planning
| October 14, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Patrick Turner has been named the new director of strategic and pastoral planning by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, effective October 1. 

Turner, who was named deputy synod director in June 2014, has quickly become a familiar face around the diocese as a result of his leadership at the Synod General Sessions and other synod events over the past year.

Working with Father Michael Dogali, the episcopal vicar for strategic planning, Turner will engage with priests, deacons, religious, professional staff and lay leaders in the parishes to create a process that will ultimately develop pastoral plans to address a parish’s individual needs and respond to the challenges identified by the synod.    

“With the completion of the Synod Mass, attention now turns to implementing the recommendations of the synod and maintaining the momentum that has developed through the synod process,” said Bishop Caggiano.

Turner came to the diocese after serving as vicariate representative for the Diocese of Brooklyn for eight years. In that capacity he served as a bridge between the diocesan curial offices and the more than 90 parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.

“He brought great organizational and strategic planning skills to his new role in Bridgeport and in the synod and will help us to move forward in the planning process,” said the bishop.

Father Dogali, who was appointed vicar for strategic and pastoral planning in November 2014 as part of the diocesan reorganization, said that in the coming months each parish will ultimately be asked to create a Pastoral Planning Council to assist the pastor in overseeing the planning process.

“Lay leaders and priests across the diocese have been invited to training sessions this fall to learn more about the roles of parish council members, finance council members, and trustees, and how these entities are developed to provide assistance to the pastor and parish staff,” Father Dogali said.

One of the initiatives approved by the synod delegates last May called for the creation of a comprehensive pastoral planning process to engage each parish in ongoing, systematic and comprehensive planning to create a roadmap to ensure long-term viability and pastoral vitality.  

“The long-term goal for pastoral planning is to develop a mechanism by which all aspects of parish life are intentional, mission-driven, and open to periodic evaluation and improvement,” said Father Dogali.

In addition, the Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning will be responsible for working with the Diocesan Strategic Planning Commission and overseeing the post-synod implementation process, and will maintain relations with the synod delegates over the next two years as they continue to serve as an advisory body to Bishop Caggiano.

Turner said he was excited to have the opportunity to continue his work with the Diocese of Bridgeport and that he looked forward to working with pastors and parish representatives throughout the process.  

“In the 16-plus months that I have been here, I have met many wonderful individuals who are excited about the synod journey and the future of the Church in Fairfield County. Working with our synod delegates has been a truly joyous experience, and I look forward to more deeply engaging the priests and lay leaders in the diocese to respond to the synod challenges. I also truly appreciate the confidence that Bishop Caggiano has shown by appointing me to this position.”

Prior to beginning his work for the Diocese of Brooklyn, Turner spent nearly 21 years in Washington, D.C., working in the public policy/government relations arena. An undergraduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, he completed graduate level coursework at Loyola College in Baltimore in pastoral and spiritual care.  Turner was born in Texas and grew up near Seattle.           

Rise to the Challenge of Dialogue
| October 10, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—(In this reflection, which first appeared on his Facebook page, Bishop Frank Caggiano, in the spirit of the Holy Father, urges us to get beyond labels and comfortable circles of thought and challenges us to truly dialogue with others)

“During his recent visit to our country, in addition to reminding us of the need for each of us to enjoy a personal and enduring encounter with Christ, our Holy Father challenged us to dialogue with one another and the world. This is a challenge that is harder than it first looks.

The Pope reminded us that true Christian dialogue involves persons listening with their “hearts” to the thoughts, concerns, hopes and fears of the people around us. It requires that we “encounter” the person with whom we are speaking or sharing a conversation in a personal way. Such Christian dialogue is not simply meant to exchange views in an intellectual discussion to arrive at some “consensus”. Rather, dialogue allows one person to share what is truly of concern to him or her in a spirit of charity and asks the person listening to empathize and respond with the mind and heart of Jesus. Thus, all the qualities that govern our personal relationship with the Lord must also be applied to our “neighbor” if true dialogue can take place.

The modern problem to achieving such dialogue is a daunting one. We live in a world that encourages us to dialogue only with those who share our opinions, views, or even political affiliation. Instead of fostering greater communion among people, such “modern dialogue” actually has the opposite effect, creating “camps” that harden their positions and create polarization and division, all for the sake of moving personal or group agenda and not in service of the truth or the common good of society.

As Christians who live in such a polarized world, we would be foolish to think that this spirit of polarization cannot creep into our own circle of friends, colleagues or even our own hearts. We must be totally honest with ourselves and be on guard not to adopt the notion of dialogue as the world wants us. And if you are wondering to yourself how can I tell whether I am truly committed to dialogue as taught by the Holy Father, I have these question:

Is there a group or person in the Church about which you and I have made a negative judgment and for which we are not open to hearing anything further that the person or group wishes to share?

Is there a person that you have already judged to be “so liberal”, “so conservative”, “so traditional”, “so divisive” that while remaining polite when you encounter these peoples or groups, you have no intention of truly encountering them and opening your mind and heart to dialogue as the Lord did with all those he met? Have we judged some people to be “so lost”, “so sinful”, “so out of touch with the Church’s teachings” that we have decided, perhaps unconsciously, no longer to waste our time with them?

If you and I answer “yes” to questions such as these, then we can begin to appreciate the challenge that the Holy Father is giving us.

It is time to rise to the challenge.”

“Best is yet to come,” Bishop tells Synod Volunteers
| October 09, 2015


TRUMBULL—Bishop Caggiano said “thank you” to more than 200 Synod Celebration Mass volunteers last night at a dinner held in the Parish Center of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull.

The volunteers played a key role in helping to organize and coordinate the Synod Mass, which recently drew more than 8,000 people throughout Fairfield County to Webster Bank Arena in downtown Bridgeport.

“You helped us on that beautiful day when we showed the whole world that the Church of Fairfield County is alive and well,” the Bishop said to joyous applause, at the beginning of a relaxed and casual evening of prayer and buffet dinner.

The Bishop said that when he first made plans for the Celebration Mass on September 19, he had no idea it would coincide so closely with the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S.

He said the coming together of the two events, which many people in the diocese participated in, was a “gift from the Holy Spirit and a singular moment of grace that we won’t see again for a long time to come.”

The bishop began the evening by blessing the Synod Medallions that we placed at each table setting as a commemorative gift.

Each medallion bears an engraving of the diocesan and synod logos and “Building a Bridge to the Future.” It was designed by Brian A. Wallace, of the diocesan Communications office.

Asking the volunteers to hold the medallions in their hands as he blessed them, the bishop said the medal was “an important tangible token of thanks, and a call to grow in our spiritual life.”

“Remember, we must give reality to what we agreed to do at the Synod. Our work is not finished,” he said, noting that the diocese will be moving forward to implement initiatives approved by Synod delegates. “We will continue to walk where the Lord lead us.”

The Bishop noted that the gathering was taking place where Synod delegates had worked for months to discern challenges and create a series of initiatives to renew the Diocese of Bridgeport.

In thanking the volunteers, the bishop said the Synod Mass Celebration was the ‘crown jewel of the process we lived together for a year.”

The Bishop recognized Patrick Turner, Deputy Synod Director, who recently accepted the new post as Director of Pastoral Planning for the diocese, a process that will give each parish and diocesan institution the tools to plan for and taken ownership of its own future.

Turner thanked volunteers and said the Synod “showed people are hungry for a spiritual revival” and that the diocese is committed to “ continue to find opportunities for people to come together, deepen their faith and grow closer to one another.”

In brief remarks after dinner, the Bishop again thanked guests and inspired them with a final blessing.

“If you thought we had fun up to this point, let’s see what God can do through us in the future. If the Synod Mass is any indication of the life we share, then the best is yet to come.”

Click here for photos (Amy Mortensen)

A visit from Ave Maria Law School Founder and President
| October 09, 2015


SOUTHPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano described Ave Maria Law School as “a gift of grace in a moment of need in the life of the church” as the nation faces serious ethical, legal and constitutional issues.

Speaking to 60 friends of Ave Maria at a reception held at the Delmar Hotel to raise scholarship funds for the law school, the bishop said the school’s graduates will play an important role in society as Catholic lawyers, and he praised Ave Maria founder Tom Monaghan for his vision and commitment as a Catholic layman.

Referring to Lumen gentium a principal document of Vatican II that “opened the way for lay leadership in the mission of the Church,” the Bishop said Tom Monaghan is an example of “what can happen when one baptized Catholic rises to the challenge the lord gives us.”

The bishop said he was concerned with a “movement to render freedom of religion simply as freedom to worship” while ignoring faith’s implication for the public square. He added that he is “grateful to Ave Maria and the students who will be at work and making a difference” in the practice of law.

Msgr. Frank C. McGrath, former pastor of St. John Parish in Darien who accepted a position as Chaplain of Ave Maria Law School last September, led the gathering in prayer and drew laughter when he said he stayed in touch with the Bishop by keeping up with his active Facebook, Twitter and other social media efforts.

In brief remarks, Mr. Monaghan thanked Bishop Caggiano for giving Msgr. McGrath permission to serve as Law School Chaplain and Said he was interested in “what Ave Maria Law school can do for our society” with their respect for natural law and Church teachings. Connie Von Zhwel, who hosted the evening with her husband Vinnie described Ave Maria as “the crown jewel of Catholic law schools in America” and said that it was “front and center in the growing need to defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Attorney Brian Hoeing, a 2005 graduate of Ave Maria who practices law in Hartford, noted that Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia helped form the law school which “fosters faith and reason in the legal community” He added that “law should always be a search for the truth.”

Ave Maria President and Dean Kevin Cieply said that the law school is grounded in the Catholic faith and “tethered to the Magisterium” in its teaching and respect for the concept of Natural Law. Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, supports the school through his Ave Maria Foundation and serves as the chairman of the board of governors of the school.

Ave Maria School of Law has been named the best Catholic Law School in the United States for the devout by “PreLaw “Magazine. The winter 2014 issue of the magazine ranked AMSL first among 28 Catholic law schools.

The Ave Maria School of Law, founded in 1999, is a fully ABA-accredited Roman Catholic law school, located in Naples, Florida. Almost 400 students enrolled from a variety of states, countries, and undergraduate institutions. Classes commenced in the fall semester of 2000. For more information visit:

Click here for photos (by Amy Mortensen)

Documentary on Our Lady of Guadalupe to Air on ABC This Fall
| October 08, 2015


NEW HAVEN—A new documentary film narrated by actor Jim Caviezel offers original insights into the details, story and impact of the 16th century apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe—one of the most recognizable religious icons in the American hemisphere.

The Knights of Columbus-produced film, Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message, paints a comprehensive and inspiring picture of the history, facts and legacy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Aired as part of ABC's Visions and Values Series, the documentary will have a broadcast window from October 11 to December 10.
The film delves into the inexplicable existence of the image that appeared on the tilma (cloak) of an indigenous convert named Juan Diego, who, over the course of four days in December 1531, received a series of visions of the Virgin Mary. The indigenous people were amazed how the image revealed important elements of the Christian faith through native symbols—an actual codex—that they could understand. Most experts and historians affirm that the image miraculously imprinted on the tilma resulted in the conversion of millions to the Catholic faith.
“The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe helped to build bridges between cultures and worlds and began the transformation of our continent into a Christian continent of hope,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus and executive producer of the film. “The apparition helped to unite the entire continent in a way that didn’t exist before. Through her intercession, then and now, those throughout this hemisphere have found a deep and shared sense of faith, hope and identity.”
The image itself has long been puzzling to the scientific community, since it has been shown to exist without having been painted, has survived despite extreme age, adverse conditions and a bombing. The image also exhibits features reminiscent of photographs, such as reflections in the image's eyes, even though it appeared hundreds of years before photography.
Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message brings this remarkable history to life through modern reenactments, 3D animations that allow viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the centuries-old wonder and interviews with leading theologians, historians and scientists.
The film also dispels popular myths, including that the image’s impact does not extend past Mexico’s border. “Some see Our Lady of Guadalupe as a Mexican or as a Latin American, Hispanic phenomenon,” said Anderson. “However, this understanding is incomplete. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all of America and of the Philippines as well. She is loved and embraced across cultural lines throughout this continent and beyond.”
Anderson has promoted study of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a point of unity throughout the American continent and as a model of evangelization In his 2009 New York Times-bestselling book, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Civilization of Love,” Anderson explores the changing face of the Catholic Church and shows how Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message was historically significant and speaks to contemporary issues confronting people today.
(For more information about the film, including broadcast times and the DVD release, visit or follow the hashtag #guadalupethefilm.)

Bridgeport abortion facility closes
| October 07, 2015 • by By Michael P. Mayko, CT Post


BRIDGEPORT — Forty years of confrontations between pro-life and pro-choice advocates, which resulted in close 1,000 arrests and and several civil suits, are ending.

Photo by Ned Gerard / CT Post

Personnel at the Summit Women’s Center at 3787 Main St. said last week the facility was closing due to declining abortion rates in the state and the increased availabilty of abortion services.

“Summit Women’s Center has been caring for the reproductive health needs of women in the Bridgeport area since 1975 and it has truly been an honor,” center director Tanya Little said by email. “We have, in fact, made the difficult decision to close our business. Nationally, we are constantly seeing women’s reproductive freedoms attacked, but the state of CT sets an example of how to take care of the reproductive needs of its citizens. Education, access and insurance coverage related to sexuality, contraception, pregnancy prevention and reproductive health care have made the need for abortion less and less in our state.”

Click here to see the original story in the CT Post.

Click to read response from Gospel of Life Society in Norwalk

Gospel of Life Society reflection on closing of Bridgeport abortion center
| October 07, 2015 • by By George Meagher


Why did the Summit abortion center in Bridgeport close?
The Summit Abortion Center, where more unborn children were killed than in any other Fairfield County abortuary, is closed. Why?

According to the CT Department of Public Health (DPH), there has been a radical decrease in the number of abortions in CT. From its peak in 1998 (20,219 deaths) to the most recently released public report in 2013 (10,560 deaths) there has been 48% decrease in the annual number of abortions. In the past 5 years the rate of decrease has become more profound. The people most familiar with the Summit Center maintain that the decrease in the number of abortions there was even greater.
But again the question might be asked: Why?
Parents increasingly use ultrasound technology to view their unborn baby and they share those pictures. Ultrasound pictures showing the undeniable personhood of the unborn are causing a sea change in the Pro-Life/ Pro-Abortion dialog. The Knights of Columbus and the Focus on Family run programs to make ultrasound equipment available to crisis pregnancy centers.
The HopeLine Pregnancy Resource Center, which opened just a few blocks from the abortuary on Main Street, offers pregnant women in difficult situations guidance and support covering parenting, adoption and abortion referrals. Birthright and the Malta House also offer mothers moral and material support. By Planned Parenthood’s own reports, the services they provided to pregnant women were: 1% received adoption placement services, 2% received well baby prenatal care and 97% received dead fetuses.
Since 1990 through their sidewalk counseling, Operation Save America has saved at least 2,371 children that they know of, and possibly many more. These heroic people have often maintained relationships with the mothers who chose life and their children, meeting their spiritual and material needs.
Four years ago Christine Murphy and Michelle Geraci launched the first 40 Days For Life Prayer Vigil at the Summit Abortion Clinic, not knowing who would follow them. Each year about 1,000 people from 60 Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox churches, as well as from youth groups and civic organizations, followed. Both our Catholic bishops have prayed at the site, as did parish priests, deacons and nuns, and members of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist and Evangelical clergy. It is estimated that 40,000 people heard a Pro-Life message in their parish, congregation or organization, raising a Pro-Life awareness and commitment. Pro-Life billboards rented by St Mary Parish, Ridgefield, Respect Life Committee bracketed both sides of the abortion clinic. Between 10,000 and 15,000 drivers each day witnessed the Billboards and Prayer Vigil, equating to 750,000 exposures to the Pro-Life message.
Numerous other Pro-Life events were held at the abortion clinic. The January 22nd anniversary of Roe v Wade was marked by a well-attended prayer services at the abortion clinic. Once a month, people from St. Theresa Parish prayed the Rosary on a Saturday, the busiest day at the clinic. During Lent, several churches prayed the Rosary on Saturdays. The Pro-Life Stations of the Cross were recited at the clinic.
Over the decades since Roe v Wade, individuals and groups at the local level kept alive the Pro-Life message through the January 22nd March on Washington, hosting local speakers, holding local prayer services, Masses, Rosaries and Holy Hours, distributing information, writing elected officials and supporting charities. Fund raising efforts included supporting homes for unwed mothers, education and employment assistance, community wide baby showers for unwed mothers, diaper and wipe drives, Mother’s Day flower sales to support residences and guidance/support facilities and baby bottle drives (cash placed in baby bottles for mother and infant needs).

Several county and statewide Pro-Life organizations, including the CT Right to Life, the Gospel of Life Society, the Family Institute of Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus and the Respect Life Ministry, have sought to educate and motivate a population that is becoming increasing Pro-Life at the grassroots.

Bishop Caggiano to speak on reconciliation at Congregation B’nai Israel
| October 07, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—The Most Reverend Frank Caggiano , Bishop of Bridgeport, will be guest speaker Friday, October 23 during the Shabbat service at Congregation B’nai Israel commemorating the 50th anniversary of a historic Vatican document creating sweeping changes in the teachings of the Catholic Church and its relationship with Jews.

The bishop will speak during the 6 pm Sabbath service and again during a private dinner that evening at the Temple, the greater Bridgeport area’s oldest and largest synagogue, located at 2710 Park Avenue, Bridgeport. The bishop’s remarks will focus on the importance of the Nostra Aetate (In Our Day) proclamation on October 28, 1965 made by Pope Paul VI.

Rabbi James Prosnit, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, said Nostra Aetate discussed relationships between the Church and other non-Christian religions, but focused primarily on Judaism.

“In it the Church repudiated anti-Semitism and laid foundations for mutual recognition and reconciliation. Liturgies and catechetical texts with references to Jews being accursed and unloved were eliminated,” said Rabbi Prosnit, a Fairfield resident.

“We’re deeply honored Bishop Caggiano will join us.  Since coming to the area he has done much to build bridges of learning and tolerance throughout the community,” said Rabbi Prosnit.

Click here to read the 50th anniversary story.

The 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate We welcome Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano Friday Evening October 23rd
| October 07, 2015


This month marks the 50th Anniversary of a sweeping and significant theological change in the teachings of the Catholic Church, specifically in terms of the Church’s relationship with Judaism and the Jewish people.  On October 28th 1965, as part of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), a document of a revolutionary nature was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI.  The work had been commenced by Pope John XXIII, but he did not live to see the final results of the transformation in Church teachings.

Nostra Aetate (In Our Day) spoke of relationships between the Church and other non-Christian Religions, but focused primarily on Judaism.  In it the Church repudiated anti-Semitism and laid foundations for mutual recognition and reconciliation.  Liturgies and catechetical texts with references to Jews being accursed and unloved were eliminated.  While it acknowledged that Jewish authorities at the time pressed for the death of Jesus, the document made it clear that his passion cannot be charged against all Jews then or today.  In addition the Church overturned a replacement theology, which taught that the church had replaced the synagogue and that Christians had replaced the Jewish people as God’s elect.

Seeds for Nostra Aetate were planted by the French Jewish historian, Jules Isaac who had a private audience with Pope John XXIII.  Isaac’s family was killed by the Nazis during the Shoah. After World War II, he devoted himself to researching the origins of cultural and religious antisemitism. During his meeting with John XXIII, he summarized in a portfolio his research into the history of the Christian "teaching of contempt" for Jews and Judaism. This meeting is generally credited with being a major impetus for the pope's decision to direct Cardinal Augustin Bea, to draft a declaration on the Catholic Church's relationship to the Jewish people for the Second Vatican Council.

The 50th anniversary of such a ground breaking and communally healing document provides a wonderful time to rededicate ourselves to the values that were at its core.  

To mark both the anniversary of Nostra Aetate and to affirm the importance of interfaith dialogue it will be an honor for us to welcome to B’nai Israel on Friday evening October 23rd The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano who in 2013 was installed as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport.  In a short time, Bishop Caggiano has done much to build bridges of learning and tolerance throughout the community.  We hope you’ll join us for services at 6:00 P.M. when Bishop Caggiano will speak to the congregation and also for dinner at 7:15 (you’ll need a reservation) and a chance to engage the Bishop in conversation follow dinner.      

Merciful saint draws long lines at Trumbull church
| October 07, 2015 • by By Fausto Giovanny Pinto, CT Post


TRUMBULL—The line inside St. Theresa Church stretched from the altar to the last pew, when it wasn’t twisting out the door and around the corner.

Inside, people waited to touch the glowing glass box, a sarcophagus for a saint with a light blue hue. They drew close for a wish, a blessing or forgiveness.

“I’m looking for the peace within myself,” said 61-year-old Denise Macioce. “My life was wild and I still have demons.”

A Bridgeport native who grew up in the infamous Father Panik Village, Macioce said she struggled with drugs and alcohol for over 20 years until she met her now-husband.

She came, like so many on Tuesday, to view the major relics of St. Maria Goretti, the Patroness of Mercy.

St. Maria Goretti was born into poverty in Italy and was killed in 1902 at the age of 11 — stabbed 14 times during an attempted rape. Just before her death, she famously forgave her attacker, paving the way for her to become the youngest saint in the Catholic Church.

“I still need to forgive,” said Macioce, who now lives in Naugatuck. “If you can forgive, you can let go of your own demons.”

The devoted were given a strict 15-second limit in front of the saint, whose mostly skeletal remains are held in a wax figure in the glass.

Some touched the glass with apprehension, others with a motion normally reserved for a foggy windshield.

Some came with handfuls of rosaries, others with just one — some made of gold and diamonds, others of plastic. The items, and any that touched the glass, were automatically elevated to the status of third-class relics, according to the church.

Camila Teo, of Bridgeport, came twice on Tuesday. She heard about the saint from her son, a second-grader at the parish’s school. She viewed the saint in the morning and felt a peace and calm, she said.

“I’m praying for my family to be together again,” said Teo, originally from Brazil.

During the daylong veneration, repeated playing of a video that told the story of the saint echoed through the church. Not much else was heard, as people anxiously awaited their turn.

Jisha Mathew had heard about St. Maria while growing up as a child in India.

“I always admired her braveness and thought she made the right decision,” the Fairfield resident said.

Mathew said she never thought she would get the opportunity to see the saint, let alone in Connecticut.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said — a sentiment echoed by many.

The Rev. Brian P. Gannon, of St. Theresa Church, said the popularity of St. Maria shows a universal thirst for holiness.

“When you have a concrete personality like Goretti, who forgave in the name of God … it shows the miracle that is choosing God, love and mercy.”

A special Mass honoring St. Maria, held at 7 p.m., filled the church to capacity. Among those attending was Joe Giulano, of Milford. He had heard about St. Maria after his daughter visited the permanent home of her remains in Rome.

He, too, was drawn to St. Maria’s story of forgiveness.

“We all need to forgive and to extend forgiveness to others,” Giulano, said. “And both are difficult.”

Click here to read the original Connecticut Post story.

Major relics of saint to visit Trumbull on Tuesday in only state stop
| October 06, 2015 • by By Fausto Giovanny Pinto, CT Post


TRUMBULL—More than 50 stops across 16 states in three months—a hectic tour schedule.

Click here to read the original Connecticut Post story.

The relics of St. Maria Goretti is coming to St. Theresa Church in Trumbull
Tuesday as part of a U.S. tour, “The Pilgrimage of Mercy: the Tour of the Major.”
The relic is the preserved body of the saint, who died in 1902. St. Maria is universally
known as the Patroness of Purity, and her greatest virtue was her unyielding
forgiveness of her attacker even in the midst of horrendous physical suffering,
a forgiveness that would completely convert him and set him on a path to personal holiness.

Photo: Pilgrimage Of Mercy / Contributed

So many fans have flocked to her East Coast tour, the first in the United States, that plans are now in the works for a West Coast tour.

The hottest religious icon to visit the U.S. this year after Pope Francis is headed to Trumbull this week. But the first thing you should know: She has been dead for more than 100 years. What people will see is a glass-enclosed wax statue that contains nearly all her bones.

The major relics of St. Maria Goretti, the Patroness of Mercy, will be available for public venernation, or honoring, at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull on Tuesday, the only stop in Connecticut.

“It’s a generous gift from God for us to host her,” said the Rev. Brian P. Gannon. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

St. Maria Goretti, the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church, was born into poverty and was killed July 6, 1902, at the age of 11, after being stabbed 14 times during an attempted rape.

On her deathbed she forgive her 20-year-old attacker who years later recalled seeing an apparition of his victim. “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever,” she said.

More than 50 years later, she was declared a saint by Pope Pius XII. Her body was exhumed and remains placed in a wax statue that today can be viewed in a glass case.

There are similarly viewable saints throughout the U.S., such as St. John Neuman in Philadelphia and Mother Cabrini in Manhattan.

This is the first time the relics have been to the United States and only the second time they have left Italy. The tour is to mark the coming Year of Mercy, announced by Pope Francis.

“So many people are looking for healing today,” Gannon said. “Forgiveness is essential to healing.”

The church plans a viewing of the relics from 10 a.m. to 11:25 p.m., with a special Mass at 7 p.m. The church is expecting such a high turnout for the event that 100 parishioners have volunteered to help throughout the day with logistics.

One of those parishioners is Mara-Helena Fisher. She plans to bring a white cloth to the viewing to rub on the glass, which she will then cut into ribbons and send to family in Brazil.

“I have a niece in intensive care in Brazil and a few relatives on drugs,” said the 63-year-old Trumbull resident. “I will ask St. Goretti for prayers.”

The Rev. Carlos Martins, director of Treasures of the Church, will accompany the wax body and speak on the major relic. Martins had previously visited the Trumbull church with a host of relics, including pieces of saints’ bodies and even a splinter from the crucifixion cross of Jesus.

Trumbull resident John Connaughton is excited to see the relic on Tuesday at the only parish in the state hosting the saint.

“Her story is so compelling,” said Connaughton. “There is so much violence and hatred in this country, and she shows it is possible to forgive.”

Catholic Underground this Saturday
| October 06, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Catholic Underground is coming to the Diocese of Bridgeport beginning in October.

Its reverent mix of Eucharistic adoration, art and music has attracted a diverse following and helped draw believers of all ages into the life of the Church.

It is a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (C.F.R.).

The first Catholic Underground in this diocese, presented by the Sacred Beauty Project, is set for Saturday, October 10, from 7:30 to 10 pm at St. Ann Parish in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport.

“Catholic Underground is known for the great ministry it created in Manhattan. By bringing it to the diocese, the bishop is giving our young people a true gift. It offers a dynamic way for people to come together for Holy Hour, Confession and a Catholic cultural experience,” said Father Peter Lynch, St. Ann’s pastor.

The Catholic Underground name originated with the church-basement concerts that the C.F.R. home-grown funk band offered to follow their Holy Hours in Manhattan and the Bronx, but also shares a link in spirit to the underground Rhapsodic Theater of the young Karol Wojtya, later Pope John Paul II.

“Catholic Underground was formed in response to St. John Paul II’s teaching that the Gospel lives in conversation with culture and that we must be fearless in crossing the cultural threshold,”  said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who welcomed the movement to the diocese.

Upon meeting Sacred Beauty Project founders Paul Chu and Val Tarantino, the bishop requested that they create a Catholic Underground affiliate group in the Diocese of Bridgeport. “As a Sacred Beauty initiative, Catholic Underground Fairfield County will be blending elements of high culture and pop culture with the sacred into one unified culture of worship,” Tarantino said.

In addition to St. Ann’s, Catholic Underground will also meet at Sacred Heart Parish in Danbury and St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk. Events will take place on the second Saturday of each month, starting in October, and will rotate between the three parishes.

“I’m very grateful for our pastors who will be welcoming this movement to Fairfield County. We share a sense of excitement about this gift to all those who seek to experience their faith in a context that includes music and artistic expression,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The bishop described how, throughout the synod process, many people asked for more opportunities for Adoration and for a richer and more varied approach to music. They also requested programs that fully engage the young and invite them into the Church.

“It’s about prayer—about our Eucharistic Lord drawing people at every stage in their faith journey, their life journey, and bringing them into prayerful community in his presence,” said Chu. “The evening begins and ends with the Liturgy of the Hours—Vespers and Compline. This is the universal prayer of the Church—prayed by Catholics throughout the world in every time zone and in every language.”

After Vespers, there is a period of song, praise and worship, ending with solemn Benediction. Then the celebration focuses on Catholic artists, sharing music, poetry, visual art, dance, film, and drama.

A short film festival is on tap for October; November 14 will feature rap theologian Sammy Blaze; February 13 will bring the folk singer and Catholic human rights activist Danielle Rose, with Bishop Caggiano as celebrant for the Holy Hour; and April will feature Father Claude Dusty Burns of the Diocese of Evansville, better known to many as the rapping priest “Father Pontifex.”

Tarantino cited Sacred Beauty’s patron saint, St. Peter Julian Eymard: “The Heart of Jesus is a furnace of love for God and for us. From it are constantly darting forth the most ardent and purest flames of divine love.” She added, “In his presence, our worship and praise will be enfolded and set aflame by his own, and his light will illumine and spark the creativity and beauty of the art that follows.”

(For more info, email Catholic Underground Fairfield County at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or contact the participating parishes.)

Catholics wrestle with immigration issues
| October 04, 2015


Click here for photos from the Red Mass

FAIRFIELD—The world is facing its worse refugee crisis since the end of World War II, Rev. Rick Ryscavage, S.J. said at the Annual Red Mass and Breakfast held at Fairfield University.

Fr. Ryscavage, S.J., a nationally known expert on immigration and refugee policy and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University, began his talk by noting that the immigration debate in the U.S. is “highly emotional, even explosive as we move into he presidential election.”

Then Fr. Ryscavage went on to upend many popular misconceptions held by people on both sides of the issue.

Speaking to a gathering of over 150 attorneys, judges and legal professionals in the Oak Room of Fairfield University, Fr. Ryscavage said most recent immigration is the result of “failed states, corruption, the drug trade and internal violence.”

He then quickly pointed out that immigration is also one of the unintended results of the success of “global market capitalism in lifting people out of extreme poverty.”

“There has been a 50% drop off in extreme poverty in the world in the past 25 years-- the biggest in history,” he said, adding that the rising standard of living and availability of money has feuled immigration for people who seek to leave a country for economic reasons.

He said that while most people think that “immigrants from poor countries,” it’s not always the case.

“It takes money to immigrate. The poorest countries don’t have the biggest migration—people don’t move about much,” he said.

Fr. Ryscavage told the gathering that it costs between $5000 and $8000 to flee Central America, with most of the money going to human smugglers who guarantee three attempts at escape. The Syrian refugees now pouring into Europe need at least $2000 to make the short trip.

Much of the money it takes to move around the globe is found in the estimated $426 billion “in remittances” of immigrants working in another country “and sending the money back home to the developing world.”

In addition to be attracted to economic opportunity, many immigrants, including children in Latin America are fleeing “extreme gang violence,” Fr. Ryscavage said.

“Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, most of it gang related,” he said explaining that a large number of the unaccompanied children who came to the U.S. last year were able to do so because family members work here and sent the money back home to help reunite the family.

Taking a longer view of the crisis, Fr. Ryscavage said that a country like the U.S. that has good track record of integrating immigrants will actually fare better as birth rates plunge across the world and more people are needed to do the work in aging societies.

He said Japan and China will be seriously challenge because have no one to replace current workforce. Likewise, he predicted that Mexican immigration will dwindle because the birth rate in Mexico has plummeted and more young Mexicans will be needed at home in the coming decades.

Addressing the spiritual response to immigration Fr. Ryscavage said the Church is often mistakenly seen as another “pro-immigration lobby,” when its concerns for immigrants comes from another perspective born out of its identity as “pilgrim Church.”

He said that treatment of immigrants is one issue that both conservative and liberal bishops agree on with very little difference of opinion.

Noting that in the Church’s earliest years, Christians were often referred to as people of “the road or the way,” Fr Ryscavage said all Catholics believe that earth is not their permanent home and that all life is a pilgrimage toward God.

“We are a mirror image of immigrants in that we see the journey and a pilgrimage. It is a perspective we share—we’re allon the move.”

In a question an answer session that followed. Fr. Ryscavage said parishes and dioceses have a lot more work to do to understand and respond to immigration.

He was recently commissioned by the Diocese of Rockville Center to study attitude on immigration on the part of Long Island parishioners, and the study found a “shocking resistance normal Catholics have to helping immigrants and to discussing the issue in Church.

True to form in this complicated issue, Fr. Ryscavage said the study found that the reluctance to talk about the issue was also expressed by the recent immigrants in the parishes, who did not want it addressed from the altar.

Adding that most recent immigrants are Catholics and that they are accepted in parishes despite political differences, Fr. Ryscavage ended by saying the Church must develop new models of education and dialogue to bring people together on the issue.

The morning began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Fairfield University President Fr. Jeffrey P. von Arx, and other Fairfield Jesuits around the altar of Egan Chapel. Anne McCrory, Chief Legal and Real Estate Officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport, coordinated the event and served as host.

After Mass, Bishop Caggiano presented pins to members of the Bridgeport Chapter of The St. Thomas More Society of Fairfield County for their long-time charitable service on behalf of many diocesan institutions and non-profit programs to help others. Msgr. James Cuneo, a canon lawyer and member of the Diocesan Tribunal, was presented a special service award for his serve as spiritual moderator of the Bridgeport chapter.

Bishop offered two challenges to members of legal profession present. He said he would like to see the St. Thomas More society grow and be revitalized in other parts of Fairfield County, and he hoped that Catholic legal professionals might take part in legal forums sponsored by the diocese to update and educate people about many of the ethical and moral challenges that become legal issues.

Bishop Praises Women for “Walking with Purpose”
| October 02, 2015


STAMFORD— “We’re here celebrating the great gift Walking with Purpose is to the church and to the Diocese of Bridgeport,” Bishop Frank Caggiano told 330 women throughout the diocese who gathered at the Italian Center.

The women came together earlier this week for the Walking with Purpose Fall Luncheon, which feature a talk by the Bishop.

Walking with Purpose is a Catholic Women’s Bible Study that offers a parish program combining at-home study with a weekly meeting for small group discussion, read Scripture reading and videos. It offers programs in a number of parishes throughout the diocese.

“When I look into our faces, I see the Lord alive in you, because through Walking with Purpose, you have met Him in scripture and encountered him on the road to Emmaus,” the Bishop said to the women.

“You have fallen in love with Him and continue to give your heart to serve him, not just as an individual but coming together as communities of love, services and joy—that’s the recipe of the Gospel and that’s what evangelization is all about.”

The Bishop began his talk by reflecting on the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States as “six marvelous days of grace for Catholics, Christians, and all people of goodwill throughout the country.”

The Bishop said the women at the luncheon were like Pope Francis in that they shared “the light and Good News of the Gospel” with all those they encountered.

Walking with Purpose is now available at the following parishes in the diocese: St. Aloysius, New Canaan; St. Catherine of Sienna, Riverside; Holy Spirit, Stamford; Sacred Heart of Jesus, Danbury; St. Joseph Brookfield; St. Mary, Greenwich; St Mary, Ridgefield; St. Michael, Greenwich, St. Rose of Lima, Newtown; St. Thomas More, Darien; Our Lady Star of the Sea, Stamford.


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Bishop Caggiano visits Sacred Heart, holds Mass, blesses new gym
| October 01, 2015 • by By Paul Schott, Greenwich Time


GREENWICH—Growing up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the future Bishop Frank Caggiano was fascinated by a November ritual of the father of his good friend, Gino.

Bishop Frank Caggiano visited Convent of the Sacred Heart where he blessed
the cornerstone of the school's new facility and lead the Mass of the Holy Spirit,
the first Mass of the new school year, at the school in Greenwich, Wednesday, September 30.
Photo by Bob Luckey Jr., Hearst Connecticut Media

Every year, in the second week of that month, Gino’s father would prune a large grape vine in his backyard. He would strip it of every leaf and every branch until there was just a single stem standing.

The practice struck young Frank as a cruel punishment for the vine. Finally, he and Gino mustered the courage to ask Gino’s father why he had to so severely crop the plant.

“He laughed, and he said ‘Boys, remember that the vine is only as strong as its roots,’” Caggiano recalled in his homily during Mass Wednesday in the newly renovated gymnasium at Convent of the Sacred Heart. “I’m not hurting the vine; I’m just helping it to grow stronger. The root is what makes all the difference.”

Caggiano made his latest visit to the all-girls Catholic school to celebrate the first Mass of the school year in a transformed setting.

The gym was renovated as part of the construction of a 35,000-square-foot athletic complex, which opened earlier this month. Before Mass, Caggiano blessed the new building’s cornerstone.

“Now you have this beautiful athletic center, which I have to tell you, when I was in high school, I never imagined having a place like this,” Caggiano quipped during his homily.

Gino’s father’s pruning of the vine is not just a compelling story, but also a metaphor told in scripture that explains one’s place in the world, Caggiano told Sacred Heart’s approximately 740 students. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says in the Gospel of John, a line that is also inscribed on the new altar in the gym.

“In the end, you and I, as individual branches on this vine - all different, all beautiful, all necessary - would have nothing, could accomplish nothing, would do nothing without Jesus,” Caggiano said. “Jesus is the source of everything you have, every blessing you have, everything you accomplish, all your success. That’s the lesson. We need to remember who is at the center of our life, who is the root of your life. And his name is Jesus.”

The meaning of the vine was the latest lesson that Caggiano imparted at Sacred Heart. He was making his third visit to the school since he was installed two years ago as bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The school stands on the western edge of the Diocese, but is not formally affiliated with it.

Caggiano first visited Sacred Heart in September 2013, celebrating the first Mass of the school year then as he did Wednesday. He again wore his distinctive liturgical vestments: a deep red robe, a matching mitre and a pastoral staff.

Caggiano also commissioned 23 seniors as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, a role that allows them to serve as Eucharistic ministers at school liturgies and in their home parishes. He then called them up to help him give Communion to the younger students, staff and alumni.

“I think this relates to what Bishop Caggiano was saying about how you should spread your religion through one person at a time,” newly designated Eucharistic minister Izzy Sio said. “In the Eucharistic ministry, you get to spread that faith. You can see God in everyone else around you.”

The students earned their new leadership positions after completing a months-long application and training process.

“Faith is a lot of questioning, so I think it’s important (for younger students) to see their Eucharistic ministers and role models in the church as people who are just like them, who also question their faith,” said Cynthia Thomas, another of the new ministers. “When they see us, I think they feel like they can do it, too.”

The Mass also featured a spirited musical program, including acclamations, hymns and the school song “Coeur de Jesus.”

At the end of the service, the bishop divulged a “secret” to his audience.

“Of all the things I do in the year as bishop, coming here to the Convent of the Sacred Heart is probably one of my favorite events of the whole year,” Caggiano said. “The reason I say that to you is this: You are a very joyful, hopeful, community of hope. You really help me and encourage me to see that the future of the church is very bright because of young people like you.”

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Click here to see the original story in the Greenwich Times

Red Mass set for Sunday
| September 29, 2015


FAIRFIELD—The 2015 Red Mass will take place on Sunday, October 4,  9 am at the Egan Chapel of Fairfield University, 1073 N. Benson Road, Fairfield, Connecticut. 

Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a nationally known expert on immigration and refugee policy and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University will be the featured speaker. His topic is “Immigration Issues and the Church.”

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Red Mass and attend the breakfast immediately following the service in the Oak Room.  Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx S.J., President of Fairfield University is the host of this year’s event.  
The public is invited to attend the Red Mass along with members of the legal profession.
Anne McCrory, Chief Legal and Real Estate Officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport, said the annual Red Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek, justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities and challenges faced by Catholic legal practitioners.
“As a Jesuit priest who ran one of the world’s largest refugee resettlement agencies, Fr. Ryscavage bring a unique perspective and first hand-experience to one of the most pressing and urgent topics around the globe,” McCrory said.
“The current child immigration crisis and the call of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for compassionate immigration reform make this a timely and important discussion.”
Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J. is director of the Center for Faith and Public Life and a professor of sociology and international studies at Fairfield University.  He served as national director of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
While he was executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Migration and Refugee Services, he oversaw annual federal grants of more than $40 million from the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In response to the current child immigration crisis in Texas, Fr. Ryscavage was asked to join the Federal government's Interagency Task Force on Unaccompanied Children, which includes members of the U.S. State Dept., DHS, Justice, HHS and others.
Fr. Ryscavage was president of CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. He chaired the humanitarian section of INTERACTION, the largest coalition of American non-governmental organizations working internationally. He was the first Arrupe Tutor at the Refugee Studies Centre of Oxford University in England. In 2006, he was invited by the Vatican to become a member of the official delegation of the Holy See to the 61st session of the UN General Assembly and participated in the Secretary General's "High Level Dialogue on Migration."
Most recently, Fr. Ryscavage met with Pope Francis in the Vatican where he expressed his particular concern about young migrants around the world.
As Director of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life he oversaw two grant-funded initiatives that relate to different aspects of the immigration issue: the "Immigrant Student National Position Paper" focusing on undocumented students and "Strangers as Neighbors: Religious Language and the Response to Immigrants in the U.S."
Ryscavage received his bachelor's degree and an honorary doctorate from Assumption College. He earned his master's degrees in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, political philosophy from Boston College, divinity from the Weston School of Theology and international administration from the School for International Training.
This year’s Red Mass also will highlight the work of the St. Thomas More Society, an association of Catholic attorneys, judges, legislators and other legal professionals in the diocese. Bishop Caggiano has urged legal professionals to join the society in order to  strengthen the union of Catholics in the legal field and to encourage collaboration, fraternity and service.
Breakfast will be served following the Mass in the Oak Room. The cost of brunch is $35 per person. For tickets, please Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or phone: 203.416.1358.

Pope says he left U.S. praying for, impressed by its people
| September 28, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


PHILADELPHIA—As the American Airlines plane taking him to Rome from Philadelphia took off, Pope Francis said he pictured the faces of all the people he met, and he prayed for them.

Pope Francis gives a copy of the Gospel of Luke to a family during the closing Mass
of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia September 27.
(CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

At the end of his first-ever visit to the United States, the pope told reporters he “was surprised by the warmth of the people” and how they were “so loving. It was beautiful.”

Spending close to 50 minutes with members of the media flying back to Rome with him September 27, the pope said he also was struck by the sincere piety of people at his Masses and prayer services.

Shortly after takeoff, Pope Francis responded to a dozen questions, including why he spoke with such compassion to U.S. bishops in Washington about what they went through in the aftermath of the clerical sex abuse crisis.

“I felt a need to express compassion because what happened was horrible, and many of them suffered a lot,” the pope said. For “men of prayer, good pastors” the crisis was truly a “tribulation.”

Sexual abuse occurs in families, schools and other environments, he said, but when the abuser is a priest it is “a kind of sacrilege,” because a priest’s job is to help a person grow in love of God and, instead, an abusive priest “squashes” his victims.

An abusive priest “has betrayed his vocation, the call of the Lord, and those who covered these things up is also guilty; even some bishops covered this up. It was a horrible thing. And my words of comfort were not to say, ‘well, be tranquil, it was nothing,’—no, no, not that. But it was such a bad time that I imagine they wept a lot.”

Pope Francis said he understands survivors who feel they cannot forgive their abusers and those who have lost their faith in God because of it.

“I pray for them,” he said.

On another topic, a U.S. reporter referred to the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple because of her religious beliefs. The reporter asked Pope Francis to comment on the discussions in the United States regarding religious liberty and its possible limits

Pope Francis said he had no idea of the specific case, but he insisted that “conscientious objection is a right—it is a human right.” If some rights can be denied in certain circumstances, he said, then it would turn into a situation where people were determining some human rights were more important than others.

When asked further about the county clerk, the pope said since the official was a human being then that official should enjoy the full range of human rights, including the right to follow her conscience.

Asked about the role of women in the church, Pope Francis said not ordaining women does not mean the church does not recognize how essential they are to its life and ministry, which is one of the reasons he highlighted the contributions of consecrated women.

“The sisters in the United States have done marvelous things—in the field of education, in the field of health care. And the people of the United States love the sisters.”

“I felt like I needed to thank them for what they have done,” he said.

Asked if the success of his visit to the United States made him feel powerful or like a star, he said power is not his ambition: “It is something that passes. You have it today, but tomorrow it’s gone.”

For those who follow Jesus, he said, the only power that counts is the power to serve others. “True power is service ... humble service, and I still need to make progress on this path of service because I feel like I am not doing all that I need to do.”

After participating in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and looking ahead to the opening October 4 of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis was asked about his decision to streamline the process for declaring the nullity of marriages.

He insisted the change was strictly juridical and not doctrinal. It is not “Catholic divorce,” he said. The annulment process needed reform because with automatic appeals “there were processes that lasted 10-15 years.”

The annulment process does not dissolve a marriage, but rather investigates whether or not a valid sacramental marriage was present from the beginning, he said.

The decision to issue the new rules for the process responds to a request made by the majority of bishops at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last year, he said.

The question of finding some sort of process or “penitential path” to readmit to the sacraments Catholics who have remarried without an annulment is something still on the synod’s agenda, he said. “It seems a bit simplistic to me to say they can receive Communion,” but it is an issue that needs further discussion.

Another issue touched upon during his U.S. visit was migration. Pope Francis had told the U.S. Congress, “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.”

On the plane he told reporters that the world cannot pretend the crisis currently impacting Europe sprang up overnight. He said it was provoked by years of war and tensions in the Middle East and by decades of hunger and tensions in Africa, a continent that continues to be exploited by the world's rich nations when some investment would create jobs and help people live dignified lives in their homelands.

As for the idea of some European nations to start building walls or fences to keep migrants out, Pope Francis said the influx of newcomers needs to be handled intelligently, “but walls are not the solution.”

Erecting walls, he said, “the problems remain and they remain with increased hatred.”

Pushed to comment on his popularity, Pope Francis insisted he doesn’t feel like a “star” because of all the crowds that flocked to meet him. Besides, he said, stars tend to come and go.

The pope is called to be “the servant of the servants of God—that's a bit different than a star,” he said. “Stars are beautiful to watch; I like to gaze at them when the sky is clear. But the pope must be the servant of the servants of God.”

Asked about the primary task facing the church in the United States, the pope said, “The challenge of the church is to be what it always was—close to the people, not detached,” he said.

Busloads from area attend final Mass.
Click to read Stamford Advocate account.

Busloads of area Catholics attend pope’s final U.S. Mass
| September 28, 2015


PHILADELPHIA—Pope Francis urged hundreds of thousands of the faithful gathered Sunday for the biggest event of his U.S. visit to be open to “miracles of love,” closing out his six-day tour with a message of hope for families, consolation for victims of child sexual abuse and a warning to America’s bishops.

Click here to read the original story
from the Stamford Advocate.

Organizers had predicted a crowd of one million for Francis’ open-air Mass, and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway overflowed with the jubilant. They endured hourslong lines and airport-style security checks to see history’s first pope from the Americas in the birthplace of the United States.

Among the crowd were busloads of Roman Catholics from the Bridgeport Diocese.

The diocese organized buses that departed from Danbury, Trumbull, New Canaan and Stamford Sunday morning so the worshipers could attend the Pope’s farewell Mass.

Throughout the day, the group took to social media to describe their experience using the hashtag #bptinphilly.

The Bridgeport Diocese’s Twitter and Facebook accounts detailed the group’s excitement, the “awesome” and “amazing” atmosphere in Philadelphia, posting pictures of packed streets. The tweets began on the bus ride, including praying the rosary, singing hymns and sharing Portuguese bread a family baked for the bus.

The group’s excitement was most evident when it shared a few close-up pictures of the pope on his way to Mass with the captions, “The Holy Father himself!!!!!!” and “This is truly another once in a lifetime, breathtakingly beautiful moment with our Holy Father.”

The Mass—the final public event on Francis’ itinerary before the 78-year-old pontiff was to return to Rome—was a brilliant tableau of gold, green and white in the slanted evening sunlight of a mild early-autumn day.

Riding through the streets in his open-sided popemobile, the pontiff waved to cheering, screaming, singing, flag-waving crowds as he made his way to the altar at the steps of the columned Philadelphia Museum of Art.

With a towering golden crucifix behind him, Francis told his listeners their presence itself was “a kind of miracle in today’s world,” an affirmation of the family and the power of love.

“Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world,” he said to the hushed crowd spread out along the tree-lined boulevard before him.

Crowds a mile away fell silent during Communion. Some people knelt on the paving stones at City Hall, a few blocks from the altar.

June Bounds, 56, of Rochester, N.Y., watched the Mass with fellow parishioners on a large screen at City Hall, closing her eyes and blinking back tears.

“It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “You feel like you’re one body with everyone here, whether you’re here, whether you’re back home, whether you’re anywhere in the world.”

Of the pope, she said: "He's brought so much joy and holy spirit into the United States. It doesn't matter if you're a Catholic; he's just trying to unite everybody for a better world."

There was no immediate estimate of the crowd at the Mass. But there were signs that the heavy security precautions and weeks of dire warnings from the city may have scared some people away.

Downtown hotel rooms went unfilled over the weekend, normally bustling city streets were deserted, some businesses closed early, and many Philadelphians complained the precautions were oppressive.

Earlier in the day, Francis had a more solemn message for families scarred by the sins of the church itself.

The pope met with five victims of child sexual abuse and told them he was “deeply sorry” for the times they came forward to tell their stories and weren’t believed. He assured them he believes them and that bishops who covered up for abusers will be made to answer for what they did.

“I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead,” Francis said in Spanish. “Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”

A few minutes later, he went into a meeting of bishops from the U.S. and around the world who were in town for a Catholic festival on the family and told them the same thing.

“God weeps” over what was done to the youngsters, he lamented.

The pope has agreed to create a new Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who failed to protect their flock, and he has accepted the resignations of three U.S. bishops accused of mishandling abuse cases.

During his first meeting with victims, held at the Vatican in July 2014, Francis similarly vowed to hold bishops accountable, but Sunday marked the first time he had warned the bishops themselves, face-to-face, and in public.

In an apparent effort to reshape the discussion, though, the Vatican said not all the victims had been abused by clergy; some were violated by relatives or educators. The choice of victims underscored the Vatican's argument that child molestation is not unique to the church.

Victim support groups were unimpressed by the meeting, which took place at a seminary on the edge of Philadelphia and lasted more than a half-hour.

The main victims’ support group, SNAP, dismissed it as an exercise in public relations.

“Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” said SNAP's David Clohessy.

The Rev. Tom Doyle, a former church lawyer who is now an advocate for victims, said including those who were violated by non-clergy “seriously minimizes” the problem in the church.

As the Mass drew to a close, church officials said the next World Meeting of Families—the Vatican-sponsored festival that brought the pope to Philadelphia—will be held in Dublin in 2018.

Ireland is ground zero for the church’s sexual abuse crisis outside of the U.S. The overwhelmingly Catholic country also recently legalized gay marriage.

Francis' journey took him first to Cuba, then to Washington and New York. Along the way, he drew large and adoring crowds, met with President Barack Obama, visited ground zero and a school in East Harlem, and addressed Congress and the United Nations, calling for urgent action on climate change and poverty.

He also issued pointed messages for a new direction of the U.S. church, twice praising the service of America's nuns, who had been subject to a recently ended Vatican crackdown. He also urged America's bishops to focus more on helping their flock through life's ups and downs rather than spending all their energy on culture wars.

Pope: “Encounter Christ” in the faces of the city
| September 26, 2015


NEW YORK—An incredible mildness overtook the city, perhaps because Pope Francis—“Papa Francisco” as many called out to him joyfull as he passed—appeared to be everywhere.

Doors and windows to cafes and shops were thrown open with people dining on the sidewalks and walking at a more leisurely pace than usual in the cool breeze on a Friday in Manhattan.

The Pope’s day started out at the Vatican Observer’s residence on 5th and 72nd Street before he traveled too the United Nations on the East River, then moved downtown to lead an interfaith service at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, followed by a tour through Central Park and finished up in the heart of the city for Mass at Madison Square Garden.

On this special day it seemed for a moment as if the whole world were Catholic; subways, trains and sidewalks were filled with seminarians in cassocks, priests in collars and nuns in habits. Members of the laity clutched rosary beads while others carried bags full of Papal memorabilia including t-shirts and Mass programs.

Twenty thousand people, including 100 men and women from the Diocese of Bridgeport, waited for hours to go through security checks and enter the city’s historic sports arena. Yet tempers never flared as the serpentine lines, which looped into Chelsea for more than 20 city blocks, inched forward.

Many of the Bridgeport diocesan delegation were thrilled to see Bishop Frank J. Caggiano among the bishops and cardinals on the main altar for the celebration of the Eucharist with the Pope who has inspired millions in his humility and concern for the poor.

Vendors sold papal flags and water bottles and NYPD came by with megaphones to reassure those on line that everyone with a ticket would get in.

Somehow it all came together as planned with the Pope arriving at MSG at 6 pm for a quick victory lap of the arena on an electric cart before vesting for Mass, which began shortly after. By that time, the security logjam had cleared, the lines evaporated, and the arena was full.

In his homily that began with a reference to Madison Square Garden and the many great sports and entertainment events it has hosted in its history, the Pope went on to deliver a poetic homily that at times had echoes of Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda as he celebrated the life of the city and charged it with spiritual greatness.

The Pope said that those who are faithful to God, "can see, discern and contemplate his living presence" in the midst of the city.

"The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air,” he said, urging those present to see the face of Christ in all those they pass including the homeless, marginalized and elderly.

"In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath the rapid pace of change, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no 'right' to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly," said the pope. "These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts."

“Go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be," Pope Francis said. "Christ frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness" and moves people to encounter and to peace instead of competition.

In brief remarks after Mass, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan brought the house down when he noted that during every Mass across the country, Catholics pray for Pope Francis, “and now we have him here with us.”

A prolonged standing ovation followed that rocked Madison Square Garden and left a shy and beaming smile on the face of the Pontiff, which could be clearly seen on the giant jumbotron screen.

Before his final blessing and ending his historic public day in New York City, the Pope said in quiet voice to all assembled, “Please pray for me,” which triggered another ovation—his message of peace, toleration, care for the poor and vulnerable, and respect for all life leaving a lasting glow in the city.

Visit our Facebook page for photos of the Papal Mass at MSG

In New York service, pope offers encouragement to men, women religious
| September 25, 2015 • by By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service


NEW YORK—During an evening prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis thanked the nation’s priests, brothers and women religious for their service and gave particular thanks to women religious saying, “Where would the church be without you?”

Pope Francis leads an evening prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral,
Thursday, September 24, 2015, in New York. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today via AP, Pool)

The pope began with unscripted remarks, extending his sympathy to the Muslim community for the stampede in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that killed more than 700 people that morning. He offered his “sentiments of closeness in face of tragedy” and his assurance of his prayers. “I unite myself with you,” he added.

The pope arrived by popemobile at St. Patrick’s September 24 after traveling from Washington. He encouraged those with religious vocations and also acknowledged the pain of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the church saying, “You suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the church in the most vulnerable of her members.”

He said he wished to accompany them “at this time of pain and difficulty.”

Although the pope was speaking in Spanish, a translation of his remarks was posted on large screen TV. The congregation applauded his remarks about women religious in the United States, whom he described as women of strength and fighters and said their “spirit of courage” puts them “in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel.”

“To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say thank you, a big thank you, and to tell you that I love you very much.”

Speaking to all in the cathedral, he told them: “I know that many of you are in the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape. Whatever difficulties and trials you face, I ask you, like St. Peter, to be at peace and to respond to them as Christ did: He thanked the Father, took up his cross and looked forward.”

The pope urged those in religious life to be thankful for their many blessings and graces and encouraged them to continue their “spirit of hard work” without getting caught up in “spiritual worldliness” or simply being efficient, which he said can weaken one’s commitment to serve and also “diminishes the wonder of our first encounter with Christ.”

The pope gently reminded the priests and religious men and women that they have “been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us.”

He also said they need to view their apostolate “by the value it has in God’s eyes” which calls for “constant conversion” and great humility remembering that their job is to plant the seeds and God will see to "the fruits of our labors.”

Pope Francis even warned the priests and religious against surrounding themselves with “worldly comforts,” which they might say would help them serve better. The danger with that, he said, is it slowly but surely “diminishes our spirit of sacrifice, renunciation and hard work. It also alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves.”

“Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity. Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous,” the pope said.

At the close of the prayer service, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan welcomed the pope to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and said that once he came through the doors he “became an official New Yorker,” even though “you already have a home in our hearts and souls.”

He told the pope that in the past three years the cathedral, built in 1879, has been going through major renovation, which he likened to the spiritual renewal the pope has asked. “Your presence renews all of us,” he added, urging him to stop by again.

Those in attendance, who included religious and laity from the New York Archdiocese, had waited for several hours in the cathedral for the vespers, or evening prayer.

William Lacerenza of New Rochelle, New York, and his wife, Daniella Raciti-Lacerenza, said the pope has a lot that resonates with New Yorkers.

“He’s a little controversial and I like that. You have to rock the boat sometimes,” said Daniella Raciti-Lacerenza.

William Lacerenza said that as someone who comes from a family of immigrants, even a few generations removed, “it’s a humble reminder” when the pope points out about the immigrants who helped build this country.

“It resonated with me,” he said, and it’s something that a lot of New Yorkers and Americans can identify with, he said.

Even a city that has lot of riches appreciates what the pope is asking of the world, he said.

“He tells us that we have to look out for the poor.” Even people who are wealthy are receptive to the pope's message, he added: “It’s not lost on them.”

Pope to Congress: Stop bickering, world needs your help
| September 24, 2015 • by By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON—The past, the promise and the potential of the United States must not be smothered by bickering and even hatred at a time when the U.S. people and indeed the world need a helping hand, Pope Francis told the U.S. Congress.

Making history by being the first pope ever to address a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis was introduced to the legislators by the House sergeant at arms September 24 as: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.”

The pope introduced himself, though, as a son of the American continent, who had been blessed by the “new world” and felt a responsibility toward it.

In a long speech, he gave the sense that he sees the United States as a country divided, one so focused on calling each other names that it risks losing sight of how impressive it can be when its people come together for the common good. That is when it is a beacon of hope for the world, he said.

Pope Francis condemned legalized abortion, the death penalty and unscrupulous weapons sales. He called on Congress to “seize the moment” by moving forward with normalizing relations with Cuba. And, again referring to himself as a “son of immigrants”—and pointing out that many of the legislators are, too—he pleaded for greater openness to accepting immigrants.

A reporter had asked the pope in July about why he spoke so much about the poor and about the rich, but rarely about the lives and struggles of the hard-working, tax-paying middle class. The result of a papal promise to correct that was the speech to Congress and through Congress to the American people.

“I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day's work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and—one step at a time—to build a better life for their families,” the pope said.

“These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society,” he said. “They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.”

Showing he had studied the United States before the visit—something he said he would do during the Rome August break—he used four iconic U.S. citizens as relevant models of virtue for Americans today: Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to 'dream' of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton,” the pope said.

Describing political service with the same tone used to describe a vocation to religious life—“you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you”—the pope recognized the weighty responsibility of being a member of the U.S. Congress.

Dialogue, he said, is the only way to handle the pressure and fulfill the call to serve the common good, promoting a culture of “hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

For the speech, Pope Francis stood in the House chamber in front of Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House and a Republican from Ohio, and Vice President Joe Biden, president of the Senate. Both men are Catholics. Besides the senators, representatives and their invited guests, the attendees included members of the U.S. Supreme Court and members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet.

Tens thousands of people watched the speech on giant screen from the Capitol's West Lawn. Gathered hours before the pope's morning visit, they were entertained by military bands.

In his speech, Pope Francis gave strong support to several concerns of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic faithful, including defending the right of people to publicly live their faith and join political policy debates from a faith-based perspective.

“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society,” he said. The dialogue the country needs must be respectful of “our differences and our convictions of conscience.”

“Every life is sacred,” he insisted, calling for the “global abolition of the death penalty” and the “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

Some U.S. politicians and pundits have expressed confusion or even anger over Pope Francis’ teaching about the damage provoked when money becomes a god and profits count more than people. The pope insists his words are straight out of Catholic social teaching.

His speech to Congress included more of that teaching, delving deeper into the positive aspects of a market economy—as long as it is ethical and includes controls, solidarity and a safety net for the poorest and weakest members of society.

“The creation and distribution of wealth” obviously is important for continued efforts to reduce poverty in the United States and around the globe, he said. “The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.”

“Business is a noble vocation” when it seeks the common good, Pope Francis said. And today, he told legislators, the common good includes protecting the environment and taking bold steps “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

Full Transcript of the Pope’s Address to Congress

Esty sounds alarm on climate change at Sacred Heart University forum panelists echo sentiments
| September 23, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Dan Esty was commanding, compelling and quite passionate in the message he delivered at Sacred Heart University’s Schine Auditorium Wednesday evening, September 16th—climate change is real, and we must quickly unify under new leadership to make a moral and spiritual commitment to addressing the ecological crisis our world faces.

Esty, who is Hillhouse Professor at Yale University and former Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), was introduced by Sacred Heart’s Fr. Anthony Ciorra, facilitator and associate vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity, and served as the keynote speaker of a forum presented by SHU’s Human Journey Colloquia Series titled “New Leadership on Climate Change: From Mayors to the Pope.” Esty and Ciorra were joined by SHU’s Barbara Pierce, associate professor, biology; Brian Stiltner, chair and professor of theology, religious studies and philosophy; and Lucian Orlowski, professor of economics. Their discussion was inspired by and revolved around Pope Francis’ book, Laudato Si, the first papal encyclical focused solely on the environment. Wednesday’s presentation was free and attended by a full house of students, faculty and community members.

“This is a perfect, special and critical moment not just because the pope is coming next week, but because the United Nations is finalizing sustainable development goals and global quantitative targets with regard to a 21st-century approach to ecological problem solving, designed to achieve better results than past efforts,” Esty said. He warned that the policy area needs to be more careful not to silo decision making as plans move forward.

Esty also made reference to Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is spearheading the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, set for November 30 to December 11, 2015. The conference objective is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of U.N. negotiations, a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. The pope’s encyclical, calling for action against human-caused climate change, aims to influence the conference.

Twenty-five years ago, Esty was a young official with the EPA in Washington, D.C., and helped establish the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which provided for yearly meetings among nations going forward. “Since then, we’ve had much success, but little real success,” Esty said, with regard to worldwide progress. “The world community is poised to do much better than the previous generation, but new leadership is inescapably important.”

Esty explained that the old plan was “top down” and not well executed, and that presidents and prime ministers have little influence on policies day-to-day. “We need broader engagement to shift the world to cleaner energy solutions. We need to bring in mayors, provincial leaders and corporate leaders and get them involved,” suggested Esty. He also advised a “shift to a much sharper action orientation” and establishing a new structure of measures and performance tracking to inspire competition and sharing of best practices.

Astoundingly, Esty says that the U.S. alone needs to make a minimum investment of $100 billion a year to reframe the infrastructure of this country to achieve a clean energy future. He pointed to smart approaches like Connecticut Green Bank, which leverages public and private funds to drive investment and scale up clean energy deployment across the state.

Esty also called for penalties and laws that prevent businesses from doing damage to the environment. “Businesses can’t continue to make pollution society’s problem,” he said.

Banging the drum, Esty concluded by echoing Pope Francis’ sentiments, that we must be committed to something greater than ourselves and be better stewards of the Earth. “Think of the Earth as a sister, a mother, a member of the family. The abuse of this family member is unacceptable,” he said.

SHU panelists were in step with Esty’s comments, particularly with regard to our moral obligation to our planet. Pierce said it’s convenient to blame population growth for our issues, but it’s not necessarily the case. “This is beyond a science issue and running out of resources. This is an issue of ‘how do we treat something that is giving back to us?’ There has to be a moral obligation to bettering and the common good.”

Stiltner remarked on the joyful nature of the pope and his view of the world and that it “should be a joy to be connected to the earth.” Orlowski commented, “All human beings should be entitled to the fruits of Mother Earth, and none of us have the right to plunder them. The main problem for this pope is the disconnect between the poorest among us and their access to the fruits.”

About Sacred Heart University Sacred Heart University, the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, offers more than 70 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs on its main campus in Fairfield, Conn., and satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland. Nearly 8,000 students attend the University’s six colleges: Arts & Sciences; Health Professions; Nursing; University College; the Jack Welch College of Business; and the Isabelle Farrington College of Education. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its guides Best 379 Colleges – 2015 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 296 Business Schools – 2015 Edition. U.S.News & World Report ranks SHU among the best master’s universities in the North in its annual “America’s Best Colleges” publication. Sacred Heart was also mentioned in Money magazine’s ranking of Fairfield as one of the best towns to live. As one of just 23 institutions nationally, SHU is a member of the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ (AAC&U) Core Commitments Leadership Consortium, in recognition of its core, “The Human Journey.” SHU fields 32 division I athletic teams and has an award-winning program of community service.

Bishop Caggiano on Pope's First Morning in the U.S.
| September 23, 2015


The Pope’s first morning in the United States has been nothing less than remarkable. It is a beautiful day here in Washington DC and the Holy Father’s presence and words have electrified the crowds and set the tone for the rest of his visit through Sunday.

In his remarks that were delivered in English at the White House, the Holy Father emphasized the need for Catholics and all people of good will to draw closer in collaboration to face the pressing challenges of our times. The themes that unified his remarks were those of unity in our Catholic faith and dialogue among all people. These are themes that bring great hope to the hearts of those who dare to believe that life in Christ is far greater, more beautiful and more noble than the mediocrity that our modern culture invites us to live. It is a life that will ultimately lead us to the glory of eternal life.

On a personal level, the fact that the Pope began his remarks to the President describing himself as the son of immigrants deeply resonated in my own heart. As you know, my parents were also immigrants to this great nation. They left their homeland of Italy so that my sister and I could have the opportunity to have a better life. As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that my parents endured by emigrating to a new nation. It is a sacrifice that they made because of their love for their children.

It is a sacrifice that can also teach us how to live an authentic Christian life- a life that is meant to be lived in love for others and not for oneself.

May the presence in our midst of our Holy Father Francis, the son of immigrants, help rekindle that same spirit of sacrificial love in your heart and mine.

Sacred Heart University to offer new program
| September 22, 2015


FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University’s College of Health Professions is working with Stamford Hospital to launch a new full-time, 27-month master of physician assistant studies (MPAS) program, with an initial class of 28 students starting in fall 2016, pending accreditation.

*Already more than 800 applicants have applied to attend the program since the application process opened last April, reflecting the rapid nationwide growth in demand for physician assistants (PAs). Up to 150 people will be interviewed for 28 seats in the inaugural class.

The SHU MPAS program will be located in Stamford, on the second floor of Stamford Hospital’s Tandet Building located next to the main hospital on West Broad Street. The 13,000-square-foot space is in the process of a full renovation and will include a state-of-the-art lab, classrooms and a patient-assessment suite. The program will consist of a 12-month classroom phase followed by a 15-month clinical phase providing 2,000 hours of experience in several medical specialties. All students will complete clinical rotations primarily at Stamford Hospital as well as other SHU-affiliated hospitals and health-care sites.

Teresa Thetford, department chair and founding program director of SHU’s PA program, explains that students will be prepared to practice medicine on health-care teams with physicians and other providers. A PA-C (physician assistant-certified) is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine in a variety of settings with the supervision of a physician. PAs practice and prescribe medications in all 50 states.

A key goal of the SHU MPAS program is to improve access to quality health care in Fairfield County and surrounding communities, including rural and urban medically underserved populations. Thetford notes that SHU will emphasize primary care and population health and wellness as well as patient-centered care that is individualized for each patient's needs.

Students will be required to complete a master’s capstone service-learning project focusing on a public health need and solutions.

“What makes us stand out will be our focus on patient-centered primary care and addressing the needs of the medically underserved,” says Thetford.

“As health care in the United States continues to evolve, the need for primary care providers, both physicians and physician assistants, will grow,” says Henry Yoon, M.D., associate director, Family Medicine Residency Program, at Stamford Hospital and medical director of Sacred Heart University’s MPAS program. “As a teaching hospital of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, medical academics and a sense of continuously improving the care we provide now and in the future are deeply engrained in our culture.”  

The aging of the population, chronic health needs and increasing demand for health services driven by the Affordable Care Act are primary factors in the decision to establish the MPAS program at SHU. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 38 percent for PAs between 2012 and 2022, and according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), only 22 percent of Connecticut PAs work in primary care.

Nationally, research has shown an increasing physician shortage. Additionally, according to the CT Department of Labor (2014) report, there is a rising need for primary care providers within the state of Connecticut. The future needs of the state’s population demonstrates a need for preventive and primary care services. The utilization of physician assistants will help bridge this gap in preventive and primary care.

* Sacred Heart University (SHU) has received CT state program licensure, and applied for Accreditation—Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). SHU anticipates matriculating its first class in fall 2016, pending achieving Accreditation—Provisional status at the March 2016 ARC-PA meeting. Accreditation—Provisional is an accreditation status for a new PA program that, at the time of its initial accreditation review, demonstrated its preparedness to initiate a program in accordance with the accreditation Standards.

St. Aloysius School takes STEM by storm
| September 22, 2015


NEW CANAAN—St. Aloysius School is kicking off the 2015-2016 school year with the implementation of a comprehensive, kindergarten-through-eighth-grade STEM program.

STEM is a curriculum based on the concept of educating students in four specific disciplines—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Instead of teaching the four disciplines as separate and independent subjects, STEM integrates them into cohesive learning based on real-world applications.

Since taking over the helm last year, Saint Aloysius School Principal Bardhyl Gjoka has been on a mission to enhance the school¹s curriculum through STEM-based learning.

“STEM is important to have in our schools because it really helps students adapt to this ever-changing world. It’s a must for the new generation—to prepare them to become critical thinkers and to adapt, adjust, and live in the world of their future,” Gjoka explained.

In order for STEM to succeed however, other tools must be leveraged to provide support and reinforcement. To accomplish that, the school has implemented a more rigorous curriculum, purchased Chromebook laptops, MacBook Pros and iPads, adopted an online learning component for all grades, and updated the existing server to accommodate twenty-first century technology.

Incorporating these changes in just one year’s time was ambitious, but Principal Gjoka believes it will be well worth the effort. “When we bring in the STEM educational approach, we encourage and allow the students to think outside of tradition, “out-of-the-box,” and apply these skills and knowledge to new enterprises.”

Scout gathers eyeglasses for Eagle Project
| September 22, 2015


NEWTOWN—Kyle Keeping is a scout with Troop 770, which meets at St. Rose of Lima Parish.

He is working on an Eagle Project to collect eyeglasses for New Eyes for the Needy ( They provide glasses to the underprivileged in the U.S. and also in developing countries.  Kyle is trying to collect as many glasses as possible to send to those in need here and overseas. He has already placed collection boxes at Mr. Mac’s Canteen in Tollgate Plaza, Monroe; Apex Glass on Riverside Rd. in Sandy Hook; at St. Rose Church; and at Above All Style at 71 Stony Hill Rd., Bethel. He would be happy to add more locations if anyone would like to have one. For more information on Kyle’s project, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Emmy award winner Paul Piorek joins Greenwich Catholic
| September 22, 2015


GREENWICH—Greenwich Catholic School is proud to announce and welcome Paul Piorek as a full-time middle school math and science teacher.

Hot air rises, as sixth-grade science students learn with a hands-on lesson
by their new teacher, Emmy Award winning meteorologist Paul Piorek,
who joined the faculty of Greenwich Catholic school this semester.

Piorek is best known for his award-winning work as a meteorologist and host of the weekday morning newscast at News 12 Connecticut. He won the 2007 New York Emmy award for television weather from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and he is a five-time Emmy nominee (1993, 2005, 2008, and 2010).

“This is where I belong and where I am meant to be,” said Piorek, who capped his illustrious 25-year television career last October. “I enjoy teaching middle-schoolers more than anything else. I love their energy, excitement, and personality. This is the perfect position for me. I am thrilled to be a part of the faculty at Greenwich Catholic School.”
Greenwich Catholic is not new to Piorek, however. He taught fifth grade at the school from 1990-95. During his previous tenure at GCS he won the Connecticut Teacher of the Year award from the state chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1993, served as the middle-school student council adviser, built and operated a school-run FM radio station, and coached a fourth-and fifth-grade boys baseball team.

“Mr. Piorek’s diverse background and enthusiasm for teaching have already made him a key addition to the GCS community,” said Principal Patrice Kopas. “We are very fortunate to have someone like him, who is committed not only to education, but also to his faith, join our outstanding faculty. Welcome home, Mr. Piorek.”

Bishop reflects on Papal visit
| September 22, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—In a few hours I will be traveling to Washington DC to prepare for this extraordinary week of grace and blessings for our Church and country.

Our Holy Father Francis will be arriving in our nation’s capital this afternoon and after briefly being welcomed by both the President and Vice-President, will retire to the residence of the apostolic nuncio to rest in anticipation of the start of five very busy days of pastoral activities and events.

I am thrilled to be able to participate in events scheduled in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia. I have never met the Holy Father in person and I am hoping for that privilege at some point during these next five days.
Everywhere I go, people are talking about the Pope’s pastoral trip with sincerity and enthusiasm. He has captured the minds and hearts of believers and non-believers alike since he has started his Petrine service, by his accessibility, warmth, his understanding of the many difficulties faced by ordinary people and his message of compassion and mercy. He has also challenged us to recall that we form part of a global village which gives each of us a responsibility to care for everyone, especially the poor, sick, marginalized and immigrants, no matter where they live. It is a message that I am sure he will reinforce during his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress and during the General Assembly at the United Nations.
As a bishop and man of faith, the Pope’s presence also evokes in me a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the enduring presence and power of Christ in and through our Catholic Church. For over 2,000, countless men, women, young people and children have remained firm in the Catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles. They have offered their minds, hearts, hands and will in service of the Lord Jesus, coming from every race, land, nation, continent, culture and ethnic group. As head of the Church who is Christ’s Mystical Body in the world, the Pope represents this unbroken chain of faithful witnesses, whose sacrifice has allowed us to receive the great gift of our Catholic faith. It is upon the shoulders of these witnesses that we stand. The pope’s arrival challenges us to take seriously the great responsibility that we have to remain faithful to Christ and being members of his Church, to pass on our Catholic faith, unblemished and true, to future generations.
Despite our challenges, problems and difficulties, the Catholic Church has endured and will forever endure because it is more than the people who belong to it. The Church will forever be greater than the sum total of its members, because it is Christ who leads us, animates us, unites us, empowers us and allows us to endure every sacrifice, even death, for Him. As Christ will forever endure, so will His Church. And to welcome the Pope in our midst, is to remember this great act of faith in Christ.
Welcome, Holy Father, as you bring the hopes, dreams, pains and sufferings of the entire Church and people of good will throughout the world. For you are the successor of Peter, the rock upon which the Church is built and against which no power on earth can prevail.

Also Read: Bishop Caggiano on Pope's First Morning in the U.S.

Grand Opening of New Covenant Center
| September 21, 2015


STAMFORD—More than 150 invited guests turned out for the Grand Opening of the new location of New Covenant Center last week.

Founded to serve the hungry and homeless and sponsored by Catholic Charities, New Covenant Center is one of the largest soup kitchens and food pantries in the state.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was on hand for the blessing, dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony and praised NCC board, staff and donors for their concern for the poor and the good works they put in practice every day to serve the hungry and homeless of the greater Stamford area.
The program included testimonials from volunteers and recipients of services. Stamford’s Mayor David Marin, Catholic Charities CEO Al Barber andother communities leaders attended the dedication, which also marked the official name change from New Covenant House to New Covenant Center to reflect the comprehensive services offered at the new site.

John Gutman, is New Covenant Center Executive Director, while Paul Harinstein  serves as  New Covenant Center Board Chair. Hundreds of interfaith volunteers work throughout the year to feed the poor and hungry and create support for the center.

The Center opened in 1978 as a store-front soup kitchen. It has now reopened  as a state-of-the-art facility to serve thousands of needy and working poor from the Stamford metropolitan area. 

The New Covenant Center offers:

•    8,000-square-foot facility
•    Food Market - open several days per wk
•    State-of-the-Art Kitchen
•    Dining room w/ seating for 72
•    Computer & Job Training Center
•    Dedicated Case Worker & Medical Rm
•    Counseling Center
•    Laundry, Shower, Barber 

Center Serves:
•    250 guests receive breakfast, lunch & dinner daily
•    Open 365 days a year
•    250 families shop monthly in market
•    30 children receive snack at partnered women’s shelter
•    700,000 meals served annually

BACKGROUND: New Covenant Center is an inter-faith project of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC). CCFC is the largest private social service provider in Fairfield County. Since 1916, CCFC has served all people through programs for the elderly, disabled, working poor and children. Connecticut has one of the biggest disparities between rich and poor. This Center gives people a chance to gain security and move forward. The NCC’s capital campaign raised nearly $1.4 million to create the new facility on Richmond Avenue. An additional $300,000 is needed to support the new initiatives. Guests can eat at the soup kitchen with no questions asked. To shop (for free) at the pantry, guests must complete an application and provide proof of income and residency. Families visit the food pantry once per month and receive enough food for 10 to 12 days.

Click for WSHU profile of the opening of New Covenant Center.

A morning of joy and celebration
| September 19, 2015


Also: Click to read CT Post account of Synod Celebration Mass

BRIDGEPORT—The Catholic Church affirmed its presence in Fairfield County in a resounding way this morning as 8,000 Catholics gathered at Webster Bank Arena for the Synod Celebration Mass.

“The best years of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County are not behind us, they are ahead of us,” the Bishop said. “We come here in hope to bring love and renewal to the Church.”

The changes signed into decrees by Bishop Caggiano at the end of the Mass are expected to transform the life of the local church at every level, from the way it teaches the faith to the young to the quality of its liturgy and music, the future of Catholic schools, the vitality of its parishes, and continuing education for its priests.

With a 300 member adult-choir and the music of many ethnic choirs throughout the diocese, the morning took on a festive and joyous note as people clapped their hands, sang along and applauded enthusiastically.

At times, the morning also felt like a large family gathering because so many of those in attendance knew one-another from parish and diocesan events.

It was a day when the full diversity of the diocese was on display in the many choirs that sang throughout the Mass including Vietnamese, Spanish, Haitian, Brazilian, and Gospel.

Marie Yves Bathelmy read the First Reading in Creole, and Heloisa Medeiros read the Second Reading in Portuguese.

The Mass was the largest gathering of Catholics in the diocese in decades as people came together to celebrate the work of the Synod and its plan for the future of the diocese.

The day began when 700 young people joined Bishop Caggiano in a procession from the door of St. Augustine Cathedral to Webster Bank Arena.

Members of the Neo-catechumenate community of the diocese played music, sang and danced in the joyous procession to the arena, while seminarians from the diocese wheeled a statue of the Blessed Virgin through the streets.

More than 600 priests, deacons and religious in the diocese were also in attendance.

The Bishop received warm applause when he entered the arena, and that appreciation grew into a prolonged standing ovation at the end of Mass.

Today’s celebration coincided with the second anniversary of his Installation as Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport last September 19, at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull. It is also the birthday of his late mother.

“What a great blessing to be united as one great diocesan family of faith,” the bishop said as he greeted guests from the altar at the beginning of his homily.

This Bishop said all journeys begin by taking the first step, and he asked all those in attendance to walk along with him as he seeks to renew the Church in the diocese.

“Each day we walk by faith, not solely by sight,” the Bishop said, acknowledging the spiritual hunger that brought so many people to the arena on a beautiful Saturday morning.

“When we leave here today, we take the next step into renewal of our church. We are not here to end anything, but to begin the next chapter in the life of the diocese,” he said.

In his remarks, the bishop acknowledged that the synod grew out of the many challenges facing the Church including the fact that many Catholic feel disaffected and no longer worship in parishes, because “at times, what they seek they cannot find.”

The Bishop said the diocese and its institutions have more work to do to become more welcoming, to evangelize, to serve all people regardless of their faith, and to empower “the young Church in our midst.”

While the Synod discerned serious challenges over the past year and a half, the Bishop said that the Synod Mass was more than anything a time of joy and celebration of “the great enduring gift of hope that brings us together.”

At one point in his homily, the Bishop directly addressed many of the different groups who had assembled. To priests and religious he said, “It has been given to us to lead this great Church into renewal, to walk in personal holiness, and to always serve, not to be served.”

He challenged families throughout Fairfield County to “become the domestic Church.” He asked the young people to “take the next step and be courageous disciples of Christ because the rest of the Church will help you achieve greatness.”

He asked the various faith communities and spiritual movements in the diocese to “renew your hearts with joy, open your doors in welcome and celebrate the faith.”

Finally, he urged those in attendance to tell the disaffected, suffering and neglected that “we welcome them, we love them and will serve them every step of the way.”

Noting that the Mass was held in Bridgeport, the Bishop reminded everyone that the diocese is named for Bridgeport, the largest city in the county, and the location of a lighthouse that has stood at Black Rock Harbor since 1808.

“The light has always brought people to safety, because they follow it in darkness. Today we gather to see the Light of Christ in our midst, a light we need now more than ever.”

The Bishop also called people’s attention to a ten-foot tall lighthouse at the back of the arena, made from canned and box goods that will be donated to area food pantries. The youth collected more than 10,000 items to construct the lighthouse and deliver to food programs.

The Mass represented the closing celebration of the 18-month Synod process in which Bishop Frank Caggiano and 360 delegates created a plan for the future of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Bishop Caggiano formally kicked off the Synod, which is an assembly of church and lay leaders, in February 2014 to develop a plan for the future of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County.

Synod themes developed after diocesan wide listening sessions include engaging and inspiring the young church, welcoming people back, integrating new arrivals, deepening the faith of practicing Catholics, and creating faithful and love-filled parish communities.

Two major programs include the development of a Catholic Service Corps that will offer young people opportunities to serve and the creation of a Catholic Leadership Institute to foster formation and support for church leaders, including clergy, religious and laity.

Two other programs are already under way: The newly formed 78-member Diocesan Youth Choir, which made its debut today at the Celebration Mass, and the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which has dispersed more than $2 million in scholarships to families who need help to send their children to Catholic schools.

At the end of Mass, Bishop Caggiano formally dedicated the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the entire assemblage joined in a Hymn to Mary.

Patrick Turner, Deputy Synod Director, came forward to thank all those who helped the day a success including the Bridgeport Police Department and the officers who volunteered their time to provide public safety and traffic control.

Celebration to air on Cablevision
| September 18, 2015


HARTFORD—The  Synod Celebration Mass will be broadcast on WCCTV Channel 20,  and on Cablevision Channel 84, on Sunday, September 20, from 10:30 am-12:30 pm on both stations.  

The Mass will also be streamed live on Saturday, September 19, beginning at 11 am. It will be available on the diocesan website:

Coverage of the closing Mass has been made possible by the Office of Radio and Television (ORTV) of the Archdiocese of Hartford under the leadership of Father John Gatzak, executive director of ORTV. The ORTV team, headquartered in its studios in Prospect, will bring its mobile unit and fully produce the taping and broadcast.

Father Gatzak, a noted TV and radio personality, will anchor the production. He will be joined in the anchor booth by Patrick Turner, deputy director of Synod 2014 and Deacon John DiTaranto, special assistant to Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

“We’re very grateful to Father Gatzak and his team for bringing their broadcast experience and excellence to the taping of the Synod Mass. It is a gift to the entire diocese and one that will draw many more thousands in the mission and message of the synod. Through their efforts, we can share our work with people throughout Connecticut and across the U.S.,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The Office of Radio and Television of the Archdiocese of Hartford is best known in Fairfield County for its production of The Celebration of the Eucharist daily television Mass, which has returned to Cablevision Channel 84 and is broadcast every day of the week at 10 am.

The Celebration of the Eucharist is available to those who receive WCCT-TV, channel 20’s over the air signal, with an external antenna, or get WCCT on Dish TV or Direct TV service or from another local cable provider. It can also be viewed live each day at 10 am or on-demand at anytime at their website

(The offices and studios of ORTV and WJMJ Radio, a service of the Archdiocese of Hartford, are located at 15 Peach Orchard Road in Bethany.)                     

Thank you, Delegates!
| September 18, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—We are incredibly thankful for our dedicated, hardworking, and open-minded delegates who played a pivotal role in the Synodal process.

Thank you for walking this journey with us!  We are looking forward to seeing all of you at Webster Bank Arena tomorrow!

Papal music reflects joy and wonder
| September 17, 2015 • by By Paul Chu


MONROE—If you are planning to take a walk through the woods along the shores of Lake Zoar, the music you hear may prove to be more than bird songs.

“The trails are my studio and a lookout high over the lake is my office. It’s easy to write music when God has blessed me with such inspiring surroundings,” said composer and Monroe resident Julian Revie, whose Mass of the Divine Shepherd premiered at Carnegie Hall this past June. The Canadian-born Revie, a 2002 Yale graduate, returned to Connecticut in 2014 as composer-in-residence at the Center for Music and Liturgy of Saint Thomas More Chapel at Yale University. His commitment to music for liturgy, however, reaches back much further. “I’ve been performing pretty much weekly as a church organist since I was eleven.” Revie admitted.

This month, however, Revie will really be seeing his music brought out into the open air—but in a far different setting than the Monroe woods. His composition “The Love of God,” based on the seventh movement of Mass of the Divine Shepherd, has been selected as the Communion antiphon for the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Philadelphia, marking the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, on September 27.

The Mass, which is itself the culminating public event of the papal visit, will likely attract as many as two million congregants to Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The piece will be sung by a massed choir of over three hundred adults and a children’s chorus, accompanied by the 90-member Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“This spring, I traveled to Philadelphia to work with the children’s choir at the cathedral in preparation for the Mass of the Divine Shepherd. It was at that point that I was first invited to submit music for the papal Mass. The official acceptance for the The Love of God antiphon came in mid-June,” Revie explained. “I am grateful to everyone at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for this wonderful opportunity to offer my gifts to the glory of God.”

This has already been quite a year for Revie. The June 29 premiere of his Mass—the first major setting of the Mass in the revised English translation––was performed by over 650 choristers, instrumentalists and bell-ringers from around the world, and played to a nearly sold-out Carnegie Hall. Among those in attendance was Bridgeport’s own Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

“I believe that the concert was a graced moment for everyone who attended. The music was magnificent, and the people who attended were clearly moved on many levels by their participation in the event,” Bishop Caggiano later commented.

“The Carnegie premiere, by itself, would have been a once in a lifetime experience. The prospect of my music literally reaching millions is almost unimaginable.” Revie reflected. “Yet there is something that ultimately strikes me even more.

“I wrote The Love of God as a meditation on Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of love. As such, it is written to assist the congregation in worthy preparation for communion. It begins with the chorus singing alone; then they are joined by the orchestra. But the real point of the piece, at least for me of radical, sacrificial love to which the children counsel were echoing through all humanity.”
“That this moment—the very moment when my music is being sung and played—coincides with Pope Francis as celebrant receiving the Eucharist… this intimate moment of communion between our Eucharistic Christ and His Vicar on earth… that’s just awesome to me.”
The Pope himself provides Revie with a particular point of inspiration. He adds, “In his recent encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis describes how ‘the Lord was able to invite others to be attentive to the beauty that there is in the world, because he himself was in constant touch with nature, lending it an attention full of fondness and wonder.’ Over hundreds of hours composing, walking the trails, I do feel I’ve grown closer to the Lord. Perhaps, by my music, I can share some of the inspiration of the lakes, birds, and trees of Monroe with Pope Francis and with the whole Church.”

‘Conversations of Faith’ set for arena scoreboard
| September 17, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—“Conversations of Faith,” a new video produced for the Synod Closing Celebration, will be among the many offerings provided during the “Praise and Worship” ceremony before the Mass officially begins at 11 am at Webster Bank Arena on September 19.

SEMINARIAN Dan Tome is among the men and women
throughout the diocese who reflect on their personal faith
journey and hopes for the diocese in the “Conversations of Faith”
video, which will be shown on the jumbotron of Webster Bank Arena
before the Synod Mass.

Praise and Worship, which gets underway at 9 am, will prepare the thousands who enter the arena that morning for Mass. The program includes music, prayer, and the video that celebrates the life of faith and the work of the synod.

The video, along with other live activities, will be shown on the giant digital scoreboard in the 8,500-seat arena.  

Produced in association with the Media Center of Fairfield University, the video features the personal testimony of synod delegates and other faithful who reflect on their own faith journey, the joy of evangelizing, and their hopes for the diocese as the synod begins implementing new programs and initiatives.

“It was an honor to be involved in the interviews and production of the synod video,” said Patrick Turner, deputy synod director. “Everyone we interviewed spoke from the heart and from the deep well of faith that animates their lives. I think all those who view these testimonies will be moved by their love for the Church, their deep faith, and their concern for others.”

Turner added, “We’re also grateful to Fairfield University for making their studio available and producing the video.”

The video was filmed by Joe Adams, a 2010 graduate of St. Joseph High School in Trumbull who studied film at the University of New Haven. Marisa Forziati, a Fairfield University graduate, served as video editor.

In addition to be shown on the jumbotron screen at the arena, the video will be available online on the diocesan website at

Synod choirs to lift high their voices
| September 16, 2015 • by By NINA M. RICCIO


BRIDGEPORT—“Top of the line, sopranos! One, two, and… Not bad, tenors. Altos, here we go! Hold those books up! Your lap will not appreciate how well you sing!”

Lifting their voices in praise, the Diocesan Synod Choir
rehearses under the leadership of music director Thomas Marino.
The choir combines 225 voices from parishes throughout the diocese
and includes the musical traditions of the many ethnic traditions
represented in the Church in Fairfield County. (Photo by Nina Riccio)

“Should we do it one more time? Say yes!”

Welcome to the Adult Choir rehearsal for the Synod Celebration Mass under the leadership of Thomas J. Marino, director of music ministries and organist at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan.

His rapid-fire direction is laced with a constant thread of humor as he puts members of the Diocesan Synod Choir through their paces in preparation for the Synod Closing Mass and Celebration set for Saturday, September 19, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.  

A praise and worship ceremony will begin at 9:15 am, with the Mass scheduled to start at 11 am.

Over 40 parish choirs will be singing during the celebration and have been practicing throughout summer. Many parish choirs average 25-30 people, with the combined Synod Diocesan Choir comprised or more than 225 voices from all over the diocese.

“The diocese is cognizant of its many ethnic communities, and we want the music to reflect that diversity,” said Marino. Spanish, Vietnamese, Haitian, Filipino, Polish, Brazilian Children, and Gospel choirs are currently rehearsing for the event. With some guidance from Marino, each choir chose its own music, and in some cases, the singers will be accompanied by percussion and other instruments common to that country.

The selections will be a mix of contemporary pieces and traditional hymnody, such as the recessional hymn, “O God, Beyond All Praising,” based on the hymn tune, “Thaxted” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”  

One selection from the contemporary genre, “All Are Welcome,” has lyrics “that lend themselves to the welcoming of each person in one fashion or another to participate in this historic day in the life of our diocese,” and thus complements the theme of unity, said Marino.

Because this significant event in the life of the diocese is going to be held in a sports arena, “We need to create a holy place; we are essentially turning it into a cathedral for the day,” Marino explained.

To set the tone, he chose “Go Up to the Altar of God” for one of the processionals, which uses phrases from Psalms 43, 116, and 100. “The phrase ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with songs of praise’ is just the feeling we want to convey.”

Before coming to St. Aloysius 11 years ago, Marino spent almost 18 years as the music director at St. Mary Parish in Greenwich. A native of The Bronx, he has a degree in music from Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y., where he focused on liturgical music.  He went on to study music education at New York University and immersed himself in liturgical music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.  

Marino says the quality of the music for the closing celebration is of particular importance because during the listening sessions held throughout Fairfield County in advance of the synod, Catholics of all ages expressed the need for better, richer music during Mass.

“The mission of the synod is to foster a spiritual and pastoral renewal of our diocesan community and unity is one of the major guiding principles, the unity of all parishes within the diocese,” said Marino, who noted that music plays a role in the renewal.

Are there challenges in working with so many groups from so many parishes? Sure, Marino admitted.

“Although rehearsals began at the beginning of August, we’ve been talking, planning, and organizing for a year. The toughest part of this has been the logistics, gathering information from all the parishes, and connecting with all the music directors. But the choir members themselves have been wonderful. They’re enthusiastic and very giving of their time, which is significant since rehearsals are held twice a week for a couple of hours at a time.”  

For those who attend the Synod Closing Celebration Mass, it will be a day filled with music and prayer. The new Diocesan Youth Choir will make its debut under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins of Wilton.

The music-filled day will also begin early in the morning when Bishop Caggiano meets with  diocesan youth ministries at St. Augustine Cathedral for prayer and Adoration before processing to the arena. Kevin Donovan, a lay Missionary of Charity at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, will spearhead a portion of the music for this part of the celebration.

While the number of different choirs and voices singing during the day would be a daunting challenge for anyone, Marino is more than ready and has worked in the arena setting. In 2003, he was tapped by Bishop William E. Lori’s priest-secretary, Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, to direct the music for the Diocesan Jubilee celebration.

Asked why he has devoted his life to the study and teaching of sacred music, Marino noted a phrase from the hymn “For God Beyond All Praising:”
“For Christ the man from heaven
From death has set us free,
And we through him are given
The final victory.”

“For me, it sums up my ministry. Every time I hear that line I’m reminded of why I do what I do,” he said.

Youth Choir to debut at Synod Mass
| September 15, 2015 • by By JOHN GROSSO


BRIDGEPORT—There will be much to celebrate on September 19 in Webster Bank Arena. Not only will thousands of people join together in celebration of the closing of the synod, the Diocesan Youth Choir, established in April, will make its debut after more than 12 weeks of rehearsals.

YOUTH CHOIR PREVIEW—Members of the Diocesan Youth Choir
ventured out to ORTV studios in Prospect recently to sing for
The Celebration of the Eucharist, the daily TV Mass now available
on Cablevision 12, Channel 84, every day of the week at 10 am.
Bishop Caggiano celebrated the Mass and praised choir members,
who will sing at the Synod Celebration Mass.

Choir director Mary Bozzuti Higgins has been hard at work preparing 78 young men and women spread across five different rehearsals each week for their debut at the Synod Closing Mass. “I am thrilled with their progress so far,” said Higgins, “I am amazed at their dedication and spirit, and I am very impressed with how quickly they have grown.”

The choir had their first real preview on August 19, when 22 of the choir members journeyed up to the Office of Radio and Television (ORTV) studios of the Archdiocese of Hartford to sing for the recorded Mass, which broadcasted on August 23.  Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the celebrant for the Mass.

“The choir was phenomenal,” said the bishop shortly after the Mass, “and this is only the beginning!”

The TV Mass served as a small teaser for the two major upcoming performances of the Youth Choir, the first being on September 19 at the Synod Closing Celebration Mass and the next a special Christmas Concert later this year.

“I am excited to debut the choir at the Synod Closing Mass,” said Higgins, “This will be a beautiful opportunity to not only showcase the hard work of these young people, but to unite the diocese in hopeful and joyful song and prayer.”

Though the choir is primarily focused on preparing for the Synod Mass, they are already learning pieces for their Christmas Concert in December. Though Christmas may be four months away, Higgins is preparing them early. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the birth of Christ than through music and worship,” she said.

For now, though, all eyes are on Webster Bank Arena and the choir.

(Auditions for the Diocesan Youth Choir will re-open September 22-25. Choir auditions will take place at the already established rehearsal times and places. For more information email Mary Higgins .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).)

The Synod is all about people
| September 15, 2015


This op-ed by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano appeared in all Hearst Newspapers throughout Fairfield County last weekend.

A Time for Renewal and Joy  /  By Bishop Frank Caggiano

As we await the visit of Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to United States, we also prepare for the closing celebration of our year-long Synod in the Diocese of Bridgeport, a process that was committed to renewal and several fundamental themes, including empowering the young church, building communities of faith, fostering outreach and promoting works of charity and justice.

From these guiding spiritual principles, we hope to move forward with fervor in a new direction as we culminate a year of listening and learning and prayer with the Synod Closing Mass of Thanksgiving at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on September 19.
Throughout this Synod journey, all of us have been asking many of the same questions on the local level that the Catholic Church is exploring worldwide through the Papal Synod on the Family and the upcoming World Meeting of Families, which is bringing the Holy Father to the United States.
I believe our Synod Thanksgiving Mass will be a historic day for the Diocese of Bridgeport, not simply because more than 8,000 people will gather in one place for praise and worship, but because through the hard work and discernment of the delegates, we have outlined a plan that will shape us as a people of faith in Fairfield County for years to come.
The Synod has not been about changing our teachings, but about how we are going to live our discipleship as the world around us changes and becomes more privatized and more indifferent; as religion becomes more suspect in a culture where spirituality is still alive, and as people search for God but are ambivalent about whether or not they need us as an organized religion. In many ways, we, like many other faiths, are confronting a culture that takes us back to the early missionary times. It requires that we do things in a different way to reach people, particularly members of the Millennial Generation, and to make our parishes vital centers of faith and community.
A recent national study by Public Religion Research Institute found what we discovered during the Synod process: Catholics are a diverse group sometimes separated by age, generation, ethnicity and politics in their relationship to the Catholic Church—and yet they are united in their admiration for Pope Francis and his view of the Church as a place for mercy and reconciliation.
The proposals that came out of the Synod were a response to the many challenges and hopes that were identified by people of faith across the diocese, which are shared by others across the country: engaging and inspiring the young Church, welcoming people back, integrating new arrivals, deepening the faith of those in the pews, and creating faithful and love-filled parish communities.
Among the many initiatives in the final Synod document that I will sign at the end of our Celebration Mass are:
•    The establishment of a Diocesan Liturgical  Commission that will not only renew our music ministry but in a larger sense reinvigorate our entire life of worship in the diocese.
•    Pastoral initiatives to support couples in their marriages and to reach out to the divorced and separated
•    A strategic and pastoral planning process that will strengthen our schools and parishes and make the Catholic Center more effective in serving people across the diocese
I would also like to mention two major initiatives that give me much hope for the future. The first is the development of a Catholic Service Corps that will offer young people concrete opportunities to serve in the name of Jesus those who are needy, poor, alone or struggling. My hope is that through the use of social media, our youth will experience a tsunami of service that transforms them and those they serve.
A second important outcome is the creation of a Catholic Leadership Institute that will foster ongoing, systematic formation and support for all current Church leaders, including clergy, religious and laity, and assist them in their various pastoral works. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. Every Catholic is called to be actively engaged in the ministry of the Church, and our Leadership Institute will give them the spiritual and pastoral tools they need to accomplish this.
I am particularly proud to say that during our upcoming celebration, people throughout the diocese will hear for the first time the new 78-member youth choir that grew out of the work of the Synod, which has been the catalyst for so much change. They will be joined by ethnic choirs performing music that is Gospel, Brazilian, Filipino, Haitian, Italian and Spanish—all of them reflecting and celebrating our diversity and vibrancy as a diocese.
When we speak of our “closing Mass,” we are talking about the closing of one chapter of the diocesan Synod and opening the next, which will implement our ideas and cultivate the seeds of faith we plant so they bear fruit. There is a need to celebrate this in a big way, and there is no better way than for us to gather as a community of faith, with our friends in Webster Bank Arena.
We hope that each seat is filled by people who are excited about being Catholic, who believe in the future of our Church, and who want to show the world that the Church is alive and well and on a path to spiritual renewal.
In the end, the Synod is all about people—people at worship, people in service, people unlocking their leadership gifts and talents and people forming vibrant faith communities that draw others to them through the strength of their love and joy. My lasting gratitude goes to our Synod delegates, to the faithful of the Diocese, and to all people of good will who will join us for this joyful celebration.

Youth build Lighthouse of Food for the needy
| September 14, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Four hours of intricate teamwork. An eight-foot tall elaborate structure of non-perishable food, carefully set into an island of vegetables, rice and beans, pasta, and mac & cheese.

And behind all this, months of planning, dozens of food drives and uncountable efforts of teens from all over the diocese.

This is the Lighthouse of Food, a showpiece of the Synod Celebration Mass at Webster Bank Arena on September 19.

“The Lighthouse of Food is an opportunity for the high school age youth of the diocese to more fully participate in the Synod Celebration and, at the same time, to engage in a service project that will help the needy of Fairfield County,” explains Patrick Turner, deputy synod director. “The goal of the project is to demonstrate a Church of love, action, mercy and service.”

The lighthouse is one of the iconic images of Connecticut, one that draws people home to a safe harbor, a place of security. It represents a beacon of hope for the needy, made a reality by the cans, boxes and bags of food to be donated to area food pantries.

Chris Otis, director of youth and family ministry at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, has been coordinating the Lighthouse of Food project. In addition to the main lighthouse for the Synod Celebration Mass, she encouraged all parish youth ministers to sponsor their own youth food drives prior to the September 19 celebration.

“This is the perfect way to involve youth at the parish level and be part of this initiative,” she says. “Parish food drives can benefit a food pantry or program they already support, a sister parish that might be in need or one of the Catholic Charities programs.”

She sent each parish plans for building a “mini” replica of the collaborative lighthouse structure—parish lighthouse replicas are four feet tall—and suggested they might want to build a food structure representative of their own parish.

Parish youth groups will be sending teams of teens to the Webster Bank Arena on September 18 to help construct the final version of the Lighthouse of food. All attending the Synod Celebration Mass will see this shining beacon of the faith of all the youth of the diocese.

As Otis notes with pride in their work, “This day, and this project, is a perfect way for our teens to witness that they put their faith into action.”           

Funeral arrangements finalized for Father McKenna
| September 14, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Funeral arrangements have been announced for Father Colin McKenna, who passed away last week. He was 51 years old.

He was born on June 14, 1964, in Bridgeport. He grew up Westport, attending Saugatuck Elementary and Bedford Junior High Schools, and graduated from Fairfield Prep.

He attended the University of Vermont, majoring in English and spending his junior year in Ireland at the University College in Cork. He received his Masters of Arts in Teaching from Sacred Heart University.

Before entering the seminary, Father McKenna was a teacher in the Brooklyn, N.Y., school system and at Immaculate High School in Danbury. He also was a swim coach in New Fairfield and New Canaan.

He prepared for the priesthood at St. John Fisher Seminary and Pope John XXIII National Seminary, Boston. His ordination to the priesthood took place on May 29, 1999, at St. Augustine Cathedral.

As a deacon he served at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Norwalk. His first assignment after ordination to the priesthood was a parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish, Shelton. Subsequently he served in the same capacity at St. Roch Parish, Greenwich, and Sacred Heart Parish, Georgetown, He also served as a chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital in Westchester, N.Y., and at area nursing homes while residing at St. Peter Parish, Danbury and St. Mary Parish, Greenwich.

A talented writer, most recently Father McKenna was appointed to the staff of the Communications Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport, contributing numerous articles and posting engaging blog entries about faith and his life as a priest. His ability to relate his thoughts and ideas in writing vividly reflected his own deep Catholic spirituality, sensitivity and love of nature.

Father McKenna's body will be received at St. Augustine Cathedral on Monday, September 14, at 2 pm, where it will lie in state until the Vigil Mass at 5 pm. The celebrant will be Msgr. William Scheyd; Father Robert Crofut will give the homily.

Calling hours will be at St. Augustine Cathedral on Tuesday, September 15, from 9-10:30 am. The Mass for Christian Burial will follow at 11 am. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the main celebrant and homilist. Burial will follow at St. Michael Cemetery, Stratford, in the Priests' Circle.

Father McKenna is survived in this diocese by his mother, Tona McKenna and his brother, Eugene McKenna.

Bishop says men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day
| September 13, 2015


NORWALK—While the images of Police, Fire and other rescue workers are seared into American consciousness after 9/11, many Americans are losing the spirit of unity and sacrifice that was very much alive that day, Bishop Frank Caggiano said at the Annual Blue Mass commemorating the terrorist attacks on the U.S.

“As time recedes, many of us have forgotten to do what Jesus asks us to do, but not the Police, Fire and EMS,” the bishop said. “We gather to honor them today because they have never forgotten the meaning of 9/11. “

More than 1,000 worshippers walked under the giant American flag suspended from a Norwalk ladder company truck into St. Matthew Parish to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and honor the Police, Fire, EMS, and other first responders from communities throughout Fairfield County.

The Bishop said the men and women who serve in uniform continue to put their lives on the line everyday “to do what they always do, respond courageously and generously when their fellow Americans are in need or threatened.”

Referring to the Epistle reading the bishop said, “ James tells us that God is love. To have faith without good works is dead. We cannot love God without loving each other, and on that day, love was made real before the face of evil.”

Noting that most Americans remember where they were on September 11, 2001, the Bishop said he was serving as pastor of St. Dominick’s Parish in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and was in the rectory when the second tower fell.

The bishop told the gathering that he will never forget the silence during the evening after the towers had fallen. He had stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of the rectory to get some fresh air.

“There was a profound quiet over the city because all the buses and trains had been shut down and there was no air traffic. The city had come to a complete hush and the silence masked all that was going on,” the bishop said, as people who had walked for hours from Manhattan were taken in by all those eager to help.

“It was a day when strangers became friends and friends became brothers and sisters,” he said.

At the end of Mass, the Bishop and Msgr. Walter Orlowski, Pastor of St. Matthew Parish, presented certificates to this year’s honorees, while Fr. Charles Allen, Special Assistant to the President of Fairfield University and Blue Mass coordinator, read the citations from area police, fire and emergency chiefs who nominated the following for recognition: John Long of Bridgeport, a Fire Department dispatcher and Special Olympics volunteer; Newtown Police Canine Officer Felicia Figol, who started the Police Explorer Program; Greenwich police officers James Smith and Sergeant John Slusarz, for saving the life of a sanitation worker trapped in a trash compactor; Bridgeport Police Sergeant Gabe Meszaros for his leadership of the Police Explorer’s Club and his work with disadvantaged youth; Norwalk Police Officer Hector Delgado for performing several community-oriented projects during the year; Police Officer Joseph Steyer for organizing and administering multiple “Gun Buy Back Days” throughout the Stamford community; and Ridgefield Fire Captain Richard Lawlor for his leadership in delivering the highest level of emergency response in Fairfield County.

The bishop also called forward Fr. Richard Murphy, parochial vicar from St. Michael Parish in Greenwich and the newest priest chaplain in the diocese. The bishop surprised him by presenting his badge as police and fire chaplain in Greenwich.

Other priest chaplains throughout the diocese include Fr. Charles Allen, Fairfield EMS; Fr. Michael Boccaccio, Norwalk PD; Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz, Ridgefield, PD; Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni, Stamford, PD; Fr. Bruce Roby; Stratford FD; Fr. Joseph Malloy, Bridgeport FD; Fr. Thomas Thorne, Westport Fire and Police; Fr. Francis Hoffmann, Noroton FD; Fr. Christopher Perrella, Noroton Heights FD; Deacon John Moranski, Bridgeport PD; Deacon William Murphy, Germantown FD; Fr. Raymond Petrucci, Danbury PD; Fr. Robert Post, Stamford Fire Rescue; Msgr. William Scheyd, New Canaan Emergency and Norwalk FD; Msgr. Richard Shea, Trumbull PD; Fr. Terrence Walsh, Stamford, PD; Fr. Frank Winn, Glenville, FD; Fr. Michael Dunn, Westport PD, FD; and Fr. Joseph Cervero, Redding PD.

After the awards were presented, a Norwalk policewoman sang an inspired and beautiful version of God Bless America, while the congregation joined in. It was followed by “taps” and “America the Beautiful” as the recessional hymn.

The final procession began with the flags of police, fire and emergencies companies throughout Fairfield County and an Honor Guard provided by the Knights of Columbus.

The annual Blue Mass is sponsored by the Fairfield County Knights of Columbus and Assemblies of the Knights of Columbus.

Click to see photos from the Blue Mass

Cooking with love
| September 13, 2015 • by By Max Bakke |


GREENWICH—The best Italian kitchen in Greenwich may actually be in one local priest’s small rectory in Chickahominy.

That kitchen, belonging to the Rev. Matthew Mauriello, a priest at St. Roch Church, is regularly serving fare that includes limoncello, manicotti crepes, antipasti and other signature Italian dishes to several of his brother priests and parishioners.

“My motto in life is this: faith, family, friends, food and fun,” said Mauriello, who will be featured on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 10 p.m. on a new Cooking Channel television show, “Holy & Hungry,” devoted to the exemplary cooking talents of some special, spiritual chefs. Cooking, he said, “is all an extension of love.”

“It’s about sharing love and fellowship and brotherhood. The more love you put into the cooking, the more love there is at the table; it becomes an extension of the love of Christ. Christ gives us his love, the meal at the altar, and we bring it over.”

Viewers who tune in to see “Holy & Hungry,” starring Sherri Shepherd as the show’s host, will witness what many members of Mauriello’s church have experienced in the six years since he arrived at St. Roch’s — a family-style Italian meal that tastes like it came out of a kitchen in Naples, not Greenwich.

On Mauriello’s menu will be white bean hummus, bruschetta, eggplant caponata and his famous manicotti crepes, among other dishes, he said. Born into a traditional Italian family, Mauriello said his first experiences in the kitchen came from watching his two grandparents. Watching became helping, and soon Mauriello had built himself a strong repertoire of his family dishes.

“Even though I had homework on the kitchen table, one eye was always on the sink or the stove and this and that,” he said. “So I was still doing my arithmetic and my geography, but there was always cooking going on.”

Mauriello said he discovered a kindred spirit in the kitchen while serving as a priest in Danbury when he met Franca Bosio Bertoli in 1992. The duo bonded over their shared Italian heritage and passion for cooking. From there, together they embarked on a decades-long effort to write a cookbook stuffed with the recipes they learned from their childhood and modern takes on a few classics. “From a Rectory Kitchen: Cooked and Served in the Joy of the Lord” was self-published in companion with a faith-based press in 2012. The work contains more than 300 recipes of dishes from all around Italy. His recipes hail from the south, and Bertoli's represent the northern part of the country.

Cooking for his parishioners is a way for him to spread God’s love, Mauriello said, but also a way for him to show his appreciation to the volunteers.

“They’re working hard and volunteering and this is my way to thank them and treat them and have getting-to-know-you time and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “What’s better than having a nice meal with someone who knows how to cook?”

Mauriello said he also relishes the freedom that being in the kitchen gives him. He’s able to experiment and indulge an artistic side that, for him, includes looking for modern takes on classic dishes.

“It’s the creative element,”he added. “The activity of going to the store and chopping and cooking and remembering a recipe or say putting something new together.

“My sister lives in Milan, Italy, so sometimes I go there and taste a dish (and) I’ll bring it over. So what I do is, when I taste something different or new I want to recreate it or like make it my own.”

That includes his manicotti crepes, a lighter version of a more traditional dish that’s become a favorite among those who’ve eaten Mauriello’s cooking.

So what did Shepherd think of the crepes?

“Oh, she loved them. She said it was like eating a feather, it’s so light,” he said. “She’s a cutie pie. We had a lot of fun together.”

But just as important as winning the approval of the host was the “validation” that came from the positive feedback from the professional chefs behind the cameras, according to Mauriello.

“At the end of the whole thing I said to the food designer it’s been such a thrill to cook with you and to cook with a real chef from the Culinary Institute. … I love being a priest, but a piece of my heart would’ve loved to go to a culinary school,” Mauriello said. “And he said, ‘Oh, Father, you don’t need culinary school, you are a chef.’

“It was such a blessing to hear that from a culinary graduate.”

The Cooking Channel’s “Holy & Hungry” follows Sherri Shepherd, former co-host of “The View,” as she encounters people whose love for cooking is matched by their passion for their faith. The episode featuring Father Matthew Mauriello and his manicotti crepes airs Sunday, September 20, at 10 pm.

A week of novenas to launch Synod celebration
| September 12, 2015


BRIDGEPORT— In preparation for the Synod Mass Celebration on Saturday September 19, at Webster Bank Arena, Bishop Frank Caggiano has asked called for a week of Novenas at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

The first Novena was held last night at the Cathedral, and there will be a Novena to the Holy Spirit at St. Augustine Cathedral held each evening at 7pm from Friday, September 11 through Friday night, September 18. Each Novena will include prayer, readings and song. The Novenas will be led by priests throughout the diocese. Each service will be about an hour and a half in length.

The final Novena will be held next Saturday morning at 7 am, before Bishop Caggiano is joined by area youth in a procession throughout downtown Bridgeport from St. Augustine’s to Webster Bank Arena for the Synod Closing Celebration Mass.

"We encourage everyone to consider joining us in prayer and anticipation for the Synod Mass and to pray for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,” said Patrick Turner, Deputy Director of Synod 2014.

Blue Mass set for Tomorrow in Norwalk
| September 12, 2015 • by By BRIAN D. WALLACE


NORWALK—The Annual Diocesan Blue Mass honoring fire, police and rescue workers will be held on September 13 at 12 noon at St. Matthew Church, 216 Scribner Avenue, Norwalk.

A reception immediately following Mass will be held in the Blanchard Center on parish grounds.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the main celebrant, along with diocesan priests who serve as police and fire chaplains in Fairfield County. Father Charles Allen, SJ, special assistant to the president of Fairfield University, is serving as chair of the event.

Law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service personnel of all faiths in Fairfield County, along with members of the general public, are invited to attend the Mass and reception.

The Blue Mass takes its name from the blue uniforms worn by police, fire and emergency services personnel. Founded by Bishop William E. Lori, the Blue Mass was initiated to celebrate the life and heroism of those who died during the 9-11 tragedy in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Since that time, the Blue Mass has grown into a moving and memorable commemoration of the courage and commitment of the uniformed personnel who protect our health and safety every day of the year in Fairfield County. The Fairfield County councils and assemblies of the Knights of Columbus are sponsoring the Mass again this year.

Police, fire and other first responders to be honored at this year’s Blue Mass are John Long of Bridgeport, a Fire Department dispatcher and Special Olympics volunteer; Newtown Police Canine Officer Felicia Figol, who started the Police Explorer Program; Greenwich police officers James Smith and Sergeant John Slusarz, for saving the life of a man trapped in a trash compactor; and Bridgeport Police Sergeant Gabe Meszaros for his leadership of the Police Explorer’s Club and his work with disadvantaged youth.

Also to be recognized are Norwalk Police Officer Hector Delgado for performing several community-oriented projects during the year; Police Officer Joseph Steyer for organizing and administering multiple “Gun Buy Back Days” throughout the Stamford community; and Ridgefield Fire Captain Richard Lawlor for his leadership in delivering the highest level of emergency response in Fairfield County.

At last year’s Blue Mass, Bishop Caggiano thanked the uniformed officers for their service, “which is Christ-like in its mission to protect others from harm, never to abandon them in need and often to suffer with those they try to save.”

(To learn more about this event, contact Debbie Charles: 203.416.1352; Father Charles Allen: 203.254.4000, ext. 2316; or the Diocese of Bridgeport: 203.416.1358.)

Rally Bus Adds New Locations
| September 12, 2015


BRIDGEPORT—Due to the strong interest in attending the Papal Mass in Philadelphia on Sunday September 27, Rally Bus has added new departure and arrival times and places throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport, according to Tyler Lomnitzer, who has organized the trips.

Lomnitizer said more than 107 people have registered and people continue to sign up for the excursion.

Some projections call for as many as 2 million people descending on the city for the Papal Mass. Tickets are not required for the outdoor Mass, with the faithful lining Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Departure locations and times:

Immaculate HS in Danbury 7:13 am
St.Theresa's Parish in Trumbull, 7:17 am
Fairfield Prep, 7:25 am
St. Aloysius in New Canaan, 7:36 am
Trinity Catholic HS in Stamford, 7:46 am

Rally Bus has authorization to drive directly into the city, which will otherwise see restricted access for cars and other vehicles.

The buses will arrive at Lincoln Financial Field, approximately four miles away from Ben Franklin Pkwy, where Mass is being celebrated. Shuttle buses and/or subway service will be available to bring riders closer.

Rally Bus provides Wi-Fi, on-board bathroom and air-conditioning.

For ticket cost and information Visit: or call 855-RALLYBUS (855.725.5928).