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Dear Friends,

Welcome! We are pleased to share some personal stories about our Church and invite you to learn more about the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith.

The Catholic Church in Fairfield County is truly a community of faith, united in following Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and in continuing His mission by Word and Sacrament and through works of charity.

The stories in this booklet are marvelous expressions of living faith in a dynamic and growing population. Did you know that over 44% of Fairfield County is Catholic, with over 410,000 registered individuals and families across our 87 parishes? Mass is celebrated in 13 languages each weekend in the Diocese. The Catholic Church educates over 12,000 students in our 39 schools in the Diocese, with another 32,000 in our religious education programs. Catholic Charities, part of the Diocese, is the largest non-governmental provider of social services in Fairfield County.

The Catholic Church is a story of ongoing conversion. Our Church is alive with God's goodness and is filled with the holiness of the Lord. Yet we individual members struggle with human weakness even as the Lord seeks to transform our hearts and our lives. We are a people of realism and hope, redeemed by the Lord.

We are very proud of our Faith. Christ promised to remain with His Church. We are privileged and blessed to joyfully participate as His friends in the Church's mission. We are happy when the peace of Christ is in our hearts because we have allowed our Redeemer to forgive even our greatest sins and failings. The power of the Holy Spirit allows us to choose what is truly good and life-giving. This is the peace of Christ we offer one another in our Church.

Thank you for reading and reflecting on this booklet. Jesus said, "Come, follow me. . . I will show you the path of life." May we all rejoice to answer the Lord's invitation to friendship and service.

Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport


Why I decided to return to the Catholic Church

Carol Kennedy, Saint Leo Parish, Stamford

I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic elementary school, with very happy memories and appreciation of the Faith. Then, in my twenties, I fell away from the Church for several reasons. I even went "shopping" for different religions that I thought would fit me better.

Years later, my husband-to-be suggested I go to Mass with him, which I did. A light bulb went off - I realized that the Catholic Church was part of me; it is who I am.

I made an appointment with a priest and was welcomed back to the Church, which has been a blessing. I came to realize that one of the great benefits of our Church is that it offers loving forgiveness to those who seek it.

Now, I am happily married and the mother of three young boys, all of whom go to Catholic school. The Church is a central part of our family life. It is a source of great strength - in thanksgiving for the good and help for the challenges.

I can't imagine my life without this great gift.

For more information about returning to the Catholic Church, please call:
(203) 416-1440 or click here to send an e-mail request.


Why I converted to Catholicism

Kirk Babyak, Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Newtown

My Dad was Catholic but my Mother was Presbyterian, so I grew up Presbyterian. It seems I was always around Catholics - growing up, many of my friends were Catholic. I married a Catholic 16 years ago and my kids were being raised Catholic. But I never took the step of joining myself. I felt something was missing, but life went on.

Then, three years ago, my wife, Michelle, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2004 she had the opportunity to go to Lourdes with the Order of Malta, a Catholic organization of lay people that works in medical/social care and humanitarian aid. The following year, with Michelle's health improved, we both joined the Order of Malta Auxiliary to serve in Lourdes on the annual pilgrimage. We met some tremendous people there. I got such a sense of hope from them, which was so refreshing to me.

I guess I had always thought about joining the Church, but it was seeing the loving and caring people of Malta in Lourdes that inspired me to take the next step. So I called our church, Saint Rose of Lima, and spoke with Deacon Tom Curran, the director of their Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process, and joined their group.

Deacon Tom has been wonderful during this process for me. He made RCIA fun and something to look forward to each week. I am going to miss our deep discussions and guidance from Deacon Tom and his team. I liked it so much I may just stay and help with next year's class.

I'm not saying you need a trip to Lourdes to motivate the process of becoming a Catholic. But for me, the phone call to the RCIA director was a pivotal moment in my life, my own "Lourdes miracle." The process has been so inspiring. Now, I am an "official" Catholic and can participate more fully in the good the Church does.

For more information about becoming a Catholic, please call: (203) 416-1440 or click here to send an e-mail request.


The Joy of Shepherding an Inner-City Parish

Father Matthew Bernelli, Pastor, Saint Mary Parish, Bridgeport

We have 400 families in our community, mostly from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Central America. We call ourselves a "Stewardship Community," which means creating a feeling of welcome.

Many of the people who first come here are scared; they are in a new place. After a while, they relax and we can discuss their problems and help them - how to educate their kids, help them in times of crisis.

They feel part of a bigger family.

Stewardship means sharing our gifts with God. Everything we have comes from God. So we understand the need to give back. It applies to everyone, rich and poor, of every culture.

We try to share Christ's love with everybody.

To locate a parish in your neighborhood, click here.


Mother Teresa's Legacy Lives Among Us

Sisters Sharbel and Lizen, M.C., Missionaries of Charity

Our mission is to serve the poorest of the poor, regardless of their faith. Here in Bridgeport, we visit families, visit nursing homes and bring Communion to the sick, teach catechism and help kids with their homework after school.

Of course, most of Fairfield County is not poor compared with other parts of the world where we work.

But Blessed Mother Teresa used to say that "Calcutta is in your backyard" and the greatest poverty is loneliness - the feeling of being unwanted and a sense of emptiness. We see a lot of that.

When we talk to people, we get a sense of their hunger for serenity, joy, hope - and kindness. They have a need for a fuller life. What they need is God.

Everyone is God's instrument is some way. Our own faithfulness gives light to others. When they see our blue and white habit, they are reminded of God, which makes them happy.

That's God's grace at work.

To learn more about helping the needy, contact Catholic Charities:
(203) 416-1323, click here, or click here to send an e-mail request.


How the Church Welcomed Me

Lester Senra, Saint Peter Parish, Bridgeport

I moved to America from Brazil when I was 20. I lived alone and didn't have many people to talk to. Since I was little, we went to Church as a family in Brazil.

So that's what I looked for here. I met Msgr. Villamide at Saint Peter's in Bridgeport. We talked for hours. I feel so comfortable there.

Saint Peter's is a great community. They have a Brazilian Mass, Adoration, and a Young Adult group.

The Church is now a huge part of my life. It gives me a sense of comfort and strength.

I used to go out and party a lot and I felt empty inside. So I thought I'd try the Church. It makes me feel so full inside.

I was welcomed.

I am part of the family there.

I am home.

To locate a parish in your neighborhood, click here.


Leading a Youth Group Nurtures My Faith

Brenda DeMattio, Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, Weston

I've been Director of our Parish Youth Group of 100 high school kids for two years. I feel that I have found my calling, my own discipleship.

We stress to the kids that we all have been blessed with unique gifts and talents and our job is to go and share them with others as disciples of Christ.

In an age where many teens are apathetic or unresponsive to "spiritual issues," our kids are very engaged. That's because we act on their ideas, so they feel empowered to bring their ideas to action.

There is "coolness" in our sense of belonging and sharing.

My reward is that I feel that I'm making a meaningful contribution to their lives that they will rely on in the future.

To learn more about Youth Programs,
call (203) 416-1442, click here, or click here to send an e-mail request.


"What in God's Name am I doing?"

Father Peter J. Lynch, Director of Vocations, Diocese of Bridgeport

I grew up in a Catholic family. When I was 13 or 14, I felt like I was just going through the motions at Church - I really didn't get what was going on in there.

So, in my own way, I set out on my own quest for "the truth," feeling that the Catholic Church was not it for me.

Life went on and in a quiet moment in one of my random jobs, I heard a voice say, "You will be my priest." Whoa!

Then, one day I picked up the Gospels. And it hit me that there was the Truth I had been seeking; it was right under my nose the whole time.

God has a plan for all of us. Every disciple has a vocation. The challenge is in finding that happiness that God wants for us.

To learn more about finding your Vocation, click here.


My Second Career: Helping the Church

Norm Walker, Chief Financial Officer, Diocese of Bridgeport

I joined the Diocese as Chief Financial Officer after a 37-year career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I was risk management partner, audit and business advisor, and client engagement partner for businesses and not-for-profit organizations around the world.

I thought I was retiring when I left PricewaterhouseCoopers. But then I met Bishop Lori. His vision for helping the poor and educating our children was so compelling, I was motivated to join the senior team at the Diocese.

The vision and mission of the Diocese resonate with my core values.

The financial workings of the Diocese are complex, but we have made tremendous strides in upgrading processes and systems to achieve greater financial transparency, accountability, and decision-making information.

I am using my experience from working with many types of organizations to enhance the mission of the Church. That's a good feeling.

For more information on how to contribute your talents and expertise to the mission of the Church, please call: (203) 416-1356, or click here to send an e-mail request.


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