A Lenten Spiritual Journey

NEWTOWN—My name is Tim Reilly and I am a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown. I was praying for an idea to do something different for lent this year and as I asked God to show me how I could strengthen my relationship with Him. He reminded me about something my Dad Jim Reilly and his friend Joe Surber did for a number of years. Each year on Good Friday they would walk to seven churches. Included in the seven were Assumption in Fairfield and the following churches in Bridgeport: St. Peter’s, St. Augustine’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s, St. Andrew’s, St. Ann’s, and St. Margaret’s Shrine.

This practice inspired me to embark on an ambitious challenge. I decided that I would try to attend Mass at 40 different churches during Lent this year.

My wife Debbie and I were in Florida on Ash Wednesday so the first few masses I attended were in Fort Myers. We flew home early on March 11 which enabled me to make 5:30 pm mass at St. Theresa’s in Trumbull. The diocesan website was very helpful in providing information on parishes and mass times.

They say if you would like to make God laugh then tell Him your plans. This was certainly not an exact science. This experience evolved from day to day and did not have a lot in common with the way I drew it up.

For example, on Wednesday, April 3 I planned on going to 8:00 Mass at Holy Trinity in Sherman. When I arrived there were no cars in the parking lot (not a good sign as I learned during this process).  I went inside and looked at a bulletin where I learned that weekday masses are celebrated there on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I Googled a plan B and drove to St. Francis of Assisi in New Milford. As I pulled into a parking space people were exiting the church where the mass had just ended. Plan C: I drove to St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield and arrived just in time for the 9:00 Mass. Tip to self – take a better look at the fine print on the diocesan website!

This journey enabled me to catch up with a number of friends and priests I had not seen in quite some time.

On Sunday, March 24 I met a friend and Fairfield Prep classmate Dave Roach for mass at Our Lady of Peace in Lordship. It was a beautiful morning and afterwards, we enjoyed a cup of coffee outside, while viewing Long Island Sound. We had plenty to discuss, as my son Sean is married to Dave’s daughter Claire and we have in common our beautiful granddaughter Quinn.

When Mass began on March 29 at Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown I was pleasantly surprised to see that the celebrant was Father John Inserra who had previously been at St. Rose.

On March 31 Debbie and I went to a Mass celebrated by Father Peter Towsley (also previously at St. Rose) at Sacred Heart in Danbury who was saying the mass for the intention for Debbie’s father Art Sheehan. On Good Friday we went to Blessed Sacrament in Bridgeport where Father Skip Karcsinski (who married us) celebrated the service in both English and Spanish).

On April 16 I went to 6:30 pm mass at St. Francis of Assisi in New Milford with my son Brendan. We first met in Kent and walked a section of the Appalachian Trail. We discussed my Lenten project and Brendan mentioned for the second time that this was pretty special and I should write a reflection and share the experience, so here it is.

This journey has truly been a blessing. The forty different churches included two states, three dioceses, twenty-three towns, thirty-seven hours and sixteen hundred miles driven.

During the course of this Lenten journey, I was able to reconnect with faith, family and friends. Someone asked me which church was my favorite and I have to say it is my parish, newly remodeled St. Rose of Lima (led by our amazing Pastor Msgr. Bob Weiss) where I returned on Easter morning.

There’s no place like Home!