Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

Outdoor ceremony celebrates Mary

DANBURY—Dozens of young catechists and their families gathered at the Grotto of Mary outside of St. Joseph Church to honor her with prayers and songs and place beautiful bouquets of vibrant-colored flowers at her feet.

The outdoor ceremony marked the culmination of catechism classes for the youngsters with the tradition of the Crowning of Mary, the Divine Mother of God.

“Thankfully, the Lord gave us a nice day so we could be outside for this,” said Lynn Smierciak, director of Religious Education.

“This is a great turnout especially since we did all Zoom classes,” said Deacon Donald Naiman, as he and his wife, Stephania watched the children and their families gather. The couple taught the second-grade catechists. The religious education program was completely virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ceremony opened with everyone singing “Immaculate Mary” while the children placed flowers in vases at the foot of the Virgin Mary statue, which was adorned with a crown of flowers.

Following the readings and the close of the ceremony, those gathered prayed a decade of the rosary.

“Try to say one Rosary every day to pray for an end to the pandemic,” Smierciak said, referencing the pope’s recent initiative for a “Marathon of Prayer” for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tradition of reciting the Rosary or the Crowning of Mary in May was one of many traditions being honored on this day.

“I was raised in the Catholic Church and went to parochial school. We celebrated the May Crowning and I think it’s a wonderful tradition,” said Stacy Brown, who was there with her daughter, Cameron.

“It’s important to look to Mary as the Mother of Jesus for strength especially at this time of the pandemic,” Brown said.

Her daughter Cameron was grateful to be with her classmates.

“It was nice to come and see everyone (in person),” said Cameron, a fourth-grade student who attended classes on Zoom.

Veronica Ramirez and her daughter Chloe, who is in the third grade, also attended the afternoon event. Chloe was wearing a special pendant of the Virgin Mary, a pendant that was given to her mother when she received her First Holy Communion at St. Joseph.

“I used to go to school here,” Veronica said. “It’s nice to come back and reminisce.”

Third-grader Caden Regan and his first-grade brother Carter were also in attendance for the event, bringing with them bright yellow bouquets of flowers.

“It’s important to honor Mary because she was the mother of Jesus,” Caden said, adding that learning about the story of Adam and Eve was one of the most memorable lessons from the program for him.

Deacon Naiman said the lessons learned throughout the program provide a solid foundation for the children to build upon throughout their lives.

“It’s very important because we live in a day of cultural collisions of different values in our society and some of these values aren’t always nurturing,” he said, adding that it is important for everyone to know that they can go to Mary at any time with their needs.

“Mary is there for them,” Naiman said. “It is a very special relationship.”

By Kathy-Ann Gobin

Commencement and Celebration Plans for Classes of ’20 and ‘21

Beginning on May 15, Fairfield University will recognize graduates with both virtual Commencement ceremonies and in-person academic celebrations on Bellarmine Lawn through May 23.

FAIRFIELD— Fairfield University will honor the achievements of the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, both with virtual Commencement ceremonies and with in-person academic celebrations. President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., provosts, deans, and faculty will recognize graduates’ academic achievements by the school and/or department at academic celebrations.

All academic celebrations will take place on Bellarmine Lawn, rain or shine, with health and safety protocols in effect. Graduates may each invite two guests to attend.

Class of 2020

Graduate and Professional Studies:
The graduate and professional studies ceremonies will be virtual on Saturday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m.

In-person academic celebrations on Bellarmine Lawn for Class of 2020 undergraduates will take place on Saturday, May 22, at 9:30 a.m. for both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, and at 2 p.m. for both the Charles F. Dolan School of Business and the School of Engineering.

A special celebratory event for all members of the Class of 2020 will be scheduled during the University’s Fall Alumni & Family Weekend.

Class of 2021

The total number of degrees expected to be conferred are: 966 bachelor’s, 405 master’s, 23 sixth-year certificates, and 41 doctorates.

Graduate & Professional Studies:
On Sunday, May 16 at 9:30 a.m., Fairfield University will hold an in-person academic celebration for the Class of 2021 graduate and professional studies students on Bellarmine Lawn.

Beginning on Monday, May 17, Fairfield will hold a series of in-person academic celebrations for the Class of 2021 undergraduates, with the College of Arts and Sciences celebrations at 9:30 a.m. and at 2 p.m.

In-person academic celebrations for undergraduates in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business will take place on Tuesday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

On Wednesday, May 19, the in-person celebration for undergraduates in the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies will be at 9:30 a.m., and the School of Engineering’s academic celebration will be at 2 p.m. on May 19.

Virtual Commencement ceremonies to confer all Class of 2021 undergraduate and graduate degrees are scheduled for Sunday, May 23 at 9:30 a.m.

Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 Commencement Speaker

This year’s speaker for both the Class of 2020 and 2021 undergraduate and graduate virtual ceremonies Judy Woodruff—the anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour—will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. A news veteran who has covered national and international news and politics for over four decades at NBC, CNN, and PBS, Woodruff has reported on every presidential election since Jimmy Carter and has moderated numerous US presidential debates.

Starting in 1977, she served as the White House correspondent for NBC. Woodruff went on to be the chief Washington correspondent for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour at PBS, as well as the anchor for PBS’s award-winning documentary series, Frontline with Judy Woodruff. She later served as an anchor and senior correspondent at CNN for 12 years before returning to PBS NewsHour, which she co-anchored with the late Gwen Ifill.

Woodruff is also a founding co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women in journalism and communication industries worldwide. She serves on the board of trustees of the Freedom Forum and is director of Public Radio International and the National Association to End Homelessness. She is the recipient of the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism and the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Among many honors, she has received the News and Documentary Emmy, a CableACE Award for Best Newscaster, and the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media. Woodruff is the recipient of more than 25 honorary degrees. She is a graduate and trustee emerita of Duke University.

(For more information please visit

COVID-19 vaccines coming to Sacred Heart Church, Danbury

DANBURY—Sacred Heart Church, in partnership with Griffin Health, the Department of Public Health and the City of Danbury, will be offering COVID-19 vaccinations every Wednesday in May from 3-7 pm.

Sacred Heart Church is located at 12 Cottage Street Danbury, CT 06810.

(For more information, call 211 or visit For guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711.)

Prayers of Blessing for Images of the Sacred Heart and St. Joseph

Order for the Blessing of new images at the Cathedral

This order is inserted immediately after the homily but before the recitation of the Creed. The statues which are to be blessed are situated in the sanctuary of the Cathedral in the area in front of the ambo. The statues are to be appropriately decorated with flowers and lit candles.

The Bishop processes to the statues which are to be blessed, and stands before them.

Turning to the faithful, he addresses them: 

Bishop: My brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to bless new images which have been installed within our diocesan cathedral for public veneration. Before they are to be blessed, we must be properly disposed and have a clear appreciation of the meaning of this celebration.

When the Church blesses an image or statue and presents it for public veneration by the faithful, it does so for the following reasons: that when we look at the representation of those who have followed Christ faithfully, we will be motivated to seek the city that is to come; that we will learn the way that will enable us most surely to attain complete union with Christ; that, as we struggle along with our earthly cares, we will be mindful of the saints, those friends and coheirs of Christ who are also our brothers and sisters and our special benefactors; that we will remember how they love us, are near us, intercede ceaselessly for us, and are joined to us in marvelous communion.

Today, we have genuine reason to rejoice, because we are about to bless two new images: that of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and that of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The image of the Sacred Heart reminds us our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from his pierced side – the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments – so that all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation. The image of Saint Joseph is reminds us of the just man who was given as spouse to the Virgin Mother of God and set as a wise and faithful servant in charge of the household of the Almighty God to watch like a father over our Lord Jesus Christ. This particular image bears even more significance for the faithful in that it has been erected during this holy year which venerates Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, and following a diocesan-wide consecration to his patronage.

The Bishop then says each prayer of blessing, beginning with the image of the Sacred Heart. 

Bishop: Let us pray.

The bishop then pauses briefly in silence and with hands folded. He then says the Prayer of Blessing with his hands outstretched towards the image to be blessed.

 Prayer of Blessing for the Image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Good Father, lover of the human race,

we praise you for the great love shown us in the sending of your Word.

Born of the Virgin, he became our Savior,

our firstborn brother, like us in all things but sin.

You have given us Christ as the perfect example of holiness:

We see him as a child in the manger, yet acknowledge him God almighty.

We see his face and discern the countenance of your goodness.

We hear him speak the words of life and are filled with your wisdom.

We search the deepest reaches of his Most Sacred Heart

and our own hearts burn with that fire of the Spirit

which he spread in order to renew the face of the earth.

We look on the Bridegroom of the Church,

streaked in his own blood

which flowed through his Most Sacred Heart,

pierced for our own offenses,

but we revere that blood, which washes our sins away.

The Church rejoices in the glory of his resurrection

and shares in the promise it holds.

Lord, listen to our prayer, and bless + this image

of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, your beloved Son.

As your faithful people honor this image of your Son

may they be of one mind with Christ.

May they exchange the image of the old Adam of earth

by being transformed into Christ, the new Adam from heaven.

May Christ be the way that leads them to you,

the truth that shines in their hearts,

the life that animates their actions.

May his Most Sacred Heart become a place of refuge for them

in moments of turmoil and distress.

May Christ always be a light to their footsteps,

a safe place of rest on their journey,

and the gate that opens to them the city of peace.

For he lives there reigning with you and the Holy Spirit,

God for ever and ever.

Response: Amen

The Bishop then takes the aspergillum and imposes holy water upon the newly-blessed image. He then places incense in the thurible and incenses it.

The Bishop then stands before the image of Saint Joseph and invites all to prayer.

Bishop: Let us pray.

The bishop again pauses briefly in silence and with hands folded. He then says the Prayer of Blessing with his hands outstretched towards the image to be blessed.

Prayer of Blessing for the Image of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary


you are praised, adored and loved by your people

for you alone are holy,

and because in your compassion for sinners

you sent into the world your Son,

Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of holiness.

He sent the Spirit to sustain his newborn Church,

a voice that teaches us the secrets of holiness,

a breeze that strengthens and refreshes,

a fire that sears our hearts in love,

the seed of God that yields a harvest of grace.

Today we praise you for the gifts of the Spirit bestowed upon Saint Joseph,

in whose honor we + bless this statue.

As a faithful consecrated to his patronage,

may we always follow in the footsteps of the Lord

while keeping before us his example,

and grow to a maturity measured not by nature,

but by the fullness of Christ.

May we proclaim his Gospel by word and deed

and, shouldering our crosses daily,

expend ourselves for others in your service.

As we carry out our earthly duties,

may we be filled with the Spirit of Christ

and keep our eyes fixed on the glories of heaven,

where you, Father, receive those who will reign with your Son,

for ever and ever.

Response: Amen.

The Bishop then takes the aspergillum and imposes holy water upon the newly-blessed image. He then places incense in the thurible and incenses it.

Mass continues with the recitation of the Creed, which is begun from the Cathedra.

Following the Creed is the Universal Prayer of the Faithful, during which the following intercessions are added:

Addendum to the Universal Prayer of the Faithful

Father, it is your will that in Christ we should have a teacher who is gentle and humble of heart; grant that we may obediently learn from his Most Sacred Heart both kindness and goodness. We pray to the Lord ….

O God of all wisdom, through your Son Jesus Christ you built your Church on the foundation of the apostles; keep their teaching secure among your faithful people. We pray to the Lord ….

Father, in the mysterious design of your providence you willed our Savior’s death on the cross as a victory over death and hell; grant that we may die with him so that we may also rise with him. We pray to the Lord ….

O God, source of all holiness, in the saints you have shown the many splendors of your grace; grant that in them, we may honor your majesty. We pray to the Lord….

In your saints you show your presence and make known your countenance and your word; grant to your faithful that when they honor the saints, especially Saint Joseph, they will find themselves drawn closer to you. We pray to the Lord ….

From match-maker to religious sister

Robyn Lee loved the life she was living. She had everything a young person could want—a career in journalism, money, dates, a car, a house and summer trips to Europe. But she wanted more.

“The dream life wasn’t enough,” she says. “I had it all, but something was missing. There was a recognition of being called.”

As managing editor of Catholic Match Institute, she was helping Catholics navigate the singles life and prepare for marriage. But she sometimes wondered—while she was dating and attending singles conferences—when she would find the right match. Then, she found the perfect match. His name was Jesus.

This month, Sr. Mary Mercy Lee is renewing her temporary vows for three more years as a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

Sister, who also held editorial positions at National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, and Faith & Family magazine, now teaches theology at St. Paul High School in Bristol and lives at the John Lateran Center in Meriden with other sisters in formation.

When she looks back on her life, she realizes that all along the way, God was directing her to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

“Starting with Mass with my family, the love for the Eucharist was instilled in me during childhood and into adulthood,” she says. “It was like God called me to this community. The Eucharist is the center. St. Francis says it is the pouring out of our God. That our all-powerful God would hide himself under an ordinary piece of bread shows his humility.”

The seeds of her vocation had been planted during childhood, beginning with her home life and the example of her parents. Every Saturday, her mother took four of her children, including Robyn,10, to Eucharistic Adoration at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury.

The youngest daughter in a family of six girls and one boy, Sister grew up in Cheshire and went to St. Bridget of Sweden Parish.

“Vocations are born in the home, and my parents, Maryalyce and Bob, provided a culture that was such a beautiful domestic church,” she says. “We went to Mass every Sunday. My mom could have a baby on Friday, and we would be in church on Sunday.”

Sister attended Mary Immaculate Academy in New Britain, where she was “an active student and social butterfly.”

“I was in drama and choir, and I liked sports,” she recalled. “I played girls basketball and girls softball, soccer with the boys team, and a few games with the boys baseball team.”

After graduating in 1998, she began studies at Christendom College in Virginia, where she majored in philosophy.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t necessarily appreciate the faith,” she says. “I just took it for granted that I had this beautiful culture around me, but at Christendom it was time to make it my own.”

She started attending daily Mass, and as her desire for the Eucharist increased, her spiritual life deepened.

Quoting the foundress of her community, Mother Rosemae Pender, she said, “You could be distracted at adoration and even fall asleep but just like when you’re at the beach, the sun still gets you. Being in the presence of the Eucharist changes you.”

After graduation, she took a job as editorial assistant at the National Catholic Register and eventually was named editor of Faith & Family magazine. When it was sold, she stayed on at the Register until a position opened up for editor at Catholic Digest.

Then in 2010, at 30 years old, she was named managing editor of Catholic Match Institute, where she was responsible for developing resources and educational materials to help couples preparing for marriage and single Catholics who are dating.

“I worked from home. I made good money and I had my own car,” she said. “And every summer I took a trip to Europe.”

At one point, she had to coordinate an essay contest on the topic “How do you discern if you are called to the married life?”

“I had a crisis about what that meant, and I wondered if I could judge the contest fairly,” she said. “I had to ask myself if I could even answer that question. Although I knew I wanted to be married and have a bunch of kids, I wondered whether I was called to the married life.”

Plus, she couldn’t understand why—if she was attending Catholic singles conferences and going on dates—she hadn’t met “The One.”

“I did know a guy I thought I might marry, but we broke it off,” she said. “And I found myself asking, ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my life?’”

During college, she had considered the possibility of a religious vocation, and a family friend, Father Paul Check, the former rector of St. John Fisher Seminary, told her that if she had the slightest inkling of a vocation, she should look into it. However, after exploring a few religious orders, she didn’t think it was meant for her.

To prepare herself to judge the essay contest, she asked friends and family members, including her five married sisters, how they knew they were called to the married life.

“I listened to their stories and got different answers. A lot of people said, ‘Well, you just know.’ Hearing that was so dissatisfying,” she said.

At the time, she was doing graduate studies at Holy Apostles Seminary and taking a course in the New Evangelization taught by Sr. Mary Anne Linder FSE, who invited her to an advent series of Masses and talks at the Franciscan chapel.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “That’s where it began for me. I thought, ‘Wow, these sisters really love the Church and the Eucharist.’”

Sister Mary Anne continued to invite Robyn to events.

“Through the liturgies, my attraction to the sisters continued to grow,” she said.

When she finally went on a vocations retreat, she asked Sister Barbara Johnson, the vicar general, “How do you know if you have a vocation?” And she responded, “You can sit on the side of the pool and wonder if the water is cold…or you can jump in.”

“Her story was important for my vocation because I wanted to know that instant if it was God’s will for me to make final vows,” she said. “God was speaking through her, saying, ‘You don’t need to know the whole path. I am going to show you the next step’…and that next step was to accept pre-postulancy.”

At one point, the co-foundress Mother Shaun Vergauwen said to her, “You are really living the dream life. Why would you want to give that up?”

“I remember thinking, ‘Yes, I do have it all, but is there something more?’ I had a realization that the dream life wasn’t enough and that I was being called,” she said.                                        But there was a lot she had to sort out, especially since she owned a house and had a publishing business with several clients.

During her year of pre-postulancy, she wore the Franciscan brown tunic while attending Catholic Match events and working as managing editor. In addition, the other publications she edited—Catholic Digest and Catechist magazine—were wondering whether they could put their faith in her or should find someone else.

“I reached a point where I said, ‘It’s time for me to let all this go,’” she recalled.

And she did. In 2016, during the Year of Mercy, she entered the novitiate and was given the name Sister Mary Mercy Lee by Mother Shaun.

“How special it was that I became a novice during the Year of Mercy,” she says. “Even before I entered the community, my family and I had a great devotion to Divine Mercy.”

She also believes God led her to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

“All through my life, the love of the Eucharist was instilled in me,” she says. “It was like God called me to this community because the Eucharist is all about love and learning to pour it out like our God does.”

Looking back, she can see the work of God in her life and believes that when we allow ourselves to surrender to God’s will, we discover the surprises he has in store for us.

“For me, the remarkable thing is that he could call me—a person who has made lots of mistakes—to be uniquely chosen to be a Bride of Christ,” Sister Mary Mercy said. “The lesson is the same for all of us. If we allow God to enter our hearts, we can do bigger things than we could ever imagine. We are broken vessels, and God chooses to shine through those broken vessels. He chooses us to be his hands and feet…and the way we do that is by being nourished in the Eucharist.”

By Joe Pisani

Global Prayer Marathon continues!

BRIDGEPORT—Pope Francis has called for a global prayer marathon for the entire month of May, praying for the end to the pandemic.

Each day in May, there will be a livestream from one of 30 chosen Marian shrines or sanctuaries to guide the prayer at 6 pm Rome time (noon EDT) on all Vatican media platforms.

“The initiative will involve in a special way all shrines in the world” in promoting the initiative so that individuals, families and communities all take part in reciting the rosary, “to pray for the end of the pandemic,” said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in a press release April 21.

To help spread the word and save time, The Leadership Institute website and Twitter feed will highlight the Rosary and will link directly to livestreams. 

(To follow along, visit:

At rosary, pope prays resources move

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Under the gaze of a seventh-century icon of Mary, Pope Francis launched a monthlong, global recitation of the rosary, pleading for Mary’s intercession for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And he prayed May 1 that Mary would move people’s consciences “so that the enormous amounts spent to increase and perfect weapons are instead used to promote research to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.”

The pope and about 160 young adults and families from Rome prayed in St. Peter’s Basilica and were joined remotely by people at the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, the first of 30 Marian shrines around the world that will lead the rosary every day throughout May.

“At the beginning of the month dedicated to Our Lady, we join in prayer with all the shrines around the world, the faithful and all people of good will to entrust to our holy mother all of humanity so harshly tried by this pandemic,” the pope said, introducing the recitation of the glorious mysteries of the rosary.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization coordinated the rosary marathon, the scheduling of the shrines and the assigning of a specific prayer intention for each day of the month traditionally devoted to Mary.

The pope said those intentions would include people who have died or fallen ill with the virus, their loved ones and the medical personnel who cared for them, people who had lost their jobs and students who longed to return to school and to their friends. The prayers, he said, also would remember “the people, especially women, who endured violence within the home” during the pandemic lockdowns.

“Mother of Succor, welcome us under your mantle and protect us, sustain us in times of trial and light in our hearts the lamp of hope for the future,” the pope prayed, standing before the Marian icon.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was scheduled to lead the prayers “for all world leaders and for all heads of international organizations” May 17, and the Quebec Shrine of Notre Dame du Cap was to lead prayers for “for all law enforcement and military personnel and for all firefighters” May 23.

While leaving much of the planning up to the shrines and their local expressions of faith, the pontifical council included in the outline for the prayer services one of the special prayers to Mary in the time of COVID-19, written by Pope Francis last year when the pandemic had just begun.

Pope Francis’ invocations to Mary May 1 included large sections of that prayer, including a plea to “turn your merciful eyes toward us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply.”

“Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them,” the pope continued. “Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.”

But he also prayed that government leaders would work with “wisdom, care and generosity” to aid those who lack even the basic necessities and that their recovery plans would be farsighted and marked by solidarity with the poor.

Pope Francis also added a prayer to the “beloved mother,” asking her to help everyone in the world recognize that they are part of “one great family” and should care for one another, especially those most in need.

“Encourage firmness in faith, perseverance in service and constancy in prayer,” he asked. “O, Mary, consoler of the afflicted, embrace all your suffering children and have God intervene with his hand.”

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

Vatican approves new invocations

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Updating the Litany of St. Joseph, approved in 1909, the Vatican has added seven invocations, including two that address the guardian of Jesus and husband of Mary as “support in difficulty” and “patron of refugees.”

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the additions May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

The additions were approved by Pope Francis, the congregation said, and drew the new invocations mainly from modern papal texts about St. Joseph, including Pope Francis’ December apostolic letter proclaiming a Year of St. Joseph and St. John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation, “Redemptoris Custos” (“Protector of the Redeemer”).

Since Pope Francis wanted, as he wrote in his letter, “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal,” the congregation said, it seemed appropriate to update the 112-year-old litany.

Providing only the Latin-language version of the invocations, the congregation said it would be up to bishops’ conferences to translate the phrases and to add others if St. Joseph is invoked by their people in a particular way.

The Latin phrases are: “Custos Redemptoris” (Protector of the Redeemer); “Serve Christi” (Servant of Christ); “Minister salutis” (Minister of salvation); “Fulcimen in difficultatibus” (Support in difficulty); “Patrone exsulum” (Patron of refugees); “Patrone afflictorum” (Patron of the afflicted); and “Patrone pauperum” (Patron of the poor).

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

Church turns to prayer with Mary

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The global Catholic Church coming together to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic represents the hope and faith of the people of God and how they find solace and strength together with Mary, said a theological expert in Mariology.

“Mary knows what suffering is,” and just as she was at the foot of Christ’s cross, “she is at the foot of the many crosses other people bear, bringing them comfort, redemption and accompaniment in a self-centered world,” said Servite Father Salvatore Perrella, a professor of dogmatics and Mariology at the Pontifical Institute Marianum.

Pope Francis asked that Catholics unite worldwide every day throughout the month of May to pray the rosary, pleading for an end to the pandemic and praying for those most affected by the disease and its consequences.

“The pope did the right thing to call this marathon of prayer to Mary,” Father Perrella told Catholic News Service April 29.

“It’s not that Mary will fix our problems — God doesn’t fix them either because he gives us freedom and even leaves a disease free to act — but it is about knowing that God is with us, which is the reason for our great strength and hope,” he said.

The initiative is a way for people of faith to turn to the Mother of God, who assures people that God never abandons anyone, he said.

“This is the power of the Christian faith, which is solace, strength, compassion and solidarity in suffering” and helps find meaning in pain and difficulties, he said.

Our Lady does not take any honor or focus away from Christ, he said. The church emphasizes her role as “mother, sister and friend,” who always comes to help, “who prays for us” and who points to and “connects us to Christ and Christ responds to our human weaknesses.”

The rosary, Father Perrella said, “is a gentle chain that unites us to God, unites us to each other, and Mary is witness to this.”

Every shrine and sanctuary around the world has been invited to organize prayer initiatives according to their local customs, he said, and the places and people that can do so safely should take part.

Shrines represent places for coming together, of pilgrimage and leaving behind the repetitive mundanity of the everyday, he said. They are “a rest stop, a launching pad” for something more, because people need to come together at different times, different places and in different ways “and be together with others, with oneself and with God.”

“It is not to distance yourself, but to find in God all of humanity,” since shrines often attract so many different people who do not know each other, but they form “a crown of solidarity, of unity” just by being there, knowing that God is near, he said.

For those who cannot visit a shrine, the Vatican will be broadcasting on multiple platforms starting at 6 p.m. Rome time each day from a different shrine around the world.

People should take advantage of being able to connect with broadcasts and online, he said.

“It’s not true that the Internet is infernal. It depends on how it’s used and where you go,” the Servite said. “We have to use all tools so this encounter can happen and bring people together by what they see, unite their hearts” and join as one catholic family.

The theme of the month of prayer — “From the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God” — is significant as well, he said. It refers to the miraculous event recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-12) when all the church prayed for Peter, who was imprisoned.

“We can see the pandemic is like a prison that we want with all our heart to break out of” and can make people lose hope, he said.

But instead, the Bible passage shows the entire church coming together to pray at a time of fear, danger and isolation, and God sends an angel to free Peter, illustrating how the Lord listens and performs an unexpected miracle.

Father Perrella said, “The church has a duty to express itself this way, in solidarity — the whole church. This is catholicity of faith: Everyone has to hear and feel the suffering of others” and do their part because from prayer comes true concrete acts of charity.

“But no matter what happens, what the result, the church must never give up hoping,” he said.

By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service

Bishop blesses statues of St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

BRIDGEPORT—On Sunday, May 2, at St. Augustine Cathedral, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano celebrated a special Mass to bless two statues generously donated to the diocese.

A beautiful statue, which depicts St. Joseph holding a young Jesus and a bouquet of white lilies, was gifted to the diocese by generous donor, Connie Von Zwehl, parishioner of St. Pius X in Fairfield. A new statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was also generously donated on behalf of Joseph and Mary Gauci.

In his homily on this special Fifth Sunday of Easter, Bishop Caggiano spoke of his visit to Clonmacnoise, a monastery in Ireland. He described a ritual that the monks engaged in when they lived there: blessing the perimeter of the monastery with Holy Water, asking the angels to keep that place safe and sacred. Giving context, Bishop Caggiano explained that at the time there were many pagan religions in Ireland, who may not have wanted other religions to be in their midst and live among them.

The bishop likened this time to what Christians are experiencing now, saying that we live in a world that does not always welcome faith, Christ, or even God. He explained that this was his reasoning behind wanting to consecrate the diocese when he first became bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. “To create a safe and sacred perimeter, in which you and I can live and work and pray, and gather each other in strength, so that we may go out, equally as missionaries into a world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Caggiano said that the process of consecration began at the synod and was completed today.

At the diocesan synod, the bishop consecrated the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A statue of Mary was placed in the sanctuary of St. Augustine Cathedral at that time, which the bishop explained was the first step of asking the Holy Family itself to be our protector. “Each member of the Holy Family gives us a tool, which we will need to go out into the world to be safe and sacred.”

“Our Lady reminds us that if we are to go out into the world that it must always be Christ first, Christ always first,” the bishop said.

“Under the care of St. Joseph, we consecrate ourselves, because we will need to be reassured in the work that Christ has given us. So we ask his prayers and intercession so that we might be faithful, quiet workers to bear Christ into the world,” he continued.

“And so we consecrate ourselves to the Lord’s Sacred Heart so that we might be His heart in the world. For we are not going to bring people to faith by arguing with them, chastising them, punishing them or judging them. We are going to bring them to the feet of Jesus by loving them.”

In His Sacred Heart, the bishop said, we have every confidence that His victory will be ours.

“I am very grateful for the gift of these two beautiful statues,” the bishop said, thanking Mrs. Von Zwehl and the Grimes family. “For it now can physically remind every person in this diocese under whose care we now live.”

The bishop thanked both donors for their generosity and their faith. “These statues will do us no spiritual good if we do not use them to remind ourselves of what it is the Lord is asking of us.”

“We must pray every day to Our Lady, to St. Joseph and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we will never falter, that we will never waiver, and with His grace we will not fail,” said the bishop.

Prayers of Blessing for Images of the Sacred Heart and St. Joseph

Photos by Amy Mortensen

Two new statues to be formally dedicated at special Mass

BRIDGEPORT— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano recently launched a diocesan-wide renewal as he consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to the protection and intercession of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, during this Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.

The bishop celebrated a Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at St. Augustine’s Cathedral while pastors throughout the diocese simultaneously celebrated Mass, linking the diocese together in prayer and purpose.

During this special Mass, a new statue of St. Joseph was unveiled and blessed.

This beautiful statue, which depicts St. Joseph, holding a young Jesus and a bouquet of white lilies, was gifted to the diocese by generous donor, Connie Van Zwehl, parishioner of St. Pius X in Fairfield.

“When the Holy Father declared the Year of St. Joseph in December, I was so pleased to learn that St. Joseph was receiving the attention he never sought in life, but has so richly deserved,” said Connie.

She explained that the donation was made to honor the memory of two wonderful fathers: her own, James Belta and her husband, Vincent Van Zwehl.

“Their devotion to Our Lord, Our Church and dear St. Joseph will be immortalized through this beautiful statue,” she said, thanking Bishop Caggiano for the concept of placing this statue for all to worship and for the opportunity for her “to keep his memory and the memories I hold most dear alive in my grateful heart.”

In his apostolic letter Patris corde, (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis describes Joseph as “a hidden presence” and “a man in the shadows.” Similarly, during his Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, Bishop Caggiano observed, “Today we honor a man who has no directly recorded words in all of Sacred Scripture, and yet we come here to honor him as patron and guardian, defender and protector.”

A new statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was also generously donated on behalf of Joseph and Mary Gauci.

Joseph Gauci was a carpenter, and his wife’s name was Mary. They sacrificed everything to give their children opportunities for a better life. They lived the lives of their namesakes—always praying, helping others, and being there for each other.

They made sure to decorate their home with holy objects, most notably a large picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the kitchen. Every day, when getting up from the kitchen table after evening coffee and heading to bed, Mary would put her hand on that picture and give thanks for the day and all that was provided to them. Joseph Gauci still continued this tradition after Mary’s passing. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was something that they both shared in their hearts.

This Sunday, May 2, 9:30 am at St. Augustine Cathedral, Bishop Caggiano will celebrate Mass to formally dedicate these two statues.

Hartford HealthCare: Walk-ins welcome!

FAIRFIELD COUNTY—Starting Friday, ALL Hartford HealthCare vaccination sites will be open to walk-ins for vaccination.

Hartford HealthCare had been offering a pilot program at a few sites this week.

Due to the success of the pilot program, Hartford HealthCare will now offer walk-in availability across the state, as well.

You can find Hartford HealthCare’s vaccine clinic locations here:

CRS to host “Come and See” event for Diocese of Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT—On Monday, May 3,  7:30-8:30 pm, Catholic Relief Services will be hosting a Come & See event, specifically for the Diocese of Bridgeport. “We are eager to move this opportunity forward as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is very interested in establishing one or more chapters in the Diocese of Bridgeport,” said Nora Ferreira Aufiero, community engagement manager, Catholic Relief Services, Northeast Mid-Atlantic Region.

The event is open to anyone in the diocese who would be interested in taking a deeper dive into their commitment to global social justice and policy change to help our brothers and sisters around the world.

Catholic Relief Service (CRS) chapters are local communities of people who support CRS’ mission through measurable steps of advocacy and fundraising. The formation of the chapters is part of a strategy that CRS has crafted in response to the overwhelming set of problems we see around the world.

Click here to read an article by the CRS Executive Vice President for Mission & Mobilization Bill O’Keefe in U.S. Catholic magazine, which speaks more to the role and impact of CRS Chapters.

To RSVP, email:  by Friday, April 30.

Zoom Meeting Information for Monday, May 3:

Meeting ID: 974 2859 0445
Passcode: 016876
Find your local number:

Naqvi boys are entrepreneurs in the making!

TRUMBULL—Animal lover and St. Catherine of Siena 8th grader Mika’il Naqvi and his younger brother and future SCSS student, Ayaan, are entrepreneurs in the making.

After their beloved dogs had knocked one too many Christmas ornaments off of the family Christmas tree, the boys put their heads together to invent the Ornament Anchor.

The boys have been featured on QVC, Good Morning America, and the Today Show, sharing their invention and bringing awareness to animal shelters and the overwhelming need to support them.

This year, after donating a portion of their profits to animal charities, the boys were selected by the North Shore Animal League to be Student Ambassadors.

SCSS was the first school to partner with them to execute the grassroots project that they developed.

Together with their mother, Mrs. Amanda Naqvi, they are reaching out to other schools in the Diocese to hope that those schools can be a part of their movement and be Shelter Heroes.

Click here to learn more about the Naqvi boys, their Ornament Anchor invention, and the ways that they have impacted the lives of shelter animals.

Communion Closet offers clothes to those in need

SHELTON—Mallory Doyle, a Junior at St. Joseph High School and a Shelton resident is continuing a Communion Closet that was started by her sister several years ago for the upcoming Communion season. The Communion Closet offers a variety of communion clothing to boys and girls who will be making their First Holy Communion in the spring, who may face a need.
Due to COVID-19, all available items can be viewed virtually on the Facebook Group Page: Communion Closet – Upper Fairfield County/Naugatuck Valley Area.
Each piece is numbered and includes the description and size of the item available.
To make a request, please send a message or email: with the item number and your contact information to arrange for pickup.
Donations of gently used or new dresses, suits, or accessories are being accepted; please contact via messenger or email: to make arrangements.