Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

Immaculate food drive helps those in need

DANBURY—Celebrating Catholic Schools Week, Immaculate High School in Danbury held a week-long food drive for the FAITH Food Pantry in Newtown.

“I’ve always wanted to do a fundraiser through my school,” said Sophia Pertoso, a junior at Immaculate High School who organized the food drive.

A collection bin was set up in the school and one bin was stationed outside the school for any virtual students who wanted to drop off food items.

Pertoso, who also volunteers to make sandwiches for Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury and visits a nursing home near her school to spend time with residents bringing home-baked cookies and good conversation to brighten their day, chose FAITH pantry to help people in her hometown.

“We really, really appreciate what Sophia did,” said Lee Paulsen, president of FAITH Food Pantry, adding that the demand for food and household items has doubled since the pandemic.

FAITH food pantry established in 1984, provides one week of groceries to Newtown residents in need, once a month. The letters in the nonprofit volunteer organization’s name stands for Food Assistance, Immediate, Temporary Help.

“We need all the help we can get,” Paulsen said. “There are so many people in need right now.”

Although the pantry continues to get donations of fresh eggs and milk from local restaurants, donations for basic items are down due in part to the lack of contributions from school food drives since many public schools have been closed or partially closed due to the pandemic.

After contacting the pantry, Pertoso discovered donations are not as plentiful after the holidays but the need for items is still there. Her fellow classmates did not let her down.

“It was an overwhelming amount of donations,” she said. “The food pantry was over the moon excited. I don’t think they expected to get as much as they did.”

In fact, after the food drive was over, students continued to bring much needed items such as apple or cranberry juice, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, pancake mix, salt, pepper, taco kits and napkins.

Pertoso, a virtual student due to the pandemic, was planning to make a second trip to pick-up donations at the school and drop them off to the pantry.

“That’s the good thing about my school, everyone is very giving,” said Pertoso, who organized the food drive with school officials through zoom meetings.

“I admire young people like Sophia that think outside of the box, ‘Gee, maybe I can help somebody,’ well she did and I appreciate it,” Paulsen said. “What she did was terrific.”

“I want to help as much as I can,” Pertoso said. “You never know what people are going through. Maybe that chocolate chip cookie will make someone smile. The little things matter.”

Emotional, psychological toll of pandemic

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The psychological and emotional trauma of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is only now beginning to be felt, and is bound to keep affecting American workers for some time to come.

“The other virus that we’re dealing with is fear,” said Jesuit Father Thomas Florek, part of the Hispanic-Latino formation development team at the University of Detroit Mercy, during a Feb. 24 webinar sponsored by the Catholic Labor Network, “Ministering to Workers in the Time of COVID.”

“Right now, it’s a very vicious circle. I see the deaths as a kind of holocaust for the 21st century,” said Father Florek, who accompanied human rights workers recently in Mexico. “People don’t have to die; decisions have been made, structures have allowed half a million people in this country to die.”

“We’ve had so many Catholic workers coming into the office looking for assistance. Also, for emotional and spiritual support,” said Father Patrick Besel, a chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “I probably spent more time last year with staff than with patients. There was so much stress.”

During the webinar, roughly two dozen clergy got to hear firsthand from two workers.

After working 13 years as a guest service agent, Katyra Henderson Hill received a phone call from her employer the day her youngest son was graduating from eighth grade that she was being let go. “They offered a couple of thousand dollars for my severance package,” she said. “I sacrificed so much for my children, seeing them only on weekends.”

Now, “I haven’t paid my bills. My husband and I are separated. I’m unemployed, alone with three teenagers,” Henderson Hill said. “Being in quarantine with no job has tested my faith. Being depressed, dealing with children who are depressed. One of them ran away.”

She added, “I have no financial stability. I’m dealing with no insurance. I didn’t ask for COVID. I feel the government failed us. We didn’t ask to be laid off from our jobs.”

About the only bright spot, she said, was qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to feed her family. Her old job paid $21 an hour; the only jobs she sees available now pay about $11 an hour, barely half as much.

“This building has been of no help,” said Cyntira Gilchrist of the management at the health care facility in Maryland where she has worked for the past five months.

“It’s discouraging for people who want to come to work. There’s no support from management or anything,” Gilchrist said. “We’re in there fighting tooth and nail for our patients trying to keep them safe, keep ourselves safe, with the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment). We have to wear our masks for almost a whole month at a time. No one should have to wear a mask for that long.”

She added, “We don’t have the time to be there for everyone like we’re used to,” saying the former caseload of 10 to 15 patients has jumped to 30. “Since COVID, people have been scared to come to work. I almost became one of the patients myself,” Gilchrist said. “My skin is wearing thin also. I just look for some kind of help.”

Henderson Hill, a Southern Baptist, said Bible apps have helped, adding that her kids have asked her, “Let’s pray, Mama.” “They ask me to pray. And that’s what’s been keeping me going,” she said, noting she has not been able to go to church since the pandemic started. “The pastor was my grandfather,” she added, “and he passed away.”

“I place everything in the blest hands,” said Gilchrist, who embraces Islam. “I try not to beat myself up when I can’t do any more. … I just put my head on the wheel and just pray.”

“We’re experiencing a big amount of insecurity of food. At Catholic Charities, we are reaching 10 million meals that we have served,” said Father Jon Pedigo, director for advocacy and community engagement for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, California. “There are 12,000 folks that we’re supporting with free food through the parishes each week. We have been doing that each week since the lockdown.”

In San Jose alone, 40,000 to 50,000 people are being displaced, Father Pedigo said. “The undocumented low-income population have had threats to call on ICE to deport them if they don’t pay their rent,” he added, fuming at the discrimination faced by these renters. “You’re not supposed to evict people during this particular time,” he said, “yet landlords are preying.”

“How do we create a situation where if anyone in any one of these workplaces were called to present a discussion at a seminary, they would be welcome?” asked Sulpician Father Martin Burnham, a Baltimore archdiocesan priest and licensed psychotherapist.

He suggested reaching out to the local bishops “because the bishops talk among themselves,” but “how do we, as people on the ground in the dioceses, talk to bishops on the importance of these issues, and to the priests who are coming along and need to be trained in these issues? … Life in the seminary is not the alb I’m going to buy or height of my collar.”

Father Burnham said, “There are real, practical things that people are dealing with — life and death issues. The amount of anxiety and depression people are feeling is through the roof. And people are saying this is just the beginning.”

By  Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

St. Mark School celebrates Black History Month

STRATFORD—From classroom activities and research projects to creative videos and civil rights music, students at St. Mark School in Stratford are celebrating Black History Month and paying tribute to influential Black Americans throughout history.

The school has been recognizing Black American achievements and milestones that have shaped our nation by incorporating a variety of lessons in Science, English Language Arts, Music and Social Studies classes and through the school’s Social Emotional Learning program.

Second-graders are researching several distinguished historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges and Frederick Douglass, and sharing their findings with classmates.

Second grade teacher Stacey Zenowich comments, “Black History Month aims to inspire lifelong learning about the history, voices and experiences of Black Americans. The lessons are a powerful education of our past, an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of the present, and a chance to build an even more hopeful future.”

Middle School lessons included learning about poets such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman and watching films that portray obstacles of social injustices of racism and genderism.

English Language Arts teacher Danielle Veith shares, “I believe it is my responsibility to highlight stories and voices that have been previously overlooked or silenced and to uplift those who have been most marginalized by our society. I emphasize to my students that as a white woman, I will never truly have a full understanding of the experiences of people of color.”

According to Veith, she and her students will listen, learn and discuss these stories together, and challenge one another to both envision and carry out a better future than the histories we leave behind us.

Middle school science lessons included viewing the movie Hidden Figures, a story of three Black women scientists working at NASA in the early 1960’s who were instrumental in launching manned space flight.

Science teacher Lorie Boveroux remarks, “The film illustrates their triumph and shows how they used their God-given talents to better humanity and break down gender and racial barriers.”

Middle School students also learned about how music was influential in promoting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

Eighth-grader Olivia Szczerba shares, “Music has always been able to deliver powerful messages and show deep emotions, so the perfect time to sing would definitely be during a civil rights movement. Singing a song while protesting would be a way to come together with others, let go of anger and fear, as well as make a stand.”

“At St. Mark School, we want our students to see the value in diversity and the benefits of inclusion,” adds Principal Melissa Warner. “We aim to foster a genuine sense of empathy and compassion.”

According to Warner, the school-wide Social Emotional Learning program provides an additional avenue to highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to fostering dignity and respect for all people, in celebration of Black History Month.

Warner concludes, “In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

Bishop to Rite of Election Candidates: ‘You are most welcome’

TRUMBULL— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed 100 men and women as they progressed toward full communion with the Catholic Church at Sunday’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull.

“Today the Lord, through the Mystery of the Mystical Body, the Church, is going to elect you; that is, confirm the call you have received in the quiet of your heart; the call that was given to you by the Lord, Himself,” said the bishop during his homily.

The bishop assured the participants that he and all the members of the Church would be praying for them in the weeks ahead, as they continue their preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation. “You are most welcome,” the bishop said.

“There is a profound lesson to be contemplated,” explained Bishop Caggiano, reminding the participants that their journey in faith is one that all the faithful must continue throughout their lives.  “For the reality of the temptations in our lives are real. The tendency to fall into those temptations can be deadly, and so what is it that the Lord requires?”

The bishop explained the struggle that lies within all of us. “Temptation, my friends, is when we’re given a choice between doing what is good, right and moral, or to do what is disordered or evil or sinful.”

“That choice has power over us when it engages our hearts,” he said. “It is the desires of our heart that can at times get us in trouble.”

The bishop explained that we cannot find peace in our hearts from what the world wants us to consume—power, pleasure, possessions, privilege, prophet, and so many other things.

“To win over temptation is not simply knowing what’s right or wrong it is to contain, to train, to bring to conversion my heart and yours,” said the bishop.

“And you, my friends, election candidates, as you continue this journey you are going through, it is more than an invitation to simply know what the Church teaches, but it is also to train your heart…to allow these desires to lead you to the one desire that matters—the desire you have encountered already in your hearts.”

The bishop explained that in the Gospel reading of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, he was teaching us how to overcome temptations. The bishop assured that Jesus did not experience temptations as we do, because His heart is singular and pure, not divided as ours is.

The bishop posed the question: How can you and I look the devil in the face and walk away? He answered: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“St. Augustine said one sentence that has been repeated and echoed for centuries,” the bishop said. “Our hearts are restless until they rest with thee, O God.”

This liturgical rite, traditionally held on the first Sunday of Lent, is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process. It closes the period of formation and marks the beginning of the period of final preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter.

To properly adhere to COVID-19 protocols, attendees were asked only to sit together if they were related or live together. Sponsors and godparents did not have to sit with the candidates and/or catechumens. Clergy and parish staff could sit wherever they please as well, following social-distancing guidelines.

After the homily, catechumens’ and candidates’ names were read aloud, as they were asked to stand with their godparents/sponsors and recite the responses provided.

All social-distancing and COVID-19 protocols were followed. The event was livestreamed at: 

(For more information regarding RCIA and adult formation, contact Dr. Patrick Donovan, executive director of The Leadership Institute at:


Parish Catechumens Candidates
St. Mary Parish, Bethel Meghan Dibella, Amy Crumb, Amanda Crumb Dempsey  Reese
St. Rose of Lima, Newtown Michael Digiovanni, Jesse Dudics, Joe Lacourse Seamus Conway, Daniel Pardovish
St. Thomas More Church, Darien Lisa Washburn
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Shelton Elida Cela Ree Torres
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Danbury Stephanie Viega, Fred Whipple
St. Aloysius, New Canaan Chastity Monoghan, Emily Zafonte, Trudi Widdrington-Davies, Nicholas Andrews Joseph Osburn, Hunter Smith, Hannah Kimmell, Kevin Shanley
St. Edward the Confessor, New Fairfield Hope Cosentino
St. Lawrence Church, Shelton Stephen Brighindi, Leslie Judd
Sacred Heart Parish (Westconn Newman Center) Devin Rivalsi, Mikayla Silkman, Holly Doyle Mikayla Silkman, Holly Doyle, Devin Rivalsi
Sacred Heart Church, Stamford Emily Lopez Remberto de Jesus Gomez, Brandon Perez, Juan Pinzon, Marcos Euceda, Juan Pinzon, Deysi Ramirez, Giselly Saenz, Melvin Orellana, Beverly Sarceno, Ludvin Menendez, Brenda Menendez, Steven Farez, Walther Arapa, Jairo Alarcon, Sandy Lopez Jr.
St. Charles Borromeo, Bridgeport Centauri Cotes, Mariah Cotes Bianca Diaz, Carlos Diaz, Aleah Loren Byas, Gracia R.Garhens Duvelson, James Anthony Galinda, Berta Ortiz, Aian Tomas, Maite Ramirez, Laysa Mekine Rodrigues Dutra, Fernanda Maria Delgado, Guilhermo Leandros dos Reis
St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel Cheryl McCormick
St. Joseph- St. Ladislaus
Jose Trinidad Aguirre
Carolina Rodriguez
Margarita Morel Martinez
Marvin Blanco Hidalgo
Libeth Mendez Hernandez
Hector Ayala
Lidia Argentina Morel
Jose Rigoberto Arevalo
Beni Tarazona
Jose Eduardo Vasquez
St. John, Darien Linda Lyons
St. Philip, Norwalk Hunter Finneran
Jon Anda
Dean Williams

Jeana Davila

St. Joseph Parish, Shelton Cole Twing
Cristal Ramos-DeMoya
Robert Reyes
St. Mary Parish, Stamford
Claudia Santizo
Leslie DeJesus
Kimberly Roig
Eugenio Victorino
Geullian Castellanos
Mateo Gallego
Milevie Ruiz
Ricardo Mejia
Kiara Chuquiang
Christian Discua
Eliana Sanchez
Michael Sanchez
St. Theresa Church, Trumbull Cedric Njila
Nicholas Zerella
Eujin Lee
Amber Deamico
St. Mark, Stratford Patricia Jean Baptiste
St. Matthew, Norwalk Anne Wilkins
Thomas Faye
Norberto Santiago, III
Natalia Toro-Santiago
Leidy Toro
Dawn Weiss
Liam Trudden
St. Peter Parish, Danbury Ana Jimenez and Hector Tomas


Sasha Nguyen, Alejandro Jimenez

Immaculate High School CyberPatriots Team Competes Nationally

DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s CyberPatriots team has been competing in the CyberPatriots XII National Tournament. There are three qualifying rounds in order to be considered for a spot in the National Finals, Immaculate placed fifth and first in the opening two rounds and finished the third round strong with a first-place win for the gold tier and third overall for the state of Connecticut.

Immaculate’s CyberPatriots team, coached by Dave Cirella, includes members Perry Gosh ‘21, Kolbe Mosher ‘21, Anish Nanda ‘22, Ethan Goodman ‘21, Aidan Doolabh ‘23, and Logan McAloon ‘21.

CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system. Immaculate is currently accepting freshman and transfer student applications. For more information on rolling admissions please visit

Catholic Schools Week and beyond at St. Rose School

NEWTOWN—With Catholic Schools week running from January 31-February 6, St. Rose of Lima School in Newtown started out the month in celebration. However, the snow interrupted the initial timing of events, so the celebrations were extended over the following weeks!

First, there was an 8th-grade vs. faculty Family Feud game on Friday, February 5. In the past, there has been an 8th-grade vs. faculty volleyball game but given restrictions that has been postponed and will hopefully take place outdoors later in the spring. In the meantime, students and faculty played a safe and fun game of Family Feud in the Gathering Hall. The students were the victors!

Also on Friday, February 5, the Home & School Association (HSA) showed their appreciation to teachers and faculty with hand-delivered lunches from Marketplace as well as Relax, Rest & Restore Mason jars filled with a candle, lip balm, a teabag, a face mask and a beautiful plant. This was in place of the traditional teacher/staff appreciation luncheon and was received with much gratitude.

On February 10, 6th and 7th-graders assembled Valentine craft kit bags for the CH Booth Library in Newtown to distribute to three and four-year-olds in the community. This is in keeping with a past tradition of the middle school students leading a craft and reading hour for Little Ones at the Library over the past few years during Catholic Schools Week. Three 6th-grade students filmed a “how-to” video which the Library will post.  The bags were delivered and are displayed on top of one of the bookcases in the Children’s department where little ones can pick up and take home to do the craft.

Also on February 10, first-graders collected packaged cookies and candies for guests at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury to be included in their Valentine’s Day lunch.

On February 11, there was a Spirit Stroll for 8th-graders at SRS. This took the place of the annual pep rally but enabled faculty and staff to acknowledge the leaders of the student body in this special last year at SRS. The entire school dressed in red and white. After morning prayer and announcements each 8th-grader was called by name over the speaker and “strolled” down the hallway while representatives from each class stood at the doorway of their classroom waving red and white pom-poms.

That afternoon, traditional mechanical pig races ensured, but to ensure safety and distancing only two classes went to the gym at a time.  It was a school-wide, creative effort. Third-grade, New Pork Piggers, won the preschool-3rd grade slot. Just Jeff, the fifth-grade pig, won the 4th-8th grade slot. New Pork Piggers was the overall winner, crossing the finish line ahead of Just Jeff in the final heat of the day. All classes put in a spirited effort:  Preschool—Her Royal Porkness; first grade—Moe; 2nd-grade—Baconator; 4th-grade —Bob the Bacon Builder; 6th-grade—Elvis Pigsley; 7th-grade—Hampa Bay Baconeer; 8th– grade—COVID-19.

The “fee” for dressing down for every student and faculty member was to bring at least two items for contribution to the Faith Food Pantry.  Service is an integral part of all St. Rose does throughout the year and particularly during Catholic Schools Week. During these weeks of celebration, students wrote cards for essential workers at Danbury Hospital, Nursing Home residents and Veterans to name a few.

Ask if one’s life is centered on God or oneself

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Lent is a time to reconsider the path one is taking in life and to finally answer God’s invitation to return to him with one’s whole heart, Pope Francis said.

“Lent is not just about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed,” he said, “toward God or toward myself?”

The pope’s remarks came in his homily at Mass Feb. 17 for Ash Wednesday, which included the blessing and distribution ashes, marking the beginning of Lent for Latin-rite Catholics.

Because of ongoing measures in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Mass and distribution of ashes took place with a congregation of little more than 100 people at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis did not do the traditional walk from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill to prevent large crowds of people from gathering along the route.

In St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope received ashes on his head from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to about three dozen cardinals, as well as the priests and deacons assisting him at the Mass.

In his homily, the pope said one must bow to receive ashes sprinkled on the crown of the head, which reflects the “humble descent” one makes in reflecting on one’s life, sins and relationship with God.

“Lent is a journey of return to God,” especially when most people live each day ignoring or delaying their response to God’s invitation to pray and do something for others.

“It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends,” he said.

“The journey of Lent is an exodus from slavery to freedom,” he said, noting the easy temptations along that journey, including yearning for the past, or hindered by “unhealthy attachments, held back by the seductive snares of our sins, by the false security of money and appearances, by the paralysis of our discontents. To embark on this journey, we have to unmask these illusions.”

The way back to God, he said, starts with understanding, like the prodigal son, how “we have ended up with empty hands and an unhappy heart” after squandering God’s gifts “on paltry things, and then with seeking God’s forgiveness through confession.

The pope again reminded confessors that they must be like the father in the story of the prodigal son and not use “a whip,” but open their arms in a welcoming embrace.

“The journey is not based on our own strength. Heartfelt conversion, with the deeds and practices that express it, is possible only if it begins with the primacy of God’s work” and through his grace, the pope said.

What makes people just is not the righteousness they show off to others, “but our sincere relationship with the Father,” after finally recognizing one is not self-sufficient, but in great need of him, his mercy and grace.

The pope asked people to contemplate daily the crucified Christ and see in his wounds, “our emptiness, our shortcomings, the wounds of our sin and all the hurt we have experienced.”

“We see clearly that God points his finger at no one, but rather opens his arms to embrace us,” he said.

It is in life’s most painful wounds, that God awaits with his infinite mercy because it is there “where we are most vulnerable, where we feel the most shame” and where he comes to meet his children again.

“And now,” the pope said, “he invites us to return to him, to rediscover the joy of being loved.”

By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service 

WSHU General Manager George Lombardi Retires

FAIRFIELD—George J. Lombardi, long-time general manager of WSHU Public Radio, based in Fairfield Connecticut and owned by Sacred Heart University, has retired, ending his 44-year tenure with the station. He has been succeeded by A. Rima Dael, a development and management executive with over 25 years of experience with nonprofit organizations in the public media, arts and education sectors.

“The WSHU of today is the station that George built, and Sacred Heart University is deeply grateful for his contributions to the university and to the community at large,” said Michael Iannazzi, vice president for marketing & communication and chief of staff at SHU. “We are thrilled to have identified an extremely worthy and capable replacement in Rima. She is a leader who has already demonstrated her commitment to WSHU’s mission and will usher the station towards a vibrant future.”

George was first hired to serve as a part-time radio engineer at WSHU. But as his interest grew, so did his singular vision. Under George’s leadership, the station evolved from a student-run radio station into an NPR member station with an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning regional news team and a steadfast commitment to classical music. What began as the single 91.1 FM frequency grew into an operation broadcasting on 13 frequencies and serving listeners in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, the entire Connecticut shoreline, Suffolk County on Long Island and beyond. Thanks to WSHU’s nationally syndicated classical music program, Sunday Baroque, and that award-winning sports journalist Frank Deford recorded his weekly NPR commentaries at WSHU’s studios for many years, WSHU has become visible to listeners throughout the country.

In recognition of his contributions, Sacred Heart University dedicated the soaring entrance space of the new WSHU Broadcast Center as the George J. Lombardi Lobby. George looks forward to spending his retirement in Maryland with his wife Patricia, their daughters, Karen and Sarah, and three grandchildren.

Dael joined WSHU Public Radio as station manager in September 2019. Prior to that, she was the executive director of development & major gifts at New England Public Radio, where she was an integral part of the team negotiating the strategic alliance between WGBH TV and New England Public Radio. She also served as the executive director of Country Dance & Song Society, an international arts service organization for North American traditional dance, music and song, during their successful Centennial Celebration and Spread the Joy campaign. She was a founding faculty member of the Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy graduate program at Bay Path University.

“I am both honored and exhilarated by the opportunity to lead the station,” Dael said. “Over the past 16 months, I have worked together with the WSHU team to weather the COVID-19 pandemic—one of the biggest challenges the station has faced. It is clear to me that WSHU has an extremely dedicated staff and an unshakable commitment to serving the community with the best content available. I am convinced that WSHU’s future is bright indeed.”

In her new role, Dael will continue to build WSHU’s infrastructure to meet the station’s strategic goals; focus on revenue generation and sustainability; and envision a relevant 21st-century radio station committed to sharing the stories of our local communities, the region and the world.

Originally from the Philippines, Dael spent her early years in Old Greenwich, CT, and in several Southeast Asian countries. She received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and theatre arts from Mt. Holyoke College. Her master’s degree is in nonprofit management from the Milano School of Management & Urban Policy at the New School University where she was a Community Development Finance Fellow. Dael currently lives in West Hartford, CT.

About WSHU Public Radio

WSHU Public Radio is a group of not-for-profit, member-supported radio stations, owned and operated by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, that brings the best in public broadcasting to 200,000 listeners in Connecticut and Long Island. An NPR member since 1984, the station airs highly regarded national programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and Marketplace; locally-produced classical music; and its own regional news coverage for which it has won five national Edward R. Murrow Awards and scores of other prizes. Its classical music program Sunday Baroque is syndicated and heard on over 200 stations nationwide. In addition to broadcasting on 13 traditional radio frequencies, it streams all of its programs at

Fairfield U Announces Leadership Changes for Mission and Ministry

FAIRFIELD—In a message to the Fairfield University community, President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., recently announced three new appointments that will strengthen all aspects of the spiritual life of Fairfield: the Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, S.J., will be appointed to the role of assistant to the President and alumni chaplain, a post most recently held by the Rev. Charles Allen, S.J.; the Rev. Paul Rourke, S.J., will assume the post of vice president for Mission and Ministry; and the Rev. Keith A. Maczkiewicz, S.J., will be joining the University to assume the role of director of Campus Ministry and University chaplain. These appointments will take effect on July 1, 2021.

Currently, vice president for Mission and Ministry, “Father Gerry is held in the warmest regard throughout our community,” said President Nemec. “He has tirelessly reached out to our alumni, faculty, and staff in their hours of need and celebration over many years, and has been of great assistance to me in my efforts to spread the good news of our continued strength and ascendancy as a University to our alumni around the country. His new role will allow him to continue and expand this work, and I am deeply grateful that he has agreed to serve in this capacity.”

Father Gerry has been on the faculty of Le Moyne College, Fordham University, and Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya. He has served as Secretary for the Service of Faith at the Jesuit General Headquarters in Rome, as novice director for the Maryland and New York Provinces of the Jesuits, superior of the Fordham Jesuit community, parochial vicar at St. Raphael’s Church in Raleigh, N.C., and pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan, among other posts.

In 1967 Father Gerry entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1979. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Church History with a secondary field of Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He earned a B.Phil. from Philosophische Hochschule Berchmanskolleg in Pullach, Germany and a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, in classics from Fordham University.

To fill the vital role of overseeing the work of ministry on our campus, Father Paul Rourke, currently the director of Campus Ministry will assume the post of vice president for Mission and Ministry. In this capacity he will oversee Campus Ministry, the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, and other dimensions of spiritual life on campus, and will serve as a member of Fairfield’s senior leadership team.

Acknowledging Father Paul’s leadership since joining Fairfield in 2018—after serving as the director of Campus Ministry at Georgetown University’s Law Center—President Nemec said, “Father Paul has led the work of Campus Ministry and our Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola with great care, enthusiasm, and energy, and I know he has been of great encouragement to so many during the significant challenges we have faced during the past year. I am grateful that he will assume this important office, and look forward to his contributions in leadership as we chart out the next leg of our course as a University, and continue to deepen our mission to serve the greater community.”

Father Paul joined the Society of Jesus in 2000, and was ordained a priest in 2010. A 1994 graduate of Georgetown University, he received his JD from the Washington University School of Law in 1997, and worked at a think-tank before joining the Society. His studies include an STB degree from the Pontificia Università Gregoriana in Rome, and licentiate studies in canon law at the same university. He was also a teacher at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, and an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown, among other posts.

Returning to Fairfield to assume the role of director of Campus Ministry and University chaplain, is Father Keith A. Maczkiewicz ’04, a Fairfield alumnus. Father Keith has most recently served as assistant chaplain at the College of the Holy Cross. There, he worked in the college chapels, leading the liturgical formation of student ministers and coordinating liturgy. Other ministries included student and alumni retreats, international immersions, directing communications strategy, and developing new initiatives and programs in the Office of the College Chaplains. Father Keith served as a Student Mission and Diversity Ambassador trainer at Holy Cross, and on several committees including the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Implementation Committee; the Sexual Respect and Conduct Planning Group, and other efforts.

Following his studies at Fairfield, Father Keith earned an M.Ed. at Providence College, an MA in social philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, and a master of theology and divinity degrees as well as a License in Sacred Theology (STL) at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. He was ordained a priest in 2018 at Fordham University.

On behalf of the University, President Nemec extended a warm welcome back to Father Keith. “We are delighted that a graduate of Fairfield will be returning to assume this vital role within our community, and grateful to the Society of Jesus for its unflagging support of our collaborative mission as the modern, Jesuit Catholic University.”

What is there left to give up this Lent?

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Since childhood, the typical U.S. Catholic’s response to Lent is giving up, as in “What are you giving up for Lent?”

If you haven’t been keeping track, Catholics in the United States and worldwide — just about everyone, really — have been giving up a lot since the coronavirus pandemic struck 11 months ago, with no clearly defined end in sight. You would need the fingers on both hands to name some of the things that have been lost, not to mention nearly a half-million lives lost in the U.S. alone.

So, given all that, how should a Catholic approach Lent this year?

“Maybe this Lent isn’t the year to give up something, because we’re already doing it involuntarily,” said Marie Dennis, senior adviser to the secretary general of Pax Christi International.

It’s time, Dennis said, to “dig deeper and to think more deeply about what are the lessons that we’re learning from this pandemic. For example, how we’re treating the earth and about the racism and inequality in our own society and inequality around the world when we’re looking at who is being most hurt by the COVID pandemic.

“That would be my practice during Lent,” Dennis said. “That would be to remind myself of the really deep changes that need to be made in our society and in our world as move forth from this pandemic.”

“There is real discernment that is needed this Lent,” said Marian Diaz, a professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago who directs grants to aid Catholic professionals in ministry.

“Many people have been giving and sacrificing on behalf of others during this past year,” Diaz said. “And for those people, I would just ask them to consider what do they need to do to be able to sustain that service? If our God is a God of love who comes to serve us in our creation and incarnation, we also have to consider how we are serving our brothers and sisters, but also how we are serving ourselves. What must we do to sustain ourselves during this time?”

She added, “Maybe sometimes the call is to grow in love for ourselves and we have the supports around us that we need so that we can make it for the long haul in terms of whatever forms of love or service or ministry that is functioning in our life and we’re committed to.”

“I just want to really express empathy for the situation that we all are going through, and the difficulty, not only in terms of the pandemic but the political situation in our country and the situations in our world,” Diaz said.

“I’m beginning to think our best discipline for Lent would be along the lines of ‘Fratelli Tutti’ — a reflection on nonviolence as an ethic and not as some kind of namby-pamby way of avoiding conflict, but nonviolence as a strong, direct confrontation without violence to the violence that’s taking place,” said Franciscan Father Joe Nangle, former co-director of Franciscan Mission Service.

As a religious priest, Father Nangle said his vow of poverty doesn’t give him any special insights on the giving-up concept.

“If you try to live like St. Francis, you kill yourself in this society. It’s a tough call. I try to live simply and let it go at that,” he said. “I think that laypeople are living a much more life of poverty in many ways than many of us religious. I think religious life can be very, very comfortable, I think the average layperson struggles except for the 1%.”

“It has felt like a long Lent,” said Rose Marie Berger, a senior editor at Sojourners magazine, adding: “I started thinking about this a while back.” How far back? “I wrote my Lenten spirituality column four months ago.”

Berger, who told Catholic News Service she misses physically receiving the Eucharist the most, said: “Maybe Lent this year is not so much doing something extra, giving something extra, it’s more spending some deep time in contemplation in what has been taken from us, what we have been forced to sacrifice from the pandemic, what are the sacrifices others have made for us, and where have we been able to give in ways we hadn’t expected to — it’s a reflection on our almsgiving — and in what ways have prayed.”

“I’m a big proponent of what St. John of the Cross says: If you don’t find love, bring love, and then you’ll find it,” said Bishop William D. Byrne, recently installed to head the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts. “And so, in this time where we’ve had so much taken away from us, and … to lose hope, to be discouraged, what we need to do is bring hope, and then we’re going to find it. Bring joy, and we’ll find it.”

Bishop Byrne said, “Let’s start with the blessings. It isn’t the negativity, but embrace the positive and bringing that to people each day. In order to do that, you have to look at the other two parts of Lent. There’s prayer and almsgiving. You can’t really bring positivity without prayer. Otherwise, it’s just play-acting.”

He added, “You’ve got to have something at the start of the day. Get your cup of coffee or tea, and get your rosary, get your prayer book and start. Make a conscious effort in the morning and say, ‘I am going to bring positivity to the people I’m going to meet this day. Disarm them with your joy, if you will. Bring hope where we’re feeling hopeless.”

Jesus can be our companion in our suffering, said Becky Eldredge, a spiritual director and author of “The Inner Chapel,” who is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I imagine Jesus him reminding us, ‘I’m here. I’m with y’all. Tell me what you’re going through. Tell me what you’re feeling. Engage me in it,’” she said.

Lent is “an invitation to fix our eyes on Christ right now, right? More than just a giving up, it’s a looking to Christ in the here and now,” Eldredge said.

She suggested “letting Christ draw as near as possible to our suffering. A lot of what I’ve been seeing in retreat work and in (spiritual) direction, we’re keeping Jesus a little at arm’s length, we’re not letting him come close to our suffering.”

Eldredge added Catholics can follow Jesus’ “model of doing for others — reminding people, ‘Hey, I’m here for you. Tell me, I can listen to you.’ Show people a fixed point in Christ.”

“In the pandemic, we’ve probably settled into some routines. Some good routines, probably there may have been some unhealthy routines that we’ve settled into,” said Paul Jarzembowski, assistant director assistant director of youth and young adult ministries in the the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Family, Marriage, Laity and Youth.

“If nothing else, it’s a good time to examine what we’ve settled into,” Jarzembowski said. “I know I’ve got some bad habits that have crept into my time. I’ve got the ‘COVID 19’ — I’ve gained 19 pounds. I’ve been more sedentary. I haven’t been as active because I can’t be.”

Lent, he added, is “a time for renewal, a time for reexamining. Lent is about giving up, but it’s a time of renewing, about making some new choices, making some resolutions, I look at it not so much as giving up as what can be renewed, what can be recharged.”

SHU to host COVID-19 memorial service

WHAT: Please join Sacred Heart University for a virtual memorial service to remember the Connecticut residents, and members of the SHU community, who lost their lives to COVID-19. A welcome message will be read at 9 a.m. followed by the names of the deceased. Musical interludes will take place throughout the service.

WHO: Sacred Heart students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members will read the names of the those who lost their lives.

WHERE: Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield or stream the event live on YouTube

WHEN: Monday, February 15, at 9 a.m.

SPONSOR: Sacred Heart University Office of Mission Integration, Ministry and Multicultural Affairs

PRESS: Media coverage is welcomed at the chapel and virtually. Please contact Deb Noack at 203-396-8483 or for further information.

About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 386 Colleges–2021 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best Business Schools–2021 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theatre.

Sprinkling of ashes during the pandemic

BRIDGEPORT—In order to ensure the safety of clergy and the lay faithful, distribution of ashes this year will take the form of sprinkling dry ashes on the top of people’s heads or using a cotton swab rather than the thumb to make a cross.

In a memo to all clergy, Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general of the diocese, cited a directive from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments asking priests to take special anti-COVID-19 precautions this year when distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, February 17.

The congregation’s note on the “distribution of ashes in time of pandemic” was published on the congregation’s website January 12 and directs priests to say “the prayer for blessing the ashes” first and then sprinkle “the ashes” silently.

If pastors choose to distribute ashes in this way, Msgr. Powers asked them to prepare parishioners by explaining to them how they will be receiving ashes well before Ash Wednesday so as to avoid confusion.

Msgr. Powers said sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads, rather than marking foreheads with ashes, is the customary practice at the Vatican and in Italy.

Given the spread of the coronavirus, the practice has the advantage of not requiring the priest to touch multiple people, he said.

This year priests can also use a cotton swab to make a cross on the forehead, using a new cotton ball for each person.

In either practice, when coming forward for the ashes, each recipient will be asked to stop six feet before the priest, who then intones “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” At that point, the recipient comes forward, receives the ashes and returns to his or her pew.

In order to accommodate as many as possible in a safe and reverent manner, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has given pastors permission to offer an open period during which the lay faithful can come to the church to receive ashes outside of Mass or the Liturgy of the Word. However, there will be no “drive-by” distribution of ashes.

All those who attend Mass or a Liturgy of the Word on Ash Wednesday must register beforehand in the same way they do for Sunday Masses.

Dr. Cheeseman praises Catholic School Teachers

Dear Catholic Educators,

I found it fitting that the daily reflection for January 31, the first day of Catholic Schools Week, in the Essential Teachings of Mother Teresa, a Christmas gift I received this year, read: “Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” Today, I write to you to thank you for your service, your love in action, for all that you do each day to support your students and their families. This past year presented us with challenges but it also afforded us an opportunity to demonstrate one of the key differentiators of Catholic schools —our teachers, administrators and staff. As Catholic educators, YOU showed up for our kids. YOU showed up, ignoring your own fears and anxieties. And, while many give lip service to “doing it for the kids,” YOU showed up and put the love of Christ in action. By meeting these challenges with compassion and flexibility, you placed the needs of students and families above all else.

Whether they were sitting in front of you or joining your class from home, you made sure that your students were safe. You found creative and innovative ways to meet the diverse academic needs in your classroom, you used every inch of your classroom and every tool at your disposal- many that you learned on the fly these past few months. But most importantly, YOU showed up for them. Please accept my gratitude for your service, for all that you have done and continue to do for the young people of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Know you are in my prayers. May God bless you and your family and may Our Lady continue to shower her blessings on our Catholic school family.


Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Movie Night for Tech Users

(Dr. Patrick Donovan of The Leadership Institute shares his thoughts on his blog Five Minutes on Monday)

As any long-time reader of this blog knows, we have movie night at the Donovan household. Usually it’s Friday, though during Christmas or in a snowstorm it can be anytime.

This week, on the recommendation of a colleague, we watched The Social Dilemma.

If you have children, you really ought to watch it.

It can be found on Netflix and is a docu-drama exploring the rise of social media and the damage it can cause in society. As parents, it reminded us of the manipulation happening under our noses and for our children, it helped them realize what we could not teach them – they are the product being bought and sold online.

Watch it. Talk about it.

A few things struck me that I would challenge you to think about.

  • The rise is hospitalizations among young females and the increase in self-harm we see in young girls.
  • An increase in suicides among young people.
  • The rise of cyber-bullying.
  • The practice of positive intermittent reinforcement used by app developers to keep you engaged.
  • How algorithms created by tech companies influence everything from how we get our news to where we shop to who is in our social circles.

Remember that line from Mark Twain about how a lie could get halfway around the world before the truth can put its pants on (or something like that). Well, that’s still true. False information on Twitter spreads six times faster than real information. Think about that for a minute.

As the credits roll, those who have been interviewed throughout the show – mostly disillusioned tech workers who helped create these problems, make some recommendations that we’ll be trying to implement in the Donovan household.

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. Yes, your fear of missing out will take some time to adjust and you will want to make excuses that your boss might need you or you might miss an important call, but consider this: a group of scientists were able to put a man on the moon without email, texting, or social media. Is your work any more or less important?
  2. Uninstall all social media apps and new apps that waste your time. Deep breath. You can do this. Install an app that helps you read faster or check out an app that encourages you to pray every day. Or just put the dang phone down and play outside.
  3. Use a search engine that does not track your use and search history. For example, Qwant is a good alternative to Google, Bing, and all their siblings.
  4. Never, ever click on a recommended video, story, or post. This information only feeds the algorithms that are part of the manipulation process.
  5. Keep devices out of the bedroom after a certain time. This one is tough, especially if you have gotten rid of your home phone.
  6. Avoid screen time among children altogether. Our kids are older, but if I had to do it all over again, boy would I do it differently.
  7. Fact-check before sharing. No matter how interesting the story might be or how much you think your friends or family will like it.

The film got great reviews by those who understand the issues social media has created. It got criticized for being too simplistic and, of course, some social media companies panned it outright.

One this is for sure: it generated some great conversations in our household and a willingness by the children to at least talk about restrictions when it comes to devices and how we let them rule our lives.

It’s a long weekend. Think about spending some quality screen time together in front of a movie that will get you talking.

And, just maybe, hiding your phone.

This year’s Blessing of Throats: without crossed candles

BRIDGEPORT—Given the pandemic, the blessing of throats, usually administered on the Memorial of St. Blaise (February 3) will look a little different this year.

In order to ensure public safety the blessing of the throats will not be offered to individuals using candles, wrote Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general in a recent directive.

Instead, he said, a priest or deacon may give the blessing to all by extending his hands, without crossed candles, over the people while saying this prayer of blessing, “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, May God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The blessing will follow the homily and universal prayer during Mass, or, for pastoral reasons, it may take the place of the final blessing of the Mass.

“The blessing of throats is one of those great rituals in the Church that invites us to connect our rich history of the saints with everyday life,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute. “Like Ash Wednesday or Palm Sunday, it’s also one of those days when people who struggle to practice their faith on a weekly basis seem to come forward for the blessing.”

Dr. Donovan shared a personal story of why this particular feast day means a lot to him: “This year will be different and I, for one, will miss the feel of the wax candles against my throat,” he said. “My grandfather, father, and brother all died from esophageal cancer and I’ve already had two surgeries to keep it at bay.”

“While we are a people of faith, we also understand that science is not anathema to our beliefs,” explained Dr. Donovan. “This year, there is a greater risk of passing the coronavirus from person to person and the candles themselves could be a contagion. The blessing will still be a blessing and I pray that St. Blaise will intercede on behalf of all of us, but it’s also an important reminder that we must pray—and work together—to end the pandemic.”