Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

USCCB Chairmen Welcome Supreme Court Decision

WASHINGTON—The Little Sisters of the Poor recently went to the Supreme Court of the United States again to defend their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities, and again, the Supreme Court has recognized their right to religious freedom. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, have issued a statement addressing the case:

“This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place. Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.

“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom.”

The USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs supporting these religious institutions. The briefs can be found here:

Interactive summer reading list

BRIDGEPORT— Looking for a book to take to the beach or enjoy during some downtime? This summer, The Leadership Institute has come out with a fun way to interact with its summer reading list.

First, visit and read through the whole list. Then, using the thumbs up or down, choose where you would place a particular entry (one is at the top or your list, ten is at the end of your list).

Click “View Reader’s Choice” to see how many people agree with you. Then get reading!

The list offers a ride-range of reading for a variety of ages and interests.

Choices include A Man for all Seasons, An Introduction to the Devout Life, Forming Intentional Disciples, In Defense of Sanity, Memorize the Mass, Mere Christianity, Socrates Meets Jesus, Story of A Soul, White Rage, and Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

(Visit for the full list and make your selection!)

St. Rose of Lima 8th grade graduation!

NEWTOWN—St. Rose School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony took place on Friday, June 26 in the school parking lot. Mr. Gjoka, principal, Mrs. Petrillo, eighth-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Bokuniewicz, dean of student life and Msgr. Bob, pastor, along with the class parents, worked very hard to make the celebration possible despite these different times.

Chairs were arranged alphabetically for every student and their parents. The ceremony was limited to parents and siblings only to adhere to safety measures. Every student and guest wore a mask. The church organist piped an opening song, “Here I Am Lord” through the speakers and closed it out with “Pomp and Circumstance.”  Msgr. Bob began the ceremony with a prayer and Gospel reading. He also offered words of wisdom and encouraged the students to use their 2020 vision to make the world a better place. Mr. G, Mrs. Petrillo and Mrs. B all spoke at various times.  Mr. G called each student to receive his/her diploma which Msgr. Bob presented to them. The President of Student Council Thomas Phelan, and the President of National Junior Honor Society Evie Komninakas, each gave engaging, insightful speeches. At the end of the ceremony the students processed, alphabetically, to their lawn signs that were set up on the grass in front of the school. They stood beside their sign and at the count of three tossed their caps into the air. Then, according to safety rules, each family returned to their cars.

The sun was shining and it was a lovely ceremony—certainly different from years past but all the more memorable because of it.  Family and friends were very happy to tune into Facebook Live—there was even family from Portugal watching.  So everyone was together in spirit!

There are 24 graduates, all going off to a variety of high schools including Newtown High School, Immaculate High School, St. Joseph High School, Canterbury, Fairfield Prep, Hopkins School and The Gunnery. Several of the students received merit scholarships based on their entrance test scores.

About St. Rose

St. Rose of Lima Catholic School is a Christ-centered community committed to academic excellence in an atmosphere that nurtures the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical and moral development of each child.

The dedicated staff partners with families to prepare students to be responsible leaders in a global society by fostering integrity, service and respect. By creating a sense of family where all are welcome, St. Rose School encourages each child to develop his/her gifts and to become Christ’s compassionate heart and hands in the world. Their learning community is centered on four core values. These are: respect, integrity, academic excellence and service.

The community’s spirituality is fostered through close connection with St. Rose of Lima Church. Students attend weekly Mass and we are blessed by the continual presence of Monsignor Robert Weiss and the other parish priests.

(For more information on St. Rose of Lima school, visit their website at:

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy conducts 2020 commencement exercises

WILTON—On Friday evening, June 12, 2020, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy held commencement exercises for its graduating eighth-grade class. Featured commencement speakers were Clara and Gerry Davis, parents of a graduating student and Stanley Steele, school principal. The event included a Mass celebrated in the church parking lot and homily offered by Our Lady of Fatima Church pastor, Father Reginald Norman.

OLFCA proudly announces the members of the Class of 2020: Veronica Bosco, Connor Bowron, Lauren Davis, Rico de Guzman, Mary Kate Doyle, Allison Edouard, Ava Fleming, Michael Meenan, Sofia Pace, Fabrizio Perez, Ava Robinson, James Scimeca, Chelsea St. Cloud, Rick Wang and Alex Wong. 

During the celebration, annual scholarships and awards were presented as follows:

  • Eugene Rooney Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
  • School Board Scholarship Awards: Sofia Pace and Lauren Davis
  • Speer Performing Arts Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
  • The Phillip Lauria Jr. Memorial Award: Alex Wong

The graduates will attend the following high schools in the fall (listed alphabetically): Fairfield College Preparatory School, Immaculate High School-Danbury, Lauralton Hall-Milford, New Canaan High School, Norwalk High School, Notre Dame High School-Fairfield, Saint Joseph High School-Trumbull and Wilton High School.

Signs highlighting each graduating student have been placed in front of the school along Danbury Road.

The school is also celebrating the successful completion of a recent fundraising initiative to make up for a COVID-19-related budget shortfall. Members of the OLFCA community created a poignant video thanking their many supporters; the vide can be seen on the school’s website or on Youtube:

After achieving a balanced budget for 2020-2021, the school has now shifted to expanding enrollment, which has been hindered by the pandemic.

Principal Stanley Steel reported multiple new enrollments just in the last several days, with room for 28 new students to enroll for the fall while remaining COVID-compliant.

School officials recently announced their plans for the return-to-school in the fall, with a COVID-compliant, full-time, five-day, in-person school week. Principal Steele said, “Our school is well positioned for these unusual times. We offer a “Personalized Approach to Learning” with small classrooms and instruction based on individual student needs.”

He added, “We are small enough to be flexible, whether that is on a distance platform or in person.”

Photo caption: Pictured with graduates are Geri Galasso, Middle School Mathematics Teacher (far left); Reverend Reginald Norman, Our Lady of Fatima Church Pastor (center front) and Stanley Steele, Principal (center back).

Photo used with permission: Hector Panchas Photography

About Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy is co-educational, National Blue Ribbon School offering a Pre-Kindergarten 3 through Grade 8 education model. The Academy’s Personalized Approach to Learning blends classroom and small group instruction with technology to provide learning that is fluid and flexible based on the ability of the student. Multi-age, child-centered classrooms offer continuous learning. OLFCA’s faith-based environment nurtures the whole child and emphasizes strong moral values and respect for self and others.

Registration for 2020-2021 is ongoing. Virtual tours and other information are available on the school’s website, The Academy is located at 225 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897. For more information, contact Principal Stanley Steele at

Discussion on film 13th

WHAT: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, department of Catholic studies and Center for Catholic Studies present “Heart Challenges Hate – A Discussion Series: Wrestling with the Legacy of America’s ‘Original Sin.’” For this discussion, viewers are asked to watch the documentary “13th.” Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, watch her full-scale exploration of the history of racial inequality and mass incarceration in the United States, and how African-Americans went “from slave to criminal in one amendment.” Stream the full-length feature free on YouTube and tune in for the discussion on Wednesday, July 1.



  • Michelle Loris­­—Associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, chair of the Catholic studies department

Featured panelists:

  • Bill Harris, Director of SHU Community Theatre
  • Julie Lawrence, Executive director for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Sally Ross, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts
  • William Yousman, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts        

WHERE:  Free and open to the public. Join the discussion on YouTube. 

WHEN: Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

SPONSOR: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Catholic Studies, Center for Catholic Studies

PRESS: Media coverage is welcomed. 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 & 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 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 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 theater.

Her faith led him to the Church

When he was a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Thom Field had a feeling one afternoon that he was being “called,” being called to the ministry and not to a career in engineering.

He came from a devout Protestant family in Greenwich and had a strong education in the faith. His Sunday school teacher at Second Congregational Church was Claude Kirchner, a celebrity of children’s TV in the 1950s, and as a teenager his youth minister at the First Presbyterian Church was Bud Collyer, host of “Beat the Clock” and “To Tell the Truth.”

“They were both devout men,” Thom recalls. “Collyer was able to go beyond the religious and could understand teenagers’ lives and advise us on important things.”

Although there were many spiritual influences in his life, the one that stands out the most was his high school classmate Anita Caporale, the woman he later married who led him to the Catholic faith.

Today, Thom Field is an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston and president of the Serra Club of Bridgeport, a group committed to supporting seminarians and encouraging vocations to the religious life.

“During my upbringing, I was truly a Christian, but I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other faiths,” he recalled. “A couple of my classmates were Jewish, but I didn’t understand faiths outside of Christianity. When I got to college, I had the feeling that someone was calling to me, and I started to entertain the idea of becoming a Protestant minister and struggled with that for the better part of my freshman year.”

He walked the path to the Church many years, and throughout that time, he had Anita as an example of what it means to be a Catholic committed to Christ. They first met in the choir during sophomore year and had math and science classes together.

“We never dated in high school although we knew each other from the chorus,” Thom said. “I always thought she was beautiful, but I was pretty shy and never asked her out.”“I thought he was a terrific person and a good guy,” Anita recalled. “I sat in the first row, and Thom would walk in every day and say, ‘Hi, beautiful!’”

However, when she invited him to her 16th birthday party in her senior year, he spent the entire evening talking with another girl. Then, Thom went off to Rensselaer, and Anita went to the University of Connecticut, where she majored in chemistry and French with a pre-med focus. Later, she switched to physical medicine.

In 1967, they reconnected and Anita began writing to Thom after he joined the Navy.

At the Naval electronic school, he graduated first in the class and was recognized for heroism in 1970 while he was with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal as part of an anti-submarine helicopter squadron that rescued a man who had fallen overboard. Along with his other crew members, he received the Sikorsky ‘S’ pin, which was pinned on them by Igor Sikorsky himself.

“We continued to date and then fell in love,” Anita recalled. “I was so sure this was it. We loved each other, but he was leaving for an eight-month tour.”

During that time, Anita planned their wedding, and Thom bought a ring to surprise her. When he returned in July 1970, her parents set up a Christmas tree to observe Christmas in July. Among her gifts was a pair of shoes. She reached into a shoe that didn’t fit and pulled out the ring. They were married October 17, 1970 at St. Roch Church in Greenwich.

“I think the most important thing for us is that we never felt coming into marriage from different religions was a stumbling block,” Anita said. “The unifying force was we both believed in Christ. Christ was a great unifying force. His father was a very devout Presbyterian, and his mother and aunt would even come to the Catholic church with us.”

“I had no problem with that because I was learning more and more about the Catholic faith, and I came to the realization that I was becoming more faithful than I was as a Protestant,” Thom said. “I learned about the Sacraments and the saints, and it was a deeper faith than I had…but I didn’t convert.” And Anita never pressured him.

In June 1971, his tour ended, and in March of the next year, they moved to Connecticut, where their son Christopher was born. Thom began studying accounting at the University of Bridgeport and he was hired by Price Waterhouse even before graduation.

The job took them to Paris for several years. Then, they moved back to the United States and settled in Weston. They began attending St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Although Thom was a regular fixture in church, he never converted to Catholicism.

One day in 1994, he was asked to become an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

“By that time, I had been going to Mass with Anita for over 20 years and people presumed I was Catholic,” he said.

He looked at Anita and asked, “What am I going to do? I’m not Catholic.”

“Thom, you’re on your own on this one,” she told him.

That evening he joined the RCIA program. Today, after 25 years as a Catholic, he is forever grateful to Ralph Palumbo for pushing him in that direction by asking him to be an extraordinary minister.

At the Easter Vigil Mass in 1995, he received the Eucharist and Confirmation and was accepted into the Catholic Church. It was one of most memorable occasions in his life.

“I was nervous,” he recalled. “Everybody was surprised and smiling. Once the ceremony was over, Monsignor Grieco asked everyone to applaud.”

He assumed many responsibilities in the parish, and several years ago, he and Anita, who are both members of Serra, began teaching RCIA classes. As a project for the parish, they also create calendars for Advent and Lent, which have daily scriptural readings.

Anita, who after a career in physical therapy went on to study to become a gerontologist, has been a lay Franciscan for 20 years and belongs to the St. Mary of the Angels fraternity that meets at the Convent of Sr. Birgitta in Darien on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Looking back on his faith journey, Thom says, “Anita inspired me. She never applied pressure. We raised our children in the Catholic faith, and her dedication to that faith truly encouraged me to continue to attend Mass and become part of the Church. If I had been married to a less faithful Catholic woman, I might never have converted.”

The appreciation is reciprocal. Anita says, “He is such an amazing Christian.” She tells the story of when she was at a low point in her faith and considered leaving the Church. “My faith was at an ebb, but he would not let me deny the Church and he brought me along.”

Their journey together has not been without tragedy. Two years ago, their daughter, Amanda, died of a heart disorder at 41, leaving behind her husband Heath and 6-year-old son Gunner.

Amanda was always a joyful and upbeat person, Anita said. When she lived in New Jersey, Amanda had a clown ministry and was known as “Sunshine.”

On Mother’s Day 2018, she gave Anita a plaque that said, “With God all things are possible,” and Anita gave her a mother’s locket.

“I always wanted one of these,” she told her mother, adding, “Mom, if anything ever happens to me, please make sure Gunner gets everything I want for him.” Anita promised her they would do that. Two weeks later, she passed away.

And they kept that promise. Today, their young grandson lives with Thom and Anita and goes to church with them every Sunday.

By Joe Pisani

New Directory for Catechesis

WASHINGTON—The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has released a new Directory for Catechesis.

As the Preface explains, “The criterion that prompted the reflection on and production of this Directory finds its basis in the words of Pope Francis: ‘we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal…. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart’.”

Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, welcomed the new text: “We are excited to have a fresh and focused tool to enhance our evangelization efforts in catechesis. The new Directory highlights the centrality of the Church’s mission of bringing the world to an authentic encounter with Christ, an encounter that inspires and propels people as witnesses for the faith. In an age marked by tremendous social and cultural challenges, as well as ever-expanding digital tools which have often left the field of catechesis behind, the timing of this updated resource is providential.”

The Second Vatican Council originally inspired a Directory for Catechesis to ensure that the Church’s catechetical efforts might be vibrant, informed, faithful, and attuned to the needs of the times. First released in 1971 and then updated in 1997, this latest edition considers both the opportunities and the challenges which the Church faces in an ever more global and secular society. The new Directory builds upon the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the ongoing work of the new evangelization—particularly as called for in Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium . . . (The Joy of the Gospel). With a vision that brings the content of these beautiful resources alive in the context of contemporary society, the Directory invites the Christian faithful to be courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ in the family, in the workplace, and in the wider community.

Bishop Barron observed that, “The Directory’s call for a ‘kerygmatic catechesis’ affirms the Conference’s recent focus on the importance of living as missionary disciples. The authentic proclamation of the Gospel leads to the conversion of hearts and minds, which cannot help but manifest that ‘missionary impulse capable of transforming everything’ with the healing power of the Holy Spirit (EG 27).”

Original article from the USCCB.

Helping patients find God in a health crisis

BRIDGEPORT—The seed of Tim Bolton’s vocation was planted shortly after his daughter Kaitlin was born with a chromosomal abnormality in 1993. “My youngest daughter taught me,” he says.

At the time, he and his wife Mary Ellen were members of St. James Church in Stratford, where they were embraced by the faith community, who brought them meals, prayed rosaries and held a benefit for them when the insurance company refused to pay for Kaitlin’s final surgery.

“It was an unbelievable gathering of people, prayer, love and faith,” he recalls. “I really saw what a Christian community is like. My vocation to the permanent diaconate was born that day and evolved over the next ten years. And Fr. Tom Lynch cultivated that call.”

Today, Deacon Tim Bolton, who left his family business after the Recession, extends that same compassion, care, prayer and presence to others in his assignment at Hartford HealthCare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where he is Manager of the Pastoral Care Department.

“A hospital is a container for everything from the beginning of life to the end of life and everything in between that is imaginable or unimaginable,” he says. “It is an amazing environment to be part of and see people offering themselves in the service of others. As a chaplain, you get to observe everything through the lens of faith. We see more than other clinical disciplines do because we participate across the spectrum. We see patients receiving a diagnosis, going through treatments, at the start of life and at the end of life with prayers of commendation at their bedside.”

Very often, he says, family members see themselves at the foot of the cross, like the Blessed Mother and St. John, with no power to influence the outcome. They are present to their loved one and recognize, some for the first time, the possibility of the Resurrection.

“We have this opportunity to be with families and frame for them through the lens of faith their part in the Passion and see their loved one as a unique reflection of the image of Christ, a reflection of the image the world has never seen before,” he said.

When Deacon Bolton was ordained in 2006, he was originally assigned to St. James Church but was later given permission to do his ministry full-time at St. Vincent’s, where he began working in 2011.

The challenges his family has confronted helped him understand God’s plan and recognize the needs of others facing a medical crisis.

“It is really the grace of God,” he said. “We have lived through a lot and also experienced great love, unlike any family has ever experienced from the community.”

Mary Ellen, who is principal at Jane Ryan School in Trumbull, has gone through three bouts of cancer over the past 20 years.

“I saw the need for people to have someone to talk to while she was in the hospital,” he recalled. “And I learned about the clinical surrounding when Kaitlin went for treatment….I know what it is like in the newborn intensive care when a doctor says to a family, ‘We need to do an MRI on the baby’s brain lesions.’ I know what it is like, and I can be in that place with them.”

Deacon Bolton calls himself “a trench guy” and says a fundamental part of his ministry is to accompany people. “I identify with the mystery of accompaniment and presence to help people feel comfortable and meet them where they are, while trying to have a healthy humility,” he said.

He tells the story of a woman dying of cancer, who asked if she and her husband could renew their wedding vows. Several months before she passed away, they were joined by their family members and friends at the vineyard where she worked. In the barn, with her gown on, she and husband renewed their vows. Deacon Bolton later went to her home, where she was receiving Hospice care, and did the prayers of commendation while her family and friends were present.

“I really feel privileged to do the work I do,” he said, “It is a privilege to accompany people at moments in their lives when they let you in. In those encounters, you can let them know they are not alone.”

Deacon Bolton manages the Pastoral Care Department at St. Vincent’s under the direction of Bill Hoey, Vice President of Mission.

“Pastoral care has been an integral part of how we provide care at St. Vincent’s since we were founded by the Daughters of Charity, and we have been blessed with some of the most gifted chaplains imaginable,” Hoey said.

There are lay and priest chaplains. The priests celebrate Mass, administer the Sacrament of the Sick, hear confessions and sometimes do a crisis baptism. They provide spiritual support to all patients, even those who are not Catholic, Hoey said.

“They are not just here to bring the Eucharist to a Catholic patient,” he said. “They provide a full array of chaplain services and will offer support to a Jehovah Witness or a Muslim or a member of the Jewish faith, or even a person of no faith.”

The department has full- and part-time chaplains, along with volunteer pastoral care assistants and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The chaplains include priests, deacons, rabbis and representatives of different faiths.

“We talk about reverent holistic care, and the chaplains ensure that we are attending to the spiritual needs of the patient,” Hoey said.

Very often when a patient receives a life-altering diagnosis, it raises the question of “Where is God in all this?” A medical crisis, he says, provides an opportunity for people to re-examine their lives and their relationship with God.

“We all get so busy in our day-to-day lives that those may not be questions we ask,” Hoey said. “But if you get a blocked artery or renal disease, it can provoke a crisis as well as the receptivity to take a look at spiritual issues—and what better person to help you than a well-trained chaplain?”

“Many patients are very receptive to them because it is a different component of care,” Hoey said. “Just as important as medical treatment is the question of ‘Am I right with God?’ Having a trained, empathetic, compassionate chaplain fulfills the goal of reverent holistic care. They are right there near your hospital bed. It brings the Church to the people.”

USCCB addresses Indian reservation poverty

“We have no hope; it will always be like this.”  Lakota Sioux resident of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation South Dakota.

There are 7 million American Indians in the U.S., one-fourth living and dying on reservations under conditions rivaling third world countries. Most are Christian, many are Catholic. They are the poorest of all American ethnic groups with the highest rate of poverty.

Pine Ridge, the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, is the home of the Lakota Sioux and is a microcosm of the worst of problems existing on some reservations, and one of the two poorest counties in the nation.

Here, the Oglala Lakota struggle on meager government subsistence. Men have a life expectancy of fewer than 44 years, 97% live below the poverty line, unemployment is greater than 80%, and the median annual income less than $3,500. Many of the substandard homes need repair and lack clean water and sewage, 40% lack electricity or propane, addictions affect 9 in 10 families. Diseases—tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, are 800% higher than the national average, so too for suicide—many of the youth do not reach the age of 25.  A typical grocery store is smaller than a gas station convenience store, primarily stocked with processed food, no fresh produce.

The abysmal state of education is among the worst in the nation. Built in 1958, and like many reservation schools, Wounded Knee elementary school facility in Manderson is in desperate need of repair and needs replacement. Lacking basic supplies, fresh food is in short supply, asbestos underlies the flooring and hangs on the pipes, lead-based paint still exists, and there are serious fire code violations.

The root cause of the economic situation is tied to the land, much of it held in trust and controlled by the government.  As such, the American Indians have become the most regulated people on earth.  Homeownership here isn’t possible.  Most only have the right to occupy the land.  Since they do not own their homes, they have little incentive or the money to repair them—nor any collateral to start a business.

How did it get this bad?

We must first go back to the Doctrine of Discovery first appeared in Spain, and then was adopted by the British, and then worked its way into the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation ever since.  When the “New World” was being discovered—the question was: who is to take possession of these newly discovered lands? 

In 1492, acting under the international laws of Western Christendom, Columbus was to “take possession” of the land for Spain.  These “laws” took shape from two papal bulls (1452 and 1493).  The intent was to recognize and defend any Spanish claim and that Spain was to bring the people of the new land to Christianity and prevent enemies of Christ to lay any claims, at a time when Islam was spreading across Europe.

The controversial 1452 bull, Dum diversas was written before Columbus or any knowledge of a new world or the existence of any indigenous people.  Popes Nicolas and Alexander I did not intend that they should be mistreated or lose their land.   Pope Paul III in 1537 (in Sublimes Dues) clarified that … Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be enslaved, deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ. Catholic social teachings have since repeated this stance. Over time the driving force of the Doctrine of Discovery was money and has had dire consequences as it has unfolded in U.S. Indian law that includes three related Supreme Court cases under Chief Justice John Marshall (1810, 1823 and 1835).

Loss of Sovereignty, Loss of the land

In 1887, after the dissolution of the treaties, the General Allotment Act in 1887 provided the means to take millions of reservation acres guaranteed to Indians and marked the beginning of misguided paternalism by the federal government toward Indian people that continues today. Additional losses resulted from the Burke Act (1906) and the Reorganization Act (1934) and amendments to the Land Consolidation Act. Lands not fully owned by individuals were placed into a “trust” system wherein the government has final authority over the land and its use. The fractionated patchwork of land remaining with its restrictions is a major obstacle to housing and business development.  Since, there has been a continuing erosion of Native powers to govern and manage their lands and resources.

The legal framework as it exists today is not only inconsistent with the Constitution, but also with basic human rights having adverse consequences for the Indian and their ability to correct the social and economic injustices.   Toward self-sufficiencytribal members and their governments are trying to piece together their homelands through purchases, gifts and the return of government-held land. The continuance of tribes as sovereign nations, their individual cultures and language is at stake when the land base is diminished.

What can the Church do?

 “We have no hope. It will always be like this.” No hope leads to despair, and despair leads to many of the social issues such as suicide and the widespread substance abuse. We must restore their hope that things will improve.

The reservation poverty issue touches the core of Catholic social teachings, as we find on the battlefields of pro-life and religious freedom. Responding to this social disparity is part of our Catholic identity and requires effective social justice advocacy. Public awareness is crucial and the Catholic news media can play a major role.

While credit has to be given to organizations such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Catholic Home Missions, etc., charitable donations are just a band-aid on the problem.  A long-term solution requires major reforms at the Federal level and begins with the Church’s presence on Capitol Hill, supporting the tribes and pro-Indian legislation. It must become a national priority with all Americans engaged to solve it.

Toward this end, the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American affairs is now actively meeting with Native American leaders to listen to their concerns.   They have issued the “Two Rivers” Report (on the USCCB Website) providing useful statistical data and the initial steps the Church will take to deal with this crisis.    Besides citing the gifts the Catholic Native American communities have given us, it discusses the Church’s role in evangelization, the need to strengthen the schools, and to put pressure on Congress to reform Federal Indian laws governing reservations.  You are encouraged to review its content.

Let us all become involved; and this begins with prayer.

Prayer to Help Native Peoples

Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of compassion and strength, we ask for your guiding hand as we come together to assist our brothers and sisters who are struggling on Indian reservations throughout our great nation.  Help us to overcome the challenges we face in this most difficult undertaking. In the spirit of reform, open the minds and hearts of our government leaders so they may come together and devise a system that is fair and equitable to those Native Peoples who have suffered so long from many social injustices that have extinguished their hope. Assist us in our work. Allow us to be a beacon of light.  Give us your grace to reach out to the most vulnerable, create jobs and opportunities where they are most needed, to help families subsisting on meager government incomes, those in substandard housing and the dispossessed First Peoples of this land, so that we may achieve the needed changes inspired by the Gospel. We ask these in your name.  Amen

Rich May is from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He has been actively working with the Lakota Sioux and the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American affairs.

Chairman Announces Religious Freedom Week

WASHINGTON— Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, the acting chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty has encouraged Catholics to pray and uphold religious liberty at home and abroad during Religious Freedom Week 2020. Commencing on June 22, the Feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, Religious Freedom Week runs through June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. The theme chosen for this year is “For the Good of All.”

Archbishop Wenski stated:

“Religious freedom is under stress throughout the world. Even in our Western liberal democracies, discrimination against religion in general and Catholic Christianity, in particular, is growing — albeit in perhaps more sophisticated and less violent ways.

“Political analysts and human rights advocates do include religion on their agenda. But most emphasize ‘tolerance’ as if religion were only a source of conflict. Or, they speak about religion in terms of ‘individual choices,’ as if religion were merely the concern of an individual’s conviction and were devoid of any social consequences.

“Yet, just as freedom of speech depends not only on one’s right to say what’s on one’s mind but also on the existence of institutions like newspapers, universities, libraries, political parties and other associations that make up what we call ‘civil society,’ so too freedom of religion ‘for the good of all’ must also encompass protecting those institutions that nourish the individual’s free exercise of religion.

“The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights — peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”

Resources for Religious Freedom Week and other religious liberty resources may be found at and Social media posts will use the hashtag #ReligiousFreedomWeek.

Two men to be ordained as transitional deacons

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will ordain two men as transitional deacons for the Diocese of Bridgeport on Saturday, June 20, 10 am at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

Traditionally, ordination as a transitional deacon is the last step before full ordination to the priesthood. For the transitional deacons, the year ahead will include pastoral, liturgical and educational preparation period for the priesthood.

Attendance at the ordination will be limited to immediate family members and other invited guests in order to conform to the public health recommendations for returning to indoor Mass during the pandemic.

Guy Dormévil was born in Haiti to Gustave Dormévil and Angélie Louis Charles, where he was raised along with his 15 siblings. He was married for 29 years to the late Magalie Adolphe, who died from cancer on August 23, 2015. He has two children, Guyvensky (28) and Guylendy (25) Dormevil.

In 1988, he had to leave his job as an immigration inspector to take refuge in the U.S. Since his arrival to the U.S., he has worked as a Burger King clerk and manager, a certified nursing assistant, a grocery store produce clerk, and lastly a produce manager for 19 years. He attended college part time and received a certificate of English as a Second Language and an associate degree in Business Administration. He also obtained additional nondegree credits at UCONN and Sacred Heart University.

On August 3, 2016, Bishop Caggiano approved his application to enter St. John Fisher Seminary Residence, where he began pre-Theology studies. A year later he entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, in Weston, Mass., where he will continue into his  4th year of Theological Studies this Fall.

Guy has been a very active layman in the Roman Catholic Church. His involvement not only included his home parish, but also expanded to both diocesan and national service. He started as a very young altar server, progressed to a youth group leader and then a charismatic prayer group leader. A few of the roles he has exercised at his parish are leader of the liturgical committee, leader of the Haitian Charismatic Prayer Group, eucharistic minister, member of the parish council, a member of the finance board and a parish trustee.

In October 2009, he joyfully and gratefully received the Saint Augustine Medal of Service from the Diocese of Bridgeport, while he was serving as a diocesan pastoral council member, with Bishop William E. Lori, presently Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland. In 2014, at the fourth diocesan synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, called by Bishop Caggiano, Guy served as delegate of the Haitian Community and St. Joseph Parish. Currently, he is still one of the five members of the Haitian National Charismatic Committee based in New York and Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, Chaplain.

“After my wife’s death, my plan was to fulfill the dream of becoming a Permanent Deacon,” explains Dormévil. “However, the Lord had something far better planned for me. He re-kindled the priesthood call He made to me as a young adult. So, I prayerfully said yes to the call.”

Of his readiness for ordination, Dormévil shares, “I am willing to learn as much as possible in order to become a good shepherd to God’s people. I hope to be at the service of anyone who requires my help. But most importantly, I will eternally need the prayers of God’s people and I will pray for them as well.”

Brendan Blawie was born and raised in Newtown, Conn., and received all of his Sacraments at St. Rose of Lima Parish. He is the middle of three children, with an older brother, Jack, and a younger sister, Marian. His parents, Karen and John Blawie, raised him in the faith, although he admits to not thinking much about being a priest as a young boy.

Brendan loves sports, playing football and basketball through high school and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. “It was in high school that I began to actually learn about and love our faith,” he shares.

Brendan enrolled in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech in the Marine Corps ROTC program, before transferring to Franciscan University of Steubenville where he earned his degree in accounting.

While at Franciscan, he also pursued a commission with the Marine Corps, graduating from Officer’s Candidate School in Quantico, Va. the summer of 2012. This fulfilled a dream he had from his childhood of being a Marine Officer, but in the end, it was clear to him that it may have been his plan, but not the Lord’s.

Instead of commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Brendan entered seminary for the Diocese of Bridgeport. He completed two years of pre-theological studies at St. John Fisher seminary, before being sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he spent three years. In 2019, he received his theology degree, magna cum laude, from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and have been on pastoral assignment at St. Thomas More parish in Darien for the past year.

“I look forward to returning to Rome in the fall where I will begin my studies for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology,” shares Blawie. “Life with Christ is always an adventure, and these past six years of formation for the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport have been filled with joy and peace. I look forward to a life of priestly ministry in this diocese, which is my home.”

“Approaching diaconate ordination has been a wonderful blessing,” he says. “It is something for which I have prepared and anticipated all these years of formation, but I still find myself a bit anxious as the date grows near. Seminary formation is never the young man forming himself, but allowing the Lord to form him, so as to be a priest after His own Sacred Heart.

Conforming our lives to the will of God allows us to trust in His providence, and I can reflect back with much joy on all the twists and turns of the road of my life that have led me to this point of approaching His altar to receive Holy Orders. Being ordained during a pandemic was never how I pictured it, but I have learned that my plans are often flawed. I continue to trust in His will and His love, and pray that will lead me toward a worthy life of ministry,” he said.

Faculty adapt courses to changing times

FAIRFIELD—As Sacred Heart University professors fully absorbed the reality of the pandemic and what it meant for their students and classrooms, they came to an important decision: “teach the virus.”

These words originated with Michael Frechette, assistant dean and assistant professor in the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology (WCBT), when he spoke with faculty about a week after the University moved to online learning (a decision made earlier than most of SHU’s peer institutions). Understanding the pandemic’s severity, Frechette and his colleagues knew they had to find opportunities within this crisis to continue their students’ education. Faculty quickly overhauled their courses to include the pandemic in their teachings throughout the spring semester and revamped summer courses.

“We want students to absorb the reality,” Frechette said. “We are their guides on this journey. We want them to come out the other end of this as experts in managing a crisis.”

Frechette said he was studying for his MBA during the 2008 financial crisis. He recalls his professors incorporating real-time studies and research in their lessons.

“I want students to have those same experiences and benefit as much as possible from this crisis,” he said. “We [faculty] are best suited to do this, to change the curriculum. Any good instructor can craft their curriculum around a current event.”

Grace Guo, associate dean and associate professor of management, changed her final exam, asking her seniors to answer pandemic-related questions. Students showed great interest in the assignment, Guo said, and their research and conclusions were impressive.

“The final papers showed great care and interest,” she said. “They were such good quality papers; their arguments were sharp and insightful.”

While the world is changing, Guo said, she and her colleagues “want to keep our education relevant, and I think students appreciate this opportunity. We know there’s a lot of disappointment, but we’re trying to stay positive.”

When thinking about this summer’s MBA courses, such as corporate finance, leading and influencing with integrity and managing change, Nadene Koliopoulos, director of graduate programs, and Guo started brainstorming. “The pandemic won’t take over each course, but it’s an added, much-needed component,” Koliopoulos said.


Faculty in the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., and Richard J. Henley College of Nursing already adapted courses for the fall semester. Every course will incorporate discussions on how nurses emerged as leaders during the pandemic, and have such a vital role.

Like the WCBT, nursing professors also altered classes during the spring semester to focus on the crisis while being sensitive to students’ busy schedules. Many nursing students are working full shifts in health-care facilities as they were taking classes.

Rebecca Jones, clinical assistant professor, started teaching two eight-week online courses for graduate nursing students in March. Since the majority of her students were acute care nurses, almost all of them worked in hospitals that were quickly converted to COVID-19 units.

“Given the rapidly evolving situation, I had to adjust the course and clinical activities quickly,” Jones said. “First, I relaxed due dates and removed or altered several discussion assignments.”

What students told her about their work experiences was “heart-wrenching,” she said. “They were able to express extremely harrowing experiences, especially the feelings of helplessness about their patients’ deaths and anxiety about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is very traumatic.”

Jones also created alternative learning experiences for students whose clinical sites had closed. The American Nurses Association recommended “just-in-time” COVID-19 training, she said, so instead of shadowing their overwhelmed infection-control colleagues, students attended online continuing education courses that became available.

Students wrote in reflective journals about how much they appreciated the flexibility, support and training during the course. “They wrote about the comradery of their health-care team or those ‘in the trenches’ with them,” Jones said. “When these students discussed their colleagues, it felt like they are referring to old war buddies.”

By providing support, resources, understanding and encouragement for her students, Jones believes she’s done a great service for front-line health-care workers.

“I feel so strongly that lessons of self-care and self-compassion need to be taught to my nursing students that I’m looking for a way to revise my courses to include content on healing from secondary trauma and empathic distress,” she said. “I want them to go from being the ‘walking wounded’ to ‘wounded healers’.”

Anna Goddard, assistant professor, and Dorothea Esposito, clinical assistant professor, were teaching epidemiology and population health for the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program in the midst of the pandemic. They changed their course mid-semester to include objectives and competencies around emergency preparedness, disease transmission, the epidemiological triangle and other related topics. As with Jones, most of their students were nurses on the front line fighting the coronavirus in March and April, and the professors are planning accordingly. For the fall semester, Goddard’s class on strategic leadership and collaboration in health care will include reflection on leadership during the pandemic.

Corinne Lee, clinical assistant professor, is teaching the human journey in nursing for the RN-to-BSN program—a course that has been adapted in the past to include relevant current events. Her students are also working in hospitals.

“This course, developed by Dr. Linda Strong many years ago, has transcended unprecedented events such as 9/11, the Sandy Hook and Columbine shootings, and now the pandemic,” Lee said. “While we have a planned curriculum for each of our courses in the Davis & Henley College of Nursing, I have told my students that the content and online discussion over the next eight weeks will have the flexibility of being somewhat fluid.”

The course covers what COVID-19 patients are experiencing, Lee said. She wants students to see the type of reciprocal relationship that exists between their clinical practice and reflective opportunity in the classroom.

Health professions

Classes changed mid-semester in the College of Health Professions, and work is underway to adapt the summer and fall’s curriculum. COVID-19 dramatically impacted the college, as faculty dealt with changing on-site clinical courses to simulation and telehealth. Telehealth provides patients and health professionals the ability to continue interaction, despite an inability to meet in person. Course revisions were extensive to include simulation and telehealth approaches in teaching. Faculty worked hard to guarantee students’ education was not compromised.

The occupational therapy (OT) faculty made a seamless shift with the spring semester content from in-class, experiential learning to virtual teaching and learning, said Sharon McCloskey, interim chair and director of the graduate OT program. OT students were immersed in learning skills and interventions. Professors Lola Halperin, Morgan Villano and McCloskey delivered skills classes synchronously via WebEx and Zoom. Students learned how to become facilitators of therapeutic groups and designed and implemented virtual mental health group experiences for each other.

With the realities of COVID-19 and lockdown situations at home, these group experiences addressing mental health and wellness were tremendously successful for all participants, McCloskey said.

OT students also learned about the use of telehealth in occupational therapy. Ellen Martino, clinical assistant professor, redesigned the interprofessional Monday Night social program (an ongoing social skills program for community individuals with intellectual disabilities), and transitioned this group from in-person social events to virtual social events twice weekly. OT students were able to complete the last nine days of their 12-week fieldwork education by participating in telehealth visits. These took place under their clinical educators’ supervision and provided assessment and intervention to school-based or outpatient-based pediatric OT clients.

Jaimee Hegge, a clinical assistant professor, redesigned the summer semester OT content over three modules. Students now learn about COVID-19, with instruction provided by local front-line OT practitioners who have already been engaged in post-COVID rehabilitation. Students are also developing skills such as effective use of PPE, and the safe delivery of interventions to people with the virus.

“I am so delighted that SHU’s College of Health Professions is so progressive in teaching students all the newest techniques and strategies in dealing with clients with coronavirus,” said Lou Elmo, an adjunct faculty member. “They will be totally ahead of the game as future rehab professionals.”

Professors molded their curriculum to fit with the pandemic. James Bartley, a health management adjunct instructor, had his students present how health information technology — such as telehealth and medical apps — can assist physicians and health-care providers in adapting to the current pandemic environment.

While some students learned about telehealth and simulation, other students used these in place of in-person clinicals.

Christina Pino, a clinical assistant speech-language pathology (SLP) professor, said her first and second-year clinical practicum students were not permitted to remain in their practicum placements at health-care facilities due to the pandemic. They transitioned to continue clinical training through computer-based simulation using Simucase. In addition, problem-based learning tutorial classes, and clinical seminar courses, switched over to on-line via synchronous and asynchronous coursework, incorporating small group discussion via WebEx and video reflections.

Graduate students in SLP will deliver audiologic counseling and hearing aid programming services via telehealth during the summer for Jamie Marotto, clinical assistant professor.

The physician assistant (PA) program shifted its entire curriculum online, and used innovative strategies to teach traditional hands-on skills through online platforms. Lectures continued through synchronous online learning to keep students on schedule and allow progression through the program, said Adam Olsen, director of the PA program.

In addition to adapting its classes, the doctorate of physical therapy (PT) program held a panel discussion with 25 alumni on the impact of COVID-19 on PT. Students engaged in discussion with PT alumni who have taken on a range of roles since the pandemic. Alumni shared their experiences, and the impact the virus had on them from personal, professional and societal perspectives. “The experience was wonderful with alumni, students and faculty sharing joys, challenges and concerns related to the crisis,” said Chris Petrosino, chair of the PT and human movement program.

As a way to engage the incoming class of OT students for the fall, Jody Bortone, associate dean and chair of the OT program, said the class was divided up into advisement groups. The groups were assigned a faculty adviser to assist them through the two-year program. She said groups will meet week via video as a way to keep in touch.

A new fall elective, introduction to public health emergency preparedness, is offered to all health science concentrations. The course will provide education on the evolution of public health preparedness and response, including concepts at the local, state and federal levels. Students will also learn about related policies, coordination, types of incidents, as well as the National Incident Management System, and the mechanisms through which public health agencies prepare for incidents. The course will include discussions and lessons learned from the pandemic.

Educating tomorrow’s teachers

Michael Alfano, dean of the Isabelle Farrington College of Education, said the faculty is working hard to adjust to the current situation. “We are assessing all our curricula in light of the pandemic, from our graduate educational leadership programs addressing leadership challenges, to incorporating current events in curriculum, to a complete overhaul of how we’re preparing new teachers to provide teaching and educational opportunities through distance learning,” said Alfano.

Aspiring principals and superintendents are using the crisis as a type of “real-time” lab to actively participate in organizing, leading and managing public education during a crisis, Alfano said. Additionally, faculty members with experience in instructional technology have retooled coursework for student teachers, covering distance learning pedagogy at a much greater level than ever before.

“Like they say, ‘In every crisis, there lies opportunity.’ Public schooling has fundamentally changed in our country. Our faculty realizes this and feels responsible to ensure that the beginning educators and leaders we’re preparing are well-equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities associated with the ‘new normal’ head-on,” Alfano said.

Teachers-in-training will be prepared to be proactive, rather than reactive, when addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with post-pandemic public schooling, he added.

These quick decisions and adaptions from faculty illustrate commitment to students and the teaching profession. “Our faculty members are experienced teacher-scholars and appreciate how dynamic teaching and learning is in our country’s public schools,” Alfano said. “They feel an ethical obligation to ensure that our graduates are as well prepared as possible to do the very important work of educating our children.” 

Timely courses offered

In the College of Arts & Sciences, faculty members quickly altered courses during the spring semester. Now they are looking ahead to the fall and considering how to adapt and add pandemic-related curriculum. Biology faculty will offer a course on virology (usually an upper-level biology elective). Mark Beekey, professor and chair of the biology department, said the course has been around for quite a while, but with everything going on, it seemed appropriate for fall. The course explores the nature of bacterial, animal and plant viruses, and it covers viral absorption-penetration, replication, release, viral infection and pathology.

Foundations in Education extends deadline for new family applications for K-8 tuition assistance

BRIDGEPORT—In response to hardships caused by COVID-19, Foundations in Education is extending the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund application deadline for new families so as to encourage their consideration of a Catholic education for their children entering grades K-8.

The mission of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is to help families afford a Catholic education. In this past year, the fund awarded nearly $2.8 million in aid to families of students attending Diocesan elementary schools in Fairfield County.

With COVID-19 interrupting in-person school visits as early as mid-March, many new families were unable to tour Catholic elementary schools or set up “shadow” dates for their children to spend the day among prospective classmates.

Spring is typically a busy enrollment period in Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic elementary schools. While schools make outstanding efforts to provide prospective families a quality virtual admission experience, many have seen a delay in new student applications.

The deadline extension enables Foundations to be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of Catholic schools and to the communities they seek to serve. It also provides flexibility to families considering a switch to Catholic schools, which have navigated the transition to remote learning exceedingly well and ahead of some neighboring district schools.

For new families, K-8 applications to Bishop’s Scholarship Fund are still being accepted for the 2020-2021 academic year and will be available until funds are expended. Prospective families who need financial assistance are encouraged to apply today as tuition assistance is available only while funds last.

The application process is streamlined for convenience. Applicants apply online via the FACTS Grant and Aid application at Schools can assist new families with the application process.

­Superintendent Dr. Steven Cheeseman has reported that the diocese plans to begin the next school year in September with in-person classes and the ability to make a fluid transition to distance learning if it becomes necessary.

“There’s no better time to experience the difference a Catholic School can make for your child,” commented Foundations’ Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine.

The mission of Foundations in Education is to strengthen and transform Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport by supporting innovation in academic and extra-curricular programs, fostering opportunities for the professional development of school leaders in innovation and leadership and providing tuition assistance to families in need. For more information about Foundations in Education, please visit

Food Drive at Church of Assumption assist local food pantries

NORWALK—On a beautiful Corpus Christi morning, the Brothers of Knights of Columbus Westport Council 3688 and members of councils which make up Bishop Fenwick 4th Degree Assembly 100 hosted a drive-through food drive benefitting the St. Vincent DePaul and St. Philip Church food pantries. Two pick-up trucks and two cars were filled. This drive helped to re-stock these food pantries which have been serving hundreds of families every week during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our Founder, Michael J. McGivney would be pleased to see the Knights of Columbus in action working as a team to help our families in need of food by assisting the parish pantries at St. Philip’s and St. Vincent DePaul. We are very grateful to our pastor, Father Cyrus, his staff; our councils in Assembly 100 and our District Deputy George Ribellino who was a huge help in pulling it all together,” said Westport Council Grand Knight Bill Macnamara.

The council has assisted with other food drives since the start of the pandemic and after consulting the Church of the Assumption Pastor, Father Cyrus Bartolome decided to host a food drive with the help from Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100.

“My brother knights reflect the spirit of Father McGivney of fraternity, charity, and unity. There are so many people who are in need in our community and collecting food for needy really is putting faith into action. Thanks to the many parishioners and people from the community who donated food, gift cards and monetary donations,” said Church of the Assumption Pastor Father Cyrus Bartolome.

The Knights of Columbus are called to step into the breach and leave no neighbor behind—especially in this time of crisis. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, our duty is to lead our families, protect our parishes and serve our communities, remembering always that where there’s a need, there’s a Knight. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson has challenged Knights to take this moment as an opportunity to deepen the commitment to the very principles which define the Order: charity, unity and fraternity.

Westport Council 3688 will host more food drives during the summer in continuing to assist those in need.

St. Mary’s indoor Mass reveals newly renovated church

BETHEL—Stop, look, remember and listen was the message shared with worshippers at St. Mary Parish on Sunday, June 14, marking the celebration of Corpus Christi and the reopening of the church for the first time following nine-months of extensive renovations.

“We mark this feast just once a year but we actually celebrate the gift of Christ himself each time we go to Mass,” said Pastor Father Corey V. Piccinino, at the first indoor Mass offered since March. “Every time we receive the Eucharist we celebrate Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, becoming living tabernacles.”

Corpus Christi is the solemn commemoration of the institution by Christ of the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament and the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ for this gift.

Father Piccinino said Catholics should approach receiving communion with wonder and awe. “Behold a miracle is happening. A mystery is happening right in front of you and the greatest holy gift is given to you.”

Congregants gathered at the Mass, shared the sentiment.

“To receive for the first time (since March), it’s like my First Holy Communion. This is great,” said Edith Jaccarino of Redding.

“The Mass was wonderful. It’s a joy to be back,” said fellow parishioner, Marilyn Murray of Newtown.

“We’ve been coming every day to say the Rosary,” she said. The women are part of a group that prays the Rosary daily at the church. The Dodgingtown Road church is the only Catholic church in Bethel and is open every day.

“Part of the joy of being back is tempered by what we need to now do,” Father Piccinino said, with a nod of acknowledgment to precautions that need to be taken to keep everyone safe.

Congregants must pre-register online to attend mass. The newly renovated church which can hold 850 people, is allowing up to 65 people in the church at a time. All in attendance must wear masks. Seating areas are roped off to maintain proper social distancing, missals and hymnals are absent from the pews and there are signs to guide people where to stand when consuming communion.

About two dozen volunteers attending the Mass made navigating the changes easy. Markers were also placed in the parking lot to maintain one empty parking space in between each vehicle.

Father Piccinino encouraged congregants to stop and take the time to look and see the ever-changing and new world we live in and listen with our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the importance of each other and our duty to protect one another in these challenging times.

“This disease (COVID-19) is real,” he said. “We need to keep safe. That is our Christian duty.”

Father Piccinino said he has heard and understands the frustrations of parishioners wanting to return to a pre-pandemic way of life including going to church and receiving the Eucharist.

“This is not a punishment from God or from the Church. This is what is best for everyone now. We have to care about the least of our brothers and sisters (who may be susceptible to the coronavirus). We have to protect each other in that one body (of Christ).”

Father Piccinino said his cousin, thankfully, has recovered from the coronavirus after twice almost falling victim to it.

“If you don’t have a personal experience with someone who has had it, you don’t see the need for (all of these precautions),” he said.

The church has been streaming Masses on Facebook and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The live-streamed Masses have given parishioners a glimpse into the beautifully renovated church.

There is much symbolism throughout the church from the painting of the dove above the altar with light emanating from it, to the tile work on the floor that commemorates the Trinity and so much more. There is even a painting on the wall depicting the original 1883 Gothic-style church that still stands on Greenwood Avenue. A book highlighting all the changes and symbolism will be available soon.

“The renovated church is beautiful and uplifting. It gives me hope,” said Filomenia Magrino, who attended the Mass with her husband, Joseph. “It felt very peaceful to be back.” He agreed, “It’s nice to return to our Sunday routine.”

By Kathy-Ann Gobin