Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

World Day for Migrants and Refugees

WASHINGTON—The Vatican has designated Sunday, September 27 as the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 106th observance of this day is “Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee” a focus on the plight of internally displaced persons. Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration issued the following comment:

“The World Day for Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to reflect on the global contributions of immigrants and refugees, and highlight the work of the Church to welcome, protect and integrate them. We are reminded that regardless of our background, we are all built in the image of God and should be treated as such. In his message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis has highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the forced displacement of people and the difficulties they encounter when seeking protection. This day is an opportunity to unite the world in addressing forced displacement and pray for the well-being of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters as we continue to work to bring solidarity, compassion and love throughout our human encounters.

“It is of vital importance for us to embrace love for our neighbor as we love ourselves and live out this commitment daily. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, also noted in his annual message, ‘To preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God’s original plan, we must commit ourselves to ensuring international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded.’”

Bishop Dorsonville will be celebrating a Mass to commemorate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees at St. John Neumann’s Parish on September 27, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.  The mass will be live-streamed via St. John Neumanns’ YouTube channel.

For more information on internal displacement as well as educational resources related to the upcoming World Day for Migrants and Refugees, visit USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants website.

Virtual family rosary continues!

BRIDGEPORT—When the pandemic began, The Leadership Institute started hosting virtual prayers as a diocesan family. “Several hundred families continued to gather throughout the summer and were disappointed when we wrapped up our Summer Rosary series,” says Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute. “This served as a nice compliment to the many wonderful prayer opportunities our parishes were offering.”

Based on the feedback, The Leadership Institute is set to launch the Sunday Family Rosary

beginning in October 2020 and continuing every Sunday at 7:30 pm. Parishes and schools will be asked to invite one family to lead.

Families who wish to sign up to lead are invited to visit www.formationreimagined.org and click the praying hands image at the top of the screen. Once they sign up, families will receive a confirmation email with complete details.

No registration is necessary for families who simply wish to join in prayer each week at 7:30 pm.

(For any questions please email Rosary@diobpt.org.)

An ongoing conversation

BRIDGEPORT—As the culmination of seven weeks of the well-received webinar series “Conversations About Race” hosted by The Leadership Institute, the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics, last night’s “Conversations About the Conversations” brought about a lot of important discussions.

The two panelists were Janie Nneji a member of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield and Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton and episcopal vicar for Black Catholics in the diocese. “I have been intensely interested in what the Church can do to heal the racial divide,” explained Nneji, who has piloted a study in her parish using Bishop Braxton’s 2015 pastoral letter, along with books and videos in order to facilitate a conversation and work toward healing.

“This is my third or fourth job,” explained Father Reggie of his role as the episcopal vicar for Black Catholics in the diocese, “but it was the one that I find the most passion in.”

Panelists began the webinar discussing highlights of the seven-week series, what moved them, change them and challenged them. Listeners were then invited to ask questions or begin discussions in the chat.

Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute shared that one of the things that was most eye-opening for him was when Gloria Purvis used the phrase “we can walk and chew gum,” referring to the fact that just because we say that Black lives matter doesn’t mean that white lives don’t and just because we say that racism in a pro-life issue doesn’t mean that we feel any less strongly about other pro-life issues. “I had never thought about it so simply,” shared Donovan.

Nneji shared that she was shocked to hear that some people had never heard it said that racism was a sin, and that racism was a life issue and contrary to the Word of God. “To me it was very important that I am also involved in many pro-life circles and have bemoaned the fact that it is not always as womb to tomb as I would like it to be,” shared Nneji.

Panelists enjoyed how both Chatelain and Villalobos discussed how to have a conversation and how it is important to listen to others’ stories when beginning to engage with others on these difficult topics and to find common ground. “I think that was an effective tool in having a conversation,” said Nneji.

“I thought the series was excellent. As a Black Catholic, having gone back and read some of the Bishop’s pastoral statements and my disappointment is that the Church has gone to battle over many different issues and I don’t think they have raised the racism issue up to the level of concern and dedication of resources to which they should,” shared Nneji. “But I think having the conversations was a good start,” she said.

Father Reggie said that Armando Cervantes’ conversation on multicultural voices allowed listeners to see the issue of racism as a bigger picture, and to recognize other cultures that are struggling as well.

“As a Black man I’m tired of talking about this. I talk about this all day every day and sometimes it’s very frustrating because no matter how much you talk some people are just not going to get it,” explained Father Reggie, sharing that Gloria Purvis’ discussion gave him a new perspective and approach and inspired him to speak up in areas where he might not have before.

Father Reggie encouraged listeners to work with their pastors and show them the way that they wish to learn more about certain issues. “You are the Church, if you can get some people together and do it that is a start,” he said.

Panelists discussed how important it is to make sure that parishioners of color feel welcome enough to continue coming to church. “The reality is that none of us own the Church, it’s God’s Church we are just temporary stewards of it and we should be welcoming and let anyone in who wants to celebrate God. We contradict ourselves when we say our doors are open but want to limit who comes through.”

“We need to make sure our parishes are places of acceptance and healing and preaching and teaching and all of those things,” said Donovan.

“The Church is not a sanctuary for Saints it is a hospital for sinners,” shared Father Reggie, explaining that that’s something we all need to work on recognizing as a Church.

Panelists discussed that the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism is currently working on developing anti-racism training for diocesan staff as well as within the parishes, as well as plans for Black Catholic History Month in November.

(To watch all the webinars from the Conversations About Race series and for a growing list of resources visit www.formationreimagined.org.)

Pope thanks elderly, ill priests for witness

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis reminded elderly and ill priests that they need not be afraid of suffering because Christ is always there to help them carry that cross.

With God’s grace, their situation, which was made even more difficult and risky because of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict protocols for containing its spread, can be “an experience of purification,” he said.

For priests, fragility can be like a fire that refines and soap that purifies, and which, “raising us up to God, refines and sanctifies us,” he said.

“We are not afraid of suffering; the Lord carries the cross with us,” he said.

The pope’s message was sent to priests taking part in an annual day of prayer and fraternity for elderly and sick clergy Sept. 17 in Italy’s northern Lombardy region — the region that had been hit hardest by coronavirus infections and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vatican released the message the same day.

Over the past several months, the pope said, “we have all experienced restrictions. Days spent in confined spaces seemed endless and always the same.”

“We have missed the affection of those dearest to us and of friends; the fear of infection has reminded us of our precariousness,” and, he added, it has also given people an idea of what many elderly people experience every day.

Pope Francis said he hoped this period would help everyone understand how “it is necessary not to waste the time that is given to us; that it will help us to enjoy the beauty of encountering others, to heal from the virus of self-sufficiency.”

He said he was pleased the group could travel with their bishops to the town of Caravaggio and pray at the city’s Marian sanctuary.

He thanked them for their faithful and silent witness, and their love for God and the church.

By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service

Pastoral urges Catholics to draw closer to God

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) — Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio said that “we do not know exactly what God has in store for us,” but he hopes that while “we wait and work” for this COVID-19 crisis to be over, it will not “just be an episode in history from which we recovered.”

Instead, it must be “a turning point that we embraced allowing God to heal and transform each one of us, our archdiocese and the whole world into something better,” he said before promulgating a new pastoral during a Mass at San Fernando Cathedral Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The pastoral, which is in English and Spanish, is titled “Transformed by Hope, Let Us Rebuild Our Tomorrow!” and addressed to all the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

“In this challenging time, we ask the Holy Spirit to grant us freedom in spirit, in order to loosen ties and hold-backs that prevent our souls from flying toward the divine,” he said before signing the pastoral at the Mass, attended by ministry representatives from various institutions — primarily educational entities — in the archdiocese.

“We pray humbly and constantly for the virtue of fortitude, a gift of the Holy Spirit that is rooted in trust,” Archbishop García-Siller he said.

Copies of the pastoral letter will be distributed to parishes of the archdiocese as well as Catholic schools. It also is available on the archdiocesan website, www.archsa.org, and on archdiocesan social media outlets.

The 38-page document states: “Ignited by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts, let us dive into the dynamics of the current times! Let us come in closer spiritual contact with God and with one another!

“Let us recognize and caress the face of the Lord — whom we adore — in the flesh of every suffering brother or sister. And may our perception, thoughts, feelings and actions become a channel of God’s love for his children. Ven, Holy Spirit, Ven!”

Archbishop García-Siller in the pastoral said that so many have suffered in numerous ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have lost their lives, millions have suffered from the illness or have lost dear ones. Countless more are currently undergoing financial turmoil, necessary seclusion or find themselves facing varied causes of seemingly unbearable distress,” he said.

The archbishop said he was “particularly heartbroken” by how the pandemic has exacerbated the “neglect and abandonment” experienced by the marginalized in society, those who are looked on “with indifference or disdain,” who lack access to health care, food and shelter and have other hardships — all of which has been made worse by the pandemic.

As the scientific community works on a C OVID vaccine, “we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest,” he said quoting Pope Francis from his Aug. 19 general audience.

More than ever immigrants “are being treated in less than human ways in many dimensions of our social life, including the legal system,” he said, and “some ethnic groups are suffering more than others.”

“Unequal opportunities and services, stereotypes and prejudices, still tremendously affect the way African American communities are generally treated, as opposed to most people of Western European descent,” he continued. “The same can be said about Native American groups, Hispanics and others.”

During this time, he said, an increased number of people of East Asian and Pacific Island heritage, “have been mocked, bullied and assaulted.”

The “tremendous recession” caused by the pandemic “has caused further exposed grave deficiencies in our economic system,” leading more low-income people and the middle class to struggle financially, while the rich get richer, he said.

He expressed concern the pandemic and the suffering it has caused have led some to promote “the business of abortion and euthanasia,” with the latter being used to deprive the elderly and the terminally ill of the natural end to their pilgrimage due to a lost sense of the meaning of life in their suffering, and because their treatments are considered too costly by people who care more about their own profit.”

Archbishop García-Siller also called it scandalous some use fetal cell lines taken from aborted babies for research purposes, including trying to develop a COVID vaccine.

He pointed to other important problems drawing attention during the last few months, including the “brutality of some police officers and its frequent connection with racism.”

“Legitimate indignation has triggered demonstrations, which have been infiltrated by violent agitators and ideological agendas. In addition to that, we have witnessed the desecration and destruction of religious and historic symbols,” he added.

“In one way or another the pandemic is affecting the whole world. … There are undoubtedly some very unique challenges,” he said.

“We are all called to share each other’s burdens as well as their joys. ‘We are in this together’ is a common hope expressed these days,” he added.

During this time “not only is God’s grace readily available for us … but perhaps the circumstances to which the pandemic is forcing us can be used as opportunities to get to know ourselves, God and the people around us better, in new and different ways, as we grow spiritually,” he said.

“It is a paradox that now that many people cannot go out, we can make a trip inside ourselves,” he added.

“As we strive to look ahead full of trust and hope, let us turn our hearts and our minds to Mary,” Archbishop García-Siller said. Quoting the pope, he added: “Our Lady is the star that guides us.”

By | Catholic News Service

St. Catherine of Siena hosts 4th annual kickoff weekend

TRUMBULL—St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull launched a new Pastoral Year on September 12 & 13 on a picture-perfect weekend. Father Joseph Marcello, pastor, Deacon Patrick Toole, and St. Catherine of Siena Parish staff were joined once again by the parish’s Welcome Team for our 4th annual kickoff weekend.

Masses were as full as state guidelines allow. Everyone could easily see by the smiles under every mask that friends were happy to see each other. Christ is alive and at work in our community!  Even though it’s an unsettled time for all of us, it’s going to be a great pastoral year at St. Catherine’s!

Do you know someone who is looking for a spiritual home? Invite them to come see what St. Catherine’s is all about.

The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena warmly welcomes anyone who is new to our area, anyone who is searching for the truth, or anyone who is looking for a spiritual home. We are joyfully and faithfully Roman Catholic in belief and practice – a community of faith, worship, service, and formation – and with open hearts we invite all our brothers and sisters into a living and saving friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, in the communion of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  We are conveniently located at 220 Shelton Road in the Nichols area of Trumbull.

(To view all photos from the event, visit: www.flickr.com/photos/stcathtrumbull/albums/72157715959120018.)

Prayers of remembrance and forgiveness at the Site of the Unborn

TRUMBULL—To mark the 8th Annual National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, a group of local parishioners gathered in prayer at the Memorial Site of the Unborn in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull on a recent Saturday afternoon. Beginning at the holy hour of 3 pm under the warm sun of mid-September, the ceremony included pro-life prayers, special intentions, and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Two dozen people from the Trumbull area held long-stemmed white roses and joined together to visit this gravesite, not only to remember the countless number of children who have been aborted but to also acknowledge forgiveness for those responsible.

“The children we remember here today are in Heaven,” said Tina Kelly, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish who has organized this event for the past four years. “The real crux is to pray for those who did this and hope that they too get to Heaven. We want them to know that they are forgiven.”

Held each year on the second Saturday of September, the event, Kelly feels, has special significance as it occurs during the week of the Blessed Mother’s birthday on September 8. “We ask for her blessings on us today,” she said as the ceremony began.

As the group recited the “Prayer to End Abortion,” “Prayer for Forgiveness of Those Who Destroy Human Life,” and other devotions, a young girl visiting the cemetery with her family wandered toward the memorial. She paused and gently touched the vase of roses and an unlit white candle, seeming to acknowledge those unborn with the innocence only a child herself could possess. Several attendees said this simple act of kindness reminded them of the line they had just recited: “We pray for the toddler who, like your Son, reaches out in hope to a brand new world.”

The small granite stone, inscribed with the words “In Memory of the Unborn,” is one of 11 memorial sites that have been erected throughout Connecticut. In addition to the ceremony in Trumbull, gatherings also occurred this weekend in Oakdale and Putnam and at the burial place for aborted children in Cromwell.

Kelly said that the group who gathers at Gate of Heaven Cemetery grows each year, with more and more people getting involved in the pro-life movement. “I hope they will become more vocal about their beliefs,” she said. “The Lord is merciful. We are praying for those who destroyed life, not judging them.”

“Forgiveness,” she added, “is what distinguishes our faith.”

By Emily Clark

Immaculate High School returns to school

DANBURY—Immaculate High School recently began a new school year, successfully rolling out their reopening plan and hosting the student body in the building. New protocols throughout the school promote social distancing and safe practices, including temperature sensors at all entrances to the building, directional signage in the hallways and stairwells, air purifiers in all rooms in the building, hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes in every classroom as well as mask mandates for all faculty, staff and students.

Similar to the efforts of all school administrators, school President Mary Maloney and school Principal Wendy Neil, have been coordinating their reopening plan efforts with the Department of Health, local officials, CIAC and the Offices of the Superintendents of Danbury Public Schools and Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools. The first week of school began with Freshman Orientation on Tuesday, September 8 and continued on Thursday and Friday with a hybrid learning platform for the entire student body. Parents were provided an option of sending their student back to the school or for their student to take courses virtually for the first semester.

While prioritizing the safety and well-being of its students and staff, Immaculate is committed to maintaining the rigor of its programs and its Catholic identity. “We have created two cohorts of students who will be participating in their 55-minute classes whether virtual or in-person using Microsoft Teams. Our Wednesday schedule includes shortened periods and special programming to allow students to engage in Mass, Prayer services, Advisory, counseling, extracurricular and after school club meetings,” says President Mary Maloney.

Principal Wendy Neil expressed her enthusiasm in a letter to parents stating “ Together we can make this untraditional start of the year a success. Our teachers have worked endlessly to master their technology skills while designing their lessons, our staff has tried to prepare for every possible scenario and our building is ready. Our coaches and athletic department programs have been responding to every new guideline in order to keep our athletes safe on the field and court.”

To see the full reopening plan, please visit: www.immaculatehs.org/re-opening-plans/september-4-2020-update.

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 academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others and personal goals. Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.

New book ponders ‘Silent Sufferings of Mary’

Fernanda Moreira had a dream that changed her life, a dream that led her to a deep devotion to Our Lady and writing a book about the silent suffering the Mother of God endured in the depths of her heart, suffering only another mother could understand.

As a Catholic, she was raised with a knowledge of the Blessed Mother, but says, “I never had a real relationship with her.” During May, she would pray the rosary and honor her, but that was the extent of her devotion.

“My love for Jesus was so great that I didn’t have room in my heart for anyone else, so I stopped my devotion to Mary,” she recalled. “But as a good mother, she would not let me live in such error and ignorance.”

Then, one night she had a dream, and in the dream she became upset when saw a statue of the Blessed Mother lying on the floor.

“My heart felt such sorrow that I went and picked her up, and as I did, she embraced me,” Fernanda recalls. “I can’t express the feeling in my heart. It was like she was telling me, ‘You took me out of your life, but I am your mother, and I won’t let you go.’ And I have been in her arms ever since.”

Years later, Fernanda and her sister-in-law began a worldwide apostolate for the dying, which she says was God’s doing because she never could have spread it across America from California to Connecticut, including parishes in Shelton and Bridgeport, and to places as far away as the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the Philippines. The mission of the Apostolate for the Dying is “to pray for souls at the vital moment of death, when eternal salvation is at stake.” Fernanda and her sister-in-law Lourdes later published the “Holy Hour Devotion for the Dying,” which has been translated into five languages and distributed worldwide.

“The Silent Sufferings of Mary” is Fernanda’s most recent book. It contains 40 meditations to honor and console the sorrowful heart of Mary, and it can be used for prayer and meditation.

“The devotion and love we should have for Our Lady of Sorrows is of the utmost importance,” Fernanda says. “What child would not love a mother like our heavenly Mother? She suffered along with her divine Son for our salvation, and she truly is the most powerful mother this world will ever have because of her great suffering and love. She is our great intercessor.”

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has special importance during our time, Fernanda says.

“She is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and can obtain the peace and harmony the world so desperately needs and is longing for,” she said. “We are living in times of great sorrow and no one knows how to suffer like she did and still does. She has been calling us back to God for centuries, and many do not listen.”

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary is based in Scripture and Christian tradition. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is observed on September 15, was introduced in 1239 by the Servites—the Order of the Servants of Mary. In 1814, Pope Pius VII extended it to the universal Church.

During Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima on October 13, 1917, when the Miracle of the Sun occurred, she appeared as Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Sorrows.

One of the visionaries, Sister Lucia, later said that God wants “to show us the value of suffering, sacrifice and immolation for the sake of love. In the world today hardly anyone wants to hear these truths, such is the extent to which people are living in search of pleasure, of empty worldly happiness and exaggerated comfort. But the more one flees from suffering, the more we find ourselves immersed in a sea of afflictions, disappointments and suffering.”

According to St. Bridget of Sweden, the Blessed Mother revealed she would give seven special graces to those who honored her with a daily devotion to the Seven Sorrows by saying seven Hail Marys and meditating on her “dolors”:

  1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
  2. “They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.”
  3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
  4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
  5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy, and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
  6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death—they will see the face of their mother.”
  7. “I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven, and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

These are the Seven Sorrows of Mary:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The loss of Jesus for three days in the Temple
  4. Meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary
  5. Jesus’ crucifixion and death
  6. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  7. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Fernanda, who also wrote “The Hidden Sufferings of Christ,” said that “God is full of surprises and when you place your life into his mighty hands, all things are possible.”

She did not intend to write about the suffering of Mary until a woman in Washington DC called her with the idea.

“I was very surprised and told her I didn’t think I could do it, but she was so convinced I could and should, that I said I would pray about it,” Fernanda recalled.

She asked the Lord to guide her and then went to talk to Fr. James Walsh, the pastor of St. Dominic Church in Cincinnati, who told her, “This is from the Holy Spirit. You have to do it.”

In his foreword to the book, Father Walsh wrote, “In this book, we are invited to get inside the mind and heart of Mary as she experienced the various Gospel events. Fernanda helps us to begin a conversation with Mary that leads us into prayer…This is a beautiful book. May it lead you to a new appreciation of Mary and a deeper relationship with her Son Jesus.”

In her introduction, she wrote, “The Scriptures don’t say much about the sufferings of Mary. So how can we know the silent sorrows in the depths of her heart? The writer of this book doesn’t pretend to know, but as a mother herself, she can easily imagine how great Mary’s suffering must have been, seeing her divine Son so mistreated and killed by those He came to save.”

The meditations take the reader from the Annunciation to the Descent of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the role Mary played in the history of our salvation. The book took her nine months to complete, and she would work on it after she had completed her daily duties as a wife, mother and grandmother.

“During the day, thoughts and inspirations came to me, but it was mostly at night that I had the chance to write,” she said. “Before I did, I always prayed and asked the Holy Spirit and Blessed Mother to give me the words I should write.” She was also assisted by her daughter Paula Dudzinski, who helped with the editing and designed the cover, in addition to finding beautiful artwork to accompany each meditation.

Why 40 meditations? “Just as Jesus, Moses and others in the Bible spent 40 days in the desert, we can spend 40 days meditating on Mary’s suffering and growing closer to her,” she said.

(To obtain a copy of the book or for more information about the Apostolate for the Dying, visit apostolateforthedying.com or holyhourdevotion@gmail.com or write to Apostolate for the Dying, P. O. Box 38-9185 Cincinnati, OH 45238)

St. Mark School in Stratford welcomes students to in-person classes

STRATFORD—As the first week drew to a close on Friday, St. Mark faculty say they aced their first test on back-to-school in the era of COVID-19.

“The kids are so happy to be back at school, as are the teachers,” shared St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner. “Even through their tiny masks you could see the excitement on their faces and they’re being so cooperative with all the health protocols we put in place.”

St. Mark faculty have been meeting all summer long planning the reopening measures, ensuring both teachers and parents had a voice in the planning process.

“I’m so excited to have everyone back,” added grade 8 Teacher Mrs. Agnes Miller. “For most of our students, St. Mark School is a second home.”

Principal Warner said families had two options this fall: in person, five days a week or at-home guided distance learning. Of the school’s 190 students in Pre-K through grade 8, twenty-two students elected remote learning. Students who are ill or presenting any symptoms of COVID-19 can also continue their education remotely if they feel well enough, added Warner.

The school welcomed 51 new students this fall, many of whom transferred from public school. Currently there are waiting lists for kindergarten, grade 4 and grade 8.

Following the guidelines of the CDC and State of Conn., Warner said they rearranged rooms, removed unnecessary furniture and spaced the desks out anywhere from 4 to 6 feet depending on the number of students in the classrooms. The students are kept in cohorts, or small groups, and teachers will move into the classrooms for special programs.

“The smaller size of our school populations and the mission driven zeal of our teachers have allowed us to be flexible in our planning, to use space and instructional time creatively and to create a school environment that is healthy, safe and nurturing,” commented Superintendent of Schools Steven Cheeseman, who is also a St. Mark Alumni Parent and School Advisory Board member.

St. Mark also hired a professional day porter to clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces throughout the day in addition to a second crew who cleans at night. The school also purchased an electrostatic mist machine, also known as a disinfectant fogger, that vaporizes a cleaning solution as an extra layer of sanitation.

“I have to say, it’s run pretty well so far,” added Warner. “It’s an educational experience for everyone. Kudos to the parents, because a lot of them had that conversation at home and now we’re an extension of that conversation.”

As for the parents, Mrs. Warner reports that the feedback has been very positive.

“We could not be happier with how this week went and the clear preparation from principal and staff to make it happen,” commented Deanna Pittore, parent of a St. Mark fourth-grader. “All the extra loving care was evident in every detail. What an amazing job St. Mark is doing to keep our kids in school, safe and still learning.”

St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school, serving students in Pre-K through grade 8. For more information, visit stmarkschool.org or call 203.375.4291.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain: An embrace of social justice is an embrace of faith

BRIDGEPORT—”I hope that my talk today can help you bring home some of the strands of the conversation and hopefully give you the vocabulary to share the information within your parishes, schools and community,” said Dr. Marcia Chatelain, the presenter of the seventh of several webinars titled “Conversations About Race” being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

“I think a lot about the Lenten season when I think about the issue of racism,” said Dr. Chatelain, explaining how living antiracism is connected to one of the most impactful stories of the New Testament.

Dr. Chatelain compared white supremacy to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). “A similar bargain has been put before many people and it is the reason why white supremacy continues to sustain itself and take on many forms. We are often told that we will have the very best, the best financial rewards, schools, opportunities for our children if we bow before some of the tenets and values of white supremacy,” Dr. Chatelain said.

Dr. Chatelain explained that racism is the externalization of the contempt for people because of their racial identity by withholding care, justice or safety; stating that racism is an obstruction of the ability to facilitate and receive these things.

“We are in a moment right now where people feel deeply compelled to pick sides,” said Dr. Chatelain. “One of the reasons why I think this is happening because we have never before had the ability to chronicle who we are in specific moments as we do now,” she referenced social media and our current ability to access information in a way that is quicker and more available than ever before.

“Regardless of where we stand on a position there are structures in place that normalize inequality in the places that are designed to meet health, housing, nutritional, educational, legal and social needs of people,” the speaker said. “What are we allowing in our society to obstruct people from feeling as cared for and loved as the creator has cared for and loved us?”

Dr. Chatelain explained that bias is an unfounded or narrowly dawn preference or affinity for people or peoples at the expense of building substantive and loving relationships with others.

“Especially now, I think we see the importance and human need of community,” she said. “When it comes to racism, we see our immense power to actually intervene in these problems,” said Chatelain, specifically referencing the Church and its great power to create change, especially in light of its great diversity.

Dr. Chatelain explained that segregation is the result of structural racism and interpersonal racism and it shapes all aspects of American life, from school to neighborhood to church.

“Racial scripts comprise what our families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, political parties and other influential entities teach us about difference, human value and acceptable behavior,” explained Dr. Chatelain, making clear that these scripts are sometimes not explicitly written but are enforced by the community we live in.

“We are a faith tradition that is based on renewal,” Dr. Chatelain said. “We have to have the confidence that our faith will pull us through any tension we feel while standing up for racial justice.”

Dr. Chatelain explained that race shapes how people view and perceive the world around them, especially in reference to feelings of freedom and fear, and expression and understanding of faith.

Chatelain also explained that Catholics are very active when it comes to service, especially prison ministry. She urged listeners of the importance of taking this service and turning it into action in terms of great systemic change.

“So much of the work is about a kind of reflection process,” Dr. Chatelain urged listeners to speak from a place of personal experience when discussing racial justice.

About Dr. Marcia Chatelain 

Marcia Chatelain is currently a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  She is a proud native of Chicago, Illinois, and an even prouder graduate of the following schools: St. Ignatius College Prep, the University of Missouri-Columbia (bachelor’s journalism/religious studies), and Brown University (A.M. and Ph.D., American Civilization).  She is a scholar of African-American life and culture, and her first book South Side Girls: Growing up in the Great Migration (Duke University Press, 2015) reimagined the mass exodus of black Southerners to the urban North from the perspective of girls and teenage women. Dr. Chatelain’s latest book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America examines the intersection of the post-1968 civil rights struggle and the rise of fast food industry.

Next Thursday at 7 pm, The Leadership Institute will be hosting a conversation about the conversations facilitated by the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. In this final webinar, listeners will have the opportunity to discuss what differences we can make in our parishes, schools and communities based on the previous webinar conversations.

(Visit formationreimagined.org for more information.)

Diocesan community gathers to pray Rosary for peace

STAMFORD—A statue of Mary surrounded by candles was the focal point at the beautiful St. Mary Church in Stamford on Wednesday night, as members of our diocese gathered for a socially distanced Rosary prayer service for peace and unity in the community.

“This is an effort the ad hoc committee against racism called by Bishop Caggiano has put together,” explained Father Falla, pastor of St. Mary. “We will pray the rosary on this national day of prayer, which is a beautiful day for us to come together in our nation.”

“We pray especially for those who have been victims of racism and prejudice,” prayed Father Falla.

The Rosary was prayed in English, Italian, Hindi, French and Spanish.

“It is a special day for us as we remember St. Peter Claver…a great apostle in the church, who fought against injustice and reached out to people in need, especially those who were enslaved,” explained Father Falla.

At the end of the service, priests that were in attendance gathered at the front of the church to bestow a final blessing on the community.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith and a member of the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, explains that the idea for this event was sparked from a few members’ deep-dive into the USCCB’s document on racism. “The document suggests that all people doing the work of anti-racism consider holding an event on the National Day of Prayer for Peace.”

Weldon shares that members of the committee arrived at the idea for the Rosary because they wanted to take a deliberate step toward change in a way that was humble and prayerful. “We wanted to engage the community while asking Mary to guide us in our work,” says Weldon.

For those who were unable to attend, a live-stream was made available on the diocesan website, which can now be viewed on YouTube.

Assumption re-opens!

FAIRFIELD—Assumption Catholic School nestled in the Stratfield section of Fairfield held its first class of the new year in their new outdoor classroom with its 22 first graders on Friday, September 4.

Mrs. Jennifer Geaney instructed her first-grade class surrounded by beautiful trees, while the statue of Mary looked on. Friday’s perfect weather was the ideal time to kick-off the use of this newly constructed space which will provide additional outdoor time and mask breaks.

Funds from the school’s first spring virtual auction were used to purchase these custom socially distant benches for the entire school’s use. An additional outdoor classroom under a tent will also be used following final construction of its AstroTurf flooring.

Assumption prides itself on looking a challenge head-on and making the best out of the situation for its students and families. The recent events around COVID-19 have certainly presented obstacles for those in education, healthcare and the church. Assumption and it’s parish, Our Lady of Assumption never stopped educating, growing and sharing their faith during these difficult times and “this outdoor classroom is just one more example of how the Assumption community looks forward, looks to stand together, stronger than ever,” stated Mr. Steven Santoli, principal.

Assumption Catholic School proudly opened full-time, five days a week in grades Pre K-8 for in-person learning in a nurturing, academically focused, safe environment this Fall. Assumption additionally offers before and aftercare for its working families in small cohort settings. Specials including physical education, technology, library and art strive to educate the whole student physically and emotionally and also remain offered.  Internal enrichment activities open soon including Cross Country, Lego Robotics league and others that will gradually and carefully be added within the month.

(To learn more about Assumption or to join the family visit: www.assumptionfairfield.org.)

Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger

BRIDGEPORT—“These are always challenging conversations,” Darius Villalobos acknowledged during his webinar on “how to have difficult conversations about race.” “It is now even more important that we are engaging in honest dialogue.”

Villalobos’ conversation was the sixth of several webinars titled “Conversations About Race” being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

Villalobos acknowledged that the challenges that we face as a Church and as a society when it comes to talking about race are ignorance, guilt and fear.

As many other speakers have stressed, Villalobos affirmed that anti-racism work is reflected in Catholic Social Teaching. He explained that racism is a life issue, and being pro-life means being anti-racist. “All lives have dignity because we are made in the image and likeness of God,” said Villalobos.

The speaker explained that Catholics have been addressing systemic issues as a Church for a long time. Organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, the Catholic Worker Movement and Catholic Campaign for Human Development have been doing this work for years.

“Catholic means universal,” said Villalobos, “We are the most diverse religious community in the world and we have the ability to tap into the diversity in our local Catholic communities.”

“It is easy to recognize that this is a really big issue and we want to take action at the national level,” Villalobos explained. “But sometimes we forget that sometimes where these issues really come up is at the local level.”

Villalobos encouraged listeners to be in dialogue with community leaders, ministry leaders, coworkers and colleagues, young people, family members and friends, spiritual guides and directors, and ultimately ourselves about these issues.

“If we don’t speak up, there are other individuals in their lives who might give them a different perspective and be able to have influence over them,” Villalobos explained that we are going to have to have these uncomfortable conversations, as difficult as it may be.

Villalobos explained that it is important to engage in these conversations in a thoughtful, respectful, but prophetic way. “Invite people to think differently,” he said.

“Every conversation can be an opportunity for encounter,” Villalobos said. He explained that encounter is based in authentic relationship, and it is important to consider this when deciding who to engage in these conversations with.

“If you’re going to talk about race start with experiences,” suggested Villalobos. “Starting with stories allows us to listen to others and understand what they are saying.”

Villalobos explained the importance of really listening, instead of just listening to respond. “We have to be charitable,” Villalobos said, “we should allow others to ask questions and use that as an opportunity to explain and teach.” “In that sense of charity we can walk with one another and respect one another,” said Villalobos. “This is ongoing work that needs to be done.” 

“We cannot put the burden on BIPOC, especially those of the Black community to fix the problem of racism—we all have work to do in this,” said Villalobos.

Villalobos suggests that the focus of these conversations should not be based on guilt. He explained that it is important to center the voices of those most affected by racism, as they are often closest to the solution.

 Villalobos gave great advice for what one can do when having difficult conversations about race:

We need to resist the need to respond with a better or different insight about something. We need to be an ally. Being an ally is different than simply wanting not to be racist. Being an ally requires you to educate yourself about systemic racism in this country. Try not to repeat, “I can’t believe that something like this would happen in this day and age.” Ask when you don’t know—but do the work first—education yourself. Stop talking about colorblindness. Be about transformation, restoration, reparation and the Resurrection.

Quoting the Gospel, Villalobos said, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).

About Darius Villalobos

Darius Villalobos currently serves as the director of diversity and inclusion for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). He served in the Archdiocese of Chicago in a variety of ministry roles, including youth ministry, young adult ministry and catechesis. He is a graduate of DePaul University and is also a student at Catholic Theological Union. He has served as a parish RCIA director, liturgical music minister, retreat director, catechist and youth minister.

National Day of Prayer for Peace in our communities

STAMFORD—On September 9 at 7 pm, people from around the diocese will gather to pray a Rosary for peace and unity in our in our communities.

Sponsored by the diocesan Leadership Institute and the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, the service will be held at St. Mary Church at 556 Elm St. in Stamford.

The Rosary for peace and unity will be prayed in multiple languages, the goal being to bring together diverse communities throughout the diocese.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith and a member of the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, explains that the idea for this event was sparked from a few members’ deep-dive into the USCCB’s document on racism. “The document suggests that all people doing the work of anti-racism consider holding an event on the National Day of Prayer for Peace.”

Weldon shares that members of the committee arrived at the idea for the Rosary because they wanted to take a deliberate step toward change in a way that was humble and prayerful. “We wanted to engage the community while asking Mary to guide us in our work,” says Weldon.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, space is limited, so please call 203.324.7321 to reserve your spot. Virtual viewing will be available at bridgeportdiocese.org.