Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

St. Matthew Knights give thanks by ‘leaving no neighbor behind’

NORWALK—Assisting those most in need is one of the many goals of the Knights of Columbus St. Matthew Council 14360. As part of tradition, the council recently joined forces with six local councils from Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Westport and Weston on Saturday, October 24, at the Family & Children’s Agency Community Connections Center in South Norwalk.

More than 300 brand new coats were distributed during the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids event. This event helps keep kids warm over the winter months by providing this necessity. The local event is part of the Knights of Columbus national Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative and, since the program launched in 2009, more than 600,000 coats have been distributed in 49 states and all 10 Canadian provinces.

“While our society is pushing us to purchase items for the Christmas season, we don’t want to forget those that need basic necessities for the upcoming cold winter season,” said Project Chairman and District Deputy George Ribellino, Jr. “It’s great to see brother Knights come together from different councils to combine resources to help more people in need. I started this collaboration within my district back in 2015.”

FCA’s president & CEO, Rob Cashel adds, “Personally, and on behalf of Family & Children’s Agency, I cannot thank the Knights of Columbus enough for their generous efforts to secure 300 new coats for our clients through their Coats for Kids Initiative. During these challenging times, I am truly grateful that there are groups like the Knights of Columbus that dedicate their time and efforts to meeting critical needs in our community.”

On the weekend on November 21 and 22, Council 14360 held a Food for Families Food Drive with students from The Society of St. Theresa at Cardinal Kung Academy. The food drive was held at St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk and the response was incredible. More than 3,000 pounds of food and $400 in donations/gift cards was collected for Catholic Charities’ Room to Grow preschool and their families. The food collected will help feed 35-40 families over the holiday season.

“While food insecurity has become an ever-increasing issue in the area due to the impact of the pandemic, it is our responsibility to help lessen that burden. This is what Knights do—where there is a need, there are Knights close-by ready to jump in and do what we can,” said Council 14360 Grand Knight Anthony Armentano.

On Thanksgiving Day, after Council 14360 members helped usher, read and clean after Thanksgiving Masses, they teamed up with Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100 and the Catholic Daughters of the America’s St. Matthew Court 2640 to provide and deliver individually packaged Thanksgiving meals for the residents of Homes for the Brave for the eighth consecutive year.   

“Our men and women both loved the food and we could not be more appreciative. What a blessing St. Matthew Council #14360, Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100 and Catholic Daughters Court 2640 have been to us. All of us at Homes for the Brave are extremely grateful as you made the day very special for our residents” said Homes for the Brave CEO/Executive Director, Vince Santilli.

In addition, District Deputy Ribellino’s daughter Mia made cards for the veterans and asked students at Notre Dame Fairfield High School to write notes thanking them for their service.

The Council wrapped up the long weekend by delivering several bins of non-perishable food to Blessed Sacrament in Bridgeport. The food was collected at the St. Matthew Annual Thanksgiving Masses. Four carloads were organized by the council and given to Blessed Sacrament Pastor Father Skip Karcsinski “Giving back to those in need during the Thanksgiving season is a blessing for our council. One of the most profound ways we can truly give thanksgiving to God is through serving others,” said Grand Knight Anthony Armentano.

The Council has hosted and assisted with many food drives since the start of the pandemic and will continue to do this indefinitely. In addition, the council has assisted with providing food for those on the frontlines, getting masks to Notre Health and Rehab Center, donating funds and supplies for our veterans at Homes for the Brave and distributing brand new coats for children in need. 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, it is our duty and responsibility 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.

The goal of the Knights of Columbus Council at Saint Matthew Church in Norwalk are to perform acts of charity. Providing those in need with a range of support from financial to tactical help in dealing with a wide variety of challenges. Council members work together to foster the founding principles of our order: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Our goal as a council is to continue to identify specific needs in our community and muster support and help to alleviate these challenges and hardships to the best of our abilities and resources. 

(For more information, please go to kofc14360.net. If you are Catholic man interested in putting your faith in action, join the Knights of Columbus online for free at kofc.org/joinus and use promo code MCGIVNEY2020.)

Seminarians serve others amid pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — A century ago, seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood helped bury Philadelphia’s dead in the global Spanish influenza pandemic.

This year, the young men of St. Charles are helping to keep hungry people alive during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Apostolic work in addition to classroom studies has long been a regular part of the seminarians’ formation in which they fan out two-by-two to schools, senior facilities and other settings to serve people in the community.

But because of the social restrictions of COVID-19, those opportunities for service are gone this year. In their place arose a partnership between the seminary’s apostolic formation program, led by Father George Szparagowski, and Caring for Friends, a private multiservice organization feeding hungry people throughout the area for 46 years.

Sixteen seminarians of St. Charles’ College Division traveled to Northeast Philadelphia Nov. 5 for a four-hour shift at Caring for Friends, assembling meals and boxing them for distribution to people in the five-county region of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The young men split into groups, with some assembling nutritionally balanced meals in single-serving trays in the spacious kitchen. Others worked an assembly line placing seven meals in a box, stacking the boxes on pallets in collaboration with the group Muslims Serve and some young men from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and storing the meals in walk-in freezers for later distribution to homebound seniors.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia’s center city, another group of about a half-dozen seminarians handed out food to homeless visitors at Hub of Hope, a shelter run by Project HOME out of Suburban Station.

Directly feeding the neediest in the community “is eye-opening and pretty awesome,” said Adam Johnson, a fourth-year college seminarian studying for the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

“In helping other people, we’re putting faith in action,” he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

His classmate Rob Bollinger, a member of St. Agnes Parish in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, and a Philadelphia seminarian, put his experience in a broader perspective.

“There’s something really beautiful about serving,” Bollinger said. “It feeds my daily life in the sense that it’s not something temporary (but) more meaningful because it’s not self-serving, but it’s serving others.”

All 24 men in the seminary’s College Division work every other week at Caring for Friends and food centers such as Hub of Hope “to grow in the virtue of charity,” said Father Szparagowski.

He praised the service partnership and said the seminarians enjoy their experience “because it builds up fraternity. We all work together (and) we look forward to it.”

“They see the purpose of their work — feeding people — especially people who come in to pick up food (at parishes). They didn’t realize how many people in Philadelphia need help. A lot of times it’s working-class people that just need food assistance, and that really surprised them. They love helping people, and they love the interaction,” he said.

Especially grateful to provide seminarians with a way to serve the community and to add to the ranks of volunteers he greatly needs is Vince Schiavone, CEO of Caring for Friends.

Formerly called Aid for Friends, it was begun by his mother, Rita, in her Northeast Philadelphia home. Her vision was to set aside some of the family’s dinner each night and bring it to lonely, homebound seniors and deliver them a home-cooked meal and companionship. That work continues under a new name and a greatly expanded mission.

Today, Caring for Friends’ threefold mission continues to include serving seniors. Individuals still provide single-serve meals in aluminum trays, and along with the meals prepared at Caring for Friends’ kitchen, they are frozen and distributed to seniors from its warehouse.

But the operation has ramped up significantly this year. Schiavone said before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, his organization was supporting 2,000 seniors through meals and boxes of food delivered each month in the region. That number has swelled to 33,000 seniors currently.

Caring for Friends also is a food bank that, according to Schiavone, supports shelters, recovery houses and some 250 community food cupboards at parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all houses of worship.

It also supplies food to Muslims Serve, which serves at Hub of Hope, plus St. John’s Hospice, Bethesda Project, Ronald McDonald House and local politicians’ offices where people seek food assistance.

Schiavone said last January, “we were giving out about 100,000 pounds of food a month and during COVID it’s been over a million pounds of food a month.”

His organization also operates a “caring kitchen” where a great deal of food is prepared to be handed out wherever the needs for food exist. That includes making 850 sandwiches each week for one organization alone — the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul — and distributing snack bags made by schoolchildren and community groups throughout the region.

This is the mission of service in which the St. Charles seminarians are immersed.

“Seminarians are helping in a time of great need,” Schiavone said.

By Matthew Gambino | Catholic News Service

Editor’s note: Earlier this month Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced that college-seminarians and pre-theologians from the Diocese of Bridgeport will undertake their formation and studies at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia beginning in January 2021.  (see the November issue of Fairfield County Catholic for the full story).

Virtual Thanksgiving Celebration brings together all faiths

NORWALK—The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop a 40-year-old tradition, as the clergies and choirs of Temple Shalom, United Congregational Church and St. Matthew Parish gathered virtually for an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration of song and worship on the evening of November 24.

“This gathering joins together different faith traditions to both praise God and pray to God. It reminds us that there are good people everywhere, and that we have more that unites us than divides us,” shared Msgr. Orlowski, pastor of St. Matthew Parish.

This tradition in the West Norwalk faith communities began 40 years ago. “It’s a second-to-none gathering that always brings a smile to your face and peace to your heart,” said Monsignor. “It is a marvelous opportunity for people of all faiths to gather to give thanks to our one, true God.”

Rabbi Mark Lipson of Temple Shalom expressed that even though the interfaith community could not all gather in person, they would still be able to create a bridge between faiths through a virtual celebration.

Video footage from past years gatherings featured hits such as, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Reach Out and Touch,” “A Million Dreams “(from the Greatest Showman) and even the combined clergy singing “A Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles.

Mayor of Norwalk Harry Rilling and his wife Lucia brought greetings. “We can never lose sight of the important things in our life—our God, family, friends and the faith that will get us through these difficult times,” said Mayor Rilling.

“We are keeping everyone in mind this time of year,” said Lucia Rilling. “We are wishing the best holiday season to all. Let’s hold on to what this time of year means to all of us.”

“In the midst of fear, uncertainty, suffering pain and even death—the question we ask is how do we cope? What is there that we can hold onto? The answer is faith,” said Father Sunil, parochial vicar of St. Matthew Parish. “The Word of God offers strength and the courage to remain positive. He tells us to not let our hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. We are the children of hope, our God does not abandon us.”

“The vaccines seem promising, we do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” assured Father Sunil. “While we are in the midst of suffering, we should look to him to give us patience, strength and the ability to endure. Through this interfaith service we ask God for the healing of our world and to send peace upon all his children.”

Members of United Congregational Church shared “A Prayer for the World” and the Southworth Family shared a lovely acoustic song.

One of the most memorable moments of the evening came when the Temple Shalom Choir gathered over Zoom to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

“How fortunate we are to live as friends and neighbors and how much we share in common,” said Rabbi Cantor Shirah Sklar from Temple Shalom. “Creativity teamwork and technology helped us to share this service again even in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Use of COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable

WASHINGTON (CNS) — While confusion has arisen in recent days in the media over “the moral permissibility” of using the COVID-19 vaccines just announced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna, it is not “immoral to be vaccinated with them,” the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine and pro-life committees said Nov. 23.

Bishop Kevin J. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, addressed the issue in a memo to their brother bishops.

A copy of the memo was obtained by Catholic News Service Nov. 24.

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production,” the two prelates said. “They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.

“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” they continued. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines, then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”

Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann cited three Vatican documents that “treat the question of tainted vaccines”: the 2005 study by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses”; paragraphs nos. 34-35 in the 2008 “Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions” (“Dignitatis Personae”) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the 2017 “Note on Italian Vaccine Issue,” by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“These documents all point to the immorality of using tissue taken from an aborted child for creating cell lines,” they explained. “They also make distinctions in terms of the moral responsibility of the various actors involved, from those involved in designing and producing a vaccine to those receiving the vaccine.

“Most importantly,” they added, “they all make it clear that, at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.”

In a Nov. 21 statement, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad said CHA ethicists, “in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists,” used the guidelines released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017 on the origin of vaccines and “find nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech (Pfizer’s German partner) and Moderna.”

She also said CHA “believes it is essential that any approved COVID-19 vaccine be distributed in a coordinated and equitable manner,” because COVID-19 “has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income communities, persons with preexisting health conditions, and racial and ethnic minorities.”

CHA encouraged Catholic health organizations “to distribute the vaccines developed by these companies.”

Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann did not point to any specific media outlets claiming the moral unsuitability of the vaccines. However, after Pfizer and Moderna announced their vaccines, at least two Catholic bishops warned against using them, saying they are morally tainted.

On Nov. 11, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that results of a large ongoing study show its vaccine is 95% effective; the vaccine is already being manufactured and has been since October. Five days later, Moderna said preliminary data from its phase three trial shows its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Pfizer and Moderna are applying to the U.S. Food and Drug administration for emergency approval of the vaccines, which would quickly pave the way for distribution of the vaccines. The FDA is to meet Dec. 10.

On Nov. 16, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted the Moderna vaccine “is not morally produced. Unborn children died in abortions and their bodies were used as ‘laboratory specimens.’ I urge all who believe in the sanctity of life to reject a vaccine which has been produced immorally.”

In a Nov. 18 video posted on his diocesan website and subsequent interviews with local media, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of Fresno, California, weighed in on the vaccines, saying: “We all want health for ourselves and for others. We want to promote that also … but never at the expense of the life of another.”

In May, the Trump administration launched Operation Warp Speed, the moniker of its initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to Americans as quickly as possible. The program has funded the manufacturing of six promising vaccine candidates, two of which are the ones announced by Moderna and Pfizer.

As soon as the FDA approves their vaccines for distribution, Operation Warp Speed hopes to distribute 300 million doses around the country by January. Because Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines involve two shots per person, this would be enough to immunize 150 million Americans.

Other COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon include one being developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University.

Like Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann, John Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said a recent interview on the “Current News” show on NET TV, the cable channel of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not themselves produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue.

He expressed “great respect for Bishop Strickland,” calling him “a bold courageous witness to the faith,” who is saying “some true things about issues that go back decades in pharmaceutical research and development,” in the production of vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and other diseases.

But in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Brehany emphasized, any connection to aborted fetus cell lines is extremely remote.

For Dr. Robert Tiballi, an infectious disease specialist in Chicago and a member of the Catholic Medical Association, this indirect use raises an ethical issue for Catholics.

“The fetal cell lines were not directly used in the Moderna vaccine, but they were indirectly used several steps away from the actual development of the vaccine,” he told “Currents News” in a separate interview.

Any such cell lines were derived from tissue samples taken from fetuses aborted in the 1960s and 1970s and have been grown in laboratories all over the world since then.

In its 2005 study, the Pontifical Academy for Life said Catholics have a responsibility to push for the creation of morally just, alternative vaccines, but it also said they should not sacrifice the common good of public health because there is no substitute.

“Catholics can have confidence if there is a great need and there are no alternatives, they are not forbidden from using these new vaccines,” Brehany told “Current News,” but he added: “There is much the church calls us to do in seeking out alternatives and advocating for alternatives.”

Catholics “need to provide the urgency and advocacy” to get pharmaceutical companies to understand there are alternatives to using fetal cell lines to develop vaccines, “so they can see the need for this,” he added, echoing the Pontifical Academy for Life.

A case in point is the decision by Sanofi Pasteur to no longer use an aborted fetal cell line in producing its polio vaccines, a move recently approved by the FDA.

Sanofi is one of the companies currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine by utilizing “cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.” Inovio Pharmaceuticals and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute are other such companies.

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

An Advent poster for 2020

BRIDGEPORT—Each year, The Leadership Institute creates a poster for Advent, Lent, and Summer.

This year’s Advent poster includes “27 Ways to Prepare for Christmas.” Perhaps, in these interesting times, these tips and resources are even more important.

The poster reads: “Preparing for the coming of the Christ child during a global pandemic brings its own set of challenges. Many families will not be able to gather as usual, and many of those who usually serve others in shelters and on the streets might not be able to do so. That means our own preparation must look different this year too. Here are twenty-seven ways your family can prepare for the Incarnation.”

The colorful poster is a great resource for families and parishes, and all those who wish to immerse themselves in this holy season in preparation for the joy of Christmas.

In addition to the popular Advent poster, The Leadership Institute has also compiled a list of the best Advent resources available, just in time to help you and your families celebrate Advent well. They are even categorized for an easy search.

Click here to download a PDF of this year’s Advent poster.

Click here for a plethora of other Advent resources.

Giving Tuesday to focus on St. Francis Xavier Fund

BRIDGEPORT—The St. Francis Xavier Fund will be the focus of the Giving Tuesday appeal of the Diocese of Bridgeport on Tuesday, December 1.

The fund was created to provide resources to vibrant urban Parishes experiencing fiscal challenges during the pandemic.

“During this time of unprecedented prolonged hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Francis Xavier Fund has been very effective in helping parishes that have been critically impacted by dislocation, unemployment and illness,” said Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese.

Gallagher said he hopes that Giving Tuesday will be an opportunity for people around the diocese to rally around the work of the St. Francis Xavier Fund.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith, the fund has been innovative in reaching out to parishes that are vibrant yet financially challenged during the pandemic. “By targeted giving and engaging parish communities including young people, the fund has worked immediately to help those in need,” she said.

In 2020 The St. Francis Xavier Fund has distributed:

  • COVID 19 ‘Phase One’ Emergency Funding Grants to 11 Parishes totaling $230,000
  • Funding for a new boiler in a cold rectory—Bridgeport
  • Funding for gutter repairs to stop a major leak into a Church and repair associated interior damage—Stratford
  • Funding for a comprehensive parish Technology & Communication Enhancement Project—Bridgeport

Weldon said that as a result of St. Francis Xavier Fund grants many parishes have “stood strong as outstanding disciples of faith; by helping each other with child care, online learning, food sharing and being continually in prayer.”

However, with the resurgence of the coronavirus, the needs are expected to grow, Gallagher said and he believes the Giving Tuesday will help others to focus on the urgent needs of parishes and those they serve.

“Giving Tuesday on December 1 is an opportunity for us all to band together and declare the COVID-19 pandemic will not defeat us! We will help our brother and sister Parishes survive, then thrive, because we are a family in faith. We are being called!”

The St. Francis Xavier Fund is part of Foundations In Faith, a 501c-3 recognized charity, established by the We Stand With Christ capital campaign,  that is committed to supporting and transforming pastoral ministries in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

(To contribute to the St. Francis Xavier Fund please visit: www.bridgeportdiocese.org/stfrancisfund.)

Queen of Saints Hall serving as COVID testing site

BRIDGEPORT—To help combat the spread of COVID-19 in the greater Bridgeport area, the Queen of Saints Hall of the Catholic Center is now being used as an on-site location for both COVID-19 and antibody tests.

The Diocese of Bridgeport announced an agreement with Progressive Diagnostics, LLC of Trumbull, a clinical medical laboratory, which has begun providing high-volume, COVID-19 PCR (saliva) testing along with antibody blood tests (beginning next week) that are FDA EUA approved.

“We’re very proud of this initiative, which is offering an essential service to help flatten the curve and safeguard lives in our community,” said Deacon Patrick Toole, episcopal vicar for administration of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“Masks, testing and contact tracing are essential until there is a widely available vaccine, and this offers a timely new option for people, particularly as the pandemic is expected to surge over the next few months,” said Deacon Toole.

Curt Kuliga, entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Progressive Diagnostics in Trumbull, said, “Our whole purpose is to expand access to quality affordable care. We are simply blessed to be in partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport and the forward-thinking leadership of Deacon Pat Toole, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and many of the clergy and staff, who are committed to expanding care in their communities during the pandemic.”

“The collaboration with the Church will not only provide access to FDA EUA authorized PCR saliva testing, but it will also add jobs as we continue to expand patient collection centers throughout the diocese. The Church has an altruistic spirit, which aligns well with our company’s thinking.”

Brian Bellows, chief strategy officer of Progressive Diagnostics, who is a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull and has served for many years on the board of St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, has been instrumental in forging the partnership, which may bring additional test sites to other diocesan locations.

Deacon Toole said the decision to open Queen of Saints Hall for testing is consistent with the considerable health and safety protocols the diocese has introduced in its parishes and schools since the beginning of the pandemic.

He said that Progressive Diagnostics has designed a system that ensures all patients are socially distant and professional specialized cleaning is performed between visits and every evening. As an added measure, the HVAC units that supply the heat/ac to the hall are being equipped with state of the art Air Scrubber ActivePure Technology to purify the air and reduce exposure to bacteria and viruses, FDA EUA approved.

“Their primary concern is the safety and health of their patients, Catholic Center employees and the community. Accordingly, they implemented policies and procedures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Deacon Toole said.

Queen of Saints Hall provides a separate entrance for those who come to the building for testing. The side door to the hall, adjacent to the parking lot, also allows for easy access, while the rest of the 75,000 square foot building remains off-limits.

All testing is by appointment only with times available between 9 am-5 pm Monday through Friday during the week and a separate drive-up testing on Saturdays 9 am–3 pm within the parking lot.

Testing results are generally available within 48 to 72 hours. Progressive Diagnostics accepts all forms of health insurance.

Catholic Center building unites two eras of pandemic

The repurposing of part of the 75,000 square foot Catholic Center campus to respond to a pandemic unites two eras in the Church and in Bridgeport history.  While the facility now houses the Offices of the Bishop and many diocesan ministries and programs, much of the building history is related to its role as a contagious disease hospital.

First opened in 1917 in response to the Spanish flu, it was hailed as a modern hospital, the structure was known to generations of area residents as Englewood Hospital, as it treated successive waves of scarlet fever, mumps, measles and polio.

The original 1917 building is the 25,000 square foot, u-shared, core carved into the hillside of what was then a remote, 10-acre site. The west wing was added in 1929 along with a 25-room nurses residence The east wing was opened in 1937 to meet the rising need for health care in the growing city.

The building was expanded again in 1962 when the Diocese of Bridgeport purchased the site as the home of Notre Dame Girls High School after the city closed the hospital. The project, which included bump-outs in back, interior redesign, creation of 29 classrooms and a new gym, now the Queen of Saints Hall.

According to officials at the University of Connecticut Health Center, the 1918 Spanish flu has been described as the catastrophe against which all modern pandemics are measured. Health experts believe that as many as 100 million people around the globe may have perished in the outbreak—which is believed to have infected up to 40 percent of the earth’s population.

The Spanish flu had a grim efficiency that rivaled the medieval plague. Many of the 1918-19 victims woke up in full health and were dead within 24 hours—dying of suffocation after their lungs filled with fluid. Eight thousand people died in Connecticut during the last four months of 1918.

The Catholic Center is located at 238 Jewett Avenue in Bridgeport.

Christmas Vigil Masses can begin at 2 PM

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued a decree permitting the celebration of Christmas Vigil Masses beginning at 2 pm in parishes throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport on December 24, in order to provide more options to the faithful seeking to safely attend Mass on Christmas.

“With this provision, it is my desire and hope that each parish priest or rector ensure that enough Masses are celebrated in order to allow the reasonable accommodation of all the faithful who wish to personally attend a Holy Day Mass for Christmas,” said the bishop in the decree, which was issued on November 16 in response to the worsening coronavirus crisis.

In the decree the bishop references the ongoing pandemic and State health regulations restricting attendance at religious gatherings.

The decree states that “as we are nearing the celebration of the Holy Days of the Nativity of the Lord, the faithful are generally in need of more options to be offered by their pastors to attend the Christmas Holy Day celebrations.”

The earlier vigil time represents a one-time exemption for Christmas 2020 because of the extraordinary situation created by the pandemic, the larger number of people expected to attend Mass at Christmas, and the need to socially distance and follow other procedures to safeguard health.

Diocesan policy requires people to register in advance for Mass in order to help parishes plan and to facilitate the notification of other parishioners if someone tests positive.  The faithful are also asked to wear a mask and practice safe distancing when they are in Church.

Click here to read the Bishop’s New Decree for the Celebration of Christmas Vigil Masses

Priest serves the sick and dying during pandemic 

STAMFORD—During the COVID-19 pandemic, Father Matthew Mauriello, chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Orinoco Assembly #126, has been serving the sick and dying at St. Camillus Center in Stamford.

“We are so fortunate to have him during this pandemic,” says Marjorie Simpson, senior executive director at the St. Camillus Center, explaining how Father Mauriello would go room to room to visit residents.

“With this coronavirus situation, families of the residents were not allowed hold their hand as they were dying,” says Father Mauriello, explaining how, after serving at the center for years, he had acquired contact information of resident’s older children and built up relationships with them.

Thomas Kolenberg, a member of St. Augustine Council #41 in Stamford tells a story of how he found out his mother was COVID-positive. “I really thought it was the last time I would see my mother,” he says.

Kolenberg describes arriving at the center at the same time as the ambulance. Father Mauriello ran back to the sacristy, put on his protective gear, and heard Kolenberg’s mother’s confession, gave her holy communion and anointed her.

Kolenberg’s mother was the very first patient at St. Camillus to go from COVID-positive to COVID-negative. “Father Matt was there the whole time to make sure that she continued to receive the sacraments, because of his charism as a priest and as a Knight of Columbus.”

“It has made all the difference that there is such a comforting soul here, who is 100 percent there for us, praying for us” says Simpson.

Watch the full video from the Knights of Columbus here.

St. Mary parishioners find a way to safely celebrate All Saints Day

RIDGEFIELD—On Friday, November 6, parishioners of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield wanted to do something to safely commemorate All Saints Day, even during these uncertain times.

Parishioner John Papa offered to hold a safely distanced and limited in number gathering at his farm in South Salem.

Some of the children and parents even dressed up as saints to celebrate!

About St. Mary’s in Ridgefield

Saint Mary Parish, a vibrant Roman Catholic Family of Faith, Love, and Service, located in beautiful Ridgefield, Connecticut, serves over 3,000 families in upper Fairfield County, Conn,
as well as Westchester County, N.Y.

(To learn more about the parish visit: www.stmarysridgefield.org.)

SHU to assume management of Discovery Museum

FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University announced today that, after a series of talks initiated by leaders of the Discovery Museum, it will assume management of the museum at 4450 Park Avenue in Bridgeport. The museum is down the street from the University’s Fairfield campus. The agreement is effective January 1, 2021, and will continue through the existing land lease that has 67 years to go.

The University will completely modernize and enhance the exhibits to offer state-of-the-art and interactive and educational exhibits and programs in science and technology. The planetarium has been completely updated during this past year—a priority for the museum. It offers a realistic simulation of the starry sky. The images completely envelop viewers’ senses for an immersive theater experience.

The museum has been known throughout its 62-year history for providing hands-on STEM learning experiences. These experiences—designed to encourage questions and problem-solving from young learners—will be enhanced by the creativity and expertise of SHU faculty and students.

“With the University’s focus on becoming a regional leader in STEM and computer science education, and the museum’s great track record for exciting and fun STEM learning opportunities, along with our strong shared values, this coming together will benefit both institutions and the community at large,” said Michael Alfano, dean of Sacred Heart’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education.

Affiliation with a museum puts Sacred Heart University in the company of other universities that have exciting and dynamic museums that they have integrated with their academic missions to benefit both the university and the surrounding community.

The museum is currently going through a $1.8M upgrade funded by the state. Improvements are being made to the planetarium, exhibits, classrooms and more.

Discovery prides itself on showcasing local artists in gallery space and on encouraging creativity and individual expression through STEM activities, and none of that will change under SHU’s management. The University plans to host various STEM-area (STEAM) student events such as science-based competitions and similar programs, summer internships for SHU undergrads and area high school students and special programs for area school children. For example, it will present opportunities for new activities for students in SHU’s Upward Bound program and the Horizons at SHU program—both during the summer and on weekends. This may include shows in the Henry B. duPont III Planetarium, simulated space missions in the Challenger Center and presentations animated on Science on a Sphere.

The University also plans to use the museum as a hub for professional development opportunities for the region’s STEM and computer science education communities with opportunities for internships for students in education, marketing, media, management, communications, graphic design and more. It will also give faculty an opportunity to develop exhibits for SHU classes and the public.

By leveraging the two organizations and growing the museum’s offerings in science, the arts, media and technology, the University foresees opportunities to increase school district involvement that could align naturally to future collaborative initiatives. These could include producing web-based resources for STEM/STEAM teachers and leveraging museum content with other University assets such as WSHU, the performing arts program, the Community Theatre in Fairfield and its many partners in the community.

The museum will speak to the University’s core mission, providing a space for academic exploration and experiential learning, especially in the areas of education and science. Students will also be involved in other areas such as hospitality and management.

“This project is another example of how a University gives back to the community where it resides,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “We plan to continue to offer new and exciting programs and displays for families while also offering new opportunities for our students to learn and teach. With ever-changing programs and exhibits, we hope to make it a venue that people will visit again and again.”

“The Discovery Museum and Planetarium staff and trustees are proud to join with Sacred Heart University in this momentous collaboration. Sacred Heart University shares our continuing commitment and mission to providing a strong STEM education experience to our community. Working together we’ll realize a new and vibrant future for all who study and visit with us,” said Robert A. Panza, chairman of the Discovery Museum and Planetarium.

“We are excited about the options for new and creative opportunities for students in our teacher preparation and leadership programs and for College of Arts & Sciences students in STEAM,” Alfano said. “This will give both students and faculty a chance to show their creativity and, especially, to focus on much-needed STEM programs.”

Take Gospel to troubled people during pandemic

CLEVELAND (CNS) — Admitting that people’s faith in God “has been shaken” by the pandemic and related economic turmoil, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez called on his fellow bishops to take the news of the Resurrection and the triumph of life over death directly to people to help them navigate the crises.

“At the heart of their fears are fundamental questions about divine providence and the goodness of God,” said Archbishop Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Nov. 16 during an online address on the first day of bishops’ annual fall general assembly.

“This is far more than a public health emergency,” he said. “Everywhere we see spreading the fear of illness and death.”

The assembly was taking place entirely online for the first time because of the pandemic. Archbishop Gomez’s address was prerecorded.

The archbishop said the pandemic illustrates that the core message of the Gospel — Christ’s love for every person, the power of the cross and the promise of the resurrection — “is fading from our neighbors’ hearts.”

“Brothers, in this time of death, we hold the word of life. We come in the name of the God whose love is stronger than death,” he said.

The times, with their social unrest and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, “call for heroic Christianity,” he explained. “We need to continue to form and empower missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls us to do.”

Citing the example of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus and who was beatified Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, Archbishop Gomez suggested the bishops confront modern-day injustices “by living the Gospel.”

He recalled how for the priest, “love was not an abstraction or cause” because he knew the faces of “the widow and the orphan, the father with no job, the prisoner on death row.”

“Following the courageous example of Blessed Michael McGivney, the church needs to weep now with those who are weeping,” he said. “We need to tell our neighbors the good news that we have a Redeemer. Who died, so that we might live. Who passed through the valley of the shadow of death so that we should fear no evil, not even death.”

He noted how Blessed McGivney died during the 1890 flu pandemic in which over 1 million people lost their lives worldwide. He said the likely future saint can be “a model and intercessor for our own ministries.”

Archbishop Gomez also pointed to the USCCB’s strategic plan the bishops were set to approve during the assembly as a path forward for ministry. Titled “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope,” it sets the mission for the bishops “to continue to bring healing and hope to the people of our time,” he said.

In opening his address, Archbishop Gomez paused a moment to remember the children and adults within the church who are victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

He also expressed “deep sorrow” and offered prayers that the victim-survivors “might find healing and hope” while acknowledging the Vatican’s recently released report on Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal who rose through the church’s hierarchical structure despite years of rumors of sexual impropriety.

“Let us renew our commitment today to protecting children and vulnerable adults and to eliminate this scourge of abuse from the church,” he said.

By Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service

‘What it means to be a veteran’ poster and essay contest

NEWTOWN—The Knights of Columbus recently sponsored the “What it means to be a Veteran” essay and poster contest held at St. Rose School.
Seventh-graders participated in the poster contest and eighth-graders participated in the essay contest.  A committee of Knights of Columbus from St. Rose of Lima Parish, Council 185, reviewed the submissions and selected the top 3 in each category.
According to Knight Len Moritz who ran the contest, they were impressed with the quality of all essays and posters which showed the students’ reverence for veterans.  Due to current restrictions, the Knights could not present the awards in person, instead, Miss Patricia Vertucci, middle school language arts teacher, read Mr. Moritz’s comments and presented the awards at school Friday morning, November 13.
The winners are:
Benjamin Haddad, First place essay
Alexis Keane, Second place essay
Lily Fagan, Third place essay
Ethan Kravec, First place poster
Anna Campolettano, Second place poster
Chloe Geloso, Third place poster
As a special tribute, the Knights put together a slideshow of photos submitted by St. Rose School parents of family and friends who are veterans.

St. Mark students honor Vicki Soto’s legacy

STRATFORD—Each year, the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund organizes a family friendly 5K race. Supporters are invited to gather on the first Saturday of November in the picturesque Lordship section of Stratford, Vicki’s hometown.

Like most events this year, the 8th Annual Vicki Soto 5K went virtual. However, that did not stop Stratford’s St. Mark School from embarking upon a new way to celebrate the life of Vicki, the 27-year old first grade teacher who lost her life in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.

The St. Mark School Community, who assembled a team of 84 runners last year, quickly brainstormed on ways to support this worthy cause. Students purchased Limited Edition Race T-Shirts for $10 and the school initiated a $5 “dress down day,” where in lieu of their uniform, students could wear to school pink, green or anything decorated with flamingos, Vicki’s favorite animal.

“As a former first grade teacher, I often reflect on how Vicki Soto’s selfless actions embody the life of Christ,” shared St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner. “I am so proud that our school community continues to honor her legacy.”

This year, St. Mark School raised $600 for the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund. The fund awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in education. To date, they have awarded $180,000 in educational scholarships and provided $100,000 in literacy, educated and community enrichment.

(St. Mark School, Stratford’s only Blue Ribbon School, provides an academically rigorous, faith-based education to students in grades Pre-K through 8. St. Mark School is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. For more information, please visit www.stmarkschool.org.)

Pew from ‘mother parish’ dedicated in Trumbull

TRUMBULL—Wednesday, November 4, was the liturgical memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, who served as Archbishop of Milan in the 16th century, and was one of the truly great pastors and saints in the Church’s history. “The name of St. Charles is especially familiar to us here at St. Catherine’s, because our ‘mother parish’ in Bridgeport—from whose territory our parish was formed in 1955—is named for him,” said Father Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. “There is a beautiful stained glass window of St. Charles about half-way along the north wall of the church, on the Blessed Mother’s side,” he explained.

On Sunday, November 8, St. Catherine of Siena welcomed Msgr. Christopher Walsh, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, for a special blessing and dedication at their 11 am Mass.  “When we were doing the Christ at the Center project last year, I wanted to incorporate some tangible link with our ‘mother parish’ as part of that project,” Father Marcello explained. “Earlier this year, Msgr. Walsh gave us a pew that for many decades was located in the lower church of St. Charles. Generations of students of St. Charles School – including my father and grandmother—attended Mass there, and generations of faithful sat, knelt, and prayed there at Masses, Novenas, Adoration and other devotions.”

The pew became available to St. Catherine’s due to the fact that many pews in the lower church of St. Charles were removed years ago to make room for Religious Education classrooms.

Jim Panullo, director of Parish Operations and a skilled woodworker, cut the pew down and refinished it.

“The pew is available in St. Catherine’s Memorial Chapel to provide a place for quiet prayer and contemplation, and as a tangible link with the parish in Bridgeport from whose territory our parish was carved out, and from which so many of our original families came,” said Father Marcello. “I am grateful to Linda Marini and her late husband Enrico for underwriting the cost of the project,” he added.