Articles By: Elizabeth Clyons

Immaculate Students welcoming a season of renewal

DANBURY—Continuing with a rigorous academic program, Immaculate High School students are awakening their hearts to transform challenging times into caring times. This vibrant school community ignites its charisms of service and educates the whole student while preparing for a joyful Easter season. During Lent, students have stepped up to support one another and those in the community who are facing daily hardships while pursuing their coursework and extracurricular activities with vigor and grace. Consciously spending more time in prayer whether in the school’s Monsignor Hossan Memorial Chapel or at home, students are embracing their faith through self-reflection, repentance and almsgiving.

During this time of renewal and new beginnings, the school is discontinuing its twelve months of student cohorts and virtual learning by inviting all students to attend class in person. “When reviewing our current mitigation practices, we feel confident with opening our doors to all students to return to the school building,” shares school President Mary Maloney. The school will continue to adhere to all CDC and Danbury Public Health guidance, especially the wearing of face masks for the remainder of the school year.

The school has been able to offer its students the ability to engage in a synchronous hybrid learning environment where fifty percent of the students were in the building and fifty percent attended class remotely. To assist students with the challenges of the hybrid program, the counseling department began offering an increased number of advisory programs and grade level meetings, as well as created a Helping Peer Excel Program, a Scholars Program, a Freshman in the Fold program and a Virtual Calming room, an online space where students can access visuals, sounds and activities designed to help lower stress.  In addition, PSAT, SAT and ACT tests have been administered, students have been participating in regular club activities, and have earned awards in Mock Trial, Cyber Patriots, Engineering, Writing and Art competitions. The school’s athletic teams have been able to participate in league competitions in the fall and winter. Principal Wendy Neil compliments the efforts of teachers, building maintenance teams, support staff and parents for sustaining the ability to provide students with a positive experience. “Everyone has worked so hard to maintain our excellent programs and now we are looking forward to being back together with all of our students,” she exclaims.

With the significant reduction of local positive cases in the Danbury area and the ability for school personnel to be vaccinated, the school’s decision to invite all student’s back to the building was welcomed by faculty and administrators. The school will continue to offer the option for parents who have family members or students who are at high risk of severe illness due to exposure to the disease, to have their child remain enrolled on the school’s virtual student roster.

“Although so many are uncertain about what life may be like after the pandemic, we are certain that our experiences have strengthened our understanding of the lessons of humility, the importance of caring for others, and our need to trust in God’s love. We are extremely thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon our school community and pray that Easter blessings will be abundant for all,” states Maloney.

Our Lady of Guadalupe answers prayers of WestConn students

DANBURY—On a winter day in 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego with a simple request—to build her a little house, a chapel on Tepeyac hill.

“I want to have a church built in this place where your people will know my compassion,” she said. “All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know their Mother’s heart…”

Today, the Basilica of Guadalupe stands at the place where she appeared to St. Juan Diego and millions of pilgrims visit it each year.

When Father Augustine Nguyen was first assigned as chaplain of the Newman Center at Western Connecticut State University in November 2019, students came to him with a simple request for which they had been praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe…to build a larger chapel so they could celebrate Mass and have Eucharistic adoration.

Our Lady had asked Juan Diego to build her a chapel, and the students asked Our Lady to build them a chapel. Today, the students who are members of the Newman Club, have a place for Mass and adoration…and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs in her honor there.

Henry Aquino, whose family is from Mexico, has a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He is the Campus Minister at the Newman Center, and he believes the Blessed Mother answers prayers.

“It is something we had been praying for,” he recalled, “and when Father Augustine came, we dropped the idea on him and said we needed to have a bigger space for students to come to Mass and not be squished in one small room on the second floor. It was so crowded that some students used to stand outside during Mass.”

To have Sunday Mass, the members of the Newman Club had to transform the living room downstairs into a sacred space each week.

The Newman Center is a Catholic campus ministry supported through the Annual Catholic Appeal of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Founded on Gospel values, the community lives its mission through prayer, study, socialization and outreach to the poor. They do all this in the spirit of St. John Henry Newman, who understood the importance of the university in the development of students.

Steffany Gomes, a member of the Newman Club who graduated in 2020, said: “We had this dream of expanding the chapel, and then when we went on retreat and saw an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wondered if she was directing us to move forward and helping us to bring the plan to fruition.

Steffany saw it as an affirmation that Our Lady of Guadalupe was blessing their plans.

“She was pressing on our hearts because she wanted to have us expand the chapel as she did with Juan Diego,” she said. “I believe she was interceding for us and moving us forward to build it.”

Recalling when the students first approached him with their plan, Father said, “I was here two weeks when they came to me with the idea, and I thought, ‘You must be crazy. I don’t think the bishop will ever give me permission to knock down walls…but they prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a new chapel, and here we are now.”

Father told students that if the need were there, they would expand the chapel, and shortly after he began his new assignment, he realized it was too small for the number of students who wanted to worship there.

The expansion required them to knock down a wall and utilize space that had previously been two bedrooms.

“I got some friends of mine who are in construction to knock down the walls, repaint and provide new carpeting and chairs,” Father said. “Now, we can fit over 40 people in the chapel.”

And attendance has increased. Previously, they could accommodate only four or five for weekend Mass, but now the numbers have more than tripled.

Father Augustine was also able to get statues and sacred art from the diocese to adorn the walls.

“This is so important,” said Father, who previously served as chaplain at Kolbe Cathedral High School. “A lot of students are turning away from the faith so to have this house with the chapel offers a friendly environment away from home for the kids to attend Mass, have activities and pray the rosary. We invite them to come back—especially students who might feel uncomfortable going to confession and Mass at their parish.”

Novena to St. Joseph begins

BRIDGEPORT— Yesterday evening, March 10, began the diocesan Novena to St. Joseph. During this nine day devotion, the faithful of the diocese implore the intercession of St. Joseph in preparation for the consecration of the diocese to his patronage, which will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano at a special Pontifical Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral on March 19.

The Novena will continue at 7 pm every evening via Zoom and the diocesan YouTube channel. The faithful will also be able to access the novena through the diocesan website and social media.

“Every evening we will invoke different levels of this venerable saint’s powerful intercession; asking for his protection, care and guidance upon us, so that we may open our hearts more fully to receive the love of the Lord and to embrace the advancement of the Gospel in the world in embarking on invitational ministry, especially during this extraordinary moment in history,” said Father Peter Lenox, episcopal vicar for liturgy and worship, and the host of this Novena. Father Lenox will be joined by various members from around the diocese throughout the coming days, but for this very first day he was accompanied by Bishop Caggiano.

Bishop Caggiano addressed the faithful, “I am grateful that you have taken time out of this evening to join me in this prayer and to commit ourselves to continue this journey towards the consecration.”

The bishop asked that those gathered leave aside the busyness of the day, and to use this half hour or so to rest and reflect in faith about “this remarkable man, who Sacred Scripture records not a single word spoken, and yet to him was instructed the protection and care of the Holy Family.”

“St. Joseph had a tremendously important and noble vocation,” said the bishop, “but he accomplished it with his steadfastness, his perseverance, his fidelity, his quiet courage. And so, we ask St. Joseph to accompany us and to guide us, to protect us and to intercede for us.”

The Novena begins with the Litany of St. Joseph and includes this prayer, “O God, who in your inexpressible providence were pleased to choose Saint Joseph as spouse of the most holy Mother of your Son, grant, we pray, that we, who revere him as our protector on earth, may be worthy of his heavenly intercession. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

In celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis proclaimed a special “Year of Saint Joseph” with the release of his Apostolic Letter Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”).

On March 19, at 7 pm, Bishop Caggiano will consecrate the Diocese of Bridgeport to the patronage of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, at a Pontifical Mass live-streamed from St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport. Pastors throughout the diocese will also celebrate Mass at the same time to link the diocese together in prayer and purpose.

USCCB on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

WASHINGTON– On March 2, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recently approved for use in the United States.

“The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production.  The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.[1] However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”

For further details, we refer people to our earlier December 2020 statement, to our Answers to Key Ethical Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines, to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s Note, and to the statement of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Credit: USCCB

St. Aloysius parishioner creates audio of Pastoral Exhortation

BRIDGEPORT—On Ash Wednesday Bishop Frank J. Caggiano published his first Pastoral Exhortation: “Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord,” which is now available in audio form.

The 5,000 word letter is a call to renewal through a personal and communal journey of faith throughout the year, and it provides the framework that will make it possible. The Pastoral Exhortation was published in full in the February issue of Fairfield County Catholic and is available online through the diocesan website at:

Thanks to the generosity of John Patrick Walsh, an accomplished actor, voice-over talent and parishioner of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, the bishop’s pastoral exhortation is now available in audio form.

“In order to accommodate those who do not have time to read such a lengthy document, I have had the privilege to work with John Patrick Walsh, an accomplished voice actor who has generously given of his time and talent to record my Pastoral Exhortation so that it can reach more of our diocesan faithful,” said the bishop.

The bishop said he hopes that the faithful will be able to listen to it while driving, working or doing household chores—as they do with other podcasts during the day when they have time or are involved in an activity that permits them to listen.

“I was honored to have been trusted with this voiceover project as Bishop Caggiano’s words are so vital to our faith community.  I’ve recorded some Christian audiobooks over the years for Zondervan and Oasis Audio and have always enjoyed getting the opportunity to connect my own faith life with my voiceover work,” said John Walsh.

He added that Bishop Caggiano’s choice in placing emphasis on “The Upper Room” spoke to him in a personal way because he has spent a good part of the pandemic months gathering with friends on Tuesday evenings at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan as part of the parish’s weekly Men’s Ministry with Father David Roman.

“It’s important for men to have a regular gathering place to discuss their faith lives and gain wisdom and strength, especially now as we look forward to our post-pandemic lives. As Bishop Caggiano pointed out, why can’t we come out of this “twilight” period stronger in our faith by connecting more wholeheartedly to Jesus? We can certainly match the darkness with Light, and then some,” said Walsh.

The bishop’s exhortation is a call to personal and communal renewal of faith. His encouraging words come at the right time after a year of suffering and anxiety that has left people feeling dispirited and uncertain about their lives and perhaps about the future of the Church, after the prolonged pause from Mass and the sacraments experienced by so many of the faithful.

The bishop asks the faithful to reflect on the image of the Upper Room in the Gospel of Luke (22: 7-12) and reminds us that it was “where the Lord often gathered with His apostles in times of challenge or decision, to strengthen them for what lay ahead…. In the Upper Room on the night before he died, the Lord fed His apostles both His Word and His Sacred Body and Blood. The same gifts await you and me, if we are willing to receive them.”

While liturgies and other activities are planned for the year, the bishop makes it clear, the call to the Upper Room is not a program but an invitation to join him on “a spiritual journey, seeking the Lord’s grace to transform this time of suffering into a springtime of renewal for the life of the Church.”

Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, he envisions the first part of the year as a time of prayer and intense spiritual preparation that will hopefully lead to more in-person missionary outreach in the fall—an active going out into the community by “ambassadors” to welcome all back and invite others in for the first time.

The diocese is also working on translating the Exhortation into Spanish and it hopes to have that available by the end of this week.

The audio file can be found and listened to in its entirety at: You can also find it wherever you listen to podcasts.


Vandals at Mother Church of Knights of Columbus

NEW HAVEN—On Saturday, Feb. 27, St. Mary Church in New Haven, Connecticut, was the victim of a vandal or vandals. The parish church is also renowned with a shrine of the Infant of Prague and known as the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus. Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights, is entombed in a sarcophagus in the church.

​“Someone either punched or used some object to punch in the center doors’ stained glass windows,” Dominican Father John Paul Walker, the pastor, said. “It was clearly someone wanting to do damage” and “smash in the four stained glass windows that sit in the four main center doors” leading into the vestibule of St. Mary Church.

It was definitely not a matter of trying to break into the church because the damage happened mid-Saturday morning. The church was not locked but open as usual. Some people were inside praying.

In September 2020, St. Mary’s had just reopened fully after a year-and-a-half’s complete historic preservation and artistic renovation.

Father Walker described how each window “suffered what appears to be a single blunt force blow to the center of the window that has caused each to suffer significant indentation as well as pieces of glass being cracked and knocked to the ground.”

Each of the heavy wooden doors which open into the church’s vestibule pictures one of a quartet of female Dominican saints — St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine de Ricci, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

Father Walker described how “there is a lot of damage in terms of the lead being pushed way in. In each, some of the stained glass was cracked and thrown to the ground and vestibule flooring. About one-fifth of the center of each window was punched in and received this severe damage.” While each entire window needs repair, “the edges of these windows are still intact so it does not entail a complete reconstruction.”

This is the first time in his 10 years as pastor of St. Mary’s that such vandalism has happened in this church. However, in July 2020, St. Joseph’s Church which is nearby and also staffed by the same Dominicans at St. Mary’s was spray-painted with graffiti — “satanic” and “anarchist” symbols on its doors.

As heartbreaking as this was, Father Walker urged prayers for the person responsible for the vandalism at St. Mary’s. “Pray for the person who did it,” he said.  “They’re clearly troubled, whether with mental issues or a hatred for the faith or the Church.  Pray for the healing they need and to come to a repentance for what they did” and have a “conversion of heart, that their life might be marked by growth in holiness and virtue, and ultimately for their eternal salvation.”

As for the damaged windows, Father Walker and the parishioners look forward to St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine de Ricci, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Agnes of Montepulciano greeting them on the entrance doors as soon as possible.

By Joseph Pronechen | National Catholic Register

Immaculate food drive helps those in need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional, psychological toll of pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By  Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

St. Mark School celebrates Black History Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jeana Davila

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


Sasha Nguyen, Alejandro Jimenez

Immaculate High School CyberPatriots Team Competes Nationally

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

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

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

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

Catholic Schools Week and beyond at St. Rose School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service 

WSHU General Manager George Lombardi Retires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About WSHU Public Radio

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

Fairfield U Announces Leadership Changes for Mission and Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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