Articles By: erik shanabrough

STRATFORD – Bethlehem House has once again opened its doors and welcomed new families, after recently renovating one of its houses that help homeless families get a new start.
A community ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the new beginning not only for the refurbished house at 389 Jackson Avenue but for the many families who will be given an opportunity to begin a better life.

“As soon as we opened it up, we were able to find families in need,” said Michael Donoghue, director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, the organization that manages the houses.

He said the need is real and believes with the moratorium on evictions, set in place during the pandemic that are now ending, the situation could get worse. “We are seeing more people who are housing insecure and for those that suffer from housing insecurity, this huge spike in housing costs is a terrible thing,” Donoghue said.
Bethlehem House is a grassroots transitional and supportive housing program.

In the 1990s, Deacon Paul Kurmay, inspired by the Holy Spirit, decided to study the issue of homelessness in the Stratford area and The Stratford Coalition for the Homeless, a private non-profit group, was born. He said they found that the biggest population of homeless people were families.

“We explored the idea of trying to open a shelter for homeless families and that got nowhere,” he said, partly because of zoning requirements and partly due to the stigma of the homeless and communities objecting to having a shelter in their neighborhood.

At that point the group decided to shift their focus away from homeless shelters to transitional homes for homeless families.

They found a home on Jackson Avenue with four apartments. It was in bad shape and in need of repair. They purchased it with donated funds and grants and decided to refurbish it. This time, no zoning was required and the neighborhood welcomed the idea of having the home in good condition and occupied.

“The houses were a blight on the neighborhood before,” said Deacon Kurmay, adding that it’s remarkable how the community came together and renovated the house with volunteer labor.

“The community wrapped itself around us. Professional qualified people donated services including rewiring the houses. There were thousands of hours of volunteer work and materials,” Deacon Kurmay said.

The name Bethlehem house is an homage to the most famous place that housed the homeless Christ child and family and befittingly, the first house opened its doors in the year 2000 for Christmas, when the first families moved in.

The following year, the house next door, 389 Jackson Avenue, came up for sale and after some renovations, welcomed new families in 2001.

In 2005, Jenny Tetaj and her three children were one of the families to move into Bethlehem House at 379 Jackson Avenue.

“I felt safe when I stepped into that (Bethlehem) house that night,” Tetaj said. “I felt this is where I belong.”

Tetaj, who is originally from Europe and didn’t speak much English at the time, said she left an abusive husband with her three young children in tow. After staying at several shelters over the course of several months she found her way to the Bethlehem House.

“If it wasn’t for Bethlehem House, I would never be where I am today,” said Tetaj, whose children are now adults. “I thank God and all the people who were there to walk me through everything.”

“Bethlehem House helped me achieve the goals in my life,” she said, from getting a job, to driving a car and now owning a home of her own through working with Habitat for Humanity.
“I felt like I’m around people who didn’t let me down,” she said. “I like to be independent and that is exactly what they did for me.”

“I will never forget the journey,” she said and although times are a little tough now, she is currently working as an Uber driver after having lost her job in manufacturing due to the pandemic, her spirit to succeed is still strong.

“I didn’t give up back then and I will not give up now,” she said.

It’s that sentiment of perseverance that also keeps the program moving forward.

In 2007-2008, “the coalition very generously gave the two homes to Catholic Charities to run,” Donoghue said. Somewhere along the way the second home fell into disrepair and was not occupied for several years, until now.

Catholic Charities applied for and received a community development block grant from the city of Stratford.

With rejuvenated interest, the community and neighbors rallied behind efforts to once again, address the needs of the second home.

“We want these formerly homeless families to feel the love from the community,” Donoghue said reflecting on how neighbors helped with small projects around the house including landscaping.

The upkeep on the houses can be challenging and there’s still work to be done.

The newly renovated house will need a new roof soon and donations from community members including the Rotary Club and the Mayor’s Charity Golf Tournament, will go toward that effort, Donoghue said.

Nine families currently live in the two houses. The bottom floor of one of the houses is used for offices, meeting space and social services to assist the families with life skills and finding permanent housing. Families pay rent according to their income level and some may be subsidized through Section 8 or other means. Families live in the house for about one year.

Deacon Kurmay said, Tetaj’s Cinderella story demonstrates why Bethlehem House is key to changing people’s lives for the better.

“We are getting people off the street and into a permanent home of their own,” he said.

“The neighbors are happy and friendly and supportive,” Deacon Kurmay said. “It’s a success story that builds community. It’s beautiful. This is all the Lord’s work.”

Ronald J. Bianchi, age 78, of Trumbull, beloved husband of Lynette Carosella Bianchi, passed away on Saturday, July 24, 2021 with his loving family by his side. Born in Hartford on December 13, 1942, he was the son of the late Armando and Rose Santamaria Bianchi. He was a graduate of Suffield Academy and Fairfield University and held a Master’s degree in Guidance from Fairfield University and a Sixth Year degree in Educational Administration from the University of Bridgeport.

After 37 ½ dedicated years, Ron retired as Senior Vice President of St. Vincent’s Medical Center and the President of the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation. He was instrumental in creating the Swim Across the Sound and growing it from a grassroots event into a major fund raising endeavor and was very proud of the support the Swim provided to so many people impacted by cancer. Ron raised over 350 million dollars in his career as Foundation President to support the medical center.

He was well respected in the field of philanthropy. He truly loved the hospital and his role there. Throughout his lifetime, he was a member of many organizations both community and professional. He was the recipient of multiple awards from many different groups. He served on the Board of the United Way and other community boards, and was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a District Deputy. He was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken person who always had an encouraging word and a smile for anyone he met. Quietly and without fanfare, he helped countless people navigate through difficult times in their lives.

He was a true gentleman. Ron was a longtime member of the Brooklawn Country Club and recently of the Tashua Knolls Senior Men’s Club.

But above all things, he was a dedicated and loving husband, brother-in-law and uncle, who will be deeply missed by all.

In addition to his beloved wife, Lyn of 53 years, survivors include his sister-in-law, Pamela C. Madonia and her husband Peter, niece and nephew, Jennifer Madonia and her husband Dennis Colclough and Marc P. Madonia and his wife Amy, as well as many cousins, dear friends and co-workers. He also leaves behind his beloved Norwich Terriers, Corky, Lili and Stryker.

Relatives and friends may greet the family on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 from 4-7 p.m. at the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Rd., Trumbull. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, August 4, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. directly in St. Theresa Church, 5301 Main Street, Trumbull. Interment will follow in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Trumbull. Memorial Contributions may be made to Swim Across the Sound c/o St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation, 2800 Main St., Bridgeport, CT 06606. To leave an online condolence, please visit


Congratulations to Kennedy Do, rising 6th grader at All Saints Catholic School in Norwalk. Kennedy received a Rising Star Mention in a competition sponsored by Math and A1 Girls.

The Math and AI Girls Competition aims to encourage young girls to develop an interest in math and AI by taking part in STEM competitions at an early age. This competition also aims to encourage long-term planning of academic and career goals in STEM. The competition was open to middle school female students throughout the United States. Award recipients are selected based on their aptitudes, activities and aspirations in STEM.

Kennedy’s answers and essay were considered in the final judging process and she was part of the Rising Stars group that received a mention (certificate) and a prize from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), one sponsor of the event.

“The goal of the organization is to challenge girls to go the extra mile, to learn at school but at the same time go beyond it and learn new things as well, with support from school, teachers, and parents,” said Mr. Xavier Guzman, All Saints Science and STEAM teacher.

The competition has one set of problems for girls to challenge themselves and provide the best possible answers to them. In addition to the problem set, they had to write an essay about why they like STEAM, and what is their ideal future in the area.

Thank you to Mr. Xavier Guzman for organizing the submissions and encouraging our students to participate!

All Saints Catholic School is a fully accredited elementary/middle school with approximately 450 students in Preschool through 8th grade. With two classrooms per grade, the school provides an environment rich in academic, spiritual and emotional learning. For more information on All Saints, visit


WASHINGTON- On Wednesday evening, the House voted 217 to 212 in favor of H.R. 4373, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) appropriations bill. H.R. 4373 excludes the Helms Amendment, which says that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”  

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:   
“By eliminating the Helms Amendment, H.R. 4373 could force recipient countries that have strong legal and cultural opposition to abortion to embrace it in order to receive desperately needed help for their people. Pope Francis has referred to this type of situation as ideological colonization. Moreover, this legislation pays for abortions and abortion advocacy with the hard-earned tax dollars of Americans—75 percent of whom say their tax dollars should not be used to pay for abortion overseas. While this legislation contains many positive provisions that provide assistance to the poor and vulnerable worldwide, including protection of refugees, increases to humanitarian assistance, and protection of the environment, nothing can justify subsidizing the taking of innocent human life.

“We call on the Senate to stand against the coercive pro-abortion policies of H.R.4373 and for Congress to ultimately pass appropriations bills that respect conscience and the lives of all the vulnerable, both here and abroad.”

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 30, 2021)—On the eve of the feast of St. Ignatius (July 31) The Diocese of Bridgeport and Fairfield University—one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States—are celebrating a strategic partnership that supports pathways to higher education, and a platform for access to the University’s resources for the people of the Diocese and the greater Bridgeport community.

The partnership titled “Pathways to Higher Learning,” consists of ongoing projects and joint initiatives, some of which are already underway, and others that are in the planning stage, and are expected to be announced more formally later this year.

The project is one of the University’s targeted initiatives during the current, special Ignatian year which will extend to July 31, 2022. The year was designated the Ignatian year by the Superior General of the Society Arturo Sosa S.J., and began on May 20, the 500th anniversary of when Ignatius the soldier was injured by a cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona, a moment that lead to Ignatius’ conversion and ultimately to his discernment of his spiritual vocation, and hence to the foundation of the Society of Jesus.

“Catholic education has transformed lives in our community and across generations by forming and informing students to lead faithful, productive and fulfilling lives,” said The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. “At a time when we are more aware than ever about the work that needs to be done to make our institutions and opportunities more equal and inclusive as a society, we welcome this partnership with Fairfield University.

The bishop said that Fairfield University’s Jesuit tradition of academic excellence and its commitment to reach out to the diverse communities of Fairfield County is a major resource that can help students discover higher education opportunities and reach their potential.

Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD said that the University has worked with the Diocese through ongoing learning, mentoring, and service opportunities.

“As a Jesuit Catholic institution, Fairfield University is an expression of an almost 500-year tradition dedicated to the life-transforming power of education. We believe that by working together with community partners such the Diocese, we can have a significant impact and raise the level of educational access and achievement in our region, and further fulfill our promise as 21st century university.”

The Diocese’s Catholic Center at 238 Jewett Avenue will serve as a hub for the University’s work in Bridgeport and partnership with the Diocese. Current initiatives include The Bridgeport Tuition Grant program, which provides full-tuition scholarships for eligible students whose family incomes is less than $50,000 a year; the Community Scholars Program that offers full-tuition scholarships for top-performing students, including those from diocesan schools; and the Aquinas Fellowship Program, which provides tuition support for diocesan teachers to attend graduate programs at Fairfield University.

The University also holds a Financial Aid Night and a College Planning and Preparation Workshop to help families in the diocese plan for and apply to college. Since 2008, through the University’s Center for Social Impact, hundreds of University students have worked with diocesan partners such as Caroline House, Catholic schools, and the Thomas Merton Center to support program delivery through community-engaged learning courses and research projects.

Finally, the University is in the process of developing programs to serve students from Bridgeport next summer, to broaden their access to educational opportunities. The programs currently being explored include locating writing camps, science camps, and engineering camps at the Diocese’s Catholic Center in summer 2022.

Among other programs, Fairfield University and the Diocese of Bridgeport have also worked together through Fairfield’s Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, which provides spiritual direction to students and members of the community of all faith, and parishioners throughout the diocese.

More than 2,100 students are currently enrolled in Catholic high schools throughout the diocese, and nearly 5,000 students are enrolled in the 19 elementary and middle schools, and one special needs school. The Diocese also provides religious education to almost 22,000 public school students who are enrolled in the 77 diocesan parishes in Fairfield County.

The Diocese of Bridgeport includes more than 460,000 Catholics in Fairfield County, Connecticut, representing 45 percent of the total population. Geographically it encompasses all of Fairfield County. In addition to its schools the diocese sponsors a wide range of programs and services including Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, The Cardinal Shehan Center and the McGivney Center for inner-city children in downtown Bridgeport, and two of the state’s largest soup kitchens through Catholic Charities, the Thomas Merton House of Hospitality in Bridgeport; and the New Covenant Center in Stamford.

Media Contact: Susan Cipollaro,, 203-254-4000 ext. 2726

On Thursday, July 22nd, Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly announced that the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus earned the Pinnacle Award for the 2020-2021 fraternal year. This is the first time that Connecticut has achieved this distinction.

The Supreme Knight’s Pinnacle Award is the highest honor a jurisdiction can achieve. Annually the Supreme Knight recognizes those Circle of Honor state deputies who have demonstrated extraordinary achievements across several membership categories. This year those categories included new members, net membership growth, active councils recruiting and the recruitment of younger members. Achieving Pinnacle means that the jurisdiction substantially exceeded even the requirements for Circle of Honor.

The award will be presented to Past State Deputy Gary McKeone (State Deputy for 2020-2021) at the Supreme Convention in New Haven on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

“It is a testament to the hard work of the members here in Connecticut and their dedication to our Order. They demonstrated what it means to be a Knight of Columbus and made it their mission to share Blessed Michael McGivney’s vision with the people of Connecticut. To be recognized by Supreme Knight Kelly and the Supreme Council for what we achieved is truly a blessing,” said Past State Deputy Gary McKeone.

In 2020 the over 23,000 members of the Knights of Columbus in Connecticut donated over $1 million dollars to various local charities while volunteering over 250,000 hours of community service. Now more than ever, with the ongoing pandemic, there is a need for more Catholic men to serve in our communities and parishes.

About the Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus is one of the world’s leading fraternal and service organizations with 2 million members in more than 16,000 parish-based councils. During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities. The organization also offers extensive life insurance services to members and their families, resulting in more than $114 billion of life insurance in force. Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors offers investment services to individuals and institutions in accord with Catholic social teaching and has over $26 billion in assets under management. From helping children in need, to providing wheelchairs for the disabled, to helping stock food banks, to offering top-rated and affordable insurance products to its members, to creating a legacy of giving, the Knights of Columbus has supported families and communities for more than 138 years. To learn more please visit us at Catholic men interested in joining should go to

Contact: George Ribellino, PR Director
July 23, 2021

The Olympic Games are known to feature the greatest athletes in the world, and this summer many of those athletes whose God-given talents are on display arrive in Tokyo formed in some way by their Catholic faith or education.

Clockwise from top left: Gymnast Grace McCallum (2nd from right) lines up with teammates Kara Eaker, Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey as the U.S. gymnastic women’s team prepares to compete at an event Oct. 1, 2019, in Stuttgart, Germany; Matthew Centrowitz Jr. runs during Rio 2016; fencer Mariel Zagunis holds an American flag at the 2014 World Fencing Championships; gymnast Simone Biles waves to the crowd at the Rio games in 2016. (photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images; Vasily Maximov/AFP via Getty Images; Ricardo Augusto, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 2.0; Agencia Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. gymnastics team features two Catholic champions who have been open about their Catholic faith. Black Catholic Simone Biles returns to the Olympics as a champion with “the Greatest of All Time” status. Biles pushed herself to even greater heights of excellence, demonstrating in May her mastery of the extremely difficult and dangerous Yurchenko double pike vault, which many suspect she may deploy at the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Biles’ fellow Catholic and gymnast Grace McCallum, who travels with a rosary and a cross from her grandmother, told Relevant Radio’s Morning Air, “My Catholic faith has been such a huge part of my journey and keeps me grounded in who I am.”

McCallum said she prays before meets and practices, remembering her parents’ advice to “compete for an audience of one,” keeping Jesus Christ front and center. She also prays the Prayer to St. Michael right before hitting the mat, “to give me that last little bit of strength before I go up.”

“[My faith] makes me feel at peace, which is why I compete with a rosary and cross from my grandma when I travel,” she said.

Faith also plays a key role in the lives of some of the Olympic runners in this year’s games.

Long-distance runner Galen Rupp, reported by Runner’s World magazine to be a devout Catholic and a graduate of Portland, Oregon’s Central Catholic High School, is headed for his fourth Olympics, after winning a silver medal in London (2012) and a bronze at Rio de Janeiro (2016).

Sydney McLaughlin, an outspoken Christian and graduate of Union Catholic Regional High School in New Jersey, gave “all the glory to God” after setting a new women’s world record for 400-meter hurdles in just under 52 seconds.

“Honestly, this season, just working with my new coach and my new support system, it’s truly just faith and trusting the process,” she told NBC after her win.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more. Truly, it is all a gift from God.”

McLaughlin explained that while there are a lot of things an athlete cannot see coming in preparing for the Olympics, it was key to have both a “childlike faith that everything is going to work out” and a coach who understands that.

Middle-distance runner Matthew Centrowitz Jr. is returning to the Olympics to defend his title as the reigning champion for the 1,500-meter race. Centrowitz comes from a Catholic family remembered for their faithful witness, especially as a family attending church together.

“He certainly was a respected member of our community and a role model,” said Julie Scheide, Centrowitz’s ninth-grade catechism teacher at St. Andrew by the Bay parish in Annapolis, Maryland.

“I wish him all the luck in the world,” she said. “He’s a hometown boy, and we love him.”

Humility in Excellence

Mariel Zagunis, a four-time Olympic champion fencer (sabre) and first American to win a gold medal in fencing, aims to cut down the competition once again in Tokyo. Raised Catholic, Zagunis at the outset of her career credited the values she learned from the Valley Catholic Schools in Oregon for her success.

“Going to a small Catholic school has helped me in every aspect of my life,” Zagunis said in a 2004 interview with the Register. “It helped because of the moral support of the teachers and staff and the rest of the students, who mostly come from good families.”

Sister Adele Marie Altenhofen, of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, who is the president of the Valley Catholic Schools, said Zagunis has really demonstrated the school’s values of “living valiantly, striving for excellence, honoring the unique gifts of each person, and celebrating God and life.”

“She’s a very humble person,” Sister Adele said, noting that Zagunis continues to come back to the school to speak with students and now sends her daughter to the school.

Valley Catholic’s unique formation likely had a positive impact on the world-class fencer.

The school’s campus includes both an early-learning center for babies as young as 6 to 8 weeks old and a nursing home for elder adults. Sister Adele said the school’s philosophy is to teach students to care for life from “cradle to grave” and show the value of life from “the womb to the tomb.”

Strengthening Olympians’ Faith

Curtis Tomasevicz, gold medalist at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in bobsledding, is now the director of sports performance with USA Bobsled and Skeleton.

He told the Register that the Catholic faith has been a huge part of his life. Because the Olympics are so all-consuming for each athlete in their journey, he said “putting Christ first” really kept him grounded, especially in the face of distractions from competition.

“You can’t separate athletics and my faith; they’re intertwined in so many different ways,” he said, adding that the physical and mental preparations included going to Mass before competitions and praying before the competitions or even just practice.

“In so many ways, it was part of just … my routine every day,” Tomasevicz said.

Former Olympic athlete Rebecca Dussault, a cross-country skier who competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, told the Register that the realm of sport does not make many concessions for the lives of faithful Catholics and requires a lot of sacrifices, especially in the journey to the Olympic Games. “I had to get extremely resourceful,” she said, sacrificing team meals on Saturday evening in order to attend the vigil Mass because she had to compete on Sundays.

Dussault said it is important to have coaches behind athletes that understand their core values, especially in individual competition.

“The fullness of the games just presents challenges,” she said, wishing Mass had been more available for athletes in the Olympic Village.

But she said the encouragement she received from Catholics who told her that they were praying for her was very helpful.

Dussault said it was important to shine a light on the virtuous models in sports that are on display at the Olympics and for Catholic Olympic athletes to make their experience a gift to others.

“The formation you receive as an athlete and as disciple in Christ is invaluable in this world that seeks so much comfort and escapism,” she said.

“As an athlete, you can’t be comfortable, and you can’t escape. It gives you the ability for a really unique leadership. It calls us to give back and make sure that we’re forming the next generation of athletes for Christ.”

Peter Jesserer Smith Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register. He covered Pope Francis’s historic visit to the United States in 2015, and to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 2014. He has reported on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis, including from Jordan and Lebanon on an Egan Fellowship from Catholic Relief Services. Before coming on board the Register in 2013, he was a freelance writer, reporting for Catholic media outlets as the Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a graduate of the National Journalism Center and earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College, where he co-founded the student newspaper, The Rambler, and served as its editor. He comes originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

On July 16th, 2021, the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our Holy Father Pope Francis issued a motu proprio addressing the practice of celebrating Mass according to the Roman Missal edited by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1962. It is a liturgical practice that has steadily grown throughout certain parts of the Universal Church and in our Diocese. The norms contained in the new motu proprio significantly restrict the use of the Roman Missal of 1962. The new law requires individual bishops to approve celebrations of the Tridentine Mass

In his letter to priests, released today, the Bishop states that he believes it is important that we the retain the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962 in the Diocese, provided that future practice is in conformity with the norms of Traditionis Custodes. The bishop indicates that he will take time to consult, draft and promulgate permanent diocesan norms that will address both the pastoral needs of those who have received spiritual nourishment from attending such celebrations of the Mass, while at the same time remaining obedient to the requirements of the law and the wishes of the Holy Father.

The interim procedure outlined at the end of his letter applies to all such celebrations scheduled from Wednesday, July 21, 2021 until the Feast of the Archangels, September 29, 2021. The new permanent norms will be ready for diocesan-wide implementation by the end of September 2021.

Click to read the Bishop’s Letter

A delicate brooch.

A lock of hair.

A family christening gown.

A much-prayed rosary.

These ordinary items belonged to a saint.

To St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, specifically, the first native-born American saint.

Photo: ‘Seton Family Treasures’ include a variety of familial heirlooms. (photo: Courtesy of the Seton Shrine)

Marking the 200th anniversary of her death, the Sisters of Charity of New York presented the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland, with a collection of relics from their foundress. This new exhibit, “Seton Family Treasures,” enhances visitors’ understanding of the many roles she held in her 46 years of earthly life.

Coming into contact with the actual items of a saint, even through glass, makes the saint real. The material reality prevents one from keeping the saint at an arm’s distance as a statue or a painting. Very often, when we think of relics, we think of slivers of things, but here at the shrine through November, one can come face-to-face with whole things, whole things held, used and representative of a holy soul. The brooch, pendants and locks of hair demand we see this woman as a physical person of flesh and blood and her faith as something more.

These objects reveal a unique individual with a unique relationship with God. Like all saints’ lives, her story also provides a road map to Christ for all of us still in exile to follow. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s life is an ongoing story of being invited deeper and deeper in and saying “Yes” to the invitation.

The shrine already boasts an extensive collection of relics from her life on permanent display. One could learn St. Elizabeth’s story from the videos and regular items and get a sense of her growth in holiness over the course of her life. However, the new exhibit brings the faithful into more intimate contact.

Old and new exhibits taken together reveal the saint as a romantic, joy-filled, dedicated, determined and ever-resilient woman, one who was dedicated to her husband, children, God and, by extension, to the poor and marginalized of the new world. She lived six of the seven sacraments in her lifetime.

Saints make the ordinary of life a celebration of ordinary time.

Starting with her life as a young bride, the gold filigree bow brooch is a beautiful representation of the Setons’ happy experience of this lifelong sacrament. According to family tradition, every bride in the Seton line is said to have worn it on her wedding day. Likewise, Elizabeth’s tiny wedding band, also worn by one of her daughters at the profession of her vows in the Sisters of Charity, stands out in its simplicity.

In the same case, there are portrait pendants side by side of William Magee Seton and Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, showing her hair down. It’s hard to think of a saint as a young bride, but there she is, and she’s beautiful. The story of her putting her portrait in his suitcase so he would not forget her when work demanded he travel hints at the ongoing happy romance of their relationship.

As a mother, this saint illustrates that love always multiplies. She and her husband had five children: William, Richard, Anna Maria, Catherine and Rebecca. She took joy in their gifts (Rebecca’s piety, for example) and worried when they seemed distant or ill. In the special exhibit, there are relics that connect visitors to each of them: a Bible, a christening gown, a lock of hair, rosaries, portraits — all of these things highlight the reality of her life as a single mother struggling to care for those she loved after losing her husband when all five of her children were still young (age 8 and under).

As a widow and convert, Elizabeth suffered from poverty and rejection of friends for her conversion. Yet she persevered in hope. She started the Sisters of Charity once she moved to Emmitsburg, and the books and handwritten notes reveal a woman who understood that God held a bigger plan than hers, even in her darkest moments. The films and notes accompanying the exhibit remind the viewer that saints are, in all things, like us. They had moments when all felt lost, when God seemed far and when they thought it would never get better. (The loss of her husband and, later, her two children to the same disease were part of Elizabeth’s earthly sorrows.)

As a foundress, her handwritten notes for her community and prayer books and schedule reveal a deeply integrated piety and the expectation that she and her Sisters of Charity look for the visible needs of the invisible people of the world and meet them. Founding the first women’s religious community in the United States, she and those who joined her community helped envision Catholic schools and Catholic hospitals. She took the pain of her own suffering and used it as an inspiration for a whole new ministry that would spread out across the nation, helping the poor and the sick and providing education and support for marginalized populations.

Lastly, in the center of the collection, is her iconic bonnet and shawl, the ones often seen in her profile portrait. The black bonnet is softer and less severe in real life. The embroidery of a silver “S” on her shawl is a physical reminder of an actual time and place, when she put needle to thread to mark her things. The color may have been what was available, but it hints at whimsy and humor in addition to practicality. It puts flesh to the bones of the story of her life.

Sitting in the room after viewing the exhibits, one could see how her life imitated the Joyful, Luminous and Sorrowful Mysteries in life and reflected the truth of the Glorious ones in her death and declared sanctification.

Proclaimed a saint in 1975 by Pope St. Paul VI, he encouraged, “Rejoice, we say to the great nation of the United States of America. Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage.”

Her countrymen and women now have the opportunity to be within arm’s reach of things she touched, things she treasured, things that led her deeper into friendship with God and might help us as well. Make it part of your 2021 to come and meet this first saint of our country face-to-face.

By Sherry Antonetti
July 17, 2021
National Catholic Register

Grandparents rank among the best gift-givers.

In our house, they are legendary. Presents tumbling out of suitcases. Piles under the Christmas tree. Birthday packages on the doorstep with Sunday comics tucked inside as colorful cushions.

Caidence Miller, a fourth grader at Cottage Lake Elementary in Woodinville, Wash., works with his grandmother Chrissy Brackett March 11, 2020, as they try to figure out how to navigate the online learning system for the school amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Lindsey Wasson, Reuters)

Everyday moments are no exception. Extra cookies after dinner. Ice cream cones on a sunny afternoon. One more game of catch, one more round of cribbage, one more push on the swing.

Grandparents love to give, and grandchildren love to receive. Not every family knows this relationship, but wherever we see the outpouring of affection between generations, we witness a gift of human love.

Giving and receiving stand among life’s greatest joys.

Each time we receive the Eucharist, we participate in God’s generous gift-giving. Amid the latest debates about Communion in the church, I’ve watched my children with their grandparents, wondering what our families might teach us about a theology of gift-giving.

Gifts are freely offered. They are not forced; they cannot be demanded. The way my children reach out their arms for a hug or a treat from their grandparents mirrors how we open our hands or mouth to receive the Eucharist. We learn not to grab out of greed; we wait with humility and patience — and joy awaits us.

By definition, true gifts are good, never cruel or conniving. They are treasures, not tricks. More than once I’ve watched a child turn wide-eyed to a grandparent and ask, “How did you know I wanted this?” with delight and disbelief. Gifts remind us that we are seen, known and cherished.

Gifts are meant to be enjoyed, not kept on a shelf gathering dust. Every present has a purpose, even (and especially) when it is the simple gift of presence.

My kids remember special days spent with grandparents long after they leave favorite toys or books behind. Gifts draw together giver and receiver, just as we come closer to Christ in Communion.

Gifts are unearned. They are not payment for services rendered or conditional loans based on good behavior. Gifts spring from a place of selfless love.

At every Mass, we remember we cannot control or earn God’s favor as a reward but only accept what is offered as mystery: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Gifts invite gratitude. Saying or writing a word of thanks might feel forced at first, nudged by a parent’s prompting. But over time we hope to cultivate natural thanksgiving as a response of joy in return.

Likewise the word “Eucharist” itself means thanksgiving — a reminder that gratitude is what we bring to God for grace that is unearned but overflowing.

As an adult, I love to find reminders of gifts my grandparents gave me decades ago. An inscription in a Bible or a card tucked in a book brings back memories of their affection, the warmth of knowing I was beloved to them, even among many cousins.

My husband and I laugh that each gathering of grandparents with grandkids convenes the mutual admiration society.

We as parents stand separate from their delight and affection for each other, pure and unburdened by the discipline (and drudgery) of daily parenting. But even this arrangement is wisely given by God, who knows we need to be seen and loved by many people in different ways.

All of us are called to be gift for each other.

May we spend our lives in awe of the gifts we’ve been given, seeking to share them with those in need. May we learn from young and old how to give and receive in love, just as Jesus does for us.

– – –

By Laura Kelly Fanucci @ CNS
Fanucci is a writer, speaker, and author of several books including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.” Her work can be found at

July 6, 2021

My dear friends in Christ:

I am writing to request your help.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The morning after undergoing colon surgery, Pope Francis was in “good general condition, alert and breathing spontaneously,” the Vatican press office said July 5.

Pope Francis was hospitalized July 4 for previously scheduled colon surgery, the Vatican press office said. He is pictured at the Vatican June 9, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The surgery for diverticular stenosis performed the evening of July 4 involved a left hemicolectomy and lasted about 3 hours,” the statement said. “A stay of about seven days is expected, barring complications.”

A left hemicolectomy is the removal of the descending part of the colon and can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected.

The 84-year-old pope was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital in the early afternoon July 4 after leading the midday recitation of the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

As has been his custom, Pope Francis already had suspended his weekly general audience and other meetings for the month of July, except for the Sunday recitation of the Angelus.

It is possible that Pope Francis’ midday Angelus appointment July 11 could take place at the Gemelli hospital, as it did on several occasions when St. John Paul II was hospitalized there. The hospital maintains a suite of rooms for the popes’ use when necessary.

Announcing Pope Francis’ hospitalization in the mid-afternoon July 4, the Vatican press office had said he was to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.”

About seven hours later, after the surgery had been performed, the press office said, “The Holy Father reacted well to the surgery, which was conducted under general anesthesia.”

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, a staff surgeon at the Gemelli who specializes in surgery of the digestive tract and colon, led the surgery, assisted by a team of surgeons.

Stenosis is a narrowing of a passage in the human body. The Vatican’s description of the pope’s condition indicated a partial blockage of the lower intestine. It provided no information about the cause or suspected cause of the blockage nor of the symptoms the pope had been experiencing.

As soon as the Vatican announced the pope’s hospitalization, get-well messages began being posted on social media.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who had just arrived in France when the news broke, sent a telegram, his office said. The president said he and the Italian people were accompanying the pope with “affectionate thoughts” and wishes for a speedy recovery.

Pope Francis has been generally healthy since becoming pope in March 2013 except for recurrent bouts of sciatica, which causes sharp pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from the lower back through the hips and down each leg. In late December and early January, he missed several events because the pain was so intense.

The pope also suffered from a pulmonary condition in 1957 at the age of 21 that required him to undergo surgery to remove the upper right lobe of one of his lungs.

In an interview for a book published early in March, the pope said that while his recovery was painful, it was “complete, and I never felt any limitation in my activities.”

“As you have seen, for example, in the various trips I have made and that you have covered, I never had to restrict or cancel any of the scheduled activities. I never experienced fatigue or shortness of breath,” he told Nelson Castro, a physician and Argentina journalist.

The pope also told Castro that when he was the provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held from 1973 to 1979, he underwent emergency gallbladder surgery.

By Cindy Wooden | CNS

Independence Day is a moment for us to reflect on our freedom. It’s also a time to think about what it means to be a part of a union — an association of diverse states, but also a country that guarantees and protects the freedoms of all individuals.

U.S. flags are seen on the National Mall in Washington June 23, 2021. Independence Day, July 4, falls on a Sunday this year. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

During his 2015 visit to the United States, Pope Francis spoke in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the birthplace of our country. He noted that the “Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights.”

Those words continue to inspire us today, he said, as well as others around the world to “fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.”

Pope Francis also recalled some of the great struggles the United States has faced over the centuries, which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and efforts to eliminate forms of racism and prejudice directed at further waves of new Americans.

“This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its principles, those founding principles based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed,” he said. “When a country is mindful of its roots, it keeps growing, it is renewed and it continues to embrace newcomers, new individuals and new peoples.”

While it can be painful, all of us benefit from remembering the past, and it helps us to grow, both individually and collectively. The June 17 edition of the St. Louis Review, for example, detailed the efforts of archivists researching the archdiocese’s past involvement in the institution of slavery. Another story about the St. Louis Reconciliation Network showed how local faith communities have served as a starting point for healing broken race relations.

“A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future,” said Pope Francis.

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul said that independence cannot be separated from our natural interdependence. Christian freedom is always tied to the common good: “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13).

“This freedom includes the right to serve the common good, as our faith compels us, through various religious charities and ministries,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ observance of Religious Freedom Week June 22-29. Bishop Burbidge is a member of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty.

Freedom is not solely for individuals, but it is a gift from God with which we build up the kingdom of Christ on earth.

– – –

By: St. Louis Review, CNS | The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Fairfield Prep’s graduating Class of 2021 recently honored two teachers as “Inspirational Teachers of the Year.”

At the Class of 2021 Farewell Luncheon, Student Government President Ryan Carroll and fellow officers named Theology teacher Kevin Kery ’00 and English teacher Paul Denby as the Inspirational Teachers of the Year in recognition of their commitment and the models they provided for students of Fairfield Prep.

In his presentation, Carroll thanked members of the administration and faculty and his classmates for everything they did to help students endure a year marked by the COVID pandemic and numerous challenges.

“I want to thank you, my brothers of the proud Prep Class of 2021, for you have remained steady and strong and close through the unique challenges that we have managed through our senior year,” Carroll said.

He told them that the 79th graduating class of Fairfield Prep would now become members of a distinguished group of 15,000 alumni who live and work all over the world. He then awarded plaques to Kery and Denby, who had been selected by the senior class to receive the awards.

Timothy G. Dee, principal of Fairfield College Preparatory School, said: “Paul Denby and Kevin Kery are two Jesuit-educated and inspirational models of ‘a man for others’ for the students of Fairfield Prep. In the classroom, on the fields, on mission trips and retreat experiences, these two men dedicate themselves to giving students opportunities to grow and develop into young men of competence, conscience, compassion and commitment. We are privileged to have these two Ignatian educators as a part of our community, and we congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition.”

Dee said that Kery, who is a member of the Class of 2000, currently serves the Prep community as a Theology teacher for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. He is active in the immersion and ministry program, having served on numerous immersion trips to the Appalachia region and as an adult facilitator on the Kairos and Freshman retreat. He is also the Head Coach of the Freshman Football team and Assistant Coach of the Varsity Rugby team.

Denby was educated in the Jesuit tradition at Boston College and joined the Fairfield Prep community in 2014, where he currently teaches English to 10th, 11th and 12th grade students, Dee said.

“Paul is active in our service program, having served as an adult facilitator on multiple Urban Plunge experiences, and he is the moderator of the Model UN club and a dynamic facilitator for the Philosophy Club,” Dee said.

In accepting the award, Kery said, “This is really, truly a wonderful honor, and from this group of students, it means an incredible amount.”

Denby said, “This is such an honor and a great surprise.”

Following the presentations, both teachers addressed the senior class and offered advice on how to navigate the years ahead.

In his comments, Kery congratulated “our fearless warriors of the pandemic class of 2021” and recalled his own graduation from Prep.

“I was definitely shook up 21 years ago about leaving Prep,” he said. “Truthfully, I didn’t even know if anything would be better than high school….There are some amazing things ahead of you as you head off to college. You are going to meet some wonderful people who will change your life. You are going to learn who you are and what you love. Many people and places are going to challenge what you’ve known up until now … and that’s a good thing. You’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry, but most of all, you’re going to grow.”

He encouraged them to bring the same optimism and excitement they brought to their high school days to the rest of their lives.

Denby congratulated the senior class and said, “You’ve been through a tremendous amount and ultimately you’ve succeeded, and you should be hugely proud of yourselves.”

He asked them to recall four years ago when they were freshmen and then discussed Theseus, the mythical king who killed the Minotaur and united different communities to create Athens. In the succeeding years, a ship retraced his voyages every year to commemorate his victory. This sacred journey continued for centuries.

Four hundred years later, the philosopher Socrates wondered whether Theseus’ ship was actually still the same ship after hundreds of voyages, since every single piece of the ship had been replaced.

“If not one original part still existed with what right can we still call it Theseus’ ship?” Socrates asked.

Denby applied the metaphor of “Theseus’ Paradox” to the school and the seniors.

“Think of all the changes that you have undergone from the boys you were on the first day of your freshman year,” he said to the seniors.

There were differences physically but more importantly he said, “Think of the beliefs that have been replaced. Think of the new skills you have acquired, the friendships that were lost and made, the memories that were made and have faded and even been lost…Little by little, plank by plank, oar by oar, you have all become very different human beings from the ones you were four years ago.”

What made Theseus’ ship, he concluded, was not its material parts, but its mission and what it stood for.

He emphasized the importance of Prep’s Jesuit mission and said, “The moment Fairfield Prep abandons its Jesuit mission, it ceases to be itself even with all its fancy new buildings and labs … and the same applies to you, gentlemen, and to all of us.”

“We continue to be who we are because we stand for something,” he said. “Because we have a mission, something greater than ourselves that we devote ourselves to.”

He emphasized “their beginnings,” and told them they were about to embark on a new beginning. He said, “It is our hope here at Prep that as you venture off on your new beginning that you stay true to the beginnings that made you the men you are today.”

By Joe Pisani

BROOKFIELD—A special prayer service for family members and friends of victims of child sexual abuse by clergy and by others will be held at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Church, 138 Candlewood Lake Rd, Brookfield, CT 06804. on Friday, August 27, 6:30 pm. The prayer service is being coordinated by family members of victims together with a community of survivors and the Office of Safe Environment of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Father Shawn Jordan, Father Larry Carew and Deacon Joseph Cann will lead our prayer service.