Articles By: erik shanabrough

The triumph of the cross: The hope of Holy Week

In his passion, Jesus’ sufferings were unequaled. For the Son of God offered himself as a sacrifice for all. No one, not even the saintliest person, can take on the sins of all people in every time and place. Only God can, and did.

Pictured: This is a detail of a painting by Matthias Grunewald entitled “The Small Crucifixion.” Christ’s emaciated face and bowed head evoke his unbearable agony. Under a piercing crown of thorns, the scarred face of Jesus bleeds. (CNS photo/Samuel H. Kress Collection via National Gallery of Art)

It is this gift of faith, at the heart of our Lenten journeys, that Matthias Grunewald, master German painter, brings to life in a vivid painting titled “The Small Crucifixion.” We are invited to reflect not only on the historical event of the Lord’s crucifixion, but the redemptive meaning of Jesus’ suffering love, poured out for all humanity and for each of us.

Grunewald’s image is particularly poignant in these challenging pandemic days as we walk the via crucis, the path of Jesus’ paschal journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

Grunewald’s best-known masterpiece, the “Isenheim Altarpiece,” was commissioned for the high altar of the church of the Monastery of St. Anthony in Alsace. There, patients suffering from the plague were treated.

In that large altarpiece, Grunewald depicts a crucified Christ whose body is scourged with plague-type sores. Patients bearing the pain of their physical afflictions found spiritual comfort as they gazed on the crucified Jesus and found consolation in the mystery of his suffering.

“The Small Crucifixion” was, most likely, a personal devotional image, intended either for a domestic setting or a private chapel. Here we are drawn into the reality of Jesus’ passion. Color, line, form and composition convey, with remarkable expressive power, the depths of Jesus’ abandonment and the extreme physical suffering of a crucifixion.

His gaunt body is racked with scars of torture. His emaciated face and bowed head evoke his unbearable agony. Under a piercing crown of thorns, the scarred face of Jesus bleeds. His tattered loincloth gives evidence of the depravity of his tormentors. Few artists have conveyed the scene of the crucifixion with the intense realism that Grunewald brings to his composition.

Jesus’ crucifixion is set in a bare landscape painted in an unusual greenish blue color, evoking the Gospel detail that, at the hour of his passing, the sun darkened and creation itself groaned.

Visitors who stand in front of this painting in its museum setting cannot help but notice that the small panel bends outward into the viewers’ space. Grunewald leaves no room for one to remain a passive bystander or objective onlooker in the face of Jesus’ sufferings.

From the center radiates the Lord’s outstretched arms with twisted hands and contorted feet stretched over the cross. His hands and feet convey the divine anguish over human alienation from God. Obedient even to death on a cross, Jesus’ self-offering rises as a perfect oblation through his gnarled fingers that strain upward to the heavens.

His ankles, twisting beneath the brute force of the nail that pierces his feet, evoke the chains of human alienation. The crossbeam strains downward not only under the mass of his wounded body but from the full weight of divine mercy that takes the form of crucified love.

On either side of the cross are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple, St. John the Evangelist. Mary’s robed head is bowed with her hands clasped in prayer, as she shares uniquely in her son’s suffering. John conveys the agony of this faithful disciple. Kneeling in anguished meditation at the foot of the cross is St. Mary Magdalene.

Their perspective is meant to be ours as we contemplate Jesus’ passion. Grunewald’s vision allows us to glimpse the relentless mercy of God as it takes the form of suffering love on the cross. We are invited to receive the gift of divine crucified love poured out on the world and on each one of us.

Good Friday is good news in that death no longer has the final word on the human condition. As we enter into the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, we are filled with hope in the victorious power of God who will raise him from the dead.

And as we journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Grunewald’s image evokes our vocation to live the new life of the risen Christ.

We know and believe in faith that the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion will most certainly give way to the radiant glory of his, and our own, resurrection. And so we pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

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Jem Sullivan, educator and author, contributes a Scripture column to Catholic News Service and is the author of “Believe, Celebrate, Live, Pray: A Weekly Retreat with the Catechism.”

Chrism Mass and Mass of the Lord’s Supper to be live-streamed

BRIDGEPORT– For the second year in a row, the bishop’s Triduum Masses and liturgies will be live-streamed from the St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

On Holy Thursday April 1, the bishop will celebrate the Chrism Mass—10 am and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 pm. Both Masses will be lived streamed on the diocesan website.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated to bless the holy oils that are used in the sacraments throughout the year, and to strengthen the bond between the bishop and his priests. During the Mass the bishop leads the Renewal of Priestly Promises with a series of questions. Deacons and religious are also in attendance.

The bishop also blesses the Oil of the Catechumens, the Oil of the Infirm and the Holy Chrism (a mixture of olive oil and balsam used in ordinations and confirmation).

In his online Mass for Palm Sunday, Bishop Caggiano said “Holy Week invites us to reenact the great mysteries of our faith, and to remember that what was begun in the Upper Room is the same sacrifice Jesus offers his believers today.”

This year’s Masses will also permit in-person attendance. However, registration is advance is required for all those who wish to attend, and seating remains limited as a result of Covd-19 safety restrictions.

Bishop’s Live-Streamed Holy Week Masses:

Holy Thursday—April 1
Chrism Mass—10 am
Mass of the Lord’s Supper—7 pm

Good Friday—April 2
Celebration of the Passion of the Lord
3 pm

Easter Vigil Mass—April 3
Mass—8 pm

St. Augustine Cathedral is located at 399 Washington Avenue in Bridgeport. Anyone interested in attending in person must register on the Cathedral website:

For online viewing, visit the diocese website:

Today is Reconciliation Monday across the Diocese

BRIDGEPORT– A total of 26 parishes will offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation today from 3-9 pm, so that the lay faithful may experience God’s mercy as Holy Week begins.
In his Pastoral Exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord,” Bishop Caggiano urged all to take advantage of Reconciliation Monday to fully prepare for the gifts of Holy Week.

“On Monday, March 29th, we will hold our annual observance of Reconciliation Monday. As you may know, on this day, Confessions will be heard in many parishes throughout the Diocese, both in the afternoon and evenings, so that everyone who wishes to receive the sacrament can do so before the Easter Triduum. I ask you to consider participating in this unique opportunity to receive the gift of forgiveness that only Christ can give. My friends, the Lord wishes to free each of us from the burden of our sins. Should we not then use this time to shed the baggage of our sins and accept His freedom with joy?”

The invitation to participate in “Reconciliation Monday” was created in the joyful spirit of Pope Francis who said, “Now is the time to be reconciled with God. Staying on the path of evil is only a source of sadness.”

According to Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general of the diocese, because of the ongoing pandemic host parishes may offer Confessions in a variety of venues, which would include confessionals, church bodies, parish centers or outdoor parking lots.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has asked that penitents have the option of confessing anonymously or face-to-face and that a distance of six feet (as recommended by the CDC) is maintained between the priest and penitent.

“Reconciliation Monday” will be hosted from 3-9 pm at the following parishes:

Deanery A (Queen of Peace)

  1. St. Andrew Parish: 435 Anton Street, Bridgeport
  2. St. Ann Parish: 481 Brewster Street, Bridgeport
  3. St. Augustine Cathedral: 359 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport

Deanery B (Mystical Rose)

  1. St. James Parish: 2070 Main Street, Stratford
  2. St. Lawrence Parish: 505 Shelton Avenue, Shelton
  3. St. Mark Parish: 500 Wigwam Lane, Stratford

Deanery C (Queen of Martyrs)

  1. St. Theresa Parish: 5301 Main Street, Trumbull
  2. St. Rose of Lima Parish: 46 Church Hill Road, Newtown

Deanery D (Our Lady, Queen of Confessors)

  1. St. Peter Parish: 104 Main Street, Danbury
  2. St. Edward the Confessor Parish: 21 Brush Hill Road, New Fairfield
  3. St. Joseph Parish: 163 Whisconier Road, Brookfield

Deanery E (Seat of Wisdom)

  1. St. Mary School Hall, 183 High Ridge Road, Ridgefield
  2. Our Lady of Fatima, 229 Danbury Road, Wilton

Deanery F (Queen Assumed into Heaven)

  1. Our Lady of the Assumption Parish: 545 Stratfield Road, Fairfield
  2. St. Pius X Parish: 834 Brookside Drive, Fairfield

Deanery G (Mother of Divine Grace)

  1. St. Aloysius Parish: 21 Cherry Street, New Canaan
  2. St. Thomas More Parish: 374 Middlesex Road, Darien
  3. St. Matthew Parish: 216 Scribner Avenue, Norwalk

Deanery H (Cause of Our Joy)

  1. The Parish of St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel: 1184 Newfield Avenue, Stamford
  2. Holy Spirit Parish, 403 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford
  3. Sacred Heart Parish: 37 Schuyler Avenue, Stamford

Deanery I (Mary, Mother of the Church)

  1. The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes: 4 Riverside Avenue, Greenwich*
  2. St. Mary Parish: 178 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich
  3. St. Michael the Archangel Parish: 469 North Street, Greenwich

** Confessions heard from 5-7:30 pm
(To find a deanery near you, and for a full Confession and Eucharistic Adoration schedule from around the diocese visit:

Holy Week challenges us to “clear our vision”

FARFIELD— Holy Week invites us to see Jesus not with the eyes of the world but through the eyes of faith, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his homily for the Mass for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

The bishop celebrated his weekly online Mass from St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield. He was assisted by Fr. Victor Martin, Pastor and Fr Larry Larson, Parochial Vicar.

“Perhaps you and I at times look at our life, our circumstances, and our work through the eyes of the world, and this week is meant for us to clear that vision. To remember through whose eyes we should live, move, see, and have our being. It is easy to fall prey to voices around us, to live life in a way other than what Christ asks us,” the bishop said.

In addition to “celebrating anew the great mystery of our redemption,” Palm Sunday offers an opportunity to better understand what Christ is asking of us as his followers, he said.

After reading the account of the Passion in the Gospel of Mark (15:1-39), Bishop Caggiano explained that in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was given a welcome that was reserved for Caesar, who had “conquered nations and subjected people.”

The strewing of palms was a symbol of Caesar’s earthly power and authority.

Those who welcomed Jesus with palms judged him “with the eyes of the world,” because they mistakenly expected Jesus to overthrow civil authority. They believed that “conquest and brutality should be meet with military conquest and more brutality. Violence begets violence,” the bishop said.

“That is not why Jesus came to Jerusalem. He came to bring another form of power that meets conquest and brutality with forgiveness and mercy, and allows the world a better way, a divine way to live,” he said.

Holy Week extends the same challenge to us as it did in the time of Jesus. He does not promise earthly victory, but asks us to accompany him to Calvary and not to run away as the apostles did.

“The path is not easy. We cannot escape suffering. Whoever dares to love must dare to be willing to suffer. It is the only path that leads to the empty tomb and that leads us to eternal life.”

The bishop said Holy Week invites us to reenact the great mysteries of our faith, and to remember that “what was begun in the Upper Room” is the same sacrifice Jesus offers his believers today.

The bishop concluded his homily by noting that each year the palms blessed today that are unused palms will be gathered and burned to make the ashes of next Lent “as a sign of our faith and the promises that truly matter, and they are not the promise and ways of the world.”

“And when the smoke clears we see life as it is truly meant to be seen. We have that opportunity again during these days of our redemption. Let us use them well so that when the risen Lord appears in our midst. We will be able to see him, follow him and give him honor and glory now and forever.”

Bishop’s Holy Week Schedule

BRIDGEPORT– For the second year in a row, the bishop’s Masses and liturgies throughout Holy Week will be live-streamed from the St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

This year’s Masses will also permit in-person attendance. However, registration is advance is required for all those who wish to attend, and seating remains limited as a result of Covd-19 safety restrictions.

Bishop’s Live-Streamed Holy Week Masses:

Palm Sunday—March 28
Online (only) Mass—8 am

Holy Thursday—April 1
Chrism Mass—10 am
Mass of the Lord’s Supper—7 pm

Good Friday—April 2
Celebration of the Passion of the Lord
3 pm

Easter Vigil Mass—April 3
Mass—8 pm

St. Augustine Cathedral is located at 399 Washington Avenue in Bridgeport. Anyone interested in attending in person must register on the Cathedral website: The Chrism Mass is using a tiered registration system, open to priests, then deacons followed by the curia.

For online viewing, visit the diocese website:

As he approaches 103, Fr. Brady still gives to ACA

Fr. Philip Brady will turn 103 this year and during his lifetime, he’s developed a lot of steady habits. He says Mass every day, he prays his breviary, and he still sends his check to the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Father, who lives in a senior community outside Buffalo, served for many years in the Diocese of Bridgeport until retiring in 1995 as pastor from St. Margaret Mary Church in Shelton after 27 years. Since that time, he has been sending his annual check of $1100 to help the parish reach its goal in the appeal.

Throughout his priesthood he contributed and continues to do so because of his love for St. Margaret Mary.

“I have a great feeling for the parish,” he said in a phone interview. “And I want to help them get by. I was very friendly with everybody, and the parishioners continue to call me.”

When he first arrived as pastor in 1968, the parish was facing serious financial challenges.

“It was a really difficult situation,” he recalls. “It took me quite a long time to straighten things out, but when I retired in 1995, they had a new church and rectory. All the bills were paid, and there was $100,000 in the bank. We had a lot of food festivals, sing-alongs, Bingo and carnivals.”

One person who is especially appreciative to Father Brady for his participation in the appeal is Pamela S. Rittman, Director of the Annual Catholic Appeal. Twelve years ago, when he called to make his donation, she discovered he was from the town in upstate New York where she grew up.

“We immediately hit it off as friends and talked about local restaurants and the cold Western New York weather,” Rittman said. “He was there when I needed him and presided over the funeral of a family member and blessed our home in upstate New York.

Rittman says that when she visits her family in New York, she tries to stop in to see him and see him and share the news of the diocese.

Rittman said the “Arise” theme along with the hopefulness of this year’s ACA campaign is something Fr. Brady can relate to in his long and productive life. Filled with faith and with a love for people, he puts his trust in the Holy Spirit and keeps on going. And he understands the importance of making goal!

“We always met our goal for the appeal when I was pastor,” Father says. “I still participate in it because it is a good thing for the diocese, and I want to help St. Margaret Mary. Those 27 years I was there were very happy years. I love the people and I miss them all.”

Father, who was ordained on December 18 has been a priest for 77 years and will turn 103 on September 16.

He continues to celebrate daily Mass at Orchard Glen Residence in Orchard Park, NY. Because of COVID restrictions, which he said “are kind of a drag,” he has to celebrate Mass alone in his room instead of in the Father Brady Chapel, which the community built for him. Before COVID, Sunday Mass was held in the common room for the 35 Catholics who are residents.

Looking back on his life, he said, “I’ve been very happy in my 77 years as a priest. I never considered being anything else.”

The middle child of five, with two older brothers and two younger sisters, Fr. Brady entered St. Mark’s Elementary School in Buffalo in 1924.

“I can still remember Father Shea coming into our third-grade classroom,” he said. “He asked, ‘How many boys want to become a priest?’ I raised my hand immediately and from then on, that was my vocation. No other profession attracted me. I was determined to become a priest.”

Of course, Father had help from his mother, Dorothy, whose prayers and encouragement led him forward in the pursuit of his calling. As a young woman at St. Cecilia Church in Harlem, she visited the convent and told Mother Superior that she wanted to become a nun.

“The nun told her, ‘No, you’re not going into the convent. You’re going to become the mother of a priest,” Father recalled. So every day at Mass, Dorothy prayed that one of her sons would enter the priesthood. And her youngest did.

After eighth grade, Father was accepted at the Little Seminary of St. Joseph and the Little Flower, but his family had to move to New York City because his father needed to find work during the Depression.

They lived in The Bronx, and he attended Cathedral College, a preparatory seminary across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. However, they returned to Buffalo a year later, and he resumed his studies at the Little Seminary. He later entered the Columban Fathers order because he wanted to be a missionary priest and take the Gospel message to foreign countries, and on December 18, 1943, he was ordained with 13 other men at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo.

“I wanted to go to China, but China was closed and they were kicking priests out,” he recalled. “The war was on and they couldn’t give us assignments in the missions so we were loaned to different dioceses.”

His first assignment was at St. Joachim Church in Buffalo, until he became vocations director at a seminary the Columban Fathers opened in Milton, Massachusetts. For 17 years, he toured the country, looking for young men who had a calling to the priesthood.

When his younger sister, who was a nurse in Buffalo, needed care, he volunteered because he was teaching nearby at the Columban Fathers’ Silver Creek Seminary.

“I was the only one available who could help her,” he recalled.

With her treatment came financial responsibilities, but he had no money because missionary priests did not receive a salary, so he asked to be assigned to the Diocese of Buffalo. Since there were no openings, his superior suggested that he apply to the newly formed Diocese of Bridgeport.

The response was immediate. “Send him down and I’ll put him to work,” Bishop Lawrence Shehan told the superior, and in 1960 Fr. Brady arrived at St. Mary’s in Greenwich, where he taught religion at the parish high school. He was later transferred to St. Paul’s in Glenville. Then, in 1968 during the fourth week of Lent, he was named pastor at St. Margaret Mary’s in Shelton.

Another of his trademarks is “Father Brady’s Holy Fudge,” which was sold in Vermont and New Hampshire at roadside stands and country stores. Father still makes batches of his fudge from his personal recipe, and sends them to Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Archbishop William Lori, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and many others, including Pam Rittman.

(Please participate in this year’s, Arise, Annual Catholic Appeal by giving as generously as your means allow. You may mail your gift in the enclosed envelope in this issue, make a donation online at or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. Donations of whatever amount will help us to help those in need.)

By Joe Pisani

Walking in the footsteps of Christ leads to Calvary

BRIDGEPORT—We are only 12 days away from that day we call ‘Good,’ for our sake, when you and I will gather and look upon the Cross of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online homily for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

Celebrating Mass from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop urged all to use the remaining days of Lent to learn “what it means to offer our lives in imitation of our Master and Savior.”
After reading the gospel of John (12: 20-33) 25 “Whoever loves his life loses it…and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life,” the bishop offered a reflection on the need to die to ourselves and become closer to Christ.

“As we prepare ourselves for the coming Holy Days of the Lord’s death and resurrection, the savior speaks clearly to us of what it is we are to be about. He tells us who ever loses his life with gain it and whoever loves his life will lose it.”

“What does that mean for your life and mine?” How can we die to ourselves and be faithful to Christ?” the bishop asked.

If we choose to walk in the footsteps of Christ, we inevitably must take the journey to Calvary and stand before the Cross in wonder, fear and trembling,” because he is asking us to follow in his footsteps and die to ourselves,” the bishop said.

The bishop said that the act of gazing upon the Cross itself becomes a catechism that will teach us the answer to “how we can give ourselves and our lives over to him.”

If we had been on Calvary and stood at the foot of the cross on the day Jesus died, the bishop said we would have notice three things– the height of the cross, the fact that it is deeply rooted in the soil, and that the Lord’s crucified hands are outstretched.

The bishop said cross was planted high up on a hill so that friends or onlookers couldn’t possibly remove the sufferer. For that reason, we must sit with the dying and despairing and give our lives over to them so that they may glimpse in the glory of their baptism the promise of everlasting life.”

“We empty ourselves in sacrifice because we are on the road to heaven and can never forget that goal.”

The bishop said the soil that firmly holds the cross in is the “dust and dirt” of envy, hatred and resentment that accumulate in our lives and reminds us that we are all sinners.

Just as we empty ourselves for others, our lives also depend on others emptying themselves for our sake, and that requires humility because we are all unworthy of Christ’s love, he said.
The bishop said that out of spiritual pride we may decide that “They may be not worth it, but who decided that we were worth it!”

“We empty ourselves through the power of Christ. Humility is the power to lay our own lives down—the dying to the self.”

The bishop said the Lord’s outstretched arms accept every land and nation, sinner and saints alike and people from all walks of life.

The openness of Jesus on the cross challenges us not only to sacrifice for friends, family and neighbors we know, but for all people.

“Empty our lives for all, not just the few. That’s not easy, and that’s why the Lord granted us the gift of the Spirit. What we can’t do from human efforts, the Spirit will help us do in the end.”

The bishop said the parable teaches us that we must offer ourselves in humility and through our action invite all around us to the promise of eternal life

“If we allow those lesson to guide our lives, on Good Friday we will be among the few who will not run away,” he said.

After the Final Blessing the bishop announced that the online Mass for Palm Sunday will be celebrated at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield, and the remaining sacred liturgies of Holy Week will be live-streamed from St. Augustine Cathedral. Holy Thursday liturgies include the Chrism Mass at 10 a.m. and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m.; the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross of Jesus, 3 p.m., and the Easter Vigil on Saturday at 8 p.m.

A life experience that inspired a reality documentary

GREENWICH — Ten years ago, Bill Baker’s uncle Tiny, who was in his 90s and lived alone in Arizona, asked him to be his guardian. His wife had recently died, and he had been like a second father to Baker.

This experience began a journey into the world of old age for Baker, who is director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy & Education at Fordham University and former president of WNET-Thirteen in New York.

“He was alone and wanted to stay in his house. Although he was an engineer, he did not have a lot of money, but he was quite healthy and totally together mentally,” Baker recalled. “It helped me realize there’s a lot you have to do to deal with aging. Most people don’t even have time to think about it, and then it’s too late.”

His uncle Tiny, and Baker’s personal experience of growing old, inspired him to begin a project on aging that evolved into a major production for PBS — “FAST-FORWARD: A Look Into Your Future,” which is a reality documentary where “families travel through time to meet their future selves.”

Produced by Twin Cities PBS and Next Avenue, the documentary, which premieres March 24 at 10 p.m., “accelerates the aging process for Millennials and Baby Boomers and encourages families to begin conversations about what it takes to age well together.”

Baker, a member of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes, is executive producer of FAST-FORWARD, which was produced and directed by Michael Eric Hurtig and his production company, FLX Entertainment.

FAST-FORWARD, which is narrated by actress Rosario Dawson, encourages viewers to engage in a dialogue about aging and life planning with their family members and loved ones, Baker said. The documentary “follows four families as they face the physical, social and economic realities of aging and learn what it takes to age with empathy, dignity and support.” For more information, visit:

“We ‘age’ four families from around the country to let them experience some of this stuff while having experts watch what happens and comment on the experience,” Baker said. During the documentary, the participants learn first-hand what it feels like to age through the use of MIT’s AGNES suit, which accelerates the aging process up to 30 years.

“Eric, who works with me at Fordham, came up with the idea of doing a reality film, which is taking younger people and their parents and aging them and asking the question, ‘If you knew today in your early 40s what you’ll know when you’re 80, what would you do differently?’”

Next Avenue, which is public media’s national journalism service on aging issues, created resources that families can use to help guide their decisions when dealing with aging loved ones. For more information, visit

“From what I’ve seen depicted in movies, aging has generally been seen as a lousy experience,” said Baker, who is in his 70s. “That’s why everybody abhors it or tries to hide or run away from it. But aging need not be that bad, and research shows that older people are generally happier than young people — and I can attest to that.”

Running the Center for Media, Public Policy and Education has been a special opportunity for him because, he said, “I am surrounded by younger people who really get it and are our future. They give me great pleasure.”

He finds himself in an unusual situation because he is still working, while most people his age are not employed full-time. However, he points out that he’s been working full-time for 60 years since he was 16.

“I know how hard work can be, and I know what life is because I’ve led a long life, and now I’m in old age,” he said. “I would have never guessed I’d have gotten as far as president of Westinghouse Television back when I was making coffee for people in the radio studios in Cleveland and trying to fight my way through the world of television.”

At this point, he wants to commit his life in the media to important projects that enrich and educate, while bringing along some of the creative people he has encountered.

“My professional goal is mentoring younger people whom I consider brilliant and have values and can be the leaders of the future,” he says. “There is tremendous pleasure in seeing somebody succeed who worked for me — like Eric, who came up with this idea and made an incredible film. I am happy to be associated with it as executive producer.”

Baker was also executive producer of the award-winning PBS film SACRED.

He and his wife Jeannemarie, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, have been married 52 years and have two daughters, Christiane and Angela. Jeannemarie, who is one of the founders of the Parish Partners Ministry at St. Catherine’s, was a professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing and for many years ran St. Paul’s Center for the homeless mentally ill.

She also helped Bill navigate the years he served as guardian for his uncle Tiny.

“I took him all the way to his death, and I was with him when he died at 96,” Bill recalls. “He couldn’t talk and we couldn’t communicate, but I knew about the end of life because Jeannemarie works with the elderly and my daughter Angela is a Hospice nurse. I knew that even though he couldn’t communicate, he could hear me, so I decided to pray the rosary out loud, and by the time I got to the fifth decade, he died. It was just such a touching, powerful way to go.”

Bishop launches diocesan renewal with consecration to St. Joseph

BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano launched a diocesan-wide renewal Friday as he consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to the protection and intercession of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, during this Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.

The Bishop celebrated a Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at St. Augustine’s Cathedral while pastors throughout the diocese simultaneously celebrated Mass, linking the diocese together in prayer and purpose.

Describing St. Joseph as a husband, father and saint who exemplified the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” Bishop Caggiano said, “You and I come here, my friends, not simply to ask for his help, not simply to seek his protection, but to follow his example.”

Calling the faithful to action, during his homily, he said: “My friends, no more words. We have had enough of the words. They have filled libraries. It is time for action, isn’t it? In this singular moment in the life of the Church, in this singular moment in the life of our world, now is the time we turn to Joseph to ask him to protect us, to guide us, to defend us, to inspire us to a mission that no longer needs words but faithful, humble, obedient action, for it is in our deeds that the world will see what Joseph saw. It is in our actions that the Lord will glimpse he who Joseph is carrying with his arms outstretched as a child, ready to stretch out his arms on the cross so that the love that he bore for us will set us free.”

The Mass culminated a week-long Novena to St. Joseph, calling upon him to intercede for the diocese during this year of celebration, proclaimed by Pope Francis in observance of the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being named Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pius IX. The pope also issued an Apostolic Letter titled “Patris Corde,” (“With a Father’s Heart”) in order “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”

The Mass launched a call to renewal that Bishop Caggiano announced in his pastoral exhortation, “Let Us Enter the Upper Room With the Lord,” issued on Ash Wednesday, which called for a personal and communal renewal of faith.

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis describe Joseph as “a hidden presence” and “a man in the shadows.” Similarly, Bishop Caggiano observed, “Today we honor a man who has no directly recorded words in all of Sacred Scripture, and yet we come here to honor him as patron and guardian, defender and protector. Of all the members of the human race — second only to the Mother of God — to this man, this simple carpenter, was given a great mission: to protect and guard the Savior and Redeemer of all things and his Sacred Virgin Mother.”

Joseph accomplished the great mission he was given through the obedience that characterized his life and the humility that was the foundation of his spiritual relationship with God.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

“Joseph went about this great mission, going where he would not have chosen to go, in exile into Egypt, leaving family, occupation and language behind,” Bishop Caggiano said. “He did what the Lord asked — to take on his betrothed wife conceived of a child that was not his but he did it in obedience for he knew in his humility, it was not for him to understand God’s design. It was simply to say ‘yes.’”

Joseph was given the great gift of an intimate, personal and loving relationship with God, whom he was given to protect. This was the “wellspring of his power,” the bishop said.

The faithful of the diocese have also been given a great mission on the day of their Baptism, he said.

“Did you and I not also receive this great task to be the protector and defender of the Lord’s presence in the world?” he said. “That faith that binds us as a family, for each time you and I are out in the world, caring for the sick, the poor and the homeless, when you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

The mission of renewal that the diocese embarks upon is a “grave one,” he said. “You and I follow in the footsteps of the carpenter. We are given the mission to be the guardians of the Truth, who is the person of Jesus alive in our midst, here in this Mystical Body.”

Echoing the theme of his pastoral exhortation, Bishop Caggiano said that just as Joseph found power in his intimate relationship with God, we must do the same.

“For that reason my friends, I have invited you into that Upper Room to sit with the Lord, his foster son and our God,” Bishop Caggiano said. “To come to look into his face and his eyes, to see his tears in the faces of those around us, to learn to hear his voice in our hearts and spirits, to recognize how God is with us in communion and to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity here as the foretaste of everlasting life. You and I will fail in our mission if we do not in equal way come to an intimate love and relationship with Christ.”

Even though there are no directly recorded words in Sacred Scripture attributed to St. Joseph, Bishop Caggiano said: “We know he spoke at least one, for in the passage we heard in the dream Joseph received, four verses later there is a simple sentence inspired by the Holy Spirit through St. Matthew, who writes, ‘He, Joseph, named him Jesus.’ For we know this man at least uttered one word. And that word is ‘Jesus.’ And that was enough for Joseph. Can we dare hope that it is enough for you and me?”

Following his homily, the bishop consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to St. Joseph, calling upon his intercession for the renewal.

While the pandemic has given new urgency to the bishop’s call, it is a theme he has sounded from day one: “When I first came to the diocese, in my installation homily, I spoke about my deep desire to build bridges to those who were seeking meaning and direction in
life. It seems to me that the time has come when we are all called to be bridge-builders to the people around us, leading them to Christ, for whom we serve as his ambassadors.”

The Synod discernment paved the way for renewal by building the foundation that will assist the diocese and its parishes in the work of recovery and revitalization.

While liturgies and other activities are planned for the year, the bishop made it clear that 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 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.

Bishop Caggiano believes there is a role for everyone because the renewal is based on personal prayer, reconciliation with Christ and reception of the Holy Eucharist—all within our grasp as members of his Church who believe faith can transform our lives and change the world.

By Joe Pisani

Our God is an unexpected God

BRIDGEPORT— “Our God is an unexpected God, a God of surprises whose work and grace influence us in unexpected ways,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for “Laetare” Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent.

The bishop it’s an understanding we should “take to heart on this Sunday of Joy, the fourth Sunday in Lent,” when we consider the challenge of missionary discipleship in a world that may seem indifferent to faith.

In his homily Bishop Caggiano focused on the 1st Reading from 2 Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23) in which Cyrus, King of Persia, surprised the Jewish people by allowing them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem years after it had been sacked and burned.

The bishop began by noting that we may all at one time or another be pleasantly surprised when a person has who formerly thought little of us, perhaps even refused to speak with us, unexpectedly offers a compliment that makes us feel better about ourselves and gives hope for a new beginning in the relationship.

The people of Israel may have had a similar feeling when King Cyrus permitted them to rebuild the temple, he said.

“There would have been precious little that would have prepared God’s chosen people for the unexpected reaction of Cyrus,” he said.

“The Lord had moved the heart of the ruler of a pagan nation who had no knowledge of Jewish law and no reasons to allow them to rebuild the temple, “ since they represented only a small fraction of his earthly empire, he said.

Yet the prayers of the Jewish people were unexpectedly answered by a king who allowed their temple to be rebuilt.

“Our God is a God of unexpected turns,” he said, “But what does it mean for you and me on this Fourth Sunday in Lent?

The story of Cyrus should give us courage and strength to go out in fidelity and bear witness to our faith, “when it’s easy and when it’s not, with those who receive you and those who do not.”

He said as Catholics “we have a tendency to constrict missionary discipleship to what is comfortable and familiar” where our faith is affirmed.

However, the story of Cyrus challenges us to plant the seeds of faith “anywhere and everywhere we go because we don’t know how God moves a human heart.”

“We should not be discouraged when we do not initially see the fruits of our labor ,” he said. Rather we should continue to plant the seeds of charity, fidelity and mercy in all those we encounter, even if they don’t seem to bear fruit.

“For those who take missionary discipleship seriously, How do you measure success? he asked.

The bishop said there was a time of bustling growth when the success of the Church was measured by the all of the new parishes founded, the number of people at Mass, and the many programs sponsored.

“We live in a different time now, don’t we. There are heartaches for you and me when we see relatives and friends, nephews, nieces and grandchildren who have fallen away from the practice of faith… We try to bring them back but don’t see those seeds bear fruit.”

The bishop said the story of Cyrus gives us a reasons to take a step back, gain perspective and find encouragement that the seeds of faith won’t be stillborn.

“Grace works in unexpected ways,” he said, suggesting that we cannot measure the success of the spiritual life by “that which occurs outside of us,” but rather, we should persevere in fidelity to what the Lord asks of us.

In our contemporary lives, it is important to give witness to the truth of Jesus and to encounter friends and family, neighbors and enemies alike and not be discouraged if they don’t initially respond.

“There will be a time and place of the Lord’s choosing,” the bishop said.

“If the Lord could move the heart of Cyrus to rebuild his temple, is is there any human heart at the end that the Lord cannot move?”

Following the final blessing the bishop urged all to join him and others throughout the diocese in the nine-day Novena of St. Joseph offered each evening through the diocesan website at 7 p.m. The novena will conclude on Friday, March 19 when the bishop consecrates the Diocese to St. Joseph in a special live-streamed, 7 p.m. Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral. The live-stream will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the bishop leading the Rosary.

The bishop also took the time to wish all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day this week. He said St. Patrick was a man of great faith “who showed us the unexpected ways that God works in our lives.”

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit:

Mega Vaccine Site at SHU

WRCH radio morning show personality Michael Stacy hasn’t seen his work colleagues in more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He’s hoping that will change after getting his COVID-19 shot at the new St. Vincent’s Medical Center vaccine clinic at Sacred Heart University, which opened Wednesday in Fairfield.

“I’m excited,” Stacy said as he waited to get vaccinated. “Like a lot of people I’ve been home, I might sometimes go to the grocery store, but I’d like to get back into a more normal life. I really miss the people.”

Stacy, who was born at St. Vincent’s and attended Sacred Heart, wasn’t the only one excited at the grand opening press conference. WTNN, News 8, Chief Political Anchor Dennis House said he was never a big fan of needles, but he had a mild case of COVID-19 and his attitude about vaccines has changed.

“I think the vaccine is going to be excellent,” said House before he was vaccinated. “I encourage you all to get it.”

The Sacred Heart mega site is Hartford HealthCare’s latest vaccine mega clinic to open its doors. For a full listing, click here.

Hartford HealthCare Fairfield Region President Vince DiBattista said the vaccine clinic is the latest way St. Vincent’s Medical Center and its partners are combatting coronavirus, which hit Fairfield County hard last year.

“It’s appropriate that we are starting this vaccine clinic at the former headquarters of GE, and for those of you who remember their slogan — ‘We bring good things to life’ — that’s exactly what we are looking to do here by providing vaccinations and being part of the national focus on combating this pandemic,” DiBattista said.

Sacred Heart University President and HHC Fairfield Region Board Chair John Petillo, PhD, said Sacred Heart and Hartford HealthCare share common missions when it comes to serving the community, and the vaccine clinic is just another example of that.

Fairfield County First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchik said “this is a huge, huge resource for the community.”

Rodney Davis, 22, St. Vincent’s first COVID patient, is a firsthand example of community need, and he was on hand to spread a message of positivity and hope.

“They (St. Vincent’s) saved my life,” Davis said. “And they saved the lives of others.”

Eucharistic Ambassador formation sessions begin

BRIDGEPORT— Approximately 140 participants gathered virtually this week for the first online session for the Eucharistic Ambassador formation called for by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his recent pastoral exhortation “Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”

In his exhortation, the bishop requested that the ambassadors be recommended by pastors based on their love for the faith and their willingness to use the months ahead to undergo intensive personal and spiritual formation to prepare themselves to be missionary ambassadors of Christ.

The initiative began with participants watching a video, then breaking into separate break-out rooms for parishes for reflection and discussion. The main theme of the first session was: “What do you seek?” based on John 1:38.

Father Michael Novajosky is serving as special assistant to the bishop and leader of the initiative, which will continue with virtual sessions for the next seven weeks. The initial session presented an overview of the period of discernment/formation for those who are participating in the ambassador training

“The program has been very well received,” says Father Novajosky, noting that well over 200 participants from more than 25 parishes and the chancery have been presented by their pastors. “It is nice to see people coming out and being interested.”

“People are happy to come just to be able to pray together and share the faith with others,” explains Father Novajosky. “They are very encouraged by the idea of going out to people, helping them live their faith and inspiring them to come back to church.”

Father Novajosky said the ambassador formation process hopes to offer in-person sessions and activities as conditions permit.

Deacon Patrick Toole, episcopal vicar for administration, attended the first session and was encouraged by the prayerful enthusiasm of participants and the hopeful tone going forward. “The session was well done. The ambassadors were really engaged in the process and they had great discussions in their break-out groups. They were very enthusiastic about the whole concept,” said Deacon Toole.

In Bishop Caggiano’s recent pastoral exhortation “Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord,” he explained to the diocesan faithful his desire to form eucharistic ambassadors.

“I will need the assistance of co-workers who will not be afraid to go out into their communities to invite people to encounter the Lord and His mercy,” wrote the bishop.

When ready, they will be sent out into their community, under the care of their local pastor, to invite those who have left active participation in the life of the Church to return home.

“In time, this same invitation will be extended to people of goodwill and anyone searching for the real meaning of life. For such meaning is found only in the Lord Jesus,” said the bishop.

The first sessions are based on deepening the faith through basic questions and reflections, utilizing the program called “The Search” provided by the Augustine Institute. The formation will include a period of discernment for those who might wonder if this particular opportunity is something the Lord is calling them to do.

The diocese will offer the same formational experience in Spanish.

The diocese has launched a website as the digital home for resources, videos and communications materials related to the Renewal. It is available at:

Good works should come from purity of heart

BRIDGEPORT—Good works should come out of our love for God and a growing “purity of heart” as opposed to self-aggrandizement or a need for recognition, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano during his weekly online Mass for the Third Sunday in Lent.

“If we do not plant the seed of good deeds in the bed of good intent and pure motivation for love of God and our neighbor, those seeds, those good acts will not yield the fruit they were destined to. They may yield no fruit at all,” said the bishop noting that we should constantly be aware of our own motives in order to grow closer to God.

In his homily from the Catholic Center chapel on the Gospel of John (2:13-25), the bishop offered insights into the account of Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple.
“14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there…Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

The bishop said that the money changers must have been confused because they were not just doing their ordinary tasks, but also what was prescribed by Jewish law as a service to pilgrims who came to the temple.

He explained that money was viewed as unclean and was changed for temple currency so that a religious offering could be made. Likewise, those who sold doves were doing what they were supposed to because many could not afford oxen or sheep as a sacrificial offering.

So, why was Jesus upset by their actions?

“On the surface they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, but surfaces are deceiving. In this great episode, the Lord reminds us that it’s not enough to do the right thing unless we also have the right reason or motive behind doing it. Jesus could read human hearts and he could see they were doing what they were supposed to do for the wrong reasons—for self-aggrandizement, for profits, “ the bishop said.

The bishop said the money changers motivation looked liked “perfect moral and religious conduct” from the outside, but they were missing the point spiritually. The Gospel presents us with the same challenge and the need to understand our own motivations.

“We try to be good, to do good and do right as we were taught by faith and our parents,” he said, “but it may be foolish for you and me to believe that we do what is right for the right reason… Many times, most times, perhaps every time, there are mixed motives in my heart and yours. Scripture speaks of purity of heart as a work in progress,” he said.

“As Christian disciples of the Lord, we must be aware of our motivations and work to ever more purify our own hearts,” he said.
We must constantly be on guard against the tendency to do what is ostensibly good for ourselves rather than out of our love for God “to whom we owe everything.”

The bishop said that as part of our Lenten practice, we should examine our conscience each night and ask “not only did we do what was right, but did we do it with the right motivation and intent with ever greater purity of heart.”

He said the account of the money changes in the temple is narrated in all four gospel and it’s clear that Jesus is telling us that we must get out of the temple until we know “why the Lord is asking to do to these things and to do it in His will.”

The bishop said he often wonders to himself what the men in the temple must have thought when they walked home with money bags at their side and animals in tow.

“They might ask themselves, ‘What did we do wrong’? he said. “The answer lies in the quiet of their hearts, and perhaps it is a question you and I in this Lent should have the courage to ask ourselves.”

Before giving the final blessing, the bishop invited all the faithful to prepare for the March 19 Mass of Consecration of the Diocese to St. Joseph by joining in the eight-night Novena to St. Joseph beginning this Wednesday, March 10, 7 pm.

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit:

Hostility, violence are ‘betrayals’ of religion, pope says in Iraq

UR, Iraq (CNS) — Traveling to the birthplace of Abraham, Pope Francis urged believers to prove their faith in the one God and father of all by accepting one another as brothers and sisters.

From a stage set on a dusty hill overlooking the archaeological dig at Ur, Abraham’s birthplace about 10 miles from modern-day Nasiriyah, the pope called on representatives of the country’s religious communities to denounce all violence committed in God’s name and to work together to rebuild their country.

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” the pope told the representatives.

“Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion,” he insisted.

Pope Francis arrived in Ur after a 45-minute early morning meeting in Najaf with 90-year-old Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam’s most authoritative figures.

At the large interreligious meeting later, with the Ziggurat of Ur, a partially reconstructed Bronze-Age pagan temple, visible in the haze, Pope Francis insisted that when Jews, Christians and Muslims make a pilgrimage to Abraham’s birthplace, they are going home, back to the place that reminds them they are brothers and sisters.

Representatives of Iraqi’s Shiite Muslim majority, its Sunni Muslim community, Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans, a group that claims to be older than Christianity and reveres St. John the Baptist, joined Pope Francis at Ur.

Farmon Kakay, a member of a delegation from Iraq’s small Kaka’i community, a pre-Islamic religion and ethnic group related to the Yazidis, told Catholic News Service, “To see His Holiness is big news for me. We want the pope to take a message to the government to respect us.”

Faiza Foad, a Zoroastrian from Kirkuk, had a similar hope that Pope Francis’ visit would move the government and Iraqi society as a whole to a greater recognition of religious freedom for all.

Wearing a white dress trimmed in gold and decorated with sequins, Foad told CNS that even though her religion is not an “Abrahamic faith,” participating in the meeting was a sign that all people are members of the one human family.

In fact, Rafah Husein Baher, a Mandaean, told Pope Francis that “together we subsist through the war’s ruins on the same soil. Our blood was mixed; together we tasted the bitterness of the embargo; we have the same identity.”

From the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and through the reign of terror of the Islamic State group, “injustice afflicted all Iraqis,” she told the pope. “Terrorism violated our dignity with impudence. Many countries, without conscience, classified our passports as valueless, watching our wounds with indifference.”

Just as Abraham set out from Ur and became patriarch of a multitude of believers in the one God, Pope Francis said, those believers must return to Abraham, recognize themselves as brothers and sisters and set out to share the news that God loves every person he created.

“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” the pope said. “Indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings. Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred!”

Called like Abraham to trust in God and to set out on the paths he indicates, believers must “leave behind those ties and attachments that, by keeping us enclosed in our own groups, prevent us from welcoming God’s boundless love and from seeing others as our brothers and sisters.”

No individual or group can live in peace or achieve progress alone, he said. “Isolation will not save us.”

The answer is not “an arms race or the erection of walls” either, the pope said. “Nor the idolatry of money, for it closes us in on ourselves and creates chasms of inequality.”

The journey of peace, he said, begins with “the decision not to have enemies.”

It means spending less money on weapons and more on food, education and health care, he said. It means affirming the value of every human life, including “the lives of the unborn, the elderly, migrants” and everyone else.

After both meetings, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced in a tweet: “In celebration of the historic meeting in Najaf between Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Pope Francis, and the historic interreligious meeting in the ancient city of Ur, we declare March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence in Iraq.”

By: Cindy Wooden @ CNS

Pope: Life Triumphs Over Death in Iraq

QARAQOSH, Iraq (CNS) — Amid the rubble and bombed out remains of four churches destroyed by Islamic State militants, Pope Francis paid tribute to Iraqi Christians who endured persecution and even death.

Pope Francis participates in a memorial prayer for the victims of the war at Hosh al-Bieaa (church square) in Mosul, Iraq, March 7, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

But visiting Mosul and Qaraqosh in northern Iraq March 7, he also urged the Christians to live up to their faith and honor the sacrifice of those who died by promoting peace and reconciliation.

Much of Mosul’s old city center remains in ruins or under reconstruction. And Pope Francis stood in Hosh al-Bieaa, church square, facing some of those ruins: the remains of the Syriac Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic churches all destroyed between 2014 and 2017.

His message was clear:

“If God is the God of life — for so he is — then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his name.

“If God is the God of peace — for so he is — then it is wrong for us to wage war in his name.

“If God is the God of love — for so he is — then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.”

In Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, Pope Francis listened to the stories of Christians forced to flee, the fear many have to return and the encouragement of Muslim neighbors committed to making the city a thriving, multicultural metropolis again.

But he also heard choirs of children singing in welcome, women ululating to honor his arrival and the cheers of young people waving flags.

Father Raid Adel Kallo, pastor of Mosul’s Church of the Annunciation, told the pope that he and many of his people left the city in June 2014; at that point, he said, his parish had 500 families. “The majority have emigrated abroad,” but 70 families have returned. “The rest are afraid to come back.”

The 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces battered the city but the biggest, most horrifying blow came in early June 2014 when militants of the Islamic State group launched an offensive. They controlled the city for three years, terrorizing the population, executing hundreds and kidnapping, raping and selling women. They blew up major landmarks, both Muslim and Christian. They destroyed libraries and museums and tens of thousands of lives.

Offering prayers “for all the victims of war and armed conflict,” Pope Francis said. Mosul is concrete proof of the “tragic consequences of war and hostility.”

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war,” the pope said. “This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”

Dr. Rana Bazzoiee, a 37-year-old pediatric surgeon, who fled Mosul to Irbil in 2013, told reporters, “I don’t like to remember that moment.”

Before the Islamic State fighters came, “we were living here in Mosul all together — Christians, Muslims” — and “we couldn’t believe something like that would happen. I think nobody stayed here. All the Christians left.”

Explaining that her Muslim and Yazidi friends helped her in those dark days, Bazzoiee said she is not angry, and she hopes the pope’s visit will help the process of getting life back to normal.

“Why not?” she said. “We lived together for a long time in Mosul.”

After the prayer service and a private visit to the ruined churches, Pope Francis took a helicopter about 20 miles Qaraqosh, a majority Christian city that also suffered devastation at the hands of the Islamic State group. Less than half of the city’s inhabitants have returned since the militants were ousted in 2016.

Mounir Jibrahil, a 61-year-old math teacher, said he came back in 2016, but only finished rebuilding his house last year.

“Now it’s safer here,” he said. “It’s great to see the pope; we never expected him to come to Qaraqosh. Maybe that will help to rebuild the country, finally bringing love and peace.”

The largest crowds of the pope’s March 5-8 visit to Iraq lined the streets in Qaraqosh. While security concerns meant leaving the popemobile in Rome and using an armored Mercedes-Benz in the town, the pope had the window down and the driver going slow enough that the police and security officers on foot did not even have to jog.

Bells pealed to welcome the pope to the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, desecrated during its use as a base by Islamic State fighters, who turned the courtyard into a shooting range.

While much of the city still needs to be rebuilt, Pope Francis said the presence of the jubilant crowds inside and outside the church “shows that terrorism and death never have the last word.”

“The last word belongs to God and to his son, the conqueror of sin and death,” the pope said. “Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death.”

With Muslim and Yazidi guests joining Catholics in the church, Pope Francis told the people that “this is the time to restore not just buildings but also the bonds of community that unite communities and families, the young and the old together.”

And he thanked the international organizations, particularly the Catholic organizations, that are helping fund the reconstruction of homes, schools, churches and community halls in the city.

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan did likewise, specifically mentioning Aid to the Church in Need, the Knights of Columbus and L’Oeuvre d’Orient, a France-based charity.

And, on the eve of International Women’s Day, Pope Francis paid special tribute to Mary — a photo of a decapitated statue of her from Qaraqosh made the news around the world — and to “all the mothers and women of this country, women of courage who continue to give life in spite of wrongs and hurts.”

By: Cindy Wooden @ CNS

Veritas Radio (1350 AM) Launching New Local Shows

RIDGEFIELD — Veritas Catholic Network, the EWTN affiliate at 1350 AM, will launch four new programs in the coming months, following its extremely popular “Let Me Be Frank” show, featuring Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

“We are growing and our plans will significantly expand the proclamation of the Gospel in Connecticut and New York,” said Steve Lee, President & CEO of the network. “Listenership has been going up, and I am always receiving emails that say things like, ‘I just found you guys, and I love it.’”

In addition, the station, which serves Fairfield County, Westchester County and Long Island, recently moved its offices to Ridgefield on the campus of St. Mary Parish.

“We are settling into our new office space, and it has been a blessing,” Lee said. “All of our broadcast equipment is here, and we record some of our shows from here. We are in the parish building and blessed to be right next door to Monsignor Kevin Royal and down the hall from Father Damian Pielesz.”

New local programming includes “Focus on Veritas,” “The Frontline with Joe & Joe,” a talk show with Liv Harrison, who is a Catholic media personality and comedian, and a Monday to Friday live drive-time show.

“Focus on Veritas” will be hosted by Peter Sonski, Manager of Education and Community Outreach for the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center in New Haven. The half-hour weekly show will be launched on Friday, April 9, at 12:30 p.m. and bring committed Catholics on the air to talk about their work, Lee said. It will feature segments about positive news in the diocese, such as Project Beloved in Stamford and Malta House in Norwalk, and later be available as a podcast. The first guest will be Lee, himself, to discuss the vision of Veritas Network.

“There is so much bad news out there that we wanted to focus on some of the good things that people are doing,” Lee said.

The show will follow “Restless,” which airs on Friday from noon to 12:30 p.m. and explores such topics as how to evangelize in the workplace and how to navigate the single life with an eye toward marriage. Father Joseph A. Gill of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist is joined by Lauren Doyle, Diane Kremheller and Javier Tremaria.

“‘Restless’ is a great show, and I love listening to them,” Lee said. “I smile, I laugh, I nod my head. They are doing a great job, and their audience is starting to grow.”

Lee says the show, which has been running for six months, is particularly important at a time when the second largest religious group in the U.S. is former Catholics, and there is an increasing number of so-called “Nones” — young people who are abandoning the faith and claim no allegiance to an organized religion.

“When they are surveyed, they say they no longer believe the teachings of the Church, and that is a failure on our part to live the Gospel and to evangelize,” Lee said. “We now have a generation of Catholics who have been catechized but never been evangelized. They have never had an encounter with Jesus.”

Liv Harrison, a Catholic comedian and mother of two children, will host a nightly talk show from 8 to 9 p.m. once a week, which will begin airing at the end of April.

“She is going to do a monologue and interview guests and talk about what’s happening in the world,” Lee said. “It will be lighter and funnier and have the feel of a late-night talk show. I love her energy. She has a great personality, and this will be a fun show.”

“The Frontline with Joe & Joe” began airing in March and features Joe Pacillo and Joe Reciniello. It is described as “a fearless culture commentary born from America’s kitchen table.”

These “average Joes” will journey into the breach of our current American society, shining the Light of Christ,” Lee said.

Both men are devout Catholics who have been active in the pro-life movement and have helped the poor and dispossessed through their work with the Sisters of Life, the Missionaries of Charity and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. They live in Northern New Jersey and had careers on Wall Street for many years.

Their first show will begin with an interview of Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, whose mission is to defend the rights of Catholics. Subsequent shows will include segments with prominent Catholics, such as theologians Scott Hahn and Ralph Martin.

“They are guys I would love to be friends with,” Lee said. “When I listen to their show, they are like two guys I’d enjoy talking with around the kitchen table.”

Veritas is also developing a live morning drive-time show from 7 to 8 a.m. for people who are on the road, going to work or dropping their kids off at school. It will be hosted by a man and woman, who are yet to be announced, who will discuss local news and events and occasionally feature priests from the diocese and do live broadcasts outside the studio.

“Every day, there will be guests and interviews,” Lee said. “It will be a Catholic morning show that we expect to launch in May.”

“Let Me Be Frank” with Bishop Caggiano recently marked its first-year anniversary and has been tremendously successful, Lee said.

On the show, which airs at noon on Wednesday, the bishop talks about spirituality, catechetics, issues facing the Church and society, growing up in Brooklyn and many other topics.

“I get emails all the time from listeners who said that listening to Bishop Frank has enriched and deepened their faith,” Lee said. “I love to listen to his interviews, his stories about Brooklyn and his spiritual advice. It is definitely one of our most listened to programs, and I am very happy with hit.”

Last year, Lee moved Veritas to office space at St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield at the invitation of pastor and longtime friend Monsignor Kevin T. Royal.

“I mentioned to him that we might be in need of a different space, and he looked at me and said, ‘How about right here?” Lee recalled. “I have been blessed to know Monsignor Royal all these years. We are grateful for everything he has done, and it is gratifying having his presence because he is such a holy priest.”

Lee’s programming director, John Szewczuk is also there with the administrative staff.

“Veritas would not be here if John hadn’t been at my side for the past two years,” Lee said. “I can’t say enough about this guy. He’s the brains behind many of the things we’ve done, including pushing us to get a morning show on the air ASAP.”

The station is also in the process of constructing an FM translator that will let it broadcast on 103.9 FM.

Veritas began broadcasting EWTN Catholic programming 24 hours a day on August 21, 2019 throughout Fairfield County, almost half of Long Island and parts of Westchester. Lee purchased WNLK-AM 1350 radio and an FM translator at 103.9 MHz from Sacred Heart University.

There are currently some 400 EWTN Radio affiliate stations in the United States. Lee believes Veritas, which reaches an estimated audience of 900,000 people, including 400,000 Catholics in the Bridgeport Diocese, can expand further into Westchester and New York City and eventually throughout Connecticut.

Listeners can also live-stream through the website and a Veritas mobile app, which is available for Apple and Android devices.

EWTN programming includes “Catholic Answers Live,” “Called to Communion” with Dr. David Anders, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” “The Doctor Is In” with Dr. Ray Guarendi and “Women of Grace” with Johnette Williams. Veritas also simulcasts “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo and classic programs featuring Mother Angelica and Father Benedict Groeschel.

“We need to reach people where they are — in their cars, in their homes, on their phones,” Lee said. “We need to show them the beauty, truth and goodness of our faith, and that will have a downstream influence that will affect families, the culture and the Church.”

Lee, who left his job in finance on Wall Street to start Veritas, credits his wife Roula with providing him the spiritual and moral support the initiative required. Residents of Ridgefield, they are parents of three children, Andrew, Christopher and Annabel.

Lee said that visitors are welcome to stop by the office and see the operation.

Because the station is a not-for-profit and does not receive financial support from EWTN or the diocese, it depends upon its listeners. For more information about charitable donations, visit

By Joe Pisani